Photo credit: Jana Woodhouse
From about 38 weeks I was starting to get on and off early signs that my body was preparing for birth. Random cramping and light tightening’s in bed of a night time that would come and go. But on Monday (at 39 +1) after getting back from a walk with Dan and Douglas I had about 3-4 hours of constant lower abdominal period type cramping that wouldn’t go away. I said to Dan if these pains don’t go away before we go to bed I’m going to message Erin, our private midwife and let her know that things could be happening. But when I laid down everything fizzled out, so I left it. Nothing happened over night to my disappointment.
The next day I had an acupuncture appointment booked. During the appointment we discussed how I was starting to feel impatient because I had had a few false alarms over the past week. We unpacked this in the session and spent some time doing some relaxation/breathing techniques and discussing some coping strategies for labour. At the end of the session I lay on the bed and had the pins put in. The purpose of the session was really for relaxation/opening. But she did target two ‘induction points’ seeing as I was 39 + 2 and having some early signs that labour could be near. She left the room and said she would be back in 20mins and to keep focusing on my breath. After about 5 mins I had a really noticeable tightening. I thought WOW that’s strange, as I had never had proper Braxton Hicks pains during my pregnancy. I remember thinking surely the acupuncture cant work that fast. The sensation passed and then about 5 mins later another one came which was slightly stronger than the one before. Another 10 mins later another one came which was more intense again. At this point I nearly yelled out to Karen asking her to come back in, because I thought I was in labour! When she did finally come back into the room she asked how I went. I told her "I’m pretty sure I just started having contractions". She replied “That’s great!” I called Dan on the way home and told him what had happened.
When I arrived home I was still experiencing these tightening’s every 20minutes or so but they were sporadic. I started cooking mussels of all things for dinner. Just as they were ready I felt a gush of water down my leg. I ran to the toilet and yelled to Dan that my waters were breaking. We were both so excited and Dan went to the shops to get some last minute things for the birth. I decided against mussels for dinner and instead had tuna and rice. A much safer pre-labour meal. Couldn’t risk a bad mussel. For the next few hours I was filling adult nappies with fluid which remained clear thankfully. I alerted Erin who was actually at another birth at the time. She told me to keep her posted and said labour would likely kick off in the next 24 hours, if not; the 24 hours after that. We set up the birth pool and started getting organised. I went to bed hopeful that tonight would finally be the night and knew that I had to get some rest. Overnight I again had random contractions which would wake me, but were still really irregular and manageable.
I woke up in the morning again disappointed and let Erin know that nothing had eventuated. Dan and I took Douglas for a walk and still nothing happened. I had another acupuncture appointment booked at 1pm. Karen knew that my waters had broken the night before and said if things don’t progress come in again for some specific induction work. Dan came with me and again Karen did some birth prep with us both and showed Dan how to target some acupressure points for me during labour. I sat on a birth ball and had the pins put in. The contractions started coming again. I breathed through them easily. Karen gave me some herbs and told me to keep taking them every couple of hours to help things along.
When we got home my other midwife Nicky came and checked me and baby. His heart rate was fine, as was my blood pressure, and temperature. She had a feel and could tell that he was anterior but that his head was turned to the side. We did some spinning babies to help his head move further down into my pelvis. All the while contractions would come and go. I was still breathing through them and finding them super manageable. Nicky had a feel of my uterus during the contractions and said I would go into established labour that night.
She was right. At about 8pm Dan and I had a shower. We worked through the waves together which were coming more frequently now. We decided to go to bed to get some rest. I put the TENS machine on as the waves were getting a little more intense and I thought the TENS would help me get some sleep. When I laid down in bed I had two contractions that made me feel really uncomfortable. I was not enjoying lying down. I told Dan I wanted to get up and sit on the swissball. He tried to convince me that it was still early and that I needed to try and get some sleep. I didn’t listen to him. I put our birth playlist on and worked through the waves on my own on the ball as Dan rested. I tried to sleep sitting on the ball propped on some cushions but it wasn’t working for me. About an hour passed and I made Dan get out of bed as I needed some support.
There was definitely more rhythm to the waves at this point and they required a lot more of my attention. The TENS was amazing! I was still very much in my comfort zone. Another hour had passed and I was starting to crank the TENS machine to help me cope with the contractions which were starting to lengthen out and were a lot more intense. At this point I started making quite primal noises; deep humming and mooing my way through each surge. Douglas was quite distressed by the sounds I was making! They were starting to get intense so I made Dan call Erin to say I think she should consider coming. According to the TENS machine my contractions were about 1 minute long and 2 mins apart and making me work. The only thing that was making us doubt how far along I was is that I was still very logical between waves, I was coping pretty well, and I even managed to put my contact lenses in bouncing on the ball without a mirror!
Dan spoke to Erin who told her little to my knowledge that my contractions were only 30 seconds long and inconsistent. Somehow he got the timing wrong. She said to call back in an hour and if things were still progressing she would come. Another 40mins passed before we called Erin again. I needed her to come now. I was getting little rest between contractions and when I tried to stand up and go to the toilet to empty my bladder, they would start rolling into one another and the very little rest was starting to overwhelm me. She was on her way, as was our photographer Jana. I had to stay seated on the ball to slow things down because I didn’t want to have this baby before Erin arrived. When Jana turned up I knew I had to move off the ball and get in the pool because I was getting no rest between the waves and now things were very intense. I was so nervous to get in the pool because I knew I had to take off the TENS machine. I didn’t know how I would cope without it. When walking from the bedroom to the pool I felt scared from the first time. The waves were pretty much constant and I could tell his head was right there and my body was ready to bear down. Erin still hadn’t arrived. Thankfully Jana gave me a lot of reassurance at this point and helped Dan get me into the pool.
I had no idea if I would find the water helpful but my god it was heaven. As soon as I submerged in the warm water my body seemed to totally relax and gave me a good rest for the first time in hours. Everything seemed to calm, so much so that I felt like I could go to sleep! When the next surge came the sensation was different and I knew I was ready to push. I was sidelying and blowing bubbles under the water. Erin walked in the door 5 minutes later and I have never been so happy to see someone. She listened to baby and reassured me everything was looking good and we would be meeting our baby really soon.
After another couple of surges I decided to change my position and get onto my knees. I much preferred the sensations of the pushing phase as I felt I had something to work toward. It felt efficient, and I could feel him coming down. During this stage I also got to enjoy much longer rest periods between surges. I was also squeezing combs in my hands which was a really helpful distraction. I remember hearing Douglas snoring on the couch as I was roaring. There was a lot of stinging/burning toward the end and it was hard bloody work. Finally after pushing with all of my strength I birthed his head. It took me a good hour as his head was still turned to the side when he was born, so I was working with a far bigger surface area. The relief of his head being born was enormous. I knew the hardest part was done. I just had to wait for my body to bring the next surge and we would meet our baby. After a few minutes I don’t even remember pushing, my body just seemed to expel him with an outward breath and he floated up between my legs toward me. Erin said “he’s coming toward you sweetheart”. I lifted him out of the water and onto my chest. He was wriggling about and I knew he would be just fine.
The only way I can describe that moment is pure elation. I had done it. We had done it. All on our own. A few moments later Harvey made his first cry and I burst into tears. Nothing will ever beat that sound. We spent about 10 minutes here in the pool taking it all in. It was calm, intimate and undisturbed. I had nearly forgot to check what we had as we never found out during the pregnancy- I couldn’t have cared at all in the moment though I was just so glad our baby was here. We discovered for ourselves that we had a little boy. Our little Harvey. We were absolutely thrilled.
He hopped on the boob himself very quickly and we enjoyed his first feed together. I had been visualising this moment my entire pregnancy, it was total bliss. Around this point Nicky walked in. She missed all of the action but thankfully she was there now to help look after me. After about 10-15minutes I had a big contraction and moments later my placenta was born. I wanted a physiological third stage. We popped the placenta in a bowl and didn’t cut the cord for at least an hour. There was quite a bit of blood in the placenta, so Nicky and Erin quickly started to evaluate how much blood I had lost. They suspected it was around 1L so I had two doses of post partum haemorrhage tincture. They were pretty happy that the bleeding wasn’t getting any worse and that my body was doing all of the right things to stop the bleeding on it’s own.
Erin and Nicky took some time slowly getting me out of the pool and monitored me very closely while Dan enjoyed his first skin to skin cuddles. They helped move me to the couch where Dan tied off Harvey’s cord. After about an hour or so and after all our final checks our gorgeous midwives helped me shower and tucked the three of us into bed with a big bowl of loaded porridge and a smoothie. Dan was totally exhausted but I was charging on all those crazy birth hormones. I was just so pumped that our little boy was here and that we brought him into the world on our terms, following my instincts. The experience was totally life changing. I knew birth could be beautiful; I just had to trust the process. Everything unfolded just as we imagined. It was the perfect start to my mothering journey and to our next chapter as a family.
Photo credit: Jana Woodhouse