On Saturday, the first day of maternity leave, with the cot finally ready in our room, my partner and I went for a long walk and dinner, and talked about our planned trip to the swimming pool the next day. We laughed about the idea of your water breaking when you are swimming and how you would know this. This scenario did not happen, as my water broke at 3am that night, so no swimming for us. I had mixed feelings about my water breaking, as I was 38.5 weeks and looking forward to a few days maternity leave before welcoming our baby. She must have felt that having the cot ready was a sign for her to make her entrance.
With a sleepy head I rung the birth centre and was asked to come in at 9am. We packed the hospital bag and tried to get some sleep. In the hospital they confirmed that my water was broken, and after they checked that my temperature had gone down (it was 37.6 when we arrived at hospital) we could go home and come back at 6am the next morning, on Monday, unless contractions started earlier.
Around 3am contractions started to be more regular and we went in around 5am. When we arrived at the birth centre, the contractions pretty much came to a standstill, and the dilation was minimal (2/3cm). They monitored our heart rates and sent us back home with the message to go to the labour ward at 3pm to be induced if nothing happened.
Hearing this was upsetting as I was looking forward to delivering my baby in the birth centre, and I knew that this was increasingly less likely. When it got closer to 3pm, I had a little cry which helped to let go, accept the situation, switch on my labour mindset, and mentally prepare for what was about to come as I was still hoping to rely on as little pain relief and intervention as possible. At this stage I was still thinking I could have an active labour.
When we went back to the hospital for the third time, 36 hours after the water broke, and with little sleep, we checked in to the labour ward to be monitored again. Contractions were random, and we were told that someone would come speak to us to explain what would happen next. It felt like we were forgotten, and no one came to see us until much later in the evening when suddenly a midwife came to take us to the labour room to be induced, without any further information. At this stage, we were confused and asked to speak to someone before being moved. There seemed to be a lot of miscommunication and when we got to the labour room a team of midwifes and consultants came in, which felt like an ambush, and they made us feel anything but comfortable. We tried to get information and alternative options, and asked for time to process the information which they did give us. After deliberation we agreed to be induced (drip) and then it took another hour or two before they came back. At this stage they checked dilation and whether both sacks of water were broken and they ended up breaking the second sack (twice! Painful!), which had not broken. I had no idea there were two sacks!
After the drip started contractions started immediately, so this is what ‘real’ contractions are supposed to feel! No wireless monitoring was available so my plan to be active during labour had to be abandoned. To manage the contractions I used a variety of techniques (from my experience as a sport psychologist), breathing, mindfulness, and self-talk mostly at this stage. After the first hour or two I started using gas and air (I did not realise this is not ‘pain relief’!) and started to use the screen with changing images of scenery in the room using some mindfulness techniques (such as focusing on a tree in the scene for the duration of the contraction), which helped to relief the pain. When I did not use any of the techniques and lost focus I really noticed the increase in pain.
After about six hours of being on the drip, and finally managing to wee (which is hard when you are wired up and can’t move much!), the midwife mentioned that things were progressing well and that it should not take more than three hours from then. To her this was probably a positive thing to say, but the thought of having to go through another three hours of contractions like this was a bit of a shock….! We did some math, and calculated that this meant 60 more contractions to go through, and this bit of ‘chunking’ then helped to get through the next couple of hours. My partner was absolutely brilliant, talking me through each contraction using the monitor and feeding me water when I asked for it. After some vomiting I started to feel the urge to poo and after some time (I lost track of time and fell asleep between contractions), I could not help but to push and the second midwife came in not long after this. At this stage the midwifes were great and much more engaged, helped to relax my shoulders, and talking me through the pushing stage. It’s hard to describe the feeling of the progressing at this stage, but feeling the head slowly coming out was just amazing and for this alone I was grateful that I could manage the birth without an epidural. The midwifes guided me through this fantastically to not push too hard, and after one final push where I had to draw on every remaining bit of power and energy I had left (apparently my partner has never seen my face so red), our amazing baby girl was born.