A lovely birth story from a friend of mine…
It was our one year wedding anniversary when we decided to do a pregnancy test just on a whim and discovered that we were accidentally preggers. We had been discussing it, but were planning on starting a family after I had finished my teaching qualifications and had had a chance to work for a little bit. We calculated the due date to be roughly one month after I was due to finish my course. There were some jokes about planning it that way so I wouldn’t have to get a job.
My pregnancy was relatively standard. I had all day sickness for about 4 months, and bad sciatica and carpel tunnel syndrome in the second trimester. At 28 weeks, I developed gestational diabetes, which was really upsetting as I suddenly felt like my pregnancy was being taken out of my hands, and becoming very clinical. I had to see doctors all the time, and every decision made was because of the diabetes, as opposed to my wishes. There was the threat of having a big baby, increased chance of intervention and consequential caesarian, as well as health risks to me. I worked really hard and got it under control with diet, and as a third trimester scan showed, the baby was perfectly in the mid range for weight/measurements, so I was happy.
After I finished my last exam, I really focused on getting myself ready for labour. My husband and I started taking long walks, I read loads of books ( particularly helpful was “Birth Skills” by JuJu Sundin and Sarah Murdoch) and watched a few dvds of different types of births. I wrote a birth plan, and started taking raspberry leaf tea capsules to get my body and mind ready for the process of birth.
The plan was to try all the natural stuff first, until it didn’t work any more, and then progress to gas, and epidural as a last resort if needed. I had heard loads of stories about first babies taking ages to be born, so I had a labour bag packed that had EVERYTHING in it that’s suggested to help in labour – and ultimately, we didn’t use any of it!
2 weeks before my due date, after a long walk on the beach with a friend through soft sand, I woke at about 4.30am with what felt like bad period pain.. I started timing, but it was really irregular and eventually went away, so I went about my normal day – even planning a big dinner party for the next night. In the afternoon, the pains came back, but were an hour apart, so my husband and I went for a big walk, and made sure we were prepared to go to the hospital if we needed. We slept early that night, waking up every hour to walk through a contraction and time it. By 3am they were 15 mins apart, but increasing in intensity, so we decided to leave for the hospital.
I had hired a TENS machine, which had arrived in the post that morning, and by the time we put the electric pads on and got into the car, the contractions were 5 mins apart, but the TENS really helped me to take the edge off, so it wasn’t too bad.
At the hospital, I was 3 cm dilated, but the heart rate monitor showed that the baby was asleep, so I got to guzzle some apple juice to wake it up (and it was divine because I hadn’t had juice in 3 months because of the diabetes!!). Once we moved into a birthing room, I spent an hour or so sitting in a chair, breathing slowly and concentrating on relaxing through each contraction using the TENS machine, and as it got more intense, my husband and I stomped around the room, using the TENS machine. What I loved about the TENS was that I got to control when and how it was used.
We had some spectacular midwives, who were super supportive, especially when the doctors came in wanting to speed things up with drugs. The midwives were in my corner and managed to get the doctors to agree to just manually breaking my waters, without giving me drugs to speed up contractions. When I got up to use the bathroom, my mucus plug dislodged (which was pretty gross – I had forgotten about that happening too so it was a surprise), and when they checked, I had dilated to 7 cms in 3 hrs, which was great. My amniotic sac was broken with the crochet hook, which didn’t hurt at all.
Contractions were steady and consistent, and the TENS machine paired with stomping around the room and swaying hips, was still effective, so we didn’t see the need to try anything else. Slowly, my blood pressure was increasing, which was causing concern for the doctors, and a cannula was put in my hand, just in case they needed to give me drugs.
I was starting to get very uncomfortable, and felt like there was a lot of pressure on my sacrum. I felt like my hips were really loose and were going to fall apart. By this time, my husband was in charge of pressing the button on the TENS machine, and putting pressure on my hips from each side, because I was concentrating on breathing and relaxing my body. The midwives suggested I use the bathroom to make space for the baby’s head to descend, but when I stood up, all I could think about was pushing. This was probably the worst part of the whole labour, because I really really wanted to push, but I knew I couldn’t until I was completely dilated, and I was starting to have contractions back to back. I needed to lay on the bed to have my cervix checked, and it took me about 10 mins to get up on the bed, because I knew sitting was going to be very uncomfortable and I didn’t want to do it. Eventually I made it up there, and was announced to be fully dilated. I was allowed to push!
I think it took me about 5 contractions to fully understand what I was supposed to do, despite the midwives telling me I could push and push hard, multiple times. I was still trying to relax through each contraction. By this time, I was sitting up on the bed, with my eyes closed. It probably wasn’t the best position to birth in, but I was comfortable and didn’t want to move again. Three doctors and three midwives were in the room, all commenting on what a great job I was doing, which was encouraging. After wards, I was told the doctors were there to intervene (they wanted to use the vacuum forceps) but the midwives stuck up for me and said I was going to do it on my own. The next push, I was crowning.
I knew this bit would sting, and it did, but I was so determined to finish it, that it didn’t really bother me. Next thing I knew, the head was out, and on the next contraction, the rest came out, and then she was up on my chest, looking me in the eyes. She didn’t really cry, and was so alert, it was amazing. Within 10 mins, my husband and I had taken photos and texted family and friends to share our excitement.
Out of everything to worry about in labour, tearing was high on my list, only because I have had some close friends who had really terrible tears. I had a second degree vaginal tear, and a small perineal tear, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was stitched up, and hardly even noticed it after wards. It wasn’t worth the worry.
And, all in all, I thought the whole process was relatively easy (I know every other mother out there is annoyed by that sentence!). I had such a positive experience, ultimately because I was in control of every aspect of my birth, and was encouraged and supported to have faith and trust that my body could do it on my own. After wards, I felt so empowered and strong – I had had a baby!!
The only thing disappointing about the whole process was that I didn’t get to have my dinner party…