I have heard the saying that a woman’s birth story is implanted in her heart for all eternity and now that I have my own story, I too now have mine to share and to hold forever.
I find it very hard to articulate how I felt throughout the birth and upon meeting my gorgeous baby boy but I will do my best…
I think labour started on Thursday morning, nice and easy, nice and slow and without yet any rhythm or pattern. I was at this point still wondering ‘is this it?’ which makes me laugh now that I look back because when you are in ‘active labour’ there is certainly no question in your mind as to whether this is it or not.
The day progressed much like any other, I went for a long walk through our neighbourhood listening to all my favourite songs on my ipod and wondering whether this was going to be the last day my baby would call my belly home, the last day I would walk around my neighbourhood without a pram or a carrier and the last day that we could call ourselves a single couple… upon coming home I remembered what our midwife Naomi had said “max, get as much rest as you can in the early stages because you have no idea how much energy you are going to need” so I had a shower and layed on our bed, I watched a movie and made sure that all my birth affirmations were in position on the wall, that the images that I wanted to use during the labour were saved on my ipad and ready to scroll. I wrote my last entry in my pregnancy journal and I waited.
My husband came home from work and I had inflated the birth pool and his eyes opened wide with excitement. Is this it? he asked me. By 8pm that evening there was no question that we were in the throws of labour, the contractions were getting stronger and were coming closer together but were still completely manageable and we were able to chat in between and talk about what lay ahead for us that night. We continued like this, just the two of us moving around the house, trying different positions that I had learned at yoga as I breathed through each wave. Surprisingly, the fit ball that I had spent much time bouncing on throughout the pregnancy just didn’t seem to feel good during the labour but standing upright leaning against the wall or the bathroom sink while moving my hips from side to side was beautiful. We continued like this until around 1am when we decided to call the midwife.
The contractions were strong and were taking all my attention and I was feeling more and more like I wanted someone with us who had done this before. I had no idea how quickly things were progressing and we didn’t want to get caught too for along on our own. Naomi arrived about 30 minutes later and seeing her smiling face and excitement was awesome. Suddenly, it was all very real and in the dark, by candle light and our selected playlist, we worked together to bring our baby down.
About 2am I remember saying to Naomi that I didnt feel as though I could call this ‘pain’ – there is certainly an intensity to it, the waves were strong and powerful but it was my body and my baby working together. There is no feeling like it and nothing really prepares you for it – you cannot practice, you cannot prepare – your body just knows what it needs to do and all you need to do is relax and enjoy the ride. That said, we did a couple of birth courses in preparation for the birth, one of which was the Calmbirth® course which was excellent in teaching me the relaxation breathing techniques to use during the labour. At the end of the day, I quite like the analogy of filling up your tool kit with everything you think you might use on the day, whether its breathing or active positioning, water, massage or music and on the day, you choose from your kit what you want to use.
I got into the birth pool shortly after, on Naomi’s recommendation. I remember asking her if she was sure? Isn’t it too early? She suggested I just hop in and see how I felt, if I didn’t like it I could always get back out again.
I did as she suggested and the weightless feeling of the water and the warmth (surprisingly, given that it was a warm night) was really soothing. I got down on my knees and layed my head on the side of the pool between contractions.
Naomi was checking our baby’s heart rate regularly, both between contractions and during and each time giving me the reassurance that ‘he is perfect’. During labour, especially the first one, it’s easy to question how things are progressing and feel quite anxious about what’s happening – is this normal? is this how things should be going? – the comfort of a midwife who has known both you and your baby since week 5 of the pregnancy is priceless. She knew what to say to me, she knew when to sit quietly in the background letting my husband and I work together and she knew when to hold my hand and tell me that I was doing an incredible job and that I was nearly there. I can’t articulate enough what strength that gave my husband and I during the process.
Before I knew it I was onto the pushing stage which caught me a little by surprise, I moved from one contraction much like the others to another that felt worlds apart. The pushing sensation was intense, and completely draining. The breathing techniques that I had been using up to this point suddenly became useless and I found myself using various vocal toning – as I read that back it sounds quite glamorous but I assure you that it was not. The sounds that came out of my body were sounds I had never made before in my life. Each push completely drained me and the rests just didn’t seem long enough. How do women do this more than once?
I dont know if it’s something that all midwives do, but Naomi was keeping a record of our birth throughout the night and was also writing down some of my more memorable comments. The highlights included “I think I’m losing my shit”, and “I am finding it hard to say that this is not painful anymore” and “I think I blew out my ass” to which she very sweetly got up with her torch to check and told me “nah, your all good”. How she kept a straight face through all of that I just don’t know.
I felt like I was launching myself out of the pool with each push, almost as though I was trying to get away from my own body. I was clenching my husbands arms as he wrapped around me trying to offer his full support. I remember looking into his eyes at one stage and thinking that he looked just as exhausted as I was. It must be hard, holding the one that you love and being unable to help them.. unable to take over.
I lost all concept of time but apparently it was only an hour and a half later that I asked ‘is there a head’? Apparently I was fully dilated in the water for quite some time but I couldn’t feel the baby coming down, until that one push where I was asking if his head was now visible, I could feel him right there. It was the most amazing feeling – having to hold him there so that I could stretch properly wasn’t easy and it was the first time during the labour that I was asking my body tobring on the next contraction quickly so that I could meet my little man. On the brink of exhaustion, as the next contraction came, I pushed with all my might and he came out in one hit, flying into the water with great speed and into Naomi’s hands. I turned around quickly as he was brought out of the water and Naomi had to work quickly to untangle him from his umbilical cord which in his haste to come out he had managed to wrap around his neck and his shoulder. As soon as he was unravelled, he was put straight onto my chest and into my arms.
Its true what they say, having your baby’s eyes meet yours for the first time is magical. It’s a moment in time that I will carry with me forever.
The minute we layed our eyes on our son, we fell in love all over again, a new love that grows bigger and more intense everyday. He really is a little miracle, a miracle that we created, that grew inside me for 9 months and is now the most important little person in our family unit.
Birth is an amazing thing and I hope that my story is a positive one that you can add to your collection – we shouldn’t be afraid of birth, we were made to do this and women are incredibly strong. Much stronger than we ever thought we could be.
Given that this post has become quite long, I think I will save the placenta story for another post.