F is for Firsts & Forceps

This birth stories blog was created to empower and help women heal through story telling. 

Trigger warning: This birth story contains details of augmented labour, an episiotomy and use of forceps. 

A time of firsts - first pregnancy, first labour, first birth, first newborn bubble, first breast feeding journey. Transition into motherhood can feel like a rollercoaster. While labour and birth took a lot of twists and turns, and Tanella struggled due to the events that occurred - mentally and physically - what helped her heal was having a village of mums to share her story with.

The beginning

It was a Saturday night, around 7.50pm. I was 39+3 weeks and in the bath attempting to relax when I felt a trickle of water release… to say I was confused, surprised and anxious, is an understatement! In my mind, if my waters had broken, I was going to give birth within the next few hours (I knew this wasn’t necessarily true but my anxiety was through the roof). I knew that life was going to change forever, and I felt really unprepared. I was eager to meet this little baby of mine, but nervous to endure the labour process.

I was torn between, “did I wee myself?”, “did I imagine it?”

Sure enough, the water kept trickling every few minutes. I jumped up and out of the bath, remembering that the midwife had told me at my last hospital appointment, if my waters were to break, to catch the fluid on a pad so it could be tested and confirmed. Initially I grabbed a liner (what was I thinking, that definitely wasn’t going to cut it!) but swapped it for a pad.

Unlike the movies, I experienced a constant leakage of amniotic fluid rather than one big gush.

My husband was giving a speech at a dinner – how convenient! We actually joked about what would happen if I went into labour while he was giving that speech. He called me when the speech was finished to tell me how it went, and because he was supposed to attend a barbecue afterwards… he ended up coming home instead!

When he returned home, he told me he thought the fluid was urine. He’s a nurse, so I should be able to trust his opinion, right? We called the hospital anyway as I had no experiences with incontinence my entire pregnancy. The hospital told me to come in to confirm whether the fluid was amniotic fluid, but that I didn’t need to rush. I was in the midst of washing my hair when all this happened – so I asked whether I could finish that before I came in (this kind of stuff takes time! 😊) I was then known by the midwives on duty as the girl who asked if she could finish washing her hair first ha ha. Priorities, right!?

After heading to the hospital with bags packed just in case, they confirmed it was amniotic fluid … and not urine! Thankfully the pad caught enough fluid to avoid an examination, as the midwife described it is an uncomfortable exam. I was advised to go home and wait until the next day. If contractions had not progressed then I would be induced. Personally and retrospectively, if I had more information surrounding this at the time, I think I would have asked to be monitored rather than induced once I got to the hospital… but at the same time, as a first time anxious mum, I agreed as they worry that the baby is more prone to an infection once waters break.

Labour unfortunately did not progress naturally and I was induced the next day (Sunday) with a drip at around 4pm. It was a weird experience – I went to the hospital and was shown my room… it was kind of awkward knowing what was about to happen. I had always imagined getting to the hospital in a rush with strong contractions and no time for small talk. The midwife I had was lovely – she was very supportive of trying to get me through labour naturally (despite the induction).

Active labour

For most of the initial stages of labour, I used an exercise ball. I had excruciating hip pain my entire pregnancy and the contractions made this feel worse. I entered active labour at 6pm and from there, it all felt like it was getting too much. I tried the gas for pain relief, but it made me feel like throwing up – and if you know me, I don’t vomit often, if ever! I refused to continue with the gas and the midwife offered me fentanyl as an alternative. I was given the fentanyl and hopped in the shower.

Fentanyl helped but it was around 10 minutes before it started to wear off. The shower felt amazing but I couldn’t stand as I was in too much pain, and the shower chair was really uncomfortable which made my hip pain worse. I stayed in there for maybe half an hour before the midwife changed shifts and by this point, I was very adamant about the epidural. It felt like I could not cope with the contractions anymore, breathing through them was becoming very difficult.

The next midwife on duty went to find me the anaesthesiologist as I was begging for the epidural by this point.

Once I received the epidural – I felt much better. However, there was an issue with my daughter’s heart rate and they couldn’t find it on the monitor. Suddenly I was filled with a room of ten doctors. I remember one of them rushed straight to me and held my hand amongst the chaos. It was scary but they managed to find her heart rate again and she was fine. I still suffered with some hip pain throughout the night but it was more bearable.

The next morning, Monday, around 8am, I had a change of midwives again and they were hoping to check how far baby was so we could start the pushing stage. Over the span of about thirty minutes, my hip pain became progressively worse and unbearable. I remember begging for them to help me. When the anaesthetist finally came after what felt like forever, they realised my epidural had dislodged. The midwives told me that if they could just check whether my daughter was ready for me to start pushing – my hip pain would go away once she was delivered. I remember telling them I was happy for this option, but I had no idea how they were going to check as I was in so much pain, I felt paralysed. Finally, they decided she wasn’t far enough down the birth canal although I was 10cm dilated, and we proceeded with a second epidural.

Again after a few minutes of the epidural, I felt much more relief. Not long after, the midwives said it was time to start the pushing stage. I recall my husbands’ comment, “but my Ubereats isn’t here yet.” I’m thankful he is light hearted.

After around 2 and a half hours of pushing, my daughter wasn’t dropping low enough in the birth canal. She was coming down – then back up. Kind of like a yo-yo. By now, my contractions (artificial with the induction) weren’t very strong, and although I was pushing correctly (there is so much to it when you have an epidural) – she was starting to struggle to recover as quickly. By this point, I had a room full of doctors – each checking my ‘technique’ for pushing. I’m not someone who feels humiliated quite easily – but after having multiple doctors place their finger at my vagina to either a) check how far she was, and b) how I was pushing – I started to feel degraded. Finally came the news that they were going to assist her delivery with forceps and perform an episiotomy. Now, I was a wreck. I felt like I had failed and was crying hysterically at this point – a mixture of hormones, humiliation, disappointment, stress, anxiety and failure was what I felt. I remember they numbed me so I couldn’t feel the episiotomy – then the forceps came. I remember feeling worried as the doctor was tensing in a struggle to pull my daughter out – while I was pushing as hard as I could to help get her out safely.

Thankfully – Sana was born at 1.53pm Monday afternoon – after a very long labour. She weighed 3.3kg. A beautiful healthy girl – I cried with so much relief when she was finally placed on my chest.

Reflections post-birth

Retrospectively, when I reflect on my daughter’s birth story – I regret not investing in a doula, or hypno-birthing classes, active birthing classes or even simply a decent breastfeeding class. While my husband and the midwives were supportive, and I read a variety of books - if I had more knowledge surrounding birth and perhaps better tools for pain management – maybe things would’ve gone differently. At the end of the day, we plan, and God plans. I am praying my next birth, I will be more informed and feel more empowered. There is a lot of emotion for me as I write this story – I felt traumatised by the events that occurred and struggled with it for a while.

What helped was having a great supportive village of mums to share it with, and there the idea of empowering women through story-telling was born. It can be so taboo in many cultures to discuss moments where we feel so raw and vulnerable – and there is the notion to simply feel thankful that baby is healthy – which I did, but I needed more to heal from the trauma of my birth story.

I’ve found that through sharing my story – and I hope you can too.