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…