Our Birth Experience - Baby Jac
Born 6.33pm, 14th July 2021
Original due date: 24th July 2021
From Day 1 of finding out we were expecting, we very much took the relaxed, go with the flow approach - which was partly inline with the way we approach a lot of things in life, but also to avoid any anxieties that come with information overload.
As we progressed along our journey, we were extremely fortunate to have no complications, so as the due date got closer, naturally we started thinking more about preparation for the birth. One of my initial desires was to work towards an experience that would minimise recovery time so I could be up and about with baby as soon as possible.
A friend had a recent experience with Calmbirth which resulted in a positive birth experience for her, her partner and baby. The main feedback she shared was how empowered she felt going into the experience, and how the education also brought her partner more into the experience. This immediately peaked my interest so I enrolled into the 2-Day Calmbirth experience at around 28 weeks.
Following the course a few key takeaways and practices we focused on:
We came out of the course feeling much more confident and aware of the whole birth experience and potential pathways. Also understanding the power of the body and the whole physiological process, which was definitely a defining factor in my mental strength during the birth.
In terms of preparation, more so for myself, it was the mental preparation and awareness which actually put me at ease.
We downloaded a few meditations (yogibirth) very similar to Calmbirth, which we listened to before bed 3 or 4 times a week. The countdown concepts and visualisations were so in tune in my mind by the time of birth, I found them naturally coming to mind enabling me to completely zone out without any noticeable effort during the waves.
One of the most powerful aspects of Calmbirth was the education on birth preferences and as the birthing mother, our entitlements. Going into the birth we had our birth preferences clearly defined. Luckily for us the hospital was pretty much in tune with them, so it was an easy handover. Some key preferences were no proactive suggestion of pain relief; no interventions without discussion; post birth skin on skin, breast crawl; birth mother communicated clearly on logical stages of birth to support any requests for pain relief.
The massage practices, whilst we did do a few practices pre-birth, on the day I didn't respond too well to my partner attempting them. I think more so they interrupted my mental focus.
Preparation steps for the birth in alignment with the birth stages were extremely useful. We had a plan for staying at home for as long as possible (which partly went out the window :p), TENS machine, prep for active birth nutrition, aromatherapy, music playlist etc. All of this played a big role in the whole experience, including for my partner who felt prepared and fully incorporated into the experience. Without Calmbirth I can imagine we would have had a very clinical, more anxious experience.
These are the key aspects which really prepared both me and my partner. To add, we did have support in the run up to the birth experience, a trainee midwife who very much was on the same page of supporting us in the physiology of the birthing experience.
Birth experience diary
Monday 12th July
Well, this Monday started a little differently with the UEFA Euro Cup Final from 3am to 8am, featuring England vs Italy. Likely not the most sensible thing for us to do at 38 weeks pregnant, but we couldn't miss heading into the city to watch the match and show our support for England at 2am, a first in a lifetime for us so had to be done.
An unfortunate loss for England, we headed home and had a well earned nap for a few hours. When I awoke at 12.30ish, I noticed a few signs of pre-labour. One being the potential staggered loss of the plug/show. A little later on I noticed a very small gush of what felt more like fluid - appearing clear. So I wasn't sure if this was part of the plug or potentially the membranes rupturing. With these signs came excitement that our boy would be gracing us soon! As we learnt in Calmbirth, we wanted to enjoy this time, relax and proceed as normal. So off we went for a late lunch, bringing our pup Jet along.
No further developments that evening, but I did notice some very minor twinges in the night, but nothing substantial.
Tuesday 13th July
After a good night's rest, Dave headed off to the office, whilst I went about my morning as normal, taking Jet to the beach picking up my one a day coffee on the way. I took a few pictures that morning, with the feeling this could be the last time me & Jet would be having our regular walk just the two of us.
When I returned I noticed more clear fluid so I called up Cabrini to check and they advised me to pop in so they could check if this was my membranes (waters), and monitor baby.
I arrived at Cabrini around 11.30am, where they checked for any signs of ruptured membranes, and a quick monitor of the baby. Weirdly they couldn't see any fluid, and baby Jac was happy, so off I went home a bit confused but happy and prepared to make the most of the time. Cabrini also explained that if my waters did break, it would likely be much more substantial so I felt more prepared to recognise.
5.45pm hit and then came that gush! I was adamant this was my waters breaking due to the volume. I decided to relax, have a bath (which I now know probably wasn't the best idea) and wait for Dave to arrive home. No signs of contractions or twinges.
I decided to give Cabrini another call to explain I was sure my waters had broken. To again help validate, they advised me to pop back in just to check and to monitor Jac. So off we went back to Cabrini. One mistake I made was, for the second gush I unfortunately didn't have a pad on so Cabrini could only check a new pad which I had on for about an hour. We arrived at Cabrini around 8pm. They checked for ruptured membranes and again the mystery - they couldn't validate, but baby was happy so off we went back home. I was actually feeling a little deflated in the car home, confusion on what was happening, and more so hoping I hadn't got too excited on Jac's potential early arrival for nothing. We arrived home, decided to make a light dinner and off to bed I went for some rest.
That night, I woke up several times with water leakage, but again with the confusion of the day prior I just wasn't sure if this was a sign of the membranes breaking. But again nothing substantial, so I was certainly in for a surprise the next morning!
Wednesday 14th July
We woke up nice and early, decided to proceed as normal and take Jet for a walk, along with popping to Woolworths for some food. Shortly after getting up and about, I noticed a few more substantial twinges, but as we wanted to keep active and calm, we decided to still head for our walk. So a few minutes in and I certainly noticed the intensity picking up! And actually very quickly too. We couldn't actually make it to the beach, instead we popped into Woolies then headed back home. It felt like the longest walk home of my life, arriving back and tracking waves to at least what felt like 3 in 5 mins, 1min-1.20mins apart at around 75 seconds long. This is when my Calmbirth breathing techniques kicked in. I popped in the shower, Dave set up the tens machine and applied, set up the aromatherapy, music and brought me a hot water bottle compress. As much as I wanted to be active, the waves were just so intense I had to lie on my side on the bed. We made it to about 10.30am then Dave called Cabrini and our trainee midwife, both advised it may be time to head into the hospital. By this time I was struggling to hold a conversation. So I would assume our early labour stage was quickly moving to active - much to our surprise! We envisioned a good few hours at home, but it turns out Jac had other ideas.
10.30am we were in the car, and my god that was a long journey. This was it, our baby boy was on his way!! We arrived at Cabrini just after 11.15am, and were ushered straight into the Birth Suite to set up. We provided the lead midwife our birth preferences which she clarified back with us - mainly focused on not to proactively offer pain relief. Dave took full control of setting up music, aroma scents, feeding me water with electrolytes, offering back rubs. During the next hour contractions grew stronger, and by 12.30pm I had an internal performed by my OB. He confirmed I was 4-5cm dilated, which at the time I remember feeling a little deflated that I still had a long way to go, but again Jac had other ideas.
By this point I was still managing the waves with breathing techniques and visualisation, which mixed with the music worked really well. I really struggled to eat during the morning, so I asked Dave to run and get some sweets to give me some sugar hits.
At 1PM our trainee midwife, Jess arrived to offer additional support. We also transitioned to a new lead midwife. It felt like we had a nice team of support in the suite which really made a difference to both myself and Dave. For my husband Dave, his feedback was having Jess as additional support (who had been shadowing our pregnancy since week 20), was reassuring and helped him to not feel overwhelmed. I think we can both vouch, if you can have additional support at your own discretion it is invaluable. Jess also was very well in tune with our preferences and the concept of Calmbirth/physiological natural birth, again invaluable.
Interestingly up to this point I was so in a zone that any pain relief options didn't even cross my mind, but once I learnt more on dilation and asked what current dilation would mean in terms of timing, the midwife shared that the next routine internal examination was at 8pm. Knowing I could be in for a long ride, I asked Dave & Jess if I could have a very low level of gas and air, so they prepared 30% nitrogen oxide 70% oxygen. To help with some of the wave intensity, I did try a few different positions, including using the ball, side of bed etc. I tried some gas during this time but took it easy in balancing with normal breathing so I didn't feel overwhelmed.
By 3.30pm things moved very quick. The intensity picked up dramatically, I opted to use the gas a bit more, and shortly after 3.30pm the midwife conducted an internal which showed me to be 7-8cm and likely in transition due to bowel pressure. During this time I remember the feeling of excitement as we both knew that our little man wasn't far away. We even changed the playlist to more upbeat music in excitement.
During the internal the senior midwife shared that the positioning of the baby head had to slightly rotate, so I maneuvered onto to ball and proceeded with some hip rotations and movements. As time went on the waves became much more intense and strong. I felt it much more manageable whilst laying on the bed at this point. It also enabled me to focus more on my breathing, and by this point managing a few sips of gas. The next 2 hours felt like a complete blur, although I do remember the music quite vaguely, in some way supporting visualisations to put me in other places we enjoyed around Melbourne and take my headspace away from the intensity.
Then at around 5.15pm I felt the urgent need to go to the toilet, which is obviously a sign second stage is about to begin. The midwife wasn't too sure my dilation was ready. I can't remember if another internal check was performed, but the midwives assured me to push when I was naturally ready and felt the urge. My OB at this point was supporting another birth so I had the midwives taking the lead and doing an amazing job! They helped me with positioning, sharing positive affirmations, and ultimately keeping my headspace in the place that had seen my dilation run smoothly and quickly. All in all, I was pushing for an hour - and in those last couple of pushes I remember feeling like perhaps I just couldn't do this, but one of the midwives was so strong in affirming my ability, it gave me the mental effort to bring our baby boy Jac into the world. All be it, Jac arrived into the world safely, with no interventions required, and a calm atmosphere surrounded by this amazing support. It really was a surreal moment that after this 9 month journey, we were presented with this beautiful, healthy baby boy. Jac was born at 6.33pm.
To make the birth even more special, my OB did make it into the suite in the final stages to support, and as Jac made his final few steps, he offered my husband the chance not only to catch baby Jac, but also play a role in helping him through by delivering his head. This in itself was such a special connecting moment for my husband. We also requested delayed chord clamping, and for my partner to cut the chord which was fulfilled.
A couple of surprises appeared as Jac entered the world; as his head came into sight, the amniotic sac was still in-tact even though I was convinced my waters had broken. But it turns out the fluid could have been a hind water break which could have potentially ruptured on Monday as I suspected. If that was the case and it was diagnosed, I could have been advised an induction, changing the whole experience.
The second surprise was a knot in the umbilical cord. Thankfully this hadn't impacted anything for Jac health wise, my OB was quite excited about it which I remember funnily.
With Jac responsive and showing positive signs, he was placed immediately onto my chest for skin on skin contact. Again a surreal moment, that after all this time a baby boy - who had a lot of hair to our surprise. At this point I was fully aware and enjoying this special moment. During this time Jac was fairly quick to latch with the assistance of a midwife. Jac did show signs of looking for the nipple, but we helped him with the positioning and latch. So whilst he didn't completely make the feed himself, Jac has been a fantastic feeder - no issues to date with any latching etc. And even since those first few days, a 3-4 hour feeder, which at night was a dream!
The birth of the placenta happened fairly quickly (I was happy with the injection to speed up), followed by a few stitches due to a second degree tear. I was fairly oblivious to the above due to the special moments of holding Jac.
We were allowed to remain in the birth suite for a couple of hours, and when we were ready, we were taken over to our room for the 4 day stay.
So from initial waves starting at 9.30am, by 8.30pm we were enjoying our time as a three, besotted and in awe at this beautiful baby boy who was part of our family.
Recovery wise, 6 weeks post-birth and I am feeling really well. Within a few hours I was walking, and within 2 weeks happily and comfortably walking 5km. Looking back, I feel like I haven't felt any restrictions in caring for Jac, and had the confidence to go out independently with Jac for daily walks from 10 days.
We really couldn't have asked for a more special experience. Techniques and education from Calmbirth, support from my husband and our additional support person, and the amazing midwifery staff, were 100% as a combined force, accountable for the amazing experience we had. I also believe our post-natal experience to date which whilst being an eye opener and hard, I do think the positive birth accounted for Jacs calmness, good feeding and sleeping habits, which as we know for a newborn makes all the difference :).