“It was such a long day, but in that instance it was all worth it.”

On Saturday morning at 00:30 I had some strong Braxton Hicks. They were each almost several minutes long and did not really cease, but I’d been waking up to similar BH for a few days so didn’t really think too much of it. I put some relaxing music on, stretched for a bit, and went back to sleep. Woke up again at 01:30 with a small gush as my water broke. I immediately woke me husband and said “I think my water just broke”. He asked: “Do you think so, or know so?”, but got me a clean set of underwear with some pads. When I stood up it was immediately soaked through as more water gushed out I said “Now I know so!”. I sent Christel (my midwife) a message about my waters. She asked some questions and suggested I take a warm shower and get some sleep before the contractions start. Husband was running around the house with all my labour checklists. I didn’t get much sleep, as the contractions started at 2:00 already just after the shower. They were a steady 3 mins apart, and lasted anywhere from 1-2mins. Every third one or so was quite intense. At 4:00 we agreed to meet Christel at the Femina Midwives Unit. I laboured in the shower, on the ball and on the toilet. After some strong contractions I would start vomiting and couldn’t keep anything down. I was given an injection to try and stop the vomiting so that I could eat and get energy to continue but the nausea and vomiting never went away. At around 8:00 I got into the bath and Christel checked how we are progressing. I was only 3cm dilated… Not even active labour yet!! And I had already been averaging almost 20 contractions per hour for the last 6 hours… We decided that it would be best if I get mobilised. We walked through Femina’s parking lot. I listened to some of my favourite songs and we swayed and danced as we walked. We also did a few trips up-and-down the fire-escape staircases. At 11:30 Christel checked me again. 4cm… Eventually I had a drip put up as I was starting to get fairly dehydrated. With the slow progress up to this point I asked for an injection of Pethidine and Aterax for pain. It was not ideal, but there was zero chance of me delivering in the next few hours, and I figured with the fact that I still cannot keep anything down it would be better for me to at least get some rest before the final stretch. At this point my mom and sister visited, and I really appreciated their support. I then fell asleep for a bit in between contractions.

At 13:30 I was at 6cm and still progressing slowly, but at least moving along. I then mobilised again – taking another stroll through the parking lot. Every few parking spaces I would do some lunges or squats to try to get baby lower to help the dilation. I would just stop to hang onto my drip-stand with contractions. After an hour of this we were finally at 7cm!! I then asked for an epidural (even though my birth plan explicitly said it is one of my non-negotiables) – Christel said that with an epidural at this stage with progress that had been this slow she might as well book the caesarian as well. This shocked me back to my senses a bit and we discussed other options. We decided on Entonox which I then clung to like a lifeline for the transition phase of labour. Christel suggested water as I had indicated on my birth plan but I could not convince myself to leave the Entonox. I felt much stronger for this part of labour even though I had still not been able to eat anything. I leaned over the back of the bed and swayed my hips to music. My mom and mother-in-law were praying for me in the waiting room. My mom also visited again and I remember her telling me it was like a 400m race and I was already past the 200m mark. I then told her that this was good news, as this was always the best part of my race..

Time and progress became a blur at this point. I just knew we were getting there even if it is slow. At one point I heard some loud grunting, and only realised it was me making the noise when Christel and my husband both encouraged me to keep it up. I don’t know when Anina (the backup midwife) arrived, but I recognised her voice next to me. She presented our antenatal classes and I was very happy that she was also there with me, a familiar support. I held onto my husband’s hand for the remainder of the labour without ceasing and he kept encouraging me. He kept quoting me lines from a birth motivation poster I had made for myself. My eyes were closed and he knew that those were the words I selected to give myself extra strength. Hearing it coming from him made it even more powerful! He was so amazingly supportive and motivational throughout, I could not have done it without him. At some point in this blur we reached 10cm. This was go-time!!

It felt like I was pushing for ages (my husband later told me it was almost an hour and half). They kept telling me they see her head, but still she wasn’t coming out. I kept asking what I was doing wrong, as it seemed to me that she should have already been born if they had been seeing her head for so long. Christel and Anina kept reassuring me that I was doing everything right, but she might be stuck behind my pubic bone – she kept coming down and almost out but once the contraction ended she would slip right back up. A few times Christel said she thinks we need to start scheduling the c-section.. Every time I asked if baby was still okay, and when they told me her heartbeat was still keeping steady I asked for another chance. I did not want the whole day’s labour to be in vain. I kept trying and trying and trying. Baby still kept steady heartbeat like a champ but I could not keep pushing long enough to get her out or hold her down preventing het from coming back up. Eventually my gynae was called. The c-section was scheduled. I was broken.

I asked Christel if they cannot use suction if she really is right there. She promised to ask my gynae, but my gynae is not really known for going to extremes for a normal delivery. I already met the anaesthetist and she explained how the process for the spinal will work. I was transferred to a theatre bed – I think my husband had to actually pick me up and transfer me as I couldn’t do it myself. My gynae arrived and did a check-up. Before Christel even suggested suction the gynae said that she thinks we should try with the Kiwi-cup first. It gave me extra strength that I might get another chance! My bed was still wheeled into theatre. In theatre I was given Pitocin to augment labour as my contractions were no longer strong enough to keep pushing long enough. My gynae told me she will only be giving me two chances at pushing – if it doesn’t work she immediately goes over to c-section. The anaesthetist was in fact standing right next to the bed.

Christel looked me in the eye and explained that the kiwi-cup cannot pull baby out – it can simply help guide her – I need to push like I’ve never pushed before. They suggested I hold onto my legs, but as I had developed carpal tunnel in pregnancy my hands weren’t strong enough. Instead I placed my legs against the hips of Christel and Anina to kick against them. I still clung to my husband’s hand. They placed the kiwi-cup and I was told to start pushing again with the next contraction. I pushed like I had never pushed before.. I just kept listening to the instructions of those around the bed. My husband was encouraging me. The anaesthetist guided me on where to direct my pushing. Christel told me when to push and when to stop pushing and breathe.. I just kept doing everything they were saying. They told me that the head is right there. But it felt like I’d been hearing it all evening. My husband then explained that she really was right there – he could see her! Christel said I would be able to feel her head if I reached down. Then the next contraction came and I pushed and breathed as instructed. I didn’t feel the head come out, just felt the slithering of her body. Next moment she was placed on my stomach. She was here!!! The gynae helped deliver the placenta and gave just one internal stitch. I felt like they were pulling me apart into raw pieces of meat as they were fixing me up, but I was distracted because she was here! My husband stayed with her when they took her to be weighed – a healthy 3,87kg! She was so beautiful and such a champ!!! Steady heartbeat throughout and Apgars of 9 and 10.

It was such a long day, but in that instance it was all worth it. The haze of it all immediately passed and I felt so privileged and empowered by all that had happened. I am so happy that we not only have a happy healthy girl, but that we had the birth we had hoped for. On paper it might seem long and incredibly difficult (20 hours!) and with lots of interventions. But my experience was so positive, I felt like everything was the right thing at the right time..

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