In this post I go through the birth process based on my own experience.This is written for all mums to be who may want to give birth at this North London Hospital or who may want to read about my birth story. My baby girl was born on a rainy Thursday in London 12 days before her due date at The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead. Due dates are hardly ever accurate and mine wasn’t. I was supposed to be working that day but had to call in “labour”.
The outside of the RFH in North London where I gave birth
I worked throughout my pregnancy till the day before I went into hospital. Commuting into Central London wasn’t pleasant. By 7 months, I no longer needed my “Baby on board” badge as the bump was pretty visible but still, there were many occasions when I had to ask people to please offer me the priority seat they had taken or just deal with it and stand up hoping the train didn’t brake too hard so I didn’t fall.A few times a week weather permitting, I used to walk to work in the mornings , in fact, my 45 minute walks into Central London while pregnant, were pretty much all the exercise I did for the almost 10 months of the pregnancy.
My last day at work, just walking to the break room to eat felt like running a marathon.The indigestion by then, was pretty bad. That night I felt the baby a lot, the bump had a different shape and I could almost feel her limbs through my skin. She was definitely ready to come out. This day, Nov 9th, was the day we all woke up to baffling news. Donal Trump had won the USA election and he would be the next USA President. That Wednesday, I had to take my mum to hospital as she wasn’t feeling well. While waiting for her results after doctors saw her, I thought I would pop in quickly to the maternity unit in the 5th floor to inquiry about some watery discharge I was having since 8 am. Thankfully, I had my maternity notes with me. The nurse who saw me, told me pretty much straight away; “Your waters broke, come back tonight between midnight and 2am with your hospital bag, baby will be here tomorrow”. I always thought that when waters break , you have a movie moment when you call a taxi and rush to hospital. But my waters broke quietly and little by little and that is why I thought nothing of it for a while.
The day you go into hospital , you want to make it easy on yourself. You want to avoid stress as much as possible and ideally you want to be rested as labour is exhausting physically. None of that was possible for me. I hardly slept that night with the indigestion and my mum feeling ill, and worse of all, my landlord. Yes, for real!. While in hospital when the nurse was monitoring the baby, my landlord who never ever called except when asking for a rent increase, kept calling non stop. That day out of all days, he was on his way with a new fridge I had requested months and months ago. So I left hospital around 3pm after spending there the whole morning and even though I was told to walk a bit to bring on labour, I couldn’t do it as it got dark and cold very soon, I was hungry, and I had to wait for the landlord and the fridge. This obnoxious person even asked me to help him lift the fridge! . Anyway, I was supposed to check into Triage at midnight but by 7.30pm contractions started. Every 20 mins or so I started to feel a mild pain in the abdomen. Then, as time went by, contractions were more regular, so I called the hospital and they asked me to go straight away. It was around 8.30pm.
I wasn’t too bothered about birthing options, all I wanted, was to give birth safely. I knew there was the option of giving birth in a birthing pool but I wasn’t offered it and I didn’t request it either. I checked in Triage and after a semi long wait, I was offered a bed in a shared room with other women who I guess were also in the early stages of labour. By 10pm that night, contractions started to be pretty regular, pain ten times worse than period pain, made an appearance and to make things worse, I started to throw up. I asked the midwife if I was ready and she said:” if you can still talk to me and look at me in the eye, it is because you are not ready, when your contractions get bad, you won’t be able to smile like you are doing”. However, when she checked my cervix, she was surprised I was already 4cm dilated. Around 1am, they moved me into the room where I would eventually give birth.The room felt spacious and modern and I had a midwife looking after myself and the unborn baby.
My birth plan was see how it feels and go with the flow. This, I guess was good, as no-one ever asked what my birth plan was . I had such a great pregnancy; no morning sickness, no cravings, no nothing that I was pretty adamant I didn’t want an epidural. So when the doctor came and offered all the pain relief methods available to me, my heart did want them all, but as she went though the pros and cons of the epidural with statistics included, my mind focused on the cons and I refused them all , except gas and air. This was a bad choice, why did I go for hours and hours with painful contractions when I could have been resting and feeling no contractions at all? I think it was my own fear of something going wrong with the epidural injection and all the bad online stories I had read . As a first time mum, my labour was very long, contractions started 7.30pm on a Wednesday and I gave birth at 11.50 am the next day, so that night, was gruelling. An epidural at the time it was offered to me, would have saved a lot of unnecessary pain and it would have given me the chance to rest a bit.
Around 3am, the midwife told me the baby was not expected till at least 1pm the next day or maybe even the afternoon. I was so exhausted, this felt like torture. The night midwife was very calm, and reassuring. I felt uncomfortable with the green vomiting in her presence but I guess for her, this was normal .Night turned into day and it was around 7am, when two energetic Spanish girls in their 20’s arrived in my room to take over the shift of the midwife who was with me throughout the night. These girls were all energy. I went from Zen Land to Dysneland but their energy was contagious and they worked really well as a team checking everything, talking to me, and encouraging me to get that baby out.But first, more contractions.
By now , they were really close. It was too painful and I didn’t want to cope with it any longer. Medicine has advanced to make it easy on us women during childbirth.Why go through that unnecessary pain? Not me,I wanted that epidural even if it was late in the labour and risky. Gas and Air did absolutely nothing, I inhaled twice the gas and it made me feel even more sick. The midwives called the doctor and soon after, the anaesthetist arrived. She asked me to stay still and let her know when the contraction was gone as that is the moment they inject. Soon, I felt no pain, I felt relieved. Apparently, I went through 21 contractions but I felt nothing.Why oh why did I wait this long?. When I was 10 cm dilated, they told me it was time to start pushing.The baby had to come out. No more waiting.The time had come: Vamos, vamos! -They said.
“Good morning!, We hear there is a baby arriving very soon”
Around 9.30 am a group of Doctors arrived in my room. Amongst them, was one of the female obstetricians I had seen during my appointments – the one who spot on said; you are going to bleed a lot because of the position of your fibroid so I will make a note for your midwife to be aware of this- These doctors were probably doing their morning rounds and their presence was appreciated. It made me feel as if whatever happened , they would be there to help me. Everyone seemed in good spirits except me, my usually upbeat spirit was gone. I was just an exhausted body lying on a bed with a baby bump. My expression must have been blank as one of them said. “Listen to me know, are you listening?.This is now the most important part and you must collaborate and push when told. The most difficult part starts now, good luck.Congratulations !”.They checked something with the midwives and they all wished me well. Looking back, that was rather a special moment, all those consultants checking on me and probably going into every labour room where mums to be were moments away from delivering their baby.If anywhere in those wards any mum to be had been in trouble, they were there.
Vamos, empuja ! The midwives reminded me of Sport Journalists when narrating a football match and they go goooooooal! , in their case , empuja!But I felt I was pushing air, I felt I was pushing nothing .Time went by and nothing was happening so the midwifes called a doctor, I think her name was Jasmin. She introduced herself and told me the baby was ready to come out but on this occasion, I was gonna need some help. I was so out of it, I thought a C section would be the best for me and I thought they were taking me to the operating table. But then, she said; “we are gonna do an episiotomy”. She injected me to perform the episiotomy and when I was asked to push again, nothing was happening. It was then, that Forceps was decided. This is a complex procedure that requires expertise and experience so Im thankful the person who did this, got it right. However, when the Forceps was applied, for the 30 seconds or so that the instrument was being attached to the head of the baby, I thought that was it for me. Goodbye dear life. I’m dying. I was convinced I was breaking in two.
I was told afterwards that the Forceps resembled a pair of salad tongs.I have no idea, I wasn’t looking, I didn’t want to. I heard the baby cry pretty much straight away and I knew then and there she was all good. When the doctor asked me to push the placenta, it felt like a walk in the park as they say. Easy peasy. When a baby is born via Forceps, a paediatrician is called into the room. The paediatrician weighted the baby, and as expected she was a big baby at almost 4 kilos- 8.2 lbs- No wonder she arrived before her due date, one more week and she would have been huge!.
A sense of relief invaded me, even if the doctor was still stitching the episiotomy. Even if apparently that room looked like a “murder scene” with all the blood I had lost. When I held my baby girl and saw her , I remember very clearly her smell. A smell that made me feel completely calm and put aside then and there, the pain I went through during childbirth. The baby started to breastfeed instinctively and I couldn’t believe this little human had been living in my belly for all those months.Her mouth , her eyes, her face…you could tell she had just arrived from another world and was still adjusting. Those few moments in the bed of the room where your baby is born are too special. After an hour or so in the room bonding with my newborn, the midwives put me on a wheelchair to a room with about 5 other new mums and their newborns. My baby, who at that time still had no name, was with me on a cot. The midwives told me the doctor had checked the placenta and everything was well. When I went through the notes, the paediatrician had written in the notes: Baby is healthy and happy.
My birth experience was good because the outcome was great. I left hospital with a healthy baby girl. That is all I had wished for and that is what I got. Yes, it was painful giving birth and Forceps did hurt a lot, but the baby was fine and so was I. I had a room full of consultants wishing me good luck and ensuring I was going to be fine, I had a doctor performing the Forceps safely, a paediatrician checking the baby as soon as she was born and I had two hard working midwives full of energy and positive vibes. All of them, helped me bring my precious baby into the world safe and sound, and for that, I would be forever grateful. I was told when I went on a maternity tour that if everything is fine, you are discharged 6 hours after giving birth, but because I lost so much blood, I spent the next three days in hospital for postpartum care. I saw the ins and outs of hospital life in a maternity unit but that, is a story for another post. As a filmmaker I always feel as if life is there to provide material for my next film, being in that hospital bed for those 3 days, certainly did.
Us now. We are great , thanks!
PS: Oh! and in case you are wondering, I moved out of that flat as soon as I could and never looked back. After five years living in Belsize Park in a small flat that my landlord thought was belsiham palace with views to the sea, leaving felt too good. The hospital incident was the point of no return for me. He called again and again after I gave my notice but this time, I never answered. I was too busy and too happy enjoying my newborn to allow his negative energy reach me.