If you’re like me, you love a birth story. I want to know how babies come into the world, with as much detail as someone will give me. I admit, I’m an birth addict. I also don’t mind sharing mine, so with that in mind, here’s how my first birth went.
As I mentioned in my first post, I was 98% naïve. I knew I wanted a vaginal birth with few interventions. I’m not a huge fan of needles, so the thought of having a giant needle going not only into my skin, but into my SPINE wigged me waaay too much to plan on having an epidural (but yes, I did get to a point when I asked for one anyway). I liked the idea of the TENS machine, so I hired one in the last few weeks and watched the instructional DVD that comes with the pack. We did a one day 9am-5pm birth prep and early parenting course that ran through what to expect, and that was the extent of my planning. I knew it was going to hurt, and be hard, and other than that I wanted to stay naïve.
Having said that, I’ve come to learn through reading for my Lamaze certification that someone’s ideas around birth can be broken down into two opposing ideologies; birth is a normal, natural, physiological process, or birth is a medical event. This is a ‘one or the other’ scenario. You can not be of the mind that labour and birth are safe as long as every woman is electronically monitored continuously, just in case (cause that’s not trusting in the physiological process). It’s one or the other.
So, as much as I had under-planned (in my own opinion), in retrospect I know I was absolutely in the physiologic camp. I had heard the story of my own birth, which my mother repeated described as empowering. I had worked on a commercial horse stud in my early 20’s, and assisted horses in labour and birth countless times. I’d seen firsthand that animals don’t over-think anything, they can’t doubt their ability, they just do it. And nine times out of 10, they needed zero assistance from us. There were of course some times when there were emergencies (most mammals can suffer similar labour complications to humans) and you needed to know how to act quickly if any of these became apparent, but they were rare.
Anyway, back to the story. So, under-prepared but subconsciously in the ‘birth is a physiologic event’ camp, I got to 38 weeks. I felt HUGE. I could not fathom how I was going to go for another 2+ weeks. I was so over being pregnant and I was 100% certain labour would start before I got to 40 weeks. I got to 40. And kept going.
Three days past my due date, I had my first ‘post-date’ appointment. I’ve since learned this normally doesn’t start until you hit 41 weeks, but Easter was happening so it was either go in earlier or ‘risk’ not being checked over until I was well into 41 weeks.
So my husband and I showed up to the assessment room at 9am, as instructed and without asking too many probing questions. We waited a time on incredibly uncomfortable chairs until my name was called. I had the 20 mins of continuous electronic foetal monitoring to check how baby was handling life and what my uterus was doing (contracting as I found out) and then waited a bit longer in those uncomfortable chairs to have an ultrasound to check amniotic fluid levels. All was fine. I had a quick de-brief with a midwife, who casually pencilled me in for an induction on the date I would be 10 days overdue. I knew 100% I wanted to avoid being induced. I planned on going to acupuncture if I got anywhere near that possibility. But at the same time, I wasn’t informed enough or confident enough to push back on ‘hospital policy’.
The next thing the midwife did was offer me a stretch and sweep. She explained the process and what it could achieve (starting labour). I was happy with the explanation, and I’d had a friend say she’d had two done waiting for her labour to begin and that it had worked. Without asking too many more questions, I agreed. The midwife happily informed me that I probably wouldn’t be needed the induction, I was already 2-3cm dilated, and I should expect to be in labour by the end of the weekend (this is a Friday morning). I was told to expect a lot of Braxton Hicks, and we were sent on our way.
So, off we went, to the cinemas to see Fast and Furious 7 (don’t judge, you’ve seen it too). Once settled and into the movie, I realised I was having definite, repeated contractions. Nothing too uncomfortable, but noticeable. I started timing them through the rest of the movie, assuming they were those pesky Braxton Hicks I’d been told to expect. They were every 10 mins or so, lasting 40 seconds. My husband noticed I was timing but I just mouthed ‘Braxton Hicks’ and he went back to watching the movie.
We went home, I went inside and relaxed on the couch (I was tired from watching the movie-welcome to life at 40 weeks pregnant) and my husband went outside to do some gardening. The process of leaving the cinema and getting home had disrupted my contractions, fuelling my assumption they had been Braxton Hicks. But now they were coming back, still 10 mins apart, still 40 seconds and still noticeable but not uncomfortable. I ate some dinner, then rang the hospital. The midwife I spoke to suggested taking some Panadol would quiet the Braxton Hicks if that’s what they were, and other than that to stay home as long as I was comfortable or until my waters broke (I was GBS positive so ‘needed’ to go in as soon as my waters broke to start having antibiotics – another story for another post).
Thirty minutes after taking the Panadol with no disruption to the contractions, which were slowly getting stronger and lasting a little longer, I began to realise maybe this was the real deal. Excitement and nerves started to kick in, and I walked around the house and got those last things you can’t pack into the hospital bag until ‘the day’. I had my husband help me put on the TENS machine electrodes and started using it when I had a contraction.
My water broke at 830pm and I rang the hospital again to say we were coming in. In retrospect I think they had actually broke about an hour earlier, but I’d put it down to a little pee leakage. We were walking into the maternity unit around 9pm, all fine and dandy except for my apprehension about the canular I was about to get for the GBS antibiotics (remember the aforementioned dislike of needles).
We were shown to an observation room, as I was a long way from needing a birth suite. I had the canular put in and the dose of antibiotics administered. As I’m such a sook with needles, I was still more worried about this foreign ‘thing’ in my hand than the contractions, though they were getting stronger, longer and closer together. We were left to our own devices, and I walked around the small room during contractions, talked about how-knows-what with my husband, threw up dinner, walked some more, felt like I needed to go to the toilet but didn’t…
This blog is getting quite long so I’ve decided to cut it in half. Stay tuned for part two soon!
Rachel Angelone is the founder of Your Birth Your Baby and is a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) based in Melbourne. Rachel offers independent childbirth and early parenting education to women and their families, as well as assistance with writing birth plans. She is also a loving wife and mother to two young girls.