The things that don’t tell you about the epidural
During the last weeks of my pregnancy I was obsessed in watching YouTube videos about women’s birth stories and reading articles about the experience that I was about to face. I had to take in all the information available out there so I could start visualising how my birth experience would be.
But as they say, if you don’t actually experience something you will never know how it will actually be in reality.
The number of YouTube videos I watched led to the desire to actually create my own YouTube video and share my positive birth story and tell the world that there is nothing to be afraid of, as giving birth is the most natural thing in the world but as with everything in life you will need to prepare for it.
This is my positive birth story being a first-time mum at the age of 37. The video was recorded when Amaryllis was 7 weeks in October 2019 old but was edited and published when she was 6 months old. I tried refilming it a few times due to the bad quality of the video but I could not capture the same energy and excitement of the first time!
Watch it here:
My 37th birthday found me pregnant and as it was our first ever pregnancy we kept it quiet to not jinx it and to make sure that everything would go smoothly. I had a very pleasant and easy pregnancy and I was actually enjoying to see my tummy getting bigger and knowing that a little human was growing in there and all I had to do was to look after her by looking after myself, mentally and physically.
Many would consider that at the age of 37 a pregnancy would be complicated but my answer to this is that age is only a number and if you are healthy enough living a healthy lifestyle your age should not stop you from having children. Of course, the earliest the better but age shouldn’t be something to keep you off.
Before the birth
I would never consider myself as the most organised person or someone that researches everything or wants to have everything done perfect but somehow for this part of my life, I made sure I was very organised and in the zone. I read every article out there, watched every documentary and YouTube video and took anti-natal and pregnancy, yoga classes. Little did I know that all this information that I was slowly consuming through my pregnancy months would somehow help me when I needed it the most, at the delivery time.
Having a baby was always something that scared me so at the few weeks before the birth I was researching online about positive birth experiences and hypnobirthing to prepare me for the big day. Even though I never attended a hypnobirthing class the more I was reading about it the more I felt prepared about what my body could do, how the environment should be and how to use positive affirmations and breathing for the delivery.
(If you are interested in hypnobirthing I found the positive birth company YouTube videos very helpful)
My birth story
Our due date was August 29th so we were patiently waiting for this day to come. We were told that usually, the first babies come after their due date so we got a huge surprise when on the morning of August 15th my waters broke!
I can’t really explain this feeling but it’s nothing to do with the big splash that you see in the movies.
When my waters broke I was half asleep and my first thought was that I’m so pregnant and heavy that I can’t even hold my own pee! A few minutes later I came to my sense and even though it was 2 weeks early I could be going into labour! The first thing I did is to call my husband as I was not sure of what I should do…my mind went blank! We were both a bit clueless and surprised and after calling the hospital I was advised to go in for a check.
The excitement that we were actually going to have a baby in the next few hours had hit us and the only thing we could do is smile and pray for the best.
After being monitored for about 2 hours in the hospital and after realising that I had no pain or contractions we decided to go back home and wait for the contraction to come. We live 5 min away from the hospital so it was something that we could do. (This wouldn’t be advised if we lived far). After all my hospital bag was not entirely ready neither was the buggy!
To get the contraction going we were advised to go for a long walk, do lunges, squats, eat curry, and watch a romantic movie! We did all that and even more as I was busy doing the laundry, getting my hospital bag ready and calling all the family and friends to let them know that the baby was arriving!
During our evening walk to get the contraction going and around 6,30 pm I felt the first mild pains which feel like period pains and they were 30 or 40 minutes apart. We were advised by the midwives that it is better to do most of the labour at home so I can be in a familiar environment and not in a hospital ward. So I decided to stay at home as much as possible and until the pain would be strong and to a level that my body would tell me that it would be time to go.
As the contractions were getting sooner and stronger I had all my techniques in hand and I was using my birthing ball, yoga matt and yoga breathing to help me through the pain. Around 11:30 pm and after a lot of walking up and down the contraction were coming every 5-7 minutes so we decided to go to the hospital.
A few minutes later and by midnight I found myself in the same delivery room that I was in the same morning. The doctors and midwives examined me to make sure everything was progressing right and as the pain was getting stronger we decided to go for an epidural as my cervix was only just softening but in my mind, the pain was that strong that I felt I was having the baby!
The Epidural – what went wrong
I was always going to opt-in for an epidural so as soon as I realised that all this could take a while we decided to proceed with the epidural and oxytocin to speed up the labour. Everyone would think that the epidural would be like the magic wand you have been waiting for that will take away the pain and make you have a pain free delivery… well, this can happen for some but unfortunately not in my case.
A normal epidural takes about 20 minutes to work and those 20 minutes can seem quite long when you have contractions. In my case, a few things went wrong as my epidural was not so successful. As disheartening this may sound it was actually what helped me the most with having my baby.
Despite the epidural half of my body was numb and the other half was feeling all the labour pains but in a lesser scale than it would with no anaesthesia.
It seems that the medicine was not equally spread in my spine and even the fact that the anesthesiologist and midwife were turning me from one side to the other to help it spread, it was not working. The epidural not only was numbing my one side but it instead of numbing my waist down it was starting to work on the left side of my face and chest!
The executive decision was then made to stop the epidural and oxytocin all together and try again after a few minutes.
Seeing this in writing can seem like a wise decision but when you experience the contractions it can be a bit frustrating, disappointing and disheartening. I kept thinking to myself, “why is this happening to me”.. “I’ve just had an epidural.. “why am I going through this pain” … ” why isn’t working” but the more I felt this way the more painful the process was. It was then that I had to switch my mindset and find the strength to help me.
This was the difficult time that I had to use all the knowledge I had gained from reading about the power of hypnobirthing and the use of positive affirmation and breathing to go through the contractions.
Through every surge I kept repeating one phrase in my head: “Every contraction will bring me closer to my baby” and every inhale was becoming deeper and stronger following from a more focused and long exhale that would end as my surges ended. The gas that I was given helped me time my breathing and helped me go through the toughest part of the night.
This was the most tiring part of my labour and I was so happy to have a supportive husband in the room helping me and giving me hope that everything will be finished soon. I had also prepared a playlist on my phone and had asked for the lights to be deemed so I can concentrate more and feel more at home.
As the epidural was slowly coming off my bloodstream and I was getting back the sense on both my sides we decided to start again with it to see how things would go. It was then that magically, and after only 3-4 hours of being in the delivery ward, my cervix was fully dilated and the magic words of the midwife sounded saying that I was ready to have my baby and all I had to do was to give her two trial pushes!
The good thing about the epidural not fully working was that I could actually feel when the baby was coming as suddenly I got the feeling that I had to push and that I wanted to go to the toilet. After a few pushes and with the right breathing our baby girl came to the world at 6.29am.
After someone reading this birth story would think that it was a difficult experience, but for me it was the sweetest and most rewarding night of my life. Holding my baby girl in my arms, having her dad cut the cord and witnessing what my body can do was something that none of us will ever forget and something that I would love to experience again in the future.