I spent my entire pregnancy counting down the days until my daughter would arrive and never did I even consider that she wouldn’t arrive around her due date. Surprisingly, I lasted a week post dates before I lost my cool, but only for a day or two, and then I managed to regain my focus. I stopped trying to coerce her to come out and started to trust her timing; she knew when was best.
My midwife booked me in for an induction for Thursday the 27th of February when I would be 2 weeks overdue, giving baby a week to show up before they needed to intervene. With the induction date looming I began to panic. I had dreamt of a natural birth since before I even fell pregnant. The thought of having to be hooked up to a drip that was pushing my body and my baby to do something it wasn’t ready to do terrified me. My dream was to have a very active labour without any drugs and I liked the idea of giving birth in water.
On the Tuesday night I started feeling tightening on my right side that was very sporadic. On the Wednesday the 25th of Feb, I went in for monitoring and my midwife did a stretch and sweep to try and get things moving. My partner Sammy and I left the hospital and went to get some Pho at around 2pm and that’s when I started having fairly regular contractions in my lower back. We went home and I tried to get some rest as I didn’t sleep much the night previous because of the excitement of the one sided contractions I’d been having. As the contractions strengthened, trying to rest proved futile, as I needed to be upright when the pain hit.
Over the next 24 hours I used various coping mechanisms to get through the pain of the contractions, which were still only in my lower back as opposed to the front contractions most women experience. I bounced on the exercise ball, had baths, recited positive birth affirmations, spoke to my Mum on the phone, cleaned and listened to music. This helped as I was in my own little world and I was coping wonderfully despite the pain being the worst I have ever experienced. I was completely in control and saw the pain as a positive thing that was bringing me closer and closer to my baby. What really helped was visualising each contraction as a mountain I needed to climb. I would chant ‘up, up, up’ as the contraction started until I got to the peak of pain, then ‘down, down, down’ as the pain slowly eased. At some point in the early hours of the morning, I started having to moan through each contraction, which helped me to try and release the pain.
My mum came around in the morning after I had laboured all through the night and my contractions were around 4 minutes apart and 45 seconds long. I wanted to stay at home for as long as possible because I felt so in control and was afraid of getting to the hospital and being only around 3cm dilated despite all of my hard work. I spent most of the day in the shower with the hot water running on my back, which really helped take the edge off the pain. By this point I was yelling through each contraction, which helped my mum to time each contraction with an app on her phone. Yelling and screaming through them was my coping mechanism, it helped me to release the pain. While I was in the shower, I had a really great moment when I realized how proud I was of myself for remaining so together. I cried tears of happiness as I reflected on the fact that I was the closest I had ever been to meeting my little girl.
My contractions were 2 minutes apart and 1 minute long when we decided to drive to the hospital. My mum drove and Sammy sat in the back with me. I screamed through the contractions and the 15-minute drive was surprisingly quick. When we got in, I was examined and to my joy and surprise I was 5-6cm dilated! We were all so encouraged. I was taken to the labour ward where I was put into the biggest and best room in the birth ward, with a beautiful, big birth tub.
My midwife arrived and we were all feeling really positive vibes thinking that baby was likely to arrive before the days end. I got into the shower in our room and stayed in there for hours. By now the contractions were so painful I could barely think through them, but I had to be upright, moving and yelling to make it through. Sammy stayed with me the whole time playing music on his phone to give me some comfort and at times I would lean on him to get through a contraction. After hours in the shower we decided it would be best for me to get into the birth pool, as I was 10cm dilated. Sammy hopped into the bath with me and I was contracting every minute. My midwife expected that I should feel the urge to push any moment as my body was showing all the signs of being ready, however little bub had other plans.
I was getting to the point where I was starting to think that I couldn’t do it. By this time I had gone almost 48 hours without sleep. My midwife examined me and said that it felt like baby was in the right position, but it was very hard to tell. I got out of the bath to be upright to encourage my body to start the pushing process. I got back into the shower but it provided no relief because by this point the contractions were ridiculously regular and indescribably agonizing. It was around midnight that my Mum suggested I try the gas and I reluctantly accepted. I had gone so far without any assistance…but I knew when enough was enough and I felt the most helpless I have ever felt. The whole situation seemed hopeless; my body was ready for her to come but she wasn’t coming. I took the gas and sucked the life out of it. At first it just felt like being really drunk, then it started feeling like I was really high, but after a couple of minutes I started to feel like I was on some sort of psychedelic drug. I was having flashbacks to my past and hallucinations. At times I forgot who I was. My Mum, Sammy and the midwife were talking about me and to me but I didn’t understand anything they said or anything that was going on. They were asking me questions but I didn’t know what they were saying or how to respond. I would drift in and out of what felt like my own little universe and ask what was happening and when my midwife responded, I would still have no idea what was going on.
At some point throughout all of this, the doctor on duty came in and decided that my labour was going on too long. He wanted to examine me but I did not want to be touched by him as he was giving me bad vibes. I wanted my midwife to do the examination but he would not let up. At one point I told him to “f*uck off” because he was just being so persistent. He blackmailed me saying that basically if I did not let him examine me, he would not take responsibility for anything that happened to my baby, which I now know is actually against hospital policy for him to say. We knew baby was happy as we had wireless monitors monitoring her heartbeat. My midwife left the room to argue with him, campaigning for me to be allowed to have her check me, as it was my decision. This doctor did not let up and eventually I gave up and consented to let him examine me. He found that the baby was in the wrong position and broke my waters to get things going.
After he broke my waters, I felt such a relief; it was like the doors of heaven had opened up. A little while after this, I began to feel like I needed to do a number two, which my midwife knew was actually my urge to push. They helped me over to the toilet with my gas machine in tow and I started to push. I was in complete denial that I was pushing and completely believed that my baby was never going to come and that they would have to give me a caesarean. Even as my midwife said she could see the head beginning to descend, I was still in denial because of how out of it I was. She told me I needed to get off the toilet because she needed to support my perineum with compresses to prevent tearing. I resisted for a long time because the thought of making the 4-meter walk from the toilet to the bed was like torture. Eventually, after much encouragement from my Mum and Sammy, I made the journey across and kneeled on the floor with my upper body resting on the bed. I was screaming my lungs out and bearing down but I was hesitant because the feeling of her descending was so painful. My midwife encouraged me to keep pushing and I bit the bullet and pushed with all my heart.
Apparently she had her arm placed over her face, which explains why she took so long. At 2:01am her head popped out and apparently her little eyes opened. It only took one push and the rest of her body was out. My midwife caught her and I heard her little cry. At this point I realized that I actually had been pushing and I couldn’t believe she was out and I didn’t need a caesarean. My midwife passed her up to me. She was still attached to the cord inside me and her skin was warm, wet and velvety. I didn’t have a moment of relief because I was still very traumatised and I knew I still had to deliver the placenta and possibly be stitched up. Sammy was crying tears of joy and my Mum was taking photos for me. The midwife exclaimed that she had very large feet. They helped me onto the bed and I held her while I delivered the placenta. I still felt numb and empty and unfortunately didn’t get that moment of utter joy that she was here. I held her as they stitched up a minor tear but was relieved when I could give her to Sammy to hold as I felt in no state to be holding her. I needed to rest before I could do anything more. My Mum helped me shower while Sammy and Alaska had skin on skin time. I dozed for an hour while the midwife weighed and measured her and taught Sammy how to put her nappy on and dress her.
By about 5am I was ready to be admitted into the recovery ward. Sammy and my Mum went home, as there was only a single bed. I could not sleep, as I was still feeling so raw. I tried to rest with Alaska in the crib next to me but couldn’t, so I picked her up and admired her. My heart started to fill with love and I cried tears of joy and told her how much I love her.
It took days for me to heal emotionally from the labour. It was only the last few hours that really traumatized me as I felt unbelievably helpless and thinking back to it still makes me anxious. If she had have come in the birth pool when my body seemed it was ready, I would have avoided the trauma of the last few hours, but I cannot change what happened. A month on, I feel healed and look back on my labour with disbelief at how well I handled everything. From when the painful contractions started to when she was born it was 36 hours. I am so proud of myself and my body for enduring what I did and staying so in control. It was all so worth it for my amazing little girl and I feel as though I will be able to do it all over again in the future.