I wanted to write out Maya's birth story as soon as possible so I didn't forget anything. With each day my memories fade slightly and I want to remember everything as much as possible because it was by far the most wonderful, magical, painful, terrifying and beautiful experience of my life.
It all started really the week before when I had an outpatient appointment to have a scan done because they had told me the week beforehand that she was measuring small. They said in particular her "tummy" which I interpreted to mean stomach but now know they meant abdomen. Obviously being told anything like that in pregnancy is worrying but after the doctor spoke to two other consultants she was happy that yes, she was smaller but still within the "normal" range for her gestation of 37 weeks. So they booked an appointment for the following Thursday, the 19th.
I went in feeling nervous as usual hoping she had gotten bigger and there wouldn't be any more issues. Obviously with restrictions I was going in on my own for each appointment which always adds to my anxiety. I went in to see the doctor and there was actually two doctors in the room. They did a quick scan and checked the bump and then my heart nearly fell out of my chest when they said they would bring me in for an induction before 39 weeks. I was absolutely stunned. I had been expecting to have at least another two weeks, if not three because everyone says you usually go over on your first (full term) baby.
At first she said she had a bed for Tuesday and I thought ok I can deal with that, I'll have the weekend to get ready and it's closer to 39 weeks. Then when she rang to confirm the booking they actually had a bed for the following day and just like that I was booked in to give birth that weekend.
I left the room in a daze, I went towards the reception to check out and make a follow up appointment and then it dawned on me that that had been my very last antenatal appointment and I wouldn't need to follow up or wait for hours in the waiting room ever again. I was going to be meeting my baby very soon.
Simon was shopping in the nearby supermarket waiting for me to text him so he could meet me afterwards. I walked in and saw him with a basket of lemons and mushrooms for a pasta dish I was planning on making that evening. I said to him, how do you feel about meeting your daughter this weekend? His eyes widened above his mask in complete disbelief. It's not something either of us had expected, I never thought about being induced early because it tends to be something they do when you're overdue.
I tried to hold back the tears and told him to finish the shopping because I needed to run into Penneys (as you do) and get more newborn size clothes for her as we didn't buy too many smaller sizes thinking she'd probably be a bigger baby like me.
I walked down the street and into Penneys muttering to myself under my mask the entire time. I grabbed some more pj's, underwear and a dressing gown and then some cute Dumbo baby grows and vests for her.
The lady at the till complimented the clothes and asked when I was due and I told her I was going to be induced tomorrow. It felt completely surreal to say it out loud. It really hit me and I had to hold back the tears until I got home.
We called our families and told them the news. Everyone was so excited but I just spent the afternoon crying on and off and walking around the apartment clutching my pregnant belly and not knowing what to do. I knew I needed to channel the energy so I spent a while making sure my hospital bag was finished and washing the other newborn clothes I'd just bought so they were ready to be brought into the hospital just in case she was smaller.
My parents and sister drove in to see us that evening and brought us some groceries to keep us going for the weekend. We all had dinner together and chatted for a few hours and it helped to calm me. Simon and I watched some Parks and Recreation and went to bed, even though I knew I wouldn't get much sleep. I knew I would need to try as I had a long and tough weekend ahead of me.
On Friday morning Simon went to get his hair cut so he'd be presentable for his daughter. I showered and did my hair and didn't bother with makeup because I didn't want to have to think about taking it off. He brought us home some coffees and pastries and we had our last couple of hours at home by ourselves before I had to leave to go to the hospital.
We live close enough to the hospital but we got a taxi in as we had my bags with us and I didn't want to have to worry about walking there. I was hoping Simon could at least bring me to reception with my bags but he had to leave me at the door and the security guard brought them in for me. It was horrible having to kiss him goodbye not knowing what was ahead of me.
I went to check in at reception and they sent me to the waiting room all the while holding back the tears wishing Simon could be there with me. Thankfully after about 15 minutes my name was called and a doctor checked me in and told me where to go. She also told me that Simon was allowed to come back for visiting hours from 4-8 that evening, so I only had two hours to wait until he could come in. It was a huge relief because I was so nervous and I knew having him there would calm me.
I walked up to the pre-natal ward and was shown to my bed by a lovely midwife. I changed into a nightdress and she came around and explained what would be happening with the induction. They have 3 different methods and the one they would be using for me was a prostaglandin pessary (basically a tampon) that would bring on labour. They leave it for 24 hours to do it's work and after that they check you to see if any progress has been made and they go from there.
I had the pessary at about 3.30 and then after that Simon came in to see me. We sat and watched Parks and Recreation on the tablet and chatted and tried to block out the sound of the women in early labour in the room. I knew that being induced can take a while, sometimes a couple of days before labour begins so I had decided to try and relax as much as possible and not worry if I didn't feel anything for a while, she would come when she was ready.
It was so hard saying goodbye to Simon that evening. I didn't know if I'd end up going into labour that night and have to do it alone, I just wanted him there with me. What I didn't realise was I was about to have to have one of the worst nights sleep of my life. The pre-natal ward is not a fun place. There were some periods of quiet but for the most part there was always at least one other person if not 4 or 5 in early labour. I was never going to sleep well anyway but I spent most of the night trying to block out the noise of women howling and screaming in pain as well as getting sick. Anyone who knows me well knows I have emetophobia which is a fear of vomiting. Seeing or hearing someone else getting sick sets off my gag reflex. So having to listen to that sound all night was truly horrible. I played loud music and watched Glow Up on Netflix when it was quieter to try to distract myself. I felt horrible for the poor women going through it, because it was the middle of the night and they were still in early labour they were all alone with no support partner to help them through. The staff were burdened with looking after 5 women in early labour in my room at one point. I was the only one not going through it. It's a lot to deal with between the sickness and noise and trying to keep on top of everyone's progress. I really felt for the staff and patients. The maternity restrictions make everything harder than it has to be.
I knew I needed to rest because chances are I could go into labour the following evening and would need my strength. But trying to sleep with those noises was impossible, especially as I'm such a light sleeper anyway. I kept thinking what have I gotten myself in for, is this really what early labour is like? How will I cope, some women had been doing it all night and getting nowhere. I was so nervous I'd be screaming like them in a few hours but I didn't want to get myself worked up. One nearby woman had a full on panic attack from listening to other women in labour and a midwife had to calm her and take her out of the room. I knew I couldn't end up like that because I'd never be able to get through it.
Morning came and breakfast was served at 8. Things always seem better after you eat something. I knew I only had to wait a few more hours until Simon could come in and I'd have a distraction. He arrived with a pastry from one of our favourite cafes and we sat and chatted and I told him all about my eventful night and watched more Netflix while we waited for an update. Simon was watching the Liverpool match while I rested and the midwife came around and explained that in the afternoon they would check my cervix to see if any progress had been made and possibly break my waters. I was so nervous but having Simon there made everything easier.
Just before 3pm the midwife checked and I was 2cm dilated. She decided to break my waters which was such a strange sensation but she said it was probably the least traumatic one she'd done so I was proud of myself for that as I had no idea what to expect. Although, I wasn't yet in labour and I've heard having them broken in early labour is much more painful. Almost straight afterwards I began getting pains. What I would describe as painful period cramps. I was put on a trace to monitor her heartbeat. So I told Simon to go and get some lunch because it was now after 3 and he hadn't eaten since breakfast and I figured if I go into labour he'll need his strength too. He went out quickly to get some food and I video called my sister and mam. I started having contractions while on the phone to them and had to breathe through them. Simon was gone for about a half hour and I text him to not take too long because the pain was getting stronger. At this point I had no idea what stage of labour I was in. All I could really do was focus on getting through each contraction. I had a handheld electric fan and bluetooth earphones with my hypnobirthing tracks and I was trying to concentrate on those with each wave that came along. It was raining heavily too so I looked out the window at the rain to try to focus my attention on something other than the pain.
Simon arrived back to see me in a much altered state to the one he'd left me in. He could see the pain was much more intense and he held my hand and the fan and I put my earphones in and took a deep, slow breath in and then out with each wave. About half an hour later my dinner arrived, a burger and chips. I was hungry but the contractions were closer together and I couldn't eat when I was in pain. I nibbled a few of the chips and told Simon to eat the rest. I just couldn't eat much.
The midwife came by and could see I was in much more pain. I was being quiet, breathing through the contractions and there was a lot of screaming in the room so I don't think they realised how far things had progressed and how quickly. She said she'd see about moving me to the labour ward. The contractions were coming faster and more intense. At around 6pm she said I was being moved to what I assumed was the labour ward but it was actually the delivery suite. I walked there with Simon holding my hand. I had two contractions on the short walk over there and to be honest I still didn't really know what was going on. I assumed I was only in early labour. I never expected it to happen so fast so when we arrived at the delivery suite I was a bit taken back. I was only in there a minute and had another contraction. The midwife got me up on the bed to examine me and I almost fell off the bed when she laughed and said I was 9cm dilated. I'd gone from 2-9 in the space of 3 hours. She turned to Simon and said I was a superwoman and that this was very unusual. She gave me gas and air which I could have kissed her for. I clung on to it for dear life and slowly breathed it in and out. She asked Simon to take out the baby's outfit and my nightdress and shower stuff and I was still so confused. I couldn't believe it was happening so fast. I had no idea what time it was but I knew that it was happening more quickly than usual. Simon also put the Hypnobirthing playlist on the Bluetooth speakers in the room so that it would be a calm environment for us.
He sat beside me and I squeezed his hand and he coached me through the contractions which were now getting much more intense. The gas and air wasn't doing what it had been a few minutes beforehand when I first started using it. The midwife explained that I could still get an epidural if I wanted to but that things were progressing very quickly and I would probably be 10cm very soon. She said I think you can do this. So I said fuck it, let's just go for it. No epidural, I just wanted to get it done. I was nearly there and I didn't want to have to worry about the epidural. I figured I'd gotten this far without pain relief, I knew it couldn't be much longer by the way the midwife was talking to us. She brought a student in with her and they got me to bring my legs right back and stood at either side of me. They examined me and said they could see the babies head. The urge to push was coming so strong now and I genuinely couldn't believe it. I didn't know what it would feel like but my goodness it's very hard not to push when you have that feeling. The midwives were amazing though and kept saying ok don't push yet, deep deep breaths. Then they said I had to stop gas and air because it was time to go for it.
I knew there was no turning back now and soon our baby would be with us. I knew I could do it. Simon kept cheering me on. The pain was something I never thought I would experience but every time a contraction came and I thought I couldn't do it I closed my eyes and pictured Milo's face. I was doing it for him and for his sister. There would never be a physical pain like the pain of losing him and I knew I could get through anything after that. I could see his little face and I turned to Simon and looked into his eyes and I knew it would all be ok. After about 4/5 pushes. Her head was out. The midwives asked Simon if he wanted to see so he had a peak and then looked and me and told me he could see her. I was so elated and exhausted and in pain at that stage but I knew she was almost here. A couple more big pushes and she was out. Screaming and red and placed on my chest and real. She was actually real. She was here. My beautiful baby girl. My Maya.
Simon and I kept looking at each other and her and back and forth and just bawling with happiness. I was holding my daughter for the first time after 9 months of praying that she would be ok. Feeling her move around in my belly and hiccup and kick and seeing her only on a screen. She was now here. I could kiss her face and feel the warmth of her little body. I could feel the cord still attached to the placenta. The placenta that caused me so much worry because it had failed Milo. The placenta that kept her going and gave her what she needed. Simon cut the cord and we just stared at her while the midwives did their thing. I had to go on an oxytocin drip because I have a fibroid and they were worried that it would interfere with my uterus contracting.
One of the midwives dressed her because Simon was a bit nervous to do it himself. The doctor came in to do my stitches. I had a shallow second degree tear so I just needed a few stitches but still it was such a strange sensation to have local anesthetic so you couldn't feel pain but you could feel the sensation of what was happening. While that was happening Simon did skin to skin with her which I watched intently instead of focusing on the stitches being done. Then I had the much talked about post birth tea and toast which Simon fed me as I fed her.
Afterwards the midwives gave me a bed bath as I couldn't use the shower with the oxytocin drip. It's so odd having people wash you while you lie in a bed but it was nice to feel slightly refreshed and put on a clean nightdress after all that sweaty pushing. One thing I didn't know about after labour is they make you measure your urine output just to be sure you bladder is functioning as normal. So I had to do that before I left the delivery suite. I didn't really want to leave the delivery suite because that meant Simon had to go home and I'd have to go to the ward alone with a new baby. She was born at 7.20pm after four hours of labour. We left the delivery suite at around 10pm, I was wheeled out in a wheelchair and Simon walked us to the lift and kissed us goodbye. He said it was so hard leaving us both. It was equally hard watching him go not knowing what the night had in store for us.
When we got to the ward it was crying babies and snoring women. Not as bad as the night before but when I say snoring I mean, I've never heard a sound like it in my life. I actually sent a video of it to my family. One woman had to get moved out of the room because she couldn't sleep. I don't think there was any way I was going to get sleep anyway. She stayed in the cot for a little while but once she woke and fed a bit all she wanted was to stay with me. Any time I put her in the cot she would cry and I couldn't leave her there because for one it would break my heart and also there was five other women in the room trying to sleep and I didn't want to add to the already deafening noises.
I tried to stay awake while holding her on my chest and trying to figure out the best position to feed her in. I asked the midwife a few times to help me with latching her on. I had obviously never breastfed before and I missed the zoom Breastfeeding Workshop which was the night I found out I was being induced and it completely went out of my head. I knew the basics from the antenatal classes but it's a whole different experience putting it into practice especially when you're on your own and recovering. I asked the midwife on duty a couple of times to help me get her latched on but she just didn't seem to take to it for long even though I managed to feed her a bit in the delivery suite. The next day I actually asked another midwife to help me again and thankfully she happened to be a lactation consultant and showed me a position that worked really well for us and showed me some techniques to help make it easier. I just got lucky that she was a lactation consultant, I had asked to speak with one but they said you'd only usually see one if you're having trouble with it. If you're ever in that position like I was, my advice would be just keep asking for help. Don't leave the hospital until you feel comfortable that you're able to feed properly because it can be the most stressful part of being a new mother. I was extremely lucky that my sister trained as a midwife and I knew once I was home that she'd be able to come over and help me with it. Not everyone has that support so if you're unsure just make sure you speak up. I won't get into the different types of feeding, each to their own and what works best for you and your baby is all that matters. My personal choice was to breastfeed as it's what I've grown up with in my family and I hoped I could do it. I was also very aware it doesn't always work out for many different reasons so I was open minded about all of the options available. I knew that no matter what, the most important thing was that she was fed.
The morning came and at 11am Simon was allowed in to visit us. He couldn't wait to see her, it was so hard being separated from him all night at the time you need the most support. He was only too happy to cuddle her while I tried to sleep a little. We spent the day chatting about the previous days events and how amazing she was and how much we loved her. It was so much easier looking after her with him there, not worrying about her crying in the cot while I went to the bathroom, being able to shower and eat my meals and change her nappies. Especially when you're recovering and not able to move around easily and you're still figuring everything out. Even just having the emotional support when you're doubting yourself.
That night Simon left at 8 and I knew I was going to have a long night ahead of me. Everyone says the second night is the hardest so I had mentally prepared for that but I didn't realise just how challenging it would be. Having barely slept at all the two previous nights I was really running on empty at that stage. It was a long, long night. I literally counted down every hour until the sun came up. I had to put her in her cot a couple of times so I could go to the bathroom but each time it came back to her crying and so she spent the rest of the night sleeping on my chest. I knew I just had to make it until morning and then Simon would be back in and I could try and get some sleep. She fed a bit during the night but she was so sleepy it was hard to wake her up and I still hadn't gotten the hang of breastfeeding properly. Every time it got too much I'd just look at her and remember how far we'd come. I was beyond lucky to have my baby girl in my arms and I knew I could get through anything.
The following morning I asked about getting discharged that day. I didn't want to have to stay another night in the hospital unless it was really necessary. The midwife said she would check but because I'd had the baby in the evening I might have to wait till later to be discharged. The pediatrician came around and checked her out and she had her hearing test and thankfully everything was ok. They checked her for jaundice and because the machine was above a certain level she had to have a blood test to double check if she would need treatment.
Thankfully she was below the treatment line so we were allowed to be discharged but we had to keep feeding her as much as possible to ensure she didn't have to come back in for treatment. They arranged an outpatient appointment for two days later and with that we were ready to go home.
It was a huge relief. All I wanted was to be back home and in my own bed and with my family.
Since then it's been a rollercoaster of tears and nappies and breast pumping and a love like I have never experienced before. After the ups and downs of jaundice we were finally discharged from the outpatient clinic last Saturday as they were happy that she had low enough levels and her weight had gone up.
We have been surrounded by the love and support of both our families and our friends. We'd never have gotten through it as well as we did without the practical and emotional support. Having meals cooked, groceries bought, dishes cleaned and nappies changed while we just tried to adjust to our new life together. It was invaluable.
This post has been very matter of fact as I wanted to remember exactly how everything happened. How it felt is another story. I can't explain the emotion of finally having a baby in your arms after almost two years of longing. Letting go of Milo at that crematorium was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. At that time I never could have imagined that I would get to give birth to his sister and kiss her and hug her and finally give her the love I wanted to give to Milo.
Finally getting to have a positive birth story and change my feelings towards it was a huge gift. Since March 2020 I have had nothing but trauma around the birth process. Having given birth to Milo at 19 weeks at home in our bathroom has haunted me. It still does. I can never forget it, nor would I want to because it has become a huge part of who I am. I was incredibly nervous about going through labour again. I assumed I would be re-traumatised. That's part of why I decided to try hypnobirthing. I had only gotten to do one class before I was told I would be induced but even that one class helped so much.
I have never been more determined or in control in my life. I have never felt more powerful. It was the most pain I've ever experienced but I knew I could do it. I knew it wouldn't last and that with each contraction I was closer to meeting my daughter. I was robbed of this beautiful experience with Milo and I wanted to take it back. I wanted to show him that I could do it. Simon kept telling me I could do it and I kept repeating it to myself. With every breath I was more and more in control. I knew it would be ok because I had Milo with me and Simon and soon my beautiful daughter and it would all be worth it. It already was.
It was without any doubt, the best experience of my entire life. I can't imagine anything being better. I know exactly how fortunate I am to have been able to give birth. I know so many women who have been through loss or infertility and who long to have a baby. I have had countless conversations over the past year and a half with women who have struggled with this aspect of life. When you're going through it, it's all consuming and you can't imagine anything being further away. I know it doesn't happen for everyone. It breaks my heart that it doesn't. But I hope my story can serve as hope for any of you who are struggling. There's nothing I can say except sometimes shitty things happen in life and there's nothing you can do. There's no meaning to take from it and no one can make you feel better. You just have to go through it. One day at a time. But sometimes magic can happen when you least expect it, sometimes dreams come true. Maya is my dream come true. And I am eternally grateful for her and her big brother.