After having half the hospital explore my vagina I was considering clamping my knees shut by the time we made it back up to labour suite. A brief discussion with the midwives downstairs had swung me quickly round to the idea of an epidural. When I expressed my concerns about having my waters broken they suggested that I have the epidural before. Now an avid fan of pain relief, I leapt on the suggestion and requested it as soon as my butt hit the sheets on the bed upstairs.
Thankfully the anaesthetist reassured me that the epidural would be placed much higher that the site of my back problems so I could have one. I’d heard horror stories about receiving an epidural but I found the insertion of the drip much, much more uncomfortable. Then again I wasn’t trying to sit still during horribly painful contractions at the time, so perhaps that had something to do with it.
Dr Big Hairy Fingers reappeared, wielding a crochet hook, ready to break my waters. My legs were placed in stirrups and I was completely numb when he declared that I had progressed to 3cms, the first good news I had had in 3 days. My waters were popped and the drip was started and we settled in to wait…again.
The epidural was checked periodically, in between naps, by the midwives running ice cubes up my stomach to tell how high it had travelled. I was also asked to lift my feet, bend my knees and wiggle my toes, something which I could do less and less after a few hours. This was a concern and the decision was made to turn off the epidural for a while.
It took some time for the sensation to return. I started to feel uncomfortable with the contractions and the midwives offered me gas and air, the only drug I hadn’t played with yet. What fun! Everything thing from this point on is a little hazy. I will say that although I don’t think the gas and air helped much with the pain at the peak of the contractions it did bring back my sense of humour in between the pain. At one point I snapped at WW to take the gas away and they thought I said I was going to be sick. After the contraction I was annoyed by the cardboard bowl being thrust in my face (and really freaking high) so I took it and placed it upside down on my head, like a hat. Don’t ask. It seemed like a good, funny idea at the time. A few minutes later I sobered up a little and realised I was lying there with a vomit bowl on my head and took it off, catching a few glances being exchanged by WW and the midwives.
I was in a lot of pain and the anaesthesiologist was called back a couple of times to try and speed up the return of the epidural. It eventually did kick back in, with the reappearance of a lovely midwife who was covering breaks. In my drug induced haze I credited her with the sudden absence of pain, telling her she had a really peaceful and soothing aura and she had a healing presence. Again, I think looks were exchanged but this time I was too tripped out to notice.
At 7pm, 7 hours after my waters were broken I was examined (painlessly) again and they gently told me I was still 3cms. I took it well, barely waking from my nap, still enjoying the epidural. The epidural checks started to go badly again as it became evident that I had even less movement in my legs than before. A new anaesthesiologist appeared who I unashamedly begged not to take away my epidural again. She agreed but suggested the midwives not use the top ups.
There was another shift change and my third set of midwives arrived. This time there were two, a student midwife and her supervisor. They assured me I was in good hands as the student had delivered lots of babies, in fact I might be her 40th– the magic qualifying number. She was lovely, kind and very gentle. Some feeling had returned but I experienced discomfort rather than pain during the contractions and the student was so gentle during her examination at 11 o’clock, I wondered what happened between student days and qualified midwifery to make them so brutal. She was nervous to tell me that I was fully dilated in case she was wrong but it was confirmed by her supervisor. I couldn’t believe I was finally there.
It was policy to wait two hours before beginning to push (something to do with the Pitocin, I think) but after 45 minutes Squirt’s monitor started to show some decelerations and the decision was made for me to try to push. Darkness had finally fallen and the room had been gently lit, as per my request. The whole situation had a slightly surreal quality to it, the warm gloom, the drugs and the realisation it was almost finally over.
My legs were completely unresponsive so they pushed them up and told me to pull back on my thighs while pushing. When I let go my knees flopped uncontrollably back together. They had to keep reminding me to hold my breath as I had spent days practicing the deep hypnobirthing breathing and kept letting it out at the wrong times. It also took me a while to get the hang of how to push. I knew where because I could feel the contractions (painlessly) but wasn’t always getting enough force behind them. I was almost falling asleep between pushes and was starting to get disheartened.
They suggested I use stirrups so I didn’t have to concentrate on holding my legs up.The student asked if I’d like to use a mirror so I could see when my pushes were successful. At first I was horrified by how swollen I was looking down there but when I saw a small oval of dark hair on my next push I was able to focus. It made me work harder and better to see the head creep forward on my pushes and slide back when I stopped. At one point it looked like I was almost there and a few choice expletives were muttered when it disappeared, accompanied by a little giggling from the midwives.
The next push saw his head stay put. There was a sudden flurry of activity, a doctor appeared, the mirror was whisked away and things were prepared in the background. I gave one more push, was told to pant and felt a ‘pop’ as his head emerged. In stunned amazement I felt down and touched his head, hearing gurgly, muted cries. One more small push and out he came, a gory mess, and was immediately placed on my chest, 45 minutes after I started pushing.
As I stared down with WW I was amazed by how perfect he was. He had a lovely round head, not squished and wrinkled. His nose and lips were in proportion. He had ten fingers and ten toes. He was perfect. ‘He doesn’t look like a potato! I can’t believe we have a son!’ I drunkenly told WW. I had asked for delayed cutting of the cord and after a short period of time WW did the honours.
As I focused on Squirt I heard the student ask, ‘Does this blood loss look normal?’
I determinedly concentrated on the gorgeous bundle on my chest and tried to ignore the drama going on below my waist. They worked on me for a long time during which worrying phrases such as ‘1 litre and a half’ and ‘incomplete placenta’ slipped in through the baby-joy haze.
After an hour they decided I needed to go to the operating theatre to have all the placenta and membranes removed. I was feeling very sleepy as they handed Squirt to WW and moved me onto another table. WW and I mouthed ‘ I love you’ to each other and I was whisked off down a long corridor, already aching at being taken away from my family.
There were lots of different people in the operating theatre and I felt scared, shivery and vulnerable, suddenly thrust into the harshly lit room. A very kind anaesthesiologist comforted me, topped up my epidural and administered a local anaesthetic. Next thing I knew I woke up, feeling very nauseous, was told I would be fine and they had also repaired a small tear. I was returned to WW and Squirt, who were waiting for me in the high dependency unit. I felt too ill to hold Squirt but was reassured by WW that he was fine.
My son was born at 00.48, July 27th, weighing 8 pounds 9 ounces/ 3.925 kg (after being induced for being small!), 74 hours after induction started.
To be continued….