Where were we? That’s right….
We arrived at the hospital and were shown to our room. Our midwife strapped the monitor on for a check-up, and then H and I went downstairs to get some breakfast. By this time the contractions were noticeably stronger. I was still managing them very well with the TENS machine and some gentle breathing, but by the time we were in the hospital cafeteria it was difficult to keep a straight face and remain still during the contractions. I wasn’t all that keen on moaning and groaning around all the early morning breakfasters so we headed back to our room as soon as H had eaten – and I’m sure all those people trying to enjoy their morning caffeine hits in peace were grateful! The contractions continued and with the TENS, breathing, and rocking my pelvis or sitting on the Swiss ball I coped with them very well. My doc arrived about 9am and examined me. I was 1cm dilated. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. I didn’t want to be unrealistic but I’d had such regular contractions ever since my water broke that I thought I might be 2, 3 or even 4 cm dilated. I was still expecting to be a mum by that afternoon.
Unfortunately over the next couple of hours my contractions slowed down and eventually stopped all together. H and I paced the corridors and whispered encouragement to my belly and I rocked on the Swiss ball all to no avail. At midday the decision was made to start me on an Oxytocin infusion to augment labour, with the aim to increase the dose until I was having four contractions every 10 minutes. My doctor warned me that it was going to be a long night – not the words a labouring woman wants to hear! This is the point at which I stopped enjoying the labour process. I had to be continuously monitored. I was lucky that they had a portable monitor so I didn’t actually have to be connected to the machine with wires, but the bands across my belly were uncomfortable and inevitably every time I changed position one of the sensors would shift and the midwife would lose the trace. And by this stage I was needing to change position almost constantly. The augmented contractions were very different to my natural contractions; they quickly became much more intense and uncomfortable but something in their nature changed too and made them difficult to manage. I think I big part of the discomfort at this point was that I had a definite sense that my body wasn’t controlling this process but that rather these contractions were something that was being done to me.
I started using the nitrous gas. I had been concerned that the gas might make me nauseated but thankfully it did not. I’m not really sure whether the gas helped the pain or not – but it sure make me feel tipsy! H even had a couple of quick puffs to try it out. I was still able to relax and crack jokes between contractions but I was finding it more and more difficult to stay relaxed during the contractions and really had to concentrate to stop my whole body tensing up. The afternoon progressed much the same way, but with the contractions becoming quicker and more intense and me becoming more and more exhausted. There were no more jokes. In fact, I morphed into every woman you’ve ever seen give birth on television. “Uhhhhhhhhhhhg. I can’t do this anymore. Uhhhhhhhhhhhg. Please make it stop!”.
I’d wanted to avoid an epidural if possible because I wanted to remain mobile during labour and I didn’t want a urinary catheter, but by mid-afternoon my every thought was centred around whether I should ask for an epidural. At the least I wanted to be re-examined before I decided what to do, because if I was 8 or 9 cm dilated I was sure I could find the strength to get through the last few hours. Unfortunately the contractions continued to intensify and 5 pm appeared before my doctor did. I gave in and asked for the epidural. To be honest I did feel minimally like I had failed somehow by doing this, but the contractions were so intense that it was definitely the right decision, and if I’d waited past 5 o-clock the anaesthetist would have had to be called in after-hours, significantly increasing my wait. I’d been in labour 13 hours and just couldn’t do it any longer. Luckily for me the anaesthetist appeared within 5 minutes, and I was blissfully comfortable within 10 minutes more.
All of a sudden I felt like I was hanging out at a fancy hotel rather than sitting in a delivery suite. I sat up in bed, channel-surfed, laughed with H, and had dinner delivered to me. The monitor showed that my contractions were coming on top of each other, with basically no break in between and even the midwife commented on how powerful they were. Luckily I was feeling nothing but blissful comfort but with contractions like that surely there was some real action going on downstairs? My doctor arrived to re-examine me: still only 1cm dilated.
I had made exactly no progress over the last 14 hours.
At 7:40 pm the decision was made to proceed to emergency caesarean section. By 8:40 pm William had arrived.
To be continued (and hopefully completed!) in the third installment.