It’s impossible to guess how long your labour will take, as this mum discovered
Katrina West, 29, a blogger, lives in South-East London with husband Matt and son Bear, two
'The day after my due date, I was standing in the bathroom when I felt a gush and my waters broke all over the floor. The amount of fluid surprised me and we decided to call the hospital. The midwife suggested we come in for a check, even though I wasn’t experiencing any pain. I felt completely relaxed and practised some of my hypnobirthing breathing in the car.
'This is going to be easy, I thought'
The examination showed I was already 3cm dilated, which was great news. This is going to be easy, I thought. Just in case labour didn’t progress, I was booked in for an induction the following evening, and sent home. In the car, I began to notice tightenings in my stomach that felt like strong period pains – first contractions!
That night, they became more intense, and I sat dozing in my rocking chair. Once or twice when the aches woke me, I put on my hypnotherapy CD, which helped me relax. By morning, the contractions were coming every 15 minutes. I tried to go for a walk with my mum, but every few steps I felt like I needed the loo. It was painful, but I was happy things seemed to be progressing.
That evening, the pain was almost constant so we went back to hospital, but was devastated to learn I was still only 3cm dilated. How was it possible to be in so much pain without progressing? I was transferred to the labour ward and felt really upset – especially later on when Matt was sent home for the night, leaving me feeling lonely and confused.
I paced around the ward, groaning in agony, and was eventually offered pethidine at 3am, which did nothing to ease the pain. Then at 6am came the news that I was now 7cm dilated, which lifted my spirits, especially as Matt had arrived back.
Lying on the bed that morning, I realised it was 35 hours since my waters had broken. I was exhausted from lack of sleep, puffing away on the gas and air. I was uncomfortable, but refused an epidural because I was holding out for a natural water birth.
'I realised it was 35 hours since my waters had broken'
Early afternoon, the midwife’s face fell when she examined me again. “You seem to have gone back down to 3cm,” she said. Frustratingly, no one could give me a proper explanation as to why this had happened. But later I was told that my baby’s head was pushing on the wrong part of my cervix, which could explain why it had closed.
I couldn’t take it in. Instead of progressing I was going backwards. I felt really demoralised – the only thing that cheered me up was seeing my parents, who arrived soon after. If I wanted to get my baby out vaginally, doctors suggested a syntocinon drip to speed things up and an epidural to allow me to rest – I realised it was the only option. By this point, I was too exhausted to care about my natural birth.
Numbness flooded my lower body and I felt a huge relief. Being able to chat, even doze, was amazing. But by 10pm, over three days into my labour, I was still only 7cm and so the doctors recommended a c-section. It was time to finally have my baby.
After a few tears, I resigned myself to it. Matt got scrubbed up and the anaesthetist topped up my epidural, Everything happened so fast. Before long, I felt a surreal, tugging sensation in my stomach.
I heard a cry and saw the doctor lift a tiny baby boy. All I wanted was to hold him close to me, so the time the midwives spent checking him over felt like an eternity. When he was finally placed on top of me, I gazed at his face and knew it had all been worth it.
My marathon labour was an emotional and physical roller coaster, but what matters most is that baby Bear was born safely.’
What I would tell my friends
Do gentle exercise during pregnancy. It helps give you the strength and stamina you’d need for a long labour – I swam and I’m sure it helped.
Consider a female birth partner who’s a mum. Mark was fantastic at making me feel comfortable, but it was my sister Angela who got the midwives in line.
Heal stitches with tea tree oil (£3.34, hollandandbarrett.com). I put a few drops into a warm bath every day for a few weeks post-birth and recovered quickly.
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