Positive Birth Story – Induced Birth After PPD and Birth Trauma.
April 30, 2021
After the birth of my daughter, I was left with a very bitter, traumatic taste in my mouth about the health care system. It took a long time to even process how I felt about it let alone express my feelings. In time after much reflection and speaking to others, including a doula who was appalled at my experience, I decided with my next child I wanted as little medical intervention as possible.
To be induced was the last thing I wanted, I can’t tell you how much I dreaded the thought, how much I stamped down my view, hard, on the midwives and told them I would not have one. I was terrified of being in hospital. Not being heard, being belittled, being told about my body rather than being the one in control. I didn’t want to be threatened. I didn’t want to spend the next 4 years dealing with my emotions and confusion over what is meant to be the ‘best day of my life’.
But my labour was induced, and it was the best birth I could have ever hoped for.
I joked I would be pregnant for the rest of my life. That’s how it felt after each midwife appointment when they told me baby wasn’t engaged, in fact, his head was nowhere near being engaged. Occasionally his head would pop into my pelvis, but he would soon move it out again. The closer it grew to my 42nd week of being pregnant, the more distraught I became that my dreams of a natural birth were vanishing. And I mean distraught. On my last midwife appointment, the baby had yet again popped back out my pelvis. Following their guidelines, I was referred to a consultant at the hospital, no longer allowed to be in the care of midwives after 42 weeks. I knew the reality of being induced was getting closer and closer. Leaving the midwife appointment, I walked back to my car, got in, closed the door, and burst into tears. I was angry and upset. I had tried everything to get the baby in position and keep him there. I read about hormones and being relaxed. I tried all the old wives’ tales, despite knowing they are absolute garbage. I bounced on a ball. I did everything in my power to avoid being hospitalized. But I knew, deep down, that was my path. Quickly I needed to come to terms with it. Losing the water birth and being ‘strapped’ to a bed, being told how to birth my baby. I spent a day with nothing short of a broken heart. The next day, I read as much of being induced as I could and came to terms with my new birth on the horizon.
You pregnant or got a paddling pool in there?
Following a scan which showed I had an above average volume of fluid in my bump, and a chat with the consultant, I agreed to be induced the following day. I had a large bump on a small frame, just one of those things I thought, a big baby I’m sure. However, the consultant explained that due to the high volume of amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios) and my baby’s reluctance to engage and stay engaged, I risked a prolapsed cord if I went into labour on my own. We agreed the best thing would be to induce me as soon as possible, and so I was to be brought in the following night.
I was half excited, half scared. Keen to get the baby out, finish a very testing pregnancy and meet our baby. But I worried about the pain I would endure. I didn’t want pain relief, for me it adds in an element that I cannot control. Rightly or wrongly, I equate pain relief with the increased chance of needing forceps or other methods of intervention. Being on meds so strong that I feel ‘out of it’. None of which I wanted if I could avoid it. I had endured the pain of childbirth before using gas and air once I was fully dilated, so I believed I could get to the same point on my own again. Yet I knew induction is notorious for being more painful, so I was apprehensive that I could keep myself calm and mentally able to see out the pain on my own. Being in so much pain and being alone also played on my mind. I did labour on my own with my first, my partner asleep next door. I wanted to be alone, not so alone that I couldn’t have his comfort if I needed it. The idea of him leaving me when I could potentially be in a lot of pain did add in extra anxiety and a negative view around being induced. Again, I had to mentally prepare for this and know he would be there for the ‘really’ painful section.
From the Monday seeing the midwife and breaking my heart, to the Friday meeting the consultant, in was ready to be firm in my decision of refusing to be induced if all was well. But it appeared that all wasn’t well. My consultant made it clear she was not comfortable risking a prolapsed cord if I went in to labour naturally aka at home. And neither was my partner, who was becoming just as adamant in his stance – that I should be induced, under the watchful eye of the professionals. For weeks he had been concerned at my ever-expanding stomach, however, for weeks I had been like a bear with a sore head (and the rest) and he knew it wasn’t the time, not mentally for me, to hear the words ‘I want you to stay in hospital’. So when the consultant became firm, yet still respectful of my concerns and anxiety, my partner let out a huge sigh of ‘thank fuck’.
Inducing Birth Isn’t Just ‘Popping’ In a ‘Wee Tab’
Let’s not make light of being induced. It’s so common that I think people forget it’s a very invasive and powerful procedure. The drugs used are often referred to as run of the mill, just pop this in and jobs a good un. The drugs used are immensely powerful and should be explained as such. Some research suggests that due to their artificial nature they do not produce certain hormones that are normally produced during childbirth. Namely the hormone that acts to inhibit pain. Which may be the reason people say it’s more painful to be induced.
A lot of hospitals induce you late in the evening. Some theories go that birth occurs at night as a survival mechanism, it’s safer in the dark from predators. Whether the reason they induce at night is because it’s more likely to happen, I’m not sure. However, before they ‘pop’ in a pessary (we will get back to that later), they hook your belly up to a heart monitor. To check baby before and after the pop. If your baby is anything like mine, you will be strapped to the machine for over an hour. They said 20 minutes, but the little punk would move and wriggle, causing them to pretty much start again, needing a solid timeframe so they can be sure of his heart rate. Then when everything looks good, they ‘pop’ in a pessary tab and wait and see.
The whole process, being in a ward, or if you are extremely lucky like me, my own room, being hooked up to a machine, being in a foreign environment, babies crying, nurses working, having a hand ‘popped’ up there and waiting to go into labour doesn’t exactly make for a grand night’s sleep. Anyways, the nurse will be back in 5 hours to start the whole process again if you haven’t started contractions – or if they aren’t progressing enough.
All the above is ‘just part of pregnancy’, but let’s not forget the human on the bed, or her partner watching. Being induced isn’t just your normal trip to the dentist for a routine clean. Having a tab ‘popped’ so far up your vagina that you swear she’s brushing your molars isn’t exactly a spa treatment. Luckily, the staff I encountered knew this and made me feel as comfortable as possible. Wincing and saying ‘sorry’ before rummaging around my cervix. Everything was fully explained to me and my partner. They asked if we had questions – a simple act, but one that made us feel safe and comfortable.
After arriving at 8PM, being shown to my own room and having the pessary dance complete, it was around midnight before I started to bed down for the night. Due to having my own room, my partner had the option to stay with me, a very fortune option. But we decided it best him go home and sleep. An anxious decision considering I birthed my first kid quite quickly once my waters broke. But the staff assured us it would be fine and they would look after me, calling him as soon as anything happened.
Once You Pessary Pop, You Can’t stop
The first pessary did nothing, and so at 5am the midwife was back with her heart monitor and deep reaching hand. Lovely.
Following the next wee popping of a tab it took an hour or so before I thought I felt some twinges. And just like my first, I didn’t realise I was labouring. I’m not sure what is wrong with me for not knowing. Maybe I didn’t want to get my hopes up. We have all read of women labouring for 18 hours only to be 2 cm dilated.
For some insane reason, I really wanted to shower. I think the thought of having more vagina visitors compelled me to wash off the 2 previous lashings of lube in preparation for the next. I wanted to feel clean, brush my teeth and be ‘ready’ if the time came for me to birth. The effort it took to get me off that bed, must have rivalled the effort it took my partner to ‘mount’ me in the final weeks. I was a grumpy mountain, hardly the sexiest playmate, but the say sex can induce labour, so he was forced to ‘hop on’ when my grumpy tits seen fit.
As I peeled my lube covered arse off the bed, I waddled to the shower, in agony. A different agony than I had experienced with my first. For weeks I had been having tightening of my belly, I was having them more and more combined with what I can only describe as being kicked full force in the vagina. It ached! Certain positions hurt and exhausted me. But still, I dragged my filthy lubed arse to the shower. I managed a whole 5 minutes before shouting for my partner to dry me, I couldn’t do it. I was shaking and breathing out the pain. I had read up on some breathing techniques, as this is what helped hugely with my first and I still wanted to avoid all pain relief.
You’re In Labour You Idiot
After getting my freshly cleaned and primed vagina dressed, the midwife was in for the next inspection. There was some speculation that I was having pessary pains and not actual labour, the readings on the machine were very close together and short as opposed to the long and intensive contractions which dilate the cervix. When she said I may need another pessary I had the thought of ‘do I fuck! I won’t allow it‘. My contractions where relentless, I couldn’t have taken more of it. I’m not sure if this midwife lost a ring or what, but she went deeeeeep. Way up past the molars and scratching my hippocampus deep. It was not pleasant, not while I was contracting. But thank the lucky starts, she pulled out and reported my membranes were bulging, my cervix was fully dilating when I was contracting and I was in fact ready to give birth. Thank fuck.
Wheeled down to the labour suite, I had 2 midwives looking after me. One a student. Both amazing. The labour room was darkly lit with the radio playing in the background. Posters of delivery positions on the wall, seats for us to put our bags. A computer monitor to record information and an iPad, Lucozade and water there if I wanted it. The girls encouraged my partner to stay beside me and kept him involved the whole time. I grabbed the gas and air as soon as I got in the room. The contractions now at the point I could no longer speak nor want to entertain anyone while they surged through my body. Certainly not entertain the absolute shite banter of my partner and his ‘jokes’.
Get The Rubber Rings, We’re Going Swimming
My waters hadn’t broke and so the doctor was called to break them, not before they made sure the baby was still in position, via yet another fanny inspection, and it would be his head out first rather than the umbilical cord. I can’t say I remember the breaking of my waters completely, I was tanking down the gas and air heavily now, the pain of contractions while people go up, rather than out your vagina isn’t a pleasant experience. The midwife exclaiming it was a lot, “a tsunami”, the doctor a bit miffed she got so soaked as I flooded the room. I felt my waters leaving, hot and bizarre. It seemed to last forever, just when I thought it was done, more came out. No shit I was carrying excess water. Immediately after my woman made swimming pool, I felt a huge sense of relief and far less pain and pressure…for 5 minutes.
The pain at this point was forcing me to take a lot of gas and air. I did try to limit it, I wanted to remember more of this birth instead of fuzzy spaced-out memories. Plus, I did feel slightly sick and out of it if I took more than 2 big breaths. I didn’t realise it, but I was at the end goal now. Not wanting to be touched, moaning with each contraction, taking 4 HUGE breaths of the gas, mentally reaching my limit. I was urged to change positions, sitting up, on my knees, on my side, offered to get up. But I wanted to be left alone, eventually settling for a relaxed upright position. I could hear the midwifes asking me to inform them of when I felt pressure to let them know when I wanted to push. But I couldn’t speak to them. Inside I was finding this torturous, the pain was unreal, encapsulating my whole body. Mentally I began to struggle and say over and over I cannot do this. Logically I tried to tell myself this means I’m close to the end, I am doing it, don’t say it out loud, don’t panic.
Judging my notable silence, given I was happily chatting a few minutes before and now I could barely face them as my eyes rolled in pain, the midwives got suited and booted. Putting on green aprons, they told my partner to press the red button on their command. I knew the baby was coming, they don’t crack out those aprons for nothing.
Don’t Say It, Don’t Say It…
At this point I didn’t feel I had the strength to push my baby out, not physically or mentally. I felt like he wasn’t going down and staying down, I tried to push him down with each out breath just as I had read. I was starting to freak out and those dreaded words slipped from my mind and into my mouth “I can’t do this!”. Stupidly, I thought ‘I’ll just stop this all now and I’ll have a c-section, it will be grand’, as if birth was a switch I could just turn off and opt for another option that wasn’t making me primal groan and side eye my partner if he dared touch me.
My partner reassured me I was doing it and the baby was coming. And fucking hell, he was. I screamed ‘fuck’ as he descended, grabbing my partner by the collar, grabbing on to anything, being told not to scratch the midwife. I’m not normally one to sream my profanities, usually I just slip them into normal conversation, as you do. I won’t sugar coat it, that pain was unbearable. It had been unbearable for what felt like hours, when in fact it was only 20 minutes. The effort it took to push his head out was intense, but the midwife coached me through it. Less pushing into my feet and putting my arse in the air and more actually pushing out my arse. Using more effort than it takes me to scroll by sexist arseholes in the FB comment section, I pushed out the baby’s head, kinda hoping he would be out in a oner, just like his sister. No such luck. The midwife looked me in my eyes, focused and calmed me, telling me exactly when to push and how. Gently she says, to avoid tearing. Fuck that I say, I can barely feel anything I’m so tired. So I tried my best to gently push, taking the instructions of the midwife seriously. She knows how to end this fuckery, I’ll listen and do as I’m told. And she was right, he was born and in my arms with the next contraction. Although, I didn’t push gently, I pushed with all the energy I had left, desperate to get this baby out of me.
And no fucking wonder I was tired. Did I not just go and birth a 10 pound fucking baby! (I’ll say this till the day I die, thank you very much)
Being Induced? It Ain’t So Bad
It may sound like a chaotic, stressful, pain filled event but that’s not how I view it. Everyone was calm, everyone was involved, if I said no, they listened. I wasn’t threatened I’d ‘be cut’ like the first time. We all laughed and joked as much as possible. I was left out of the conversation when I didn’t reply, the midwife could read exactly where I was and what I needed. I felt in control the whole time. The pain from the induction drug, was for me, bearable. I was offered pain relief, to which I denied, twice. To which the midwife accepted and let me be. I would say it’s a different, more intense pain than going into labour naturally, I do feel it was a different type of pain. The pushing bit certainly was different, but it’s difficult to say for sure as he was a big 10lb baby.
Given the option, I would rather a natural birth, but if I needed to be induced again (which is never going to happen, as I said during the moment!) I wouldn’t be frightened or upset. It is possible to have so much intervention and still have a positive birth experience. Largely due to the staff, who I can’t praise enough. From the consultant to the midwives, they all listened to me. They all understood why I didn’t want to be there, some of them upset for me when I told them what happened first time round. I felt heard and respected the whole time.
If anyone is fearful of birth, natural, induction or otherwise, I would say that you have rights no matter which route you take. Be confident in what you want and what is not acceptable. Staff are there for your wellbeing, but you should be in control and informed every step of the way. Sadly, I do feel it’s a bit of a lottery in terms of medical staff, some good, some bad, the luck of the draw in who you get. I switched birthing hospitals to avoid the scenario and staff of my first birth. If you express concern and are not heard, don’t hesitate to seek another opinion, to change if you can. You are in control, as much control as birth allows. Your health and wellbeing matters as much as that of the baby, don’t be afraid to express it.