Despite my anxiety and my random fits of panic that cause second hand panic for anyone in my path, I like to think of myself as quite a chilled person. For every list and to do list I have for myself, I am equally just as cool not ticking anything off those lists. For example, in ONE of my journals alone, I have 3 separate meticulous plans for a trip to Europe and I have never been to Europe. I have a “things to pack in Charlie’s bag for day care” list sitting on my coffee table and she has been to day care 4 times and I haven’t looked at the list since I wrote it. It is a very fool proof system I have in order to keep the anxious mind happy and just my natural chill ‘tude in line. Very sleek, very cool!
You can imagine when it came to birth plans that I was open to jotting down everything imaginable from what breathing strategy I wanted to use to what colour I wanted my LED fake candles to be. HOWEVER, I decided to not have a birth plan. I didn’t even know what half of the birthing terminology meant and as someone who doesn’t give birth a whole lot; I still knew I would not be able to plan something I had no idea about. I let my super chill Heather take over and just “go with the flow” and the baby would just slide on out while I drank a cup of tea and the time was right. From the get go I wanted an epidural. I know myself well enough to know that pain is not my friend and I can’t handle a mild head ache let a alone a 3kg baby coming out of me. I digress (I like saying that) after talking with one of my fellow pregnant friends (Naomi, you will probably hear a lot about her and from her one day) about how capable we are and how much of a boss bitch (you will hear me say this a lot too) we would be if we birthed without pain relief, I decided “you know what, let’s do it. Let’s go pain free”. So that was the jist of where I wanted to leave my birth plan and wait until the day to worry anymore about it. I went to every appointment with no birth plan, even when asked every single visit. I then became high risk due to my daughter’s lung lesion and my scans and appointments became fortnightly and I still maintained that I did not want a birth plan.
Before falling pregnant my biggest fear next to sharks and wind, was the thought of giving birth. I thought I would worry my entire pregnancy (I know it is also common to worry about this during pregnancy) however; I just let it leave my brain. There was no point me getting myself into a state, when the baby had to come out some how and some way, but it had to come out and it wasn’t going to be pleasant, so why worry myself in the interim?
Pregnancy progressed and I had invested in a TENs machine, fitball, LED candles, a diffuser, essential oils and various creams. I also compiled a lovely and soothing playlist to get me in the mood. I was in the last weeks of pregnancy when my high school pal and student midwife showed me a birth plan one of her other mother’s (names removed) and I thought, “Okay I will do a birth plan”.
My birth plan was as followed: No pain relief except gas, no matter how much I begged, TENs machine on my back, getting in the shower, no episiotomy, no vacuum, no forceps, delayed cord cutting by dad, baby straight on chest and allowing the baby to find the boob on her own. With my increasing anxiety in pregnancy, now came my increasing anxiety about the inevitable birth and my ability to stick to my birth plan. I had put it in writing and sent it to my student midwife and I looked at it like a contract or a goal to strive for. In my previous post I spoke about how I ended my pregnancy in hospital, full of fluid and booked for an induction. I had heard that inductions can be more painful in terms of contractions as it literally forces your body into doing something it isn’t ready for, but I was so determined to stick to my pain relief free birth plan and thought that maybe because my pregnancy was so horrid, that my birth would some how be a breeze.
The night before my induction, my husband and I spent the night playing a video games and eating our last supper as a duo. We climbed into bed at 8:30 in preparation for the marathon we were about to embark on. Did I sleep? No. I was understandably nervous at the unknown of what the next day would bring and the eagerness of finally meeting my very own person. It was like when you are about to meet a celebrity. I can only explain the feeling and even then it doesn’t come close, but have you ever been eagerly waiting for a loved one to arrive via a plane and you know the date and time they’re meant to arrive, but their flight gets delayed and you have that sense of excitement and longing and love, but you just can’t get to them and you don’t know when they will show their wonderful face? It was a bit like that, so I did not get a wink of sleep. We called the hospital in the morning to get a time to come in and they asked us to come in right away.
We came in and were brought to our room and after a few hours of in and out by medical professionals, we got a game plan. They were going to insert a foley catheter into my cervix and hopefully that would dilate my cervix enough to break my waters- the whole process was meant to least 12 hours, then we would start the Syntocin drip, which would jump-start my body into labour.
With me I had my husband and Rachael (my student midwife) and my midwife from the hospital. The midwife had never put in a foley catheter, so she asked a colleague to put it in and she would watch and learn along with Rachael. I would just like to side note, that up until that point, not a lot of people have seen my vagina. I suddenly had 3 women using me as a telescope and discussing what they were doing, meanwhile the thought of having 3 women staring into my soul had made me freeze up and it was the most painful experience of the whole birth. I was squeezing my husband’s hand until it went white and letting out the worst groans and cries of pain. The woman forced the foley catheter inside my cervix so hard I thought it was going to poke through my stomach. After that ordeal was over, I had the sudden urge to pee. I got up and I felt a warm liquid flowing from my legs and I thought “oh no, it’s too late” and was so embarrassed that I had just peed all over the floor. It was not urine. Popeye the sailor midwife had burst my sack and I was now walking the fluid all over the hospital floor on my way to the toilet.
Now that we had skipped the 12 hour wait for my cervix to open before breaking my waters it was now time to move rooms and get the party started. I set up my room with red candles and strapped the TENs machine to my back and sat on the fitball. I was in for a huge shock when my afternoon shift midwife told me she had to stay in the room the entire time and also had her own student midwife to sit in the room with her. I was in for a further shock when they hooked me up to the CTG machine and was told that too had to stay on me the entire labour, as having an induction meant they needed to keep a close eye on both baby and me. They started the Syntocin drip at 5pm and now that I had an audience I was suddenly feeling the pressure.
A little thing about me is that I always want people to like me. I have no idea why and there was a while there where I had all of these toxic friends that I could not let go of because, even though they were toxic to me, I did not want them to not like me. So here I am with these two Midwives just sitting at a desk watching me bounce on this fitball and breathe through the pain of the sudden contractions. I felt like I was on show and I did not want to look weak. I would whimper in pain and then ask if that was normal. I would ask questions and make jokes and put myself down. I turned myself into this comedy show of trying to make the midwives laugh, despite my immense discomfort. I could not get into the right headspace to prepare me for birth. Both of these midwives were at least 5 years younger than me and neither of them had given birth before, but I was still looking to them to tell me everything was normal, but they were making me feel as though I was in over my head trying to do this without pain relief. I kept talking about my fear of pooping and apologising for pooping, even though I hadn’t actually pooped. I apologised for being in pain because I thought I was a burden because of the way they were just sitting there with a blank look on their face. Then came the uncontrollable farts. Every time I tried to laugh it off, I just farted more and then made fun of myself and they loved the fun side of this labour process even though I was so uncomfortable. They told me not to have the gas yet as I probably wasn’t actually feeling that much pain, despite the feeling of my stomach trying to break free and start it’s own family. I tried to push through the contractions that were coming every 2 minutes and lasting for a minute. Then came the sudden urge to poop. I waddled to the toilet and then had to sit on the toilet having a poo while three people were in the room of silence. Have you ever had 3 people just an ear shot from you pooping? It was so uncomfortable. I waddled back to bed and asked if I could go in the shower. Wait hold that thought; I need to poop again. Round two. Again I waddle back to my bed, now hunched over in pain and I ask if it would be difficult for me to get in the shower for some relief. “With all of the attachments on you, it would be difficult to get you in the shower, but we can if you want to?” okay scrap that idea, I don’t want to be a burden. I asked for the gas. They put me on a low setting of the gas and it was like being at a party and doing nangs, except no one else was doing them. (except the quick hit I gave to my husband when no one was watching). The pain did not go, but my brain was fuzzy enough to not notice it as much. I then just started talking absolute nonsense, trying to make everyone laugh and take the mickey out of myself. Oh no. I need to poop again. The pain is now unbearable. It is relentless and as soon as I get over one contraction and get a breath, the next one starts. I’m tired, I have the runs and I am anxious. I almost collapse on the floor on my walk back to the bed when I burst into tears and just stood there sobbing and saying I couldn’t do it and may I please have an epidural. I looked at my husband, who knew I needed to have the epidural despite me telling him not to let me have it. I was an emotional mess and I needed some relief. The midwives called in the anesthetist and when I asked for their approval once again, they made it quite clear that I wasn’t ever going to make through my labour considering I wasn’t in active labour yet according to their monitor. I felt defeated. I tried so hard. Because I had the epidural, it meant that I needed a urinary catheter inserted. Queue 2 more people looking at my vagina. That brings us to 5 people in 8 hours. I thought for sure I was going to poop everywhere as soon as I was given the epidural because I wouldn’t be able to feel it. I was so embarrassed. I sucked on the gas hard while the Dr put up my epidural and he was so adamant I stay so still, but I was so damn high that I was certain I was going to move and end up with a problem. It was a great success! It was time for my night shift nurse to come on and then I could get some sleep. They brought out a little dog bed for my husband to sleep on and as I tried so hard to sleep, the sound of his snoring and my over tired and anxious brain, I was wide-awake. 3 hours had passed and the only person who seemed to be getting any rest was my midwife. We finally called in my student midwife Rachael to help calm me down and be there with me from midnight as I was starting to dilate pretty quickly. She came, stroked my head and played me white noise so I could relax. I finally felt at home and safe because she knew me and was a seasoned professional.
It is 3am and the midwife checks my cervix (6 people have now seen my vagina) and it is go time. It’s time to push. I start pushing with all of my might for a few minutes before she says that she hasn’t said go yet. I wasted all of that energy pushing for nothing. Then it begins. The real pushing. I can’t feel a damn thing. My legs go into stirrups and I bear down and go for my life. I am squeezing with everything I have. 3 pushes and then I get to rest. I give it everything I have and during my rest my head is flopping and I am falling asleep. I have almost been awake 48 hours and it has been a very hectic 48 hours at that. For an hour and 40 minutes I repeat. 3 pushes, falling asleep and hysterically crying. The doctor comes in now and my vagina is open and facing the door, the only thing separating the public and an eyeful is a thin curtain that no one seems to want to close. The doctor politely asks if she may feel for the baby’s head and I agree (7 people). Her head is sitting in my birth canal (the baby’s not the doctors) the doctor and my midwife are now at the end of my bed openly discussing the risks of where my baby is at in medical terminology as if I wasn’t even in the room. I myself a health professional can understand every god damned thing they are saying and burst into a fit of hysterics at the thought of the worst. They need to get the baby out because her heart rate is dropping and they can’t do a cesarean because she is too far in the birth canal. They call in the troops. One more doctor and one more midwife to do my vitals (9 people). My temperature has hit 39 degrees and now it is time for 2 more troops. 2 more doctors enter the room, but the last doctor doesn’t knock and just walks in to which I screamed “COULD YOU PLEASE JUST FUCKING KNOCK” and then continued to cry and apologise for making her uncomfortable (11 people).
I want you to picture this. My husband is on one arm with a doctor taking bloods to check for infection on the same arm. On the other arm I have my student midwife reassuring me and another midwife giving me antibiotics through my drip on the same arm. I have my nightshift midwife and two doctors at the foot of the bed feeling the baby and deciding what to do and another doctor at the desk looking through my notes and calling another doctor. A few people leave and everything is a blur. One of the doctor’s states that she needs to give me an episiotomy to get the baby out because she is coming in on and angle and can’t figure out how to rotate to get out. That isn’t in my birth plan. They are going to need to vacuum her out because she is stuck. That is not in my birth plan.
It is go time and she cuts me, puts the Dyson in and starts pulling with everything she has and I am pushing with everything I have. In walks the pediatrician (lucky number 12) and then suddenly I hear “she’s here” and I look over and from this vacuum device I see a little slimy alien just wailing about. She is crying but she is taken over to the baby doctor to listen to her lungs. This is not in my birth plan. After a check over they throw her on my chest and she is so warm and smells like guts. I yell for someone to help me move her because how on earth do you hold these things without breaking them? She proceeds to poo on my twice and my husband and I gawk at the size of her tiny little bum. She makes her way to breast feed while my husband and I just look at her in disbelief and say “she doesn’t look like a Chloe” while the doctor is sewing up the wound she inflicted on me.
I still look back at this day 8 months later and think that nothing went to plan, despite my beautiful baby girl being healthy, I can’t help but feel like I wasn’t a boss bitch. I tried so hard to give myself the opportunity to prove to myself that I could birth without pain relief and in doing so I just let myself down. Everything I said I did not want on my birth plan ended up being the outcome. Birth trauma affects 1 in 3 mothers and is not spoken about. Some days I can look back and laugh, but other days it is hard to swallow. Each birth is different however and if you are pregnant reading this, just know to keep an open mind and stick to your gut and find someone to advocate for you if you feel you cannot advocate for yourself. My two best advocates were my husband and Rachael, without them I would not have been able to look back at this story with love.
If this post has effected you in anyway, please go to my “where to get help page” or message me directly and we can have a yarn.
You can also read this post on the Mamamia! website through the link below