Epidural, episiotomy & elation - the story of Chloe's birth
Updated: Jun 23, 2019
When I was pregnant I decided I wasn’t one of those “ignorance is bliss” types and that I wanted to prepare myself for all the potential goriness of birth prior to going into labour. I began listening to the Australian Birth Stories podcast on the reg, asking friends about their honest experiences and perusing Reddit forums written by traumatised new mums with a desire to put an end to the human race by turning the world off sex forever.
Once my maternity leave started a month before my due date and I had time to sit down and think about the ordeal ahead, I began to panic. Maybe ignorance was bliss? How do women actually give birth to a real human being and live to tell the tale? What am I, an animal? Can’t I pay someone to do it for me?! These and many other anxiety-ridden questions consumed my thoughts.
When I was about a fortnight out from the due date, I convinced myself that I could talk myself into a positive and Zen-like state using affirmations and visualisations to calmly deliver the child without pain. I read the Calm Birth books, gathered my essential oils and Bach Rescue Remedy and sat around waiting for the day to arrive. Unfortunately for me I must have a snuggly womb and the due date came and went without any signs of a baby appearing. I was told that it was unsafe for the baby to go more than 10 days overdue so my midwife booked me in for an induction on Wednesday 5th September, 2018. This made all my Zen fly out the window and what was left was a nervy, shuddering shell of a woman. Yep, all my early probing for information had backfired because I knew exactly what being induced involved. I’d heard many times about the additional pain and the… instrument they use to break your waters.
Anyway those ten days dragged by without a change and on the Wednesday afternoon, hospital bag in tow, off we went to get induced. I felt like the luckiest person in the world when I got there and was checked and told I was already dilated and would probably go into labour naturally that night. I had felt a few twinges during the day, but as they’d been painless and in my lower back, I’d assumed they were just more random pregnancy pains and had ignored them. The midwife did a stretch and sweep and told me to go home, get some sleep and come back at 6am the next day. I skipped out of the hospital, ecstatic that I had avoided pain for a little longer. My elation was short lived though because the second I got into the car, I started contracting and the feeling was a lot more intense than anything I’d felt before. It still wasn’t exactly painful, but the sensation was so strong it took my breath away.
Around 9:30pm that night, Anthony and I went to bed. He fell asleep straight away but I lay there in the dark feeling the strange sensations in my back get more and more uncomfortable. When I couldn’t lie still anymore, I got up and had 2 Panadol. Haha! Panadol! Needless to say that did sweet FA. At 11pm I got into the shower as I’d heard that the warm water can help ease the discomfort. I stood there enjoying the heat on my back for about 15 minutes... then we ran out of hot water. Dammit. The next few hours is just a blur of agony. I remember crawling around on all fours, sniffing lavender off a tissue, trying to stay calm, desperate to find a position where the pain was more bearable. Nothing helped. Around 2:30am I woke Anthony up and we rang the hospital. The midwife kept me on the phone through a contraction and decided I should stay home until 6am. By 5 I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted all the drugs. We drove to the maternity ward and I actually crawled through the car park on my hands and knees because it hurt too much to be upright.
Once I was safely lying in a bed wearing a hospital gown I asked the midwife to hook me up with an epidural. Her response was vague and something along the lines of, “Oh, well it takes a long time to get an epidural because we have to find the anaesthetist etc etc.” I was like, “Whatever, just get the process happening.” In the meantime, the gas had calmed me down somewhat and I was probably as chill as possible knowing that pain relief was on the way.
A few hours later, my epidural still hadn’t arrived, the midwives had changed shifts and I was starting to get a little sus. I asked the new midwife how much longer until the anaesthetist came wielding his giant needle of happiness and was told that he had never been summoned and I was probably too far dilated to have an epidural at this point. I started to cry… was that first midwife trying to kill me?! I think she must have felt for me because she checked me and I was 8cm dilated but she rushed the anaesthetist in to numb me up anyway. Never have I felt such a wave of relief! As soon as the epidural started working, I was the happiest woman on Earth! Then came time to push, which I did for a couple of hours. Nothing happened… baby girl was not budging from her cosy position in my abdomen.
It was then that things started to get a little hectic. A doctor told me they would have to try and deliver the baby using a vacuum because her heart rate was dropping with all the stress of the constant contractions and my pushing for so long. They tried that but still she wasn’t budging. Somebody stuck an arm in me to check what was going on in there and realised that her little arm was stuck, bent up behind her head. She was not going to fit through the birth canal. Her heart rate was still dropping and suddenly it became an emergency and there were ten people buzzing around the room. The doctor told me he would have to perform an immediate episiotomy. I was in a daze, just so overwhelmed and numb that I don’t think I really comprehended what was happening. Anthony was by my side the whole time, calmly talking to me and answering the doctors’ questions as I was pretty much incoherent at that point.
Finally, after an episiotomy and a vacuum delivery, our baby girl arrived at 11:51am Thursday 6th September, 2018. I was laughing like a crazy hyena, mostly out of relief that she was out, but also, I think I was just hysterical. Before I could meet her, she was scooped up by a team of doctors and nurses as she was totally unresponsive. She'd scored poorly on the Apgar scale and Anthony was terrified, sobbing next to me, but there was no sound at all coming from Chloe. Luckily after a few minutes she started crying and was deemed healthy. I was stitched up and they put Chloe on my chest and it was the strangest feeling. This tiny human had grown inside me for 40 weeks but was still so unfamiliar to me.
I was on an adrenaline high for rest of the time I spent in hospital. I hadn’t slept in days, I was sore, swollen, elated, terrified and yet filled with relief. I still had a catheter in for a while after the birth as I’d lost so much blood that I felt too faint to stand. Chloe seemed like the most alert newborn in the world, staring down everyone who came near her (she still does this). I vividly remember her screaming her little lungs out when we bathed and dressed her for the first time. I’d thought it was going to be a beautiful, relaxing, warm bath for her but she hated it. I had no idea how to change a nappy or swaddle a baby or calm her down when she cried. I was completely winging it. And despite all of this, during those first few days, I was so insanely happy. I was (and still am) in awe of the doctors who had kept me and my baby safe. I was in awe at the love I felt for my husband as he’d supported me through the most traumatic experience of my life. I was in awe of my body, of all women’s bodies and how we go through these things and still choose to go back for more. They say you forget the pain of childbirth. I don’t know that I ever will, but I do know that eight months later, the memory of the pain I felt on that day is completely overwhelmed by the endless love that I feel for my baby girl.
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