I was 38 weeks and 1 day, and it was it was 2:30am on the morning of my husband Jeremy’s birthday. I was trying to sleep when my cat, Sparky, crept up to me and purred as I patted her and she snuggled into my tummy. I adjusted my hips slightly and suddenly felt a ‘pop’ inside me. I jumped out of bed and, sure enough, felt the liquid that meant my waters had broken.
I stood at the end of the bed, and roused Jeremy. “Sorry, but I think we’ll be having this baby on your birthday,” I said. We had both agreed that this was the only day we didn’t want the baby to come, so Jeremy could still have one day that was just about him! I guess that was the first lesson – babies come when they are ready and he must have been ready!
Jeremy jumped up and found a pad for me. It was only a small amount of fluid, but it was enough for us to think that it might be a bit green. It was very pale and we weren’t really sure. We started getting a few things together and rang my mum at 3am to tell her to start heading down. She lives nearly two hours away and was our ‘plan A’ to care for our two year old, Jasper, in a very complicated list of alternative plans which depended on when and how I went into labour.
Things were very calm for us at home. I hadn’t had any contractions, just the occasional crampy feeling, much like a Braxton Hicks, but nothing I had to concentrate on at all. We left it a little while and rang our midwife, Jo, at about 3:45am. We let her know what had happened and that we thought the fluid may have been green, but we really weren’t sure. She asked us to come in to the hospital and meet her at 5am so she could check the fluid, just in case. We rang our neighbour, Mel, who was also part of ‘plan A’, so she could come and be in the house for Jasper, just until my mum arrived.
Before I left, I had some very, very mild tightening that I wouldn’t even classify as contractions – just a crampy feeling again, without much need to focus on them. I got a little teary with some mixed emotions when we left Jasper at home – his life was about to change in ways he couldn’t imagine and I felt sad for him knowing he would have to adjust to not being the baby of the family any longer, but also excited that he would have a little brother to share his adventures with.
We arrived at the hospital at 5am and walked into the examination room. Jo met us and asked me to lie down on the bed for 20 minutes so she could check if the fluid really was green. As soon as I lay down, the contractions began. They were immediately intense and extremely uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to move around and I really struggled to deal with the intensity of them just lying still.
After 20 minutes Jo checked and confirmed that the waters were green, which indicated they contained meconium, which can mean that the baby may be distressed. She also confirmed that I was 5cm dilated and would be having this baby soon.
I remember finally being able to roll onto my hands and knees and crying into the bed that I wasn’t ready. He was two weeks early and I just didn’t feel ready to deal with what lay ahead in the next hours, and the next months. Jeremy and Jo reassured me that I was ready and the next contraction came, which took all of my focus to deal with.
We agreed to head to a birth suite, but sadly, not the one with the new birth tub. I was meant to be one of the very first women to have a water birth in that hospital’s new purpose made baths, but because of the meconium, I wouldn’t be allowed to get into the water.
I was now having very strong and painful contractions which felt like they were very close together. No-one was timing them, but I could only take a few steps before another one would stop me in my tracks. I required extra monitoring, again because of the meconium, so on arrival at the birth suite I was fitted with a mobile monitor, so thankfully I could still move around. It was a little annoying though, because it wouldn’t stay in the right place, so Jo would have to readjust to make sure it was just the monitor and not a problem with the baby’s heart rate.
I was kneeling over the bed and really struggling with the pain. Jeremy was pressing a heat pack into my lower back, which helped a little, but any breathing I was doing wasn’t helping me at all. I felt like I was trying to escape from the pain in my body rather than breathing through the waves like I did in my first labour.
As per our ‘birth preferences,’ the midwives suggested sterile water injections. This worked almost instantly with my first labour and was well worth the intense stinging as the water was injected. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work at all. On reflection, the pain was very intense and all-encompassing, whereas in my first labour it was very specifically in my back.
We moved into the shower so I could have the hot water run on my back. This offered some relief, but I really wasn’t dealing well with the pain. I think maybe we had been in the hospital just over an hour. I spent some time trying to find a position that I could manage the pain in, but still felt like I was trying to get out of my body and away from the pain.
It was some time when I was in the shower that the baby’s heart rate dropped into the 90’s and stayed low for a while. There was some concern from Jo, but there were no suggestions to make any urgent changes. My waters seemed to break a second time around now – and not just a trickle like I had at home, either!
My body started feeling like I needed to push. Jo checked me and I was at about 8cm with a small lip of cervix. I tried as hard as I could not to push – such a challenge! My body was doing what it wanted to and I had to try with every ounce of my being to go against it. Jo managed to push back my cervix and I was able to work with my body and begin to push my baby out on the birth stool. His head very slowly emerged after only a few pushes. When the next contraction came, I pushed again, with all I had. But, my baby didn’t move. His shoulders were stuck.
The emergency buzzer was pressed and, within seconds, the room was full of people – more midwives, a paediatrician or two, and an obstetrician. It was quite amazing the speed at which they were able to get to me. All this time, I understood that he was stuck and I was watching Jo – her face was one of serious concentration, but certainly not panic, which I am grateful for.
Two midwives moved my legs up and back, into what’s called ‘The McRoberts manoeuvre’, while Jo manipulated the baby slightly, and I pushed with everything I had. Thankfully, this was enough, and out he came, with the cord around his neck. He was placed onto my chest, but I was told not to stroke or rub him (in case he startled and breathed in the meconium which may have been in his mouth). He was very floppy and not breathing or moving. Jo quickly cut the cord, and my baby was taken over to the table. The paediatrician intubated to remove any meconium from his throat, and placed the oxygen mask over his face. Jeremy and I were watching this happen and it felt like hours, but in reality was probably less than a minute. Suddenly Jeremy yelled out “He’s opened his eyes!” and we were both filled with relief as he started to cry. It was just before 7am.
Meanwhile, I had a minor haemorrhage and was given sintocinon to speed up the delivery of the placenta, which was slightly ragged. The bleeding abated and I was able to lie on the bed and my baby was given back to me for a skin to skin time. He was 9lb, 12oz!
I was shaking and felt quite shocked at how fast everything occurred and it probably took a good hour or two before those feelings began to subside and I was able to focus properly on our new son. He had been delivered less than two hours after arriving at hospital and having my first real contraction. What a birthday present for Jeremy! (And quite a surprise for his parents who rang a little later to wish him a happy birthday!)
We stayed in hospital to be monitored, but all was well, so we were able to go home the next day to begin life as a family of four. Three days later, our two year old son Jasper made the decision for us to name him Arlo Thomas.
Although pretty much nothing went according to my birth preferences, I always felt informed, supported and cared for by Jo and the rest of the team who helped to ensure he arrived healthy. I feel so lucky to have had such amazing care, especially in the public hospital system in Australia.
Final Photo by Shannon Langbecker