February 5, 2021
Labour & Birth - When nothing goes to plan
I’m a mom. Wow that sounds weird to say and type. Almost can’t believe it!
Our son Ezekiel Crawford came into our lives on a snowy January morning after a pretty intense 24 hours of labour.
He is perfect (even though the birth itself wasn’t) and we’re besotted with the little cherub we now have in our arms. Almost makes me forget how we got here.
So here is my labour and birth story.
Firstly I want to tell you about the birth that I had planned.
Just like most first time moms, I really wanted a natural, unmedicated and fairly holistic birth experience. I wanted to give birth in a midwife led unit, floating in a pool, with dimmed lights, gentle music, some aromatherapy and maybe some gas and air if I felt like the pain got too much.
I still very much want to experience that.
Unfortunately around my 36 weeks antenatal appointment my midwife picked up some trace protein in my urine. Fairly harmless, I was reassured, but because my mom had preeclampsia they wanted to keep a closer eye on things. I started getting regular blood and urine tests as well as my blood pressure measured multiple times a day.
My bloods and BP were always spot on but the PCR in my urine fluctuated which is why I was told that the birth I had planned for, the unmedicated one in a pool in a midwife led unit was now out of the question and unless I go into labour soon, I were to be induced. I hated that. The worst of it was the fact that in myself I felt absolutely fine. He was moving and growing every day so why were they telling me I can’t have the birth I want and instead have to be induced.
Because I tried so desperately to avoid induction, I requested a membrane sweep in an attempt to get things moving along naturally. First time my midwife tried it, I was 38 weeks and 5 days however due to my cervix being nowhere near in the mood, she couldn’t do a sweep as I was not at all dilated. A few days later we tried again and this time I was 1.5cm dilated so we did a sweep. The sweep itself wasn’t that bad at all. The midwife who performed the procedure was so gentle and talked me through it. When she said ‘and I am feeling baby’s head now’ I nearly started crying. I felt like I was approaching the moment i was going to meet my son.
I felt so motivated that this would work. The next day I lost my plug and was thinking ‘this is it… today is the day’. Turns out that day wasn’t in fact the day. I had not a single contraction and if anything, my Braxton Hicks which have been slowly ramping up over the last few days had ceased altogether. That evening I had little cry on my husband’s shoulder. I felt like this baby was never getting out.
That evening we went to bed as usual. I woke up at 00.10am to go to the bathroom. As I sat up in bed I felt this huge gush of water coming out of me. And then another one. And then another one. ‘My water just broke’ I told Axl with a shaken voice. He leaped out of bed and got some towels and incontinence pads to lay down by the bed. ‘It won’t stop gushing out of me’ I said.
Eventually I made my way to the bathroom where I took a shower. We went to the kitchen to call the hospital and tell them my waters have gone. They asked to see me right away to make sure the water were clear. I started to get dressed shakily. It’s such a weird thing, you know. I was pregnant for 9 months, I was doing everything I could to get this baby out yet the moment your waters go it hits you… ‘I am having a baby, It’s actually happening’. I was in a bit of a shock and I know so was Axl so we had a moment where we just looked at each other, hugged and said ‘we’re having a baby’.
At this point there were still no contractions but I knew they were about to start. We went to the hospital where I got quickly checked and told all looks good, I should go home, labour there for as long as I could and get the hospital only when the pain was unbearable.
We got back home around 2am
Well, let me tell you this, the pain went from ‘is this a contraction?’ to utterly unbearable real quick. By the time we got home from he hospital they were 4-5 mins apart and 40-50 seconds long. The app we used to track surges kept telling me to get myself to the hospital but how could I, when I’ve just been sent back. So I did everything I knew I could do to take my mind off the pain. I used a TENS machine (which helped immensely!), I took 2 paracetamol which could as well have been tic tacs, and I stayed in the shower letting hot water run down my back.
This all worked for a total of 6-7 hours. At around 8am I was in so much pain I begged my husband to call his soon to be brother-in-law to give us a lift to the hospital. Patrick came right away (thanks Patrick, I owe you a great debt!) and between surges and huffing and puffing we took ourselves back to the hospital.
Back in the hospital
I got checked and I was still only 1.5cm dilated. That was like as slap in the face! I was in labour for hours, my contractions were coming strong and fast yet I hadn’t progressed at all. Axl wasn’t allowed in at this point so him and Patrick went back home while I was left to labour in triage hooked to a monitor. The next few hours that followed were the most excruciating in my life. I was screaming in pain, begging for someone to give me something for the pain. Anything really, just make it stop. They gave me a co codamol which did nothing. They were actually quite surprised at the fact that the medication did literally nothing for me and didn’t even take the edge off. I got checked and I was 3.5cm.
At that point moved me to a different ward where I was given a room of my own. That’s when I got my first shot of pethidine. All my reservations for pain medication were out the window and all I wanted was to not be in pain. The pethidine worked for a bit and I was able to have little nap. Having not slept at all and with rather intense labour so far, I knew that getting my strength back would be great for when it came to pushing the baby out. At around 3pm I got checked again and I was 5cm dilated. Yes, I thought to myself, progress! We’re halfway there.
I got moved to labour ward and was told Axl can join me. At that point I felt this huge sense of relief. I was progressing, I was about to be reunited with Axl which I feel was the biggest pain relief ever and to top it all off, my midwife who has been doing my antenatal care for the last few months asked to swap shifts so she could be with me. I felt like I was in the right place, surrounded by the right people and ready two meet my baby.
The next few hours were spent high on gas and air.
Unfortunately I wasn’t progressing fast enough and since they were worried my water has been broken for ages yet the baby wasn’t descending, they advised we try to syntocinon to help move things along. So here we are, in full labour yet I still need to be induced. Fuck it, I thought, let’s do what it takes to get the baby out.
My midwife said that once syntocinon is administered the contractions ramp up quite quickly so maybe now is the time to consider an epidural. I said no, which I now regret and said let’s just try pethidine again. So we did. Between that and the gas and air, I felt good for a while. The contractions did pick up pace quite quickly and I felt like there were back to back with no rest in between. It’s okay I thought couldn’t be long now.
8pm came however, and my midwife said here shift was coming to an end so she had to pass us to her colleague. I was a bit sad to see her go as I felt we had a connection, she knew me and she new what I wanted. I felt safe in her hands and now I had to be passed on to another person in such a delicate situation. I felt sad and deflated but what am I going to do? Not much choice but to carry on.
A few more hours of labouring followed and as the pethidine started to wear off I found myself in excruciating pain again. I caved and asked for the epidural. My dilation got checked again because if I was close to the end then there was no time for epidural. It turns out that the past 6 hours of labour have resulted in me dilating only 1cm and I was now 6cm. The anaesthetist came and what followed was a very uncomfortable 40mins. I had to stay still for him to put the channeller in my back however that proved rather hard with back to back contractions. They had Axl hold me still and eventually managed to insert the epidural.
Just as they did that, at about 10pm a more senior doctor came to check on me and my progress. They checked me again and announced that things aren’t looking too good. With my membranes ruptured for nearly 24 hours now there was an increased risk of infection. I wasn’t dilating any further at all, the baby wasn’t descending, his heart rate was creeping up which indicated distress and also he was getting a bit of swelling on his head…
Axl and I were both in shock yet we knew what was coming. They recommended an emergency caesarean to get the baby out. What followed was a moment of daze and confusion. We were given a quick run down of the risks of c-section (bleeding, rupture of surrounding organs, damage to my pelvis, potential risk of hysterectomy, hemeoraging and harm to the baby in the process). The anaesthetist came back and said they’ll give me a much stringer drug for the procedure. I was given a consent form to sign, Axl was told to get our bags and we were wheeled to the operting theatre. It all happened so fast.
Next thing I know I am laid on a table with people working around me. Scared doesn’t even begin to cover how I felt. Scared of what’s to follow, scared if the baby will be okay, scared of all the things that could go wrong… I just wanted it to be over.
The team in the OR were really good at making me feel at ease, they explained what I would feel and that they will only go ahead with the incision once they knew I was numb. Whether from the drugs, nerves or the cold OR all I could do was shake uncontrollably, and pray it would all be over soon. That’s when Axl came in and I felt this huge sense of relief again. Looking at him in full scrubs and a face mask all I could think about was ‘I can see the terror in your eyes, I am scared too’ and also ‘damn boo you look sexy in scrubs’
The surgery began. I felt nothing but pressure and my body being moved around like a rag doll. I just kept staring at Axl’s eyes and waiting to hear a baby cry. At one point the anaesthetist said they were taking the baby out and I remember asking ‘does he have hair?’. He smiled and said ‘I won’t spoil it for you, just wait’ and that’s when we heard it… the cry. On 26th Jan, at 00.13am, 24 hours almost to the minute after my water broke my son was born. He was showed to us briefly and taken to be wrapped up. Not even a minute later he was on my chest and I was in floods of tears finally holding my son. I held him for a bit and then asked for him to be passed to Axl. He took him in his hands and for the first time in what felt like forever I felt a huge sigh of relief. I spent the rest of the surgery looking at my husband and my son and admiring how perfect they are together. Axl, calm and confident with the baby and our son, so perfect, so tiny, staring at him in awe.
Axl and the baby went away to get him checked and weight, while I was closed up.
We then got moved to recovery where we slowly started to make sense of what just happened. I was numb and couldn’t move so Axl had the honours to put a nappy on the baby, get some skin and get him dressed in his first outfit. We spent some time together and taking in the beauty of our son and the craziness of the past 24 hours.
And just like that, we were a family of 3.
So there you gave it folks… my labour and birth story. Axl remarked that looking back at my birth plan, we ended up doing everything we said we didn’t want. From medication, to induction, to c-section and intervention. But here are the lessons I learned as a result.
Have your birth plan but be open to that going out the window at any given point
- Things could change very dramatically very quickly
- Be informed, do you research and know what your options are but ultimately trust the professionals who love and breath this stuff all day every day. I felt so confident in my choices and thought the research I’ve been doing for the past 9 months was enough but ultimately I had to put my life and that of my son in the hands of professionals so it was important I trust them.
- The biggest pain relief wasn’t the paracetamol, or the gas and air or the pethidine or epidural. The biggest relief from pain I felt was having my husband there with me to help me, guide me and just be with me when I was at my most vulnerable.