To my beautiful first born,
As anxious first time parents, with no clue what lay ahead of us, your dad and I did all the things instructed to us by the doctor and the obstetrician. Except, I forgot to enroll us in antenatal classes which apparently something I overlooked the fact is like some kind of major priority that if you don’t do like as soon as a baby is immediately conceived seems to be like trying to find a ticket for some kind of amazing performer that everyone wants to see…
I didn’t realise there was so much demand for this or that there was like a time limit on me making sure we were booked into one. So when I was sitting with Aunty Cushla in her backyard (she was two weeks ahead of me when we were pregnant but you ended up arriving earlier and Hadley later than the doctors guessed so there is only a few days between you guys) and she said “at the first antenatal class…” I totally interrupted, “what?! Antenatal classes?! Are we meant to be doing those now?”
She laughed at me, “ummmm you were meant to book that at like 13 weeks!”
Panic ensued as we discussed the “limited ticket feeling” of leaving enrolling yourself in these kinds of services to the last minute.
“Why don’t you just call where I am doing them and see if they had anyone cancel?” she suggested.
I did and luckily for us, they actually had. So they had a free space for me and dad to go along to the same class Aunty Cushla was doing with Brenda at MAMA Maternity (the same place I set up the very first of my monthly Babywearing workshops with Brenda’s help). But because we had late enrolled, we missed the first class.
When Brenda told us the first one was about early signs of labour and that kind of thing and not to worry, we could make that one up when the next intake started as it would be a two weeks before my due still, it was like awesome, cool. Dodged a bullet AND it meant Aunty Cush and I not only shared the journey of being pregnant and doing pregnancy yoga together but also the antenatal classes which was pretty cool in itself.
So the antenatal classes finished for our cohort, I was 38 weeks pregnant with you and Aunty Cush must have just been overdue with Hadley. And Dad and I attended the make up class for the first session we missed at MAMA.
When they start these classes they had this process of everyone introducing themselves and saying when they were due. They went around the circle, everyone saying things like, “I’m due on 1st Feb”, “I’m due mid March” etc etc, it got to me and dad and we said, “I’m due in two weeks” hahaha everyone’s faces! It was hilarious that we had to explain we were just making up the first class and had already done the other ones, that we hadn’t actually left it THAT late, even though I did leave it late to enrol us hence why we had to make up the first session.
As Brenda started her talk about the early onset and signs of labour I kept glancing at dad… “what?” he whispered to me. “Nothing” I replied shaking my head, but every “sign” that Brenda listed as early onset signs of labour was something I had been feeling all that day…
Pain in lower back, check.
Twinges in your belly, check.
Feeling drop of weight into your pelvis, check.
I didn’t over think it hugely. We talked with Brenda as we left, she has seen a lot of pregnant mums in her time and she said to me when we were leaving, “I don’t think that baby is that far away you know, it looks like your bump has dropped quite a bit from when I saw you last week..” I made some joke about how I hoped you didn’t take too long because I certainly wasn’t very comfortable at that point!
Afterwards Dad and I went to a fancy restaurant in town. We had made it a bit of a ritual that after antenatal class we would go get dinner together somewhere nearby and just chat about everything we had heard and been told about. This we knew was our last time for that ritual so we wanted to go somewhere special knowing it could well be the last time we did that together before we became parents.
I had this massive craving for steak and ordered like the most extravagant thing on the menu.. The waiter was lovely and mentioned something about me being pregnant (it was kinda hard to miss, I was just blooming huge pregnant with you boys both!) and Dad told him, proud as punch, “this might be our last flash fancy dinner before we become parents! Our baby is due in two weeks”.
The waiter said to us, “I have a feeling this will be a night you will always remember!” and treated us like royalty. He was really lovely, helping me get out from behind the table when I needed to wee every two bloody minutes even. He went above and beyond trying to make it special for us and indeed it was.
On one of my many trips to the bathroom I stopped, half to catch my breath, I felt like a beached whale trying to move around heavily pregnant, but also to look at the fish in the built in tank they had separating the men’s and women’s toilets. Retrospectively, not that I knew it at the time, that’s when I felt my first contraction.
My belly just felt really tight for a minute, like all my muscles tighten at once and I was a bit like, “oh that was weird!” started to talk to you and rub my hand on my puku and you kicked my hand almost immediately. I was thinking to myself, oh ok, you are just enjoying that steak as much as I did hey?! Nothing like iron to make you feel stronger!
As I slowly waddled back to the table and started my slow decent sitting down, I looked over at your dad and said, “you know some of that stuff Brenda told us about signs of early labour and stuff? I’ve been feeling some of those things all day now.. Like it couldn’t be early labour signs though if they are just like really mild and stuff though a…”
We discussed it and kind of dismissed the concept, thinking back to that idea of “when you are really in labour you will know about it”… Which to me translated to “when it hurts like shit, you will likely be having a baby”. And decided nothing hurt and you weren’t due for another two weeks so I was just probably experiencing some of those “your body is getting ready” symptoms and that’s about it.
So I guess that was my context for comparison, pain = labour. But it’s not always the case, in fact our perceptions of it being painful are so damaging for us all as it creates this fear and fear is the absolute enemy of labour progression, as we found out later when I was in labour with you first hand.
So while we were at the antenatal class, when we were at dinner, all the long drive home, I kept feeling these “tightening” sensations across my stomach. I was uncomfortable but no more than the days or weeks because being that heavily pregnant makes me feel uncomfortable and restless and urgh anyway…
Dad and I joked about the waiters comment about it being a night to remember and how funny it had been to see everyone’s faces at the antenatal class when I said we were due in two weeks when they all still had months and months to go.
As we giggled and laughed as dad had to help push me up the front stairs from behind when we got home because I just felt so heavy and huge, the tightenings I had been kind of ‘ignoring’ or downplaying in my mind happened a bit more intensely and I rested leaning against the door frame as Dad unlocked the door.
That time I was like, “yep no, that definitely feels different to the last few days but it’s still not painful..” kind of repeating to myself in my head “they said you definitely know if you are in labour” so if I’m not sure then you are just doing some kind of weird acrobatics in there right now and can you please stop cause it’s making me a bit nauseous and I really don’t want to vomit up that expensive as steak I just ordered and ate at that fancy restaurant!
Dad opened the door and we both went inside and he said, “I’m just going to pop down stairs and see if that load of washing is done” as he walked in. I made my way slowly to the toilet and sat down. It was a weird sensation, I kept feeling like I needed to wee but I couldn’t. Still I felt the need to sit there.
All of a sudden it sounded like someone poured a bucket of water in the toilet. I was kind of shocked, “did that come from me?!” Then it kind of just sounded like a hose running now and I was confused, I felt my urethra and was like, “no that’s definitely not wee” and then moved my hand back further and was like “oh yep that’s coming from me!”
My waters had broken.
“BABE?!” I screamed…
“just a sec” came the reply as your dad came up the internal stairs with a basket of stuff from the dryer, which included towels, “yeah?” he said as he popped his head around the corner.
“I’ll take one of those please”, I pointed to the towels, “I think my waters just broke…”
I am not sure what I expected but I had just been sitting on the toilet for five minutes feeling like I had done the hugest wee ever so I guess I figured, that’s gotta be like all the “waters” right? As soon as I stood up from the toilet it flooded everywhere all over the floor.. (the amniotic fluid isn’t like smelly or dirty or anything it is literally like someone was just pouring buckets of water on the floor)
Dad dropped the washing basket, tipped it on its side and started laying down towels on the floor, after he had passed me one to shove between my legs, so I could get out of the bathroom without slipping over.
I decided to have a shower, the nausea I was feeling kind of subsided and the tightening didn’t really change or feel painful at all… we talked about how maybe I was one of those 10% who have their waters break before labour commences so we should probably just chill out, as we had been told and wait and for me to try and get some rest etc.
I was uncomfortable but not in the way I expected, I was restless and couldn’t really lay down and sleep and I was excited, I wanted to be over this pregnancy shit and actually have my baby to hold in my arms. So I didn’t really sleep at all..
I laid down with dad for a bit, paced around the house for a while, bounced on a Swiss ball, I think I probably got in and out of the shower like 10 times… there were a few times I felt I had to breathe through the intensity of it, but it was intensity I was feeling not pain, like tightness, like someone squeezing me around the middle (aka, muscles ‘contracting’).
When dad woke up in the morning, I was trying really hard to let him rest and not disturb him, I guess I had a feeling this was going to take a while, he was like, “shouldn’t we call the hospital? There was something about either going in when you are in active labour but wasn’t there also something about how long after your waters break that you need to be on antibiotics?”
“Ok I will call them soon” I replied. I was actually really calm and zen and chilled. I seriously didn’t even connect that those “tightening” feelings were contractions because everything I knew told me contractions hurt but these didn’t. I think if we had done nothing at that point, waited another two hour before we called anyone, well things would have been very very different that’s for sure.
Anyway we didn’t, we dutifully called the hospital. I was under the care of an obstetrician for being high risk (I had a placental abruption early in my pregnancy with you and lost lots of blood, we thought you weren’t going to make it but instead the placenta grew twice as big to reattach itself firmly again and everyone was convinced I had gestational diabetes because of excessive weight gain, I didn’t have it, I just get fat when I’m pregnant haha) so it was the hospital midwives who were our first port of contact.
“They were like, well if it has been 12 hours since your waters broke you should really come in for an exam…” this was where things all started to change. The tightenings I was having quite steadily and consistently at home walking around the kitchen became sporadic and less regular as we drove to the hospital, the internal dialogue of “maybe this does mean you are in labour? Are you sure those sensations aren’t painful?” started to mess with my chilled state.
On the initial exam, the one duty midwife examined me and said, “ok love, you are about 6 cm dilated and obviously your waters have broken”. When your “waters break”, what that means is the membrane holding the fluid around the baby have been ruptured, not actually the waters itself, they replenish to keep baby safe, so if your membranes break and you are leaking fluid, another part of your body is like we need to make more, so really, it just keeps coming… “I’m going to call your OB, we are just going to move you to a suite to monitor baby’s heart rate and that stuff ok?”
And we got moved through to a different ward. The next place we were put was a full suite. All women waiting for OBs I assume, which means many of them were considered “high risk”. Right next to us behind a curtain was a lady crying, her baby and herself were obviously distressed, the irregular heart beat of the baby was being broadcast really loudly throughout the suite.
I felt fear. And you clearly did too because it almost felt like you immediately tried to crawl back up inside my puku. Like you were like, “no, this doesn’t sound safe”. I got a bit distressed myself, looking up puzzled at your dad I said, “Everything’s stopped. All those sensations, they have all stopped”. I rubbed you through my puku around the monitor straps they had me in and watched your heart rate on the screen. You were fine. Happy as, still chilled. But definitely no longer in the mood to be making your entrance into the world.
Just then the OB turned up. “Ok, well let’s take you for an ultrasound and exam hey?” she said. By this point, there was no zen left in me to be honest. “Ok…” and we followed her to another room.
She did an ultrasound, “well baby looks happy, everything is fine there”… as she went through her exam further she looked at her notes, “it says you were 6 cm dilated but your cervix is closed shut my dear. Are you sure your waters broke?”
Cue self doubt.
Yep I am sure that fluid came from me and I checked, no I didn’t piss myself.
“Go home” was the instruction, “the midwives should have told you to wait there a few hours before you came in initially.”
Well that information was kind of useless now. The damage had been done already. We were back to the start, but worse, this time with a big invisible timer…
We went for a walk down the road, we tried to distract me, there were still some tightenings but now I was calling them contractions because that’s what the midwife at the hospital had called them as we watched it on the monitor and with that change alone, my brain had started to change the sensation into something much more uncomfortable, potentially ‘painful’ even because that’s what I was told they should be.
But they still weren’t consistent or sustained like the way they were when I was feeling them that morning before we went to the hospital. I’m not sure how long I expected they would let me stay at home but I was just like, “ok baby is not ready I’m going to start getting ready for bed and have a shower and stuff” and dad answered my phone when I was in the shower, “It’s the hospital,” he peaked his head around the corner, “they say we have to come back within the hour as you are meant to be on antibiotics and starting induction now..”
My heart sank. I knew you weren’t ready. The questioning had already started though, the process and power felt like it was taken away. As I stood in the shower, savouring those moments of the water running down my back and leaning against the glass only able to see you moving around in my big puku not my feet, I murmured to you, “ok bud, here we go…”
Turning off the shower and getting in the car we were back in the car. Yes I was technically in labour, my waters had broken and I had got to 6 cm dilated but then it completely stopped and then after the shower before we left to go back to the hospital I felt more like you had moved down again, the twinges were slowly coming back.
There is something ultimately unwelcoming about the sterile environments of hospitals. But driving to the hospital dad abd I were talking about how we knew you would be with us soon as we knew that even if you decided you didn’t want to come out, there was a time limit over us both because of the fact my waters had already broken the night before. We were excited to meet you.
While ultimately I did want as much of a natural birth as I could with you, my reasons for doing so were not martyrdom, they were recover time based. So the less interventions the less likely to need more interventions or so they say… but ultimately, as charted in my notes my birth plan consisted of “get the baby out me” so I was kind of teetering a fine line of “give me all the drugs” and “let me like ‘mother earth birth’ this baby”… You on the other hand were like, “oh crap, not this place again”…
Any progress we had made in the hours leading up to that again halted. They put me in a room by myself now, this would have been much handier on our initial visit but then I realised they wanted to try the gel induction first, so that meant we had to try and sleep in this room overnight. There was no way I was letting your Dad go home and leave me alone, he didn’t want to, to be fair but the nurse kept telling him to and in retrospect it would have been a better idea.
Anyway, your dad, despite complaining of the dismal conditions he was being expecting to sleep in, aka on the floor with like a thin hospital blanket and pillow, still managed to snore his head off the whole night. The midwife had used a gel induction which was the first attempt at trying to convince you out.. It did move you down but in my mind I had this mental image of like a cat with all fours on each side of the door frame as someone tried to push it into the bathroom for a bath… you were not that keen on moving…
And you were pushing right on top of my bladder so for every slight contraction that did come throughout the night I would feel the need to get up, step over your snoring father on the floor and go to the toilet. And then I would waddle back and climb into the bed and try and sleep but it just wasn’t happening.. At best I might have had an hours sleep or so that night so by the time they came back to see me and our progress in the morning I had been through two nights without sleep and I just as much as you, had a bit of a “fuck this shit” attitude.. Nothing was going to happen in this state, that much I knew.
When the next OB came into the room and examined me they were concerned about the lack of progress. They decided it was time to move me to a birthing suite and put in an IV induction. I had enough, I was so uncomfortable and tired and to be honest just pissed off. Interrupting the doctor I said, “before you touch me again or do a thing, call the anesthetist, put the epidural in now!”
The doctor and midwife and everyone was like “why don’t we just see how we go, wait a little bit…” I know they were thinking of shit like this can slow down the process more, she should wait blah blah blah…
I found some courage or empowerment or something but a voice that didn’t even feel like mine almost screamed out of me, “Look I haven’t slept in two days, I am fucking exhausted and this baby does not want to move right now. Call the fucking anesthetist now. I can rest for a bit, you pump me full of hormones which I know will make contractions more painful and intense I remember reading all this shit, the interventions have already stated and I want my fucking epidural NOW!”
The OB was like “ok, I will hold off but if the anesthetist can’t get here in the next 15 mins I am going to have to start the drip anyway”
When the anesthetist did walk in like 5 mins later my first thought was fuck she’s young and the second was, holy shit I don’t even care about all those scary risk shits they told me about just give me pain relief and give it to me now! I probably would have jumped up and kissed her if I hadn’t been so tired in all honesty.
Now this part I had researched, our antenatal class perspective was kind of aimed towards, ‘try and avoid interventions’ and there was limited information we took from it but we had also been to the hospital’s own workshop specifically about pain relief options and epidurals as well which was about the various options the hospital did have when it came to interventions and pain relief. Also obviously dad with his research chemist hat on had lots of questions about the specific mix of pharmaceuticals used in each option like he always does and asked like a million questions.
But also we had no long before had dinner with some friends, engaged at the time (you came to their wedding, just about five months later) he is an anesthetist and she an OB, so in terms of epidurals I had already had some clear idea of what I wanted if we were going down that road and when I saw we had a young anesthetist I thought of them and that conversation and had like an order in my mind of what I wanted and realised now was my best chance to get it.
She introduced herself and before she could even ask me any questions I said, “I want a self administered walking epidural. I just need a break for a bit, then I can have a chance to change my mind set and we can get this baby out. Just put the line in now and let me have a self administered one please.”
She chuckled a bit and was like, “well you researched your epidural options didn’t you..” but understood and respected my wishes and a self administered epidural was put in and the IV line for induction drugs just after. I pounded that little red button, made dad go find me some food and finally got to sleep for a few hours.
I have no idea of the doses of Pitocin or Syntocinon or whatever they were pumping into me but I know it must have been quite high. The OB would set it and I could see the midwife giving him a sideways glance then the charge nurse would come in and say, “oh no this is much too high” and turn it down. Just for the OB to come back half hour later and turn it up again and repeat the process. I just kept hitting that red button, my hopes of a vaginal birth just kept lowering, “well it was fucking useless getting that walking epidural then” I was thinking..
For the record, they may call it a walking epidural but it’s not like I could walk around, you still have a catheter in and are bed bound or at least I was, but it was lower dose and I could move my legs and move around more when the dose I had administered with the red button started to wear off. They would have to change the chemical mix if I had to have a c-section but the line would already be in so that part was done and all this faffing around and disagreement between the medical staff made me just shut off mentally.
I wanted to avoid c-section just because the recovery time is so much longer. That was the only reason. As I said from the beginning I was teetering a very fine line between wanting a ‘mother earth experience’ and a ‘just schedule me a planned c-section’ kind of birth plan and as I shut out all the noise and activity going on around me I guess I just accepted the fact that the longer recovery time really meant nothing and I was so over this process, which at that point, felt like it might never end. I didn’t realise it at the time but by shutting off my brain I was actually letting the cocktail of drugs they were pumping into me finally actually start to do something.
JUST CUT IT OUT
You were due on the 9th of Nov, 2012. My whole pregnancy I had this fear, this suspicion that you might be born on the 2nd of Nov, which is the date that Pa (my dad) died on in 2010. More than anything in the world I wanted you to have your own birthday, the last thing my Dad said to me was “don’t let me steal your thunder”… I remember in that moment looking at the clock, “you have three hours until we reach the cut off for this approach then we will have to do a c-section but I don’t want to do it yet, because I think we can convince this baby to come before that” – the doctor’s parting words rang through my head, in three hours, it would be the 2nd of fucking November.
I remember first looking up at the ceiling in despair, thinking, almost angrily, “you can fucking have my thunder dad but dont steal this kids day, dont fucking do that please – help me out here!”… Taking a deep breathe I looked again at the clock, the second hand seemed to slow down as I continued watching it and breathing really deeply. Then I looked down at you, still inside my puku and said to you “Ok bud, I know we were scared, but its all ok. I am ok, you are ok, this is a safe space ok? But we need to get you out, I need your help bubba. We really need you to come now, I don’t want you to be stuck with that date as your birthday. Please – work with me bub…”
I couldn’t feel anything before that point, as much as the idea of a self administered epidural is so you can still feel something and you don’t have the same high dose, my finger had been reaching for that little red button often. The only way to really tell before then if I was having a contraction was for me to be watching the monitor, but in those moments of really connecting with you I felt two things physically happen. First, not through the sensation of my belly but through my hands on my belly I felt a massive tightening – so huge my belly was moving under my hands and then I felt feet.
I felt your feet, push right up high in my womb, like you were trying to dive your way out! “Wow, those are some huge ones!” said the midwife breaking my concentration and drawing my attention to the monitor, “Oh there’s another!” she said without much pause for a break. “We might be calling the OB sooner than we thought!”
Shortly after the OB returned, it was my favourite from the team of obstetricians thankfully and as soon as he walked in, while looking at the clock, I cried out, “I can’t do this Tim. Just cut it out of me now, please. I know all the stuff we talked about but this baby can’t be born on the 2nd of Nov, I dont have any strength left. Just take me to theatre, please..”
By the time I had finished my rant at him, he was already gloved up and doing his exam, he said to me “Jess, remember how we talked about that ‘transitioning stage’, that’s what’s happening, you are feeling self doubt because we are at the next stage, you are going to have your baby soon. You’ve got this. James, come here, look…” and as dad walked around he said “I can see a head!” like it was the most shocking thing in the world! The doctor, Tim looked up at him and laughed, “yep well it wasn’t an elaborate joke, you’re going to have a baby. We are going to need you to push now Jess.”
The midwife, I’m not even sure of her name, but she was so amazing. She was right there in my ear saying to me, “We need to get your breathing in order, chill. Deep breaths ok? I saw on your chart you have been doing lots of swimming and pregnancy yoga, show me your breathing from some of those?”
Ok I thought, I knew this part from all that prenatal research, I knew that the pushing stage can take a while in many labours, I knew that if you were going to be born before the 2nd of Nov, I had a very limited time frame within which to literally push you out. But also, something happened in those moments when I was talking to you, you were ready now. No amount of artificial hormones or drugs they pumped me with trying to convince you it was time to come out had seemed to help that much, but me surrendering to the process and having a chat, a connected moment with you was all it took and then I could literally feel your feet trying to push downwards as well.
“I need to get on my knees” I declared. The epidural dose was wearing off and I was able to get up on my knees and leaning over the back of the bed with dad and the midwife supporting me. That’s when we really started to work together, I could feel you trying to push out every time I beared down. It was so amazing, like “holy shit this baby is actually trying to push his way out” that it gave me this like refreshed vigour and energy.
You were born 20 minutes later.
“You pushed like a demon!” said the OB breaking his normally very considered thoughtful ways of speaking. It was clear he was impressed at our efforts together too to get you out and into the world. You were born at 9.31pm on 1st of Nov, 2012.
You my beautiful first born where teaching me new things about connection and mind over matter and all kinds of stuff, even before you actually entered the world!
After you were born, Dad dressed you while you were checked over and I hemorrhaged and lost a lot of blood, probably because of all the interventions and cocktail of drugs I was given to try convince you to come out. No one really explained that those set of circumstances also meant my milk might take a while longer to come in and it was only my PCOS that was ‘blamed’ for that after the fact. If only I’d realised that maybe all you needed was to hear your mum, me, tell you it was ok and to come out now and for me to shut off my brain and surrender to the process I wonder if your birth may have been quite different. I also realised after your birth, what a blimp on the radar the birth process was, even as drawn out as that, in terms of this journey of parenthood we had embarked on when you where conceived… In retrospect it wasn’t the birth I should have worried about so much but the three months of struggles we had ahead of us following that!
Like I say to you often sweet boy, thanks for making me a mum and thanks for choosing us to be your parents you smart clever little soul you are.
Love you to the furthest quasar and back,
PS – Sorry it’s taken me 4+ years to write your birth story! Your little brother does get to be the first for a few things still, even if you are the eldest 😉 – Jai’s birth story was my first post on this blog and can be found here – My beautiful rainbow amazing baby’s birth story