My name is Rebecca, I am 24 and my husband John and I tried to conceive for 5 years before our beautiful daughter Hannah Ruth Pender finally arrived 13 days late on the 10th January 2013 at 2.35pm after a 13 hour induced labour.
From the moment I saw the very faint second line on the first of 7 (just to be sure) positive home pregnancy tests I knew what kind of birth I wanted. Reality television and watching other women go through labour every week on national TV made me sure I wanted a natural birth in water with zero pain relief and I certainly didn’t want to scream the house down. I had mentally prepared myself for months for birth and that made all the difference, especially reading stories from other women who had done it before me. I never wrote a birth plan; I had an idea of what I wanted but didn’t want to be disappointed if it didn’t go that way, I was open to going with the flow.
My story starts at our first scan when the sonographer claimed I was only 11 weeks pregnant despite me knowing for a fact that I was 13 weeks and 4 days along. I questioned them and they dismissed my conception date and were adamant that I had conceived after my positive home pregnancy test. I questioned them again after my 20 week scan and was again dismissed so at 32 weeks pregnant (by their dates, 34 by mine). I demanded to see a consultant at my hospital and tried explaining again when I conceived. I had let fear get a hold of me with regards to the dates and was scared I was not receiving the proper care for my level of gestation. One thing I have learned from this pregnancy is that Health Professionals do not like to be challenged. Again I was dismissed but to keep me quiet my consultant agreed to offer me 2 scans one a 37 weeks and one at 39 weeks (again the hospitals dates).
The first scan was on Christmas eve and everything appeared good, baby was measuring large but healthy and still had a healthy level of fluid. My Second scan was 7th January and baby was measuring at 43 weeks 3 days and had very little fluid left. At this point the consultant started to panic and said it was time to get baby out as I was overdue … EH HELLO – I had been saying this for 6 months. So an induction was set for 2 days later, she gave me a sweep and sent me home.
On Wednesday 9th January we went to the hospital at 2pm for induction, which meant a water birth was no longer an option, but I could still carry on with my other hopes for my birth. We were 13 days overdue and very large. I was administered the first pessary at 4pm and it did nothing although I was already 1cm dilated after the sweep two days earlier, John had to leave at 7pm and I was given a second pessary at 10pm. At 12.45am I heard and felt a ‘pop’ but there was no fluid only my plug which I had been losing for a few days anyway. 30 minutes later I had my first contraction. Now, I had asked many friends with children what a contraction felt like and how would I know when I had one. They all said “you will just know” which just frustrated me, now alone on an induction ward in the middle of the night I couldn’t help but chuckle as they were right, that was absolutely definitely a contraction.
The contractions went from every 15 mins to every 5 mins within the space of an hour and got very intense, at 3am I hit a bit of a wobble, I was alone and in pain and asked the nurse for some pain relief, she gave me paracetamol, the kind you take for a headache. I felt guilty as soon as I took it but I knew that once my support team, my husband and my Mum showed up in the morning I would be ok. I was checked again at 6.30am and I was 5cm and was transferred to the labour suite. I walked around to the room after calling John and Mum to come to the hospital and was met by my midwife Helen and her student Julie. I was about to ask for something to eat when Helen told me I couldn’t eat and I have to admit that I took a bit of a dislike to her because of that, but the contractions got stronger so I let it slide. Due to the induction the baby had to be constantly monitored and me being a ‘big girl’ the monitor wouldn’t stay on unless I lay on the bed. As I wanted to be mobile we agreed to place a clip on the baby’s head. At this point the realised that my membranes had ruptured but babies head was blocking the water from coming out – must have been the earlier pop I heard in the middle of the night.
Helen kept offering pain relief including gas and air which I kept politely refusing. Eventually she said “You won’t get any medals for doing it without pain relief” to which I replied “I don’t expect a medal; I don’t want pain relief” at which point she backed off. I don’t think they were used to a young first time mum who was knowledgeable and knew exactly what she wanted. I started off standing up holding on to the back of my bed rocking my hips occasionally kneeling on the bed for a rest. My mum was on hand with a jug of water, a glass with a straw and a tub of Vaseline, all that deep breathing left my lips really dry. As a mother of 4 herself we had talked about labour a lot and agreed that her words of encouragement would be to think “Loose and Low” and to breathe, breathe, breathe.
All that water was being quickly expelled through sweat as my body naturally built up endorphins and they had to keep re-taping my cannula to my wrist as the sweat was stopping the tape from sticking. I was also sick at one point although it was only water I brought up. I tried the birthing ball at one point but when I sat my contractions stopped.
I stalled at 7cm and transition was a slow process for me, it took me a few hours and a lot of hip rocking to get to 10cm, at one point Alicia Keys’ new song “This Girl is On Fire” came on the radio and I started to dance with my arms high in the air singing along to push myself through that barrier and spur myself on.
I was checked again and I was fully dilated apart from a tiny anterior lip. I believe there was talk of forceps delivery and also a c section but I was in my happy place, I was falling asleep between contractions (while standing up), at one point I was on the plains of Africa with a herd of Elephants (my power animal) and I was breathing, boy was I breathing, loose and low, loose and low, loose and low.
At this point I was incredibly tired, I had been awake almost 36 hours and labouring for 12 hours so I decided to lie on my side on the bed. I felt the urge to push and told everyone this but I was told it wasn’t time yet. With each contraction the urge to push was stronger and I thought maybe it was a bowel movement, with every pain I vocalised what I was feeling, I said I needed to push but they kept saying I wasn’t ready yet.
All of a sudden I had Helen’s attention, the baby was crowing, that intense pressure I was feeling was my daughter making her way down the birth canal. She asked me to lie on my back; I had wanted to give birth on all fours but given that she was crowning Helen said it would make it easier if she needed to cut me, which she did. I believe I could have birthed the baby’s head without a cut but I also believe that some hospitals have a policy to give first time mothers an episiotomy no matter what. So I was cut, quite badly but there was no time to dwell on that, it was time to push.
Up until this point I had laboured silently just me and my breathing, loose and low, but the adrenalin of having to push made me put my head back and let of a long loud throaty moan and I felt like the situation was quickly getting away from me, but Mum and John quickly brought me back and told me to put my chin to my chest and use all that energy to push rather than moan and so I was silent again. John was holding my leg high in the air so that I could push, at which point I forgot my mother was in the room, and made a joke about the last time my legs were in that position and how that led us to this moment in time, thankfully everyone laughed including Mum. It’s funny how labour can turn you into a comedian.
I listened to Helen and done exactly as she said, pant, push, pant, push, I birthed her head and at this point my contractions changed they were no longer painful, in fact I had to ask Helen if I was having a contraction to push out her body. SWOOSH her body came out along with all my waters she had been blocking. I had only pushed for 5 mins. Helen asked Julie to cut the cord, and I interrupted that John wanted to do that. I was unaware that Helen was worried, Julie cut the cord and they whisked her over to the table. I cried out “I love you Hannah, I’m a Mummy” and looked at John and saw the worry in his face. It never registered with me that something was wrong and I comforted my husband telling him everything was ok.
Julie hit the alarm and the room crowded with people. Hannah had spent so long in the birth canal that her head was very, very coned and she hadn’t breathed right away. She had to be resuscitated but the panic only lasted a second and within seconds we heard the sweet, sweet cries of my beautiful longer for baby. She was covered in vernix and apart from a coned head and a swollen eye she was perfect. As I had zero pain relief since 1cm she was incredibly alert and looking all around. My legs started to wobble as the realisation hit that I was a mummy, I had birthed my daughter without pain relief and without fear, even when they mentioned surgical intervention I went into my own little place and me and my daughter did it together.
I found my birth to be an incredibly empowering experience and I feel very privileged to now belong to the sisterhood of all the mama’s who have gone before me and all those who have yet to Join. I no longer fear childbirth or labour because I know I am strong, I am strong because I birthed without fear, without pain relief and I didn’t bow to the pressure from the medical profession to have pain relief. I might not have a medal but I have a beautiful daughter and I am a very proud mama.