LISI & JOSEPHINA
I was lucky and had a pretty easy and straight forward pregnancy. As someone who likes to be in control and know whats coming, I tried really hard to go with the flow and trust my body, but I still had my moments of doubt and anxiety. So as we approached the due date I decided to keep with the ‘go with the flow’ mentality for my birth plan. My partner and I wrote up an ‘ideal scenario’ plan, but we were both very comfortable with the idea that things may not go as we planned and we would follow the advice of the midwives and doctors in the moment. While I was open to a natural birth centre labour, I was adamant to have the baby in a hospital. My sister had, had two home births, but I wouldn't consider it as I was nervous about possible birthing complications and my ability to do it on my own.
We were told in our NCT class not to expect the kind of labor we see in movies with the dramatic water breaking and the rushing to the hospital. So, when I felt my water break during the early hours of Tuesday Feb 27th I was a bit surprised. I had no contractions or any other signs of labor, but we went to the hospital anyway, as instructed. As I stood in the examining room explaining to the midwife that I thought my water had broken, the dramatic movie style water breaking happened. It should have been my first clue that this labor may not be exactly by the book!
We went back to the hospital 24 hrs later. I had spent the day bouncing on the ball, walking (for small periods at a time since my water kept coming), doing squats and having my mom give me ‘labor inducing’ acupuncture on my lower leg (we are convinced that that’s actually what started the contractions!), but I was still having very small irregular contractions. They examined me and determined I was still in very early labor, but because of the risk of infection, they admitted me. My water breaking early had put me out of the birth centre and in line for a morning induction in the labor ward. The only catch was that there weren't any beds on the labor ward, so they decided to put us in a spare bed the post-natal unit. That’s when labor really started.
At first it was mild and well spaced, but the contractions quickly started coming faster and more intense. We had gotten to the ward at 2am and by 4am I was being monitored; however, they decided that I wasn't contracting consistently enough. Over the next 4 hours the contractions became very consistent and my partner Rich, who was the only person reading the chart, confirmed that the peaks were getting higher. At around 8am someone came in and told us to ring the bell when the contraction were a minute long— 3 in 10 minutes. My contractions never came for over 50 seconds…
By 10am I was unable to move off my back and I was reaching my limit— I kept thinking of all the classes where we were told to move around during labor, but it was the only position I could stand! I’ve been told I have a high tolerance for pain and thought that if I was yet to be admitted (ie still just 4 cm dilated) I was not going to be able to do it. So I started to call for the midwife. I called, and called, and called— and after the 3rd person I begged for an epidural, a midwife actually came. I think because I was a first time mom, my contractions weren't lasting a minute and I’m more of a deep breather than a screamer, no one really took me seriously… so the midwife who came around 10:30am was the first person to actually examine me since our arrival. I can still remember the shocked tone of her voice when she told me that I was 10 cm dilated—I had fully dilated alone in the post natal ward!
By that time it was obviously too late for an epidural (although I never really wanted one so it was a blessing in disguise). It was the only time I saw the hospital staff move fast the whole time I was there— they had me in a wheel chair on my way to a room in 5 minutes. Since there were few people in the birth centre and I was low risk minus the early water break, they took me there. I was greeted by a midwife named Olga and a student midwife named Hannah.
Gas & Air was my saviour… it took the edge off and I was off my back and on the birthing stool almost immediately. I felt so focused, and in-between contractions I felt calm and could really listen to the midwives who guided me through the birth. Rich put on some music to help create the environment and two hours later Josephina made her debut! We had a third midwife in for the last portion to help really push me. She was wonderful too, and I was surprised to see how easily my body just took over. Now when I think about it I cant even remember it being anything but instinctual and empowering— even the part in the ward, it made me feel like a champion when all was said and done.
We remained in the birth centre in our little post birth family bubble for around 7 hours—it’s amazing how time is irrelevant and the world seems to stand still in those hours after birth. Then they moved us to the ward for 2 nights following. One because of the risk of infection for the baby with my water breaking early and then next because once we got into the loud, overly lit post natal ward, Josephina stopped latching. They wanted to keep us a third, but I just knew in my core that we had to get home. They were very busy and weren't helping us very much anyway. In fact, we spent the second night syringe feeding the baby my colostrum every two hours alone with no one checking in until 7am; the next person we saw was at 2pm. I knew that if we got out of that anxious environment we could work together to get her latching. It was the second time instinct took over and my first official moment of mother’s intuition. So I insisted on leaving against the desire of the hospital staff.
When I had finally got the discharge papers and finished packing, I sat on the bed with my mom waiting for Rich to come get us and Josephina latched. She’s never had a problem since and actually had gained 40g when the midwife came and weighed her the first time a few days after birth. The midwife called us ‘poster children for breastfeeding’.
The whole experience taught me to trust my body and my instincts. I’m thankful the birthing portion of the labor was so positive, even if the pre and post weren’t. Really that’s all that matters in terms of the baby and her entrance into the world. That said, the next time I will definitely opt for a birthing centre…or maybe even a home birth.