The Birth Story of
Born Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Into water at 04:16am
Weighing 3.76kg and 50cm long
After a 5 hour labour
At the Birth Centre, RWBH
Before you were conceived I knew I would have an October baby. It was such a strong feeling of intuition and my intuition continued to serve me well during my pregnancy, labour and birth. I dreamed about those two pink lines appearing on the test and I was ecstatic to show the positive pregnancy test to your daddy later that week. Your dad, big sister Hannah and I, were more than ready to welcome you into our family.
The Birth Story of Daisy Emmeline
Born 11th August, 2013
At 04:41am in the Birth Centre at RWBH
Weighing 3.51kg and 49cm long
After a 1.5hr natural labour
It is the 11th of December 2012. I can hear the sounds of Hannah and Blake’s laughter through the bathroom window as they run around in the summer sunshine. I look down and see one strong line on the pregnancy test. I knew it, I think, negative again. Then I realise the line is in the spot where a positive line should be and I watch as a second line apears. A sound comes out of my mouth that is somewhere between a cry/scream/laugh. I am in shock. Your daddy knocks on the door and asks if we’re pregnant. I open the door and look at him with tears in my eyes, one hand covering my mouth and the other holding that stick with two strong lines. He hugs me when he sees the test and whispers in my ear, Looks like our little Daisy is on her way….
We are in shock for days. We had only paid for our tickets for our overseas trip just two weeks prior. Obviously right around the time that you had been conceived. We’d been trying for our third baby for over a year and were going to wait until we came home from the holiday to try again. Since I was still breastfeeding Blake it seemed that I was practically infertile even though my cycle returned when he was 14 months old. It must have all changed when Blake night weaned. But it was unexpected. As I hold that pregnancy test, I realise our life has changed again. Little do we know that in exactly eight months time I will be holding you in my arms.
I have had many signs over the last 18 months that lead me to believe another baby was coming into our family. All the signs were related to Daisies so we immediately think that you are a girl. We don’t mind either way of-course, but it is just a knowing that we both have. It seems Hannah feels it too as she is adamant that I am growing her little sister. We decide to have an early scan at 8 weeks and check to make sure you are growing well. We don’t take Hannah and Blake to this scan as we aren’t sure if we were going to get good news as scans have not always been a happy time for us. We find out that you are growing just fine but I have some cysts on my ovaries so we book another scan for 14 weeks. Hannah and Blake come to that ultrasound and that is the first time they see you. Watching them watch you bob about on that screen makes it real. It’s even more special to arrive at the 20 weeks anatomy ultrasound and watch Hannah’s face light up when we hear the sonographer declare that you are indeed a girl! I let the realisation sink in that you will be okay, and that soon I will be a mama to three little people.
We spend a lot of time during the pregnancy talking with Blake and Hannah about you. We make you a part of our family before you are even born. I had maintained my interest in pregnancy, birth and babies since Hannah was born so both your siblings had already seen birth videos and flicked through my birth books but we really amp it up in preparation for your birth. We spend time talking about how you are developing and growing in my womb and what it will mean to have a baby in the house. Hannah and Blake just take it in their stride. They seem genuinely excited to meet you and to have you finally home. The length of a pregnancy is obviously a very long time for a child to wait, but they are as patient as they can possibly be. You receive many, many cuddles, kisses and pats while you are still in my belly. You are so responsive, always moving to the spot where the person is touching and rarely does anyone miss out on feeling a kick from you. You are a mover and shaker in utero, just like your siblings before you!
Even though I had two great birth experiences with Hannah and Blake I did have one regret, and that was not having Hannah present at Blake’s birth. It had been my instinct to have Hannah there but everyone had told me she was too young. This time though, I know that all going well, I want your siblings to be there to witness your birth. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, we feel that birth is a natural and beautiful part of life and something that we as a society should share and celebrate. There is no happier day than the day a child is born and I have found that children are very open and accepting of how babies come into the world and are excited about the idea of being part of that. Secondly, birth is the natural conclusion to pregnancy and I felt that being at the birth would give Hannah and Blake closure with the pregnancy chapter and allow the beginning of the new stage of life as a family of five naturally unfold.
I initially picture having you at home. Literally every time I close my eyes during the pregnancy, I visualise myself getting on my knees on my bedroom floor at the foot of my bed and birthing you. I intuitively feel that the birth will be fast and that we may need to prepare for an unexpected homebirth so I want to bypass that fear and plan a homebirth from the beginning. I have always been open to having a homebirth and had very seriously considered one during Blake’s pregnancy but we hadn’t been able to find a midwife. This time though, everything comes together and we find a midwife. After an inital meeting at our house where we chat for over two hours, I know this is the way I want to birth and I excitedly begin to prepare to have you born at home.
Unfortunately just a few weeks later, Brians work car breaks down. We have to use the money that we had saved for the homebirth to pay for a new vehicle to transport Brian to work. I am absolutely devastated and need to call the midwife and let her know the homebirth is now not an option for us. I question that decision for the rest of the pregnancy. We live only 10 minutes from the Birth Centre where Hannah and Blake had both been born and everyone keeps telling me that it is a great – and free – option so we put our application in and we are accepted. My heart still aches for the homebirth and logistically and emotionally I feel it would be the better option but I can see no way to get it. It just feels out of my reach.
The visions of having you on the bedroom floor don’t stop though. Brian and I have many conversations about the labour and I question myself for much of the pregnancy, wondering if my gut instinct will be right. I keep being told that third labours are often unpredictable and this clouds my ability to hear my intuition. I know I can handle another long labour if it comes to that, but I know that’s not what I want or instinctively feel will happen. I predict labour will be about 2.5 hours long. I don’t want to have you at home unexpectedly now that the homebirth is no longer happening, so I decide that we will need to go into the birth centre as soon as I know that I am in established labour. Brian and I discuss a fast labour though and decide that if my waters break we will stay at home and call an ambulance rather than risk giving birth in the car on the way to hospital. I gave birth to Blake just one contraction after his waters broke and I feel if this labour is similar then it will be safer to stay put. I feel comfortable that if you want to be born that quickly then we can handle it together.
At my birth centre appointment at 38+6 weeks (Wednesday the 7th August), I speak to J who I have a feeling will be the midwife at our birth (I have 3 midwives caring for me through pregnancy) and we discuss the labour. Once again she explains how unpredictable third labours can be with lots of women having stop and start contractions and not being able to fully get in the zone. She also explains that because one of my three midwives is on holidays her and the other midwife are flat out busy and jokingly tells me not to have the baby before the weekend. I am disappointed. I tell her once again, that I feel the labour will be fairly fast but I am not sure if she is really hearing me. J checks your position and you are partially engaged. I have been squatting several times a day during this last trimester as a way of encouraging you to go lower into my pelvis as both your siblings had not engaged at all before labour. As we leave I tell her, I’ll call you on the weekend. This is my last birth centre appointment.
I crossed my fingers that you would be born the next day on the 08/08/13 all through the pregnancy, so that your birthdate would match Hannah’s (31/08/08) and Blake’s (12/10/10) and have double numbers in it. I notice lots of painless Braxton Hicks’s during that Thursday but the previous days appointment has taken me out of the labour mind zone. I know if I go into labour that day I might not have one of my midwives with me and I really want to avoid that. Little do I know that is what ends up happening anyway.
Brian and I both know the end is near. Even though I haven’t even passed my 15th August due date, I feel very strongly that you will be here by the end of the weekend. We decide to go out on Saturday morning for breakfast as a family of four for what we hope will be the last time. The waiter askes me when I am due and when I answer Any day now, he quickly asks me not to break my waters whilst in their cafe! Normally I get annoyed by these sort of comments but because I feel that we are so close to meeting you, his words just make me laugh. We enjoy our breakfast and a play at the park before heading home for a nap.
Blake falls asleep in the car and Brian transfers him to his bed when we come home as normal. I go into the room a little while later to have a rest and notice that he has woken up which doesn’t usually happen, but he runs off to play. About half an hour later I am woken by a childs cries and immediately feel they are Blake’s. I know Brian is out there taking care of the children but as I lay there for another few seconds, I feel in my gut something is very wrong. Just as I leap out of bed I can hear Brians footsteps racing up the stairs and he begins calling my name as I open the bedroom door. He is holding a screaming Blake who’s hand is covered in blood and Brian quickly says, We need to get him to a doctor NOW, his finger has been bitten by the dog next door.
All I can ask, as I start throwing things into bags, is whether his finger is still intact and Brian says he isn’t even sure, there is too much blood. My heart is literally pounding in my head and I am screaming obsceneties about next doors dog while running around 9 months pregnant in my bra and undies. I don’t realise the next door neighbour has come up on our front deck with his first aid kit and can see and hear everything. I don’t care, I am completely freaking out and I rush us all into the car. We drive to the hospital. I am driving which is painful at this late stage of pregnancy and it starts to give me Braxton Hicks’s. Thankfully at the Childrens Hospital we are seen pretty quickly by a lovely doctor and she lets us know that this is not an easy fix. Because dogs can have a multitude of germs in their mouth and can cause a serious infection Blake will need to be taken to theatre and sedated while they properly clean his finger with some heavy duty solution. They will also give him stitches if necessary. Luckily after a quick clean in some saline it looks like there is no serious ligament damage and his finger is fortunately in one piece.
Blake is an absolute trooper through the entire day and barely cries even while receiving his IV. Hannah is fascinated with medical events so this is an interesting experience for her and she listens and watches everything intensely. In the late afternoon, all we can do is wait for Blake to be taken to theatre so we agree that Brian will stay with Blake and hopefully bring him home later that night and I will take Hannah home and have dinner. I have been having BH’s intermittently throughout the day and sitting on those plastic chairs for hours is so uncomfortable. I have also barely eaten since our breakfast that morning but I seem to have a bit of a tummy ache. My heart is so split. I want to stay with Blake and care for him, but I know Hannah needs some dinner and rest and that I have to take care of myself and you too. After a quick chat, Blake is quite okay with us leaving and I know he will be just fine with Brian.
Hannah and I drive home, get some take-out for dinner, have a lovely bath together and are asleep by 8:30pm. I wake at 10:30pm to a couple of texts from Brian letting me know that Blake has come back safely from surgery and that they will get a cab home early in the morning. I fall asleep more relaxed and wake again to use the toilet at 2:30am. You are kicking around furiously so before I walk out of the bathroom I take a minute to watch you somersault around my belly in the mirror. It makes me smile and I am very tempted to grab my phone and video the action but I remind myself that logically I am not even due and I will have plenty of time to video you in the coming days.
I go back into the bedroom and for some reason feel like swaying a little. I press the acupressure point on my wrist while doing so. I feel a little like I am in dreamland, just following some deep instinct rather than using my thinking brain, but after a couple of minutes I feel silly, I’m not even having any Braxton Hicks! I lay down and look at Hannah sleeping next to me while my hand feels you kicking in my belly and I get a little teary looking at my big girl and realising I will be starting the baby experience again in just a matter of days. To be continued…
The Birth Story of Hannah Kate
Born Sunday, 31 August 2008
Weighing 8pd12oz or 3.96kg
51.5 cm long and 35cm Head Circumference
After a 25 hour labour
In the Birth Centre at RBWH, Brisbane, QLD
When I was preparing for your birth I never really thought about the fact that one day you would want to know the story of your birth and that it would become part of you. Even when I wrote the initial birth story soon after you were born, it still didn’t occur to me to imagine discussing all this with you. And because one day you will be a woman and able to bear children, it becomes even more important to me that you know just how much I loved giving birth to you, so here is your story.
I want you to know that your pregnancy and birth were the catalyst of hours upon hours of research and obsessive reading. Of dreaming, and thinking and of visualising. Of getting more and more in tune with my body than I ever thought possible. I loved the entire process of being pregnant with you and falling more in love with you every passing day.
But your birth story would not be complete without me telling you some things that happened months before you were even conceived. Certain events that have placed their mark on my heart forever. I dreamt about you Hannah. You came to me in a dream and now almost 6 years later seeing that little person who I once believed was just a figure of my imagination, walking around my house every day — the feeling is just indescribable. I wish I had known then that you were on your way though, I wish I had been assured by that dream that everything was happening the way it should be so that you would enter my life.
For most women, their wedding day is one of the happiest of their lives. I was very happy on my wedding day – even more so because I was 9 weeks pregnant with my first child. I remember during the reception I took a moment to allow myself to dream about one day looking through my wedding album and pointing out the slight bump in my dress and explaining to my child that that was them. Just like my mother had done with me. It felt really special and I was so excited for our future as a family.
Three days later my dreams were shattered and May was lost forever. As difficult – and I mean very, very difficult – as that time was, there were some amazing things that came out of the experience for me. During May’s pregnancy I had booked myself into the local public hospital not being aware – or to be honest even interested in – other options for birthing in my area. But when I chose to have a natural miscarriage with May something inside me shifted. I had a taste of the power every woman deserves to have concerning her own body. I understood that my body was capable, that it can be trusted and it knows exactly what to do in even the most unimaginable situations. I felt all that in the next 2 weeks as I slowly said goodbye to my first baby.
Maybe it was my way of coping, but of-course I was intent on having another baby as soon as possible and this time, I knew I wanted to do things differently. I spent hours on the computer pouring over articles and googling pregnancy and labour obsessively. I joined an internet parenting forum and expressed my grief in their miscarriage support section. I watched all the pregnancy and labour related TV shows on pay tv. I watched women give birth at a birth centre in Florida and I was amazed by their strength as they birthed in water or in positions I didn’t even realise were possible with such grace and support. I recognised something in them that I myself had felt during the toughest struggle in my life and I knew this was how I wanted to birth my next baby. I had every confidence that I would be able to do that exact same thing. It just felt so right to me.
The 6 months that followed the miscarriage were incredibly hard for me. I felt like I was in a tunnel and the only way out was with a healthy baby. I could not see anything else. Everything in my life that I had previosuly felt so passionate about felt mediocore and if your Daddy hadn’t convinced me otherwise I would have quit my degree there and then. I knew I was getting nowhere with this type of depressive behaviour so on December 9th, 2007 – May’s due date – we decided to officially say goodbye to the baby we had lost. I bought a lovely little card and we wrote our goodbyes and then we sealed it shut. And we let go.
As far as I can tell based on my cycle Hannah, you were conceived on that exact day.
I had a dream a month or two before we found out we were pregnant with you where the date 28-12-2008 flashed inside my mind. When we went to the GP to confirm our pregnancy he stated that the estimated due date would be the 28th of August and I remembered that dream. It felt like we were connected and I knew in that moment that I would get to hold you in my arms. It didn’t stop me feeling worried, but I had hope.
Later in the pregnancy I had another dream where the numbers 29, 3 and the letter M were obvious. I wrote these down and for the rest of the pregnancy I kept them in mind, particularly number 3 which I was told was a number associated with protection.
I was more informed this time thanks to all the reasearch that I had done and I asked my GP to send a referral letter the the Royal Women’s Hospital Birth Centre asking that I be put in the ballot. Luckily we were living at my parents house at the time and they were in the catchment are for the birth centre. It was an anxious wait but finally at 16 weeks we discovered we had been accepted. Now I could really start planning my ideal labour and birth.
Most people thought I was a little bit nutty when I told them of my plans. I have been accussed of being an idealist more than once. I actually think of myself as a realist; a pragmatist. I got informed. I wanted to know it all. I wanted to know my options and how possible it was that different scenarios would happen and what that would entail. I read more and more birth stories of women who had given birth in the way I hoped to. I read the two most inspirational books I could ever have hoped to read in your pregnancy. The first – New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas – was the #1 recommended book my birth centre midwives encouraged their clients to read, and the second – Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley – literally fell into my lap at the library. It was the first and last time I went there to borrow books and it was obviously divine intervention of some sort! From these two books – even though I also read many others that I bought cheaply from OP shops – I learned the two most important tools in my labour bag; how the hormones work in birth and how our bodies are naturally evolved to give birth in active ways.
Even though this was my first full-term pregnancy I began to feel Braxton Hicks contractions from 28 weeks. They came at least once an hour from the start and were very uncomfortable. At 37 weeks I was lying in bed one night when I felt the familiar tightening of a BH but with it came something else. I recognised it as period pain and then I realised that my body was preparing for labour and I was having some pre-labour pains. These pains came in waves every 15-20 minutes for 4 hours and then they stopped. This happened two more times over the next fortnight.
On the 28th August (Thursday) I was feeling particularly sad as I hadn’t gone into labour. I wrote an entry into my diary detailing my feelings of frustration – I was over being pregnant, wanted to meet my baby and I was sad that my intuition was wrong. I wondered when my baby would arrive, even though I was not officially due until 4th September.
Stage One – Early Labour
On the 29th August I had a relatively normal day although I didn’t have my regular afternoon nap – a move that I would later regret! That night Brian and I decided to have sex to try and bring labour on again (It had worked the two previous times I had had pre-labour). Sure enough at midnight I felt those now familiar tightenings. Brian was fast asleep so I decided to walk around our lounge room to see if the contractions dissipated. They didn’t. I took to leaning over our bed and circling my hips through a surge and they were coming about 5 minutes apart. I wasn’t in a lot of pain although the feeling was more intense than my previous pre-labour contractions.
At 3:30am after a few hours of walking around the lounge room with a silly smile on my face, I woke Brian and soon after, I sent him to wake mum, to see if she too thought I was now in ‘real’ labour. She came down, watched me through a couple of contractions and said, “I think this is it, you are in labour”. I trusted her opinion and I needed her feminine presence with me. I was also so relieved to hear her say she thought it was real labour, even though I had definitely felt that this was the real thing. I reminded myself to keep trusting my instinct and not to falter.
Brian went up to my little sister’s room and brought her beanbag downstairs for me to kneel into. I had seen this position in ‘New Active Birth’ and thought I would try it for a few contractions as I was getting tired from being upright. Lying down in bed increased the intensity of the contractions even more for me, so I wanted to avoid that. The beanbag was a good position. I was on the floor kneeling over the beanbag and resting my head on it. I basically slept in the 5 minutes between the surges. Mum stayed with me and rubbed my back for a while but after an hour it was obvious this baby wasn’t in a hurry so with my blessing she went back to bed. Now it was just Brian and I.
I had felt that my labour would begin in the night so it was nice to have the dark and quiet to get used to the contractions and all the feelings of labour. My contractions were still 4/5 minutes apart and I wondered what stage I was at. I didn’t know if my two days of pre-labour contractions had dilated me at all and I knew the general ‘rules’ are, that when contractions are this close apart you usually go into hospital. However, I wanted to stay at home as long as possible before we went to the birth centre. At 6am I went to the toilet to find I had had a show. I was excited at that point because I knew that I was dilating and the reality that I was in true labour sunk in. While eating a little breakfast, I watched the sunrise through the window and wondered if today was the day I would meet my baby.
I now had 6 hours of contractions under my belt and thought I would give the midwife a call. She said that it sounded as though it was indeed labour but to stay home until I could no longer, and to get some rest as this could go on into the night. I was a little disappointed that she thought labour would last for a lot longer as I thought my baby would be born by mid-afternoon. Surely !
There hadn’t been a shift in the intensity of contractions since they began so I thought I would lie down on the bed and try to sleep. It really hurt lying down, but I must have been pretty exhausted (no sleep since the night of 28th it was now morning on 30th) because I did doze for about an hour and a half. When I couldn’t lie down any longer I began my routine of walking between contractions and leaning over my bed and swinging my hips in circles through a surge. Brian thought it looked strange but it felt like the most natural thing to do. I was proud of my body for knowing how to bring my baby down and of myself for dealing with the contractions calmly.
At 10am I called the midwife again as I was getting slightly frustrated at how long it was taking. I felt that the intensity hadn’t increased since 3.30am even though the time between contractions was still about 5 minutes apart. I was also unsure how I would know when it was really time to go to the birth centre. The midwife said that I would not feel comfortable at home anymore and there would be an uncontrollable urge to go to the place that I had chosen to deliver my baby. Basically, I would just know! This made me a bit angry in an irrational way as I knew that what she was saying was the right thing – I was just frustrated with the length of labour. It had now been 10 hours of 5 minute apart contractions. Where were these textbook 20 minute apart contractions decreasing in intervals of 5 minutes and a 16 hour first time labour, I wondered!?!
I lost track of time during the day but I just alternated from walking around the house leaning over lounge chairs, on the walls or kitchen counter during surges – and talking to my family between them – to going back to my room for some privacy. There I tried to rest while kneeling into the beanbag or on a mattress on the floor with my upper body on the bed. I was excited to finally be in labour but a little anxious too in wondering what the rest of labour might bring. I kept reading New Active Birth to try to work out what stage of labour I was at. I was confused because my contractions were coming so regularly but were not incredibly intense. It had been many hours and I felt a little apprehensive about what a long labour might mean. Even though all this was running through my mind, I could feel an overall sense of calm inside me that my body knew what to do, and all that I needed to birth my baby was within me. I decided to trust that feeling and let go.
I was in labour throughout Saturday. I ate icy-poles, drank apple juice and lots of water, I think I had something to eat other than breakfast but I can’t remember what that was. I emptied my bowel twice, peed every hour, and I had two showers – the second one really easing the pain and giving me some relief. I tried to remain relaxed and focused because it was obvious that my labour was going to be long.
During all these intense hours I could feel you kicking away inside me as usual. You were a very active baby in utero! At my last antenatal appointment I had been told that you hadn’t yet engaged – which is slightly unusual in a first baby – so I had expected my labour to last a while, but was starting to worry that maybe I would feel too tired to continue labouring and lose my dream of a drug-free birth.
Stage One – Active Labour
At 3:30pm (The 3 again) I felt a slight shift in the intensity of my contractions. The surges became stronger and it took a bit of moaning to focus through them. Brian was sitting on the floor in the bedroom timing my contractions (getting down to about 4 minutes apart) and watching me move through them. At 4pm I was sure that the time was getting close and at 4:30pm Brian and I both knew the contractions had definitely intensified. Brian and I called the midwife and we arranged to meet at the birth centre at 6pm. At that moment, Brian decided to make himself dinner before we drove in! I was very impatient to get going and watching mum and Brian just calmly eating was making me feel a bit angry but the contractions were getting quite painful so I couldn’t really complain. I laboured over the kitchen counter willing them to eat quickly. I just wanted to get settled at the birth centre and let myself get into that far away labour-land headspace. Now I knew what my mum was talking about when we had discussed labour during my pregnancy! As I hugged my Grandma goodbye (yes we had a full house!), she whispered in my ear, “Be brave.” and at that moment, I knew I would be.
Finally, Brian, mum and I were in the car on the way to the birth centre. My ‘Best of Crowded House’ CD was playing in the car and now every time I listen to the music I think of that special day. In the car the contractions were difficult to deal with as I was sitting down so I found myself lifting off the seat slightly during a contraction to ease the pressure. I began to go into my labour zone in the car but at that stage I also lost a bit of focus. The contractions spaced out to 6/7minutes apart in the car, and I believe this was because of the adrenalin that was probably pumping through my body at the time.
When we arrived at the hospital, Brian went to park the car while mum and I made our way to the birth centre. I had a contraction in the foyer as a couple walked past but there wasn’t anyone else thankfully. The elevator was empty which I was really happy about because I had another contraction in there. Then again in front of my birthing room, and again as soon as I walked in. My contractions had ramped up again.
I was very happy to see that our room was number 3 (just like in my dream, and I then realised that my contractions had started at [M]idnight on the 29th!!!) and I immediately felt safe and protected. Our midwife asked how I was feeling and if I wanted an internal examination. We were told in our childbirth education classes it was standard procedure to ask the woman if she wanted an internal, although we could refuse if we chose to. I, however, wanted to make sure that I was dilating and that we had arrived at hospital in established labour. The midwife said that I was 5/6cm dilated and my waters were bulging – she thought they would break soon. Since 3:30pm I had felt that maybe my waters were right there and this confirmed my suspicions. It was 6pm. I made a bet with mum that I thought Hannah would arrive by 10pm which is when I would have the opportunity for another internal. The heartbeat was checked by Doppler and it was clear and strong.
The next couple of hours were a blur of contractions, heat packs, walking and swinging my hips while leaning over the bed. I wasn’t able to use the big tub as I had hoped, because my midwife hadn’t received her accreditation yet, but I planned to use the double shower when the contractions increased. At this point I withdrew deep within myself. I wasn’t really thinking during contractions, I just surrendered to the force. I kept seeing the quote “If you allow yourself to relax and surrender, you float. If you struggle and fight, you sink” repeat over and over in my mind. I allowed my body to take over. I spent a lot of time kneeling over the beanbag that was on a mat on the floor just like I did in early labour. It felt like such a good position for me. I knew gravity was helping you come down but I was also able to comfortably rest in between contractions– my mind just shut off to conserve energy. I was amazed at the beauty of labour.
I wanted my waters to break naturally, and knew as soon as they did that labour would speed up. However as the clock ticked closer to 10pm I knew that you weren’t going to be born yet. I agreed to another internal, and the midwife said I had only dilated another cm to 6/7cm in the past 4 hours, and that my waters were still bulging. They were very strong and tight, so she offered to break them for me and I agreed. She asked Brian to grab the plastic hook from the cupboard which took him by suprise! I told him to hurry up before the next contraction hit so he certainly did! It was painless and then I felt the warm liquid flood out, and there was a lot of it. The water gushed like a waterfall and the relief was amazing. The midwife warned me that the pain would increase now and that I could use the shower for relief.
The next contraction hit, and it hurt. It really hurt. I was shocked at the pain. My birth song grew louder and I squatted low during contractions with the force. I was absolutely in my zone now, and I think my eyes were closed most of the time. I decided a shower was needed and sat on the birthing ball while one nozzle pointed at my back and the other at my tummy. The water was so hot – even though it felt just right to me – that Brian refused to get in. He stayed at the door with me though and pointed the nozzles how I asked.
Stage One – Transition
I couldn’t sit for long as the pressure was too much so I stood again and held onto the bars in the shower. I was standing, leaning over the bar and circling my hips at the beginning of a surge, and then as the pain deepened, I circled lower to the ground almost squatting. The contractions are very hard to describe. It is an extremely intense pain but somehow almost delicious, bordering on pleasure. Obviously my hormone friends – oxytocin and endorphins – were making themselves available to me. After the birth I tried to explain to Brian that before the waters were broken it was as though they were cushioning some of the force, and without them, the pain was surging through my bones, touching every part of me. I use the word intense often but it’s the only one that sums it up.
As I was standing in the shower, I started to shake a little and I started feeling very out of control and confused. My birth song grew even louder and I started losing focus. I said to Brian, “Why is it taking so long?” “I just want my baby, why isn’t she here yet?” and some other mumbling. Brian kept reassuring me through the contractions that it was okay and that she would be here very soon. That was my transition – my body had opened and was almost ready to birth my baby.
The midwife asked if I wanted to get out and I walked over to my favourite spot – the beanbag. I kneeled into it and closed my eyes and mum put a light blanket over me to keep me warm. I ‘rested’ for about 10 minutes with no contractions at all (learnt this later, had no concept of time at that point) and at the birth de-brief the midwife said that she knew then that I was nearly ready to push as this was my body preparing itself for the second stage.
Stage Two – Pushing and Birth of Baby
At approximately midnight, 24 hours after the commencement of labour, I felt ready to start pushing you out. With the next contraction I felt some pressure and the midwife said that I could try to push if I felt like it. I tried but nothing really happened and I couldn’t feel anything. I did this for another couple of contractions but couldn’t quite get the idea. The midwife was supportive and explained that I should push as though I was doing a poo. We tried another position where Brian sat on the bed and I tried a supported squat which didn’t work very well for me, so I went back to kneeling. After some time of this, I remember saying, “It feels like I have to poo!” and my pushing become a bit more effective. The midwife suggested trying the birthing stool, and my pushing was very effective on that. She told me the head was crowning and asked if I wanted to see. I opened my eyes and saw in the mirror that your head was right there ready to be born! Now that’s a sight I’ll never forget!
We then moved (well, I waddled, it’s very hard to walk when you have a head coming out of your vagina!) back to the beanbag as the midwife said that she wanted me to avoid a tear and they were more common on the birthing stool as you were stretched. Mum and Brian were at my head as I kneeled into the beanbag and the midwife was behind me with a mirror and flashlight. In the next couple of pushes your head slowly came out and then slipped back in. This happened several times and was a very strange feeling. During this time I kept repeating/mumbling, “Oh my god!” My body was completely taking over.
I felt increasingly out of control with the contractions and with the next one I bore down really hard. Your head finally crowned and the midwife asked me to stop pushing. I was worried about this part before labour, but it was barely stinging and I allowed my body to stretch as my baby’s head was born. We waited for the next contraction with you miraculously gazing around the room, half earthside, half within me. Brian took some photos of this; he said it was surreal to watch. You were born with your little hand next to her head just as a midwife had predicted during our antenatal appointments. This – plus your size – probably explains why my contractions were close together but labour took so long, I really needed time to get you down and through the birth canal slowly. Just amazing!
With the next contraction I pushed hard and felt your body start to slip out of me. The midwife asked me to push one more time and I think she helped manoeuvre your shoulders out. I felt a slippery feeling and then a great release as my baby was finally born. The time was 12:54 am. (1+2+5+4=12, 1+2=3). You was immediately passed through to me and as I held you I looked up at Brian and said “It’s our baby. Our baby is here.” I was in love. You were beautiful and I didn’t even check to see whether you were a girl. It didn’t matter at all, I had birthed my precious baby and this was our first meeting. You looked straight into my eyes and I fell in love with you Hannah. You were not crying all. I felt a calm pass through me as I realised I had come full circle and had finally become a mother.
Stage Three – Birth of Placenta
Somebody moved the second beanbag and I lied down with you on the mat while your dad took some photos and gave me a big kiss. He cut the cord and gave you a cuddle and took you out of the room to introduce you to my dad and grandma who had been anxiously waiting for the last hour. Suddenly the midwife said that I really needed to push the placenta out now with urgency in her voice. So I tried but nothing happened so she injected my thigh with syndometrine and told me that I was having some significant blood loss and we needed to get the placenta out very quickly. She began to pull on the cord while I again tried to push. Nothing was happening and my head was spinning. I was really confused as it had been barely minutes since I had given birth. The midwife began to sound panicked and said, “If we can’t get this placenta out right now we’ll need to take you up to theatre to have it manually removed.” Your daddy came in with you and my dad and grandma trailling behind him and as our eyes locked I could see my shock mirrored in his.
Didn’t we just have the most fantastic, calm birth? We barely even had any interventions. Everything was going just fine. I wanted to hold my baby and instead I was being helped up to the birth stool and instructed to push. Thankfully the placenta came out with a plop about 5 minutes after birth and I was relieved.
I laid back down on the mat with you and tried to attach you to my breast. You were not interested at all but were instead just staring into my eyes calmly. My mum mentioned that you were definately not a 3kg baby! It was obvious you were definately a chubba and I as suprised you were so big. I had weighed 2.9kg at birth and your daddy only 3.2kgs so we had expected quite a small baby. At my baby shower over 20 women guessed what they thought you would weigh (and the date you would be born) at birth and not one person guessed above 3.4kg. You suprised everyone! I wasn’t ready to let you go to be weighed yet though. I wanted to enjoy getting to know you. I had read about the first hour being the most important and I wanted to honour that time with you.
However, I suddenly began to feel very dizzy and nauseous. The midwife had popped out of the room to grab something and I yelled to Brian to grab the baby and get me a bowl as I needed to vomit. Brian placed the kidney dish under my mouth just in time. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Brian was really worried about me. I was glad mum was there to hold you. The midwife came back and when I told her what had happened she just stated that it was a side effect of the drug she had given me to expel the placenta.
I was really disappointed that I was feeling so awful after 25 hours of labour without even a dose of panadol. This was what I had been trying to avoid and yet here I was feeling like I had a hangover and I couldn’t even cuddle my newborn baby. While you were being clucked over by mum, dad and my grandma, your daddy stayed close to me while the midwife checked me for tears. Unbelievably, I had none! Finally, I was helped into bed and someone brought me some toast and tea. I was suddenly starving.
Your daddy helped the midwife measure and weigh you. You were 3.9kgs or 8pd12oz! Even the midwife was suprised. You were 51cms long and had a 35cm HC. Everything was perfect.
Once you were in my arms again I offered you my breast but again, you were not interested in attaching. I was not worried at all. I had a feeling that you were tired after our long labour and that you would try again once you were ready. I remembered an article I had read that said that babies were born with 24hours worth of fat reserves just in case mum needed to fight off some predators (obviously an evolutionary protective trait). So that gave me comfort and as I held you, you fell into a deep sleep.
I placed you next to me in the big double bed and fell asleep myself. Your daddy told me later that he went to check with another midwife if it was okay for you to sleep between us. The midwife assured him that as long as you were in the middle of us with no covers on you or pillows near your face, that you would be fine. This was the beginning of our co-sleeping journey.
Overnight you still didn’t feed and by morning the midwives on shift were worried about you. They wanted to test your blood sugar levels by cutting the bottom of your feet. My heart was sinking. I just felt so out of my depth. I hadn’t prepared or researched any of this. I hadn’t expected any complications with breastfeeding but I had assumed that the midwives would be able to help me if I had any problems. Unfortunately, they seemed to be as clueless as me as to why you were not latching on.
Over the next 24 hours we tried all sorts of things to help you attach. You were checked for toung tie and several different midwives came in to help you attach. Some of them were incredibly rough with my breasts and the seeds of doubt that I could even breastfeed were beginning to surface. I had been told by a midwife during my pregnancy that because I didn’t drink cows milk that I wouldn’t have any breastmilk. At a papsmear the year before you were born when I was having a breast examination the doctor mentioned that my breasts were quite small and I may need asisstance with breastfeeding when the time came. My own mother wasn’t able to breastfeed me as I wouldn’t latch on (although she succesfully breasfed my younger brother and sister) so all of this was running through my mind during that first day of your life. A day that should have been peaceful and special and joyus.
Although you were not latching, you still didn’t seem peturbed by this. Brian was able to settle you quickly if you cried and you were not showing many signs of hunger. The midwives were telling us to wake you every couple of hours to encourage you to feed so you eneded up being woken from every sleep you had in the first 2 days. My instinct kept telling me to let you sleep so that you could rest but I just couldn’t voice it. I was falling under the spell of the experts and I was now looking to them to fix this situation.
A midwife helped me hand express and then electronically pump a little bit of colostrum which was syringed into your mouth. The midwife was suprised that even when the colostrum was rubbed on my nipple that you were still not interesting in trying to attach. I remember looking at you and thinking that you were just as clueless as me when it came to this whole breastfeeding thing, but I was still determined to make it work. I kept asking if there was anything wrong and what we could do but noone could give me an answer. I had milk, you had a mouth and seemingly that should have been enough. Your blood sugars kept coming back fine but still you were not breastfeeding. The peadiatrician said that I could go home after the baby had had 10 minutes of feeding at the breast or via a bottle.
I cried. And I couldn’t stop. I felt so angry that noone could help us breastfeed so instead of transferring to the ward (we had stayed two nights at the birth centre and were only supposed to stay for one) we decided to discharge ourselves and try to make it work at home. I had a lovely midwife come in who tried to help me get into a couple of different positions to see if that would make it easier but it didn’t. We had a big chat and I called my dad to hire a breast pump exactly like they had at the hospital so we could keep pumping at home.
At Home – The First Week
You were still not attaching at home. I was pumping and syringing you the colostrum but my actual milk hadn’t come in yet. A child-health nurse came the next day and told us we had to take you back to the hospital as you had jaundice and were not getting enough milk. We spent the next few days doing the same thing and your jaundice gradually got worse. I refused to give up and we kept trying to breastfeed. We saw the lactation consultant at the hospital who again, seemed suprised that you were not latching but she said that the engorgement was probably making it hard for your small mouth to attach properly. She suggested I pump for 15minutes to make my breasts very soft and then try to feed. So we did that and you finally latched on!!! I was amazed. You fed for another 10minutes and I didn’t want you to stop. I was so afraid that we wouldn’t be able to re-create ths situation at home.
My fears were realised when you began to cry for food and I realised that I would have to pump for 10 minutes while you just cried. It broke my heart. You were too work out to try to attach after crying. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t know when you would be ready to feed as you were still just a newborn, there was definately no routine. I had also read it was best to feed on demand but I couldn’t understand how I would do that when I needed to have soft breasts for you to attach to. I felt like I was going around in circles. A friend suggested nipple shields as her sister had used them with success. I had never even heard of them. Brian bought some from the chemist and we tried them half-heartedly, not expecting it to work. But it did! You latched on. It was day 5.
With the constant feeding over the next 2 days my nipples became very sore and on day 7 they began to crack severely. I could see red blood filling the shield and I started screaming and crying. Brian was at my side straight away. I was hysterical. It had been a massive week. A long tiring labour followed by no rest because we were constantly trying to wake you and feed you. We were so stressed and we hadn’t even spent any time enjoying our baby. It had been nothing like we had expected. Brian, in his love for me, saw how upset I was and ran down to the chemist and bought some formula and bottles. He came back and spent his first fathers day feeding his daughter her bottle for the first time.
I was so disappointed and unsure what to do. I felt like a complete faliure and I never breastfed you again after that day. I remember one day a few weeks later you were really upset and I was not sure what was wrong, so in desperation I tried to offer you the breast again but you just kept moving your head and screaming. It was a really hard time for me. Breastfeeding was something that was really important to me and I thought that with the help of professionals that we could make it work. I saw that once again, it was up to me to make things work, just like with the birth.
Through all that, I learned that I would do anything for you Hannah. I learned to love unconditionally, to give of myself like I never had before. I learned to put a person that depended on me for everything first, always. And I learned to love doing so. There were some incredible moments during those first 7 days of your life. You were such a calm and alert newborn. Everyone kept saying that you seemed like an old soul, you just took everything in. We loved having you sleep between us and your daddy particularly enjoyed being able to be so close to you at night. We were thrilled to get to know you and we were so thankful that you had made us a family.
Now, four years later, I wish I could go back to that time. Yes, I would make a lot of changes in regards to the breastfeeding, but mostly I just want to be able to hold you. To feel the weight of you in my arms and to cradle your tiny body next to my heart as you sleep. I just want to go back and take you in again, the way you were when I gave birth to you on the 31st August 2008.