I don’t know what the deal is with my blood pressure. I’d had it taken periodically at the GP before I got pregnant and no one had ever said there was a problem.
Then I got pregnant and it seemed like maybe there had been a problem and that combined with my bmi meant I was now a high risk and I would have to be induced at 40 weeks at the latest.
Initially I was sort of pleased at the thought of being induced because being pregnant means giving up control and this meant maybe clawing some back. I would know when it was going to happen. I could plan for it.
Then I went to the midwife and her exact words were, ‘avoid an induction at all costs’. At which point I started to worry.
Through 28-36 weeks our kid was breech so a planned caesarean was booked after I squabbled with the consultant.
I don’t know if sections are routinely being gate kept or if it’s particularly fat women they’re worried about operating on or a bit of both but I felt judged even though I’d only declined them attempting to turn the baby.
The odds were not hugely favourable for a successful turn and there was a 1 in 200 chance of going into spontaneous labour. I just wanted our kid to be safe and comfortable and it didn’t seem worth the risk. I bought a book on sections. I read. I started to feel better about it all. Safer.
At the following scan the baby had turned on his own and when the doctor told me I cried. The induction was booked. I told the doctor what the midwife had said about avoiding an induction and how they are longer and more painful than natural birth and how frightened I was of something going wrong, of needing forceps or a proper emergency section.
Did I mention they were estimating that the baby was quite big? Big enough that when I got to the labour ward and eavesdropped on each handover that every midwife questioned my diabetic status. The doctor told me not to worry about the size of the baby. I’m big, my partner is big and we wouldn’t be offered a section unless the kid was estimated at over 10 pounds. He was just under.
The doctor told me there was about an 80% chance that the induction would be successful but from my own reading it seemed I had a lot of factors stacked against me. I’m over thirty, have a high bmi, high blood pressure, have been sexually assaulted in the past, it was my first baby, I was less than 41 weeks and my cervix wasn’t looking favourable. All these things make an induction less likely to succeed.
The same doctor also told me that the pessary I would need would go in for 8 hours and they’d do 2 if the first one didn’t work. I figured I could handle 16 hours with what was described as a tampon in place. I tried to calm down. I really wanted the baby out.
On the monday I was due to be induced I had to call the labour ward to check if a bed was available. I called for the first time at 7am. They asked me to call back. 22 calls and 12 hours later they were ready.
The pessary went in at 10pm. It really hurt. I wasn’t expecting the pessary to hurt. It felt sharp, like it was cutting me. By 3am I was having contractions. There was a young woman in the bed beside mine watching television at normal volume until that time so I didn’t sleep.
The longer the pessary was in place, the more everything inside me felt like it was swelling. Going to the bathroom was agony. It felt like all my organs were going to fall out into the toilet.
I’d sent my husband home because it turned out the pessary would be in for 24 hours and they’d try another one if the first one didn’t work. Not 8 hours as I’d originally been told. I wasn’t prepared for 48 hours of this.
By 1pm with no sleep and contractions 3 times in 10 minutes the pessary started to fall out. I gritted my teeth and pushed it back in whilst trying not to cry. The next time I went to the bathroom it had fallen out further.
I asked a midwife to help me put it back and when she did so, I screamed so loudly that people came running into the room. It felt like being stabbed. It was much worse than the contractions I’d been experiencing. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt hysterical. The midwife gave me a tissue, told me to calm down and left. I overheard her talking to a colleague about how she’d lost her taste for the work. I apologised to her for screaming. I felt so ashamed at not being able to tolerate what everyone seemed to think should be tolerable.
At 10pm a consultant came by and agreed to let me stop the further pessary. She said some women react badly to pessary and it wasn’t uncommon. At no point up until now had I been offered pain relief and on several occasions when I limped to the nurses station to ask for it, I was left for 2 hours with none.
Once the pessary was out I was able to finally rest. The contractions subsided. I slept an hour or two.
On Wednesday morning a doctor I know well and like broke my waters. I wasn’t routinely offered pain relief but I insisted on gas and air for it. My cervix was still completely closed at this point and they were going to push a crochet hook through it and although my insides felt better since the pessary was removed I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with the pain.
Having your waters broken is also incredibly painful. Even with codeine and gas and air. It took about half an hour. I screamed a lot, but into the mouthpiece so it was muffled. So much water came out. And blood. And mucous. All over the bed. All over the floor. A flood. Then the contractions started again and I finally got my own room.
They didn’t have any birth balls left and only one pillow could be found but I was in labour. Gavin slept on the floor and used his coat as a pillow.
The pain was manageable with gas and air. About 6 hours later, as I wasn’t any further dilated, they started the oxytocin drip. I decided to have an epidural at this point, the drip sends your contractions into overdrive and I didn’t want to know what that felt like. I didn’t need to be a hero. I just needed to survive.
The epidural was great. The anaesthetist was great. The midwives looking after me in my own room were great. I felt better. I felt like I could cope. Even if I had a big tear. I’d be ok. I coached a student midwife whilst she catheterised me. I made jokes. I didn’t dilate further. I didn’t sleep.
At 6am Thursday another doctor I know well and like came to ask if I’d like to try for another for hours or if I’d like to have a section now. I called my mother, she said very firmly ‘go to theatre. Now.’ I had spiked a temperature by his stage, my blood pressure had started to rise and I was on IV antibiotics. Away we went.
It was all over in 20 minutes. The radio was on in the operating room. Dancing Queen was playing when they lifted our kid out of my belly. I began to shake. They had to take the baby away while I vomited. He was so beautiful.
I thanked every member of staff I saw all day in a drug haze because I was so glad to be alive and for the baby to be alive. I went to recovery and couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.