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.
Karli has bravely shared with us here, her birth story of her daughter Zoe:
After the dreaded glucose tolerance test at 28ish weeks gestation of my very first exciting pregnancy, I received a call from our midwife team to let me know that I had “failed the test” as they put it. I was super confused – did I need to take it again?! No no, as it turns out the test revealed that I had developed Gestational Diabetes. I was in total disbelief. I had none of the risk factors. I cried and cried, apologizing to the baby over and over again for already being a terrible mother. I felt so guilty and a little ashamed. I was a 32 year old active, healthy lass with a pretty decent diet and it never occurred to me that I’d have to deal with this condition during a pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes occurs when hormones released by the placenta block the insulin released by your body to manage the glucose levels in your bloodstream. This can result in extra glucose getting through to the baby, causing them to grow larger than normal if the condition is not well managed through diet and exercise. It also increases the risk of both mum and baby developing type 2 diabetes later in life, and interventions during birth.
Thankfully mine was quite mild and I didn’t need to do much at all in the way of diet and exercise (beyond what I was normally doing) to keep my blood sugar levels stable. I still needed to test myself twice a day throughout the pregnancy and report every 3 weeks to the clinic. Many GD mums are induced from 37 weeks to manage the risk of a larger baby as well the risk of faster than usual deterioration of the placenta at term. I continued on with no issues, baby was measuring perfectly and I had gained weight within the normal range for my height. My partner Mark and I kept my ‘status’ pretty hush hush, really only telling my boss (hello extra appointments during work time!), my Mum (because Muuuuuuum!) and 1 or 2 others for my mental sanity (and, well, now the whole interwebs…hi!). The last thing I needed was everyone commenting on what I should or shouldn’t be doing and asking a zillion questions as the birth got closer, and friends of neighbours of cousins being told. It felt private and I needed that.
After some, let’s say, ‘negotiation’ on my part with the OB at my midwife clinic, I was ‘allowed’ to go to 41 weeks gestation before being induced. I was feeling great and baby was doing fine. The thought of induction absolutely terrified me – immediate strong contractions, no time for your body to produce its own pain management hormones, baby simply not being ready to come out, and a sharply increased chance of surgical intervention. I had envisaged a labour where I could be left alone to do my thing, get in the zone, move around, be in the water, and give birth unmedicated (of course with wine, candles and chocolate – in my mind labour was super romantic and Ryan Gosling was there too; ‘Hey Girl, You Got This’). All of this seemed impossible with an induction where I’d be placed on a synthetic hormone drip to send me from 0 to 10 ASAP (and without even buying me a drink first…rude) and strapped to the bed. I know people say “a healthy baby at the end is what matters” – and yes that’s true – but I strongly believe that the total health (mental, physical, spiritual) of the mother ALSO really, really matters and both can be preserved.
Of course for the week leading up to the induction we tried every (yep every) trick in the book including daily acupuncture to get things moving naturally, to no avail. We hadn’t really told anyone that we were going in to be induced (other than my folks who were travelling from the countryside, and 1 or 2 others for pastoral support) so it was really nice to not have to field any questions or keep anyone in the loop – just be with each other and anticipate our imminent birth as parents which is what felt right for us. And it was pretty fun to go for brunch at my fave spot with the little secret that only we knew – that we’d be having a baby, like, today or tomorrow.
We arrived at the maternity ward at 1pm on Friday. At 3pm I had the first round of a dilation gel applied to my cervix – the aim was to get me dilated to 2-3cm, so that at 7am Saturday my waters could be broken and the ‘drip’ put in to start contractions. The midwives explained that the gel process would be fairly pain-free and expected me to sleep through the night. From about 3-6pm, Mark and I walked the halls and stairs of the hospital in between hourly monitoring sessions. The monitor was registering epic Braxton Hicks but I was barely feeling a thing. My partner went home at about 7pm when visiting hours ended.
At 9pm I was checked again and was about 1cm dilated, so another round of gel was applied. About 20mins later I started having some fairly intense tight-cramping that came and went regularly for a few hours. I went back and forth from bed (monitor) to bathroom to leaning over the side of the bed breathing, until about 3am when I vomited and asked a midwife if it was possible I could be in labour. She said it was just ‘prosta-pains’ from the gel and that hardly anyone goes into labour from just the gel being applied. At 4am she asked if they could administer some pethadine to bomb me out to sleep until 7am. I refused and took 2 panadeine forte as a compromise… 20mins later that did nothing and I assured her “I do feel like I’m in a little pain, are you sure it’s not labour, can I just get in the bath to rest until 7am I promise I’ll be a good girl”. So off she goes to run the bath, comes back, we gather my things and I notice some pinky liquid on the floor… “uhh… what’s this?” I ask.
Midwife: “Ummm, that’s your waters!”
Me: “Ok so what happens now”
Midwife: “We go to the delivery room!”
Me: “So you’ll break my waters there?”
Midwife: “No your waters are already leaking!”
Me: “So you’ll put the drip in there?”
Midwife: “No you don’t need it now because your waters have broken themselves! You’re in labour all on your own!”
Cue me walking down the hallway to birthing suite: “holy holy $%^&* howling crying I don’t have to have the drip this is the best day of my life tears streaming down my face”
I text (TEXT?!) Mark “please come now”. So polite. He arrives about 5am, they examine me and I’m 5cm. The rest of the waters were bulging at the top of my cervix and so the midwife breaks them, sweet sweet Jesus what relief! Then, It. Is. On. I demand the mobile monitor so that I can move around and they can still do their monitoring protocol without getting all up in my zone. A midwife says I can put my knickers back on… uh, no thanks, I’m about to push a baby out.
I don’t remember a lot from then on, other than a few thoughts:
- Who the hell does this more than once ouch ouch ouch ouuucccchhh.
- Should I try the gas now? Midwife: “let’s save it for later”. I say “ok” and don’t think about pain relief again.
- I should pee they tell you to pee and I haven’t peed should I pee?
So off I go to the loo, already feeling my body pushing. I announce “I don’t need to pee but I do need to push”. So I spend the next 20mins or so with Mark and our new Ah-Mazing midwife Meagan (hi Meagan if you’re reading!) by my side on the loo, pushing. “Apply the warm compress!” I suddenly blurt out. Ah-mazing midwife asks if I want to feel the head, I reach down and there it is crowning – “you don’t want to have it in the toilet so let’s head back into the room now love” she says. I oblige and waddle with a coconut between my legs to the bed, where I jump onto all fours and keep pushing.
At this point baby’s heart rate dropped and ah-mazing midwife asks me to get onto my back as a few more people come into the room. I quickly oblige, even though I had for 9 months exclaimed “there is no way I’m giving birth on my back in a hospital bed!” (may have overdosed on One Born Every Minute). At this point superstar Mark had become of limited use to me – I needed hardcore resistance to hold onto for pushing and a human hand just wasn’t cutting it. Ah-mazing midwife realized Mark’s skills would be better utilized at the business end and invited him to help deliver baby.
The morning light was all we had gently coming through the window. Some song was playing on Pandora that I don’t remember but wish I did. There was a lovely sense of calm and anticipation that ah-mazing midwife was vibing out to us. A couple more pushes (turns out I’m a grunter) and voila – we had a baby! Oh baby no one tells you about ALL THE FEELS that happen in that moment! Baby daddy brought baby up onto my chest and there she (SHE! It’s a GIRL!) stayed for the next 2 hours while she latched on and I got stitched up (“sharp scratch” doc says putting in the local anaesthetic – dude I just pushed a baby out with no drugs and you’re warning me about a sharp scratch?). A few hours later and we emerged from our love-bubble to call our family and let the world know that Zoe Leigh had been born that day into her Dad’s hands and Mum’s arms, 23 May 2015, at 8.35am weighing 3kg after 11 hours of labour and 30 mins of pushing.
I can’t say enough how incredible our midwife was. She shared our taste in music and coffee but most importantly was so respectful of our ‘birth preferences’ and, the biggest one for me, totally believed that my body knew exactly what it was doing and encouraged me to go with it the entire time with the absolute minimum intervention from her.
Zoe and I both had our blood glucose levels tested a few times after the birth and we were both within the normal range. At 6 weeks post-partum I underwent the glucose test again and was cleared of gestational diabetes, but am still at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes at some point in life, as well as again in any subsequent pregnancies.
The birth of Zoe was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I still think about that flood of love-emotions most days. I feel very blessed to have been able to have a drug-free, calm, empowered hospital birth even though I had to be induced (only just, in the end!). I truly look forward to the next birthing experience!
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Top photo credit www.lifeinlight.co