My little bubby turned head down at about 28 weeks pregnant. As she started to get heavier, I started to feel increasingly uncomfortable in my pelvis. Strange and transient aches and pains sometimes made me cry out in pain. My obstetrician told me this was a good sign! He said it meant everything was loosening up ‘down there’ and my body was preparing for labour. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if I went into labour before the due date of 25th of July.
With this in mind, I was very pleased to finish work at 37 weeks. I was finding it a real struggle to make it through 8-10 hours a day. I was physically and mentally exhausted. My Mum arrived from Melbourne when I was 39 weeks to keep me company and to be here for the birth. Fast forward two weeks and I was still pregnant!
Several visits to the obstetrician later and I was booked into hospital to be induced. My darling husband took me into the maternity centre at 6pm on the night of Wednesday, 3rd of August and two hours later the first lot of prostaglandin gels were applied to my cervix. It was on!
My husband kissed me good night and I settled in for my last night of sleep before becoming a mum for the first time. At about 1am I woke up (despite having had two sleeping tablets) with what felt like a severe period pain and was excited to think labour had started!
I went back to sleep and woke when my first jug of iced water was brought in at about 6.30am. I was examined by a midwife only to find that absolutely nothing was happening ‘down below’. A second, larger dose of gel was applied to my cervix and then I had breakfast.
By about 8am I was having contractions. They were terrible from the get-go. No one tells you the truth about how bad contractions really are. My husband and Mum arrived at about 9am and tried to help me distance myself from the pain during the contractions, which were coming about every 15 minutes. They started to increase in intensity and were coming closer together. I felt just terrible.
After a couple of hours of this the on-duty midwife came to check on me and as my contractions were two minutes apart decided it was time for me to go to the delivery suite. So I was put in a wheelchair and taken up to the suite where another midwife did an internal examination. She had to then tell me that I was still only 1 ½ centimetres dilated and that I wasn’t actually in established labour.
Not in established labour! Were they kidding?
They called my obstetrician and decided that a shot of morphine was necessary to calm me down, take the edge of the contractions and hopefully get my cervix to relax. I agreed to have the drug and was wheeled back to my room on the ward. My uterus was doing all the work but my cervix wasn’t paying any attention. So my husband and my mum were sent home so I could get some rest. The morphine was good as it helped me to sleep between contractions, which, I had discovered, weren’t the right kind of contractions – I was in ‘false labour’.
Several hours later, another internal exam was done and I was thrilled to hear that I had dilated to four centimetres. Not far enough to have a baby, but progress! I called my husband and said it was probably time for him and Mum to come back to the hospital.
My obstetrician was consulted once again and it was decided that he would come in later to break my waters to get things happening. In the meantime, I was to just work through my contractions as best I could. This was fine, but they started getting stronger and so I asked for some more pain relief. This time it was pethidine, which I had had before. The last time I had pethidine I loved it – it had given me a lovely high where I felt that everything was good in the world. Unfortunately I had quite a different reaction this time. It did absolutely nothing for the pain and made me sick. Vomiting and having contractions at the same time is not much fun…
The contractions continued to intensify and heat packs, soothing words and gentle pats had ceased to provide me with any comfort. I was also feeling ‘pushy’ – that is, experiencing pushing contractions. The midwives told me not to push, as I would only damage the cervix and make labour harder. So I puff puff puff pant pant panted my way through the next little while until I could take it no more.
The midwives were looking a tad concerned by this stage and asked me what I wanted to do. So I uttered those words that so many women have spoken before me: ‘Give me the epidural!’ They looked disappointed (they want all women to experience a drug-free labour and I had hoped I’d be able to as well) but agreed to arrange it if my obstetrician agreed. He did.
As soon as a delivery suite became available (it was a busy afternoon for the maternity centre, with five babies born within hours) I was wheeled speedily back to the same suite I had visited briefly earlier. The contractions were coming thick and fast by this time and fortunately I was able to suck on some gas (a nitrous oxide and oxygen blend) and this helped to resist the urge to push. I was also hooked up to the electronic fetal monitoring machine so they could keep an eye on bub’s progress.
The anaesthetist arrived not long afterwards and, after warning me about possible side effects, administered the epidural – between contractions. He had me sit up on the bed with Mum on one side and my husband on the other and while I held my breath he inserted the catheter in between two vertebrae. After a couple of minutes he asked me if I could feel the anaesthetic taking effect. Nope. Nothing. Nada. He said he must have just missed and would have to do it again. Do it again? Okay just hurry up!
Well now I know why so many experienced mothers told me to have the epidural! It was bliss. It just knocked the pain right outta there and I felt sane again. I had no idea that contractions could be so mind-blowing and soul-destroying. They were just awful. Someone had told me they were just like bad period pains. Not for this little duckie.
My obstetrician soon arrived to perform the amniotomy. My waters burst with a rather large gush and we all hoped this would speed things up and get my cervix fully dilated. An oxytocin drip was inserted in my arm and I was advised to top up the epidural dose whenever I felt like I needed to (I had a little widget that gave me control of the regularity of pain relief I was receiving), but once I was fully dilated to stop the epidural so that I could feel the contractions, allowing me to work with them during the final stage of labour.
I heard the obstetrician say to the midwife as he was leaving, ‘Check her dilation again at 11pm and let me know what’s happening’. This was at about 8pm. At least another three hours! Thank god I’d had the epidural. Mum and my husband settled in for a long wait.
Meanwhile, I was still experiencing strong contractions – without the pain though! It was comforting to see them coming on the monitor and feeling my belly tighten. The baby was moving around quite a lot between contractions and occasionally the monitor would beep loudly because it lost the heartbeat. As this kept happening the midwife decided it was time to attach an electrode to the baby’s head to make sure we knew that everything was still all right with bubs and that labour was still progressing well.
The pushing contractions were becoming more regular and the midwife was starting to get a little shitty with me because I kept telling her I wanted to push. She kept telling me to relax and not push because I wasn’t ready yet. How would you know? I thought – you haven’t checked me. I soon discovered she was going off shift and didn’t need me to be having the baby right now, as it would mean she wouldn’t be able to leave.
At about 10pm I started to shiver uncontrollably. My mum got a blanket out of the warming cupboard and put it over me (on top of the blanket that was already there), but it didn’t stop the shivering. I wasn’t cold.
Our new midwife arrived, took one look at me, and knew that I wasn’t far off delivering this baby! She said she’d be back in a few minutes to examine me and see how far my cervix was dilated. About 15 minutes later, after she’d received her handover, she came in with latex gloves on and had a look. ‘I can see the head!’ she proclaimed. It turns out I’d been shivering because I was in transition!
I knew it!! I felt bloody ready and I was. So, we began. She coached me through the first couple of pushes, and alternated with my husband on one side and Mum on the other, each holding one of my feet in tight against their hips. The midwife hurriedly called my obstetrician and told him he’d better move it as I wasn’t far off giving birth.
About 10 minutes later he walked in the door to find that bubs had crowned and birth was imminent. I was feeling pretty stuffed by this stage but just kept pushing every time I felt a contraction. I could see my husband and mum getting excited so I knew it was close. I pushed so hard – I thought my insides would explode out.
The obstetrician soon had his gloves on and assumed the catching position. He and the midwife coached me through the last couple of pushes required to get the head out. With a god almighty grunting groan on my part out popped the head! Oh yay oh yay! They told me to hold it there until the next contraction.
By this stage my mum was just beside herself with excitement and my husband had a look of wonder on his face. The next contraction arrived and I gave one final push and out slithered the body and a whole lot of fluid. After taking a look at this little slimy bundle with its right fist raised triumphantly up in the air, I just fell back on the pillows exhausted. The obstetrician said to my husband ‘Are you going to tell her what it is?’ and my husband proudly announced ‘It’s a girl!’
It was all my mum could do to stop jumping around the room with excitement – she had two grandsons already and really wanted me to have a girl. Carl cut the umbilical cord and Romily Margaret was placed up on my chest.
Congratulations all round as Romily looked up at me and I stared into her cloudy blue eyes wondering how I could have just given birth to such a wonderful beautiful little thing.
I was stitched up in no time, having had a second-degree tear, but no major damage. My wonderful midwife helped Romily to attach to my nipple for her very first feed and our obstetrician made a gentle departure, bound for his bed.
So after six hours of pre-labour and 10 hours of established labour, Romily was born at 19 minutes past midnight on Friday the 5th of August 2005. Little Romily weighed in at 3.720kg and measured 50.5cm long and her head 34.5cm around. She was perfect.