Early in the morning of Tuesday 14th August I woke up to go to the toilet, to my surprise I found that I was probably seeing some early signs of labour. If you are like me and want to know all the emotional as well as physical details, read on….
So, at around 4am I could feel that I needed to go to the toilet, that is when I saw that the mucus plug and perhaps some amniotic fluid had come out, what is called the ‘bloody show’, I was also getting some strong and long lasting ‘braxton hicks’ contractions. Eventually I headed back to bed, with a bit of a smile on my face, knowing deep down today would be the day that we welcomed our baby.
Chris wakes up early around 5:30am to get ready for work, so I tell him to keep his phone on during the day as I suspect we will officially become parents later the same day.
As those who have given birth probably already know, time and logic can go out the window. I knew my own Mum had a relatively fast active labour, but I didn’t really make the connection that our experience might be similar. I have heard from my Dad that he was called by Mum saying she was in labour at 10pm at night (he was at the pub after playing indoor cricket and without mobile phones, she would have had to call the bar). Then I arrived at 11:58pm, with my parents thinking I might be born in the car or hospital hallway!
So, back to our labour experience. . .
Around 8am I messaged our private midwife to say I wasn’t sure if I was in false labour or the early stages of real labour as I was having ‘tightening’ sensations. She advised rest, drink and eat where possible and to keep her posted if things became more intense as that would signify active labour when the midwife generally comes. After watching some episodes of Call the Midwife, reading parts of Juju Sundin’s book Birth Skills (talk about cramming information in at the last minute), having a few soothing warm showers, laying on the lounge and bouncing on the fit ball, I started to get a sense that it was possible I was really in the early stages of labour. I guess I was almost in denial and simply distracting myself from the physical intensity of the contractions.
After eating a vegie wrap for lunch, things seemed to kick up a notch, with some extra heat in my body as well as nausea. I don’t even recall doing it, but I was recording the timing of contractions in my phone and they progressed from being irregular, to 5 mins apart after lunch.
At around 2pm I decided to call Chris to come home to be prepared, just in case. I still felt as though I was overreacting calling him and that he would be back to work the next day telling everyone it was a ‘false alarm’. By around 3pm Chris was home and we were relaxed; watching telly and having a cuddle on the lounge. I think I was still finishing an episode of Call the Midwife then too. When things became a bit harder, I was breathing through contractions by leaning over a new footstool or the lounge. In between contractions I would focus on my breath and moving around on my hands and knees. This is where yoga seemed to help, as you can tune into the present moment and what movements are helpful. I was quite aware of the feeling of the rug beneath my feet and remembered to use one of the techniques suggested by Juju, which was to press my feet into the rug and rub my feet on it through the contractions.
Looking back at a couple of notes in my phone I could see that when Chris got home the contractions became a bit closer again, more like 3 mins apart, so I messaged the midwife again to keep her in the loop. It amazes me how, being in a calm environment with the love and support from Chris arriving home, probably helped me progress and dilate further. I decided I was getting hungry, so sent Chris up to the shops to get some supplies for dinner. I really wanted haloumi! While Chris was in the kitchen, my attention went inwards, and I was really using my breath and sounds to cope with the feeling of the contractions, which were becoming stronger.
Around 6pm, just as Chris was putting dinner on the table I called out to say I thought I was going to be sick. Chris was too late with a bucket and my hands couldn’t do the trick either, so it ended up all over one of our rugs. From there I moved to the bathroom, looking back I think this was because it was the coolest room in the house.
Around 7pm, we called the midwife who listened to me labouring on loudspeaker and could tell that things had progressed but didn’t yet think it was active labour from the sounds I was making. Our midwife did ask Chris if I was in the pool yet. At which point we realised it was not even full of water to get in. So, Chris figured he should start filling it up and turned his focus to the task, so it would be ready quickly.
By 7:30pm as the pool was gradually filling up, I started to feel the urge to push and told Chris to call the midwife. He made a very quick call and the midwife was immediately on her way. I felt there was a lot of pressure building up and it was becoming harder to speak or do anything much other than breath through the surges. I felt as though I could already feel the head coming out. I checked with my hands and could feel something round, slimy and firm poking out. I thought of course, this must be the head. I asked Chris to look and tell me what he could see. He said it’s the amniotic sack not the head. Not convinced, I made him take a photo to show me what he could see! My waters had not yet broken, so the amniotic sack was still intact and starting to protrude out. We decided to move rooms, so I could get into the pool, as I wanted to have a water birth. At this point I felt as though I was going to accidently have our baby over the toilet! I crawled along the ground with Chris spreading some yoga mats in front of me to make things a little gentler on my knees.
When we got into the baby’s bedroom where the pool was set up, Chris let me in on the fact that the water was cold. Turns out all the showers I had throughout the day had led to us running out of hot water! Chris had been desperately trying to fill the pool with boiled water from the kettle when he realised, but it wasn’t meant to be. I felt the temperature with one leg and jumped back out. Instead the pool became a nice distraction from pushing. I was able to lean against the side of the pool for support and wade my hands through the water.
By 8pm the amniotic sack was emerging again, as the move from bathroom to bedroom retracted it. I had an overwhelming sensation to push harder. I was kneeling and making a whole lot of noise by this point. With each contraction I made a low sound that reminded me of a lion’s roar. I started to tell our baby ‘Come on’ and ‘Hurry up’. I knew we were getting very close to having our baby. Facing Chris, I was laughing with relief, excitement and all the hormones rushing through me. Chris was an absolute champion birth partner, I have so much gratitude for him being along for the ride. He was matching my breathing and being a calm presence. With another big push I felt that there was a release of pressure, which was as the sack popping and my waters breaking, all over the floor. Then, next push out came our beautiful, big, healthy, screaming baby BOY!! The time was 8:07pm. Chris was able to reach through to catch him. We still wonder how either of us knew what to do and kept our cool, but it was instinct and less scary that it might seem. Chris even managed to take a few pictures after passing him over to me and announcing, ‘It’s a boy’. I think we were so full of love (and some adrenaline) to manage an accidental free birth on our own. We spoke later about how we could have had our midwife on loudspeaker to guide us, but we felt comfortable to carry on in our little family bubble. I took my shirt off to have skin to skin contact and little man (LM) did his first wee over the floor. It just added to the mess we made from my water breaking, plus the blood that comes along with childbirth.
Then I was able to lay down on the floor of the room to allow LM to lay skin to skin and work out how to feed for the first time. After such a rush of hormones, love, excitement and a fast labour, I was exhausted. I remember looking down at LM in awe of how he was able to wriggle his way to find the breast and suckle quickly. I also felt surprised at how big he was! I didn’t think I had gained a whole lot of weight throughout the pregnancy, so was expecting an average size baby.
When the first midwife arrived at our place, Chris let her in and she could hear that LM was already crying out. She hurried in to check on everything. Chris was then invited to cut the cord, which he did excitedly. The placenta was taking a little too long to come along, so we decided it was best to get an injection of syntocinin into my thigh to help things along. Both midwives assisted with the delivery of the placenta and encouraged me to ‘let it go’ and thank it for all the work it had done. This idea helped me to relax and it came out smoothly and intact. After it was all checked over, we got to place it in a container to freeze, so that we could plant it in the future. I wanted to honour it in some way as it was the ‘tree of life’ providing while LM grew.
I was feeling a bit dizzy and needed some extra energy, so had some labour aid ice cubes I’d made up for the freezer, they tasted so good after so much action! While, I was being tended to by the midwives, Chris got some cuddle time with LM.
Being at home, we got to head into our own bed which was such a nice feeling. I needed help to get there and was carried by Chris and both midwives in a team effort. Once I was all sorted out, Chris did the first nappy, wrap and placed LM into his Moses basket. We were all set up with our little man right next to us and left to start the greatest adventure of our lives.