It’s about 9.30am and the syntocin drip has been on for about an hour. There is a heart rate dip that Sam, I, and the midwives all stop and pay attention to.
I know what will happen next, but my midwife still takes the time to calmly tell me that she is sorry, but they need to pull the alarm and it’s going to get busy in the room for a while. I am not particularly anxious about it, it feels very different to the alarms when I was labouring with Otto, because there are people talking me through it, explaining things. I feel part of the room rather than ignored and left to guess as to what was happening around me.
The alarms sound and the team comes in, and the heart rate recovers on its own.
It is decided that we will dial back on the syntocin drip, perhaps we introduced too much too quickly. A doctor examines me, and I remember being about 4cm dilated, so only 1cm further than I’d been before labour started.
During the examination, she discovers that the main part of my waters hadn’t actually been broken. She breaks the rest of my waters, and I think “Ahhh OK. That makes sense as to why I didn’t immediately go into labour before. It’s going to be fast from now”.
Almost immediately, the pressure moves to extremely down low and I feel a little pushy. Almost immediately, the contractions feel different. They are my own, and not the syntocinon ones that seemed to be happening a lot higher up on my stomach.
The heart rate dips again, and stays down, despite my midwife asking me to lie in different positions / different sides of my body in case it was just that I was lying in a way that wasn’t making him happy. So, the alarm is pressed once more, and the emergency team come running in again.
Injection to stop contractions
The same doctor from before declares that I am 8cm, and it is decided that my contractions need to be stopped.
So, I am given an injection which will stop my contractions completely and end labour. I will be moved to theatre and prepped for a c section, in case we can’t get the baby out the vaginal route now that my contractions will be stopping.
I knew all of this would have to happen as soon as they injected me with the stuff that stops contractions – I wasn’t asked consent for that, no one ran it past me – it was just done, as the situation was deemed too much of a risk to the baby.
I had been listening to my body’s signals, and I knew, despite being told I was not fully dilated yet, that my baby would have been born within the next few minutes, had my contractions not been artificially stopped.
My midwife later said that she thought Bay must have been grabbing and squeezing his cord for the heart rate to decelerate like it had. But who knows, because Otto’s birth unfolded in exactly the same way, with his heart rate right worrying everyone right at the end and being told I wasn’t dilated enough despite me telling them I needed to push – the difference being that Otto’s head was crowning before anyone could intervene.
Read part 1 and part 2 of Bay’s birth story here:
Part 1 – Induction at 42 weeks pregnant
Part 2 – An Epidural and the syntoncin drip
It’s hard to explain the strange calmness that came over me as I was being rushed to the theatre with a whole host of people doing different jobs around me. I think partly there was a feeling that I knew deep down it was always going to end up with some sort of emergency intervention, a resignation of sorts that I’d had for a few weeks now.
Then there was this other, more pressing and present emotion at play, that my job was to listen to my body. I went completely inside my ‘mind palace’ at that point. I wasn’t concentrating on the bright lights, the groups of people crowded around me doing different things very quickly and all at once, talking over me to each other.
I couldn’t do anything about all the things I couldn’t control, so I blocked it all out. I pushed all external happenings to the edges of my mind where I was vaguely aware of them like it was a dream, and focussed on the one thing I knew better than anyone around me: my body.
I was completely in the zone of calm focus that can only be achieved under extreme pressure in a heightened situation, when every second counts, and the stakes are the highest. I knew my contractions were about to stop, thanks to the injection I’d been given to halt them in their tracks. I knew that if things hadn’t progressed in the minutes it would take to get to theatre, I’d be in for more intervention. I knew that my baby needed to come out SOON.
So, as I was being wheeled down the hallways between labour ward and theatre with a host of midwives and doctors following my bed, (the same hallways I’d walked many times on my way to appointments at the day unit and birth centre), as Sam was somewhere else gowning up, I pushed. I pushed every single time I felt I could. Every single, now weakening contraction, I pushed.
I knew this was the last thing I could do before my contractions stopped completely and I was unable to help progress things myself, left at the mercy of whatever intervention the doctors thought best to try next.
In my head, I was quietly confident: “I don’t know what these guys think we’re doing, but I’m going to push my baby out now. I’m going to do everything I can to get him in the best position for delivery. I’m going to push him out before we get stuck”. It’s amazing how my mind tricked itself into this false bravado when I knew I needed to call on it.
It could only have taken a minute to get to theatre, it’s right next door to labour ward. The same doctor who had declared me 8cm minutes ago checked my cervix again on arrival at theatre. I knew what she would say: I was now 10cm.
I was 10cm. I had been 8cm only minutes ago. I had been 4cm less than half an hour ago when the remainder of my waters had been found and broken.
If Otto and Rory were anything to go by, three strong pushes at most at this point was all it would have taken. One minute of pushing at most. Except my contractions had come to a stop. I’m flat on my back, no gravity or surges to aid things.
Now in theatre, I’m relieved that the baby’s heart rate has recovered nicely, so that emergency situation has alleviated, for now at least. But now we have another situation in that I’m fully dilated with a baby I can’t push out because labour has stopped.
If I’d had more brain space to think about it at the time, I would be annoyed that the contraction-stopping injection had been given so quickly.
The venthouse is deployed at the same point that I’m being prepped for an emergency section. We don’t know which way it’s going to go. Hopefully we can get him out with an assisted delivery, but if it doesn’t work, a c section it will be. No one is actively telling me this, I just know that this is the logical Plan A and B.
The anaesthetist is asking me what I can feel and doing more cold tests, and I finally get to discover the difference between a low dose epidural and a full spinal block. I can feel NOTHING below chest level. My legs are heavy, unmoving lumps. I can touch them but I can’t feel the touch.
All the doctors and HCPs are communicating with each other, calling out various things, working as a large team all with different tasks but working fluidly together, managing not to talk over each other or make things seem even more hectic and time sensitive than they are.
My midwife is at my middle, massaging my tummy in an attempt to stimulate contractions. Another midwife is at my head, with the job of talking to me. The anaesthetist is on the other side by my head. Two doctors are at the business end of the bed, one has her hands permanently inside me at this point, since the point when things turned serious back on labour ward, she’s pretty much been examining me non stop – stretching, sweeping, rummaging. Except now that the spinal block is in, I can no longer feel any of it. I am not actually sure what is being done to my body.
On top of the 5 people standing around me, there are probably another 5 people in the bright, clinical room doing various different tasks. It’s a busy atmosphere. I had been warned briefly about this during NCT classes 10 years ago when we were about to have our first baby, when they got us to roleplay a theatre birth scenario with playmobil figures.
Sam is at the side of the room by the door, I can hear him but I can’t see him. He later told me that a student midwife was standing with him, checking that he was OK and there for any questions he might have. (Sam said he was strangely calm, too. Although he felt immensely for me, knowing I was stuck and couldn’t push and that he could see it would probably end with a section – this is the point when he decided he would let me have final say on the baby’s name. Hah.).
The doctor in charge of the business end mentions episiotomy, which I had figured without her needing to say it would be a done deal by this point. Anything to get the baby out safely. I no longer care, what will be will be.
I was told to push as the ventouse was deployed. Which was laughable because I could literally feel nothing. I had no idea whether I was able to push or whether me pushing was actually helping. I couldn’t feel my muscles working. Do your muscles still work when you’ve had a spinal block?
Bay’s head was born. I could see or feel nothing, but I had been told that his head was out. Then there was a considerable amount of time where his body was still not born. Considerably longer than any of my other births where the body came out with the next push. I heard Bay cry, he was crying before he’d even been fully born.
The doctors got very serious at this point, because it’s dangerous for a baby to be breathing whilst their body is still compressed inside you. The safe interval between head and body being born had elapsed and he needed to come out right now.
I don’t really have much memory of this part, I think I’ve probably blanked it out because it was too stressful. But eventually (probably only minutes later), I was told that he had been born.
Bay had a cut on his head from the venthouse, but was otherwise absolutely fine after his forced entrance into the world. At the end of it all, I had a baby out safely. Great apgar, no need for a section, and – amazingly – no episiotomy needed and not one graze or tear: every single HCP that asked about this during my post-birth care was amazed by this.
One great thing about having an epidural and then spinal block was the post birth examination. I have struggled with this previously, but this time round I couldn’t even tell they were doing it.
When it was all over and everyone was safe, my midwife said “Well, your labour progressed exactly as you told us it might: 10cm at the speed of lightning and heart decelerations.”, and I realised she was right. Labour had been just as fast (actually even faster!), with heart decelerations that concerned the professionals, just like in my previous induced labour.
I really appreciated my midwife pointing this out to me, I felt vindicated in the choices I had been able to make for this labour and birth, and my confidence in knowing how my body would react to induction via ARM gave me validation for all the concerns and fear that I had had going into this induced labour.
After Bay was born, I was taken to the post-theatre recovery room.
By this point, I had been given so many injections and things through my cannula, I was a living pharmacy.
Now, I needed something that I refer to as ‘the four hour drip of doom’. I can’t remember what it was for. Possibly for blood clotting? They did tell me, but I can’t remember.
All I remember is that it made me feel horribly ill, and when I asked for them to take it out they said no and that it had to be in for FOUR HOURS.
I asked for an anti-nausea injection, although I think that made me feel even more out of it.
Covid masks were needed in the recovery room, so I spent the whole time I was in that room clutching a sick bowl with a mask on, which makes the nausea a lot worse. I felt so awful, and was still extremely shaky, I couldn’t hold Bay for long – I had to hand over his care to Sam at this point for a good few hours.
The doctor who had delivered Bay came in to ask if it was OK to talk through what had happened with my labour and delivery. At this point my brain was in a deep fog, and I couldn’t speak without feeling like I might be sick, so I said ‘not right now’, and then I never saw her again. I regret not having the opportunity to talk through it with her, because I’m still unsure about what exactly happened and why.
Although I had been on labour ward, I was under continuity of care with the birth centre midwives, as they had been looking after my antenatal care ever since I had to switch from the home birth team when covid hit and the home birth service was temporarily suspended.
Being under continuity of care not only meant I got to have my birth centre midwife be my midwife on labour ward, but it also meant I got to go to a birth centre room after recovery.
This luckily meant Sam wouldn’t have to leave once I left the recovery room (Covid rules were in place so no visitors allowed if I had been transferred to the postnatal ward after recovery.) This was a great thing, because I hadn’t anticipated how long my recovery would take, and there were lots of things I needed help with in those hours afterwards.
One of the main things I hadn’t anticipated were the post birth shakes, and how sore my muscles would be from a full day of shaking from anxiety, and then later the epidural and cocktail of drugs I was given. I couldn’t use my arms for hours.
Bay was born somewhere between 10 and 11am. It took until the late afternoon until I could successfully hold a phone to text back everyone who had been messaging. Longer until I felt I could confidently hold Bay.
The spinal took a long time to wear off and it was an unusual experience for me to not be up and walking around straight after birth. My arms were too weak to be much use to help me shift position in bed whilst my legs were dead.
Once the four hour drip of doom was done. I was finally allowed to eat. Very small amounts, very slowly, even though I was ravenous – in case it was too much too soon, as my midwife warned me it often was for many people after the drugs I’d been given. I was allowed to start eating these small amounts five hours after giving birth, and 16 hours since I’d last been allowed to eat (although really, I hadn’t eaten a proper meal for days at this point). I’m not sure I’ve ever been so hungry before.
Once the spinal had worn off, the catheter was removed, and I passed all the checks needed in order for the midwives to discharge me, we were allowed to go home. I was discharged at 8pm, around 9 hours after Bay was born.
It was my longest post-birth recovery of all four of my children, but to be able to leave the same day as giving birth was amazing.
My feelings on induction and continuous monitoring in labour
I joke that Bay was crying before he was even born and hasn’t stopped since – but jokes aside, I am highly thankful that we both emerged from a pretty dramatic birth with no issues, and without me feeling any pain at all during labour and birth.
However, even though we were both ‘fine’ in the end, I do have mixed feelings about how my labour and birth was handled.
My feelings on continuous monitoring in labour are conflicting. On the one hand, I feel that, without the continuous monitoring and the interventions that followed, had I been left to it and my contractions not medically stopped, Bay would have been out safely in another couple of pushes (WAY less time than it took in theatre once I was no longer able to push).
On the other hand, would I have liked to have had the knowledge that his heart was under strain and done whatever the professionals recommended was safest for him? Of course I would.
If the end result hadn’t been a safe delivery, would I be putting the blame on the decision to stop my contractions when I knew with every fibre in my labouring body that he would have been out within minutes if this decision had not been taken? Most probably.
There were no heart issues with my first two spontaneous labours. There were heart issues with my two induced and continuously monitored labours. This is a chicken and egg situation for me. Were the same heart issues there for my first two labours, just undetected as I wasn’t hooked up to a CTG?
Or were the heart issues a result of precipitous labours that progressed incredibly quickly? If I had gone into spontaneous labour with Otto and Bay, instead of induction via breaking waters, would my labours have progressed at a more even pace that didn’t put such a strain on their hearts?
With Bay’s labour, from the moment they found my actual waters and broke them, I had gone from 4cm to 10cm in half an hour or less. I would not have wanted to experience that labour without the epidural, so I have no regrets about opting for it. I also think that the experience of being rushed to theatre and a spinal block would have been a lot more intense without the epidural already being in place.
I’m not planning any more pregnancies or births, so I don’t feel much of a need to dwell on it or come up with answers for next time. But after two induced labours that progressed in almost identical ways, I think I can confidently say that my body does not get on well with induced labours.
Planned sections were another thing that scared me too much to give it serious thought, even though I had the option with both Otto and Bay. Now I’ve experienced a spinal and theatre, I have less anxiety about it.
If I WERE to be doing the whole birth thing again, and I knew I would need to be induced, I think I’d seriously consider opting for a planned c-section, rather than going through the uncertainty of emergency bells, intervention, theatre, and not quite knowing how the actual birth will turn out in the end.
The benefit of hindsight makes it easy to make statements like, ‘I’d do it this way if I were to do it again’, but the reality is that after all the pre-birth anxiety and obstetric cholestatic monitoring, and then the hugely stressful labour, I don’t think I could ever go through another labour again, and can’t imagine myself wanting to.
And to end on a high note, here are some cute photos of Bay’s first days:
Bay meeting his big brothers the day after he was born
How to tell your baby was two weeks overdue
Many sweaty baby cuddles for my July born boy
The keenest big brother ever: