Okay. Let’s be frank. There is just no way to write a birth story without getting personal. Like, bodily discharge personal. So if you are unfamiliar with the in-and-outs of birth (which given that you’re reading a website called ‘birth. com.au’, I’m guessing you’re not) I suggest you skip the next few paragraphs.
So, you may remember from my last entry that my husband and I went away for a ‘babymoon’ when I was 38wks. While we were having dinner at a fancy restaurant I began contracting and that night they continued at 6min apart. I also had a ‘show’ that night; just a bit of mucus, which I knew meant that my cervix was thinning and getting ready for the worst day of its life.
My husband Matt was practically packing my bags and organising a sitter, while I knew that this could potentially go on for days, or even weeks. So we tried to stay calm and just go with the flow. During the following few days the contractions were sprinkled throughout the day, some more painful than others, but nothing regular and established. Which if I know anything about labour, is a) what midwives like to hear before they advise you to get to a hospital, and b) when you really know that it’s action stations. My contractions would stop if I rested on the lounge, so I knew I was a few days off labour starting for real.
Or so I thought! On the following Thursday morning, the last day of the school term, I woke up at 5am needing to go to the toilet. I didn’t feel any different and I was looking forward to getting the kids off to their last day of school. Matt woke up too needing to use the toilet so there we were, saying our goodmornings in the loo! I’m glad he was there because low and behold I had another show! (The word ‘show’ makes it sound like there should be music and flashing lights..?) This time there was a substantial amount of blood, which (and I’m no expert) usually means that the cervix is opening. Matt took one look at me and said ‘oh, that’s interesting’, meanwhile I couldn’t get the smile off my face. Things were getting close!
We both went back to bed to get a bit more sleep before the day began. As soon as I woke up again at 6.30am, the contractions started. As I went about making coffee and toast they were about 5 minutes apart and painful enough to distract me from what I was doing. It took Matt and I a little while to realise that today may actually be the day.
We dropped the kids off at school as I continued to time my contractions with my mobile phone. I got a few strange looks from people as I leaned against whatever pole I could find to help me breathe through them. We dropped our youngest little boy off at day care and I hugged him extra close – if this was the last day that he was my baby then I wanted to soak up his cuteness one more time! Once we arrived back home Matt rang his first job for the day and re-scheduled as I breathed through a massive contraction and declared that no, I don’t think he should be leaving me alone, and YES, I think this baby may be arriving today!
I had arranged to meet my girlfriend for coffee that morning and really didn’t want to miss it, so figuring that we’d have to arrange for the kids to be picked up from school anyway, we grabbed my labour bags (which, remember? Were packed and ready by the front door, so glad I was organised!) and headed into town.
The Guide to Freaking Out Your Best Friend – Tell her you’re in labour over a cup of coffee, pause every few minutes, close your eyes and start some heavy breathing! It was a quick coffee-date but it was lovely to arrange care of the other kids and I was able to focus on the day’s events, knowing that the kids were going to be okay. My contractions, however, had decided to slow down. Over coffee I timed them at 8 minutes apart and still painful, but not unbearable. I really hoped that this wasn’t a false start.
During the drive to the hospital they were still just under 10 minutes apart and they felt productive – like each one was really doing something. Walking into the hospital however I began to think that maybe this wasn’t it and that we should wait to see if the contractions pick up again? The midwives directed us to the waiting room while they found an available birth suite, and I sank into a lovely, soft lounge chair and watched some TV for half an hour. By this stage I was thinking that surely they will send me home, with contractions still 10 minutes apart there’s not a chance they’ll let me stay.
‘Hey, we can go get some lunch, maybe go for a walk and see if we can get this labour to pick up a bit?’ Matt just looked at me and suggested that we just go in and talk to the Midwife first.
*Sigh* Okay. Once we got into a birth suite the Midwife asked me if I felt like I was in labour. ‘Umm, I think so?’ Which felt weird, because after 4 births I thought I would know labour when it came, but I just felt so calm and relaxed!
They did the usual checks – temperature, blood pressure and a quick feel of my tummy to make sure baby is head down. All the while my contractions were around 5-7 minutes apart and I was pacing around the room because I just felt like walking! The Midwife asked if I would like to be checked to see how far dilated I was. I liked the idea of keeping interference to a minimum and so I ummed and ahhed a little. Deciding that I would like to know how progressed I was and whether or not this was the real deal or if we should come back later, I said to the Midwife, ‘Well I’ll be really happy if I’m at 5cm. That would be great!’
To my absolute shock and surprise, I was at 7 cm!!! Already? The Midwife laughed and said boldly that I’m not going anywhere!
I was absolutely thrilled to have progressed that much relatively easily and it now made sense why each contraction, while not very frequent, still felt very productive.
I think the check of my cervix really kicked things into the next gear as from then on the contractions meant business. All of sudden I was up off the bed directing Matt to start the shower, get my flameless candles set up, and unpack the labour bag because hot diggity dog I’m going to have a baby today!! It was 12.30pm and Matt joked that maybe we could have the baby and make it back home in time to pick up the kids from school. Funny boy.
Once in the shower I found a really great rhythm of breathing (who am I kidding, I was sucking on that nozzle like no-one’s business) on the gas during each contraction, and leaning on Matt to rest in between. He was wonderful, cracking jokes and making me smile and telling me how beautiful I am. Seriously, he’s the best labour partner in the world.
I stayed in the shower with the lights off and the warm glow from my LED candles (best labour-bag purchase by far) for around 1.5 hours. The contractions progressively got more intense and definitely closer together. We’d pretty much given up timing anything, since the frequency of the contractions didn’t seem to be a good indication of how I was progressing. The warm water was so wonderful and I was able to completely relax between contractions. Thoughts of my little girl who I would not be meeting today filled my head and I wept over that loss. (If you’re new to my story this pregnancy began as twins, however we lost one, a little girl, at 11 weeks. I continued to carry the remaining baby, with extra ultrasounds to check on the growth, without any further problems).
It was a strange feeling; experiencing the grief and missing what was supposed to be, and at the same time working so hard to focus and bring this new, wonderful life into the world. I had so many emotions during this time, I was literally going from crying to laughing and back to crying again. As women our hearts are amazing and I believe that we have a blessed capacity to carry grief and joy simultaneously. Our hearts just stretch that bit more to make room for both. I realised just how strong I am during this time and how incredibly blessed I am.
At around 2pm I left the shower as I was getting tired from standing. I knew from my previous births that I instinctively move from the shower to the bed when baby is close to arriving, so I was happy to have that feeling again as I knew the end was in sight!
The gas pipe followed me wherever I went and Matt kept me hydrated with lots of water. We brought my own pillow from home which was lovely, warm and familiar.
And then came the transition! You know that point when you are convinced that actually, you’ve changed your mind and might take a rain-check on the whole birth thing. “This baby is never going to come!!” I whined to the Midwife. Along with my usual I JUST CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE tantrum. I swear, 5 births and I say the same thing each time when I hit transition!
After what only felt like 2 or 3 contractions I felt the urge to push. I only remember around 4-5 strong urges to push, but I’m sure there were more than that but I was probably off my face on that wonderful gas. I do remember his head coming out real quick and worrying that I may tear, which thankfully didn’t happen.
After that one last contraction his beautiful little body came right out and HALLELUJAH it was over! I’ll never forget that awesome feeling of relief when your entire body relaxes and you KNOW that the hard work is over. He was born at 2.25pm, exactly 3 hours after arriving at hospital, and 2.5hrs since labour really kicked in.
I held him in my arms and cried. With my amazing husband by my side we gazed on this little, squidgy, wet newborn and felt the weight of life. And the weight of death. All at the same time.
He is beautiful. He cried a good strong cry and pinked up almost immediately. I love that he stayed on my chest for 45 minutes and we bonded so well during this time. I just couldn’t take my eyes off him! Matt was crying with me as we marvelled at what had just happened. He was here – Isaac Bentley Willmann – 3.1kg (just under 7pounds) 53.5cm long and 100% totally gorgeous. He measured 9 and 9 on his agpar scores and just looked wonderful.
The midwives gave me the shot in my leg to help the placenta along, however it took a fair bit of coaxing to come out. For me, this was the first birth where the placenta has had to be gently pulled (weirdest feeling ever) before it comes out. As it turned out the empty sac that was home to our baby girl who we lost had fused between the placenta and the uterine wall, which made it difficult to come away. Matt and I had prepared ourselves for this moment, as we were unsure of what would remain of the baby. From the ultrasounds we could tell that as the remaining twin grew, the second sac was being compressed against the uterine wall.
I secretly hoped that there would be evidence of her life. I know that probably sounds weird, but seeing something, anything, was proof that she was real and I needed that comfort. All we have is my unbelievable morning sickness and 3 x ultrasound pictures. To actually see something with our own eyes, something tangible and touchable, was healing for us.
And we did see something. When the midwives were examining the placenta they found a large patch of pale, mottled tissue that was obviously not part of the placenta. It looked like something had been deflated and ‘stuck’ onto the side. I will never, ever, forget gazing at my placenta (there’s something different! Usually I just glance and then look away, they’re not the prettiest of things…) and almost feeling maternal and close to what remained of my daughter. I wasn’t about to pick it up and give it a hug, but it felt so good to be able to direct all those feelings of protection and love at the evidence of her life which sat in front of me. It helped.
During this time the midwives were wonderful. We had explained earlier our situation and what we wanted to do and they listened and gave us the space that we needed. They were considerate and respectful and it was a lovely way to honour and remember her.
After the routine checks, weighs and needles I headed into the shower with my little LED candles again and enjoyed a long, hot shower in the darkened bathroom. Matt put Isaac into his first outfit and we all lazed around on those massive hospital recliners for an hour or so, totally blissed out! I was so ravenous that the cold ham and cheese sandwhich I ate tasted like the best thing I’d ever eaten, along with the hot chai latte.
And then it was time to leave the birth suite. We were transferred to the maternity ward where Isaac and I stayed in overnight, getting to know each other and trying to get some sleep.
Which is hard when all you want to do is stare at your beautiful little baby! I’m so in love!
** Edited ** Well, little Isaac is now 12 weeks old and wow, it has gone so QUICK! He is a great little baby, he’s feeding well and even sleeping through the night – none of our babies have slept through until at least 6 months old, so we’ve decided that Isaac is our favourite. (Just joking, Samuel is). He’s just started smiling and giggling and the kids are completely in love with him.
So what is life with five kids like? Hectic and fun! I’ve never been so busy in all my life, but my heart is full and I’m happy.
Monday, Jul 01, 2013