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Cath and Bill
High-Risk Pregnancy ~ Unmedicated 6 1/2 Hour Labor ~ Vaginal Delivery

The story of my child's birth is nothing remarkable, except that I had been told I could not become pregnant without risking my life. I have a malformation in the uterus which can cause massive haemorrhaging, and although I have received treatment, it was not "cured." I had to make the decision to take the risk of possibly losing the baby and having a hysterectomy. The condition is so rare, I knew I was unlikely to find any doctor with experience in treating it, so I had to find one who was confident and someone I trusted. I talked to a lot of doctors, and finally found one who was willing to work with me. Rob, my husband, and I decided to go ahead and try for a baby.

When I did become pregnant, I had an ultrasound every month, some bleeding, a few scares and trips to the hospital, but as the baby grew bigger, my confidence improved, and I began to think of him as a real child and not just "the pregnancy." I was expecting a horrible delivery. I had been a nurse and had supported friends through their childbirths, and I had seen some awful deliveries, which frightened me. Everyone I met told me horror stories about how they were in labour for 36 hours, or needed a double episiotomy, or had mid-forceps deliveries. I heard about all the neighbours' back labours, uterine prolapses, haemorrhages, botched epidurals. I was expecting the worst! I felt lousy during my pregnancy, and I just expected that after a high-risk pregnancy and a lot of bad luck in the past year, I would be stuck with a really difficult birth. I told everyone I wanted a six hour labour and a 7 pound baby. Having said all that, my actual delivery was very uneventful . . . the kind in the films you get to see in childbirth classes.

On July 7, 1994, I awoke at about 4:30 with a strange cramp, but it passed and I went back to sleep. I was woken twice more before I looked at the clock again and realized that if they were contractions, they were 15 minutes apart. I woke Rob and asked him to tip me out of bed(!) so I could take a bath. While I was in the bath, he brought me a cup of tea. (I feel this deserves special mention as it was and still is, the best cup of tea I have ever had in my life.)

By 5:30, my contractions were coming every ten minutes, and Rob called the doctor, who said to call back when they were five minutes apart. By the time he hung up the phone, I had another one, and when we started timing them again, they were already five minutes apart. All this time, I did not really believe I was in labour as I had not noticed losing that famous mucous plug. Since ALL the books stressed how it was such a reliable indicator of labour, I just figured this was not "it" and I was going to be sent home from hospital. As well as this, the contractions were not very painful, and all I could think was "false labour." Rob was very anxious to get to the hospital, but I told him there was no rush as "these things take ages" and I imagined that even if I WAS in labour, I would have hours and hours to go before I delivered.

We were at the hospital by about 7:00, and after taking an incredibly long time to be admitted, I saw my doctor about an hour later. I couldn't have been more surprised to hear him say "5 centimetres". Because of my risk of haemorrhage, I had an IV inserted and was told there would be blood standing by. My membranes ruptured at about 9 am, and then the contractions became much more intense. We had practiced back massage, comfortable positions, and all the other comfort measures we learned in childbirth classes, but I found that although I wanted Rob close to me, I couldn't bear to be touched. Rob ended up holding my hand (or rather me squashing his) while he held his other hand firmly on top of my head. I found this very reassuring. We had packed a bag using the hospital list in What to Expect When You're Expecting and I couldn't have brought a more useless bag of stuff. The relaxing tapes and sour candies were never taken out of the bag, and Rob took them home unopened. I had expected to find comfort on all fours, or squatting, but I ended up lying on my left side. The next two hours passed very quickly with me taking sips of water and concentrating on the breathing until 11:00 when I felt the most overwhelming urge to push . . . just like in the books! The midwife examined me and told me to go ahead and push, while the resident told me it would probably be another hour. The thought of pushing for a whole hour was just too much, and I was determined to make the absolute most of each contraction. Pushing was hard, but it gave me a feeling of accomplishment and to be able to feel the baby actually moving down, let me know that it was really happening. I had no drugs at all, even though I was willing to ask for them if I felt I needed them, but I felt incredibly focused, and was really able to use the breathing I had learned and practiced.

William John Peat was born at 11:18 am on July 7, 1994, after a 6 1/2 hour labour and 18 minutes of pushing. He weighed 7 lbs 1 oz. I had no complications, no haemorrhaging, and within an hour of his birth, I felt better than I had felt in the previous nine months. I don't think I had realized the seriousness of my condition until after the delivery when I was inundated by medical people from department heads to students, all asking questions and telling me they had heard about me and that I had the whole hospital worried.

We are preparing to celebrate Bill's second birthday on Sunday. I look at him every day and tell myself how lucky we are to have him after all the risks and fear. I am expecting our second and last child in August. The risks are still there, and just as high as ever, but after one uneventful pregnancy and delivery, I am not so scared this time. I sometimes wonder why I am putting myself and family through another high-risk pregnancy, but I have little time to dwell about it with a toddler to keep me busy.

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