My first son, Teddy, was born in 2009 via emergency c-section due to failure to progress (or “failure to wait” on behalf of the medical team). It was rather a traumatic experience and it took me a long time to come to terms with it. So this time, I decided it was all going to be different! I was aiming for a VBAC and used a hypnobirthing programme (book and CD) to prepare myself.
As Teddy had been a week late, I never expected this baby to come early; so when his due date came and went I wasn’t too bothered. However when I got to 41 weeks and still didn’t get more than one or two Braxton Hicks a day, I got a little impatient! I started joking that he was waiting for a June birthday. Day 8 was the last May Bank Holiday so I thought it would be neat if I went into labour as my husband M was at home; but no such luck. I went to bed feeling rather deflated.
The next morning, I woke before the alarm went off, and instinctively knew I was in labour. However after so many days of waiting and analysing every twinge, I decided to play it cool and wait and see. It seemed the contractions were coming every 15 minutes and they were quite bearable; and I lost my mucous plug as well so felt very positive that this was it!
That morning, I had an appointment at the hospital. As I was overdue but refused any form of induction (I wanted labour to happen naturally to improve my chances of a successful VBAC) I had to come in and get monitored regularly to make sure that baby was still doing ok.
I told the midwife who saw me that contractions had started, and the CTG confirmed this. Baby was doing fine so I was sent home after half an hour on the machine; not without being given another appointment in case the contractions fizzled out.
While driving home I noticed that the contractions were getting closer – every ten minutes – and stronger. In fact, I had to actively breathe through them now and decided I should probably not be driving anymore! I picked Teddy up from my mother-in-law and took him home for lunch and his nap. When Teddy had fallen asleep, I tried to have a quick nap too, knowing this could be my last opportunity to sleep for a while! But the contractions were now so strong that I couldn’t sit comfortably anymore, so instead I stood leaning over the sofa, swaying my hips and breathing through the contractions, which were now coming every 7 minutes.
By the time Teddy woke up, they were coming even closer, and were so strong that I had to completely focus inwards and on my breathing. So I switched the telly on for Teddy and continued to lean over the back of the sofa and breathing out with a loud “Aaaaah!” sound while rocking my hips with every contraction. Teddy thought this was very strange behaviour indeed so he repeatedly told me to “Stop being so silly, Mummy!” which made me laugh even at the peak of a contraction. I had called M to confirm that I was definitely in labour and could he come home. He said he’d try to be home for 5pm… not what I’d wanted to hear! I said the sooner the better, and the rest of the afternoon is just a blur of trying to get through the contractions and dealing with Teddy at the same time.
By the time M came home, I had contractions every 4-5 minutes. He ran me a hot bath which was bliss, and which I didn’t leave for an hour! While he got Teddy’s overnight bag and dropped him off at his mother’s house, who had agreed to look after Teddy while we were in hospital.
When M was back we rang the labour ward. The contractions now came every 2-3 minutes, lasting a minute, so the midwife I spoke to said to come in. I was reluctant to go in too soon, but by the time I had gotten out of the bath, dressed and ready, almost another hour had passed as I had to stop whatever I was doing when a contraction came.
When we got into the car – I got into “the zone” – I closed my eyes and focussed entirely on my body, shutting everything else out. We finally got to the labour ward at about 7pm (having to stop about five times between the car park and the building due to contractions) and got given a room.
As I had previously had a caesarean, I was put under close observation i.e. continuous monitoring. I didn’t want this and tried to say so, but I didn’t really have the strength to fight the midwives as I needed the energy to deal with the contractions. I was examined and found to be 3cm dilated – which was great news to me as with Teddy I hadn’t been dilated at all when I got to the hospital!
Unfortunately the continuous monitoring meant being strapped to a machine and thus confined to the bed. I still maintained an upright position by having the back of the bed as upright as possible, but it was still uncomfortable being so restricted – so I thought sod this, I might as well get an epidural! I had tried he gas and air but felt it interfered with my breathing techniques, and definitely didn’t want any pethidine – I’d had this last time and didn’t like feeling so drugged; I wanted to keep a clear head.
Eventually the anaesthetist arrived and began administering the epidural. Long story short, I was one of those 15% for whom the epidural does not work. Even with various top ups I only had the left side go numb and I could still feel everything on the right; and continued to throw up from the pain. It finally started working about 20 minutes before Bo was born.
In the meantime, my waters broke which was very encouraging for me as with Teddy they were artificially ruptured. The fluid was clear, so I knew baby boy must be fine! I continued to labour away, finding it increasingly harder to deal with the pain of the contractions; and I remember I always had to hold M’s hand through a contraction to help me focus and get through it. The straps that tied me to the CTG continued to be an annoyance though; it kept losing track of the baby’s heartbeat because the straps would move.
Lots of people came to see me – midwifes, registrars, consultants, I don’t remember them all! Just introducing themselves and occasionally checking the CTG printout. At one point one of the registrars told me that baby was starting to get unhappy and to move position, so they had me lying on my left side and the readings improved again. At around midnight, I was examined again and 6cm dilated, further than I ever got with Teddy! Then the registrar told me I wasn’t progressing as quickly as they’d like and we had to start thinking about a caesarean. M and I got really annoyed as we saw no reason whatsoever for a c-section! I was progressing really well this time (in our opinion) and baby was doing well, so what was the rush? We would have refused a caesarean just on this basis that I wasn’t performing according to their time scales.
As the belts still kept moving and the sensors losing contact, M suggested using the fetal scalp electrode (where the sensor is clipped into the baby’s scalp) so we didn’t have to worry about correcting the straps all the time and the registrar wouldn’t moan so much about losing the heartbeat all the time.
The midwife, Dawn, agreed and did another internal examination. Suddenly she said, “I can see something” and I remember thinking, hey maybe I’m fully dilated and she can see the head! But the look on her face told me something was wrong. Then Dawn told M: “Press the red button, NOW!” which he did and an alarm started to blare and lots of people came running into the room. The next part is all a bit of a blur, it happened so quickly. Dawn told me that the umbilical cord had come out, and she was pushing the baby’s head back in so that there was no pressure on the cord. We were rushing off to theatre, with Dawn sitting on my bed pressing against the head, and she said if I was fully dilated we could get the baby out vaginally, otherwise it would have to be a caesarean.
I remember I kept asking where M was and being told he was getting into scrubs; then someone telling me I was only 7cm so we’d have to operate. I heard the consultant ask the anaesthetist how long it would take to top up my epidural. Upon hearing the answer, 5-10 minutes, he said: “No, we don’t have five minutes. We’ll have to knock her out.” At that point I got really scared and started to panic a bit. I kept asking for M and was now told he wouldn’t be allowed in as they’d put me under general. Someone kept putting an oxygen mask on me which made me feel like I couldn’t breathe, and people were injecting all sorts into my arms and laying cannulas, and my hand really hurt. Then someone said “you will go to sleep now” and I thought “No, I won’t, I’m way too agitated!” but then everything went black.
Bo was born at 2.14am on 1 June 2011, weighing just over 10 pounds.
I woke up what felt like seconds later; and I could hear a baby scream before I could open my eyes. Dawn was there and told me everything was ok – the baby was fine and apparently not only came to this world kicking and screaming, but also peeing all over the operating staff! Bo was in a cot next to my bed, but due to all the drugs still in my system I couldn’t focus my eyes enough to see him. This was the worst part – I was awake and could hear my baby screaming his lungs out next to me, but I couldn’t see him properly or hold him as I had a massive tremor and couldn’t control my hands or arms. Then M came in and he held Bo close to my face, though I still couldn’t see him clearly then.
Finally the drugs started to wear off and I was allowed to hold and cuddle my baby! He latched on straight away and continued to nurse for the next hour or so. Everyone kept saying what a big boy he was; but to me (being used to a toddler) he just looked like a tiny baby.
I hadn’t heard about cord prolapse before it happened to me, and what I since found out is quite scary. It is a very rare occurrence (between 0.14% and 0.62% of all births) – the umbilical cord precedes the baby’s head through the cervix; the head then puts pressure on the cord. As a result, oxygen and blood supplies to the baby are diminished or cut-off. If the baby isn’t delivered promptly, brain damage or death will occur. The mortality rate is fairly high at 11-17%, so I feel very lucky that it was spotted so quickly and we ended up with a perfectly healthy baby boy.