On 11th February 2021 @ 13:34, our lives changed forever as April Freya Talbot, weighing 6lb 5.5 entered into the world after an 19 hour labour. Our beautiful baby girl was finally here after over 72 hours of an induction of labour...
If you don't fancy reading on but do what to know what happened, I did a live on Instagram recently where I shared my story so feel free to check that out here instead.
A word of warning before I begin in case anyone is triggered by the following; use of the word contractions and pain (hypnobirthing encourage the word surge instead but we don't see contraction or pain as negative), interventions including epidural and diamorphine and induction of labour using balloon catheter and hormone drip and bladder retention. I will be discussing these below...
If you've read my previous blog, or watched my trimester 3 vlog you will know that at around 34 weeks after a few periods of reduced movement throughout trimester 3, we were told that our baby was measuring slightly small and we would be monitored for the next two weeks with twice weekly CTG, weekly developmental scans and then a follow up growth scan in two weeks. If everything was ok, I'd continue as normal. If there were any concerns, I'd be induced. We didn't quite make it that far before the decision was made. At 36+5 (4 days before that follow up growth scan), we were back in for another period of reduced movement. I spoke about this experience in the last blog and trimester 3 vlog so please refer back to that if you haven't a clue what I'm waffling on about. That day, the decision was made. Rather than any potential risk to our baby, induction was booked for the following Monday (8th Feb 2021).
I should say too that before any of this, my preference was to deliver in the midwife led unit, using the birthing pool and only gas and air. I wanted aromatherapy oils, candle light, my ceiling projector and my 'pop goes classical' playlist. In fact, at my first midwife appointment I said I wanted a home birth. I love my home and felt it would be the most comfortable place to bring our baby into the world. My midwife advised against it from the word go. Living at the top of a hill, accessed only by a single track road and with a due date of the end of February, she was concerned that perhaps a midwife couldn't reach me or that if something went wrong and I needed to go to hospital quickly, we wouldn't manage if the weather was bad. My Mum (who is an obstetrics and gynaecology theatre Charge Nurse) also advised against it. In fact, I think her words were "Louise, I don't even want to think about that. I certainly wouldn't advise it." After a lot of discussion and weighing up pros and cons, we settled for the midwife led unit, right up until the decision was made about induction. Thank goodness really...
Monday 8th February 2021-
The start of the induction process
After a week of trying to bring labour on myself, lots of tightening's and Braxton hicks, we made our way to the ante natal clinic to have my balloon catheter inserted. This method of induction is where a balloon catheter is inserted through the cervix and sits between the cervix and the babies head. It helps trigger labour by applying pressure and increasing natural hormones.
Before this was inserted, the midwife checked me and baby over; the usual CTG, blood pressure, urine sample and general wellbeing before giving me an internal, which became a sweep. This wasn't too painful; more of a discomfort. At this point, it was established that I was about 1cm dilated so although in a very good position for the balloon to work, not enough to not need the balloon at all! Although I'd been trying everything possible to bring on labour in the week leading up to this, and had been secretly hoping I'd be dilated enough for my waters to be broken and have this stage skipped, I wasn't disappointed; just excited that things were moving in the right direction.
I'd prepared myself for the balloon insertion. A few people had told me that it was very painful. One even said that it was worse than labour. I asked for Mats hand and was ready to use the hypnobirthing style of breathing to get me through it. Everyone is different of course, but I didn't find it too bad, and certainly not as sore as labour as I'll come on to explain! To have the balloon inserted, there are two midwives present, one to fetch the instruments required and another to actually insert it. My legs were open wide, feet in stirrups and in it went. Now I wouldn't say it was pain free, but honestly, I found it ok. I'd describe it as no worse than a smear test which lasted longer than normal. It felt a bit odd when the balloon was filled with water but generally completely manageable with no breathing or squeezing of hands required.
As the midwife cleaned me up (there's a small amount of blood lost during the insertion), she informed me that I'd have period like cramps for the next 2-3 hours but after that, it would ease. I could take paracetamol or co-codamol if I felt I needed it.
The cramping was light and manageable as we left the hospital but the fact I had two plastic tubes hanging from my vagina and down my thigh took more getting used to.
We left the hospital with a spring in our steps. This was it. Our baby was coming! We had an appointment booked for 24 hours later in labour ward to have it removed and providing everything was ok, to have my waters broken. I should also say here... the snow that had been forecast was coming in thick and fast. I had the option to be admitted to the ward while the balloon was inserted to allow monitoring on babies heartrate and movements. After much deliberation, we decided to go home and try and make ourselves comfortable. I'd rather have Mat with me and he had 100% confidence in both his driving and our new 4wd drive car that we'd only had since December and had never had to use it in 4wd!
Home comforts and contractions?!
On returning home, we immediately set up the ceiling projector, lit some candles, started the aromatherapy diffuser and played my playlist... everything I'd wanted! Mat made me delicious food and kept me well hydrated and we relaxed all afternoon together. I say relaxed... every time I looked out the window, a wave of extreme anxiety filled me. The snow by this point was white out conditions and there was about 5cm on the ground. Mat took himself, a shovel and the wheelbarrow down the drive, cleaning and gritting a route out for the car. He remained confident so I asked him to close the curtains and I tried to switch off to it, knowing and trusting that if he was concerned he'd make a decision to get us back to, or at least closer to the hospital. I now know that he'd enquired to the Premier Inn closest to the hospital just in case we needed to check in.
By tea time, the period like pains weren't easing; in fact they were getting stronger. By 8 pm the pain was there constantly, but was combined with intermittent waves of even stronger discomfort. I was going between my birthing ball, walking around trying to keep myself occupied with cleaning or whatever and the sofa but was struggling to get comfortable. I ended up using my tens machine, and by 8:30pm I'd taken paracetamol and Mat was running me a bath. Was this the start of something?
Every time I stood up or went to the loo, I wondered if I'd suddenly feel a surge of water or the balloon would fall out. We went to bed early but by 10:30pm, I was using the Freya app to time what we thought were contractions and I was back in the bath and taking co-codamol by 11pm. The bath (or the codeine!) took the edge off and I managed to sleep for a bit. I woke at 1:30am and at this point the contractions were coming a lot more frequently and I was having to use my breathing to get through them. I was having between 2 and 3 lasting between 60 and 90 seconds every 12 mins for around 30 mins at a time, then they'd ease off to around 3 in 30 mins. Mat was absolutely amazing, staying awake with me to help me count my breathing and keeping me well hydrated and as comfortable as possible.
I managed to dose on and off in between and by morning they seemed to have slowed down again, now consistently 3 in 30 mins lasting about a minute each time. We knew it was very early stages, if it was even labour so didn't rush back to hospital until our scheduled appointment to have the balloon removed and my waters broken.
Tuesday 9th February- False hopes!
In the morning, I washed and dried my hair, had a long shower and a really slow morning. I had two breakfasts and we chatted about how this would be the last time we left the house as a couple and the next time we came home, we would be a family of 3. We took more photos in the snow and left for the drive in, feeling so excited for the next stage. Our appointment was at 1pm but due to the conditions, we left in plenty of time, arriving in Dundee far too early. Mat detoured to McDonalds where I had a wrap and a drink and he had a cheeseburger meal. I was a combination of too full from my two breakfasts, excited and nervous to finish my food and just wanted to be in the hospital getting it done! The contractions were by this time very irregular but had ramped up in intensity so the extra time in the car wasn't the most comfortable for me.
On arrival at the hospital, we were given a triage room to make ourselves comfortable while we waited on a midwife. We waited. And we waited. All the time, trying to remain comfortable and positive but looking out the window and seeing the snow getting even heavier and the time it took for the midwife to get to us, we wondered if perhaps some of the staff had trouble getting into work?!
While we waited, I was having more contractions and when I went to the loo, discovered I'd lost my mucous plug. More hope that things were moving in the right direction. We chose not to get our hopes up and waited to see what the midwife would say.
Eventually, a midwife came in and explained that they would shortly remove the balloon and check my cervix. She also said that due to the snow they were very short staffed and also very busy and therefore they would not be breaking my waters right away. I didn't worry about this, taking this to mean that we may have a wait in this room for a while longer... not the end of the world!
The balloon coming out wasn't painful, just a bit uncomfortable and again, like a slightly longer than normal smear test and a little bit odd when the long tubes came out. At this point I was 3cm dilated but my cervix was still quite far back but the midwives said I was in a very good position for my waters to be broken. What they said next was not what I expected and it threw me a bit. Due to the weather and associated staff shortage, I was told it was very unlikely that my waters could be broken today. Sorry, what?!
After days of mentally preparing for this moment, I was going to have to wait even longer. My positivity drained from me and I could feel my anxiety creeping in again. With the snow getting worse by the minute, we discussed for the second time, the pros and cons of me being admitted/us both staying at a hotel/going home. We weighed it all up and with the help of Mat boosting my mood, we decided to go home to wait, knowing I'd be much more comfortable and could hopefully try to relax a bit. The midwife said if we haven't heard anything by 7pm, to call them for an update.
Off we went, once again in white out conditions and settled at home for the afternoon. More of the same... food, ball bouncing, clary sage, candles, films and music. Oh, and me getting more anxious every time I looked out the window! 7pm came and went and although I was trying to remain positive, the anticipation was a bit much to handle. I called the labour suite and was told they were trying to move a few people to get some beds back and were trying to get some more staff in so they were hopeful. They couldn't give me a time but said someone would call as soon as a space became available. It could be any time, so keep my phone on. Phone back at 8am if I hadn't heard anything. I definitely don't want to sound critical but I wondered then and still do now what they would have done with no rooms and no staff if I'd turned up unannounced in established labour?!
After a few sleepless nights already and knowing I'd need all the energy I could muster up, I went to bed early. Not sure why now as I tossed and turned all night, worrying if I slept I might miss my phone ringing. Wondering if I would no longer be 3cm when I finally did go back in and realising that the balloon being in had given me the 'contractions' and now I wasn't feeling very much at all.
Wednesday 10th February- Is today the day?
8am came and went. I'd had no contractions or any other signs since yesterday afternoon, the snow was still getting worse with about 25cm at ours and the hospital bag was once again back in the house with us. I called just after 8am and was told the coordinator was busy and would call me back. 11am passed and I'd still not heard from her so I rang again and managed to get straight through. She explained the situation and said that I'd definitely be called to go in today. I asked would that definitely be it? To which she replied yes. Pack your bags. Call back at 1:30pm. Cue me washing my hair for the 3rd day in a row and the 5th time in a week (unheard of!) and eating as much as I could physically take in. I was absolutely exhausted but knowing that I'd be in labour that day provided me with enough energy. When I called back she said they were still waiting on a space but would still definitely be that day and she thought, although couldn't promise it would be around 4pm. She would call me as soon as possible. After checking my bags (again!) and gathering up all of the things I wanted to feel relaxed (speaker, projector, aromatherapy etc) I video called my mum and sister to tell them. No sooner had I told them the news, the coordinator called me back and said to go in for 4:30pm. This. Was. It.
After another examination, I was told I was between 2 and 3cm dilated. Despite many a Google search and a few chats with midwives on Instagram and being told this wouldn't happen, my fears came true. I'd regressed. I was told not to worry however, and the process began to break my waters. Now I don't mean to worry anyone, but this was the worst part of the induction process. Using what I can only describe as a knitting or crochet needle, the midwife prodded about to try and rupture the membranes. It took a few attempts and this was definitely more uncomfortable for me than the balloon. After what felt like quite a while, I was a bit disappointed. I think I expected the whoosh you see on TV with the waters gushing from you. I barely had any. The midwife then said they hadn't quite got them and would have to try again. At this point I was feeling so excited and so focussed that I got back on the bed, declined the offer of gas and air and used the hypnobirthing breathing to get through it. Then, after a bit less prodding than the last attempt, I got my TV moment and the whoosh of waters saturated the bed and the floor!
We'd decided at this point to wait for an hour or so and see if anything would start itself so set the room up with the tealights, projector, diffuser and put our playlist on. Mat did all of this while I went onto JustEat and ordered pizza... priorities!
I knew deep down that things wouldn't start, not sure why but I just had a feeling. I wanted to give it an hour max and then just get on with things. I was so, so excited for labour the whole way through pregnancy and although this wasn't how I'd originally envisaged it being, I felt so calm and ready for what was to come.
I was started on the hormone drip, I think around 6:30pm. The way this works is you're put on quite a low dose and then it's gradually increased over time. I have no idea what 'level' I was on but the contractions started pretty quickly and were coming thick and fast. I refused gas and air to begin with, even though I felt I really needed it because I was worried I would build up a resistance to it. When I eventually did start having it, I was almost rationing it for the same reason. That didn't last too long.
It was quickly established that baby was back to back and I was having no break from contractions. The midwife described my contractions as coupling and tripling... two or three coming back to back with no rest in between. It was relentless but I still felt completely in control, breathing through them; Mat keeping me well hydrated and using all of his strength to stop me from pushing the bed across the room. I was comfiest sitting with my legs pressing against the bed. The force of my legs was stronger than the breaks on the bed however, and the chair was on wheels. So for a while, Mat's job was contracting every muscle in his body to push against the chair and hold the bed still!
I had an internal examination at 1am and just before the midwife came in to do this, I asked Mat how dilated he thought I would be. His reply was 6cm at least, you've just had constant contractions for 21 minutes and haven't uttered a word for 45. I then went into another 24 minutes of contractions but just as it was ramping up I said to Mat... I bet I'm still only at 3cm. I'm not sure how I knew, but I was right; well... I was 3.5cm. The timeline is a bit unclear from here but I remember not long after this, being on the floor on all fours, then the bed, then the ball. Then having the tens machine and then not wanting the tens machine. I just couldn't get comfortable.
My next check was at 5am and for these 4 hours, I barely uttered a word to anyone, just breathed through the constant contractions and used a lot of gas and air! I remember getting a few seconds break every 20 minutes or so and during those times, I felt like superwoman. Labour was genuinely the most empowering thing. There were snippets of conversation between Mat and the midwife that I remember about holidays and how we met but mainly in these little moments of calm, I listened to the playlist and just focussed on staying in the zone.
Not long before my 5am, I became doubled over in pain. A pain very different to the contractions I'd been experiencing. It was very localised and the gas and air wasn't even touching it. The contractions were still as relentless but I was no longer coping because of this pain. The midwife kept saying it must be pressure from the baby but I knew it wasn't. I could point to exactly where it was. Shortly afterwards and before anyone did anything about this new pain, the midwife turned the hormone drip off completely as the lack of any break in between was impacting on babies heart rate. Once this was sorted and we knew baby was stable, I tried to explain the pain again. The midwife also highlighted that I hadn't passed urine for some time (I was drinking loads and had been frequently until this point!) so an 'in/out' catheter was used to check if the pain I was feeling was maybe related to my bladder. This didn't work and the midwife left the room to get a doctor for another opinion. I immediately asked them for pain relief and was given diamorphine, which did nothing for the pain. They left the room again and in that couple of minutes, I vomited. A lot. Mat ended up having to pull the emergency cord because there weren't enough sick bowls to catch it all. The doctor came in, did some checks and diagnosed acute urinary retention which explained the severe pain. Basically, all the litres and litres of water and Lucozade sport I'd been drinking hadn't been processed properly and there was no other way to get it out than to vomit. I was given a catheter and at that point, I asked for more pain relief. This honestly was the most pain I'd ever been in, and looking back, definitely more painful that back to back contractions and even more painful than pushing a baby out.
The morphine started to make me feel sick and still wasn't doing anything for the pain. Contractions were still constant and I was getting tired. At 4:30am, the midwife, suggested she do the next check early. I refused, thinking that the next half hour might allow me to progress more. I laugh now as I write this because really, it wouldn't have made any difference. I didn't and couldn't speak much to share this but I remember thinking 'I better be six now!'. At 5am exactly, I had an internal and the midwife said I was between 4 and 5. I still think I was probably only just 4cm but she wanted to make me feel a bit better. Hearing this was soul destroying and I genuinely questioned if I could even do it. The pain from the urinary retention was unbearable and even with the hormone drip still switched off, there was no break from the contractions. I went into a state of panic and negativity and vaguely remember asking for a section. I remember wanting to phone my Mum for advice but Mat advising against it, although I now know that he was having a text conversation about how things were (or weren't going!) The next thing I know there's an anaesthetist in the room telling me all about the pros, cons and risks of an epidural. Hang on... I didn't ask for this! An epidural was the last thing I wanted and genuinely believed a section would be a better decision. In the end, I completely switched off to what she was saying, trying hard to breath through the pain and just said, 'Yes. Just shut up and do it!' (Yes, I was that rude but I'll blame the pain and the morphine making me feel a bit weird!)
I think the epidural was given around 8am. I remember it being inserted and being told I couldn't move an inch or it could go wrong and feeling so focussed on getting through these contractions without having all my fears about epidural become a reality. My next internal was to be 2pm and the midwife told me to try and get some rest. The next couple of hours were a bit of a blur. The isolated pain had eased and the contractions were nowhere near as strong or long. I chatted on and off to Mat, I dozed on and off and I just remember feeling so chilled and thinking, I didn't think labour would be like this. Then remembering the pain and discomfort I'd been in before.
The epidural has a button that you press for a top up. I vaguely remember during this time, the midwife saying I should press the button again, but I didn't feel I needed it and thought no more about it. I'm so glad now that I didn't really understand how it worked because if I had and had pressed the button to top it up, what happened next would be very different and I probably wouldn't have felt much...
Thursday 11th February- I need a poo!
I'd started feeling contractions again around 10:30am. Again, timings are a bit hazy but it must have been around then. I was managing with gas and air but was uncomfortable lying on my back. the midwives weren't keen to even let me try and move, even though I felt more than capable. They said my legs would still be numb and wouldn't work but I was convinced they were fine. I brought my knees up to my bum and raised my hips up off the bed as a test and it was then that I felt the need to poo. I told the midwife this and she said she'd get me a bed pan, much to my disgust. I knew I could walk to the toilet. She wasn't having any of it though and passed me a carboard bowl. I laughed between contractions as the midwife, the student (who'd been in and out the whole time) and Mat all stood round the bed watching over me. At that point I remember saying that if I was being made to poo in a bowl, they all had to leave the room. The midwife and the student said ok and off they went. Mat sat down in the chair beside me. I, very abruptly told him you too, and ordered him out the room.
As soon as they were all outside, I stood up and found, as expected, that I was able to stand. My legs were working. As I did so, the urge to poo became stronger so I climbed back on the bed and tried to position myself over the cardboard bowl. This wasn't going to work! The contractions had changed and felt completely different to the last 17 hours or so. Suddenly I felt myself wondering if actually the baby was ready to enter the world?! It surely couldn't be. I remember looking at the clock just as everyone came back into the room to see if I'd been to the toilet.
It was just before noon; two hours until I was due another internal examination and a bit surreal that I was questioning myself given I hadn't felt much at all for 2 or 3 hours in between! I asked the midwife for an internal examination and said I felt like maybe the poo I thought I needed was a baby instead. The midwife didn't laugh but she probably should have. She genuinely didn't think she needed to look. I genuinely did. She was certain that she would hold off until 2pm as planned. I felt a need to change the way I'd been breathing through contractions and Mat started to help me count the breaths in between using gas and air. When the midwife noticed this change, she agreed to check and sure enough, there was a head making it's way into the world. She seemed pretty surprised but it was all systems go and both the midwife and the student helped Mat keep me and baby on track.
90 mins of pushing and our beautiful baby girl was placed on my chest. That feeling is like nothing else I've ever experienced. I'd done it! My baby was here safely and to my surprise, she was latched on to my boob within the first few minutes of her being with us.
I remember Mat announcing it was a girl and me feeling completely unsurprised. I'd been convinced for most of the pregnancy that I was having a girl and it just felt right. As we took in the first moments together as a family of three, my heart filled with a whole new kind of love and we enjoyed skin to skin, delayed cord clamping and a fairly easy delivery of the placenta. Mat cut the cord and held us close. Those moments I will never