Warning: contains a detailed description of childbirth. Might not be suitable for mothers- to be or sensitive readers.
Before I gave birth to my son, I thought that following his birth, I would write about how my healthy diet/exercise and meditation helped me to have a natural birth I always thought I would have. As it often happens in life, the circumstances changed and this was not the case.
My pregnancy was going very well. During the pregnancy, my bump was bigger than the usual. I was really heavy, having put on 20 kg.
So I started my open-ended maternity leave on the 6th of February, on my Dad’s birthday ( he would be 67 if he was still alive).
My baby was due to come to this world on the 10th of March 2019. Having finished work, I waited patiently. It was other people around me who were stressed out more than me. They worried that I might have to go to the hospital anytime, that I would not be ready, that I would not make it on time, that my waters would break while I am away from home. I had my bags packed, my partner was trained on what to do (he attended all of the possible antenatal classes). I was as ready as possible and did not stop doing yoga, did even more meditation, alternating it with hypnobirthing auto-hypnosis. I was not scared of pain, reminding myself that ladies who did my waxing always told me that I have a very strong pain threshold. I listened to various birth stories, about easy births and about difficult births.
In the antenatal class, we learnt about forceps deliveries and c-sections. They sounded horrible. However, I was not scared of a difficult birth. With my fitness, healthy diet and daily meditation, I was convinced that my birth would be the easiest possible.
The due date passed and I kept on waiting. Two days after my due date I had an appointment with a midwife.
” Don’t worry, babies come when they are ready”, she told me. So I kept on waiting. I was trying not to think about it too much, but every time I had Braxton – hicks contractions, I was hoping that this is it. I felt tired of waiting. The baby was kicking away inside my belly and I could not wait to meet them. I was also tired of being so heavy. My next appointment with a midwife was at 41 weeks and 2 days. I asked if I could get a membrane sweep. The midwife tried to do it but was unable to do so as my cervix was completely closed. Apart from that, my blood pressure, baby’s heartbeat everything else was perfect. Having been advised that I am reaching a dangerous 42-week mark, I asked what the options were now. I was advised that I can go for an induction. I said OK, let’s do it. At the same time, I was hoping that my baby would arrive naturally before this date. Going past the 42 weeks is known to be risky as there has not been enough research on how the placenta works once 42 weeks pass. So I decided to go for an induction. I watched every single youtube video and read every single article I could find on how to bring on labour. I implemented all of the techniques I could find: aromatherapy with clary sage oil, long walks, jumping on a fitness ball, even sex. Nothing happened. I remained positive and was hoping that the baby will appear naturally, without an induction. I really did not want any medical intervention. Ideally, I would have liked to have a home birth but we live in a remote location and it’s my first baby so I just wanted to be sure that I am in safe hands if need be.
The baby did not arrive. So on Saturday the 23rd of March we headed to Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh for a pre-arranged induction of labour. I was terrified. My only memory of hospitals was visiting my terminally ill Dad. Since then, I have associated hospitals with illness and even death as my Dad passed away in a hospital.
We got to the ward and have been assigned a room. The room was small, empty and looked dated. There was a private bathroom. I was advised that I would have to stay there overnight following the induction of labour. I was terrified and started crying. I could not stop crying. I did not want to stay in the hospital overnight. I was confused. I could not believe that medical intervention was necessary, yet, I did not want to risk waiting for the birth to happen naturally. When the midwife came and asked if I am OK and what was wrong, I answered that I was just being silly. I did not want to admit that I am terrified. I was finding it difficult to talk about how I really felt. Then, the midwives started measuring mine and baby’s heart rate. Both our heart rates were jumping up and down. It was really hot and stuffy in the room. Additionally, I kept on reading all of those leaflets about induction of labour, about those horrible hormones. I did not want any of it. What was wrong with my body, why could it not produce the required hormones naturally? I thought. All of this was not helping. I wished that there was a yoga mat and that I could just stretch on the floor, instead of sitting on the metal bed. Our heart rate kept on jumping up and down, up and down. After a few hours of monitoring, our heart rate went down and midwife performed a membrane sweep. My contractions gradually started increasing. My partner was advised that he can accompany me in the hospital and sleep on a hospital sofa bed. He went home to get some more food for us as we did not expect that I would be staying in the hospital overnight. While he was away, a consultant doctor came and assessed me and performed an ultrasound scan. Baby’s position looks perfect, looks like everything is happening as it should and we won’t need to use drugs, he said. I was pleased and convinced that I would give birth within the next few hours. He performed another sweep. This really got things going and my contractions got stronger. I was also advised that I will be moved to the labour ward as soon as there is a place available. Being in this tiny hospital room, I was feeling more and more anxious. Eventually, my partner came back. We turned the lights off and tried to sleep, my partner on a fold-out sofa and me in the hospital bed. The contractions made it impossible. I wanted to meditate but just could not. There was nowhere to sit apart from the floor where we and the medical staff walked with shoes on. It felt dirty. I did not feel like sitting on the birthing ball either. I was waiting and waiting to be taken into the labour ward. Just remembered, that I was advised that my waters would be broken using a scary-looking hook. Yes, the exact same hook they showed us in the antenatal class. Auch. Contractions were getting stronger and I cared no more how this would happen but I wanted the baby out and I wanted to get out of the hospital. I wanted to go home. Hours of pain were passing. There was one midwife assigned to the whole ward. I was waiting for her to come and tell me that I will be moved to the labour ward. At around 8 am this finally happened. I had no sleep. We were moved to the labour ward and given a room. This room was even worse as the window was tinted, could not see through it.
We were assigned a new midwife and I was told that she would assist me throughout my labour up to the birth of my baby. When she measured my pulse, it was quite fast. I was dehydrated so she plugged into a drip which would help me stay hydrated. A memory of my Dad, with a drip on his hand-dying from cancer, came up to my head. A drip must mean that something is not right, I thought.
The midwife asked if I had a hypnobirthing recording which I would like to listen to. I did have it on my phone and I played it. However, it did not play for very long. It turned out that I forgot to download it and could only listen to it while being online. So there was the silence again. Soon, a team of consultant doctors came and the midwife advised them on my situation, that I have been in labour all night and that she is planning to break my waters. I had the opportunity to share how I felt, which was reassuring. The midwife got the go-ahead from them. Not long after, she took the infamous hook and broke my waters. Then, my partner and I went for a walk outside and around the hospital, which was supposed to help get things going for my labour. By this point the pain was extreme. I was offered Entonox. I heard that it has minimal side effects so took it. It was providing some pain relief, no doubt. When we came back, the midwife, having read my Birth plan, advised that even though I am not in the Birth centre, I can still have a water birth. This sounded amazing, the water would ease the pain, I thought. So eventually we were moved to another room. That room was even darker, as darkness is supposed to help with the release of Oxytocin, the happiness hormone responsible for helping with labour. It took a while for the bath to be ready and once I get in it, I could not sit for very long because of the pain. I stood there, inhaling on Entonox. I also had monitors attached to my chest, to monitor the baby’s heart rate. Eventually, the midwife asked if I could move back to the room, as the reading on the monitor kept disappearing. They suggested that the monitor would be connected to the baby’s head. Poor baby, I thought. So now I not only had to cope with contractions but also had cables sticking out of my body. And could not stop thinking about the poor baby. But it was meant to be for the better. I really thought that this would not take much longer. But it was taking forever. Somehow, we were advised that 8 o’clock is approaching and that the midwife who had been with us is due to finish her shift after 12 hours. I felt like I was in a race. Another midwife came and they did a handover. The first midwife must have been really upset, she genuinely thought that this baby would be delivered during her shift. I felt sorry for her. I still wished I could just meditate.
It was not long until the new midwife told me to start pushing. The pain was just out of this world, I thought that my insides would explode. And I could not stop thinking about the baby. He or she must be really distressed, I thought. By this point, I lost the count of time. Eventually, the Consultant doctor whom I have seen before arrived with two more doctors. They advised me that I have been in labour for too long and that now, they will try the forceps delivery. If this does not work the c – section will be my only option. By this point, I was so exhausted that I said that even though this is not what I want, that’s fine. They gave me a piece of paper to sign, advising me that I do not have to agree to this. The anaesthetist asked me about any allergies. I was told to keep on pushing until they would take me to the operation theatre. Of course, the pushing did not work, I was far too tired by this point. And there they took me to the operating theatre. It felt rushed but I remembered from the antenatal class, that this is would be due to availability of the anaesthetist at the hospital. I got an epidural in my spine and was plugged into a drip.
The forceps delivery did not work. My baby’s head got stuck and the emergency C- section was then the only option. I was half-conscious at this point, from the tiredness and the drugs.
From there, it did not take long until I met my darling son. He was born healthy and weighing 3.8 kgs. We survived. Of course, I was happy but it was difficult to feel joy not feeling my body from my waist down. It all felt like a dream. The weirdest thing is that when I was pregnant I had a dream exactly like this, that I gave birth to my baby half-conscious, that I did not quite know what was going on. What an irony it was that this happened in such a way. It felt that all that work I did over the past year to remain present was for nothing. I wanted to be present in that moment and enjoy it and instead, I was exhausted and drugged.
Possibly, the type of birth that I had could have been different if the whole process started with a meditation. While often I am able to use my thoughts to create the desired outcome, it is much easier to do so if the conditions are favourable when I am meditating. When I am at home, on the beach, or in the woods, it is easy to meditate.
Medical interventions and hospitals are not my preferred settings. I believe this applies to other people too. If in the labour ward there was a room where I could sit comfortably on the floor and someone who could guide me, this would have made a massive difference to my birth experience. Hopefully, as the world is waking up and more and more people meditate daily, this will change. Hopefully, more women will be able to deliver naturally and enjoy precious moments with their babies without synthetic drugs. Hopefully, the money invested in additional packets of synthetic opioids given to each patient could be spent on employing mindfulness leaders.
We survived and are here and happy. We are still able to enjoy nature. That’s why I am not inserting a picture from a labour ward. Here is the picture from one of our first walks in the nearby woods.
Finally, I would like to thank the amazing NHS staff, for ongoing support throughout this beautiful yet difficult for us time.