If you read my very last pregnancy update, you would have known that Evie was late. I shouldn’t say ‘late’ – the due date is just a guess date, really, and 95% of babies don’t come on their due dates. But anyway, she didn’t turn up. In fact, there was no sign of her. I was doing ALL the things to try and get her out and encourage my body to go into labour spontaneously – acupuncture, induction massage, acupressure, hot curries, raspberry leaf tea, long walks. Basically, I tried ALL the old wives’ tales to bring on labour. But nothing happened. I’m not so sure the old wives know what they’re talking about…
41 weeks rolled around and I hadn’t gone into labour so we had an appointment with an obstetrician to plan for a possible induction. The hospital I was giving birth at lets you go about 10 days post-date before they recommend inducing. After this point, the benefits of the baby staying in start to be outweighed by the risks of something going wrong. And although I trusted my baby to come when she was ready, I could never forgive myself if something happened to her.
The week prior, I’d actually headed into the hospital late at night because of reduced foetal movement. It turned out everything was fine but it had made me a bit wary.
In the appointment, the obstetrician checked to see if anything had started happening down there. I was hopeful… but nope. She had hoped to be able to do a stretch and sweep but it wasn’t possible. I asked her whether she thought it was likely I’d go into labour on my own before being induced and she said it was anyone’s guess. Maybe. It was hard to know.
In the next few days I did everything in my power to kick start labour to no avail. Monday the 22nd rolled around and the baby was still tucked up nice and cosy in my belly. Her eviction notice had been officially served and my induction date was here. Being induced was definitely not how I imagined doing this but it was out of my hands now. It was such a surreal feeling driving to the hospital knowing that when we left, we’d be bringing home our precious little addition!
At 7am the whole process started. Little did I know how long it would take before I would actually meet my baby.
We started off by monitoring the baby for 30 minutes via CTG to make sure all was okay. Then, the first round of gel was inserted. Basically, the gel acts as a prostaglandin to ripen the cervix. Before inserting it, the midwife did a vaginal examination to check if I’d been making any progress at home. I hadn’t. In the 5 days since I saw the OB, my body hadn’t done much to prepare for labour at all. I was a little disappointed but I also felt that the induction was then justified – it seemed very unlikely this baby was going to come out on her own.
The aim of the gel was to soften and open my cervix enough so that my waters could be broken and things could get going.
After the gel was inserted, I had to lie back for another 30 minutes of monitoring. This was just to check that the gel didn’t cause the baby to become distressed. Luckily, all was good and Ben and I were free to go after that. We were allowed to wander around – we just weren’t allowed to leave the hospital. I was told that I might start to feel some mild period-like cramps and if I did, it was a good thing.
We had to wait six hours for the gel to do it’s thing so we just hung around. We wandered around the hospital, chilled out at a café and did a bit of reading. I did start to feel some dull cramping but it was so mild it was barely noticeable.
Around 1pm we headed back in to get checked. I was now 50% effaced but still hadn’t started to dilate. The midwife applied a second round of gel and told me not to worry – most first-time mums need two or even three applications to get things going.
Afterwards, the baby was monitored again on the CTG for another 30 minutes to check all was good. We were then given a bed in the maternity ward to rest and relax. It was good to have a private space to chill out. The plan was that in another six hours I’d be checked again, this time in the birth suite. Hopefully by then I would have started to dilate enough for my waters to be broken.
After the second lot of gel was put in, my cramping started to get a bit stronger. It still felt like period cramps but it was definitely more noticeable than before. It wasn’t bothering me – if anything I felt reassured and excited that the gel seemed to be doing something! I just hoped that I was starting to dilate and wouldn’t need a third round of the gel.
About 5 or 6pm, it seemed that things were starting to happen. The cramps (contractions?) were now coming in waves and I instinctively felt the need to get up, move around and rock through them. I knew that staying active would help move things along so I tried to walk around a lot. I was excited. Maybe this was the start of labour!
It continued like this for a while and got to a point where I said to Ben that it might be a good idea to time the contractions so I opened my app and started to track them. They were all over the place but were getting noticeably more and more intense. I’d get one that lasted for two minutes and then have a break of thirty seconds before another one would come. Then… nothing for three minutes. Because of this, I knew this wasn’t ‘real’ labour yet, even though it was starting to feel like it.
Knowing that we had a LONG night ahead of us, we thought it might be a good idea to eat so we ordered Deliveroo to the hospital. Once it was in front of me though, I really didn’t feel like eating. I knew that it would help my energy levels though so I tried to take a few bites but that was really all I could manage in between contractions. I was starting to really have to breathe through them now.
It was now around 8:30pm and up until this point, we’d just been in the room by ourselves. It was getting to the point now though that I felt like we needed to go get the midwife to tell her what was happening. When she came in, her face lit up and she said that it looked like things were kicking off. She didn’t examine me but ducked out to see whether the birth suite was ready for us.
At around 9pm we could head downstairs to the room we would meet our baby in. Man, the walk there took forever. My contractions were at the point now where I couldn’t walk through them – I had to stop and lean against the wall and just breathe. I must have been quite the sight in the hospital hall! Finally we made it and Ben ran down to the car to bring up my hospital bag.
We spent a few minutes making the room our own. We put the candles out and spread my birth affirmation cards around the room. I got out my headphones and started listening to my hypnobirthing tracks and pulled on some comfier clothes. Then, the OB arrived to attempt to break my waters.
On examining me, he found that I was 1.5cm dilated – just enough to get in to break them. When I heard this I was a bit disheartened (13 hours since the induction began and I was only 1.5cm?!) but also relieved. At least I wouldn’t need another round of the gel. Just seconds later I felt a massive, warm gush that seemed to flow out endlessly. There sure is a lot of fluid in there surrounding the baby!
I’d been hoping that the gel and breaking the waters would be enough to kickstart my labour and that I wouldn’t need the hormone drip as well. The doctor explained though that my contractions were too inconsistent and weren’t being very effective. It was pretty unlikely that my labour would get going any time soon without the help of the drip.
I’d been quite fearful of having to be on the drip in my labour, although I knew there’d be a pretty good chance I’d end up on it. I’d been mentally preparing myself for this scenario over the past couple of weeks – ever since my due date came and went. I knew that with the drip my labour was likely to be a lot more intense than it would be otherwise. But I also knew that it was a pretty effective way of getting a baby out. By this stage, I was SO ready to have this baby in my arms so although I was disappointed, I didn’t focus on that feeling. I was going to meet my baby soon and that’s what I held on to.
The doctor said that we could start off on just a small level of the hormone to see how the baby and my body responded. The baby had to be continuously monitored with the CTG machine from now on, so I had the bands around my belly for the rest of my labour. Thankfully, they were wireless which meant I wasn’t tied to a machine. The drip was also battery-powered so I could move that around the room too. I found the cannula in the back of my hand very uncomfortable though. It was my instinct to lean forward over something during contractions but having the cannula in made it too painful to put any pressure on my hand. Instead, I had to lean using my forearms.
As soon as the hormone drip was turned on, things suddenly kicked into a whole new gear. The contractions started coming hard and fast. They were too intense to keep moving through them and I needed to just stop, lean over something and rock. I had my headphones in with my hypnobirthing tracks on and I was trying really hard to focus on my breathing but it was becoming harder. I’d only been using the TENS machine up until this point but now, I felt like I needed something else. The TENS had been great at taking the edge off the early contractions but it wasn’t as effective anymore. I asked for the gas, knowing that there are no negative impacts on the baby and also knowing that it would help me slow down my breathing.
I spent the majority of the rest of my labour on my hands and knees on a mat at the foot of the bed. My midwife had lowered the bed right down so I could lean forward over it. Ben was right by my side the whole time, rubbing my back and whispering words of encouragement.
Four hours after my waters were broken, my midwife checked me. Originally in my birth preferences I’d noted that I didn’t want to know my progress after each examination. I thought it might screw with my head and be discouraging if I felt like I’d been working really hard for not a lot of progress. For some reason though, in that moment, I decided I wanted to know. My midwife asked me whether I was sure, since I’d originally said I didn’t want to. But I’d changed my mind. I guess I was looking for some kind of reassurance or encouragement that things were moving along. So she told me. I was 3cm.
Instantly, I regretted asking. My first thought was ONLY 3cm?! I felt that with the intensity of the contractions I was having, I surely would have been further along. I also knew that this wasn’t even the hard part of labour – it’s when you get past 5 or 6cm that it *really* gets tough! My body hadn’t had a chance to adjust to the contractions as they’d come so hard and fast right from the start. I was feeling overwhelmed.
All along in my pregnancy, I’d been told that my baby was posterior, which meant that we were spine to spine. I’d done everything in my power to try and encourage her to turn around but she’d been stubborn right until the end. I’d been expecting some pretty intense back pain (common with posterior babies) but, surprisingly, didn’t notice it in my back at all. After the midwife felt my belly during the last check, she told me the baby had turned and was no longer posterior. Well done, baby! That gave me a little boost, knowing that she was in the best position for birth now.
From here on, my contractions become insanely intense. I was having a really hard time controlling my breathing now and was letting out all manner of moans, groans and grunts. I was hardly getting a break between them – it felt like as soon as one ended, another one was rising up, right on top of the last. The gas and the TENS machine just weren’t cutting it anymore. I needed something else. And for the first time, the word ‘epidural’ crossed my lips. It was 1:30am.
Knowing that an epidural was definitely not in my birth preferences, both Ben and the midwife tried to distract me and help me manage the pain in another way. My midwife suggested I go stand under the hot shower. I’d originally wanted to labour in the bath but that wasn’t possible now that I’d been induced. The hot water did sound appealing but the thought of actually moving to the bathroom seemed like a superhuman effort. I had no idea how I was going to put one foot in front of the other. But with the help of Ben, I got there in the end.
I spent the next 90 minutes or so standing and swaying in the shower while Ben pointed the nozzle on my back and belly. The poor guy – I think his arm was about to drop off by the end of it! The hot water did feel good and I was still able to use the gas in there too. But if I thought my contractions couldn’t possibly get any more intense, boy was I wrong. I couldn’t centre myself, I couldn’t focus or breathe calmly. I felt out of control.
I needed the epidural and I needed it NOW.
Again, both Ben and my midwife tried to distract me from the thought. They encouraged me to try different positions and turned up the gas even more. But I needed something more. The gas was also making my face, hands and feet tingle and I started to feel sick.
My midwife tried one last ditch effort to try and change my mind. She said that the anaesthetist was currently in theatre and there was another labouring woman who’d already requested an epidural before me. Realistically, she said, it might be another two hours before I could get it. Did I still want it? YES. GIVE IT TO ME, I screamed. Off she went to arrange it.
How am I going to last another two hours? One thing was certain: I was done with the shower. I’d been in there for the last hour and a half. Getting out was just as big of a struggle as getting in. I somehow made it back to the bed and suddenly a wave of nausea hit me. I yelled for a bucket and vomited my little heart (or stomach) out.
It was time for another examination. This time I was 6cm, so I’d progressed 3cm in four hours. I’d never been so sure about my request for the epidural then. It had now been 20 hours since the induction started and my energy levels were getting depleted.
I’d been bracing myself to wait the two hours for the anaesthetist but by some miracle, in she swept 45 minutes later. It was all over very quickly and, to be honest, I didn’t feel a thing. She gave me a local anaesthetic in the area where the needle would be inserted but I was so distracted by the contractions that I didn’t even feel that.
The relief was immediate. While I could still feel a kind of pressure when I got a contraction, the pain was gone. The only downside was that it triggered a nerve in my right hip. Every time I’d get a contraction, my hip would feel like it was seizing up and would cramp. But this was nothing in comparison to the intensity of the contractions. I could also still feel and move my legs – it wasn’t as if I was paralysed. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to stand up or walk around the room, but I didn’t feel like I’d lost control over my lower half.
My midwife told me to lie back, relax and try to get some sleep. I was very tired and I’d need to regain some energy to push the baby out! I tried my best to sleep but I think I was just so wired that I couldn’t. But I did rest. Ben curled on the floor and got a few z’s though. He was exhausted. It had been very intense for him trying to support me for all these hours.
Both the baby and I were being constantly monitored during this time. I was a bit oblivious to it all but apparently Evie’s heart rate had started dropping now and again. The midwife explained that this wasn’t necessarily because of the epidural, but rather that she too was getting tired from the intensity of the contractions. The doctor decided to turn off the hormone drip (or maybe turn it right down, I can’t remember) to give her a bit of a rest. They hoped that my labour would still progress without the drip and they’d do an examination to check in another few hours.
Luckily, her heart rate was a bit more stable after this. The next few hours were quite peaceful. Ben and I just lay there in the dark chatting. We were both extremely tired but an excited anticipation was building. We would meet our baby soon, I knew it.
8am rolled around and it was time to check my progress. I couldn’t believe it when the midwife said that I was 9cm! So my labour had still been progressing all this time. I was so relieved that the epidural hadn’t slowed things down. We were almost there. One more hour, she said, and I should be ready to start pushing.
When she came to do the final check at 9am, she noticed that there was meconium in the fluid. My baby had done her first poo inside me – a sign of distress. She found though that I was now 10cm and fully dilated (YIPPEE!). Because we were ready to get her out anyway, we didn’t need to rush to intervene further.
And just like that, it was time to start pushing.
When there’s meconium in the water, they like to get the baby out within the hour. So my midwife told me that I had about an hour to push and hopefully that would be all I’d need. If not, the doctors would need to come in to give me some help.
I was pretty thankful that I could feel and put pressure on my legs. It meant that I could try a few different positions to push – from side lying to my hands and knees. I found it pretty hard to know where and how to push. The epidural meant that I couldn’t feel any sensations or urges to push myself. I had to rely on my midwives guiding me.
I gave it absolutely everything I could. An hour of pushing later and I still hadn’t been able to get her out. The doctors needed to come in to help me.
From here, things started to move pretty quickly. A whole team arrived. It was all a bit overwhelming. There were two obstetricians, a paediatrician and maybe two other medical staff. Even though it wasn’t an emergency, there was a sense of urgency in the air. One of the obstetricians explained that they needed to give me some help to get the baby out faster and that the best option for me and my situation would be forceps with a small episiotomy. The baby was having trouble making the final turn in my pelvis and was a bit stuck.
Let me tell you, this was all about as far away from what I had envisioned for my baby’s birth as I could imagine. An induction, epidural, episiotomy and forcep assisted delivery – definitely not the low-intervention birth I’d spent so much time preparing for. But it was all beyond my control and at this point, I just wanted her out. I was willing to do anything just to get her out.
I didn’t feel the episiotomy or the forceps because of the epidural. And then I started to push again. Call me naive, but I was under the impression that the forceps would essentially pull her out. Nope. The forceps assisted turning the baby, but I still had to push her out. I dug deep and gave it absolutely everything I had. I felt like I was getting nowhere and was pretty convinced that I’d end up with an emergency caesarian.
30 minutes later though, just before the next push, I heard the obstetrician say, ‘Okay, Rachel, I need you to open your eyes now. You’re about to meet your baby.’ I couldn’t believe it. I thought this moment would never arrive.
So I gave one last mega push with everything I had and there she was. It was the greatest moment of my whole life.
She came out and was on my chest in a second (where she promptly screamed her lungs out for the next hour). She had scratches down the side of her face and bruises on her head from the forceps – what a rough way to enter the world. The paediatrician gave her a quick check over while she was with me but she was completely fine. She was here. Finally, she was here.
Here are a few of my favourite photos from those blissful moments that followed. Evelyn, it feels like we’ve known you for a lifetime already.
The biggest thank you to Kelly from Kelly Jordan Photography for capturing the most incredible experience of our lives. I am so, so glad we booked a birth photographer. These images are so special to have.
What was your birth experience like? Tell me in the comments – I’d love to know!