You finally get the positive test and after the initial anxiety of getting to that 12 week scan has passed, thoughts turn to labour, or at least they do for most people. Me? I figured there was no point worrying about it – I would deal with it when I had to!
As time progressed, people started to ask me if i was nervous or scared, and of course lots of people started divulging their horror birth stories to me, whether I’d asked to hear it or not! At that point I decided it was time to get my butt in gear and start finding out what I was going to do about this labour thing. So I got us booked into the Bump to Baby antenatal classes, bought some positive hypnobirthing books and started to make a plan of action. I quickly decided I was going to be one of these boss mums who serenely breathed their baby out while in pool with plinky plunky music on in the background. Obviously. So when my consultant told me they would admit me to hospital and induce me bang on 40 weeks (due to my blood clotting disorder) I was absolutely devastated. I felt utterly out of control and all the lovely natural birth plans I had disappeared.
After a few days of holding a spectacular pity party, I decided it was time to pull my (seriously enormous) big girl pants up, and take all the great info we’d learned at the antenatal classes and make up a new birth preference. We’d learned all about boosting the all important oxytocin while in an unfamiliar environment and also not to be afraid to ask questions so I spoke to the consultant and asked that we delay the induction by just a few days to give my baby one last chance to make his or her own way. He agreed, and although I only had 3 extra days, it really gave me back a sense of control.
Sadly, despite endless frantic hours bouncing on the birthing ball like a mad woman, my baby was in no rush so on the morning of the 28th September we dutifully trundled into GRH, all ready for the inevitable 3 day long induction process I’d heard so much about.
I was examined and, at 2cm already (how secretly thrilled was I?) my first pessary was inserted at 1pm. After we were allowed to get up, hubby and I went on a 2.5 hour long waddle around the hospital grounds in the hope it would help speed things up. I needn’t have bothered really as within an hour I was feeling some discomfort and by the time we returned to the labor ward I was contracting regularly. By 10pm I was contracting every 2-3 minutes for 40-60 seconds and I was scared. Surely this was too much too quickly? Inductions were meant take days weren’t they? I was still 2cm (smug feeling from earlier now gone) and I was beginning to think I’d massively over estimated my pain tolerance. How on earth was I going to manage another 8+ hours of this? To add to my ever growing panic, the midwives were also telling me Alex would have to go home as men aren’t allowed on the ward overnight. How would I cope without my rock? Oxytocin had left the building and I was struggling.
Thankfully we managed to keep Alex there for another couple of hours and as I gladly accepted the offer of pethidine, I was told at now 3cm dilated, we could go down to the delivery suite. Hooray!!! Once wheeled down and settled in, Alex quickly got to work putting my affirmation bunting up and getting out our battery operated candles. I had my waters broken and then the fun really started! Within half an hour I was seriously contemplating an epidural – something I swore I’d never have but I was really doubting I could cope with much more. The midwife suggested gas and air which despite being quite nervous about trying, I found to be brilliant. With Alex and the midwife cheering me on, I soon found myself wanting to push at the end of each contraction. It wasn’t until the midwife brought it up that I even realised I was doing it and at that point I completely panicked – why was I trying to push at 3cm?? I’m sure I was told to trust my body during labour but at this point my body didn’t seem to know what it was doing, or so I thought. The midwife didn’t seem overly concerned but after an hour of increasingly more urges to push, she decided to examine me and I heard the words every desperate labouring woman wants to hear: “You’re at 9cm!”. Hallelujah! The midwife admittedly seemed as shocked as me and all of a sudden the room sprung into action. Other midwives appeared, the tray came out and the gas and air went away so I could really start to put all my energy into pushing. After a good half an hour of pushing and despite all my visualisations of my vagina opening up like a lotus flower (ha ha!!), nothing was happening and the team were starting to get worried about my baby’s heart rate which was distinctly elevated. A clip was put on baby’s head to monitor the heart better and the decision was made to call in a doctor.
The next few minutes passed in a blur, and before I knew it, the midwife was explaining that as my baby’s heart rate was elevated they wanted baby out double quick so they were preparing to give me an episiotomy. Prior to going into labour this would have been a horrifying thought, but I just wanted my baby here safely. I calmly consented to the episiotomy and the doctor acted quickly. Once the cut had been made I was urged on by the midwives and my husband – a few more pushes and we’d finally find out whether we’d got a girl or a boy!
That last stage of pushing was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I literally had nothing else to give and at one point I thought my head would explode before this baby came out! I remember Alex saying he could see the head and the midwife getting me to feel it. That meant my baby was so nearly here! I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and re-grouped. I’d doubted myself all the way through this but I knew now could do it, the end was in sight. A few more pushes and the infamous ring of fire sensation hit. I know it’s meant to be really unpleasant but for me it was a reassuring sensation, it meant the head was right there! At 3:40am we welcomed our baby girl, Eloise, to the world. She was here and I’d survived!! We managed to have a little skin to skin but unfortunately her breathing wasn’t great and after a few checks it was decided she needed to go to the NICU for further treatment. It turned out she had fluid on her lungs and an infection but responded really well to treatment and the following day she was out of the NICU and back with me on the ward, where we stayed for another 4 days.
My labour story was like nothing I ever imagined and I don’t think I did any of the things on my birth plan! To top it off I don’t think I ever considered how physically demanding it would be! Sounds ludicrous to say that out loud but at the end I really felt like I’d run two marathons back to back. In flip flops. On sand. I wasn’t prepared for the level of exhaustion that inevitably followed. I learned that I should trust more in my body (it really does know what it’s doing!) and trust less in other people’s stories. I’m so glad I attended the antenatal classes because despite being scared at times, I understood everything that needed to happen and felt comfortable with the decisions we made. The only thing I would do next time that I didn’t do this time is attend an actual hypnobirthing course, to really cement my belief. Oh, and maybe work out more so that I’m fitter for the marathon that is labour!!
I am incredibly proud of myself and my husband, we were a total team and he really showed how much he’d taken on board from attending the antenatal classes, which was so reassuring for me. We’ve stayed in touch with all the couples we met at the antenatal group and they have become firm friends and a source of comfort and support during those sleepless nights! Labour was an epic ride and I can honestly say I can’t wait to do it again!