India Ward thought it was strange that she couldn’t feel any pain during her contractions, as her body silently laboured for 96 hours. She’s one of just a small number of women who experience a ‘silent labour’, and only knew she was in labour because she felt regular tightenings.
While it may seem like a blessing, India’s silent labour stretched on and on, with doctors ready to step in before the exhausted mum gave everything she had to birth her baby.
A surprise first and second pregnancy
India and James married in January 2017, and at 22-years-old, had decided to wait for some years before starting a family.
“We were using a number of forms of contraception and to our surprise found out we were pregnant February 2018 with our first born, Noah,” India told Mum’s Grapevine. “James wanted children close in age and wanted to start trying for a second ASAP but after a horrible pregnancy and an even worse delivery experience I couldn’t think of anything worse than being pregnant again.
“We were again, using a number of contraceptions to prevent pregnancy. And once again, to our surprise, a month before Noah turned one, we found out we were pregnant again.”
India reached 34 weeks in her pregnancy, when her bump stopped growing. She had regular monitoring to make sure bub was healthy and growing as normal, but just three weeks later, her baby decided it was time to arrive.
A silent labour
India explains she wasn’t doing anything exciting when she had an inkling that she may be in labour.
“It was a Monday night and at 10:30pm I got a couple of tightenings. I had pregnancy insomnia so thought I’d stay up anyway and just monitor these tightenings to see what would happen. At 3:30am Tuesday I woke up my husband and said it’s time to go to the hospital.
“With my first I had no warning, my waters broke and then I was 10cm and pushing before I even got to the hospital. So I was very anxious of having the same experience while also knowing that second labours usually happen quicker.”
The couple arrived at the hospital, where India was hooked up to a monitor. To her surprise, the monitor showed she’d had three intense contractions within 10 minutes, “Which was a little odd as I was only feeling tightenings, no pain. They checked my dilation and I was already 3cm. I was informed that normally I would be monitored for four hours and if there was no progress they would break my waters. But unfortunately did not have the staff to do that today.
“So I went home to continue labouring on my own. Wednesday night the tightenings had gotten stronger and were coming every two minutes, so back to the hospital we went. The midwives got everything set up and told us to get ready to meet our baby. They checked my dilation but I was still only 3cm. They wanted to break my waters but the medical team said it was still too early (37w4d).
“The midwives were my biggest advocates, they knew I was anxious after my first delivery and after already contracting non stop for 48 hours knew I would be exhausted by the time I finally got into the final stage of labour. The medical team still did not want to go ahead. So the midwives booked me in for monitoring on Thursday to be induced Friday.”
On Thursday India’s contractions were still two minutes apart, with no progress. “By this stage I had learnt I’m a ‘silent labourer’ where I don’t feel pain but my body is definitely doing what it needs to. The midwives were trying to get me booked in for an induction with still no luck from the medical team. The midwife in charge at this point was so annoyed, told me to go home, rest and she’d book me in for Friday.
“Friday morning comes around and they are swamped with women having babies. So I have to wait. At 5:30pm I got a phone call to come in to be monitored and they had me booked in for Saturday morning. We go in Friday night for monitoring to see our baby girl’s heart rate is very high and is not going down. So they decide to induce that night.”
India’s waters were broken at around 10.30pm, and her body kicked up a gear with contractions ramping up.
“At this point I had been silently labouring for 96 hours, I was exhausted. At midnight I opted for an epidural as the pain had started, was bearable but i was getting very anxious after my first delivery (10cm & pushing for six hours no epidural). At 1am I was 6cm with a patchwork epidural job (could feel in some areas of my body and not feel in others). So I could still feel all of my contractions.
“At 3:30am it was time to push, this is where I was informed I would only be given one hour to push before they intervene. Before 4am, the machine stopped picking up the baby’s heart rate, they attached the clip to her scalp to monitor better. They decided her heart rate was too high and wanted to do an episiotomy and forceps delivery to get her out now. This is how my first was delivered and I was tired and felt defeated. I wanted what was best for bub so obviously the doctors started prepping.
“I was informed to continue pushing with each contraction while they set up. The doctor was standing in front of me with the knife ready to go when I said I had to push again. They said okay, push through this one, we will then preform the episiotomy and deliver with the next contraction. I was so done and over it by this point and so ready to meet my baby girl. I pushed once, heard the doctor saying ‘quick, quick take it’ as she passed off the knife and then caught my daughter with the second push.
“Aaliyah Grace was born at 4:24am on the 23rd of May, at exactly 38 weeks gestation. There was so much relief as I didn’t need another episiotomy. And so excited after 96 hours, being sent home so many times to finally have our baby girl on my chest. She was completely perfect, a tiny 7lb (compared to her almost 9lb brother) and healthy, her heart rate was completely stable. We went home that same day so our son could meet his new sister, he’s been absolutely smitten by her ever since.”
What is a silent labour?
Not to be confused with a silent or quiet birth, which is something advocated by Scientology, a silent labour is a phenomenon where a woman doesn’t actually know she’s in labour. There doesn’t seem to be a lot known about it, and it’s not overly common. It’s also different to precipitate labour, which is when a labour and birth is very fast, usually only lasting two to three hours.
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