I was going to give a shorter version of the birth story as I wasn't sure how much detail I wanted to go into here. But, I decided that it's ok to talk about these things openly, so I hope you enjoy the story that I would like to share with you. If you're up for a long read, that is!
My waters broke almost 3 weeks early on Monday night the 20th of October. I wasn't exactly sure if that's what it was, so I rang the hospital to ask them their advice. They told us to come in as they like women to come in once their waters have broken. We grabbed my hospital bag just in case and headed in there around 10.30pm. They hooked me up to a monitor that recorded the baby's heartbeat and contractions. I hadn't felt any at that stage, even though the machine said I was having them. I wanted to go home, but they said they'd like me to stay so they set us up in one of the birthing suites for the night. I felt confused as to what was happening. I didn't know what to expect. This wasn't how I envisaged the whole thing to start! I imagined getting contractions, timing them (like in the books) and then coming in when I thought I was ready.
They put us into one of the birthing suites for the night. I was having trouble getting to sleep, and they said if I had not fallen asleep by 1.30am that I should take some sleeping pills as I'd need my sleep and energy for the upcoming labour. Considering my aversion to medication, I tried meditating to relax and fall asleep, but ended up taking some sleeping pills at about 1.30am and then slept soundly until 4am. I had broken sleep from then on. My mind was too busy to sleep!
I was told in the morning that my doctor would be visiting me, and that she would probably want to induce me as it would have been 12 hours since my waters broke (and therefore the protective barrier surrounding the baby had broken and she was open to risk of infection). I was starting to get worried as I really did not want to be induced. My doctor turned up later on and I told her that I wasn't happy with the idea of induction, and that I was hoping to start labour naturally. I was torn between struggling with the warnings of the risk to the baby, and knowing that hospitals like to intervene when not absolutely necessary, coupled with my desire to avoid a cascade of intervention.
I don't remember exactly how, but we managed to talk the staff into letting us go home to see if the labour started up by itself. They said that if nothing had happened by the next morning then I would definitely be induced. That was a total of 36 hours they were willing to let me go, which is beyond their 12 hour policy. (The hospital up the road has a 72 hour policy!)
I had a time limit on my head. I was trying to will my body into action.
We went home, and went for a walk around the property to try and get things started. We also tried another method of natural induction which I found in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. (I highly recommend this book, by the way if anyone is wanting to research all they can about natural labour and birth. I found it fascinating and informative.)
Amazingly, within about 10 minutes we heard an audible 'pop' with some gushing of amniotic fluid and my first contraction! Joy! My body was doing what it was supposed to do, naturally.
We started timing the contractions. It was about 5pm at this stage. I had about an hour and a half of mild contractions, then at about 6.45 as I was getting changed into old clothes for the hospital I had a contraction that brought me to my knees. (This is the point that they time your labour from.) I had my first stop-me-in-my-tracks contraction. I declared to Jim that we had to hurry up and head to the hospital "NOW".
We had been organising stuff casually for the previous couple of hours (can you believe I had even done my hair!?) and then it was a mad rush to get every little last item I thought I'd need into the car, including ourselves. (I had no idea what I'd need or miss and had only finished packing my bag the night before. (Be prepared early just in case, ladies!)
We started off for the hospital, and my contractions lessened in intensity. I was worried that being taken out of my comfort zone my labour would regress, so I said that maybe we should go back home, (we were around the corner from the hospital by then- we live about 5mins away from it) and I couldn't remember if I'd turned the heater off anyway. So we turned around and came back home!
As soon as we got home I had some full-on contractions and Jim rushed inside, checked the heater and got me a big glass of water. We then headed straight back to the hospital. I was having some pretty intense contractions in the car, and we pulled up to the hospital and I got out, and immediately had another one outside the front doors. Luckily, no one was around! You should have seen me... dressed in a daggy paint-stained skirt, ankle slippers and a blanket wrapped around me.
As soon as we got inside I rushed up to the maternity ward, ignoring the check-in process, where a midwife was waiting for me. She took me straight into a birthing suite where I immediately had another contraction. They were close together already and pretty strong. We tried heat pads, but they felt terrible and I yelled at them to be removed. I somehow headed to the shower and had hot water directed on my lower back between contractions. I could not handle any heat there during them however.
It felt quite relentless, and after I got sick of the shower I headed to a mat on the floor where I continue to labour on my hands and knees.
It is really all quite a blur to me and I had no idea of how much time was passing and who was coming in and out of the room. Another midwife came in somewhere along the line, but I really was not aware of what was going on around me.
I was starting to get an intense urge to push at the end of some of my contractions. It felt good to push. Before going into labour, I was feeling self conscious of possible noises that I would make and who would be able to hear them, but I tell you, I did not care one little bit who heard or saw me. There could have been 100 people in the room with me and I wouldn't have cared in the slightest. And I was making some pretty loud noises!
The hospital here doesn't do internal examinations as a rule, plus considering my waters had broken early, there was a risk of infection by doing anything internal previously. There was also some other test that my doctor forgot to do the day before for some bacteria, which caused an extra bit of concern for the staff involved. I was pushing for a while, time was passing, and then they decided to do an internal examination as I'd been pushing for a while and things weren't progressing much and they wanted to check out what was happening in there.
So one of the midwife's did the examination, and then called the doctor on duty in to double check what she thought she had found out. The doctor did her own examination and then declared that the little girl was coming out bum first. (Yes, Sally! BUM FIRST!) When I was told I panicked and looked around the room asking, "WHAT? WHAT? WHAT?" expecting someone to give me some sort of reply that would make everything alright! There were then discussions amongst the staff, which Jim was trying intently to listen in on. They decided then to start to organise a caesar... forms were produced and signed, the risk factor of caesarians talk was given to me (who wants to hear about haemorrhaging and hysterectomies whilst in labour?), at which point I asked, "Am I specially at risk or is this your typical spiel?" The doctor told me it was their standard warning speech and I said something like, "Whatever, ok, do what you need to do."
Then I went through another few contractions and was told to go against my body's overwhelming urge to push! This was undoubtedly the hardest part of the whole labour, going against my bodies urge to push. I was thinking that the decision had been finalised for me to have a caesar, so I felt that the contractions were useless and causing me pain for no reason... so I kept asking when the epidural would be given to me.
Jim was with me the whole time putting on a confident face for me which alleviated my fears as I thought everything was under control. He did however tell me later that he felt there was a bit of panic in the room coming from the staff.
Somewhere along the line, my soon-to-be hero Dr Simon was called in to help with the situation. Theatre was being prepared, but he seemed to think that I was progressing well and that I could do it the natural way! He walked in and took complete command of the room. He said he'd give me 20 minutes to get her out. He wanted her out quickly, so Jim supported me from behind in the squatting position (which opens up the pelvis and gets gravity on your side to speed things up) and the doctor gave me a quick anaesthetic injection to do an episiotomy to make room for the head, that was to come out last. Between contractions I went completely limp, and Jim was shaking under the weight of holding me up, but apparently he was happy to have a job to do. Dr Simon got me to push as hard as I could with each contraction, and by oath I did. I pushed harder than I ever have put my strength into anything before, and I had the burst blood vessels in my eyes afterwards to show for it!!
We were nearing the end and Dr Simon was counting on one last contraction for her to come out, which she didn't as that one was less intense than the previous ones. But, she came out on the next with the help of his encouragement to "PUUUUUSHHHHHHHH!!!" His face was extremely calm and confident, like it was just another day in the office for him, and I cannot tell you how helpful and comforting that was to me at the time. I wasn't worried at all. This guy was in total control of the birth and Jim and I had complete faith in him. Then at 10.18pm, four hours from my first real contraction, she was born! She sort of flopped onto the floor and lay there for a bit, until she spluttered into action and took her first breath! Jim was still doing it tough behind me with the weight of my body, and the umbilical cord got wrapped around his foot! They whisked her to a nearby trolley and gave her some help with oxygen, it all seemed to be happening fast and Jim was pointing at her getting me to look at our baby! I whimpered with the sight of her, and I caught a glimpse of one of the midwives in the room looking a bit emotional too! There seemed to be a stack of people in the room but I have no idea who or how many. I think there were staff there witnessing a natural breech birth, as they had never seen one before.
This is around the point where they called another guy in to give me an epidural as I needed to be stitched up. So I had this after the labour and birth! I had had the episiotomy, but I had also acquired a third degree tear. Jim held our precious little baby while they started their work.
At some point, Jim got the baby onto my chest for a cuddle and to see if she would want a feed. It was a precious moment holding my baby for the first time. She felt so small and fragile.
I was exhausted but extremely happy that I had narrowly avoided a caesar, and that I'd managed to get through the whole labour and birth with no drugs. (I had asked for gas a couple of times but the midwife said I was doing great without it and that it would just be a distraction.) For the next two days I was thinking that the whole ordeal was pretty hard and that I'd have to think about having more kids, but it's true what they say... the memory of the pain fades very fast. The experience was also tough for Jim who had to watch me pretty helplessly, go through labour, but his presence there was all the help I needed from him.
I stayed in hospital until the Saturday (she was born the Tuesday night) as we had a bit of trouble with feeding and she also had slight jaundice. I felt like a bit of a celebrity on the ward as every midwife who came to see me talked about the breech birth and how, apparently, we had all handled it fantastically.
So yes, the whole experience was quite intense, but now when Jim and I think back to it all we only have good memories. It was a good day.