So I think we can all agree that this blog lost its focus a long time ago and I'm not sure I want to continue it in its present state. I have been reading a blog recommended to me by a friend the past week and found the writer really spoke to me with her thoughts, topics and prose. The blog is Homemade Heart and I was hooked after just a few posts that I read it from start to finish. Unfortunately Tahlia seems to be on extended hiatus following the birth of her son but I'm really hoping she returns soon.
Homemade Heart has inspired me to share/recount the past 7 months (the parts I can remember at least) and where I am now. I have changed enormously since having my beautiful baby, in some ways for the better and in some ways, I feel a bit lost and alone.
So I'll start at the beginning...
I finished up at work and started my maternity leave exactly one week before my due date. I had everything organised and was feeling well despite my fluid retention and blood pressure issues so enjoyed being able to go to the office and keep busy for a few hours each day till then. I had an OB appointment the first day and as usual my bp reading was high. He ordered blood and urine tests which showed some change in certain levels but not alarmingly so I was to visit him every second day and my GP on the other day. This was Monday. By Wednesday the OB and GP were very concerned and on Thursday morning, admitted me to hospital for induction. It turned out that a lot of babies wanted to be born on Thursday and there wasn't a vacant birthing suite to get the induction underway for me till 1am Friday morning.
It was a long and scary day spent hooked up to monitors and waiting for treatment. Gel was finally administered to my cervix at 1am and S was sent home to rest and return at 8am when they would check me and if I had dilated 4cms they would break my waters. I was given 2 sleeping tablets and a panadeine forte and sent to be with the warning that it may take 3 lots of gel over 18 hours to get things moving. Exhausted I fell asleep and woke around 4am despite the tablets with awful cramping. It felt like the worst period pain ever - I usually suffer from bad pains and these were right up there. Given the hour I tried to stay silent but i wanted to help things along so i got out of bed and started pacing around my bed, leaning over it during a contraction. I spent 4.5 hours doing this till S arrived, still exhausted from yesterday's long day and late night. I told him I was in labour but he was doubtful given the midwifes warning the night before.
We were taken to a birthing suite at 9am and introduced to our midwife whom I instantly liked. She examined me, found me to be 4cm dilated and offered to break my waters and get things started. I agreed and in no time my labour sped up. I had a long and detailed birth plan that was out if my head by this time and never made it out of the bag... In throes of labour, my only priority was to have a healthy baby and avoid an epidural.
Early on in my pregnancy, I became very determined to have a drug free birth ... I think I was influenced by a few factors including my mother who had 4 natural drug free births and an enormous fear of needles. I set about educating myself as best I could on the labour process and how to avoid an epidural, ensuring S knew my preferences. I read a lot of Ina May and found her birthing stories to be hugely empowering along with Calmbirth. S was very supportive and gave me plenty of encouragement. With a few weeks to go before my due date, I was hurt when both my sister and mother told me they didn't think I would make it through labour without an epidural. I told them both I was determined and prepared but both said they were sure I would need the relief. Neither meant to hurt me by saying this but it did shatter me a little and also strengthened my resolve.
Back to labour. So my waters were broken at around 9am and I spent some time on the fit ball, moving to the shower when contractions started getting intense. I think it was almost 12 when our midwife returned to check me again and we were thrilled when she said I was 6cm and at this rate our baby wasn't far away. S text my mother to let her know and suggest she come to the hospital... And then it all started to go pear shaped. I was tiring and after 30mins, the midwife checked me again and found that my labour had stalled. My contractions were intense but all in my lower back, doing nothing to push my baby down the birth canal. It was decided to give me syntocin to strengthen the contraction and move baby. This meant I was now confined to bed and monitoring while they inserted the drip. This took a few goes on both hands as a vein was near impossible to find.
They finally got a cannula in and then it was just a matter of waiting for the syntocin to reach me. One drop finally entered and I jackknifed, screaming in pain. At the same time my baby's heart rate plummeted and the midwife called for assistance and started rolling me from one side to the other while I screamed in pain. They stopped the syntocin straight away and baby's heart rate came back up. It all goes a bit blurry from here and my mother arrived at some point.
I told the MW that if things were going to get worse, I was going to need something for the pain. She told me she had everything I would need but that I would have to ask her for it. She suggested I try some gas and started me off on level 2. The gas was a life saver as I don't think it did much for the pain but it gave me something to focus and concentrate on.
With each contraction, baby's heart rate would drop but recover quickly so I had an OB and his trainee, a paed and his trainee, the head MW and my MW all observing ready to act. They decided to take a blood sample from babys head to determine his level of distress from the gases and move me to an emergency caesar if necessary. The results allowed me a little more time to try and when I was examined again, I was 9cm but baby had turned posterior and was caught on the lip of the cervix. I was told I could continue with my efforts for a vaginal birth however they would need to attach a monitor to the baby's head as they could no longer get an accurate measure any other way and more importantly that for the next hour at least, I was not allowed to push because this would increase the swelling of my cervix lip and cause the baby to become completely stuck. Let me tell you, at 9cm you cannot concentrate or focus on anything other than what your body commands and at this point, you body commands pushing. I could barely focus, was completely exhausted and my contractions had no downtime to recover. I would breathe through one, screaming with the agony of not being able to push, fall asleep in the. 60 secs or less of downtime only to wake sobbing and trying not to push with all of my might. My mum and Scott were both encouraging me and talking me through it and I have to say, it is without a doubt the hardest most excruciating thing I have ever done. This went on for 90 mins before baby was finally unstuck and able to crown.
It didn't get easier unfortunately and I still had my audience who were becoming increasingly concerned about mine and the baby's safety. Not that I had any idea, I was only able to focus on Scott and occasionally my mother at this point. The pushing stage was no easier than the rest of my labour and being so exhausted, was made even harder. It was decided I required an episiotomy after a lengthy period with nothing working and still after the episiotomy it took a lot longer than it should. Being posterior with the biggest part of his head presenting and my exhaustion, it took every last bit of strength I had to push him out and even with the episiotomy I tore and required a lot of stitching. I also pushed my cannula out at the same time and spurted blood everywhere - my delivery suite looked like a war zone I'm told at this point.
Baby was put to my chest right away and I remember locking eyes with his big wide eyed stare and despite my exhaustion and shell shock, I fell instantly in love. I barely remember receiving a needle to help deliver the placenta and apparently I haemorrhaged at this time but I was too caught up in this alert and perfect little person I had just given birth to. My mum helped me initiate his first feed and I just lay there whispering to him and crying. He was born at 4:27pm
I don't know how much time passed but he was taken off me to be weighed, tested and given to S for a cuddle so the doctor could start stitching. The medical staff debated surgery but decided to see if it could be avoided given my exhaustion and the trauma.
I do recall that some of my first words to my mother as she cried with the joy of seeing her grandson born were 'I told you I go do it, I told you I wouldn't need an epidural.'
My dad and mother in law followed by my sister, best friend, sisters in law, father in law and Scott's best friend all arrived and visited with us. We hadn't named baby yet and couldn't decide which name to use. My dad and sister were in the birth suite with us and we discussed a few options, eventually deciding on his name. I was finally then allowed to shower Which didn't end up being a great idea. Luckily they sent an escort with me as upon standing, I instantly haemorrhaged again and collapsed passing out in the shower. I was taken back to bed and monitored for a time while transfusions were discussed. I negotiated a wait to see if I could recover without the transfusion and we were moved to the ward.
Baby was extremely alert with a serious wide eyed stare that just gazed at me. His poor little head was misshapen from so long stuck in the birth canal and he was covered in masses of blood. I must have looked a bit dazed as a motherly MW came to me and took charge. She asked if we had fed yet and would I like her help with feeding later. She also offered to give baby a little bath to remove the blood covering his head and we headed off to do this before feeding. I never had the pleasure of this midwife again during my stay but she was amazing.
I had my son at the Gold Coast hospital and would not hesitate to have another baby there. The level of care and attention I received there was second to none from the midwives, obs, paeds etc. I was in the best possible hands throughout a long and difficult labour and am forever grateful for this.
One of the most important things i reminded myself as the birth got closer, is that it is simply a means to an no matter how long or painful, it will end.
Let me just say, I am not anti epidural and don't suggest there is anything wrong at all with having one, I simply hoped that I could educate my body to do what millions of women do everyday without one. At all times I stressed to our MW that my baby's safety was the most important thing and I would be entirely guided by her recommendations to ensure this. I did and do feel amazing and empowered having birthed my baby without one but would have felt no shame if I had elected for one too.
Next up, breast feeding.