This is my personal labour, birth and recovery story, it's very honest and raw, I haven't left anything out and it has the good, the bad and the ugly. I've written it from a very personal point of view and scrapped the 'professional' blog post here.
WARNING: This post contains a graphic video of labour and birth.
Thursday 30th August 2018. My beautiful baby girl is finally here, she was 13 days late but worth the wait. We haven't had the easiest journey since she's been born, well, I haven't at least. In fact, her being born started the worst 3 weeks of my life. I suffered through the whole pregnancy, mainly with 'morning' sickness.. I don't know where they get the term morning sickness from, it should be called morning, noon and night sickness, because I got it constantly all day every day. And not just for the first 12 weeks like they tell you, I had it right up until the end. Being so sick made me quite miserable, I couldn't eat anything without it coming back up, I couldn't stand a lot of smells that I once loved. I even made my partner stop wearing his aftershave because the smell of it made me psychically sick. I also couldn't stomach meat, especially chicken which was my favourite before falling pregnant. I only had to think of chicken and I'd be sick. It's so strange how pregnancy changes your body! I had a lot of bad side effects to pregnancy, and as much as I loved being pregnant and carrying my baby, I didn't necessarily 'enjoy' being pregnant. I know that sounds terrible, I just had a bad time that's all.
I knew from day one what I wanted my birth plan to be, I had the plan way before I was even pregnant. I wanted to give birth at St Mary's Birth Centre in Melton Mowbray (SMBC), apart from the fact that it has amazing reviews and I've only ever heard brilliant things about it from my clients, I was also born there, so was my Dad, and my Grandad, so I loved the idea of bringing the fourth generation into the world in the same building. I also wanted a relaxed water birth with only gas and air as pain relief. St Mary's only offer births there if you are low risk, as it's a small birthing centre ran solely by midwives and not a hospital with doctors. So all through my pregnancy I was keeping my fingers crossed that I would remain low risk in order to be able to have my baby there. During the third trimester I had a couple of panics when firstly the baby was breach, and then when my bump was measuring too big for the dates. But luckily she turned herself back round the right way (I did nothing but bounce on the yoga ball for weeks to get her back the right way), and the growth scan came back fine meaning I could still birth at Melton.
My due date was 17th August, but on 8th August I started having contractions, they got so intense I called my partner home from work thinking that I was going to have the baby very soon. My contractions lasted 14 hours being 4 minutes apart but as they were varying in length the midwife said not to come to the hospital until they were more consistent. Then after 14 hours they just fizzled out, they got longer apart, 6 minutes, then 12 minutes, 20 minutes, then nothing, they literally stopped. I'd had braxton hicks before, this definitely wasn't that, it was labour, but it seems the baby just decided to change her mind and stay put. The midwives said that this is totally normal and happens a lot apparently. Who knew!? These contractions caused my bump to drop massively because my baby had lowered her head down in the birth canal, so I was a very funny shape and size for a while.
So from 8th August I waited every single day for the next contraction, I had little niggles and pains, and more braxton hicks, but no signs of real labour. It's frustrating waiting for your baby in the last few weeks anyway, and anyone who's been pregnant will tell you how uncomfortable it is in the final countdown. But to go through labour first and then have to wait is ten times more infuriating and I was getting more and more inpatient as the days went on. I tried every old wives tale going to kick start the labour, I went for long walks every evening, walked sideways up and down the stairs, walked with one foot on the kerb and one on the road (gaining some funny looks in the process), I bounced and bounced on my yoga ball, I crawled around the house, I tweaked my nipples, I had baths with clary sage oil, I had raspberry leaf tea, I ate tins and tins of pineapple chunks.. And it wasn't until after I forced this down that I realised I have to actually eat a whole fresh pineapple, I don't even like pineapple so this one was wasted! I ate curry, and I even did the thing that got me into this in the first place, despite it being the very last thing on my mind. But at this point I was willing to try anything. But did any of this work? NO!
My due date finally arrived, but a baby didn't! So the day after, on the 18th off I went to SMBC for a sweep, but like everything else, it didn't work. A few more days passed and on the 24th I had yet another sweep, and surprise surprise, it didn't work! It was at this point I was thinking that I was never actually going to have this baby. I was then booked for an induction on the 29th, the one thing I was dreading. Having the induction would mean my birth plan was out of the window, I'd have to have my baby at Leicester General Hospital (LGH) instead of Melton as planned, and I knew that inductions meant a lot more pain and that a good percentage ended in c-sections. I'd never wanted my baby to come so much, but she didn't, so on the morning of 29th I went to the General, all prepped to have the dreaded induction, and when the midwife examined me she said I was 1cm dilated therefore she didn't want to give me the pessary to induce the labour, and instead she gave me my third sweep and said they'd break my waters that day. I was of course super happy about this, although it still meant having to birth at LGH, at least I didn't have to be induced. I waited at the hospital all day for them to come and break my waters, but the hours passed and they then told me I'd need to stay over the night and they'd do it early hours of the morning when they had more staff, I really didn't want to stay in the hospital alone without my partner as I was scared enough about having a baby as it was, so I asked to go home and come back in the morning, to which they reluctantly agreed.
On the morning of the 30th, I turned up at LGH so they could break my waters, and upon being examined, the midwife said I was 3cm dilated so she was going to hold off breaking my waters and hope I'd go into labour naturally. She gave me a fourth and final sweep, and a bloody good one at that, it was the most painful one I'd had, but she was determined to make it work. She told me if my contractions started themselves then I could call St. Mary's and go there to birth, I was so excited by the thought of being able to go back to my original birth plan! I had a deadline of 5pm and if nothing had happened by then, I'd have no choice but to go to Leicester and definitely have my waters broken and birth there. Then guess what, I walked out of the room at 10:30 and had my first proper contraction, I walked around the hospital grounds for well over an hour, my contractions getting stronger, instead of waiting around I decided to go home and hope they'd continue, which they did, yey! They started to get more and more intense, and by 4pm I was in a lot of pain so I called Melton and they told me to go in and be checked. I arrived at 4:30pm to be examined, I was 4cm and officially in active labour, FINALLY!!
My contractions just got more and more intense and by this point I kind of zoned out, I had my partner Joe and my Mum as my birthing partners, and they've filled in the gaps from this moment. I remember being in A LOT of pain, but I kept holding off pain relief saying I'd start it with the next contraction. I've always been one of these people that doesn't like taking medication unless I absolutely have to, so I just waited and waited. My pain relief was Joe massaging my lower back through each contraction, as they were mainly in my back at this point. I was having contractions for another couple of hours before I got into the birthing pool at 8:30pm, those 4 hours felt like 4 minutes looking back, I don't know how time went so quickly. I remember between each contraction having normal conversations with the midwives like nothing was wrong and I was even trying to promote my business to them (work never stops haha).
I had my birth photographed, which I know some people find weird. But with birth photography being something I offer, and seeing the amazing keepsake images I create for the families, it was important to me to have this myself. I hired Sarah from Sacred Beginnings Birth Services who arrived just before I got into the pool. For anyone considering a water birth, I highly recommend it! It's strange that water can act as a pain relief but trust me, it did! The moment I got into the water it just lifted the weight of my tummy, I didn't feel as much pressure, and I was much more relaxed. It was 8:15pm by this point and getting dark outside so the lights were quite bright in the room, the midwives dimmed them so it was a calmer environment for me, but I still had my business brain ticking before I was high as a kite and made them keep them on so the photos Sarah was taking turned out better. Every photographers worst nightmare is a dull room with no flash.
I was in the pool with contractions getting stronger and stronger, but I was still chatting away and eating sausage rolls in between the pains. Oh what I forgot to mention was that I cooked a whole 50 pack of mini party sausage rolls the morning I was in labour so I had them as snacks for the day.. I'd like to blame pregnancy cravings but it secretly wasn't. I'd still not had any pain relief by this point, but very shortly after getting into the pool the pain got too intense, and I reluctantly gave in and asked for the gas and air. I was scared to take it, but as soon as I got into it I realised it was the best thing ever and I should have caved hours before.
By 8:30pm my body started pushing, I'm not sure what I expected but for some reason I thought I'd have to be told to push, yet my body just started doing it and it was out of my control, you just kind of go with it, it's a weird feeling you can't explain. I didn't realise until after I'd had my baby but I was only 6cm at this point when I started to push, no wonder I needed the gas and air!! The midwives told me to just follow my body and so I did, pushing a little bit with each contraction. The pushing honestly felt like I was pushing out the biggest poo of my life, speaking of which, pooing in labour was my biggest fear, I was worrying throughout the whole pregnancy that I'd poo in front of everyone as apparently 99% of women do. And I'm not ashamed (okay I'm quite ashamed) to admit that it happened. Cringe! I'm not sure why I'm admitting to this, maybe my dignity still hasn't come back since the birth? It's true what they say, you really do leave your dignity at the door when you walk into the labour ward. I was initially so nervous about the idea of a midwife seeing between my legs, and I felt embarrassed that she'd see such an intimate area. But honestly, during labour I wouldn't have cared who came into the room and saw me with my legs spread, those fears totally leave you. I had my partner, my Mum, my photographer and 4 midwives in the room at one point, who witnessed all of this and I really wasn't bothered by any of them seeing me at my most vulnerable.
That's the brilliant thing about Melton Birthing Centre, in what other hospital would you have 4 midwives in the room with you? It's not like anything was going wrong and I needed assistance, they were just there because I was the only lady in labour. Most hospitals have one midwife caring for a handful of women at a time, meaning you don't get the one on one attention, whereas at Melton I had at least one with me at all times, she never left the room, and I had two midwives deliver my baby. The care and attention you receive there is truly second to none, I can't give them enough credit and I'd recommend SMBC to anyone who is considering birthing there. But I will do a separate blog post about them at a later date.
I was pushing in the pool but then the baby's heart rate dropped, so I was told to drink drink drink. Joe was giving me water and I remember shouting at him for either not tipping the bottle enough or tipping it too much. I remember downing bottle after bottle, the gas and air really does give you a dry mouth. I think I drank too much because the midwives became concerned that I'd had a lot of water and not wee'd since starting labour and needed me to get out of the pool to have a wee and before baby's heart rate dropped anymore, otherwise it meant being blue-lighted to LGH. I tried to lie to them telling them I'd wee'd in the pool so I didn't have to get out but they know their job and I didn't fool them. They told me to sit on the toilet and have a try, but the baby had other ideas and I felt her coming, they told me to stay sat on the toilet and push but I was adamant I wasn't going to give birth on the loo, so they took me over to the bed.
My waters still hadn't broken by this point, they told me my baby would most likely be born in the sac, and although I was floating with the fairies I remember being excited by the thought because it'd make a great unique photo for Sarah to take. I told you, business brain never switches off. But they decided at the last minute that they needed to break them to speed things up, so at 10:15pm they popped the waters as I was pushing her out. The midwife told me to give them one hell of a push, so I just went for it and then two of them started shouting 'stop stop stop' at me, I think I pushed a bit too hard as her head came flying out. Not only her head, but her arm too! On all of the scan photos throughout the pregnancy (and we had 9 in total), she had her hand up by her face, and then she decided to be born like it too.
I felt her head with my hand and it was such a bizarre feeling, I just wanted to hold her, and with a few more pushes she was out and placed straight on my chest. The second I saw her I threw the gas and air as the pain just suddenly stopped and was instantly forgotten. People always tell you "the second you see your baby you will forget the trauma you've just been through" and you never believe them because how can you just forgot you're in so much pain right? But it's so so true. When she was put on me, I couldn't believe it, I think I was in shock because I didn't even cry, and I've cried at every birth I've witnessed, and always cry at one born every minute, so it's weird how I didn't for my own baby. The crying came later. Joe cried when he saw her, and my Mum was already in bits, she had a couple of hours head start on the tears. I can't even begin to explain what it feels like to hold your baby for the first time, I'm welling up typing this out. You wait for 9 long months for this moment, then you suffer through the labour, but then that moment finally arrives and it's so overwhelming. I held her and I couldn't quite believe that I'd just had a baby, it didn't feel real. I held her on me for half an hour as I'd opted for delayed cord clamping and I wanted to deliver my placenta naturally. That's another weird feeling; delivering your placenta. You're holding your baby, yet you're told to start pushing again but you have no sensation, you're not getting contractions so your body isn't telling you to push either. But anyway, it came out naturally and Joe got to cut the cord as planned.
Now she was free, she could have a cuddle with her Daddy, and she decided to do the biggest wee and poo all over him, I'm glad she waited until I'd passed her over, she's a good girl haha. My own Dad finishes work at 10pm and as he was passing the birthing centre on the way home he decided to pop in to check if I was okay, he had no idea how I was progressing, or that I was even close to having her when he arrived at 10:15, he didn't come into the room (as much as I love my Dad and I'm very close to him, it's not a position I'd want him to see me in). So he sat right outside the room in the waiting area and he was actually there when she was born and got to meet her shortly after she arrived which was lovely.
We decided to name our beautiful girl Martha Harlee Dowling-Asman. We had the name Martha since our gender reveal party back in March, we were sat saying lots and lots of names with us saying 'no, no, no' over and over, we said Martha and it was the only name we agreed on. It wasn't 100% until she was born, but we thought it suited her when she popped out. We really struggled with a middle name, Joe wanted my name so she'd be Martha-Jade, I thought it had a ring to it but I didn't like the idea of naming her after me, especially when I don't particularly like my name. It wasn't until she was a few days old we were sat in the birthing centre talking to my parents, and we said 'Harley' as a joke as we were chatting about the motorbike, but then we actually both paused and realised we quite liked it. But we changed the spelling so people don't think we named our child after a motorbike! This is where the sweet birth story goes down hill.. So before I continue, here is a slideshow video of my birth and labour journey. All images were taken and are copyrighted by Sarah at Sacred Beginnings Birth Services, the slideshow was made by myself. Please be warned, some of these are graphic (although I've blurred/ shadowed out any private parts, so if you're squeamish, do not click to view!
Shortly after Martha was born, the midwife checked my bits to see if I needed stitches, I was hoping I didn't but knew I most likely would as she was 8lb 9oz, but it was worse than expected and the tears were so bad the midwives couldn't suture me at SMBC and told me I needed to be transferred to LGH immediately to go into theatre, this is where my panic set in. Especially when they told me that Joe couldn't travel in the ambulance with me as there wasn't enough seats. I was still coming down from my high and I was petrified. But the midwife that delivered Martha was so lovely and she came with me and was chatting to me on the drive over to Leicester taking my mind off things and reassuring me on what was to come. When I arrived at the hospital, Joe was already parked up and waiting for me, which instantly made me feel better knowing he was back with me. I was wheeled into the theatre room, and I was prepped for being stitched up.
As I was having the suturing done, I started to get more pains, which got more and more intense, to the point where I couldn't handle it. I was on gas and air again as the pain was just too much, but even that wasn't doing the job like it did in labour. The labour and even the birth was easy compared to this, that pain was tolerable, this was something else. My legs were also shaking uncontrollably due to adrenaline. The midwife told me that it's normal to get contractions after delivery as it's just the uterus shrinking back down. This is something no one ever tells you about during your pregnancy, or ever, I was totally clueless and didn't expect this at all. I was actually screaming in pain which was odd because during the whole labour and birth at SMBC I barely made a noise, so they knew it was bad! The doctor told me she'd never known any woman to be in this much pain from after birth contractions and that's when they realised something was wrong.
I was told my stitches would take approx. 20 minutes to complete, but the midwife who performed the surgery kept on calling the doctor in for a second opinion to make sure she was doing it right.. reassuring hey? So it took well over an hour which was horrendous. After this was done, because of the pain I was having I was told to go to the toilet as I still hadn't wee'd since about 4pm and it was now around 2am, I went to the loo and I just couldn't go. I think I had stage fright as I was sat on a commode in the room with people in there watching and waiting to hear that trickle, which never came. For this reason they decided to try an in/out catheter to see what was in my bladder, and it was over 2 litres, hence the pain. All of this part was a bit of a blur as I was on my second round of gas and air, but I remember the midwife telling me that if I didn't have a catheter put in for 48 hours then I'd suffer long term bladder damage and most likely have to have one for the rest of my life, which is a horrible thought. So after waiting in that room for hours after staff saying they'd be right back to then not come back for 45 mins leaving us in limbo, they finally put another catheter in me meaning I'd have to stay at the General for at least 2 days until they could take it out. This was so upsetting as I was planning to go straight back to Melton after being stitched.
It was about 6am by this point, and they got me a room ready in another ward which I had to walk to but I felt so faint, I'd lost over 2 litres of blood so that's probably why. I told the staff I felt really dizzy but they told me to walk as it'd make me feel better.. they were wrong! I got to the room and I remember saying I was light headed, then the next thing I remember was hearing a very loud bang. It turns out I'd fainted, and that loud bang was me smacking my head on a bedside table and waking myself back up. Joe was holding Martha and couldn't grab me on time, and no midwives were in sight, despite Joe shouting for help and ringing the buzzer, 10 minutes later they came and told me to just get some sleep. Unfortunately unlike Melton, Leicester do not allow partners to stay over, although I was begging them to let him stay with me. I was in a room all alone, I'd just had a baby, I was feeling faint when I stood so didn't feel I could care for my daughter all by myself, and I was scared and in pain. It was about 6:30am and he was allowed back at 9am, but they made him leave for those few hours. When Martha was crying I had to ring the buzzer for the midwife to pass her to me as I didn't dare stand up and faint with her in my arms, which was horrible as I couldn't get to her quickly like a mother should. No matter how much I begged them for him to stay, they couldn't allow having a male on the ward due to religious beliefs of some ladies on the ward.
I'd planned to breastfeed and by this point Martha was about 8 hours old and still hadn't fed, no one seemed concerned but I kept trying to put her on the boob, and she just wouldn't latch, it was such a challenge. She took a little bit eventually but it was very difficult and I didn't have much support. Morning came, and Joe was back, it was such a relief and everything was so much better with him there. I was in a lot of pain, attached to a catheter and feeling crappy as I'd not slept at all, but reality hit that my baby was here and it was such an overwhelming feeling, I was so happy that she was perfect and healthy, I couldn't stop staring at her, she was the most beautiful little thing I'd ever seen. I already loved her so so much.
We had the day in the hospital, not being able to leave the room as I was still on this catheter, then 9pm was approaching and visiting hours were almost over which meant Joe had to leave again. I was trying so hard not to cry as I know he was holding his tears back at the thought of leaving us again. The second he walked out of the door I just burst out crying, I cried for ages. I think all of my emotions came out from the last few days all in one go. I decided to try and get some sleep, just like what your parents tell you when you're little, the sooner you go to sleep, the quicker it'll be morning. This plan didn't work, Martha had other ideas. We were still having a lot of trouble establishing breast feeding and she wouldn't latch, she was screaming and screaming, which made me even more upset. By this point I hadn't slept a wink in 3 days and I was extremely sleep deprived and emotional. I was so tired that I was hallucinating, I was convinced I saw a black cat run under my hospital bed, and I also thought I saw a clown behind the curtain. I so badly wanted to buzz the midwives but as I felt so useless by this point I didn't dare ask for help incase they thought I was a bad Mum. Looking back I was over-reacting but at the time I thought that if they saw me sobbing and my baby screaming they'd think I couldn't cope and would take her away from me.
My Mum bless her stayed up all night with me, she wasn't at the hospital but she was texting me all throughout the night trying to help me. It was six hours before I finally gave in and asked for help, I buzzed the midwife and just broke down to her, and I finally got some help. Don't get me wrong, the midwives at the General are lovely people, but the ones I came across weren't the most proactive. One midwife who came in said she'd be back in a second to help me get Martha to latch, 40 minutes later she still didn't return and I felt like I couldn't buzz again incase they thought I was some annoying patient and I had visions of them sat there rolling their eyes at me saying "oh it's her again". I was so so ready to give up breastfeeding by this point, I had formula in my bag as a back up and I asked if I could give her this but the midwife told me not to and to just keep trying with the boob.
The following morning during the early hours, after spending my first two nights at LGH, they told me I could have my catheter out. It had only been in for just over 24 hours and the doctor had previously told me it needed to be in for a minimum of 48 hours, I wondered why they wanted to take it out so early but I trusted that they knew what they were doing, and I wasn't going to question them as I wanted that thing out!! They took it out and before they let me go I had to do TWOC test, which is a trial without a catheter. Basically they give me three cardboard sample pots (the cowboy hat type), and I was initially told I had to do three 400ml wee's within four hours. Whilst waiting to go to the toilet I had to have various other blood tests to check my iron levels as I lost so much blood. Anyway, it took me about five hours before I even needed the toilet so I failed immediately, but the midwife told me to just carry on with the test, and I finally went. It's not until you have a wee that you realise 400ml is A LOT, how was I supposed to produce 1200ml of urine in four hours? I questioned this and after getting a second opinion I was told wrong, I actually had to do one wee every four hours at 250ml each. So I started the test all over again, weeing under pressure is difficult, but I managed it and despite my samples being less than 200ml each time, the midwife told me it was fine and said I could be transferred back to St. Mary's in Melton, yey!
On Saturday 1st September I was finally discharged from Leicester and off to Melton I went, the second I walked into the birth centre I was made to feel welcome. The staff were so friendly and helpful, they got Joe a comfortable reclining chair with a pillow and blanket so he could stay over with me, and they immediately supported me with breastfeeding, and Martha soon got the hang of it within a couple of hours of being there which says a lot. Although it was hurting me so so much, she was doing it!
Throughout the day I was in quite a bit of discomfort, and wasn't properly going to the toilet. I was hoping it wasn't my bladder again and one of the midwives thought maybe it was because I hadn't been for a number 2 yet! I had been panicking about that anyway, and I'm sure you Mums can relate how scary it is worrying about having your first poo after giving birth. I won't go into detail with this, but I panicked for nothing. It's not half as bad as you think, so don't worry! The pain continued to get worse, and the midwives decided to do tests on me, making me wee into 3 cardboard tubs again, and making a note of how many ml I did. I wasn't weeing almost near what it should be, so this was a concern. However, I thought it was all in my head and the midwives agreed telling me to stop thinking about going to the toilet, drink as normal and not to overthink it.
Throughout the night and on the morning of the 2nd, the pain was getting so much worse. I was going for a try every 15 minutes but I kept telling myself it was in my head, and then the midwives could see I was getting myself into a state and told me to just relax and not go to the toilet for 2 hours. It was the hardest 2 hours, in fact, I didn't make it to the 2 hours. I was so so desperate for the toilet and I was convinced I was going to wee myself. I was literally stood there crossing my legs and squatting and tensing so I had to give in and go to the toilet, yet not a drop came out. I was sat on the toilet crying my eyes out in pain just telling my body to wee. This is when the midwives grew more concerned and decided to try an in/ out catheter to drain what was in my bladder. I was told if it was over 150ml within half hour I'd have to be transferred back to the general to have a proper catheter fitted. So in the catheter went, and surprise surprise, it went straight to 150ml within minutes and it kept going and going, until it reached an alarming amount of over 2000ml in just 15 minutes, so I had no other option but to go back to the General to be seen by a doctor. Oh and just to top things off, the midwife told me that I had a pregnancy haemorrhoid on my bum, as if I wasn't going through enough hey!
I arrived at Leicester, and had to wait a long time to be seen. It's ridiculous how at SMBC it took them 15 minutes to figure out the problem and refer me, yet at LGH it takes them 15 minutes to even realise I'm there. I wasn't getting answers, and after updating my parents on the phone, my Dad just turned up at the hospital and spoke to the doctor on my behalf. I'm not sure what he said, but it worked as they soon sorted me out. A doctor felt my bladder and decided I had to be on a catheter for a further 6 days to allow my bladder to heel. I couldn't bare the thought of having another 6 nights at the General, so I begged Melton to let me stay there, and they were so lovely and said I could go back there as long as I made my own trips to and from Leicester for my hospital appointments, which was a great deal for me. So off I went back to St. Mary's yet again, to sit out 6 days of being on a catheter. Melton don't cater for anything like this as it's a laid back, low risk birthing centre, so it wasn't until I got back we realised I had nothing to attach my catheter to. So the staff did a bit of DIY and attached cable ties into the bag and I carried it around like how you'd hold a wedding dress.. Glamorous.
We introduced Martha to a bottle that night, we were so so tired and drained and she just wasn't settling so I gave in and gave her formula, which she loved and slept well on. Meaning I finally got a couple of hours sleep which I hadn't had in days and days. But my goodness, no one warns you that if you don't feed all night that you'll wake up feeling like you've had a boob job!
The next day, on the 4th we finally left to go home, I actually felt quite sad to leave SMBC, we really felt at home there. I was still on the catheter but I was allowed home until I had to go back to the General on the 7th. Going home is supposed to be an exciting thing I imagine, but it was horrendous. People wanted to visit, and we reluctantly said yes. They were obviously very keen to meet Martha because they were sat on the drive waiting for us as we got home. I had the return home all planned out in my head, I wanted to go into the house before Joe brought Martha in so I could say hello to Binxie (the cat) after being away from home for a week, and let her see that my tummy had gone etc. Anyone who knows me will know my cat was my baby before Martha came along, so it was important for me to introduce them properly. I even did my pregnancy announcement with Binxie.. see here. But that didn't happen, it was all very rushed to get everyone into the house, with people dying to get Martha out and have a cuddle, telling me to make a cup of tea. It was very overwhelming and I just went into the kitchen and sobbed. I pulled myself together and starting making the drinks, yet forgot I had a huge tube down my legs and as I turned away from the cupboard, it got stuck around the handle and pulled, resulting in me screaming a lot of swear words. That night was horrible, it wasn't special and I still feel upset thinking about it. Anyone who is having a baby, my advice to you is don't entertain people the day you get home from hospital, be firm. Sometimes you have to be selfish and put you and your baby first, I wish I did.
The next few days we just went about our lives as normal, adjusting to life with a baby, which is the best thing ever by the way! Despite the tiredness. I was still in a lot of pain and bleeding like crazy, but I was counting down the days until the catheter was going to come out. On the 7th, I went back into hospital to have it removed. Just like before, I had to spend a whole day at LGH to do the TWOC test, with the 3 wees and the measuring of the urine. But the tests failed, I was having the same pain and discomfort as the week before, although this time I was actually going to the toilet, I just didn't get that relief after weeing and I still felt so desperate, so I had to have a bladder scan.
I'm sad to say this is where I lost confidence in the doctors at the General Hospital, the doctor came to scan my bladder to see how much fluid was in there, yet she said she couldn't find my bladder, worrying. She then put the machine on me, and told me she'd never used it so she wasn't sure how it worked and she doesn't trust the readings it was giving her. There was then mention of another catheter going in, and then a second doctor came to use the scanner on me, and told me I needed an in/ out catheter as they didn't like the machine. So in went yet another catheter to see how much they could drain, and it went straight to 1.4ltrs which was way too much, you shouldn't really have more than 250ml apparently. They also requested that I did a urine sample to test for a water infection, however after giving them the sample, they left it in my room, and just forgot about it. I asked the midwife or an update and she told me my sample was clear, until I reminded her it was still sat on the side so she hadn't actually tested it. Shortly after, a senior doctor came in and explained Martha had damaged my nerves when coming out as there was too much pressure on my bladder during labour. Apparently 1/10 women have to have a catheter after giving birth, but it usually heels itself after the first 48 hours which mine didn't, but he said it'd most likely go back to normal, but there was a slim chance I'd have to have it forever which panicked me. He told me I may have to stay in over night however as it wasn't a maternity issue I'd have to go to the main hospital wards, meaning Martha couldn't stay with me like on the maternity ward. There was no way I was going to leave my week old baby alone all night so I insisted I went home and they allowed it.
So I was sent home with a catheter, but this time I'd been upgraded to a smaller bag attached to my leg as I was due to go back to work, and carrying a huge bag of wee around my wrist may just get in the way of photographing babies! I had to have this one in for another 3 days until going back to see the specialist on the 10th. I was supposed to be going back to work on the 13th but I couldn't even walk properly at this point so that was another worry whether I'd be able to do my job. It got to the 10th and I received a call from the hospital, not to invite me in as planned but to say they were going to refer me that day, they'd forgotten to do it on the Friday so it was delayed. What I forgot to mention was that when I was there seeing the doctors, it was only written on a post-it note to refer me, nothing was typed up or no formal message was left, so I'm not surprised it was missed. They called me back in the evening to tell me the referral had been made and I was assured I'd hear from someone in the next few days in regards to what to do.. more waiting!
After a couple of days waiting for that call, the hospital finally rang me on the 12th to inform me they hadn't made the referral yet, despite them telling me they had done it a few days before. The midwife on the phone actually rang to ask me what the problem even was, including asking me questions like when I gave birth, what dates I had the catheters put in and what hospitals I’ve been at etc. She knew nothing as she said nothing was written in my notes on Friday so there was no record of me even being there at the hospital. I couldn't believe it but agreed to wait for the call later that day with an update.
I finally got a call that evening, well 'I' didn't, they asked for a Jodie Dowling.. Anyway, they wanted me to go back in that week to do the repeated tests from Friday as they had no records, meaning I had to go through all of that pain again because they messed up. It bloody hurts having a catheter put in, but to have it in and out 3 times in just a couple of hours is very sore, especially when you have stitches. And they're not exactly gentle either. I explained I'd already done these tests on two separate occasions and failed hence needing the referral to the specialist, but she insisted I go in again so they can record it this time. Not only does it cause me a lot of pain, but I'm sat in a hospital room from 8:30am until 7pm at night, lonely, upset and feeling like a terrible Mum for keeping my daughter in a plastic box all day. The rooms feel like prison cells and they're absolutely freezing, not ideal for a newborn baby.
On the 14th, in I went for another long day of tests. As it was yet another day of waiting around I asked if I could have something to eat this time, yet lunchtime passed and when I asked a staff member she said she didn’t know I was there as I wasn’t on the board, meaning I wasn't on the records again, so I ended up missing lunch. I was getting quite annoyed by this point and my tummy was rumbling so I plucked up the courage to ask a midwife if I could have a snack, she went off to see if there was any leftovers from lunch, and 30 minutes later came back with a mini yoghurt and tiny cake bar.. mmm filling!
During the tests I thought I was making progress, I wee'd 250ml which is a pass, but the in/ out catheter drained a further 400ml, meaning it's a fail as it's supposed to be under 100ml that's drained. This happened another two times meaning yet again I had to have another catheter fitted to go home with, and I would definitely be referred to the specialist. My catheter had been upgraded again and this time I didn't have a bag at all, it was just a teeny tube with a lever attached which sat in my pants, and I had to empty it promptly every 4 hours. The idea was to train my bladder to fill and be released. Although I was extremely uncomfortable, at least I didn't have a huge bag of wee strapped to me, so I went back to work. I do a lot of sitting, standing, bending, squatting, lifting etc when I photograph babies, and with every movement I made I could feel a tug which was just awful. But I was determined not to let this affect my work and I still did my photoshoots as normal.
I was told the hospital would call me on the 17th. It got to the 17th and guess what, still no call. I had to phone them in the evening after hearing nothing all day. I was told to go in on Wednesday to do yet ANOTHER three wee test, and I was provisionally booked in to speak to the specialist in the afternoon if I was to fail again in the morning. When I got there at 8:30 Wednesday morning of the 19th, I was informed that the specialists would only agree to see me if I first consented to self catheterise prior to the appointment. That means every time I need a wee at home, I'd have to put a catheter in myself to drain my bladder fully. I'm not sure if you know how a catheter works, but it's bad enough having a professional do it, without having to do this yourself. It's not an easy thing to do, the tube is 5ml thick and it's put through a hole about the size of a pin. The thought of that made me so anxious. I was panicking like crazy. If I was in tears through the pain of having it done by a trained midwife 3 times a day in hospital, how was I ever going to do it 6-8 times a day at home on my own?
I agreed to do it just so I could meet the specialist, I got down there for my appointment, to be told no appointment had been made for me. I was finally seen at 3:30 and the specialist said she couldn't do anything for me unless I'd done another TWOC test that day and that the midwives shouldn't have sent me down. So not only had I wasted all morning, but it meant I'd also have to suffer yet again. I'm sure you're aware that it's a very delicate area down there at the best of times, let alone after just having had a baby, not that they seemed to care.
Once again I sat in the hospital room waiting for the urge to wee so I could start having my catheters put in. And just like previous days, I was forgotten in regards to being fed so I was starving, grumpy and fed up. But guess what, I passed my first test!!! I can't even explain to you how happy I was. I'd never wanted anything more. I still had to pass another two tests before they'd let me go home, so the second one came and I passed again! Then the third one, I passed again!! I was finally going home without a catheter. Hallelujah!!! I was so so relieved. I think my body must have fixed itself through being terrified at the thought of having to self catheterise or something.
So off home I went without a catheter feeling the best I'd felt in weeks. This meant I could finally go to the toilet without having to shout Joe to pull my pants (adult nappies) up for me. However, I still wasn't discharged as I had to go back in a couple of weeks time for a final TWOC test of three in/ our catheters just to ensure everything was back to normal. I was told they'd call me with a new date to go in to do this, it was 8 weeks before I had a call back, although I was angry that I'd clearly been forgotten, I didn't chase them as I was secretly quite glad I didn't have to go back. I've had various other hospital/ doctor appointments since, but I was finally given an appointment for this week (13th November), however I decided to call up and cancel it myself. My daughter is now almost 11 weeks and I've been fine, I don't want to put my body through that again and I certainly don't want Martha spending another day in a cold, dingy room. So I discharged myself and hopefully I'll continue to be okay.
So in total I had 13 catheters inserted, but it's slowly becoming a distant memory. Now we're home, enjoying life as a family and getting on as normal. I am back at work full time as Joe is taking 6 months paternity leave to care for Martha. I will continue to share our journey of being parents which you will find on my social media pages, and right here in this blog, under the category 'Personal'.
Ps.. I’d do this ten times over for my daughter. She is worth every bit of suffering. Although I’m not considering anymore anytime soon!
If you've got this far, thank you for reading. Feel free to comment and share.
You can follow us and view our latest images here on Instagram: @_jadedowling, and Martha even has her very own Instagram account with just her professional images uploaded: