By Robin Arnold
I woke up in a hot sweat about 3 weeks prior to our due date, thinking “oh my goodness”, if the baby arrives early we so aren’t ready. I seemed to have in my mind a window of expected delivery that was anything from two weeks early to 10 days overdue. So as the due date passed and the days slipped by and nothing happened, and nothing happened, and 12 days later still nothing had happened, I started to wonder if I really was pregnant, or if I had just eaten too many meat pies.
On the other hand, I felt quite apprehensive about the actual birthing process and about becoming a Mum, so I felt no desire to interfere with the process. As long as baby remained healthy we would wait. Day 13 we decided to go out for dinner. I’m not sure if it was the curry, or the threat of another scan the following day that did it, but later that evening contractions started, 10 minutes apart.
I remember two things about my birth plan at this point in time, one is that my support people wanted to be informed as early as possible and the second was to get as much sleep between contractions as I could. Phone calls were made. As for getting as much sleep as possible? Euan was keen to encourage this, but what I wasn’t expecting was the pain BETWEEN contractions! I headed down into the lounge and moved about trying to find a position comfortable enough to be able to sleep between contractions, because lying down sure wasn’t working for me. Then I realized that I didn’t want to be alone, and asked Euan to come down and sleep in the lounge to be near me. He looked at me a bit oddly and then with a “don’t mess with a woman in labour” look, kindly obliged. He trudged down to the lounge covered in duvet and fluffed himself up a wee nest on the floor.
At around 4am Euan stirred to check on progress asking me how long between contractions; “5-7mins apart, I think”. He decided to set the pool up and said it would be helpful if I could let him know when I was having a contraction. I told him I would hum through my contractions and then he would know. “What, another?” he said, in which I hummed a little louder in reply! Actually I found humming to be quite soothing, the vibration in my chest was quite a pleasant sensation – well at least for this stage of my labour.
I had it in my head that 6am was a reasonable time to call my support people and ask them to come over. I was anticipating that there was no rush, that labour was likely to go for a while, and having well rested support crew would be a good thing when I REALLY needed their support. So at 6am the call went out.
Things really started to shift over this next hour, I waited in anticipation for further support to arrive as contractions shifted from 5 mins a part to 3 minutes …watching eagerly out the window for further support to arrive – this would be the last hour I spent looking at much at all.
I’ve just realized I was vomiting as well – I had almost finished this record of events before I remembered that. It is true, there is some hormone in a womens body that makes you forget how horrific this is!
I heard Charlotte arrive and converse with Euan in the dining area, everything inside my head wanted to perk up and be friendly and welcoming and perhaps even a little jovial. However the physical intensity of what was happening was shifting my attention inwards, and all I managed … was “Hi”.
Not long after this I proclaimed “I think it is time for hot towels”- what it meant for me was that I was ready for some pain relief. Dutifully my support crew set about ‘doing’ hot towels. The birthing mat went down and the pre-pool position was acquired – kneeling on floor, forehead to sofa chair.
Not long after, Juliet slipped in. I could hear Euan updating her on progress in hushed tones. I seemed to have an acute sense of hearing and found it strange that they were whispering and frustrating that I was unable to partake in this conversation. I was aware of my external world primarily through sound from this point on. I don’t remember making much eye contact with anything other than what my brow rested on and hoped that my mono syllable sentences were enough for my loved ones to anticipate my needs. I think Juliet did a heart rate check and spoke to me – I have no idea what she said – but the phrases, perfectly normal, and doing great must have been repeated a trillion times over the hours to come, and how reassuring those words became.
Juliet went to the kitchen to give some assistance with the hot towels. Charlotte made some inquiries and I remember Juliet saying ‘don’t worry she’ll let you know what she wants’ which gave me permission to do just that, and as this process was mastered the laying of towels became a one word instruction … NOW
After an hour or two? Juliet asked if I wanted to try the pool. After being so amazed at how great hot towels were, I was a little hesitant to leave them. The pool was fantastic but this bit just seemed to go on and on and on and hurt and I wanted to ask if I was progressing – dilating? – “how much further poppa smurf?” but I was afraid to hear something I didn’t want to know, so I focused on the present and didn’t ask. Juliet was amazing. I hung out for her words of support and direction, ‘you’re doing great’ ‘lean back into it’ ‘how about trying …’ and then from time to time she would place the fetal heart rate monitor on my abdomen, and advise that everything was normal. How reassuring.
I was in the pool for a couple of hours. I remember thinking Euan must be in such pain. Thank you for being there – holding what must have been an incredibly uncomfortable position for hours.
Juliet suggested a few different positions, I wasn’t even sure I could move. I would set about focusing all my mental attention into how I could move my limbs. It seemed a very arduous process. Then came the suggestion, “Sometimes it helps to sit on the toilet”. Juliet said it may take 2 or 3 contractions to get there. And I thought ‘*#@!# it will not!’ So once I had digested the comment and prepared myself to move, without any warning to my support crew, I did just that – in almost a run – dripping water everywhere. This must have sent Euan and Charlotte into a bit of a flutter – I don’t know how they did it, but hot towels kept coming in.
I don’t remember much of what went on in these final stages, except heart rate monitoring, pushing, hurting lots and feeling like this baby was never going to come out. Our baby on the other hand appeared to be cruising through the birth, heart rate barely registering the enormity of the situation.
From here, Juliet suggested that Euan grab a stool and that I lean on his legs in a squatting position and this is where it all started to happen. Juliet asked for the mirror so Euan could see, and although I did not think I’d want to see this, it was pretty amazing! Here was a head starting to crown. This was really motivating and made pushing seem like a worthwhile exercise and bit by bit, with Euan and I watching, our little baby began to emerge.
As her head appeared, Juliet saw her lift her elbow and wrapped over her shoulder was her umbilical cord. In one swift movement Juliet broke the amniotic sac and untwisted the cord. Then with a further push or two our baby was born.
12.48pm was the birth time recorded. Some would say 14 days late. I would say she was born right on time. Every decision we had made up to this point was to provide our daughter with the most natural and gentle birth that circumstances would allow. Thank you Juliet for all the information you provided us in making these decisions and support throughout our pregnancy, birth and the six weeks following. You were an angel.
Thanks to my husband Euan and my friend Charlotte for you unwavering commitment and nurturing throughout the birth. I am so delighted that collectively we were able to provide Emily with such a beautiful start to her life. She is a truly content and joyful baby, and I’m very proud to be her Mum.