“Strong enough to put my foot down”

Danielle tells the story of how she took control of her birth

I had a really straightforward “textbook” pregnancy (aside from a bout of gastro flu which realllly isn’t fun at anytime let alone 30 weeks pregnant!), and I was hoping for the same with my birth – I wanted a water birth with just gas and air at the lovely MLU at my hospital.

Due date rolled around, then another week and sweeps were discussed.  I really didn’t want to be induced so agreed to a sweep at 40+7 assuming this would kickstart everything.  Nope!  Second sweep also did nothing and I went to hospital to discuss induction.  My hospital (Medway) were running a medical trial of the Balloon Catheter which I qualified for (being low risk and living so close to the hospital), which meant I could have the balloon inserted and go home.  Despite not wanting induction I decided to go for it as I was 12 days over at this point, and knew if I went over 14 days I would not be able to use the MLU which I was desperate for.

Had the balloon inserted (not awful) and went home where labour started, had fairly frequent contractions all night and I returned at 11am (24 hours after the induction which was when they asked me to go back if I’d not felt the need to go in before).  It had only got me to 2cm, so they wanted to break my waters which I was gutted about, but again pressured myself into doing so, to speed things up before it got to midnight and I was 40+14 and not allowed to go to the MLU.  After that was done (which I thought was horrendous), I was monitored for an hour, then checked and told, casually “oh sorry protocol has changed and you can only go to the MLU up to +12 days”.  I’m skimming over a lot of what happened here but I fought and fought to get there as I was devastated –  I felt my birth was already spiralling out of my control, and because I’d only gone ahead with the induction to ensure I could have the water birth.  I would’ve just let baby come when ready if there wasn’t a time limit on using the MLU.  

Luckily the ward matron was fantastic and spoke to the doctors who after a while relented and allowed me to transfer to the MLU.  I really felt I gained some control back and as soon as I was in the room at the MLU all anxiety and worry about the birth (and the stress I’d carried going so overdue) disappeared.  I had a wonderful midwife and student who allowed me to labour as I wanted.  I used a tens machine and had an aromatherapy massage up until the point I felt I needed to get in the pool (at 6cm dilated) I spent about ten hours I believe in there, and looking back I almost enjoyed the experience despite the pain.  At around 6am in the morning I had the overwhelming urge to push and was doing so, midwives could see babies hair and we all thought we were moments away from meeting our baby.  However she wouldn’t move down, and my midwife asked to check me (I’d asked for examinations to be kept to a minimum) as she believed the lip of my cervix needed moving out of the way to allow baby to come down.  On doing this she realised I was still only 6cm.  At this point all energy drained out of me, I could barely stand to leave the pool and sat (naked…I just stopped caring), in a wheelchair to be taken over to the delivery suite as I needed to be put on the syntocin drip.

Before I allowed them to hook me up to the drip I insisted on an epidural, and said I’d happily wait until an anaesthetist was free as the baby wasn’t in distress – I was terrified of the drip after hearing such bad things and whilst an epidural was so far off my birth plan, I knew I needed it to be able to have any energy left to push baby out.  Luckily the hospital has the epidurals you can top up which I used infrequently so that I wasn’t stuck giving birth on my back laying on the bed.  After 9 hours, with still no sleep, and being very sick all over my poor midwife, I was at 10cm and ready to get baby out.  After 25 minutes of pushing my midwife told me to stop and that she was going to ask a doctor to come in as baby was not budging at all, despite me pushing well.  She stopped me at this point as she felt I was trying so hard and using all my energy up and believed there was an issue with baby’s position that may need some help.

The doctor came in, was very assertive and I felt TOLD me that I would be prepped for theatre as baby was going to need to be helped out with the ventouse.  I asked what else we could do – could I not have more time to push, would baby definitely come out using this method, was it’s position even safe to try to get out naturally?  I didn’t think the responses were thought through, or that my questions were given much regard and so, knowing baby’s heart rate was fine and at no point had shown any signs of distress, I refused.  I said I wanted to go to c section straight away – that I knew the baby was big (I am 5ft1, size 6 usually and baby was predicted to be 9lb 5oz), and no one was giving me a definite answer that it’s position was going to allow them to come out safely.  My partner was completely panicked – he saw c section as the absolute last resort and knew from our conversations it was something I’d barely even considered.  The doctor seemed almost angry with me which really upset me but I stuck to my guns.  I asked her if I would still be able to have skin to skin, if cord clamping could be delayed and she was completely dismissive of these questions and said probably not.

Fortunately once in theatre we had some time to speak to the surgeon and he agreed the cord would be delayed as much as they could, that my partner could of course tell my babies sex and that I could have skin to skin right away, but that this would have to be cut short as baby would need to go have a cannula fitted (my temp spiked so we were both treated for an infection).  I was really happy with this and felt very comfortable with everyone in theatre, and that ultimately I had regained some control of what was happening to myself and my baby.

Baby was then with us before we knew it, I had an amazing minute or so of skin to skin with her (a girl..which I’d secretly hoped for!), before she was taken with her Daddy to be treated but she was back to me within 30 mins for skin to skin and her first feed.  She latched herself right away which I was so so happy about as I was concerned her being taken from me may have closed that window for us.

Whilst in recovery my surgeon was chatting to me (definitely trying to take my mind off my missing baby), and he told me she had got herself into a transverse position at some point whilst I was on the drip, and that at 8lb 13oz was a very big baby for me to deliver at my size, and would’ve definitely had to have been a c section.  I’m so so thankful that I felt strong enough to push for the c-section as I don’t know what state my baby or I would have ended up in.  

We had a stay in hospital whilst we were both treated (as a precaution) for infection but it felt like a good thing as I was very sore and a bit immobile for the first few days.

At many points during the whole “getting the baby out” period I felt I had to put my foot down to ensure I felt I had control and was doing right by my baby.  Because I had read the Positive Birth Book I had the confidence, knowledge and clear head to do so.  I really do believe the book helped my beautiful girl arrive here safely.  Had I not read it I’d not have known to have asked for skin to skin, and would’ve missed some precious first moments.  

So here is Everly, who was 8lb 13oz and born on 26th April.  She’s amazing, breastfeeding has worked great for us (she’s 15lb 4oz at 10 weeks) and she SLEEPS!  I’m so thankful for that, especially whilst recovering from the section.