Before we even started trying for a baby, I was reading birth stories. I’ve always been obsessed with babies and that naturally progressed into an obsession with all things birth. After reading every single birth story that Birth Without Fear had to offer, I came away feeling extremely informed and excited to see how my own birth would play out; but I also got the impression that first births rarely went to plan, so I tried to accept that it probably wouldn’t go the way I hoped – drug and intervention free.
Our blessed birth started right when we got pregnant the first month of trying – shocked! The pregnancy continued on smoothly, and I loved being pregnant. Our biggest complication came when my husband (J) was told that he would be sent on a field exercise (he’s in the Army) in our due month (March). They couldn’t tell us the exact dates, so we couldn’t exactly come up with a plan because we didn’t know when he would go or come home. Eventually, after lots of stress and waiting, and still with no solid dates, we decided that I would fly from where we were posted back to our home town where I could be supported by our family and friends, and J would join me when/if he could. This wasn’t ideal, but a plan had to be made, so at 36 +5 I flew home to Brisbane.
Shortly after I left, we got good news – they would be sending J to meet up with me in Brisbane on the 14th, 3 days before my due date! I thought ‘no problem, I’m sure baby will be late anyways’, and relaxed into waiting for J. Baby had other plans, and now we finally get to the birth story…
I had been having back pain for a few days, but it was constant so I thought it was just gas or something. I went to bed on Sunday (10th) with the back pain bad enough that I had to sit on my knees draped over the back of my bed, but it was still constant. I finally fell asleep but I woke up around 3:00am with the pain and started to notice that it was coming in waves because I was falling asleep between them. I pulled out my phone and started timing contractions around 4:00am – they were about 40 seconds long, every 2-5 minutes. I timed them for about an hour and when I realised that they were relatively consistent I thought ‘oh, shit!’ because we were still 4 days away from J arriving.
I heard my mum’s alarm go off and her get up to get ready for work, so I went to tell her I was having contractions. She also reacted with ‘it’s too early! J isn’t here yet!’. I got in the shower to see if that would stop them, but I had 3 contractions in the 15 minutes I was in the shower. I was still able to talk through them though, so we decided that mum would still go to work and I would wait and see what happened.
At 6:00am, I was still having contractions 40ish seconds long every 2 minutes, so I decided to call J and tell him. I knew it could be a false alarm, but I didn’t want to wait too long, have it turn out to be real, and have him miss it because I was too late calling. I called his Captain, who put him on the phone. I said ‘I’m having contractions every 2 minutes’, J responded with ‘are you serious? I just woke up, give me a second to figure this out’, and hung up (haha, he was a bit shocked). As soon as he hung up, I went to the bathroom and saw I was losing my plug – a good sign, but it could still be false labor. I heard back from J about an hour later and he was already on his way to the airport and would be home at 4:00 that afternoon, so now the pressure was on to make sure this was real!
I sat down and timed contractions while watching How I Met Your Mother. I also called the hospital but the midwife said my contractions needed to be more regular and be coming regardless of my position (they were stopping whenever I sat down). By 10:00am they had really spaced out and were only coming when I was standing, so I began doing laps around the block. They were around 40 seconds to 1 minute every 3-5 minutes while walking, but the second I sat down, they disappeared. I was getting so cranky and really upset that I had called J home for nothing. I continued to walk all day, and even baked muffins, but my contractions stayed the same irregular 40/5. Finally J arrived and took me for another huge walk, had some dinner and watched some TV.
Even though we all knew that these contractions were just the start, my mum, J and I decided to drive to the hospital (30 minutes away) just to establish whether or not they were doing anything. I was starting to have to close my eyes and breathe through the contractions, but the ride to the hospital wasn’t too bad.
When we arrived, around 8:00pm, we went to the admitting area, and a midwife came in to check – I was only 1cm dilated, and still pretty thick. I was disappointed, but not surprised, and I wanted to tell her that we had just come in for a status report because she was looking at me like she thought I was an idiot for coming in so early. She started to ask me when my next antenatal appointment was – next Monday – and I think she was suggesting that I might not pop before then – not happy. She asked if I wanted a panadol, and I said no. She asked what pain relief I was thinking of using in labor and when I said none, she gave me the look I knew well – the ‘oh, you’ll change your mind’ look.
I loved when people gave me that look, it gave me extra motivation. The previous Saturday night my mum and I had gone to a work dinner (I used to work with her, at the hospital I gave birth in – me, admin, her, a nurse), and one of the men had asked when my scheduled C-section was and when I laughed and responded that I wasn’t having one, he said ‘well make sure you get the epidural as soon as possible then’; when I responded with ‘the goal is to do it without drugs’ he gave me that same look – I thought about him frequently throughout my delivery! haha
Anyway, back to the story. We headed home to try and get some sleep. J went straight to sleep because he hadn’t gotten much sleep during the exercise, and I tried, but my contractions were getting more intense, so around midnight I went into the bathroom and filled the tub. The next couple of hours I labored in the tub and on the toilet (toilet contractions were INTENSE). I now had to totally focus during contractions. I pictured the baby’s head pushing down on my cervix – it helped to keep him in my thoughts and to feel like we were doing it together – I love him so much that I would have gone through anything to meet him, so thinking of him helped me stay focused.
I went back to the toilet around 2:00am, and noticed there was bright red blood – the midwife had said to come back if my water broke, the contractions were a minute apart, or there was blood, so I went to wake up J and my mum. The contractions were no more than 3 minutes apart and lasting for about a minute, but I had stopped timing them because they were clearly frequent and intense. We all loaded up and got in the car. At this point I had to vocalise through each contraction, but I tried to keep it low-toned and controlled. I sat in the back seat with my eyes closed, breathing and moaning through contractions while J held my hand from the passenger’s seat and mum drove. On the 30minute drive, I had 8 intense contractions – things were definitely different, but I was so afraid that this was still just the beginning and I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it if it was going to get much worse.
I had another 2 contractions just walking from the front door to the admitting unit, and I had to lean on J and moan through both of them. They took us back to a room, and contractions were pretty much on top of each other. Mum joined us after parking the car, and then the midwife came in (a different one). She watched me have a contraction then asked if she could check. She felt around while I had another contraction and then she said ‘how dilated do you want to be?’, I pretty much cried ‘just enough that you won’t send me home again!’, and she said the greatest words ever; ‘you’re 7cm!’; I could have kissed the woman! She left to get my chart ready to go to delivery suites, and I actually did a celebratory dance! We’d made it to transition!
When she came back, she said the words I needed to hear; ‘you’re handling things beautifully, you are fully in control and I don’t see any reason why you can’t do this drug-free like you wanted’, this put me in the mindset that I could do it!
We moved to the delivery room and met our AMAZING midwife, Anne. I love Anne, even though I didn’t actually really spend any time with her because she left us to it. Besides checking baby’s heart (perfect) every once in a while, she stayed completely in the background. I spent my entire labor with my head buried in J’s chest. I tried a few different things, but the only place I felt in control and like I could handle it was with him. He listened to me breathe, reminded me to breathe in, and helped me regain control every time I began to lose it. There is no way I would have had my amazing birth without him.
Around 5:00am I started to feel a bit pushy and got on the bed on my hands and knees. I started to push down (totally out of my control), and all of a sudden there was a huge pop, gush and release of pressure – my water had broken! So glad I was on the bed, because it would have gone EVERYWHERE had I been standing. Anne suggested I get in the shower to clean up, so I did and it was AMAZING! I had wanted a water birth originally, but the new hospital didn’t allow that, and even though I’d planned on laboring in the shower, I hadn’t had any desire to get in the water once we got to the birth suite – big mistake – it was so nice!
I kept involuntarily pushing in the shower, so Anne asked if she could check me to make sure I actually was fully dilated. This meant getting out of the shower, but I agreed anyway and moved to the bed. There was still a lip, so she tried to hold it back while I pushed; it hurt, but it seemed to do the trick. It must have been around 5:45am by this point, and I was given the ok to start really pushing. I never planned on pushing on my back, but that’s how I ended up feeling most comfortable.
A lot of stories I read said that pushing was the best part, and while I was excited that it was almost over, for me pushing was the part where I started to lose control. It REALLY stung, and I was so afraid of tearing that I held back a bit. J was in my ear trying to keep me in control, Anne was holding my leg and reassuring me that it felt worse than it was and that he was moving down, and mum was holding my other leg, taking pictures and also cheering me on.
I kept asking if they could see his head, and being told not yet. Labor felt like it had only taken an hour (it actually wasn’t that much longer than that), but this felt like it was going forever. Finally they said they could see his head and I asked if he had hair; ‘not as much as we thought’ replied my mum. I reached down and felt his wrinkly little head – amazing. This part is all a bit blurry, but after his head came out, Anne said ‘now reach down and pull your baby up’, I love her for this because I was too overwhelmed to think about doing that in the moment but it was the most amazing thing ever, and my favorite part of the whole experience. I reached down, grabbed him, pulled him to my chest and started totally sobbing.
He cried a little bit, but then just looked around while I continued to sob. I just held him on my skin, and after some time (who knows how long?) Anne showed me that his cord had stopped pulsing, and so J cut his cord. I continued to hold him skin to skin for the next hour/hour and a half and he latched on like a pro, while they delivered the placenta and stitched me up; I would have gotten away unscathed, but Archie decided to punch his arm out as he was crowning and I ended up with a small 2nd degree tear.
After the torture of stitches and fundal massage (the worst part, by far) I asked the midwives to weigh Archie so J could have a hold. I knew he seemed a bit big, but when she announced that he was 8lbs 11oz, I was shocked! I started sobbing all over again because I couldn’t believe I’d given birth to such a chunky boy with no drugs!
My birth was better than I even dreamed it could be. I pictured it so many times, and the reality was actually better than anything I ever imagined. I believe that the calm birth has resulted in a calm baby. We haven’t had any problems breastfeeding, and he had surpassed his birth weight by 4 days old. I am so grateful for my experience because I know how often things don’t go to plan and women struggle with these things. I still can’t believe I got the birth I wanted the first time – it’s the greatest feeling in the world!