Our birth story

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was getting ready for labour to be induced because of the gestational hypertension that I had developed in the last two weeks of my pregnancy. I can’t believe how scared I was. All I want to tell people now is that there’s nothing to be scared of.

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Our birth story really starts two weeks before she was born. Up until then, everything had gone perfectly with my pregnancy. But then, quite suddenly, my blood pressure spiked. Twice, I was told by the midwife to go straight to the hospital. After the second time, it was decided that I would be induced at 40 weeks. I was so upset. I had so wanted to avoid intervention, and now my labour was going to be started with intervention, which made me four times more likely to need further intervention. I spent the week leading up to the birth preparing my mind and body for whatever would happen. I found comfort in knowing that God wasn’t surprised by this turn of events, and made up a cute little rhyme – “I can withstand it, because God planned it” – to remind myself that I would get through the birth fine, because God was in control and knew what was going to happen.

This did mean that my midwife wouldn’t be able to attend the birth, as she’s contracted to the birthing centre where I’d planned on having the baby. But she found a midwife for me who was known for her laid back attitude and her belief in letting women birth how they want. Meeting this midwife a few days before the induction alleviated my anxiety a whole lot. She was wonderful, and said she saw no reason why I couldn’t still have the birth I’d wanted, despite the induction.

I feel fairly fortunate that we were able to know the day that we would last just be us two. On the morning of my induction, we woke up really early and spent some time lying in bed talking before getting up. Angus made pancakes for breakfast, and I fluttered around trying to both get ready and relax. Having both our mums there was a huge help. As well as my labour and hospital bag, which I’d had ready since the first time I had to go to hospital, we packed enough food, books, magazines, etc, to last a couple of days. A friend had given us the key to her mum’s house near the hospital (her mum was away for the weekend), so that Angus and our mums could stay if needed. Angus had planned to come home that night, and I’d forgotten some stuff for the labour, but I figured it was okay because he could bring it in for me in the morning.

We arrived late at the hospital because of roadworks. They actually called when we were in the car park to see where we were. We were taken up to the ward, and I was extremely happy to find that I’d been given my own room. After spending some time on the CTG monitor, and having my blood pressure taken several times, the ward midwife who was looking after me for the day came to do the first lot of gel. My cervix was closed, hard, long and posterior – the midwife assured me this was exactly the way you would expect it to be, but said this meant the induction would probably take two or three days. This was at midday, and the plan was that we’d do another lot of gel in 6 hours time.

We spent the day waiting around. We could do what we wanted, as long as we were back every hour to be monitored for 20 minutes. Angus watched TV in the lounge for awhile, and at one stage my mum and I went for a walk to the cafe to get some lunch. I noticed period-like pains, and commented that the vaginal exam and gel must have at least started to stir something up. At about 3pm, I noticed that the pains were coming quite regularly, and were accompanied by tightening in my uterus. I started to check the time whenever the pains came, and noticed they came every 3 minutes. When the ward midwife came in to do the monitor again, I mentioned them to her. She looked at my stomach as one was happening, and said “Oh, good God!” She timed the tightenings, but they were only lasting 30 seconds.

They steadily got worse. Angus and I went for a walk to the cafe, and had to stop every few steps for me to get through what I was now sure were contractions. At some stage, my (birthing centre) midwife’s student midwife, who has been working with my midwife for the past few months, called to let me know that, as she’s a student, she’s allowed to attend the birth if I wanted her to. I definitely wanted her to, so I was really happy to hear that.

At 6pm, the ward midwife came to do the second vaginal examination. She didn’t even bring the gel, because she was sure my cervix would have done something. By this stage, the pains were getting really intense. I had to really concentrate on my breathing, and hold my husband’s hand, to get through them. This vaginal exam was awful. I kept getting the tightening pains through out it, so it took ages. And she couldn’t find the opening of my cervix, which meant it took even longer. Eventually she just gave up, though she did say my cervix was softer and shorter, and I did have a bloody show. She said she thought this would still go on for two or three days. Her shift was ending soon, so the next ward midwife assigned to me would be back at 10pm to check on the progress and do the next lot of gel.

At about 7pm, the pains became even worse, and closer together, though not much longer. I desperately needed Angus to touch me each time I had one. I was laying on my side, facing Angus. My mother-in-law massaged my feet and my mum rubbed my back through the pains. It got harder to concentrate on my breathing, especially at the height of it. I started to whimper a bit. I remember thinking, but not getting around to saying, “I don’t want anyone to leave me tonight.” The next ward midwife came in to do the monitor, and asked if I wanted gas. I said that I was fine for now, thank you. I was determined to go as long as I could with out it, so it would be enough if I needed it later.

At 10pm, the next ward midwife came in to check on me, and was suprised to find me in so much pain. She suggested I take a shower (the room had a private bathroom), so my husband and I went into the bathroom. On the way in, I said to him, “I just need to do a poo first” and the midwife freaked out. She evidently thought it was the baby coming, and she told me she needed to do a vaginal examination before I could poo. I just said “I won’t poo then,” and my mother-in-law managed to somehow convince her to let me have a shower first. The shower was really nice, but I felt a growing sense of urgency to get them to call my midwife (the one my own midwife had organised for me). When I got out of the shower, I changed into a dressing gown, sports bra and undies, rather than back into my clothes. I asked our mums to get the hospital to call my midwife, and my student midwife. I even managed to somehow explain that I wanted my student midwife, as opposed to the student midwife attached to my new midwife, who could also have attended the birth. The ward midwife then came back, so I asked her to call my midwife (I was a bit obsessed with this), and she said the registrar (the doctor) was coming to do my vaginal examination first. I’m not quite sure why the doctor needed to do it, I must really have freaked her out by wanting to do a poo.

At this stage, the contractions were a bit longer, and really close together. I remember saying things like “It hurts too much” and “I’m getting really scared.” We tried a heat pack on my stomach, but anything touching my stomach made the pain worse. Angus kept holding my hand. My mother-in-law suggested changing position, so my husband ended up sitting on my bed, and I sat on my knees and lay my head on his shoulder. At first I sat back on my knees between each contraction, and lent forward for each contraction. But then it became too sore too quickly to move each time, so I spent the rest of the time up on my knees, with my head on Angus’s shoulder, and with his mum massaging my feet and my mum rubbing my back. The ward midwife offered gas again, but I didn’t get time to answer her as I had another contraction.

When the registrar came in, she said “Oh, it sounds like transition!” but when she did the vaginal examination, I was only 5cm dilated  This was still good though, as it meant I was ready for my waters to be broken. She said I had a bishop score of 9, and that she would arrange for my midwife to be called (I relaxed a lot, and somehow also managed to ask her to call my student midwife). I was able to then move back to the position mentioned above, and it was around this time that I noticed a distinct change in the contractions. They had previously been an extremely sharp pain in my stomach, but now they started off that way, and ended with pressure in my back. I pointed to my back, and said “It’s changed,” so the registrar looked at my back, and showed Angus and our mums a bulge, that she said was the baby moving my bones out of the way to come through.

This was the point the hospital has recorded my labour as starting, making it technically only 2 hours and 50 minutes long. We thought it probably actually fully started at around 7pm, making it about 6 hours long.

The ward midwife brought in some gas, and I figured the worst that could happen would be that it wouldn’t work, so I tried some. It helped heaps. It didn’t take away the pain, it just took the edge off it, and gave me something to concentrate on during the contractions.

My midwife and student midwife both arrived at about 10:30pm. By this time, I felt like I was swimming thanks to the gas. When they came in I said, almost apologetically, “I’ve already started on the gas.” My midwife said to leave the gas in the room, that there was some in the delivery room, and to follow her. My husband whispered to take one more quick drag before we left, which I thought was a very good idea, so I did. My midwife said to let them know if I was having a contraction on the way, and we’d stop. I decided that I was not having another contraction without the gas, so walked as fast as I could, including walking through a contraction towards the end, to get to the delivery room.

Everything after arriving in the delivery room is a bit of a blur. My midwife said to my student midwife “You do everything, I’ll take the notes,” so my student midwife delivered my baby, which is really nice. I climbed onto the bed straight onto my hands and knees. My husband noticed that my waters were leaking, so suggested they put something down on the bed because they were about to break. Two contractions later, they did break (he feels very proud about his “I told you so” moment), and everyone cheered. I remember feeling triumphant. This meant extremely little intervention!

I still had to be monitored, which the midwives tried to do while I was on my hands and knees (I didn’t even notice), but couldn’t differentiate between my heartbeat and the baby’s, so I had to lie on my side to be monitored. As soon as it finished, they said I could change position, and I almost couldn’t be bothered, but managed to move back on to my hands and knees, with my support people all doing what they’d been doing in the ward.

It was soon after this that the pushing contractions started. My goodness, I have never felt anything like those contractions. For day afterwards, I was in awe of the strength of the pushing contractions. My whole body was taken over by the urge to bear down. I remember very little about what happened once these contractions started, except my husband commenting on me loving the gas, and on how sharp my nails were (I then became conscious of not digging them into his side). They hadn’t done a vaginal exam yet when I started pushing, so my midwife asked me, “If I said to stop pushing, would you be able to?” and I shook my head. There was no way I would have been able to. So they just let me keep pushing. I only pushed with the contractions, but they were so strong that very shortly the baby’s head started crowning. I remember telling myself “Only two more contractions and the baby will be here,” but I have no idea how I knew how many more contractions there would be. My mum and husband swapped places so that he could catch the baby, and 20 minutes later, she was born.

My husband passed her to me through my legs, and I said “Oh, wow.” I couldn’t believe how tiny she was, that she was here, that I actually gave birth to her (and that she was a girl). I took off my dressing gown and sports bra, and held her to my chest, where she started feeding almost straight away. I moved to recline on my back, and she fed while I stared at her and smiled at my husband.

My mother-in-law said something about me being able to confidently have a home birth next time, and my midwife said “Oh, do you want a home birth?” and when I said yes, she said “That would be a good idea, considering how fast it was!”

Because I hadn’t had to have the drip, I could deliver the placenta without the injection. I continued having extremely strong contractions. The student midwife actually asked if I was pushing on purpose, or if it was my body just doing it. It was my body just doing it.

After several massive blood clots, the placenta finally came out, and then my midwife told me they needed to examine me because I’d torn. So my husband took his shirt off and held the baby skin-to-skin while I got back on the gas. It turned out I had a second or third degree tear, so my midwife got the doctor to take a look at it, to determine if it could just be stitched up by her, or if I’d need it done by the doctor under anesthetic  The doctor determined that it was a third degree tear (tore my sphincter), so she’d do it under anesthetic. I very nearly chose to have it under general anesthetic  as I was so scared of having a needle in my back, but decided that it would be better for Baby if I just had the local and was able to recover quickly. In hindsight, I’m glad I did, as it meant the area was numb for four hours and the feeling came back slowly, rather than being hit suddenly by the pain.

Apparently her head and shoulders came through perfectly, without any tearing at all. But as her torso came out, she may have twisted funny, or it was just stretched to it’s limit, and I tore.

While this was all happening, Baby latched on to Angus’s nipple, which was pretty funny. I had some colostrum expressed so that she could have something to eat while I was gone, and then was wheeled out to theatre to be stitched up. On the way, we passed another woman in labour, and I gave her an “It will all turn out wonderfully” smile. I really hope it did turn out wonderfully for her. My mum and student midwife came with me while my husband and mother-in-law stayed with the baby. She was still hungry after devouring my expressed colostrum, so my poor husband had to try and comfort her while she cried for more food. It took two hours for me to be stitched up, and then my husband and baby joined me in recovery, and after she ate we slept.

I really couldn’t be happier with how her birth went. My midwife (the one who was with me for the birth) said later to my own midwife that I defied the odds of an induction. I feel quite proud of that. Some days, I still can’t believe I actually gave birth. It is the most wonderful feeling.

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