This is the final installment of a five-part series about loss and healing. Written by Shannon from Brisbane, AU, this powerful story outlines her experience of three miscarriages followed by the healthy pregnancy and birth of her son, Jasper. Yesterday, we shared her account of early labour; today, you get to read the happy birth story in its entirety!
“We arrived at the hospital just before 10am, where we shuffled our way to admissions and were met by Jo. She performed an internal examination and confirmed that I was five centimetres dilated. She moved us straight to our birth suite. In researching births, I had read that dilation often occurs at around one centimetre per hour. I did some calculations in my head and then tried not to think about dealing with this for another five. Luckily, the focus I needed to deal with the pain meant that I had little time for pessimistic thinking, and was solely focussed on getting through each minute.
In the birth suite, I started out kneeling over the back of the bed. This worked for a while but by this time, the contractions were somewhere around two to three minutes apart and becoming quite intense. Jo suggested we head into the shower. She put a spongey mat down to kneel on, and found a fit ball for me to lie over. Jeremy concentrated on holding the hot water onto my lower back while I continued to moan and kept my eyes closed.
I was feeling the pain across my lower stomach, down my thighs, and quite strongly across my back. Jo asked about the level of pain in my back and since it was so intense, suggested trying sterile water injections. This involves two nurses injecting very small amounts of sterile water just under the skin in four specific places in the lower back area. They administered the injections during a contraction – this is because the sting can be very painful. It felt like a very intense burning sting, but lasted only 30 seconds or so. And, by the next contraction, my back pain had all but disappeared. It was a great relief, and Jeremy then directed the hot water onto my lower abdomen. Around this time, Jo had to leave for some meetings, so my other midwife Karen came in to take over from her.
During this time in the shower, my moans began changing to ‘aaaahs’ midway through a contraction. I asked to try the gas and air, but soon realised that having to suck on the tube meant I couldn’t vocalise, and I NEEDED to make noise to release the pain. During one attempt, I sucked it down and very quickly got dizzy and disoriented. I felt quite strange and disconnected, and there was a huge feeling of pressure coming from somewhere. Suddenly, my waters broke – or more accurately, exploded – just like someone had thrown a water bomb against the wall of the shower behind me.
Karen came to check that they were clear, and asked if I thought I had started pushing. I said that I thought my body had begun – the first time it did, I actually looked down at my belly to try to figure out what was going on. I thought it was far too early to think about pushing. But, only an hour and a half after arriving at the hospital, I really did feel ready to push. The time my noises started changing to ‘aaaahs’ must have been transition.
I moved out of the shower cubicle and onto another larger mat that was placed on the floor, and knelt over the fit ball. I started pushing and squeezing Jeremy’s hands with all my strength. The lights were turned down low, and Karen let me push when I felt the need, and just observed quietly, giving me encouragement.
After about 45 minutes of pushing in this position without much apparent success, Karen suggested we try moving onto the birth stool. Jeremy sat behind me in a chair, and I leant back onto his legs and chest, gripping his hands tightly across my chest with each push.
After some time, Karen said she could see our baby’s head. She suggested we feel it to see just how close we were – it was softer and squishier than I imagined. I continued pushing, with Karen unobtrusively checking the baby’s heartbeat with a doppler after each contraction. His heart rate dropped with each contraction, but quickly resumed its normal pace which Karen assured me was perfectly normal. By this time, she had called Jo back to witness the birth, so there was soothing and gentle encouragement from them both, as well as from Jeremy.
A short time later, Karen said to feel for the baby’s head again, and we could feel a much larger section which was good motivation for me to realise that all this pushing was achieving something, and we were so close to meeting our baby. Karen suggested I close down my throat and try to stop making noise so as to channel all my energy into pushing. This seemed to help because I pushed some more, and with an amazing amount of pressure building, I slowly breathed out our baby’s head.
With the next contraction I pushed again as Karen helped to move the shoulders and the rest of the body out, and she handed him straight to Jeremy who lifted him up onto my chest where we could both see our newborn baby. The time was 1:04pm, after an hour and a half of pushing. This little being was purple, screaming its heart out, and had a very impressive cone-shaped head. After a minute, I announced, “It’s a boy!…Hello Jasper!”
We stared at him for a while longer, admiring his long fingers and huge feet, touching him and looking at each other in amazement that this really did happen. After about five minutes Karen showed us that the cord had stopped pulsing (and he had received all the blood he could get), so Jeremy cut the cord.
I then moved to a more comfortable position on the bed and about 15 minutes later I delivered the placenta without the need for any medical help. We spent the next little while eating, and feeding Jasper, simply gazing in awe at this new little person we had created. After all that heartache and uncertainty, he was really here. And we were really parents.
After an hour, I gave him up to Jeremy for some skin-on-skin contact, and then he was weighed and measured. He was a very healthy 8lbs, 8oz; 55.5cms long; and a head circumference of 38 centimeters!
Four and a half hours after the birth, we left the hospital to go home and start our new life together as a family. We didn’t even get to put Jasper’s name tag on, since we didn’t leave the birth suite!
Jasper’s birth went just as well as we had hoped it would. There is really nothing I would change. I felt powerful and strong and proud, and finally felt like my body did exactly what it was born to do. It took me some time to trust my body in pregnancy and I am so glad I put all the heartache behind me so that I could trust my body in birth.
I love listening to Jeremy telling the story to our friends and family, describing how focussed and calm I was, and how amazing it was to see his child being born into the world in such a beautiful, natural way. I would go through all that sadness and loss again in a heartbeat to experience that birth, and for my beautiful, healthy son.”
Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at langbecker.com.au.