The first contractions I felt woke me from my slumber in the wee hours of a Friday morning, two days after baby’s ‘due date’.
I remember telling hubby, Raj, to stay in bed because things might take a while. At that point I was just leaning over a swiss ball a lot, moving with each contraction. Many of them felt strong and regular. They seemed pretty relentless from the beginning. I wasn’t to realise just how much stronger they’d get. They didn’t last longer than a minute at a time. The day passed. Then the night passed. I hardly slept. Was it ‘supposed’ to go on this long?
It was my midwife Anna-Lena’s (well deserved) weekend off. On the Saturday her backup, Claire, came to visit. Conveniently we’d done a days birth workshop with her earlier in my pregnancy, so she felt familiar. Contractions were coming every five minutes, lasting up to a minute. I hadn’t slept in ages. I was feeling pretty tired but in good spirits. Claire reassured me everything was progressing just fine, which made me feel a million times better and allowed me to relax a bit. A friend suggested I try straddling a chair and resting my head on that to sleep between contractions, it worked a bit and I got some much needed rest. I spent a lot of time in the bath, which unexpectedly felt great. I could handle the intensity of the contractions so much better this way. We kept the lights dim.
Late Saturday afternoon I passed the show and it felt like progress. Claire came and went throughout the day and into the evening. During one of her early evening visits she let me know that IF I wanted to stay home for this at any point, everything needed was in her car. I was pretty set from the beginning I wanted a water birth at a birth centre. At that point this is still what I was aiming for.
As we approached the second night, and I had no idea how much longer things might yet go for, I tried again to sleep. Each contraction got me out of bed and leaning against the wall. Lying down seemed to bring on more contractions. My waters broke with a gush about 10pm as I pulled myself out of bed to once again lean on the wall. Finally things started picking up. My contractions moved to 2-3 minutes apart but still lasted no longer than a minute.
Just before midnight Claire came over again, and to my delight Anna-Lena joined us just after 1am. Anna-Lena had been texting me with encouragement regularly throughout the weekend, which I really appreciated.
I spent most of the time from about midnight back in the bath. It was a relaxed and intimate vibe, just Raj and I in the bathroom. It was us doing this. It felt really empowering.
A couple of candles had been lit to keep the lighting low. Raj was gently pouring water over me. Claire, and Anna-Lena when she arrived, sat at the bathroom door, in the hallway, lovingly encouraging me and reassuring us everything was happening as it was supposed to.
Everything was going well. I felt so calm and safe at home.
As time went on, it was noted that if we were leaving for the birth centre we had to consider going soon. But the idea sounded terrible by this point. Everything was going well. I felt so calm and safe at home. The thought of climbing into a car was the last thing I wanted to do. But I also didn’t want Raj to worry. So when the decision had to be made and I hesitantly said we should go, Raj looked at me and asked if I was really sure about that. In that moment I realised he felt as confident in Anna-Lena and Claire as I did, so I made the call to stay, knowing he completely supported me in it.
I literally roared as I laboured in the bath. I remember at one point my mind wandered to the neighbours and what they’d make of it all if they could hear me… I began feeling slightly agitated, something needed changing. I tried sitting on the toilet but I soon found that felt the worst place to have a contraction. I hated it. So Anna-Lena encouraged me to get mobile. I made my way from our bathroom, through the lounge to the ensuite in our bedroom on the other side of the house. I’d drop to the floor every few steps to deal with each contraction. At one point Raj braced himself with one foot on the coffee table while I draped my arms around his neck to bear down. If it wasn’t so intense, it was almost comical.
Things just happened around me and I had to concentrate on nothing but this baby.
Every step of the way, Anna-Lena and Claire were a step ahead. Things just happened around me and I had to concentrate on nothing but this baby.
By 2.45am I was in the ensuite, more candles. Raj sat on the toilet seat lid while I squatted on the floor in front of him, my back to him, holding his hands as he kept me propped up. I remember Anna-Lena locked eyes with me as she supported me to keep going. I was so very tired but knew I had no choice but to get this done. It was pretty surreal.
I remember Anna-Lena telling me I’d birthed baby’s head, and (weirdly) thinking she better not be lying because all I could see was my big round tummy still! Baby was born at 2.55am and it felt like she was all limbs! I found out later she was 60cm long (and 9.5lb), so she basically was!
It’s cliche, but when Anna-Lena handed baby to me and I was helped to our bed, clutching baby’s slippery body gently but strongly in my arms, it felt like I was in a dream. I remember feeling on a natural high and being particularly chatty, but my body was also in a bit of shock, I just didn’t know it yet. I really struggled to birth the placenta. That didn’t happen until more than an hour and a half later. I’d heard for many women “it just kind of falls out”. Yeah right, I thought. Finding out I had to push AGAIN wasn’t what I wanted to hear and my adrenaline was quickly wearing off. We tried acupuncture and some herbal drops, but in the end it turned out my bladder was full and I was having trouble locating the muscles to release it, so a catheter helped things along.
The following morning, after some much needed rest, I was shocked how normal our house looked. Anna-Lena and Claire had made me breakfast, done a few loads of washing, and left the house looking spick and span. Apparently we lost a few old towels in the process, but I never figured out which ones. We chose to go to River Ridge Birth Centre for a couple of nights, being first time parents we felt better knowing we had round-the-clock, on-call support if we needed it.
As a side note, Anna-Lena had confidently told me she could tell I had good colostrum supply when she taught me how to hand express. And again in the coming days as my milk came in. Telling me that was probably one of the best things she could have done for my confidence because I never questioned my milk supply. More than two years in we were still going strong.