At 40+2 days I woke at 3am on the 7th of November 2016 feeling lots of movement from my baby and some strong Braxton Hick tightening. I had no signs of labour before this point and was convinced I would go to 42 weeks like my mum had with my eldest brother. I tossed and turned trying to get back to sleep. After a while I gave up trying to sleep. I got up and went into the lounge room and lay on the couch so I didn’t waken my partner. To help me relax, I tried listening to Guided Meditation on YouTube and waited for the tightening to settle, but without much luck. Two hours later the tightening sensation was becoming stronger and closer together (every 15 minutes). Despite this, I still doubted that I was in labour, but just in case, I decided to waken my partner, John. John organised for a day off work and told his boss what was happening. With this arranged, I sent John back to bed and continued to lie on the couch listening to Guided Meditation. I was able to relax, but didn’t sleep. As a midwife, I always advise my patients to get as much rest as possible in the early stages of labour, since labour is often a marathon event and it’s important to pace yourself.
After John wakened (he eventually woke around 8am, he made up for my lack of sleep), I messaged my midwife and gave her the heads up, I was in the early stage of labour. Even as I spoke to her, I still couldn’t believe it. I advised her that despite my contractions occurring every 10-15 mins, they ranged from mild to strong and were still very irregular. As a midwife I know it is common for women to experience contractions for hours only for them to pitter off and then start up again hours or even days later. I was convinced this would be the case for me.
I had chosen to go through the Community Midwifery Program (CMP) that caters mostly for home birthing women. However, they also have an option to deliver at the Birth Centre, which is a low risk Midwifery-lead unit. Being our first baby, my partner felt more comfortable with the idea of delivering in a birthing unit that was attached to a large tertiary level hospital. I didn’t really mind either way, as both options avoided the hospital setting and supported normal, natural birth. My Midwife’s name was Sarah. I was fortunate enough to have had Sarah’s support throughout all of my antenatal care. As a result, not only was I very comfortable with Sarah, but she had also gotten to know me pretty well too. Shortly after contacting Sarah, I learned that it was her roster day off. Despite this, she very generously swapped shifts with another Midwife so she could be there for me. After confirming all the usual things including that the baby was moving normally and that my waters were still intact Sarah was happy for me to stay home and asked me to message her when I thought I had reached established labour (4cm dilated with strong contractions at least 2-3 in 10 minutes).
John and I had prepared as much as we could. We had completed a Hypno-birth course. I didn’t feel that I got much out of it, but John learned a lot, so it was definitely worth the time and money. I had also stocked up our Netflix account with funny, light-hearted TV shows to watch during labour. I’ll never forget the show we watched, ‘Brooklyn 99’. During the show, I sat on my fitness ball bouncing, swaying and breathing through contractions that ranged in intensity from mild to strong. Every now and again, I would stop, lean back against the couch and then go straight back to watching the show. Watching TV shows were an excellent distraction and really helped me through my early labour. At around 11am, I decided to try lying down and resting. To my surprise, I fell asleep for around 30 minutes. I was woken by a strong contraction and from this point on the contractions became more intense and were coming roughly every 2 minutes. Despite the contractions becoming stronger, I was starving and was able to eat some lunch. This was a sure sign that I was still in the early stages of labour. After lunch I went back to watching TV. At 2pm my labour had escalated and I was unable to talk through the contractions. The TV was no longer a distractor. I decided to listen to music and go for a shower instead. I must have stayed in the shower for over an hour. It was the only place I felt comfortable.
At 4pm I decided to ask my midwife to slowly make her way over to my house to assess me. Sarah arrived at 5.30pm and soon discovered I was 7cm dilated. She offered me the option of staying home, although this was never really an option since I was eager for a water birth and we didn’t have a big enough bath at home. I decided to stick to the plan and head to the Birthing Centre. The Birthing Centre was a 25 minute drive from my house. Labouring in the back seat of the car was awful. Lots of my friends had warned me about the drive to hospital whilst in labour and now I know why. It was still light outside and seeing the sunlight as well as the other cars on the freeway really affected my focus and the movement of the car made my contractions feel much more intense.
I was relieved to make it to the Birth Centre and to see my Midwife who had thankfully arrived before me. Sarah had already started filling the birth pool so I headed for the shower to wait. I sat on a birthing ball in the shower, swaying and rocking until the pool filled up. Unfortunately, by that time my labour had slowed down. This was probably due to me entering a new environment, one where I wasn’t comfortable. So, after 2 hours I had only progressed to 8cm dilated. I knew instinctively that I needed to move, so I walked around the room pausing only during contractions. An hour later I was 9cm dilated and I soon felt the urge to push. At this stage the intensity of the contractions increased considerably. After feeling relatively calm and focused throughout my labour, I began feeling out of my depth and unable to cope. I realize now that this must have been the point where I reached transition (the last part of active labour just before becoming fully dilated and moving into the ‘pushing stage’). I asked Sarah to reassess me to make sure I was fully dilated and able to push. I was devastated to hear I wasn’t fully dilated, the examination revealed a small rim of cervix. Unfortunately, pushing with cervix still in place can cause the cervix to swell and increase the need for a caesarian.
At this point, I was starting to become exhausted and my waters had not broken. Sarah eventually broke my waters. The baby’s head was then able to put more pressure on the cervix. Then everything gets blurred and I can’t remember clearly what happened. I do remember the contractions becoming much more frequent and intense. I had a strong urge to push, but was encouraged to breathe through to allow my body time to fully dilate. At this stage I needed something to reduce the urge to bear down and was given gas and air. I went back in the shower with my newfound best friend (gas and air). Although the gas and air wasn’t very effective at relieving the pain it helped me focus on my breath and reduced the urge to push. I found this stage to be very difficult. I had to force myself to breath and moan my way through the contractions and I continued using the gas and air. After what felt like hours, Sarah reassessed me and confirmed, thankfully, that I was fully dilated!
I pushed for just over 2 hours (pretty normal for a first time Mum) before we welcomed our baby girl. Emilia Molly graced us with her presence at 0012 on 8th November, weighing 3.98kg and 52cm long. I had done it! I had brought my daughter into the world naturally. I couldn’t stop looking at her, just perfect. It was a feeling like no other! Relieved and overjoyed.
It was an intense day to say the least. Personally, the final ‘pushing stage’ was the hardest part for me. I relied so much on Sarah and my back up Midwife at this stage. Thank you for your encouragement, persistence, kindness and strength. You spurred me on to get through those last few hours. A special thanks to John my wonderful partner. The Hypno-birth classes paid off. John was calm and very supportive throughout the birth. It truly was a team effort. I would highly recommend this course to first time parents. I would also highly recommend Midwifery-led care; I cannot sing their praises highly enough. The support I received before, during and after I had Emilia was outstanding.