I’m not really sure what to make of this birth story from the wonderful Mama H who writes the blog Thursday’s Child, Friday’s Thoughts. I have called it a propess induction, because a propess is involved BUT the bigger story seems to me that there were a lot of failings in the ‘system’ and the system was lucky that nothing tragic happened. The level of care is pretty dreadful…so if you are going to have a propess, don’t assume this is going to happen!

Mama H’s Birth Story

I went into hospital at 6am at 40+4 on Wednesday 28th to be induced as a result of high and unstable blood pressure. Before the propess (a cotton thing on a string used to encourage the civix to open) could get under way I had to undergo some monitoring. I’d had my second sweep the day before and, according to the monitor, I was having reasonably regular but small contractions. I was completely unaware of this. My midwife had told me the day before that things were looking favourable, so I was hopeful!

Baby was fine, until all of a sudden her heart rate rocketed, combined with a big movement, and then started to plummet… to 40bmp. Panic.

However, it came back after 3 minutes and after more monitoring they finally went ahead with the propess at 8:15am. I had no idea this thing would be like a tampon. How exciting. It was a nice day, so my husband and I were able to get about for walks and there were a couple of girls in my bay to chat to, one of whom had been in since Saturday and was being induced for the 5th time… They couldn’t even get into her cervix so water popping wasn’t an option. Poor girl. Anyway, after a couple of hours, my back and the bottom of my bump started to niggle, and the pain was constant. I walked it out, bounced on a ball, etc., and I think around 2pm I cracked out the TENS as I was not enjoying the back pain.

The day passed and I was sure the propess was slipping out but the midwifes assured me the string on it was really long and not to worry. Cool. My best friend arrived to keep us company and things ticked along…. Nothing to report really.

Visiting finished at 8pm but my best friend and my husband overstayed until they were chucked out about 9:30pm. I cried and cried about being left on my own! Things were more painful but still constant, and monitoring had suggested that perhaps the propess was irritating things as contractions weren’t really there but odd things were showing on the monitor.

Then they moved a new girl onto the bay and gave her something to help her sleep. Fuck me, she snored like a pig. Or a hoover. Or both. No rest for me. I went to the loo and the propess was definitely coming out. The midwife pushed it back. BOOM! This is where the pain started getting silly. I finally fell asleep for an hour at about midnight, and then the timings start getting vague. When I woke up, the pain was hideous and was coming and going. I couldn’t lie down, I was restless and fidgety. There were tiny gushes of fluid but no one seemed interested in checking what it was. The midwife gave me codeine and paracetemol and I’m sure there was more monitoring at this point. A different midwife came back to see me and decided the propess was irritating my cervix too much, causing strange irregularities and that it needed to come out.

She offered me pethadine, but I refused for fear of feeling sick and told her I just wanted my husband. She took the propess out, said I was 2 or 3cm dilated and also that she thought the baby was breech (!) and left me. I don’t know how long it was before I was screaming in pain. The stupid woman had moved my call button so I had to shout for one of the girls on the bay to ring for me. Thank God they were so understanding (and actually not asleep because of the snoring girl…) and when the midwife came back she told me I was going down to the labour ward and to call my husband.

This was about 2:30am, I think. The girls helped me to pack my stuff and I was taken down at about 3am. My husband and Best Friend hadn’t arrived yet, and I was pacing my little room (the same room where my husband was born!) all on my own. The midwife had shown me how to use the gas and air but hadn’t let me try while she was still in the room so I felt reluctant to have a go… Then the painkillers came back up and I was repeatedly sick and no one was there to help. The student midwife was cross that I’d been sick in the sink and not in a bowl.

My husband arrived and they came to examine me and do an ultra sound to check baby’s position. Baby was fine and head down. I was still 2 to 3cm dilated. We discussed pain relief. The pool was out because of my Blood Pressure, and so was an epidural as I wasn’t 4cm. Time for a bath, which was lush and really helped initially, but I couldn’t keep it hot enough and I started being sick again.

When I went back to my room, I decided I needed to sleep and so reluctantly agreed to pethadine. I cannot remember when I last felt so wasted or out of control. I remember telling the midwife I couldn’t do it any more and to make it stop, and I remember waking up in pain from my strange, irregular waves of contractions. In between I was fast asleep but it just felt like I was having one long contraction that wouldn’t let up.

The early hours of the morning passed and a doctor was coming to examine me at 7am. Shifts changed and the new midwife really didn’t seem to be taking me seriously. She turned out to be a saint. Anyway, the doctor examined me and my waters had gone, who knows where, and more to the point I was 7cms! No wonder I’d been in so much pain! All the staff were looking at my monitor readings and couldn’t understand how the hell I’d done it. There was no evidence of contractions worth speaking of, no regularity. But they decided it was epidural time and to let me carry on. I had a great anaesthetist and it really did work! The doctor was going to come back at 11am to check things out.

I’m not sure where the time went (maybe I was asleep? Apparently I was chatting but time seemed to pass quite fast) but 11am came, and she sent for a consultant. The news wasn’t good. I was still only around 7 to 8cm. Maybe even 6cm? Baby’s head wasn’t tucked down, and her neck was arched back. She was back to back. And her head was huge. My pelvis wasn’t big enough for her head and the risk of breaking her shoulders on the way out was massive.

I had the option to try carrying on, but the consultant really felt the best option was an emergency C section. I burst into tears and panic kicked in. The good news was that I didn’t have to wait long and would be next in. I was going to meet my baby!

The time between the section decision and going to theatre at 1:45 ish disappeared in a haze, they came and topped up the epidural and got me ready. My husband went and scrubbed up, and before I knew it we were off. I have never had surgery and I couldn’t believe that my first experience of it was going to be a conscious one. The team looking after me seemed very supportive. Some knew my husband’s mum and were chatting about her and us and our wedding photos. Very odd.

After a free ½ bikini trim and checks to make sure the anaesthetic had worked, we were good to go. I could see the clock ticking away, and we were placing bets on her time of birth. However, not only had she turned back to back, her head was completely and utterly stuck, and it took another 7 or 8 minutes of pulling and tugging to get her back out of my pelvis (hence why she looked like a Ventouse baby with pink bruises from bopping about on my cervix). All the commotion on the other side of the screen meant that people stopped focusing on me. Nevertheless, E made her way very much awake and wide eyed at 2:27pm. She was full of gunk and waiting for that first cry was torture. And as soon as she did cry, my first reaction was the check she was a girl! All I could hear was people saying how big she was, and how hairy she was.

My husband went to see her and they started to sort me out. No sooner had I cast my eyes on her for the first time, but I started to be able to feel more than I should have. They desperately starting pumping anaesthetic into me, and forcing a mask onto my face. The pain was horrendous… This was a recipe for disaster and I started vomiting, only there’s not many places it can go when you’re lying down dead from the waist, so my poor daughter spent her first cuddle in recovery with her mummy covered in bright yellow vomit. While in recovery, they came to do some checks and E had a temperature. At this point they started to question infection and what on earth had happened to my waters and whether I had actually been leaking them for weeks. I suspected I might have been, but had never been checked as I was always dismissed when I called Labour Ward. They were also worried about me because during theatre I’d lost over 1500ml of blood, so we spent out first night on the High Dependency Unit receiving one to one care. I managed to walk to the bathroom that evening so my friend could wash the vomit from my hair and the midwife looking after me gave me as good a clean as she could; I was covered in blood and it wasn’t the easiest of tasks.

We stayed in hospital for 3 days. We ended up staying for an extra night as my blood pressure shot up to 170/110 and needed treating and monitoring, but E passed all her tests. I was so pleased to be rid of my cannula, my catheter and my wound drain, the removal of which was one of the most horrendous things I have ever experienced. No one would take responsibility for reading my notes and checking when it could be removed, and when someone eventually took the time to check, it had been in 36 hours longer than the doctor had advised.

I had never envisaged that she would make her way into the world in this way, but I was pleased that she was safe and healthy, and she is more wonderful than I could ever have imagined. I was pleased to be home and looking forward to hanging out with my brand new, perfect daughter.

propess induction

Thank you for your story, Mama H! 

I feel kind of cross about this story and I can’t articulate it properly so I won’t. Mama H seems to have dealt with it and in her words, “Time is a great healer.” Happily Mama H is pregnant again and due to give birth soon! Suffice to say she will not be going back to the hospital where she had her first but she is having an elective c-section.

“My section is booked for this one, at a different hospital. Some people think I’m mad for wanting to go back into theatre, but this time there’s no emergency and the people looking after me know exactly what happened last time so hopefully that will mean more vigilance and better care… By better care I mean the standard level of care I’d expect to receive!”