I was very lucky to have a very straighforward pregnancy and I was ready to have my baby!! I had read books on Active Birth, I'd done some hypnotherapy, I'd been exercising regularly and was booked in at the Family Birth Centre, where I was hoping to have a water birth.
Everyone would ask me if I was scared about childbirth. But I wasn't. I trusted the midwives, I believed my body could do it and I was looking forward to labour. If anything, I was more nervous about what would happen after the labour and I had an actual child to look after.
My due date came and went without any action.. a whole week came and went.. My back had started to ache. I was sick of rasberry leaf tea. Even the Mister was sick of having sex. If I ate another hot curry I was going to vomit. Each day felt like a week. I was bombarded with texts and phonecalls from people asking "have you had the baby yet?" NO.
In the public system they let you go up to 2 weeks past your due date before being induced, provided all well in-utero. I wanted my baby to chose it's own birthday so I was glad to have a few extra days up my sleeve as they won't let you go on forever.. and I wanted to get things moving! I got to 8 days overdue and talk of an induction was looming. I went into the clinic to have a 'stretch and sweep' to help initiate labour. However my cervix was too high for the midwife to even reach! As your body gets ready to get into labour the cervix drops and moves forward so this wasn't a promising sign that labour was pending.
I went home and sulked and cried. I didn't want to be induced but I didnt want to be pregnant anymore either. Waaaa!!
About 5pm that same day (only 4 hours after the checkup) I noticed some light cramping but figured it was just some more pesky pre-labour Braxton Hicks cramps.
But as the afternoon went on, these started getting a bit stronger.. and more regular.. by 7pm they were about 6 or 7 minutes apart.. we abandoned plans to go for hot Indian curry that night, as I was feeling a bit uncomfortable.
Around 8pm I was still thinking 'am I/aren't I?' in labour.. the cramps were definitely becoming harder to ignore.. but weren't lasting very long... I didn't want to get my hopes up, as I have heard lots of stories of people thinking they are in labour only to be told at the hospital its just 'pre- labour' contractions and to come back later. Considering that same afternoon my cervix was too high to even reach I thought this might be the case..
At 9.30pm the Mister decided to go to bed. He said I should too, because I might need some sleep as surely I'd be in proper labour by the morning. But it was getting painful, with contractions about 5mins apart, so I didn't think I'd be able to get any sleep. I was starting to think this must be the real thing (god help me if it wasnt!!) but I wanted to labour at home for as long as I could manage. I felt ok, so just let The Mister sleep.
For the next few hours I alternated between sitting under the hot shower, rocking on the fit ball, sitting on the toilet (so glad we didnt make it for curry) and reading my book in between.. Things gradually started to amp up and during the contractions I would be on my knees leaning over the fit ball, doing deep puffy breathing, banging my feet against the carpet or my hands against a cushion to distract myself from the pain, then just resting between each contraction. I wasn't timing myself or watching the clock because I just wanted to focus on what my body was doing, not feel worried about a clock.
But at about 12.30am I woke the Mister up because it was all getting pretty intense and I wanted to find out how closely spaced the contractions were now. The guideline for the Birth Centre is to come in when your contractions are about 4 minutes apart. The Mister timed mine and they were lasting for 45 seconds and only a minute and half apart! Eep!
So it was time to call my Mum who was to be my other Support Person.. and the Mister called the Birth Centre to let them know we were coming in!
The drive to the Birth Centre was hard work.. Sitting down in the car felt like torture, compared to being draped over my lovely fit ball (pregnant women- get yourselves one of these!) And we had to go down Hay Street with all those ghastly speed humps, which were a nightmare. I will never look at that street the same again.
We got to the Birth Centre at 1.30am. They did an internal. This would be my first and last internal examination. I was 6cm dilated. They listened to babies heart which was strong and steady... I had been having some bleeding so arrived wearing a pad. The Mister had questioned the bleeding while we were at home but I had figured that it was childbirth, surely you should expect some bleeding?? But apparently not that much, as the midwife was worried as well.
She weighed the pad(!), consulted with one of her colleagues and then came back and told me that she was sorry but because of the bleeding they would want to do continuous monitoring of the baby throughout labour.. which would have to be done at the main hospital. I was disappointed aboutbeing transfered to the hospital. I wanted to stay in the Birth Centre! I was worried that continuous monitoring meant I would have to be strapped to a bed. And that the doctors would over-react to any normal flucctuations in the babies heart rate by cutting me open. It would mean I couldn't use the shower and there would be no water birth. But not wanting anything bad to happen to the baby, I agreed to the transfer.
The Birth Centre is attached to the hospital by a series of passage ways and they wanted to put me into a wheel chair to take me through. But there was no way I was going to be able to sit down in a chair! So I walked. It was quite slow going as I had to stop during each contraction to breath but we got there within 10 minutes.
The labour room in the hospital was full of bright lights and machines and lots of people- exactly the sort of atmosphere I had been wanting to avoid! They strapped a couple of monitors to me and the babies heart beat was strong and steady.. they were portable ones so I was able to remain upright which was wonderful. I got through another couple of contractions on my knees leaning against the bed.. I had imagined that I'd be using heat packs and massages to help me through the contractions, but so far I found any touch too distracting and preferring to be left alone. One of the midwives asked me if I wanted gas. It was the last thing I wanted, I was trying to concentrate. I remember the Mister and my Mum telling me that I was doing great and encouraging me and giving me sips of water and that was the help I needed. It was hot in the labour room and at one point someone draped a wet towel over my shoulders and that was heaven.
After a few more contractions I felt an added pressure and then a big splash on the floor as my waters broke. And then a few minutes after that I told them I had to push. They asked me if I was able to get up on the bed. I climbed up, but remained in the all fours position with my arms leaning up on the head rest. Lying flat on my back was out of the question.
The urges to push came in waves. Each time I pushed as hard as I could. They kept telling me to push harder. The babies heart rate started to drop. I was pushing as hard as I could, doing about three big pushes per contraction with lots of groaning and moaning.. The pressure was huge. I felt like I was turning inside out. It feels like you are pooing the baby out.
They could see the babies head start to crown, I heard someone say "this one doesn't have much hair". I was pushing pushing pushing. I got to a point where I didn't think I could push anymore. I asked "can't you just pull it out" The doctor who was there goes "yes we can", but the midwife (who had followed us over from the Birth Centre) said "No you can push it out" I needed to hear that then because I wasn't sure I could. But I thought to myself that if it could be done, then I would do it. So I kept pushing!
But then the babies heart rate which had started to drop. Because I was still hooked up to monitors I could see that it was low and getting lower and that people were exchanging glances behind my back..
They asked to give me an episiotomy, which is where they cut your perenium to prevent you from tearing. They said this would give us just a bit more room to help the baby get out. I'd hoped to avoid having this done but at that point if you'd have told me doing the hokey pokey was going to help get the baby out I would have done it.. I had to roll onto my back for this, which felt a bit unnatural.
Everyone loves telling you about the pain of childbirth but in my experience it was the physical exhaustion that was the hardest aspect. I mustered all my inner strength while I waited for the next urge to hit and told myself that I was only a few pushes away from meeting Baby.
At 3.01am I did one more massive push and they told me the head was out, another push and the shoulder came out, and another and the rest just slid out. Oh the relief! I was so tired.
They placed the baby straight on my chest. A very surreal moment.
This red wriggly little person, covered in blood and slime (who did have hair thanksverymuch) and was making bleating noises. Who for over 9 months had been inside me.. was now on the outside.
I felt so exhausted. I was so glad the labour was over. I was dazed. I felt broken.
But so relieved to see this baby and that all looked healthy. I whispered "We did it, Little One"
The Mister and I both just stared for a while. Then I realised we hadn't even checked to see if it was a boy or a girl. We had both been hoping for a girl, so were very happy to see that's what we'd be given!
I had wanted lots of uninterrupted skin on skin time, but the doctors didn't like the sound of her breathing. They said she sounded like she was putting in a bit too much effort. So after just a few minutes of having her lie with me on my chest, they took her over to examine her.
If I wasn't sure I'd felt immediate love when they put her on my chest, I definitely felt it when they took her away- I desperately wanted her back!! It seemed like they had snatched her away. But I had to stay on the bed (with my legs in stirrups no less) while they poked and prodded her on the other side of the big room. The Mister stayed with her while they did their inspections.
They weighed her and she was 8lb4oz. They did other tests and gave her an APGAR score of 9. But they wanted to put her on antibiotics, just in case the slight breathing difficulty was caused by a lung infection... I wasn't sure about that. I don't believe in using antibiotics willy nilly. I knew one of the main advantages of natural childbirth is that the beneficial flora the baby encounters in the birth canal establishes a good foundation for their immune systerm. I told that to the paediatrition I didnt want her on antibiotics if she didnt really need them. He said it was best to be safe than sorry. He told me which meant she had to be on a drip for 48 hours until the results from her swab came back all clear... so next thing I know they are wheeling her away, down to the Special Care Nursery.
I knew in my heart that there wasnt anything wrong with her. I'm not a doctor but I could tell there was no infection. I wish that I hadn't just let them take her. I think if I'd bargained with them, and said give me an hour. If I'd had just an hour of skin on skin time I know her breathing would have improved on it's own. But I didn't think of it, and they were saying 'it's for the best' and it's hard to argue with that. I was a bit dazed and confused. And so they took her.
I told the Mister "stay with her!!" but I didn't need to say that, he knew. My Mum stayed with me.
In my birth plan I had wanted a natural third stage of labour and delayed cord clamping but somehow that had all gone out the window. But at this point I didn't care I just wanted them to hurry up so I could go and see my Baby. They spent what felt like an eternity stitching me up. I think the girl doing it was a trainee because the doctor was telling her what to do. I was just giving them death stares wanting them to stitch the damn thing up.
Finally I was able to go down to the nursery to see her. I was wearing a hospital gown. They wanted me to get into the wheelchair but I wouldn't because I prefer to walk if I can. We went to the Special Care Nursery, where only the parents are allowed, to see the Mister looking over her, with a few nurses around.
She had a tube in her mouth, a drip in her left arm and a cannula in her right arm. I knew she wasn't really sick so I didn't like seeing her like that. Virtually all the other little babes in the Special Care nursery were premature babies. They all looked so tiny and vulnerable. Compared to them , she looked so robust and wriggly and big, like she was needlessly taking up a hospital bed! I knew in my heart she didn't have an infection and hated that she was on antibiotics.. But I know, I know.. as everyone was telling me at the time, it is better to play it safe.
They told me they were feeding her glucose through a drip and would give her some formula so I could get some rest. I told them I didn't want her given any formula. They said I couldn't breastfeed her with that tube in her mouth and I'd have to express some breastmilk.
They let me hold her on my chest for a while. We had some more lovely skin to skin time. The Mister and I decided to name her Bay, and marvelled at how perfect she was. She was wriggling around so much the tube in her mouth came out. There were no doctors around so when she bobbed down to my breast I just held her there and she started feeding straight away. I'd been leaking colostrum from about 24 weeks so I knew she was getting something good. I'm not sure what was in that mouth tube but they didn't bother putting it back in, and told me that if I wanted to keep breastfeeding then I'd need to come down the the nursery ever 3 hours around the clock and express in between so she had enough food.
So that's what I did. It was a pleasure. I couldn't sleep anyway with Bay down in the Special Care nursery because I felt that she should be with me. The midwives were supportive of my breastfeeding and were helping make sure she was attached okay. But she is a hungry little girl and had no problems latching on.
I had another doctor the next day tell me that I should give her some formula because she wasn't getting enough nutrients from the breastmilk. I rejected his advice. I trusted that my body would produce what she needed, when she needed it!
They aren't allowed to give her formula without your permission and I'm glad I stood my ground because sure enough, that afternoon her blood sugar levels had reached a stable healthy level, her breathing was completely normal and so she was allowed to come off the drip and up into my hospital room. She still had the nasty cannula in her arm for the antibiotics but at least we were together!
We spent another two nights in the hospital with Bay on her antibiotics, waiting for the swab results. It was okay being in the public hospital, the midwives were mostly really excellent, but as it was the public hospital the Mister wasn't able to stay with us overnight, so that was a bit hard for him.
After the third night the swab results came back negative (as I knew they would) so they stopped the antibiotics and we were able to go home! It was such a nice feeling walking out of that hospital with our little girl!
We went back to my Mums place where we are staying until we have to go back to the Desert.
We are being looked after so well by my parents. We're very lucky.
We have just been enjoying the most idyllic time... soaking up this special time, getting to know one another and we are both so in love with our little girl.