Ever since I was a child I had this huge thing about having a Christmas baby. I thought it would be terrible to be born around that time of year and vowed never to do that to my own kids. Ha! He was ‘due’ on Christmas eve.
We had envisioned and prepared for a gentle home water birth; something that I was very knowledgeable and passionate about.
From Wednesday 19 December I had felt indications that birth was going to begin soon. Nothing kicked in though except my mind, showing me how attached I still was to my wonderfully selfish life as I knew it and how resistant I was to it changing forever.
Around 1:30am Monday morning I woke with strong surges every 10 minutes. I needed to focus, visualise, breathe. I listened to multiple hypnobirthing tracks. This lasted for 2-3 hours, then a break and then a few more hours. I called my private midwife in the morning to let her know and to mention some brown spotting I had had. Later in the morning my mucus plug came out. Spotting and mucus continued over the day.
I enjoyed more time in the pool and I waited for things to ramp up. Surges continued, averaging every 10 minutes, a had to breathe through them and often could not talk. I was able to soften into many and even find some pleasure. My international in-laws who were staying left that night to housesit for a few days and I thought sub-consciously this might allow labour to get going.
But early labour continued all evening; all Christmas day and into Boxing Day. Most of the surges consuming me.
My midwife and doula came over on Boxing Day to check in with me. I cried when I saw my doula; she held me. I expressed my fear of saying goodbye to my independent life as I’d known it and transitioning into motherhood and how intense I was finding the surges and her truthful answer was beautifully honest but not what I wanted to hear; she replied ‘And you know they are just going to get stronger and closer together?’. She read a hypnobirthing fear release script to me and again I was shown the block I was holding onto about transitioning to motherhood.
My midwife checked my spotting, pressed on my belly, checked baby and watched my surges. She mentioned that we might need to get the placenta out quickly after baby is born as I may bleed a lot considering how hard my uterus has been working. I had been having constant pain at the front of my pelvis and she asked if I wanted to go to hospital to have it checked out but I declined, partially because I trusted my body and partially because I didn’t want to have anything to do with the hospital. She reassured me that all seemed fine but questioned why active labour hadn’t kicked in.
I felt my mind was inhibiting me and I was encouraged to do something that allowed me to ‘go within’. My daily bush walk with the dogs was no longer an option, although I did manage a slow lap around our property with hubby’s help.
I had a shower. It was a long shower; I sat down; it soothed and relaxed me; there were birth affirmations on the wall; I went within and decided it was time to birth my baby and become a mother.
Once out of the shower I asked my husband to attach the Tens Machine, walk the dogs and set up the birth pool in the lounge room while I rested and laboured in bed. The surges were strong and every 5 minutes. I breathed deep and did my best to relax, although I’m not sure I succeeded.
7pm there was a ‘pop’ and my waters broke. This startled me. I yelled for my husband and was frustrated at how long he took as I wanted the towel near me to absorb the fluid and check the colour. It was clear with some white flakes and continued to flow bit by bit for a few minutes. I was then on the floor on my elbows and knees, surges every 2 minutes. Hubby suggested calling my midwife and doula back.
Things get a bit blurry after that. I remember surging against the bathroom sink in my undies, when my doula arrived. I think this is when my husband went to fill up the pool. It was suggested I move to the birthing room where the pool and my birth box was. Once there I knelt on the floor; surrounded by fairy lights, my birthing candle and artwork. Between surges I quickly changing my necklace to a beautiful moonstone pendent I also wore at our wedding. Pressure points on my back where pressed, essential oils used, birth playlists and hypnobirthing tracks played, Tens Machine on. I vomited (not that there was much to bring up). I breathed and did my best to relax and soften, yet squeezed either hubby or my doula’s hand. At some point my midwife arrived and checked bubbas heartbeat; all was fine.
After close to an hour I got in the pool. It felt beautifully warm and very spacious, yet I had to let go of the Tens machine and having my lower back pressed. One of our dogs who loves water was humorously determined to join me in the pool… he ended up outside! I continued to lean forward as that was what felt best, stayed on my knees with my arms and face up on the edge of the pool. Things continued like this and I was feeling sure that bubba would arrive soon and was starting to feel what I thought was ‘a little pushy’. My midwife later said that she expected bub to be here by 2am at the latest. Hubby mentioning that if I hold off for another 1hr 50mins then I wont have a Boxing Day baby (which he knew I wasn’t keen on); of course at this point I didn’t care what day it was and I remember thinking, ‘yeah right, this baby is coming way sooner than that!’
My husband told me how well I was doing and this encouraging comment help tremendously.
After about an hour it was suggested I get out and pee. I thought getting out of the pool was odd because I really thought birth was close. Hubby held me as I tried to pee outside on the grass, nothing was happening so we came inside to the toilet and eventually managed to go.
I came back to the birth room and laboured on the couch; half resting when I could. I was really starting to get in my head and wonder ‘what on earth is going on? Why is this taking so long?’ In hindsight these thoughts made me tense and resist what was happening in my body. I was started to struggle and tire. My midwife checked how dilated I was; the next day telling me I had been 6cms.
It was now after midnight and I went back in the pool for a bit until it was suggested I pee again (which I couldn’t) and try lying down in bed. As I lay down on my bed I was really starting to struggle and resist the sensations. The Tens machine was reapplied and was a little life-line for me. I asked for a catheter (something I never wanted) but I needed assistance and it was a huge relief. Having made some space, we thought bub might now come but things didn’t seem to change. I ended up on my knees, my torso leaning over a pile of pillows, my arms up by my head. As the hours went on fatigue sent in; the pain/pressure at the front of my pelvis continued; I kept getting in my head and I didn’t feel I was progressing. I was aware of my hubby and doula being there most of the time offering a hand to squeeze or some other comfort. My midwife checked my cervix twice more (8cms and then 9cms). A limb was felt at the front of my pelvis (probably bubs shoulder which was causing the constant pressure/pain) and my cervix had a lip (showing bubs head was not pressing down evenly on my cervix). Here I stayed for hours. This was the longest and hardest stage for me.
I did hear hospital mentioned at some point; this was disappointing but also slightly relieving to know that what was happening for me was not ‘normal’ as far as birthing at home goes and that something needed to change as I couldn’t keep going like this. The backup midwife came with a fresh mind to help assess the situation. She also found me to be 9cm with a lip. Both midwives chatted in the next room before returning with the suggestion that I indeed transfer to hospital. Part of me couldn’t believe it…. ‘Was this really happening to me? Why was this happening to me? Why am I the Homebirther who needs to transfer? What is everyone going to think… (‘I told you so etc etc’)?’ I was disappointed! I asked what would likely happen at hospital and if that meant that bub would definitely be born there or if we could come back home. The idea was to give me some pain relief; starting with gas and then an epidural if needed so that I could rest and relax and enable bubba to move and my cervix to open. This sounded good, as a few times my mind had screamed to, ‘just cut him out!’ I was shattered at the realisation that this likely meant a few more hours of feeling these surges, yet now I wouldn’t be in the comfort of my own home nor would I be birthing there.
My husbandthrew a few extra things in a bag I already had packed and everyone hurried around getting things organised to transfer. I felt a little unsupported as I dressed and waited mostly on my own through surges. Getting in the car, I knelt in the middle of the backseat while hubby drove and the others took their own cars. This was hard and uncomfortable. I was upset that I had left the dogs without saying goodbye and sorry they would not get to share the birth with us.
We arrived around 7am. I didn’t feel like decorating the room with supportive birthing items from home. They had already served their purpose and so much had changed. Part of me had accepted that this was how it was going to be and that was ok.
I tried gas but felt nauseous and it gave no pain relief.
I then moved to the shower and sat on the floor. My doula turned on some battery operated candles. My husband and doula stayed with me, supporting me and moving the shower head over my body. This was a restful and somewhat relaxing time although still extremely intense. The water was so soothing. I seemed to almost fall asleep probably from exhaustion. I felt guilty that my hubby and doula where giving so much to me and must have been exhausted themselves yet I was so unresponsive. It was disappointing when after a short time I needed to get out for a VE.
Apparently I was at 5cm. When I heard this, I thought a C-section was where we were headed. Yet an epidural was discussed and preparations slowly began. When the doctor left the room my midwife rushed over saying there was no way I was 5cm. I knew a woman’s cervix can close in situations of stress and emotional change so although it was a blow I wasn’t overly surprised.
I have no idea why it took so long but by the time the epidural was finally administered it was 11am. I was very much over the surges by this time; I was exhausted, I had no appetite, I couldn’t pee, I had constant pain at the front of my pelvis and I was having a hard time not contracting against the surges, I had even tried using a vibrator.
Years ago when I found out that epidurals are administered via a needle in the spine I was slightly horrified and never ever thought I would be getting one! Despite having a surge while the needle was in my back I remained deathly still. A couple more surges later and the epidural kicked in. What a relief! I could still feel the muscles of my uterus tightening and a pushing down feeling but I was comfortable. I felt colour and energy return to my body. I could rest and relax.
Over the next hours I had a brief nap (hubby napping on a yoga mat next to me); my support team massaged my legs and I moved into different positions on the bed to help get baby in a better position. And with the following VE’s my cervix had opened to 8cm and 10+2. The epidural had done what we intended it to do!
Unfortunately, my surges had slowed and I could barely feel my muscles contracting so the lowest does of Sitocin was administered (I later found out that this had been temporarily increased without my consent).
I had thought that I would be able to get off the bed and get into a couple of positions on the floor or use the ball while still attached to everything but disappointingly I was restricted to the bed. It was a pretty awesome bed though which could be maneuvered into different angles and heights so with help I knelt, semi-squatted and laid on my back while my support team and the hospital midwife guided me to start pushing my baby out. The epidural effects increased as time when on; part of me wished that it wasn’t so strong so I could feel the experience and more actively participate yet I was also glad I couldn’t feel much because I was so over the intensity and wasn’t sure if I could physically and mentally go there again!
The hospital midwife kindly got us some more time to push, than the originally allocated 1 hour, as bubba was doing well and coming down. The kiwi cap (which I was told was a gentler version of the vacuum) was eventually discussed to help bub come out especially since I was pushing against gravity (it was an ironic situation we all humoured over as I had ended up on my back, legs in stirrups, guided pushing; all things I was educated away from).
But finally bubba had had enough and his heart rate dropped and stayed down. I declined an episiotomy, the kiwi cap was applied and rather quickly many people poured into the room. My husband yelled for everyone who didn’t have to be in the room to get out! It was pretty awesome and empowering.
The doctor now on duty was so stressed and the cap slipped 6+ times. But within about 10mins bubba’s head was out and hubby was there to guide the rest of him out. Hubby laid him on my chest, both of us in absolute wonderment.
He had dark hair and olive skin and I couldn’t believe how genuinely beautiful he was. I had actually prepared myself to have a really ugly baby so when I saw him I found it entertaining that my first thought was, ‘oh my god, he’s actually really good looking!’ Such a funny and shallow thought, and who knows if it was just all the love hormones. He also had a true not in his umbilical cord.
I ended up loosing just 100ml of blood and with a 2nd degree tear which I used Manuka honey on.
He was born at 20:07 on Thursday 27 December, weighing 3.445kgs, 50.5cm in length, head circumference 35.5cm.
For us our birthing journey had another chapter.
Although bubba was breathing and crying a little, his breathes were rapid and shallow and he was not interesting in feeding. The hospital staff started vigorously stimulating him with a towel until we asked them to stop and also wanted to cut the cord so that he could be taken away for assessment. We declined and continued talking to him and gentle stimulating him.
After an hour a rude paediatrician told me I had caused harm to my baby by keeping the placenta attached and allowing him to have all of his blood. She said this again and in my peripheral I could see my midwife and doula about to hit the ceiling! She continued in a stressful tone that she wanted the placenta out asap.
My midwife cut the cord and tied it with string. Bubba went to the warming table with his Dad to be gently assessed. Once I was given the opportunity to knee and push the placenta out, out it came. What an impressive organ! My doula encapsulated it, aside from a small section we ceremoniously buried under our avocado tree.
After about 2hours bubbas breathing really hadn’t improved and his oxygen levels where low. The decision was made for him to go to the Special Care Nursery (SCN). Hubby went with him while I was taken care of by the new and just as lovely hospital midwife. When I meet up with my husband and bub in the SCN, hubby seemed stressed and overwhelmed while also being an amazingly protective papa bear. For our newborn bubba the next few hours involved 6 failed attempts at cannulas in his tiny and dehydrated hand and feet; chest x-rays to check for fluid; a discussion about using antibiotics as his inflammation markers were rising; multiple heel blood pricks; a tube down his throat to feed hourly doses of formula to rehydrated him (my milk wasn’t in and there was no milk bank); and finally the C-PAP breathing machine and oxygen.
Dads can’t stay at the hospital over night, so at around 1am he went home on his own.
I hand expressed what colostrum I could while staring at the 1 photo I had taken of my beautiful boy in my arms before falling asleep in my hospital room around 3am.
His condition was stable but much the same by morning, 28 December. Around 11am IV fluids and antibiotics were prophylactically started (his inflammation markers had continued to rise and blood cultures would take a few days). Monitoring continued and when I realised he would not be coming home that day, and possibly not for a few days, and may even need to transfer to PCH, I was devastated. Because of his breathing and the machines, we could not hold him nor could I breastfeed.
It had felt like a week but the next morning, 29 December he came off the CPAP machine and we could finally hold and feed him!
It was a gradual process but he continued to get stronger and stronger. I feed him and expressed every 3 hours; apparently unlikely to develop post birth blood clots in my legs because I was always up and about. The blood cultures came back negative and he came off the antibiotics. So by lunch time on 31 December he moved out of the SCN and into my room! A few hours later despite him being a little jaundice we checked ourselves out with the knowledge we could come straight back if needed and had our private midwife to monitor him. The nurses commented how we had been there longer than anyone else yet hadn’t intended on being there at all!
I will always remember the look on his face as we put him in the car seat to go home; a relaxed happy grin and seemingly chuffed with himself that he had done it! It was the most beautiful, peaceful, heartfelt New Years ever and the doggies fell in love with him too!
This amazing story is that of one of my beautiful clients who has chosen to share her amazing birthing story with us all but has chosen to withhold her private details;
Our baby’s birth doesn’t always go according to our birthing plan! But I still feel that it is important to document our experience even if we choose not to share, just the act of writing it out some how seems to help in accepting that sometimes life is out of our control.