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The 12-hour labour - Alison's story

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Five days overdue

I'd quite enjoyed being pregnant and by my third trimester, the first 18 weeks of morning sickness had faded to a distant memory. I didn't have a birth plan of any kind and had given up reading a multitude of books on pregnancy in favour of the relaxed, go-with-the-flow approach.

I was five days overdue when I was booked in to have a sweep. I felt it was a bit premature to start helping things along manually and was looking forward to a hot curry for dinner, but for the first time ever my blood pressure was high (I blame the heated discussion I'd had with my husband Matt that morning!), so we went ahead with it to avoid any complications.

I felt like the birth was imminent

Later that afternoon, Matt had gone back to work and I went to my brother's as planned with my parents. At 2pm I felt my first twinge. Not knowing if it was a contraction or a side effect from the sweep, I continued eating cake without mentioning anything to anyone. By 4pm the twinges had developed into intense pains and were coming every 15 minutes.

I called Matt to tell him to come home. My parents were with me so they waited until he arrived, by which time I was on my hands and knees trying to hold on to whatever I could to get me through the next contraction. I could just about remember some breathing techniques I'd learnt in pregnancy yoga but everything else went out of my mind and I certainly didn't want to watch a DVD or have a massage, as suggested in the NCT pre-natal classes. I was quite impatient to get to hospital and in hindsight should have tried to stay at home longer, but I felt like the birth was imminent - how wrong could I be! After two phone calls to the midwife, they said I could come in.

I was in agony and the gas and air was making me feel sick

My waters hadn't broken when I got to the hospital at 9pm, and unfortunately I found out why some people say that arriving at hospital can make you anxious and slow the labour down. I had only dilated 3cm and my contractions weren't coming as regularly.

The midwife told me to go home and take a bath and two paracetamol. I could have cried - I thought my pain threshold was higher, but I was in agony and the gas and air they had given me had made me feel sick and anything else I tried to swallow was coming straight back up again. I didn't know how I would survive the 30-minute journey back home again. Luckily the lovely midwife took pity on me and ran me a bath at the hospital that I sat in for the next two hours. I was trying to drink water to keep hydrated but I kept having to get out of the bath to be sick or go to the toilet - not a pretty sight, so I told Matt to go and watch TV in reception. Eventually I was given an injection to stop the nausea, which worked.

My waters broke and they were black

After my bath I was taken to a delivery room, which was very pleasant and not as scary and clinical as I had imagined. My all-time favourite song Careless Whisper was playing on the radio and was a momentary relief from the pain. I spent the next two hours backwards and forwards to the toilet and pacing around holding onto the end of the bed, demanding Matt take the pain away. Finally my waters broke (while sitting on the toilet!) but because they were black, it meant there was meconium present so the baby's heartbeat had to be monitored from then on.

This was the first time I had really felt scared for the baby and it meant that I had to stay in bed flat on my back, and wasn't able to move around the room. Instead I lay writhing around like a woman possessed and my birthing position had been decided for me.

All of a sudden I got the urge to push

I had heard about women feeling the need to strip all their clothes off during labour and even though I didn't go that far, I was close as I was sweating so much. This is where Matt came in useful, providing me with a wet flannel and a constant supply of water.

When I had still only dilated 6cm I asked the midwife for an epidural, but unfortunately there were no staff available to administer it. The pain was so bad I was almost ready to beg for a caesarean when all of a sudden the urge hit me to push and I was fully dilated. It was such a strange feeling, but once it started there was no going back and it provided a release from the pain. Now all I had to do was push the baby out, which was easier said than done. I was so exhausted, it was difficult to find the energy to push. Matt helped by holding one leg back while the midwife held the other. At 2.47am our beautiful baby boy Elvis arrived, so it was a relatively short labour compared to others, which I've heard can last for days - my heart goes out to those women!

It was all worth it

It's difficult to describe all the emotions you feel when you see your baby for the first time, but the relief when you know they are healthy is immense and when you hold that miracle in your arms you know it was all worth it!

'My all-time favourite song Careless Whisper was playing on the radio and was a momentary relief from the pain'