Davina here - I am so sorry for my delay in introducing Baby Bonnie - I imagined I’d be back to blogging within a week of her being born - how wrong was I!- its been over six weeks now and I haven’t found a moment until this week to write an update (this is partly do to it having been Christmas and any spare minute I did have went on sorting Christmas stuff out) and this post has taken me several mini sittings with baby Bonnie strapped to my chest each time to write (Bonnie only likes to nap on someone).
I thought it would be nice to share some photos with you and my birth story and in my next post I will talk more about adapting to being a family of four.
I wrote in my last pregnancy post about my VBAC hospital complications and having to change hospital 4 times during my pregnancy to have to the chance to have a water birth. Well after all the effort midwifes and I went to make that happen I went 2 weeks overdue and had to be induced so the chance of a water birth became increasingly less likely.
We went in to hospital (Queen Elizabeth for those of you who live in London) for induction when I was exactly 42 weeks pregnant as they wanted to give me as much time as possible to go into labour spontaneously, which was really kind of them as normally they ask you to go in 10 days overdue max. By that point I’d literary tried everything else to encourage labour. I’d been to five acupuncture sessions, reflexology, taken multiple clary sage baths (but never allowing myself to lie back in the bath incase it encouraged the baby to move out of my pelvis), gone for ridiculously long walks, eaten several hot curries and had seven membrane sweeps but nothing worked. I was given the option to go straight in for a c-section but the consultant was keen I tried the Prostaglandin gel, which helps to ripen your cervix and open it. She said if that worked I could then have a normal labour and even use the birth pool so I agreed.
I went in feeling a mix of hope and excitement/ nerves combined with a deeper feeling that it wouldn’t work - by that point I didn’t believe anything would work after everything else had failed. We waited around for two hours to see someone, in which time I bounced on the birth ball and walked up and down stairs trying to encourage movement. Finally the doctor came and gave us hope that we might just be able to have my waters broken based on my last membrane sweep report, which said I was 3cm dilated. We were so excited by this - it meant no chemicals and they even said they’d go and enquire if the pool was available straight away! However, when they then examined me they found I was only 1cm dilated and said they couldn’t break my waters so I would have to use the gel.
Once they had inserted the gel they asked us to walk around for six hours but told us we couldn’t go home. It was pouring very heavily with rain outside and the hospital is in the middle of nowhere so if you can’t walk outside then all you can do is roam the empty (it was a Sunday) hospital for hours, which you can imagine was very trying. We walked for about three hours and then I bounced on the ball and tried to watch a film and later did some yoga and birth visualisations - I tried really hard to be positive and imagine my cervix opening. I also did quite a lot of nipple stimulation as I was advised that it was one of the most successful ways to induce labour - at one point I was listening to deep medication music and tweeting my nipples at the same time whilst swaying my hips and visualising my cervix opening - I must have looked a right sight!
Six hours finally came and then of course we had to wait another couple of hours for the doctor to be ready and we finally had another examination and NOTHING - not even half a cm change. I was so disappointed but at the same time I wasn’t surprised - nothing else had worked - why should that? I then asked if I could go home and come back for c-section on Tuesday (I was booked in for one incase I didn’t want to go ahead for induction) and was told no. I had started the induction process and had the drugs in my system so now I had to stay in over night so they could monitor me and not eat anything as it was likely I would have a section the next morning if no progress (or so said the register doctor).
I tried to get some sleep but it was hard as I was sharing a room with three other women - one of whom was in labour and making a lot of noise! And of course I was nervous and away from the comfort of my home and very uncomfortable with the monitor strapped around my tummy. I maybe slept 2-3 hours and was starving by the morning. We were then told we needed to wait for the consultant to come around 9-10 to decide the next step. She finally came with a host of medical students and quickly announced she could easily break my waters - it didn’t matter I was only 1cm! (so the gel was completely unnecessary - thats what happens when you go into hospital on a Sunday with no consultants around). She advised me to get ready to move to labour ward to have my waters broken and told me I could eat some food.
At this point I was excited that there was still a chance I could have a normal birth but scared of having my waters broken - for some reason I thought it would be more painful because I was only 1cm dilated.
We moved rooms slowly and waited in our new room for the consultant. When she arrived I literary started to shake with nerves (it probably didn’t help I’d hardly had any sleep and had barely eaten anything). I prepared myself and used my yoga breathing and actually it wasn’t that bad - after seven sweeps I was custom to be poked around (so to speak). I thought I might feel a gush of water but I didn’t - the consultant said that was normal because the baby’s head was pressing against the membrane. We were advised again to go for a walk - this time for four hours and it wasn’t raining so we went for a long one outside. I started to feel tightenings, which I was very excited about - I never had them with Elfie as she was a planned section. Eventually my waters started to pour out - at first a dribble and then some little gushes and when I went to check I saw some brown/ green colour in my waters - meconium!!! I couldn’t believe it - just my luck. It meant we had to go back and be monitored on the bed.
After the four hours I was examined again and no progress. We were then given the decision to have a section or try the next step of induction - the Syntocinon drip, which would mean a very medical vaginal birth as it requires constant monitoring of the baby and women are advised to have an epidural with it as the contractions come on very quickly and strongly so can be quite painful. We were told that we’d have a 50-60% chance of vaginal birth and the consultant seemed very keen we tried. At this point I phoned Hannah as I knew she’d had an induction with Frankie-Rose using the drip and wanted her advise.
We were given some time to decide and went for another walk. Nick felt strongly that I should go straight for a c-section - by that point he’d given up hope that anything could work and that I should save myself the pain and flooding my body with drugs and just go straight to surgery. I was torn but in the end felt I’d given so much to trying to have a VBAC that it would be a shame not to try the last attempt. Nick supported me as he knew how much it meant to me to have a vaginal birth.
I decided to go straight for an epidural as I was so tired from lack of sleep and little food and I didn’t want to risk needing one later and struggling to stay still with contractions whilst they inserted the needle. I’d never had one before and it felt so strange feeling the cold liquid going up my spine.
They set me up and finally around 7pm started the drip. The epidural didn’t work fully as I could still feel the tightenings on one side, which was a very odd sensation. I was advised to top it up more (as otherwise they’d have to do the epidural again), which I did but felt wrong doing as it meant I was having more than I should. Nick and I tried to make the experience as calm as possible. We put battery operated tea lights around the room, turned off the main lights, sprayed lovely aromatherapy oil around the room and put up handmade decorations to welcome our baby daughter. I was surprised by how calm I felt at this point. I trusted the midwife completely (she was am amazingly woman with 31 years experience)- I even managed to dose off into sleep for a hour here and there - I felt completed supported and secure. We were told we wouldn’t be examined again until I’d had regular contractions (3 every 10 minutes) for four hours in a row - I remember thinking that seemed a life time away.
My contractions started to come on strong but infrequent. The most was two every ten minutes. Around 2am they decided to examine me anyway and I had opened up to 3cm, which they seemed pleased with. Then at around 3am my midwife took her much deserved and needed break and another midwife stepped in to stay with me. Just as my midwife returned I could see that the cover midwife was looking a bit worried and fiddling about with the baby heart monitor. She then told my midwife that she had just that moment lost the heartbeat - my midwife tried and also could not find it and immediately pressed the alarm button and explained to me very calmly that in a minute there would be a lot of people in the room and they might need to take me into emergency theatre. Within seconds there were at least 15 people in the room and they turned me over in one big movement and some started to prep me for theatre whilst others continued to search for heartbeat. I was beyond myself with fear and panic. After about 1-2 minutes they found it - these were probably the longest two minutes of my life. I was terrified and at the same time felt enormous guilt for choosing to try to have a vaginal birth and putting my baby at risk. It was such a relief when they found the heartbeat but I couldn’t get over the fear. My midwife explained to me the baby must have done a huge movement to make it so hard to find the heartbeat. It was good to understand what had happened but I felt like I wanted a debrief from the doctors too after having so many in the room - I needed more reassurance that everything was ok.
After that experience I couldn’t relax - I lost my sense of security and felt very scared that at any moment the baby might get distressed and I might need emergency surgery or even worse the baby could die. About an hour after our scare we heard the alarm going off next door and the lady being rushed to theatre - that made my anxiety worse and I decided I just wanted the baby out as soon as possible.
Nick felt exactly the same - he just wanted the baby out safely now and so we asked the midwife around 6am if we could stop the induction and have a c-section. Our midwife was very supportive of our decision and explained that my contractions were still only one every 10 minutes, which even if I was 10cm dilated wouldn’t be enough to successfully push the baby out so it seemed a c-section was the only way anyway. At this point the doctors came to do an examination and we explained our wish but they told us that if we had progressed it would be a shame not to try a normal birth (at this point I hoped I hadn’t progressed as I really wanted get baby out as soon as possible) - to my relief I was still 3cm so all the medical staff agreed I needed a section.
They prepared us for surgery and explained that Nick wouldn’t be able to be there when they gave me the spinal block or afterwards in recovery - which I was sad and distressed by because I wanted his support for the whole operation- I was anxious about surgery and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t be there.
They removed my epidural and took me to theatre without Nick and told him they’d collect him once I’d had the spinal. When I arrived in surgery there was some confusion about whether I should be there - (I was in the emergency theatre but wasn’t an emergency). The surgeon even took my midwife to the corner to tell her off for bringing me to this theatre and was very rude to her in front of me. They then had to discuss it and during all this my epidural ran out so I started to feel full on chemical induced contractions and my midwife lost the baby’s heartbeat again! Luckily it turned out the machine was broken and our baby was fine. I was in there for over an hour when they decided what to do and it was getting closer to when I knew my midwifes shift was over and then I’d have no support - no Nick or midwife I knew. Amazingly at this point Sophie (a lovely midwife I’d met twice before for sweeps) came in and said she was taking over and she’d requested specially to be there to support me. This made me feel much more secure and Sophie was an incredible support emotional and strategically. Once she realised what was going on she went and made a phone call and all of a sudden it was all fine and they were happy to operate. My other midwife stayed (past her shift time) to meet the baby and they went to find Nick and in the end he was there for the spinal. Sophie held my hands when they applied the spinal block and afterwards to help control the shaking (you get from the drugs).
I remember saying to Nick when they first started cutting me open that I am never going to do this again but then when I saw Baby Bonnie for the first time I thought to myself - maybe just once more. It was such an incredible feeling to finally see her and know she was safe. I just wanted to hold her and not let go. She had so much hair - I couldn’t get over it.
Afterwards in recovery (where they take you straight away post op to monitor you before going to the ward) Bonnie latched on straight away (with the help of Sophie) and had a good 10-15 minute feed. What a relief that something was going right. Sophie stayed with me and then took me to the ward where Nick was waiting for me.
I had to stay in hospital for two more days (this is standard after a section) and in general I was positively surprised by the support of the staff. However, night times were hard - very hard. The first night you can’t move so you have to ask for help for everything, which feels a bit embarrassing. I do think it would be good if staff did say to new mums not to feel bad to ask for help and that was there job - because you can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable asking for so much help. The second night you can move (your catheter has been removed) but you are in agony when you do move but feel you should do it yourself so in some ways even worse than night one.
Both my midwifes came to visit me the next day, which was really lovely and so did my consultant and surgeon. I couldn’t have felt more supported by those two midwifes and more trusting of the consultant. I also had another background midwife support from a senior midwife at Lewisham Hospital (a partner hospital), who had tried to argue for Lewisham Hospital originally to allow me to have a VBAC water birth there and when that wasn’t possible had set up for me to be transferred to Queen Elizabeth and actually met me there to introduce me to staff. Later when I went overdue she also gave me some sweeps and offered support over the phone during my induction. It was incredible to firstly feel so supported by midwives that they arranged for me to change hospital to facilitate my wishes of a water birth and then to have the ongoing support. It felt how it should feel - deeply supported by other women during pregnancy and birth both emotionally and medically for this I am very thankful.
Looking at what I have written it looks so long but there is so much more I could have written. I was only in hospital for 5 days but those five days were so concentrated and emotive. I’d love to hear about anybody’s else’s experience of induction and birth stories in general - they are such powerful tales.
Soon I will write a post about Bonnie’s first few weeks.