At 9.30pm on Thursday, October 11, I had hopped out of the shower and was lying in bed with my husband, wrapped in a big towel.
As we watched television, I felt a kick and a gush of wetness. I knew instantly my waters had broken. This was unexpected – I wasn’t due until the 20th. As I was suffering from Gestational Diabetes, I had been instructed to contact the hospital if my waters broke. They invited me to come in, to make sure it really was my waters breaking, and not urine (as if I couldn’t tell the difference!).
So, an hour later, as I was lying in the stirrups while the midwives monitored my baby and checked on the mystery fluid, I found myself in a blind panic. I was woefully, I mean WOEFULLY, unprepared. I was booked into a birthing class on the 13th, and had done some reading about birth and the stages of labour, but beyond that, I knew nothing! I was so scared of giving birth, and so sure I would end up with a Caesarean, that I had got myself into a situation where my fear had hampered me from really knowing what was about to happen. I mean, I knew in theory, but I didn’t have a clear picture in my mind. All I knew was I wanted pain relief as soon as possible.
Well, the hospital established that my waters had in fact broken, and gave me the option of going home to see what happened (but returning in 12 hours if the answer was ‘nothing’), or being admitted and induced. I chose induction. I mean, I was here already.
So up we went to the birth centre, where I met my birthing time. I endured the agony of a new young doctor trying to find a vein to insert the drip, which ended up in blood spurting from the back of my hand, then hopped into bed as they started the drip at 12.30am. I told my husband to go home and get some sleep, as I figured I would be there for a while.
Well, within an hour, I was lying on my left side in absolute agony. My contractions had begun swiftly, and were immediately back-to-back, meaning I had no time to recover between contractions. I retreated into myself, telling myself to toughen up – it had only been an hour, and I was sure it was going to get much worse. As it turns out, when the doctor came to examine me, I had dilated 7cms within that hour. I wasn’t being wussy, things were just moving super fast!
Unbeknownst to me, the midwife had advised my husband not to be gone for too long, and he was back by 2. I had never been so pleased to see him in my life. The contractions became more and more intense, and I groaned and moaned and shouted with each one. I asked the midwife for an epidural, and she put in the order. Even though I was in such pain, though, I realised that I could actually tolerate it. Given the choice, I would rather not, but I could!
Three hours passed. No epidural. Apparently there was a woman in all sorts of trouble down the hallway, and the anaesthetist was busy with her. It sounded like she needed it more than me anyway, but I was beginning to find it harder to cope. At this point the midwife came up to me and said ‘there may be a chance you have to do this without an epidural. I don’t want you to be scared. You can do this.’ I only had enough in me to shake my head ‘no, I couldn’t do this’.
Finally – finally! – at 5am, the anaesthetist arrived and begin to administer the epidural. The problem was that I was contracting so often that I couldn’t move my body the way he needed me too. He couldn’t get the needle in the right spot. He gave up. It turned out I was at 10cm by now anyway, so it was time to start pushing.
I was terrified. I didn’t know how to push! The midwives gave me a quick coaching session and it was on. The baby was hooked up to machines, and as he travelled down my birth canal I could see his progress by the cable coming out of me! It was surreal. Pushing was exhausting, and I didn’t feel I was making any progress. I was tired, and starving, and I wanted my mum!
Eventually the Midwives cried out ‘I can see the head!’ They encouraged me to touch it but for some reason it was the last thing I wanted to do, but it did help me to find more energy knowing that my baby was almost here. I pushed more and his head crowned. I had been warned about the ring of fire, but oh. my. god. the ring of fire! I paused as the midwife instructed – ‘let it stretch’ – then out everything I had into my one last push. The head was free! I had done it!
Oh, except for the thing I hadn’t been told about. Now I had to push out the shoulders! One more yell, one more push, and the next thing I knew, I was holding my baby in my arms. All my pain and discomfort melted away in an instant as I looked into my son’s eyes. Only seven hours, and my life had changed forever.
The next thing I knew, I felt two huge gushes. Blood was pouring out of me. I was haemorrhaging and my placenta had snapped off inside of me. I was quickly taken to the theatre, where I was out under general so that they could manually remove the placenta. I’m glad I missed that bit.
One extra night in the birthing suite, and two blood transfusions later, and I felt right as rain. Well, sort of, anyway… At the very least, I felt a pride and strength in myself that I had never known before, and every time I look at my son he reminds me of the night I achieved something I never thought I was capable of.