The Perfect Birth (is Subjective)
My birth was perfect.
Not in the way that I was planning, but in the way it turned out.
My plan, being a woman who felt in touch with her body, was to get into my body and ride out each contraction. In my toolbelt was aromatherapy, massage, movement & breathing. I was going to embrace the feeling of the contraction and use it as a guide to lead me through the journey as the baby descended through the birth canal.
What happened was completely different and I would like to share my story and tell you all about it.
Stretch & Sweep 39+5
To become pregnant, I had to go through IVF. It was a stressful time and after a couple of unsuccessful transfers, we eventually did succeed. While I then went on to have a normal pregnancy, there was always some anxiety that something would go wrong and I would lose the baby.
The closer we got to our due date, the more worried I was that something would go wrong. So when the obstetrician offered a stretch and sweep, I took it.
2 Days before d-day, we went in for our regular weekly appointment and had the sweep done. At that stage, I was already 1cm dilated at the external opening of the cervix.
Stage 1 - Latent Phase (aka false alarm)
What I understood about the latent (early) phase of labour was that it consisted of irregular contraction that were around 20 minutes apart.
10pm Tuesday 17th May
I awoke to some decent back pain, got re-settled and went back to sleep. 30 minutes later, it happened again, and again, every 30 minutes.
2am Wednesday 18th May
I couldn't stay in bed so I got up. The contractions started getting closer together and I laboured in the living room.
I decided that, with the contractions being between 6 & 10 minutes apart now, that I should wake hubby and call the doctor. We live 45 minutes away from the hospital and didn't want to struggle through rush how traffic.
We got in the car and made our way to the hospital. The contractions stopped.
Once we arrived at the hospital, I felt perfectly fine and like a big fraud. We got assessed, baby's heartrate was fine, I had another, much deeper stretch & sweep which I requested and we were sent home.
We also got sent for a growth scan to see how baby was tracking and, due to her estimated size being in the 90th centile, the doctor put in a request for an induction, if I didn't spontaneously deliver before 41 weeks.
Saturday 21st May - Continued Latent Phase
Another false alarm.
Between Wednesday and now, I had been having a bloody show, but that's about it. Then in the afternoon, I started to have little niggles again that started to become regular, again, at 20-30 minute intervals. After Wednesday's false alarm, I wasn't really sure what my body was doing so I told Nick to be prepared and I went to bed feeling hopeful.
By midnight, it had all stopped again.
Sunday 22nd May
I was feeling fed up. Why was my body teasing me like this? I just wanted to get this show on the road now. I had a sulk and a lie in and then I took it easy for the rest of the day.
We're watching TV and I'm doing my pelvic relaxation exercises over the swiss ball.
7.40pm - My Waters Break
Halleluiah! This means something! I can call the doctor again!
I call for advice. I hadn't been having any contractions up until my waters broke, so I wasn't expecting to go in.
I had previously tested positive for Group B Streptococcus and because of that, the doctor wanted to get me in, to start antibiotics, regardless of how close my contractions were. Sweet!
Contractions hit like a train!!
I hopped in the shower and started to pack my last minute items when the contractions started. They were a little more intense than before and coming every 10 minutes. By the time we got in the car, they were 6 or 7 minutes apart and so intense that I couldn't sit down. It was all in my lower back and rectum and I had to raise myself off the seat every time, while pushing my back into the heated seat.
9.30pm - Arrive at the hospital
We shuffle over from the carpark and the doorman gets me an orderly and a wheelchair. I almost said that I could walk but when Nick was told he had to be checked in at another doorway (covid protocols), I accepted.
We were going to need a RAT test before going in, but I was taken straight to the Maternity ward, where they turned me around and directed me, somewhere, to be tested. Luckily, a contraction started just as I was being wheeled away and through the breathing, the swearing and the exclamation that I was going to be sick, they called me back and sent me to an assessment room where they tested me instead.
At some point, I was given an anti-nausea pill and gas and air to help with the pain. I felt sick with each contraction and vomited what little food I had eaten. The gas only made me feel more sick. The only thing that did help was sitting on the toilet while Nick held a wheat pad on my back.
Assessment - Only 1-2cm!
I was sure that I would have been further along than that! But no.
By this stage my contractions were alternating between all back and all front and they felt like they were coming fast. I couldn't time them anymore as my watch had died. My plan of walking consisted of standing up from the bed and shuffling like Quasimodo to the toilet. Every thought of moving caused pain and I requested the epidural.
2am Monday 23rd May - The Epidural was Administered
I felt weak to request the epidural, until I reminded myself that epidurals are a tool. Just because women have been birthing without pain relief for 1000s of years, doesn't mean we have to be martyrs.
The choice was available, I'd weighed up my current situation and my options, and I took it.
My main concern about epidurals was that I would be numb from the waist down and I wouldn't be playing an active role in my delivery. Turns out, while it takes away the pain, I could still feel the pressure with each contraction. This meant that when the time came, I knew where to direct my pushing. I was comfortable with my decision.
2.30am Assessment - 3-4cm fully effaced.
So I'm going in the right direction but boy oh boy it's slow going. The contractions are going well at roughly 3 - 4 every 10 minutes. I try to nap to pass the time.
At some point, baby's heartrate drops. One of my contractions lasted over 3 minutes. Luckily they became regular again and her heartrate settled again. That piqued my interest and I was now mentally preparing for a c-section in case that happened again. I haven't come this far to lose her now!
6.30am Assessment - No change.
So that's interesting. Why have things stalled? Why am I not dilating? Have I done too many pelvic floor exercises? Have I overprepared? Is it me? What did I do wrong? The cervix has nothing to do with the pelvic floor muscles and so I put my mind at rest, knowing that it is just something that happens. Maybe her head isn't squishing as it should, maybe my pelvis isn't as wide as I thought.
Whatever the reason. It was out of my hands.
I ask the midwife about whether a c-section could be on the cards if things continue to not progress. While she says it's not up to her to make that call, we agree to get the paperwork ready just in case. All I want is baby out now. I don't care how.
9.30am Assessment with OBGYN - 3cm and swollen
Baby has started to ascend and the cervix is getting swollen. I ask if that means c-section. The doctor agrees.
Somebody checks to see when the operating theatre will be available next, and I'm being wheeled through 10 minutes later.
Nick gets his scrubs on and I meet a bunch of people, all there to assist. I get lots of information and my painkillers get topped up before I head in. I cry. It's finally happening. I am about to meet my baby. I'm also scared. What if it hurts? What will I look like afterwards? Is baby going to be OK?
They get me prepped, Nick sits by my head and soon, I feel the sensation of someone running their fingernail across my abdomen. That was the first cut.
Then, the doctor mentions that she is pushing the bladder down, it was higher than usual which was possibly due to endometriosis.
Next I feel tugging. She's really going for it as she tries to pull baby out of the uterus. Nick says she practically had one foot on the bed to haul baby out. Next minute I feel a "pop" and the pulling stops. A few seconds, or a lifetime, later I hear the watery gasp of my baby's first breath and Nick is asked to stand so he can take a photo.
10.30am - Monday 23rd May
Ellie Rosetta Smith
4170g & 55cm
I see the video on Nick's phone and I understand why she didn't want to come out the conventional way. She looked like she was about to play back for the Black Ferns.
While I was stitched up, Nick went off to be with Ellie.
Once she was cleaned and measured, she was put on my chest. I was completely amazed at how something so wonderful had come out of me.
I was in love.
So while my original birth plan went out of the window. I am thankful to the team for the open communication and allowing my to make the right decision. It was the perfect birth with the perfect outcome.