Despite falling pregnant at 39, the fact that I would be in my 40th year when giving birth meant that I was automatically placed in a higher-risk pregnancy bracket and was put under consultant care. At my first consultancy appointment, I was advised that it was protocol for women 40 years and over to be induced on their due date. It was explained that this is because there is a small amount of evidence to suggest that the placenta in older mothers loses efficiency in late pregnancy and therefore there is a higher risk of still birth.
Only three years earlier, I had given birth to my first child, Georgia. I had had a very healthy pregnancy and a relatively normal delivery at 41 weeks so I have to say I was a little frustrated as to why an induction was being suggested just because I was a few years older….after all, if I had fallen pregnant only 5 months earlier, I wouldn’t be under consultant care at all. I was not at all keen to have an induction but at this stage, I put it to the back of my mind and thought I would simply deal with it nearer the time, if the time came! Maybe this time my baby would be early and it wouldn’t be an issue!!
I joined the MummyNatal class when I was approximately 5 months pregnant. I had done a similar course during my first pregnancy and found the techniques and education really helped me to stay calm during labour. During my first class, I mentioned to Kate the advice I had been given regarding being induced on my due date and I explained that this was not at all my wish for my labour. Kate explained that I was in control of my labour and no-one could force me to do anything I didn’t want to do. This made complete sense and really put my mind at rest. If all went to plan, my wish was to have a water birth at hospital but only time would tell whether this would be possible.
My pregnancy progressed well and as my due date drew closer, the “induction” word was starting to move closer to the front of my mind. I started to feel quite pressured and quite worried that my labour was going to go down this route. I decided to have a stretch and sweep at week 39 to try and bring on labour and despite having my show shortly after, nothing happened. I booked another stretch and sweep 3 days later and then a third on my due date in case the second one also hadn’t worked.
My baby was obviously quite comfortable where it was as there was no sign of movement by the time my due date came about. The head wasn’t engaged so it didn’t seem there was going to be any movement anytime soon either. I was still being encouraged to book an induction but I was determined to not go down this route. I wanted my baby to come when he or she was ready.
Despite my reluctance to have an induction, I was fully aware that labour was not only about me; it was of course about the safety of my baby too. The risks that had been explained to me at the start of my pregnancy started to play on my mind and I therefore agreed an “end plan” with my midwife and booked myself in for an induction at 41 weeks. I now had six days to desperately wish my baby to make its appearance the natural way. My midwife booked my induction on the phone there and then and I was simultaneously booked in for foetal monitoring the next day so that they could check my baby’s movements and heartbeat was all fine….which it was.
Whilst at foetal monitoring, I had stretch and sweep number 4. Still baby’s head was not engaged.
I was due to return for more foetal monitoring in 3 days time if the stretch and sweep hadn’t worked.
3 days later, nothing had happened so back I went to foetal monitoring for stretch and sweep number 5 and more listening into my healthy happy baby; the head still not engaged. Whilst behind my curtain being monitored, I overheard a consultant telling another lady that the labour ward was extremely busy and that ladies being induced were waiting three days before they were being taken to have their waters broken because there were so many spontaneous labours. This only added to my worry as I was not keen to stay in hospital any longer than I needed to, especially as I had my three year old daughter at home and I didn’t want to be away from her.
I reminded myself of the Mummynatal advice; that I could not be forced into anything I didn’t want and that it was my baby, my body and my labour. The night before my induction date, with new-found confidence, I decided that I would go into hospital but if the labour ward was still super-busy, I was coming home. I knew from my Mummy Natal classes and my previous labour how important it is to be relaxed when labouring and for me, the hospital environment didn’t provide that. I just wanted to stay at home for as long as possible to manage my contractions. This worked for me during my first labour and I wanted that again.
The morning of the Induction came and sure enough, I went to hospital and asked how busy the labour ward was. It was still super-busy so I said that I didn’t want to be induced and that I would continue with foetal monitoring instead. I was taken to a ward where a lovely midwife came to speak to me about the potential risks (albeit a low risk) and she explained that she would have to get a consultant to see me. At this point, the pressure to stay and be induced ramped up a notch. I had two consultants standing over me at one point, adding to the list of risks to my pregnancy which to date had been perfectly healthy. After several hours of pondering what was the right thing to do, my husband and I discharged ourselves and went home (on the condition we now had daily foetal monitoring). The minute we walked out of the hospital doors, I felt my body relax – I was really proud of myself that I had the confidence to stand up and not be bullied into a labour I was adamant I did not want.
At 10am the next day, I returned to foetal monitoring only to be told that I had to go straight down to the labour ward instead. I realised there was a plan for me, only I hadn’t been made aware of what that plan was yet! At the labour ward, I was given my own room and a lovely senior midwife explained that they were keen to break my waters to get my labour moving. She explained that if my waters broke, it could mean that I could go into spontaneous labour as the head would finally engage. If this happened, I could potentially have a water birth, as per my birth plan. At this point, I was feeling a bit fed up of being prodded and poked and to-ing and fro-ing to hospital and this option meant that I would avoid the time-consuming pessary stage of induction, so I agree that my waters could be broken. This happened at 12pm.
My husband and I went for a walk around and even popped to Costa for a spot of lunch. I could almost immediately feel slight pains that I was hoping were contractions, which meant a spontaneous labour. I went back to my room at 2pm to be examined and by this point, my contractions were starting to become quite intense and close together. I managed them by counting and breathing calmly – no-one could speak to me during a contraction as I was keen to get in the zone and concentrate on the contraction passing. An hour later, I was checked again by my midwife and it was clear things were progressing quite quickly. I was very calm and collected and in my mind, so pleased that things were progressing spontaneously. My midwife examined me and it was decided that I could go into the birthing pool. I continued to use my breathing techniques to manage my contractions with a little blast of gas and air to help with the intensity. After approximately an hour, I felt the need to push and after what felt like 2 or 3 pushes, at 4.01PM my beautiful baby boy, Henry was born. I was the first one to see him in the water so was able to tell my husband that we had a little boy. We were absolutely thrilled. Everyone was safe and healthy and my labour had gone very much to my wishes. We were all home by 10.30PM that night. I still chuckle to myself when I think that only 12 hours earlier we had left the house for some foetal monitoring, completely unaware of how the day was to unfold and that we would be bringing our baby home that night.
Looking back now, the three criteria that helped me the most were:
-being aware of what my body was doing and why, during all stages of labour so there were no surprises
-being able to use my breathing techniques to remain calm and to cope with all stages of labour
-to have the confidence to go with my intuition so I wasn’t forced into a labour I would have regretted. Of course, if there were any signs that my baby was under stress, I would have just gone with the professional advice but at no point during my pregnancy was my baby stressed; I firmly believe that if the labour environment is calm, then the baby’s disposition is calm too and thankfully Henry remains a very content and relaxed baby boy – long may it last!