One of the scariest parts of being pregnant is labor and childbirth! And i can honestly tell you, I have never feared something more in my life. That was probably majority of my mum's fault, she scarred me well before pregnancy and i feel like that helped me more than i realised. You're probably thinking, why would someone scaring you about childbirth, help? Well for me, being scared had me well prepared for the absolute worst! I was prepared for it to Burn! I was prepared to be Torn, Ripped and Stitched up to my eyeballs! And all the gory birth stories my mum told me was enough to have me ready for whatever came because i told myself it's going to hurt more than anything I've ever experienced in my life.
My mum, is a pretty amazing woman. She had five kids, three inductions and two natural. She went through each labor with no pain relief, and underwent her share of episiotomy's and tears. She had a torn uterus after her second childbirth and still went back for more, she's probably the strongest woman i know. SO you can understand how many gory birth stories I've heard. On top of that my sister had three kids before i had my first. She had two natural and one induction. And like myself, my sister had BIG babies! (I touch on what it's like to have big babies in my previous blog, go have a read if it peaks your interest!). In total, eight birthing stories were told to me before i had my first child, needless to say i was well equipped for anything. One of the best tips i can give for a first time mum who is pregnant, is to find as many birthing experiences on the internet as you can and read them like there's no tomorrow! Talk to the women in your family who have had children, learn about their birthing experiences. Prepare yourself for absolutely anything! And i mean anything, trust me that is the most helpful thing i could ever suggest about labor!
I want to share my own birthing experience as i had very little advice given to me about modern inductions. My mum may have had three inductions, but the labor and induction process has changed a lot since she has had kids. Which is another important thing to remember. Medicine is always changing, so it's always important to find out about Labor's and childbirth of today! Whilst stories from your Nana will be helpful, they don't always do childbirth the same. For me, my induction process was vastly different from that of my mum and sister. Yes i was induced, and it was a planned induction. The obstetrician that was in charge of my pregnancy at the hospital approached me after my 35 week scan and informed me that my baby was measuring 3 weeks ahead and was roughly in the 98th percentile. We sat down and discussed an induction date which was to be 2 weeks before my due date. She handed me a information leaflet about the different ways they induce you. I signed some forms, and my induction date was booked in. I was then sent on my way and told to return to the hospital the day before my induction day.
I wish i had of asked more questions, or anything really, but i was so dazed about the whole process i just took it all on the chin. I still didn't even think anything would happen, i was still in that mind frame of "I have plenty of time before my baby comes," well i Didn't! More fool me really, but i was a first time mum and had no idea what to expect with being induced. Another helpful tip, ASK and ASK AGAIN! This process is not a quick hand shake type of process, it's a massive process and things WILL happen to you that may be out of your control, ask as many questions as you can, make sure you understand absolutely everything, and make sure that being induced is the decision you want to make, weigh up every option, and make sure that you believe it's right for you. It's your body and your baby so always take time before making decisions and know exactly what you will be getting yourself into.
Fast forward three weeks til the day before my induction, i went to hospital at 2pm. I was popped through to a small room and placed on a monitor to check the baby's range of movement and heartbeat. He was monitored for about half an hour before the midwives decided they were happy he didn't seem to be in any stress and was quite happy where he was. They then did a check of my cervix, this is essentially when the midwife will stick their hand up your vagina and have a decent feel to see if your cervix is open or dilated, and to see if it is considered favorable for labor. As a first time mum, i found this process the mos confusing. What does favorable for labor even mean? Well in my case, if your cervix is hard and closed you are considered unfavorable, and they then proceed to use different methods to start the labor process and to make your cervix favorable (meaning soft and slightly open). They explained it to me as; if you cervix is high, hard and closed, they would use the Gel method. If your cervix is low, hard and closed, they would use the balloon catheter method. If your cervix was low soft and open, you were considered favorable and they would then proceed with starting labor by breaking your waters or giving you what is called a stretch and sweep. In my case, my cervix was low but hard and closed, so i was unfavorable and my baby wasn't ready to come out yet, and thus i underwent the balloon catheter process.
So in this tiny room, they explained to me what happens with the balloon catheter process. They place a catheter inside your vagina up close to the baby's head. In order to do this, they open you slightly, which is painful. It feels similar to a pap smear but it is much more intrusive and uncomfortable. There is quite a bit of hard pressure as they put it in, and if you do not have a high pain tolerance, i would ask for pain relief before they begin, as it is quite painful going in. Once they secure it in place, they fill the balloon with water and it essentially just sits there against your baby's head and helps the body to prepare for labor. As the balloon takes up any of the last space your baby might have had, it begins the dilation process. It is not harmful to your baby, it's kind of like a waterbed pillow for their head and does not hurt them, but i feel like it does annoy them as it takes up their space. Keep in mind of course, that this method doesn't always work for everyone, and sometimes it can be entirely unsuccessful. Once the balloon is filled water, pressure starts, and it is a lot of pressure. It is an incredibly uncomfortable process from here on out. Once that pressure begins, for me so did the cramping. It felt like period cramping but more intense. I had already had quite intense period cramping in my lifetime due to a hormonal issue called Poly cystic Ovarian Syndrome, so i was used to intense cramping in my abdomen, but it was quite intense even for me. I handled it well enough, and just took panadol for it. Having the catheter in whilst it was uncomfortable and caused intense cramping, i felt like i couldn't concentrate or focus on anything, all i could focus on was the pressure and cramping i was feeling, so i was very thankful my husband was there to help me with lifting and getting home.
After the balloon catheter goes in, they send you home and you just basically handle the pain until the next morning when you go in to complete the induction process. I remember getting home and spending the night watching tv on my phone, taking panadol every four hours and getting to eat McDonald's because i was in pain. I slept through the night aside from waking every four hours for panadol, which was very helpful, i needed the rest for labor. And the following morning i went in at 6am. Then my induction process really began. And it was all very surreal. I had my own birthing room, and i was hooked up to the baby monitor again, which they struggled quite often to get his heart rate as he was incredibly slippery and got away all the time. A doctor came in about an hour after i got there, and did a cervical check, he declared that i was 5cm dilated. Yay! The catheter had worked. They drained and removed the catheter, and the doctor broke my waters with a small hook. This part is pretty gross. It feels like a very long and flooding urination when your waters break and its disgusting. Turns out i had a lot of amniotic fluid, and i flooded my bed and the poor doctor who broke my waters. The floor had to be mopped dry, and my bed had to be changed twice within 5 minutes. I had to wear these disposable underwear with multiple large pads on them to try and soak up the waters that were absolutely everywhere. And every time i went to toilet somehow more came out, which was surprising given how much i had already lost. SO yes that part, is disgusting and embarrassing.
After my waters were broken i was hooked up to the oxytocin drip which induces labor, and i started on level 1. My contractions were being recorded on the monitor but i didn't feel any of them not one. And each hour from 7am my oxytocin level was doubled. By 11am, i was on level 8 and was having consistent contractions but again wasn't feeling them too harshly. My mum was quite shocked, each time she was induced, by level 8 her baby was out, and mine wouldn't budge. at 11:30 my midwife asked if i needed pain relief and i actually said no, i felt fine, i felt like i could handle it. A quick cervical check had shown i was 7cm dilated. But my mum, who was with me and my husband during the labor, insisted that the pain would only get worse and that i should consider epidural. So after a bit of convincing i agreed to the epidural. And honestly the epidural was awesome, but i hated the process of having that put in. It genuinely hurt, more than i could have imagined, (I will touch on epidrual's in my next blog, Epidurals and Labor). Once the epidural went in i felt no pain, no contractions nothing. Except i could feel slight pressure on the right side of my body with each contraction. My labor then continued until i had a check at about 6pm which was when they finally told me i was 9cm dilated. I had a very stubborn child who did not want to move clearly. By that point my level was at 22. By 6:40pm I was 10cm dilated and ready for pushing, my oxytocin was increased to 24. By this point, whilst i was thankful for the epidural, i felt the entire pushing process, and the epidural just took some of the edge off, which i feel like i needed anyway.
My whole pushing process lasted about one hour and twenty minutes, but unfortunately he still hadn't come yet. My mum noticed the baby's heart rate was skyrocketing, and had increased to 220 for some time. At this stage, he was now stuck and i was exhausted, but kept pushing despite how tired i was. My mum informed my midwife, who was down with me, what the monitor was saying about the baby's heart rate, and she timed it for about 3 minutes. She then informed me that she had to get a doctor to come in. She pushed a button somewhere off on the wall and this was the scariest part of my labor. A team of two doctors, head midwife, pediatrician and another midwife came flooding in all at once and i was starting to freak out that something was wrong with my baby. They informed me that baby was stuck, and he was stressing because of it. One doctor performed an episiotomy on me, and cut me in two spots, while the other prepped me for a vacuum delivery. And it was all set in fast motion, and i felt like i couldn't keep up. I was exhausted and i was hurting and i just wanted to give up. But for some reason in that moment your mind and body do not let you give in. They set the vacuum on my son's head to get ready and asked me to give a hard big push. Which i did, i pushed as hard as i could, and i can tell you, i was in so much pain but i knew i needed to get him out. They asked me to do one more big hard push and i did as they asked, and he came right out, they threw him right on my chest and there he was. He was covered in gunk and he was blue, but he was there and he was screaming his lungs out and i felt tremendous relief knowing he was okay. He started gaining colour immediately and pretty soon he was his beautiful light olive colour. They got to work on stitching me, and clearing up the blood that like my waters, went everywhere. And i can remember laying there, holding my little boy, crying my eyes out. And my mum who was hiding behind the curtain, poking her head out watching, was there crying too. My husband who was right beside me, was besotted with his first born baby, and i cannot describe the feeling that goes through you, looking down at the little person you grew for nine months.
After all that pain, all the fear of thinking something was wrong, he was there, he was in my arms, he was okay, and that was all i cared about. In all the madness of those final moments of my labor, i immediately forgot about it all, about everything as soon as i heard my son crying.
(Meet my first Noah, minutes after he was born)
The final tip i can give someone who's about to go through labor, is have that support with you, whether it's your mum, your partner, family, a friend, any one or two people who bring you support, have them there with you. I do not think i could go through that labor by myself and having my mum, and my husband there made it that much more special. I felt like i could handle anything with them there. Labor is a hard thing, and it does some damage it really does, but what you get in the end is the best reward for hard work you can ever get.