There was a moment the other night, at the end of the night feed, when my precious boy unlatched himself, sighed and then laid his sleeping face back down against my breast. Is there any sight more peaceful than a satisfied baby sleeping?
I wondered for a minute if I could just sit there holding him, staring at his face for the rest of the night.
And it reminded me of the first time he fell asleep, laid across my chest, after the birth and our first feed. I haven’t shared the birth story yet, but I think I’m ready to now.
Just a warning – it’ll be fairly graphic. Not scary, just graphic 🙂
In the weeks leading up to T’s birth, I’d been having a fair bit of false labour. The kind where I would wake up at 2am, have 2 or so hours of regular contractions, then nothing. It was really frustrating!
Fortunately, I’d already experienced false labour with my second child, so it didn’t throw me off as much (in terms of mistaking it for the real thing). But it was hard because it meant losing a lot of sleep, and I really wanted to be storing up my energy for the coming birth!
My husband had booked 4 weeks off work in advance, and on the Saturday (his first day off), we all went to Bunnings (hardware store, for the non-locals 😉 ) to get some stuff for him to work on around the house and so the kids could have a play.
I was having very mild contractions, one every hour, all through that day, so I had a sense that things were happening.
Well, I went to bed on the Saturday as normal, and then woke up at 2am on Sunday morning with some stronger contractions. At that point I was hopeful, but still not certain that it was the real thing.
I stayed in bed, just breathing through the contractions until I couldn’t do so comfortably. I didn’t want to wake my husband up earlier than I had to, and certainly not for false labour! So at that point, I got up quietly and hopped in the shower.
While I was in the shower, swaying and rocking through it, the contractions really started to intensify. I began to groan through each contraction. And while I didn’t have my timer in there (it was an app on my phone), I could tell they were coming much closer together.
When deciding what time to go into the hospital, I always find it’s a tightrope walk between “go home, you’re not even in real labour yet!” and “argh, the baby’s coming in the car park!”. I’ve never felt 100% certain that we were going at the right time, and across all three births, I have always gone in a bit earlier than need be (which I guess is better than too late!) but thankfully have never been sent home again.
So, after a while in the shower, and some day-dreaming about the baby arriving there on the cold hard tiles, I called out to my husband and asked him to call our friend K, who was going to mind the older kids for us.
When she came it was shortly after 4am. We grabbed the bag and things, and off we went!
On the drive into the birth centre, my contractions died down in frequency and severity again. I think I only had one on the whole 15 minute drive! (Which fed into my doubts that we had gone in too early again.)
My husband dropped me off outside the maternity ward and then went to park the car.
I caught the lift up and then waited for the midwives to arrive. (The birth centre is unmanned during the night time – so it was all closed up.)
My student midwife arrived first – she had been with me through the whole pregnancy, coming along to appointments as she could make it.
Next arrived the other midwife, who I had actually not met before! You see, “my” midwife was on her weekend off.
“Keep your legs shut over the weekend, Jess!” she had joked at my last appointment. “Don’t let that baby come until I start again at 8am on Monday!”
Haha, so much for that!
But anyway, this new midwife was lovely.
She showed us into one of the suites, and I realised that it was the room I gave birth to my second baby in! A special moment 🙂
I asked them to get the water running in the tub and kept groaning through the contractions (which were picking up again) leaning against the bed, with my husband holding the heat pack on my tummy and rubbing my back.
In between contractions, he would shell pistachios and hand feed them to me.
(I think of myself as a pretty low-maintenance girl, but during labour, I turn into a full on DIVA!)
After a while the tub was full, so I got in there.
(I think my cervix might have been examined at some point before getting in the tub, but I don’t remember.)
I really love labouring in the tub. The water makes my whole body so weightless, and this is particularly a blessing during contractions as supporting my body weight is just one less thing to put energy towards.
This was a fairly relaxing time. I dozed a bit with my head on a towel over the edge of the tub. My husband and I made jokes about one of the posters on the wall – it had a bunch of “birth affirmations” written on it, and one said “my birth is easy”, which seemed hilarious to me at the time! We heard a cry coming from another room, and were trying to determine whether it was a newborn or another labouring woman. We joked around about which animal I sounded like during my contractions (a cow, apparently!).
I really look back fondly on the time…. even amidst all the pain of the contractions, it was a special time to focus on God as I listened to the worship songs we had playing, and to bond with my husband.
He was such a great support during this labour, I was so thankful for him being there! I mean, he was good during my other labours too, but this time it just really seemed like he knew what to do and when to do it.
The contractions seemed to keep progressing, but only very slowly. They had spaced apart a bit further again, and were only slightly increasing in intensity each time.
For a bit of background, in my previous two labours I had to have my membranes manually ruptured to “kick things into gear” following hours and hours of slow moving progress.
So for this labour, I had pre-determined and discussed with my midwives that I wanted to rupture the membranes earlier on so I didn’t have a labour that lasted so long.
So, after it had been a few hours in the tub feeling like I wasn’t making much progress, I asked for them to examine me and rupture the membranes if I was not past 6 or 7 cms dilated.
Well, both midwives had a look, and then the senior midwife had a go a rupturing the membranes with a kind of hook thing. But because baby’s head was pressed right up against the membranes (as opposed to the waters bulging out a bit), she couldn’t actually manage to get at the membranes enough to break them.
I felt a bit disappointed at that. I mean, I had planned that if I didn’t progress, we would rupture those membranes and get things going! It didn’t factor into my plans that that wouldn’t be possible!
It makes me laugh now, because it really drives home the point that you can’t plan out a birth and make it happen how you want it to!
After that failed attempt, I decided to go in the shower. I knew that things had really intensified in the shower at home, so I thought that might help again.
Sure enough, it worked! My contractions became much stronger and closer together.
The shower had two removable heads. So I got one angled at my back, and just left it on. The second head, I detached and rested it on the rail to my side, picking it up and pointing it at my belly during each contraction, as I groaned and kind of “danced” through the pain. I say pain – and it did hurt! – but it was very satisfying in a way, because I finally felt like we were making progress.
My husband stood in the bathroom with me, feeding me little pieces of trail mix in the (ever shortening) time between the contractions. The midwives were listening from outside the bathroom, giving me privacy, and just poking their heads in every now and then to observe a contraction or tell me “it sounds like you’re really doing something now!”.
After a while, the senior midwife came in and said she thought I was in transition and that we would be meeting our baby soon.
I was a bit shocked at that, because previously during transition I have been too busy screaming my lungs out or shouting “I can’t do this!”. At that point, I still felt very “together” and the pain wasn’t even very bad yet.
We talked a bit about where I would deliver. I had told my midwife and student midwife during earlier consultations that I wanted to try and deliver the baby myself, so I’d rather do it “on land”, as opposed to in the tub.
The midwife said I could deliver in the shower, leaning against the wall. But I really couldn’t picture how that would work with me catching the baby, so I decided to get back in the tub.
Sure enough, that made things slow down again – the contractions were still intense, but they weren’t coming as frequently. But at that point, I wasn’t disappointed. I knew the baby would be coming soon and I was thankful for the chance to just slow down a bit.
It was at this stage of labour that I really began to rely on God in prayer. I began to close my eyes through each contraction as I started to feel more “pushy”. I prayed in my spirit “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Lord, please strengthen me!” over and over again.
The contractions started coming closer together again and I began trying to push a bit. At one point, I think a fair bit of blood came out, so the midwives called for someone else to come into the room and scribe the details of the birth, I think so they could pay closer attention.
I felt like I was starting to lose my grip a bit at this point. The midwives kept telling me to take deep breaths and control my breathing. Every time I would feel the waters of panic rising, I would beat them back down with prayer and counting my breaths again.
The worst part was when the senior midwife wanted to make sure I was fully dilated before the baby decended through the cervix, so she put her hand up there during a contracting, and was literally pushing back the cervix around the baby’s head.
I think I was screaming, “No! No! No! No!” or something. I remember my husband telling me it was alright and not to be scared.
So, I kept on with my screaming and praying and breathing and pushing, and soon baby T was crowning. I felt that familiar stinging/burning sensation (“the ring of fire”), where it feels like your body might just tear in half.
I felt unsure of myself and kind of wanted the midwives to step in, but almost instinctually, I put my hands down there and applied pressure at the part that hurt the most. The midwives told me I was doing a good job.
One more big push, and then relief as I eased the head out.
A few more pushes, and out came the body. I picked up that slimy little baby and cuddled him to my chest.
It was a short lived cuddle, because the midwives told me I had to get out of the tub and go over to the bed, due to a lot of blood lost. (They just wanted to check I was okay.)
I asked my husband if he could hold the baby while I got out, and everyone laughed because he was still attached via the cord.
So I clutched him to my chest and the midwives helped me climb up out of the tub and down the steps.
My second favourite part of the after labour period is when you lie down on the bed, snuggling your new baby, and everyone comes and pats you dry and cocoons you with a million blankets. (My first favourite part is when you get to have a shower and wash off all the blood, but it wasn’t time for that yet…)
I’ve heard that the after pains get worse with each birth, and I can testify that this is definitely the case for me! I commented to my husband that they were worse than the contractions in a way, because there is no anticipation of reward at the end of them. The midwives gave me some panadol, but it didn’t really dull the pain a whole lot!
For the next few days, I had to alternate between panadol and ibuprofen every few hours to stay on top of the pain.
My husband headed off to get me some food (glorious food!) and I stayed there with the baby.
Then, eventually, after all the feeding, me showering and the midwives checking the baby, there was that blissful moment where we were alone with our new baby. Our peaceful little lump of pink flesh, slumped across my chest, mouth slightly ajar.
I wonder if I can just stay here and watch him forever, I thought.
And then I fell asleep.