It was around 8 pm when I checked back into the hospital with my bag, ready for induction. It felt like I was walking into a room blindfolded, knowing that at some point I will be in a lot of pain and there’s nothing I can do about it. It still hadn’t sunk in that the baby was going to come out. Maybe it’s because I checked in with no contractions, no signs of labour… nothing. It felt almost impossible that this was happening so soon. In case you were wondering if I was excited to meet the baby slightly earlier than planned… I really wasn’t. I was not mentally prepared at all.
The original plan was to get induced right away but my mum made a good point to say I should get a good night’s rest at the hospital and start induction in the morning. I was going to need it, and in hindsight, I’m glad I slept. The visiting hours were done at that point, so my mum and husband were not allowed to hang around for too long. Luckily for me, after speaking with the doctor, they allowed me to get some rest and start the induction the following morning.
I walked over to the hospital room I’d be staying in to find 6 other women, some groaning in pain, another walked by me with tubes dangling between her legs. No privacy at all, just a beige curtain that separates each of our beds. I could hear babies crying from a distance, which was kind of bittersweet. Whoever that lady was went through a lot, but the cries’ sound marked the end of the pain. The sweetness that comes after. I felt like I was in a queue for torture. Like I was next. The anxiety was kicking in and all I had to do was sleep it off.
The Next Morning – Induction:
I was up from 6 am anticipating a long day to come, ate some breakfast and before I knew it, it was time. It was already 9:30 am and one of the midwives swooped in with a small table and a few gadgets. The induction was happening right there on my bed. I felt a bit weird about it considering there’s a bunch of women in the same room as me and they can hear everything.
“So we’ll be using a balloon method to help induce you.”
The only thing that came out of my mouth was: “Is this going to be painful?”
She paused a little bit. “It’s going to be uncomfortable… but another nurse is going to come in right now to give you some gas and air.”
“Uncomfortable” is definitely a code word for pain. If a member of staff at a hospital says this to you, it’s going to be a lot worse. She just didn’t want me to panic. I believed her. I thought it wasn’t going to be bad… but boy, was it bad. From the moment they wheeled in the gas and air (which they use for LABOUR) to help ease the “discomfort” she was talking about, I should’ve known but I was oblivious. The best way I could describe being induced was someone putting their hand inside of you and grabbing your cervix. Then proceeding to box the shit out of it. After what felt like forever, I remember slurring my words and saying: “This is so painful, can you stop?” and all she kept saying was “We’re almost there, you’re doing great!” It was a good thing the gas and air was making me weak because I genuinely wanted to kick her off the bed.
The whole process must’ve taken up to 5 minutes or so. I can’t even remember. The pain was like no other and I kept holding my breath. If I didn’t have the gas and air tube in my mouth, I would’ve been screaming. I kept thinking about how labour would feel if the induction was this painful.
The Foley Bulb is a catheter that is inserted and placed by the cervix with a little deflated balloon at the top. Once it’s placed, the balloon is filled up with a saline solution so what was once deflated is now like a water balloon that is applying pressure on top of the cervix. I think this is supposed to mimic the baby’s head to kickstart the labour. The aim is to manually dilate or open up the cervix. In my case, they didn’t just use one balloon, there were two. So one balloon was sitting on top of the cervix and another was underneath.
Once it was done, she took off her gloves and talked to me about what will happen next. My head was gone at this point, I didn’t even process what she was saying to me but I heard her saying “up to 24 hours in this room” for the labour to start unless my water breaks or the balloon falls out. Her voice was fading in and out like I was just waking up from a slumber. I kept the gas and air going for a few minutes until I saw her attempting to take it away. I had to say goodbye to whatever it was that was making me light-headed. We were going to be reunited shortly.
Soon after the induction, my mum arrived to find me cooped up in bed with some mild cramping. The contractions started almost straight away and it felt like mild period cramps. It was manageable at this point. I downloaded an app to help track the duration of each contraction and the time in-between. I was even live-tweeting after each contraction but soon after, it became impossible.
As hours went by, the “period cramps” got more intense and my mum told me to get up and start walking around the hospital to help push the baby down more. Although I was only allowed one person inside the ward, I was still able to see my husband outside of the ward. These COVID rules really make no sense. He wanted to experience this with me so both of us would go for walks outside of the ward until the pain became too much to handle. One particular contraction lasted a whole 18 minutes as I was timing it on the app. I didn’t quite understand it.
How do I describe the pain of contractions? It’s an agonising feeling like someone is grabbing your insides and squeezing them really hard. It makes you stop in your tracks and bend over. It was a pain that stopped me from screaming, it completely took my breath and my voice away. They say the pain comes in waves. And it’s true. You feel the pain coming and it gets worse and worse and worse, then it reaches its peak… before slowly easing again. When the pain comes, you feel your head getting hot, your palms will sweat and you forget to breathe. I now understand why people bang on about how important it is to breathe during contractions. Breathing actually felt like a chore. It was too much effort because I was so wrapped up in the pain.
I went through the contractions for about 12 hours before my mum and husband had to leave. At this point, I was getting very anxious again. This pandemic really had to cockblock so many events. Soon after mum left, a midwife came in to offer me some pain relief so I can sleep overnight. It was an injection that I can’t remember the name of that she stabbed in my thigh. Whatever it was, worked.
The night felt very long as I had to deal with nurses checking my blood pressure and monitoring the baby every other hour. But I did not expect to be woken up at 2 am for a completely different reason.
“Hi Sawiya, it’s time to take you to the labour ward. A room is free now.“
By the way, I may have failed to mention before, that the labour ward was actually packed so we were literally crowded into a room until beds were free. Talk about baby boom, eh?
I frantically picked up my phone and tried to call mum… then I changed my mind and called my sister instead. I’m sure you can all understand mothers and getting phone calls late at night. I didn’t want to give mum a heart attack, so I told my sister to tell her gently that I’m being taken to the labour ward and that she must arrive at the hospital ASAP. I packed up my things and made my way to my own snazzy room, featuring an ensuite toilet, plenty of space, a mounted TV (pretty useless tbh) and ✨ silence ✨.
Before I knew it, my mum was there ready for labour. I don’t know how she got there so quickly but she also managed to make herself some tea to go. Superwoman, for real.
Soon after, it was time for the balloon to come out and for the midwife to break my waters. It was the weirdest sensation, quite relaxing actually. It was like I was peeing myself for miiiinnnuuttesss. But that feeling didn’t last long because the contractions were now on 100. This time it felt like I was going to take my last breath each time a contraction hit me. I called out for my mum and all she had to do was stick the gas and air tube in my mouth.
The gas and air genuinely make you so lightheaded that everything and everyone in the room moves slowly. High as a kite. I found it very hard to keep my eyes open. For some reason, I could hear circus music in my head on a constant loop, it’s something I would never forget! Every time the contraction came back, it would last longer. This time, it would get me for 2-3 mins straight and would stop for about 2 minutes. Over and over again. Everything was a blur, I didn’t know where I was and it all felt like a dream. The pain was there in the background and at some point, I thought I would never come back from it. My mum told me that there was a moment when I had a single tear coming down my face but had no energy to cry. I think that’s the best way to put it. It was a very very trippy moment, where two worlds collided. The feeling of extreme pain but I was also on cloud nine.
The labour went on from 2 am – 6:30 am then everything changed. I thought there would’ve been some progress but I was only 4cm dilated. A number I didn’t want to hear. I almost wanted to cry because it meant I wasn’t even halfway after nearly 24 hours of pain. The baby’s heart rate was dropping and my blood pressure was, of course, high. It was time for an emergency c section.
The C Section:
I was wheeled off to the theatre, still in and out of the high I was feeling for the past 5 hours and they started prepping me for the epidural, a needle that’s meant to numb you from the waist down. I was so out of it that I didn’t even realise they had injected me. I had to deal with 2-3 more contractions whilst the doctors and nurses were getting the table ready. The comfort of the gas and air was no longer there. I had to firm it without any relief. All I could do was grab onto the nurse’s shoulders.
The next thing I knew I couldn’t feel a thing. All the pain was gone and my body felt like jelly. There were probably about 7-8 nurses and doctors in the room helping me move from one table to another. They all picked up my body and shifted me, then they put a blue shield over my chest so that I couldn’t see anything. They then proceeded to introduce themselves and start the surgery.
It all lasted about 45 minutes. I was staring at the ceiling the whole time, counting all the tiles and then remembering to say a little prayer. My mum was sitting towards the back with her scrubs on, taking pictures and videos for memories. She reminded me of Kris Jenner.
You know that feeling when your stomach turns? It felt like that the entire time. All I could imagine was a bunch of doctors standing around me and mixing all of my organs around. I was feeling nauseous and panic came over me. I wanted to call out for one of the doctors but it felt like all I could do was whisper. Then, a young man with glasses appeared right in front of my face asking me if I’m okay.
“I’m going to be sick, is this normal?”
“That’s totally normal. I’m going to give you some anti-sickness meds.”
He grabbed the cannula that was on my wrist and added some extra drugs but it was too late as I was already turning my head to vomit. I was panicking so much because the last thing I needed was to choke on my own vomit whilst I’m laying flat in the middle of a surgery. One of the doctors ran off to get me a small bowl and placed it next to my head. I didn’t know what was coming out of my mouth but my body just kept forcing me to vomit. After a while, the meds finally kicked in.
Soon after, the baby was out but it didn’t really go as I had imagined in my head. There were no “congratulations, it’s a girl!” as they hold her up like a scene from Lion King. There was no “she’s here, happy birthday!”. They simply took her out and quickly ran to the small table to clean her off. I could hear my mum in the background asking questions and finally… I heard her. Her cries were faint but it sounded like she was mad as hell for being evicted out of my womb by force. Turns out, the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck 3 times, which now makes sense as to why her heart rate was dropping during labour. Poor girl.
Once I was all stitched up, I was wheeled back to the recovery along with the baby. I had the shakes. My entire body was shaking, including my teeth. I wasn’t cold. I was just shaking. It was my body’s response to the meds. My legs were numb and so was my emotions. I was just numb completely. I don’t know if I somehow just put all that pain and trauma locked up somewhere in my brain but I was definitely out of it. I just felt nothing. My eyes felt heavy and all I wanted to do was sleep. I don’t think I remember a single conversation from that day.
I thought the pain would all be over soon but I could not be more wrong. The PART 3: C Section Recovery that was waiting for me was going to be a lot worse than the contractions.