Birthing is an incredibly intense and powerful experience. So intense that our bodies let us forget the pain and focus on the joy of having a child. I want to document my labour experience so that I can remember it all. I want to remember how I was strong and courageous, and did things that I never thought I could do. I have written most of this, with additions from Zac as it really is quite difficult to remember. I have been very descriptive, so please only read this if you are actually interested!
I’d been sleeping a lot. The day before I went into labour, I feel all I did was sleep. I dozed off at every opportunity. The next morning we slept very late and decided to have some exercise. My abdomen was feeling crampy, but I just figured that this was my uterus doing a bit of preparation. As Zac did sprints across the oval, I sat in the sun listening to music and giving my round, white belly a bit of sun exposure. I spent the rest of the afternoon watching TV and dozing.
The crampy feeling continued, but I never felt it was strong enough to mean anything. So, I just kept going – I helped Mum prepare dinner and then Sally and Kanesh came over for dinner and I distracted myself with conversation. When we sat down for dinner, I was uncomfortable and wriggling around in my chair, and getting up to pee on a regular basis, and just wanting to move around. It turns out that my contractions had already started: now I can only describe them as spurts of increasingly intense period pain that came and went.
At that stage I still hadn’t properly timed my contractions since I was just wearing a watch, but I really didn’t feel that they were coming regularly. I got through dinner and dessert, told Mum, Dad, Georgia, Kanesh and Sally that I thought tonight was the night, then Zac and I called the hospital. The lovely midwife on the phone told me to wait at home until my contractions were regular. She also recommended that I take a couple of panadol and have a lie down, and that there was probably nothing to worry about just yet. She also said, as I’d read in many of my books, that you can’t have a conversation through an intense contraction, and that because I was still talking, I probably was in my very early stages. I hung up the phone, pulled out my ipod (with a fancy ‘contraction timing’ app!!), and started up the timer. Sitting down to watch some masterchef and watching the clock, I started to feel slightly nervous – they were pretty much coming 3 minutes apart, although they still were pretty light. I asked Zac to run me a bath and I hopped in. He sipped on a scotch and seemed to be constantly pressing the start/stop button for me, which goes to show that the contractions were definitely less than three minutes apart and lasting around one minute each. ‘Where’s the writhing pain?’ I thought. ‘If these are contractions, giving birth is gonna be a walk in the park’. (Actually, that’s not what I thought at all, but rather what Zac was desperately hoping!!). At around 10.30, things were getting a bit more intense so we decided to go to the hospital and try our luck. At the back of my mind, I was sure that we’d get turned away (they only accept patients when dilation has reached 3cm) because of what the midwife had said on the phone. But, hey, what have we got to lose? Zac finished packing the hospital bag, complete with loads of munchies for a 40 hour labour. Then, at my request, he shaved off his “striking” moustache – I wasn’t leaving the house until it was gone.
Mum drove us to the hospital, and the midwife checked me. I was at 5cm already! Woohoo! Half way! It’s gonna be a walk in the park! (Zac again). At 11.50pm we moved into birthing room 16, which luckily had a bathtub.
The contractions slowly got more and more intense from here on. I tried a variety of positions, mostly all standing, and often needing to lean on Zac for support. Zac was apparently in ‘quite a lot of pain’ from sprinting up and down the oval earlier in the afternoon, but he was sane enough not to say anything. For once, he knew when to keep his mouth closed. I also tried sitting on the ball and leaning on the bed to ease the pain, but it was so hard to get comfortable. Also, I was lead to believe from the books that contractions came and went quite clearly, and that I was supposed to use the time in between each contraction to rest and conserve my energy. However, it reality, it pretty well seemed that 95% of my time was spent contracting, and I was only given a few seconds here and there to ‘rest’, which wasn’t entirely helpful. Stupid books.
I then got into the bath. The warm water felt so good, and it really took the edge off the pain. My contractions were lasting 60-90 seconds, and sometimes I had 7 in 10 minutes. Just take a second to do the maths on that: I maybe had 30 seconds of respite every 10 minutes! My memory of this is feeling like a snake, writhing around and wriggling, whilst hanging onto Zac’s hand for dear life. I was doing everything I could to keep my sanity (Zac: very successfully! This woman is a trooper! Every seen a fish that’s just been caught, and then placed on the jetty, and it bounces round in pain, pretty sure that it’s gonna die in the next 30 seconds? Yeah. That’s what Sof looked like. And not one word of complaint). Lorraine (our midwife) and Ashley (our student midwife) gently palped my contractions and dopplered me as necessary. At 3.20, I firmly declared that I had to get out of the bath. I just knew that I didn’t want to be in there anymore, and that I was in some serious pain, and scrambling around a bath like a eel with a nail through its tail wasn’t helping anyone, or my pain.
I had to get on the bed for my next examination. The contractions were pretty much constant at this stage, and I had to wait for what seemed like a lifetime (but what in reality was probably only about 10 minutes) for a break until Lorraine could finally check my dilation progress. It was only at 7cm. Bugger. Double bugger. A relatively smooth time at home at got me to 5, and in the last few hours of insanity had only managed to grow an extra 2. Anyway, Lorraine suggested that she break my waters to speed up the process and give me a little relief. I remember that I wanted to think through the decision, but it was really hard to bring my decision-making to the forefront of my mind. When I finally brought it to my consciousness, I went with yes. Lorraine was a little hesitant, because she didn’t want to feel that she’d forced me into anything. But Zac confirmed with her that, yes, it was indeed a confident decision. However, I had to painfully get through another lifetime (10 minutes) of contractions until there was actually a long enough break to put this long crochet hook inside me and rupture the membrane! They were coming thick and fast. And intensely. And then I swore for the first time (and the profanity actually came out between contractions, not during! There was a big cheer from Lorraine and Ashley). For the next half an hour, the contractions were even more intense (somehow) but a little further apart. But I soon realised that release in pressure from rupturing the water bag really made me feel a lot better, and allowed me to progress again.
10cm dilation! That’s right, I’d done the last 3 in about half an hour. Nice. Lorraine then called the paediatrician in, just in case. A few minutes later, I really felt the need to push, but Lorraine wanted me to breathe through them and let our baby move further down. It felt a bit a like the Seinfeld soup Nazi (No push for you!) but in retrospect I can see that she had a point. My contractions moved further apart, and I actually got a small chance to rest in between! The nurses continued to doppler my belly to keep an eye on where our baby’s head was, and what was going on with the baby’s heart. At 4.20, I was finally allowed to push. After 15 minutes of pushing, I was hooked up to the CTG machine as they were a little concerned about the baby’s heartbeat. I was a little reluctant about being attached to a machine, but really I was so exhausted that I was beyond caring.
I can only describe pushing as trying to do the biggest poo ever. Pooing a watermelon in fact. That’s it. There’s no other sensation like it. It’s also an incredibly difficult thing to do because the harder one pushes, the more it hurts, and it stings as the baby’s head pushes down on your cervix. I had to drop my chin and focus my energy all on the push, because instinctively my body wanted to resist the pushing, or at least redirect my energy into another part of my body and close my legs! The paediatrician offered me a mirror, which they set up. As it turned out, I didn’t see much, as I found it completely impossible to keep my eyes open whilst pushing. I saw glimpses now and again of our baby’s head, but that’s all I really remember. Zac, however, made full use of the mirror and was fascinated by the wonderful joy of crowning. It was exhausting: I have a distinct memory of dozing off (I’m pretty sure it was only 10 seconds of sleep. Zac doesn’t remember seeing this, but I’m sure it happened).
By this time, I was really tiring out. I was struggling to keep my legs in a wide, open position, and my pelvis wasn’t opening up enough. Lorraine suggested putting my legs on the bed stirrups to keep them open. This was great. Until then, I had been putting too much effort through my legs into the bed, and not focussing on my pushing. With my legs elevated and back, I felt much better. Lorraine was wonderful – she was great at describing exactly how and where I had to push. Zac and Ashley were continually encouraging and cheering me on.
At 5.28, I was told that if the baby didn’t come out in the next push I would need an episiotomy because the crown had been halfway out for 15 minutes (I actually have no recollection of this, all I heard was “if the baby doesn’t come out…” – and I knew I had to do it). As I pushed this last time, my cheer squad yelled and shouted for me, including several “加油!” from Zac and I pushed the baby out. As the head came out, the whole body followed in one movement. At 5.29, our baby was born. Lorraine placed her straight onto my chest. I felt so overwhelmed and I remember looking at Zac in disbelief. Then, somebody asked ‘what we’d had’ and I lifted the sheet and discovered that we’d had a beautiful baby daughter. In the moment, we were both too overwhelmed to think about whether it was a boy or girl, it was just such an incredible feeling that we’d had a baby. Shortly after, Zac cut her umbilical cord, and 8 minutes later my placenta came out. I had requested no hormone injections to encourage the placenta out, which apparently is very rare. In 17 years of Lorraine’s work as a midwife, she’d only done 3 completely physiological births, which really surprised me.
I shook and shook after the birth. I think my legs bounced up and down on their own for a good hour after the birth. People say having a baby is like running a marathon. I’ve never run a marathon, but I can imagine the similarities. Zac didn’t faint, and I’m so glad that I’m married to a real man (guess who wrote that?!?).
Adella Luna spent over an hour on my chest, skin-to-skin. In that time she did a massive poo all over my belly and also instinctively latched onto my nipple and started feeding. She came out with a hilarious peak on the back of her head, which I remember seeing when she was crowning, but stuck in the same position for ages – but this went down over the next 24 hours. She was then weighed – a healthy 7 pounds 3 ounces/3270g – and I had some brekky and a shower. We packed up all of our things and slowly made our way up to the postnatal ward with our daughter.