Following weeks of hoping my baby would come on his own accord, it was clear my labour needed a bit of a kick-start. I was booked in for the ‘dreaded’ induction and had to accept, like many, it wasn’t going to be the birth I’d originally hoped for.
Forget the ‘due date’
As I headed off on maternity leave, I remember lots of people telling me not to focus too much on my due date and to just accept my baby might come at any point. And yes as great as that is in theory they might as well have told me to never eat Dairy Milk again because I wasn’t going to listen!
I remember being fixated on the fact that I was going to go into labour early. I have no idea why although it was probably an attempt to prepare myself in case it did. So when my due date came and went I felt disappointed but also a bit relieved because it delayed the prospect of labour (like most women I was terrified!).
As the days continued to tick by I remember the midwives booking me in for an induction and reassuring me that it was just a back-up plan and probably wouldn’t be necessary. The mere fact that they assured me of this made me think that induction was probably not a good thing and when I read some of the horror stories online this just confirmed it. It became my main aim to go into labour naturally and to do anything to avoid being induced.
So I did all the usual things – rubbed copious amounts of clary sage onto my tummy, drank litres of raspberry leaf tea, endured 2 sweeps, bounced up and down on my exercise ball until I felt dizzy and went for a casual 3 mile walk at least once or twice a day.
Off to a bad start
Unfortunately despite my best efforts, it was clear this little monkey wasn’t going to come out on his own accord and on the Saturday I headed to the hospital to start the induction process.
When we first arrived the midwife told me that they wouldn’t be starting anything until about 7 hours later because the ward was completely overrun and we needed to sit and wait. She showed us to my bed (which hadn’t even been made yet) and I could just feel myself welling up. The 5 other women in the room (in various different stages of labour) must have thought I was a complete wuss. I have such a fear of hospitals and when telling the midwife this she just said I should get used to it because I would probably be here for at least a few nights. Her whole attitude basically said ‘given the number of people, you’re lucky to be here in the first place, stop being ungrateful’. And so naturally I burst into tears and acted like a complete baby! I really wasn’t sure whether I could go through with it and the midwife reminded me it was my choice and I could just go home and wait for things to progress naturally if I’d wanted. But this went against any professional advice I’d received and I didn’t want to put my baby in any danger.
Luckily for me, my husband intervened (if you’ve read my breastfeeding story you’ll see he’s very good at this). He took her to the side and persuaded her to let us check in but that I could then go home for a few hours and come back when they were ready to start the induction process. So we went home, my husband ran me a bath, I ate a big bar of chocolate and we had a big heart-to-heart about how exciting it was going to be to meet our baby and how a few short days in hospital would feel like nothing in the future.
At about 5pm we re-entered the hospital and the midwife stuck to her word by sticking me straight on the monitor and talking us through the procedure. After being monitored for a while she was happy that baby was doing ok and we could get started. In went the pessary and then we just had to wait for something to happen. She told me that if the pessary was working (often it doesn’t work first time) then I should feel period pains which would then move to my tummy (aka contractions).
Now the timings here are a little blurred so bear with me but a short while after the pessary was inserted the period pains were getting seriously strong and I had a constant urge to use the toilet. I requested for the pessary to be removed and at that point I was 2cm dilated so the midwife said I was in the early stages of labour.
The pain was getting incredibly intense and the time between the period pains was getting shorter and shorter (they hadn’t moved to my tummy so I was convinced they weren’t contractions at this point but looking back I now know they were!). I started demanding an epidural (to anyone who would listen!!). I remember thinking if I can’t cope at this early stage, then how will I be able to cope when I’m in the thick of it (so to speak).
The midwife said I couldn’t have an epidural until I was 4cm dilated and given she’d only just examined me (40 mins ago) she advised me against another examination and told me to have a bath.
But something just didn’t feel right so I was adamant she did. About 5 mins later, she looked completely shocked, declared I was 9cm dilated and said that I needed to get to the labour ward as soon as possible. She rushed out to get a wheelchair and my poor husband ran around trying to get our belongings together whilst computing what she’d just said.
When I got to the labour ward, I was 10cm dilated (the pushing stage), and I felt much calmer. In fact I didn’t want the epidural after all which was lucky because it was too late for me to have it anyway. I just kept thinking I’m about to meet my baby and I won’t have to stay in this hospital for much longer (win win!). It took about 2 hours of pushing but when Archie was finally placed into my arms, I felt this overwhelming feeling of relief and happiness. He was everything I’d been hoping for – a beautiful healthy baby. And although it sounds ridiculously soppy every ounce of pain and anxiety was worth it.
The ‘ideal’ labour
Since meeting other mums I’ve realised that I’m not in the minority – many women don’t have the labour they envisage. I think part of this is because there’s this ideology that a good labour needs to be completely natural and in your control, which isn’t always possible (or desirable).
If you’re pregnant and reading this I’m assuming this is quite a scary prospect – it’s the fear of the unknown which is often the most challenging part. But know that even if it doesn’t turn out how you planned it, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have a ‘bad’ labour. I’m not sure what defines a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ labour anyway to be honest (I’ve never heard anyone refer to the former). It’s a process you have to go through to have a baby which let’s face it is never going to be the most enjoyable experience. But if you can, try to focus on the fact you’re about to meet your baby and at some point you will look back and think it was all completely worth it.