Our Birth Story - Harvey

Harvey John Dunn was born at 7:54pm 15/04/2021 he was our second and this is his story:

Before Labour

Since being induced with Lincoln which ended in an epidural and a forceps delivery my main goal for birth itself with Harvey was to avoid induction and have a natural start to labour. At about 37 weeks I started having issues with my Multiple Sclerosis which is normally very well managed by medication that I cannot take at the end of my pregnancy. After discussing this with my medical professionals I declined an immediate induction and instead agreed to a stretch and sweep at 38+1 weeks and a scheduled induction at 39+1 weeks - my hopes were to go naturally before this.

I started using clary sage oil in my baths and on my skin with a carrier oil at 38 weeks and I had been taking raspberry leaf tea capsules since 34 weeks all after receiving medical approval from my OB. 2 days before my stretch and sweep I started experiencing minor contractions in the evenings, I was given the stretch and sweep which was relatively uneventful aside from losing a little of my plug.

Then came 38+4 I went into the assessment unit due to reduced movements, they again wanted to induce on the spot initially as they had a spot available which I declined. They pushed further saying they couldn't confirm my baby would be okay if I didn't accept but as this was my first occurrence of RFM and his CTG trace was perfect I requested an ultrasound to confirm everything looked okay, the ultrasound was normal and a student midwife reminded me that this was my decision and agreed baby was healthy and induction wasn't necessary. I instead accepted another stretch and sweep and decided to wait the extra couple days - they confirmed the CTG was picking up my contractions and that I was experiencing prodromal (early) labour. During my stretch and sweep they determined I was 3-4cm dilated and my cervix was 0.5 long and they believed it wouldn't be long. After the stretch and sweep my contractions picked up and were consistently at 5 minutes apart lasting 40 seconds each, I started using my TENS machine and rocked on my birth ball but unfortunately after about 8 hours they tapered off and moved to about 30 minutes apart where they remained for the next few days, aside from a few hours each day where they would pick up in frequency and intensity. 

Water Breaking

Then came my induction day 39+1, my partner and I had dropped our toddler off to be looked after and we were finalising a few things around the house, one last attempt to go naturally I started diffusing my clary sage oil in our loungeroom diffuser. I was about to call the hospital to get our induction time as requested at 12:30pm when my water broke, it was a slow leak but it eventually became clear my membranes had ruptured. They asked us to come in right away so we started making our way in. Back on went the TENS machine just as my contractions picked up in intensity. We got to the hospital about 2pm, my contractions were strong and consistently around 4 minutes apart lasting 40 seconds each. They confirmed my waters had partially broken and that there was meconium present so they had planned to start Pitocin if labour didn't stay consistent, they also mentioned there was a previous error and I was actually only 1-2cm dilated and my cervix was 1.5cm long. We were then moved into a birthing suite around 3pm, contractions never stopped but would occasionally move to 1 every 10 minutes before coming back to 4 minutes apart so at this stage I wasn't considered to be in active labour. Whilst waiting for a wireless fetal monitoring machine before they could start my Pitocin drip I used clary sage oil, bounced on my birth ball and paced around the room to prevent further stalling.

Active Labour

By 5pm, they had just found the monitoring machine they needed but I was in full blown active labour so we managed to avoid the Pitocin. My contractions moved from their 4 minutes apart very quickly to 1 minute apart and by 6pm they were 30 seconds apart lasting for 2 minutes each and much more intense than my previous induction of labour using Pitocin with my first. For pain relief I was using my TENS machine. It was very intense and with little to no breaks between each contraction I was exhausted, being that it was a natural labour but far more intense than my induced labour and my contractions were so close together and lasting so long I knew it wouldn't be long and that I could do it. Around 6:30pm I asked my midwife if it was normal for contractions to be this close and if she also thought it wouldn't be long, she told me I was in my first stage of labour and it would likely be hours yet - I didn't believe that and tried to keep positive but a few comments from my midwife about being in the 'easy' part and just needing to 'relax' as it would 'only get worse from here' it shifted my mindset a little and I started second guessing myself. 

Around 7pm my contractions became so much more intense and started stacking, sometimes with no break I had a few back to back contractions lasting 4 minutes all together. After a while of that and even more negative comments from my midwife, I had to know that I was progressing so I asked for a cervical examination, just as this was done I had a 2x 2 minute contractions with no break and my midwife confirmed I was only 3cm and she estimated I would have at least another 16 hours yet. I broke at that thought, I felt there was no way I could do 16 hours of this, I thought I was progressing fast and that's why it was so much more intense than normal but the thought of 16 hours of such intensity left me terrified and I asked for the epidural and started using the gas. The gas helped but almost immediately everything again got 100x more intense, I wasn't sure if it was a mindset shift due to my caving for the epidural that I previously didn't want or if I was right. I asked the midwife for another cervical check as I was sure I had progressed but she assured me everything was normal and the epidural wouldn't be far away and told me again that I needed to relax. As soon as the epidural was in I sent my partner to get me some food for when I felt better.

As soon as my partner left the room I felt a stinging down my tailbone, I was terrified it was something to do with the epidural and asked them to stop - they had only flushed the epidural and hadn't yet hooked it up to the anaesthetic. They realised Harvey's heart rate had dropped right off, my midwife suggested we would need to start prepping to go to theatre to get him out. Another midwife suggested I may have dilated based on the pain I was feeling in my tailbone and that may be what caused the deceleration in his heart rate and she checked for me, sure enough, 10cm - only 30 minutes after being told I was 3cm. My midwife suggested that because of his heart rate we would need to use forceps, I knew I just needed to get up and change positions and as I hadn't yet been given the drug through the epidural I got up and kneeled leaning over the head of the bed which immediately brought his heart rate back to normal and before I could even process what happened my body started pushing. Luckily my partner made it back in before Harvey's head was out - though it was a bit of shock for him leaving thinking we had 16 hours and instead coming back in to me pushing whilst juggling all the food and drinks he had for me to choose from. 3 pushes and 1 minor tear later and Harvey was born, so quiet, content and thankfully healthy.

After Birth

We had 2 hours of uninterrupted skin to skin and we ended up having an unplanned physiological 3rd stage and delayed the clamping of his cord for quite a while. During this time my midwife mentioned that the relief from me thinking I was about to get the epidural was the reason my body 'kicked into gear' - I knew this wasn't true but was so content with my baby I didn't respond. She left as her shift was finishing but before leaving she ended up coming in and apologising for the epidural, she said she didn't believe I was having precipitous labour as it didn't seem like I was in pain - again despite being annoyed, I was on cloud nine and didn't respond.

My main regret from this birth was not trusting my instincts as I was so sure I was progressing quickly but instead put my faith in a medical professional, who unfortunately had no faith in me. 

I had to have a catheter in post-epidural for 6 hours as they do flush the epidural with a small amount of anaesthetic before they hook it up, though despite that I was still able to be up and walking right away and thankfully had no issues from it.

Whilst it was intense and there were some parts I hoped would go differently all in all it was an amazing experience when it came down to the birth and recovery itself.

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