My pregnancy was smooth – I just had the odd symptoms of sickness early on, and heartburn near the end. I used to love watching birth programmes on telly – so I knew of the different outcomes! Educating myself on every possibility was important to me. I’d Google things, read the NHS website, ask the midwife lots of questions.
My mum was also very open about her birth – she told me about the tearing she’d experienced with me and my brother. I researched it and found out that perineal massage can be good at reducing the risk of tearing in childbirth – but I didn’t feel confident enough about it to do it properly, or without the help of my partner who was away six days a week.
Despite all my research, I still had a birth I didn’t know could happen. I didn’t, for example, realise your waters could break before your contractions.
It was 13 days before my due date. At around 6am, I woke up because I felt a weird sensation. I turned to the side and my waters broke, which shocked me... I hadn’t even had any pain yet! My contractions started after, and the pain slowly got worse. I went into the hospital during this time – twice – but they told me both times I wasn’t dilated enough and to come back when I really couldn’t handle it.
They said if I hadn’t progressed, they’d call me. And they did – 24 hours after my waters first broke. When I went in, I was 3-4cm dilated so they decided to induce me (there’s a higher chance of infection the longer you are in labour after your waters have broken). I had an epidural and was put on a hormone drip.
At one point the drip was too high and my contractions were coming too quickly, and then it was too low and they weren’t coming quick enough. It was back and forth, back and forth. Exhausting, draining, exhausting, draining.
After 40 hours of labour, I got the urge to push. Just this feeling. But the midwife told me not to push for at least an hour to let him come down the birth canal, so I followed her instructions. Even when I was ready, it took a while. Push, push, push for the hour. Nothing was happening, he wasn’t coming down. Then in the last 20 minutes, he started to make progress. And even with the epidural, I still felt that so-called “ring of fire” when my son came out.
I was euphoric – almost like he gave me a new lease of life. I didn’t care about all the pushing and exhaustion. When he was passed to me, I didn’t notice anything else in the room except Cade. I held him for a few minutes, then they asked if I could pass him to my partner, Kori, so they could stitch me up.
It was at this point that I slowly learned that I’d torn – quite badly.
The midwife had started to stitch me up, but then she had to get the head midwife, who had to go get another doctor. Lots of people came in. A doctor laid out all the trays with the kit on. It seemed serious.
I tore my perineum to the third degree, I tore my labia, I tore my urethra next to it and I did tear some places in my vaginal wall as well. They were down there for over an hour sewing me up.
They used anaesthetic, but I felt all the pain. I held my mum’s hand, squeezing it dead tight, because it was so uncomfortable. Holding my breathe when he did it, taking a breathe when he’d finished each stitch. It felt like it went on forever.
I stayed in hospital for a few days, so they could examine me and help me with breastfeeding. When I went home, they told me to use a jug of lukewarm water and pour it down there when I had a wee to ease the pain, which helped a little. I also used a pillow to relieve the pressure when sitting.
For a few months, walking or sitting or moving around caused great discomfort, so it was a relief when that pain started to ease.
It shouldn’t be a taboo to talk about tearing and the intricacies of what happens after birth – there needs to be open discussions so women can talk about it, get support and get help.
My birth advice?
I’d advise any woman who tears to use the lukewarm water when they’re weeing. I also bought a spray, where you spray it on to toilet paper and dab it on and that helped – it was called “spritz for bitz” and it was actually a present I got my friend who had a baby in April – it was almost cooling, and great for those few days after giving birth.
To find out more information about the #PowerToThePerineum campaign, visit: www.myexpertmidwife.com/perinealmassage or join the conversation online on Instagram @my_expertmidwife and Facebook @myexpertmidwife.