When labour just doesn't happen

The induced labour - all strapped in and wired up to monitoring.
The induced labour - all strapped in and wired up to monitoring. Photo: Getty Images

Before I tell you how I went into labour, let me state for the record: it doesn’t matter. Birth is the least important part of your baby’s life. What is important is a healthy child and healthy mother.

Yes, yes, yes.

And yet, after three healthy kids, and three very different birth experiences, I can’t help feeling I’ve been a little ripped off. I missed out on something I had always wanted to experience, and now I’ll never get the chance.

How did I go into labour? I was medically induced. Every single time.

My body doesn’t seem to know how to spontaneously deliver a child. My son was born at 42 weeks, after two days of gels and drips and full medical intervention. He wouldn’t come out, and my body didn’t help. It clamped shut and held him tightly inside, requiring every type of medication to force my womb to start contracting and release him.

I was disappointed. I’d spent months – no, years – fantasising about that ‘Honey, it’s time!’ moment, when I would wake my partner up in the middle of the night to tell him we needed to go to hospital. At 38 weeks, 39, 40, 41, I still believed it would happen. But by 42 weeks my doctor was getting concerned, and he booked me in for an induction.

But still. I had a beautiful son … and I knew I would get a second chance. When I was pregnant with my daughter 18 months later, I was sure she would make her arrival the ‘natural’ way.

“I can feel it,” I’d tell my friends. “I know she’s coming.” I packed my bag and prepared myself to have to rush off to hospital at any moment.

38 weeks … 39 … 40 … 41 … The doctor booked me in for another induction. Some gel on my cervix, some (rather painful) breaking of the waters, and about 12 hours later, she was born.

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My daughter was healthy and beautiful, and that was what mattered. But I still mourned the fact that I hadn’t experienced spontaneous labour, that I hadn’t begun having contractions, felt them grow stronger and faster, and known that my body was preparing to send my child out into the world. Worse, I felt a little defective. Other women seemed to go into labour. My body just didn’t know how to do it. Without medical intervention, it seemed I could have stayed pregnant forever.

Six years later, I was pregnant again. My third child. Surely I’d know how to do it by now? I didn’t want another induction. I was determined to wait and let nature take its course.

But by 41 weeks, my doctor was concerned about my health, so much so that he booked me in for a c-section. There were complications, and I ended up needed six units of blood, and three days in acute care. All because my body – as I saw it – failed me.

Now there are no more babies in store for me. I have three wonderful, healthy children, and my family is complete. But I can’t help feeling that I missed out on something special, something I wanted to experience. I know it’s not important in the scheme of things, but it was important to me, and it will always be a regret, albeit one that was not in my control.

There has been a tendency of late to discount the importance of birth experiences, to counter the judgement of women who have medical over ‘natural’ births. This is a good thing; the less judgment of women the better. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that less-than-ideal births can still bring a sense of loss, even if the outcome is positive.

I wish I’d gone into spontaneous labour, and I am envious of women who have. That doesn’t change the fact that I feel crazy lucky to have my children. I just wish they had popped out into the world on their own.