Maggie’s daughter turns 13 next week; here’s the story of her birth:
I had quite a traumatic birth experience with my son, so when I found out that I was expecting my second baby I was pleased, but partly worried that we would have to go through a similar experience again. My son’s birth had been a planned home water birth, but my blood pressure had become high in the last month of pregnancy and at the onset of labour he had become distressed, leading to an augmented labour, followed by a failed ventouse and then forceps delivery. I had the same community midwife with this second pregnancy, and at my booking-in appointment, she told me that I would have to be checked by the consultant, and strongly advised against having a home birth, given what had happened previously.
This second pregnancy went very well, until six weeks before my due date when my blood pressure went up to 130/90. At this point I started to worry about history repeating itself. Over the next six weeks, however, it stayed more or less constant at 130/90, which although high, was what it had been at my booking-in appointment, so the midwife and consultant weren’t unduly worried.
On the day after my due date I went to bed at 10pm and fell asleep very quickly. Two hours later I woke up as I realised that my waters had broken. My first labour had started the same way, but this time the fluid was clear – so far so good. An hour later we arrived at the Royal Berks Hospital. In the car, the contractions had been pretty mild, but coming about every 5 minutes. The midwife on duty gave me all the routine checks, told me I was about 1cm dilated and that everything seemed to be going normally. She just had to check on my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat and then I could go home and wait for the contractions to start in earnest.
On went the monitoring belts for the obligatory 20 minutes. At the end of this time the midwife looked worried, and told me that she wanted to leave the belts on for a bit longer and get the registrar to look at the trace. The baby’s heartbeat was apparently too steady – not enough variability, which meant that the baby was either asleep or distressed. At the end of 50 minutes the trace hadn’t changed much and the registrar was also worried. She told me that it was very likely that I would have to have a caesarean if the baby was distressed this early in labour, and even if not, they would have to speed things up with a drip. When we were asked what our feelings were about this my husband said angrily “I’m just afraid of the whole bloody thing going balls-up like it did last time”
In the meantime we were moved to a delivery room in order that they could attach a scalp electrode to the baby’s head to give a better indication of the heart rate. By now it was about 2.30am and my contractions were slowly gaining in strength and still coming regularly. Once the readings started coming through the scalp electrode the output from the monitor was faxed through to the on-duty consultant to determine whether the caesarean was required or not. The trace had improved somewhat, but was still considered suspicious. In the meantime my midwife took some blood samples from me as there was some concern regarding my blood pressure and the anaesthetic for the caesarean.
The reply from the consultant came back – no need to do a caesarean yet, but certainly augment the labour with a drip. When I was told this, I asked for an epidural to coincide with the drip going up, as I knew from my first labour that I didn’t want to have to deal with the more painful contractions that would result. However, it wasn’t possible to have either the drip or the epidural until the blood test results came back. By this time the contractions were beginning to get stronger and I was using the breathing technique to get through them, standing next to the bed and leaning on the monitoring machine. They were lasting about 45 seconds and coming every three minutes. I was beginning to think that I should have put my TENS machine on, but under the circumstances I hadn’t bothered as I’d thought I’d probably be on the operating table by now! I debated whether to use gas and air, but somehow I didn’t think I wanted it just yet as the breathing on its own was making a difference.
Eventually the blood test results came back just after 6am, they were fine, and by that time everything was set up ready for the drip to go in and the anaesthetist to do his work. Just before though, I asked for an internal examination to see how things were progressing on their own. I was 3cm dilated by this time, and having been up all night was glad to lie down on the bed for a while.
I had the epidural and up went the drip. Down went my blood pressure to about 70/40 as I reacted to the anaesthetic, felt extremely light headed and debated whether or not to be sick. This reaction passed fairly quickly, and I was pleased to discover that the anaesthetist had got the dose on the epidural spot on. It dulled the pain of the contractions, but I was able to stand up next to the bed and move around to a limited extent. My real fear was that I would end up having to lie still on the bed and give birth in that position. The midwife who had been with me all night went off duty shortly afterwards at 7.30 and another midwife took over.
After another hour and a half the registrar returned and at the same time I realised that the epidural was beginning to wear off, so I asked for a top-up. This was administered just before the registrar announced that they wanted to take blood samples from the baby’s scalp to gauge how distressed it might be. So, back on the bed I went and the registrar started to try and take the blood samples. In passing she told me that I was now 4cm dilated. In the end she had to take three samples as there wasn’t enough in the first two samples to do an accurate blood test. Once she had taken the third she told me I was now dilated to 7cm. At this point I was beginning to suspect that the top-up epidural wasn’t working as not only was I feeling uncomfortable from the internal examinations, but the contractions were getting more painful rather than less. Whilst waiting for the blood results to come back (normal again) the registrar performed a stretch and sweep and told me I was 9cm dilated – quarter of an hour after I’d been 4cm!
The registrar then left my husband and I alone with the midwife. By this time the initial epidural had completely worn off and the top-up hadn’t done anything so I could turn round on the bed so I was kneeling and leaning against the head of the bed, and very shortly I started getting the urge to push. My new midwife was great at this point, she stood back and told me to go with my body, and do whatever felt right.
As the urge to push got stronger I went with it and started pushing. Four minutes and four contractions later at 9.30am the baby’s head appeared, followed at the next contraction by the rest of her body – a little girl! After an eleven minute third stage and some oxygen for the baby she was put to the breast to feed and stayed there for half an hour! After everything that had gone before it was an extremely positive birth experience in the end.
Three and a half hours after the birth we left hospital and brought our daughter home to meet her brother. My mum, who had been babysitting, was amazed to see us – the last update she’d had from my husband had been when we were preparing to have a c-section!