Here's my very looooong birth-story and how the TENS machine helped me with pain relief.
I was due on 29 September 2021 and fast approaching 40 weeks of pregnancy when my midwife offered me a stretch and sweep, which I decided to take. To her surprise she informed me that I was already 3cm dilated. This made me feel so happy and empowered, knowing that my body is already starting with the process.
A few days passed and I reached 40 weeks and 1 day, 2days and still nothing. I was feeling a bit discouraged and trying everything to naturally get the process going, including walking every day, bouncing on a swiss ball, eating dates, drinking raspberry leaf tea, taking stairs, one-legged walking up and down a curb, expressing Colostrum regularly. And still nothing. My worst fear was having to get induced. So my midwife suggested another stretch and sweep, which I agreed to. This time it seemed like I was about 4cm dilated. Again it made me feel hopeful.
Then Sunday morning, 3 October approached and I awoke at 4am to contractions. I was getting really excited and started timing it to make sure that it was regular and not Braxton Hicks. I really felt the contractions in my front hip bones. Sitting was very uncomfortable, so I decided to lie on my side, which felt really good.
I went to take a shower, wash my hair and pack my last things in my hospital bag. I woke my husband and asked him to place the TENS machine on my back. I started off at a very low intensity and used the booster with every contraction. It helped me so much and I felt like I was coping with the pain really well. I was very quiet and internalising every contraction focusing on my breathing. We also had gospel music in the background, which made me feel so calm.
Our midwife kept on checking in to ask whether I wanted to go to the hospital. I was really comfortable at home, but knew I had to make the transition to the hospital at some point and that we still needed to go through the Covid-screening and check-in. So I decided to make my way to hospital.
When I got there, my midwife had poured a bath (as I was planning to have a waterbirth). My husband put on gospel music again and I felt really good. She checked me and informed me that I was already 8cm dilated! All this time I was only using the TENS-machine as pain relief, steadily increasing the intensity. I knew once I went into the water, I would have to take off the TENS machine, so I waited a bit longer and said to my midwife that I'll wait until the very end before I get into the pool.
At some point I needed a bit more relief, so I asked my midwife and she suggested that I combined TENS with the gas. This worked really well for me and at 13:30 she checked me again and informed me that I was fully dilated.
At this point I decided to remove the TENS machine and get in the water. I was still using the gas. I utilised different positions and kept on working through the contractions. My midwife asked whether I had the urge to push and at that point I didn't. But I still tried to push 3 times with each contraction, my husband counting down from 10 and supporting me with each push. I could feel the amniotic sac, but after each push it went far up again. I continued pushing for an hour in the water and then asked the midwife if we could try something different. She suggested that we broke my waters manually to help the process along.
I got out and we did that. I lay on my side and was still using the gas. I could feel a strong urge now to push. I pushed with every contraction, but after continuing for another hour like that and baby's heartrate starting dropping and the process was not progressing.
They called in the Obstetrician and after an examination, she determined that he was not presenting with the crown of his head, but rather his browline. At this point I was exhausted, but determined to see it through and do what it takes. So she asked me to push against her hand and tried to turn his head. His heartrate kept on dropping and they said we needed to get him out.
So they prepped me and husband got changed into his scrubs. At this point I was drifting in and out of consciousness and unaware of my baby's heartrate dropping. My husband had to experience all of this and still reassure me that all is well. I kept asking him whether he could see the baby yet, to which he responded not yet.
I asked whether I could take the gas with me to the theatre to which they responded: "Sure". So they disconnected the gas tube and off I went with only the pipe attached to nothing, but still breathing through it for pain relief!:)
In the theatre we had to time it correctly between contractions to give me an epidural. The moment I got the epidural, I felt the biggest sense of relief and felt like I just got such a big break. Another obstetrician came into the theatre and assessed the situation and decided the quickest action would be a forceps delivery. The obstetrician spoke to us in Afrikaans, which made me so emotional and made me feel right at home! He was assertive and took control, which made my husband feel such a sense of relief.
I got an episiotomy and they were ready for the delivery. They asked me to push with each contraction and once again my husband helped me to push with each contraction. The highlight was when he yelled "Ek kan hom sien lief!!" (I can see him). That gave me the motivation to push with all my might. And suddenly I heard cries and our little boy being placed on my chest. It was the most amazing feeling in the world! The highest high I've ever experienced and I just kept on crying. I was suddenly the mamma of a healthy boy of 3.94kg, named Josua, born with a full head of hair.
They took a good amount of time to stitch my wounds up, as I lost 900ml of blood through a 2nd degree tear deep internally combined with the episiotomy.
Afterwards I asked the Obstetrician whether I should've just continued to push longer, but they said that there was nothing more I could've done and that he was stuck and needed to get out.
Even though I didn't experience the pushing part or ring of fire or those parts of stage 2, I feel so empowered knowing that I did everything in my power to naturally bring him into this world and that we needed interventions to ensure the safety of him and I. For me it was a really positive birth experience. For my husband I think he's still working through some of the trauma of having to see how our baby's heartrate was dropping and me going in and out of consciousness.
We realise how precious and fragile life is and are so thankful to be parents to this little miracle.