Disclosure: This is my personal birth story and mine alone.
It might sound completely different from your own birth.
It is in no way meant to be used as a comparison, bragging rights or anything else for that matter. I LOVE birth stories, so I wanted to share mine.
It is authentic and it simply tells a story about meeting my little girl for the first time.
On March 30th, 2017 we welcomed a little girl at 5:07 pm after a 20 hour labor in East Melbourne.
I'd been reading a lot of books about childbirth in the final few months of my pregnancy. The most inspiring were Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, the Mindful Mother, and New Active Birth. I can't recommend these books highly enough, especially if it's your first birth. I don't know what it is about being pregnant that makes other women want to tell you how horrible it is, perpetuating the fear based birth experience. There were so many times that I had to cut people off mid sentence, or simply roll my eyes and walk away. These books helped to inspire me and reinstall faith in my body when I thought surely it won't fit out of there (insert all the bulgy eyed emojis).
I'd done a lot of yoga and pranayama breathing techniques leading up to the big day, but most of all I visualized the "event" over and over. I mediated for a few minutes each morning, envisioning the birth going smoothly. I pictured myself, calm. In my reflective time I saw myself moving around my hospital room, breathing steadily, not screaming, yelling, punching my husband or calling him names. I burned these images into my mind and said it would be so.
I left Brisbane when I was 34 weeks and returned to our home in Melbourne. My husband and family were all under one roof eagerly waiting for bubba to arrive by 38 weeks. I was told that the baby was quite large and there was talk of induction since the 34th week. I was against any type of interference whatsoever, so I kept telling the doctor at each weekly visit that I didn't want a stretch and sweep and that I was going to wait until he/she was ready to come. This was a bit daunting because the femurs were tracking so large, but I held steadfast because I didn't want to interfere when I knew that Mother Nature knew best . . . better than any of us, let's be honest. I had faith that my body would know what to do.
My waters happened to break on my due date around 2pm. At first, I wasn't sure if they had actually broken because it seemed like such a small about of fluid. My husband thought we should use a tablespoon to pour water on the ground next to my puddle so that we could accurately tell the nurse how much water was actually there. My husband B-lined for the measuring cups, which caused me to laugh hysterically, followed by a huge swoosh and my ankles were drenched. My waters had in fact broken, and it was time to head to the hospital! We were so excited, but made sure to snap a picture at the front door before taking off.
We blared the radio and cracked some jokes about bowel movements from memory. I kept waiting for the pain to come, but it didn't. I remember the anticipation.... when, when, when is the pain going to start? I was taken to a room where I met two lovely midwifes and my OBGYN was called. After I had the once over, my doctor recommended that I be admitted to the hospital. He said we should go out to dinner on Lygon Street and then at 6am the following morning I would be put on the drip and inducted with Oxytocin. The baby needed to be out within the next 24 hours to prevent infection.
Like I said before, I was adamant about not having drugs that I didn't need. I asked the midwives to stay behind once the doctor had left and told them my predicament. They said that if I wanted as natural a labour as possible, to go home and come back when "it was time."
"How will I know when it's time?" I asked.
"You'll know," they smiled. "Just call us if you are unsure and we will have a chat with you and your husband."
We packed up our things and drove home in peak hour traffic! Talk about nerve wracking. Thankfully I was still only imagining labour pains at this point.
We got home and I tried to eat and drink to keep my strength up. I didn't have a lot of interest in food to be honest. Things started to change around 10 pm. Dan and I went to bed with the hopes of getting some shut eye, but the contractions had started. We were using an app to track my progress because we didn't live close to the hospital and wanted to know when they were 6-10 minutes apart.
I always had super painful periods, so I had a faint idea of what to expect. I felt the familiar cramping, but I also had a lot of referred pain in my backside/bottom area which was disconcerting. I was rocking and changing positions from side lying to table top, and then my husband suggested moaning. I had read a lot about moaning as a source of stress relief, but I hadn't tried it out yet. On my exhales I simply sighed out and let a sort of hum escape my body. It felt so good. It also helped to keep my jaw relaxed which is super important when you're in labour. Ina Mae calls it the sphincter law, "if your mouth and jaw are relaxed, so is your bottom (and that's your baby's door to your arms)".
"I burned these images into my mind and said it would be so."
I got up to use the bathroom and while I was in there I found a cricket trapped in the bathtub. I caught the cricket between contracts and then went to let it out on the balcony near my parent's room, which happened to wake them up. We had a brief chat and I reassured them it was nothing. Mom and Dad asked if they could join me since they couldn't sleep. I was so excited that they were there and getting to be a part of the experience, but I was quickly reminded how hard it is to see a person you love in pain. I could see they were stressed, but they did a good job hiding it. Dad rubbed my back and Mom held my hand. I swayed on all fours and dry heaved a lot, but I don't remember actually throwing up. These were some of the most challenging hours. The way I got through was simple: one contraction at a time. Each time I felt the wave of the contraction coming, I braced, rode it out, exhaled deeply, relaxed my lips and said nearly there, nearly there. At the end of the contraction, I would rest and relax as best I could. I remember thinking it was nonsense that some people slept during early labor! That was so not the case with me.
What a relief that we weren't in peak hour traffic headed into Melbourne while in labour! I was thrilled we had an empty highway because it had been weighing heavily on my mind in the final few weeks.
Now this part wasn't what I expected. I imagined us cruising in, music blaring and being ridiculous like we had earlier that day. I actually went into a bit a of catatonic state, eyes closed the whole time, almost like I was sleeping.
I was taken to my room and hooked up to the machines to monitor my contractions and check on the baby's heartbeat. When I was checked, I was happy to hear that I was dilated, but I was only 3-4 centimeters. I was kinda hoping I'd be at 7-8 and have a 5 hour labour, but it wasn't meant to be. The midwife said that getting from 0-4 is the toughest part. I'm not sure I would agree, but either way, there I was in the care of the midwives and in need of a hot shower.
My husband got me undressed, put me in the shower and sat next to me on the floor outside the shower. He had his swim trucks, but there wasn't really room for both of us, and I was all over the place, chop and changing positions. He kept telling me how well I was doing and this really helped. I'm not sure if I ever told him that, but it helped me so very much. Whenever I felt a bit of that faith wavering, his kind words were just the reminder I needed that it wouldn't last forever and each contraction brought me that much closer to meeting our baby.
The shower was a game changer. When I was a teenager I used to curl up in the fetal position on the floor of the shower and let the hot water just pelt my body. It helped me then and it sure as hell helped me in labour. The searing hot water and warmth was soothing and revitalizing. The pain in my bum was getting stronger and stronger which made me think that I might be having a posterior baby. The first midwife, the only one I didn't like, told me that she thought this was the case. I didn't want to hear that, I was trying to stay positive and that took a lot of wind out of my sails.
After an hour long shower I was feeling pretty guilty about all the water wasted, and decided I was ready for the Tens machine since things were getting a bit more intense. This was the best decision I made in terms of preparing for our baby's arrival. Apparently they can reduce the rate of C-section by 70%, and that had my attention, like whoa. I wanted to do everything in my power to have a vaginal birth, so I hired a Tens machine when I was 37 weeks. It needs to be returned 2 weeks after the birth and then you also get your deposit back. I think all up it was about $65. Best $65 bucks I've ever spent if you ask me. The midwife placed the pads on my back and we were in business. I knew that if I put the Tens on, there were no more showers, no bath, nada. I wasn't going to take it off until my bub was in my arms. When you feel a contraction coming, you press a button and adjust the intensity with a dial. The strong sensation radiates down your back, distracting you from strong contraction across your abdomen.
I would recommend all my pregoo friends to hire a tens machine, especially if you want a natural birth (and aiming for drug-free).
The pain in my rear was getting pretty intense and I was not as able bodied as I hoped I would be. I'd imagined a really active labour as they call it, walking around and moving a ton. I was pretty limited to the bed, and occasionally I would bounce on the fit ball which offered some nice relief. All fours (table top) was a good change of pace too, especially when I thought I was headed for a posterior delivery. I tried the gas because I was curious what it was like after watching so many episodes of One Born Every Minute, but it made me feel really rubbish and lightheaded and I ended up vomiting not long after. My husband really liked the gas and took a few cheeky hits when we were alone, just like the midwife said he would do during our antenatal classes.
My midwife checked again and we had progressed to 7 centimeters at 11am. My doctor was pleased and he said I should be 10 cementers in the next few hours. I was ecstatic. He said he'd return in three hours to check, unless we needed him sooner. The time had seemed to go pretty fast. "Babe, not long until I can push," I cheered. Little did I know, this was the first of two rare incidents beginning to unfold.
Three hours went by. I was sipping Sprite (yuck), and trying to will my cervix to open, open, open so that we could get the show on the road. I was itching to get going and the contractions were pretty strong, so I figured it was game on! He came in and did the internal exam. Unfortunately the baby had become transverse in my pelvis during labour, which is pretty rare I'm told.
In the last three hours, when I was convinced I'd reached 10 centimeters, I was still at 7cm. I didn't have one millimeter of progress in three hours.
The most appropriate word to insert here is devastated. The doctor presented me with two options. The first was to keep doing what we were doing and hope the entire cervix didn't swell up, preventing a vaginal birth. The second option was an epidural, which he said could help the baby to turn back to the correct position. He asked me what was more important, "a drug free birth or vaginal birth?" I said vaginal birth. I wasn't going drug free because I wanted to prove anything, I just didn't think I would need them. Epidurals terrified me, more than giving birth to be honest. I'd been in labour for over 16 hours on zero sleep, drug free and clear headed only to be told that a C-section was a very serious reality. We agreed to move ahead with the anesthesiologist and once we had the room back to ourselves I burst into tears and curled up into my husband's arms. It was the first time I really showed any emotion. I felt like the last 16 hours were all for nothing since I was getting the epidural. I realized I was being petty. The main goal was a healthy baby delivered by whatever means necessary. This seemed like a necessity if I wanted to avoid very serious abdominal surgery.
The doctor was a great guy who had lived in San Francisco and we chatted about life in California. I just kept thinking that it was so sweet of him to try and distract me, but I also wanted him to stop talking and pay attention to what he was doing! I wanted to leap out of my skin. All the more so when I was told I needed to be the most still I've ever been as the needle was being inserted between my vertebrae. It was less painful that I thought it would be, and once it was in, I reluctantly resettled myself back into bed.
I kept waiting for my legs to go numb. I waited and waited and waited. Nothing. I also waited for the pain to stop, for the contractions to lesson. No luck in that department either! There were two ways to look at this situation. 1. That I had a really bad epidural, or 2. I had a really good epidural. I decided to go with, I had a really good epidural! Positive thinking y'all.
I was a bit concerned, thinking I had gotten an epidural and it didn't even bloody work. The midwife walked in and I said, "Excuse me, but am I supposed to be able to do this," as I lifted both my legs off the table and clapped the bottoms of my feet together like a happy walrus. I had mixed emotions. Part of me was relieved that I had feeling and could move (because I wasn't paralyzed), but the other part of me was thinking, why on earth are my contractions still so bloody strong.
It was around this time that Dan says I fell asleep! Rubbish if you ask me. He says that I took some micro naps, which I assure you I don't remember at all. I wish I did. It would have been nice to enjoy a break after all that time. It felt like an eternity, but I was so happy to hear the magic words, "It's time to push." It was music to my bloody ears.
We started pushing with only three of us in the room. The midwife, my husband and myself. Our midwife was lovely and coached me on how to push and pause and push dynamically. I got the hang of it after a few goes and she was really encouraging. So encouraging in fact, that she asked my husband if he wanted to have a look! Even though he swore up and down on everything that is holy that he would NOT look, he had a cheeky peek and then was all about team Kickert. I had my own personal cheer squad and it was incredible. I was so comfortable, not insecure or freaked out in the slightest. He held my left leg up and pushed against my chest, hard, when I was giving it all my might. Thanks to my really good/bad epidural, I could feel my contractions coming. I could feel everything. This was one reason I didn't want an epidural because you can't normally feel the contractions, and you have to rely on the midwife to tell you when to push, and hope you're pushing correctly.
My OBGYN came in to finish the job. He didn't waste anytime and got right in there. My husband was amazed at how well he moved and how aggressive he was. I was getting tired, no doubt about it, I had been pushing for just over an hour and that's when I looked him square in the face and said, "Dr Joe, I want this baby out, now." I don't remember if he reacted or not. I feel like that's a very cliche thing to say to your doctor, but I was very serious and super calm when I said it. I was spent and I just wanted it over with. It was then that our bub's heart rate dropped suddenly and he said we had to get moving and fast. He said he wanted to cut me, and I said go for it. He told me to reach my hands out between my legs, and I wasn't quite sure why. Sure enough, tug, twist, pull, yank... and I saw a huge baby emerge from below and come straight into my open arms.
I was in absolute disbelief.
There is no other way to say it. I was in shock at the size of this human that came out of me and was headed toward my bare chest. I simply couldn't believe that I was finally meeting my firstborn, cherished miracle baby. I had imagined that I would be a bubbling mess, but that wasn't the case at all. I don't remember crying. I vaguely remember trying to catch a glimpse of the nether regions as she was passed to me, but that quickly faded and I just stared at our bub on my chest thinking you're here, you're here and I'm going to love you forever.
I was in such a haze, I didn't see all the blood squirting everywhere. My husband did though, but kept a cool head and didn't say anything. Apparently our daughter's umbilical cord ripped during the delivery which caused the blood to leave her body rapidly. Thankfully, Dr Joe moved quicker than John Wayne in a shoot out and clamped the cord before she lost too much blood. This is SUPER rare and it had never happen to our doctor before. If it had happened when she was inside me during the labour, we would have lost her. I can still barely talk about it without getting choked up. She was checked twice by a pediatrician that evening, again the following day, and she was given the all clear.
She was covered in a thin film of vernix that didn't gross me out like I thought it would. She cried and I kissed her beautiful forehead and eventually we all checked to see the sex. "It's a girl!" We all cried then I think. I thought I was having a boy! I would have bet my life on it actually. Dr Joe said we should sing Happy Birthday, so we did, and it was the best moment of my life. Nothing will ever, ever beat becoming a mum to my little girl.
I delivered the placenta right away and had that set aside for encapsulation (more on that in another post to come). I had my .5 cm episiotomy stitched up even though it wasn't necessary. She was wiped off, given her needles and dressed in the outfit we brought for her. We were told that the first one to one and half hours after birth is when the bub is most alert. We made a point to put our phones down and just drink in her goodness. We didn't film the birth or anything. A small part of me would like to rewatch the first minute of meeting her, but I like that we were present and not watching life behind a screen. We snapped a few pics and then we just stared at her, besotted as all hell. She had a feed and latched well which was such a relief. We were just the three of us for that first hour and it was a time I will never forget. Watching my husband hold our daughter was the most rewarding gift. I've never seen him so happy in all the 13 years I've known him.
We became a family of three that night.
Us > You + Me
What was your birth experience like?
Would you have done anything differently?
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