For many women, your first birth is your most difficult. It is the most fearful, the most full of unknown, a huge learning experience,
For many women, the first labour and birth are the hardest. It is the most fearful, the most daunting, the big unknown, a huge learning experience, the more uncomfortable and the longest. For me this was not the case.
My first birth, I was full of confidence, I had continuity of care so knew my midwives and knew who would be present at my birth, I knew who my birth support team was going to be, I knew where I was going to birth and how to get there without a second thought. I had confidence in my bodies ability and the knowledge I held that I would be able to birth my baby in the way I planned.
My second birth, however, was a different story. While I had continuity of carer (I had a private midwife this time so had only 1 midwife, rather than 3 potentials), there were a number of unknowns. We were living in Darwin at this time, but due to being due in January, wanting to spend Christmas with family and my firstborn coming 3 weeks in a hurry, we made the decision to plan our birth in Birsbnae. This was great as this was where our family was, this was where Angus had been born, my private midwife was affiliated with the same hospital that Angus was born. The issues, however, consisted of not knowing where I would deliver, at home if I made it to my due date (as the second midwife was on holidays prior to that date) or at the hospital if I laboured before then. Would my partner be present? Who would support me if he was or wasn’t present. Hubby had to keep working which was 4 weeks in Darwin and 1 week back in Brisbane which gave us a small window of opportunity to have him present for the whole labour process.
My second labour started off with some slightly stronger tightening’s when I awoke on Friday the 13th of January 2017. They were not uncomfortable or particularly noticeably, it was simply I could feel the tightness of my belly every now and then which was more than I had noticed in weeks. This continued throughout the day while spending time with my eldest. Glen had made his way back to Darwin on the 8pm flight the night before. I was 38 and a half weeks. It was a chilled out day, my girlfriend came for morning tea and even she noticed the tightening’s of my belly, some I could feel at this stage but definitely still not uncomfortable and I had convinced myself that I had gone further in this pregnancy than my last and my body was getting prepared, but it could be days away.
I had a rest with my eldest son after lunch and felt things increase a little at this stage and there were more tightening’s, they were a stronger tightening, some were a bit uncomfortable and had that definite getting ready feel to them. After our nap, I told mum to hold off on a lovely summer afternoon glass of wine that tonight may just be the night, but not to get too excited that things were just a bit more than usual. The afternoon continued, my sister came for a visit and we enjoyed a bob in the pool while Angus splashed around. It was at this point that things started to get a bit real and I knew in my gut that we had started. We were still very early days, but definitely progressing. My tightening’s continued in much the same pattern until I had put Angus to bed. I think in my head I was holding everything off until he was settled and I could be selfish and focus on me.
I remember reading him a story and having to pause for breaths at different points, which he was rather unimpressed about. J
I messaged my midwife after this to give her a heads up and rang Hubby at 8pm to give him the news to turn around and come back to Brisbane. He was booked on the midnight flight (the next available) to get back to Brisbane, he had would be leaving exactly 24 hours after he arrived. I alternated between bouncing on the birth ball and lying on the couch “watching” tv. I called my sister in law at some point to come over as she would be staying with Angus. Around me my mum, my sister in law and my sister (who had called work to say she wouldn’t be in in the morning) chatted. My sister did a run to to the local shops to stock up on snacks for her and mum in preparation for a possibly long night. About 10pm we all went to bed, mum put me in with her, Angus was in my bed and she wanted to keep an eye on me. I rested for an hour before it was too uncomfortable in bed, I couldn’t get my leg in a good position, my breathing was getting louder (my mother was NOT getting any sleep). I leaned on the side of the bed for a couple of surges and felt the pressure down low, baby was moving. I decided it was time, if we left it any longer I wouldn’t be going anywhere.
My mum got my sister, I rang my midwife, it was a very short conversation with very few questions on where I was at. We got going at 11.30pm. It was a good 30minute drive into the hospital and I remember mum noting the time we passed into the 14th of Jan. No longer Friday the 13th. There of course, was no parking in the emergency bay out front as this particular night was not just a full moon but a super moon, Birth Suite and Birth Centre were absolutely at capacity. I made my way into my Birth Centre room and tried to get comfy. I tried the bean bag, I tried leaning on the bed, I tried resting, nothing was working I felt. I was exhausted, I felt in pain. My mother gave me the phone not long after we arrived in the Birth Centre with Glen on it who was waiting at the airport to get on the plane. In my head I felt so much had happened since I rang him to get on the plane, I didn’t understand he wasn’t here, that he was still in Darwin. Looking back I feel this was my first hurdle. Things slowed down after speaking to him, my exhaustion felt double, it felt harder to continue.
At 2am my midwife got on my level and spoke to me, she told me things had slowed and that was fine but she needed to know what I wanted. Did I want to rest? Was it possible that my body and baby were waiting for Glen to recommence? Did I want an internal to assess what we had achieved and perhaps get things going again? I remember feeling lost, stating categorically, I was not waiting for anyone I was ready, I didn’t know what I wanted, I cried a little. It hadn’t felt like this last time.
Both of my children’s labour’s were a little stop/start, quite irregular and did not follow a textbook by any means. My midwife suggested we do the internal, I agreed, although immediately regretted it. I was 4 cms, my cervix was still quite posterior (although the midwife said it wasn’t too bad, I could feel how far back she had to go to find it), it wasn’t fully effaced. In the medical world, I was only just establishing active labour. I cried in earnest now. I felt a failure, I felt that I couldn’t go on. I stated as much to everyone present, I couldn’t do this, I wanted the epidural I couldn’t keep going I was too exhausted. I am sure my membranes released straight after the internal, however, there is some discussion around this or whether it was a little later just prior to birth.
My midwife told me I could do this, I would do this and my biggest decision now was where I wanted to go. I opted for the shower (a truly hated place for my first labour) and set myself up on the ball in the corner, with my sister and mum either side of me and my warm water. At some point getting into the shower I realised that I was right when I said I wasn’t waiting and in making that decision in my head, I go on with it, I focused and start to crack back along. I got back in tune with my body and followed it, regularly changing my position to help my baby move through its journey to birth1.5hrs later I jumped on the toilet to do a wee (this is the other potential point of membranes release). On standing I knew we were getting close to baby’s arrival and told everyone I was hoping in the bath. My mother and sister called the midwife to let her know and she smiled knowing what that meant.
I can honestly say, I can’t remember how I got in the bath for either of my children but I did it. I started in a squat and while pushing with my surges could still feel the cervix present (it was an intense pain in the front of my pelvis with each surge and push). I told this to my midwife frustrated but the hold up. I assessed myself (not hard when bubs head is just inside waiting to crown). I did some surges with a leg up either side to help release this last little bit then felt the need to turn. I have never seen a woman deliver on her back in the bath and up until I did it myself I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. But it was what I knew I had to do. I knew my baby was not in the optimal position, he was descending but slowly, being a second baby, the path was established, this should have been quick, but it wasn’t it was a slow and harder process to birthing my first son 3.5yrs earlier. I asked the midwife whether he was in a direct posterior position (baby coming out facing your tummy instead of your back). Her reply confirmed my own intuition, while she replied in the negative that he was direct posterior, she was obviously a little confused as to how he was coming out, it was definitely not the normal anterior.
I worked with my body and baby to birth him, but almost lost faith when getting his head to the tip of crowning and feeling him slide straight back up again. My mother tells me this is the point her heart dropped and she cried for me, having birthed her own two children, she knew how hard and devastating this was for me. With two more surges though I did it!! My midwife grabbed him as I honestly did not have the energy or the brain power to figure out how to by that stage. He was all wrapped up in his cord, but placed straight on my chest once he was unwrapped.
It was 4.48am in the morning, I met and discovered I had another son. I was overwhelmed, I felt like it should be afternoon. My physical and mental resources had been tested to the limit. Glen flew into Brisbane Airport at 5.10am and arrived at the hospital about 5.45am in time to cut the cord and enjoy his first cuddles. It was this point my mum and sister went home. I don’t think I had acknowledged them yet, I was still in a bubble of shock and adrenaline (thank god for adrenaline!!!)
My son birthed looking sideways with his fist firmly placed on his cheek. His head was also not straight on in my pelvis so the diameter of what his head should have been passing through my pelvis was CONSIDERABLY increased by a number of centremeters, which is huge when discussing this part of the body. This is the reason he took so long to birth, I also had considerable internal bruising for quite some time, which was a little uncomfortable for quite some time.
Birthing my son was not what I had originally planned and certainly not what I envisaged. It was hard, it was painful but it was a lesson I would no sooner get rid of. I learnt the importance of mindset, being ready for change, getting rid of fear and that your mind can hold up your labour. I learnt that pain in labour does not have to be present when focused and relaxed but when something is not normal there certainly is a level of pain and birthing Eden was painful because of his position.
I trained to teach HypnoBirthing after birthing Eden because of what I learnt, the difference in mindset, how fear affected my birth and my experience of birth. While a quicker labour it was much more difficult for me to cope with and that became clear in my labour pattern. Being prepared, ridding yourself of all fear and saturating your mind with positive messages can be the difference between a beautiful empowered birth and a fearful traumatic one. Women’s intuition places a huge part but you need to be prepared to engage with it and listen to it and this is not something you can do or try once you are already in labour.
Don’t forget to keep up to date and read about my third birth using HypnoBirthing here.