I finally went into labour being 4 days overdue. We were over the moon. When my contractions started at 3am I was so excited knowing that in the next day or so we would finally get to see our little boys face. A few days prior, I didn’t know how my stomach could possibly grow any larger and I feared that my shiny tight skin might burst open at any second! So I’d began to get stuck into some natural ways of inducing labour at home (sniffing/applying clary sage oil, sex, evening primrose oil etc).
I decided not to wake Riley up just yet seeing as the contractions were 5 – 6 minutes apart and although they were painful enough to keep me from going back to sleep, they weren’t hectic enough to warrant any assistance and I needed at least one of us to have a reserve of energy for what was to come. Riley was sleeping in the room next to mine in our friends apartment by the beach in Adelaide. The month leading up to the birth I needed all the space I could get in my own bed to toss and turn and pile up pillows and to get up at 2am to make a peanut butter sandwich. We came back to Australia for the birth of our boy for a number of reasons; one being that we preferred to be surrounded by friends and family during this special time and two; the fact that here in Australia our medical system is pretty fantastic and we knew if anything didn’t go as planned we wouldn’t end up with a 100K bill!!
We spent the day tidying up the house, watching a tv series on Netflix and walking around the neighbourhood stopping to get a juice at our favourite organic cafe. I found that walking and keeping my mind busy with any activity helped ease the pain. The surges were worsening in pain, but not seeming to get any closer together. We’d notified my midwife Claire and we were to call her when the surges got to about 3 – 4 minutes apart or if I showed any more signs of the labour progressing. The day turned into night and I found I could no longer sit down on the couch to watch our tv series. I had to be standing or squatting and holding or leaning on something. I found comfort in the kitchen bench and rolled up a small blanket that I rest my elbows on and rocked my hips side to side. At about 10pm that night I felt things speed up and become more intense so I told Riley that we should probably start moving furniture in preparation for setting up the birth pool and all the rest.
I planned for a natural home birth. It was my dream to have my baby in the water. We bought candles, fairy lights and I had essential oils that were burning in my oil diffuser. The lounge room was beautiful. I had started listening to my hypno-birthing tracks on my earphones. By 1am the pain had become fairly intense and I needed the tracks to help get me through the surges. I paced around the room and in the courtyard outside while Riley got a few hours sleep. I was timing my contractions on my phone and I could see them very slowly getting closer and closer together. The sun was coming up and I watched the colours of the sky change outside. My midwife came over at 10am and by 12 I called mum to come over too. She and my step dad had driven 3000km from Western Australia, where I’m from, to Adelaide for the birth of their grandchild. It was my mums first grandchild and you can imagine how excited she was. So she left my step dad at their campsite by the beach a few kilometres away and she came to join us. We all put in bets as to when the baby would be born. Looking up at the giant clock in the living area we all guessed he would arrive about 2pm apart from Claire who thought maybe more like 5 or 6pm. I hoped he would come soon. I’d been up since 3am the previous day and my body was becoming so exhausted. I also hadn’t been able to eat but I was making sure to keep hydrated so Riley was feeding me coconut water every chance he got.
I spent the day performing some kind of circuit where I hopped in and out of the pool for a series of contractions, walked around the house in circles leaning on walls or benches or beds to get through a contraction, hopped in the shower or sat on the toilet to relax. The warm water of the birth pool and the shower was unbelievably comforting. We’d rigged up a hose that fed from the shower in the bathroom all the way to the pool in the lounge so that every time the temperature of the water dropped below 34 degrees, we could make it hotter again in a jiffy. My body was trembling from exhaustion by 5pm and my midwife had checked again to see how dilated I was. I’d reached 8cm which made me feel relieved to know. Only two more centimetres to go and he’d be nearly here. I wished we hadn’t of guessed when he’d be born because when 5pm passed and Claires guess had slipped by, I began to feel a little impatient. I’d felt his hard head with my fingers in the birth pool, but after hours of very painful contractions and no further progress I began to think he was just never going to come. I could feel he wasn’t moving down any further and all the work I was putting in wasn’t getting us anywhere. I’d spent the day imagining his face and holding him in my arms and by this point I had my first break down I’d read all about. The Transition Stage. This is where you begin to feel like you can no longer do it and it’s also usually the point where some women cry and ask for drugs. Although the pain was excruciating, drugs hadn’t crossed my mind yet but I really wanted someone to help me somehow. Riley held me in his arms as I cried for 10 minutes straight saying that I don’t think I can do it any longer. Our midwife, backup midwife Nikita who’d arrived by now and my mum all stepped outside to give us a minute to deal with what I was going through. Riley was in tears as well seeing me in so much pain and despair. He’d been holding my hand, applying pressure to my pelvis during every contraction and massaging my lower back all day. He was my rock. When he cried and told me that he “wished he could take the pain away from me” and that “it wasn’t going to be much longer until we got to meet our little boy” and that “I could do it”, I was filled with new energy to keep going.
We’d come to the conclusion that his head was in a funny position. In the deflexed posterior position to be exact. Claire had had a feel and after finding out this information she suggested a few things. I began walking up and down the stair case in our apartment block, wiggling my hips to try and open up my pelvis more. I repeated this several times stopping and collapsing occasionally for a surge. Then we tried to get our baby to drop out of the birth canal by putting my butt up in the air and my head on the floor. If we could get him out of the canal then maybe when I stood up and went through a few more surges he would pop his head in the right position for birth. On all fours we also used a sarong on my stomach, massaging it side to side. After another big session in the pool I asked for the Nitrous Oxide gas that I knew was in the boot of Claires car. She brings it to all of her home births but we will only use it if the woman asks. I needed something to help me, I felt so much pressure and during each surge I was overwhelmed by what was going on. I began moaning deeply and my breathing had changed to a short breath in and a long breath out. I read this would happen closer to giving birth so experiencing these new things gave me hope.
The Nitrous Oxide gas didn’t really relieve the pain, it’s not strong enough to do so but I found it helped me relax a little mostly because it gave me something to do during the surges. I was willing to take any kind of placebo at this stage. After what I think was another hour in the pool I’d gotten out and gone to my bedroom to deal with what felt like another fail. He wasn’t going to come. Riley and I laid down on the bed curled up in a ball as I cried and claimed “he just isn’t coming” and that “I can’t do it anymore”. Every 3 minutes the comforting ball of love we had formed was broken as I needed to get on all fours to get through another surge. They were becoming unbearable. Claire, Nikita and my mum came into the room to sit with me as I expressed my concerns and basically just had a cry like a 5 year old kid. I agreed to try once more to get him out of the birth canal in hopes he would move his head once again. I was still 8cm and unless he turned his head, I wasn’t going to get any further. We performed the same exercises again plus some others. I laboured in the pool once more and this time I gave it my absolute all. I completely surrendered and accepted the pain that I was experiencing. My body was totally relaxed. I eased every muscle in my body despite the urge to tense up every cell and squeezed Riley and mums hands until they crushed. I’d decided in my head that this was the last time I would do this, I didn’t have the energy to keep going. Still no baby by 10pm, I called it. We were going to the hospital, I knew he wasn’t going to come this way. With the TENS machine attached to my lower back, wires hanging off me, we locked up the house and grabbed our hospital bag.
It had been about 31 hours since my first contraction before we called for the ambulance, it was the longest wait. When they got to our driveway I was a little overwhelmed seeing the bright lights inside the vehicle, two people in uniform sliding out the emergency bed out and hearing all the talk between them and my midwife. It was a big change from our peaceful bubble in the house we’d just come from, lit up with candles, smelling of lavender, birthing tracks playing in the background. But I was sure glad to see them. I had a surge just as they slid out the bed and I leaned against it as Riley pressed my hips once again and I begged for the green whistle I’d heard about and seen on Bondi rescue. Those are the whistle looking things that you breathe in and it makes you feel really happy and kinda drunk. Claire rode in the back with me and Riley was in the passenger seat. The emergency lady was so lovely (even without the effects of the green whistle, she really was) and she asked me a few questions as we headed towards the hospital. Another contraction. This time I felt like I needed to push. Claire came to check me and she said I was okay and that I wouldn’t have the baby in the back of this van. I was extreeeeemely happy to hear this. The pattern on the roof looked so pretty. I looked down at my birkenstocks on my feet and felt glad to have picked this particular shade of brown. It really went with my skin tone. Such beautiful shoes…. Another contraction. When the hell are we going to get there. I won’t survive the next one. Laying on my back was the worst position for dealing with the surges and I wanted to get up so badly, but I couldn’t. Instead, I rolled onto my side slightly and curled my body up into a bit of a ball every few minutes. We arrived and I was wheeled through the emergency area, up an elevator and into my birth suite. For a public hospital (nothing against public hospitals, I love public hospitals, but I’ve seen some shockers in my time) I was pretty impressed with our room. We couldn’t have had nicer midwives and doctors to greet us (the green whistle had well dried up by now, these ladies were actually really, truly, incredible humans). I felt so safe. They’d read my birth preferences I had printed out and having them recite certain things to me made me sigh with relief. They had my back. I was always scared of not feeling in control of what happened to me and I knew I would be okay. We also had Nikita there and while Riley was holding my hand. She was on my team making sure I was happy and understood everything that what was going on. I asked for an epidural to relieve me of the pain so that I could get some sleep, just an hours worth. This was the plan, to get the epidural, break my waters, sleep, and then attempt to push him out again naturally with a bit of help from our doctor. She was going to try and turn his head inside of me with her hand. The epidural didn’t hurt going into my spine like I thought it would. Although, I felt an electric shock in my right leg that the doctor said “was totally normal” which was disturbing. But whatever, I wanted to not feel pain for 5 minutes and after half an hour I was cactus in the hospital bed and Riley was also out cold on the beanbag in the corner of the room.
***the best pain free, hour of sleep EVER***
I hopped on all fours to start pushing. Because I needed to feel the contractions to know when to push, we’d let the effects of the epidural wear off a fair bit. I was now still feeling probably 70% of what was going on. I wanted so badly to push the little white button that would send another flow of the pain numbing goodness through my body, but I couldn’t. The contractions had become further apart now and I only got to push every 4 minutes or so. After an hour and a half the doctor came in and told me that “I’d been pushing for an hour and a half already” and that “pretty soon we might have to look at some other options of helping things progress”. I couldn’t believe they considered an hour and a half of pushing quite a long time when I’d just been going through this for days now at home.. I don’t know how anyone could even do anything in my situation in an hour and a half, let alone push a baby out! His head wasn’t turning naturally and after another hour or so I agreed to use the vacuum to help get his stubborn head out. I was ready for him to come out by now. Was I EVER going to meet him? This wild, torturous looking contraption is also known as the Ventouse and having read the pros and cons of this tool leading up to the birth, I felt comfortable going ahead with using it rather than the forceps, or having to get a cesarean. I’d heard all about the ‘cascade of intervention’ once stepping foot in a hospital and I could already feel the pressure. It was so important for me to have our baby vaginally. I may not get my home water birth but if I could at least have my baby the way nature intended, I would be so grateful and satisfied to have had that experience. But in the end I would have always done what was the very best for our baby. My doctor was confident we’d get him out with a little help from the vacuum.
After probably 5 – 10 pushes, his head popped out. I could feel my own head swell with blood from the held breath and pushing I was performing. Next, his shoulders were going to slip out and as they did, the doctor asked if I wanted to grab him to pull him up on my chest. I thought I wanted to, I’d seen countless birth videos of people doing so and it looked so beautiful. But as I put my hands on his slimy head, half in and half out of my own, my reaction was to decline the offer and hold my eyes shut instead. They put him on my chest and after a few seconds we heard the cutest, fluid cry and cough. He was tucked under my chin, his body so warm, as Riley and I huddled in and comforted Lennon (we called him Lennon, Lennon Foster Whitelum but we’d already nicknamed him Lenny). Rileys face then turned white at the sight of Lennys double head. No one had warned him that because of the suction, he was going to have a bit of inflammation on the top of his head. For the first 10 seconds Riley thought that maybe our baby was deformed. A concerned quick look at the doctors and a “is… is he okay…. his head….” provided Riley with the much needed information that this bump was normal, our baby wasn’t deformed and that it would go down very soon. I’m surprised no one had warned him about that but if he had of agreed to watch more birthing videos with me on youtube he’d probably have been up to speed with the rest of us. Lennon was born at 7.31am on Thursday the 6th December weighing 3.3kg.
We got at least an hour of skin to skin time. Riley cut the umbilical cord after it had finished pulsating the last of the goodness through to our baby. Lenny did a massive meconium poo on Rileys stomach that ran down to his shorts, his only pair of shorts as he hadn’t thought about packing himself any spare clothes for the trip to the hospital. It was hilarious. He didn’t care and spent the next half an hour holding him, in awe of our gorgeous creation. He was perfect. Then he spent another 10 minutes in the bathroom trying to scrub off the black sticky impossible to clean substance from his shorts. At about 10am my mum and step dad had come to visit. Mum hadn’t come with us to the hospital as she had become quite anxious and got lost following us to the hospital. When they came in that morning they were surprised to see a baby on the outside of my stomach. We hadn’t notified anyone of the birth just yet and personally, we wanted to keep him to ourselves for as long as we could.. but mum and my step dad marched right on in that morning and we’d barely had a chance to absorb everything that had just happened. They came and congratulated us and I told mum we “were so tired and that we needed to just be alone right now” and that “I loved her” and that “she was amazing yesterday and thank you for being there for me”.
It’s now two weeks later and we’re still very much so getting used to parenthood. I’ve never felt so much love in my life, my heart is just so full. Being a mum is the best job in the world. I’m still recovering physically from the event but I am so happy mentally with how everything that happened and I wouldn’t change a thing. I feel so empowered after going through all of that. I feel like I can do anything now. I did everything I could have done and I gave it my absolute all. I went to some dark places in my head over those 44 hours, places that I never knew existed and because of that I feel stronger than ever. I’d do it all again!! I can’t wait to head back to the boat which is currently over the South Carolina patiently awaiting our return. We leave in a months time. I just can’t wait to show Lennon the world.
I also want to just quickly say how amazing theAdelaide Flinders Medical Center is. They made my birth experience so wonderful and helped me recover better than I could have ever imagined. A huge thanks to my mum for being there with me and holding my hand. Claire and Nakita for believing in me and Claire for your gentle care in the months leading up to the birth. And Riley for being my rock. You’re the love of my life and already the best dad in the world. Lenny and I love you lots.