“That’s what life is, a continual state of journey. You are a river passing downstream.” ~Jon Foreman
As of Friday, our little girl is 7 weeks young. I considered writing this post many times before today; I wanted to document her birth story as soon as possible so that none of the precious details are forgotten. But life with a newborn is hectic. I’ve barely had time to poo, let alone blog! So at long last — this happy day — with our little girl finally napping peacefully beside me in her bassinet (let me not jinx this!) I’m excited to share our birth story with you. Here goes!
On the morning of 24 December (five days before my expected due date), I was making the most of my maternity leave and utilising every opportunity to sleep in. At around 11am I mustered enough willpower to get out of bed. As I stood up, I felt a small trickle of water run down my legs (sorry, this is the most elegant way that I could put this!). We rung the hospital assessment hotline and was advised that I should drop by to check whether my bag of waters had broken. Excitement much! We grabbed the pre-prepared hospital bag and both of us were jittery with nerves. Mister T did the driving, whilst I (elegantly) sat on a towel in the passenger seat. On the way we dropped by our favourite local cafe hangout (the Distributor) for some almond croissants to take away. We knew the folks there well (we’d been getting brunch there almost every Saturday throughout my pregnancy) and they threw in a couple of gingerbread man on the house as encouragement for us. We love those guys!
Once we arrived at the hospital, I was pretty sure that my bag of waters had broken. Things were very wet and Mister T stood behind me to hide the wet patch on my pants (hint: wear dark pants). Yuck. An assessment in Emergency confirmed it: bag of waters had broken but no active contractions yet (only very mild and spaced apart/ irregular cramps). Once the hospital was satisfied that I didn’t have an infection, they sent me home with the advice that if I don’t go into spontaneous labour within 48 hours, I would be induced. We returned home after the anticlimactic turn of events.
Throughout the afternoon, I tried to relax: willing my body to be open and for labour to start…. I told myself not to be resistant about the birth (even though I was anxious about the unknown and the impending pain!) I got my wish at about 9pm that night when the contractions started. At first, I wasn’t sure whether they were contractions; they felt like waves of uncomfortableness, with no definitive start or finish. But once they got super painful – I was pretty sure they were contractions! We tried to labour at home as much as possible, whilst at the same time keeping in contact with the hospital via phone. To get me through the pain, I sat on a fit ball, bouncing rhythmically whilst holding Mister T’s hands and voicing a ‘hmmmm’ sound. The stronger the contractions got, the higher I bounced, the tighter I squeezed Mister T’s hands and the louder the ‘hmmm’s’ got. I tried a few other positions but they all seemed too painful – I couldn’t lie down in bed and the shower did little to ease my pain. In between contractions, I would race to the kitchen and grab some ice from the fridge to suck on. Several times, I vomited (a part of labour I hadn’t anticipated). Mister T worked with me through each contraction, humming alongside me and counting down with me. I couldn’t have made it without him. After a few painfully long hours, my contractions were sufficiently regular and close apart for us to head to the hospital. I remember consciously waiting for one contraction to finish before racing down our apartment stairs, only to be met by a second contraction halfway down. Painful. I grimaced through it and got into the car best I could.
At this point, I have to give Mister T a big kudos for driving so calmly and safely to the hospital with a labouring wife next to him screaming in pain. Thankfully, by this time it was 2 am and there was no traffic. About 10 minutes away from the hospital, I felt the urge to push and started squirming in my seat. I held off telling Mister T about this as much as possible, to avoid freaking him out too much. Once we arrived at Emergency, Mister T filled out the requisite forms and we were asked to sit in the waiting area. This was one of the hardest bits of my labour – screaming in pain in front of complete strangers in a waiting room! I was really uncomfortable and I no longer had my fit ball with me and had to try other strategies to help me cope with the pain. We camped out a bit in the bathroom where the “bloody show” made an appearance. When I was finally assessed (phew!) I was already 8 – 9 cms dilated. I remember feeling soooo relieved that things were progressing well and that I could finally be admitted into to a labour suite and get out of that wretched waiting area – I was wheeled to the birthing suite in record time.
At the birthing suite, we were greeted by the loveliest midwife (Esther). At this stage the pain was pretty intense and I asked whether I could use the gas. I don’t know if the gas did much to take the edge off the pain, but it gave me something to do and was super helpful in getting me to breathe deeply. Before giving birth, I was worried that I’d be self conscious about moaning – but you know what? When I was in labour nothing else mattered to me except getting through the next contraction. I moaned, grunted, cried and shouted through my contractions. I tried to visualise my body opening up and the baby moving down. I told myself that generations and generations of women before me had done this! (and that my own grandmother had seven children – all without medical intervention). Mister T at this point offered to put some music on for me (we had meticulously prepared two labour playlists beforehand – a soothing one and one for pushing!), but all I wanted was complete silence to concentrate. After pushing for awhile, Esther suggested that I try a side lying position which might help the baby come through better. And I’m so grateful to her for that suggestion! Two or three more pushes later (of the most excruciating burning I had felt in my life), our sweet little girl was out. Esther caught her and put her to my chest.
I expected to cry, but I didn’t. I was transfixed by the little person in front of me who I’d been yearning to meet for 9 months. I finally got to meet her! We asked for delayed cord clamping and Mister T cut the cord. The following few hours were golden. I felt tired, but incredibly powerful. And womanly. And deliriously happy. Giving birth made me feel alive.
Note about Resources that Helped Us
I had hoped and planned for a birth without medical intervention, but was fully aware (and comfortable) with the idea that it might not be possible. Any birth can take a range of turns and I am incredibly lucky to have access to a full range of medical professionals, drugs and procedures should we have needed it. However, I think that the more you can plan for a birth without medical intervention (should you want one that is), the more likely it is to happen. Below are some of the things that helped us prepare.
The birthwell birthright Lamaze childbirth education classes with the lovely Tanya. Mister T and I went to this every Thursday night after work for three weeks and found this to be the most valuable source of support and resource!
Birth Skills Book by Juju Sundin with Sarah Murdoch. Very practical strategies for coping with the pain.
Babes on Board Prenatal Classes with the lovely Gillian. For keeping up my general fitness.