I was struggling to push out my baby until a midwife said this one thing

mother in labour giving birth

While my first birth holds a special place in my heart because it gave me my first baby, it’s my second birth that always gets me emotional. Unlike my first birth which took hours of labouring at home, followed by hours of pushing in the delivery suite; everything happened much faster with my second pregnancy, and it got kind of scary.

Things started off smoothly enough

Nearly 10 days past my due date, I woke to my waters breaking and felt ecstatic. I was due in for induction the next day and was happy things had started on their own. It was about 3.30am when we arrived at hospital and to my delight, I could already feel the contractions starting. I’d heard about second births going a lot quicker, so I figured I’d be holding my baby by lunchtime. I was shown to the birthing room, where the contractions soon became breath-taking and I needed to be on my hands and knees to get through them. It wasn’t long before I felt some faint urges to push.

Labour progressed quickly

Having noticed that things were moving fast, the midwife checked my dilation, but told me I still had a way to go. I was surprised to hear this because the contractions were already taking on a life of their own, forcing me to grunt and shudder as they moved through me. A few minutes later she came back and said that my baby’s heart rate was dropping slightly, so I had to lie in bed to be internally monitored. But when she was inserting the monitor, she stopped suddenly and said “You’re fully dilated – your baby’s coming.”

Things got hazy

The sudden progression from early contractions to rip-roaring pain had taken me unawares, and at this point I felt unable to do anything apart from focus on my breathing and using the gas to deal with the intensity of the contractions. The midwife said my baby’s head was partially out, but its heart rate was becoming distressed. “Karina, we need to get your baby out, it’s time to push,” she said seriously, before turning to my husband and asking him to hit the emergency button on the wall, which sent staff hurrying into our room. I learnt later that several staff were there to whisk me off for emergency theatre if necessary, but my mind was too muddled with pain and exhaustion to make out what everyone was doing there — although some inkling deep inside me started feeling scared.

You have to push – NOW!

Several midwives and doctors gathered around me on the bed and I heard one of them say to my husband, “Do you understand what’s happening? Your baby’s in distress and if we don’t get it out now, we’ll have to go for an emergency c-section.” Then they held my legs up and started encouraging me to push, repeating that my baby’s head was visible but needed to come out before it got more distressed. I waited for the next contraction and pushed with all my might. Nothing. Looking back now, I was working against gravity, trying to push a fully grown baby out of my body from a lying down position. I felt tired and not strong enough to do what everyone needed me to do. I pushed again, using all my strength. Still nothing. I could feel the stress in the air, and for the first time, I really felt there was a chance my baby wasn’t going to make it, and my heart started thudding hard with fear.

‘Get angry at it’

A few seconds later it was time to push again. I looked into the eyes of the midwife standing beside me, who was holding my left leg up and I swear, what she said next changed everything. She stared at me intensely and uttered a simple statement that suddenly became the dose of superhuman strength I needed to get me to push my baby out — and save its life.

“Get angry at it,” she said.

Get angry at my baby or at whatever was holding me back from pushing it out? It didn’t matter, I knew what she was saying, and knew what I had to do. I got angry at it. I summoned up my inner rage and pushed with all the fury I could muster, feeling it from every recess and corner of my body … and low and behold, I felt my baby slide out of me.

And then there was silence.

A dramatic entrance

I waited for the cries, that would tell me we had made it, but there was nothing. I looked to the other side of my bed, where the obstetrician was standing, still gripping one of my legs. “Why isn’t it crying?” I asked. “Is it okay?”

‘”Your baby’s fine,” he answered. “It’s just stunned.” I didn’t know what that meant or even what it looked like, but according to my husband, our baby was completely grey. He thought she was dead. The world for us stopped turning, as the midwives rushed our baby over to the resuscitation table and within seconds, she – we had a girl – was crying big beautiful roars of newborn health, and suddenly the world came right again.

They brought her over to me and everyone began to tidy up as I gazed at my baby girl in exhausted happiness and relief.

‘Well, that was dramatic,’ the obstetrician said as he got to work repairing my downstairs. Apparently my baby had emerged with her little fist against her face, which was why she was so hard to push out, but thankfully I’d only suffered a small tear. And there we sat, my legs in the air, while the obstetrician stitched me up and my daughter nuzzled on my chest, and I thought about that awesome midwife, who’d shown me how strong my body could be if I gave it the right message. I felt dazed and slightly shell-shocked about what had just happened, but I also felt proud at what I’d been able to do in the end.

Just goes to show you how bloody strong we can be — and how powerful a simple statement can be in helping us see it.

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