I was convinced that I was going to be overdue. I was measuring small so I thought that my dates might be wrong and I knew a lot of first time mothers didn’t go into labour until 40+ weeks.
I was woken up at 1am in the morning on the 5th of September by cramps. I was 28 weeks and 6 days. I became so excited! Is this labour? No, it can’t be, this must be Braxton Hicks! I lay there in bed feeling the tightening in my abdomen come and go. It continued regularly and was intense enough that I couldn’t get back to sleep. I timed the contractions for curiosity’s sake and they were about ten minutes apart. My excitement started to rise – maybe our baby was ready to come out and meet us! After a couple of hours, I woke Josh to exclaim that I think something was happening. He fell back asleep but I stayed awake through the waves, lying down and occasionally sitting on the gym ball when I felt like I needed a change of position. I must have fallen back asleep at some stage because Josh woke me at 6am to ask whether he should go to work or not. I waited for the tightening to start again but nothing was happening. A quick google search informed me that I must have been experiencing false labour. My body was just practising what to do. Josh went off to work and I was left in disappointment.
An hour later, the sensations started up again. They were fairly regular but I wasn’t going to be fooled again! I knew that these were Braxton Hicks so I just bounced and jiggled around on my gym ball, using them as an opportunity to practise my relaxation breathing. This continued on for several hours and they appeared to be getting more intense. Although google warned me that real labour contractions are predictably spaced and mine were 10 minutes apart, 7 mins, 5 mins, 10 mins. I again concluded that I was getting ahead of myself and they were too irregular to be real.
I decided to finish watching Sarah Jane Buckley’s lecture on the role of hormones in natural birth just in case I was going into labour. It soon became apparent to me that I was definitely going to have my baby today. My body was working so hard to achieve its goal and it can be a scary feeling, not being able to control what is going on inside you. I was unable to sit or stand comfortably by this stage through contractions and made my way into the shower for a distraction. Ah the relief of the warm water hitting my back. I laboured in the shower for some time, moving between standing while leaning over and on my hands and knees. I got out and timed my contractions on my phone app – it was exciting to see the contractions get closer and closer. I moved around my house, naked and free – experiencing the waves, snacking and drinking in between, moving in and out of the shower as I felt I needed to.
I found the combination of hot water, good music and swaying my hips through the waves to be actually enjoyable. I had finally found my rhythm. I would sing loudly to the tunes to help move my energy and emotions around. I remember every song in the moment seemed to be about labour or my baby. I remember a particularly emotional moment where Jason Miraz started to flow from my speaker…
“I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?
Well I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love, I’m still looking up
And when you’re needing your space, to do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting, to see what you find
‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up”
In that moment, singing along to my little baby boy, I just completely broke down into tears. The love I had for this unborn child hit me harder than it ever had before. I swear, that was when my self was broken and I saw through another’s eyes clearly. In that moment, I really felt for this baby and what was happening to him. Were these contractions hurting him? Was he scared about what was happening? Everything from here changed for me and I was determined to bring my baby into the world in the most peaceful and loving way possible. My fear melted away to reassure this child and I welcomed each wave, knowing it was bringing my baby one step closer to me. I don’t know how long I stayed in that shower for, playing “I won’t give up” on repeat, weeping and rocking.
By this time, it was about 3pm and I had been labouring for about 14 hours. My contractions were around 2-7 minutes apart and much much more intense, things had escalated quickly and some fear started to set in – I no longer wanted to be alone. I spoke with Josh and urged him to come home, reminding him not to forget my labour snack list on the way home. (I expected to be in labour for a long time and had written a list consisting of gatorade, lollies, etc.)
Once I knew he was on his way, I relaxed back into a rhythm. Timing my contractions was actually really helpful here – it gave me something to focus on. The wave would start and I would lean over the bench or hop on all fours and focus on breathing. Once it finished, I promptly pressed stop on the timer and started pacing around the house. These waves were on a different level, they took every ounce of focus that I had. In between, I was again overcome by excitement and nervousness. I could not sit still, I was so jittery! An hour had gone by and I called Josh, exasperated. He was in Woolworths and I warned him to get home right away, I didn’t need the jelly snakes anymore!
By the time Josh arrived home, things had really intensified. The waves were so intense that I couldn’t find any position that worked. I had my hypnobirthing affirmations playing through the speaker next to me. I ended up lying down through the contractions to try and get them to slow down. I was exhausted and this was now moving so fast! I was at the point that I could no longer communicate between contractions beyond a few words, I needed that short amount of time to recover for the next one. Josh was busy installing the car seat, packing the car with my hospital bag and setting the front seat up with pillows for the ride. I came out and glared at him to communicate as best as I could that I needed to leave now. It was 6pm and I got in the car and called my midwife to let her know that we were heading to the hospital. She could hear in my shaky voice that things were serious.
From all the birth stories that I had heard, I knew that many first time mothers arrived at hospital way too early and were sent home. I had my heart set on labouring at home for as long as possible and I remember having a thought in the car, “I hope I’m not going in too early”. The drive was the longest and most INTENSE (I really don’t have another word) car ride of my life. It took an hour to get to hospital and I was in full blown transition. The hypnobirthing affirmations were blasting through the car speakers and I was kneeling over the reclined front car seat. The contractions were 1-2 minutes apart and I needed to moan loudly to get through each one. The hypnobirthing lady came through the speakers…“I am so calm and relaxed” I looked over at Josh between contractions and all that came out was, “fuck”.
I remember stopping at traffic lights, moaning through a contraction and glancing out the car window to see a car full of people glaring at me. I felt so vulnerable in that moment. I thought, “If it gets worse than this, I really don’t think I can do it”. After feeling that self doubt, I remember back to my podcasts – every woman said they thought they couldn’t do it when they were transitioning. Maybe I am transitioning? Suddenly, a strong urge to poop came over me. “I need a toilet” I told Josh. Thankfully we were pulling up to the hospital and he helped me stagger inside, slowly. Oh so slowly – the weight of the baby was bearing down, I needed to poop right now!
I took a step inside the hospital and my waters broke. I felt the trickle down my leg and looked up at Josh. His reassuring look ushered me to keep going. When I saw my midwife, all I could stagger was “toilet”. She pointed around a corner and as I stepped into the bathroom, I projectile vomited all over the floor. Another step and again I vomited. My midwife rushed me into a nearby room and I went straight for the toilet. I sat down and suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to push. Every cell of my body wanted me to push with my contraction. I whispered out “pushing” and my midwife rushed in and I heard her yell out the corridor “My primi is pushing, get me a wheelchair!!”. She turned to me and asked me to stop pushing and lay on the bed so she could check me. I didn’t want to be checked but I also wasn’t able to communicate at this stage so I just lay down. She looked and reported “oh yes, you’re ready, I see his head!” as someone brought a wheelchair in and next minute my midwife was running, pushing my through corridors and up into a lift.
Soon we were in a new room and my midwife told me that there was no time to fill the tub for the water birth I had planned. She turned on the shower and I scrambled onto my hands and knees and backed into the corner. The room was completely dark and I felt immediately calm to have the water on my back again. The hypnobirthing tracks were still playing next to me. I had a sudden thought that I wanted Jason Miraz singing “I won’t give up” again like in the shower earlier that day. I managed to get out “song!” He got out my phone and found a spotify playlist titled “Labour tunes” (side note: this was a playlist during the day that I tried listening to but hated the music, hence it was on my recently played). “Which song?” Josh urged. I managed “Give up” hoping that he would understand my meaning. Soon enough a loud, heavy, totally inappropriate Public Enemy song blasts at full blast through the speaker and I scream “NO!!!!”. I hear my midwife say “put the hypnobirthing back on” as a huge contraction starts and I bear down and push with all my mind and body.
Oh that ring of fire! I feel a stinging, a burning that takes all of my will to breathe through. Several more contractions come by where I feel myself pushing my baby out while on my hands and knees. I reach down and can feel the top of his little head with my hand. Oh my goodness, I am so close. I just want to meet you! One incredibly intense push and his head comes out. The contraction stops. I reach down and his head is right there, out in the world while his body is still inside me. (Josh took a great photo!) I waited, longing to hold my baby, until the next wave came and the rest of his bodyslithered out and was passed straight into my arms. I held him up to my chest and exclaimed “my baby, my baby” over and over as I looked into his precious eyes. I felt a familiarity, like, ah yes, you are the little part of me that I have been waiting to meet. I held him close and tight and felt a huge sense of pride. For making this perfect human. For bringing him safely and calmly into the world.
holding my baby for the first time
Giving birth was easily one of the hardest, most exciting, tiring and also most natural days of my life. My body knew exactly what to do and I needed to surrender and welcome the beautiful process.