Chloë and Peter’s First Birth Story

The minute Pete and I met (on tour in 2005), we knew we wanted to have babies. We threw caution to the wind and were never careful, but nothing happened.

In 2006 we got married and went to Morocco for our honeymoon. I suffered debilitating cramping and pains and a considerable amount of bleeding, but I just thought it was a heavy period. We did not know what was happening at the time, but looking back at it afterwards; I am pretty sure it was an early miscarriage.

After trying to become pregnant for over 18 months, and nothing happening, we went to see the doctor. I was checked for sexually transmitted diseases, had blood tests, ultrasound scans, a laparoscopy, and had to monitor my cycle for weeks. Pete had to undergo physical examinations, semen analysis, hormone tests, and more. We had months of to-ing and fro-ing to various hospitals. Everything was poked and prodded, and our dignity took a severe knock. In the end, we were told that we had unexplained infertility, which was the most frustrating result. There was no apparent reason that we couldn’t get pregnant. The doctor said to us that we had a one to four percent chance of conceiving without treatment.

After nearly two years of trying for a baby, we were now faced with the possibility of having to undergo fertility treatment at the tender ages of 28 and 29. Neither of us felt ready for this and were devastated that it now seemed like our only choice. We decided to pop into our local acupuncture clinic in Queen’s Park, where we lived, to ask for advice.

After our consultation, Pete was given Chinese tea and medicine to take three times a day. I was given the same to clean out my system, but I was also asked to come in twice a week for acupuncture sessions. Nothing drastically changed, but we both felt healthier and much more relaxed. A month went past, and Christmas was fast approaching. We drove to Denmark to spend the festive period with my inlaws and had a lovely time. We partied, were merry, drank, and ate. My God did I eat…everything in sight and so much meat. During the ferry ride, on the way home, I had my first ever bout of ‘travel sickness’.

On New Year’s Eve, it suddenly dawned on me that I had lost track of my cycle. I checked it and rechecked it. My period was late! I ran out and bought a pregnancy test. This time, I had surges of excitement running through my veins, could it be? I took myself off quietly to the bathroom without Pete knowing. I waited two minutes and bingo, there it was, the blue line we had hoped to see for so long. I WAS PREGNANT!

Unfortunately, as with most significant events in our lives, Pete had to leave for a tour two weeks later. I packed up the house and moved in with my parents as he was due to be away until a week before my due date. I will never forget going back to the doctor who had told us that we would need fertility treatment and telling her that I was pregnant. The first thing she said to me was, ‘don’t get too excited, one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage.’ I was devastated. My mother had five miscarriages after having me, so I am an only child, and this was, and had always been, in my head. I was terrified of losing my baby, and this really stayed with me until she was born.

Just before I reached the three-month mark, I started bleeding. It felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy. My dad came with me to the hospital for a scan, which must have been very hard for him and brought back some dreadful memories. Thank God, the baby was ok and there didn’t appear to be an obvious reason for the bleed. I did go on to have more spotting but nothing of any significance, and it did eventually stop. Because I was completely paranoid, I bought myself a doppler and would spend hours searching for a heartbeat. I always found one, but it could take a very long time, especially in those early months.

My pregnancy progressed well, and I felt her for the first time at 16 weeks while standing in the kitchen cooking supper! It was the best thing I had ever felt, and I went on to love every movement. At around the same time, I started to get pains in my pelvis, back, and legs. These pains continued to get worse until I could barely walk. It was excruciating. The doctor referred me to a physiotherapist who I went on to see for several months. I was diagnosed with PGP, and this did not dissipate until I was over six months pregnant. For the last three months, I felt great although slowly became more tired. I never felt uncomfortable being big; I loved it.

On my due date, I had what I now know to be a bloody show. I had, of course, been expecting this, but because it was darker than I imagined, I panicked and went to the hospital. I told them that I had been bleeding, and they gave me an internal examination. I cannot remember if I was offered this or if I was told I had to have it. It was decided that they should do a sweep at that point to try to get things moving, which was my first experience of the pain to come. They sent me home and told me to come back the following evening to be induced. Again, I do not remember much of a discussion about this; I felt as though this is what was happening, and I absolutely needed to be there.

The following evening we arrived at the hospital amid a scene of chaos. It felt very stressful, and we were put in a ward and left there for a long time, only to be told later by a midwife, who let it slip, that a baby had been stillborn a few hours before. We were horrified, and that was the beginning of the worst night of my life. At 11pm I was given a pessary and put in a tiny little room. Pete was told to go home, but within an hour of him leaving, I heard a pop, and my waters broke with a gush. I managed to get to the bathroom to clean myself up and change. A midwife came in, and I said I thought my waters had broken, and her response was, ‘You think?’ Already I was hating every minute of this and felt very alone.

My contractions started with a bang shortly after that. There was no build-up, just straight in with high intensity and the worst pain I had ever felt. I pressed the button and said I’d like my husband to come back. They told me they would call him, but after a while, it became clear that they had not. I texted him and asked him to come back immediately, and he managed to get to me in record time. He stuck the tens machine pads to me and set to work on shocking me every time I had a contraction. It did not help. After some time, a midwife came in and turned the gas and air on so I could use that as pain relief. Again this did not seem to help the agony at all. We were on our own in that room for most of the night. At some point, a midwife came in and gave me pethidine, which I detested, and this just made me sleepy but didn’t help the burn of the contractions. During the early hours, a new midwife came to see us. She was much more gentle and took one look at the gas and air and declared it was not switched on. For the love of God, what the hell?

By 7am the next morning, I was screaming for an epidural. I felt that I had lost all control. I was terrified and completely panicked. It was all too much, and poor Pete was so scared, he thought I was dying. At about 9am, I was put in a wheelchair and taken to the delivery suite. I had not been given the epidural that I wanted because I was told the anaesthetist was not available. In hindsight, I am very grateful for this.

After two hours of pushing in various positions, they told me that she was stuck and would need some help being born. They talked to me about my options, and I clearly remember saying to them, ‘Just get her out.’ I lay on my back with my legs in stirrups. I was given an episiotomy, and they used a ventouse to pull her out. She was born with a lump on her head and a bloody eye from one of her blood vessels bursting. The cord was immediately cut, she was cleaned, wrapped up, and put in my arms. We had no skin to skin, and although I knew I loved his little person, I didn’t feel the overwhelming bond that I had expected and hoped for. I didn’t feel compelled to feed her immediately, and I was happy to let everyone else hold her while I tried to gather myself and make sense of what had happened.

I had felt completely left in the cold and entirely out of control through the whole labour and birth, and it is by far the worst experience of my life. I found it more traumatising than watching my mother die.

When we got home, we had an endless stream of visitors, including my inlaws, who came to stay for a few days. I had no time to settle properly. I had no quiet time to sit and learn how to feed. I was playing host and trying to show everyone I was on top form and a brilliant mum who could do everything. When Esmeralda was six days old, Pete left to go on tour again. He didn’t come home for five weeks, so I was left to work out what I was doing on my own. Health visitors came and went, but I didn’t get much comfort from them. My parents were wonderful, and my friends were great, but I spent a lot of time alone, scared and crying.

Writing all of this down seems like I am making huge exaggerations and that it cannot have been that bad, but it truly was. Pete and I both remember the same details, and I now realise how much it affected me at the time and for years to come. In 2011, I was put on antidepressants after a major breakdown, and I am still on them today. I do not think that I ever fully came to terms with the event of my first birth.