Everyone talks about that precious, magical moment when you meet your baby for the first time. The intense, overwhelming feeling of wonder and admiration at what your body has grown and delivered. During my pregnancy, countless friends shared their experiences and spoke of this ‘rush of love’, and how there’s nothing in the world that compares. I did not have any of this. No rush of love, or elation, or magical moment. I did not see my child enter this world as every woman dreams of – as I had hoped for. This is not a happy, positive birth story. However, I would beg any first time mother who is potentially facing an induced labour to read my story. Please. I only wish that I knew then what I know now, and that I could have been stronger somehow.
I had a good pregnancy. Everything went by smoothly, all my scans went by without any complications, my only gripes were common, albeit silly ones; the fat mama ankles (standard!) and breathlessness from low iron deficiency. I felt happy and proud of my body, at what it was achieving without me having to utter a word. My due date of 12th October 2016 came and went and so far my body was showing few signs of me going into labour naturally. Seven days after my due date my midwife completed one of several stretch and sweeps that failed, and talked me through the induction process. I was given a small booklet that detailed how the induction would be initiated in stages. My midwife explained how it could take between 1-4 days to induce labour artificially, however that the 4 day induction was in extreme circumstances.
I was under no illusions at this point. The happy, fuzzy, ‘family friendly/one born every minute’ water birth that I had pictured in my head was cast to one side and I started reading about how inductions are relatively common with first time mums. That the contractions can come quick and fast and can be significantly more painful than with a natural labour, and that there is a likelihood of a caesarean section if things do not go to plan (my worst nightmare – I’ve seen Alien way too many times!).Though I never imagined how bad it would get.
On Monday 24th October (12 days overdue), suitcase packed and incredibly nervous and excited, my husband Craig and I made our way to York Hospital to have our baby. We were both excited and scared leaving our house as a pair and knowing we would return with a little person who we would love and protect for the rest of our lives. I was shown to my induction suite, which was kind of like a hotel room with its own bathroom and a camp bed for Craig. At 11.45am that day I started stage one of the induction process, a pessary which was inserted and left there for 24 hours to try and ‘encourage’ my cervix to move enough so that they could break my waters. At this point I started with mild, pre-labour contractions that were irregular. Painful, but manageable and so I did lots of walking to the hospital Costa Café and back, ate a lot of cake, bounced up and down like a crazy lady on the birthing ball and tried to sleep.
After 24 hours (Tuesday 25th October) at 11.45am, I was examined internally by a midwife and told that there was a ‘slight change’, but not enough to reach my waters. I was advised that they would now attempt to do this via using a pessary gel, which could be left in for 6 hours. At this point I asked about my options as I was feeling nervous that there was little progression. The midwife explained that after two pessary gels, the hospital insist on a ‘rest day’ on the third day – meaning no medical or internal interventions and that they would try the pessary gels again on the 4th day. I did not like the sound of staying in hospital for the full 4 days without actually being in ‘active labour’ and so asked about a caesarean section on the third day instead. The midwife said that it was ‘my choice’, (though I felt it was a reluctant admission), and how a lot can happen in 24 hours and to see how I feel the following day. Within a couple of hours of the pessary gel my contractions became much worse, to walk through them was painful and I had to use controlled breathing to keep calm.
Throughout the early hours of Wednesday morning, after been awake all night with the pain, I requested another internal examination as felt something was not right. Another midwife came and examined me, it was extremely uncomfortable and sore, however she stated that she was able to reach my waters. I was elated! The midwife explained that it was difficult to reach them, however she was an experienced midwife and would request the same on labour ward. She stated that she had to move my cervix, go around my babies head to get to my waters. I was not sure whether this was normal, but put my trust in her experience and reassurance that it could be done.
Wednesday 26th October – there was no bed on labour ward until 1pm that afternoon. We met my midwife who was called Irene, a lovely lady in her 50’s, who had being a midwife for 30+ years. She explained the next stage of the induction process and introduced me to gas and air which would be my close friend over the next 12 hours. At 2pm she broke my waters. At that point it was the most horrific pain I had ever experienced in my life. I was screaming and crying at the same time, taking in as much gas and air – which did nothing for the pain. Irene stated afterwards that she was ‘this close to sending me back to the induction ward’, which in my opinion meant that the waters were almost too difficult to have been broken. It should not have happened. She encouraged I consider an epidural due to the pain, and by this point I had been in hospital for three days without sleep.
At 3.30pm I was hooked up to the syntocinon drip – the artificial hormone that would bring on active labour contractions. It started on 1mg, then 2, 4, 8, 12 etc and was increased every 30 minutes. I managed to get to 8mg without needing the epidural, by now the contractions were quick and intense and I was having 2-3 every 10-12 minutes. Once the epidural was in, I was told it could be topped up throughout labour if needed. I was 5cm dilated and it was now 8pm Wednesday evening. I felt calmer, I could still feel the contractions but the pain was more manageable. I could also still move my legs and feet. A new midwife called Chloe took over, who was equally lovely and supportive. She explained that the syntocinon would continue to be increased as they did not want me to be ‘stuck’ in labour without any changes. The drip went up to 12mg, then 16mg. By midnight the epidural had worn off completely. At this point the syntocinon was up to 24mgs and I started having a contraction that lasted an hour.
I cannot describe the pain. It consumed me. I remember crying and asking ‘why hasn’t it stopped so I can breathe?’ I could feel everything and the pain did not stop. I remember thinking the midwife looked worried and kept leaving the room to speak with a doctor. Due to my babies heart rate she had advised I lie on my left side so they could monitor closely but due to this, they had stopped monitoring my contractions. She radioed for an Anaesthetist to come and assess me due to concerns around why the epidural had worn off.
It felt like it took forever for him to arrive and when he did he appeared frustrated with the midwife and how she had left the drip on 24mg whilst I was screaming and writhing around on the bed. I was not due to be examined until 1am, but due to the ongoing contraction Craig requested a doctor examine me early. I was 8cm dilated and told it could still take a few hours to get to 10cm. The Anaesthetist administered a second dose of the epidural and the midwife started testing it regularly by pressing ice on different parts of my body and asking how cold I was. Between 1-2am is a bit of a daze.
It’s now Thursday 27th October at 2am and I remember now that my whole body started shaking violently, I couldn’t control it. I didn’t feel hot or cold, just strange and not myself. I recall Craig wrapping my dressing gown around me and holding me to try and calm me down. I thought I was in shock. At 2.15am the senior doctor and midwife examined me and stated that I was 10cm dilated and that I could start pushing. I remember feeling this rush of adrenaline, excitement and also an overwhelming fear that I was about to meet my baby after all this time. I started pushing and I could feel my baby move down towards my pelvis, it was the strangest, yet most beautiful feeling. 30-40 minutes went by, and due to concerns about baby’s heart rate the doctor put a clip on my babies head to gage whether baby was in distress or not. At this point Craig notices that my hands had turned blue. The next bit all goes too quickly. Within minutes the results of the clip attached come back and confirm that my baby was in distress and the doctor explained that I would have to go to theatre. She talked about an intervention using forceps and that a caesarean section was a strong possibility. I remember feeling heartbroken that it had got to this point, after everything I had been through, to get so close and then be told I was to have a section. But I was also terrified that something was wrong with my baby.
I was rushed to theatre, where there were approximately 20 health professionals in one room. Everyone started asking me questions about my contractions. My head was a mess, and I believe I was still in shock.
A woman started spraying my back with cold water and asking if I could feel it – which I could. She looked confused as it appeared that I should not have felt that given the second dose of epidural. I recall the original Anaesthetist turning up a couple of minutes late and arguing with this woman in front of me about how to proceed. He wanted me to have a spinal injection, and she wanted me to have a general anaesthetic. I remember looking at Craig and thinking that I was going to die. That these people, these professionals who are responsible with making these decisions do not know what to do. I was terrified. Craig held my hand and noticed that I had a temperature. He told the senior doctor of my high temperature (please don’t get me started on all the things he noticed that they failed to notice.) and she made a decision for the two Anaesthetists who were having a disagreement. I started to go blood red all across my chest and my face turned a deep scarlet colour. She told me that I would have to have a general anaesthetic as there was no time. I did not know what any of this meant at the time, and thought that I would be awake and that Craig would be in the room. I remember asking a man in scrubs if I was going to die.
Then I remember been wheeled away from my husband in to another room and told that he was not allowed to be in the room with me and I was to be put to sleep. I will never forget the look in Craig’s eyes, the fear. I was told to drink this black liquid, breathe through an oxygen mask and count to ten. Then there is just blackness.
My son Jack Leonard Rodgers was born at 3.34am Thursday 27th October. He is beautiful. I don’t recall what time I first held him. Or even holding him, but there are pictures of me doing so. Pictures that I find very difficult to look at without crying. Craig introduced Jack to me four times and I did not understand what had happened. I remember waking thinking ‘have I had a baby?’. It was so surreal. Members of staff came to talk to me with questions, surveys and things to sign when I was not coherent. It should not have happened, like so many other things throughout my induction.
It was over 24 hours after Jack was born, when a midwife who was changing my antibiotic drip asked ‘how was the birth’, when Craig and I broke down in hysterics. Both crying about what had happened, both confused as to why the decision was made and how close it had come to me not being here today. The midwife was incredible; she listened, told me that they keep our notes at hospital for 25 years if I choose to complain and that she will request that a senior doctor comes to talk with us. The doctor explained that I had contracted a ‘bacterial infection’ throughout my labour, and that this combined with Jack being in distress meant that they had minutes to get him out – hence the anaesthetic. I was offered no explanation as to how I had contracted this infection, what it meant – only that it was serious. I was on an IV drip of two antibiotics for three days and Jack was taken to the special care baby unit to have his antibiotics. I was discharged with so many drugs due to the infection and losing a lot of blood.
I will never get over this experience. I’m quite a strong, positive woman and have taken a lot, but this will never leave me. I wanted to write this all down as I find it helps me to process everything. And because there were too many things that went wrong that could have been avoided. And because no woman should ever have to go through what I did. They should have completed a caesarean section on day three after two days of a failed induction. They should not have broken my waters. They should not have stopped monitoring my contractions. Craig should not have been the one to notice that my hands turned blue, or that I had a temperature. The two members of staff should not have argued about their decision in front of us all. I have so many what ifs.
I didn’t write this to terrify people, please understand what happened to me was very rare. But it does happen. Having read about birth traumas after failed inductions, I have learnt that it happens way too often. And it shouldn’t. Things need to change and I wish I had in some way being stronger and demanded a c section earlier. For women who will go through inductions – please do your research, understand that it will be more painful, accept the help and be firm and demand interventions if you are not happy. My scenario could have been avoided.
I have a beautiful, strong baby boy to show for my pain, and he is worth every minute. I never knew I could love something so much, and be so overwhelmingly protective. I may not have had that ‘rush of love’ that everyone talks of straight away, but I certainly had it later on when he squeezed my finger for the first time. Or when he had hiccups that first night I was in hospital on my own with him. The comfort and joy felt when it was only me who could settle and soothe him in the early days, when he would and still does cup my face with his little hand as he drifts asleep. His beaming smile when I walk into his room every morning, and his adorable belly laughs at the silly things you do. These are the many moments that count, and I am confident that there will be plenty more headed my way.
Thank you for reading xxx