JENNA & EDWARD
‘You’re only 1 cm’
I know the exact moment I lost control of my labour...
My waters broke early and after being so surprised that this was in fact the case in triage, we were then sent home for our obligatory 24 hours of waiting. But I just knew my baby wasn’t ready...
Being so uninformed back then, only having done NCT, I didn’t really know what path we were going down or what labour really needed. So I wasn’t too worried about the induction process because I was trying to accept that this was the situation and I must be in good, trusting hands. So after two failed pessaries, I agreed to the next step and got the most painful cannula EVER, and began contracting after about ninety minutes on the drip.
After another six hours, when they could do a VE, having been calm and coping, I had this rhythm going, perched on my birth ball, hubby stroking my shoulders...then this vaginal exam through me into a total panic. ‘You’re only 1 cm’. It was sooooo crushing, to hold on I needed much more...no one said this is actually amazing, my body was responding, it doesn’t mean things won’t move quicker further along....
I can remember feeling huge waves of exhaustion and worry and frustration and I started losing my rhythm and writhing around on the bed, so overwhelmed by the sensations in my body that I started asking for an epidural. My poor, exhausted husband (this was day three of the long induction process) looked at me with the kindest eyes and said of course you do, I don’t think he could bare to see me like this...but then I had to wait.
Feeling lost, with nowhere to put this big feeling inside me, struggling to regain my calm unsuccessfully, I was left to hang on. It was a busy night and it took nearly three hours for the epidural to come. Unfortunately I didn’t feel relief when they came either. I think by this point I was just too in my own head and just felt terrified. ‘What if I was left paralysed?’ ‘What if this goes wrong and I’m permanently damaged’ ‘What if I move and make it go wrong’ 'what if....’ ‘what if...’ what if...'
And still once I held on to myself while having this procedure that would remove me from my body...I was still gripped with fear. Gripped by the lack of feeling, the lack of knowing what my body was doing...I was in a spin. That’s the thing about anxiety it’s an inside job. I wasn’t communicating these thoughts so no one could reassure me, I was lost in my own thought storm.
By morning I was fully dilated but I spent the night worrying, staring down the monitor, watching my bubba’s heartbeat dip and come back, dip and come back, there were signs of distress but I moved positions and things picked back up. I was left a while longer for baby’s head to descend and then it was time to be told to push.
No feeling whatsoever where I needed it, contractions read from a monitor, dictating to my Midwives when to guide me, hands inserted to try and find some sensation to push against...trying my absolute best but it just felt like trying to breathe under a waterfall, I couldn’t find my space to breathe, to connect, to work with my body...after a good couple of hours (which actually felt like about five minutes), no sleep for days, forms were being pointed at me, I was exhaustedly signing them and wondering what the hell was I in for now....
Theatre was a bright, cold space. I remember my lovely anaesthetist being so kind, an ex army officer, talking me through everything, keeping an eye on me...and then I was just being told what to do, with sooo many people around my open legs, how the hell was I supposed to do this, to relax and let go??
I did my absolute best that I could. I kept pushing, kept trying, kept on...
Then Andy heard that baby was too low for a c section but the ventouse had failed twice so now it was time for forceps but they weren’t working...I can’t imagine what that felt like for him...so in the end he was pulled out of me with rotational forceps.
The one thing I am so grateful for is that I felt him leave my body, I felt his little soul slide right out of my tummy which was the most amazing feeling because I could actually feel him.
I looked at his sweet battered bloody face and thought he was beautiful and definitely not an Arnold.
Then in the next moment came the fear, the shakes, is he ok???
I couldn’t hold him at first, I felt so weak and frightened and vulnerable. Hubby did skin to skin up his scrubs for a bit while I tried to understand what was going on, as docs tried to stitch me up and talk about me like I wasn’t there. I remember specifically asking, 'Am I ok?'
But luckily after a little while I managed to calm myself enough to hold him and he was snuggled on top of me and I could breathe him in, talk softly to him, feel him, fall in love with him.
This was a very difficult experience for all of us and I became a doula because of it, because I didn’t want another woman to feel like I felt. I can see now, with hindsight, there were so many points where things could have maybe been changed, definitely supported better, cared for more deeply and I can also see how with a doula by our side, I could have had the exact same experience but felt completely differently. It wasn’t about the induction or the forceps, it was about this being the birth of my first child, my only experience to date of childbirth and me needing to be shown all the kindness and compassion and communication any birthing woman deserves.
I feel very lucky to say that I have had support with my birth trauma now and CBT for my postnatal anxiety and had a very healing second birth which was everything this wasn't, empowering and on my terms.
I share my story for those who have also been there not to scare those who haven't, to know you are not alone and there is support out there and you can have another baby and it can be so much better.
Please, please don't suffer in silence, seek help. There is loads of great info at www.makebirthbetter.org