PART 2 – Birth Day
My last midwife appointment was on a Thursday at 39+2 and we were discussing early signs of labour and what not. My mum came along to the appointment with me so she could help me with Charlotte, and she got all funny and said I think the baby will come tonight or tomorrow. That was not my plan! To have my beautiful birth space and all my things and of course my husband in Brisbane only to go into labour and have the baby at my mum and dad’s house in Toowoomba…No! I said to mum, if that was the case and I went into labour that night, I would get her to drive me to Brisbane and dad could follow later with Charlotte in my car. I wasn’t going to have my baby anywhere but my home.
Everything was looking good, baby’s heart rate was great, my blood pressure was perfect but annoyingly my fundal height was still measuring about 4cm too small. Sonya and I had a chat about what that meant, that maybe baby wasn’t growing as well and what that might mean going forward. Looking back through my notes, I had grown 5.5cm in 6 weeks so adequate growth even if it was “too small”. Just to be sure though we discussed organising another scan just to double check on baby if I hadn’t grown much by the next appointment in a week. Sonya was even going to be in Brisbane the following Friday so she could see me in Brisbane rather than having to make the trip up to Toowoomba at 40+3 weeks which made me far more comfortable. But ideally, I would love to have our baby before our next appointment. It felt right to have our baby in the next week.
Funnily enough, that evening mum had me all freaked out and on edge that I might go into labour that my Braxton Hicks were almost constant if I was standing. Even that night I was woken a few times by some particularly strong ones. Nothing happened though and I returned to Brisbane on Friday by lunchtime. I felt so much more comfortable once I was home. Mum and dad agreed to come down for the weekend to be close just in case and so they arrived on Saturday after lunch. Saturday morning I had gone to my regular yoga class and Michelle had decided to do a heart chakra class to open the heart. There was chanting, the singing bowl and even a gorgeous head massage by one of the other students. It was a truly magnificent class that was so beautiful. I felt my heart really open to the idea of going into labour. Prior to this class I was so happy being pregnant and enjoying the final few weeks that I didn’t want it to end. I was also nervous about how much my relationship with Charlotte would change and how I would cope with the sleepless nights and demands of a newborn. I was quite happy for bubba to hang out inside me for a while longer. But after the class I felt so much more ready for birth. It was amazing. I even said to the class at the end that I didn’t think I’d make the next weekend, that my baby would be born sometime this week.
Sunday morning we all got up and I made breakfast as usual. Mum, dad and I took Charlotte for a walk to the park and I waddled slowly as I felt baby getting lower and lower in my pelvis. It was really windy and a bit chilly so we didn’t hang around in the park for long. We came home and showered then mum, Charlotte and I headed off to the shops to do the groceries. By the time we got home at a bit after 12 I was pretty knackered. I really wanted to get charlotte down for a nap as I was really tired and needed a rest too.
I fed charlotte to sleep and was lying next to her resting when I got a cramp in my hip. Well at least I thought it might have been my hip. I’d often get a sore hip if I lied on my side for too long. So I tried rolling over and lying in a different position to see if that helped. Charlotte moved and snuggled in again which was nice. 6 minutes later at 12:56 there was another little crampy feeling, kind of like a period cramp but not quite. My heart fluttered, this could be something! I tried not to get too excited but also decided to download a contraction timer app on my phone and see if there was any rhyme or reason to these tightenings.
I got out of bed and left Charlotte to sleep, walked out into the kitchen and gave Luke the eyes and quietly whispered “I think this is it…but I’m not sure”. He raised his eyebrows and smiled. Dad was watching V8 Supercars and mum got us all chicken and salad for lunch so I lied down on the couch to rest. Once we were done eating mum asked me if she should go get her laptop and do some work or have a nap. I quickly, maybe a little suspiciously to mum, suggested she have a nap. Over the next hour I timed my gentle tightenings and found they were anywhere from 6 to 16 minutes apart but lasted 45-55 seconds which was promising. I thought I’d better call Sonya and let her know what was happening and get her opinion. For some reason I was so nervous making that phone call. I had such an adrenaline rush talking to her about it all my voice was shaking or maybe I was just cold as it was a bit nippy that afternoon.
Luke had planned to go play in a board game competition that afternoon which started at 3pm. I came out and had a chat to him and said he should still go and play, this was very early labour, I was fine and he was only playing at a place 10 minutes down the road anyway. I did say, please don’t hang around chatting after, just come straight home. So he packed his things and left to play his game at about 2:40pm. I also called our birth photographer Kristy to let her know that I thought things were happening. She was so excited and had just finished up at a function so it was great timing. We agreed she should come to the house, set up and if things were slow she could leave and come back as she had a place to stay that was only 15 min away from our house. It was about an hour drive from where she was so she started making her way. That was all the important things done…I took out some of the muesli bars and banana cake I’d cooked in my nesting phase out of the freezer so my support peeps had something to eat. I then went back to the couch to rest and keep timing my tightenings. Mum was sleeping peacefully and I told dad that he wouldn’t be going home later because I was in early labour.
This Was It
I got a call from Sonya close to 4pm letting me know she’d left Toowoomba and was on her way. It was around about then that my tightenings had started to be more consistently around 4-6 minutes apart. Still completely bearable and I was just sitting on the floor of the lounge room quietly chatting to dad. I messaged Luke letting him know that things were getting more consistent and that he could keep playing but to please come home as soon as he was finished, “no chatting!”. Mum woke up as I was telling dad that Sonya was on her way and she blearily asked “Did I hear you say Sonya was on her way?!”. Well that set her off into pottering prep mode and we went through the whole house again going through where all the towels, blankets, food and emergency meds were and how the dryer works so she could heat the towels. Charlotte woke up around then too and I told her the baby was going to come tonight and that mummy was getting pains in her tummy like in the book.
Kristy arrived just as Charlotte and I were putting out our “Home Birth In Progress, Please Do Not Disturb” sign at about 5pm. It was so cute, Charlotte was so excited and was running around showing Kristy were everything was, wanting to see her cameras and tripod and then trying to pull the birth pool out. By this point the contractions were still 5min apart but I wanted a heat pack on my back during them while I swayed, leaning on the kitchen bench. I’d changed the playlist on Spotify to the one I’d picked a couple months before, “Have A Great Day” and so in between contractions I was singing and dancing along to Jackson 5, The Beatles and Queen with a smattering of Macklemore and Bruno Mars. I was loving it! I really wanted this labour to be lighthearted and as much fun as possible. My mum had put on a classical playlist I had made for Charlotte’s labour. That was fine but didn’t help for distracting me and on reflection I think I just tried to take Charlotte’s labour too seriously. I was so focused on trying to remain calm and focused that I wasn’t actually able to relax. So I thought I would take a different approach with this labour. I picked a playlist with all my guilty pleasure songs that I loved dancing and signing along to. I would be all focused during the contraction and then as soon as it was over I wanted to shake it off!! Get my hips swinging to the fun music and sing along. It worked!!! I actually had a lot of fun in early labour singing and dancing along to the music and chatting away to my mum and Kristy, giggling at Charlotte’s excitement.
It wasn’t much longer after Kristy’s arrival that Luke returned home from his game. He walked in the door and I smiled at him as Charlotte ran up to him and flew into his arms telling him what was happening. He no sooner put all his stuff away that I asked him politely but assertively, it was time to blow up the pool! I didn’t feel like I really needed it just yet but I didn’t know how long it would take to fill up and if our hot water system would be up to the task. Luke got straight on to it and Charlotte was so excited we finally got to blow up this pool that had sat in the corner of the room for weeks. While it was filling, Luke ran off to get changed in between massaging my hips during contractions. They were starting to build but manageable with Luke’s firm massage. I wasn’t very good at timing them by this point. I either forgot to start the timer or forget to stop it when the contraction finished. But I had received a message from Sonya that when they were 3 minutes apart to call her and call Maet (our second midwife) so she could make her way to us. But from what I could tell they were still 4min apart.
Sonya arrived at about 6pm, not long after the pool finished filling. My surges were the same, strong and I needed Luke to massage very firmly while they were happening but I was still talking in between. Sonya checked me over, doing my blood pressure and listening to bub with the doppler. We were both doing really well. But now that Sonya was here I was ready and felt safe to get into the pool. Poppy helped Charlotte get into her swimmers and she climbed into the pool with me. It was bliss!! So warm and luxurious. I was worried that the 37 degrees the water had to be wouldn’t be warm enough but it was delightful. I had hoped that “nature’s epidural” as the bath often is called would help relieve the pain more significantly than it did but once I got in the next surge was very different. It had a power and seriousness to it that they hadn’t had before. It was a much stronger surge that did actually have a pinchy pain to it that hadn’t been there before. This is serious!
Charlotte and I cuddled in between surges in the pool and during surges Luke helped show her how to pour water on my back. It felt so nice having her pour water on me, like little tickles after the intensity of the surge. It helped me relax in between which was perfect. At this point I have no idea what time it was when anything else happened so I can’t tell you how long we stayed like this but at some point Charlotte jumping up and down in the pool and touching me became too much. I wasn’t enjoying having her in there and needed her out. Poor little thing didn’t like getting out and I could hear her crying hysterically from the other room as mum and dad tried to get her changed out of her swimmers. I kept saying “I’m sorry bubba” and Luke reassured me she was fine. She quietened down soon enough (later I found out it was because mum had bargained ice cream into the deal if she agreed to get into clothes haha). From then on my dad, Poppy, kept Charlotte in the front room watching movies and cuddling. For me, things were getting very real. It was kind of strange, I felt both out of it and very aware at the same time. I was internally focused on coping with the big contractions but could also hear mum and the midwives quietly talking or asking questions and I was answering them.
Unfortunately, during one of the contractions I could feel a muscle cramp start to take hold behind my knee. Awkward spot to get a cramp! Especially when you’re kneeling over. I let everyone know I was getting a muscle cramp (ok I whimpered to them) and mum went and got some of the electrolyte ice cubes I made to mix with some water for me and Maet went and got the Epsom salts out of the bathroom to pour in the pool. It didn’t quite help and a few surges later I was on my back with both legs thrown out dead straight over the side of the pool with both midwives madly massaging my thighs and behind me knees! haha, quite the sight. The next contraction hit though and I flipped back over so Luke could massage me. By that point my vocalising was so loud, deep and right down from my core. I don’t know why, but I asked Luke to shake me back and forth. I wanted the momentum and something else to distract me from the intensity. I let out such a deep, open throated “ahhhhhh” and with Luke rocking me back and forth, my mouth would get really close and further away from the side of the pool which then created another noise effect. The sound coming out of my mouth built and built and filled my entire head and body with the noise. I just kept going! I had no idea where this noise was coming from but it felt amazing to let it out and let the noise vibrate through me. This was the roar of birth undisturbed! Something so incredibly primal unlocked I didn’t even recognise it as part of me.
The contractions were one on top of the other and they were so huge and intense! And like I said, I was still quite aware and knew that I was in transition. I wanted it all to be over, to stop, I couldn’t keep going like this. I was almost crying in between surges and roaring during them. But I knew what came after transition…Stage 2. A baby was going to descend down my birth canal, stretch me and come out of my vagina. That was still terrifying for me. During Charlotte’s labour, my second stage was quick and I had zero control over my body. It was baring down and pushing that baby out whether I wanted to or not. On reflection, I was amazed and inspired by my body’s strength and power but at the time I was terrified and completely taken aback by it. I didn’t want to lose control again and I wasn’t ready to feel this baby descend.
I put myself in a holding pattern. I knew I wasn’t going to progress past transition until I let myself, but I didn’t want to have a baby come out of my vagina! Talk about a rock and a hard place. Sonya and Maet both picked up on this and I remember Sonya holding my hand and arm and whispering to me, “You can let her come out now Bec”. I cried and nodded my head, I knew this. A big deep breathe, a reassuring affirmation from Maet that “My body was made to do this” and the new mantra I started chanting to my self out loud became “I am stretchy, I am stretchy…”. Breathe and let her out. It’s ok, I will be ok, I will stretch and open and she will descend slowly and I will expand to allow her out. I released, and so did my body. Next surge I felt that familiar grunt right at the end. A few of those and she started descending….right into my butt!!!! I know that as baby comes down they put a LOT of pressure on your rectum but this felt wrong, it felt like too much pressure on my bum. So I cried out to Sonya that it hurt too much in my bottom! She just held my hand and said it was ok. A couple surges and the pressure eventually shifted and became more central. Sonya asked if I could still feel her moving (which I could) but at that point Bub thought it would be a great time to get the hiccups!! Very weird (and uncomfortable) to have a baby with hiccups in your birth canal.
Each surge would build and the desire to push would come too but not uncontrollable. I felt like I was pushing with that feeling, working more with my body than against it. This was much more enjoyable than fearing and fighting my body like with Charlotte. I put my hand down and inside myself to see if could feel her. Sonya asked what I could feel. It was about my second knuckle in and small, maybe the size of a 50c piece and hard…her head! (It was actually the bubble of her amniotic sack but this was the first time I’d ever felt a baby coming down!). During pregnancy I had tossed up whether I wanted to catch or have Luke catch our baby, but in that moment after feeling her head in my vagina, I knew I wanted to catch her. Even though Luke wasn’t able to massage me during surges I wanted to be floating on my back so that I could feel and see and be ready to catch her. I had my right hand clamped firmly around Luke’s hand, his face pressed against my cheek, whispering encouragement and my left hand was down between my legs feeling each surge bringing her head closer and closer.
I won’t sugar coat it, I really do NOT enjoy the feeling of a baby coming out of me. My adrenaline was pumping and I was no longer moaning and roaring but screaming. I was in pain as she crowned and stretched me. I tried holding my perineum, and I tried holding the top of my vagina to see if I could make a difference on the pain but nothing helped. I’d read and heard stories of baby’s heads moving down with the surge and then going back a little after in a little two steps forward, one step back tango of decent. But I didn’t feel that. Her head didn’t go back in after pushing. She would come down and pause, then come down and pause, slowly stretching as she crowned. Then finally, with a big scream, her head was born. I held her tiny head in my left hand. It was so smooth and slimy because she was still en caul. Panting and whimpering I held her, my face pressed hard against Luke’s cheek. I could feel her moving inside of me. Then she kept moving and wriggling and it hurt! I cried out that she wouldn’t stop moving and Sonya looked me in the eyes and said “It’s time to push your baby out, she needs to be born”. So big breathe to psych myself up and with a screaming roar I pushed and out came our beautiful, squishy, little baby.
I looked down into the pool and time just stopped. I felt it, that instant thunderclap of love that took my breath away. No more pain, and nothing else mattered.
There she was, still en caul! Curled up on the bottom of the pool. Maet said “Take your time”, and I reached down into the water and slowly brought that slimy little bundle up on to my chest. She was a little stunned and slow to breathe and Sonya ran her hand and a cloth over her face to make sure it wasn’t any of the sac over her head keeping her from breathing. Her face was clear and after some gentle rubbing and a few seconds she let out her first gurgling little cry. Sonya said her cord was a bit tight and to lower her down a bit. She was already pretty low, her head only just made it to my breast. I held her back from my chest and we saw that her cord was looped over her neck. Not a full nuchal cord, just a little scarf as Sonya described it. It went from her belly up around her neck then back down over her other shoulder. Once we brought the cord over her head we had plenty of slack and I could comfortably bring her up on to my chest.
Charlotte had heard the first little cry and dragged Poppy into the room to see her baby sister. She ran straight up to the pool and looked in. Then wriggled on to Luke’s lap and the three of us just soaked her in. Charlotte just kept saying “That’s my baby sister!” She had so much vernix on her head and back. It was so thick! I was so excited, I had really hoped that I’d have a cheesy baby this time. We wrapped us both up in a towel and rested, laughed and cried. It wasn’t too long and I felt the first afterbirth contraction. I told Sonya and said I wanted to get out as I wanted to have a physiological Third Stage out of the pool this time so we could better estimate any blood loss and hopefully minimise it. A couple minutes later and another contraction and I really, really wanted to get out of the pool.
I got out, with lots of help, on to the blow up mattress on the floor. Sonya asked if I wanted to birth the placenta straight into our special placenta bowl or birth it into a kidney dish and then transfer it in. I went with the transfer option in case it was a bit difficult to navigate the bowl. So I squatted over the kidney dish and the next contraction I felt the placenta move and give way and slide out of me with a little push. I heard Sonya remark that it was quite big, then she asked me to give a little push as some of it might still be inside me. I pushed but couldn’t feel anything, I felt empty and clear. Looking back at the photos, there was some membranes still hanging out of my vagina so Sonya didn’t want there to be anything retained. But it must have been just sitting there so a little swipe from Sonya and we were all done. Sonya said she was going to remove the clots off the placenta before putting it in the bowl so she could get a really good estimate of the blood loss. She even went over to the kitchen and measured my blood loss to be really sure.
Then there was nothing to do but soak her all in. We were all wrapped up in blankets, propped up on pillows and loving 100% skin-on-skin contact. She wriggled and blinked up at me and sucked her fists. She had two massive suck blisters on her wrists and the blister on her left hand had popped. This little girl was going to be a comfort sucker just like her sister! I moved her to be almost vertical on my tummy and let her nuzzle and crawl her way up to my nipple. The little champ aced it and latched on beautifully. I was so thrilled and relieved it was a painless latch. Mouthful after mouthful she gulped down colostrum, blinking away taking in this new world. Every 10 minutes or so (I’m estimating here) I would feel a tightening and a trickle of blood. Every time I told Sonya or Maet so they could check it was ok. My uterus was contracting down well but my bladder might have been getting in the way again like it did with Charlotte. After an hour, bub had finally unlatched and I handed her, and the giant bowl with the placenta sliding around precariously, over to Luke for daddy cuddles on his chest while I gingerly got up with a towel between my legs and waddled off to the toilet to empty my bladder.
Success!! Yay. No in-out catheter for me this time! After I’d finished, Sonya asked if she could massage my uterus while I was on the toilet to clear out the clots. This was apparently the best place to do it. I agreed and I could instantly see why, squelchy clot after another plopped into the toilet as my tender uterus was gently (although still quite uncomfortably) massaged. That unpleasantness done, I waddled back to the mattress and wriggled back under the warm blankets. Bubby came back and immediately started rooting around again! She latched onto my right breast this time and away she went. Gulp, gulp, gulp. Even though it was painless while she was feeding, after she unlatched both my right and left nipples had blisters. Luke and dad emptied and packed away the birth pool, mum put on a load of washing and made phone calls to my Nanna to let her know bubba had been born. My brother and his girlfriend even popped over for a quick visit. Everyone asked us about the name but Luke and I hadn’t decided yet, or even had a chance to discuss it alone yet so everyone would just have to wait.
Finally, after 2 hours of feeding she was satisfied and we were able to get some photos of her with her placenta, cut her cord and for Sonya to do her newborn checks. Charlotte came over at this time and wanted to get a closer look at her baby sister. I couldn’t believe she was still awake! it was after 10pm. I think she was riding the oxytocin high like the rest of us. Afterwards, Luke tried to take Charlotte to bed but lots of tears later they were watching a movie in the bedroom instead. Eventually Charlotte passed out asleep in her daddy’s arms. By the time I’d dressed baby and Sonya had finished her notes and packed up all her gear it was about 11:30pm. She helped mum and I get the placenta out of the bowl and into the biodegradable ziplock bags, ready for the freezer and planting later.
Everyone said good night with red rimmed, tired eyes and we all headed off to bed. I felt a little “what now”. I was tired but not really. I was still buzzing! I quietly walked in to our bedroom, it was dark and I could hear Luke and Charlotte breathing, deeply asleep. I crawled into bed, nestled my sweet babe into the crook of my arm and lied down. There we were, our new little family of four all snuggled up together in the same bed. I smiled and thanked whatever power in the Universe for my successful birth and my incredible family. I was filled to the brim with gratitude and love.
The rest of that night I drifted lightly in sleep but for the most part just lied there with my eyes closed, a massive grin on my face, resting and listening to my little family dreaming. I was running through the list of names Luke and I had come up with seeing if any of them resonated with this little soul in my arms. And when I brought Abigail to mind, it clicked. She wriggled and grunted and it felt so right. She was an Abby. I loved it and I just hoped Luke felt the same way when I told him in the morning. Unfortunately there was no sleep in for anyone, for despite only going to sleep at 11pm, Charlotte was up like usual at 6:30am. The whole household was up then and everyone wanted to see the baby in the daylight and get a cuddle. At some point during the morning I grabbed my phone, opened up our baby name list and highlighted Abigail. I took the phone over to Luke and whispered, “This is what I think”, and went off to have a shower. Ahhhh….a shower all to myself to wash the last remnants of the birth away. I didn’t wash my chest or breasts though, so that all that delicious vernix and amniotic fluid smell would still be there for baby. Luke came in to the bathroom and said he liked the name! Abigail Rose Connolly it is.
We told Dad just before he had to leave to head back to Toowoomba and mum after she’d woken up from her afternoon nap. Then let the rest of the family know over Messenger what her name was. I let a few of my close friends know about Abigail’s arrival over messenger as well but we left a big Facebook announcement for several days.
Abigail Rose Connolly was born on a Sunday night at 19:56pm. 7 hours after my first contraction and just 4 hours of active labour. My second stage was 12 minutes (but it felt so much longer) and I think my physiological third stage was about 15 minutes.
Abigail was 3320g (7lb 4oz) and 51cm long. A beautifully healthy, alert little baby and a great size even though my tummy measured small.