I want to share my birth story as nothing more than an encouragement to other women that birth can be positive and things can and do go smoothly.
I know during my pregnancy I heard about a lot of different birth experiences, and while a couple of them were positive, from many of them I felt increased anxiety as I heard about all the things that went wrong and the interventions that took place.
Absolutely those things can be necessary and I’m so glad that in all the stories I heard, healthy babies were born.
From start to end, the birth of our beautiful girl was covered by God’s hand and she followed a textbook perfect entry into the world.
This is not a retelling to brag about how things went or to say this is the way other mums should journey their labour – not at all! My hope is this is simply an encouragement to expecting mums that you don’t need to fear it.
My plan was always to give birth at the Family Birth Centre, which is attached to King Edward’s Memorial Hospital. To use the birth centre you agree to a drug free labour, however if you change your mind or circumstances change during the labour they can move you to the hospital to get what you need. This appealed to me because I’ve always felt quite uneasy around the intense hospital atmosphere but I was also glad to know that should something not go to plan I would be in the right place to get the care I needed.
Probably one of the most attractive things was that the birth centre offers water births. It wasn’t something I had ever thought about until getting pregnant, but as someone who loves to swim it felt like it just made sense. If you want a water birth you definitely can’t have an epidural so this was one of the main drivers behind why I chose to go drug-free (as well as some information I turned up through research about the effects of an epidural on the labour) However, while no epidural was a goal I also said to my husband I never wanted to feel like the option was completely off the table should I really need it.
On a Monday at 1am – 11 days before our surprise gender baby’s due date – I woke up to realise my waters had broken. I instantly went into shock at this point thinking ‘Oh my goodness I’m having a baby today’ and ‘how crazy is this only 10-15% of labours start with the water breaking’. I hopped into the bathroom to wait out the gush and started googling what to do if your water breaks but you don’t feel any contractions yet. The consensus was to try and sleep since this will be your last chance. I grabbed a towel and hopped back in bed but my mind was too far gone at this point.
I chose not to wake John as our birth classes had reminded us to let partners sleep if labour starts in the middle of the night as it will be long and best to have someone who has had some rest. I also knew I didn’t need to call the midwife unless the fluid was discoloured, but to wait until morning. It was pretty crazy to be experiencing all this and not yet able to tell anyone!
Not long after I started feeling mild cramping and noticed it was coming and going. I downloaded a contraction counter and timed them as I lay in bed. From the get go my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds. This didn’t really line up with what I had read about early labour contractions starting as long as 20 minutes apart, but since they weren’t very sore I didn’t worry. I’m still not sure why they were so close together throughout my whole labour the furthest apart they got were 5 minutes.
Giving up on sleep I moved into the lounge to start putting into practice some of the pain management techniques I had read about. I started just by counting 1 to 8 over and over through each contraction and progressed to walking around with the count each time.
At 4.30am I woke John. I wanted to give him more sleep but I also really wanted his help to put on the TENS machine, which they say to use as early as possible before things get too painful. Despite using the machine for 14 hours, I never felt like the TENS actually helped the pain but it was a nice distraction and at least made me feel like I was doing something to combat it.
I called the midwife around 6am to discover my midwife would not be able to attend the birth and someone else would step in instead. I wasn’t too concerned by this as I knew it was likely to happen and every midwife I had met at the birth centre I had felt very comfortable with. After I let her know where I was at she recommend I lie down, try to sleep if I can and also to eat plenty. This was her advice for several hours as I called back each couple of hours with an update. Needless to say I could not sleep, but I didn’t mind the lying down as much as I thought I would. I also tried taking in food in small doses.
As the day went by John notified work that he would be taking his leave now and we let our families know what was happening. We watched a bit of TV to help the time pass and tried to have some lunch. The hours actually seemed to whizz by as by lunchtime I couldn’t believe I had been at this for 11 hours.
A plan was made to come into the hospital at 6pm for antibiotics as it would have been 18 hours since my waters broke and the baby would be at risk of infection. However at around 3pm there was a noticeable shift. My contractions were taking all of my focus now, I was banging stressballs on the fitball and making loud ‘Ahhh’ sounds to work through the pain. After one ended there wasn’t quite the respite as before, I still felt pain in between and was shaking a lot.
The midwife asked if I could try 10 more minutes at home, but to pack the car and then call when we were on our way. John got all our gear together while I sat on the floor and told him what things we needed. I thought maybe 20 minutes had past by the time we hit the road but it turned out John had stalled us for almost an hour! He was afraid we might get there too early and be sent back home.
The car ride was intense. I remember telling John off for doing less than the speed limit on the freeway. Here, I was banging my stress balls on the dash each time a contraction came. We got to the birth centre at about 4pm and things had progressed even more. A midwife had to help me through the front door. They did a quick examination and then said I could hop in the bath. I later found out that upon arrival I was 9cm!
This was definitely the hardest part of the labour. I remember crying a bit and asking if it could all stop (all of which I hear is a pretty normal response at this point). I took some gas after a while because I had a hard time breathing through the contractions and fighting the urge to push when it was still too early. Having my support people here (John and the midwife) were what got me through. I felt like I must have broken John’s hand every contraction and the midwife was an amazing guide, completely calm and gentle but with the confidence I needed to see.
About 2 hours after arriving at the birth centre our beautiful daughter Bethel Anne was born. It was a very exciting moment to discover we had a baby girl. I was in shock when they handed her to me because it was almost as if I had expected to recognise some part of her but I didn’t and my first thoughts were ‘who are you?’ I was not in the least surprised that she had plenty of hair like her mum though.
Overall I had a 19 hour labour with 17 hours at home. The midwives were super impressed with how everything went, even my blood loss was very minimal. One midwife even suggested I could opt for a home birth next time – not that I’m thinking about a ‘next time’ right now! I did suffer a second degree tear though and needed some stitches at the hospital.
After the placenta delivery, the stitching, feeding Bethel and having her checked by the pediatrician we had a very short cat nap and were discharged 7 hours after her birth at 2am. I do wish we had of been able to stay that first night but since there were no complications we were well aware of the quick discharge protocol of the centre.
I left that place having been through easily the most intense experience of my life. Physically and mentally it was incredibly demanding but I was also so encouraged by the staff and my loving husband. I also knew that things could not have gone more perfect and have no doubt God had His hand around our little family the whole way through, and still does as we learn to navigate this brand new season.