The birth story of my second baby: part 2

Part 1 of this story is here, in case you missed it.

Saturday 23rd August. There was rugby on tv for some reason, as Mr C was cooking dinner, and I felt what I was pretty sure was a contraction. I didn’t have my phone handy to check the time, so I just looked at the time on the clock on tv – 6:30pm. A while later, as we sat down to dinner, I felt the same twinge and looked at the clock on the radio – 6:51pm. 20 minutes. That’s prelabour. We ate one of Mr C’s hearty meals – I think it was stir fry – and the Dude went off to sleep as usual about 7:30 or so. I sat uncomfortably on the couch and downloaded a contraction timing app. When Mr C came back downstairs I told him I was pretty sure contractions were coming regularly and he said I should call the midwife. So about 8:30pm I let her know something was happening and she was glad as we’d already had a discussion about the amount of time hospital would allow to lapse between membrane rupture and birth of baby and the need for antibiotics and neither of us wanted to have to deal with any of that. I wouldn’t have them of course, but it added an element of doom and gloom, just having the discussion, and made me regret again having had that stupid GBS swab back in my first pregnancy. Anyway, my midwife suggested getting to bed as early as possible to try to get some rest before things ramped up, as they are wont to do overnight, and I of course agreed but knew the chances were slim as I’m such a night person.

We watched something on tv, no idea what, and then Mr C kept badgering me about the pool: “Now should I get this pool up or what? I don’t want to be doing it at 2am!” And I kept saying, “yeah, I don’t know, like, I’m definitely having contractions but, yeah, I don’t know, whatever…” Typically vague! Eventually I said okay, blow it up, and he didn’t need to be asked twice. As he moved some furniture around and got the pump out, he kept saying to me, “go upstairs, get some rest, I’ll finish this.” And I kept saying, “okay, yep, after the next contraction I will…” Anyway, I had a few spoonfuls of yoghurt in case this really was ‘it’ and I needed the extra energy, and ended up finally going upstairs at some point around 10:30pm I think. It was bizarre swinging my hips through a contraction as I brushed my teeth but not painful, just weird. Those early sensations are the best, not painful but strong enough to know they’re doing some good work!

I finally lay down, probably past 11pm at this point I’d say, and started reading stuff on my phone, my usual bedtime wind down routine. Ridiculous, as I needed the rest now more than ever, but that’s me. Contractions were becoming pretty uncomfortable and lying down wasn’t helping, although I was tired. I turned off my phone and tried to sleep, and I think I did manage to drift off, but the sensations just got stronger and stronger and less and less bearable. I tried to relax into them and visualise opening and softening and all those good things. I thought about the hypnobirthing idea that labour needn’t be painful and that the pain is a man-made thing. I wondered how this could be the case as the pain got more and more intense and I found it nearly unbearable to continue lying down. The Dude got up and climbed into our bed, which he does most nights at the moment. I finally couldn’t stand to have another contraction lying down so I took my phone, got some clothes on, and went into his room. I couldn’t lie on the bed so I leant over it, kneeling on the ground, trying to rest between sensations. I had maybe three or four like that but I just wasn’t comfortable and I realised I probably wasn’t going to get any more rest, this was it. By this point it was probably about midnight or 12:30ish. I went downstairs. I knew Mr C would hear me and come down when he could once the Dude was back asleep. I kept timing the contractions and some were getting to be really close, five minutes apart and lasting about 45 seconds. I realised I had no idea when I would be deemed to be in active labour, and therefore when I should call the midwife. Between sensations I turned the water on, as Mr C had hooked the hose up before coming to bed, and got the pool filling. There was something really awesome about being in labour by myself, just kind of pottering about in the dark of night, stopping to lean over a bench or the back of the couch every few minutes.

Mr C came down I think about 1am and busied himself putting candles around the room. There came a point, I don’t really know when, but soon thereafter, when he just instinctively came over and massaged my lower back as I had a contraction. I got him to press down on my hips and it really helped sort of diffuse the pain. I finally understood what this term ‘applying counter pressure’ meant. He immediately asked if I’d called the midwife and I said no, so he said I think you should and asked me when we are supposed to, like how far apart the contractions should be. It was then that I admitted I had no freaking idea! There were some coming three minutes apart and they were sometimes starting to last a good minute or more. I called our midwife at 1:45am, or rather, I got Mr C to call her, and she asked to speak to me, of course, to see just how full on things really were. I was able to speak, and in fact I remember sort of taking a break to speak to her, like putting the labour on hold for a few minutes while I concentrated on the conversation. I think she and the other two midwives must have arrived about 2:15 or so, not really sure, but by that point I was in the pool and screaming the house down, needing Mr C to lean over and press on my lower back in a really awkward (for him!) way. Thinking back now, I wasn’t at all concerned about the midwives not making it. I think I would have managed just fine if they hadn’t. Anyway, I had this idea that I should try to remain upright in the pool if I could, so I was on my knees leaning over the edge. I wanted to be in the position that would get this baby moving down as quickly and efficiently as possible and this was it, although it was really uncomfortable as I’d have to pull myself up every time a contraction came and I felt my hips coming out of the water which meant I wasn’t getting the benefit of it during the time I needed it and I felt someone, probably the midwife, pushing my pelvis slightly further down so it was submerged, which I knew was important as if baby were to emerge it needs to be totally under the water as the first contact with air will stimulate breathing.

I eventually changed to lying semi-reclining, as I did during the Dude’s birth, although I didn’t sit on the blow up ‘seat’ part, just on the floor of the pool. I liked this because it was deeper, but I didn’t realise until the next day that I’d totally bruised my lower spine doing that as the floor of the pool wasn’t remaining inflated so I was pressing on the floor beneath. The contractions were insanely intense, beyond anything I could ever imagine! I thought later how ironic it was that I’d been so adamant that the pain wasn’t an issue for me, I wasn’t afraid of it and could handle any level of pain, no problem. I wasn’t handling this pain, or at least, I was simply withstanding it and screaming at it and hating it and feeling like it was too much for me. I did ‘handle’ it, in that I managed to get through it, but my god, it was just so far beyond anything I thought could be possible. I wasn’t going to pass out or anything, I just wanted to escape it. I remember when I was still in the upright position I just screamed and kicked my legs and said ‘no, no, no!’ which as I recall was similar to what I did pre pushing stage with the Dude. And the midwives, as my first midwife had done, said, ‘yes, yes, yes’ in response. I knew in my head I had to accept it and I forced myself to visualise opening and relaxing but there were moments at the height of the contraction where I just tried to run from it. It sounds weird, running from something happening inside your own body, but it’s what I did, or tried to do. I kept beginning to say, “I don’t think I can do this…”, shaking my head, and at one point I threw up all over the edge of the pool. I had my eyes closed but I imagined the knowing smiles on the faces of the midwives; aah, transition. I thought a few times about transferring for pain relief, like I wasn’t totally sure I could withstand the intensity. Mr C said later he knew I was thinking about that. Neither of us ever voiced it during labour though and the midwives had no idea that’s what I was thinking.

I felt a shift in the atmosphere and I knew the Dude had woken up and come downstairs. It was about 3am by this point, and I was really in the thick of it, needing Mr C for every contraction, reaching behind to grab his arms as I withstood another wave of intensity and hoped for the ‘pushy’ feeling. Dude wasn’t upset or afraid or even vaguely concerned. I heard him laughing at various points, being read stories, commenting on things, like an old hand, like watching your mum give birth in a pool in your living room in the middle of the night was an everyday occurrence. The funny thing is, a week or so after the birth, I was sitting on the couch with him, which I don’t think had happened before as I was on strict bed rest upstairs, and I asked if I could get up and do something and he said, no, not yet mummy, and grabbed onto my arm. He just wanted me to hold him. So I whispered to him: “Did you miss mummy when I had a baby?” And he must have misunderstood what I was asking because he said: “Yes, mummy, I was really super scared when you having a baby. I was scared you were so loud.” So even though he hadn’t shown it, he obviously was afraid during the birth, and understandably so as I was incredibly loud, much louder than during his birth. I explained that sometimes it takes a really loud noise to get a baby to come out and he didn’t demand anything further and soon let me get up and do what I needed to do.

As I began to get closer to crowning and my body gave those pushes as it had the last time, my midwife bent down and spoke to me about how I should try to go easy during crowning, take it slow, let my body do the work, don’t crazily push hard. I guessed it was because she didn’t want me to tear, but I just said, “I didn’t do that last time”. I wasn’t in the mood to take anything slow at this point, I just wanted the baby out as quickly as possible! I heard what she said and took it on board but I was thinking, screw that, I want this over with! I began pushing on top of the contractions, and I did actually feel baby moving down this time. As I got closer I felt her moving inside me, a really weird and frankly not nice feeling. But I knew it had to happen. As before, I felt like my pushes weren’t doing much and I was pushing against that brick wall again. This time I actually reached down a few times to feel what was happening which was a bit of a mistake as despite the optimistic words and noises of the birth team, my vagina felt exactly as it always does. I couldn’t feel a head or indeed any kind of stretching. Massive disappointment. I questioned just how much longer I could do this, as every contraction was hell but as I began to push on top of them it felt marginally better, like I was getting some relief. I tried my best to keep my sounds low and guttural but it just wasn’t possible all the time, I literally screamed the house down, sometimes sounding like a murder victim from some tacky horror film. Not good birthing noises. But that’s what I did.

I finally felt something when I reached down, although again I was disappointed as it just felt squishy, no hard head, no stretched bits. The midwives had already announced they could see the head and asked for the mirror I was apparently supposed to have in my box of birth stuff. I was like, “oh no, I didn’t get it as I don’t want to see,” and they said, “yes, but it’s for us to see!” Anyway, they of course had one and I think perhaps Mr C got to see things stretching that way, although I didn’t have my eyes open so I have no idea really. I think I opened my eyes maybe twice from the moment the midwives arrived to when she was born. Towards these latter moments I began making this sort of mooing sound between contractions, kind of like keeping the momentum flowing or something. I could hear myself and was thinking, what a bloody awful sound for everyone to have to listen to, but it was working to keep me going so I went with it.

The head was doing what the Dude’s head did, starting to crown and then going back in again. I think it probably happened about three or four times before I managed to hold it there while I breathed between contractions and then I pushed like crazy and out she came. I think I heard the midwife begin to say I should take a breather and bring out the body on the next contraction but I don’t think I did that, I just needed her out!

“And welcome back, Kat,” said my midwife as her body emerged and I immediately snapped out of birthing and back into consciousness again. I felt how quickly it happened, I didn’t lie back and rest or anything, I just reached for my baby and as before helped the midwife unwind the cord which I think was a couple of times around her neck, I can’t remember. She had the same Apgars as the Dude, 9 and 9, and she began crying, clearing out all the fluid and mucus. I can’t express the sense of relief I had at getting that baby out. 4:25am, so more or less a five-hour labour, three hours active really. So fast! Thank goodness! Within minutes of beginning to breathe, she began sucking on her hands and rooting around for the breast. This little girl had a perfectly round little head, no cone head moulding like the poor Dude had after his spinning around during labour. She was going to be a happier baby.

I glanced into the water in front of me and saw this sudden cloud of red blood billowing out around me. I wondered if it would have been a gush, had I been on land. The midwives were keeping an eye on things and certainly hadn’t missed the loss of blood. We had a few minutes of oohing and aahing and kissing and smiling and coughing and spluttering from baby before my midwife suggested I get out of the pool as she didn’t like the look of the amount of blood I was losing while waiting for the placenta. I had a couple of mild contractions in the pool I think, and I was soon out and lying on the couch. I just let my midwives get on with things and look after my bleeding as I couldn’t feel it and didn’t feel any different at that point. It wasn’t long before the placenta arrived, perhaps 20 minutes or so, much faster than the hour it took for the Dude’s to come out. I guess perhaps my body knew it had no time to waste and I couldn’t afford to lose much more blood. Dude and Mr C cut the cord together which was kind of cool, although I’m sure Dude just liked the idea of getting to use scissors!

My midwife told me that as soon as the placenta emerged, the bleeding stopped, which is just what should happen of course. But overall I’d lost in the region of 800ml, which, when you consider I lost only 400 last time and anything over 500 is considered a haemorrhage, it certainly wasn’t anything to write off. I knew I’d be okay of course, but still, it’s a little disconcerting realising you’ve suddenly lost almost a quarter of the blood in your body! I knew I was pale and beginning to feel a bit odd, although I wasn’t dizzy or anything and there was no chance of fainting. I did feel a bit out of it though, and found it hard to concentrate on what my midwife was saying for a while there. The crazy thing was that no one offered me food, and I didn’t think to ask as I was out of it and concentrating on baby and what was happening moment by moment. Eventually, when baby had fed well and passed out happily, and my midwife checked to see about tears. She mentioned she’d seen my scar tissue stretch when the head emerged, but I was puzzled. “What scar tissue?” I asked. “Oh, you know, where you tore last time,” she said. But as far as I was aware I had no tears or grazes last time. When she checked she could see the ‘old’ scar and after initially declaring no tearing, she looked again and discovered a first degree tear and labial graze. I realised that I must have torn last time but it wasn’t picked up. I was pleasantly surprised that even my first wee wasn’t really that painful, nowhere near what it was the last time when I had to get in the shower every time I needed to go to the toilet. Apart from that funny feeling of having no muscles in your general pubic area, I felt really good physically. But I was pretty depleted. I eventually got someone to make me some Vegemite toast (without butter, what the hell?!) and drank juice and despite a bit of hesitation from the midwives, I decided I could make it up the stairs to bed. It was a slow ascent and I was shocked by how short of breath I was – my first real experience of iron deficiency I think.

But it was done. She was here. 24 August 2014, 4:25am. 3.935kg, 54cm. Clementine Elizabeth. Or ‘Mole’, as we’ve dubbed her, due to her distinct lack of hair on her little round head and her snuffly head bobbing as she roots around for boobie. I love her. I finally understand how it is to feel that strong bond with your baby instantly, to love breastfeeding, despite oversupply and engorgement and vomit and poo and night waking. I definitely don’t want to have any more children at this stage, I’m grateful to have these two, a boy and girl, and I just can’t wait to see who she becomes.

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First feed soon after birth

The birth story of my second baby: part 1

I’m publishing this in two parts because it’s hellishly long, as most stuff I write is, and I wanted to split it into the ‘build up’ and the ‘real deal’.

I’d been fairly casual about the planning for this birth, in typical fashion. There was no question I’d be having the baby at home, as I did the Dude, and although we’d only recently moved to Melbourne, I’d made it my business to get an independent midwife sorted out quickly. I ended up swapping to a different midwifery practice at 32 weeks as the midwife who was meant to be my primary announced she was stopping practice and while she could still come to my birth, all pre and post natal care would need to be handed to another midwife at the practice. I’d already been less than satisfied with a few other goings on at that practice, being asked odd questions and having to have appointments with different midwives when really I just wanted one-on-one care, so I decided to swap to the midwife I’d originally met back when I was about 14 weeks.

I felt well, better than I had with the Dude, and it was only at about 38 weeks that I noticed a bit of swelling round my ankles which didn’t surprise me as I’d had it for the whole third trimester in my first pregnancy and I’d been under a bit of stress, trying to get things done before baby arrived and forgetting to take my supplements. I was starting to feel heavy, and baby felt very low and dug into my cervix regularly. But I had no Braxton Hicks that I could feel and I began to think about when this baby might arrive. Previously, my water had broken on the dot of 39 weeks, at about 1:30am, and then I had no contractions for 28 hours. I’d always considered this to be partly the way my body worked (my mum had the same thing with me) and partly because my boy was so keen to come. I expected this second labour to be faster and a bit more ‘normal’, not your typical long first labour which mine was, more or less, apart from the premature membrane rupture.

As things started to wind down and we did our dry run with the birth pool, I realised I really needed this baby to wait a bit longer than 39 weeks. Dude had come down with a really nasty virus that was turning into a horrible cough and just going on and on, so I was looking after him and not even thinking about giving birth. It just so happened that Mr Chewbacca’s contract at work was due to finish on 29 August (four days after 40 weeks for me), the third intern midwife who I’d invited to the birth to help with the Dude was going to be away between 25 and 30 August, and my favourite ABA group meeting was scheduled for 27 August. I wrote all these things on the calender and suddenly realised I was pretty sure this baby would wait until after the 30th to be born. I was predicting either the 31st or 1st September. I even wrote a post about it on one of the online groups I’m regularly on, the morning of 22 August:

A question about timing and mummy instinct: much of this pregnancy I’ve thought there’s a good chance baby will come at 39 weeks like my first. But just in the last couple of weeks I’ve come to this realisation that baby will wait until we are ready. There are a few things happening that would mean baby arriving any time in the next week would be a bit inconvenient – husband’s contract at work finishes on the 29th, toddler is still recovering from a bad bout of the flu, extra assisting midwife isn’t available until after the 30th…
Now at 39 weeks (depending on the calculation my guess date is somewhere between 25 and 28 Aug), I have this strong feeling that baby will stay put and most likely arrive about the 31st/1st. Aside from a hard head pressing on my pubic bones and cervix, I’m really not feeling uncomfortable or over it, not wanting to ‘make’ anything happen, but I was more wondering about this sudden confidence I have about when baby will arrive. Has anyone got any stories to share about ‘knowing’ when baby will come? It feels so at odds with my logical understanding that babies come when ready and I have no real say in it, more just about practising surrender and faith. But I feel so clear about this, I just know baby is waiting until we’re ready, husband can focus on us, toddler doesn’t need me 24/7… Thoughts?? I’d love anyone’s stories around this.

And then the next morning:

Well. So much for ‘knowing’ bub is staying put for another week! I woke about 1:30am after some fitful dreams (refusing to wake up I think!) about my membranes rupturing but trying to deny it, only to feel a ‘leak’! I got up to go to the toilet, felt more wet, soaked through my pyjama pants… The ol’ bladder can be a bit dodgy these days but I’m pretty sure it was amniotic fluid. I shoved a bunch of toilet paper in a new pair of undies, lay back down, realised I was an idiot not to use one of the many maternity pads on hand (conventionally located all the way downstairs of course) and I felt shaky, massive adrenaline, exactly like my first labour. Got a pad, took some emergency essence, back into bed. Oh no, I didn’t want her to come yet, just one more week please! Felt some ‘tightenings’, eventually drifted back off to sleep after explaining what was possibly happening to husband, who’d been getting our three year old back to sleep while I leaked… Nothing happening this morning, again, same as last time… Am I going to have a baby tonight?!

Thinking back now, I realise there was no way baby was waiting. Although the membrane rupture was not a big gush like the first time, it was clear it was a leak and I was getting ready to have a baby. Mr C and I just looked at each other in disbelief: now, really?! And then he said something to seal the deal: “Well, if she’s going to come, she better come TONIGHT or stay in for another week!” I didn’t say anything because I was still in denial but I knew that he’d just given our girl permission to come on out. We randomly decided that if this was going to be ‘it’, we should do something productive. And you can’t get much more productive than going to a shopping centre and buying an electric kettle! We ate a big meal at Schnitz, followed by icecream, and spent an hour with Dude in the Target play area. I had to walk so slowly, leaking the whole time, it was almost comical actually. Last time I hadn’t had this heavy head in my pelvis as Dude began labour in a breech position and turned sometime during the 38 hours of contractions that followed, so I’d been a lot more comfortable walking around.

We got home mid afternoon sometime and I just wanted to rest. We tested out our new kettle only to decide immediately to return it as it beeped really loudly. I began to get emotional. Our neighbours began to play their usual loud Arabic-style music which has this throbbing, incessant beat, and I began to feel desperate. This was my worst nightmare. I tried to hold back tears as I sat on the couch with the Dude. I felt what I thought might have been a contraction but wasn’t sure. What do contractions feel like again? Period pain? But I don’t get period pain. I felt this internal dilemma, like I knew I needed to accept that this baby was coming but I just couldn’t bring myself to that point yet, nothing was going right. I cried in Mr C’s arms, in the Dude’s arms. “It’s okay mummy, don’t cry,” he said, and patted my head.

To be continued…

 

 

Winding down to labour

It’s been a while, over a month in fact, since I’ve posted. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to or had nothing to say; the opposite is true in fact. I’ve had lots to say! And some of it not appropriate for this forum, not yet anyway. But I feel I need to post just for my own record-keeping about this pregnancy as it’s coming to the end now and I’ve barely documented anything about it.

A second pregnancy feels quite different from a first. Physically, the main difference is that this baby has been very confidently head down from about 30 weeks, unlike the Dude who was flipping and spinning right up until he emerged. So that’s interesting, dull aching pelvic bones and this sort of stiffness akin to having done a two-hour intensive gym workout after a period of dormancy. The other physical aspect is that my general health has been quite different this time round, much better in a lot of ways I think. It’s weird because I’m three years older, I’m fatter, I get less good quality sleep and do less physical activity. But this time round I’ve had no swollen ankles, which I had from about 23 weeks last time. I’ve been taking spirulina throughout this pregnancy and I think that’s helped maintain my health this time round as I discovered it only at the end last time and I remember what a big difference it made when I started taking it, even just to my energy levels. I’m also taking cod liver oil and my b vitamin which I’m not totally happy about relying on but it really does help me feel energised and stops me getting sick or run down. I don’t take prenatal vitamins as a rule as I think supplementing with real ‘foods’ is much better and synthetic vitamins have their place but it’s better to get your nutrition from real food supplements or better yet, just real food. I struggle to do the latter as both Mr Chewbacca and the Dude aren’t big salad eaters so my food choices put me in the minority.

I’ve had lots of movement throughout the second half of this pregnancy, which has surprised me to be honest as I thought the Dude was an unusually busy baby in utero but this one is just as active. I think having had a hard head pressing on my pelvis and cervix for the past few weeks makes it particularly uncomfortable. I find sitting for long periods really uncomfortable and baby just hates it, wriggles and stretches until I stand up or sit in a higher, more upright position.

The other bizarre thing happening is that apparently I’m still producing breastmilk. I can’t be sure, and I’m beginning to think it’s changed to colostrum now, but there’s definitely something coming out as the Dude has been having boobie most days recently and I can hear him swallowing and guzzling for ages. I tried to express some in the shower the other day and being completely inept at expressing didn’t really get much out but what I saw looked to be very watery, not thick white milk. I have to just go with the flow on this one, as I’m sort of in no man’s land given that most other women I know who’ve fed through pregnancy have had their milk disappear at some point before the new baby arrives. I know I’m super awesomely efficient at producing milk but it’s just getting a bit ridiculous! Although I was grateful for it recently as the Dude came down with a cold and was really miserable so boobie sorted that out easily. I just wish he wasn’t so obsessed with my boobs! He has recently taken to demanding he showers with me every morning, which is fine, I know he’ll get sick of it eventually, and it means he actually gets clean without me having to put much effort in. But I just can’t be topless and within his reach! He immediately grabs at my breasts and says, ‘that your boobies!’ very excitedly. Then when I tell him to stop he’s like, ‘no mummy, I just have to count: one, two!’ He has to count them. Sometimes he counts to three or four or five.  It’s funny but when I’m bending down to dry him off it’s just impossible to avoid his grabbing at me. I don’t think he realises they’re not his to grab. Anyway, he’s not stopping feeding any time soon and I’m really not sure how I feel about that. I certainly never planned to tandem feed and the thought of it is a little difficult to come to terms with, but I will see what happens.

I’m publishing this post as is, although I hadn’t finished it. It was written on 16 August and I’d been meaning to come back and finish it but just never did. And then I had a baby. So time to give another update…

Learning how to really relax: birth preparation

I always thought I was great at relaxing. I’m super lazy, always keen to sit down and watch tv or read or play on my phone. Since becoming pregnant again, I have been thinking about how important relaxation is, particularly during labour. It’s about more than just sitting around doing nothing; it’s a conscious practice that could mean the difference between a purely physiological labour and a need for intervention.

When I was pregnant with the Dude, I had grand plans for doing yoga classes. I thought fairly superficially about it, with an aim to keep flexibility in my body and stretch out sore muscles. I never actually did a prenatal yoga class. For some reason I thought I could just manage by reading a whole bunch of, albeit great, books about natural birth and avoiding intervention. It wasn’t actually birth preparation at all, it was more just education on birth, physiology, biology and history. The only real birth preparation book I read was Birthing From Within by Pam England. I hated it. It was all about finding strategies to work through fears or worries leading up to birth, and ways of shedding baggage brought on by trauma experienced in previous births. I didn’t identify with any of it, and found the strategies around ‘birth art’ and the like to be a bit ridiculous; definitely not suitable for me. I felt like I had no fears at all. I wasn’t afraid of the pain, of tearing, of not being able to give birth. I guess I was afraid of ending up in hospital, although I felt the chances of that were so remote that it wasn’t much of a fear.

So I did no real birth prep. I knew about Hypnobirthing but I didn’t do it. I thought I could switch my brain off. Years ago I used to have problems falling asleep, calming and slowing my mind so as to be able to go to sleep, but over the years I developed ways of telling my self to relax and switch off and falling asleep wasn’t such an issue any more. This is what I thought I’d do during labour. How incredibly wrong I was! Not only could I not calm myself, it wasn’t my racing brain that got in the way, I was completely unable to relax and accept the contractions. I hated them. Of course it didn’t help that for most of my labour I had terrible pain around my waist in between the contractions so I had no opportunity to relax when a contraction subsided. To put it bluntly, it hurt like fuck! And when those pains subsided as the Dude most likely made his way right down into the birth canal? They were replaced with pain in my groin, in my uterus itself. It was like a muscle cramp. The uterus fatiguing, needing a break, after contracting every six to three minutes for 38 hours. The ‘ring of fire’ that so many women talk about was not apparent to me. In fact the crowning was the most comfortable, easy part of the entire labour for me. There was a bit of stinging at the front but not even the tiniest twinge in the perineal area.

Anyway, this time around I promised myself I would take a different approach. As I debriefed from the Dude’s birth, I began to create a small ‘to do next time’ list in my head:

  • hypnobirthing
  • birth ball
  • yoga
  • re-read Birthing From Within

At 22 weeks, the only one of those things I’ve addressed is the yoga. About seven weeks ago I began doing  a class at Kundalini House, run by a lovely and knowledgeable doula and apparent Melbourne birth aficionado, Nina Isabella. I’ve never been too fussed about doulas, to be honest. I think they do a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong, but hiring one is not something I’ve ever considered beneficial to me. I am not great at relying on anyone, let alone someone I’ve hired. During labour with the Dude, I don’t think anyone gave me a moment’s massage or anything like that. I don’t really even like massages. Or at least I didn’t. I pretty much held on to Mr Chewbacca’s arm and endured the contractions. I’m sure people wiped my forehead and gave me rescue remedy or whatever but that was about it in terms of actual support. And it’s how I wanted it, what suited me at the time.

This pregnancy is a whole different ball game, and now I know I’m having a girl, that goes some way to explaining why I feel so different. I am more aware of my weaknesses this time around and I’m determined to put some strategies in place to address them and get through labour in a more relaxed, evenly-paced way.

I didn’t really know what to expect, going to my first yoga class. Is it just going to be modified yoga or is it more meditation or what? I realised I didn’t even really know what I wanted. Within the first 15 minutes, I found myself crying. I don’t know how well I hid it, perhaps Nina noticed, and perhaps she sees that all the time. But the tears came, the emotion just welled up. I think it was due to not having taken any time out for myself since the Dude’s arrival, not real time. It was this massive release. I spent most of the class dealing with emotion welling up. It was a good class, great movements, nothing strenuous or wrong-feeling, and lots of relaxation. The second class, I cried again, but not so much. It wasn’t until the third class, when I didn’t cry, that I realised I couldn’t really relax. I went again and again to the classes each week, I felt really up and down. Some movements I really got into and some just felt confronting or wrong. I couldn’t grasp the acupressure points the teacher explained to us, couldn’t feel them at all, still can’t, and this was really frustrating. As I ended my sixth class, I suddenly realised I’d properly relaxed for the first time. It was a great feeling! I lay there for the final meditation hearing no sound but the instructor’s voice very faintly in the background. None of the trams thundering past outside, the clip clopping of heels on the floor below, the phone ringing in the background, even registered. And I wasn’t asleep. I was just totally relaxed for the first time, well, ever, I think. What a breakthrough!

My seventh class was not what I was used to due to a last minute change to the instructor, but attending my eighth class this week I found myself slipping back into that state of relaxation almost straight away. I had learnt something! There are still many aspects of the movements that feel frustrating to me, and times when I can’t relax my body and it seems like I should be able to from what the instructor describes, but I think that breakthrough, feeling true relaxation, was profound and a good reason to keep going.

This little girl growing inside me is already leading me places I could never find before. I am shifting mentally in ways I could only wish for previously. Beyond the birth prep, there are two significant and crucial blocks I have been needing to overcome for most of my life and for the first time ever I am poised to actually take action and change. I hate saying I will change because on every other occasion in my life when I’ve said this, I haven’t. But I won’t give up. My baby needs me to be the best I can be, as does the rest of my family. And myself.

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

And it begins…

I was feeling odd yesterday.  Mainly because I hadn’t had any contractions and my waters had broken and all I was doing was leaking everywhere!  I didn’t expect it to be like this.  I spoke to my mum on the phone who told me this is just how her labour began too.  I couldn’t believe it, as I’ve heard her tell my birth story so many times, and yet she’s never mentioned this… or perhaps I’ve never heard it.  I was feeling a bit like the midwife was a bit annoyed at me, like I’d not done things the way she expected or something, I don’t know, all in my own mind probably, I’ve been known to blow things out of proportion…

We had a delicious spaghetti Bolognese, courtesy of Mr C, and watched Inception, almost falling asleep at about 9:30 at night, both so tired.  Went to bed about ten and read for a bit, must have dozed off by 10:30.  I had a really solid sleep which was great, I needed it.  I found myself awake in the early hours, as I have done for the past week or so, and immediately felt a bit annoyed that no contractions seemed to have started.  I had this fantasy about being woken by a strong contraction in the middle of the night – no idea why, that sounds a bit yuk!

I was dozing, and finally looked at the clock and it was 5:59.  Then I felt something.  Definitely a contraction!  Like crampy period pains, not really very painful, quite smooth and wavelike, a deliberate, firm sensation building and then tapering off.  I looked at the clock – 6:05.  Then another of the same – clock says 6:11. And again – 6:17.  And again – 6:23.  Wait a minute, that’s consistently six minutes apart!  Yay!  So I knew I was finally in labour.  I just lay and felt them come and go, timing them, now with the app on my phone.  I didn’t want to wake my husband as he’d been so tired from broken sleep the previous night and a rough game of rugby during the day before, but eventually he woke up about 6:50 and asked sleepily if anything was happening.  It was so nice, feeling the pains coming and going but being snuggled up in bed with him.  We enjoyed that time because we thought maybe this is our last night just the two of us.  We talked again about missing Ben Folds, I’m a bit gutted about that, but it’s just not going to be possible.

Eventually we got up about 7:30 and I was excited to see I’d had a show, and the fluid that had drizzled out during the night was tinged pink.  It was a little distracting getting up and dressed and walking around, I realised the contractions weren’t really that strong because I could sort of miss them if I was talking or doing something.  But what a great feeling to finally be having contractions!  I don’t know why I ever doubted I would, it’s just that I didn’t expect labour to begin like this.

We skyped husband’s mum in the UK to let her know, and had a bit of a chat – I happily timed my contractions throughout, didn’t need to stop chatting.  I made myself porridge and had that outside.  It’s the most beautiful day today in Sydney, very clear blue sky, sun shining, no humidity, just perfect.  I spoke to my mum again, who said she’d make her way down (about a 12 hour drive), and texted my friends who’ll come along when things ramp up.  I spoke to my midwife who was pleased everything seems to be going so well, and she said to take some more vitamin C, go for a walk if I felt like it, and generally just chill out.  She said I might find things will start getting heavier when the sun goes down, so I’ve got the day to just do whatever.

I feel a bit at a loose end actually!  Like I hadn’t really planned anything, because obviously you can’t with childbirth, but yeah, I feel as if I want to DO something, just because I can.  I’m just timing contractions and feeling baby move a bit between them, eating (still crazy hungry) and hanging around at home, waiting for husband to get bored and want to do something.  As soon as he finishes watching his rugby I’m sure that’ll happen…