Pushed to the Limit: 48 Hours of Uncertainty
My due date was Friday June 5th 2020. I went to bed on the Thursday night (the day before due date) not knowing my complex journey was about to begin. I woke up at exactly midnight, with my first contraction. Although, at the time I was unsure as to what was actually happening, as this was my first baby. I stayed awake in bed for about an hour, with what I can only describe as bad period pains, which were coming fairly regularly. I eventually decided to move to the shower as couldn’t sleep anyway. I stayed in the shower for an hour or so and then made my way back to bed.
At this point I decided it was best to start timing the suspected contractions, as I had the feeling they weren’t going to go away.
They were averaging around 5-8 minutes apart and lasting maybe 30-40 seconds. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night and was just going in between the shower and my bed. I had my 40 week midwife appointment scheduled that morning. I started to think that I probably wouldn’t be able to make it. I woke my husband up early in the morning to let him know what was going on. Although, I still wasn’t quite convinced I was actually going into labour, as the contractions weren’t too bad.
At around 9am I called my midwife to let her know I thought I was going into labour, and I didn’t think I’d be able to come for the appointment. She kept in touch with me throughout the day to see how things were progressing.
For most of the day, the contractions stayed at around 5 minutes apart, and were gradually getting more intense… but not enough to go in. I spent virtually the entire day either in the shower or bath, or trying to distract myself by watching television. I tried to get some sleep that night, maybe getting only an hour in the end. The bed felt so uncomfortable, so I spent most of the night alternating between the bathroom or my bedroom, with my husband timing my contractions in between getting some rest himself.
At about 5pm on Saturday, I was still in the shower with my husband timing my contractions. I was so sure they were getting closer together and after each one, I would quickly ask “how long was that?” and he would just say “the same” (which was about 4 minutes). After about 30 minutes, he finally told me that they had actually been about 3 minutes apart, and that he just wanted to ensure they stayed consistent!! As you can imagine, I was very relieved! We called my midwife to let her know, she suggested we try to keep labouring at home for as long as I was comfortable with, as she knew things were still relatively early. At about 8:00pm we decided to go to hospital and get checked, as I was feeling exhausted and in a lot of pain.
Thankfully the hospital was only 10 minutes away.
When I arrived, my midwife checked me and I was only around 3cm dilated, so she recommended that I returned home for a little longer. This was very hard to hear, as I had already been going for close to 48 hrs.
We headed home for a couple more hours until close to midnight, when the contractions were now close to a minute apart and extremely painful. We called my midwife to let her know we were heading back. We were lead to the birthing suite to be checked, and I was at 4 cm, so I was thankfully able to stay!
The midwife asked me if I was having back labour (which I was quite a lot) so she offered me the sterile water injections. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I figured why not.
I knew I didn’t want an epidural if possible, so thought this could be a good option.
Her and another midwife proceeded with the first 2 injections, and I don’t think I have ever screamed louder in my life. I thought they were finished, but she said they had 2 more to do, to which I said no thank you! (Even though the pain barely lasted a minute I didn’t think it was worth it at the time.) I spent the next few hours either in the birthing pool, as I was hoping for a water birth, or in the shower, with the water on my back and my husband using the hand held shower on my belly.
The midwife also had to give me an injection shortly after arriving, as I had thrown up a couple times and wasn’t able to keep down liquids. Thankfully that worked!
Around 5am I was checked for dilation again, as I hadn’t been checked since midnight. I was now 8cm! So we thought there would probably only be a couple hours to go. Things were getting increasingly more painful, but I kept using the water to get through the contractions. I found that the shower was the most relieving, but my feet would get very sore from standing and whenever I would sit on the shower chair a contraction would come straight away.
I would move into the bath to get a rest as the contractions would usually stop for a short break, but then they would come back really strong and I felt too restricted in there, so would get out again.
A few hours later I was at 9cm but my waters still had not broken yet.
I was getting a lot of urges to push and really struggled not to during the contractions. My midwife advised me to resist, as I was not yet at 10cm. At around 9 am, the midwife broke my waters and said I could do some practice pushes in about 20 minutes. When I was able to finally push, it was the biggest relief, it felt like the contractions were virtually not there! After a few practice pushes in the shower, she checked me and I was finally at 10 cm!
I hopped off the bed to do some more practice pushes, standing up, leaning over the bed. We then discussed getting into the pool as my original plan was to try a water birth. I decided not to go in, as I was finding pushing whilst standing up to be quite effective and my midwife said I was pushing really well. The midwife directed my husband to push a button when she instructed him, which would summon another midwife once I was getting close, so that she could monitor bubs heart rate, whilst my midwife stayed with me.
I can remember so clearly when her head started coming though, especially the burning sensation. Feeling her head was so crazy, it helped keep me motivated to get her out!
I was so determined to push her out and I could feel my body flooding with intense emotions, as I new it was almost over and I was about to meet my baby!
After about 30 minutes of pushing she came out. It was such a strange sensation! All of the sudden, I was holding her in between my legs with the help of my midwife. That lasted probably a few seconds, when my midwife calmly said “okay, I am going to cut the cord now”. Instantly, I knew something was wrong, as we had already discussed delayed cord clamping. Bub hadn’t made any sounds, was extremely floppy and white. I had no concept of time during all of this, but all of a sudden, I was no longer holding her. The cord was cut and she was on a table with about 5 or so doctors and nurses resuscitating her (although at the time I didn’t know this is what was happening). Everyone was so calm in this moment, I just kept asking “is she okay”. My midwife eventually asked me to move onto the bed, as I still needed to deliver the placenta.
It took my husband a couple minutes to process the fact that something was wrong. When he did realise, he started feeling extremely worried and upset, as he didn’t know what was happening. I managed to stay relatively calm, and kept reassuring him everything would be fine… even though I had no idea if she was going to be okay. I can’t even explain how comforting my midwife was to my husband and I in this moment and she and everyone in the room were so calming and reassuring.
My midwife began to explain that they will need to take her to the special care unit. My husband was to go with her straight away, and I would follow, after getting stitched up (I had a second degree tear). They must have been tending to her for about 10 minutes, before taking her out of the room. Just before leaving, the doctor brought her over to me so I could quickly kiss her on the head. The situation was very strange to me, and I was so confused by everything that was happening.
Now just me and my midwife remained in the room. I felt numb, and was trying to wrap my head around everything that had just happened.
One second I was preparing myself to meet my daughter for the very first time, then suddenly the room was empty.
I was in the delivery room for about 2 hours before being able to see her. The doctor came in to explain to us that she must have swallowed fluid, which caused her to stop breathing. Nothing was really registering at this point. After my stitches were done, I hopped off the bed and realised how sore my feet were from standing for so long, it felt like I had run a marathon!! My midwife helped me shower, get dressed, and then walked me over to the special care unit.
This is when I officially met my daughter, Bailee.
She was laying in the incubator asleep on her belly, with wires attached and a c-Pap (Continuous positive airway pressure therapy) machine to help her breathe. It was hard to see her like this, and it honestly did not feel like she was mine. Thankfully, she only needed to spend a couple nights in there and rapidly improved.
I struggled with coming to terms with what happened over the next couple of weeks (the hormones definitely didn’t help). My midwife came over for a few follow up appointments and really helped me digest everything that had happened during the birth. Even though Bailee was doing so well and I was so in love with her, I felt an immense amount of sadness and disconnection between her and the birth.
I felt like I was stripped of that initial bonding you experience when you first meet your baby.
I was so ready for that moment the entire time I was pushing, but then it was over, and I was by myself in that room without my baby. My midwife encouraged me to write out my birth, to help myself process it all. Thankfully, the sadness I was feeling started to get easier, and the bond with my baby grew. But nearly 5 month on, I still occasionally feel sad thinking about it, and how it felt in that moment. It was like I had missed out on meeting my daughter properly.
Overall, I am so thankful to have a beautiful healthy daughter, and I do not take it for granted. However, everyones birth, whether there is some level of trauma or not, is unique, and your feelings are so valid.
Even though it was the hardest day of my life, and it didn’t go how I expected, it was the absolute best experience of my life. Not a day goes by where I don’t think back to it all.
I am so thankful that overall, despite what happened in the end, it was such a positive experience for me!
Special thanks to the wonderful @louiiseduncan (Louise) for sharing her story.