I can’t believe that 12 weeks have gone since my son was born. He is now double in size, smiling and gurgling as he begins to make sense of the people and world around him. Here is my story
On the eve of his birth, a Saturday, I started getting lower back ache; different from the weeks preceding, somewhat more constant and intense. I remember hugging a hot water bottle closely.
A post-term baby
My baby was a week late. We are part of a loving church community, which is one of the best support structures one could wish for but while people had the best intentions, it certainly caused frustration and anxiety for my husband Aiden and I. We were tired of having to tell people: “No, nothing yet” or “Yes, I am still pregnant”.
I was very determined to have natural birth unless it was unsafe to do so. My gynaecologist, Dr Julian Bassin, had said that all was on track but he didn’t want me to go longer than 10 days overdue. So we did everything to try and kickstart labour: raspberry leaf tea, curries, walking, washing the car, sex, you name it, we tried it.
On Easter Sunday morning, we got up extra early so that we could get to the annual sunrise service. I was fine until a particular verse in one of the hymns set off the tears: “How sweet to hold a newborn baby / And feel the pride and joy he gives / But greater still the calm assurance / This child can face uncertain days because He lives.”
Off to the hospital
At the end of the service, as the beautiful autumn sun was rising, we made a quick getaway, thanks to my protective husband. I wanted to go to the hospital to have a non-stress test (NST) done. We had had 2 in the week but they showed little activity. Nevertheless, I just had a feeling that the time may be near.
Off we trundled to the Linkwood Maternity Hospital where one of the midwives hooked me up to the monitor. Yay, there seemed to be progress. The sister told me to tickle my tummy and stimulate my nipples – this seemed to kick things up a notch. She also performed an internal examination and “aggravated my cervix”... I just about crawled backwards up the bed with my behind. I was 2cm dilated; 1cm more than a few days earlier, and Baby’s head was engaged.
We had waited for this day for so long but now that it was upon us, we did not know how to feel. The midwife advised us to go home, relax, pack our bags and go for a long walk to stimulate the labour. Having looked at my birth plan, which included vaginal delivery with entonox gas, no epidural, and no episiotomy, the sister asked if we had considered hiring a doula for the birth. This was the third time we had been asked that in one week!
Choosing a birth partner
Once we got home, I called my antenatal teacher, Sue Cohen, who is also a qualified midwife, and asked if she would be with us for the birth. She happily obliged and asked me to keep her posted about contractions. Aiden, ever the gadget geek, found an iPod application that allows you to time and measure the intensity of contractions. This was far easier than keeping a pen and paper at hand.
The early contractions
Early contractions started around 09:00. After a long walk, we lounged about at home, enjoying this special time and doing the last of our hospital packing. I hopped in and out of a warm bath (Sue’s advice), keeping the iPod close.
The contractions were like really, really strong period pains – but what I found fascinating was how I could feel when one was coming and I could prepare myself with my breathing. The female body is amazing.
Off to the hospital
At around 17:00, Sue came to our house to do a check up. I was now 3cm dilated with contractions fairly close together. Sue called ahead to the hospital to let them know we were on our way. The drive to the hospital is a bit of a blur, as was most of that day, but Aiden tells me that I had 6 contractions on the way.
Sue and I completed the necessary forms after I was hooked to the monitor. Aiden made about 6 trips to the car (yes, we had brought that much stuff with us). Baby’s heart rate was healthy and Aiden let family and some friends know that our baby’s arrival was imminent.
“The contractions went to a whole new level”
At 20:00 Sue did another exam, and the dilatation had not progressed much further. She suggested that she break the waters to speed things up. It felt like someone poured a bucket of water in my lap. After this my contractions went to a whole new level.
Using the gas
It was at this point that I really started to lose touch with time and eventually asked for the gas. I can highly recommend the stuff. I had heard that it takes the edge off the pain and that is exactly what it did. As I felt the contraction coming, I just shouted out ‘gas’ and Aiden or Sue shoved the mask on my face. After the contraction was over, they removed it from my face.
It was quite strange how with it I was, to some degree. In my drunken state the mask reminded me of our scuba diving experiences, and I even quipped a joke or two with Aiden. I started giving him the typical scuba hand signals for up, down and okay. The gas gives you a really drunk feeling (your lips go quite numb) but the drunkenness doesn’t stay in your system nor does it affect the baby.
Time to start pushing
By 21:00 and a number of very strong contractions later, I entered the transition stage of labour. I had progressed from 5cm to 10cm within the hour. It was time to start pushing – and my gynae had not yet arrived!
This was the odd part; odd because I had to hold my breath during each push. Quite different to the contractions when I had to breathe through them. It was only then that I realised what Sue had meant in our classes: that giving birth was like pushing out a 9-month constipation. Whoever said childbirth was pretty?
Over to Aiden
I do not remember much except that I either had my knees in my ears or I was on all fours. This is what Aiden wrote about the experience in his blog:
“For the next hour and 15 minutes Sam pushed. She endured pain like never before. I was so heartened by how much of a trooper she was. I also had to work hard to keep her motivated. We had music playing and there were times when our favourite songs played just as our baby was in the birthing canal.
“Dr Bassin had us take up some weird positions to try and get Daniel orientated better for the birth. At about 22:00 Dr Bassin asked me to help. I had said to him at one of our appointments that I wanted to assist with the birth.
Assisting with the birth
"As our baby’s head came out, he positioned my hands around the shoulders and said, 'Now, pull.' I tried but let go immediately. I feared I would pull him apart. 'No you won’t,' Sue said, 'pull.' So I did.
“As he was lifted out at 22:15, Sam saw him first and exclaimed, 'It’s a boy!' Daniel, as we later named him, was then put onto her chest and we absorbed the moment. It was overwhelming, to be honest. We were both in tears as this messy lump lay on her chest crying. I was full of blood, Sam was full of blood and Daniel was wearing his birthday suit. The nursing staff busied themselves with other tasks as we took in our new son.”
Our new son
Daniel James, our little Easter surprise, weighed in at 3.2kg, measured 50cm and fared well on his APGAR test. Thanks to my excellent medical team – Dr Bassin, sisters Sue Cohen and Sue King – I did not tear nor did they need to do an episiotomy. The staff at the Linkwood Hospital were also outstanding, nothing was too much trouble for them. They sure do love their jobs.
Aiden was my pillar of strength – I simply couldn’t have done it without him. I could not have asked for the birth to go more according to plan and I consider myself one of the blessed few. Natural birth was an amazing experience, and Aiden often tells me how quickly I have forgotten the pain I was in.
Some of the lessons I’ve learned:
- Natural birth can be done – just make sure you have the right people around you, and who respect your wishes.
- Get your husband to pack your hospital bags or at least be with you when you do – Aiden found it an impossible task trying to find what was what and in which bag!
- Motherhood is not for sissies and single parents need a medal.
- Trust your partner with baby duties from the beginning.
- Make sure you diarise plenty of date nights with your partner before the birth.
- When people tell you to enjoy your sleep, as annoying as that is, listen to them.
- Rest as much as you can especially in those last weeks. You’ll need the energy for pushing out your bundle of joy.
- Nothing will ever prepare you for the joys, trials, tribulations and triumphs of parenthood.
- And finally, it does get easier. The fog will eventually clear and at the 6-week mark, you will feel as if you can conquer the world.