Today I am continuing to share birth stories in the run up to Mother’s Day – so for this one, I’d say grab a cup of tea/coffee and settle down for a read. Kim’s honesty here is just perfection in my book. It’s the acknowledgment that everyone is different and there is no ‘right’ option beyond the one that is right for YOU. I hope you enjoy reading…
When I was pregnant with my first son I had my labour all planned out in my head. I have always known that I am not good with pain, so I was going to ask for an epidural early on. I had also heard some horror stories about recovery after forceps and so I had made a mental note to ask for a c-section if it looked like forceps were going to be required. Obviously I knew you couldn’t really “plan” for labour, but I thought I knew what I wanted.
As it was my first baby I went along to the antenatal classes at my local hospital. Over the course of the 5 sessions I attended I was informed of the horrors and risk associated with various types of pain relief in labour. One class in particular focused on “relaxation”, but it soon became evident it was a hypno birthing class. By the end of the sessions I was a little scared of the idea of pain relief and felt like it had been drilled into me that I should be doing it with just gas and air.
I have type 1 diabetes, and so for the safety of both myself and my baby I was booked to be induced at 38 + 1 weeks pregnant. I attended a midwife appointment at 36 weeks pregnant, where she had a good feel and said baby was high up and doing fine. The next day I had a growth scan, where they again mentioned that baby was quite high still and hadn’t dropped into my pelvis.
I read between the lines that it meant I was in no imminent danger of going into labour. I went home and packed my hospital bag that evening, but not with any great anticipation for having to actually need it. It was more because it felt like “the done thing” at 36 weeks!
I distinctly remember being uncomfortable that evening. There wasn’t one thing I could put my finger on, but I just felt out of sorts. In hindsight it was pretty clear that my body was gearing up for labour, but I was completely unaware at the time.
I woke up at about 4am the next day feeling a bit, errr, “damp”. I popped to the loo and concluded that I’d lost a bit of my mucus plug. Nothing too alarming about that, it’s to be expected really and I took it as a good sign that maybe baby was moving down and would be favourable for induction in a few weeks. I went back to bed, and the slight dampness returned about 20 minutes later. I was confused, but not overly so. By this point my husband had woken up and asked me if I was sure it wasn’t my waters breaking, and I told him not to be silly as it didn’t go in a gush, nor was there a constant trickle. It seemed to be coming in multiple little bits.
Don’t you just hate it when they’re right?
I started having mild cramping, a bit like period pains. They weren’t overly sore so I just concluded they were braxton hicks. By this time it was about 5am so I decided to just get up and watch some TV, as clearly I wasn’t going to get any more sleep.
By 6am I was still cramping regularly, but they still weren’t significant enough to call them contractions. Especially as I was only 36 weeks, I couldn’t comprehend that it was happening now. My parents were on holiday and I facetimed them in New Zealand. I told my mum not to panic, but that the baby may or may not be coming. I think that was the first time I admitted out loud that it was even a possibility!
Over the next few hours the pain got worse, and I knew it was definitely happening. My sister collected the dog and JHogg and I made our way to the hospital. All I wanted was silence. The radio on in the room irritated me, the beeps or machines irritated me. I wanted quiet.
After we got settled in and I was hooked up to various drips for my insulin, I was offered some gas and air for the pain. I mentioned that I was wary of it, as I tend to find I throw up a lot but the midwife encouraged me to give it a go. One puff and that was it, sick bowl was needed and off I went! I ended up with an anti-sickness injection to keep me going.
It wasn’t long before it became clear I wasn’t coping very well with the pain. Although baby was down very low, I was only 1cm dilated. In my head I was screaming for an epidural, but instead I asked for remifentanil. It comes to you via a cannula, and you click the button as you feel a contraction coming. It has a shorter half life than morphine, meaning it stays in your system for less time.
At first it worked. I don’t remember much of that time, as quite honestly I was off my face. My husband says I was on oxygen at some points, and generally things were not too bad. Unfortunately, things were not progressing despite my contractions and so it was decided to put me on a drip to speed things along, as by this point my waters breaking had been quite a long time ago.
Once the drip was in I felt like things went from 0 to 100 instantly. I was in incredible pain. I wasn’t able to lie still. The remifentanil was doing absolutely nothing, it didn’t even take the edge off. I was puffing on the gas and air too…
and still nothing.
I’m not sure how long that went on for if I’m honest, but it felt like forever. Eventually I caved and begged for an epidural – something I should have done much earlier. I remember having to wait for it, the anaesthetist was in surgery, and cursing myself for trying to be something I’m not. By the time they came to put in the epidural I had great difficulty in sitting still for it, so I think I’m quite lucky they got it in safely.
Once that kicked in they decided to examine me again, and were surprised to discover I was dilated to 10cm. At least the pain I was in was explained! The beauty of an epidural is that you don’t tend to feel much of an urge to push. So they told me to rest for 2 hours and let my body bring the baby down a bit more, and then we will get pushing.
In the past I had always assumed and epidural was an all or nothing type of thing. You could either feel what was happening, or you can’t. I was surprised to discover that they don’t work like that, and it is actually up to you to press a button to increase the “power” of it. I opted to leave mine so that I wasn’t 100% numb. Although it was difficult to move my legs, I was capable. I was aware of contractions but not in pain from them, and most importantly – I could feel when I was pushing.
I started to push at about 1am, 21 hours since my waters first broke. I pushed for about an hour, and the midwife said I was making good progress, but there was no denying the baby’s heart rate was dropping. A call was made to a doctor, who almost immediately said she wanted the baby out right away.
And that she wanted to use forceps.
Even with the dropping heart rate and obvious issues I had remained calm up until this point. I really REALLY didn’t want them coming near me with forceps. I started to voice my concerns and she told me quite mater of factly that there was no time for a c-section. The baby was already around the bend of the birth canal and she needed to get him out. Now.
And so I put my trust in the doctor. With 2 pushes and the help of the forceps baby’s head was out and the issue was immediately clear. The cord was wrapped so tightly around his neck that with every push I was making it tighter. The doctor cut the cord while his body was still inside of me, and finally he was fully born.
The cry you expect to hear when a baby is born never came, and so although he was placed on my chest for a few seconds he was soon whisked away to be resuscitated. Luckily he was only out of the room for a few minutes before we heard a cry, so I knew he was ok. It was all rather jovial after that, making small talk with the doctor as she dealt with the stitches and god knows what else was going on down at the business end.
Once Piglet was back with us and in my arms it was perfect. He was perfect. But I knew that I would never forget labour – despite what everyone tells you!
Just over 2 years have passed since that day, and I am gearing up to do it all again in May. I have a real fear about the pain, but one of the benefits of being a 2nd time mum is knowing EXACTLY what I want. And in my case, that is an epidural.
I applaud those who have labour with no pain relief at all. I also applaud those who just have gas and air, or a shot of morphine. I applaud those who have an emergency section, and those who have an elective section. Having a baby is hard, no matter how you do it.
I was made to feel that my desire for an epidural was “wrong” in some way the first time around. Not by the midwives while I was in labour, but by those who were meant to be educating me on my options in the run up to it. I was scared to ask for it, as I was scared they would say no.
Personally, I didn’t find my 1st labour a positive experience. That took me a long time to admit, but it is really important for me to accept that it didn’t go the way I wanted it to and acknowledge that there is something I can do to make it better a 2nd time around.
I was not weak for wanting an epidural. In fact, the part of my labour that I felt most calm, but also most excited about the baby’s impending arrival was the time when the epidural was in.
You are always told to trust your instincts as a mother, and I think that those instincts kick to let you know how your baby should be born. Follow your gut and get the experience that you want – no matter what that may be!