As cliché as it sounds my birth experience was transformative which makes it hard to put into words but here I go...
We got an inkling she was on her way on the Thursday at our midwives appointment. I’d had light but consistent cramping, like a period, and my midwife was convinced I’d have my baby in my arms by the end of the weekend. She was partially right, I started to go into labour on Friday, we rearranged the living room, got the birth pool set up and created our birth space in the comfort of our living room. I then laboured for the next four days, never quite slipping in to established labour.
We used every trick in the book to try to get her into position and have a successful home birth. Our hypnobirthing course had prepared us for a long labour. I wasn’t really an affirmation person but I found myself telling myself that I can do anything for 60 seconds and my body would not grow me a baby I couldn’t birth. My midwife gently placed cool wash clothes on my forehead with my chosen essential oil - mandarin - and quietly reminding me I was safe and capable. Inversions during contractions, lying on my side, walking, squatting, sitting in every position possible in the birth pool. But she wouldn’t budge. She was posterior and she was staying that way.
On the fourth day we called it after breaking my waters didn’t speed things up. I was dehydrated and exhausted having not been able to keep down a scrap of food since labour began. I was running on teaspoons of honey and sips of water. We were both healthy and our heart rates were fine but I had had enough. I told my midwife I wanted to go to the hospital and get an epidural. She started packing.
We transferred to hospital and discovered very quickly that I did not take to gas AT ALL. The wait for the epidural seemed like a lifetime but once it was in I was a whole new person. The anaesthetist did a great job, I had almost full movement in my legs but no pain and I could still feel the pressure of my surges. I napped on and off, as did my husband, with the consultant coming in to check my progression following the epidural. On examination we found out I had an anterior lip. She gave me some time, respecting that I did not want a C-Section unless absolutely necessary.
On the next examination she said there had been a small amount of descent and that if I wanted a natural birth she would come back in 30 minutes to discuss my options. That was all I needed. I got up onto my knees and started to push, supported every step of the way by my midwives and husband.
My primary midwife had come to the limit of her time with me and had to hand over. She had never missed a birth before and we were both in tears as she came to say goodbye. At this point it was almost midnight and I totally understood but I still didn’t want to see her go. Luckily, the student midwife - who was next in line to say goodbye - said she could see the head and they both decided to stay as support people.
Cheering me on, I was coached surge by surge until I shifted on to my side and at 12:17am my not so little Charlotte came into the world. She was huge, and sluggish, as exhausted as I was from the process, and taken from my chest within the minute in order to have everything checked. The hospital midwife, knowing I wanted delayed cord clamping but couldn’t wait for the cord to stop pulsing, milked the cord before clamping and letting my husband cut it. I watched her on the table while she was being checked over, waiting for her to be returned to me. Once she had the all clear she was back on my chest.
The rest of the night was a blur. I birthed the placenta, fell asleep while the doctor stitched my second degree tear and graze, Charlotte was weighed and measured, (4.6kg and 57cm - no wonder she wouldn’t budge) and I finally got to eat a slightly soggy but absolutely delicious ham and cheese sandwich. I tried not to get crumbs in the full head of hair she somehow had (her fathers genes not mine).
While her birth did not go according to plan, I never once felt like it.
The preparation I did with the hypnobirthing and investment in a private midwife that practiced a continuity of care model meant that nothing felt unplanned. Every step of the way I had discussed my options in advance and knew my preferences. While I was lucky to have received top notch women centred care at the hospital (I found out later they were just waiting for me to agree to a c-section, they didn’t think I’d have her naturally) my husband and I were also well informed. Thanks to Jess’s hypnobirthing guidance we knew our rights and between her course and our private midwife we knew what markers to look for and when to make big decisions.
I also have to say that without Jess’s generosity in sharing her story of her long labour I would not have been as calm and as patient. Thanks to her I was prepared for and not scared of a long labour. It was worth every cent, and I now tell everyone who will listen how much being so informed and supported has taken away any risk of birth trauma. While I’m in no rush to give Charlotte a sibling, I know I will be taking a refresher hypnobirthing course, engaging my private midwife again (if possible) and hopefully having a successful home birth!
My advice to any expecting mum is to invest in yourself now and you will reap the rewards in the fourth trimester.