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 has bravely shared with us here, her birth story of her first son Charlie:
It’s a hot Saturday in January. I’m 38 weeks pregnant (and two days), and my husband and I have decided to head to the hardware store to pick up a few things to DIY before the baby arrives. Today was supposed to be an all day antenatal class at the hospital (eight hours to be precise), but when I wake up I decide not to go, because sitting around a hospital for eight hours in a (most likely) uncomfortable chair just didn’t feel like the place I wanted to be. Either way, it didn’t matter – the universe had other plans.
We’re standing in our bathroom together brushing our teeth (late out of pj’s on a typical weekend around here), and all of a sudden I feel it. My waters break. I’m certain of it. All those times I thought ‘whoa, is something happening?’, nope, it wasn’t, because now something was. I can tell by the reaction Matt has to my facial expression that he too knows something is happening, even though there’s no giant puddle of liquid between my feet (the way the movies like to over dramatise it). But I still feel like I need to say it out loud ‘I think my waters just broke’. We start giggling. Yes, that’s what we do with nervousness. I haven’t felt any pain whatsoever and there we are doing something so mundane as brushing our teeth and it begins. I pop into the toilet to be ‘sure’. And am 95% certain this is it. We call the midwives to explain what’s happened. The usual questions are asked; How far along are you? Has this been a relatively normal pregnancy? Are you having any contractions?. I answer them, and then ask my own question. ‘Do I have time to take a shower before we come in?’. The midwife gives me the go ahead, so I take this quite literally and casually roam around the house, tidying a little, packing the hospital bag, taking a really long shower. We call my mum and dad to tell them – planning for my mum to be at the birth. She lives about two hours drive away, the hospital is half an hour drive for us – she’s going to meet us there. I didn’t know it yet, but Mum was so quick, and I was so slow, that she will actually arrive at the hospital before us, if that’s any timeframe to go by. Matt is calmly suggesting maybe I move a little faster, and I realise ‘wow, this is not how I thought it was going to go’. What happened to waking up in the middle of the night with a painful contraction and waking my husband with the news. What happened to timing contractions? It’s all a bit calm, and slow, and not at all what I pictured.
We finally get in the car, and I suggest to Matt that we stop at the grocery store to get some fruit and a few magazines. He obliges, happily, he can see that nothing is really happening, and I think he’s happy to stay as calm as me for as long as we can. I call my immediate family, sister, brothers – distinctly remembering my sister in laws reaction to the fact that I was in labour sitting in the Woolworths carpark, while Matt was shopping inside for my grapes and magazines. She knows about my magazine obsession – and my need to have some fresh new ones for the hospital! After Matt is in the car we call a few other close friends, and decide not to call Matt’s family yet as a: they all live in England, and b: we’d be waking them with news of ‘hey, my waters broke, but I don’t actually know if the baby is coming yet’. We decide to wait.
We arrive at the hospital, and I casually walk into the maternity ward. They show us to a birthing suite to get hooked up to some machines and ‘see what’s happening’. The room is pink. Hmmm. I’m having a boy, and without sounding so gender stereotypical, I really don’t like that i’m going to give birth in here – a pink room. It’s brightly lit, and feels cold, literally and emotionally. They check me over. The midwife gives me a smirk and says ‘Your waters haven’t broken’. I’m confused. ‘Um, yes they have’, I respond. ‘I can assure you, I know i’ve never done this before, but I’ve just changed my underwear twice and soaked multiple pads – my waters have certainly broken’ I confirm. The midwife sees my immediate frustration and sits on the edge of the bed, quietly explaining that ‘scientifically’ my waters haven’t broken – the test has come back negative. He can see i’m upset and confused, and suggests we stay a little longer and they will redo the test in a little bit to be sure, if that would make me happy. ‘Yes please’, I reply, comforted that he senses how i’m feeling. Another hour later, (and after losing more fluid) they do the test again. ‘Nope, still negative’. ‘Whaaaaat?’ – now i’m just furious. Myself, my husband and my mum, after all bearing witness to possibly too much physical proof (but nothing compared to what’s about to come) all exclaim that we are certain this is it, and can they please do the test again. ‘Sure’, he says, this time a little apprehensive, but hey, lets make the pregnant woman who looks about as certain as they come, happy, and comfortable.
Third test. ‘Inconclusive’. Well, now i’m just lost. No pain, no contractions, two tests negative, and one test inconclusive. What kind of a scientific test is inconclusive anyway, surely it’s a mathematical yes or no situation. They decide it would be best for me to go home, until more progression at least, and we willingly oblige. We pack up our things, and walk out of the hospital. I’m crying with disappointment, but a little thankful to be out of the pink room. Something about it just didn’t feel right. Matt also shares his slight discomfort of the possibility of a male midwife delivering our baby. He’s not sexist in any way, but he tells us it just surprised him a little. My mum assures me, ‘we’ll be back here tonight, I can guarantee it’. Mum is a positive person, so i’m not surprised she is trying to cheer me up with some hope, but at the same time, she is never one to make a promise she can’t keep. It’s comforting, even though I continue to cry the whole way home.
I literally get what I think is my first contraction as I step foot into our front door. It’s not too painful, but more painful than anything else i’ve felt. After the day we’ve had, mum suggests I take another shower, while her and Matt get some dinner ready. My darling husband decides tonight, of all nights, he’s going to make pasta – from scratch. He and mum share a love of cooking, it’s their ‘thing’, so any chance they get, they will make the longest most complex meals to test themselves. Making pasta from scratch wasn’t complex, Matt and Mum had done it plenty of times before, but in hindsight, with the length of time it takes, it probably wasn’t the best choice for dinner. By the time I finish my shower and make my way to the couch the contractions are coming fast and strong. Two minutes apart. Matt has almost finished making dinner, determined to shove some in before we leave, and Mum has realised what’s really happening. She asks Matt if he’s seen me like this before, still not knowing if it’s braxton hicks or the ‘real thing’. I catch a glimpse of his face as he responds and see his expression turn serious. ‘Um, no, well not quite this bad’. The pasta is thrown on the plates in a matter of seconds, we all take a few bites, and get back in the car. This time all in one car. Mum is driving, Matt is on the back seat, and I am laying down in the most uncomfortable position possible over the top of him, using my feet on the windows as leverage. I can imagine it’s quite a sight to anyone driving past us – here was that drama I had not had earlier during the day. There are about 15 roundabouts to go through on one stretch of the road, and I feel every turn. Mum is driving a little erratically, and I hear Matt tell her to calm down. Not being one to overreact, she tells us in the days after that she was 100% certain I was going to ‘have that baby in the car’. Things had progressed so quickly, and my contractions were two minutes apart. But not really, it’s like they were one minute long, so between the time they started to ease off and then start again they were pretty much one minute apart. I later find out this is because Charlie was posterior (back to back) and my labour pains were like a continual contraction. What fun.
We walk back into the birthing ward, me not caring about my previous thought of ‘If I come back to this hospital tonight in labour I am going to give those midwives the most conniving grin and a look of ‘I told you so!’ on my face’. There’s no time, and I really don’t care at this stage. They take me into a birthing suite, and i’m thankful that someone else has taken the pink room, and we are taken into the most serene feeling green room, with the lights already dimmed. Ah, this is more like it, I think. Likening it to a hotel suite you would be super happy with. My surroundings are very important to me, and greatly affect my mood, so it was lovely to get that feeling, and be comforted by the fact, that this, indeed, was where I was going to give birth to our baby boy. They check me over – four cm dilated. Hoo-frickin-ray! Something is happening. And some confirmation from them that they understand something is happening. The midwives give me a few little details that I hadn’t previously heard of, like you’ll roughly dilate one cm per hour, so the baby will still be about six hours away. I tell them I want an epidural. Not yet, but i’m sure I want one, so just a heads up that I want one, and when I ask for one please take me seriously and get me one. I already know that it takes about 30 minutes from when you say you want one, to actually getting one, so I plan in my mind to ask just before my absolute breaking point. Yes, i’m this organised, even in labour. I don’t want the gas – i’ve heard it can make you feel really sick, and after some pretty serious morning sickness, it’s the last thing I want. It doesn’t really matter though, at one stage during labour i’ll end up on all fours on the floor vomiting into a bag that my darling husband is holding. Now this is love. I get into my zen zone. For the last few weeks of pregnancy i’ve found myself rocking my hips at night and putting myself to sleep with a gentle sway. This proves invaluable during labour. It’s my go to. I lay on the bed and quietly rock and sway every few minutes. It’s the only way everyone knows i’m having a contraction. There’s no swearing, no screaming, no moans, i’m just quietly in my zone, breathing through it. Massages are offered – I decline. Showers are offered – I don’t want to get off the bed. At one stage I do though, and find myself on the birthing ball – rocking my hips, holding onto my husbands shoulders for dear life. This is painful, and difficult. Much more so than I ever thought possible. But I think the hardest part is the pressure. The constant pressure pushing down inside me. No one has explained that. How could they?
I’m draped over the side of the bed, and look up at my husband. I can sense what he’s thinking, ‘gosh I wish I could do something, what can I do?’. There’s a piece of hair hanging over my face – wet, partly from a cold washer i’ve had on my forehead, partly from my sweating. I’m exhausted, and feel like i’m on drugs, even though I’m not, but i’m that ‘out of it’ that it feels like I am – if that makes sense. I am beyond out of it. Now is the time. I ask for the epidural. The midwife suggests we quickly check how far along I am first, and I decline. I don’t know how I think I have power over this suggestion, but for some reason she listens to me and goes to get the needle man. That’s what I call him, I can’t be bothered trying to pronounce the word, while in labour. And it seems from when I ask, to when I get, is quite quick. Perhaps because i’d passed the threshold of pain, and knew it was coming. The relief was on it’s way. If i’ve made it this far, I can certainly make a bit more. The anesthesiologist comes in, and I find myself immediately apologising. ‘Sorry, you must think i’m so weak, I was doing so well, but I just can’t go any further’. Feeling the need to over explain myself, and still being in my general Deanna state of ‘I want everyone to like me’. (Lucky this sad need in my life is now definitely over. Certainly from strangers.) The doctor is quick to retort ‘Are you kidding? Do you know how many people walk in here with a broken leg and say, oh let’s just do the operation without the drugs? None, that’s how many.’ His quirky explanation is validation enough, and i’ve held onto it ever since, thank you needle man. He explains the procedure. Suddenly i’m super alert and wanting to fully understand what was happening. Woops, I should have researched this a bit more. I simply have to sit still for 15 minutes. ‘Oh, sure, because the ONLY thing that has been getting me through labour so far is sitting still’. My rocking and swaying had to go out the window for a bit, eight contractions exactly. I was still able to do math. And it was eight contractions. I asked for a practice run of two contractions before any needles were put near me, just to be sure I could do this. I could do this. I did it. Let’s do it. I’m hunched over the bed getting my epidural prepared for immense pain when they say ‘all done’. ‘What? That’s it? That hurt less than the IV in my hand!’ I exclaim. But the fun isn’t over yet. I lay back, ready to feel the relief – and nothing. Nada. No, hang on, I think I can feel it, but only on one side. ‘Oh yes, that happens sometimes’ they tell me, ‘We’ll need to redo it’. Awesome. But once it works, it’s fantastic. I start talking about ‘next time’, ‘next time I give birth’. My mum is shocked. ‘Lets just focus on this time for now hey’, she says, and we giggle. I’m alert enough now to giggle. It’s heaven. I’m not high, in any sense of the word. I’m just alert, and awake, and can talk and not mumble. The midwife checks me: 10 cm dilated. She tells me if she had of checked me before the epidural that they wouldn’t have given it to me. I’m grateful then, for that sudden rush of power I thought I had in the birthing suite, by telling the midwife what to do, and what not to do, and equally grateful for her listening to me.
‘You can start to push now’. ‘Wow, really?’,even though she just told me I was 10 cm, and I knew what that meant, I didn’t realise we’d be here so quick. She explained the process of pushing, how to, where to, etc, and we got to it. This was the only moment I made my first real labour noise. Not overly loud, just a raised moan, and the midwife told me to put all my energy into pushing instead of making the sound, and so I did. No more noises, just the awesome amazing feeling of pushing. I pushed for an hour. It didn’t feel like that long. But I did. They told me the head was out and would I like to touch it, or see it with a mirror. No thanks, i’d made it this far, I didn’t want anything hindering the rest of it. I know how I feel when i’ve cut my finger and as soon as I look at it the pain is increased tenfold. I don’t really have time to anyway. Once his head is completely out, I hear the midwife say ‘oh, he’s just going to fall out now’ … and he did. There he was. This little son of ours in my arms, and all I could say on repeat was ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh’. We’d done it. He, and I, and my beautiful amazing husband. We’d made this miracle and here he was, now in the dimly lit green room, with my mum present and all the love in the world to receive from us.
Charlie Lucien Platings was born at 2.02am, on a Sunday morning – weighing 6 pounds, 7 ounces.
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