“I awoke at 3am because I couldn’t get comfortable in bed. It was the third night in a row that I had woken up at this time, so I didn’t think it was anything extraordinary and just made my way to the bathroom to relieve my ever-shrinking bladder. I felt very alert and decided to surf the net to fill in time. After 45 minutes I went back to bed but felt even more uncomfortable in my abdominal region. It simply felt wrong lying down. In hindsight, I was experiencing mild contractions but didn’t know it. I thought ‘my body is obviously getting ready but it’s probably not the real thing.”
By 4am I was out of bed again and felt the need to keep moving. I started walking up and down the corridor of our house stopping intermittently to go to the bathroom as I seemed to have the runs. Around 5am I felt compelled to have a warm bath. After a good soak I needed to walk again – back and forth, back and forth. This was interrupted by regular visits to the bathroom.
It then dawned on me that my body was progressively emptying out my bowel and perhaps this was part of its process in preparing for the big job ahead. While I completely trusted my body’s ability to birth and do everything it needed to prepare, my rational mind was a little slow to cotton on to some of my body’s cues. Feeling momentarily excited I finally admitted to myself that ‘this could be THE day I meet my baby boy’.
By 7am I told my husband (Chris) he should call into work and I phoned our doula (Karen) to tell her what was happening. We agreed for Karen to come over around 9am because I was still feeling very mild, irregular contractions. I remember still doubting myself about whether it was the real thing because the contractions were so bearable.
9am – Karen arrived and I was pacing the house and making very regular visits to the bathroom. I had tried eating a mouthful of cereal for breakfast only to have my body reject it. I couldn’t hold down anything at this stage as it seemed my body was completely focused on one thing. The contractions had intensified but were short in duration. My body was also giving me long breaks in-between, during which I felt perfectly normal and able to chat to the other two.
Karen suggested I rest between contractions at this stage so that I conserved my energy as I would need it later on. She lay down a pillow for me on the dining room table where I could sit and cat nap between contractions.
Chris took care of the logistics like calling the Mater to give them a heads up that I was in labour. They asked a few questions and advised that I stay at home until the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. He then called my mother to tell her she had to make alternative arrangements (she was due to arrive in Brisbane at lunchtime) as we wouldn’t be able to collect her from the airport. She was quite delighted at the thought of meeting her first grandchild as soon as she arrived – ten days earlier than his due date.
The contractions gradually intensified over the next couple of hours, but my body was kind and allowed me good breaks in between to sleep and rest. By 11am the contractions were more frequent and lasting longer. Each time they’d come over me like a wave and I would stand up from the dining table and walk into the bathroom where it was cool and dark. I found myself with an arm up on a wall with my forehead against my forearm, eyes closed and breathing deep yogic breaths down to my baby – in through the nose and out through the mouth, knowing that each one would eventually pass.
From observing my behaviour Karen could tell I had shifted into transition and suggested that it was time we made a move to the hospital. By this stage I had decided that I could not get into the car. I was quite prepared to stay at home and have my baby but thankfully Chris and Karen convinced me I could do it and I somehow walked down the stairs and got into the front seat with my pillow. I experienced a few contractions between home and the hospital. Each time one came on I buried my head into the pillow on the dashboard and breathed deeply.
It was 11.30am by the time we got into the hospital where for an initial examination to check how dilated I was. The midwife conducting this exam was a bit rough around the edges. After assessing that I was 9.75cm dilated and stating ‘well you’re a clever girl aren’t you?’ she commented on the fact that my waters hadn’t broken yet and muttered something about rupturing membranes.
It was at this point that an alarm bell went off for all three of us. I had clearly articulated to Chris, Karen and my Obstetrician that I wanted minimal intervention. Karen realised at this point that we should share my birth plan with the midwife and gave her a copy.
I was then swiftly put in a wheel chair and escorted to a birthing suite. Once there I wanted to stand and found myself some furniture to lean against. However, I couldn’t get comfortable so I asked if I could get down on my hands and knees. I couldn’t get comfortable there either so Karen suggested warm water might feel good on my lower back where I was feeling the most discomfort. I thought I’d give it a try and once in the shower I stayed there for some time. It was while I was in the shower that my plug was expelled. This was a welcome sign that things were progressing because the fact my waters hadn’t broken was playing on my mind. I didn’t want to have to make a decision about whether or not to artificially rupture my membranes.
My legs started to get weary from standing upright so Karen suggested we could run a bath. I wanted to be in water and feel it on my lower back – I found it soothing and that it counteracted the intensity of the contractions. In the bath I felt comfortable on my knees and holding a wall railing with my hands. The contractions were like big waves coming over me now and I found myself slipping into pure instinct mode. I just let my body do what it was wired to do.I was acutely aware of voices around me and the nurturing, supportive energy of Karen, Chris, and a new gentle midwife. When I had a couple of moments of saying out loud ‘I don’t know if I can do this’ they each reassured me that I was already doing it and things were progressing beautifully. Strong, reassuring words that encouraged me to keep going. All the while Chris and Karen kept scooping the warm bath water onto my lower back until their arms would ache and they’d switch over.
Birthing is a big challenge and by this stage, like in the latter stages of a marathon, it was more about mental than physical stamina. I was still in the bath when I felt overwhelmed with the urge to push. The noises I was making changed to much lower tones that sounded more like grunting. At this point the others could see the baby’s head and it was suggested to me that I should move out of the bath. Again, I initially resisted as I did not think I was capable of moving. I tried twice to shift out of the bath only to find a big contraction start and I turned back and refused. Eventually with the help of Chris, Jenny and Karen I got out of the bath and onto a mat on the floor.
On my knees with head buried in a beanbag I was able to push better. The doctor arrived and guided me through this stage of the labour brilliantly. I had moments of thinking that I couldn’t push this baby out, but with continuous words of encouragement I found reserves of energy in my body that I didn’t know were there. After some to-ing and fro-ing the baby’s head came out followed by his shoulders and the rest of his slippery body. The relief and euphoria was instant. I stood up on my knees as he was passed through my legs and guided up to my chest by the doctor, Karen and Chris.
I don’t remember hearing my baby cry. I just remember looking into his alert little eyes and him staring straight back into mine and I lost my breath as a sea of awe swept over me. I then looked over at my husband and tears welled up in our eyes. No words can capture that moment when we welcomed Tion into the world.
The third and final stage of my labour seemed so uneventful in comparison. I was so preoccupied holding my new baby boy that I completely forgot I hadn’t finished my job. The doctor gently interrupted us to say he was a little concerned about the placenta. So I moved up onto a bed and it literally slipped out! My attention then quickly went back to Tion and putting him onto my chest for his first feed. The cord was cut after it had stopped pulsing and he had found his new source of nourishment. While it felt that time had stood still, Tion was born at 2:40pm.”