Today I am going to share with you my birth story. I can only describe what I went through as extremely traumatic with the happiest ending. For 9 months, I had the smoothest pregnancy. Not a bout of morning sickness and no serious illnesses/complications. I loved every single moment. Unfortunately, that all went downhill when it was time for baby’s arrival but please rest assured, we are both very happy and healthy now. The end result was wonderful. For those that get squeamish, be prepared for slightly graphic details.
Our little cherub was due June 27th but she ended up arriving July 8th, making her 11 days (41 + 3) overdue. In the weeks leading up, I looked out for every sign and signal that labour was approaching. As a woman who had never felt a contraction before, I had no idea what to expect. Every slight twinge had me paranoid. At 37 weeks, I went to the bathroom and noticed a pink tinge on the toilet paper, followed by mild menstrual cramps. I called my midwife who told me that labour could either begin in the next few days or few weeks. She also said to ignore the pain until it became regular, stronger and much closer together. By the next evening, the discomfort had disappeared completely. At week 38, I tested positive for GBS (Group B Strep Infection) which is quite common, but meant that once my waters broke, antibiotics would need to be administered via an IV every four hours to ensure baby didn’t contract it too. Please note, this is not a sexually transmitted disease. It is a bacteria that comes and goes in women. If you are not pregnant, it is completely harmless and there are no symptoms. If you are pregnant and it goes untreated, less than 1% of babies are affected. When I initially found out I had tested positive, I was quite upset, but the evidence of anything negative happening was so extremely low, I made peace with it quite quickly.
At week 39, I didn’t exhibit any signs that my body would go into labour anytime soon. As silly as it sounds, it felt like it was never going to happen for me. I didn’t trust my body to know what to do, so I began walking vigorously every day to help speed up the process. I did notice that with each walk, she would descend a little bit lower, giving me spasms of ‘lightning crotch’ (you can search this term for further clarification). At week 40, on her due date, I went to see my doctor at the hospital. She performed a ‘stretch and sweep’ (once again, feel free to look this up) in order to help kick-start labour in the next 24 to 48 hours, although she did mention it may not work. It’s usually more effective with second and third children. The good news was, she was able to insert a fingertip inside my cervix and even touch baby’s head! I was told I was quite soft, indicating that labour could be imminent. Still, we booked my 41 week appointment for the following Wednesday, where induction would be discussed. I hoped and prayed that I would give birth before then. After 48 hours had passed, I still felt completely normal. The sweep had not worked…
The waiting was beginning to take a toll on my mental health. It wasn’t so much that I was fed up with being pregnant (although it isn’t easy carrying a baby for 9 whole months), but rather that my heart ached knowing the love of my life had been separated from me for so long via skin and fluid. Hormones didn’t help! I would stare at her empty bassinet and car-seat capsule with tears in my eyes. It made me feel miserable and impatient, which in turn made me feel guilty for the people out there that couldn’t even conceive. My problem wasn’t really a problem, I was just hurting from not being able to hold and kiss my own child. Most women are aware of what physically comes with being pregnant but nobody can prepare you for the emotional/mental aspects. I was also scared that I would have to be induced. Since the beginning, I had manifested a smooth, natural birth, but the longer she stayed inside of me, the more I felt that dream slipping away.
At 41 weeks (now 7 days overdue), we went to the hospital for my CTG (cardiotocography) scan. An ultrasound was performed to check my amniotic fluid levels were still stable. They were very high and the technician said she was engaged in my birth canal. All super positive. I was then hooked up to two monitors which tracked my uterine contractions (I had none) plus baby’s heart-rate/movements to ensure everything was healthy. She moved about six times in 15 minutes which was great. After that, we saw my midwife to book in my induction. My hospital’s policy (keep in mind each one is different) is to induce at 41 weeks + 3 days. We could have refused but the doctors urged me to get it done this weekend as I was a first time mother. I was not about to argue against professionals. I was to come in on the Saturday evening (July 7th) and be given Cervidil, a thin tampon-like vaginal insert that contains prostaglandin to help soften and further open the cervix. This would help bring on contractions. I would need to stay overnight and be monitored as it could affect the baby’s heart-rate (if baby became distressed at all, they would pull it out immediately and I would need to undergo an emergency c-section). If all went well, Sunday morning, my waters would be broken (if they hadn’t done so already) and I would give birth that day. The midwife said I still had two and a half days for her to come naturally but at the very least, I could have peace of mind that I had waited as long as was medically safe. She performed another ‘stretch and sweep’ and said I was much more dilated than the first time and very soft, which was a good sign. If I was even more dilated on the Saturday evening, she said I wouldn’t even need to stay overnight or have the Cervidil. I could simply come back in on the Sunday morning and have my waters broken.
At 3am, the morning of Saturday July 7th when I was supposed to begin the induction process, I went into labour naturally. I woke Francis up with painful but manageable contractions. I couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t have to be induced after all! We timed the contractions but they were quite far apart so we didn’t need to leave for the hospital just yet. By 4pm, they were coming along faster and much closer together. At the hospital, it was confirmed that I wouldn’t need to be induced so we were admitted into our birthing suite. At this stage, the pain was escalating but I still felt that I could do it without drugs. I took a hot shower (which really helped), bounced on a fit ball and walked around the room with Francis massaging my lower back every few minutes. I was checked regularly by the midwives but wasn’t progressing in terms of dilation (despite having contractions that were now 2 minutes apart) so my midwife tried to break my water. Unfortunately she was unsuccessful and I struggled through the pain of her attempt. She asked one of the doctors to try and this time, they broke. This is when everything started to go wrong. I now had to have the antibiotics administered as baby was no longer surrounded by amniotic fluid. The midwives struggled to locate a vein on my hand so I was stabbed on both sides until they just stuck it in my arm. More agony. By this time, the contractions were coming less than a minute apart and excruciating…yet I was only 4-5 centimetres dilated. They weren’t supposed to be this strong yet. Francis felt so helpless as I screamed in pain every few seconds. After a couple of hours – and another hot shower – I was told I still had a long time before I would need to push. I couldn’t stand the pain any longer so I sucked on the gas and begged for an epidural. I had wanted to do this naturally but I was very close to passing out. Luckily, the anaesthetist came quickly and as soon as he stuck the needle in my spine, I was relieved of my suffering. I just felt a lot of pressure.
The pain relief gave Francis and I a chance to get some rest so we both fell asleep for a little while. At around 4-5am, I woke up on fire. I was so hot, no amount of ice could cool me down. I had a fever. Despite the epidural, I was starting to feel the contractions again. The pressure was mounting and making me very uncomfortable. I started squirming on the bed, unable to relax. I kept pressing the button to turn up the dosage which in turn made me more delirious. The doctor saw that I was still not even close to 10cm dilated. I was experiencing contractions that a woman was only supposed to feel towards the very end and yet, I was nowhere near the final pushing stage. The doctor confirmed that the baby was too high up and starting to get distressed. I cannot explain the fear of watching your child’s heart-rate monitor build and build and not be able to do anything about it. She told me there was nothing left to do but perform an emergency c-section. At this point, I was so scared, I didn’t even mind. I just wanted my baby to live. I had to sign a waiver acknowledging that if the surgery went wrong, I may never have be able to have children again or very worst-case scenario, my uterus would have to be removed entirely. I was terrified. Francis was given scrubs to put on and I was wheeled down to the operating theatre. The prep work took longer than the procedure itself. I was given the strongest dose of the epidural yet with a local anesthetic. What kept me going was knowing she would be out soon. In the operating room, Francis sat next to me and held my hand as the surgical team set up around me. A curtain was raised so I wouldn’t have to see myself getting cut open. I was completely numb from the chest down but fully alert. I didn’t even realise that the incision had been made. I began sobbing because I knew that any second, I would meet the love of my life. All of a sudden (at 6:53am) I heard the words, “here is your baby” and the curtain dropped. I looked up to see my daughter in all of her glory. Francis and I cried with joy. We couldn’t stop repeating “she’s so beautiful.” She was taken to a table to be checked over and Francis was given the opportunity to cut the cord and cuddle her as I was stitched up. Unfortunately, the strong dose of the epidural plus the procedure itself, sent me into shock. I began to shake uncontrollably for half an hour. The doctors held my hands until I calmed down and the effects wore off. I wanted to be with my daughter so badly but had to wait. Finally, in the recovery room, I took her in my arms and breastfed her for the first time. Our baby was completely healthy and my surgery had gone very well.
Due to the operation, we had to stay in hospital for 3 nights instead of 2. I was hooked up to a catheter and given copious amounts of pain relief to deal with the aftermath. I was not able to leave the bed until the following day and even then, I could barely walk. Still, Francis and I were deliriously happy. Our darling daughter was officially here and she had made the entire experience worth it. We named her Abigail Eve. Abigail, meaning ‘father’s joy’ in Hebrew (not that we are Jewish) and Eve, after my late writing mentor and good friend. Now we are home and loving every single moment of parenthood. At times, I feel sad that I had had such a horrible experience but by the same token, it gave me Abi. What more could I ask for? I hope that this post doesn’t put anybody off from having children. Every woman, pregnancy and child is different. There is no reason I cannot have a normal birth when we decide to have a second child someday and this time, I will be much better prepared and open to whatever may come…
Thank you so much for reading.
Peace & Love xoxo