Our Birth Story – Reflecting back…
Rupert’s Birth Story
Part One – The Run Up…
At just under 39 weeks pregnant, it was a cold and crisp Friday and I was setting my out of office email thinking I should begin to wind work down with just over a week pf pregnancy to go. I had a relaxing week or more planned of shopping, cinema trips alone and just enjoying the last few weeks of being independent without a baby to think about. First on my agenda was a dog walk in our local park with my little side kick cavapoo.
Mother nature or rather Rupert had other plans though, and during that walk I experienced what I would describe as a trickle that I knew was more than just pregnancy bladder. When I got home, this continued to happen every hour or so but the most tiny amounts (alongside my mucus plug – which was recognised after a lot of googling!). Luckily, I had the lovely Carly booked for pregnancy reflexology that afternoon and she worked hard on all the right areas of the foot to help induce labour and to get things started.
Come Friday evening, there was still nothing to report and I was busy trying to release as much oxytocin as possible into my day – I had a nice hot bath, was watching comedy, drinking raspberry tea and doing all the things I could do to help bring on any sign of a contraction. Although I didn’t really want to admit something had clearly happened as I knew this would put me on a time limit, I begrudgingly called the hospital who agreed that if nothing happened overnight, I should go in on Saturday morning to be monitored.
That night I went to bed with huge anticipation over what was to come and huge hope that something would happen overnight that meant I didn’t have to experience the inevitable induction – I was not at all scared about the birth ahead. I had done so much preparation that I felt confident and in control about whatever was to come. The idea of giving birth hadn’t phased me at all during my pregnancy and I was almost excited to be able to use the mindfulness and hypnobirthing techniques I had spent the last few months working on. I was EXCITED to give birth and knew that I could do it…but admittedly had never really worked on the idea that I would be induced. In fact we had decided what would happen if induction was mentioned… if I went past my due date we had a plan in place to refuse induction until 42 weeks and until absolutely necessary. We really trusted that nature would do its thing….
Saturday morning arrives and an early visit to C&W confirmed that my waters had broken (confirmed by the midwife squeezing a sanitary pad that had been in for a few hours). Once waters are broken, the hospitals protocol is to induce from 24 hours after, but given the risk difference was not significant (researched by us over that waiting period), we decided to agree to an induction from the Sunday morning onwards – making it 36 hours, giving out little man the best possible chance of coming naturally.
So Saturday was spent walking, walking and walking and waiting. I spent hours googling inductions and whether you could still have hypnobirthing experience with them. To be honest 80% of stories on inductions suggested they were awful and mums were advising to take the pain relief straight away. The doctor also suggested an epidural alongside the drip if and when it happened. But I still felt so confident that I wanted to do it all as naturally as possible. Not because I had anything to prove, rather just because I felt so prepared and strong and wanted to give my baby the best possible chance of coming out naturally (being aware of the increased chance of assisted delivery and so on….)….
Sadly for us, my body didn’t kick into action and we checked ourselves into the induction ward at 8am on the Sunday, ready for an induction. It really was the last thing I wanted over and above anything else, but I was still feeling positive that the pessary would kick in and things would kick off! We skipped the gel and after checking the midwife advised my cervix wasn’t in the right position so one big yank forwards (ouch!) and the pessary was inserted. We were able to come and go from the hospital over the course of the day and so spent our lunchtime in Carluccios and our dinner in Nando’s – walking all the way to Earls Court to try and encourage things along. Some very mild contractions were starting to appear roughly every 5 minutes, but they died down pretty quickly once we checked back into the hospital for the 6pm check and so it was decided the induction drip was the way forwards.
Part Two – The Induction
So that was our decision made – at 9pm on Sunday evening we were moved to a private room in the labour ward where I was set up with the drip – we were lucky enough to get a room with access to a birth pool and were told that it might still be possible to be mobile and in the pool, but for whatever reason with finding mobile monitors later on, this didn’t happen and when it all kicked off it really was the last thing on my mind.
Although the labour ward is very medical looking, we dimmed the lights completely, put on the music and got out the birthing ball. I bounced my way through the first 4 hours of contractions from 9pm and even managed to sleep a bit. The midwife kept coming in at intervals to crank the drip up and by 1am it was on the highest level it could be on….I assumed I was just coping well and that the hypnobirthing was doing its thing…how wrong I could have been! At 1am the midwife asked to examine me as her words were “you should be in a lot more pain at this stage”… This is where we found out that I was only 1cm dilated and that actually my waters had not broken at all. What I had experienced must have been premature rupture of the membranes in the top of the sac, but not below the babies head and the part of the waters that needs to go in order to deliver baby. She suggested we get the gas and air going as it was going to be painful and with that in one hand and my husbands in the other, I had my first out of body experience with being so high on gas and air from sucking so hard that I didn’t really know if I was in the room. I felt the pain but delayed, it was just the most bizarre experience.
What followed was hopefully the most crazy and horrendous experience I will ever go through, but when I look back I cant deny that I would do it all again to have my baby in my arms. As the drip was on maximum and my body was now aware that it was in labour from my waters breaking, I went from totally manageable contractions to back to back, no break in between contractions at the absolutely highest intensity as measured on the monitor. There will never be any words to explain this experience aside from out of body. I was sucking on the gas and air as if my life depended on it and the tens machine was out by this point too and being used to the max. I was still able to tune in to the hypnobirthing but by this point, I would no longer describe the contractions as surges as suggested and actually as bloody painful contractions that were just not natural at all.
If my preparation taught me anything, it was that no matter how much pain or discomfort you felt during a contraction – it would eventually end and you would get a little break before riding the wave again. And I was up for this – bring it on… Yet this didn’t happen for me, there was no break at all and it was like riding a rollercoaster that just wouldn’t stop. No gaps for air, for talking or for being able to gather thoughts, just non-stop full on intense contractions. I was coping for the first few hours, only just as I assumed it would eventually end. But when someone came in and suggested it could be another 12 hours until I was ready to push, I started to lose the plot. I was no longer in control and that for me was the worst part.
At around 3/4am, I was starting to almost pass out every now and then with the pain. I was begging my husband to ask them to turn the drip down and to this day I don’t understand why that didn’t happen sooner…questions to still be answered when I go through the birth with a midwife again! I genuinely thought I was dying, which I am sure so many people say but I just couldn’t believe how different this was to the supposed contraction, break, contraction. This was not manageable and this did not feel natural. It felt like my body was in overdrive and was being forced to do something that it didn’t really want to do. It was upsetting and when the vomiting started, I was out. Hand’s up this hadn’t gone to plan – which I was always aware might not be the case – but not being totally out of control where your body was being forced into something without wanting to do it. I could no longer deal with it and asked them to get someone in for an epidural.
This is where things then got tough and I lack memory from what then happened… I vaguely remember my husband arguing with the anaesthetist who basically was saying that unless my temperature went down, an epidural was not something he could do for me and it could risk me being paralysed. Looking back I can imagine at this point my husband was feeling pretty desperate seeing me in so much pain, but not being able to do anything about it. So the epidural was denied and he had to break the news to me that I wouldn’t be getting any relief any time soon. I burst into tears and screamed as to how I was going to manage? By this point I am sure the drip was then agreed to be turned down, but I don’t know exactly to what extent. After a lot of bargaining and in and out of various healthy professionals, it was then agreed that I would have a small dose of pethidine to try and take the edge off of things.
Part 3 – The Birth
Whether it was the turning down of the drip or the pethidine I don’t know, but as time went on I managed to somehow regain my control and for those last few hours, labour happened as I had imagined it would. Contractions were intense but spaced, I used gas and air alongside the TENS to get through them. I was back into the hypnobirthing tracks which had been on repeat now for 10+ hours (I kept hearing the midwife say to my husband “turn it up, she’s doing really well with that”, and then at 7am after another examination, I had the happy news that I was now 7cm already and that baby was on it’s way. This was now the birth I had prepared for and I was now in my zone – totally unaware of the time or who was in the room. Bouncing on the ball, on all fours and doing whatever I needed to do to get through it.
It was close to 9am, 12 hours after the drip had started that I then began mooing. And roaring. And basically any animal like noise that meant I was ready to start pushing. The midwifes checked and this was confirmed, he was on his way! The lights in the room then went on and things were pushed and pulled around, it was clear already that Rupert might need some help once out as the pethidine had been given so close to actual giving birth to him, so things seemed a bit more busy. With each contraction I pushed and pushed but after two hours of pushing, he was still not quite there. I was asked if I wanted to touch his head but I was too in the zone and so focused on getting him out. I was on all fours, on my side and standing too, but then eventually gave in to the exhaustion and was then on my back for the last part – which was the part that I really didn’t want to be on my back for but I had no energy left. I was exhausted.
After two hours which I believe is the limit they allow you to push for, there was some bustling around in the room and the midwife then told me she was going to have to cut me to get my baby out. What she didn’t tell me was that the injections he was about to give for pain relief might not work and as a contraction came along, rather than wait for the injection to take effect she decided to go for it there and then. Now there was a lot I remember pain wise of being in labour but being cut open by 5cm under no pain relief whatsoever with what can only be described as sharp scissors caused me to swear, really rather loudly at them. I know they were doing what was best for him at the time but it was a pretty traumatising moment…
Part 4 – The Baby
On the next contraction he then flew out and he was then rushed away to be sorted out. There was no here is your baby, skin to skin. Instead I collapsed into a heap, no tears, no emotion, just complete exhaustion. At the time I didn’t realise that he needed a bit of help and needed to have a canula put in straight away due to possible infection, so it was a while until he was bought over to me and even when he was, I felt so out of it then all I could do was hold him but I asked my husband to take him fairly quickly. I had no energy and there were no happy tears or emotions flying around, just relief and I think really shock.
We took the photos and called the parents, but there was still the issue of my placenta not having come. Looking back, this was probably the thing that tipped the birth over the edge from being manageable to “traumatic”. Rupert was born at 11.11am, from 11am to 3pm I spent four hours on the hospital bed still on gas and air whilst various doctors and specialists came in to try and receive the placenta themselves. This meant enduring lots of pain, long gloves and all sorts of manoeuvres and positions until finally I was told I would have to go to theatre as it just was not coming out. This special time I had dreamt of being just the three of us turned into my husband taking the baby and me drinking up another 4 hours of gas and air to try and keep away the pain. Just too much.
Originally it was planned that I would be given a general anaesthetic as due to the potential infection in labour, they couldn’t risk a spinal. However when bursting into tears at the thought of this only hours after having my baby, the anaesthetist came back in and said actually we could do it under spinal and that I would be out in no time to then see my baby. So I waved goodbye to my husband and newborn baby – shouting to him “there is a small bottle of formula in the bag, FEED HIM!” and then off I went.
I must say, the spinal in theatre was one of the most brilliant feelings of that whole 24 hours and it was instant pain relief. I can only imagine how it feels to get this during labour – fantastic I think. Surgery was intense and I stayed calm, I tried to focus on the ceiling and not watch as they bounced up and down and pushed and pulled to remove the placenta which has been stuck for way too long. Miraculously they managed to get it out in one piece, I have no idea how! And by 4.30pm I was back with my baby in the room I gave birth in which now looked completely different. Tea and toast followed and for those of you who have given birth, you’ll know how amazing that white buttered undercooked piece of toast tastes, having not eaten for nearly 24 hours.
So there it is, Rupert’s birth story – which was both intense, shocking, traumatic but amazing at the same time. I got the birth I wanted in the end, be it with a few hurdles to jump over. I think my mental recovery would have been much quicker if I hadn’t also had to endure the four hour placenta horror that followed. On paper I had the vaginal birth I had hoped for, so I was happy with that. I used all the tools I had in my pocket for dealing with the pain, but I would also have loved to have had more of an idea of how an induction birth differs from a normal birth so that I could have been fully equipped to deal with it better – from the contractions being back to back and more intense, to the brain not blocking your pain receptors which means that pain is felt differently. The after effects of an induction birth for a baby are also not widely recognised, more of that to follow in a later blog but I would have loved to have been more educated on this before I went through it.
But there we go, our birth story – which was both what we wanted in the first place, but also in so many ways the way we didn’t want it to go. Bring on number two, I am so up for trying it a second time around and I would be ever so grateful baby this time around if you could hang on in there and not kick a hole in your sac before you are actually ready….