Like so many other first time mums, I watched my due date come and go. After concerns from 36 weeks that my baby boy wasn’t growing anymore, I was anxious to have him out. I had been seeing only midwives throughout my normal, healthy pregnancy but five days after my due date I had an appointment to see the OB to discuss induction. After arranging a date for induction, my husband kindly asked if she would strip my membranes since we were told it had a 50/50 chance of starting labor in 24 hours. Sure enough, eight hours later at 6:30 p.m., while I was preparing dinner, my contractions started three minutes apart.
Four hours later after a long, uncomfortable soak in the bath and with no ease in contractions, and the passing of some old blood, I was finally convinced my labor had started. I gave the labor ward a call to let them know I would be coming in and they suggested I stay home to labor a while before coming and that I try and get some sleep. I went to the toilet before heading to bed and was delighted to see the bloody show! I was so ecstatic that I called my husband to have a look!
I crawled into bed with my contractions still three minutes apart, excited that we were going to meet our baby boy soon, and knowing full well that I was going to get no sleep that night.
Around midnight I stopped timing my contractions and by 3 a.m. I had had enough of rocking silently on my side to ease the pain, so I got up to lie on the couch for a few hours. As the contractions worsened, I was relieved to see it start to get light outside and know that the long night was over. My husband woke around 5:30 a.m. and I announced that I had got no sleep and would like to head to the hospital to see what they could do to help.
At 6:30 a.m. I was having my blood pressure checked by the night shift midwife who was luckily going home soon as she was a grumpy old woman. She said that she wouldn’t examine me as the next shift would be starting soon and would have to do it again anyway.
At 8 a.m. the day shift midwife introduced herself to me, my husband and my cervix. After over 12 hours of labor, I was only 3 cm dilated. I will never forget the overwhelming sense of disappointment. She suggested I climb into the bath or try walking around to assist things along, and I opted for the bath. I loved the idea of a water birth and all throughout my pregnancy I had imagined having a natural birth with little or no intervention and using only natural pain relief. After 20 minutes in the bath, though, I had had enough. I couldn’t get comfortable and felt like a beached whale sloshing around with each contraction.
At around 11 a.m. the midwife suggested seeing how much progress I’d made and unfortunately there had been little change since the last time she examined me. We went for a long walk and came back to the birthing room around 12 p.m. to find my sister who had just finished work.
My husband needed some lunch, so my sister took over for him while he had a nice hour and a half break. The contractions were still around three minutes apart but not lasting longer than one minute. When they started to worsen I called the midwife to ask if I could try the gas.
After two hours of sucking on that tube, I was getting tired. My sister had since left and my husband was back by my side. The midwife suggested, even though it wasn’t part of my birth plan, to try some pethidine. It would reduce the frequency of my contractions and help to give me some rest. Sure enough, I was knocked out for almost two hours with my contractions only coming every 10 minutes. Once the pethidine had worn off, still dependent on the gas for pain relief, I decided I would try the bath again. It wasn’t any better the second time around so my wonderful husband and I took to the corridors again.
3:30 p.m. saw the change of shift and I met another midwife who, despite having been there all day, was staying back until 9 p.m. as they had got quite busy. This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. At 4 p.m. the new midwife suggested she examine me again. A whole 5 cm! I was getting a little despondent, to say the least. After almost 22 hours of what I thought was labor, I had only reached half way. She did say I was 90 percent effaced, but that my “real labor” had probably only begun at about midday! Oh man. Since my progress had been so slow, she suggested that, although it was against my birth plan, we needed to move things along a bit and asked if I would consider having my membranes ruptured. I said “Yes, but I’m not having anything until I get some more pain relief.” It was then that she noticed the blood trickling down my legs. She said while it wasn’t normal to be bleeding like that, it wasn’t cause for concern yet. I got up on the bed and they put the monitor on to see how bub was doing. For now, everything inside was fine.
5 p.m. saw the arrival of some more pethidine. I had been on the bed being continuously monitored and I hated that my movement was restricted with each contraction. I continued to bleed and unfortunately my little boy began to get distressed. It was then that the midwife called the OB.
The OB arrived and examined me and instructed that my water be broken. I didn’t feel it break and from then on, it all became a blur. With my legs up in stirrups on the bed, I had become the stereotypical laboring woman, back arching, writhing and howling. I could not believe how painful and intense my contractions had become and I felt like my reactions were beyond my control. Despite not ever wanting an epidural, I was now screaming for one. The midwife cannulated my left arm and hooked me up to an IV, which only made things worse as with each contraction, the IV would alarm. My husband, who had been offering encouraging words all the way through now had the new job of keeping my left arm straight.
I just wanted this baby out. Bub continued to get distressed with each contraction and I continued to bleed. The midwife began to prep me in case of an emergency caesarean and once that became a real possibility, it was a C-section I was yelling for. “Get this thing out of me!” was all I could scream. The OB then said, “We will get the baby out the quickest way possible, and at the moment, this is the quickest way.” She was of course referring to an episiotomy and vacuum extraction. I had gone from 5 to 10 cm in the hour since they broke my water and the midwife later told me if it had not have been for the quick response, we would have lost our baby.
After a few ineffectual pushes and more writhing and screaming, the OB said she needed to cut me and use the vacuum to get him out now. The baby’s head had been ready and waiting for me to fully dilate and had since progressed down well, he just needed more room and some extra assistance to finish the journey.
The midwife instructed me that instead of screaming to pull my chin down and use the pressure to push. After what seemed like only three pushes, our beautiful baby’s head was out. The next push and his body came sliding. At 6:36 p.m., after 24 hours of labor, they placed him on my chest and all I could say was, “Hello my darling.”
It turned out the cord was wrapped around his neck and his placenta had come away from the wall of my uterus, hence the bleeding. I could not have got through such an intense ending to my labor without the support and encouragement of my husband an
d the incredible, professional and compassionate midwife.