Heather Camsell, 35, from Uckfield, swears by her TENS machine. She managed her contractions using it at home, and by the time she got to hospital she was found to be 8cm dilated and rushed straight to the delivery room. Here she tells her story...
How did you know labour had started?
I went two weeks over my due date and was booked in to be induced on Saturday but things started happening naturally on the Thursday night. I noticed a 'bloody show' before I went to bed about midnight and woke up with a contraction around 2am. I later discovered that my waters had broken – there wasn't much water so I didn't think they had gone at first!
How did you cope with the contractions?
To start with they made me feel a little sick but I soon got used to them. The only came once every 10 to 20 minutes so I had plenty of time to recover between each one. I kept going like this for about 24 hours. I tried warm baths but they didn't help as I found it better to stand up during a contraction. After about 24 hours I switched on my TENS machine – this was absolutely brilliant and saw me through the rest of my labour.
What was so good about the TENS machine?
Well, it was really easy to use and gave me something to focus on. As time went on I gradually turned it up and used the 'boost' option during a contraction. It really helped me manage the pain and I can't stress how fantastic I found it. I hadn't thought it was that strong, but I asked my husband to reposition one of the pads and he touched it before I turned it off and got a bit of a surprise - he reckons it was more powerful than a 240-volt shock!
When did you decide to go to hospital?
Unfortunately my contractions weren't very regular and varied between every five and 10 minutes. When I rang the hospital they asked me to remain at home until I was due to be induced. So I carried on using the TENS machine and waited until 6pm on the Saturday. At this point we hadn't realised that my waters had broken – latter I discovered it can be a long leak! I was, however, very pleased when it was time to go – if I didn't have an appointment I think we would have gone anyway.
What happened once you arrived?
When I arrived they took me in to check me over and were planning to give me a pessary for an induction. However when they did a check they found I was 8cm dilated and rushed me straight to a delivery room.
It sounds like things happened very quickly. How did your partner handle things?
He was great. During the time at home he was at a bit of a loose end as there wasn't really anything he could do to help. During the labour at hospital though he was great - lots of mopping my brow and I used him as a support post when I wanted to stand up. He said afterwards he has never been through such a scary experience as he was so worried about me!
How long did it take before you gave birth?
I delivered my baby about 12 hours after I got to hospital. I was so relieved to get there, as I knew I would be taken care of. I did get tired towards the end, and just wanted to get to the pushing stage but my midwife was brilliant and so supportive. I was so pleased that I just needed gas and air so that I got a chance to feel everything – it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
So you had a good experience of hospital?
Yes! I was told that you stay in hospital for about six hours – in reality you stay in usually over night and longer if necessary. I wish I had stayed in longer and taken full advantage of all the support and a chance to catch up on my sleep. When I talk to pregnant ladies now they are all keen to leave hospital as soon as possible – my advice would be stay as long as you can!
What was it like to see your baby for the first time?
Weird. I remember I was just amazed that it was a real baby (not quite sure what I was expecting!) I didn't have the feeling of unconditional love I was expecting – I think I was just too exhausted – my husband did though. However once we were home I really bonded with Harvey and now I love him so much it makes me emotional just thinking about him. I now totally understand the saying that there is nothing like a mothers love!
Would you do it all again?
Yes definitely – we're already planning the next one!