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An easy labour, or not

The time came to go to the hospital and start what turned out to be a not so simple process. We arrived outside the labour ward only to bump into the midwife that had seen me earlier that day and was so kind when I got the news I was to be induced that evening. She was just about to go home from her shift but said she would take us through as we had not been in that part of the hospital before. Once inside we were checked in and shown to a private observation room on the labour ward. The new shift of midwives were in and they quickly started to do the normal observations, urine check, blood pressure, heart rate etc and then connected me up to the CTG monitor again to check baby’s heart rate and movements. They also took some bloods as I had not had a recheck since August when they first found I was anaemic. Then time for my first pelvic exam of the process. The midwife asked me to take my bottoms off while she went to get the medication to start the induction. This was quite difficult as she wanted me to do this while still attached to the CTG monitor. I did finally manage this with a little help from my other half. When the midwife returned she had the medication for the first stage of induction with her and went through the process with me to make sure I understood what was going to happen.

Propess is a prostaglandins that is delivered in the form of a pessary in the shape of a small tampon. This is placed wrapped around the cervix with a string attached for easy removal. This can stay in place for 24 hours after which the next stage is started. This is designed to ripen the cervix and cause it to dilate. The midwife started the examination and she needed to check that my cervix was not already opening. This was an uncomfortable examination but on the whole not that bad. The actual placement of the Propess was fine. I then had to stay in bed while on the monitor for another hour so they could check there were no adverse effects from the hormone. We were then left alone through the night with the midwives coming in to do regular check ups. By the morning I was having some contractions but they were irregular and felt just like stronger Brixton hicks. By lunch time the midwives asked me to start timing these so they could get an idea of how regular they were and the intensity had increased but they were fine. I could still talk through them and they just felt like I was being squeezed. These contractions were now coming around every 15 minutes and lasting around a minute each. It’s at this point that I am introduced to the birthing ball.

Basically a big gym ball to sit on. I’m told to sit on it and rotate my hips in a circle as this will help open my hips and then to bounce when I have a contraction which will help bring the babies head down and help open my cervix. I spend the rest of the day bouncing and rotating on this ball in my pjs with occasional pee breaks and meal breaks.

At 7pm it’s time to remove the Propess as it’s been 24 hours. This pelvic exam is completely different. So far the most painful thing I have ever experienced. It feels like the midwife rooting around in there with a chain saw. I’m writhing around on the bed trying not to scream and jump off her fingers. I’m only 1.5 cm dilated and the Propess is removed and a Prostin tablet is placed. This next hormone helps to further open the cervix and increase contractions. This form of hormone only lasts 6 hours so if you have not progressed enough after that time another can be placed and monitoring continued for another 6 hours. So 6 hours would take me to 1am. The contractions have got stronger and I do have to stop and breath through them now but I managed to get some sleep so they couldn’t have been that bad.

Contractions are currently coming around every 5 minutes and lasting for about a minute each. This whole time I’m still connected to the CTG monitor and every now and again a midwife will pop in and check the readout and do my blood pressure etc. At 1am it’s time for the next Prostin. This time they bring some gas and air in for me.

It does not help.

The examination is still as painful but this midwife is as gentle as she can be and also as quick as she can be while I’m crying and trying to get high on the gas which is having no affect. After this Prostin the contractions get more intense although not really painful just a lot of pressure and I don’t sleep much. On the monitor the baby has a few heart decelerations which is a little worrying. By the morning the contractions are stronger and I have to hold on through them. I struggle to eat the toast they bring for me. Then comes the news I was not expecting or hoping for.

The Dr comes in to do the rounds and has a chat with me about my progress. It’s now Wednesday lunchtime and I have been in since Monday. It appears that I am not progressing as they would like and they would have expected me to have given birth by now. As I appear fine but the baby has had some heart decelerations which they are concerned about, but in its self not an emergency, I have two options.

1. Have an epidural and be connected up to a hormone drip which they can keep me on for 10 hours, but as I am not dilating this could mean that I would have really intense contractions but be in-effect pushing against a dead end. This could also mean having to have an emergency C section if things don’t go to plan and this could be a very rushed and very emergency C section.

2. Go straight for a C section which would be much more relaxed and less rushed.

I really wanted to have a natural birth and the thought of having a C section really scares me. I asked the Dr what she would choose to do if it were her but she is too impartial and doesn’t really help me make the choice. She says I can have some time to think about it and they will come back later. As I had had some food already they would not be able to do anything for a few hours anyway. One of the midwives came in to see me afterwards and had a chat about my options. She was really helpful and in the end told me that she thought the best option was to have a C section. This was because although the recovery would be harder for me it was probably the best for both of us. If I was to have the hormone drip it could still not have the desired affect and then I would have to have a C section anyway and also if something went wrong and the baby got into distress then I would have to have an emergency C section. If I chose to go for a C section now then at least it would be in a calm controlled way with no panicking or rushing to get him out. This reassured me and with the chance that the baby might need help after he was born anyway I felt that a planned C section was the safest option.

So decision made and the midwife went to let the Dr know so a plan could be made. As I had eaten earlier I would have to wait a few hours anyway and as the hours went on I was given some medication to help prevent nausea and I had an anaesthetist come and place a cannula in my hand.

3pm came round and a different midwife came to get me. This was the point that it all started to sink in. I started to shake and broke out in a cold sweat. All the staff were being really nice and chatty and I was terrified. C section is a major operation and I was going to be awake for the whole thing. My husband stayed behind as he is super squeamish and terrified of needles and blood and neither of us wanted to have him faint in the operating theatre.

I was taken through and asked to sit down on the bed with my legs hanging off the side. All the staff introduced themselves and they were all amazingly lovely. They could see that I was terrified and were reassuring me the whole time and cracking jokes to help keep me distracted. I was given a pillow to hug to have the epidural placed and between contractions I had to hug the pillow and push my chin into my chest as far as I could.

The anaesthetist scrubbed an area on my lower back to make it sterile then placed a small amount of local anaesthetic into my spine before giving the epidural drugs. This I thought was going to hurt quite a bit but it really didn’t. It felt like a tiny scratch and they immediately swung my legs round and lay me down. The sensation of having an epidural is really strange. First your legs feel really hot and then it feels like you have a dead numb leg like when you sleep on your arm funny and you can feel it there but it’s numb and limp. Then they check to see how much feeling you have by spraying you with some really cold spray. They first spray you on the cheek so that you know what it is supposed to feel like then they work their way down your body with the spray and try to work out how far up you have feeling. You can feel

the sensation of the spray but you can’t feel how cold it is. I was numb from just above my belly button down.

Once they are satisfied that this is working they put up the drape so you cannot see what is going on and scrub and prepare the area for surgery making sure it is all sterile. Then one final numbness check by the surgeon pinching the skin really hard to check you cannot feel any pain. Then it’s all systems go. From first cut to baby out is about 5 minutes.

I hear them say

"baby’s head is out"

and can feel some pulling and pressure, then came the sound I didn’t think I was going to hear.

He screamed.

He absolutely screamed the place down.

I had been told that babies with Down syndrome often don’t cry as they have low muscle tone and some need help to start breathing so I was fully prepared for the midwife to have to resuscitate him. This was not the case for my boy. He cried and cried and so did I. I couldn’t believe he was crying and I knew he was ok. They held him up over the drape and I could see his purple little body and angry little face so cross that he had been taken from his warm cosy home.

The midwife took him to clean him up and do all her checks and then he was back with me before I knew it. He was placed on my chest and I tried my best to cuddle him with one arm attached to a blood pressure machine and the other attached to a drip. He was calm now all wrapped in a towel. Caleb John was born at 3:30 pm and weighed 5lb 14oz. Not bad for three weeks early.

I held him the whole time the surgeons were stitching me up and when they were all done I was wheeled to recovery where they propped me up a bit and then went to fetch my husband. The first thing he said to me when he say him was that he was beautiful but he was too scared to hold him as he was so tiny. He hugged us both and then took some pictures before calling both mine and his parents. Once we were done in recovery and Caleb had been cleaned up and checked over again we were wheeled to the ward to begin parenthood.