Before even falling pregnant, I wanted a water birth for my birth. There aren’t many options for that in Perth – really the Family Birth Centre (attached to KEMH or now there is one at Fiona Stanley) or a home birth. After briefly considering my options, I decided on the Family Birth Centre. The midwifery led care was appealing and I didn’t know enough about home birth (I wish I had done more research on this!). 

My pregnancy was fairly straight forward, however around 32 weeks my fundal measurement (my bump basically), was measuring behind and it raised some concerns about baby’s growth in the womb. I had some weeks of extra scans and baby caught up, so was booked in for a final scan at 40 weeks just to make sure all was ok. When baby caught up, I didn’t think more about implications of this. My husband and I are petite people, so weren’t expecting a big baby. 

At 40 weeks I headed into KEMH for my scan, alone as my husband was working. Well, what I was told was a huge shock. Although babe was estimated to be a decent size (3.1kg with a 400g leeway either side), I was told the blood flow to baby’s brain was less than optimal, and this can indicate that baby was beginning to prioritise organs like the heart. Later in my notes I discovered I had officially been diagnosed with IUGR – intrauterine growth restriction. Induction was recommended that afternoon. I basically burst into tears on the spot. Induction was not something I had prepared for, and I was well aware of the cascade of intervention that can follow an induction. I asked the obstetrician about going home to try other things.

‘Like what?’ 

‘Induction acupuncture’ (I had been having regular acupuncture sessions in the lead up).

Well, she practically laughed in my face.

‘None of that is proven to work. Things can change very quicky (in reference to baby’s health).

I was scared and vulnerable. Knowing what I know now, I would have gone to my acupuncture and returned to hospital the following day. Induction usually starts with a foley’s catheter which can take overnight, so in actual fact, baby and I had that time at least. But I didn’t know that, so I went home to pack some things and let my husband know what was happening and that he needed to come home. It was my midwife’s day off that day, and given that induction usually takes time she was going to head in in the morning when I was expected to be in established labour – so no one that I knew was with me when the induction started.

We headed into the hospital around 4pm. It takes a long time to be settled in, The plan was to start with a foley’s catheter – a balloon that is inserted into the cervix and gradually blown up to about 4cm.

At 6.15pm the attempts at insertion start. After 4-5 different people tried to insert the foley’s (extremely uncomfortable), I was told that the entrance to my cervix could not be found. I had had a lletz procedure back in 2011 so it was mentioned that perhaps I had cervical scarring over the opening.

At 7pm I was told they would try cervidil (a progesterone pessary) and go from there. It was expected that I would be reassessed in the morning. I had the CTG (monitoring) on for a while so that baby could be assessed at at 8.10pm it was removed as all was going well. I was starting to feel some cramping at this point. I was also made aware that if no progress then it would be a c-section. 

Time continued to pass, I tried to rest but was getting more and more uncomfortable so paced around the room. I was also continually getting the urge to go to the toilet so at 10.50pm pressed the call bell as I was getting the urge to push. CTG monitoring was recommenced and although it felt like I was not getting a break at all in surges, my birth notes say I was contracting 4 in 10 at that stage. I had also earlier felt a trickle and when pad was checked midwife confirmed that membranes had released.

At 11pm the cervidil was removed and as I was connected to the monitoring with wires, I lay on the bed on my left side. I was in quite a bit of pain at this stage, surges felt as though they were just one big wave with no break, and the whole time I was getting the urge to bear down. 

At midnight I had an IV catheter inserted – notes don’t say why – and was assessed with a speculum (again not sure why). I was fully effaced at this stage and completely unable to resist the urge to push. I was encouraged to breath through surges and also had gas and air. I found that gave me zero relief BUT it did help me focus on my breathing. The urge to bear down is what I liken to reverse vomiting. And have you ever tried NOT to vomit? It’s practically impossible!!! My body was doing everything it could to get baby out. I also recall being told that if I didn’t stop pushing, I would be given an epidural (against my will). All I remember thinking at that point was ‘how the hell would I even stay still for that’ – given that surges were one on top of the other with no break. 

At 12.20am I was reassessed – and 5cm dilated. At 12.50am again I was assessed and FULLY DILATED! Phew, I was absolutely elated after having the threat of a c-section and epidural hanging over me. I moved onto all fours and practically laughed when they said I could start pushing, as my body had been doing this the whole time any way. At 1.05am all my hypnobirthing breathing went out the window as I was encouraged to actively push. 1.11am – my daughter was born. Placenta out at 1.21am after cord traction and although not written in notes I distinctly remember being given the injection for active management of 3rd stage and had an estimated 800ml blood loss. I believe most of this was actually due to the tear, and my daughter was born absolutely bathed in blood because of this.

My daughter and I had some skin to skin time, then at 1.30pm my perineum was assessed for tearing. Much to my disappointment – now, at the time I was elated I had avoided a c-section – I had a 3b tear which needed to be repaired in theatre. So our separation began and I was wheeled to theatre while my husband got his skin to skin time. I made it back with her by 4am. And our postpartum journey began – another story for another time. 

In hindsight, there are several things I would have done differently, but all of this led me to where I am today. A doula and birth educator with a fire in her belly, planning a magical homebirth for my second child with an independent midwife. And that’s a story I can’t wait to share x