On September 10th 2019, three days overdue, I waddled my way into hospital for my regular B12 injection. I had gone through a pretty horrendous 3 day failed induction a week prior to this and I was absolutely adamant I was not going to allow myself to be induced again. (I’m not going to talk about the failed induction in this post but I will in another post if anyone is interested in hearing about it). I’d written some pretty bloody persuasive bullet points in my phone of reasons why I should be allowed to progress with my pregnancy til at least 14 days overdue without any interventions and I was determined to not be persuaded otherwise. I was having scans every other day to ensure Archie was still happy in there following the failed induction and I trusted that my body would let me go into labour when it was ready. I remember sitting down with a midwife I had seen regularly for my B12 injections in the day unit and pretty much word-vomming all over her with all of these reasons why I didn’t want to be induced again, she listened, abit shocked as most women would do anything to be induced and have their baby sooner rather than later, and she told me that she would give me a quick sweep to hopefully get things moving and that I would have to speak to a consultant regarding a later induction.
If you don’t know what a sweep is, google it! But basically, midway through the… uncomfort, of the sweep, the midwife said “Oh, I think that’s your waters!” she then pointed to a small patch of water on the bed, it was pretty anticlimactic to be completely honest when you imagine your waters going you imagine a big gush of water while you’re doing your weekly shop or walking the dog, not a pathetic little patch on a hospital bed. She told me that if I wasn’t in labour by midnight tonight I had to come back and start the induction process due to risk of infection and I was sent on my way. I spent the rest of the day in a state of shock, I’d gone into hospital with my list of reasons why I didn’t want to even be considered for induction until at least 14 days over, and there I was, sent away with my induction booked for that night.
Long story short, we walked, walked and walked all day long, hoping that any slightest little twinge was the start of the natural labour I’d dreamt of, we watched Gavin & Stacey and Friends and we practised my hypnobirthing hoping that my body would be flooded with oxytocin and kick things off, but of course, that didn’t happen and at 11.30 pm we headed into hospital, certain this time that we wouldn’t be leaving without our baby.
I was checked upon arrival to be told that only my back waters had gone (why on earth do you not get told such crucial info like the fact you have two waters??). And as I had already been given prostin gel (something used to kick start labour) a week before, I was only allowed one course of this before trying the pessary.
To be honest that whole day from around 5 am to 12 pm was just a horrible, anxiety-ridden blur of being checked by a midwife and being told that I wasn’t progressing and that I wasn’t dilated enough to have the rest of my waters broken and therefore wasn’t yet able to have the hormone drip which is what causes your uterus to start having contractions and essentially speeds up the process. I remember hearing midwives mutter the words ‘c-section’ and ‘unfavourable uterus’ and I was certain my dream of a natural birth had gone down the drain.
Eventually, at around midday, a midwife came in with her not-at-all terrifying-looking hook and managed to break my waters. Again, wasn’t the shopping in Tesco/walking the dog kinda waters breaking I’d pictured while pregnant, but the amount was much more what I was expecting. Something else they don’t tell you when you’re pregnant… once your waters go they don’t stop, you then have to just sit there in an uncomfortable hospital bed with water constantly trickling from you. It’s great… honest.
Finally, the drip was able to be inserted into a cannula at 3 pm and I was an impressive 1.5cm dilated. Yep, 10 hours since the induction process had begun and I was a pathetic 1.5cm. Once they administer the drip you are classed as in active labour and a midwife stays in the room with you and writes down everything that happens (lucky for me as I’m now using those notes to remember everything that happened!). I gave myself a little shake in an attempt to rid myself of the negative thoughts and assured myself that this was it, the drip would get everything started and I’d meet my baby in the next few hours. I hopped on the birth ball and bounced for 2.5 hours before finally feeling something.
My notes state that at 5.25 pm I was still on the birth ball and that I had started to experience non-painful tightenings (contractions) in my stomach. I remember them being odd, they were uncomfortable at this point but not painful and it just felt like all my stomach muscles were tensing up uncontrollably. By 7pm the contractions were starting to come on stronger and much more painful, I was still on the birthing ball and Callum was sat on the end up of the bed, with every contraction I was leaning into him and doing my ‘up-breathing’ I had practised from my hypnobirthing books. I was offered pain relief and gas & air but I felt at that point that the breathing was doing enough and I was really in the zone with my hypno-breathing.
One thing that really helped me to breathe through the contractions for so long was visualisations. This is something I’d read about in hypnobirthing, the lights were nice and dim and the room was calm and with every contraction I was leaning forward, doing my up breathing and Callum was whispering into my ear things that were calming to me, for example, I forced Callum to help me visualise bringing Archie home for the first time over and over and over again and it really helped.
9 pm eventually came, I was still on the birthing ball and I was in a lot of pain now, the midwife checked how dilated I was and I was pretty certain I’d be at least 5cm judging by the pain I was in and how fast the contractions were coming. Trust me when I say that I thought it was some sort of sick joke when the midwife said I was 2cm. TWO measly centimetres. I could have cried, I couldn’t believe all that pain had been for nothing.
At 9.45 pm I was told I had to get into the bed as Archie’s heart rate was dipping with every contraction and he needed to be monitored more closely. It wasn’t ideal as I had dreams of an active labour, I wanted to be as upright as possible, moving about the room even, but I knew Archie was the most important and we needed to be able to monitor him at all times, so on to the bed I hopped and we continued to attempt to focus on reruns of Friends & Gavin and Stacey. I found being laid on my back in bed much more uncomfortable for my contractions and asked for gas & air at 10pm.
I’m not sure that the gas and air did much but make me feel woozy, drunk and sick, but I was so terrified of any other pain relief that I continued to inhale it like my life depended on it. By 11.20 pm, my contractions were coming every 2 minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds each time. I was in a LOT of pain and I was getting little to no relief between contractions as they were coming so fast. I remember the midwife saying that an epidural would be a good idea as I would be able to get some rest (I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours at this point), but I declined.
Eventually 1am came around and it was time to be examined again, this time I knew it, I was 10cm, I had to be, I was having intense contractions every two minutes lasting almost a minute each time, I was exhausted, starving (you can’t eat once the drip is in action) and completely done.
2cm. No change what.so.ever.
The next few hours were horrendous, they had to turn the drip down as I was contracting every minute for 40-60 seconds, I was getting absolutely no rest and to top it all off I was being sick every few minutes. I remember at this point feeling like I was just in hell. The pain was horrific, I felt so nauseous that I couldn’t focus on my breathing anymore and between (and even during) contractions I was throwing up. I felt like my body was totally failing me and I just didn’t want to do it anymore.
By 3 am I hit my limit and begged for an epidural, It had been 12 hours since my labour started and I’d made little to no progress despite being in a whole lot of pain. I remember crying the entire wait for the anaesthetist and seeing him eventually appear in the room felt like a dream. Finally, I was going to get some relief. All of my fear about the injection going into my spinal cord had disappeared, in fact, my fear about anything had disappeared, I spent my whole pregnancy terrified of an emergency c-section and in that moment I begged for someone to just cut that baby out.
Of course, for me, it wasn’t as easy as the injection in, epidural done. I was told it would take 20 minutes, which, at the time, sounded horrendous, twenty whole minutes of having to stay deadly still, being told that if I moved I’d be paralysed. I was still being sick and having a contraction every minute and instead of being a simple process, the cannula drew blood and they had to start the whole process again. Two whole hours it took for my epidural to be fitted and did it give me full relief? Nope. It numbed half of my stomach and one leg. Of course.
The anaesthetist was called another couple of times and eventually, my tummy was numb enough (but not completely numb) for me to cope. I continued to be sick every few minutes but managed to stay still enough at 5am to be checked. Finally some good news, I was 6cm. That feeling was amazing. My body was finally doing what it should be doing and I felt like this was actually going to happen, I was actually going to meet my little baby boy.
The midwives changed at 7 am and my new midwife put an anti-nausea medication in my cannula that stopped my sickness immediately. It was amazing. My new midwife made the next few hours perfect. The epidural had numbed my tummy enough to be able to feel more or less pain-free, I no longer felt sick and I was progressing. We all sat and watched Friends while my midwife and student midwife continued to monitor me and baby.
At 8 am I remember the feeling in my stomach was different, my breathing was different and everything just felt… different. I told my midwife and she said she thought I was getting close. To be honest, by this point I just felt like I was going to be in labour forever. It had been 27 hours since the induction process had begun and 17 hours since I had started in ‘established labour’.
The student midwife checked me at 9am and I remember hearing the greatest words to ever exist. “No cervix left”. I remember looking between the student midwife to the main midwife. “10cm dilated!” she confirmed. I couldn’t believe it. The nerves turned to excitement and Callum gave me a reassuring squeeze.
I was told we would give the baby some time to move down the birth canal and we would do some ‘practice pushes’ at 10 am and then start pushing properly at around 11ish. Those last couple of hours were the best part of my whole labour. The epidural was working, I could still feel the contractions, more so on one side than the other but they were bearable, I got on with my midwives so much and it felt like we were just a bunch of friends sitting around watching Friends on Netflix with a certain air of excitement surrounding us.
Let me tell you something before we get into the pushing, if you have never had a baby and you’re one of those people that reads these labour stories or watches One Born Every Minute and scoffs at the screamers, the type who probably declares they’d never be one of those, they’d never make such a fuss, they’d probably silently deal with the pain of pushing. I was one of you. I fell for it too.
When I say I screamed, I don’t think anyone (other than myself, Callum and the midwives) can quite comprehend just how much I screamed. I have never in my entire life felt pain like that. The epidural didn’t numb that area whatsoever. I remember screaming that I couldn’t do it and being in so much pain that I genuinely thought I was going to die. The pushing for me was the worst part of the whole labour, forget the long wait, the horrendous contractions, the terrible epidural experience, the constant vomming, nah I’d have had them back in a second to get rid of that pushing pain. To top it all off instead of having a breather between each contraction I was having panic attacks, making the pushing even more exhausting. The pretty nightie I’d bought to give birth in had been torn off and I was just in a bra, the student midwife at the business end and the other squeezing cold water on to my head from a flannel.
My notes state that I started pushing at 11.10 am and at 11.38 I was ‘very anxious and encouraged to use Entonox (gas and air) and to relax as much as possible’. At 11.40 I was given a five-minute break from pushing to try and calm my panic attack and regain my breath and strength.
A few minutes later I remember the midwife telling me she could see his head, and Callum telling me he had a lot of hair. The midwife asked if I wanted to feel his hair, I remember seeing that on One Born Every Minute and thinking it looked like such a precious moment, the Mum leaning forward feeling the babies head. Guess what… in that moment? Not so precious. I shouted NO I do not want to feel the hair I want the baby out of me, and at 11.53 am the head was out. I remember the sting everyone talks about was so intense that I couldn’t even comprehend what was going on until my midwife grabbed my hands, pulled me forward to hold on to my baby’s shoulders and said: “on your next contraction your baby will be delivered on to your chest”. And with that, at 11.54 am, with me holding his shoulders and the midwife pulling him up, this tiny, slimy, purple human was placed on to my chest and every ounce of pain disappeared.
I remember everyone telling me how euphoric that moment was, I’d been excited for it for 9 whole months but nothing in the entire world could have ever prepared me for the actual feeling. I still think about it without fail every single day, in fact, if I think about it for more than a minute it makes me cry. I was so overwhelmed with love that everything else in the room became out of focus and all I could see was my little baby boy.
10 minutes later the placenta was delivered and I was examined for any tears while Callum and I soaked up every ounce of Archie. The euphoria continued for around twenty minutes until I was brought back to reality when the midwife told me she was going to call the bell because there was too much blood.
I don’t remember a great deal after that other than my legs being put in stirrups and some other people coming into the room. Callum had to take Archie as I went super lightheaded and I don’t remember feeling much other than scared. Thankfully, after an hour the blood had been stopped and a consultant had stitched me up, Archie was placed back on to me for skin-to-skin and we were left alone for the first ever time as a family of three.
It’s so true when they say that labour is a forgettable pain. If someone had told me during those 32 hours that I’d forget the pain I’d have told them exactly where to go. I didn’t think it was physically possible to forget such horrendous pain, but until I sit and look through my notes and remember it all, the only thing I really genuinely remember about that whole experience is how I felt when Archie was placed onto my chest, so much so, that if someone gave me the opportunity to do it all again tomorrow just to relive that moment of meeting my baby for the first time again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
Thanks for reading,
Love, Beth xxx