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Saturday, June 16, 2012

My first birth story

Our first son was due on 12 June, 9 days after the expected due date my husband and I were getting pretty keen to see the wee mite!  Each day we would wait and see if this was the day and each day - nothing.  I was getting a bit impatient. Getting calls every day from anxious friends and relatives did nothing to help my mood! we were given an inducement date of 25 June unless the baby made an earlier appearance and told not to worry.

Both zonked out after a hard labour

 I was getting pretty restless at home and couldn’t sit still, by Sunday I was practically pacing the house. I felt like a warthog, breathless and enraged! I should have realised at this stage that it was a sign baby was on the move but I just thought it was impatience from having to wait 12 days for baby to arrive. We went to bed at about 11 and my husband drifted off to sleep almost immediately while I was tossing and turning, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I was also getting this cramping which was pretty sore, which meant I couldn’t relax. At about midnight I finally clicked - baby was ready!  I shook my husband awake and told him things were starting to happen, he just looked startled at first and quite sleepy but he got up to make me a hot water bottle and get some paracetamol for the pain.  We lay in bed together for about an hour before the contractions started to get quite painful and regular, we called the back up midwife (my primary midwife was on her weekend off) who told us to wait until they were 5 minutes apart and 1 minute long in duration before calling her again.

 My husband and I set about getting ready, I think we must have both been a bit shell shocked as we had expected the baby 2 days later, we did the oddest things.  Hubby got the recycling ready while I spent a good 20 minutes looking for a hair tie.  Pretty funny in retrospect but I was fretting at the time. I was getting more and more anxious as we seemed unable to Sort Our Shit.  Things seemed to really get full on at this point and it was only about 40 minutes before it was time to call our back up midwife again.  At this stage I was in a lot of pain and I felt ready to go to the hospital but when she checked to see how dilated I was it was only 1 cm – arrgh! I sensed she felt the visit had been a waste of time, which made me feel a bit guilty and stressed out. I was lying on the bed moaning in pain while she looked disapprovingly at me. She suggested I wait a few more hours and have a bath. The bath definitely helped me cope which was a relief as I was very sore by this stage. Finally at 5am the contractions were close enough together that we headed to Queen Mary to have our baby.

Straight away the backup midwife ran me a bath in the birth pool and I hopped in, while she sat down and wrote some notes. At this stage I was already so tired that I was falling asleep between contractions, after an hour or so in the pool she wanted to check how dilated I was, I was pretty horrified to find I had only come along about half a centimetre after all of that work! I discovered in retrospect that having a bath in early labour can slow things down so my slow progress was explained. We decided at that point to try breaking my waters, which definitely helped as I went from about 2.5 centimetres to 4 centimetres straight away. My pain levels also went up after having the Artificial Rupture of Membranes and I started to feel fearful of each upcoming contraction. I was offered pethidine at this point but turned it down because I didn’t want to have a drugged up baby. I was using gas for each contraction which made me feel pretty out of it but definitely helped me to cope. By 10am my midwife was back on call and she popped in to see how I was doing, I was pretty exhausted and was disheartened to find I was only about 6 cm along, but I kept plugging along.  

My husband was really helpful during labour making sure I remembered to keep hydrated and use the bathroom frequently.  The fact that he kept calm and relaxed really helped me focus and keep from getting too tense. What I didn’t know is that underneath all of his calm he was stressed out to see me in so much pain. We also had a student midwife, and she was amazingly helpful, especially since my midwife was overseeing another of her women in the room down the hall and couldn’t always be with me a lot of the time.

It got to be about 4pm and my midwife suggested I consider some different ways of coping with the pain as I was getting exhausted and hadn’t dilated any further. She gave me the option of Pethedine or an Epidural.  We ended up deciding on an epidural as it had less chance of affecting the baby, she got a lovely anaesthetist in who went over all the possible side effects before asking me to sit on the edge of the bed and curl forwards while he stuck a jolly great needle in my back.  I couldn’t see it so I wasn’t bothered but my husband went quite pale at the time.  The epidural was great at first as it allowed me to get about 45 minutes of sleep but it wore off at about 6pm and by that stage I was fully dilated and my midwife wanted me to push – it was agony! Pushing made the contractions much more painful and it felt really futile as I could tell the pushing wasn’t doing any good, my baby wasn't moving. He was a posterior presentation which meant that me lying on myback was the absolute worst positioning possible.

My midwife wouldn’t let me use any gas so I could focus on the contractions, which was pretty upsetting at the time, but it was the best chance of getting the baby to move because of his positioning. He didn’t want to budge which is not a surprise as he was having to move uphill over the lip of my pelvis. I was yelling with each contraction because we were spine to spine and the pain was excruciating. My midwife kept having to remind me to keep my head down and focus the energy down but I was in so much pain during contractions I felt I couldn’t bear to. I was quite tearful at this stage and obstetricians kept popping their heads in to see how things were progressing, I could tell that I was beginning to become a point of concern. Baby’s heart rate had dropped a little and we were starting to discuss things like forceps or ventouse. I got scared, seeing the monitor drop made me worry about my baby.

It was decided to move forwards and help baby out things moved pretty quickly, I was warned that a caesarean was likely before being wheeled into surgery where I was given a spinal block. A spinal block is a very similar procedure to an epidural except all sensation is deadened, the relief was almost instant, I was still contracting but couldn’t feel anything at all from the chest down. There were about 8 different people in the small room but they were all so friendly I wasn’t too intimidated. Except for the lead obstetrician, she was brusque and dismissive. She was so unpleasant that I must have completely blanked her because I don’t remember her at all, but my husband did.  Turns out I was lucky to have her as she was the only obstetrician on deck that was happy to try a forceps delivery in such a presentation. She tried to rotate baby's head with the ventouse and ease him out but after a couple of unsuccessful tries she decided to use forceps. You could hear the pop as the ventouse lost suction! She used the kielland forceps and after pushing a few times our son was born! They put him on my chest straight away but almost as quickly he was whisked away again. The cord was cut by my husband and our baby was rushed to be checked over, I could hear his cry and he got a 9 on his apgar which was a huge relief. Talking to my husband afterwards he said that cutting the cord had felt so brutal he hated doing it.

Once they moved me back to the delivery suite my wee man started nursing straight away which was great sign. I couldn’t move because of the spinal block but I was ecstatic to hold my baby at last!

I spent the night gazing at him in the little plastic fish tank crib, and because I couldn’t move the nurses had to bring him to me to feed every time he cried. I wasn’t able to hold him even though I could see him. We were separated by a little plastic wall. The few times he slept I wasn’t able to because I had the morphine itches from my spinal block. My whole body was crawling and I felt vile. My husband had to go home so I had no support and no one to talk to. I was lonely, exhausted and I felt a bit lost. I was ravenous because I hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours but the small tub of apple puree I ate came back up almost immediately.

When my first visitor came in the morning I was only just able to stand, I hadn’t showered and I was trying to negotiate breastfeeding with a canula on my arm and one thin pillow on an uncomfy hospital chair. I was still really happy though, I had my beautiful baby at last.

Puffy face from IV fluids and an assisted delivery

This is the birth story I wrote a week or so after our first son was born. I went through to edit a few bits and pieces as this was written for a parent centre leaflet and I didn’t want to be too negative. But so much is glaringly obvious to me now that I know what a normal physiological birth looks like. For example, I spent most of my labour lying down or in the bath, I clock watched, I had excessive levels of anxiety from the beginning and towards the end I gave up and let the hospital take over. I took a very passive approach to my birth and as such I had almost every standard intervention. Interventions which are considered to be 'life saving', yet I am convinced if I had not started on that route I would have had a much more successful birth. I had an almost text book intervention cascade (except for a chemical induction) which started from something as little as AROM and gas. I was lucky to avoid a caesarean, and I didn’t even realise it at the time. If I had known that an epidural could have affected my blood pressure and directly impacted my baby's stats, as well as preventing my posterior baby from turning I would have taken a different route. My first birth was a lesson to both of us led us to pursuing a different way the next time around.

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