Before I start, just a few things to note:
- This was my first pregnancy and birth so everything was completely new to me,
- Everyone’s experience is different and if you have or are due to give birth, this post is in no way meant to be a comparison to your experience it is simply a recollection of mine,
- On a similar note, you may not agree with the choices I made or did not make but it’s not your place to comment or judge on,
- I went through the Australian public system to have Sahara.
Sahara’s due date was the 27th of September and I was convinced she was going to arrive on or before it, boy was I wrong! Our little lady was so comfy that she actually kept us waiting a little longer than we planned.
I had all my usual pre-natal midwife appointments including one on my due date but there was no sign of my body going into labour. In an attempt to help bring it on the midwives tried to do a stretch and sweep however I wasn’t dilated enough for this to happen. I was sent home and told to wait it out and see if in the next few days my body would naturally go into labour. It didn’t. So at 41+3 (essentially 10 days over my due date) I was booked in to be induced – I was told that I could wait longer in the chance that labour happened naturally but by this stage I was pretty uncomfortable and was just ready to have Sahara earth side.
In the late morning of Thursday 7th October I went to the hospital (Barwon Health in Geelong) and had some monitoring done to begin with. At 4pm I was induced; there are a few methods they can use, the midwives made the decision to induce me using Prostaglandin. It was a relatively simple procedure and once done they needed to monitor baby for at least an hour before I could be moved to the postnatal ward to wait until it was go time. Unfortunately, Sahara’s heart rate was pretty high after I was induced so the monitoring went on for a little longer than expected and I wasn’t moved to the ward until 7:30PM.
Unfortunately, this whole time I was alone as Chris wasn’t allowed in due to COVID restrictions. Now I can’t say whether that’s normal protocol or not as this was my first experience having a baby. I was told that as soon as I was moved to the ward Chris was allowed to come in for a visit but partners are only allowed to visit for 2 hours within visiting hours, which ended at 8PM so technically he was only meant to stay for half an hour but we played a little dumb acting like we didn’t realise visiting hours were over so he could stay a little longer. I was going through this massive life changing experience and I couldn’t even have my partner be there with me through it, that was pretty hard mentally and emotionally. I was very fortunate that I had a student midwife, Annie, who had followed my pregnancy since the beginning and she was able to be with me instead.
Chris went home just before 9PM with the plan of coming back in later the next day when I was moved to the birth suite. The form of induction I had usually takes 12-14 hours to induce labour so we really weren’t expecting anything to happen until the early hours of the morning anyway.
Around the time he left I was starting to feel mild contractions but they weren’t unbearable so I was given Panadeine Forte and a sleeping tablet and told to rest. It wasn’t long until the pain ramped up. I started timing the contractions and they were happening pretty close together so I called the midwife and she said it was time to go down to birth suite.
I called Chris and told him to come back in as I was being taken down to the birth suite, it was just after midnight by now. I also called Annie back in.
Once in the birth suite, we set it up with fairy lights, tea lights and music to help create a calming atmosphere and so began the waiting game.
A doctor came in around 1am to check me and I was 4cm dilated. However, the Prostaglandin had dislodged itself and the decision was made to remove it as it wasn’t doing anything anyway as my body was doing the labour process on its own.
The contractions were strong but still bearable at this stage; I made a conscious effort to keep moving around as I had learnt in my hypnobirthing course to help progress my labour. I alternated between walking around, bouncing on the fit-ball, lying on the ball and everything was going alright for the time being.
Sometime between 4 and 5am the doctor returned to do another check, unfortunately I was still only 4cm dilated. It was starting to get harder; the contractions were getting stronger but my body wasn’t progressing. They tried to break my waters but the doctor said he couldn’t puncture them enough and would come back in another 4 hours to check my progress.
In terms of pain relief, I had gone into it wanting to have a natural, pain relief free birth but it was getting to the point where I couldn’t manage the pain on my own. The midwives gave me a morphine injection but I didn’t feel any relief from it and so they gave me the gas (nitrous oxide and oxygen), which I also didn’t feel was helping in anyway.
I had really wanted to have a water birth but was unable to as I was induced so the next best thing was to jump in the shower. I sat on the fit-ball in the shower for a while with Chris running the hot water up and down my back and taking the gas when I felt necessary. Unfortunately being in the shower made the monitor for Sahara stop working and I was told if I wanted to remain in the shower I would need to have an internal monitor (essentially an electronic monitor is attached to a probe which is connected to the baby’s head). Once this was in I was able to jump back in the shower where I spent another hour or so.
The doctor came back for my next check and again I was still only 4cm. I was starting to become quite disheartened and felt as though I wasn’t going to get through it. I kept asking Chris to take me home and saying I just wanted my mum.
I was running on over 24 hours of no sleep and pretty much no food (unless you count the sour gummy worms and kingston biscuits I’d been snacking on), mentally I was drained and told Chris I couldn’t do it anymore. He sternly told me I had two options, either suck it up and keep going or opt for the epidural. I didn’t know much about the epidural and my only understanding of it was that it was going to paralyse me and I wouldn’t be able to move at all from there on out, I didn’t want that, I wanted to be able to move and birth in my position of choice that wasn’t just lying on a bed. At 1pm I made the decision that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore and I asked for the epidural. I already felt disheartened that my body hadn’t gone into labour naturally and that even being induced it was taking my body forever to be ready, so having the epidural felt like another failed aspect for me.
It took about 30 minutes to have it as my contractions continued being super close together and the anaesthesiologist couldn’t administer the epidural while contractions where happening. As soon as it was in I felt an intense rush of relief and my waters broke shortly after.
The epidural wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. Although I had to remain in bed, I was still able to feel my body and lift my legs up I just couldn’t feel the pain of the contractions anymore. It was welcome bliss.
Having the epidural meant that I was able to get some much needed rest and sleep, and that’s exactly what I did for the next few hours until the doctor came in around 4pm to do another check. You guessed it, I was still only 4cm. It had now been 24 hours since I was induced and 16 hours since I had been moved to the birth suite. Because I couldn’t feel the pain of the contractions anymore and I had been able to get some sleep, hearing the news that I hadn’t made any progression didn’t get me down as much as it would have had I not had the epidural. So I continued to just wait.
Chris was asleep in the chair in the corner of the room and I assumed I wasn’t going to be any further dilated so I didn’t wake him up when the doctor came back at 7pm to do another check. To my surprise though I was finally fully dilated! Hallelujah! It had been a long time coming waiting to hear those words.
Annie had gone home a few hours earlier but when I woke Chris up to tell him it was go time I made him call Annie straight away to get her to come back in.
At 7:50pm the midwives said it was time to start pushing so I thought I’m going to press for the epidural one last time to help me get through. Well, just my luck it administered half a ml and then blocked. They tried to fix it but just couldn’t get it to work again.
The midwives got me into a few different positions pushing for a little bit. I”m not sure if it was from all the sour gummy worms or if my body was just exhausted but I started to feel incredibly unwell and each push was followed up with a vomit. After a while I was told to roll over onto my back again. The doctor told me that she was going to give me an episiotomy to help Sahara come out. After nearly an hour of pushing, at 8:43PM on October 8 2021 Sahara was born.
As Sahara was coming out she was in a little bit of distress and extra midwives were called into the room as well as a paediatrician and resuscitation cot just in case. They placed her on my chest and I felt a massive sense of relief that it was all over (or at least I thought it was). She didn’t cry immediately and I was a little panicky. Chris told me to blow on her face like we had learnt in our hypnobirthing course and sure enough her little cry started. All I could think though was how badly she smelt and without even thinking my first words to her were “you stink”.
The chaos was yet to come. I kept bleeding and the doctors couldn’t figure out where my bleed was coming from so they wanted to get my placenta out as soon as possible. There was no time to try to birth it naturally, I had multiple hands pushing down on my stomach as hard as possible to help push it out. All I could hear was “more gauze, more gauze” while another midwife inserted a second cannula in my other hand. I had no idea what was going on, I remember asking Chris why were they giving me another cannula and he said it was to help with the bleeding. In the end I lost 2 litres of blood which was roughly a quarter of my blood. Sahara was checked over and it was determined that she was fine but a paediatrician would come in to check on her every now and then.
Now if I had been giving birth at any other time the next part wouldn’t have been an issue I don’t think but because we were in the middle of a global pandemic it became quite the issue. My temperature spiked and everyone hit panic stations that maybe I had Covid (even though I’d had to get a PCR test prior, which came back negative, to coming in for my induction). They did a test and sent it off at approximately 9:20PM on the Friday. As a result anything that was in my room at the time was not allowed to leave until my results came back. So they packed up the birth cart, including my placenta, all nice and neatly and placed it in the corner of the room along with the resuscitation cot and baby scales.
Chris stayed with us for the next few hours. At 4am on Saturday I told him to go home and get some proper sleep because I could tell how uncomfortable he was in the chair in the room and I knew that he needed the rest just as much as I did. I sent him home thinking that by the time visiting hours started again at 8am my results would be back and he could come in. This wasn’t the case.
Long story short, my test, although sent as a priority rush, ended up thrown into the mix of all the general tests and didn’t come back until Sunday morning around 7am. This whole time I wasn’t allowed to leave the birth suite nor was anything that was in the room with me; any medical staff that came in had to fully kit themselves up in PPE gear, and most importantly Chris wasn’t allowed back in. So instead of getting to spend the precious first few days together as a family, we had to make do with FaceTime.
I can’t speak for Chris, but personally it was incredibly hard to be locked in this room on my own with Sahara. To some extent motherly instincts kick in but at the end of the day I was a brand new mum with zero experience (aside from looking after my niece and nephew) who was also recovering from a pretty intense and semi traumatic experience. I’m very fortunate that I had 3 amazing midwives whose recurring shifts aligned with being on the same ward as me for the 3 days that I was in the birth suite. Big shout out to Andrea, Lisa and Charlotte – I honestly can’t thank them enough for their help and support during this time. I remember on the first night being by myself how amazing Charlotte was, coming in and looking after Sahara while I got some rest; Lisa really helped me with the feeding aspect of things because it certainly is no easy feat; and Andrea was such a reassuring support.
My birth experience went nothing like I had imagined but then again I didn’t fully know what to expect. I had only taken the things I’d seen in movies and TV shows mixed them with the knowledge I’d learnt from my birthing course as well as the things I’d seen when I was present for my niece’s birth. While I look back on my first birth experience a little upset and disappointed that things happened the way they did, the one thing I can confidently take away from it is how supported I felt from both a medical point of view thanks to Annie, Andrea, Charlotte and Lisa, and a personal one having Chris there when the going got really tough.