So here is the full detailed account – it’s rather long but I found it very cathartic to write!
I actually went past UCLH for the first time last week and was surprised to feel quite anxious just being around there – I suppose at the time I was so focussed on remaining calm and happy that I underestimated quite how much effort that took and how much pressure I was feeling! I truly loved the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I’ll remember it as such a precious time and I’m so pleased I was able to push back on the induction that was suggested at 39 weeks but it wasn’t easy – especially not that discussion with the consultant accusing me of prioritising a positive birth experience over and above the health of my baby!
Both Dom and I think it is remarkable how much you warned us about in our course and then how much we had to deal with! We couldn’t have done it without you! 🙂
As you know, UCLH had been repeatedly offering me (actually: asking me to have) sweeps and inductions since week 39, because I was “high risk” due to the gestational diabetes, despite it being diet controlled (i.e. NO high readings since the diagnosis). I repeatedly refused, for all the reasons that we are so familiar with 🙂 UCLH insisted that I go in for monitoring and discussions with consultants what turned out to be every other day from week 40 onwards – ultrasound scans, CTG monitoring, general health check for me and every single time everything was perfect. As the days ticked on, I was repeatedly asked “How long are you going to let this go on for?” and “What date are you going to agree to an induction” – to which I replied that as long as both my baby and I are healthy and there is nothing to indicate any risk, then I am waiting for labour to start spontaneously. I should add at this point that I felt amazing – no physical discomfort from being so pregnant, no back ache or swelling – I was loving life and very content to be able to give our little one the extra days that he obviously needed!
Towards the end of week 41, UCLH started getting seriously jumpy. Every appointment ended up taking hours as another consultant wanted to see me and another scan was needed at the last minute. Baby still perfect, I was still perfect. But…not only have we completely refused to comply with the policy of women with gestational diabetes delivering their babies by week 40, we were also coming upto their other deadline of all women delivering their babies by week 42! By week 42, you are in (another) high risk category and the birth centre will not take you – I still insisted that not having an induction was more important to us than having a birth pool.
The morning of week 42 I had an ultrasound scan – and the sonographer couldn’t have been happier with the baby, who had put on about a pound in weight since week 40. I was told I was doing everything right and the baby is obviously still growing and getting stronger (my placenta certainly didn’t spontaneously combust at week 40 then….). CTG monitoring and my antenatal check were also perfect. I had been having mild contractions all weekend and all the signs were that something was happening so we were excited!
The consultant that leads UCLH’s gestational diabetes clinic then asked to see me in person. We had an awful conversation where I tried to explain how much we believed in the baby and my body knowing when the right time was and the importance of the natural flow of oxytocin – and the consultant then asked what I wanted out of this pregnancy. She said that if the most important thing is a baby that is alive and well, then I was being irresponsible for putting a positive birth experience over and above having a baby that was alive. That I could have a positive experience by going to the cinema or to a night club and that birth was going to be painful and not necessarily positive but what did that matter compared to the risk of having a still birth. She said that she had delivered thousands of babies and not all of them had been alive when they were born. And she kept going with similar comments, until, surprisingly enough, I broke down in tears, unable to respond. Dom was furious, as you can imagine.
We left UCLH that afternoon having refused an induction again, but they insisted I came back the following day, as presumably I was by now, “double high risk”?! I went home and tried my best to get back into a positive mindset and let the oxytocin flow with yoga, meditation, a funny film, cuddles.
The following day, CTG monitoring showed a few little blips – they kept monitoring me for another half hour, then another half hour….until a few hours later, having been strapped to a bed on my back for way too long, it became apparent that I wasn’t going home. I can still remember the relief on the face of the midwife when, completely worn down, I agreed to have an induction. I was moved into a private room upstairs on the labour ward and called Dom to leave work and come straight to the hospital. It was started with the prostaglandin pessary at 5pm. CTG monitoring for a few hours after that was back to being completely normal! Too late by then, obviously….
Dom went home at some point to pick up our bags, and by 11pm we had created our calm little haven with fairy lights and spa music and positive affirmations on the walls. My contractions were gradually gearing up…..until they suddenly really ramped up. Dom was timing things and was happy when we got to the magical “3 in 10” but then things kept getting more intense. My contractions were a couple of minutes in duration, then 4 minutes in duration, 5 minutes, 6 minutes, 7 minutes….at the peak, Dom tells me I was having contractions that lasted 8 minutes, with as little as 30 seconds in between them. I was physically shaking with shock and exhaustion as one finally subsided and did not have time to catch my breath before the next one started. It was horrendous and very scary because I knew this wasn’t natural and didn’t know how long it would go on like this for. I was in so much pain. Some time in the middle of the night I told Dom I couldn’t do this anymore. Dom insisted that the midwife remove the pessary because this was not sustainable. The midwife examined me and told us I was still only 2cm dilated and that she couldn’t remove the pessary because I was being induced, we had to keep going. I broke down in tears. The midwife offered me PARACETAMOL. Dom says that I laughed at this point…we found out later that because I was not in established labour (not yet 4cm) that they wouldn’t offer me gas and air, epidural etc. So they offered me diamorphine, which I accepted in desperation. It meant that I was able to fall asleep between each contraction, and gather my strength for the next one. And we kept going…
Some time later, I felt my waters break. Not long after, Dom called the midwife, who confirmed it and finally removed the pessary. On examination at 6am I was suddenly 10cm dilated. I cannot tell you how relieved I was that my body was finally taking over and we were making progress! The next stages of the birth were like a completely different birth – so much more manageable because I knew things were happening in the right order. Contractions were still very intense and I was making a lot of noise but I wasn’t scared anymore and didn’t need any further pain relief. Eventually our baby’s head was crowning and I was told that his heart rate was dropping, and the doctors wanted the baby out right now. Suddenly the room filled with doctors, all the lights were turned on and I ended up lying on my back, having an episiotomy (but no other intervention) and being asked to push him out. Not quite how I wanted things to end but little Sebastian arrived at 9.41am, healthy, crying and weighing a modest 7lbs12, with the cord wrapped around his neck two and a half times! On examination my placenta was in perfect condition – no calcification.
Not quite the birth we had envisaged, but Sebastian is perfect. He breastfed, weed and pooed within about half an hour so obviously wasn’t fazed by the whole thing! We had blissful skin to skin time for a couple of hours while everything was sorted out (I barely noticed anything other than the three of us) and Sebastian then fed almost continuously until we went home late that same evening, relieved and happy and in love.
Having been through an induction, all it did was support all the reasons that I was refusing it for so many weeks! It was far too intense and it didn’t work and then my body kicked in and I believe if I had waited another couple of days, it would have started naturally. Also, I don’t believe there was any issues/ risks with Sebastian being “overdue” – he was a modest 7 lbs 12 which is certainly not huge given that I come from a very tall family and also, my placenta on examination was in perfect condition, no calcification or signs of deterioration.
The hugely valuable thing that your hypnobirthing course gave us was the knowledge and confidence to really think about and understand what was going on with my body, and to challenge hospital policy where it was possible. That was so important in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy and also in the labour room during the induction itself. We still created the calm, quiet environment with low lights and music and Dom was able to help me with massage and positive affirmations. I feel it would have been nearly impossible to navigate through hospital policy and to give Sebastian his extra two and a bit weeks of time in the womb without having taken your course and we are incredibly grateful for that!
The sleeping baby in my arms is just stirring so I’ll leave this email now – will send over the birth story soon! Hope you’re well, and I’ll definitely see you at a Mindful Monday sometime
K & D