I have spoken a bit about my labour preparation in a previous blog post on Labour – why women fear the big day. With so many negative birth stories being put out there, I wanted to do a post on my positive birth experience.
I was due on the 29th of December. Being due so close to Christmas, there was a real feeling in the hospital of doctors trying to kick start a few labours early, or at least that is how I felt when I was offered a sweep (where the doctor/midwife will try to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac surrounding your baby from your cervix) at my 38 week check-up. I was surprised to be offered the procedure as it’s typically undertaken once you are overdue and I didn’t feel there was a good reason for this medical intervention so I declined it. I felt that my baby would come when he was good and ready but just in case, I started drinking my raspberry leaf tea (2 cups a day) from that evening onwards.
Exactly 1 week later, I woke up at 5am with what felt like my waters breaking. Not wanting to call the hospital too early, I thought I would go back to bed for a couple of hours, after all, it was 5am. Once I got into bed I felt some mild contractions starting (in the form of period pains). At 6am I rang the hospital and the midwife told me I had to go in to get checked out (even though I felt I was only in pre-labour and wanted to labour at home). She suggested I come in but not to rush and to have breakfast and a cup of tea before I went anywhere. So I did just that, had some raspberry leaf tea, ate some breakfast and had a shower. We finished packing my bag with our last minute items and headed for the car. It took me a while to get out of the house as the surges seemed to be coming fairly strongly at this point but we were on the road by about 7.45am. I checked with a contraction timer and the surges were lasting 55 seconds every 2 minutes. So the 25 minute journey to the hospital was not comfortable.
The walk from the car to the hospital seemed to never end, with my constant starting and stopping. I had 2 big gushes of my waters right outside Holles Street hospital at the lovely black railings. We got admitted to the hospital and brought to a delivery suite. Being a bit disorganised, my birth preferences weren’t written down but my husband explained our preferences in detail. The midwife was very understanding of our preferences and happy to take them all into account for the labour. There was no continuous monitoring at all, rather intermittant monitoring to check baby was doing ok. The only time I was lying on my back was for my initial examination, which showed I was 1 cm dilated (it was 9am at this point).
After labouring on my hands and knees against the bed while my husband collected our things from the car, the midwife suggested I get into the shower to help with the surges, which I thought was a great idea. By the time I got out of the shower 15 minutes later I was having the urge to push. Holles Street like to examine you every 2 hours to check dilation but the midwife waived further examinations given the signs of pushing. In my head I kept telling myself my affirmations from my gentle birth app, knowing my body knew what it was doing. I didn’t take any epidural or request one, as I felt I could do it myself.
For the pushing phase I was in my own zone. I couldn’t really communicate much with people, though I was aware of what was happening, I just couldn’t really concentrate on anything other than each surge. My husband expertly spoke on my behalf the whole way through, ensuring our birth preferences were remembered. I laboured on my hands and knees and also my side, following the midwife’s instructions. I did use the gas and air for a handful of breaths, but I couldn’t really use it as breathing through a tube while trying to take big breaths is practically impossible. At this point, there was a lot of coached pushing, which was not in our original plan, but I felt that given how strong my surges were, I would just go with it. I pulled back a few times taking breathers when I needed them. Aside from an eagerness to use coached pushing, the midwife was great and worked well with me and my husband to follow our preferences. With the help of my amazing husband and our lovely midwife, my beautiful little boy was born at 11.38 am, only 2.5 hours after labour was established.
The experience of labour was extremely empowering and I think my best achievement to date. The preparation that myself and my husband did with the gentle birth class with Melanie (see link to her website here) and the gentle birth app was the best thing we could have done. Going into the labouring process, I felt that I was ready and well prepped for my marathon, which turned out to be more like a 10km race given the full process just took 6.5 hours from initial contractions to birth. And my beautiful little boy was the best early Christmas present I could have asked for.