So at the end of my previous post, I was in an observation room at the hospital, in labour and starting to get very uncomfortable. I was walking around the small room, pausing and breathing through contractions, and generally realizing that labour was hard work!
By 11:30pm I was in full blown labour (in hindsight transition), and decided to try the shower. My husband took the TENS electrodes off, and they never made it back on. The shower did jack for me, other than making me realize I wanted to push! I used the call button in the shower to tell the nurse, and she asked if I wanted to get dressed or just use a sheet for the transfer to the birth suite. I had zero interest in getting dressed, and zero f’s given about who saw me and how much they saw, so the sheet was it. I didn’t realize how far we had spread our belongings around that small room in a few short hours until my husband made the mad dash to shove it all back in the bag to and follow me to the lift as I waddled, stopped for a contraction (tried not to) push and waddle some more. Phone charges, clothes, TENS machine and food were all collected at record speed, and he made it into the lift with me and the midwife. I made it to the birth suite somehow, was introduced to Debbie, my birth suite midwife, and had an internal to determine if I was at 10cm and was ‘ok’ to push (admittedly this was the first internal I’d had other than the stretch and sweep for the entire pregnancy). I was and the green light was given. This was the point I asked about that epidural but was (thankfully) told my labour was past the point where I could have one. I then asked how long she thought this would take, and she said about an hour, which I was ok with. Having got on the bed on my back for the internal check, I didn’t move, and it wasn’t suggested to me. After every contraction Debbie used a stethoscope to check baby’s heart rate, which I thought meant there was a problem, so after every contraction, I asked if she was doing ok, which she was. I was helped to turn around to hands and knees at one point so Debbie could get a better position for listening to bubs’ heart rate, but as soon as she was done I wanted to turn around again. It wasn’t suggested that I try getting vertical.
Another thing I hadn’t prepared for/been warned about was the ring of fire. I felt like my urethra was splitting open, and I found it hurt more to push than not to. I also knew I had to do it anyway. The other frustrating thing was feeling bubs slide back at the end of a push. I was getting tired and panicky, my breathing shallow and out of whack (hello adrenaline surge) and as soon as Debbie could get a few fingers around bubs head, she pulled her out with the next contraction. My first baby was born happy and healthy at 1:19am. The pain stopped, I felt a huge surge of relief and I kept saying ’it’s all done, I did it’. In the rush of getting to the birth suite, getting assessed and starting to push, Debbie had had very little time to read my paperwork and find our preferences for second and third stage, but between contractions we had made it clear we wanted to delayed cutting the cord (which was basically the only stipulation written in the paperwork anyway). So bubs was placed on my abdomen and we had one of those amazing pre-warmed blankets put over us (I’ve seriously considered purchasing one of those blanket warming machines) and we were left to ourselves for a few minutes. I had been given the shot of synthetic oxytocin in the leg in the final few pushes, and the cord was cut and traction applied when I mentioned I’d felt a bit of blood rush. Debbie asked an obstetrician to come and assess me after another few minutes and he decided I had two small lacerations which would need stitching. Once near my urethra (so I really was splitting!) and a second one. At this point it was suggested I try the gas to help with the pain from getting the local anesthetic for the stitching, which I found did nothing for me. Assuming I was numb from the local and couldn’t feel anything (or perhaps overly used to women who were completely numb form epidurals) the OB was non-too-gentle with wiping and suturing. Both lacerations had two stitches put in, and it was decided (by the doctor, not me) that I should have a catheter put in in case the one near my urethra swelled too much and made it difficult to pee. I was given a pain med suppository, the catheter, and the doctor left, never to be needed (by me) again. Bubs was left with me skin to skin through all of this, which was fabulous. We decided on a name, texted and called our parents, and close friends, and ignored much of the goings on in the room as much as possible. By the time suturing had finished it had been well over an hour, and bubs had had her first feed. Debbie suggested I have a shower, which I gratefully accepted. I told my husband to take off his t shirt and he held bubs skin to skin while I had one of the greatest showers of my life. Debbie helped me manoeuvre the catheter line and bag when it was time to get dressed, and then I went and lay on the bed again, very tired, a little weak and sore, but very happy. A few more hours went by before we got bubs dressed and where transferred to the maternity ward.
I was told I’d have to stay 48 hours and bubs would have a little more monitoring than usual to check for signs of infection, due to me being GBS positive but not getting the full dose of antibiotics between waters breaking and bubs being born. The rest of my stay was pleasant and we were discharged on Monday morning.
In the first few weeks there were the usual highs and lows, but over-all I feel we coped well with this massive life adjustment. I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are, how much exposure you’ve had to other people’s newborns, there’s no way you can completely prepare for the reality of taking a new baby home. That being said, there are some things that can help you be as prepared as possible. Taking independent childbirth education classes, seeing a medical provider who supports your philosophy regarding birth, being informed about your rights during childbirth and being confident that your support team know your wishes about various interventions/options will help you get through labour, birth and your hospital stay as smoothly as possible. Having pre-organised, specific help planned for your first weeks home with baby will help make the longer-term transition as smooth as possible. This could be organising a roster for family and friends to bring over cooked evening meals, hiring a cleaner to come do general housework for the first 6 weeks, and having a lactation consultant come see you within the first 48 hours (whether it be hospital based service or private consultant) to make sure breastfeeding gets off to the best possible start. Another option is to hire a postpartum doula for this period of your life. Postpartum doulas can come for a few hours a day or week, help with light housework, cooking or even just holding baby while you have a shower or a decent nap. They can answer questions, show you different techniques and be a person who will listen to your birth story and help debrief you if necessary. They will know all the local services you might need, from paediatric chiropractors to women’s health physiotherapists, and also be able to help if postpartum depression or anxiety symptoms surface. Basically, she’ll act as your own personal cheer squad as you go through a massive learning curve.
I am very close to launching postpartum doula services to Your Birth Your Baby, but if you’re not in Melbourne check out the Doula Network Australia website to help you connect with a postpartum doula (and/or birth doulas) in your area. You can have family and friends pitch in to cover costs by giving you money towards your doula instead of MORE clothes at your baby shower, or retrospectively instead of presents once the baby is born. Regardless of how the funds are raised, hiring a postpartum doula should be seen as an investment in your new family’s mental, emotional and physical health.
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 pregnant families, as well as assistance with writing birth plans. She is also a loving wife and mother to two young girls.