It felt like it took an age to meet my son. But when I finally did, the wait was well worth it.
This is a long, long blog post that has a lot of TMI detail!
A whole 10 months went by, and I tell you what… It feels like a lot longer when you are actually pregnant. 10 months of anticipation and anxiety, of growing and learning, it all leads to that single moment when your baby is placed onto your chest and you meet him on the outside for the first time. You have absolutely no idea what it’s going to be like, the moment you become a mother. You’ve heard what other mums in your life have said about this “life changing moment” but there is no way of knowing how this single moment now defines your existence.
In order to get to that moment, you have to endure the worst pain you can imagine first. It doesn’t sound like a fair trade off, but once it’s over; trust me when I say it is SO WORTH IT. You find a strength inside yourself you never even knew you had. Your body and mind are both tested beyond what you thought your limits were and at the end you experience that moment, you have him in your arms, you’re complete in every way, the euphoria is tangible in the air and it’s utterly incredible.
I’d love to share with you my labour and birth experience because this is likely to be the climax of my life, I don’t imagine how it gets any better than this.
Most days had been so boring lately! I was chugging along, heavily pregnant, so in other words I was sore, tired, limited, bored, hot and uncomfortable. This led me to take an opportunity to work for a couple days doing Nanny work for two gorgeous boys I usually look after three times a week. It probably wasn’t a good idea considering for the past 3 nights I’d been experiencing mild contractions. I was slowly getting more and more frustrated because these contractions would only happen in the evening and after a few hours they would just go away… poof! I stayed 1cm dialated for close to a week and I was well over it.
On Thursday the 18th of Jan, I woke with a strange gut feeling… I didn’t “know” I was going to go into labour but I felt it was important to let my Mum and Sister know that something could happen. I went off to work and enjoyed my day with the boys until 2 pm when I had an appointment up at the hospital with the specialist who was overseeing my high risk pregnancy. At this appointment we were going to talk about induction options for bringing on labour but after waiting in the clinic reception for over an hour I started to feel very weak and dazed. I stood up to tell someone I wasn’t feeling well and next thing I know I had fainted and was being taken up to delivery suite for observation. After a few hours on the CGT machine I was given the all clear to head home. They collectively decided that because I’d been having contractions that labour was imminent and it was a safer option for this process to begin naturally rather than to induce me.
So I went home and I wasn’t very happy about it. But once I got there I felt much more relaxed. Matt made me a meal and we settled in for the night by putting on a movie in bed. Then it started, the pains in my back like a real ache that was coming in waves. I lay there on the bed with Matt (who was losing at an online poker game) and I didn’t say a word about the contractions thinking it was the same sort of trickery I’d been experiencing the past couple days, and that it would go away soon.
Then when Matt started to get really grumpy at the poker game I found myself getting quite grouchy in return (which was strange considering how patient I usually am). It was at that moment I knew something was wrong, I was in a lot more pain than I was caring to admit. I told Matt I was going to have a warm shower as I knew a lot of women use hot water to sooth labour pains, and although I didn’t think I was in labour, I knew I was in pain.
So at 7:30pm I head into the shower, and there I stayed for the next hour and a half. The water was so lovely on my back, the contractions were happening about every 10 minutes but in between each one I would have this awful ache that only the running water could soothe. I would hum my way through the tightenings which were at that stage like period pains on steroids.
Soon, Matt popped his head into the bathroom saying he was worried and asking if this was normal. I pretty much decided it was time to call my mum and let her know she needed to drive into town and get ready for this baby to arrive. So, Matt sat in the bathroom timing my contractions (I was getting so frustrated with him asking me “is this one?” so he pretty quickly learnt to know by listening to my moans) while I swayed back and forth in the shower.
The water started to go cold so at about 9:00pm I got out of the shower and head straight for the big birthing ball. In between contractions I bounced up and down which soothed the tightening down below while I simultaneously lent into the fan which cooled me down.
At this point my contractions were about 5 minutes apart and lasting about a minute, but I felt like I was handling the pain okay and I wasn’t in a rush to head to the hospital. Matt put on funny videos for me to watch and fed me ice-blocks which kept my hydrated and gave me energy. I was worried my load moans were keeping our flatmates awake and soon my best friend Nina came in to check and make sure I was doing okay. She gave me a lot of reassurance that I was doing well and it was enough to get me through what I thought were very strong contractions (SPOILER: they were not).
Another 2 hours went by of labouring at home it was 11pm and I started to feel like I wasn’t handling the contractions anymore. We rang the hospital and they told me to come in. My birth plan clearly had stated I was to get an early epidural as soon as I was in established labour to prevent the distress on the baby and lower the risk of complications during birth. From here everything kind of became a blur, so for the rest of the story I’m going to rely on the accounts of the people who were there for details and times.
Matt drove me to the hospital with all my bags packed, although I was in a lot of pain I was really excited that this was it! I was also anxious, I didn’t want to get there and then be sent home again like a friend of mine had experienced when she was in labour last year.
My mum and sister met us up at the delivery suite and from there the midwife just watched me as I was experiencing contractions. After observing me for a few of those waves she ended up saying that I wasn’t in labour. I wanted to throttle her! I thought to myself “How could this not be labour??” She assured me I wasn’t being sent home and that I should get into the bath to progress further.
I did, and it did. The contractions got WAY stronger and about 3 minutes apart. I started to really HUUUUUMMMM through the waves.
-Side note here… In my ideal world I wanted to give birth in my bikini. So that I could transition from being in the water to being on the bed easily and comfortably without having to change or be naked. I asked my sister Christi to take photos during the labour and birth for me to keep and cherish later on, and I wanted to be modest in those photos but once Danny was born it would be easy for me to rip off the bikini top to have skin to skin with the baby.
I spent about an hour in the bath all the while I was listening to the perfect music to get me into the right mindset for labour, for anyone interested this was The Ember Days live at Bethel Church which I was just listening to on Youtube.
Once that had finished I got out of the bath and was bouncing on the birthing ball for a while yet again. My back was in excruciating pain and the midwife came in to check me. She affirmed I was now in established labour but she was worried about my back pain. She explained to me that Danny was not in a very good position and that his back was to my back rather than being in the front or side of my belly. There was talk that he’d have to be moved later on but the best advice I was given was to hack it by moving around for as long as possible to get the labour moving more quickly before I got the epidural. So there I sat on the ball with Matt on a chair behind me pushing against my sacrum intensely with every contraction that came. Mum really wanted me to get up and about, walking around the room or down the hallways but I felt so weak and with every wave I just wanted to collapse in pain. Her and Christi were very quietly giving me words of encouragement as time went on, but I ultimately decided I’d like to get into the bath again as the back pain was consuming my mind and making me feel quite powerless.
I’m not sure how long I was in the bath for… but it helped SO MUCH. I felt like the best position to be in was kneeling with my legs as wide open as they could go and leaning over the side. Matt was there right next to me the whole time, putting cold flannels on my forehead and wiping the tears away after every wave had passed. His close touch was so calming and he kept whispering in my ear how proud he was of me: going so far to call me his Wonder Woman (which touched my heart for some reason).
After an unknown amount of time had passed, the midwife asked if she could examine me. I crept up on the bed and after she had felt around for a wee bit she said I was 5cm dilated and that Danny was still in the back to back position. I oddly remember her congratulating me on making it so far and then immediately offered me an epidural, I of course, said yes please!
I was very scared about the risks of epidurals but at that stage it started to feel like someone was ripping my legs apart and stabbing a knife into my tailbone simultaneously so I was desperate for some relief. I remember being told how it was going to take 90% of my pain away and that I’d be able to get some sleep. This made me SO happy, I was exhausted and it was about 4am at this point so I had been laboring for 9 hours on my own and needed to get some rest. I knew deep down if I wasn’t able to sleep I would have zero energy to push later on.
So pretty much you have to get into the most uncomfortable position ever in order to get this epidural, and most of all you must be very very still. This was probably the most challenging part of labour for me. I really had to get into a good head space in order to make it through a contraction without moving a muscle and also remaining in a very stiff position. I was only allowed one support person in the room with me at the time and I knew this was a time I needed my mum. With her help, and the midwife, they talked me through a very tense and scary time. It was right about then, that my other support people, Matt and Christi (and her partner Sam who was in the waiting room hearing my every scream) were starting to get very tired too. It had been a long time and as they’ve explained to me now, it was hard to see me in that much pain without it having an affect on them too. So it was a good time for them to be outside having a break.
After the epidural had been administered they told me I wont feel the pain in about 20 minutes. I was clinging to this time like it was my lifeline; waiting for that 20 minute mark to hit as if it would magically make the pain go away. Matt came back right by my side brushing the sweat of my forehead and encouraging me through every wave. It felt like forever and no pain was ceasing so I remember frantically asking if 20 minutes had gone by yet.
Someone began to run a cold cotton bud over my skin and asked me to say when I could no longer feel it. I looked at them with confusion and said “I can feel it everywhere?” then they asked me to close my eyes( as if I was lying to them) and still… I felt the cold everywhere, over my legs my pubic area, my tummy and it didn’t feel less cold anywhere that mattered. In my mind I was still clinging to that idea of 20 minutes until they came back to me (after being in a little huddle over in the corner) The midwife very timidly said…
“Allie, the Epidural didn’t work… we will get you some Gas and Air”
I lost it.
I cried, and I knew that I didn’t have it left in me to do it anymore. I looked up at Matt and pleaded with him to help me (so unfair knowing there was absolutely nothing he could do to help me) I started to feel very hopeless as the pain really took over. From that point on the next hour was a blur of my support people taking turns to sit by my side and encourage me through each surge of pain. I kept screaming and groaning with every contraction and then apologising to everyone in the room afterwards. I knew I was being loud, I didn’t want to scare anyone who loved me, or any other women in the delivery suite going through the same thing. The thing that is truly amazing is, you are in the worst pain of your life… and then when the surge has finished, it really is finished for that moment. You have a precious minute or two to regain your breath and think clearly before the next one hits you. It was in those moments I wanted to make sure the people who were there for me were okay.
It was at about 5am that I wanted to start pushing… It was a feeling that I couldn’t stop and it really felt like I was second in control to my body. I was examined and told that I was 10 cm and if I wanted to I could push, even though my waters hadn’t broken yet. And that’s what I did. I resigned myself to the fact there wasn’t much left in the tank energy wise but whatever was in there… I was going to give it.
It felt like the body was being ripped. That’s all I can really say to be honest. I pushed and I pushed and not much was happening… the specialist then had to get involved as the baby’s heart rate dropped dramatically and started showing signs of distress. I was then told that a part of my cervix had swollen up and that the baby’s head could not get past. the Dr looked dead at me and told me how important it was that I STOP pushing immediately, or that I’d really damage myself and put the baby into more distress.
Hardest thing ever. Literally this was the toughest part of the entire labour for me. It was an uncontrollable urge to just bear down and get the baby out of your body. You’re not in charge, your body is. That’s the incredible part of the whole experience, you don’t actually have to do anything. If you took a back seat, the contracting of your uterus would push the baby out for you. That is why it was so hard not to. I told myself I had to come to the front of my mind and be in charge of my body and that It would HAVE to listen to me. It took so much physical effort and even more mental effort.
The entire time I was huffing on the gas in between contractions (which were about 2 minutes apart) and taking my mind to another place to get through. The Dr had to have his fingers against my cervix during every contraction to try push the swollen part of my cervix behind the babys head in order for him to come out. After about an hour of this agony, the swelling finally went down and his head was able to come through… I was allowed to push again.
It was just before 7 in the morning and the pushing began again. The Gas was gone and I was on my own. I was so exhausted and defeated, I wondered how women do this for hours and hours on end. I had managed it this far cwithout any pain relief and I had no damage yet. It was time to meet my son but my hope was failing me and I didn’t believe I had anything left in me to get across the finish line. Then my little angel, Christi piped up for the first time during the whole ordeal. She looked at me and with a strong voice she told me I COULD do it. She told me how close I was to meeting him. That I was strong. That they were all there for me. She had been there for me through my entire pregnancy, while Matt was away in Canada for 3 months, at my hard moments and the good. She’s the person I chose to be the Godmother of Danny and the voice I trust. So I listened to her.
I gained a strength through that encouragement and a new fire was lit in my belly to push with a gusto I hadn’t yet pushed with. It was at this time the Dr had decided to rupture my membranes, in other words to break the waters. They could clearly see a safe place to pierce the membrane as to not damage the umbilical cord
-For those that don’t know, Danny had a Valementous Cord Insertion which meant that the umbilical cord was not connected to the placenta in the normal way, it was instead connected through the amniotic sac and then carried through to the placenta on the edge rather than directly into it.
Once the waters were broken it was a lot easier to push him through the birth canal. It hurt like nothing I can even compare to, and again half way through I had to stop in order to prevent any tears. The Dr injected a local anesthetic to my perineum in case of tear or emergency episiotomy (an intentional cut though the perineum to make more space for the baby to come through) This made everything quite numb and although I could feel all the pain, it was really hard to tell how far out he was and how much I was moving him with every push. I started to think that I was pushing for nothing. Every contraction I would push with all my might at least three times, tucking my chin on my chest and digging deep. I had my Mum holding back my thigh and the midwife holding back my other thigh. Matt was down the business end watching the whole thing unfold and my sister was cheering me on.
Then Christi said she could see his face. My heart stopped and I put my hand down in between my legs to feel. Sure enough his head was outside of my body. And his little hand was squished up against his face too. That was the first surreal moment for me. It hit me. He is coming, and I am the one making him come. “This is in my hands and I have the power to get him all the way out”. I felt his hair (which there was a lot of) and with the next contraction I gave it 150% his shoulders were almost out and I was shouting “GIVE HIM TO ME!!” over and over. They weren’t going to give him to me simply because he wasn’t out yet… So with the next contraction I didn’t consciously push but I leant down and pulled my baby boy onto my chest. He was warm, very warm, covered in a white waxy substance called vernix and had a little bit of blood on him. His hair was matted and dark and his eyes were closed.
A brand new human being had entered the world in that moment.
7:28am on the 19th of January 2018.
There is no way to describe the feeling. I’m sorry to those that haven’t experienced this, but to those who have you’ll know what I mean. My breath was taken away. I was in complete awe… and shock. I had never met him, but I knew him. My heart knew him and he knew me. He was instantly comforted by being on my chest and I knew nothing of the pain from that moment on (although I was still technically having contractions).
The anticipation of that moment and the 12 hours that had led to it were so worth it. I was consumed no longer by the pain but by the beauty and adoration for this boy who had been created in my womb from love and brought out of flesh by love. The moment he was on me, nothing else mattered. I was so proud of him. He was perfect. I closed my eyes and sobbed in pure happiness. I held him to me and savored that feeling of his newborn flesh on my skin. I opened my eyes and saw Matt looking down at us both, beaming with happiness and then all I could do was smile. I smiled like I never have before. I was so proud of myself. I had done it. My mum and sister were next to us smiling and crying and those fleeting moments are ones I will cherish for a lifetime.
Matt cut his umbilical cord and after being given an injection I delivered the placenta only a few minutes later. I didn’t ever want to let him go, I didn’t feel tired anymore I felt high. So high, like I was on the best drugs in the world… and now that I look back I realise that that oxytocin you release when having that first contact with the baby is so good they should bottle that up and sell it. It was undoubtedly the best feeling in the entire world.
It went by so quickly. The midwife wanted to take him to the side and do his checks, and because the epidural hadn’t worked I had full use of my legs and body. I decided I wanted to get up and have a shower straight away to get all cleaned up and then sped the rest of the day snuggled up to my baby.
So about 20-30 minutes after I had given birth I was standing up in the shower, it was during this time that Matt whipped off his shirt and that some skin to skin bonding time with the baby while I was away. I look back and find this so special. How precious it was that they got that time straight away, the closeness of skin on skin, so close to the time he had been born (not hours later) I think really brought their bond out instantly.
It’s tough. It will test you and push you to the edge of what you think is possible to handle and then some. It’s long, and it’s a battle. Hot water helps, support helps, love helps, and believing in yourself helps. Your body can do it, your body is strong enough and designed to do it.
It was a roller coaster that’s for sure. I can’t really say anything other than every single moment was worth it. It stings and it’s not pleasant when your doing it. It may take a couple of pushes, it may take many but at the end you have the ultimate prize. Birth is the last sprint before the finish line, you’re so close and the end is in sight. My baby in my arms that morning was worth every second of pain and it’s so true when they say you forget it the moment you are holding them.
I haven’t known love like I have until I met you.
You are so worth it.
I would do anything for you my son, I adore you and you are everything to me.
Danny Eli Moha Tane