I wrote my birth story as a letter to my daughter, about one month post-partum. By sharing, I hope to empower my own daughter as well as other mums to be to be confident for a positive birth.
You were due to be born on the 16th November, 2015. Of course, it was just a guess date and only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date. Having said that, all your scan measurements were spot on, my dates were spot on and well, your daddy and I like to be punctual so we sort of thought you would show up. I was born on my due date, but daddy, being a twin was born nearly 3 months early!
When I was in my third trimester with you, I felt pretty good. I really didn't feel too uncomfortable and I liked feeling you move around in my belly. When we moved to the country from the city in my third trimester I really had to get my drivers licence. I crammed the lessons in and passed the test at 38 weeks. I kept saying that you could stay in there as long as you like - just don't come before I passed my test! Famous last words. You did stay in there for a while, but having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, our OB gently suggested you might need a nudge to reduce the risks. Thankfully, induction wasn’t discussed until we were past 40 weeks, and we compromised and booked an induction for 41 weeks, and 2 days with the ‘extreme unlikelihood’ of needing it, according to our OB. Ha!
After not sleeping much the night before, we got up at 5 am to be at the hospital at 7 am. I was nervous. I really didn't want to be induced. I wanted labour to be as natural as possible, and knew there were risks with induction. Mostly I knew that the syntocinin could make contractions more intense and that we'd miss out on that early stage of labour. I also knew that you could get stressed at being evicted artificially and that this could increase the likelihood of a chain of other interventions. Yet, daddy and I were both really fed up by this point. People kept asking if we'd had you yet and we were both on high alert for any signs that you might be coming. I’d had 12 days of regular Braxton Hicks, and each day that passed I was sure they would increase, but they didn’t. I was dilating surely but slowly, practising the Baby Come Out track from Hypnobirthing Australia, sniffing clary sage until I felt woozy and doing everything reasonable in my power to convince you to make your debut. It became exhausting and disheartening. If it hadn’t been for the diabetes, you probably would have arrived at a leisurely 42 weeks, but unfortunately we didn’t have the luxury of waiting. With my diabetes we needed to be careful that the placenta wasn't breaking down too much or that we were losing too much fluid.
So, the morning of the 25th November, 2015 we drove to the hospital knowing we’d have a baby in the next 24 hours. It seemed like a good day to be born. The morning sky was a beautiful, rich pink and we watched as the rest of the world went about their business. Every time I’m up early (which is a lot these days!) and see a similar pink sky, I’m immediately brimming with love as I remember how much I couldn’t wait to meet you. So many times, we'd driven this route to go in to the hospital for monitoring and we'd thought that "one day" we'd be driving in and I'd be having contractions. We joked that we got to skip the nervousness of not making it to the hospital on time, and there was really no chance at you being born in the shower or by the side of the road now.
When we got to the hospital there were forms and lots of waiting. We met our lovely midwife, Julia who said she would be assisting with delivering you and that she might get to meet you if you were born by the end of her shift- 3 o'clock. At 8 o'clock our obstetrician Fiona came to break my waters. I reminded her that we weren’t supposed to need this scheduled induction, and she shrugged and said she was equally baffled. "Oh well, let's have a baby now". Her funny, casual approach was always great throughout my pregnancy. No drama. No panicking. No threats about what we weren’t “allowed” to do, and as much as possible it was a baby-centred approach to birth. She was always supportive of hypnobirthing and up to date with research. She was like the lifeguard who hangs back and allows you to enjoy the ocean, but my word, when things started looking a bit choppy (which I’ll get to), she dove in calmly and helped me navigate the water.
Having my waters broken was weird. There was a lot of warm liquid. Not the kind of thing you could miss. After that, I was given a drip in my hand, and I was given saline to start with. Then at 9 o'clock they started the syntocinin. I was hooked up to a portable drip and two monitors across my belly which measured the contractions and your heart rate. I got to put on some funny disposable underpants and Julia got me a birth ball to bounce on. It seemed slow at first - like period pain, or practice cramps I'd had before but it built fairly quickly after that. In hypnobirthing we learnt about using light touch massage, having a shower and listening to music. That all went out the window, and I very quickly wanted pressure on my lower back firmly and to use a heat pack. I stood up and leaned over the bed into some pillows as the contractions got stronger. Having my face in the pillow helped to tune everything else out. In hindsight I think I would have liked my pillow from home – even if it got gross.
Having practised with the Surge of the Sea track from Hypnobirthing Australia was a lifesaver. I would liken those strong contractions (surges) to being in the ocean with very deep, rolling waves. With the waves getting closer and closer together, I had a choice - panic, tense up and risk getting pulled under, or completely surrender, let my body flop like a rag doll and let the waves wash over me. Using surge breathing techniques really helped to stay in the zone without feeling trapped.
It wasn't long before the contractions got stronger and Julia asked if I felt like I needed to push. I wasn't sure that I did really- I just felt a lot of pressure - a bit like being really constipated. I knew that meant your head was coming down and I couldn't wait for it to be out! I quietly went through transition where I thought it was going to take too long, I couldn't do it, I wanted my mum and I started to get teeth chatters. I didn't say anything at the time, and just tried to concentrate. At some point, I was asked if a student could come in to observe. At the time, I was screaming in my head “are you f&*#!ng kidding me?”, but I said a polite “no thankyou, not today”. Birthing women are so suggestible. It’s a funny place to be in thinking that you still need to focus on being polite to people when you’re in the midst of popping out a baby!
Julia suggested I get up on the bed because my legs had a bad case of the wobbles, and I leaned into the pillows again on all fours. The surges got stronger and stronger and I tried to concentrate on imagining that each one was a big wave I was jumping over in the ocean. In between being in a deep, concentrated but relaxed state I could hear Fiona come back in. The nurses had had bets that there was "no way" a first time mum was going to give birth by lunch, but you showed them. Fiona and the midwife were talking and I remember that it seemed really loud and almost wanted to tell them to be quiet but didn't want to break my concentration. Melissa Spilsted had mentioned the same experience during the birth of one of her boys, so I knew things must be close!
At some point, the funny disposable knickers came off and the deep breathing turned into bearing down and pushing. I heard myself making deep noises I barely recognised as being my voice. In fact, at one point I thought “what is that noise? Is it a cow? No, gosh it’s me!!!”. Again, I’d read about this in Ina May’s book, but it hadn’t connected how primal birth is until I went through it myself. There was no screaming, or swearing or even moaning really just deep vocalisations. It was hard work. In between surges I had random thoughts like thinking I should tell your daddy to remember that we parked on level four, and the words to the song "true colours" in my head. So strange. Someone told me about expecting the "ring of fire" when your head came out and that I needed to listen to them tell me when to push and when not to. I remember thinking that I'd decide that for myself, and got distracted by the Johnny Cash song playing in my head. At the time, I didn’t realise that they were trying to prevent me from tearing since you just shot out so quickly, and, as it turns out, your little hand was in the way. I felt stinging and then relief. Phew! I felt like your head must be out- what a relief. The next push Fiona wiggled you around a bit to help your shoulders and said something along the lines of "there's a little hand". Your hand was poking out when you were born. Daddy saw it all despite previously telling me he was going to "stay at the top end". I felt enormous relief when the rest of your body slid out. I sat up on my knees, and Fiona passed you through to me. We had a couple of minutes to look at each other and then we attempted the awkward task of turning over to sit upright while I held you and Fiona and the nurses cleaned me up. The first thing I said was “Oh, there’s a baby!”, then I said happy birthday to you and I thanked everyone for coming. I felt really relaxed, and happy and just kept looking at you. It was pretty cool. I was surprised to look and see Fiona stitching me up. At that stage I needed 2 stitches for a small external tear. Fiona asked if I even broke a sweat and said that I was meant to birth babies. Yes! We did it!
They gave me an injection in the leg to help to deliver the placenta (which I didn't really want but hadn’t realised was necessary as part of an induction). It was ok, but the feeling of the placenta coming out was a bit weird. It looked healthy, with no signs of wear and I remember it was a lot bigger and "juicier" than I expected. There was no rush to cut the cord. Fiona actually had to remind herself that to move you over to be weighed we still had to cut the cord. It had turned from deep blue to pure white – like calamari! I cut into it thinking it was just like that.
We then had a bit of time alone as a family, and I don't remember much about that. I do remember Julia saying it was an amazing, beautiful birth and I was in the zone and that hypnobirthing obviously really works. Everyone said what an amazing job we did and when I asked how long I was in active labour I was just as surprised as everyone else. A total of 1 hour, 35 minutes for you to be born. Induction or not, Fiona thinks you would still have come that quickly and noted that for future, I'd be best going to hospital soon because I birth babies quickly. Funny, your grandmother was in active labour with me for only 2 hours and also needed stitches because I came out quickly.
Thanks to your little hand presenting in the way it did, there were some unexpected complications in the hour after birth and I really needed to focus on the affirmation of calmly meeting whatever journey birth takes. I’ve dealt with this part separately, but here I just wanted to focus on the birth itself – which despite intervention was great. In sum, your birth was very calm, focussed and quick. I concentrated on my body and your body working together to meet a goal and when you came into the world you were very calm, alert and healthy. Without hypnobirthing I think I could easily have panicked at the intensity of it all. I can see why women are ‘warned’ that the contractions of synthetic induction are way stronger, but I think it’s dismissive and fear mongering to suggest that they ‘won’t be able to cope’ without an epidural or pain meds. By knowing what was happening to my body and what it needed to do, I was able to experience ‘pain’ as nothing more than sensation and focus on the joy of meeting you, rather than waiting for some awful experience to be endured. I don’t think I have a high pain threshold, nor am I stronger, or a better coper than anyone else. I honestly think the key to a good birth is preparation. Understanding the physiology of birth and relaxation – anyone can do it!