In Part 1 of my birth story, I was diagnosed with Obstetric Cholestasis and told I would be admitted to hospital there and then, and induced the next morning.
It took a long time for a bed to become available on the antenatal ward, so I sat in that little room in triage for most of the afternoon. I was eventually transferred at around 8pm, and Sam arrived with some food and the hospital bags I’d hastily asked him to pack.
He did not make it to his gig that night.
At some point over that evening and the next morning, the reality set in. I kept picturing the birth pool I’d ordered, sitting at home, mocking me, along with any previous ideas I’d had about “birth choices”.
I realised that I had been incredibly lucky with my previous two labours, and that sometimes, you just don’t get to choose, and what’s more, no one makes any pretence that you have any choice at all.
I was now on an “intervention path”, something which scared the hell out of me. Hospitals make me anxious at the best of times, I had wanted to avoid labour ward. Pessaries, sweeps, breaking waters, hormone drips – I was freaking out about all the tampering with my body that lay ahead. I’ve always needed to feel in control of my body, not feeling in control of my own body is one of my biggest anxiety triggers.
On top of the anxiety, I was sad.
It’s always emotional leaving your child/children to go off and bring another one into the world, knowing that their lives, and your dynamic together, will be forever different when you next see them. This time was all that and more, because I hadn’t said goodbye. I hadn’t had that last moment with my boys. I hadn’t seen Arlo since he left for school that morning, and I had waved off Rory with a casual “Be back in a few hours”, for what I thought was going to be another blood test and then home again.
Suddenly, very suddenly, I found myself staying on a hospital ward until this baby arrived. No chance to explain to my boys, to let them know that I was OK, but that I wouldn’t be around for several days. No chance to look at them one last time, to remember the moment ‘before’.
This wasn’t at all how I’d prepared them for the baby’s arrival. I missed them terribly.
The day after I was admitted was Friday. This was the day most people had been telling me I’d probably give birth. It was just a matter of a quick pessary to get me started.
My home birth midwife had swapped a shift in order to be there in the morning to start off the induction process. I had a 24 hour pessary put in, and was then just left to see if anything happened.
Saturday. 24 hours later. No change. We waited whilst the professionals deliberated over what to do with me. As I’d had babies before, they wanted to skip straight to breaking my waters at this stage. But I needed to be on labour ward for that, and there were currently no rooms available.
I practically begged the midwives to carry on with the gel pessaries whilst we were waiting for labour ward. I wanted to give my body all the chances to go into labour BEFORE the scarier stages of intervention – the ARM and the hormone drip. But the consultants repeatedly said no.
Another day past. It was now Sunday, three days since my induction was started, and still no room on labour ward.
This was the point that I started to feel incredibly frustrated and low. It felt like all that had happened so far was just a lot of waiting around. Waiting for a doctor to decide what my next step was. Waiting for room on labour ward (it was the busiest couple of days they’d experienced for six months – no room at the inn).
What had happened to the ‘urgent’ situation of needing to get my baby out ASAP? I knew they were busy, and it couldn’t be helped, but I had now had two days of absolutely no further treatment towards induction, I might as well have been at home.
I was on the conveyor belt of birth and delivery in hospital, but the belt had become stuck. I didn’t really talk about it online, as I knew I’d find it hard to answer questions when we didn’t really know when things were going to happen. We were already fielding lots of enquiries from friends and family. For three days the updates remained the same – everyone knew that my cervix was at a standstill, and so was the labour ward.
This was my lowest point. I wasn’t a nice person to be around on that Sunday, and the midwives and Sam bore the brunt of it.
With a complicated pregnancy, the midwives have to check everything with the consultants/doctors. The doctors were too busy to speak to me themselves, I didn’t see one for three days.
When I felt down or frustrated, I tried to focus on the positives, that we’d be meeting our baby soon. One way or another that moment would be coming in the next few days. But that moment felt like such a long way away, a huge hurdle to cross before that point. I almost couldn’t imagine it, being on the other side, holding a brand new baby, despite knowing that moment could only be a few days away.
On on of our numerous repetitive walks around the hospital grounds over the next few days, I’d tell myself and I’d tell Sam, that in a few short days I’d look back on these days spent in hospital and they’d no longer seem so endless.
When Sam was around, there was laughter and distraction. But there was also a LOT of time on my own. With poor internet connection, no TV, just my thoughts to keep me company, and probably the most rubbish book Sam could have thought to pack for me (I was more than too happy to throw it in the bin in a fit of rage that Sunday!!)
Staying on the antenatal ward waiting to be induced is a strange thing. With my other labours, they happened spontaneously, no time to think about what was coming, I just had to roll with it. This time, I compared it to being shut away in a blank room, knowing that I was about to go through this painful and unknown experience in a matter of days or maybe even hours, yet not knowing exactly when and how it would happen.
It’s incredibly hard to continuously psych yourself up, only to find you are not moving forward, again and again.
Every couple of hours, someone would go into established labour on the ward. Waters would break, people would cry for help or to go home, some would do their best to attempt some privacy and quiet. Some were suddenly pushing and dramatically rushed off to labour ward.
At first, I found listening to labouring women daunting. A reminder of what it’s like when you totally reach ‘the zone’. By the last day, I’d watched practically everyone who had been there for induction at the same time as me, and a fair few who came after me, reach the stage where they were off to labour ward. By that point, I desperately wanted to be one of those women in labour before they reached labour ward – no further intervention necessary.
At every shift change, a new midwife would introduce herself, full of positivity. “It will definitely be today”. “You’ll be out of here tomorrow”. “It will be tonight, they are going to wake you up and take you to labour ward AS SOON as a room becomes free. They definitely won’t wait until the morning, it’s happening tonight”.
Then I’d wake up for obs in the morning to find that no one had come to get me in the night. Another delay. Another immense effort to psych myself up again. I was low, low, low over this weekend.
There was a lot of waiting around for Sam, too. We never knew when I was going to be called to have my waters broken, but we knew we wouldn’t be given much warning, so he had to be there just in case. Although we hedged our bets and did send him home at night time – one of us needed to be well rested for the long few days that were ahead.
Next up – Part 3: Early Labour.