All birth stories are different and we want to empower and support all kinds of births. We all have individual reactions to reading birth stories; some make us happy, laugh, cry or feel sad. Here at The Merge Journal we hope to give the mother who writes her birth story a sense of empowerment. A time for reflection. We respect all the different types of individual birthing stories.
Deanna, reflecting on the birth of her second son, Louie:
It’s a mild Tuesday morning, and I am woken gently with a soft contraction. It gets stronger, very quickly, and I know now – this is it. I’m 39 weeks pregnant (and two days). It has been a week, to the hour, since I had my first contraction. Some may call them Braxton Hicks, but after going to the hospital three times in the last week, to be observed, and have it confirmed that they were in fact contractions, I realise I wake at the exact same time I did a week ago, to my first real contraction. My little boy was preparing me. I lay there for a moment, checking the clock, waiting for the next one. 3.15am, and the next one – 3.30am. This is certainly it. I wake up my husband and tell him it’s really happening, and even though he’s been through a roller coaster of emotions with me over the past week, not knowing what is going on, he can see the difference in my face, and I can sense in his face, that he’s taking me seriously. We lay there chatting quietly, me calmly breathing through each one, talking about what an exciting day we have ahead of us. My mum had just arrived in town the night before on a ‘hunch’. She was originally going to be arriving this morning around 10am, but decided last minute to drive during the night. She’s asleep just down the hall on the sofa, and i’m surprised she doesn’t wake from our chatter. I had woken her up this time a week ago when she was visiting, and we talked from 4am on the lounge over a cup of tea. I know she would want me to wake her, but decide to see what happens. My mother in law is in our guest room too, and Charlie, our three year old, is sound asleep. It’s a beautiful feeling, laying there in the dark beside my husband, feeling my stomach tighten, and calmly talking about the future.
The contractions are now 10 minutes apart. My mum wakes up and I tell her what’s been happening. I’m surprised at how different this is feeling from my first birth experience. (you can read that here). We make a cup of tea and toast, and talk in the kitchen. Apart from the deep breaths I’m taking every 10 minutes, you wouldn’t even know I was in labour. I take a nice long shower. The contractions are strong, but not at all painful … yet. Key word, yet.
My three year old is now awake, and has absolutely no idea what’s going on. We tell him he’s going to meet his little brother today. Even after three ‘false starts’ going to the hospital in the last week, there is not one doubt in my mind that today i’ll be going to the hospital, and won’t return home until i’m a mother of two. My mother in law is awake now too, and I can tell from the look on her face that’s she’s excited, but a little hesitant. I don’t blame her. We’ve been walking around town for the last week, stopping during contractions. She’s given me reflexology to try to bring on the labour (oh yes, didn’t I mention my mother in law, beautiful woman that she is, is a chiropodist? How handy, pun intended, is that to have, in your final weeks of pregnancy). She’s been staying with us for the last two weeks, intending to leave in one week, to go back to England. So there was a very good chance the baby would arrive while she was with us. We take some family photos in the loungeroom because I want to remember this moment; when we are still three, but by days end, could be four. At this stage, my contractions are now five minutes apart. But not painful. At all … yet. Key word: yet.
We make another cup of tea, and decide to sit out on the deck in the nice warm sun. The contractions are starting to change between five minutes, then three minutes apart, and then five minutes apart again. If i’m honest i’m starting to doubt myself, wondering, if this is, actually it. The midwives request that we don’t go in to the hospital until I am three minutes apart for 45 minutes, and can’t speak through contractions. And I take their ‘advice’ as a rule and stick to it. My rebel days are well and truly over, and if that’s what the midwives have suggested, then that’s what i’ll do. My mum thinks we should head in now, but again, the contractions are still not painful … yet.
The last three have been three minutes apart and I’ve had to take myself away from the casual conversation that’s happening over our third cup of tea. Tea is one of my favourite relaxants – and we drink ten times the amount when my in laws are visiting, because, well, they’re British, and adhere strictly to the stereotypical idea of the British drinking tea. I love it. Ok, I’ve decided it’s time. Stuff what the midwives say (hello rebel!), I don’t really feel comfortable waiting until I can’t speak through a contraction, because that’s just a bit too risky to me. Even with the hospital a mere five minutes away, i’m ready to go now. Tears well up in my eyes saying goodbye to my little three year old. He has no idea what’s happening, just that mummy’s going to the hospital to get the baby out of her tummy, and she’ll be home soon. I cuddle him tighter than I’ve ever cuddled him, and shower him in kisses. I’m so scared of the change that is about to happen in our family, but i’m excited too, so excited to meet this little guy. Between the deck and the car another contraction comes and it stops me. I make it ever so slowly to the bonnet of the car, and bend over. (I have no idea at this stage, but find out later the lovely old neighbours across the road are watching). My mum, and MIL stay home with Charlie. My mum will come to the hospital when we’re closer to the real event – she was there for my first labour, and I definitely want her there for this one. Matt, my husband – is an amazing support, but I wanted mum to be there too.
Somewhere between 10.30am and 11am.
I’ve phoned the midwives to tell them we are on our way. They are surprised that I can talk, but I tell them, trust me, it’s happening. Being a small (ish) country town, the walk from the hospital carpark to the maternity ward is reasonably short, but it doesn’t stop me from stopping mid contraction at a lightpost to catch my breath. When we walk in to reception one of the midwives is there waiting in the hallway and says come on through, we’ll go straight to the labour suite. I’m surprised. After the phone call, I expected to be taken to the ‘observation’ room for them to confirm i’m in labour. I ask her about it, and she responds like this: ‘Um, no honey, I just watched you through the windows of the labour suite walk from the carpark into here, and we don’t need to check – you are definitely having this baby’. Yes! At last, if she thinks it then it’s definitely happening! She is, after all, a professional.
They check me and i’m 4cm dilated. All doubt is gone – i’m having the baby today! The fetal monitor is hooked up, because, as physically showing as I am through each contraction, it’s still not that painful. Yet.
What feels like an eternity after 11am, but is about 11.10am.
This is where things do downhill. Quickly. I can hear my baby’s heartbeat, it sounds beautiful. That strength of soft sounds of galloping horses, it’s quick, and music to my ears. But then I get my first contraction since being hooked up, and it slows down. Way down. Think horse galloping in slow motion, at about 1km an hour. The fear sets in. This happens over the next three contractions. I can see the look on the midwifes face. She calls the doctor. Tears well up. My husband gives me the best smile he can, but I can see he’s forcing it – I know him too well. Even the midwife, I don’t know her, but I can sense it – with her gentle touch on my leg to try to calm me down. There is complete silence in the room, except for one defiant sound – that monitor, and it’s slow, slow gallop. She asks me to turn on my side for the next contraction. No change. The doctor is here now. They are standing on each side of the bed, my husband sitting at the end of the bed, and all I can hear is medical jargon. They try to draw blood, but they can’t draw anything out. They ask how much water I’ve had this morning. None. I’ve had no water. I’m disgusted in myself. No exaggeration, I am the girl who drinks three litres of water a day, I can’t have enough of the stuff. Yet here it is, 11am, and I haven’t had one glass. I’ve had three cups of tea, and half a piece of toast. But no water. After downing a few glasses, i’m rehydrated and they manage to draw blood. ‘Just in case’, they say. The midwife walks the doctor out and they’re whispering. I look at my husband, who is again, putting on that fake ‘it’s going to be ok’ smile, and, realising the smile isn’t enough – he says it – ‘it’s going to be ok’. The midwife comes back to the bed and asks if I’ve had anything to eat today. Alarm bells go off, and I know exactly what that means. Surgery. I’m no pro, I’ve never had surgery in my life, I haven’t even read much about it, because I had such a great birth with my first son. Me, the anxious worrier, didn’t once read anything about caesareans and ‘what ifs’ because I thought i’d be fine. I ask her – to double check my fears, and she confirms it. She says she’ll get everything ready, but we’ll know for sure in the next 15 minutes if i’ll need a caesarean. My heart sinks. I’m sobbing crying now, and so is my husband. Every possible scenario is going through my mind; Is this the moment we lose the baby? Are we going to lose our baby? What if the baby makes it and I don’t? What if neither of us make it? What about Charlie? I can’t leave Charlie, What about my husband? I can’t leave him. I look at him, and without speaking we both know what the other is thinking. We are scared and beyond nervous.
The midwife asks me to turn to the other side for the next few contractions. And miraculously, his heartbeat picks up. I’m beaming with happiness, I know it’s a good sign. The midwife confirms it, my husbands smile confirms it, and we are ok, for now. And then it was like a firecracker – bam. Hello next contraction, hello pain – there you are. Within minutes i’m wheeled into the birth suite. This is where the fun really begins.
Matt texts my mum ‘Come now, moving to birth suite’. The pain and pressure have definitely set in. I’m at that don’t-care-what-I-look-like-can-hardly-talk stage, when I realise the new bed they’ve put me on doesn’t have a foot at the end of it, (which I had been using for support in the previous bed) so how the hell am I going to keep this feeling of pressure contained. It’s the hardest part. The pressure – I can take the pain, but the pressure is the oddest, most raw, real part. It’s a marathon. Intense, long, and feels like the end is so far away. I tell them I want an epidural. Not just yet, but I just want them to know i’m going to want one, so they know. I had one right at the end of my labour with Charlie, just in time to push and it was perfect. Seriously perfect. Which is why I was talking about ‘next time’ as soon as I gave birth to him.
Just before 1pm.
I now have an IV in to try to keep me as hydrated as possible, which means i’m going to the toilet between every third contraction. I thought my five a night pees were bad, they were nothing on walking to the toilet between contractions. The real drama starts when I feel a contraction coming just as I’ve finished peeing, and I know i’m not going to make it back to the bed. I’m on all fours on the bathroom floor when I tell my husband ‘epidural’. One word, that’s all he needs. I hear him tell the midwife, and she says she’ll get the process started. This is one thing I did read about, and remembered from having my first. The time between when you ask for an epidural and when you get it – is about 3o minutes. So my plan was to get to ‘just before’ my limit, so I had a buffer. Clever me, planning and all. Well, pffft, the planning went out the window. By the time I compose myself and am back on the bed, I have a few more contractions when they tell me there is a ‘wait’. The anaesthesiologist is in emergency, and then the woman next to me is getting one first. In this little small town, really? Two people ahead of me for an epidural? I have no choice, and continue on. At one stage a midwife comes in and starts wiping my face over with a wet towel. It is a-mazing. It is cold, and soothing, and just plain ecstasy in the middle of contractions. My poor mum took over this role when the midwife left, and I remember the look on her face – she wished she could take the pain away, and she was doing her best. I told her later, ‘I love you mum, but you sucked with that towel’. There should have been a 10 minute handover or something in terms of the wet towel duties; the midwife had soaked it so the cold water was literally dripping off my face, while my mum had soaked it and then twisted all the water out, and was basically giving me the equivalent of a wet carpet burn. We laughed about it later – she didn’t know, and I didn’t have the energy to tell her. She was trying her absolute best, and it was awesome to have her by my side. My husband didn’t escape duties either. I was the same as I was with Charlie, I didn’t want backrubs, or hot showers. I just needed them right there by my side. My husband was chief hand holder. And boy was he good at it.
I ask again about the epidural – nope. Not yet. As this stage they put a monitor on the babys head after doing an internal, because they can’t get an accurate reading from the tummy belt, and they want to keep an eye on it, after his heartbeat was dipping during contractions previously. And it does it again. It’s all over the place. I desperately want to push, but they say I can’t. It’s ok, I think. I still have to get the epidural, anyway. They ask me to get ready for another internal shortly after this, and as my contractions were now one minute apart, it had to be a quick process. As I feel the contraction ease off, I tell them ‘now’ and just like that they are quick as a flash. That’s when I hear a number I wasn’t ready for. 8. That’s all he says. My witty, South African doctor. 8. I look at him – i’m certain with those cartoon style eyes that pop out of their head – ‘Did you just say 8? As in 8cm?’, I ask. He nods his head. Right then, that’s it. My immediate thought is, shit. There is no way I have time for an epidural now. Oh my goodness, I actually have to do this all by myself. Shit, shit, double shit. But then they tell me I still can’t push because my membranes are still intact. This labour couldn’t be more different than the last. Nothing prepares you for giving birth, but the thought that ‘hey, I’ve done this before, i’m sure I have some idea of how it’s going to go’, does not play out at all. My waters broke with my first, a whole seven hours before I actually went into labour. So here I am, third internal, 8cm dilated, getting my waters broken.
My contractions have been one minute apart for the last hour. One minute. Which meant, after a 45 second ish contraction I had about 15 seconds to prep for the next one. The ease off, and the come back into it, was Everest. And I was climbing, all by myself. No drugs, no gas, just me and the mountain. My husbands hand at this stage had been gripped for at least the last half an hour. He tells me later it was starting to hurt but he didn’t want to say anything at the time. Good move husband, good move. During contractions i’m rocking my hips and holding his hand so tight with my forehead pressed against his knuckles, that post birth, I will have a shower, wash my face, and wonder why on earth my forehead is hurting – and I will remember this moment. I literally gave myself a ‘forehead bruise’ from pressing my head so hard against his knuckles.
‘You can push’. Those three little words, in that moment, a thousand times better than the other three we all love to hear (I love you). The sense of relief to actually push is the most incredible feeling ever. On my second contraction I pushed so hard, and the chorus of ‘push, push, push, push’, from everyone in the room was like my own private cheer squad. Someone said the head is almost out and asked if I wanted to touch it. ‘Absolutely not’, was my response. But then they asked if I wanted to see it through a mirror, and I had a moment when I thought, well, this could be the last time I get to do this (I hadn’t done it with my first), so I said ok. Big mistake. The head was NOT almost out, I could only JUST see it. Someone lied. And now I had to work ten times harder. It’s like how much a cut hurts, but if you look at it, it suddenly hurts a lot more. I was only at Everest base camp, and still had the whole summit to go. I suddenly saw my mums face, filled with worry. And in a glimpse I noticed all of a sudden there were more people in the room. The doctor was back. My mum would tell me later some things she overhead about the need to get the baby out as soon as possible, and she knew it could be bad. I knew my mum well enough, and seeing her face, and hearing my husband whispering ‘you can do it darling, in ten minutes we are going to have our baby’, gave me all the drugs I needed. I pushed again with all my might, and felt his head come out. And then his shoulders. And suddenly he was out. I was ready to take him up on to my body, but when I opened my eyes all I could see were doctors and midwives, and all of ‘down there’ blocked off, I couldn’t hear him crying, I could only hear a faint gurgling. My heart sunk. In the time between when he came out and when he was up on my chest, I had enough time to worry and wonder what was going on, Was I back at square one, ‘Am I going to lose my baby now?’ ‘Have I lost him?’ 30 seconds felt like five minutes, but all of a sudden he was screaming, and on my chest and my heart doubled in size. I couldn’t stop exclaiming ‘I did it!’ I did it!’. The wonder of giving birth without drugs, after having an epidural with my first – was indescribable. I had a genuine moment where I thought, I can’t do this, I won’t be able to. But then I did. The umbilical cord was so twisted around our baby’s body, that they weren’t able to do the usual ‘hook and pull’ over his head, it needed to be unwound. Which is what took so long. It was the reason his heartbeat was dropping during contractions, and the reason they wanted to get him out so quick. But he was here now. Seven minutes after my husband told me that he would ‘be here in ten minutes’. And he was safe, and beautiful, and a little fighter. Which is why his name, which is French in origin, and means ‘warrior’ – was so fitting.
Louie Robert Platings was born at 2.27pm, on a Tuesday afternoon – weighing an even 7 pounds.
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