Sunday last week was my last day being pregnant.
Our babe had been inside for 39 weeks and 5 days.
That day Jimmy put his hands on my belly and said, “I miss you baby…” and for the first time all pregnancy, “I’m tired of waiting.”
I felt more tired than usual. I slept in the morning, again in the the afternoon and took to bed early that night. My frenzied nesting energy had finally slowed and the things were done.
As I climbed into bed that night I glanced across to the mirror and caught a glimpse of my very round, very pregnant protruding belly in the glow of the salt lamp light.
I recall a wave of melancholy washing over me as I recognised that the end of this journey was so very near. I sensed a mourning as I prepared to wave goodbye to this phase of my life; almost ten years of a journey of conception, pregnancy, extended breastfeeding and pregnancy again. I knew the conception & pregnancy part was complete. I savoured each little roll, each hiccup, each tightening I felt from inside…
Around 2.20am Monday morn I woke with a sharp pain…Gas? I wondered. Labour? No, this feels different to the start of labour with Jimmy I thought. About 5 minutes later I had another. It was uncomfortable so I got up, checked for a show, nothing, went back to bed. Maybe I’ll sleep in between like I hear other people do in early labour, I mused.
There was to be no sleeping. These were no gas pains & this was not the mild period pain like, almost joyous cramps I experienced at the beginning of Jimmy’s labour. They continued every 5 minutes, I had to get up, lean on the kitchen bench & breathe through them like I’d practiced; IN 2 3 4, OUT 2 3 4 5 6 7 8.
Just after 3am and 9 contractions in I realised I’d better “call the midwife.”
We were planning a home birth. I’d switched from a planned hospital birth around 28 weeks & was very much hoping to achieve a safe, held, supported and joyous VBAC at home with John, Jimmy, my sister, our two midwives Danielle & Juliana plus John’s long time friend, now student midwife Kisha; all by my side.
9 pretty sharp contractions since 2.25am!
Legs are shaking, lots of low pressure.
Very light pink when I wiped before.”
Danielle rang me straight away (incredible beings these nocturnal midwife owls) & listened to me breathe through a strong surge. She congratulated me on my efforts and told me she was on her way!
Soon after this, John; whom I’d yet to wake, wandered from bed to the kitchen and I let him know it was all happening.
I messaged my sister who was leaving her own two cherubs for the event & would be driving from Gippsland, care permit in hand:
“Think this baby’s coming. Fancy a drive?”
I jumped in the shower to freshen up and prayed to the birth goddesses that our dear Jimmy would by some miracle stay fast asleep and we could just have him join for the grand finale…
No such luck. He woke while I showered, allowed John to cuddle him in his bed but as soon as he heard the water turn off he raced in to see me; standing naked and full bellied in the bathroom, loudly making my way through these incredibly intense surges.
“”Hello my love”
“I didn’t know the baby was coming now!” He exclaimed multiple times, nervous tension in his voice, little face very unsure of what was unfolding.
We reminded him of all the books we’d read in the lead up and that nothing was wrong, I was just working hard to get our baby out and making those funny noises they talked about in the book.
Jimmy soon focused on setting up the birth pool with John (a more complex task than anticipated apparently!) and I continued to do my best to work my way through these increasingly intense, hard surges.
By the time our first midwife arrived, I was bent over our bed, face buried into the softness, TENS machine up high, hands twisting, wringing & gripping covers; voice LOUD. I was so loud. I made noises I’d never made before as the pain and pressure became a complete part of me and my body.
I’d had at least 15 contractions in 90 minutes.
My sister ~ who had just gotten to sleep at 3am with her teething 18 month old had seen her missed calls at 4.30, thrown things in a bag and was on her way.
My contractions were coming every 2 minutes.
Tessie and Kisha had arrived. Midwives felt things were getting close.
Jimmy was settled in his bedroom with Tessie; watching shows on the laptop, eating snacks and had declined the noise cancelling headphones John had offered him. Making the decision for Jimmy to stay at home while I was in labour was one we weighed up against the disruption and upset he would experience with being transported elsewhere (likely John’s mum’s which is 40 minutes away) after the year that has been 2020 in Melbourne. The three of us had been side by side all year long. I had been the one to get Jimmy to sleep and be there when he woke; every single night. We’d not been apart for more than an hour or so when I left for an appointment. We all wanted to be together and when we’d made the plan to birth our baby at home we’d all felt a sense of peace and relief (of course knowing that it wasn’t a sure thing!).
6ish – 7.30am
I was pushing. I worked hard, really hard.
We’d done one vaginal exam and knew I was fully dilated. Danielle could see the membranes in the birth canal and I was desperate for our baby to make some progress further down. We already knew he was much, much lower than Jimmy had been but he needed to move further down.
The midwives continued to suggest different positions to help baby and relieve some of my pain. My bladder felt full but I couldn’t wee. I moved from the toilet to the shower to the bed to the couch. I gripped John’s hand continually, leaned on him for support. I tried hard to channel the energy of my external noise into my bearing down urges as the midwives suggested.
I hopped into the birth pool for a little break and the warm water soothed my body and eased some of the pain. I asked for my sister at this time and was so grateful to see her face, hold her hand and have her energy (so grounded and safe) holding us all in that birth portal.
If I only shared the birth pool photos you’d be forgiving for assuming all was calm & peaceful in this labour. I assure you; it was not the silent, chilled out labour you sometimes see online!
We don’t get the birth we want; we get the birth we need and I know innately the healing that was taking place across my lineage amidst the noise and pain in our apartment home Monday morning.
I didn’t stay in the birth pool long as I feel solid surfaces and gravity were needed to make any progress. I heard one of our midwives mention transverse at one point and I began to sense that once more, I had a baby not in optimal position.
Throughout all of this his heart rate remained strong and stable. We were doing well but progress was slow.
We tried a catheter in case a full bladder was holding things up, we tried side lying and we tried a supported squat with John behind me on the couch. This is where I felt the most progress but it was very slow with little reward for maximum output. I was tiring, starting to lose a little faith in my body’s ability to do this and began to fantasize about an epidural.
When we’d made the plan to shift to a planned birth in our apartment home, our midwives had emphasised that they did not support a “home birth at all costs” and that a hospital transfer would be recommended well before any signs of emergency or at a hint of things not progressing the way we hoped. Both John and I trusted, felt safe and held by this approach. I wholeheartedly believe birthing women have every right to plan the birth they intuitively know they and their baby need. Be it free birth or an elective caesarean; it is their choice.
With the knowledge that I’d been pushing for some time now; both involuntarily and active, combined with a previous c-birth, a baby the midwives felt was transverse & deflexed, waters that may need to be broken to assist progress in the birth canal and a tiring birthing mother; a hospital transfer was recommended by them and agreed upon by I.
I was ready for some more help to get our baby out. I was saddest about having to leave Jimmy. John went to him to explain that we were going to the hospital for a short time to birth our baby. Apparently there were tears but when I popped my head in to say seeya later, our darling brave not quite 4 year old held them in his eyes, stared me in the face, hugged me and spoke well wishing words well beyond his years. One week on, having to leave him is what saddens me the most. I was comforted greatly though to know Jimmy was with my sister Tessie, in his home and that we were only traveling 750m to the hospital.
Juliana (midwife of 30 years) had rung ahead to The Women’s & put in a special request for Danielle to be permitted to accompany me alongside John despite current covid-19 restrictions.
Bags were grabbed, apartment was left and down the stairs into the bright Monday morning light of the courtyard we went, ready for a very short, very uncomfortable car ride a couple of blocks round the corner to the Women’s. I sat
on my side, gripping the handle, pushing without being able to help it through traffic lights and over the tram tracks. It’s this short ride where we believe little Finn flipped to occiput posterior…
We pulled into emergency, I had a loud contraction in the carpark, another in the lift, one at the desk where we met Danielle and many more in the wild wheelchair ride through the corridors en route to the birth suite!
Unnecessary hospital admission protocols were given lip service at the desk and then dropped as Danielle emphasised the imminence of this birth. By some grace of God the midwife in charge knew Danielle from their training days and recognised that having her in the birth suite would be of great benefit rather than detriment.
I cannot emphasise enough what a difference it made to my mental and emotional state both in the birth suite and upon reflection to have not just John by my side but my trusted, known care giver with me.
Upon entering the birth suite (about 8.30+ at this stage), things moved efficiently yet calmly. At each suggestion of intervention, the reasons were explained, my questions were answered respectfully and without judgement and I turned to Danielle for reassurance; comforted in the knowledge that her opinion was based on knowing me, my history and my labour in combination with best practice and care.
My waters were broken to provide more space for Finn to move down and I had a few more attempts at pushing him out. Alas, once more, my baby was stuck. By this point, I was throwing out all the lines I never thought I’d say!
“Is it too late for drugs now?”
“Can I have an epidural?”
Jenna; beautiful midwife on duty told me later she bluffed me with the suggestion of getting some gas ready, knowing very well how close I was to birthing this baby!
Now on my back & waters broken, Finn’s heart rate wasn’t so optimal and the waters had shown a little meconium. With each contraction his heart rate dropped a little due to being further down in the canal but struggling to move through.
Two doctors entered; Rosie & Hamon. Again, their manner was so calm, supportive and respectful. I felt very held and safe. All my questions were answered and whilst I knew there was an underlying sense of urgency, I never felt rushed or panicked; very much thanks to the energy, expertise and manner of each person in the room.
I was determined to get this baby out. I prayed that forceps were not necessary and felt relief when they suggested that vacuum assistance should work. I asked about an episiotomy and came to the understanding that in this circumstance; given how very swollen I was from pushing; that a small cut would be a lesser evil than potentially tearing badly. Again, I was comforted by Danielle’s reassurance and Hamon’s gentle, respectful manner. I was also grateful for the local anesthetic!
Hamon then told me to focus just on Dr Rosie; to listen to her voice and push when she said to push and hold off when I needed to hold off. I put every ounce of energy I had into doing exactly what she said. If this baby got stuck halfway I knew things would not stay as calm as they were.
I won’t sugar coat it; it hurt like hell. I was on my back, legs in stirrups, about to push my baby out with a suction cap attached to his head. When Rosie said push, I pushed with every ounce of strength I had. I think it took two pushes and his beautiful head; facing directly up at us all from between my legs was out! The shoulders were hard but a couple more pushes and I experienced the incredible sensation of the rest of our baby’s body slipping out from me quickly and finally in those last seconds with ease!
He was passed straight into my hands, I pulled him onto my chest and that is where he stayed for the next 2 hours; totally undisturbed, totally connected, totally in love.
He stayed on my chest while I was stitched up, until the cord had turned white and long stopped pulsing, while I peacefully birthed our placenta with a couple of gentle pushes (no traction by the doctor) and enjoyed the satisfaction of that slippery sensation of ease after a long, hard, intense 7 hours!
Want I wanted for this birth was to feel safe, supported, held, respected and empowered. I didn’t want to be left alone. I wanted to feel connected to our baby. I also had a deep desire to birth vaginally. I am so grateful for each person; either present at the birth, during the pregnancy or from afar who provided the love and support to help me; alongside my beloved John, Jimmy & Finn, achieve this very healing experience. Thank you for reading our story.