My positive birth story - induction and emergency caesarean section


During my pregnancy I did my very best to avoid all birth stories, even the positive ones. So I'm warning you now that although my experience was positive, and I certainly don't use the term traumatic to describe Robin's birth, I had what most would describe as a 'traumatic birth.' I had a completely irrational fear of dying during labour. On one of my many daytime TV binges during my maternity leave I watched an episode of Eat Well For Less (of all things!) where this poor guy had lost his wife during the birth of their third child. I then innocently read Gemma Atkinson's birth story on Instagram, which also did not go to plan. For someone anxious about childbirth it was not what I needed. Saying that, I feel very positive about my birth experience and if you can read stories like this pre-labour then I hope it helps.

I was 2 weeks overdue and had tried everything to bring on labour. I have come to the conclusion that all these methods of inducing labour are, well, rubbish. I'm afraid it's a coincidence if anything has 'worked' for you and no one is convincing me otherwise. Robin was back to back (as I suspected but was soon to find out for certain) and just wasn't putting the pressure on my cervix needed to get things going. I could have had sex in a bath of clary sage while eating pineapple rings and snorting vindaloo and I still wouldn't have gone into labour. I was booked in for an induction, even though this seems to go against everything I read on Instagram and online, I mean our bodies know what to do don't they? 'Baby will come when they're ready.' I personally wasn't comfortable leaving Robin in there any longer, my friend lost her baby at term and the longer Robin stayed put the more I worried.

So. Induction. Finding positive attitudes towards induction are few and far between. The language surrounding induction is incredibly negative. It's more painful, chances of intervention are high, all your options are taken away from you, the hospital environment is horrible, you can't move around anywhere, it makes birthing your baby harder. I'm paraphrasing all of this, but you get the idea. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I'd been practicing hypnobirthing using the fabulous book Your Baby, Your Birth* by Holly de Cruz and although I wouldn't get the water birth I wanted in the midwife led unit, I felt prepared and happy about my choice. It would be unfair to blame what I'm about to say on the hypnobirthing movement as it certainly wasn't my experience reading Holly's book, but there seems to be this attitude, particularly on Instagram and mainly from first time mums, who, sorry to say, happen to have had an easy birth of their first child, that it was all down to how much they practiced hypnobirthing. That they got their dreamy home birth because they were such good hypnobirthing students. They were lucky. If it were down to how much time you spent practicing hypnobirthing then Robin should have been able to swim straight out of my vagina. I started by choosing the 'unnatural' way to go into labour, this meant I couldn't even be in the midwife led unit let alone at home. I get a 'U' for hypnobirthing. Labour doesn't always go to plan, what hypnobirthing gave me was the tools to stay calm, feel in control and a bloody good breathing technique. I'll go on to tell you what hypnobirthing techniques went out the window when I was mooing like a cow and telling them to 'TURN THAT DRIP DOWN.'

I was induced at 42 weeks exactly. I'd asked to go to 42 as I knew the date we conceived and the hospital had always dated me a week ahead. Our bags had been packed for weeks and realising that we were going to go and actually meet our baby was completely surreal. I still couldn't get my head around the fact that those limbs that were booting my ribs would soon be little legs wriggling in my arms. I had the pessary inserted at around 3pm on the 22nd August. I was already dilated 2cm when I arrived and was told by the doctor that she could 'break my waters if she wanted to.' I didn't feel the pessary going in, which I know can be painful, and contractions quickly started. In fact, they came on a little too quickly and my paracatemol, TENS machine and breathing weren't quite cutting it. I'm not sure the nurse on duty believed me when I said things were quite painful, she just kept saying 'oh it can cause cramps,' told me to get in the bath, which even with the low lighting and fairy lights didn't help. I definitely wasn't just having cramps. The pain radiated from my back, through my pelvis and down my thighs, every 3 minutes. It was only when I had a big contraction in front of the nurse that she suggested that 'maybe we should stick the monitor on'. They don't like your contractions to be too intense, too quickly as it can cause stress to the baby so out came the pessary and I must have fallen asleep. Ben had gone home about 10.30pm. I can't remember if I sent him home or he wasn't allowed to stay on the ward. Either way, at 3am I was woken up and told I was heading to the delivery suite and I rang Ben to tell him to come back.

The delivery suite at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital was lovely. The midwife had turned all the lights down in our room and there were fake little candles everywhere. The environment felt calm and relaxing, just how I wanted it. I did have a monitor on but it was a mobile one so I could use the birthing ball and walk around. Amazingly I had dilated to 7cm by myself at this point. I was having contractions but they didn't feel particularly intense. I thought I was nailing this child birthing malarky. They decided to leave me and see if I continued to labour on my own. No points for guessing that I didn't. My contractions slowed down to a standstill. I'm not sure what time this next part happened as it starts to get a bit blurry, but they decided to break my waters. Again, not particularly pleasant, but no worse than my sweep and breathing through it really helped. But my contractions didn't start again and I was put on the drip. I have nothing to compare these contractions to, other than the ones I had been having earlier, they were definitely more intense and at this point I was offered the gas and air. Gas and air was great, I don't think they made the contractions any less painful. I went to the toilet a few times during the drip phase and couldn't take the gas and air with me, the contractions felt just the same. What the gas and air was great for was really deep, controlled breathing. Something to focus on. Up until that point, pressing my boost button on the TENS machine had been my focus.

At some point I remember feeling the need to make a load of noise. Gutteral, feral noise. I was definitely mooing my way through the contractions as the drip was turned up. I remember being assessed and told I was 8cm. I assumed, as my contractions had been so strong, that I'd be more dilated than this. But I refused to let the dissapointment consume me. The drip was cranked up and I kept repeating the hypnobirthing affirmation that 'no contraction was stronger than me, because it was me,' or something like that. During one particular contraction however I remember thinking it was time to ask for some pain relief. The doctors do their rounds every two hours and I asked what pain relief I could have. She just said 'whatever you like' and then I'd have another contraction and forget I'd asked and two hours later I'd ask her again. Long story short, I didn't have anything. I reached 10cms and it was too late. Sneaky devils.

So I'd reached the magic 10cm. I was expecting to feel the pressure and urge to push but felt nothing other than my contractions. It didn't seem right to me but I trusted the midwives and started pushing. If I didn't push while I was contracting it was pretty painful. I couldn't feel Robin moving down but they assured me she was. The doctors would be doing their round in two hours and that's how long I had to get Robin out. I knew she wasn't coming out. I felt like I was pushing her into my spine and my body certainly wasn't expelling her out itself. When the doctor arrived I think I actually begged her to get Robin out of me. I'd laboured for nearly 30 hours, pushed for two and knew that enough was enough. I couldn't feel her moving down my birth canal and could tell she was back to back from the location of the pain. I was prepped for theatre and was told they would try forceps but prepare for a c-section anyway.

As we were whisked away to theatre, compression socks being forced on my legs and being asked to sign documents all whilst having painful contractions, I remember seeing Ben in tears in the room. He was really worried about me. I felt relief that Robin would soon be here and labour would be over, but for Ben the prospect of me having major surgery was quite frightening and the urgency of it all must have been upsetting. When I look back at my notes and the reason for c-section is 'immediate threat to life,' you realise how lucky we are to live in an age where this medical intervention is available, and free in the UK.

Robin Ellie King was born at 8.58pm on the 23rd August 2019. I had a funny reaction to the anaesthetic during surgery so my spinal block wasn't the blissful release I expected. I had undiagnosed pre-eclampsia and both Robin and I were treated for sepsis so spent 4 days in hospital. But it was all worth it for the sweet little girl asleep on my lap right now.

Typing all that out it does read as fairly traumatic, but I honestly don't feel that way. Labour is a funny thing. You go somewhere, I can't explain where, but I certainly don't remember the pain. I know it was painful but can't recollect the feeling. If that makes sense? I remember all the good bits. The funny bits. The lady next to us on the ward snoring her head off and assuming it was her husband. Telling Ben off for getting the ice towel* in my eyes (highly recommend one of those by the way). Catching the midwives turning my drip up one last time and telling them 'I saw that, turn it down' they're response was 'no you didn't.' Ben in the recovery room with his cute dad sticker the wrong way up. Ben asleep in my bed and Robin asleep in hers whilst I sat in a chair. The first cuddles back in delivery suite, with the fake candles glowing and Robin's little snores cute enough to drown the sound of any medical equipment out.

Labour is hard. Pregnancy is hard. For something so natural I'm amazed it's as hard as it is. My body is incredible and cruel at the same time. I'm forever grateful that I was able to have Robin. I'd go through labour again right now if I had to. I have nothing to compare my labour to. I don't know if it was more painful. I don't know if I coped with it well or not. All I know is that hypnobirthing worked for me. Even if all I used was just a couple of the tools and tips I'd learned. Breathing was a big thing for me, I can't tell you how much that helped. And also affirmations. When I felt the panic rising, telling myself that I could do it and I was one contraction closer to meeting my baby helped me to focus. Using the BRAIN method to make informed decisions was also helpful, particularly for Ben.

The hypnobirthing techniques I didn't use - my lavender stress rub, my relaxing playlist (headphones pissed me right off). I actually found I wanted to be very present when I wasn't contracting. I wanted to have normal conversations and laugh and joke, this actually kept me calm so in a way it was my own form of relaxation. Refering to my contractions as surges - I'm afraid they did hurt and no altering of my language would have helped with that, but staying calm definitely helped me to cope.

I hope my story hasn't scared you. I don't believe my induction led to the intervention I had. I knew Robin was back to back before I went into labour and unfortunately she just didn't turn during. They often do. She also has a big head, the health visitor said 'no wonder she didn't come out.' Big, beautiful brains, that's what it is. She'll inherit my inability to find a decent hat that fits. I love my c-section scar. Robin came out of there! Can you believe it? I still can't. I have cute little stretch marks rippling away from it. I didn't have any before I went into hospital. She definitely caused those on the way out. And finally, I have a gorgeous, funny, cheeky little girl. Full of personality already. I can't wait to live a life with her. She was worth it, all of it.

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