It has taken me a few months (seven) to digest my experience of childbirth. Now that my body is starting to function properly and I can feel myself getting stronger I think it is time to tell my story.
That being said, do not expect to read a harrowing story about complications and miracles. In fact, Jaxon had what you would call a pretty uneventful birth. I mean, if you can call 12.5hours in excruciating pain, no pain meds and a 2nd degree tear uneventful!!
I guess we should start at the beginning. Well, what was supposed to be the beginning…
Jaxon was 40weeks3days when I had a stretch and sweep. It was the middle of summer and I no longer recognized my hands and feet. At that point I was spending most of my days floating around in my sister-in-law’s new pool while she was at work (winning).
The nurse asked if we were doing anything to induce labour. This is what I was doing at the time:
- Walking (waddling) 60 minutes every day (it’s worth noting the distance I was walking only took me 30 minutes earlier in my pregnancy)
- Drinking 3 cups of raspberry leaf tea every day
- Having lots of sex… ugh!
- Stimulating my nipples and expressing what I could
- Bouncing on my pregnancy ball every night
Did any of this help? Nope.
A stretch and sweep, is when a trained medical practitioner places their gloved fingers into the cervix and attempts to ‘stretch’ and irritate the opening. This is supposed to help induce labour by telling your body to produce oxytocin. The same happens with nipple stimulation and orgasms. This was not as enjoyable though!!
It took about 5 minutes and then we were told to go home and have sex… yay… I also went for a walk early the next morning.
Well did it send me into labour? Not right away, no.
2 days passed and then on one regular Saturday morning I woke up thinking I had wet myself. I waddled to the bathroom expecting to see amniotic fluid but instead I had a large amount of blood in my underwear. There was more in the loo when I looked and I started to panic.
Blood in most parts of your pregnancy is deemed something to worry about. Although, at the end, it can go either way.
I called the hospital and they asked me to come in for monitoring.
3hrs hooked up to a monitor found that unfortunately, I was NOT in labour… I was not having contractions and I was only 1cm dilated. Just plenty of Braxton Hicks.
There was no amniotic fluid. I had just lost my mucus plug. This is the mucus at the top of the cervix that essentially ‘plugs’ the area. As you dilate the mucus falls out. Delightful, I know.
Back home to continue our wait.
The next day still nothing so more walking and cleaning. I tried to keep as active as possible. I had a pretty active pregnancy, continuing work and seeing my personal trainer until week 38. I was even washing the car at 39 weeks.
It was midnight and I was sitting in bed scrolling on my phone, considering starting a blog… ha!
Then I felt a very light cramp that was different to the Braxton Hicks I had been getting for the last 6 weeks. It was a wave over my belly – just like all the forums say it should feel!
My first thought was I better go to sleep right now just in case this is it! Alan was already snoring next to me so I also rolled over and fell asleep almost instantly.
I am SO glad I did this because 2.5hrs later at 2:30am I woke up with the same cramping feeling but much more painful. Not screaming pain, but enough to wake me and I just knew. This is it.
A few more and then it was time to wake Alan, “Honey, I don’t think you are going to work today.” It was Monday so he was wrapped! Especially as Jaxon was supposed to come the previous Monday and he was pretty gutted that he had to go to work for an extra week past our due date!
We called the hospital, explained the symptoms and they told us to start counting contractions and call again once we were getting 3-4 contractions within a 10 minute period.
We used this app to count the contractions.
They say this is the time to your cervix dilating to 3cm. Contractions are pretty irregular and generally last under a minute. Usually there is between 5-15 minutes between contractions, they become progressively stronger and closer together.
I started out with 15 minutes in between and they were like period cramps. I ate breakfast (toast – carb loading for the biggest workout of my life) and started getting everything organized.
Alan just paced the house haha.
It was pretty uneventful from 2:30pm until about 8am. This is when it really started to get uncomfortable.
We called the hospital at 10:00am and they told us to try stay at home as long as possible.
We were a 3 minute drive from the hospital so we weren’t worried about getting there in time.
So, I kept laboring while Alan kept pacing. He called the parents and alerted them to my condition.
Tips for getting through Early labour:
- Try and stay at home as long as possible, while you have a private room to give birth in at the hospital you will just feel more comfortable at home and you can do what you want.
- Walk. Walk. Walk. Just pace the house as much as you can
- Heat. Use a heat pack on your lower back and tummy – especially during contractions
- Wet heat – jump in the shower, have a bath
- Continue to change positions. Use a ball, a chair, the floor, a bed, your support person. Just keep moving around.
- Give yourself little challenges, “in 15 minutes I’m going to get in the bath,” “After 5 contractions I’m going to change positions” – this will make the time go much quicker than thinking, “I have been in labour for 6 hours already”
I lasted until 1pm until I was in tears and asked Alan to please drive me to the hospital.
Getting to the hospital
I had three contractions in the front yard between the front door and the car, literally 3 meters. I had another 6 or so in the car – a 3 minute drive.
Then when we got there, we couldn’t find parking near the hospital at all! We had to park ages away and walk up to the front entrance.
In hindsight it wasn’t that far but, you know, labour.
I had to keep stopping to have contractions. People walking past just stared at me with sheer sympathy!
The birthing unit of the hospital was located at the very back of the building. The walk from the car to the unit took us 15 minutes.
Walking actually helped me focus on something other than the contractions and we eventually got there.
As soon as I saw the midwife I had spoken to on the phone, I burst into tears (which triggered another contraction) and three nurses ran out from behind the nursing station to help me through it.
They hurried us into a birthing suite right away.
First Stage Labor (aka Active Labor)
The long walk to the birthing unit sped up my contractions and I was 2 minutes between and they were excruciating!
I think the nurses thought I was much further along than I was because they admitted me straight away.
About an hour later the contractions slowed down to 3 minutes and that’s when the nurse checked to see that I was only 5cm!!
Usually they do not admit until you are around 8cm so we kind of fooled the system. I was just glad I wasn’t going to be sent home!!
The next 5hrs I had contractions between 3 and 4 minutes apart.
My tips for getting through active labour (also called first stage labour) are much the same as the early stages. Make sure to keep changing positions and use heat on your lower back and tummy. Our midwife was more than happy to heat up my wheat pack in the microwave.
We also had a private shower so I was able to put hot water on my back which really helped me through contractions.
Early on, the midwife talked me through different pain management options (in between contractions). I explained that I wanted to have as natural birth as possible with no meds, but that if it got to a point I needed help, I would opt for the gas.
The gas is a mix of nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen (sometimes known as laughing gas) and is supposed to take the edge off contractions.
I tried the gas about 3hrs into our hospital stay and it made me nauseous so I gave up on that pretty quickly.
At around 7pm at night I started to get extremely tired and the contractions were beginning to become too much.
With each one I was getting more exhausted and losing my fight. At this time our midwife took her dinner break. Her replacement came in and talked me through a few contractions.
By this point I was ready to give up and I looked at Alan and asked him to help me because I couldn’t do it anymore.
He did the most amazing thing and convinced me to try the gas again. He knew that I was adamant on not getting an epidural and if he had not been there, I probably would have abandoned my goal.
I lay on the bed on my side, with the bed in an upright position and started to breath the gas in.
These were the longest 3 minutes of the whole day. I think I even dozed off into a trance like state.
I now know this was my body resting and gearing up for what was about to happen.
Then, out of nowhere the biggest contraction and a huge gush of water from between my legs, “my water!” I yelled. Just at that moment our original midwife returned as I was screaming. Before I knew it, she was wearing a plastic smock, gloves and goggles. She insisted I roll over to my back which was the most painful thing she could have done.
She checked my dilation and advised that I still had some way to go (what?!). It turns out that it was not my membranes rupturing but actually hind water. This means a small rupture to the sac behind the baby’s head (somehow different to the front).
From this point the contractions became extremely painful (apparently, they weren’t already). My body began to convulse and I was pushing without pushing, my body was doing it all by itself. The midwife decided that this was a good time to tell me to NOT push… yep, no worries Jackie.
I went through another hour or so of ‘breathing through’ excruciating contractions, breathing on the gas in between.
Key note: take the gas even if you don’t breathe it in. Biting down on the plastic tube was great during contractions and even if you have the gas on the lowest setting, like I did, having your breathing as something to focus on is great.
In that time my mum decided to rock up into the waiting room (uninvited – we had advised all parents of our wishes to experience this on our own); I gave the informing nurse some choice words to tell my mum and she retreated just as quickly as she entered.
Then when it got to the point I may pass out, I looked at the nurse and yelled at her, “I need to push!” I think she saw the look in my eye that said, “lady, if you don’t let me push this baby out right now, I will get off this bed and strangle you.”
Second Stage Labor (aka Pushing)
“OK were going to push!” she replied. Perfect, let’s do this.
She then talked me through the steps of pushing as follows:
- When you feel a contraction coming on breath in the gas
- Once the contraction starts take a deep breath and push like you are going to the toilet
- Keep your chin on your chest
- Be quiet – channel all your energy into pushing, do not be vocal through this part
- Rest in between and breath in the gas
I alternated between sipping water (highly recommend this drink bottle), breathing the gas and pushing.
Three contractions and 26 minutes and our Jaxon was born.
My memory is a blur of my husband telling me “he’s here, I see his head!” the nurse turning him to unwrap his umbilical cord from over his shoulder and twice around his belly and the sight of Jaxon rising up from between my legs and being placed on my chest. My first response was “we did it!” and Alan looked at me with stunned admiration “you did it”
“It’s a boy!” The midwife announced. Thank goodness, we bought everything blue already haha.
She also announced that he was a good boy as he waited to be born to do a big poo and didn’t do it inside the womb (ataboy!).
Third Stage (The Placenta is Born!)
The nurse asked my husband if he would like to cut the umbilical cord. He looked at me for guidance. After all he had just seen I encouraged him to do it and he must have been a new person because he replied with, “why not?” and a giant grin.
During my pregnancy my husband was particularly keen to know what the placenta would look like. Never mind what our son would look like with his mixed heritage… He’s funny like that.
20 minutes after Jax was born he asked me about it. I told him that the placenta had been delivered about 5 minutes after Jax. It was pretty much a non-event with my beautiful baby lying on my chest and my amazing hubby by my side. The midwife talked me through relaxing and pushing when I felt the need and it kind of delivered itself to be honest.
The injection they gave me of Syntocinon (synthetic oxytocin) probably had something to do with that though.
FYI that injection bruised my thigh bad! I wonder if any other mamas had that experience?
Post Birth (aka the gory part)
Ok so most birthing stories probably would have stopped at Wow. But I feel it’s important to share this part of my experience as not many people do.
My midwife came over to tell me that she was leaving and helped me pop Jax onto my breast to feed for the first time. We thanked her tremendously and she left.
She was replaced with another female doctor who advised that she was going to pop my legs into stirrups so she could examine my tearing. Hmm I thought I felt something rip down there, ha!
Distracted by my gorgeous baby suckling I barely noticed her poking and prodding. Which leaves much to be said about her colleague who entered like a tornado. A male doctor entered the room, “Hello!” Jaxon startled as the doc demanded everyone’s attention. He advised that he was going to have another check of my bits and as up to this point there was no issue, I didn’t question it.
Oh, how I should have. He was so rough I yelled out in pain, prompting another nurse (who I hadn’t even noticed had entered the room) to offer me the gas again. I took it and I guess the fact that I was not in labour anymore (goodbye adrenalin) meant that the pain I experienced was excruciating. Now you are probably thinking, you just used that same word to describe labour pains, yes well, this was worse.
Yep. Worse. Than. Labour.
The doctor then announced that he was going to sew a few stitches before they administered the local anesthetic. Excuse me?
I was too hyped up on gas to respond and before I knew it I was being physically tortured. I was holding my baby on my chest, grabbing my hubby’s hand and looking at him with desperation while I drew the gas deep into my lungs.
This felt like eternity. It was probably about 5 minutes.
He announced that he was finished and just as abruptly as he had entered the room, he was gone.
I had a moment to calm down and I went into a dizzy and confused state, asking Alan if Jaxon was ok and where was he and was he ok? He was still on my chest Alan pointed out and I was relieved the nasty doctor had left.
The original doctor returned and administered the local anesthetic, slowly the region between my legs went numb and at that point the gas really kicked in.
I started making jokes to the nurses about why didn’t they turn the gas up during labour for me? And that now I knew you could turn the gas up, lets have another baby Alan. He looked at me like I was crazy!
Eventually that ordeal of 2nd degree tears and stitches and dizziness was over and the nurses tidied the room.
One nurse took Jax to weigh and measure and clothe him. She laughed at how many clothes I had packed for Jax as I rummaged through trying to find a simple singlet and a onesie.
When she took Jax off my chest he had left a big poo on my tummy. It was quite funny really. The nurse was not concerned as she whisked him away to get him sorted and I was left with nothing but the bedsheets to clean myself up.
I guess that describes the mother’s role after birth. One minute you are the center of attention, everyone asking how you feel. And the next? Getting tossed aside like the placenta once the ‘bundle of joy’ has been delivered.
I had the most deserved shower of my life. Dressed in some clean clothes I went to have a look at what I had just created.
I noticed that Jaxon’s hair had dried. It was so fair. I am blonde so it wasn’t too surprising. In the morning I would notice it was actually red and it wasn’t my blonde that he was taking after, but rather Alan’s father’s side. Go figure.
At this point it was just after midnight. We were shown to the maternity ward and to our room. There was another mum and baby behind the curtain.
Alan said his goodbyes and then I just sat and watched Jaxon sleep for about an hour. I was in absolute awe and this amazingly beautiful creature that I had created with the love of my life.
Eventually I reminded myself of the days events and convinced myself to try and get some sleep.
I lay down and listened to the sound of a woman in the height of labour down the hall. I sent her my strength and encouragement, “you got this girl,” and I drifted off to sleep.
It’s difficult to summarize my whole experience into a paragraph. But, I’ll try…
Childbirth is one of those things that you can explain to people in dot points about pain, intervention, emotions etc. But no words really do it full justice.
One minute you are suffering the most pain you may ever experience and then the next you are full to the brim with love and relief.
And even the word LOVE is completely lost on this experience and just doesn’t seem to do it justice.
All I can be sure is, I am so very grateful for a healthy happy baby and a more or less complication free birth.
Well, that is our story!