Sarah’s Birth Story

My daughter, Remi, was due on December 22nd, 2019.

Pregnancy had been difficult. I experienced a lot of prenatal anxiety during my first trimester due to suffering a miscarriage two months prior to falling pregnant with Remi. I suffered through severe morning sickness from week 5 until week 20 and then experienced pregnancy insomnia for most of my last trimester. By the time my due date came around I was well and truly over it. On Christmas Eve, I saw my midwife for my weekly appointment. I was 40+2. I’d already had two stretch and sweeps at 38 and 39 weeks, but had no signs of labour. We discussed induction for the following Monday, the 30th of December, as my hospitals policy was for mothers to be at least 8 days overdue before they induce. The midwife called upstairs to book me in, but my heart sunk when I heard the nurse on the other end say they were booked out both Monday and Tuesday, and that they didn’t do inductions on public holidays, so booking in for Wednesday the 1st of January wasn’t an option. It was looking like my next option was January 2nd,  meaning I’d be pregnant for more than a week longer if I didn’t go into labour on my own. I was devastated. Luckily, the midwife suggested they book me in early for the 27th of December instead and I jumped at the opportunity. I was told to come in at 9am on the 26th to start the process and that I’d have my waters broken the next morning. I was having my baby this week!

Off I went home. My Mum (who was visiting from Queensland and would be with me for the birth), my partner Jad and I, celebrated a very quiet Christmas together, preparing and packing last minute things. After spending so many months imagining my labour starting on its own, picturing myself having contractions at home, relaxing in my own space, I suddenly became very anxious about being induced. Was I just being impatient? Should I have booked in for the following week and given my body an extra week to do things on its own? I was torn between desperately wanting my baby safe in my arms, and clinging to the idea of labouring how I’d always imagined to. Ultimately, the excitement of meeting my baby won and on Boxing Day morning, Jad and I packed our bags and left for the hospital where my Mum would join us the following morning.

We arrived at 9am, checked in and were shown to my room. At 10am I had an internal. I was 1cm dilated and my cervix was still quite high. I had the Cervadil tape inserted and was informed they would check again at 10pm to see if I had progressed. Jad and I spent the day relaxing, walking around the hospital and watching Netflix. At around 5pm I started getting cramps. At first I was sure it was just a mixture of nerves and gas, but as the afternoon went on they became more frequent and I realised I was having contractions. They were mild and irregular, but I was excited that something was happening. At 9pm, Jad was sent home and I settled in for the night. The nurse returned soon after to assess me and let me tell you, having an internal whilst having contractions is extremely painful! I was now 1.5cm dilated, so the cervadil was left for another 6 hours. I tried to get some sleep, but the contractions were getting stronger so at 2am I was given pain killers to help me rest. By 4.30am, I was 2cm dilated and the nurse was confident they’d be able to break my waters. I called Jad and my Mum and told them it was time to come back to the hospital.

At 6.30am, we were taken to the labour and delivery ward, met the midwife, Corey, who would be taking care of me and were shown to the delivery suite. At 7.30am, my waters were broken and I was connected to the Pitocin drip. The next four hours were a bit of a blur. The hormone drip made the contractions come on hard and fast but I breathed through them while holding onto Jad for support. At one point I became extremely nauseous and even threw up.

By 11am, I was in excruciating pain. I’ve never felt anything like it. My whole pregnancy I’d been confident that I was prepared for the pain, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was feeling. I’d never been opposed to an epidural, but I had said I wanted to try my best to avoid having one- that went out the window pretty fast. With tears streaming down my face, I was begging Corey for anything to take the pain away. She suggested I try morphine, but said she needed to check how far I’d progressed before she administered pain relief. I was petrified that I hadn’t progressed, so I decided to see if I could wait it out a little longer. Half an hour later, I asked for the epidural. She suggested the morphine again, so I agreed to being checked, praying that I had progressed. Corey did an internal, looked up and me and said, “I’m going to get you an epidural”. I was still only 2cm.

Thankfully, the anaesthetist had just finished with another woman and could come to me straight away. The relief was almost instant. Within two contractions after the epidural was administered, I was pain free and relaxed. I brushed my teeth and had a nap. The next few hours were uneventful. My Dad, brother and nephew had just arrived from Queensland so they visited for a while. I was checked every few hours, but I was dilating slowly; 1cm every 1.5-2 hours.

Sometime in the mid-afternoon, Corey became concerned that Remi’s heart rate was dropping during contractions. She monitored her for a while before deciding to turn the Pitocin off and wait for an Obstetrician to come and have a look. The OB came in and performed a stress test, by reaching inside my cervix, scratching baby’s head and collecting a drop of blood. She then tested the acidity levels of the blood and was confident that baby was safe for the time being. She turned the Pitocin back on and told me she would return later to repeat the test. If I was too slow progressing, or if baby was to show any signs of distress, I would be headed for a caesarean.

I felt defeated. Of all the ways I’d imagined labour going, a caesarean wasn’t one of them. Remi’s heartrate continued to drop during contractions for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and as I was still progressing quite slowly. I was told to stop eating and drinking in case I needed to be rushed to theatre. At 7.30pm the midwives did their shift change and I met my new midwife Anna. She checked me and I was 7cm. The epidural had started to wear off by now and I was feeling a lot of pain in my back. A new obstetrician came to assess and do another stress test. Remi was getting tired, so I was given two more hours to see how I progressed and they would make a decision.

At my next check (around 10pm), I was surprised to learn I was 10cm! It wasn’t time to push yet though, as there was a small flap of cervix still sitting in the way. After another hour it was gone, but I was told to give it another hour for Remi to descend further into the birth canal. At exactly midnight it was finally time to push.

Funnily enough, pushing was my favourite part of labour. Despite the epidural wearing off quite a bit, leaving me extremely uncomfortable on the left side of my back and my right ribcage, we all laughed, made jokes and were in good spirits. I gave it everything I had, but after an hour of pushing I was becoming exhausted and Anna realised that at some point during labour, Remi had flipped over and was now posterior, which explained the back pain. She was slightly stuck in the birth canal and was becoming distressed, so Anna had me stop pushing while we waited for an OB to come and help.

I managed to sneak in a quick nap while we waited, but when I woke up I was feeling sick and threw up again. The next thing I know, two doctors and a paediatrician were in my room saying they wanted to get Remi out ASAP, which meant forceps and my worst fear, an episiotomy. I took a deep breath and told them to go ahead. After a few more big pushes I spewed again, this time all over myself.

Finally, at 1.59am on the 28th of December, 40 hours after I had the cervadil inserted, 33 hours after my first contraction and 19 hours after having my waters broken, my baby girl was placed on my chest. There are no words to describe the relief of having your baby safe in your arms after all that time. After a quick cuddle and Jad cutting the cord, she was taken to be checked over. She wasn’t breathing well, so was placed on oxygen while I was stitched up. After half an hour of monitoring she was brought back to me, we had skin to skin and she latched on for a feed straight away.

She had a huge bruise on her head from pushing against my cervix for so many hours of labour, as well as a large graze on her cheek from the forceps and multiple scratches from the stress tests, but she was perfect. She weighed 3.29kg and was 49cm long. We stayed in hospital for two more nights and came home on the 30th. I got hit hard with the baby blues from days 2 to 5, but managed to navigate through them with the help of my partner and my parents. I’m so incredibly grateful to have had such a wonderful support system. I’m also so grateful for the amazing staff at The Royal Hospital for Women, especially my two incredible midwives, Corey and Anna. I could not have gotten through labour without them.

Remi is 1 month old now and thriving. She has just started to smile and grab things and even rolled from her back to her belly. I’ve always said I was born to be a mother and she has just concreted that belief for me. She is my whole world and more, and although my labour and birth was nothing like I had imagined, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Sarah Bettiens – Instagram @sarahbettiens

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