I feel like I need to pre-empt this post with a bit of a warning – but a warning of what, I’m not exactly sure. Basically, if you are squeamish or don’t want to know about the ins and outs of female anatomy required to bring a baby into the world, then you may want to skip this post.
My second disclaimer is that this is going to be a lengthy read – Stella took three days to arrive!
Hooked up to the CTG monitor and waiting for things to kick off
In my last post, I had just arrived at the hospital and been admitted for an induction of labour, on Wednesday 11th January. My midwife arrived and we talked through what would happen, and she inserted the first prostaglandin gel. The gel is placed close to the cervix and is meant to help aid the softening and opening, which can kick off contractions. I felt a little bit of a burning sensation, but not much else. We were encouraged to stay as active as possible – so Jase and I headed off for a walk around the hospital grounds (and sneakily went to a nearby cafe).
That afternoon, I had a second gel put in. Again, we went walking, I bounced on the swiss ball, and we generally just hung out. I had to be on the CTG monitor every hour and a half, for 20-30mins each time (and notoriously the hospital midwives were late to do anything they said they would) so it was a lot of waiting to be hooked up, waiting to be unhooked etc. I was getting a sore back and so Jase did a bit of counter-pressure and rubbed in a natural anti-inflammatory. I was finding being stuck on the bed and attached to the monitor increasingly uncomfortable – but still, in terms of any contractions – I was flat lining.
The bottom graph measures uterine activity… not much going on!
Jase headed home on Wednesday night, and they gave me the ‘night off’ to rest.
Thursday morning came, and a third prostaglandin gel went in. We repeated the same walk/ cafe/ swiss ball/ waiting around scenario – and again, the monitoring was showing nothing. My back was really killing me, so I tried to stay as upright and off the bed as possible. Poor Jase was bored absolutely witless – he had taken 2 days off work (so far) and just sat in a hospital chair watching me stuck on a monitor. At least the hospital had wifi!
I was waiting for a midwife to come and give me a fourth gel on Thursday afternoon, when instead they told me I needed to move to shared room as things weren’t progressing for me. I got quite distressed about this – if things weren’t happening in the privacy of my own hospital room (where I SO badly DID NOT WANT to be), then they sure as hell weren’t going to start happening if I was on a ward with other women, only separated by a curtain! I pushed back and asked if I could at least have my next gel inserted in the privacy of a single room (a fair request, I thought!) and the midwife said no, I needed to move now. Jase and I reluctantly started packing up my stuff – I was pretty upset and just wanted to go home. I wanted to be in my own safe space, and let my body go into labour…and here I was feeling threatened and scared, no wonder nothing was bloody happening!
As we finished packing, a senior midwife educator arrived. She closed the door, sat down on the bed and talked to me (like, really talked and listened to me) for nearly an hour – asking me why I was so upset about moving rooms, what was I holding on to about the induction process, what my fears were etc. She listened to me talk about my back pain, and confirmed that this could be the way I was feeling contractions and that just because I was flat-lining on the CTG machine didn’t mean that things weren’t moving. I truly believe I needed this emotional release to allow my body to start responding. She said that she would put the next gel in for me, but she pulled a swift move and instead gave me a VERY vigorous stretch and sweep. I actually think she was trying to break my waters with her fingers, but wasn’t quite able to (I later noticed that she already had the AROM (artificial rupture of membranes) needle on the bed next to her). She told me that I was now 3cm, and I was officially “in labour” and to go out walking for the next 2 hours. When I got back, she would break my waters and we would have a baby tonight!
Jase and I headed off walking around the hospital grounds, and we didn’t stop for 2 hours. I was having back pains that came in waves, which I now thought could be contractions (exciting) and I breathed through them and clutched Jase’s arm when I needed to. I was feeling a constant gushing, and was convinced it was my waters going too. I walked in circles around the maternity ward garden, listening to my hypnobirthing track and breathing. Our baby was coming, I knew it.
We got back to the room at 8pm, and waited for the senior midwife to come back and let us know what would happen next to get this baby here. But it turned out her shift had ended, and she had gone home. I was told to go to sleep (I was still in my room) but to leave my things all packed up as I may have to be moved in the middle of the night. Feeling deflated, Jase left to go home…and I went to sleep, frustrated that things hadn’t really kicked off, and quite on edge.
Friday morning I woke up and I’d had back pain/contractions that woke me through the night, and I was still gushing. There was a new midwife on duty who checked me and told me that my cervix was still hard and closed, and I definitely wasn’t in labour. I felt so deflated and discouraged at this point (especially after last night’s “this is it” excitement). I told her about all the fluid, and she did an amniotic fluid test, which was negative – so it couldn’t have been my waters going, and she couldn’t break them herself as I wasn’t dilated enough/ at all. She also didn’t give me a gel – so I sat there eating my bland breakfast wondering what was going on, and what their plan was for me. …
Hospital food – disgustingly bland and totally wrong for someone with GD!
My backache was getting worse, so at 7.30am I text Jase and asked him to come to the hospital soon. I said “I need your help breathing” and he replied “you know how to breathe, we didn’t do hypnobirthing for shits and giggles!”. Funny now…but at the time I was thinking GET.HERE.NOW – luckily he took me seriously. By the time he arrived I was writhing around in pain from the backache, and I didn’t know if this pain could be contractions as it was waves around my lower back and nothing in my belly/ uterus. No one told me they could even be contractions so we didn’t bother timing them. The midwife gave me two Panadol.
By 10am the obstetrician and registrar doctor were in my room to discuss a “plan” for me. They wanted me to agree to the syntocinon drip as I was getting nowhere on the gels. I was so scared as all I knew about the drip was that it was hard and fast. But my back hurt so bloody bad that I just wanted things to start and so I agreed – I was told they would all come back at midday to start the drip. They had to put an IV lure into me – I had 3 midwives try, then the registrar doctor, and finally an anaesthetist was able to get one in (5 x locals + botched attempts in my hands and elbows!). By this point I was beside myself from the pain in my back plus the trauma of having so many needles jabbed in my arms. I don’t remember agreeing to it so Jase must have – but I was injected with pethidine in my thigh. I rolled to one side, curled up, put on my hypnobirthing audio tracks and tens machine, and dozed through a couple of hours.
At 2pm the pains were back (pethidine had worn off), and no one had come about the drip yet. Finally at 3pm I was told to move to the other end of the maternity ward, as I would be going into a labour and delivery room to be given the syntocinon drip. I don’t know how I managed to walk down the corridor carrying my bags, I guess I was just so happy for something to be happening. The registrar doctor asked to examine me before giving me the drip to see if she could break my waters. She couldn’t find my waters at all, and was asking me when they had broken, and was amazed to tell me I was 8cm dilated!! Turns out I HAD been in labour all morning (possibly since the night before) and no one had realised it.
Suddenly it was action stations and my midwife was being called in urgently. We were left to do our thing – I got Jase to set up my music, rub labour blend over my belly and back, do counter pressure while I kneeled on the bed. My midwife showed up 30mins later and I begged to get in the pool.
The pool was bliss! Jase had set up my (waterproof) LED tealight candles and we listened to some of my music. I was so relaxed, we even took some selfies in there. The monitoring belt was still around my belly as they had waterproof and wireless monitors – to keep track of mine and baby’s heart rate. My midwife examined me in the pool at 5pm – I was 10cm and again, she couldn’t find my waters to break them either. I had started to feel the urge to push, and reaching down I could feel the baby’s head was right there.
At 5,30pm I was told I couldn’t deliver in the pool just due to baby’s heartbeat getting a bit too fast, as well as her predicted size – so I got out and started pushing in various positions on the bed – on my hands and knees, on my back etc. I pushed for the next 2 hours and felt “so close”… I could feel baby’s head maybe 2cm inside me and she was visible with every push, but I couldn’t seem to get her to turn the corner and come right out. I still wasn’t feeling any contractions, just the constant back pain – and it made it really hard to push with a contraction when there wasn’t one!
At 7pm I agreed to be hooked up to the syntocinon drip to ramp up my contractions and get them more regular… but it did nothing! I was started on 1 munit/min and increased to 22 munit/min over the next couple of hours and I didn’t respond to it at all. My contractions never came on strong.
At 8pm I was getting seriously exhausted so requested an epidural. I had already had so many different drugs put into my body, I figured what was another one – my entire birth preferences had been thrown out the window the minute I walked into the hospital three days earlier, so I may as well go for the entire smorgasboard of medical interventions on offer right? The epidural was put in at 8.20pm and gave immediate relief. It basically removed all the intensity, but I could still feel pressure. It did mean I was stuck on my back on the bed, but by that point I wasn’t moving far anyway. I was able to really push while my midwife used her hands to try and guide baby a bit more.
I had been having regular exams by the obstetrician and she was happy to let me continue pushing, and then we tried “passive descent” (where I rested and hoped the baby would move down on her own). I was so determined to get her out on my own that I kept pushing – Jase would hold my head and shoulders up, I would grab the back of my thighs and really bear down…but this little girl was just way too happy where she was.
The OB allowed me another 2 hours (10pm) of pushing before it became apparent that this baby wasn’t going to come out on her own.The epidural allowed the OB to do some pretty thorough examinations and so she knew the exact situation of where baby was and how happy she was (still very!). Apparently, if it had been another OB on, I would have been c-sectioned by 6pm.My legs were put up in stirrups to try another position, but I was making minimal progress (the term used in my birth report!).
The OB returned about 10.30 and started talking about how we really needed to get this baby out as it was clear she wasn’t coming on her own. Her heart rate was so chilled out throughout all of this, she was never distressed at all – which is the main reason I was allowed to labour for so long. Just before 11pm I agreed to a ventouse (a small vacuum cup which they attach to the top of the baby’s head) and had my epidural topped up so I most definitely couldn’t feel anything. The OB promised me it would take no more than three contractions/ pushes (while she pulled) and the baby would be here. I felt really calm and I fully trusted the OB – I talked to her about how I really did not want an episiotomy (where they cut your perineum to make more room) and she explained she would only do one if it was 100% necessary.
Things got a little crazy in the room very quickly – the OB, an assistant midwife, a paediatric nurse, the anaesthetist and my midwife were all in the room and had jobs to do. They all introduced themselves to me and were so kind and friendly. I just lay there, calm and relaxed, breathing deep and used all my hypnobirthing techniques. This was SO far from any of my birth preferences but everything was happening for a reason, I felt respected and like I had had time to consider it all. The OB said “Ok team, it’s time to deliver this baby”.
3 pushes (on the second the OB cut an episiotomy) and a very long baby was suddenly on my chest! Stella was born at 11.15pm. She took a gasp and then let out that beautiful little lamby cry that you want to hear, and I gazed at her mucky head in awe. I was so happy to have her out that I barely noticed the chaos at the other end of the bed – well, I was kind of aware that something was going down, but I chose to ignore it and focus on this precious wriggling and crying wee thing in front of me. From what I know now, the injection to get the placenta out didn’t work, I lost over 1 litre of blood and the OB had to go in and manually get the placenta out by hand. Best not to think about that part too much!
Baby Stella had come out covered in thick white vernix (a sign that she wasn’t quite cooked) but the placenta was showing signs of break down (probably GD related) and so overall – the induction and all the interventions were the right decision. I enjoyed nearly 3hours of skin to skin while I was sutured up, the epidural wore off, and I was given all sorts via drip, and the room returned to normal again. Jase and I just stared at our little girl (yep, we checked – still definitely a girl!) and each other, not really believing she was finally, FINALLY here.
At about 3am it was dads turn for skin to skin while I had a shower. Even though I sat down in the shower, I got super dizzy & woozy and had to press the emergency button. Everyone was suddenly back in the room, I was back up on the bed and being checked from head to toe for another 2 hours. They were worried about a retained placenta (or parts of it) so hooked me up to another bag of something, plus extra fluids. I also thought that maybe I would have low blood sugars as I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and I was shaking uncontrollably… so lollies it was! Poor Jase was a bit beside himself – left holding a new baby while his wife was suddenly back naked on a bed with 4 doctors & midwives around me!
I was finally wheeled into a room at 6am Saturday morning – Jase went home at 7am and managed 3hrs sleep… I managed 30mins before the new midwife came on duty and the morning checks for me and baby started. Because of my blood loss I needed to have a full check to see whether I would need a blood or an iron transfusion (luckily I didn’t), and Stella had to pass four blood glucose tests (she passed with flying colours). I was given help to start breastfeeding her, and we topped her up with my liquid gold colostrum that I had expressed earlier.
My mum, dad and brother arrived at 2pm to meet the newest family member, and we skyped with Jase’s parents (in Wellington) and sister (in London) to introduce them to Stella. At 3pm I was given my discharge papers, we packed up my things, put Stella in her capsule and took her on her first car ride – driving straight up to Warkworth Birthing Centre where we were all SO well looked after and cared for, for the next 3 nights.
So… nothing like my birth preferences, but I’m actually very at peace with it all. Yes, it was a hard birth. Yes, if I let it – it probably could have been described as traumatic. However, my hypnobirthing really helped me get through the special circumstances and understand that the birth happened how it had to happen, in order for Stella to arrive safely. The team at Waitakere Hospital were nothing but amazing, so wonderfully friendly and caring and respectful. My midwife was beyond brilliant, and I was so so thankful to have her beside me. Interestingly enough, my birth followed exactly how my mum gave birth to me like a textbook (she had induction, forceps & episiotomy etc) so history did repeat, except this time we got our little Black Friday baby after all.
Welcome to the world my darling girl, Stella Iris Leah Topp, born Friday 13 January at 11.15pm.