the birth story

Baby S was born on Saturday November 12th one week before her due date.

I had gone to stay with my family for a night or two because I was feeling extra tired and unwell. On Wednesday I’d had acupuncture but not with the intention to bring on the labour early, but to just encourage her to be on time. My doctor hadn’t even examined me yet at any of the weekly appointments and I was due to have a sweep four days after my due date.

On Friday night I felt a gush and my waters had broken. I called the hospital who told me to call back in an hour, then told me to come right in. I’d planned to stay living in Melbourne to be closer to the hospital but as it panned out I had an hour plus trip to get there after all. I didn’t go into active labour so was induced in the morning.

I’d hoped to be able to labour with the least amount of drugs and to burn oils and use water for pain relief. I’d gone to classes and learnt birthing positions but in the end I had to stay flat on my back attached to a monitor for the baby and the shower of course was not possible.

In terms of drugs, I ended up having the lot, starting with gas and air (and the TENS machine), then pethidine, then epidural. I actually don’t remember the pain that well but my mum and best friend who were there seemed to be in shock afterwards and from what they say I must have looked bad. My doctor wasn’t on call so I had another obstetrician. I’d never discussed my birth plan with my doctor (she never asked) so the on call doctor and the midwife asked my drug preferences and at a certain point I remember the midwife saying “I think it’s epidural time”.

The labour and birth is a bit of a blur. There must have been some worries about the baby’s heart rate but that wasn’t clear to me at the time. My mum said the first shift midwife kept saying “we’re not too worried” but never really clarified what that meant. My birth support people were very caring and supportive. I remember lying is the dark and silence in pain with them at either side of me stroking my arms. The pethidine gave them great entertainment as I blurted out slurred comments on everything from Trump, my thoughts on various people and my explanation of the Chinese revolution in the 1920s. The pethidine felt like the kind of illicit substance I might engaged in at a debaucherous party in my early twenties. Lucky I didn’t say this to my mum.

I was slow to dilate and despite being the right way around up to the end she had turned too far to the side and the doctor gave me a fifty percent chance of an emergency caesarean. After hours of labour I felt a big contraction despite being numbed by the epidural and she must have turned.

The midwife checked and she was there! She could see her head. They called the doctor and the midwife helped me to start pushing. I hadn’t realised how difficult that would be with an epidural- I couldn’t feel what I was doing! The doctor hadn’t arrived (although I felt fine with the midwife. She was young but did an excellent job) so eventually another midwife arrived and they shouted at me to stop pushing.  But baby S popped her head out and stayed there, looking bluish, eyes shut. It was such a strange sight. She looked like those aliens from the Simpsons. I stopped pushing but baby S decided to come anyway and my memory was of her suddenly turning and then the mirror was dropped and I could no longer see while they delivered her.

I was given my baby to hold. I remember being asked her name. I made sure I got a proper look at her face to check if the name I’d already chosen suited her. I held her and she gripped my finger with her whole hand. She seemed tiny. I didn’t get that hormonal euphoric rush but I blame that on the drugs.

I held her while they stitched me up. I had third degree tearing. The doctor arrived at some point and I heard him unfairly tell the young midwife off for not performing an episiotomy. I doubt that there was any time. When the placenta was delivered the doctor got excited about it being what I later found it is called a battledore placenta (umbilical cord is attached to the placental margin). Apparently this can be picked up at the 20 week scan and due to the risks associated an earlier elective cesarean is usually performed. It’s funny because I always felt anxious about my pregnancy and my OB was always very dismissive of me when she probably should have picked this up.

The birth was like science fiction. Nothing prepared me for how surreal it was. Then I was relieved and happy to have her. I fed her twenty minutes after she was born with the help of the midwife. My family came in to see her and she was weighed and dressed. I couldn’t walk for quite some time having had an epidural so I stayed on the same bed I labored in. My mum laughed that I was sitting up eating lasagna not long after it was all over.

The night turned bad for me after everyone left. A new midwife started her shift and she grumbled a little at me for not having the right things (I did have them but I was so tired and confused I couldn’t remember what I’d packed) and helped have a shower. She insisted on taking S to the nursery. I was exhausted and tried to resist this but agreed to it. I regret this now. If I had my time again I would have asked a support person to stay with me overnight to help me with S so that I didn’t have to be separated from her. I spent too long once alone in my hospital room thinking dark thoughts. I worried that I didn’t yet love this baby, who was a total stranger to me. I worried I would never love S and that I would develop post-natal depression.

The next day it felt lighter and visitors were around making things feel more normal. Both my mum and my best friend said that they felt kind of weird and hadn’t slept.

Four months on I certainly do love my baby and my thoughts have never been as dark. My memory of her birth has faded a lot and I wish I wrote about it back then but there really hasn’t been the time. Four months on I now know this little person for who she is. She’s an extrovert, smiley and social, adventurous and determined. Occasionally I’m reminded by her determination that she was the little embryo that every nurse and doctor insisted would miscarry. My friend reminded me the other day when I was complaining about her reflux (which is severe and very difficult to cope with still) that she was a ‘miracle baby’ so having something wrong is a fair trade. I feel proud that I brought this little person into the world and very lucky to know her and to be her mum.

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She’s here!

Yesterday evening baby S made her arrival! She weighs 6 pounds 15/ 3150 grams. I’ll post my birth story soon. She’s healthy and happy. I’m learning how to be a mum and looking forward to our future. I just realised we are a family, S and me ❤️❤️

39 weeks – she’s on her way!

Ah so waters have broken and here I am in hospital! Baby is doing fine. I got a surprise to suddenly feel a little gush when I was spending some time down at my family’s house (over an hour away from hospital- so not the plan to go into labour there). I never lost my mucus plug so was not prepared for my waters to break. I was pretty stressed in the car on the way up but now I’m here and all is fine I feel okay. My best friend and parents were all here but I sent them home, have been given a sleeping tablet and if I don’t go into labour naturally tonight I’ll be induced in the morning. Might be another day or so before I meet her but it’s surreal to think she’s nearly here!

37 weeks and 4 days

It’s been a few weeks since I last wrote but finally I am on maternity leave! Coming up to that was exhausting. I gave a talk at an activist conference and the stress of trying to prepare for this plus trying to finish at work was ridiculous. On the day of the talk, my blood pressure was low and I was coming down with a cold and couldn’t talk or breathe that well. I think I got away with delivering something just okay and people could tell I was quite pregnant but if I had my time again I would not have agreed to do the talk. I was asked to do it and didn’t want to be the person that says no because they’re pregnant. I guess sometimes pregnancy can take over everything and there’s not much you can do about it.

At work, I was killing myself trying to finish everything and my boss decided to be mean about a few things to just make it all harder. Given the hormones and sheer exhaustion, I broke down in tears a couple of times. When it happened in front of a couple of workmates, they rushed to get one of their students to help me with something. One of my workmates grabbed me and kissed me on the head, which was unexpected but sweet. I actually had to go back in twice to finish things when I was officially on maternity leave, which kind of goes against my unionist principles. But knowing that I’ll be either away from that workplace for a year or for good, I feel better to know that I haven’t left things unfinished. If there’s a next time I will plan to go on maternity leave a little earlier as well, working fulltime in my job until 36 weeks was much harder than I expected.

My best friend and I went to the hospital run birth education class. Everyone else there was a hetero couple which is fine, and not unexpected, but I was surprised at how unrelentingly heterocentric the content was. The nurse gave some quite useful information. I definitely go a lot out of it and my friend said the same. But the nurse just constantly referred to “mummies and daddies” and what “daddies” would be doing during the birth, never once using the phrase birth partners or any other alternative instead. My friend introduced herself as my birth support person. She looks quite obviously gay and I wasn’t sure if people thought we were a closeted lesbian couple. Some of the questions directed to her seemed like it but it could have been that the nurse was just entirely inflexible in her questioning. Either way, I was so glad I didn’t go alone, but still I felt more socially weird as a single mum by choice than I ever have before. That said, almost all of the male partners there seemed like real dopes. Every comment from them seemed to be around how they were much less educated than their partner without any sense of needing remedy that situation. One guy at one stage started interrogating a woman about why  she would opt for less pain relief. A lot of the nurses instructions seemed geared around preventing the man from acting like a useless dick in the delivery room, e.g. give eye-contact, be understanding, don’t yell at your laboring partner. So on the upside, I guess not fitting the norm means I don’t have to contend with some socially inept tool causing me more stress whilst I’m trying to have a baby.

Everything is going fine with the baby. She weighed 6 pounds 6 last week (3kg) so she’s actually getting big and I see my OB tomorrow. She keeps moving but mainly just seems to be stretching and hiccuping sometimes. She is head down and in the anterior position and I think maybe starting to descend a little because I feel a little more pressure on my bladder.

Last Monday I saw my OB. I asked about the baby’s weight because when I’d left my last appointment a fortnight earlier I realized that she had told me the same weight as she had the fortnight before that. She seemed annoyed that I would question anything, saying she didn’t check the weight every time (although she always had with me so how would I know that) and that if there was a problem she would have said so. I was basically in tears by the time she was doing the ultrasound and was so busy trying to contain myself that I hardly looked at the monitor. She was running behind and obviously wanted to rush me through. I noticed that she apologized to the couple before me for being late but never apologized to me. During the appointment she also got annoyed that I hadn’t had the tests that she requested and the second anti-D injection yet (although I said I was planning to do it there that day to minimize my trips to the hospital whilst still working full-time) and that I didn’t understand the order in which I was meant to do them. I felt kind of at the limit of how much rudeness I had to take from her and said she never explained that to me (which I’m fairly sure is the case as I’ve never got any directions wrong in over two years of fertility treatment). The doctor couldn’t let it up, coming back with something about how she always says the same thing so I would have received those instructions.  It sucks. I’m usually on my own at these appointments. I get very little information from her, and get shushed or now attacked for asking a question. I wonder if she treats all her patients like this or whether she disapproves of me in some way. Or sees me as just a low risk patient wasting her time? Who knows.

I guess being a bit more emotionally vulnerable I get focused on stupid stuff but not feeling trust in my doctor isn’t great. I just have to remind myself that there would be something seriously unethical happening if there were any problems and she didn’t tell me. For all I’ve been told, my baby is well. Now that I’m free from work, I’m just trying to rest, eat as well as I can, and try to manage my low blood pressure. How do others cope at this point? I get tired so quickly that I can only do a few things with my day at this stage. I keep saying aloud that the baby could come at any time, but I don’t really believe it. My Braxton Hicks have been stronger so that may or may not be a sign of things progressing? This post has been a massive long whinge, I’m sorry, but all is actually good. Now that some stress is behind me, I can rest and I am starting to feel human again. I’m going to get on to reading some of the baby books that I’ve left to maternity leave to read because I’m sure I’ll be too exhausted for them when the baby gets here.

Hope you’re all doing well xo

33 weeks

Today my baby is a celery, a honeydew melon, a pineapple – according to various apps. Seven weeks until her due date although it really hasn’t hit me that in that amount of time, give or take a few days or weeks, I will have an actual human baby in my arms. It probably won’t feel real until I’m really there.

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I ended up having a trial run in going to the hospital. I had had a week of stress with a presentation on Thursday that I was trying to pull together. I hadn’t slept well the night before. At work I had a couple of strongish pains in my belly in the afternoon. By the time I got home I was feeling exhausted, had (TMI warning) diarrhea, and I could only describe my stomach as feeling really strained. I was incredibly uncomfortable. I’d also wondered if I had a UTI. The baby was moving but only a few small movements and I started worrying that she was fading because she was in trouble. Google told me that my combination of symptoms could be a worry. I called the labour ward and the nurse said it was probably just a virus but encouraged me to come in to feel assured that the baby was okay. With my housemate away and not being able to get on to another friend I called my parents. They insisted on coming up even though they live over an hour away.

When we got to the labour ward, all was fine. I got strapped to a monitor that monitors baby’s heartbeat and contractions which I had seen in pictures before. Her little heart was beating away and she was kicking up a storm. They tested and found I didn’t have a UTI but did have keytones and my blood pressure was as low as it always is. A lovely nurse gave me some lemonade, a needle for the nausea, and some panadeine after calling my doctor. Apparently if you have a bowel upset it can also affect the uterus which must have been the reason for what I now realize was cramping. I was very uncomfortable throughout the whole ordeal and afterwards but my parents were really supportive throughout the whole thing. I’m very lucky.

I was treated so well by the nurses at the ward and at no time was I made to feel silly for checking things out. I feel really good about having my baby at that hospital. Having a trial run isn’t a bad thing either to prepare myself (I may pack my bag soon and see if a less bumpy route is at all possible). But I can’t say that I feel very happy at all about my obstetrician or the clinic where I see her. I find my obstetrician to be quite patronizing. For some reason, she has very little regard for personal space and sits really close to you when she speaks. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but I feel like I’m being told to calm down when I ask questions. I hated that she insisted at two appointments that I see a counsellor because of a past history of depression and actually argued with me when I said I didn’t feel I needed it. And she never seems to give me any information other than that the baby is fine.

But while I don’t particularly like my doctor, this week I was really upset by the receptionist at the obstetrician clinic. After my appointment on Monday I asked the receptionist if I could call tomorrow when I had my work diary before making my next appointment. When I called, I spoke to a different person and when I couldn’t take the first time offered, I was put on to speak to the other receptionist. She offered me another time which was several days later and when I paused briefly, wondering how late I could be leaving the appointment, she piped up with “I can’t tell you how to prioritize things.” Again, maybe I’m overly sensitive but I was really offended. Who was this woman? My job involves supporting unwell, and sometimes quite distressed, people and trying to avoid causing them or my workmates inconvenience seems reasonable to me. According to this receptionist, taking a moment to consider work brings my priorities into question. I felt like she was saying that I’m a bad mother. I just took the earlier time and was about to ask to make the next appointment time when she hung up on me. I was stunned at first then called back and said, I think you may have hung up on me. She didn’t apologize at all and briskly told me that they were very busy. So rude! And sorry, but I work in a public hospital, rude receptionist lady works at a private clinic which never has more than three people sitting in the waiting area. Do not tell me about busy!

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Anyway, so basically I don’t feel great about the clinic and I feel really reluctant to call them with any worries (although I would call of course). I noticed the last two times I went, the weird feeling I get from my doctor really took away from the excitement of seeing my baby on the screen. She also takes terrible pictures of the baby and she’s really unclear on the monitor. This might just be because she’s getting bigger. I just have to focus on the fact in a few weeks, I am done with that clinic and my doctor is probably excellent at what she does even if she’s a bit of a dick. My baby should be here in seven weeks or even less (although not too much less I hope) and I’ll get to see her face without any doctors or monitors needed. Can’t wait.

 

30 weeks and 4 days

I’ve made it into the third trimester! Baby is kicking and moving, squirming and hiccupping. I used to think rib kicking sounded kind of cute and bizarre, but it’s just very, very uncomfortable. I’m suddenly hit with serious tiredness even when I’ve slept well. The last couple of weeks have brought some new and inconvenient sleeping patterns. A few nights a week I wake in the middle of the night and stay awake for around three hours. My memory is rubbish. Only I can say I have ‘baby brain’ but it really does seem to be real. Tiredness probably doesn’t help with that I guess. Nausea is a thing again along with being bothered by other people’s food smells.

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My bump is pretty big. My workmates often comment on it and I find I don’t really mind. I thought I would be uncomfortable with attention being drawn to my appearance because it can have a sexist dynamic but I’ve just found that it’s nice to have others celebrate your pregnancy. Today, one of my workmates said that my bump was “beautiful” which was really sweet of her and she seemed sincere. I think having been a smallish sized person makes my pregnancy stand out a bit more. One workmate asked how many babies I was having (which could have been offensive but I think she may not have much experience with seeing pregnant people). With around nine weeks to go I am actually growing a little big for some of my maternity clothes – so much for being advertised as fitting for all stages of pregnancy.

Around now I am wishing I could set up my place with all the baby stuff I’ve bought. I’ve decided to stay in the house where I live in Melbourne until the baby is born to avoid an over an hour trip to the hospital from my hometown where I will be moving. I don’t want to miss out on having my baby at the hospital that I’ve chosen. The midwife I saw last week also got me thinking about how uncomfortable being in labour would be on a long car ride. Of course many people just have to cope with this if they live in rural or regional areas. But delaying moving doesn’t mean I can’t partly set up my space in the house where I’ll be living with my family in a month or so and I may be between both places in the month before the baby is due.

At the moment I’m thinking about names, buying baby stuff, and thinking about the birth. I aim to have a vaginal birth and to learn a bit more about drug and non-drug pain relief options (I never heard of TENS machines until recently but I may hire one – the midwife recommended it). I’ve looked into birthing classes after opting out of the expensive one run by my private obstetrician clinic. After searching through about eight or so, I found only one that made any mention of single people or same-sex couples and that one was much more convenient and less expensive. Only problem is I can’t make the class until November so hopefully the little one hangs on until I can do the class! I will have the free hospital class though plus I paid for an online class which was quite good. I went to a prenatal yoga class for the first time last night. Given my shameful lack of exercise for the entire pregnancy, apart from some walking, I was worried I wouldn’t cope but I actually loved it. Baby is doing well. Every scan is normal I’m told and she’s growing right on the average mark.

I’m a terrible blogger, but I’m trying to keep up with you all and wishing all the best to all those trying to become parents, those parenting little ones and all the pregnant people out there xo

25 weeks and 4 days

It gets that it’s so long since I’ve blogged that I can’t think what to say. So here’s a random selection of thoughts…

The baby kicks pretty regularly throughout the day now and sometimes so hard that I can actually see my belly move. I love the kicks so much. I always try to feel them with my hand. I feel like it’s her way of communicating with me. It makes me feel closer to her and like it’s really happening.

Work is hard. I am tired and my work is not very supportive. I had to really make a case to my manager that my workload was higher than it should be and she did not respond well. I’m getting slammed. And after ten years of working in the public health system without much more than a few weeks break at a time, I really need to stop. I can’t wait for maternity leave. I have a countdown app on my phone. I get one year off and ten weeks of that are paid.

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It’s been an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve been okay and happy at times and a few times crying uncontrollably like I’m never going to stop. I definitely notice feeling less anxious. IVF caused so much anxiety. I still worry that I will lose the baby but every day it gets better.

I’ve had a few cold viruses. Last week I had to take four days off work. I was exhausted, swollen glands and dizzy. I went to the doctor and he seemed alarmed that my blood pressure was low enough for me to be fainting. He actually gave me the rest of the week off work (which bulk-billing doctors never do). When I got back to work on Monday my boss never asked how I was just complained that she had to deal with one of my clients when I was away on Friday. I have to keep reminding myself that I have to look after myself to look after my baby even if others make me feel bad for trying to do this.

I’ve been more confronted by my singleness in the last few weeks. I don’t regret my decision to do this alone at all. If I delayed things to have a baby with a partner I most likely would never have been able to get pregnant. But I realized that when your back seizes up with pain, there is no-one to help you roll onto your side. There is no-one who will remember all of the foods that you need to avoid in pregnancy. And while there are people who are very happy for me, nobody is ever going to share the excitement like a partner would.  I realized that I felt some resentment towards my ex-partner who I live with, that she wasn’t doing enough to help out (I still do most of the house work), and we actually argued a bit. Some of my resentment was really my stuff; my own grief at finding myself doing this alone. I guess some of the difficulties just took me a little by surprise.

just a little bitI’m questioning spending incredible amounts of cash on a private obstetrician. In the days after I was suddenly not having the promised miscarriage I just stumbled onto the next thing based on my IVF doctor’s advice. But my pregnancy actually, thankfully, is uncomplicated and for the cost of the obstetrician I really don’t get very much. The doctor is nice, but I’ve only seen her three times in over three months. I do like that she encourages me not to worry and to have a coffee if I want (which seems so weird after the restrictions of IVF). But she is slightly patronizing. I’ve felt like they thought I was a little hysterical on the few times that I’ve called the clinic with a question.

I struggle with worrying that my pregnancy might upset others. One woman at work lost a baby at 12 weeks and we had told each other that we were both pregnant before we told anyone else. She had an amazingly resilient attitude (not that there can be any right or wrong response to pregnancy loss) when I checked with her if she would rather not hear talk of my pregnancy. But still. Another woman at work told me that she had had several miscarriages after several failed IVF attempts and never managed to have a child. I felt so incredibly sad for her. She was congratulating me and I think hearing that I did several rounds of IVF helped her appreciate that I had some tiny understanding of her difficult time. But today I was whinging about how none of my clothes fit anymore in front of her and I could have kicked myself afterwards for being such a dick. How do you go from experiencing constant failure, becoming sure that it’ll never happen, to suddenly being pregnant and becoming the one whose growing bump might be upsetting for others?

Overall, pregnant life is okay. I’m really grateful to be here. I like the look of my belly and while I have put on weight everywhere I’m okay with my appearance. I can actually think about the future now and plan for the life I want for me and my baby without feeling trapped in the endless uncertainty and money-pit of IVF. I love checking which fruit my baby is every Friday on my various apps (cauliflower this week). I have reached viability! And in around 100 days, if all goes well, I get to meet my baby!!