By Fiona Johannessen
I had a busy day on the 5th September. Mum flew down from Auckland in the afternoon, five days before my due date. We walked to Island Bay and forgot the bus money so had to walk home again which was an hour and a half return journey.
That evening after dinner my husband, Mum and I chatted about my birth plan and I showed her the acupressure booklet I’d downloaded on the recommendation of my midwife and antenatal teacher. I was hoping for a natural homebirth and had organised the birthing pool which we had erected in the lounge of our small rented house a few days earlier.
Just as we were heading to bed at 10:30pm, I felt a mild cramping sensation beginning. On closer observation with the use of a pen and notepad my recordings showed that the cramps came and went every 3-5 minutes. The three of us discussed these signs of early labour and decided to wait up and see if anything would eventuate. The contractions continued at regular intervals but were mild. My husband busied himself by taking charge of filling the birth pool, using the hose from an outside tap to run cold water in.
The midwife was rung and informed, she sounded sleepy at the end of the line.
Mum had a short hours sleep in the early hours, while I laid out yoga mats and rested in the lounge, continuing to record contractions for the first four hours.
This was a good form of distraction until the intensity increased with the labour.
It was all a rush of excitement and anticipation as I realised the real thing had begun and our baby was on it’s way!
With the pool heating unit on and aromatherapy burner sending out calming scents, I was as ready as I could be for the full event to happen.
I felt much comforted when Mum emerged from the bedroom about 2:30am and began pressing on my sacrum during the contractions as per the acupressure booklet. I had a comb pressed into my hand for hours, alternating hands with each contraction. It took some of the intensity out of my increasingly strong contractions.
The midwife was phoned again, this time at 4am, and she arrived to check me half an hour later. Things were obviously OK, as she had a nap in the bedroom, leaving Mum and GE to deal with my demands… ”Harder, press harder, there, there!!!”
The pool temperature was checked, and rechecked and checked again, and seemed to be heating discouragingly slowly. We later learned that when its use is imminent, fill with warm or hot water! I was on all fours on my yoga mats, rocking and breathing hard through the contractions.
At 6am I felt a rush of warm water and Mum’s voice, “Right, wake up the midwife now!”
She emerged and gave me some encouragement as I huffed and hummed through my contractions.
My yoga training was beginning to come in handy. I used self talk to focus my energy inwards, visualising flowers opening, muscles relaxing and my breath coming and going like waves rolling into shore.
I got the shakes in my legs and a nasty headache that the midwife’s expert acupuncture took away, the needle tweaked into my forehead for half an hour. Waves of nausea were a distraction, but I managed to gulp down fluids at regular intervals, the words of my antenatal teacher resonating (“if you get dehydrated, you may need to be given IV fluids”). A hospital visit I was determined to avoid.
Finally the pool reached a bearable 36 degrees and I was in like a shot.
The water instantly calmed and soothed me, taking the weight off my limbs and the edge off the contractions. With Mum and GE murmuring reassurances and encouragement at the side, I leant over the edge and dug in for what I hoped was the final leg of this marathon effort.
Each contraction sent aches down my hips and thighs, and when I sent an exploratory finger inside, I could feel the baby’s head, hard and warm as it pressed down upon my cervix. An internal exam at 8am revealed 8 cm dilation, which was enormously discouraging with my waning energy and increasing desire to have it out!
The midwife did some intermittent foetal monitoring, and I had my eyes shut most of the time now, trying hard to visualise the cervix open and to breath as calmly and steadily as I could.
My exhales began to sound like someone with severe constipation and the downtime between contractions barely allowed me time to recover.
I peed in the pool without caring and my husband later divulged that he dutifully scooped out a poo.
At 10am the midwife suggested I get out, as the foetal heart rate had dropped a little.
She cheerfully predicted that we’d have the baby by lunchtime. That seemed enough to hurry everything along for me at this point. The second midwife was called and within 15 minutes I was told to push!
On all fours, I felt the urge to bear down overwhelm me, and the sharp sting as the baby’s head emerged. Two or three contractions later which seemed like an eternity, out slipped a baby girl, which the midwife caught, and passed through my legs to me. Mum and my husband both looked adoringly at the wee being, covered in blood and vernix, issuing forth screams as I cradled her tiny little body in my arms!
We all sat around, me feeling enormously happy, Mum and my husband probably relieved.
The new dad cut the cord, then baby and I got back into the pool for a bath, while paperwork got done and the placenta was examined by the two midwives.
I was given a shot to stop the bleeding and a couple of stitches to mend an awkward tear which baby’s shoulder had caused as it stuck coming out.
Then we all sat down to scrambled eggs on toast, which my husband made, and glowed in the bliss of our gorgeous baby girl. We were now parents!