Emerson Rose came into this world hard and fast on July 30th at 2:30am
Monday, July 29th
I headed to see my OB for my standard weigh in, blood pressure and quick ultrasound. She wanted to do an internal to see how things were progressing, if at all. The week before, bub was high, nowhere near my cervix. Thankfully I had dropped a bit, so things were moving along, albeit slowly. I didn't want any intervention, and as she was all up in there, she said, "now I will just do a little stretch." I was annoyed because she did it without asking, but I couldn't really feel anything and decided not to let this grind my gears in the big scheme of things since I was not able to go over term anyway due to other factors.
I dropped my hubby off at work and then went to physio at 11am to get more work done for my SIJ pain. I ended up losing my mucus plug at 2:30pm. It came flying out like a bat out of hell. I remembered that my daughter was born the following day after losing my mucus plug, so I knew things were about to get real. I made sure I had everything ready to go in my hospital bag and then I tried to go about my day like nothing was out of the ordinary.
I didn't have regular contractions until 8:30pm about 2.5 minutes apart. We were watching The Block and I was pacing the house like those tigers you see behind the glass at the zoo. Oh yes, I remember this feeling...
If you've never had a baby before, you might not know this part, but they'll usually tell you in your antenatal class to call the hospital before coming in. They tell you to do this so that the midwife can ask you some questions and listen to you over the phone. She could tell when I was having a contraction and listened closely to how I spoke, and more importantly, my breath. She said that I should come in because of how close my contractions were, so we loaded up the car and rushed off in the pitch black night.
It was a really quiet night and there was a weird weather change, even a little bit of rain. The midwife said this either made for a particularly quiet night, or a busy evening with as many as 8 babies born to three midwives the weekend before. There were only two midwives on shift (normal) and there was only one other gal in labour.
I felt like I was in good hands.
I hopped on the table and had my internal exam. Given my level of discomfort, I was hoping to be a minimum of 3+ centimeters, at least. I remembered being told by a midwife at my first birth that getting from 1 to 3 centimeters was the hardest part. I was secretly praying to have passed that initial milestone given the strength and frequency of my contractions, so you can imagine my dismay when she said I was 1cm.
Yes, you read that right.
One. measly. centimeter.
(And in case you didn't know, you don't get to push until you reach 10 centimeters!)
"You're the same dilation as you were this morning at your appointment with the OB. One centimeter, maybeee 2," she smiled jovially.
I did not smile jovially. I sat stone faced and quietly panicked on the inside, joker face in play. I knew that second labours were quicker and I've heard they can be more painful, but this - THIS was a hiccup I was not anticipating. I expected to be 3-5 centimetres and hoping to push within the hour, maybe two. She interrupted my daydreaming.
"So, since you don't want medical intervention, you can leave to go home and labor there. Or, if you'd like to stay here, you're more than welcome because it's such a quiet night, and you can go for a walk to get things going. Either way I'm going to go call your OB now and let her know what's happening."
* What I didn't know until a few days later was the midwife did in fact call my OB, and told her what was happening. My OB said, "Do not let her leave the hospital! That woman has made up her mind to have a baby!" Damn. She knows me well.
I decided to walk the hallway with my hubs, taking breaks and holding onto the railing when I had a contraction. This is where my ballsy husband captured the moment he hummed the Rocky anthem to me on Instagram. The comment section is pretty hilarious if you need a good laugh. It was really difficult to mentally push past the fact that I was so little dilated. Doubt kept creeping in, much like anxiety does, and tried to make me lose focus and waiver in my birth plan.
I decided that I didn't want to be on my feet. Another labour done and dusted where I've had every intention of moving around heaps, but it just didn't resonate with my body. They wanted to hook me up to the monitors, and once I was in bed, that was it for me until she came.
Each subsequent check, I progressed another centimeter. I didn't want to move from the bed, which was a surprise because I spent a lot of time in the shower for my first labour, and I assumed I would do the same. I tossed from side to. Left, right. Left, right. Left, right.
I started to not feel too great, surprised at how strong the contracts were so early on. I tried to keep my head in the game, and ride each contraction, one at a time. If I focused on the only contraction I was experiencing, it made me feel better and less overwhelmed. You know that the contraction will peak, and relief is justtttttt on the other side. It's so easy to panic and think, but how much longer will this go on?? I'm just so tired. I cannot do this.
PAIN WITH PURPOSE I told myself, which was my birthing mantra. If you're thinking, wait, I need to write that quote down because it's AMAZING... please do. It was brought to my attention by my BFF and professional baby birthing guru, Rachel. She has had three water births, all drug free, and she is pretty much my birthing idol (and an incredible mum to boot). Since completing this post, she has had yet another baby. She's a freaking superhero.
It was around this time that the anesthesiologist came in to see me because the nurse messed up my cannula for my drip.
"So, how are you?" she asked while prepping my cannula.
I so wanted to roll my eyes, but I plastered on a smile and said, "Good, thanks."
"And what are we thinking in terms of pain relief tonight?"
My breath caught in my chest for a moment. I knew that this woman could take away all my pain. I knew it could slow my labour, and I also knew that getting an epidural freaked me out because my spine is precious. I really didn't want my baby to be exposed to any of those drugs. I was so, so tempted, so naturally I blurted out,
"I'll be fine thank you. I don't want one. Bye."
"Ok, that's great. I'd rather not give you one. I was only asking because I'm leaving for the night. So if you change your mind, I'll be over 30 minutes away."
I was quietly relieved because the farther away she was, the better in my eyes. If it isn't on the table as an option, then I knew it was all up to me, my cervix and a bit of grunt.
I continued labouring, left side, right side, on repeat. They wanted to leave the monitor on me because after each contraction, there would be a weird pause on the monitor readings. So I stayed on the bed and just tried to find distractions and munched on ice chips like my life depended on it. Hubs put on Spotify and then I suddenly felt the strangest sensation, and a *pop* inside my body, followed by a huge gush of liquid pouring from between my legs. I had hubs get the midwife, who said I might have peed (um, no) and she would check it out. Her face was surprised when she pulled the sheet back, which I found strange, because what's the big deal... my waters finally broke. What she eventually explained was that there was a lot of blood as well. I didn't stress about it, and I went out of my way not to assess how much was actually lost. We changed my bed pad underneath me, and business as usual continued.
By the time I was 5 centimeters I was really uncomfortable. My midwife came in and said, "you sound different. You're transitioning."
"What do you mean I sound different?" I was perplexed.
She said, "Your sounds are getting more intense. It's so nice to hear the moans from your room. We don't hear them that much these days." (Oh God, don't flatter me now babes, I'm in struggle town).
"I can tell they are getting harder and faster by listening to you outside."
For the record, moaning sounds funny, but that's exactly how I have to get through labour. I need to breathe deeply in my nose and let a gentle sigh, moan, hum leave my body. This is like a primordial necessity for me. It's fascinating, and not too loud or obtrusive.
Soon after, my husband was trying to convince me to hold off on applying the TENS machine. I agreed that was a good idea and held off as long as I could. When I felt like I was wavering, he kept reassuring me,
"You're doing great, you got this, this is so much better than last time."
I only had fond memories of last time, and seeing as I was up shit creek smack bang in the middle of this second labour, all I could focus on was the hurdle ahead of me.
Tuesday, July 30th
I dilated from 5cm to 10 cm in 40 minutes. Yep.
That is why I lost a lot of blood, because my cervix effaced so quickly. I felt so much pressure in my bum and the midwife asked if I wanted to push. I didn't want to, but the pressure was mounting.
Now this is going to be a hell of a visual, but those that know, KNOW. Have you ever seen a cow give birth at the fair? I used to watch them give birth every year at the state fair, and it was one of my favourite things. I distinctly remember the mother's distressed demeanor, her wide eyes, and the chains firmly wrapped around the baby calve's ankles. The mummy cow's body would heave and heave, and you could see it all happening before your eyes and under her tail. I felt like that bloody cow. Suddenly, it was all happening and my body had legitimately taken over, like, babe- I got this.
I felt my body push without my willing it. It was such a bizarre sensation, and I called out to my husband frantically. "Tell her, I'm pushing, but I'm not pushing!!"
Last we chatted, I wasn't far along enough in my dilation to start pushing. This was unsettling.
The midwife rushed into the room and said that my obstetrician was on her way (really?!) and would be here any minute. I knew we didn't have that long. I was on my left side, ( I birthed both my babies on my left side) and suddenly my OB breezed into the room and into an open gown that was being held by the midwife. In less than one minute she had slipped on her gloves and did an internal. "Erica. It's time!! PUSH!"
I took a deep yogic breath to the pit of my belly and gave an almighty push. The first push literally took my breath away as I immediately felt the ring of fire, hot and tight. My body immediately reeled back, I felt the head move back up inside me slightly. The ring of fire is when the labia and the perineum reach their maximum stretch around the baby's head. Instinctively, I didn't want to push a second time because I knew what was coming. I figured, the harder I push, the quicker this burn will go away. I'm SO close now, I know this birth should be done in less than 1 hour. I can do this!
After my second push, Dan and my doctor said they could see hair. HAIR! Already, I thought..?? No frigging way. I knew the ring of fire would subside once the head was out, so I gave another almighty push, to which she met me with a "STOP!" The cord was wrapped around bub's neck, so she quickly tried to free it which was difficult to do since only the head was out and the cord was so tight. This explained why the baby wasn't coping well after each contraction because breathing was a bit more difficult. Once she slipped the cord off, we worked together, "small push, small push, small push, BIG push!"
After my fifth push, she was caught by OB and I felt the most immense relief.
We became a family of four at 2:29am on July 30th.
I was still losing a lot of blood, even after Em came into the world, so I was put on a drip to contract my uterus and stop the blood loss. The medicine, combined with my body's natural uterine contractions were incredibly painful. The afterbirth pains worsen with each delivery, a fact that I did not know.
My placenta wasn't coming, even after the needle in my thigh, so my OB quickly gave me a catheter and manually drained my bladder. This helps the placenta to be delivered, which I found super fascinating. I actually got to see the placenta this birth, which was remarkable, and then it was swiftly taken away and properly stored for my placenta encapsulation lady.
I got the shakes hard core after this birth. The adrenaline kicked in something fierce and I was shaking uncontrollably. Not a nice feeling, but at least I didn't vomit after the birth like I did my first time around. We were escorted to our room on another floor and my husband and I were able to share a queen bed while little Em slept soundly beside us. I didn't go to sleep until after 5am and was woken at 6am to the sound of the breakfast trays being delivered.
Then, that was that... life goes on, much to our dismay.
We were forever a family of four from that day on.
Packing your hospital bag for the first time can be so exciting, and tainted with a bit of anxiety. I postponed packing mine for ages because I was unsure of what to bring and overwhelmed by all the lists I saw online.
Here are a few tips on the packing process
1. Don't wait too long to pack your bag!
Last thing you want is to be throwing a bunch of odds and ends into a bag after your waters have broken. Aim to have your bag packed and set aside at least a few weeks before your due date.
2. Don't stress or overthink about the bag you bring.
If you want to special order something from Etsy with your initials monogramed on it, be my guest. My husband and I used our carry on luggage which was easy and practical.
3. Pack light.
I didn't use half of the things I packed to my first birth! I felt like it was such a waste of space and time coming home and unpacking the bag.
4. Only take things you need or would really like to have.
5. Wash all your new and gifted baby clothes before you pack them.
1. Nipple cream.
This is a must! So many people carry on and on about the birth and recovery, but rarely talk about the struggles (and pains) of breastfeeding. My milk came in on day 2/3 (crazy fast!) and nipple cream was a savior for me. Remember to only use a little bit, as you don't want to unnecessarily clog the pores and cause mastitis.
2. TOM Organic Maternity pads.
These are made of ACO organic cotton, extra long, hypoallergenic and cruelty free.
3. Black underwear, sized up!
I bought a three pack of black BONDS undies, 2 sizes bigger than I normally wear. Black because it's forgiving with stains, and sizing up for obvious comfort and to have room for your maternity pads or ice packs to help the labia recover. I plan on putting my TOM organic maternity pads in the freezer to make my own recovery inserts.
4. My Eco Store chapsick.
Labour can really dry out your lips because of all the mouth breathing/panting.
Shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, hair brush, hair ties, natural deodorant, dry shampoo, bamboo face cloth, oil cleanser and moisturising facial serum. The basics... duh!
5. No fuss make up routine.
For me this means my organic BB cream, and my natural mascara and my highlighter to help make me look a little less tired.
6. Cosy, breastfeeding friendly loungewear.
Highly recommend packing some cosy, baggy, nursing friendly loungewear. And don't forget your thick socks and/or slippers for hygiene reasons!
7. Nursing tanks.
I'm no fashionista, and no surprise here, that didn't change after giving birth. I lived in these cute and easy nursing tanks, paired with my recovery shorts, maternity jeans and a simple something over the top like a cardigan or duster kimono.
8. Reusable water bottle.
I've heard so many nurses say the plastic hospital water jugs are a big no-no and not to use them. All the more reason to bring your own.
9. Your phone charger.
10. TENS machine for natural pain relief.
11. Bamboobies: these are reusable, washable nursing pads made of bamboo rayon velour with an absorbent inner cotton layer. After my first childbirth, I purchased the single use Advent nursing pads, but there weren't very breathable and not great for the environment either. I got two packs of the heavy, overnight Bamboobies and I'm so excited to give them a go!
1. Newborn nappies and baby wipes.
2. Baby Swaddle x 2.
I really like the Love to Dream ones! They are so easy to use (all the praise hands for having a zipper), and they are comforting for bub too.
3. Burp clothes
Just use cloth nappies! Cheap and easy.
4. First outfit! This is such a fun thing to decide on and pack. Be sure to give this to your midwife before you are in active labour so that it can be placed in the clothes "oven" making it nice and warm for bubba once they are earth-side.
5. Soothies x two
These dummies are the BEST! They are made of flexible medical grade silicone, are BPA free and easy to clean. We didn't use them in the hospital the first time around because we wanted to establish heathy attachment or "latching" for breastfeeding, but they are nice to have on hand.
6. Mittens for their hands, socks and a cosy beanie for their little head.
7. Anything you might want for that first photo, whether it's a Hello My Name Is sign, or a small letterboard, pink/blue blanket etc.
8. Car seat, or capsule, safely installed along with certificate (some hospitals will ask to see the certificate)!
9. Enough clothes for your time/stay in hospital because you won't be doing laundry.
1. Food/snacks/reusable water bottle to keep them going (and hopefully at your side) so that they don't need to run to the local cafe.
2. Their own phone charger and video camera or computer.
3. Swimsuit for when/if they get in the shower or birth tub with you.
4. Flip flops (at the bare minimum), preferably thick socks like Explorerers.
5. Pajamas for your first sleep over if your lucky enough to stay in hospital.
We are going private again because we had such a good experience, and that means that we are allowed 5 days in hospital. If it's your second baby, hospitals will often times send you to a hotel to recover instead because it's actually cheaper (believe it or not) to care for you that way with a midwife onsite. It goes without saying, but if you are going to be away from home for an extended period of time, pack enough clothes for those days).
1. Essential oil diffuser and oils (if you're into that).
2. Journal/ diary.
My husband and I both wrote handwritten love letters to our daughter on the night she was born a few hours after she came into the world. I also wrote in my journal about my birth experience and jotted down things I really wanted to remember while it was fresh in the forefront of my mind.
3. Baby journal and a pen or pencil.
This is great idea because sleep deprivation is a thing! It's important to document the baby's pee and poo movements as well as feeding, and from which breast. The last thing you need to be doing in your postnatal fog is trying to remember all that information! Having a journal on your nightstand is a great way to document everything in a stress free way, and anyone can do it for you. Your partner, a visitor or even the midwife can jot it down if your hands are full or you are having a much needed nap.
4. Snacks for post-recovery.
You might give birth when the hospital kitchen is closed! Good things to bring are nuts, trail mix, apples, bananas, homemade banana bread (if you're organised), kombucha, sparkling water, etc.
5. Vitamins and supplements.
NOT in my bag, but honorary mentions
Massage Oil: (not actually in my bag like I said, but recommend having one if you like to be touched while in labour or want a back rub).
Annndddd, that's a wrap!
What did I forget?
Tell me what you MUST have in your hospital bag below in the comments!
Before your imagination starts to run wild and you envision me tucking into my placenta on a dinner plate with a steak knife and glass of red while recovering in my birthing suite, think again.
What is the Placenta & What Does it Do?
The word placenta come from the Greek, meaning "plate" or "discoid." This is because the placenta resembles the shape of a dinner plate attached to the side of the uterus, with the umbilical cord connecting the baby's belly. Without a placenta, no fetus could ever survive.
The placenta has many unique and important roles. It can assist in the sharing of information from the mother to the baby and then back to the mother. Crazy, right?
1. Acts as a filter: with the help of the umbilical cord that is, allowing the goodness from mum to reach the fetus, all while keeping the toxins at bay.
2. Functions as a sensor: the placenta helps decipher what the fetus needs also helps to regulate the absorption of amino acids, fat, oxygen and vitamins.
3. Operates as a hormone factory: it produces high levels of oestrogen, progesterone and cortisol for mum and fetus.
The first time I’d ever heard of eating one’s placenta was many years ago when I was trying to fall pregnant myself. I stumbled across Jennifer Stano who had quite a social media following and was expecting her first child. From memory, I loved her pregnancy style, and followed her in the hopes of getting some helpful dress-the-bump tips.
A video popped up on my Instagram one morning, and the still was of Jennifer and her husband. She had delivered her baby, and she’d had a little boy. The video caught my attention because she was in a hospital but had a kitchen blender in front of her. Perplexed and curious, I proceeded to watch her make a placenta smoothie and with a chunk of her raw placenta, fresh berries and some other ingredients. The video was about the smoothie and getting her husband to drink it, which he did. When I saw this video I was absolutely appalled! Why on earth would you make your husband do that? Shock value? How ridiculous. And what was the point of a placenta smoothie in the first place? I couldn’t help but think it was a grab for attention at the time, and I shook my head, chalking it up to wanting likes and dropped jaws.
Fast forward a few years to when I finally had a bun in the oven and my world shifts. It’s funny how pregnancy makes you pull out all the stops and really look after yourself for the sake of your baby. I was at the end of my third trimester living in Melbourne and a girlfriend of mine had mentioned that she had her placenta encapsulated. I was thrilled to have someone close to me that I could actually talk to about the experience. After all, when it comes to matters such as these, we need to peel back all the layers of assumptions, fear, and disgust that stem from ignorance.
She told me about her great experience with Anna Papadakis from Opening To Life and I called her immediately. Anna is a birth attendant, birth educator, body centered therapist and trainer. She started placenta encapsulation in 2012, and now it's a core part of her practice.
I confessed to Anna that I didn’t know much about the process, how it worked, or anything for that matter. I hadn't even read the website yet, but I was close to giving birth and keen as mustard to learn more. I also alluded to the fact that I’d heard consuming the placenta was good for a mother’s recovery, and that was something I desperately wanted to know more about.
Anna and I spoke on the phone at length about the process, the placenta itself and how sacred it is. I don’t mean that in a spiritual way (although it is pretty magical), but I personally feel that it's such a misunderstood organ. So if you're at all like me, and curious about this process, I find it easiest to break it down into two categories, the WHY and the HOW of consuming your placenta.
"We need to peel back all the layers of assumptions, fear, and disgust that stem from ignorance."
- Erica Kickert
As a soon to be new mum, I was quite worried about postnatal depression, commonly referred to as PND. The idea of PND being a dark horse that doesn't discriminate really spooked me. I'd spoken to a midwife who mentioned that I might be at risk for a few reasons, in particular due to our lack of support and absence of family from either side due to our move up to Queensland when our baby would be a mere 7 weeks old. My husband's family live in Melbourne and my family live in California, and I knew I'd particularly struggle when my parents had to say goodbye to their only child and their first grandchild.
In the same way that you commit to eating well and getting rest for the sake of your unborn baby, I committed to making my recovery the smoothest it could be, and that started by working from the inside out.
Anna went over a few key benefits, which were:
- Increasing our iron levels, which will help to combat fatigue, give you more energy, and therefore less depression. It's often difficult to absorb iron from supplements. You ingest crazy high does and the excess is expelled via black poop (if you've ever been on these supplements, you'd know exactly what I'm talking about)! However, when it's your own iron, it's much easier to absorb.
- Some research shows that increasing Vitamin B6 combats post natal depression and helps to regulate mental process and mood.
- The placenta contains high levels of Oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the "love drug." Increasing the levels of this hormone increases your sense of wellbeing and happiness.
- The placenta also contains Lactogen which has been shown to help increase breast milk supply.
Click here to read about more benefits and how/why they work.
In Anna’s case, she only handles one placenta at a time in her work space. I really loved that she had this policy, for obvious reasons! Once the baby and the placenta have been born, it's set aside in a plastic tub by the hospital staff and awaits pick up. I didn't even know Anna had been to collect the placenta, and then I received a sweet text message that she would be dropping by with my capsules all ready to go and was excited to meet me.
It's your decision how you would like it to be prepared.
Anna offers two methods:
I wanted the placenta to retain as much goodness as possible, and opted not to cook it. This form of encapsulation involves less processing and will yield more capsules for you too. Once the placenta is cleaned, accessed, measured and cooked/dehydrated, it's then ground up and placed into clear organic capsules. Anna then bottles it up and it's delivered to you within 48-72 hours with specific instructions about how many to take a day.
My experience was outstanding. I ask most pregnant women if they are going to eat their placenta, and I get a lot of sideways glances, but I also meet a few women who say "YES" or who ask me for more information. My milk came in on day 2/3, I bounced back so quickly, got my period a few weeks later and didn't have any baby blues. I genuinely believe the encapsulation was responsible for my speedy recovery.
One of my favourite yoga students from Melbourne, Anna D, had asked me about the process and decided to have her placenta encapsulated after her second birth. This is what she had to say:
"I thought about having my placenta encapsulated during my first pregnancy but I let myself be talked out of it. After the birth of my first daughter the baby blues hit me hard. I was so scared that I was developing postnatal depression. (I was lucky that my baby blues only lasted a couple of weeks).
Second pregnancy I went with my gut and organised to have my placenta encapsulated, and I’m so glad that I did! No baby blues at all after the birth of my second daughter, plus my recovery was so much faster which was great as I had an active toddler to keep up with this time. I also found I had a lot more energy in the morning despite having to wake several times for night feeds.
My husband was also really sick at the time and I don’t know if they helped, but I didn’t catch whatever bug he had. I’d happily encouraged placenta encapsulation to any Mumma’s to be."
- Anna D, Melbourne
I highly recommend that you read some testimonials to get a feel for what people are saying about the process.
It's a great place to begin if this is something you're weighting up.
Have you ever had your placenta encapsulated?
Would you consider having it done? Tell me in the comments below.
1. Ina Mae's Guide to Childbirth by Ina Mae
2. Active Birth by Janet Balaskasrth
3. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley
(Appropriate pre and post natal, as the title implies).
4. The Mindful Mother by Naomi Chunilal
5. Being There by Erica Komisar
6. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth M.D.
7. Up The Duff by Kaz Cooke
8. Brain Rules for Baby, John Medina
9. Baby Love by Robin Barker
After Baby Arrives:
1. The Mother's Mind Cleanse by Jacqui Lewis
2. The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij
3. Being There by Erica Komisar
(Can read this before or after, but I recommend reading it before your birth so that you can make appropriate plans for your maternity leave).
4. The Postnatal Depletion Cure by Dr Oscar Serrallach
(Currently reading this now!)
Do you like to read and prepare, or wing it?
Tell me in the comments below!
I decided to make a little list of things that I do, or have tried, (or think are worth trying), in the event that there are other Mamas out there feeling the same way.
Don't be too hard on yourself
Mum guilt is a thing. Don't berate yourself too much. Each pregnancy is unique in the same way that each and every child is unique. Whether this is your first pregnancy, or your fifth, we can't expect to feel the same way, have our bodies morph into the same shape, crave the same foods, etc. Sometimes these things take time, other times you might feel an inexplicable bond the moment you see the little blue lines on the pregnancy stick.
For me personally, getting pregnant with my daughter was a HUGE milestone; watching our 7 week video of our ultrasound and getting confirmation that the baby was alive makes me cry to this day. THIS pregnancy was less stressful in some ways and more stressful in others. I felt the same overwhelming excitement at the 7 and 12 week scans, but as I talked about in this post, I was in a rough headspace the first few months.
I was also relieved when I had my morphology scan and found out about about my very low placenta. Because my placenta was so low, the baby was punching and kicking my placenta instead of my belly wall. When the baby got bigger and stronger I'd be able to feel it move, and boy oh boy this kid is ACTIVE!
I used to teach meditation when I lived in Melbourne, and I found that I preferred to teach it rather than practice it! Meditation is something that I struggle with, and that's not easy to confess as a yoga instructor!
I think the best type of meditation practice is on your own, in silence. But if you need, or prefer, guidance I've tried Headspace and YogaGlo. According to Women's Health Magazine, these were the six best mediation apps of 2018.
Do prenatal yoga
This is a great way to slow down, connect to your breath and be present. Good prenatal teachers will not just take you through asanas, they will, (and should), bring it back to your pregnancy, your experience, your bub.
Talk to your baby
Might seem weird, but have you ever talked out-loud to yourself?
I do all the time because I've spent a lot of time on my own over the years! In the same way that we mumble and chat away to ourselves in our apartment or wandering through the grocery aisle, you can chat to your bub too. Maybe ask them how they are in the morning, what they feel like eating before lunch or say goodnight to them after your evening wind down.
Find out the Gender
If you're feeling a bit disconnected from the baby, consider finding out the gender with the Harmony test (week 10-12) or at the 20 week morphology scan. This might help you to visualise your life together after the birth, make picking a name more personal and could possibly expedite the bonding process.
Start Nesting Early
Start to prepare for bub's arrival by doing all the fun things:
Ask your friends for positive stories
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Listening to positive experiences and practicing visualisation is a great way to set yourself up for success. I've been asking my friends with two kids what I need to know and how I can prepare for success. We both laugh and they say the first three months are all about survival, which I get 100%. Everyone tells me it's the hardest thing ever, but that the time goes more quickly and the tender moments are even sweeter. I got a glimpse as to what this might be like when I watched my daughter hold a seven week old baby the other day. My daughter thought she was holding her new sibling, and was besotted. She demanded more cuddles and stroked the baby's face and didn't want to share the cuddle time. I had to explain that this wasn't our baby, but seeing her hold the wee one nearly brought me to joyful tears. I will no doubt reflect on that memory when I am in struggle-town during labour.
Wishing you all the best and a healthy, happy pregnancy.
If you (or someone you know) is struggling with anxiety and depression while pregnant, or after the birth, don't hesitate to reach out to people like PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) and speak to a professional.
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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