Intended home birth but transferred to hospital – first baby.
My husband Richard and I enjoyed our midwives’ visits each month and I read as much as I could find on what to expect. I read heaps of birth stories and watched a few videos with each ultimate birth bringing tears to my eyes. Initially we preferred the hospital birthing unit, but over the months we gained the confidence to start (and perhaps finish) the birth at home. We wanted as natural a birth as possible, with minimal, unnecessary intervention. I had a breeze of a pregnancy with only some discomfort towards the end.
Labour – home
Labour started ten days early. I kind of knew (looking back) that something was up a few days earlier because three things happened. First, Richard stopped making sense. Second, I could no longer do the ‘code cracker’ puzzle in the paper. Third, I just couldn’t finish my…
So, 4:20am on Wednesday I leapt out of bed with a big tummy pain and urgently needing the loo. Went back to bed and leapt out again at 7am – same thing. I showered and noticed a trickle down my legs – pinky liquid. I told Richard, and then called our midwife (who had been up all that night with another labour) who said her back-up midwife would visit soon. Tried to lie down again and promptly threw up. I pottered around until our midwife arrived who examined me just as a contraction hit. Great timing because she was able to tell me to relax and breathe through it rather than trying to fight it or control it. It felt okay, just like strong period pains but at least they went away and they certainly weren’t very regular. My tummy was unbelievably tight. I was advised to get some rest as I would need all of my strength for later on (whatever that meant, I thought).
Richard went out to get a few things (like a car seat and sweet drinks) while I made a lovely fresh egg and lettuce sandwich (not the last time I would see that sandwich). We called my mother, who started the trip down from the Waikato, and my support person, Sarah. So things just moseyed along. I hopped in the bath thinking it would help but it felt dreadful as I was lying on my back. When Richard got back later in the afternoon I was kneeling on the stairs, quite enjoying myself and thinking, hey this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Richard made me some mashed potato (my favourite) which I found I couldn’t face. All I wanted was lucozade. I did throw up again which made me feel better and I spent quite a bit of time on the loo.
Our main midwife arrived when I had moved to the bath again but this time I had the brainwave to kneel on all fours in the bath with the water supporting me. This felt so much better. Sarah arrived full of loving support and more lucozade while Richard started acupressure on my back. Both Sarah and Richard managed my homoeopathic remedies. Our midwife examined me after ages in the bath and said I was 3cm dilated. We felt pretty happy about that as the pain was pleasant and I was coping well. Richard started filling the birth pool and we were quite confident that we’d see our baby before midnight. I kept throwing up though and just as we were about to transfer to the birthing pool I threw up again, this time too quickly for anyone to get a bowl to me (there’s that sandwich!). I was bathing in a pretty disgusting bath by this stage!
The birthing pool was wonderful. We played lovely music, I looked at a beautiful picture of soft, droopy, open roses (come on cervix, OPEN), Richard continued acupressure on my back in the pool with me (which really dulled the pain), and we continued with the homoeopathy. I continued throwing up and only managed lucozade and a little water. I stayed there for hours, hopping (struggling) in and out to refill the water and use the loo.
BUT I wasn’t progressing. In fact my cervix was swelling rather than softening and thinning and the baby appeared to be posterior (face up rather than face down, although the head was definitely down in my pelvis). A vaginal examination at 1am (8 Feb.) confirmed to our midwife that I was 6cm but that we also needed to transfer to the hospital where she suggested an epidural would give me some rest and allow my cervix time to dilate (with a syntocinon drip). She was also concerned that I was getting dehydrated and exhausted. Surprisingly I was still quietly enjoying myself even though things were getting harder and yes I was getting tired. I was absolutely STUNNED however that anyone should think I was capable of climbing up the two levels of our house and then travelling in our car to the hospital. I thought the very least I could expect was the luxury of an ambulance transfer. I think our midwife hoped that climbing the stairs and changing position would set things right, as I have since read that can happen.
I can only describe the transfer as utterly horrible. I was on all fours in the back seat with dear Sarah’s delicate arms doing their very best to apply the strongest acupressure they could to my back. No, didn’t work. My contractions were strong, painful and I was losing my momentum and focus. I knew every little inch of that journey and was astounded that Richard didn’t drive through every red light. But we got there, finally arriving about 3am.
Labour – hospital
So, we made it to my room with our midwife waiting there. At that point I lost it. I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t like the sterile environment, I hated the smell! I had a good cry. Someone suggested gas – I grabbed it. Wonderful stuff I thought as I started giggling. The contractions were strong and painful but with the gas I managed to make it until the epidural man arrived. Although the epidural dulled the pain, for some reason it made my legs feel really weird – almost painful, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to rest as I had hoped. A saline drip was inserted to prevent dehydration, I was pumped with syntocinon, the epidural line went in, a contraction monitor went on, the baby heartbeat monitor was attached and I lay there, immobile. My legs wouldn’t hold me to walk to the loo either (they just kept giving way) so I really was stuck to the bed managed to doze for a wee bit. Acupressure continued for my shoulders, as did homoeopathy. I felt I needed lots of encouragement so that I could cope with the next pushing stage and Richard, Sarah and our midwife were wonderful. I was examined regularly, with pleasing results (I was dilating!!!) but it just took so long. I regularly had a good cry which seemed to hit me in waves. Once it was over I could face the next two-hour wait until the next examination. A scalp test was done on our baby to test the oxygen level in his blood – he was fine. The registrar said our baby had lots of dark hair. That freaked me out as I had kind of forgotten that there was a baby involved in this!
Finally I was 10cm dilated. At 2pm I was wheeled to the delivery room. I was hauled onto the birthing stool on the bed, carefully instructed on how to breathe and started pushing. I couldn’t feel contractions for a while until the epidural started wearing off and when it did I found the pushing much easier to concentrate on. I arm wrestled Sarah and Richard who were either side of me and Richard was more than a little impressed at my strength. I had access to the gas which helped a lot between the contractions. I started throwing up again and after almost two hours, with little progress but lots of swelling, I began calling for help. Forceps, ventouse, caesarean, anything – just make it stop!! Our midwife ignored me for a while, encouraging me to push a little longer but I knew that nothing much was happening. So then I got really pissed off and yelled at her to get me some help, dammit. She went to find the registrar who arrived to examine me. Foolishly he did so just as a contraction started during which I screamed in agony and told him to get the $%^& away from me. He wisely and tactfully retreated and disappeared to find the anaesthetist (I presume).
At this point, and in rapid succession, a couple of things happened. I changed position – drawing my legs together, and suddenly felt a tremendous jolt inside me. (We think the baby must have changed position.) I drew heavily on the gas and became quite adamant that I was NOT going to do anything else but lie there, breathe and suck on gas until I got some help. I wanted to go home. But all of a sudden a tremendous urge to push came with the contractions. It absolutely and completely took over my body and despite trying to resist it I was bearing down and pushing with all my might. Suddenly I felt a head making its way out.
Our midwife, who had briefly gone out of the room, came back in, exclaimed, “Oh my god, there’s a baby coming”, then shot off to get a second midwife and raced back in to me. She was just in time to give me instructions on how to breathe short breaths and give short pushes to get the head out. Then it was out and I recall thinking, “One more push and it’s over – the pain will be gone”. And that’s what happened. Richard cleverly ‘caught’ the baby (Richard maintains he merely got a hand to him; the midwives did the rest) and he was handed to me to hold. We just sobbed. Someone said that he was a boy to which I replied, “Of course he’s a boy”. Sarah had had a vivid dream when I conceived that I was pregnant with a boy who had Richard’s colouring. And he was and he did. I couldn’t believe how beautiful he was and that he had just come out of me, with no tears or stitches. It was just three minutes from my body starting to push to our baby being born!
Richard cut the cord pretty quickly as baby was a little blue and needed oxygen. I remember him weeing all over our midwife as she took him to get the oxygen across the room. I was so proud! I was also given something to help the placenta come out – our midwife pushed and pulled – and there it was. I thought it looked amazing and said thank you to it for feeding our baby for nine months. I was then shown by our midwife how to breastfeed very soon after. She did such a good job he didn’t come off for the next three days and nights.
After 36 hours from start to finish I was exhausted. Maxwell wanted to be close to me (especially during the night) and as I didn’t yet know how to feed lying down I became more exhausted as I tried to maintain our feeding position through the night. I was in hospital for two nights and really hated it but couldn’t get home until I felt strong enough. It took me about three months before I started feeling myself again and certainly writing my birth story with every single detail helped me to deal with it and move on. It also helped to deliberately adopt a very relaxed style towards parenting and to follow Maxwell’s cues as to his needs as much as possible. Plus the devoted support of Richard, Sarah, Mum, and our midwives was beyond anything I had known.
It was a profoundly moving, life-changing, utterly incredible experience and apart from the duration I, surprisingly, enjoyed it immensely. Maxwell is now 21 months old and utterly lovely. We are well into the swing of life together as a family and are looking forward to our next baby arriving in December this year. I’m assured the second birth will be a breeze (!) and I can’t wait.