This is S’s birth story.
She was due on 13th May, 2012. On Easter weekend then, at the beginning of April, I wasn’t expecting much excitement past eating my body weight in chocolate. I’d had a bad cough, and not slept much. On the Saturday afternoon I sat on the bed with the ex to watch a TV show, but ended up falling asleep. The ex went to cook dinner, and brought me a plate of food. I felt like death though, and couldn’t force down more than a couple of mouth-fulls before going back to sleep. This was the wrong thing to do, and sparked one of our many non-rows where I was told “you’re being a dick again.” I was playing control games by refusing to eat the food he’d cooked for me. He went and slept downstairs, leaving me in a blind panic. What if he kicked me out (again) in the morning? I had just moved into a flat where I didn’t even have curtains yet. Or a cooker. I had only just unpacked enough of my stuff to allow me to spend a night there. What if he abandoned me again? I’d only just got him back after the last scare, where he’d gone and found a new girlfriend. I knew he’d got another girl pregnant too; what if he just ditched me and my baby, and replaced us with them? What would I do? How would I cope? I begged him to come to bed, but he refused to even look at me. I lay in bed panicking about what would happen next.
I woke up at 5am to go to the toilet. When I came back to bed, as I lay back I felt something leak out. “You stupid cow,” I said to myself, “you’ve not been doing your pelvic floors, and now it’s too late and you’ve peed yourself in someone else’s bed!” I went back to the bathroom to make sure my bladder really was empty. When I came back though, the same thing happened. I went back and forth to the bathroom a few times before it dawned on me – this is not pee. Shit! I didn’t know what to do, so I crept downstairs
“I’m leaking, and it’s not pee.”
“go back to bed, there’s nothing you can do.”
I did as I was told; I didn’t know what else to do.
At around 9am he came up the stairs and told me, “if you’re that worried about it, call the midwife.” By this point I was getting pains in my stomach. I didn’t know what contractions felt like, but this felt like period pains, every few minutes. I called the midwife, expecting her to tell me it was perfectly normal, and not to worry. The midwife told me to call the hospital. I called the ward, expecting them to tell me it was nothing to worry about. I wanted to be told there was nothing to worry about. But they told me I should come to the hospital, and I began to cry. I was told off for crying. I told him we needed to go to the hospital. He told me to have a bath first. I didn’t want a bath; I wanted to go to the hospital. I was in labour, five weeks early with my first child. I had no idea what was going on, and I was petrified. But I did as I was told, and took a bath. He came into the bathroom with me, sat with his back against the door and watched me. He told me I should take my time, stay in there at least an hour. I usually had to spend at least an hour in the bath. He usually washed my back and stomach for me; I had a rash from pregnancy that he believed was caused by my not washing properly so he scrubbed me with antibacterial washing up liquid to get me clean. Today I was spared that though. I washed and got out as quickly as possible, and went downstairs.He still made no effort to find someone to look after his six children, despite my pleading with him. I sat at the kitchen table, ordered to eat some breakfast. I tried to force down a pear while chaos raged around me. It was Easter day and he was sending his children off around the estate to deliver eggs to family and friends, organising who was to have which egg. In the end I told him not to worry; I would call my sister and ask her to take me to the hospital. This got his attention: my sister wasn’t to take me; his sister was going to take both of us. I asked him to please call her then, but he didn’t. It was gone midday before we left for the hospital.
In the hospital they took blood from my wrist and put a cannula in. It hurt, and I had to take off the watch my dad gave me for my 21st birthday. The ex put it in his pocket and I was petrified he wouldn’t let me have it back. They gave me some codeine; I’m not sure whether that was to stop the contractions or help with my coughing, but it did both. They put monitors on my belly to track the baby’s heart beat and my contractions. Both kept moving though, so they weren’t really very useful. A male doctor came to examine me, and as he bent down I had a coughing fit and lots of water gushed everywhere. I was mortified; something I got over fairly quickly over the next 36 hours.My contractions had stopped, and the midwife wasn’t sure what they were going to do with me, they were waiting for a doctor to come round. The ex was annoyed; he’d got a babysitter, and he wanted this baby out. He actually said it in that way too. To him this trip to the hospital had been like a trip to the supermarket to pick up a tin of beans.He asked the midwife if we could go for a little walk and they said that was fine. I put my coat on, and off we went. My local hospital is on a hill, and the grounds are… hilly. I was exhausted from not sleeping, petrified I was going to lose my baby, and suffering with a fairly bad chest infection, coughing and spluttering all over the place. He decided we should walk around the grounds, quickly, to get the contractions going again. So off we went, him always 2 paces ahead of me and impatient with my stopping and begging for rest. I stopped and sat on a wall for a few minutes, coughing up all sorts into the gutter. He stopped a few feet up the road and turned around, exacerbated. Eventually, we went to the hospital cafe and he bought me a sandwich and some pear drops. I felt too sick to eat but knew I couldn’t waste the food he’d bought so I forced the sandwich down and walked carefully back to the ward.
On shows like One Born Every Minute you see the woman laying in a bed while the man sits on a chair next to her, holding her hand and telling her everything will be fine. That didn’t happen. He paced around the room, sometimes stopping to lean against the far wall and stare at me as if he hoped to re-start my contractions by staring alone. He left soon after we got back to the ward, telling me he couldn’t leave the children with the babysitter any longer. The next day was Monday, and he was scheduled to work. He told me he would go to work in the morning, and if I was still here when he finished at 2:30, he’d come to see me afterwards. I said ok, because I knew I had to be ok with it, but I cried when he had gone. I’d never spent a night in hospital before; I was scared and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I texted a friend to let her know I was in the hospital. She asked who was with me and I said nobody. She told me she would come and spend the night with me until the ex came back; I shouldn’t go through this alone. I balked at this; if he came back and found her here, he would be angry at me for showing him up, making him look like a bad boyfriend. I told her not to worry, I was fine on my own and the contractions had stopped; I would just go to sleep.
The doctor came in at 10pm and told me that because my waters had gone there was too much risk of infection to let me go home, so if my contractions didn’t start again overnight they would induce me in the morning. I was relieved; I was too scared to go home now my waters had gone. I was scared to stay and have the baby too though. They gave me more codeine, and I fell asleep.