Back to the MLU (Midwifery Led Unit) I hobbled, with Matt by my side at about 4am on Tuesday 16th December, 2014. I remember the place was eerily quiet, dark and cold as we made our way from the sleepy Ward to our room in the MLU. By now, every inch of my body ached from contraction after contraction and I was never so glad to get into our private room and get my baby out! The midwife began to run the bath, explaining that it took quite a while so she would run some more checks on me. Contracting on the bed was unbelievably painful and every movement was uncomfortable and sore, but there was nothing I could do. As I lay, enduring the waves of pain, I listened as the midwives prodded my bump, discussing how 'it really is a good size bump' and that I 'definitely have a big baby in there!' Tell me something I don't already know. All I wanted to do was scream 'STOP TALKING AND DO SOMETHING TO GET THIS 'BIG' BABY OUT!!'
Of course, I didn't scream, shout or do anything of the sort (not yet anyway!) What I did do, was clench my fists and concentrate on my breathing technique. It had become clear that perhaps a stronger form of pain relief was needed and I was offered gas and air. I don't know why I didn't just grab it straight from them and inhale like a maniac; instead I looked at Matt for reassurance. 'What do you think?' I asked him. Clearly I was having an out of body experience at this moment as I don't know why on earth I thought it necessary to ask my husband, who was NOT IN LABOUR, what he thought about me taking gas and air!! It was in my notes, we had discussed it beforehand and I was all for having gas and air when I needed it, so I cannot understand my weird hesitation when it was offered. Anyway, of course Matt encouraged me to take it and was the darling husband telling me how amazing I was doing and how proud he was I'd managed so well so far. Needless to say, I was handed the gas and air and instructed how to use it. Matt watched on as I tried to inhale and laughed as it began to take effect. I distinctly remember waving the tube in the air in sheer jubilation, exclaiming how brilliant it was and wondering why on earth I hadn't taken it sooner! In hindsight, I am so glad I didn't take any other forms of pain relief up until that point, as I really felt the benefit of the gas and air taking the edge off the pain.
I spent some considerable time contracting with the gas and air, even taking it to the toilet with me to try and help to manage the pain. I was also hooked up to an antibiotic drip for my GBS (Group B Strep) so if it wasn't already awkward enough to move around, I had to bring my new best friend the drip with me too. Finally the bath was full and I was beginning to think about putting on my swimwear when a doctor appeared. I'll never forget her words, 'I'm so sorry, I know your bath is ready, but we think you would be better downstairs in Delivery.' Wait. What? No. Why? Delivery was for complications. Delivery was for instrumental births. Delivery was for c-sections. Unfortunately, Delivery was for me. My bags were packed and I was escorted out of my homely MLU room, down the hall and into the lift, headed for the Delivery Suites. I'm sure I was a sight for sore eyes, hobbling bow legged down the hallway, gas and air and drip in tow, sucking that tube like there was no tomorrow and breathing like a steam train. No airs and graces for me. I certainly wasn't in the best shape!
As we entered my Delivery Room I took in the scene … the grey room was cold and clinical. The hospital bed was prominently placed in the centre, surrounded by equipment and glaring lights. In the left hand corner, under harsh lighting, lay the crib for my baby. This was not what I had envisaged for my labour experience. I was scared, exhausted and in agony and I really, really wanted to cry. It was about 7am when we began our Delivery Room journey. Little did I know that our journey would not end here. Yet more checks were completed and I was hooked up to more antibiotics. The intravenous drip was fed through my left hand and unfortunately the insertion just wasn't quite right; the more the midwife tugged and pulled at the tube, the more irritated and painful it became. A few times it began to bleed, but the pain in my hand was insignificant compared to the pain coursing through my back and into my stomach. My inhaling breaths became gradually longer and longer as I tried to take as much gas and air into my body each during contraction in vain attempts to endure the pain. I began to avoid going to the toilet to pee as it was excruciatingly painful and only went when I was keenly advised by the midwife. Speaking of the midwife, I was introduced to my new midwife on entry to the Delivery Room and her name was Shauna. That woman is a saint. She was with me for the duration of my labour, encouraging me, distracting me, offering advice, rubbing my back, holding my hand, pushing me and praising me no end. When she had to leave for her mid morning break, to say I was devastated was an understatement. I wanted her there. I needed her there. The minutes felt like hours when she left the room and I was never so glad to see her return!
On my initial check, I was 9cm dilated with my waters still intact. I remember looking up at the clock which sat directly above me facing the bed and Shauna declaring with great confidence that, 'you'll have your baby by lunchtime.' I had been contracting since 10am the PREVIOUS DAY for goodness sake! I spent most of my time standing and labouring at the side of my bed. Lying down was not an option so I gripped the edge of the bed and paced my way through each contraction. A few times I declared that my waters had broken, only to discover that it was in fact, sweat, dripping down my legs! In those early morning hours I was motivated and determined, but as the minutes and hours ticked by, I began losing my energy, my focus and my willpower; they were dwindling, as was my poor husband. We were absolutely knackered. It had been a long, long night and it was beginning to feel like this labour was never-ending. Matt was forced (by Shauna) to leave me and go and have a coffee before we both lay and napped between contractions. I was desperate for a cup of tea, a biscuit or any sort of sustenance but was refused because of the risk of C-section. On a normal day (not pregnant or in labour!) I struggle to go for long periods of time without food. I would very quickly get the shakes and need small amounts of food often to keep my sugar levels regulated. By this stage of my labour, I was starving, weak and completely drained and I was yet to even start pushing! It took an exhausting amount of time and energy to get to 9cm that by the time I was going to be ready to push, I would be ready for sleep.
As the clock hit 1pm it was time for Shauna to go for her lunch. Again, I was distraught and even more panicked that something drastic would happen during her absence. Another midwife appeared and made her introductions and checks. Once again I was praised for getting so far with just gas and air, that I was just brilliant and super and wonderful - bla bla bla. By now I was delirious with fatigue and pain. Yes, I knew I'd done well (in fact I'd surprised myself with my pain tolerance level) but the reality was, that baby was still not out and there would only be so much more I was going to be able to endure. After some consulting, a doctor arrived to check me out. It was taking too long to get to 10cm so medical intervention was beginning to look like a real possibility. On examination (the pain, oh the pain!) the doctor broke my waters; by mistake. I'm still not sure why exactly it was a mistake but I do know that all hell broke loose from that moment. The doctor and midwife frantically tried to clean up the mess, more antibiotics were administered, I was hooked up to yet another drip - this time to increase the speed and intensity of the contractions, as baby needed to come, soon. It was a blur of commotion as I was told I would soon begin to feel the urge to push. I tried to muster up some reserves of energy as I began to feel the full force of the induced contractions. Sure enough, the overwhelming urge to push came and I pushed. I was being instructed by several midwives how and when to push and I can still hear them faintly shouting in the background as I gritted my teeth and pushed through the pain. Having been examined, I was still in a lying position on the bed and it was utterly unbearable. I was advised to turn over and sit on my knees, lean against the bed and let gravity do some work. What seems to you like a simple action of turning over on a bed was like Everest to me. It took a considerable amount of time for me to even begin to think about turning, the pain was indescribable, plus I was hooked up to several drips along with my gas and air tubes. Let's just say it was complicated. Complicated and blindingly painful. At least Shauna had returned from lunch early!
Once in position I was told that if I pushed for an hour and baby wasn't here, they would have to think about instrumental delivery or even C-section. All the midwives encouraged me to keep pushing, telling me I didn't want/need medical intervention and that baby was on the way - I could do it! At first I believed them, I really did. I honestly thought that this was it and I was close to meeting my baby. Once again however, it wasn't to be. Something wasn't right. Some call it mother's intuition and in that moment, although not yet a mother, I knew that something was wrong. The midwives knew when I was having a contraction and were shouting for me to push, but as I pushed, I just knew that my baby wasn't moving. She definitely was not coming. I pushed and pushed and pushed. Nothing. It got to the stage were I began to fake not having a contraction just so I didn't have to push. I silently endured the soaring pain, crying and praying into my pillow that this horror would be over. I prayed and prayed that the doctor would return and tell me I needed a C-section. I began to rue the fact that had my contractions held off just 24 hours I would have had my appointment at 9am that morning in Antenatal for a growth scan, my baby (of course) would be over 9lbs 9 and I'd be scheduled straight in for a section. I wouldn't have had to endure what at that moment I could only describe as 'torture.'