I met with Amy and Henry from Canberra via Skype a couple of months before the birth of their third beautiful boy! Over the 2-hour Birth Prep session we discussed various tools and options geared towards a natural birth.
This is a beautiful birth story from both the perspective of the mother and also the father! Thank you so much for sharing Amy and Henry and welcome Tom.
Well Tom was 3 weeks old yesterday and labour and pregnancy feels like an eternity ago, replaced with feeding (nipple damage, ouch!), settling and disturbed nights.
I’ve been meaning to email you to let you know in a bit more detail how the labour went although I think I’ve ended up writing a novel! Sorry!
I started feeling like my usual Braxton Hicks contractions were getting lower down in my pelvis after dinner on Tuesday night. And before bed I had the slightest indication of a ‘show’. Overnight the contractions continued. I probably got around 4 hours sleep because while irregular the contractions were still quite intense. Movement would tend to bring them on. When I woke on Wednesday morning I suspected I was in labour but was remembering what you had said about third labours tending to have longer prelabours. I don’t remember any prelabour with Jack (my second) and with Archie (my first) my waters had broken first so it was quite different.
On Wednesday morning I already had a massage booked for 8am and I felt comfortable to go along to that. I love massages!! I had a contraction in the car on the drive there and I only had one contraction during the massage and that was when I turned from one side to the other.
Wednesday was also Henry’s first day of leave so he was home to look after the boys while I rested quite a bit. Henry actually had a really busy day with the boys, they did a shift at the toy library in the morning, then did a grocery shop in the afternoon and then went to the pool in the evening. I had been having contractions on and off all day but they finally got into a rhythm around 4pm when the boys all left to do the groceries. Contractions were probably 15 mins apart. By the time they got home and Henry got them ready for the pool my contractions were probably 7-10 mins apart and Henry wasn’t sure whether to go to the pool or not. We’d promised the boys so they went and had a quick dip. They were probably home by 6pm and then Henry got them dinner. My sister arrived about 7pm and she took over caring for the boys while Henry quickly had dinner and started getting our things together. By this time I was very ready for Henry to be with me. The contractions were regular, long and very intense. I was starting to feel the contractions across my lower back, the same as with the other two boys.
The boys came and said goodnight to us before they got into bed and Archie sang this new song he’d learnt at preschool which seemed to go on forever!! I was having a contraction through most of his song. The boys had been popping in and out of the bedroom all day, which was nice. They knew I was going to have the baby. They ended up coming out to the car to wave us off as we left for the hospital. We probably left for the hospital about 8ish.
We live 10mins from the hospital and I had a couple of contractions in the car on the way. Then another in the parking lot and another waiting to be let into the delivery suite. I got annoyed that we had to wait in the foyer for about 5 mins before we got let in, I expected just to walk straight into the delivery suite like I did with Jack at 4am in the morning. We’d called ahead so they should have expected us. It’s like no one was manning the front desk. The shift to the hospital probably coincided with contractions becoming really intense!! And it was a foreign environment. I had a contraction in the foyer and I got down on my hands and knees in the foyer. I could not imagine having a contraction standing, I felt my legs would have collapsed from under me.
After we got let in we went straight into a delivery suite. The midwife wanted to put a monitor on me to check the baby’s heart beat and I was ok with that. With the monitor on I couldn’t get comfortable on the bed or in the new environment and every time I moved with a contraction the monitor moved and couldn’t pick up the heart beat. They wanted to do the trace for 20mins, I was relieved when the midwife finally said ‘let’s not worry about this’.
The midwife then asked if I was happy to have an internal and I was. I was mentally preparing myself for a low number though. I knew my body had been working hard all day but I also didn’t feel quite as advanced in labour as I did when I got to hospital with Jack, mainly because I hadn’t vomited yet. I was 4-5cm. The midwife mentioned that the head wasn’t down on the cervix so she wanted to check if the head moved down during a contraction, which it did. All good.
Somehow I got comfortable, I use that term loosely. I lay on my left hand side on the bed and didn’t move. It was not an active labour beyond this point. I barely talked. Henry reminded me that with my earlier labours one of my tools was to press on my third eye (spot between the eyebrows) and think and focus there during a contraction to stop myself thinking about where the pain was coming from. I had completely forgotten about this and I think it helped ground me at a point when I could easily have become overwhelmed by the pain. I didn’t move for the rest of my labour. I couldn’t bare the thought of moving. I was spent. I vomited and was pleased as I saw this as a final stage event. I was grateful for the lemonade we packed from home to get the horrible taste out of my mouth!
It was a dark place in my mind where I was questioning why I would do this without pain relief? Was I trying to prove something? An epidural, how civilised! ‘I don’t ever want to do this again!’ I said to Henry. The pain was extraordinary. I was still and almost silent throughout.
At some point I felt a lot of pressure in my bottom. I told Henry to go and tell the midwife and my obstetrician and tell them. It wasn’t an overwhelming urge to push or bear down but I was ready for labour to be over! The obstetrician checked and said I was fully dilated and could push when I was ready.
In that moment I knew the plan was to breath down behind the baby with the contractions...but I really just wanted him out and so I was push push pushing with the objective of labour being over and the pain stopping! The obstetrician was giving instructions on how and when to push but I’m not sure how well I followed those.
My waters broke right at the end. Which was new. Both the other boys that had happened early on in labour. And there was meconium in the waters. Also a first!
I think he was delivered in a few contractions. Head and shoulders came all at once and I had a second degree tear (which I’d had with both the other boys too) which was quickly stitched. He was born at 10.37pm. So probably 6-7 hours of labour (two and a bit of those in hospital) with maybe 20 hours of pre-labour before that. It felt long!!!
He struggled to breathe a bit at the beginning. They were worried about the meconium and mentioned the possibility of taking him to special care. But they gave him time to try and work it out on my chest. Thankfully when it was just the three of us in the room he started rooting around and found the breast and started feeding and didn’t stop for about 45mins. When the midwife came in and found him feeding she told that as a sign that there was no problem with his breathing.
Then they measured him. 4.85kg and 58cm long! He’s the biggest vaginal delivery my obstetrician has ever done. I remember her saying just before delivery...’I don’t think this one will be quite as big as the other two’. I agreed, I felt slightly smaller this time around. Wrong. While his numbers are big he’s still tiny to us.
Recovery has been really good. My uterus contracted down really quickly. And over the last 3 weeks my abs have knitted back together, much smaller separation than with the other two, the core work I’d done through pilates and other exercises must have paid off! As was taking on board all the advice from my women’s physio that they’d pass on through each of my pregnancies where I was managing pelvis instability.
Overall I think Tom’s birth was very much that of a third baby. Long and slow to fit in with the goings on of the household. It’s like Tom and I were holding on until Henry was on holidays and could carry more of the load with the big boys. And on the day holding on until after toy library and the groceries and the pool. I think it went just as it was supposed to. Whilst it was incredibly painful in those last couple of hours, I feel so grateful that my body knows what it’s doing and that I had the support (yours included) to have faith in my body even in the deepest and darkest of contractions. And I’m incredibly grateful to birth another beautiful big baby boy.
Thank you so much, Rosie. You empowered my faith in myself xx
The day Thomas was born was a very busy day. After weeks of turning up at work to the disappointing looks of my female colleagues who were eagerly anticipating Thomas’ birth I decided that I would take leave from Wednesday regardless of whether Amy had gone into labour. So Wednesday morning I took the boys to the toy library where I volunteer once a month. We did our shift from 10-12 and came home for lunch. Amy had said she was having irregular contractions but didn’t think things were moving too quickly. After lunch the boys and I went to the supermarket to do the weekly shop. It was a hot day and I’d promised the boys I’d take them to the pool after we’d done the shopping. By the time I’d put all the shopping away it was after 4 o’clock and Amy had been timing her contractions that were now at about 10min intervals. I was starting to get anxious and worried I hadn’t been supporting Amy much at all. Nonetheless after getting assurances from Amy, the boys and I headed to the pool for a quick swim at about 5 o’clock. We were home by 6 and I gave the boys dinner and a bath.
I’d hardly seen Amy all day, let alone given her any support. Thankfully at about this time Amy’s sister Jacqui arrived to look after the boys. This gave me a chance to focus on Amy. She’d written a bit of a wish list and I was able to get a few things that were on it such as light a candle and put a few gardenias in a vase on her bedside table. There was a Swiss ball and a blanket on the floor in the bedroom but Amy seemed most comfortable lying on her side in bed. The boys came into the bedroom after their baths and were their usual boisterous selves. Quite oblivious to the calm atmosphere we were trying to create in the bedroom. It was also so different to Amy’s labour with Jack which happened later at night, lying on the floor in front of the warm glow of the open fire on a cold October evening.
The contractions were closer to 7 minutes apart and seemed to be quite painful and tiring for Amy. I thought we weren’t far off needing to leave for hospital but I hadn’t put the last items in the hospital bag that Amy had packed. Thankfully another of Amy’s lists meant I pulled those things together without needing to think too much. It was almost 8pm and the contractions were closer to five minutes apart so we decided it was time to head to the hospital. I called ahead to let them know we were coming. Amy had called earlier in the day so they were expecting us. The boys had only just finished bedtime stories with Jacqui so they all came outside to wave us off which was a strange experience. Thinking we were leaving as a family of four and would return as a family of five.
The short drive to the hospital in Jacqui’s Mazda bubble was uneventful apart from a couple more contractions for Amy. We arrived at the hospital but despite calling ahead had to wait what seemed like an eternity before being led to our birthing suite. Poor Amy was kneeling on the floor with her head on a waiting room chair because the contractions were so strong she was unable to stand and too uncomfortable to sit. It felt like my first test to be Amy’s advocate and be assertive but I was unable to get access to our room more quickly. By the time I found the first midwife we’d seen on our arrival again to ask what the hold up was, our midwife from the birthing rooms was ushering Amy through to our room.
Once in, Amy took up her earlier position on the bed on her side. The midwife wanted to put the monitor on her belly for 20 minutes to get a reading on how the baby was doing. This restricted the positions that Amy could get into and after less than 10 minutes we asked if it could be taken off. Thankfully the baby was doing ok and the midwife was comfortable taking Amy off the machine.
Poor Amy was really struggling to get through the contractions and I felt fairly useless in providing any comfort. At some stage the midwife asked Amy if she wanted her to do an internal examination which Amy agreed to. The midwife said Amy was about 5cm dilated. I think Amy and I were both hoping it was going to be more than that and probably reacted negatively. I tried to stay positive by saying that the first 5cm is much harder than the second but I didn’t feel very convincing. I was thinking about a rule of thumb I’d heard that it takes about an hour a centimetre and I couldn’t imagine Amy having to go through another 5 hours of this pain. But I was annoyed at myself for not reacting more positively and not doing a better job at keeping Amy’s spirit up. I was also thinking how quickly Amy had had Jack after we’d arrived at the hospital and that this time wasn’t going to be the same. It felt much more like Archie’s labour and memories of watching Amy suffer came back and the thoughts I had that Archie’s birth would be the last time I would put Amy through that pain. But here we were again for our third!
Those two previous experiences did mean I was able to find the sick bags in time. Amy stayed in much the same position on her side on the bed. Apart from the sick bags, the only things I could do was offer Amy water, a wet washer and hold her hand. It was very quiet in the room and the midwife had more or less left us to it. I think at about 9.30pm, the obstetrician arrived. She was very calm and quite different to her chatty manner she has at appointments. She put the monitor on the baby and asked how Amy was doing. She didn’t seem to stay in the room long. I can’t remember if she did an internal examination. Then not too much later Amy said she was feeling pressure in her bottom. So I found the obstetrician outside the room and told her this. To which she responded to the midwife that she thinks we are about to have a baby.
Unlike the previous two labours, this stage seemed more an extension of the labour rather than the relief and surge of energy that Amy seemed to get when pushing Archie and Jack out. Amy was still on her side and I was given the job of holding her leg. That made me feel somewhat useful. At first I wasn’t sure if Amy was ready to start pushing but then she started and then the obstetrician took over instructing her when to breathe through a contraction rather than push and when to push. And it wasn’t too long before Thomas came sliding out. I had a brief moment of disappointment that he wasn’t a girl but that was quickly replaced by the realisation that here was a new life lying helpless but fully formed on Amy’s tummy and that we’d created him.
Rosie Fitzclarence is a Registered Midwife, Registered Nurse, Childbirth Educator (Geelong Born) and a Hypnobirthing Australia Certified Practitioner.
She is based in Geelong and can be contacted by email at email@example.com or phone 0419170783.
To find out more about Geelong Born Birth Prep private classes via Skype or face-to-face CLICK HERE