Like many first time mums my due date came and went and my amazing midwife team starting discussing induction. Initially I declined as I really wanted labour to begin spontaneously, but at 41+ 2 I agreed to meet an obstetrician to discuss the pros and cons. Through my pregnancy I had built a fear around the hospital and obstetricians, concerned they would be overly clinical and push intervention and I really wanted to avoid a labour ward delivery.
But my experience was completely different to what I expected, the doctor was really patient, understanding and happy to support whatever choice I made. He gave me unbiased and clear information and also options for additional monitoring of my baby if I decided I still didn’t want to be induced. He answered all my questions and I found that actually visiting the hospital and meeting the doctor reduced a lot of the fear I had built up. I agreed to an outpatient induction at 41+5 and prayed my baby would arrive on her own before!
The day before I was due to be induced I saw my local midwife for a sweep. It was a lot less uncomfortable that I expected! But labour didn’t start and my induction day arrived. As I was preparing to head to the hospital I began to experience some light tightening pains across my stomach. When I arrived the midwife assessed me and found I was 3cm dilated. She explained I was no longer able to have an outpatient induction and would instead be admitted to the labour ward to have my waters broken. I promptly burst into tears because mentally I thought I had another 24 hours to prepare - I hadn’t even brought my hospital bag!
As I waited in the outpatient reception to be transferred to the labour ward I began to feel very uncomfortable, with more regular and intense contractions. As a first time mum I’d been guided to expect that latent labour could last up to a few days, whilst labour itself might be 8-18 hours of full blown contractions. It was only 2 hours since my arrival and I knew we had a bit of a wait before I would be admitted onto the ward - I began to really panic that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the pain when labour ‘really started’ because it was taking a lot of my strength to get through the latent phase. The midwife on call was really experienced however and clearly realised something was up - she suggested she give me a quick check and we were all pleasantly shocked to find I was already 7cm dilated and very much in active labour! There wasn’t any need to induce me after all and I was quickly sped up to the ward where I met my dedicated midwife and a lovely student midwife. They were so friendly and made me feel really at ease straight away. The midwife had read all of my notes and my husband was able to make all the changes to the room that I wanted like opening all the windows (labour ward is SO warm!!).
My labour continued to progress very quickly and within the hour I was ready to push. For me this stage was the most challenging and despite trying several different positions after 90 minutes my baby still hadn’t arrived. We started to discuss whether intervention would be needed. Despite having been desperate to avoid any intervention and fearful of this happening in the run up, I was actually very open to some support and really pleased to discuss it with my midwife. I think it's important for mums to know that when they are in labour it’s ok to change your mind about what you need. For example pre-labour I’d been pushing hard for a water birth, but I found my TENS machine really effective so in the end I didn’t want the pool and was glad I hadn’t ended up taking the only pool room on the ward!
At this point the head midwife came in to chat to me and my midwife and we decided that I would try for another 30 minutes as the baby wasn’t distressed and I felt able to continue on my own. My midwife assessed the baby’s position and suggested lying on my back might be worth trying. I had read so many instagram posts warning me not to do this that I had been reluctant to do so up to that point, but it was a great lesson in listening to your actual healthcare provider over strangers on the internet because within minutes my baby was born. Originally I had wanted to deliver my placenta naturally, but as soon as I saw my baby I wanted to speed this phase up as the umbilical cord was quite short and prevented me placing the baby fully on my chest for a proper cuddle! I’d been warned the injection could make me nauseous but I didn’t have any side effects. I was able to have the delayed cord clamping and skin-on-skin time I had wanted and feel really blessed by that. I was also really fortunate not to suffer any tears, although I had a small laceration that I was given the option to leave to heal naturally or have stitched. Despite being adamant I did not want to stay overnight in hospital, once my baby was born I was actually really relieved to be in the hospital and to stay to have us both checked over.
Despite the unknowns and things not going exactly the way I thought I wanted I had a really positive birth experience. The midwives, doctors and support teams were kind and patient and I felt so empowered by the whole thing. I was consulted at every stage and looking back I can actually say I really loved giving birth. I know that this isn’t everyone’s story, I was really fortunate in so many respects. But when I was pregnant I only ever heard the hard, distressing stories and that caused me so much fear. I want other first time mums to know that it can go really well, even if it’s your first baby!