Photography courtesy of Miss. H and her iPhone
So, It’s been several weeks since I’ve updated the blog and I’m pretty certain you’ve all guessed – yes, I’ve most definitely had the baby. I wanted to write our birth story before I began to forget (nature’s way of making sure we are silly enough to do it all over again), but the days that proceeded the birth were not days that I could write, and the weeks after that have been full to the brim. It’s taken me well over a week of snatching moments here and there to pour all of these words onto the screen, but here they are now – belated, but as complete as I could manage (without boring you all half to death of course).
These past weeks have changed me, and all of us. It feels as if talking about all these things are grounding our experience in the past, where it can’t hurt or frighten any longer.
I’m grateful for the opportunity.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, I hadn’t believed it was possible that I could love another little being as much as I love my son JJ. I worried that after the birth, I wouldn’t love the child within me quite as much, or that this new baby wouldn’t be as perfect to me as my wonderful little boy. I’ve since heard that this is actually a common concern that many second time mamas have, however it was utterly unfounded.
On the 7th of February 2016, my world became brighter, my heart grew larger, my family swelled in number and in love as we welcomed our second child into our arms and our lives. I fell head-over-heels again and the love that I felt for the second tiny little person I’d held against my chest was in no way diminished simply because I already loved my first. I just loved, and it felt perfect. My heart felt so incredibly, overwhelmingly full now that both of my children were there.
This is our birth story, and a bit beyond. It isn’t particularly well written, it isn’t even grammatically correct. It’s missing bits where my memory isn’t quite up to scratch. It’s also REALLY long. In my mind, our birth story spans more than 10 harrowing days of joy, beauty, and fear. Ten days that cut me open, gutted me, and healed my heart in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined.
On a Saturday afternoon, three days after my due date, the constant, unyielding (and bloody annoying) braxton hicks contractions I’d been having evolved into something more productive. Early labour had begun with 1-2 minute contractions which were 5-10 minutes apart, almost exactly like my early labour with JJ. The tightenings were bearable, and we settled in at home to wait and see. Don’t get me wrong – they hurt! But although I knew it was going to be “that time” soon, they didn’t hurt enough to go into hospital just yet.
I encouraged David to sleep while I sat up and bounced on my birthing ball, snuggled with my hot water bottle, and sat at the foot of JJ’s bed, just watching his little chest rising and falling, knowing that soon, it wouldn’t just be us any more. He’d be a big brother.
After an exhausting, painful and sleepless night, it was around 6am when we carefully placed the infant car seat into the back seat. We loaded up my suitcase, labour bag, and enough snacks to feed a small, very hungry army, dropped JJ off to visit with family friends, and arrived at the hospital shortly after. I was tired, but excited and so ready to meet our little one.
I was over the moon at the thought that I would be having the water “birth” that I had wanted for so long. Although because of my previous history of haemorrhage with JJ, I was not cleared to actually do the “birthing bit” in the water birth tub, my medical team were more than happy for me to remain in there until the last minute. I was elated at the prospect, and planned on having a drug-free, natural birth again, albeit this time labouring in the warm comfort of my element.
We must have parked a mile away from the hospital, and it was a reflective and surreal walk to the emergency department where I was meant to check in. Upon arriving at the labour suite, I was examined, admitted at 4cm, and told to start birthing ball bouncing, as the midwives didn’t feel I was as dilated as I could be after labouring for so long at home.
My amazing, wonderful friend, heart-sister and “labour support person” Miss. H, arrived just before midday, and things had really ramped up. It’s all a bit of a blur after that, but I distinctly remember the disappointment I felt when I was told I couldn’t labour in the water-birthing tub the way I had planned, as my dilation was simply too slow. Instead, I walked; supported by David on one side, and H on the other, stopping every couple of minutes to sway (and toward the end, whimper) through a contraction.
I was checked again. I’d made some progress, but not enough. I’d been in labour so long and was exhausted and emotional. I was scared that I’d haemorrhage again, scared of getting post-natal depression again, scared at the realisation that I would have a newborn after all these years, scared I would tear badly again, scared of raising not one but two children without family support, three states away from my mother and with David’s family continents away, and overall just scared and sad. It was as though through the tears and the agony of child birth, my life both beautiful and terrible was reflected, glaring back at me from my wild and damaged heart, perceived outside of my body. The reality of what I was experiencing shocked me to the core.
I cried. Wrapped by the arms of my husband and Miss. H, I sobbed for what seemed to be hours. I remember H telling me to close my eyes as she talked me through my feelings and experiences. I remember David’s calm and unwavering support as he stood behind me, silently breathing his own unique kind of peace into my ear.
I remember sobbing when they told me I was still only 7cm. I remember when H changed the music from the gentle tones of Ludovico Einaudi, or Lisa Gerrard, to The Cure. I remember picking myself up from the floor and between contractions, dancing away the fear. The midwives must have thought we were mad – lights turned down low, the three of us moving with the music and singing softly. It sounds bizarre when I read it back on the screen. We danced with tears and pain and came through it changed.
Eventually, standing wasn’t a real option any more, and I moved to the bed, hugging the backrest. The contractions became so much worse as I entered transition. They came one after another and my whimpers and groans became shouts. H tells me that I didn’t really scream, but I don’t know about that. I think she was just being nice – I sounded pretty screamy to me!
At this point, I asked for “laughing gas” to take the edge off the pain. Unfortunately sucking on a tube just made yelling more difficult and it really didn’t do anything to make me more comfortable. Being suitably shouty was definitely much better at overcoming the hurt than the nitrous oxide. Seriously.
I was so close to giving birth to our little one, but it felt like labour would be unending. I just couldn’t do it any more. I wanted more drugs. I suddenly didn’t care about having another natural birth, I wanted morphine, and fast. My request was denied. They told me it was too late. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d made it to the end anyway. Our baby would be born ten minutes later.
My water still hadn’t broken. I’d always hoped for a caul birth and it looked like it would be a real possibility for us this time. Unfortunately, it seemed that because my waters were intact, labour was progressing slower than any of us liked. The midwife asked me for a third time if she had my permission to rupture my membranes, promising it would speed up the last of my labour, and that I would meet my baby much, much sooner. She had maintained for some time that my pain was being worsened by the bulging waters and she was right. At this point, I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to hold my baby and I wanted the pain to stop. She was right. My membranes were artificially ruptured and the relief was instant. So was the urge to push.
My midwife had me lie on my back so that she could most effectively manage to help me keep my perineum intact, and she guided me as I pushed. Within a few minutes, our perfect baby girl slipped silently into the world.
…Read Birthing Baby: Part 2