M Y B I R T H S T O R Y …
BIRTH & LABOUR – two of the most feared words by women around the globe! The irony is it is one of the most natural processes we as women will ever experience. I strongly believe many of us awfulise what we THINK the experience will be and feel like. I also believe we’ve all watched one too many Hollywood movies! (FUN FACT: only 10% of womens’ water breaks before labour begins). Today on the blog I am sharing my birth story in detail. My labour and birth was an incredibly empowering experience and I couldn’t be prouder of myself. I can 100% say it was the BEST moment and experience of my life, to-date. Today I am being very open with regards to my labour, pain management and some funny things that happened along the way. I hope my reflection and experience somehow inspires some of you to NOT fear the birthing process, and instead embrace it. While I’m not a feminist-hippe ‘woman, hear me roar’, I am a realist, and the BIGGEST believer of #girlpower. We were designed to grow these little people and bring them into the world. It’s all-about trusting your body to take over and to, of course, enjoy the ride.
(P.S the banner image was taken just after I had co-delivered Mia Grace and breastfed her for the first time. As you can see, it was the happiest moment of my life!)
S J ‘ S F U N F A C T S :
1. I SPRAY TANNED MYSELF IN LABOUR – You know me, I’m all about the shits and giggles! So buckle-up, baby! Let me set the scene. I went into labour at 4am on MG’s due date. For the last three weeks leading up to my due date, I had been carefully timing all my beauty appointments (waxing, eyelash extensions, mani/pedis and of course, the bounciest blowave you’ve ever seen!). As you do. However, the night before my due date I was convinced she wasn’t coming, and proceeded to completely exfoliate in preparation for my next spray tan. BIG MISTAKE. I was super tired and decided to wait until the next day to re-beautify. Of course, I went into labour (and pale!) five hours later! As the hubby was leaving for work (yes, I sent him to work), I was setting-up my spray tan tent in the garage between contractions. Beauty IS pain, after all. I did a few successful dance manoeuvres, and voila, I was nicely bronzed. First world problems of being fair hey?! The first step to my beauty birth plan was complete!
2. I DID MY MAKE-UP AT 5CM DILATED – After a long, looooong day of contractions, I finally did my make-up in preparation for the BIG moment at 9pm. I had now been in labour 17.5 hours and was 5cm dilated (for those of you who haven’t been through it, at this point it’s seriously F-ING painful!). I figured if doing your make-up in labour was good enough for Kourtney Kardashian, it was good enough for me. Naturally. I remember rushing to do my make-up between my 4/5min contractions, while watching Masterchef on record. The hubby was diligently keeping track of my contractions and packing the car at the same time. The poor dogs didn’t know what was going on, as there was a verbal backing track at this point – including: the best of moans and swearing like a sailor. While some of you might be rolling your eyes at my assumed vanity, whatevs. This was all-about ME, and don’t forget, I totally had to look fabulous for my birth photographer! This was all part of me EMPOWERING MY BIRTH. This is what I WANTED. Although it sounds flippant, it starts with the little things and tailoring the experience with the things you actually CAN CANTROL.
3. BLOWAVE CENTRAL – I am lucky enough that one of my besties is also my hair stylist (yes, it’s the dream relationship). Raymond Charles is also Mia’s godfather, so it made it all the more special. Raymond had been on standby since 37 weeks, and was all over it. When I phoned him that morning he was mid-shoot for one of the Real Housewives of Melbourne, but came immediately to glam me up at around 12pm. We didn’t talk much, as my friendly banter button was in total shut-down by this point, but we got the job done. With good hair, just about anything is possible – including giving birth!
E A R L Y L A B O U R :
As I said, I went into labour at 4am on MG’s due date (typical). At first I wasn’t 100% sure it was the real thing, as I had been experiencing a few Braxton Hicks contractions previously. I lay there for one hour timing these pains. I also had a few, how should I say this… quick ejections from down below (all signs of labour!). At 5am I woke my hubby who responded with “are you sure?” – this ridiculous comment was answered with a few expletives, let’s just put it that way. This was however something I had asked all my mummy friends and the midwives – HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S REAL LABOUR?! They all responded with “you just will“, and they were totally on the money. I had also had it described to me as bad period pain, but I personally have never experienced period pain – so that was no help at all. These cramps (contractions) were intermittent and regular (about every 8 – 11 mins). I then called the birthing suite and told them everything I was experiencing. The super chilled out nurse told me it definitely sounds like labour. It was now just a waiting game and to try to relax. Hmmm, ok. From that point I proceeded to record EVERY SINGLE CONTRACTION, including: the length, how far apart from the last and any other comments I felt were important. By the time I left for the hospital around 9.45pm, it was like a scene out of A Beautiful Mind crossed with Rainman! There were hundreds and hundreds of numbers, scribbles, pieces of paper and calculations scattered everywhere! Whatever works for you hey?!
Although things can change at any moment, I knew from early on I wanted to be alone for those early labour stages. Of course it was painful, but at that point I felt my hubby would annoy me more by being there (#sorrynotsorry). At 7.15am (post spray tan and still drying naked in the kitchen mid-contractions!) the bloody door bell rang! It was an ASOS order and the courier driver mentioned our car in the driveway had a flat tyre! WTF?! In nearly seven years of being together, neither of us had ever had a flat tyre, and it happens the day I go into labour! Me then relaying this upstairs to the hubby caused some minor chaos, and the usual thumping up the hallway turned very quickly into a run and shouting down for where his socks were?? (pfft, men!). He then nearly flew out the door with the agreement he would check-in on me every hour and come home mid-afternoon (unless anything changed). I was surprisingly calm at this point, even declining my mum’s offer to come over. I truly just wanted to do this alone. By about 3pm I was starting to really feel it and the pain had increased significantly. I ordered the hubby to pick-up some McDonalds as I hadn’t eaten all day (and the days of cheeky McDonalds stops was about to come to an end – literally!). It was my last hoorah/supper! At about 4pm I was not a happy-chappy and we decided to try the TENS machine we had hired. SECOND BIG MISTAKE. In the midst of all my moaning, I didn’t realise I had the machine set at the highest voltage. After my hubby strapped my back I was ready to rock and roll. As soon as I pressed the button it felt like someone was ripping my back apart (skin, muscles and all!). I literally started screaming and crying to rip it off! I was then far too traumatised to try again. My advice to you all would be ensure it’s on the lowest setting and work-up to the strength you need – not the other way around, derr! I would still recommend this machine to everyone, as I felt most of my pain in my lower back and sacrum. This does not really help with the pain, but works more as a distraction technique.
By about 6.30pm my contractions were definitely starting to increase in frequency and severity. I set-up camp downstairs on the couch, as our worried fur babies looked on in horror! We called the birthing suite to touch base, but wanted to stick it out as long as possible so we wouldn’t be turned away on arrival. I think by this time I was also so relieved that we weren’t going to get stuck in peak hour traffic! For the next three hours we just continued with my Rainmain documenting of the contractions, before doing my make-up at 9.30pm, 5cm dilated and ready for the finale!
A C T I V E L A B O U R :
‘Active Labour’ is what health professionals refer to as ‘real labour’, not pre/early labour. In English, when it starts to get really F-ING painful. We arrived at the hospital around 10.30pm where we were greeted by three very amazing women – Erin Gregory (Your Empowered Birth / birth coach), Kylie (midwife) and Pauline (midwife). We had a few jokes, loaded-up with heat packs and got down to business. By about 11.30pm my obstetrician (Dr Lionel Steinberg) had arrived. We chatted about my options, as he checked to see how dilated I was. By then I was almost 7cm and chose for him to break my waters, as this would get the process moving a little faster. FYI – this was bloody painful, but I felt there was no point prolonging my current pain level as I wanted to move it along. The next two-three hours were a bit of a blur to be honest. Although there was a clock right in-front of me and I was completely aware of it, time didn’t really exist or make sense. This ‘out of body experience’ that I predicted was so accurate. During this time (even though the pain was almost unbearable), the most important thing was to keep calm and ensure her heart rate remained steady. To ease the pain I asked for a shot of morphine and some happy gas. The gas was amazing, but worked only as a distraction technique – not for pain relief. I would highly recommend this (even if it’s just for a few giggles!). The morphine was ok, but only really took 5% off the peak of each contraction. I was never anti-pain medication, but I really wanted to do it without an epidural, more as a challenge to myself. Although for a few days/weeks after the birth I was disappointed in myself for having the injection, this soon turned to feeling empowered. I did exactly what I set out to do, and that was to birth my daughter safely. I remained calm throughout the labour and not once did her heart rate increase. I took control of my labour and kept focussing on the finish line.
At about 2am things started to heat up. She was making her way down and the pressure and pain, again, were next level. While I wasn’t at the pushing stages, I was in the final home stretch. This was basically the stage before she begins to crown and make her way right out the birth canal. For about one hour I tried every position known to man and the pressure on my sacrum and lower back was out of this world! I really didn’t feel much of it in the front, more the back. I was on all-fours, on my back, on my side and over the toilet – NOTHING was working. I then tried with no luck for about 45-60min to get her to the stage where I could start pushing. I honestly tried with every fibre of my being to get her down, but I almost felt as though I was hitting a brick wall. At this point I was also becoming extremely fatigued and exhausted, after being in labour almost 24 hours now. I remember looking at my husband (stone cold sober with no pain medication) and sternly saying “call Lionel“. My midwives were fantastic in encouraging me to keep going, but after 60mins I couldn’t go on. When Lionel came up we discussed how long we had been trying, and also my wishes that at this stage I needed some help. He agreed that I had ‘failed to progress’ and that he would use the Ventouse (vacuum). We were all happy with the decision and proceeded with this. Although I had ideally wanted to get her there myself, I physically couldn’t. My number one priority was still her well-being and to remain calm – I did NOT want to work myself into a state and distress her. This is what I loved about Lionel during my pregnancy and at the birth. The decisions were all mine. This left me feeling empowered, confident and in control at every turn. I was treated as an equal by the entire team, and not some unaware lay person. Communication and understanding are key for a positive experience.
T H E B I R T H :
With my legs ready to go in the stirrups, I was unfortunately asked to take off my UGG boots! It was right about now (just after Lionel had used the Ventouse), that I was allowed to finally begin pushing! THIS was the exact moment I remember thinking… “HOLY SHIT, I AM ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY!”. This was also the moment it all started to feel real. Yes – the first! I also remember feeling extreme clarity and almost a natural high – T H I S W A S I T ! I was about to birth my baby girl and meet the little creature that had been kicking me for the last 5 months. Nothing will ever compare to that excitement. I couldn’t quite tell you how long I actually pushed for, but it felt like only a few minutes. Lionel was fantastic at this point and took charge. He was guiding me carefully of when to push and when to rest/pause. This particular part of a vaginal birth is crucial to try and minimize tearing or necessitate an episiotomy. Escaping completely unscathed, I would like to thank my strong pelvic floor and for being fit. It was like I had got my second wind of energy and strength, or maybe it was pure excitement!? Once her head and shoulders were out, Lionel said “now you deliver her“. He directed me to reach under her armpits and I then pulled her out onto my stomach! The pure shock was overwhelming. You can see it all over my face! Who is this little girl? What will she be when she grows up? What will be her favourite ice-cream flavour? All these crazy thoughts of amazement and wonder, went racing through my head in a flash. If this is something you are also keen on doing, I would strongly urge you to discuss it with your OBGYN. To have powered through my long labour and my pregnancy, this was the icing on the cake. As I lifted her out onto my stomach, and we first lay eyes on our baby girl, the love and protection we felt was instant. Our lives at that moment changed forever, for the better. The feeling we both got after visualising our little creation is hard to articulate. Holding her little hands, playing with her perfect little toes and feeling her take her first few breaths was incomparable. Lionel and I had spoken about this when he broke my waters, and knowing I could literally be involved in my baby’s delivery kept me going when it got tougher and kept my mind positive. I truly couldn’t write a better ending to our story. Thank you Lionel for involving me at a level I didn’t know was possible, it is and will be, the BEST moment of my life.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my story and that it’s helped at least a few of you look forward to your labour, rather than dreading it. I will say, I was extremely lucky and had the most wonderful pregnancy and labour/birth. However, I do believe that I should also be credited for most of that. From day one I was cool, calm and collected. I never really did any reading or research and certainly didn’t engage in any awfulising or horror stories of what COULD go wrong. I had my fair share of problems trying to get pregnant, and still had to monitor my thyroid and iron levels throughout. It was all about remaining positive and just chillin’. While I don’t want to get all airy-fairy on you, I will say we have one chilled out little bubba. I like to think that I somehow contributed towards this through my attitude, diet and staying healthy.
I would like to thank my uber-amazing team again > Richard, Lionel, Erin, Kylie, Pauline, Brenda and Kelly. You were all instrumental in this entire experience, one of which I will cherish forever, and ever. Becoming a mummy has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and my greatest achievement. Let’s get ready for number two 😉