Beth, Andy & Dylan's birth story | A positive induction, First baby, Water birth on the Labour Ward
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
I have always been a rule follower. That’s not to say that I always do exactly as I am told without question, but if a person in authority gives me an instruction, I almost always do what they say. I do challenge things if I can see it will hurt someone else, I am always questioning and debating with our vet about the best treatments for our dog Nina, but I have never been the best advocate for myself. It’s rare that I let go and just totally trust in my own intuition. I start our birth story by mentioning that, because I think above all else the most important thing I learned from hypnobirthing, and the tool I needed most in bringing my son into the world was trusting myself and, equally as importantly, being able to defend that trust.
I had a really good pregnancy for the most part (other than some quite horrendous sickness resulting in hospitalisation early on) and I was told throughout that I was going to have an extremely big baby! We had a growth scan at 34 weeks and were told that our little lad was measuring 4 weeks ahead, and on track to be about 10-11lb at birth. This didn’t phase me at all, I expected to have a big baby as I was 9lb10oz (and not the biggest baby in my family by a long way). But, because our baby was above the 98th percentile, I was transferred to consultant led care and booked in for another growth scan at 38 weeks. My community midwife asked for an additional scan at 36 weeks because she wasn’t totally happy with my bump measurement, but the consultant was confident that it wasn’t needed, and so I felt pretty happy that all was well.
A few days before my 38-week scan, on the Sunday, I went to the maternity assessment unit extremely itchy and blood tests showed that my liver wasn’t doing perfectly but wasn’t a huge cause for concern. They gave me a stretch and sweep (I was 1cm dilated but my cervix was still very high and firm and thick) and booked me in for more blood tests to monitor my liver the following weekend. So, I went to my scan on Thursday afternoon pretty relaxed, expecting to be told once again that I was having a huge baby, and preparing to stand my ground and refuse an induction if it was offered just because he was big. As soon as they started measuring though I knew something wasn’t quite right, and they confirmed that in the four weeks since the previous scan our baby had barely grown. I asked for a second opinion and for them to double check the previous scan, and they were very confident in their measurements. I was sent up to the maternity assessment unit and as soon as I arrived, I burst into tears. I spoke with a consultant who explained to me that it was likely that my placenta was “failing” and recommended that we induce as soon as possible. My biggest fear throughout pregnancy was induction, I was scared that it would be either extremely fast or extremely slow and that it would be much more painful. Because of covid rules my husband Andy wouldn’t be allowed to be with me until I was in established labour and moved on to the labour ward. I also knew that our hospital had a policy that if you were induced you couldn’t have a pool birth, which had always been my dream. But, when it came to it, none of my worries mattered compared to the safety of our baby, and I booked in for an induction on the Saturday. That isn’t to say however that I found the decision easy afterwards, I was heartbroken. The language used, that my placenta had “failed”, tied up with a lifetime of being a “good girl” was hard to process. I felt like I had let everyone down, especially my baby. I had spent most of the pregnancy promising everyone this huge baby, and then in the last month I hadn’t nourished him as I should be doing, and I had had no idea that there was a problem. Of course, in hindsight I know that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and I couldn’t have known, but it’s still painful.
Before I left the hospital, I was given another sweep (number 2, if you want to start counting, because spoiler alert - I had quite a few) and went home. I felt like it was important to let myself feel what I was feeling, so I had a good cry and grieved the birth I had hoped for. But I was also quietly determined that if I bounced on my ball enough, and walked enough and did all the other things that could induce labour that night and the following day that I wouldn’t need the induction. Turns out though that you can’t wish, or bounce, yourself into labour if your body isn’t ready.
I arrived at hospital at 6am on Saturday morning and was given sweep number 3 and a Propess (which is basically like a tiny tampon of prostaglandins that they place near your cervix for 24 hours). I started getting mild contractions quickly and bounced on the ball all day on the ward. When they checked me 24 hours later, I was having contractions every 3 minutes, but my cervix hadn’t changed. I was given another sweep (4) and the Propess was taken out. Because I was contracting regularly, I couldn’t have another Propess, but once they removed the first my contractions died down (they never actually stopped in the ~100 hours between starting the induction and the birth, but they got less strong at various points along the way). I was given another sweep (5) and a second Propess later on the Sunday and went back to having regular contractions again. During this time on the ward Andy was only allowed to visit once a day for about an hour and half (although we also got in sneaky evening visits too because I was allowed to leave to walk around the hospital grounds and he would join me which was lovely). I was extremely lucky that after a few roommates who were only briefly passing through the ward on their way for c-sections, or who went into established labour much quicker, I was joined by two amazing women. They both also ended up being induced and we got to spend a few days getting to know each other and supporting one another through what was an admittedly quite an emotionally and physically draining few days. Everyone who visited our room commented on the girl power vibes, as we sat bouncing on our birthing balls together, listening to hypnobirthing tracks, giving each other pep talks and harvesting colostrum. I didn’t love the process of being induced, but I am so glad that I got to meet those women. During my time on the ward, I also spent a lot of time looking at the vision board I had made. Although I was certain that it no longer represented the birth that I’d be able to have because of hospital rules, I didn’t have the heart to change it. I loved looking at the picture of the pool and I wanted to carry the same vibes with me into whatever my birth ended up actually looking like, even if it wasn’t in the water.
Back to the slow process of getting my labour started, and the exact same thing happened with the second Propess as the first. I was contracting regularly but my cervix hadn’t changed, but they weren’t able to give me any additional induction unless my contractions tailed off, which they did after the second was removed. I had another sweep (6) and when my contractions slowed again, I was given Prostin (a 6-hour prostaglandin pessary) and sweep number 7. Thankfully when I was examined 6 hours later at 6am on Tuesday I had progressed to 3cm dilation, and my cervix was softer (although still not very effaced). I was told that they’d be able to break my waters, so now I was just waiting for a space on labour ward (which they said would likely be before 3pm.) After sweep number 8, I excitedly packed my bags ready to go.
Of course, 3pm came and went, and at 10pm I was finally told that it definitely wouldn’t be that night. I was devastated. By this point my contractions had weakened once again and there were talks about having the start the whole process from the beginning. I’d already been in the hospital for four days, and whilst I’d been using hypnobirthing techniques to stay calm, I was pretty exhausted by this point. I had a shower, cried hysterically, and called Andy. He drove to the hospital late at night, in the middle of a magnificent thunderstorm, and we sat in the car, ate chocolate, listened to music, and talked through all our feelings. He sent me back on to the ward with a lovely playlist and unbeknownst to me, whilst I got into bed and listened to this gorgeous music he’d recommended, he phoned the hospital. He wasn’t trying to cut the queue or complain, but just to ask them politely to better manage my expectations the following day (and to stop offering me co-codamol!). The next thing I knew though a lovely midwife was at the side of my bed telling me that it was finally time to go to labour ward!
I think I was in shock; I remember being quite shaky walking over to labour ward, but I met our lovely midwife and Andy was finally able to join me. Andy was incredibly on it and immediately asked our midwife if she’d read our birth plan, he whipped out a hard copy and she went through it with us in detail. I was grateful that she took it very seriously, and really listened to what we had hoped for and what we didn’t want. I found making the birth plan really useful for ourselves, but I don’t think I saw the incredible difference it can make until the following day on the postnatal ward, where I heard one woman say that she’d really hoped for something (I can’t even remember what now) but had forgotten in the moment to ask and as a result was a bit disappointed with how her birth had gone. Having a pla