I have been wanting to write this for months and simultaneously putting it off. I’m not sure why, other than that I suppose I’m other desperate to remember and record as much as possible. However, I am afraid that I’m going to miss out part of the story, because whilst parts of it are engraved in my memory, others are a blur.
Rhys got home on January 1st and we figured we would have 2-4 weeks waiting around for Violet to be born. I kept telling myself that the baby would be overdue so that I didn’t get my hopes up, but secretly I was pumping for January 8th, which would have been exactly one year since we got engaged. I was very much over being pregnant – although my sickness had abated, I had started to experience stabbing pains and twinges in my pelvis that were making me uncomfortable and very grumpy! I was also desperate to meet my baby girl.
The first contractions set in on Monday evening, which was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I had lost part or all of my ‘plug’ the previous Thursday, however I wasn’t getting too excited that the loss oft he plug meant anything was imminent. I also didn’t know whether the early contractions meant anything – I hadn’t really had any Brixton Hicks contractions so I wasn’t sure whether these were setting in late or whether this was the real deal. What I hadn’t expected was that the cramps were in my lower back, rather than my belly. When we had gone to the hospital for some monitoring the previous Saturday, a midwife had mentioned that the baby appeared to be OP or posterior. I didn’t worry too much about it, because I had assumed we had plenty of time for her to turn, however I was aware that this could cause a longer and more painful labour with contractions in the back.
That Monday evening we went to bed as usual, and I slept on and off from 10-2, but was largely awake after that. I was moving around trying to get comfortable enough to breathe through the contractions. I was trying to mirror the things we learned in the Hypnobirthing course and yet also keep track of the contractions. Rhys had an app on his phone and I was trying to record when the contractions started and ended. They seemed to be 6-10 minutes apart, consistent and lasting for 20-40 seconds. Since this seemed like a solid pattern, I was excited that things were happening. I was confident that it would be a matter of hours until we met our baby and was also feeling smug about baby appearing on the 8th after all! Clearly she had other ideas!
Somewhere around 8:30am, the contractions I had been having regularly started to space out and feel like they were stopping. I was upset in case the previous night had been false labour and all that effort and excitement had been for nothing! At some point we called Vicki, who suggested going for a walk to try and get things moving again. Throughout the day I tried to stay active. We walked up to the dog park and talked about the John Grisham crime serious we had nearly finished watching – I think we finished the last episode that day. We also played a game of scrabble while I rolled around on my birth ball. I’m fairly sure that I won!
Around 5:30, just as we were starting to sort out dinner, the contractions started to build again. I’m not sure what we ate for dinner, but I know that I was not really interested in eating. The contractions grew steadily more intense and were quite regular. The pain was largely in my back and I was starting to find it more difficult to handle. I know I was trying to breathe as I had practiced, but it was harder than I’d expected. We went to bed at some point and Rhys went to sleep, but I couldn’t get comfortable. I would lie down between contractions, but as a new contraction built, I would have to move onto my knees, leaning my face down into the pillow and trying to breathe. It was also hard as I was trying to record the contractions on Rhys’ phone (and at some point on my own, but I’m not sure when I switched.) I felt like they were getting stronger quite quickly and I was starting to feel overwhelmed by how much pain I was in. Hot packs certainly weren’t cutting it! At about 10pm, I woke Rhys up and asked him to run me a bath. He made the bathroom dark and I think there was music playing. I remember being on my hands and knees facing the end of the tub and trying to breathe and move through the contractions while he poured water over my back to help with the pain. I was definitely moaning with the pain of each one by this point. I couldn’t keep track of the time in the bath, but I started to feel overwhelmed and told Rhys that I wanted to go to the hospital. All well and good to say we’d wait as long as possible, but I really had had no idea exactly how painful the contractions would be. I also hoped that, as the contractions seemed quite close together, that I had been making progress and that the birth wouldn’t be far off.
We had finished packing the labour bag and suitcase earlier in the day and Rhys must have been putting them in the car. I must somehow have put some clothing on, but the clearest part of that period that I remember is feeling a contraction start just as I was about to go out to the car, and moving back to my hands and knees beside the kitchen. My behaviour obviously worries Jojo, because she came and tried to lick my face. Rhys had his ‘set’ look, the expression he gets when he’s concentrating on something. He must have called the hospital at some point, but I don’t remember it.
I eventually made it out to the car at around 11pm and as soon as we were out of the driveway, I told Rhys that I wanted an epidural as soon as we arrived at the hospital. He asked something along the lines of whether I was sure, or that I should wait and see, but I knew that I was running out of strength to keep going. We listened to the hypnobirthing affirmations in the car and I tried to keep calm, but being strapped leaning back in the seat through the contractions was tortuous. I watched every turn of the road and mentally calculated how much longer of the journey was left. Luckily it was the middle of the night and the roads were quiet and also that Rhys was driving smoothly.
We drew up at the hospital in one of the side parking bays, but as I got out of the car and started up the path, I began vomiting. In my head I was thinking ‘oh great, more morning sickness!’ But on reflection, I think this was just a result of the amount of pain I was experiencing. I vomited several times up the path to the door – but it was the wrong door! When we’d been told to come in the ambulance entrance, my brain had clicked onto the door by the Physio, because that is where there are ambulances parked. This was completely wrong and the door was locked. When Rhys finally got someone on the intercom and they said that we should go to the other door I nearly lost it – it might have well been a million miles away for all the chance I had of walking there! The person on the intercom said that they would send someone down with a wheelchair, but this seemed to take forever. I had several more contractions while we waited and remember just hanging on to Rhys and willing whoever it was to come quickly. They finally arrived and I was taken up to the birthing suites in the lift. I remember rolling down the hall in the family birthing suite and into one of the labour rooms and this was a ‘holy shit, this is really happening’ moment. I’d seen the rooms on our tour of the ward and now we were actually in one for real.
The midwife who greeted us introduced herself as Cath. I remember she had a very distinct voice with a really strong accent, but she was lovely. She said the anaesthetist was only ten minutes away and I was so relieved that there was an end point in sight! I was leaning over the bed having a contraction when I needed to vomit again. They handed me a vomit bag and this took me back to my early pregnancy and the constant vomiting. At that point, I just hit overwhelm and completely fell apart. I don’t remember what I said or did, but I remember Cath speaking really sternly to me and telling me that I had to hold it together. The part of my brain that was still functioning registered that normally I would be extremely pissed off by someone speaking to me like that, but instead I focused on her words and claimed myself down a bit. I must have got changed into a hospital gown in readiness for the epidural and Cath said she would check where I was at. I was so tense that the check was quite uncomfortable, but I really didn’t care at that point. When she said that I was only 3cm though, I nearly lost it again. It felt like so many hours and so much pain had all been for nothing and that the road ahead was longer than I could bear.
The anaesthetist appeared and wanted me to lie on my side. I was scared that I would move during a contraction and that the epidural needle would damage my spine, but I concentrated on curling forward and it seemed to happen quite quickly. He said that it would take about 15 minutes to start taking effect. He was kind of a weird guy – very quite and said hardly anything to me, but I was fairly soon I was certain he was a magician because the pain started to fade. At some point, a catheter was put in, but I don’t remember exactly when – the same for the monitoring straps being put on. I remember the feeling of joyous relief when the epidural started to work. I was leaning back in bed and twisted slightly onto my left side in the hope that the baby would turn around. I was shivering from the epidural and I remember the feeling of the warm blankets. Cath said she was going off shift at 7am and when I asked about my OB, she said Pierre was away and that Dr Ana would deliver my baby, I was disappointed about this as I had wanted Pierre there and felt safe that he understood my preferences about no episiotomy etc. I had realised that by asking for an epidural, I was limiting myself to giving birth on my back, which was what I had hoped to avoid. I was still scared of tearing. But I had recognised that my ability to keep going with the contractions was wearing thin, and being on my back seemed a small price to pay for ending the pain! It was about 12:30 by the time the drugs were working and things had calmed down. Rhys dozed off in the chair and I had a couple of short naps, but couldn’t really sleep in that slightly twisted position and anyway I had the whole ‘night before Christmas’ feeling sending my brain into overdrive. Cath came in several times to check on me and at one point, I apologised for acting so crazy when I first arrived. She told me never to apologise for anything that happens in labour!
Early in the morning, Cath came back and said that the Dr (Pierre, who had ended up being available after all) would be coming in shortly to discuss options. She checked me and I was only at 5cm – the epidural had clearly slowed things down. That did concern me a bit because I know that slow progress can lead to a c-section, but the monitor showed the baby was completely happy. I’m not sure when it happened, but we also found out that she had turned around during the night, thank goodness! Cath told me that she thought I’d be meeting my baby around lunchtime. I was texting Emma a bit during the morning – she knew I was in labour as I’d had to cancel our Tuesday plans.
Pierre came in and suggested that as the progress was a bit slow, they could give me syntocin to speed it up. I’d been keen on avoiding induction drugs because they can make labour harder, but since I already had the epidural on board, I couldn’t have cared less. They administered that through the IV I already had, and the morning passed. We talked and I cancelled the acupuncture and physio appts I had booked for that day. I was checked periodically and things did seem to be progressing. Cath had left and we had Kaylee, a student midwife and an older lady (old bat!) whose name I can’t remember. She was a bit cold and I didn’t particularly like her – we would ask questions about things that were going to happen and she would kind of shut us down. We asked about a warm flannel to limit tearing and she acted like we were crazy and pretty much assured me that I would tear, which was not overly comforting. Kaylee seemed nice though, I would definitely have preferred her to be the only one there!
I don’t remember much about the morning, except that I kept looking at the clock. The monitor was recording steady, intense contractions but the epidural was keeping me comfortable. I feel that Pierre came in again, but am not sure when.
At 11am, they checked me again and said that I could start pushing. I felt like this was the final stretch, but was also aware that there was usually a time limit of an hour so there was pressure to make progress. My epidural was turned down so that I could start to feel enough. I couldn’t feel pain at this point, but there was certainly pressure! Trying to push was weird – I could push but I couldn’t get enough sense of when contractions started and ended to really work with them. The midwives and Rhys were telling me because they could see the monitor. I hadn’t anticipated how tiring it would be – I remember asking for water all the time. Eventually it seemed that only Rhys was telling me when the contractions were. I was constantly asking if the baby was coming. My playlist of gym music was on, which gave me some focus. I would grab my legs and lift my head forward and try to bear down. I tried being on my side for a while, but it didn’t make any difference. It felt like time was slipping by on the clock, but not much was happening and I was feeling tired and feeling a lot of pressure. I remember seeing 12:20pm on the clock and worrying because it had been over an hour and I was afraid that I was out of time.
Pierre came in and said that I could keep going, but the baby seemed to need a bit of help. He suggested using the vacuum to help get her out. I knew that in terms of intervention, that the vacuum was the better option. I said yes. I feel like he said something like ‘well let’s put your legs up and let’s have a baby.’
What I hadn’t realised is that when you have an instrumental delivery, you have to be flat on your back with your legs in stirrups. When they put my legs up, I freaked. I suddenly panicked and felt like I’d lost all control over my own body. I was terrified that I was about to be hurt and powerless to know or stop anything that happened. Somehow Rhys calmed me down. Pierre attached the vacuum to the baby’s head, which I felt, but wasn’t painful and with the next contraction, instructed me to push. The epidural had been turned down for a while and I could feel the most intense sensation of pressure. I am not sure how many contractions it took, but I felt the baby come down and this tiny frozen moment in time when I realised that I would have to push through something painful and there was no going back. I remember holding Rhys’ hand and yelling with what I assumed was her head crowning. I had to wait for the next contractions, which was the most uncomfortable feeling, all I wanted was to push the rest of her out! The same feeling of intensity came again and I felt the baby’s shoulders and then a sensation of complete relief as the rest of her body almost seemed to slip out of me! Then all of a sudden she was on my chest and I just remember holding on to her and crying harder than I have ever cried before. Someone said that it was 12:35pm.
Lying with the baby on my chest was bizarre. Because I was flat on my back, I could only see the top of her head, which was grey and covered in blood. I remember begging her to cry so I’d know she was alright, because I couldn’t look at her. I’m not sure how or when my gown was pulled down so that we were skin to skin. I remember looking up at Rhys’ face and just feeling completely shocked by everything that had happened. Pierre said that I had torn and that he would be doing some ‘3-D’ repairs and I was horrified when Rhys went to look what he was doing! Apparently the baby had come out with her hand beside her head, which always causes a bit of damage. I just wanted to sit back up so that I could see my baby’s face! Eventually this happened and I was able to look at her for the first time. It was completely overwhelming. The next couple of hours were a blur. She stayed on me for an hour, then was weighed (we guessed her weight – Rhys said 2.8, I said 3.2, so I won!) then Rhys had skin-to-skin time. I was desperate for my epidural to wear off so that I could have a shower, I felt disgusting! I had asked to see my placenta and it was actually cool to see what it looked like. Eventually I had feeling back in my legs and went for a shower, being very careful of any damage! Violet was in her little plastic cot and I pushed it down the hall and around to my room. It was the most surreal experience – we had gone into that labour room as two people and come out as three.
Even though my birth didn’t go to the way I had hoped in terms of the hynobirthing ideas I had liked, I feel like it was a positive experience and that I could not have done it without Rhys’ constant support. He was a rock through the entire 40-hour experience and helped me through what was a very challenging and confronting experience, albeit an incredible one. I was amazed by the fact that I had actually given birth, and was on such a high despite two nights of close to no sleep!
That afternoon was wonderful, introducing Violet to my parents and to Mandy. I had been planning that phone call to my parents for months as we hadn’t told them that the baby was coming. It worked out perfectly (apart from Rhys letting the gender slip!) and we FaceTimed his parents, called his siblings and send a message to mine (on reflection I should have send a picture of her feet or something!)
I recovered fast and only experienced real discomfort from the stupid hospital bed or from too much activity. The only thing I would do differently next time is to take photos/videos throughout. It’s funny, but I thought I would hate having photo/video of myself in labour, but because it’s almost an out-of-body experience I feel like I almost missed it, which is bizarre. The most important part of the story though is that little miss Violet Daphne arrived safe and well and that we were finally a family.