This is the story of my first birth back in 2014, 5.5 years ago! I thought I'd share it as it is really interesting for me to see how I have changed since then. I was definitely in my head for this birth and am so grateful I had learned enough at the time to make choices that enabled me to birth the way I did. It could have been quite different if I had made different care provider choices. I feel I have grown so very much as a woman and mother since that day. What a blessing this path is, so much growth to be experienced if we allow it. Re reading this story also makes me feel deep sadness for women who go into their first births without much knowledge or confidence. No wonder PTSD from birth is such a huge problem. My recommend book list remains pretty similar but now includes some more material for spiritual preparation and relationship changes and I implemented my own 'next time' recommendations which worked well for my second birth!
On Wednesday I had a visit from Rose, my midwife, who said our baby was in a good position and almost fully engaged. Rose said she expected a baby by the end of the week and joked that Friday would be a good day for it. I was so desperately longing to meet our baby and become a mother that each day of waiting was like an eternity. That night I hardly slept, I had strong period like pain, back pain and upper leg pain, by 5.45am on Thursday I had to get up and get a heat pack so I was able to get some sleep. I suspected I was in early labour and was very excited, not really thinking too much about what lay ahead. The pains slowed down a bit by 8am but were still coming and were beginning to become more intense. My husband Tim and I went out and stocked up on bread, hot cross buns and juice, so I was snacked up for the day. Things continued to intensify throughout the day. I thought it was painful then. Little did I know! Tim and I had agreed to have our baby at the birth centre. I was keen to try a home birth but he wouldn’t come to the party.
At about 11pm on Thursday I called Rose and said that it was painful and should we go in to the birth centre? I couldn’t sleep and had to get up and walk around with each contraction, I admit I was a bit annoyed when Rose said to just keep doing what I was doing and call her when I needed her. Even though we had spoken about it, now that it was happening, I didn’t really know what ‘need’ meant. I kept going for a few more hours, lying down between contractions and getting up to walk around or lean over the end of the bed when they started. Tim joked that I was going to wear a path in the floor from doing the same loop each time. I was getting tired now that I was into my second sleepless night and ended up kneeling on the floor rocking back and forward with my head resting on the bed so I didn’t have to stand up so much. By that point I was throwing up with each contraction and eventually had nothing left to throw up. I was using a heat pack on my belly. I had been using it all day especially when we went in the car a couple of times. A sitting down contraction was painful…but not as painful as a lying down contraction. I seriously don’t know how a woman could labour and birth lying down.
By 3am Friday morning I was in the shower with hot water on my belly and back, contractions were about 2 minutes apart and I was experiencing a lot of pain. I asked Tim to call Rose and she said she’d meet us at the Birth Centre in 20 minutes. I’m glad we only live a 5 minute drive from there because I had 3 of those contractions between walking out the door and arriving at the birth centre. By the time we got inside my contractions had slowed to 5 minutes apart. That’s what you get for leaving home I guess. Rose let me go for a while then examined me and I was 5cm. I was still throwing up with each contraction so Rose gave me an injection to try and stop it so I could eat and drink. I had to start drinking and eating or I would probably need some IV fluids which I wasn’t keen on so I drank and things went back to normal. I kept going at that same rate and 4 or 5 hours later I was still 5cm. Talk about knock a woman’s confidence. I got very disheartened at that stage but have since learned that just because you don’t dilate over a period of time, it doesn’t mean nothing is happening, it just means other things are happening other than your cervix dilating. It was at that point that my confidence started to drop and I lost a bit of faith in my body’s ability.
When I look back now, that lack of confidence upsets me. I had been in labour a long time and was getting tired so we decided that Rose would break my waters to try and get things going. Wow, didn’t it do just that. Soon after that, things intensified big time. I had been in the shower and bath prior to this but couldn’t stand still and needed lots of room to move now so I paced the room and made really big noises through each contraction. To me, this part of my labour was a bit of a ‘no man’s land’, each contraction was horrible and I didn’t know how much more painful it was going to get or how much longer it was going to go for. I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel but I couldn’t see it yet. I admit that I really hated this part. I said to Tim and Rose that I was never doing this again. Eventually Rose had another look and I was 9cm. I was mighty relieved that something was really happening after all that effort. Rose was so lovely and gentle the whole time. She was the perfect person to be with me that day.
I got back in the shower and had the shower hose aimed straight at my belly, the only problem was the water didn’t quite go hot enough so I kept getting cold when I was in the shower or bath. I was getting more exhausted and was nodding off while standing up in between contractions. I finally started feeling pushing sensations. I felt excited, scared and relieved. I figured we couldn’t have too much longer to go. I only felt the urge to push every second contraction and it wasn’t that strong yet. The first part of this stage is a bit of a blur. It’s hard to really capture the feelings at that point, I felt helpless and physically and emotionally exhausted. All I wanted was for the pain to stop, at the time I remember thinking that I didn’t care what happened, drugs, surgery, whatever, I just wanted it to be over. I’m so glad I put in my birth plan to not offered anything.
Once I was well and truly pushing I was in all sorts of positions trying to get my baby moving, on all fours, standing, squatting, kneeling, sitting on the toilet. Apparently my baby was moving about 1mm with each lot of pushes. After a while I realized I wasn’t pushing properly, I was pushing with the front of my pelvic floor rather than the back. Once I worked that out, we made faster progress. Once Rose and Tim said they could just see the head I had a new rush of motivation, I wanted to push this baby out now! The only thing was I was getting more and more exhausted and felt like each push was going to be the last I could muster. I was kneeling, squatting, standing by the side of the bed pulling on the bed sheets during pushes and roaring the house down. I still don’t know how the sheets stayed on the bed. I think I was holding onto Tim’s hands and squeezing (crushing) them in the end too. I had never worked so hard in my life, my intercostal and abdominal muscles were cramping with the effort. With each push there was a kind of ‘second wind’ at the end of it, I feel that it was this that got my baby moving.
Tim was really good in that final hour or so of my labour. Before my labour I didn’t really know how I wanted him to help me. I did tell him two things though; don’t kiss me or pat me or be all gentle and lovely (I had seen a guy doing this with his partner in a birth on you tube I watched and it annoyed me) and when it gets hard, encourage me like I’m running the 100m final at the Olympics. I knew that was the kind of encouragement I would need if things got really hard.
I was aware that Rose was on the phone to the Doctors in the hospital at various times, even though I was in the birth centre they obviously still like to know what’s going on. Because I was taking a while, the hospital was interested in my ‘progress’, which worried me and in hindsight probably held me up a bit. Rose kept asking me to change position and a few times I said I didn’t want to move (forgetting all that I had learned about moving to help the baby move down). Continual changing of positions was good; this baby needed a hand to wriggle down. When Rose said she could see the head, I thought we were getting somewhere then she showed me in the mirror and it was only a tiny glimpse of hair! I thought I was going to see a full crown! In the movies, this is when the baby suddenly comes out…not so.
I was crying between contractions and actually got to a point where I thought I might not be able to do it. After a lot more work, my baby still wasn’t moving down and I think Rose was getting a little bit worried. She said she might need to do a cut to let baby out. That was all I needed, I was so determined to push this baby out myself. It only took one more contraction. With each push I felt stretched to the maximum and was sure baby couldn’t be far away but I kept stretching and stretching then finally, out came my baby’s head. It was such a massive relief, physically, psychologically and emotionally. I almost couldn’t believe I’d done it. For a little while there it felt impossible. With another contraction, out came baby’s little body. Rose caught him. I looked down straight away and saw we had a little boy. He was slimy and blue and didn’t say much to begin with. The cord was very long and was wrapped around his body a couple of times. He started turning pink pretty quickly and then had a good old howl. I would have too except I was so excited, proud, overwhelmed and filled with tenderness for this little being that I had just birthed that all I could do was sit there holding him to my chest in disbelief looking at this little miracle with a huge grin on my face.
I sat up on the bed with our little boy and offered him a breast, he wasn’t particularly interested initially and it wasn’t until about a day and a half later that he really fed properly. He had a belly full of mucous that took a while to come out. I said to Tim, ‘So does he look like a Tiger?’ and he said, ‘Yes, he looks like Tiger George’.
There was a bit of repair work to be done to my perineum which took a good hour or so. A doctor came down to do it right where I was, I didn’t have to go into the hospital, which I was mighty pleased about. During that time Tim cuddled little Tiger after Rose checked him out.
Looking back on my first birth experience, I feel that I didn’t trust in the process enough. I thought I did but when it came down to it, I felt out of control. Even though I essentially had the birth I hoped for, a normal and natural one (apart from having my membranes ruptured) I feel I have work to do. I’ve already started working on some things to help me feel more confident and in control next time. My body knows what to do; I just need to trust it. Yes, I can say next time now! It took about four days for me to say it and weeks to come to terms with the enormity of the birth. I spoke about it with all of my mother friends and found that very therapeutic. It was really important for me to be able to talk about it a lot in those early weeks. Writing it down was very fulfilling as well. I was filled with tenderness and affection for this tiny creature who had come into my care from the moment I saw him but I’ll be completely honest and say that it took me about 2 weeks to become myself again and truly fall in love with our little man.
Tiger was 3.69kg, 52cm long with a 37.5cm head (and conveniently born on Friday 28/03/14). He eventually started feeding well and once my poor nipples recovered from the initial shock, it was wonderful. I feel incredibly blessed to have given birth to such a beautiful and healthy little boy, Tiger is 14 weeks old as I write this and I fall in love with him even more each day. When he wakes up between us each morning and gives me the biggest, most vibrant and sparkling, gummy smile, my heart melts. Motherhood is just amazing beyond description.
Books I read that I rave about to every expectant Mum who wants to listen (and the list is growing):
Heart to Heart Parenting by Robin Grille (if you only read one, read this)
Parenting for a Peaceful World by Robin Grille
Helping Your Baby to Sleep by Anni Gethin and Beth Macgregor
Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley
I live in Darwin in Australia's Tropical North and am the mother of three beautiful children. I am blessed with working with women through their fertility, preconception, pregnancy, birth and early parenting journeys. I am committed to lifelong learning and am interested in nutrition and natural health, the childbearing cycle, natural parenting philosophy and practice and the spiritual journey of motherhood.