When your only plans going into childbirth are an epidural and a vaginal birth, having the head of obstetrics come into your birthing suite and say “we’ve prepped theatre” is literally the last thing you want, especially when you are already legs up and pushing.
Heading into the final few weeks of pregnancy I had to start planning for the next inevitable step, childbirth. I didn’t want to overthink or plan too much because 9 times out of 10, things don’t go to plan and the last thing I wanted was to be disappointed in what would probably the most high stress situation of my life. My pregnancy was already high risk and difficult enough, I didn’t need to complicate things further. (A bit of back story into it all, I have a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which is a connective tissue disorder that comes from a malformation of collagen, basically meaning my skin and ligaments are all far more elastic than they should be leaving me at high risk of soft tissue injuries, dislocations and a whole lot of unnecessary pain, and as it turns out a whole lot of pregnancy complications.)
The only things I knew I needed to achieve were a natural birth, an epidural before I had to push and ultimately a healthy baby. The epidural was medically ordered due to the high risk of hip dislocation which could potentially send my body into shock during labour, so not being able to feel anything would be super convenient. I also needed to try my best to have a natural birth because another annoying side effect of EDS is increased healing times and a high risk of wounds reopening, so a Caesarian birth would land me in hospital for at least a week postpartum, and no one wants to endure hospital food that long, I’d already suffered through enough of that during my pregnancy.
I had to be induced at 38 weeks gestation due to some EDS related complications and suspected preeclampsia. I had already been in pre labour/early labour for almost two weeks at this point so I was 100% done with the cramping and soooo ready to get the baby out. So, in to hospital I went at 5pm on the Tuesday and waited around to have the gel inserted to hopefully get things underway, but in typical fashion With the rest of my pregnancy, it wasn’t going to plan, and nothing was happening. I was feeling too many things to be able to even consider sleeping despite knowing I was about to push a whole human out of me, so I paced and watched Netflix until the midwives came in at 6 o’clock Wednesday morning to escort me to the birthing suite to have my waters broken, finally something was happening, and boy was I excited about that.
Nothing could have prepared me for the pain of having my waters broken, everything else to this point was an absolute breeze in comparison (except the heartburn and reflux, I’ll take my waters being broken over that any day). Almost instantly after my waters broke I started having contractions, within half an hour they were less than 3 minutes apart and things were progressing faster than the midwives expected. Now, every female in my family has fast labours and a typical side effect of EDS is incredibly fast labour, all of which I had warned my care team of, but in their exact words “no ones first labour is that fast”. By this stage I was asking about the epidural with every break between contractions and just after 9am the anaesthetist showed up to get things sorted. I don’t think I’d ever loved anything more than I loved that beautiful anaesthetist and her beautiful drugs at the moment that epidural kicked in. The relief from the pain was practically euphoric and knowing that even if I did pop a hip pushing my baby out that I basically wouldn’t even know eased a lot of my anxiety.
It wasn’t until about 10 minutes later that things started to get a little crazy. The whole left side of my face started to droop from the epidural spreading too far. People with EDS are generally hypersensitive to pain medications but process them faster than most, so I had to be monitored constantly to make sure I could eventually feel my face again. Thankfully, within 15 minutes I could feel everything again (and I mean everything), so they lowered the dose of the epidural and I was allowed it more frequently, which was amazing, pressing that epidural button made me feel like a queen and the contractions were my little loyal peasant subjects. Although by now my contractions had practically stopped and nothing much else happened until the pictocin drip was attached at 11am.
When things started back up, about 20 minutes after the drip was started, it was almost like reality was in hyper speed. Although I couldn’t feel the pain, I could still feel the pressure of the contractions, and they were coming hard and fast. Everything seemed fine for a short while until around midday when the midwife in charge turned a funny shade of pale and sent the student midwife to get a doctor. Now being my first baby, I didn’t think twice and thought this was just the standard when things got to the pointy end. The doctor comes in and instantly her face became firm when she looked at the CTG monitor. She informed me that my baby was in distress and I would need to start pushing immediately. Minutes beforehand I’d been laughing away, now suddenly everything was somber and terrifying. I obviously agreed without hesitation and after a basic rundown of what to do, with the next contraction I was pushing. I barely even noticed the doctor assessing the baby while I pushed but at the end of my second push she let me know that the baby was facing sideways and that they were going to need to perform an episiotomy and use forceps. I wasn’t about to disagree with them, I just wanted my baby to be okay, that’s all I cared about, even if it meant they had to slice me completely in half at this point.
It was then that the room suddenly filled with people, I started to count them between pushes to keep me distracted from the intensity of the situation at hand and help me focus on my job of getting this baby out as swiftly as possible. 14. There was 14 people. Before I knew it the head of obstetrics on call was walking into the room, at this point the whole world around me went silent, his weak but assertive voice terrified me, “we’ve prepped theatre”. Those three words, both horrified and empowered me. I wasn’t having a Caesarian, not if I could avoid it.
I looked my doctor in the eyes and told her I was pushing. I wasn’t waiting for cues anymore, I knew what I had to do and I was going to get it done. After two more pushes my mini legend had turned herself around, what a little champion, and what a team we were making. I barely stopped pushing from then on. At some stage they put a vacuum on the baby’s head and two pushes later, after an hour and eighteen minutes of active labour, at 12:42pm, a perfectly pink and wide eyed tiny baby human was being handed to me, like Rafiki presenting Simba to the animal kingdom. She cried, then so did I. I’d never seen something so wonderful, never felt anything so incredible.
We’d done it. My little sidekick and I, we had overcome our first little hurdle in life together. It was at that moment all my worries surrounding motherhood as a solo parent left me, if we could get through that, we could get through anything.