Natural Birth

Here is Rachael’s birth story, as shared by her mum Rebecca

This is a long story for a short but incredible experience – I wanted to capture all the details.

I was 9 days overdue and starting to get anxious about being pushed into an induction, as I was really keen and had been preparing for an intervention free natural birth. I had been reading Juju Sundin’s book “Birth Skills” and thought her techniques would work for me. The day before my “post dates appointment” I decided to try everything to get some action! I walked Ella, my 2 year old, the 2km round trip to daycare, my lovely doula Jen came and gave me a 1.5 hr massage with some acupressure while I listed to Bach, and had a good long reassuring chat with me allaying my fears about a big baby, risks of going overdue, risks of induction etc. After she left I was all blissed out and decided to continue pressing the acupressure points every hour for the rest of the day. I had some spicy Mexican soup for lunch, and was having what I thought were quite strong Braxton hicks – they weren’t hurting but were intense enough for me to stop whatever I was doing at the time. I was having them every hour. That evening I told DP they were regular but I didn’t think they were prelabour as I hadn’t had a show or anything.

DP went to bed early that night and I was having to go to the toilet a lot (I thought it was probably just the spicy food!) and the tightenings were getting stronger. At 9pm I thought “well, I’ll go to bed, and if they’re just B-H they’ll go away when I lie down”. As soon as I lay down they got to 6 mins apart – but I was dozing in between so I thought “these aren’t strong enough for labour, must be prelabour”. Between 10 and 11 they were getting a bit uncomfortable to lie down for, and I thought “yep this is it, early labour” and got up to go to the toilet (again!). As soon as I got up they got to 3mins apart. But all I was doing to manage them was tap my thighs (if I was on the toilet) or count the leaves on the wallpaper to the beat of the Bach in my head! So I thought even though they were so close together, I must still be in early labour, as the contractions were still quite easy to manage.

At midnight I woke DP up, with no urgency, just thought he’d want to start getting things organized before we left. By this stage I was banging one fist into my other open hand, concentrating on the slap sound and visualizing either me running round the rugby field or saying in my head in time to the slaps “you can do this, you can do this”. I rang Jen at 1.30, and said I wasn’t sure if I should go in yet or not. I had to put the phone down for contractions by this stage. We decided Jen would start heading to the hospital now (it takes her longer to get there than me). I told DP to hurry up his packing of the car as I thought it was time to go. DP rang the birth suite who asked to talk to me, they asked how far apart the contractions were and after hearing three minutes, said “wow – we’ll get a room ready for you”!

We loaded Ella into the car to take to her friend’s place (they were on standby for emergency babysitting!) and I started banging my stress balls onto the dashboard as I didn’t want my “smack” noise to scare Ella! Once we were on our way again, DP asked me to stop hitting the dash, as he was scared the airbags would go off, so I hit them on the door, and he said there are side airbags too! At this point I was in the middle of a contraction, and my concentration broke and I said “I’ve lost it” and got scared as for the first time I was flooded with pain. Then I thought “Juju said use another skill when one isn’t coping with the intensity any more” so I decided to use my voice and started breathing deeply then groaning out a deep, controlled “aaahhh” sound while I squeezed the stress balls.

I was hoping the adrenaline rush of being in the car would slow down labour but it didn’t seem to be working and I was afraid I wouldn’t make it to the hospital! I threw up once (fortunately I’d thought to tell DP to bring a bucket), I wonder if that was the start of transition. DP was wonderful, he was using this low calm but very encouraging voice, telling me what a great job I was doing and how proud he was and that we hadn’t much further to go. It was the longest 40 min trip in the world for both of us I think!

By the time we got to the hospital (2.30am), my groans were so loud they were vibrating in my ears (Juju again – she says match the activity to the pain, so step it up and get loud when you need to!) I was also back to my hand smacking which really seemed to work for me. Jen met us at the car – I said “I don’t think I can get out of the car” (!) but with help I did it. I had to stop walking for contractions. Jen said you could set a metronome to my hand slapping, it was so rythmic, and though I don’t remember it that I was rocking my hips too. They must have heard me upstairs because a man came down with a wheelchair. I REALLY did not want to sit down, but had the presence of mind to realize I needed to get to the birth suite fast! I still had to stop the chair and stand up for contractions though, as sitting still was impossible.

Jen was great for these contractions, as it was as close as I got to losing it. She would gently touch her hand to my shoulders if I was tensing up and I would notice that my groaning was turning into a more high pitched, worried sounding noise instead of the low, controlled one, so I could concentrate on “fixing” the noise and that got me back in the zone!

We got to the birth suite and they took the usual measurements, which was hard as I needed both hands for my smacking!! The contractions were very close. They asked me what I wanted to do and I said “I don’t know” (I remember feeling really confused at this point – shouldn’t I know what to do?) I ended up asking for the toilet, as I had spent so much time there earlier and I thought sitting might give me a rest. As soon as I stepped into the bathroom I said “I feel like something’s about to fall out!” so they asked to do an internal- which broke my waters with a massive gush! There was meconium in the waters and I could hear the midwife calling for assistance in the background. I was 8cm then.

I sat on the toilet and said – “Oh my God I need to push!” The midwives were very encouraging and said push if you need to – but then they asked me to lie on the bed so they could put on a foetal monitor (the heartbeat was fine by the way!) I really was not keen on that idea but oh well -part of my brain that was still working (yippee no drugs!) told me to throw an arm around DP and a midwife, and say briskly “come on then, let’s get this done”. So up on the bed and pushing with each contraction – but then they told me to stop pushing, as I had an anterior lip and needed to wait until it retracted to push.

That was absolutely the hardest thing – not pushing when your body is screaming at you to do it! I couldn’t stop my body a couple of times so I just held back and didn’t put any effort behind the push. DP was such a strength to me – I was gripping his arm and he was gripping me right back, giving me such support. Finally (seemed like forever!) the midwife was able to push the lip back and I could push again. They said “here’s the head” and I yelled “I can feel it!” with a big grin on my face… that feeling of imminent relief and excitement is indescribable – and she shot out! They said “stop pushing now” (the cord was around the neck once) but it was too late, she was coming no matter what. It was 3.05am – half an hour after we’d arrived!

For a couple of seconds they were checking her breathing etc (her APGAR’s were perfect), and I was saying “give her to me, give her to me” and then there she was, on my tummy, looking up at me calmly with big dark eyes. What a rush – having no drugs this time meant I was totally “there” for the whole birth, and it made such a difference to how I felt afterwards. All the staff left the room and I gave her a bit of guidance to her first feed – she fed beautifully and went right off to sleep.

So I got my natural birth this time, and what an amazing experience. After anticipating another long labour, it was 5.5 hrs from start to finish! I felt like I owned the whole thing – even when it was really powerful and full on, it was like feeling a massive surge of a wave which I didn’t control, but was riding on top of the whole time without being afraid. I had no stitches, and was home again a day and a half later ( I chose to stay in hospital overnight to get some rest before going home to Ella!) and after that extraordinary ride, I feel so empowered and strong – if I can do that, what can’t I do?

The things I think made the most difference were:

  • going through the public system – the whole pregnancy I felt I was treated more with the assumption that nothing would go wrong;
  • using the Birth Skills – that book is amazing and worked so well for me;
  • and having a doula – you can’t put a price on having someone (who has seen a lot of births) telling you all along that you’ll do great,
  • and having strategies to deal with anything that comes along – just having faith in you and instilling faith in yourself.

And don’t you realise how much you love your DP when you go through something that intense as a team?

Introducing Rachael:  a lovely baby who feeds well, self settles, smiles all the time.  She was 4.22kg, 52cm long, 37cm head circumference.