Birth story: part 3

Continued from part 2

I thought, surely the head must be visible after all this.  It seemed like so long that my body had been pushing, and R had even said that I should try pushing on top of the involuntary push, which was relatively satisfying.  It took a while to get the hang of the breathing and sounds needed to accompany a good push.  I was confused by R’s direction, because on the one hand she said ‘don’t hold your breath’ which made sense, but on the other hand she said, ‘don’t let the energy escape in your breath or noise,’ or something like that, it seemed that I couldn’t quite get it at first.  But when I did get it, I knew.

Finally the pain in my pelvis eased, but was quickly replaced by another debilitating pain, all around my waist.  R said this was the uterus fatiguing, which kind of made sense given I’d been having contractions for over 36 hours now.  I think there was a point here where I really became strong and focused.  Perhaps it was the pushing, or the fatigue of my amazing uterus that had been going for so long without a break, but I just knew how close I was and I wasn’t going to give up!

But why wasn’t R saying, ‘oh, look, there’s the head,’ or ‘you’re so close’.  Maybe she did say I was close.  I could see her shining her torch into the water but saying nothing, just helping me push when my body began pushing.  I can’t say I ever had an ‘urge’ to push as such, it was more that my body was already pushing, so I just did more on top.

I changed position to my knees, leaning forward over the edge of the pool, and Mr Chewbacca was there again.  I had renewed energy at this point for some reason, changing position was a lot quicker and easier than it had been before because I felt more in control and I knew I was making progress.  I pushed a bit in this position, and had the urge to be more upright, as I’d read is common as the baby is close to crowning.  R then suggested moving back to the semi-reclining position, which I wasn’t totally keen on because I liked the upright idea, but then I remembered that I didn’t see myself giving birth on all fours, it didn’t seem like me, and I liked the idea of baby just coming out in front of me.  I got the sense that me being back in that position was easier for R too because she was probably thinking about whether baby might need help breathing etc, given the GBS element.  Not that she’d ever have asked me to change position for her, I just had that thought.  I went back on my back and it felt right.

I was still feeling a little confused because no one had said they could see the head yet, but I was sure I could feel it right there!  Apparently the water was too murky to see that much, but R obviously knew it was there because soon she said to reach down and feel for the head.  I felt it, but wasn’t sure if it was the hair or the membranes still as it felt quite silky and smooth.  I really needed that motivation, especially as when I felt it I was surprised it wasn’t out more.  It felt like the width of the opening was about a centimetre, yet before I’d felt with my hand it seemed like five times that.  I kept going, really giving it everything and beyond what I thought was possible.  I pushed so hard, it was very empowering!  There was a moment of relief and pleasure just towards the end of each push.  I remember Mr Chewbacca saying to me I sounded like I was enjoying myself at one point (I wasn’t, but I guess the noises were similar and he was probably thinking of Orgasmic Birth.)  R said I should feel for the head again and this time it was about a quarter to a third out, or at least that’s what it felt like.  I could feel the hair, it was so close!  I’d felt it going in and out a few times, but this wasn’t disheartening as I knew the more it went in and out, then better I’d stretch and the less likely I’d tear.  I thought about all those people who breathe their babies out and couldn’t understand how that is possible – if I hadn’t pushed on top of my body’s involuntary pushes, I’d have been there another six hours at least!  It was so great to be pushing out this head, and it really wasn’t painful, especially compared to the pain of the contractions, pelvis and my waist.  I felt the perineum stretch so easily, it didn’t sting, no ring of fire or burning, just stretching like a piece of tight elastic.  It did sting at the front, and I was convinced I was tearing around my clitoris and urethra but I so didn’t care, I was almost there and that stinging was such normal, localised pain, it was nothing really.

I knew when the head was out, and everyone was oohing and aahing, standing around the bottom of the pool.  I think I waited for the next contraction before I pushed out the shoulders, and then the body slid out with a rush and everyone gasped and cheered and I heard J burst into tears, maybe S too, I’m not sure.  Someone said it was 7:57pm.  It was an intensely emotional moment.

R lifted him from the water and began unravelling the cord which was twice around his neck and once around his body.  I was so calm, and I helped pull it away and held him as he cried almost straight away.  His body was purplish, his head slightly paler, because of the cord, but he cried robustly and loudly, not because he was shocked or traumatised but because he needed to clear out stuff from his mouth and lungs.  I massaged his little hands as I remembered that might help stimulate him, not that he really needed it that much.  Someone had a warm towel which was put over him and immediately became wet but the bath was warm and I kept him semi-submerged.

As I looked at the baby and said hi for the first time, I realised it was a complete stranger.  I didn’t know this person, yet it was my child and had come out of me.  Mr C was overwhelmed of course, and we just looked at our baby and he said how proud he was of me and all sorts of other things, it was amazing.  I realised we didn’t know the sex – ‘shall we see what we’ve got?’ I said to Mr C before lifting the wet towel and seeing a little penis.  Mr C commented on his big testicles and I laughed and explained about the hormones.

It was extraordinary how quickly the atmosphere in the room changed, at that moment of birth, and how I suddenly came back into myself and it was like none of the previous hours of labour had even happened.  I talked to him and said how keen he was to be here, made lots of silly jokes about various noises he made, and I think he very quickly got hiccups, which he’d had throughout the last trimester, at least once a day in the last couple of months.

R pulled out a tube attached to the oxygen cylinder and asked Mr C to wave the end of it in front of bub’s nose, just to help him get the breathing thing down pat, although his Apgars were 9 and 9.  We could see that the top of his head had the imprint of the cervix on it, and also some lines that R said could be my ribs.  It was a this point we speculated he may have been breech and actually turned during labour, which would explain why it took so long from when the contractions ramped up.

I soon began to feel a dull pain in my tailbone, which got more uncomfortable and I mentioned it to R who said it was probably a contraction for the placenta.  She held the cord and said to push with the contraction, and a little bit of cord came out, plus some blood, and I think the big clot was out by then (it was huge, like a big blobby slab of liver!).  The pool was very dark with blood and fluids, but I felt totally fine, and R said the placenta had detached but was probably just sticking in the cervix and to be patient.  Shortly I had another contraction, but still no placenta.  I think it wasn’t until the third or fourth that I really pushed and out it came as R said, ‘remember it has no bones, it’s easy’.  She was right of course.

The placenta was huge!  R made almost double the amount of placenta pills from it as she would normally.  We looked at it, and it seemed very dark red, much darker than I remembered S’s had been.  I could see some calcification in it, and R carefully spread it out in a kidney dish and pulled out the membranes for everyone to see.  Mr C had a feel of the cord and posed for a photo pretending to eat the placenta.  It was so great that everyone was so fascinated, as R showed both sides and explained how it would have been attached to the wall of the uterus.  Mr C in particular found it really interesting I think, and yet again showed how awesomely non-squeamish he is.

By then the cord had stopped pulsating a while ago, and I said Mr C should cut it, so R put on the plastic clamp next to our boy’s future belly button and some scissor clamps a few inches beyond and Mr C cut it.  Our baby didn’t seem to mind that much, although he did happen to cry a bit around the time it was cut, but I’m not convinced he was too bothered by it being cut, he was more just a bit grumpy because the pool was cooling right down. That and just having been born were, you know, pissing him off just a little bit.

I was in the pool for about an hour after the birth, and was helped out and stepped across to the couch, pre-prepared with plastic sheets and towels.  I had warm towels covering me and baby, which was lovely, and I felt pretty good, not really light-headed, but definitely hungry.  It was then I remember how many times my tummy had rumbled during labour, even during the most intense contractions.  I drank some sickly sweet red grape juice for the sugar and ate some strawberries and orange, before my mum made me some eggs and I began to feel more on this planet.  It was kind of nice to have people getting things for me and not have to even reach for my glass of water.

My little boy began to suckle finally, as I’d offered him the breast in the pool but he was too busy crying and clearing out his lungs.  He yawned within moments of being born, and I thought it was because he was tired from that epic journey, but R said it’s more likely he’s doing it for the extra air, which makes sense, as that’s what yawning is after all.

We set about getting him dressed, and Mr C was on deck to put on his first nappy and outfit, which he was very nervous about but managed perfectly of course.  I reminded R we should weigh him first, and we did and he was 4kg exactly and measured 50cm long with big hands and feet.  His head was a nice 35cm, which is probably why I found the crowning part somewhat more manageable.

R examined me to find I had no tears, not even a graze, which was amazed at because I’d felt such stinging at the front.  J and S had to go, as it was about 10pm by now, so we said goodbye and soon R suggested I head to the shower and rinse off, then to bed, which had been prepared for leaks with a plastic sheet and towel under the sheet.  I sat down in the ridiculously small bath and used the hand shower to rinse myself.  The crazy big adult diaper thing R had brought was really weird, but did the job well.  I was finally tucked up in bed with my little boy and my amazing husband, the most incredible man in the world.  If the Dude turns out like his dad I will be so proud.  I don’t remember much about that first night, I don’t know if I slept or if Mr C slept, despite us both having little sleep over the previous 36 hours or more.  I still can’t believe I did it, I actually had my baby at home with no intervention, I stood my ground, I knew what was right, and I made it, perfectly.

If that wasn’t enough, read the postscript, aka what I learnt from this birth.

Birth story: part 2

Continued from part 1

Then it was just me and my mum.  Until then I hadn’t been that aware of her presence, or at least only alongside that of my friends.  Everyone was doing their own thing to help, pouring hot water into the bath, getting my water, making each other teas and food and going out to the shops when needed, and I could hear all this going on in the background, but at this point everything seemed down and at a standstill.  I think it also felt empty because Mr Chewbacca was off on his walk, probably feeling exasperated and finding it hard to watch me and listen to me in so much pain.  I got the sense that my moaning was getting repetitive, it was not only tiring me out but it was draining on everyone else too.  Emotions were feeling stretched and everyone needed a break.

My mum was somehow next to me.  I don’t remember her coming there, she just was there.  At first it was a little annoying.  She has a very light touch and it can be a bit irritating, rather than Mr C’s firm, strong, confident touch which is reassuring.  And I’m oddly touch-sensitive too.  But then she did something I don’t think she’s ever done.  She began to tell me I could do it, and with each contraction she told me it was ‘a good one’.  She repeated the same things over and over, and in my head it was a bit annoying but I began to believe it after a while.  She made the noises with me, in a really steady way, and it was just the two of us, breathing and making noises and getting through it.  She was the only one still sticking by me, and she wasn’t going to let me get out of this and give up, she was going to see me through no matter what.  She’s never done this; she’s always let me get off scot free, give up halfway through, take the easy way out.

Mr Chewbacca came back from his walk and things had changed.  Everyone began to migrate back into the room, hanging around the edges watching and noticing the atmosphere changing.  I was only vaguely aware of this at the time, but everyone commented on it later and it made sense.

At a couple of points, I vomited pretty violently.  Most of it went on Mr C!  If it were me, I’d have been sick in response, but he took it all in his stride, didn’t even change his shirt apparently, just stayed with me.  A bit of vomit went in the pool, which I hated, but was too out of it to deal with.  And it wasn’t like there was a lot to throw up, mainly just water and some orange bits.  R of course was excited by this, recognising it as a sign of transition.  I’m not sure that it was, but things did change when it happened.

R wanted me to get out of the bath.  Things were happening, but not enough, it had been going on for way too long, even I knew this.  I wasn’t getting a break between contractions because, even though they were at least three minutes apart, I had this intense pain in the front of my pelvis.  R suggested this might be the last bit of cervical dilation happening while the baby’s head pushed against it.  Whatever it was, it was debilitating and never-ending.  The only thing that made it go away was a contraction, even more pain.  I remember being given different homeopathics and having peppermint oil waved under my nose to help stave off the vomiting. Or was it orange oil?

Apparently it was around 3pm that R finally got me out of the pool.  It felt like the most difficult thing I had ever done, working up the strength to move.  I’d talk myself out of it between contractions, then a contraction would hit and it’d be like, oh well, can’t move during a contraction.  Eventually I got out, and went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet.  There were a few contractions there, not pleasant, and I just felt like I was more uncomfortable, didn’t feel like the contractions were stronger as such.  But R was pleased with this, and when we came back to the pool she firmly said I should lie on the couch a bit first, which I was really unhappy about.  I stayed there for maybe two or three contractions but they were just unbearable, I remember saying I need to move now because I don’t think I can make it through another one here.  I don’t know what not making it through actually means, but I was adamant.  So I got up, but R still insisted I stay out of the pool, so I stood for a while, leaning on poor Mr C whose back was completely screwed by now.  But of course he gave me everything and let me do what I needed, continued to hold me up despite being in pain himself.  What a man!  I knew he’d be amazing, but it brings tears to my eyes every time I think of him and how committed he is to me, especially during the birth of our baby, just extraordinary.

I stood for longer than I thought I could, leaning on Mr C, and R said, ‘just stay there for two contractions, then you can get back in the pool’.  More than two passed, and I knew it, but I couldn’t summon the strength to say, hey, you’re trying to trick me!  Eventually when she said again, ‘just one more now,’ I said, ‘you already said that two contractions ago!’  So I went back in the pool which provided some relief.

I think standing up must have helped somehow, and I’m sort of hazy as to when the transition with my mum occurred, but eventually I began to feel my body push, and she was next to me when this happened.  It was overwhelming.  It reminds me of that movie Ghost, where the various spirits jump into the bodies of the living; it felt like something taking me over and my whole body convulsed.  The pushing felt so intense, but I was glad to feel it because I guessed it meant I’d reached the last part.  There was a still a fear that nothing was being achieved.  I expected to feel the baby moving down the birth canal, getting closer, but nothing, it just felt like my body was pushing against a rock that wouldn’t move.  I wondered briefly if my cervix was dilated, especially as R mentioned what the pain in my lower pelvis might be.  But I knew to trust in my body and that if it was pushing for me, it was ready, and it would do exactly what was needed.  I wondered if R could tell my body was pushing; I assumed she could actually, and was a little frustrated that she hadn’t said anything.  Reading back through the notes I can’t see any mention of it until I mentioned my body was pushing for me, which was quite a while after it began I think.

After a while of this pushing, and after I’d told R it was happening, she offered to check my dilation, just to see if I was progressing and if the cervix was actually out of the way.  She wrote in my notes that I’d declined several times but I don’t remember declining, I just remember being silent, and thinking to myself, what good is it?  Let it just happen.

Continued in part 3

Birth story: part 1

I’m posting this story in a few different parts to break it up as it’s so long.  This is the first part, following on from  my previous two posts about the first signs of my labour and then the following day

I pottered about during the day (Sunday  8 May 2011, Mother’s Day) timing the contractions, which were steadily six minutes apart.  I spoke to my mum and she started making the nine hour drive down.  I felt tired towards the afternoon and even fell asleep for a short while, and it seemed like contractions stopped then.  We decided a walk was in order to help get things going, so we went along the coastal clifftop walk all the way to the Macquarie Lighthouse and back.  I sat down on a bench and looked out at the ocean, wondering if baby was ever going to come.  It was very peaceful, and I felt things begin to get a little stronger as we walked home.  I took it slow but kept walking through the pains, as that felt right.

They did strengthen and got closer together at four minutes, and I became a little more serious, not wanting to talk through them but still being able to hold a conversation.  It was odd, especially when my mum arrived, as she rabbited on as usual and I found myself sort of ignoring the pains as I concentrated on what she was saying.  I sort of didn’t want to show that I was having contractions, as when she noticed she’d go quiet and serious and act like I was in so much pain when really all I needed was just the space to breathe through them.  The energy got zapped a bit I think.  My friends J and S had been wondering whether to come all day, and I’d said not to bother yet as nothing much was happening.  Eventually I said you may as well come and hang out a bit, as they’d already arrived in Sydney from the Central Coast, so we all sat around and chatted a while, but yeah, nothing happened.  I was tired but sort of resisting the rest because I was a bit disappointed nothing had happened.

The girls left to find a backpackers for the night, and shortly after that we went to bed, about 11pm.  The minute I laid my head on the pillow I had a massive contraction.  Followed by another, and another, ongoing at four minutes apart.  I couldn’t believe it, and I did try to sleep for a while but eventually I couldn’t deal with lying down.  I thought of the heat in the shower and couldn’t resist any more.  I must have stayed in there for about 45 minutes at first, it was bliss, totally removed the pain all together.  I didn’t think for a second that I shouldn’t be focusing on ‘removing’ the pain but rather working with it.  In hindsight I didn’t really need that shower so soon and I should have held off.  But after getting back into bed for another hour or so I couldn’t handle it any more and got back in the shower.  This time it was painful, even with the heat.  I must have been in there about an hour and a half, thinking how grateful I was for continuous gas hot water (which we later discovered was not entirely continuous).  I didn’t think I could get out again, but I needed to in order to let Mr Chewbacca know how full on things felt.  I also felt bad about waking him, thinking if I can hold on a bit then he’ll get a full night’s sleep.  I think it must have been about 4:30am when I managed to get myself out of the shower and tell him it was really happening.  We came out to my mum in the living room and I tried to keep calm and breathe through the pains.  I don’t remember if I ate anything, I think I tried some cut up orange but things just felt intense.

About 10am I started looking at the pool, so Mr C got it blown up and then the saga with the hose began!  We couldn’t get it connected to the tap in the kitchen or bathroom, and my mum began boiling water in the kettle and on the stove to fill this huge pool – there was no way!  Suddenly someone had the brilliant idea of deconstructing the showerhead and connecting to that, which was finally successful and the pool had enough water in it by about 11am for me to get in – thank god because I really felt I needed it!  In hindsight, I probably didn’t, I needed to find another way to relax, but I didn’t know that at the time.  The pool was absolute bliss and the contractions came and went in smooth waves rather than rough peaks.  Again, I should have embraced the rough peaks!

As I got into the pool, S and J arrived back.  Soon after, my midwife R arrived and immediately checked the baby’s heartrate which was solid as usual.  She asked me some questions and I got my first experience of her ‘uh huh’ response to everything I said.  It began to frustrate me!  I wanted more than acknowledgment, I wanted her to tell me, “this is the way you should do it” or “you’re at this stage” or “if you do this, the pain will go”.  This was the beginning of my fight against the contractions.

At the beginning, Mr C was with me for ages, and I grabbed his arm during each pain, not in control in the slightest, just enduring this horrible pain that I hated and wanted gone.  He breathed and made noises with me, it was awesome, I loved how he just knew to do that, without coaching.  I loved the break in between, but as they got stronger I began to say, “no, no, no, no, no” as each one rose inside me.  R was amazing, she’d say, “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” over the top of my nos, and although at the time I was kind of annoyed thinking, “but why would I say yes to this pain?”, it was exactly what I needed to hear, although I don’t think it had enough impact to make a difference to my mindset.

At one point during the afternoon I felt R come up next to me, and she said that my waters had been broken for however many hours now – 24 or 48 or something – and given the GBS risk we really needed to think about transfer to hospital for antibiotics.  She talked as though I could just cruise over to the hospital, have IV antibiotics, and cruise on back home to give birth.  The idea of even changing position in the pool seemed so hard, let alone getting out, dressed, into a car etc.  But none of that was a consideration as I knew there was no way in hell I was having antibiotics.  I’d read up on GBS and the whole thing: antibiotics would give me thrush, potentially give the baby thrush, and I’d also end up with it on my nipples.  In addition, I couldn’t comprehend how something that kills bacteria provides an environment for other bacteria (ie. thrush) to grow – how effective could it be in killing the GBS?  I also truly believe that I naturally have lots of bacteria in my vagina, it’s how I am and I don’t want to muck about with it.  I didn’t want to compromise the baby’s exposure to that birth canal bacteria and in turn inhibit the formation of healthy gut flora, and I just didn’t want my baby to have antibiotics, ever, especially when the risk of toxaemia from GBS is something like 1 in 1000.  So I held strong and said, “no way in hell”.  R was genuinely concerned, and I heard her ring another midwife, and then Randwick hospital.  S told me later that the hospital had said something that reassured R and she relaxed a bit then.  She also said she had questioned R as to the risks etc and didn’t think her answer was very certain. I also heard R take Mr C aside and ask his opinion.  I couldn’t hear what his response was but he later told me he’d said he wants a happy baby and happy mummy, and transferring to hospital might achieve the first but definitely won’t the second, so he is sticking by what I want.

Again R came to me and mentioned the transfer and at that point I was thinking transfer myself, but not for GBS, that didn’t concern me in the slightest.  I was thinking about drugs.  The pain was all-consuming, and it felt like I wasn’t getting breaks between contractions any more.  It wasn’t that the contractions were back-to-back, they stayed pretty much 3-4 minutes apart the whole labour, but I was getting other pain, in the front of my pelvis.  I questioned R as to whether I needed to transfer because the baby wouldn’t come out and I couldn’t handle the pain, and she said so firmly: “Oh of course you can birth this baby here, there’s no doubt about that, you can absolutely do it.”  I was a bit annoyed; I’d wanted a way out.  Not that I wanted to transfer, but that I wanted an excuse, I wanted someone to tell me my escape from the pain was justified, that I didn’t have to go through it, that somehow there was a way to get my baby without going through that pain.

All sorts of crazy thoughts began to cross my mind.  I had to get a break from the pain.  How would I get drugs?  If I were in the hospital, that’d be no problem, but no, transfer was not an option, too hard and too many other obstacles to fight off.  What about pain killers in the house?  We had that Advil from America and that other Alieve stuff that Mr C takes when he’s massively hung over.  Perhaps I could just take lots of that.  It was just in the cupboard in the kitchen.  I pictured it.  I wondered how I’d ask, how I’d get it, because I knew people might not take me seriously.

It was around this time that Mr C had, I think, gone for a short walk, just to take a breather.  I was roaring through contractions, one after another, and R was reminding me to keep noises low and guttural.  I’d done no prenatal classes of any sort, and I’d found a lot of the birth preparation things I’d read, especially Birthing From Within, frustrating and ‘not me’.  There were questions in there like, ‘what are your fears about birth?’  I’d read that and think, nothing, I’m not afraid, whatever happens happens.  I’d go through the lists of common fears like a check list and think, nope, that’s not an issue, nope, not afraid of tearing etc etc…  I wrote it all off.  I couldn’t bring myself to do any of the affirmations or birth art or mental preparation.  Ironically, R had lent me a little book and DVD called 25 Ways To Empower Your Birth and I’d begun to read the little book and asked to keep it another week so I could watch the DVD and do the exercises; that never happened, mainly because I went into labour at 39 weeks.  Perhaps this was for a reason.

There was complacency in the room.  It was beginning to get darker, or at least it felt that way.  I sensed that everyone had retreated, sort of given up on me, like I was never going to get there, like there was nothing more they could do for me and I wasn’t cooperating.  I didn’t think I was getting anywhere either.  I was despairing.  But apparently I never voiced this, although I felt this way for so long.  People had left the room.  I’d occasionally open my eyes and see someone, perhaps S sitting in the rocking chair in the corner.  I knew J had gone out to the kitchen; it was all a bit too full on.  R miraculously appeared at key moments like a fairy godmother, and regularly checked the heart rate which remained strong and steady.  She’d check my temperature, which never really varied.  I was aware of candles being lit, scented oils burning, and I was being fed water by whoever was next to me.

Continued in Part 2