April 24, 2011
Rowan's Birth Story (long)
His birth story starts in the early hours of Wednesday morning, when I was 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant, around 1.30am to be exact. I found myself waking up from sleep with period-style cramps that weren’t relieved by using the toilet, walking around or anything else. It was a little odd because up until that point I’d been having only Braxton Hicks contractions, and no other early labour sign except it being the month of his due date that birth was imminent. Although, thinking about it now, my body had been progressively cleansing the bowel for the past week. Since I was also taking some liquid preparations from my naturopath I didn’t think much of it, as her brews often tend to have that effect on me anyway – so it remains to be seen whether this was a sign or not.
Back to the story. The cramping was creeping into my back during the early hours of that morning, and that struck me as unusual (as BH are on the front only). My Mum’s words also passed through my mind, as she said back pains were part of the beginning of labour onset in her pregnancies. As the hours passed, the cramping became more regular, and Matt suggested we time them – they were roughly 10-15 minutes apart, and lasting about 30 seconds at a time. Sleeping through them wasn’t really working, so I ended up spending some time online instead while the dark of night progressed into the morning’s dawn.
By 8.30am the cramping (which I was now identifying as contractions, as they had peaks and ebbs) was coming in 5-10 minute intervals and I decided to phone the midwives at my hospital to get some advice. They said that it might be the early beginnings or labour, and to keep in touch during the day if things progressed, and to finish any last-minute hospital bag packing. Come 10.30am the contractions had eased back again and were becoming irregular – disappointing because both Matt and I were starting to think that this was it and were getting a little excited! (note: I now know that it was the way I was leaning back into the couch that slowed down the contractions, throughout the labour leaning back in a similar way caused a distinct slow down of progress)
Disappointed, we went about the rest of our day with as much normality as possible - I did a little light cleaning, spent time on the computer, watched TV etc. At about 4pm, my body cleaned itself out one last time (I think that made six times that day!) and the contractions started coming swiftly once more. 15 minutes apart, then 10 minutes, and then 5 minutes! No longer could I sit through them, but was instead pacing around a lot, leaning forward and using the kitchen bench as support when they were intense. I decided that it was time to get Jesse looked after, in case we had to leave home during the night, and Mum and Chris came to get him. I was a little teary at this point in time, having a case of the self-doubts about labour and birth, and seeing Mum really helped my emotional state.
Tired after little sleep the night before, Matt convinced me to try and relax in bed for a little while and we watched a documentary on the laptop (I dozed in between contractions). I had two very painful ones in a row and found myself clinging to Matt, and a sense of warmth between my legs (by this point we’d had towels under me “just in case”). I waddled to the bathroom to find that I had lost my mucous plug and a fair leak of bright red blood with it – time to call the hospital!
They advised me to shower, put on a fresh towel/pad and wait it out for half an hour before coming in, which was easier said than done because immediately the contractions were ramping up (and I was a little hesitant – I’d had no bleeding whatsoever during the pregnancy). I made some time to quickly update online with the news while Matt was trying to rush me around and saying it was time to leave! Hey, did you expect any less? ;)
Luckily there wasn’t much traffic at that time of night (11pm-ish) and Matt was quite hasty in his driving with the 15 minute trip to the hospital (he made it in 10 minutes :P), despite me telling him we had ‘heaps of time’. I was taken through immediately to a birth suite, and genuinely surprised by how quiet and calm the whole area was – it turns out that there were no other labouring women there that night, I later found out. My blood/fluid leak was analysed and I was told by one of the midwives that I was “in the very beginning stages of early labour” and that I simply was having “a very bloody show” (bloody scary to me though!). I was told that they would admit me, give me Panadol and a mild sleeping tablet to get some rest, and would continue labouring in the morning.
Cue me feeling very disappointed! I felt like I’d really let myself down and I resigned myself to the bed after taking the offered cup.
However, it was impossible to get any rest, especially laying down and I continued to waddle around and eventually had another ‘show’ within a couple of hours, with quite a bit more plug. A second midwife wanted to examine it and quickly called the first woman back into the room, offering an internal check, which I took them up on. Imagine the visibly shocked look on the first midwife’s face when the second said I was dilated 5cm already and well beyond early labour – we’ll be having this baby today, she said (I *knew* it!).
For the rest of the early morning hours until the dawn, I spent time pacing and standing between contractions, and the bliss of the birthing bath. Matt was feeding me snacks for energy (bits of museli bar, soft jube lollies etc – eventually I didn’t want the water anymore though and went back to my pacing/bracing against a bench). And this is where things start to blur more – I now know that I dilated from 5-8cm fairly quickly and was stuck there for several hours, was beginning to drop into micro-sleeps between contractions (I remember weird lucid thoughts – also can’t place any now - combined with hallucinations and all sorts of odd things), and my obstetrician was called. I was made to lie on my back while waiting for him and that was incredibly painful – he was at the neighbouring hospital at the time and it took longer than expected for him to come in. From my records this was around 8.30am. He did an internal examination (again, very painful as he was trying to determine whether my membranes had ruptured as yet; it was eventually decided that no – they had not – and gave me the news that the baby was still posterior at this point). I was also given the option at this point to have my membranes ruptured, which I thought long and hard about between two contractions before deciding to go for it. This was the only intervention I had during the labour, and shortly after I hit transition.
Matt tells me that this was about the time I stopped speaking between contractions and got a bit primal. I was on all fours on the bed, supporting my top half over the head of it and supported by pillows (similar to the standing position I had assumed for most of the night; by now my legs weren’t supporting me anymore). The contractions were very intense, almost on top of each other, and I was going through a little bit of doubt in my ability to birth this baby. I was beginning to bear down unconsciously and went to the toilet for a bit, where I proceeded to tell the midwife that I needed to empty my bowels again (yes, you can probably tell where this is heading).
The midwife smiled, got a chair and sat in the doorway of the bathroom where she told me to push if I felt the need and that I could have this baby on the toilet if I wished (I’m still not sure whether she was trying to humour me, or if she was telling the truth!). I was bearing down and several times I moved my hand to see whether I could feel anything, and was surprised to feel a bulge (not the head, but muscle/tissue). Pretty cool actually. Because my pushing wasn’t being overly productive, the midwife checked me again – this time on the bed – and announced that I was “a stretchy 9.5cm”. Huzzah! Between contractions she moved the last little lip of cervix that was in the way (can I say ouch??) which made me at 10cm and fully dilated.
I was shown how to push during contractions, and to bear down several times during each one (as opposed to one long push). My hands were around my ankles for leverage and this was quite a productive position, all things considering. I remember seeing the trolley and cot being set up at this point and thinking inwardly it’s nearly time! My obstetrician was called again and Matt was on my right side, up near my head (I can’t remember whether he was touching me or just sitting nearby while I laboured; what I do remember was that he was full of positive affirmations, telling me that I was ‘doing so well’). At some point in the last two hours, the baby had turned anterior (finally!!) which meant that no suction or forceps would probably be required, which I was told may happen if he remained posterior.
I wouldn’t call pushing the most difficult part of the labour, it was a means to an end at this point, and even though I was exhausted, I was excited that our baby was nearly here. The OB and midwife invited Matt to come and see the baby’s head (still inside me at this point, but coming down more with every push), he surprised me by having a look – as originally he’d said that he wasn’t too keen on being at the ‘business end’ (and later on remarked that it was very cool to see; I wish I’d have seen too – I forgot to ask for a mirror!). As the baby crowned, I got to feel the head and discovered that the ‘ring of fire’ that I’d heard so much about was entirely true! Oooh... sharp agony! I tore slightly, but not all that badly, and was made to pant a little between certain pushes, as they checked for the cord around the baby’s neck. The head was fully out!
This was the single-most surreal moment of the entire birth, waiting between those two contractions while having a head hanging out of my nether regions. Because the rest of the baby’s body was still inside me and attached to the placenta at this point, he wasn’t breathing yet – he was still and perfectly peaceful with eyes closed. I remember being concerned and asked if this was normal, I was assured that yes it was. It seemed to take forever for the next contraction to hit (almost five minutes, according to Matt) and I pushed and pushed as his shoulders were worked out and suddenly with the biggest feeling of emptying suddenly he was earthside at 11.23am and was accompanied by a gush of miscellaneous fluids and substances! Matt and I were surprised by how tiny he looked, and by the fair hair on his head!
The baby took his first breath and surprised me with the ferocity of his lung capacity, startle reflex active, and was placed on my chest where he immediately calmed and wrinkled his forehead in what appeared to be serious thought. Within a few minutes the placenta detached and was carefully birthed (intact).
“Does he have a name yet?” the midwife asked, while the cord continued to pulsate as blood was returned to the baby.
Matt and I looked at each other and nodded, knowing who this little soul was.
“Yes... his name is Rowan”, I said with a smile, speaking his name to his face for the first time.
After Matt had cut the cord and the obstetrician had finished tidying me up (he smiled and said I did ‘all the work’, making it easy on him), we were given close to an hour of uninterrupted time in the dimly-lit room to get to know our baby. We touched his beautiful skin, remarked on his tiny nose, the shape of his fingernails that resembled my own, and his seemingly-oversized feet. After our journey of infertility and IVF, our little manatee – our Rowan – was here and he was worth everything.