This final birth story is the one I always wanted to write, and I’m so excited to share the detail for the first time.
Life was going nicely. The kids were growing up, we were enjoying holidays, restaurants, and being able to make last minute plans. I had once and for all lost all the baby weight plus a bit more, and felt good. I had hit my thirties and loved being a young mum to my growing brood.
Until the day I realised that I could no longer ignore that little voice that kept asking me “what about number four?” No small decision, because by now we had left the baby days far behind. But when we both agreed we would regret not trying, the decision was made. And since I fall pregnant the minute we talk about it, hey presto! Discussing it on January 1st, positive pregnancy test on Valentines Day.
In the ten years since my daughters birth I had become much more informed about the physiological process of birth, and how important the mind/body connection is. I understood the need for privacy in labour, and could see that my second labour, in which I laboured quietly during the night, was ideal. I knew without question that this was my last child, and I hoped for another good birth. I was confident in knowing that my body knew exactly what to do, and would do it easily and fairly quickly. I felt great physically throughout the pregnancy, and learned about visualization and meditation. I kept picturing the birth I wanted, and it very much resembled the birth of my second child. My due date was a Saturday, but I hoped to have this baby on either Tuesday or Wednesday. I wanted to labour during the night, and give birth to him while everyone slept. I also had the strong desire to catch him myself. I pictured a darkened room, with just me and a midwife.
I had my last antenatal visit with the midwives on a Tuesday morning, the week of my due date. I asked for an examination, and the midwife knew how much I wanted to avoid an induction so she also agreed to perform a sweep and stretch. This is where she would try to manually push the membranes (the bag of waters around the baby), away from the cervix, while trying to stretch the cervix open a little. Yes, it sounds awful, but with some deep breathing and a very experienced and gentle midwife, it was not that bad. (I even thanked her afterward 😉 ) She said she had stretched me to about three centimeters, and I left with the feeling that things would happen soon.
I had such a sure instinct that I would go into labour that night. I took care of a few remaining chores because I just knew. I was cooking dinner, answering phone calls, and washing up that night, all while experiencing this other-worldly sensation that this baby would be in my arms in a few hours. I had a show in the evening, and was super excited to begin feeling strange little niggles as the night came on. I knew it would begin as soon as the house was quiet and I tried to go to sleep.
Sure enough, after watching some TV in bed I went to turn the light out at about 10.30 pm when the contractions started. I was so excited! I left the TV on while I timed them, tried to stay calm and not get all buzzed. (Note: they were very erratic, varying from 4 to 7 minutes, and never really settled into any pattern. I later learned this was due to him being posterior). After an hour or so I got out of bed to go downstairs and walk around to encourage the contractions. Once they were mostly five minutes apart I called the hospital and they agreed I should come in, as my last two labours had been fairly quick.
Upon arrival I was still three centimeters dilated, and the contractions were getting stronger. We had agreed that my Husband would not be with me this time. He copped some flak for this which pisses me off, because we were both happy with this decision. He has never been comfortable or useful in a labour room, and I knew by now that I wanted to be alone. It was the right decision for us, and one neither of us regret at all. So off he went, and I assured the midwives that I was happy to be alone. I was the only woman on the ward, it was dark and quiet, and it was perfect. The radio was playing, the lights were dimmed, and I swayed and danced my way through labour. I loved and welcomed each and every contraction. I was thinking “bring it on” the whole time. Those hours in which I laboured alone in the darkness were some of the best of my life.
At about 3.00 am I got in the bath, which would have been better if it had been larger and deeper. It was relaxing but not as effective as it could have been. I still felt that this labour would be a repeat of my second, so at 3.30 am I looked at the clock and knew it was almost time. I got out of the bath, at which point, being upright, it got intense. It took me awhile of trying various positions with the midwife to figure out what would work. Just after 4.00 am my waters burst, and then things got really hazy. I remember being out of my mind with the dark intensity of the contractions. I was standing to help the baby down but it made them so much stronger. I was completely lost in my own vortex of baby, body, pain, birth. I had never experienced anything like it before. Then the midwife checked me and told me that the cervix was almost completely gone except for an anterior lip which was swelling with the pressure of baby’s head. So it was head down, bum up, and suck on some gas for about ten minutes, and then came this roaring urge to push. I stood up, threw the gas mask across the bed, and tried to push. What I felt scared the bejeesus out of me. I felt my pelvic and hip bones separating, like they were being pulled apart from both sides. I screamed that my bones were breaking, and the midwife told me the baby was large and that it was fine. As the next contraction built and with it came an enormous push I dropped into a squat, and two pushes later the midwife helped me to gently ease his head out. The room was still dark, the only light coming from the bathroom, the music still playing in the background.
I looked down in disbelief that his head was born and saw a face looking up at me. He had been born posterior. As I locked eyes on him I instinctively reached down, “hello baby, it’s you”, and pushing the midwives hands away, lifted my baby from my body. Brought him straight to my cheek as I sat back on the floor. “Give me my phone, I need to call my Husband”, I sobbed. As soon as he said hello our baby let out his first cry. I held the phone as the three of us cried. It was 4.35 am, Wednesday morning. It was pouring rain outside, and all of our loved ones were asleep, unaware of this new person in our midst.
I somehow got up on the bed without letting go of my baby, umbilical cord attached, and with the placenta still undelivered. I cut my very first cord, separating my last baby from my body, which felt very fitting as well as symbolic. I lay him on my belly as I delivered the placenta and had a couple of sutures for the small tear (yep, along the old scar), and watched in amazement as he frog crawled himself up my chest until his little mouth landed on my breast. Amazing. He had a quick wash about two hours later, and we went to our room to wait for his Dad and siblings. Our new little man was bang on 4 kg (8 lb 10 oz), with lots of dark hair. He was the spitting image of the brother whose labour he had copied, and they are spookily similar in personality.
Waiting ten years to have this baby, being older, being better informed, meant that this time round the endorphins just wouldn’t go away. That night as our close family came to visit us in hospital, I was almost unaware of them. All I could see was this baby. His godmother told me later that she wanted to hold him but felt she was intruding on our bubble so she didn’t ask, she understood that we were lost in each other. In fact no-one held him but me, it didn’t occur to me to offer, and nobody asked. Truthfully, I didn’t want to let him out of my arms, we were so newly separated, I needed him close to me. Only his Dad held him. Even looking back, all I remember is my Husband and I, both unable to take our eyes off him. We were so insanely smitten.
I didn’t put him down for six weeks.
This birth showed me the magic of the hands off approach, and it backed up everything I have read about how important it is to feel safe and unobserved in labour.
This baby also taught me the very hard won lesson that we need to stop and smell the roses. Not to wish ahead for the time they will be less dependent and needy.
He’s the one who made me wish life came with a pause button.
There is still more to come in the next couple of weeks as we look at how birth is portrayed in the media, and find out what the statistics say about birth today. I am enjoying the research, and have really enjoyed writing about the births of my children, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them.
See you soon,