The arrival of Little

I didn’t know whether I wanted to publish this or just note it down for myself, but given how many birth stories I read during my pregnancy and how stoked I was with my birth, I reckon it’s worth giving you all the gory details just in case any little bit of it helps anyone get the birth they want. So be prepared, friends, this is gonna be a rambly one. A reeeally rambly one.

I had a plan for the birth of Little. In fact, I’d had a plan for this birth pretty much since I learned about natural birth principles following Hannah’s birth in 2004. Back then, as a nineteen year old, I just wanted to be told what to do. And so that’s what happened. I wasn’t particularly interested in the birthing process, I just wanted that to be over with, and then I could get on to the much more daunting task of raising a human being.

While realising that I’d also have the daunting task of raising a human being this time (although with a partner in crime), I wanted to have a much more positive birthing experience. I wanted to listen to my body. And I wanted to be at home, knowing that I’d feel more comfortable there and have the medical options available to be when I really needed them (with a transfer to hosp) rather than taken up just because they were available. I also liked the home option because there was less of a focus on timing contractions and making the call to go to hospital. I could just roll with it, knowing that I didn’t have to be anywhere other than right there.

Early on, Rhiannon recommended getting on to Ina May Gaskin. I knew of Ina May and that she was a legend but had never actually read her work. So I got on the waiting list at the library for her book, Guide to Childbirth, and my lovely friend, Becka, lent me her copy of Spiritual Midwifery. It’s full hippy birthing stuff, for sure, but so damn helpful. There’s a few key things I got out of the books (but do read them yourself if you’re preg and wanting some reinforcement that you can do this thing and do it well):

  • As the labouring woman, I can influence the vibe of the birth. I remember being quite grumpy during Han’s labour. I really didn’t want to be grumpy and I didn’t want to be horrible to Nick if I could help it. Realising that I might not be able to help it, of course.
  • Reading up on birth stories (and particularly positive ones) is a good way to learn about birthing.
  • Hell no to being flat on my back on a bed.
  • Blowing air out like you’re a horse helps relax the pelvis.

I’d prepared myself for going 5 days over my due date of 26 Jan. I figured that would give me some time to relax after finishing work at almost 39 weeks and if I did go into labour sooner, it’d be a bonus. I started going for walks as suggested by my midwife, Geraldine, and was taking evening primrose oil capsules (and from 39 weeks, doing the internal thing). I read up on the studies on evening primrose oil and it didn’t seem like there was too much promise that it’d help but I gave it a shot to prepare things for when I did go in to labour. I’m pretty firmly of the belief that the only things that bring on labour are sex and booking in something you don’t want to miss, like a massage or hair appointment. Or apparently, looking forward to relaxing prior to the birth.

Unfortunately, that plan for a relaxing pre-birth holiday didn’t pan out. Twitter buddy Boganette was desperate to go in to labour and stated that it was happening for the both of us on the Wednesday. I was still pretty sure I’d go over but when I started getting my show on the Monday morning, I re-evaluated that plan and decided maybe B was right. Wednesday might be the day, after all. I kept that to myself though. I think I mentioned to Nick that I no longer thought I’d go overdue, but I didn’t want to be too confident about it. Light contractions started at various points during Monday night/Tuesday morning but were pretty far apart and not so painful. I did start tracking them early Tuesday morning and then again early Wednesday morning. There were a few times in the middle of Tuesday night/Wednesday morning that I contemplated waking Nick. The contractions slowed and stopped before I ever got to that point. Wednesday morning they seemed to last a bit longer in their semi-regular pattern but they were either far apart and a minute long, or short and much closer together. I told Nick to go to work anyway and told myself that the contractions were just getting my uterus into shape. I figured I could always call him when I needed him to come home. I was pretty keen to fill up the birthing pool but had no idea when the right time would be and was worried if I did it, it’d scare off labour or something.

That morning, I made Han come for a walk with me and tried to make it a serious one but she whinged the whole way so I gave up. The pace of a reluctant pre-teen isn’t exactly going to bring on contractions.

I started getting contractions again in the afternoon but they were doing the random thing again. I messaged my personal labour guide via Facebook, Jamara, and she said I should give the old clary sage oil a go. I’d got some of that and jasmine oil after googling the crap out of oils that’d help during labour. Now I know this ain’t science, but my contractions would go from 10-15 mins apart down to 5-8 mins apart almost instantly after massaging clary sage (a few drops in sweet almond oil) on my belly. That shiz works, in my very limited experience. It seemed to wear off after a while so I did it again and opted for inhaling jasmine from a few drops on a rag.

About 6.30pm, I sent a text to my midwife to let her know that contractions had started but were still all over the show. She called me a few minutes later and was all “Oh! I was meant to talk to you about this at your clinic appointment tomorrow but it seems we may need to make a call now.” It turns out my 35 week screening had come back (finally) and showed positive for group B strep. She let me know the risks of birthing at home with that result (and not having enough time for antibiotics to clear it before labour) which might’ve meant breathing probs for the babe soon after birth if they’d been infected. She left it up to us after giving us the rundown and we decided to head to hospital instead. By that point the contractions were starting to actually hurt so I didn’t much care where I was going to give birth, as long as it happened. It did involve some hasty arrangements to get the kid looked after and I’m eternally grateful to Vic and Shane for taking care of Han on such short notice. Thank frick for awesome friends.

So I sent Nick out about 7.30pm to drop Han at the Piha turn-off to meet Shane. The round trip was about half an hour and I figured I could survive without him at this point but probably not for much longer. I hopped in our bath to help with the contraction pain while he wasn’t there to massage my back. While I was in the bathroom, there was the most amazing sunset and I managed to snap a last minute shameless bathroom mirror selfie between contractions. There wasn’t much smiling going on at that point.

Strategically cropped photo while in labour. You're welcome.
Strategically cropped labour selfie. You’re welcome.

Turns out the bath was up to eff all. I had started doing knee bends and the horse lip blowing business before Nick left to manage the pain and I couldn’t do that in the bath. I think I lasted about 2 mins in there and somehow managed to clamber out between contractions. Nick wept at the waste of water, I’m sure. (Tank supply life.)

By the time Nick got back, contractions were a lot stronger but I was convinced they weren’t regular enough to warrant going in to hospital. I needed him on massage duty and whimpered a bit when he wasn’t there when one started. I’m not sure he heard my pathetic “Niiiick” when he was off organising other things. Looking back at the contraction timer now (yeah, there’s an app for that) and seeing that they were down to about 3 mins apart and 1 minute long, or then over 1 minute long and approx 5 mins apart, I could’ve made the call at any point but I was pretty keep to stay at home as long as possible. And I was sorta thinking, “Ah well, if it happens at home, it’s not the end of the world.” When the contractions started doubling up about 10.30pm, Nick was all “Um, I think we’d better head in.”

Holy crap. The drive in. 25 minutes of awful. I’d prepped to hop in the back for a bit more room but Nick seemed surprised so I changed my mind and got in the front and leaned backwards over the front seat. Bad call. Bucket seats are not the one when you’re facing backwards over a seat and having contractions. Saving grace of the car ride was that it slowed my contractions right down so they were coming much less frequently. Nick was trying to massage my back AND drive through the winding Piha roads. That was probably the only time I felt a bit stressed. I wasn’t quite keen on crashing while in labour. And maybe a little worried he was driving slower than he needed to by having to focus on me too. (Gawd I hope this confession doesn’t result in a dangerous driving charge.)

My knees were killing me during the drive as I continued my squatting and horse blowing through contractions and they pressed on various hard parts of the car like the door and the centre console. I rocked some impressive knee bruises the next day. We pulled up next to someone at the lights on Lincoln Road and I tried to avoid making eye contact while doing my horse lips breathing thing. I was hoping she’d figure out that we were pulling in to the hospital and didn’t call the cops.

We got to the hospital about 11.45pm and I borrowed someone’s car in the car park as support through a contraction and then made it to the bed for the next one. Thank dog the room was right inside the entrance. I was still trying to monitor contractions on my little app thing at this point but that went out the window fairly fast. Nick was in charge of forcing water into me. I managed not to tell him where to shove the water by reminding myself that I was wanting to have a calm birth and not be ragey. And I knew it was a good idea.

The birth pool was ready but no one mentioned that I could get in so I continued on through contractions in the main room. Eventually I asked about getting in the pool (I was convinced it was going to help with the pain and solve all my problems) and they were all “You can get in any time!” and I rapidly reassessed my calm birth plan, wishing they’d told me earlier. As it turns out, water is no fricking miracle and contractions still hurt like hell once you’re in. I contemplated getting out again but the thought of moving again wasn’t entirely pleasant so stayed where I was. Nick could no longer massage my back in the water so I focused on the horse lips breathing and stayed on my knees, leaning over the edge of the bath, and did squats as much as I could. I think Nick felt a bit useless at this point as all he could do now is tell me to drink, breathe, and remind me to keep my hand out of the water (with the stent in it, in case they needed access to it again) and maybe try not to bash my head in to it. That bit was unsuccessful. I bashed it around a lot. I found the breathing reminders really helpful as every now and again, it’d get a bit overwhelming, but it helped being told to get back to my horse lips.

I had no idea what the time was and how long contractions were taking or had been going on for. It felt like they were really far apart but Nick assured me after the birth that they were pretty much on top of each other. It must’ve been about this time that I started thinking that I had no idea how long it would all go on for and that I wasn’t sure how many more contractions I could last through. I was all (in my head) “Well, I’m in the hospital already… maybe I could just ask for a c-section?” which cheered me up. I gave myself a pep-talk and went back to focusing on the contractions and willing progress. Turns out that might’ve been transition as I felt the need to push pretty damn soon after.

Holy hell. That need to push. It was amazing. I just went with what my body wanted to do. My midwife was still in the other room and I wasn’t sure when I should tell her that I felt the need to push. At one point I heard her talking so I yelled out “There’s been some pushing!” and she yelled back “Don’t push yet!” and in my head, I replied “Too late.” There was a lot going on in my head and not a lot making it out of my mouth, as it turns out.

Pushing felt really great. There was no way in hell I was holding back from that. I was doing my best to visualise the baby descending through my pelvis as I didn’t want to get disheartened that she wasn’t out immediately. I think that’s what I expected with Hannah as I remember thinking “I’m pushing and she’s not out yet. This sucks.” I don’t know if I realised that I had to push her through before I could push her out, if that makes sense. This time I swear I could feel her coming right from the top and the feeling of her coming down was really motivating. I was almost surprised when I felt the burning of her head coming through. I put my hand down to check that it was feeling like everything was stretching properly, and that it was actually her head. I remember thinking how smooth it was and not like hair.

Nick noticed that I’d put my hand in the water and started trying to convince me to take it out. He took his job of protecting the stent VERY seriously. I didn’t manage to actually get the words out but in my head I was all “Um, I’m pushing out the baby!”. He called Geraldine in and she came in to check my hand, starting out by telling me to take it out of the water and quickly changing tack, realising I had my hand in the water to support the baby’s head. With the next push, the baby came out and I brought her up to my chest with instructions from Geraldine. Geraldine was also cheering me on for having delivered my own baby and I was feeling pretty stoked with myself and extremely pleased that it was over.

I sat there for quite a while holding my little vernix covered, chubby cheeked baby. I don’t think I even confirmed she was a girl for quite some time. We did look at the clock at some stage and decided the birth was at 2.40am. It turns out that I’d been at the hospital less than 3 hours despite it feeling like it’d taken foreverrrr. Geraldine mentioned that the baby had been born in the caul, with it breaking at her chest as I pushed her out. That was the smoothness I’d felt when I was checking for the head. She’d removed the membrane sack as I pulled the baby up. I couldn’t quite remember the deal with babies ‘born in the caul’ but did know it was rare and pretty spesh. I took it as a damn good sign.

Mum holding a new baby in a birthing pool
Squishy newly birthed Little

After a while, I handed the babe over and stood up to birth the placenta, moving to the bed with Little placed back on my chest. She slowly snuffled her way down to my breast and latched on like a pro, just like in the breastfeeding video from our antenatal class. I felt like I could have a party, despite having just given birth. Endorphins are the absolute best. Not quite enough to convince me to do it again in a hurry though!

Geraldine checked out the damage to me and found a minor tear. I opted for stitching as I remembered the stingy nightmare from last time. I was actually surprised there was a tear as it didn’t feel like it. Those endorphins working their magic, I suppose.

And that was it, really. Due to the group B strep thing, Little was monitored for the day at the hospital (in a single room – some upsides to this group B strep business!) and after the OB and midwives were happy with her temp and breathing, we headed home.

Despite the fact that we ended up in hospital and my big girl wasn’t there to see her sis being born, it was a really amazing birth. I got almost everything I wanted, just in a different setting. I can’t even begin to describe how I felt afterwards – so different from the drugged up haze I felt after Hannah’s birth. It feels a bit weird to say it, but I’m really proud of myself and my body. And so thankful to my midwife, who supported me to have the birth I wanted right from the start, my partner, Nick, who was so rad through my pregnancy and the birth, and all the friends who helped me along the way. I couldn’t have done it without you all.

Soz for the cheesiness. It had to be done. And now we have our Little.

New parents holding a new baby in the birthing pool.
Nick and I with extremely new Little. We’re just missing Hannah. Wah.
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