So here it is.. My long overdue labour and delivery story.
It took a while for me to be okay with sharing this, as I was still getting over the whole ordeal. To be completely honest, I think I was suffering some mild PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in relation to my labour and delivery because it was that traumatic for me.
For about 3 weeks prior to going into labour, I had been going to bed every night with strong braxton hicks contractions and was so sure that ‘tonight’s the night’ every night of those 3 weeks, only to wake up the following morning disappointed.
So, when I was experiencing braxton hicks/early labour contractions on the night of the 25th April, I thought once again that the same pattern would occur as I had started to believe that the baby would just stay inside forever, or that I was going to make it to 41 weeks and get induced as they had informed me would happen in my previous antenatal appointment the week before. But not on the 25th…
On the 25th I did go to sleep through the contractions as had been the recent trend, but this time instead of waking up at a normal hour, I got woken up at 2:30am on the morning of the 26th by an unknown man frantically knocking on my window yelling that my car was on fire.
In my still half asleep state I responded “Okay, thanks.” as if responding to something like “Your Sunday paper has been delivered.” The man persisted “No you don’t understand. Your car is on fire. You need to get out here right now!!” As I stumbled towards the front of the house to investigate what the bloody hell this cracker was on about, I became more and more awake and started to ponder how he has been mixed up..
I thought for sure that he was mistaken and that someone else’s car parked near my house was on fire, not my car. It couldn’t be my new Rav 4 I just bought in the last 2 months.. Or maybe this is some kind of sick prank, or perhaps the man is simply crazy. But as I approached the front guest room of my house, I realised it was illuminated a bright and terrifying orange and it hit me that this guy’s head actually was screwed on and that my car was in fact on fire in my drive way!
Immediately the panic set in and in unison, so too did full blown legit contractions. Not braxton hicks, these were for real. Perfect.
I yelled out to Brandon to wake up who for some reason couldn’t come up with anything other than the fact that he needed a shirt? I screamed “Fuck the shirt! Get out there and do something!!!” I told him to open the gate and bring the hose out to the driveway and put out the fire. While he went out to get that started, I dialled 911. Yes, I realised after the fact that I actually dialled 911 (facepalm).. This must happen a lot because the call re routed to 000 and a fire truck was dispatched.
I ventured outside to see how Brandon was going with the hose and found him fumbling with the bloody thing, unable to get it hooked up in his tired and confused state. Astounded I yelled “Oh screw the hose!” and went into the laundry to get some buckets to fill instead. He and I threw bucket after bucket of water onto the flames, but it made no difference, the fire was un relenting.
Eventually the fire truck showed up and made short work of the fire and then they pried open the engine bay to ensure the fire was out and also to see if they could find any foul play. The verdict from the firey’s was that an electrical fault had caused the fire to occur and this was later confirmed by my insurer.
I remember thinking what awful timing as Brandon had just sold his car the week before, so we were now in labour, about to have a baby with no form of transportation.
I later decided that the timing wasn’t bad at all and that someone/something was looking out for us that day – imagine if the fire happened while I was driving the car.. With the baby on board.. We could have blown up! Also, I ended up getting a fair amount more back from the insurance than I paid for the car in first place and managed to since upgrade. Plus now I have peace of mind knowing that I’m not driving around in a death machine.
Anyway, back to the story..
After the fire was out, I called my mum to let her know what had happened and asked her to be on standby to drive us to the hospital if the contractions continued. After a few hours of the contractions continuing, mum decided to come round to our place ready to drive us to the hospital when the time comes. By this time it was around 5am on Monday 26th April.
I spent the following hours on my couch timing contractions on an app and enjoying what would potentially be my last food and drink for the next who knows how long.
Finally at 2pm, my contractions were 3-5min apart and we decided to make our way to the hospital (we had the baby at Hornsby and had to travel from Ermington) to beat peak hour traffic and worst case scenario if we were sent away, we would go to mums in Mount Colah which is much closer to where we needed to be.
I was admitted into the birthing ward at around 2:30pm where they examined me and recorded my contractions which were in a pattern of 3 x intense contractions 3min apart, followed by 1 less intense contraction 5 min after the previous one and so on and so forth. They gave me 2 Panadene Forte and sent me home, telling me to come back when all the contractions were 3min apart and the same intensity.
So back we went to mum’s place in Mount Colah. I had a light dinner which I spent the next 9.5 hours throwing up as well as trying and failing to sleep. Bran and I had a bath together which really helped to relax me but did shit all for the pain.
As the contractions got worse and worse, all the techniques they taught us at the antenatal classes went out the window. I ended up curled up in bed eating snake lollies and having small sips of a fruit pop top which were the only things that would stay down. Brandon took over timing my contractions on the app.
After my 3rd phone call to the birthing unit, they finally told us to come in at somewhere round midnight. Thank heavens! By this time, I felt like there were raging dwarves having a sword fight in my lower abdomen every 3min and a needle of morphine was screaming my name. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hide the pain anymore or resist tensing up. But the worst was yet to come..
I was admitted by 12:15am on Tuesday 27th April and got my morphine injection quick smart. They also gave me entonox to inhale. The morphine didn’t really mask the pain, but it made me super drowsy and I got about 1 hour of sleep.
By 5am my contractions were so bad my sight was impacted. While a contraction was happening everything started fading to black. The pain truly is undescribable, but the best I can do to put it into words is that it’s like period pain but more sharp like a muscle cramp, so picture that but times it by 100. The 2-3 minutes between contractions become critical and are the only thing that make you feel like you’ll live through this.
The midwife checked me and I was thinking/hoping that I was about 6-7cm dialated, but to my despair I was only 4cm and 100% effaced. But 4cm?! WHAT!! That’s not even 1/2 way!
The midwife reassured me that the first 4cm and effacement are the hardest part but that it would still be hours until the transition phase of labour. I got into the bath as she suggested and the contractions seemed to get 5 times worse. The morphine at this stage was doing nothing whatsoever for the pain, so I was sucking on the entonox like it was oxygen under water which wasn’t the best idea because it got me super high, but not in a good way.
Brandon convinced me to get an epidural (which I had sworn I’d never in a million years do). The epidural was the best decision I think I ever made. However, the administration of the epidural itself was one of the most traumatic parts of the labour…
If you’re not familiar with how an epidural works, an anesthetist injects you first with a local anesthetic to numb the area, and then inserts a bigger needle into your lower back, in between 2 vertebrae of the spine. A small tube is then inserted and through the tube, the medicine goes into the spine and blocks the nerves so that no pain can’t be felt. It also paralyses you from the waist down.
The tricky part is that you have to sit on the edge of a bed, curled over hugging a pillow, sitting perfectly still so the needle can go in right. The only catch is that you have to do that whilst experiencing intense contractions, which makes sitting still nearly impossible.
To cope, I was inhaling the entonox which as I mentioned earlier, was making me super high. In my inebriated state, I was under the impression that Brandon, the anesthetist and the midwife were all playing a sick joke on me because administering the epidural was taking what seemed like an hour (Brandon told me after the fact that it was only about 10min and that the anesthetist did have to make several attempts at injecting because he was struggling to get the right spot).
I was questioning the poor staff members saying things like “This must be a joke, you’re all taking the piss!” “There’s no way it can be taking so long, why are you doing this to me?!” “You think this is funny, don’t you!!”
Once the epidural was successfully in, I was given a hand held device which I could push a button to activate the epidural medicine – it is self medicated and only works every 10min. After the first push of the button – absolute bliss! Every ounce of pain disappeared.
The epidural got me through the next 6 hours of what would have been utter agony, and granted me some well deserved and much needed sleep before the grand finale.
As the epidural slows down and in some cases ceases contractions, Syntocinin (a synthetic version of the hormone Oxytocin which causes contractions) is administered through an IV to ensure the labour continues. Therefore, the widwife knew the exact time that I should be completely dialated and ready to push – 12pm on Tuesday 27th April.
At 11am the midwife checked me and I was already 10cm dialated and 100% effaced, so she told me I can start pushing now if I’m ready. I was dehydrated and uncontrollably shaking (side effect from the epidural) but keen to get into it. So Brandon and my mum were instructed to grab one leg each (because I can’t feel or move them) and in the typical position you see in the movies like a sideways frog, I started to push under her direction.
She told me to push like I was doing the biggest poo of my life and not to push through the front like most people (me included) assume that you should. She reassured me that I had nothing in my system and that I won’t accidently poo myself. Trusting her, I tried to push. I tried so hard, but because of the epidural, I couldn’t feel anything and according to the midwife nothing was happening.
After almost an hour of ‘pushing’ which did nothing whatsoever, we decided that I have to turn the epidural off because I’ll need to have some feeling down there in order to be able to push.
Because we were ahead of schedule, I was under the impression that everything was all relaxed and that I had all the time in the world, but I was wrong.
I don’t remember things very clearly after I turned the epidural off because the pain was so sudden and so intense that I became delusional. I remember thinking I was being tortured and I had forgotten completely the fact that I was giving birth, I just wanted the pain to stop. I’ve never felt that kind of pain in my life. I genuinely thought I was going to die and I just wanted it to be over.. I was begging them to stop. Them being the 11 people who somehow ended up in the room – yes 11!
Somehow the situation had turned into a mad rush and a high risk. They didn’t tell me at the time, but the baby had passed meconium (first poo) inside which is a sign of distress and her heart beat was slowing. They just kept telling me at the time “Leah, we need to get this baby out right NOW.” which was not at all helping.
There were so many strange faces and all of them looked concerned and for some reason I thought they were angry at me.
My mum and Brandon were in the corner pale faced..
So there was 2 or 3 midwives, a doctor, a gynecologist, an obstetrician, a pediatrician and 4 others who I can’t remember.
The gynecologist took over after the obstetrician conducted an ultrasound which revealed that the baby was facing the wrong way – spine to spine and sort of on the side, creating the biggest possible circumfrance, causing her to be stuck and hence why the pushing wasn’t working.
The gynecologist tried using a vacuum 3 times and it kept coming off, so he had to use forceps. I remember begging him not to use the forceps because I remember learning about them in my antenatal classes and thinking to myself “as long as I don’t need forceps or an episiotime I’ll be okay.” ..I ended up needing both.
I remember at this point an overwhelming feeling of defeat. I honestly thought it was the end and I accepted that I was going to die and I gave up. So when it was announced that there is still not enough room and that an episiotome needed to be performed, I just didn’t even care anymore.
And then a turning point happened.. This part I remember clearer than anything.
The midwife who had been taking care of me leaned in and whispered into my ear. She reminded me that I’m having a baby and this is what I’ve been waiting 10 months for. She said to me “Leah I can see your daughter. She has straight black hair and her head is so perfectly round. You’re going to have your baby in your arms and meet her so so soon, but you have to push you just have to get through this last part. Stop saying you can’t do it because you and I both know you can. Be strong, you’ve got this!” Her words gave me an overwhelming sense of strength and clarity. I suddenly remembered at that point where I was and why I was there.
I told myself that the pain is just as bad whether I push or not, so fuck it, I’m going to push! And i did.. I pushed and pushed and cried and screamed and suddenly the pain was gone and I heard a strong, healthy, loud cry and I felt a warm, slimy mass on my chest and then I met my daughter for the first time.
There she was, screaming and squirming. She pooed on me and I was covered in blood and sweat and tears and who knows what else, but it didn’t matter because that was the happiest moment of my life.
I took her into my arms and her eyes met my gaze and I started telling her it’s all going to be okay. That’s when she heard my voice and she stopped crying and she just stared at me and I could see her pupils trying to focus and in that moment I knew she recognised my voice and that’s when I discovered what true and unconditional love is.
I never expected that I’d love her instantly, although we’d been sharing a body for almost a year, she was for all intensive purposes a stranger.. But I did. I loved her so strongly, so instantly and so perfectly.
To be continued…