On Sunday 22rd July I woke up at about 6am with some mild contractions. Cailin (our dog) seemed to know that there was something happening as she jumped onto the bed with us and every time I had a contraction, she pressed up against my back.
I timed the contractions to be about 10 minutes apart, so I went back to sleep, and at around 11am we went for breakfast in the café downstairs from our house. We sat there for ages enjoying the sun and wondering if it was the last time that it would just be the two of us for breakfast.
When we went back to the house, the contractions were still 10 minutes apart so we spent a few hours watching TV and cuddling on the sofa. The three cats took turns sitting on my bump and purring. As they began to get stronger, I just breathed through them, and I kept telling myself, "I can get through anything for one minute". I would start counting, get to 60, and then begin to focus on the next minute.
After lunch I went for a lie-down, but couldn't get comfortable, so I went for a long relaxing bath with candles and lavender oil. I sat back and listened to some hypnobirth recordings, focusing on relaxing as much as possible to help with the pain. After the bath, I realised that the contractions had dropped to every 5 minutes. This was about 7:30pm, so I messaged our friend Jose to ask if he'd be able to bring us to the hospital at about 9pm. I wanted to stay at home as long as possible, and the hospital had advised us to come in when the contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart.
I sat on the yoga ball for a while, and then realised that the contractions had suddenly dropped to 2 minutes apart. Cailín definitely knew that there was something going on, as she hadn't left my side all day, and during each contraction she'd lean her body against mine, as if to remind me that she was there with me. Our other dog, Mango, was oblivious to everything and just wanted her usual scratches and cuddles. We contacted Itziar, our pet-sitter, and asked her if she could come over quickly. It was the first time that I felt a little worried, as I thought that I had left things too late. Unfortunately at this stage, I started vomiting between contractions too, so it took us a while to get out the door!
Jose and Marta met us with the car in the garage where I promptly threw up again, and then got in the car (prepared with a plastic bag- just in case! Luckily I didn't need it though!)
When we got to the hospital I was still laughing and joking, and Jack and I got a few selfies in the waiting room. I got taken to an examination room where I was told that I was only 2cm dilated, so they couldn’t admit me as I wasn’t in labour yet. When she saw my face of dread, she said that they would hook me up to the monitors to check my contractions for two hours, and that they’d make a decision then if things had progressed a little. Sitting in the chair through contractions and not being able to move around was the most difficult part. I put in my headphones, shut out the world, and focused on my breathing, while listening to hypnobirth recordings. After two hours, she checked me again and said that I was still only at 2cm, and she recommended that I go home. I panicked a little at this stage and told her that I couldn’t, because we lived about 30 minutes from the hospital and we didn’t have a car. She told me that as it was going to be a long night, the best thing we could do was to go for a walk, and to get some dinner, and to come back after two hours.
We went to the hospital café with Jose and Marta, but it was closed, so we decided to walk to Burger King. It’s about 550m from the hospital, so it’s not far, but when you’re having contractions every 2 minutes, you feel every single step! Through the contractions I just wanted to keep moving, so I counted to one minute, and kept telling myself, “One step at a time, then you can focus on the next step.”
In Burger King Jack ordered me a drink and an ice-cream, but I just went to the bathroom and continued vomiting. After about half an hour I walked into the carpark and they followed me. When I told Jack I needed to go back to the hospital, he tried to remind me what they had told me, “Two hours”, but I insisted that I needed to go back NOW. The walk back under the motorway was even more difficult. Each contraction felt like it was getting more and more intense, but I kept telling myself, “Just one more step…”
When we got back to the hospital, we told Jose and Marta to go home, that it was going to be a long night, and they had already done so much for us by being there all evening. I went through to the examination room where the doctor was surprised to see us again so soon. She checked me and told me with a big smile on her face that I was at 6cm, so I could be admitted. No wonder the contractions were so intense, I had gone from 2-6cm in forty minutes!
We went to the delivery room with the birthing pool but were told that there was no hot water, so they’d need to run the taps for a while to heat it up. I decided to go for a cold shower while I was waiting, and then lay down on the bed. At this stage, the contractions were extremely intense, and I wasn’t sure I could keep going without pain relief, so I asked for some gas and air. The midwife said that she needed to check if I could use it when I was planning on using the pool, so to make myself comfortable as I was going to be there for about 3-4 hours yet. Jack rang my mum (the poor thing was so worried all day!) and said that he’d give her a shout every hour to let her know how things were progressing.
I realised then that my waters had broken so I walked to the bathroom. All of a sudden I got an incredible urge to push, but one of the midwives told me not to, that I wasn’t ready, and that I was only 6cm dilated. She checked again, and suddenly told me that yes, it was time to push, that she could see the baby’s head! No time to fill the pool, or even to take a Paracetemol!
She called for help, and quickly Jack and the other midwives laid out a cushioned mat on the ground, covered it with a sheet and brought out a yoga ball for me to lean on. I got on my knees and rested my elbows on the ball, moving my hips in a circle to help with the pain. One of the midwifes put a heated lavender sack on my back and gently massaged my lower back, while the other one spoke to me gently, telling me to push when I felt the urge, and told me when to take a break and “pant like a dog” (it was also a huge help that she spoke English!)
At the time I didn’t feel any pain, just an intensity and relief that it was time to push as I knew that each push was bringing me one step closer to meeting my little girl. Jack held my hand and kept reminding me that I could do anything for a minute, and counted through each minute with me. As the midwife told me that I was nearly there, Jack told me I was a warrior (it was a running joke during the pregnancy) I got a huge rush of energy, pushed one last time, and shouted, “I am a fucking warrior!” and Fía was born! It was 01:44 on 23rd July.
They passed her to me, and I walked straight to the bed and put her on my chest. I just couldn’t believe that she was here, and kept staring at her beautiful little face. Jack cut the cord, and I didn’t even notice when the placenta was delivered, or when I had two small stitches put in. All I could focus on was my little girl.
A nurse brought us in some toast and tea, and after 9 months of being sick with hyperemesis gravidarium it was the tastiest meal that I had ever eaten! Jack rang my mum again and told my parents that they were grandparents… Less than half an hour after he had last spoken to them! Fía was born 20 minutes after we had arrived in the delivery room, and less than an hour and a half after we had been told to go to Burger King for two hours. Good thing I listened to my instincts and returned to the hospital when I did!
We were left in the delivery room for three hours, just the three of us, to enjoy every moment of being a new family. We had skin-to-skin contact and watching Fíá use her instincts to crawl up to my breast for her first feed was such a wonderful experience.
After three hours, they took a print of Fía’s foot for her birth certificate and we were brought up to our room where she was weighed and measured. It was so nice that the hospital waited to do that, and that we had our first few hours together entirely uninterrupted.
After such a stressful and sick pregnancy, giving birth was an incredible, powerful experience that I’d repeat again in a heartbeat. I had written out a detailed birth plan before Fía was born with the help of Bel & Mums, but although absolutely nothing went to plan, it was a fantastic experience. Something to bear in mind is that no one sends a copy of the plan to the baby! I was so lucky in that my recovery was so quick. From the day she was born, I felt great. During the pregnancy I lost 10kg from being so sick, so being back to normal was a huge relief for me. Fía fed so well, that she only lost 300g in the first few days, but put it back on almost immediately and started to gain weight quickly.
The staff at Hospital Universitario de Torrejón in Madrid were absolutely fantastic throughout the whole process. Even the food was surprisingly good! I’d recommend the hospital to any expecting mum, without a doubt.
Thankyou Louise for sharing your amazing story!
You can follow Louise’s motherhood journey in Spain here- http://facebook.com/mammyinmadrid