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.