We celebrate your first birthday next week and the last year with you has been playing on my mind for days. More specifically, your challenging and rewarding birth has been weighing heavily. At night as I doze off to sleep I think about the day you were born and the days leading up to it. Over the space of three days, I brought you into the world, was transformed by you and became your mother. This is how it happened.
You will no doubt learn over the years through stories that become family folk lore that I had intended to labour with you in our home. Having set up a birth pool and surrounding myself with affirmations for birth, I waited patiently as my due date (which I have since learnt should be called a guess date) passed us by. I was still attending hospital visits in the clinic at the Royal Womens and at 40weeks, 10 days and having avoided an induction by the skin of my teeth, I started a regime of acupuncture and herbs to induce labour.
By this time, having been given all the fear mongering advice from the hospital, I had agreed that by 42 weeks, if you hadn’t arrived, I would artificially induce. Chinese medicine was my back up plan and I intended to use it. So I spent that Saturday, two days overdue with needles in my back and feet, hooked up to an electrical pulse to stimulate labour. With an induction date set for Wednesday, I figured that daily acupuncture till then would help you along. In hindsite it was a mistake as you were snug as a bug and reluctant to move!
By 6 o’clock that night, within ten minutes of each other, I was feeling what was undeniably the slow rise and fall of contractions. Irritated on my back and side, they were strong enough to have me on my knees a lot of the time. Saturday and Sunday night I was able to dose through the contractions which would slow and then return in ten and twently minute intervals. Every hour that passed I was sure that they would strengthen and you would only be another day away. “Baby by morning” I said each night as I went to bed but I was growing more and more tired and in truth, frightened.
Monday morning I returned for more acupuncture and returned home to bed where your Nani was waiting for me. She would rub my back through contractions and in between, we’d laugh excitedly and eat cut up pieces of peach and nectarine that your father brought us. “This is happening” your Nani told me and I was sure that you would be only 12 hours away each time. Confused, we called our midwife Mal to come over. By early evening I was in tears and questioning my ability to keep going. I knew that labour hadn’t become established at all but I was now a few days behind on sleep and worried about being strong enough. Mal told me that sometimes acupuncture does little to stimulate advanced labour but can simply irritate the cervix to dilate consistently but not get beyond 1 or 2cm. Great news! I was so furious that I hadn’t trusted my body and now felt that I had wasted too much energy on getting nowhere. Perhaps I should have just waited for the induction all along?
At this stage it seemed so ironic that my house was filled with positive birthing affirmations and the birth pool laughed at me, inflated and all ready to go. I had my homeopathics out, my Gatorade at the ready, some lollies to give me energy when things got hard. Why weren’t things happening? If I went to the hospital for an induction, all that would be wasted and I would be strapped to the bed for monitoring. This was all unravelling out of my control so quickly.
But birth Bella is not like an exam that you can pass or fail. It doesn’t happen the way you always want it to and there is a lesson there I am sure. Now, with some distance away from that time I can say that I was so scared Bella. I had no idea what to expect, could not be prepared from the books I had read and I was frightened in a way I had never been before. I wanted to make your father proud, you proud, me proud and had so many expectations of myself that looking back, were really only setting me up to be heartbroken.
The statistics from the Doctors were running around my head…perhaps I was making a mistake by leaving everything this late. Perhaps I did need to induce. But all my stats were fine and my baby had stayed so consistent the whole pregnancy. All I could do was wait and see….wait and see….and roll around in pain. Those days from Sunday to Wednesday are now a little bit of a blur.
Wednesday came, my bag packed, we drove in for my 7.30am induction. It felt so wrong already. Some people feel comfortable with the bright lights and bells of a hospital; it just scared me. Was it too late to go home?
I was excited to be given an examination as I wanted to know where my days of labour had got me. 1cm. 1CM!!!! Now exhausted (or so I thought), I was still negotiating. Yes, I would have the gel, no they could not break my waters when I was dilated enough. All day, I would plod around the hospital, contract wherever I could and return to a waiting room where women were lined up in leather armcharis waiting for their contractions to gain momentum. This went on till half hour past midnight when I was again examined and told that I was 2cm dilated with a cervix that had not yet effaced.
If you picture that I am having regular and painful contractions, now minutes apart, have been going since Saturday (it’s now early Thursday morning) am being examined in a hospital and foud to be 2cm dilated, you would agree I am sure that I did very well to get away with only having my waters broken. I was still determined that there was only one way out for this baby and having our independent midwife there gave me the confidence to know that it was of course possible. Despite not everything going the way I wanted it to, I’m stillg lad we had a midwife and a birth plan.
But hearing that I was still in very early labour panicked me and I can now recognise that this is where I dropped my bundle big time! I asked for an epidural.
It was now 12.30 in the morning and I went into the shower while I waited for an anaesthetist to arrive. We were told that it was a very busy evening and we would have to wait.
I waited until 4am. It was during this time, after my waters were broken and I was in the shower that I experienced true labour. Bella my darling I wish I could tell you that I was magnificent; that I laboured with grace and strength. But it was hard, I felt trapped, I was scared and it was a noisy ol’ time. For three hours, with my contractions now strong, arriving every minute and lasting half that minute, I went into a very special but scary place. We placed a plastic chair in the shower with me and I leant over it with each surge. I begged for that epidural, pitifully begged for it. When I reaslied it wasn’t coming imminently, I retreated into my own mind.
During this time I needed someone there with me in my head, telling me I could do it. Your Pa and Mal our midwife were there next to me but I still felt lonely. I felt trapped and confused. Giving birth is not an easy process Bella; it’s messy and its emotionally difficult. It’s transformative and it has the potential to leave you full or empty. It’s about birthing a healthy baby but its also about a woman becoming a mother. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s simple.
At 4 am, the anaesthetist finally arrived (I know all this because I have my birth notes). Staying still whilst in very established labour is hard and your Pa was a champion. He squatted in front while I leant over him as the needle was inserted more than ten times in an attempt to site it correctly. Having been inserted and taped up, the anaesthetist left. Unfortunately it was ineffective and at 4.30am it had to be resited again. I was now dilated well and it was estimated that I was 6cm.
The following hours were slow and dim. I sucked on ice blocks, ate fruit and drank juice. We had a low dose coming through on the epidural so I could still feel the rise and fall of the contractions. This would also help me to push when the time came. At 6am I was 7-8cm dilated, you were almost posterior and your little head was turned on its side. At 10am I was assessed and fully dilated. I was given an hour to rest.
During this time your Pa had a wash, brushed his teeth and we had a cuddle, knowing you were going to be here very soon.
At 11.30am on Thursday the 22nd December 2011, with the dose low enough that I could feel contractions but was comfortable, I was helped up onto the bed, squatting across a bar and by 11.40, Mal could see the top of your head.
And this is the moment I will never in my lifetime forget. I reached down, felt you coming and sobbed like a baby. And at 12.05pm, you were in our arms.
“Is it a girl? Mal? Is it a girl?”
“Have another look” she said, grinning.
“Omigod, it’s a girl”. You will never know Bella how proud we were in that moment, your Pa sobbing and me so relieved to have you in my arms.
The minutes that passed with many doctors, nurses, emergency codes and bleeding were a blur even at the time. I was shocked to suddenly have so many people in the room, touching me, talking loudly, blood on nurses faces. It is these moments that explain my lethargy in the following weeks, my uncontrollable desire for sleep and rest. Feeling like I had been hit by a car. In that first hour, we had to share our time with surgeons and nurses. Shocked and scared, I was now worried for someone far beyond myself. I was suddenly a mother and trying to make sure you were as unaffected by what was going on around us as possible. We were catapulted into our very first challenge you and I; getting rid of all those doctors so we could be together.
Never again will we ever dance such a dance you and I as we did during those days when you were being born. This morning as we slept top and tail in bed (as you had decided you wanted you toes warm under my chin), I decided to put my grief over what could have been to bed.
Yes you Bella kept us waiting. You Bella were birthed just the way you were meant to for whatever reason.
You Bella, were worth it.