The one question I’ve never had a definitive answer to is
“ How painful is labour?”
“ Are the contractions really painful?”
“ What kind of pain would you liken it to?”
I’ll start with the bad news : for me labour was extremely painful, and I think the fact that you are birthing another little human , it is painful for most women.
And so the good news: I am of the opinion that how you deal with labour and the pain associated with it is somewhat relative.
I’ve never been the best with pain. If there is indeed such a thing as a pain threshold I would say mine is definitely at the lower end of the scale.
I feel like I cheated myself a little during my mental preparation for labour, I assumed that the endless invasive fertility investigatory tests and all the countless needles were enough to prepare me for the final part of the journey, but this was far from the case.
I also feel that I was cheated a little because I didn’t have the luxury of being able to at least try and anticipate hypnobirthing or even a water bath. In all fairness, no matter your situation you can never really prepare for the ‘textbook’ peaceful, beautiful water birth etc. I certainly learnt that for anyone, during birth things can change very quickly.
So here goes:
DISCLAIMER: I must also say that you read this at your own discretion:
The Due Date, Labour and Birth
For IVF pregnancies , the due date is ascertained fairly accurately, based on the fact that practitioners know when the embryo transfer took place.
What this also meant is that my consultant didn’t want me to go a day beyond my pregnancy as they didn’t want to take any risks, with the natural depletion of the placenta quality and its subsequent negative impact on the baby. This meant I had no choice but to be scheduled for an induction.
Wednesday 21st February 2018
At 12.30pm I arrived on the labour ward with my husband and we were none the wiser as to how long we would be in hospital. At the first stage of induction a pessary was used to start the contractions, however hours later this was removed as I was over stimulated and contracting too regularly. After all of this I was barely a 1cm dilated, but my midwife was convinced things would start happening by itself, so we continued to wait.
Thursday 22nd February 2018
18-24 hours later not much had happened , I was still a 1cm dilated even after my waters breaking ( the dramatic movie gush too), but still no signs of the baby making his way down the birth canal.
Friday 23rd February 2018
I ended up being put on a drip to intensify the contractions, however whilst I felt like my body was being torn to pieces , it didn’t help my body to progress with dilation, I was still around 1-2cm. I spent the rest of the evening wishing the hours away, and suddenly everything changed (which turned out to be for the best) when my midwife handed over to the militant Ghanaian midwife .
As soon as she walked in to the delivery room, she was very frank and gave me two options;
1) to bare the pain that was likely to get worse as they needed to intensify the drip to bring on more contractions, thus encourage further dilation or to accept
2) (what many mothers may deem as defeat, and succumb to the epidural)
I chose the latter, which ended up resorting to 3 administrations due to the anaesthetist not being able to find the right place…
I will draw the line here:
Saturday 24th February 2018 at 6:25 am Sebastian was born
After the Birth
Despite everything that had happened I returned home on the 25th February. Everything was perfect in fact we had lovely snow day and for the first time I snuggled at home with our tiny new baby and just enjoyed the moment.
A few days later I woke up feeling weak and EXHAUSTED, I cannot even put into words how bad I felt. Seb only woke up twice for a feed, my husband was really helpful with everything else in the house , and yes I was getting used to this new life- but it didn’t add up to how I felt- Breathless, warm (but shivering) and very dizzy and my temperature was recorded at 40 degrees.
I called the maternity ward and spoke to a midwife that I happened to know personally.
God really works in mysterious ways...
But somehow after I was called in back to the hospital immediately the doctor’s assessment confirmed one word that challenged my faith immediately:
According to the medical team every symptom was pointing to signs of sepsis and I needed urgent care. All within the space of half an hour I was hooked up to so many scary machines to monitor my heart rate, blood pressure etc whilst they tried to figure out what had caused the infection
Everything happened so quickly , but all I could think was one thing: What about my baby and my husband.
I looked at My husband rocking my tiny baby who was probably waiting for a feed, and I then looked back at the team of consultants and I said to the doctor,
“Am I going to die?”.
With a rather pensive, and monotone output he replied;
“ The good news is you don’t look like someone who is septic”.
Everyone knows that when a simple question is answered with a less than clear response, the person is trying to avoid telling the truth.
At this point I made the decision to focus on getting better and trusting the team of specialists and the nurse who was assigned to me to help me get better quickly.
I had to keep in mind that I hadn’t been through all of this to die and leave my much longed for baby and husband behind. You cannot cheat death, as I do believe everyone has their appointed time on this earth, however I as a firm believer in Jesus and also knew his promise for me was to live and get better no matter how long it took.
I feel that God truly showed his miraculous ways when I learned that Seb had put on weight a few days after his birth even through I was so ill but was determined to keep breastfeeding as much as I could.
I spent the next 7 days sleepless nights not because of Seb's feeding demands but because I was afraid to close my eyes and not wake up.
The irony is in previous years I have also spent many nights not wanting to wake up because of a dream that was so real. The dream that in some respects gave me a hope that the baby I’m praying for was on its way.
I would normally wake up feeling a sense of disappointment and an even deeper longing as everything I experienced in the dream seemed so real but just for a moment. This moment became real finally and so back to that fear I was so scared at the prospect of that feeling of Euphoria being cut short after waiting for so long.
After a week I was discharged from hospital with a lot of medication. As soon as I left I realised it was us three starting all over again.
I realised I missed out on my perfect birth announcement
I missed out on the newborn baby family pictures
After this journey I considered those milestones to be very important, but I learnt it was much more than that when my life was on the line.
I’m so grateful for the midwife who encouraged me to take the epidural. I think if I decided not to take it you would be reading a very different birth story.
From a broader perspective - please invest some of your time in reading about labour etc.
Due to my pregnancy resulting from IVF, in hindsight I think I got too comfortable with certaindecisions being taken out of my hands. I was used to not letting nature take its course and didn’t consider if the planned induction could also have its negatives.
In the hope that I go through another pregnancy in the future, regardless as to how the conception has occurred I will ensure I am more vocal and more invested in the decisions being made because ultimately those decisions affect my baby and family too...
I have started to take some action by signing this petition as a start.