Wed 31st May: Our last day at home before we become parents…. Forever. The feeling that our lives are about to change in a way that we can only imagine. James finishing our birth plan, printing my affirmations, last minute cleaning and packing. Me making my birthing goddess necklace, feeling my women friends and family, generations of them holding me. Farmor’s ring on my finger, my maternal grandmother's watch ready for my birthing alter; the heavy, fossil crystal from Kate, affirmations and crystals from Manjit, photos and letters…my holding circle was solid. Feeling strong, a bubbling mix of anxiety and excitement. The unknown…. Knowing that anything could go down, and feeling ready for whatever cards Mama deals me. There’s nothing more we could do now; no need to paint the cot, what we were about to do was way bigger than that. It’s time, I’m ready… let's do this thing, our baby is coming!!
Left the house, had one last acupuncture in Newtown- open cervix, down baby… we’re ready; we can do it. Lunch on pako; James and I feeling relaxed; aligned, ready. Stopped at Kates for a little yoga pep talk circle with her and Ari; last minute reminders for both James and I…a beautiful Shakti mantra sung by Kate; energetic high fives; headed to the hospital with so much juice in our tanks, armed with all of the physical and energetic tools we could muster. Got to our room; checks, monitor on Marley’s heart rate; always makes me anxious- Marley not moving much… noticing my heart beat faster and breath become shallow, but knowing, trusting we are in the right place. Rosie arrives; beautiful breath of fresh air and smiling positivity… All is well. So many midwives and doctors breezing in and out. Almost time for the balloon; I need to poo! This could be my last chance! Rosie bought me 15 mins, left the room so I could relax enough to relinquish my bowels; success. Lay down, doctors arrive; lay back, legs in stirrups, don’t know how many people peering down my most intimate entry point with bright lights shining down on her; about to become a birthing canal for the first time. Me surrendering to the process; this is our choice, we are doing this for the safety of our baby. But severing any feeling association I may have developed to my cervix; I cant feel this… I’ll just be strong and make jokes about it… I’ll look the doctors in the eye; I’m not scared. Any pain is part of my marination for the birth. I got this. James by my side, sure and strong, steady and present, as always at these times.
……continued… from memory
They are ready to poke and prod; I ask them to wait, till I give them permission to enter with their cold, sterile tools. Deep breath, ok; now you may enter. Doing my best to hold onto my empowerment, my dignity. They check my cervix, 1cm dilated already, impressive, all that acupuncture must have worked! Now for the balloon…It’s cold, it’s mildly painful, they inflate the balloon with water, I’m not really present. Just squeezing James’ hand. They remove the tools, tell me I did such a good job, like a good girl I suppose… toughened up, didn’t make a sound, didn’t make a fuss. They offer pain medication, I don’t need it.. Rosie gives a final embrace, her big smile and advice to get a good nights sleep, take the pain medication if you need it.. you need sleep! James stays with me, we talk, I sway, still monitoring the heart rate; They want to know the balloon isn’t effecting the baby. We eat some dinner (?).. James says goodbye. It’s just me, on a plastic coated bed, with the painful moans of birthing women next door to put me to sleep. I put my headphones in, music usually helps. The bed is cold and uncomfortable, the pain is getting worse; I can't sleep, it’s nearing midnight and I still haven’t slept… Rosie’s words help me to surrender to the pain medication, sleep is a priority; they bring me something and I drift into a deep sleep, only to be woken at 6am to be told I need to get the IV cannula in my arm… hmm, ok, I’m too sleepy and submissive to protest. It goes in at 6.15am. The room is freezing cold and I’m shivering. James hasn’t arrived yet and a young female doctor walks in and tells me we need to start the induction drip before 8am, and it’s time to break my waters. I don’t want to birth in this room, it doesn’t feel right, and it’s so cold, there’s no way I can relax. It’s already moving too fast for me, this doctor is pushing the fear card…. ‘we need to get this moving, your baby is at risk if we wait too long’… I let her speak but I did not let her fear permeate my being, James arrives. We ask to move rooms, they don’t listen, it registers of no importance compared to hospital timeframes and agendas. It’s time to break my waters.. the young female doctor gloves up and gets to business, sometime after 7am.. she takes out the balloon and checks the dilation, 4cm..apparently very impressive. And soft, my cervix is soft, so soft the doctor with spindly arms and tiny hands is doing her best to get a handle on her with the little hook and becoming increasingly frustrated; she’s using all her might, her arm starts shaking; after what felt like at least 10 mins of trying, I ask ‘does it usually take this long? ‘Your cervix is very floppy’ she replies… floppy hey? Nobody calls my cervix floppy… ‘slippery perhaps?’ I offer ‘well, I haven’t yet emptied by bladder this morning, so I could do that, and then we could try the stirrups as well’ feeling the need to interrupt the unconscious assault on my poor cervix , and buying time to avoid the doctors impatience to start the drip. I get up, wee and get in the stirrups.. ok, now, on my watch lady… you may break my waters; done. Just in time for this weak wristed doctors end of shift, what a shame.. pressure off, dodged a bullet.
We get a midwife called (Andrea/ Ange, who starts her shift in tic toc robot mode, glances at our birth plan and has no interest in finding us another room… we start chatting, she warms up…. Maybe she can find us another room, with the wireless monitors too- miraculous! We are transferred to a room on the other side, it’s bigger, warmer and lights easily dimmed- this is where our baby will be born. Yes! We make it ours; salt lamp, oil diffuser, music, yoga props, affirmations on the walls… now we’re talking. Rosie arrives… always a breath of fresh air. Andrea loves our music, we get to know about her son, a musician.. we’re warming to each other. Rosie helps to stall the drip… we wanted a few hours post membrane rupture to find our flow and get things moving; Rosie makes sure we get at least this.. I start to find my flow, drop in, on the fitball.
We’re all chatting, relaxed. Around 10am Andrea asks are you ready? Contractions haven’t started, can we begin the drip? I’m ready. It takes at least an hour before contractions start, some very mild tightenings, Andrea has a motherly hand on my belly asking if I can feel what’s showing up on the monitor- yes, just some a pleasant tightening sensations, I’m enjoying it. James opens the snacks which I was adamant were unnecessary, and I have some crackers and dip. This is fun, like our own little birthing party. The contractions begin to intensify, just a bit; Andrea finishes her shift.. feel like I’m saying goodbye to a friend. Then we get Sarah (with the help of Rosie’s behind the scenes wizardry)… and oh my, did we hit the jackpot. Sarah turns out to be like the midwife from the Red Tent… wise, experienced, strong, empowering and a passionate lover of normal birth. Thank yoouu! This is the woman who will be present to receive our baby, and ward off the fear mongering doctors.
Contractions keep intensifying, strong tightenings, my uterus working hard in response to the syntocinon… each contraction getting more painful, but I’m still on top of it, just managing to adjust to each rise in sensation, keeping my head above water, definitely intense, but manageable… needing James on my lower back doing the pressure points for every contraction now, and the heat pack, my noises are accompanying every contraction and getting louder. Fitball is good (?), then Sarah needs to do an internal- takes 3 contractions to get me on the bed. Her face says it all, I knew it wasn’t good news according to the hospital protocol checklist, but according to my body, I knew it was great news… the baby and I were doing this, and doing it well, I knew. “You’ve done some really good work, and the baby has moved down a lot” Sarah said in her encouraging, delightful British accent, “and I know the doctor said you were 4 cm dilated this morning, but now, you are only 3cm dilated”. I think she expected me to be deflated, but I felt in no way deflated.. I had a lot of juice in my tank, and I knew enough from Rhea Dempsey to know that dilation is not always a true indicator of birthing progress. I get off the bed and get back to work, staying with my body with each contraction; James there for every one. And managing to heat the heat pack and get icypoles in the interim. I have no awareness of what’s happening in the room; I’m going in.
I find myself on the toilet; drip following. Sarah comes in ‘the doctors are happy with how you’re going, but they’d like to see some really good progress in the next hour. Are you happy for me to turn the drip up?’ ‘Yep’ I’m good, I got this. Drip goes up, the next contraction king hits me. It comes from nowhere and hijacks my entire body.. the pain takes my breath, blurs my vision and bowls me into a crisis of confidence. Fuck this, no way.. I’m out, where’s the caesarean. I try the sympathy card with James and in a voice laden with defeat, I manage ‘I can't do this babe’… he gives me a huge playful grin, and with full conviction replies, ‘yes you can’. Ok, the only way is through, fuck it, the next one is coming.. get back to work. IT takes full presence to stay with each contraction, and lots of vocalising... open the vocal cords, open the cervix. The rest in between is blissful… silent, peaceful respite from the intensity.. if Farmor can do it as a tiny 19yo birthing my dad in Copenhagen, then I can do it. I felt all the mothers before me; I harnessed that power. It wasn’t long before I felt the bum, YES! Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum! In the words of Rhea Dempsey. This baby is coming; that was so encouraging it gave me a second wind, and I knew I could keep going for much longer. I spy Rosie sitting casually on the perimeter of the room “I’m pushing’ I manage to say at the end of one contraction, not that I was really pushing, but the bowel pressure was intensifying. Rosie was completely unphased… apparently thinking I had much longer to go. I’m leaning on the bed; vaguely aware of some confusion about the heart rate monitor but not caring at all (turns out my heart rate was going down to 50 something in contractions and they were amazed)… Sarah suggests I get on the bed for some rest, she lies me on my left side, it helps to open the cervix apparently. The contractions slow down a bit, I get longer in that blissful place, and the contractions are different, the uterine pain is barely there, it’s just the bowel pressure, and that is primal and totally manageable. Now they believe me, the baby is coming. I hear them getting the trays and tools ready. Rosie keeps assuring me, your body knows what to do. At no point did they tell me to push; they said they would only do that if they were concerned about the heartbeat; I feel some impatience and push anyway.. it stings. I’m rushing, I kind of know I am, but I don’t stop it. I feel this beautiful weight coming into my vagina, I talk to the baby, ‘beautiful baby’ The head is coming, James is ready to receive our baby. My noises are primal. I think it took two contractions with pushing and our baby was here.