I woke up at 4 a.m. after having 3 contractions. They weren’t very painful but were more significant than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d been having for weeks, and were uncomfortable enough that I couldn’t remain laying in bed as they were happening. As I got up I felt a significant change in the amount of pressure I’d been feeling in my hips the last few weeks. I noted to my husband that it literally felt like there was a head between my legs. Comparing these two pictures, the left photo taken two days prior, explains the reason. That morning the baby had dropped into the birth position.
After I got up I went to the bathroom where I noticed blood in my underwear. I hadn’t had any bleeding this pregnancy so the blood along with the uncomfortable contractions, lower belly, and being 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant let me know that the day was going to be a significant one. I told my husband I believed I was in the beginning stages of labour, and anticipating a birth that afternoon, my husband took the day off work. All day long I had contractions, but they remained spread out, at about 2 an hour, and didn’t seem to be increasing in intensity. Due to the bleeding that remained constant though I decided that by late afternoon, if things still were not progressing, I’d head to Obstetrics to find out the cause of the blood. That day I packed my hospital bag, and played Super Mario with my two oldest sons, waiting for the intensity to increase. At 4p.m., after having contractions every 30 minutes for 12 hours, my husband and I decided to head to the hospital while my in-laws watched our sons.
We arrived at the hospital at 4.30 p.m. but due to there being another delivery in progress I wasn’t assessed by the nurse until 5.30 p.m. At 5.30 p.m. the contractions were still 30 minutes apart and manageable and the nurse commented that the baby likely would not be born that day. However, at 6 p.m. when I was assessed by the doctor she noted that I was already 5cm dilated but because labour was slow they would wait until 7.30 to assess me again and make a decision on whether I should be formally admitted. In the meantime, I was encouraged to walk the halls of the hospital to see if it would help things progress. By 6.30 p.m. the contractions had increased in intensity and were now 15 minutes apart. By 7.00 p.m. the pain was significant.
I’ve had two children prior to this pregnancy. With my first labour I had an epidural after 7 hours. Although the epidural helped manage the pain of labour I remember feeling extremely groggy and lethargic for days afterwards. I couldn’t walk after labour, and remember it took a couple of weeks for me to begin to feel any semblance of normality again. The labour with my second was 3 hours long. Fearing the pain of the contractions I had asked for an epidural upon admittance, but the labour progressed so quickly I never received one. Post labour with my second child though I did notice how much better I felt. I had a shower within the hour, was able to walk around and felt alert and normal immediately afterwards. Having these two experiences as my backdrop, I entered this third labour knowing that I did not want an epidural and hoping that I could progress through labour entirely drug free.
At 7.00 p.m. I asked for the drugs. I did not want an epidural but requested some Entonox, a gas made out of nitrous oxide and air (otherwise known as laughing gas) to help take the edge off the labour pains. By 7.15 p.m. the contractions were so painful I asked if there was a stronger painkiller I could use. The nurse suggested a shot of fentanyl which is a strong, but short-lasting painkiller. However, for the fentanyl to be administered they would have to insert an IV. We tried for 15 minutes to insert the IV but at that point I was having extremely painful back to back contractions and was too tense to be able to get an IV in.
I remember standing beside the hospital bed as I did not want to be lying down for labour. Everything I’d read prior to that point had told me that laying on your back is one of the least effective ways to deliver a child vaginally. I know from experience that the labour pains felt worse on my back and research indicated that labour on your back (as opposed to on your side, hands and knees or squatting) can cause significant injury to the abdominal wall and pelvic floor. I had my hands rested on the bed as the nurse was attempting to insert an IV. My husband was standing behind me rubbing my back. At around 7.40 p.m. my water broke and gushed all over the delivery room floor, splashing on my husband’s feet. As soon as my water broke I had an overwhelming feeling to push. At this point I wasn’t sure if it was the baby coming out or if I was about to drop a large poop on the floor, but I was in so much pain I didn’t even care. Those next 5 minutes were somewhat of a blur and happened very quickly. I remember a nurse behind me saying “I know you want to push but try to get on the bed first” but I couldn’t move being paralysed by the pain. I just stood there and pushed as there was so much intense pressure it was the only thing I could do to relieve it. I think it was two pushes, maybe three, and suddenly I hear crying and the pain subsides. I’m standing there beside the bed, my husband behind me with a nurse and a doctor (who he said caught the baby), and a nurse in front of me giving me a shot as a baby is hanging out between my legs. I literally had to hoist my leg over the baby and the umbilical cord while my husband guided me unto the bed and they passed me my newborn. He was here. After 14 hours of pre-labour and about an hour and a half of active labour, Asher Gabriel was born. The IV was inserted and the fentanyl administered as his head emerged so regardless of my last-minute change of mind, I had a drug-free delivery. Immediately afterwards I felt awesome! I had a shower 30 minutes later and can honestly say, despite pretty much spending the whole day in labour, I felt better than I had in months. Asher was super alert, healthy and strong. He was born at 7.45 p.m. weighing 5 pounds, 12 ounces and measuring 19 inches.