During my pregnancy I found it extremely motivating to read other individuals birth stories. I was fortunate enough to be part of The Positive Birth Company’s Facebook group as part of their Hypnobirthing package, where others would post their positive birth stories. It was refreshing to read stories that were real life and not dramatized versions of birth you see on TV. So, I wanted to put my birth story out there, in hope that it might help anyone that finds themselves in a similar situation.
When thinking about a ‘positive birth story’ I was scared mine did not really fit into that category. It wasn’t exactly the birth I had planned or wanted.
My birth was an induction, which is something I knew I did not want unless medically necessary which it was (see my post on PPROM). My appointment was arranged for 4pm on the Tuesday afternoon, however due to the ward being busy we were told to come in for 7pm. My nerves were through the roof that day! I tried to sleep as best I could throughout the day to keep my energy levels up, but with 100 things running through my mind that was near impossible. My partner and I decided to drive to the coast when he finished work and sat and watched the sea (my go to for a bit of calm) then off we went to the hospital. It was a surreal feeling to know that would be our last time as a two and we would be driving out as a family of three.
We were shown to our room where I unpacked my massively overpacked hospital bag. I then put on The Great British Bake off and tucked into some dinner I’d packed. Little did I know at the time that would be my last meal, or I would’ve added a few extra courses! At midnight I was examined to see what my cervix was doing (not much at this point!). It was closed and long, so quite the opposite of what was needed for birth. I was given the pessary gel to see if this would allow my cervix to become more ‘favourable’, with the plan to be examined again in six hours.
I experienced a few pains in my back through the night, which were settled with paracetamol. I attempted to get some sleep but when you’re waiting for labour to begin it becomes slightly difficult. At 6am I was examined again and was 1cm dilated, so it was agreed I would start the hormone drip. I was terrified of this but used relaxation techniques to help remain calm. The worst part of this time was being told I was now nil by mouth after I had packed every snack under the sun! I was slightly worried about giving birth on no sleep and no food, but I kept reminding myself that people manage in a lot trickier situations which kept me going.
The drip was turned on and I was told I would be checked every four hours. I sat back and watched some TV, whilst dozing in and out of sleep. When I was checked at 10am I was still only 2/3cm so the midwife thought it might be helpful to break my waters. This was slightly uncomfortable, and I was pretty sure at one point the midwife had climbed into my vagina (disclaimer: she had not) however it was over quickly. The process was not painful, however because I was not very dilated it felt strange someone having a rummage and a stretch down there.
After my waters were broken, things really started to ramp up a notch. The contractions became more noticeable, though I was still only using breathing techniques to breathe through them at this point. I was sat watching Phil and Holly on This Morning, whilst bouncing on a birthing ball whilst taking deep breaths… not my average Wednesday morning. The midwife offered me gas and air which I was reluctant to try, as I get slightly nervous by medication I have not tried before. However, after a couple of hours I had my first puff. I felt slightly lightheaded, as if I’d just downed a glass of wine, but the feeling quickly passed. The midwife coached me through using it effectively, as I was still slightly nervous and not breathing correctly though the mouthpiece. Once you stop breathing in the gas and air, with a few normal breaths the swimmy head feeling goes which I started to get used to. When I could feel a contraction coming, I started to use the gas and air every time. I’m not sure it did much pain wise, but psychologically it felt as though it was helping and allowed me to continue to concentrate on my breathing.
At my next examination I was disheartened to learn I was 5cm, as I was starting to struggle with the pain and felt I should be further along (queue harsh expectations on myself!). We discussed other methods of pain management, as I had said from the start I did not want an epidural as I felt anxious about the process. The midwife was extremely honest about other methods such as pethidine, as she said it can make some people experience the ‘swimmy head’ feeling I had disliked from the gas and air. She assured me the epidural would not bring this feeling and that I should feel aware of what is going on. She left me to think about my options and said I did not need to decide straight away, which gave me a bit of time to discuss this with Liam and see how things played out. I said I would use code word ‘Ernie’ (our dogs name) if I felt I needed an epidural and if I said the word I was 10/10 serious and to ignore my plan of no epidural… what could go wrong?!
I continued with gas and air for a few hours until I felt the contractions were too close together to manage. The intensity did not seem to be any worse, however I was getting little to no rest between them which felt too much. I requested an epidural, however the anaesthetists were in theatre at this point, so I had to power on with gas an air until they were finished. My partner said during this time I sat on a chair near the bed and went into my own zone. I was offered water and the opportunity to change position etc, however he said I would only say the word no and refused to move. I half remember this, though it seems a bit of a blur now. With each contraction I was focusing on positive affirmations and reminding myself I could and would get through this. I’ve never used affirmations before this time, however it helped massively as any time I had a ‘wobble’ I went back to the affirmations which gave me the push I needed to stay calm and focused.
The anaesthetists arrived and by this point it could’ve been the cast of Annie walking into the room, I was so in the zone I did not care. The epidural was administered, which was pain free and over in what felt like five minutes. The anaesthetist informed me that they had punctured my dura, which is the protective membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. I absolutely did not care at this time and asked that they tell me another time… the joys of a labouring woman! The epidural started to work pretty quickly and I was able to relax for the first time in hours, which was a welcomed break. I was examined and to everyone’s delight I was 9cm dilated! In hindsight, I wish I’d checked this before the epidural was given, but at the time I was so desperate for relief I did not think.
About half an hour after the first lot of pain relief was administered, I started to feel the contractions more intensely again. I was also able to move my legs freely, which I was not able to do initially. The anaesthetist returned to administer further medication, since the first lot wore off. My Mam was able to join us at this point and said she walked in and wanted to walk straight back out of the room. She said I did not look impressed at all! I think around this time I begged one of the staff to take me to theatre and perform a c-section, I was so desperate for it to be over as I was exhausted. Obviously, there was no medical need for this at this point, so the politely declined my request. Thankfully the second lot of pain relief worked and I couldn’t feel anything all the way up to my chest, which I thought I would hate but I was so relieved. Luckily, I was still able to move my legs and had some form of feeling, but no pain. This was the best outcome I could’ve wished for.
Soon after, the mooing began… I told the midwife I needed to push. They had asked me to wait two hours before pushing even though I was fully dilated. They said this was to ensure that the baby was as far down the birth canal as possible, to reduce the chances of needing further intervention, which can be needed with an epidural. I can remember trying to relax and fight the urge to push, but it was becoming too much to resist and my body started to do this whether I went along with it or not. I asked the midwife to check if I could push. She said she seen the ’whites of my eyes’ and knew I was deadly serious. She checked and said the baby’s head was right there waiting, which gave me the green light to push. Cue transition…I started to shout I couldn’t do it and I did not know what to do. The midwife talked me through following what my body was already naturally doing and I began to let my body take over and push itself.
After a few moments I asked, ‘How long is this going to take?’, which makes me laugh at how naïve I was. The midwife told me to put my hand on the baby’s head, which really helped keep me motivated, as I could feel her coming down with each push. After about 15 minutes of pushing baby was here! Born at 21:23, weighing 7lb 1oz.
The feeling of birth is indescribable. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a mix of fear, excitement, and empowerment all in one like it. As soon as I seen Indigo I started to scream ‘That’s my baby’ repeatedly and grabbing Liam to tell him it was our baby. It’s a funny feeling, because you know it’s your baby but there is a level of disbelief that you have grown and birthed something so perfect. Liam cut the cord and we enjoyed skin to skin with Indie, whilst sharing our beautiful news with family (and my friends since they had started a sweepstake!). A few moments after I had the injection to help deliver the placenta, which felt amazing. The squashed up feeling I’d had for the end of my pregnancy was instantly gone! I’d also sustained a second degree tear, which was stitched up in the room and I did not feel a thing. Weirdly, this was a pleasant experience, as I was sat chatting to the midwife whilst my vagina was being stitched and joking about which pattern she was doing.
My birth was nothing that I expected, wanted, or dreamed of. However, as cliché as it sounds, I do not think I would change it, which has taken me almost four months to say. If I had to give one piece of advice about birth it would be to do your research, not to make a concrete plan, but to be aware of your options. I ruled out a lot of things from the start, such as accepting an epidural, so I did not really explore this and how it worked. This meant I had to learn quick on the day and might have made hasty decisions. Therefore, even if you are certain you do/don’t want something, try to keep an open mind and do the research so you can feel empowered on the day.