When I reached 38 weeks, I was excited and impatient to meet my baby. My obstetrician, Lionel Steinberg, was going away the two weeks surrounding my due date so I was nervous that he wouldn’t be around to deliver him. Having seen Lionel for the duration of my pregnancy I was comfortable with him and knew he supported my wish for a low intervention birth.
At 38.5 weeks
In the early hours of the morning period pain like cramps began. At 3:30am when I was heating up a wheat pack, my water broke. I told my husband that something might be happening then went back to bed and tried to get some rest. At 5:00am contractions began and I timed them with a Hypnobirthing app called Freya.
At 5:30am the contractions were intensifying so my husband called St. Vincent’s Private Hospital. They asked about the pain and whether I needed pain relief. I told them I was in moderate discomfort but happy to continue labouring at home for now. They said that unless things progressed, to make our way to hospital at 8am for monitoring and that Lionel would be there then.
I intended on having a low intervention birth, unless there were complications. I didn’t want to take pethidine or morphine. I also wanted to avoid an epidural unless necessary. I was open to gas if the pain became too intense but wanted to hold off as long as I could. I wanted to listen to my body and allow the hormones, oxytocin and endorphins, to work without interference.
While the contractions were uncomfortable, there were lulls between each one which meant I could relax and mentally prepare for the next surge. To ease the pain before we went to hospital, I took a bath and afterwards I put on the TENS machine.
As well as using the TENS machine, the following things worked well to tick each contraction off and to distract my mind from the pain:
- The Freya app to guide my breathing
- Deep groaning noises which came naturally and really helped work through the discomfort
- Rocking my body from side to side on the floor to get through each one.
Off to Hospital
At 7:30am my contractions were progressing. The Freya app told me I was in the advanced stages. We called the hospital again and they said to make our way in. We arrived at 8am, met with Lionel and were introduced to our midwife. I gave her my birth plan (you can read it here) while we settled into the birthing suite.
Our midwife monitored the baby while Lionel checked to see how things were going. At 9am I stripped off to my t-shirt and had a vaginal examination. The midwife told me I was 9cm dilated and remarked that I must have done most of the work at home. At the same time my husband had gone to park the car and for a moment I thought he might miss the show! I worked through each contraction and used the TENS machine and pressed acupuncture points around my ear to ease labour.
I kept thinking “if the pain worsens, I’ll ask for gas” however as soon as I thought a contraction was getting too intense, it was over and I just waited for the next one. Each contraction was one step closer to meeting my baby (a hypnobirthing technique).
The baby needed more time to make his way down the birth canal so the midwife told me that if I felt the pressure to push, to resist the urge. After what felt like only a few contractions, time is an illusion during childbirth, Lionel popped back in and said it was time to push.
For the second stage of labour, I tried several positions to push. I knelt up on the bed, then over the bed and tried squatting between my husband’s legs (yes he made it back in time) but Lionel told me I was pushing best on my back. I moved to my back, held onto my thighs and pushed every time I felt the pressure to bear down. The midwife told me to remove my bra in preparation for skin-to-skin and went to set up the crib for the baby’s arrival. It was at that point that I realised how close we were to meeting him.
At one stage I noticed that Lionel had taken my husband down the other end of the bed and was talking through what was happening. Personally I didn’t want to see the birth through a mirror and I definitely didn’t want my husband witnessing it in case he was traumatised for life! Between contractions I said to him “Are you sure you want to be down there?!” But he wasn’t phased in the slightest and now I wish I had been able to see for myself what was happening. When it came to the time, the whole process felt natural and I didn’t feel inhibited at all.
Out of the whole birth experience, pushing was by far the most difficult. Not because of the pain but the fatigue. I pushed 3 or 4 times before the urge subsided or until I could no longer do it out of sheer exhaustion and lack of breath. It felt like I was holding my breath underwater. This went on for a few rounds with short breaks in between. Lionel told us the baby was getting tired, so he was going to use a ventouse/vacuum to help birth his head. While this was not part of my low invention plan, it was best for the baby so I agreed without hesitation. After one long push his head crowned. Lionel attached the ventouse and told me to gently push. With a slight pull of the vacuum I birthed his head. I was told to push gently so as not to tear or need an episiotomy. A warm compress was held down there to help stretch the area. After another gentle push I birthed his arms and shoulders.
Then Lionel took my hands, cupped them underneath the baby’s armpits and told me to push while pulling him out. That was an unexpected and wonderful experience. I can say I birthed my baby!
So at 10:20am Harrison Beau was born, five hours and twenty minutes after the contractions first started. Lionel checked him over then he was handed to me for skin-to-skin. Lionel asked whether we wanted delayed cord clamping which I did and he showed my husband how and where to cut the cord. To assist the fourth stage of labour, the birth of the placenta, I had a syntocinon injection to induce contractions and shortly after birthed the placenta.
I was on a high for the days following the birth. I had little sleep but had all of the energy in the world because of the hormones. It felt wonderful. I can easily say that those few days after Harrison’s birth were some of the happiest days of my life.
I am so thankful to Lionel, his midwifery team and all the staff St Vincent’s Private Hospital for giving me the opportunity to have the birth I wanted and am proud of. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Read the full post here.