Every pregnancy is different, and it’s own ‘thing’, but the more pregnancies I have, the more I tend to connect events from past pregnancies with the current one – especially when it comes to labours. With Marta’s pregnancy – my most recent before this one – I had approximately a week’s worth of pre-labour contractions, that were painful and distracting but not terribly productive. At one point, after most of a night’s worth of strong and regular contractions, we went into Birthcare only to be met by my midwife, examined, and told that I wasn’t at all dilated, and would be best to go home and come back later – either when things felt like they’d progressed, or when I couldn’t take anymore. Needless to say, things eventually DID progress and she was born relatively smoothly, but that one experience hung in my mind rather a lot throughout this pregnancy.
When I was approximately midway through my 38th week this time around, I started having periods of contractions. Not nearly as unending as with Marta’s pregnancy, but contractions that were bordering on painful, and came in a regular and orderly fashion. Having learned from last time though, this time around I did everything I could to distract myself from them, and alternatively, rest as much as possible, so should it progress and turn into ‘the real thing’, at least I wouldn’t have spent all my energy before the going really got tough. In most cases, the episodes of steady contractions would only last two to three hours at most, and each time they happened I got better at telling myself that this wasn’t the real thing, no reason to get worked up or excited. I’d know the real thing when it happened. This was my fifth time labouring, after all. Plus the plan this time was to stay home (and hopefully have a waterbirth) so there wasn’t any need to stress about when was the ‘right time’ to go in, making that every tricky call between far enough along not to jinx things, but not so far that the baby was born before all were ready for him.
On Monday night, I had an especially long-lived string of contractions – I went to bed with them at around 10pm, in an effort to get some rest. They were coming approximately every 15 minutes, although not getting any closer together, and they were strong enough that they stopped me sleeping through them, but didn’t seem to be increasing in intensity at all. The contractions lasted through to around 6am, and I slept only in fits and bursts through the whole night, repeatedly being woken by the persistent – and annoying! – contractions. When I woke up on the Tuesday the morning, I simply decided to give up attempting sleep, and go with what happened to come. I was grumpy and out of sorts, and possibly slightly grumpier when the contractions simply disappeared a short time after I was up and about. I had breakfast, then figured I’d do the senisble thing and attempt more sleep while the contractions were gone and the husband handled the children and morning rush. I managed an extra hour’s worth (contraction free!) and got up again in an improved, but still grumpy and over-it, mood. The husband picked up on my mood, and combined with my night of ‘niggles’, decided it was best to stay home from work, and phoned to let them know that there might be a baby on the way.
The day then progressed fairly normally. I’d have the random one-off contraction / Braxton Hick’s, but nothing even approaching regular. I had a friend come over for a bit during the day, largely just for the mental / emotional relief, and the distraction. As mid-afternoon approached I started feeling progressively more ‘off’, without being able to put my finger on it. Because of this, the husband left to do the school pick-up and gymnastics drop-off, and had his mother pick up the younger two from kindy and drop them home, so that I didn’t have to. As she was here dropping them off, I started getting fairly strong contractions again, but pushed it out of my mind, figuring it was more of the same. Once she left, I put together an easy dinner for the preschoolers, and ushered them off to bed. Through this time I noticed that the contractions were regular again – and felt stronger than they had before. Strong enough, now, that I started needing to stop, and focus through them – but was able to finish the bedtime process in-between. Husband txt’ed, as he usually does around then, to see if I wanted / needed him to pick up dinner on his way back with the school child (from gymnastics, as she doesn’t finish gym til 6:30). I was feeling decidedly vulnerable and shaky by then so I texted him to just come straight home as soon as she was done.
By now I was feeling that things may well be happening that night, though I was sure this was just the early niggle stage. I took a dose of panadol, and lie down in bed to try to get the most rest / relaxation as was possible, but I only lasted about two contractions that way, as I found it nearly unbearable by then to be lying down. Instead, each time a contraction hit – every 10 minutes by then – I got on my knees leaning against furniture (i.e., my chest draped over a chair / the bed) as it was the best combo of relaxing with pain management, and although they were definitely both strong and uncomfortable like that, I found them quite cope-able. When the husband got home, he quickly got the (protesting) school child to bed and came to see if I needed dinner / help / anything. I suggested he put up the birth pool… he said “what, you really think this is it?” to which I answered, let’s just do it, worst case we can take it down. So he started clearing out the lounge (of toys / rug) and getting the pool blown up.
Contractions were every 8 minutes by now. I was still largely convinced this was just a build-up, pre-labour, or possibly just another night of fruitless niggles. Regardless, I texted my bestie Lou, who was scheduled to there for the birth if possible, mainly for support, but the added bonus of photos if she had the chance as well. I said I wasn’t sure it was really all on, but it would be nice to have her company / distraction either way. She replied she had something to do first but would be over about 10pm. From there I pottered around, supervising the husband putting up the pool, mostly up and about between contractions, but still quick to assume the kneeling / leaning position for each contraction.
Contractions, as roughly monitored on my iPhone, were roughly every 4 – 5 minutes by now. When it first jumped to 4 minutes apart, I was fairly sure this was the beginning of them breaking up and becoming irregular. After all, this was all just pre-labour, and I wasn’t going to have my baby til the wee hours of the morning anyway. I did notice that the app I was using to time the contractions now labelled me as in “Active Labour” rather than “Early Labour” but I didn’t think much of this – my experiments with the app in the day or two before had shown that one contraction closer than the others could make it think you were in the next stage on, and it didn’t adjust backwards if the rest of the contractions resumed the previous pattern.
Regardless, I suggested that the husband – who’d only just finished getting the pool fully set up (but not filled), start filling the pool. We’d been advised to start with cold water, and leave it sitting until I was about ready to get in, then start filling with hot. Husband grumbled a touch but set about getting hoses etc connected and water filling in the pool. We knew it’d take awhile.
I was starting to think I actually would have a baby sometime that night.
Pool still filling – had gotten a third filled with cold water. I suggested husband start the hot water, as a pool might be nice to relax in. And we knew it’d take awhile, after all. Husband dutifully set about making it so.
Contractions were quite a bit stronger by now, and I was nearly exclusively parked against my recliner, kneeling on a pillow on the floor, top half draped on another pillow on the seat of the recliner. My phone helpfully beeped to tell me I’d been in the active labour phase for an hour. I wasn’t paying much attention to it by now though. I was starting to get curious as to where I was in the labour process though. I was now fairly sure that this was labour, though still sure I wasn’t nearly as far as I would need to be though. I considered calling the midwife, but didn’t want her to arrive only to find me at 3cm with ages to go, or worse still, not making progress. Combined with the fact that I’d done some reading on an ‘undisturbed birth’, and was thinking strongly of requesting no vaginal exams – but on the same note not sure I could trust myself not to find out for my own knowledge, as I’m one that wants all the details that can be gotten, to know “officially” rather than trusting myself. No midwife meant to unnecessary (or even requested by me) vaginal exams…. and no being told I wasn’t that far along and getting off-track with my internal coping methods.
That said, I’d red about ‘the red line’ that some women get during labour. Not being either able or in a position to see myself, out of curiousity, I described what I was looking for to the husband, and asked him if I had one – he said I did. So for kicks and giggles I asked him to measure it. I’m pretty sure he thought I was completely loopy, but obliged me regardless – and said it was 10cm. Then wanted to know what I was on about. So I said I’d just read some random thing on the internet – no big deal right? – that suggested sometimes this red line corresponds to dilation. And I was just curious anyway. He said “um… it’s 10 cm…” I said it probably didn’t matter anyway, and I’m not sure we got it right anyhow. We left it at that.
Lou arrives, almost exactly to the minute, which was brilliant, because I was starting to reach the edge of my coping ability. She took a couple minutes to assess the situaiton, saw Don being run ragged trying to support me while I crushed his hand, whilst still attempting to boil water to heat the pool up, and made herself busy working on water and fetching things as needed.
Contractions got weird. Slowed down, then would come in a bunch, then slowed down again. I figured either things were finally packing up and ending like I still suspected they would. Phone said I was in transition. I tried sitting down ‘normally’ on the recliner, as my knees were sore and I was just wanting to be in any other position. Contractions slowed but then would hit like a freight train and were unbearable sitting down.
I started feeling panicky. Then thought, we should really ring the midwife, things might start happening. Also felt desperate for the pool, as I hated the pushing in my drug free birth with #2, but the pool was still too cold to reasonably get into.
I felt a little pushy.
Husband rang the midwife. Midwife’s phone went straight to voicemail, but said to leave a message and she’d get back shortly, otherwise try again in a few minutes.
I felt a bit more pushy.
Pool still definitely on the cool (but not *cold*) side, but warm enough I was tempted to try it regardless. I stuck a leg in and decided it was comfortable – would probably be considered lukewarm. I got in. Going with what felt right, I pushed with the contractions, as they hit. I reached down to see if I could feel anything telling, like a head, and felt only soft and squishy, so decided baby was still a ways up.
Husband rang back midwife. Voicemail again. He asked me what I thought we should do. I suggested we needed a midwife. He asked if I wanted an ambulance called. NO – this was a birth, not an emergency – I wanted my midwife. He said that the backup midwife’s phone number was given on the voicemail message – should he ring it? I said yes – someone is better than no one, and I didn’t know what was up with my midwife. He rang the backup, who was genuinely surprised to hear from us, as ours wasn’t off duty and wasn’t busy as far as she knew. She said to leave it with her and she’d get back to us.
My midwife (Gail) rang back about 5 minutes later. Her mobile was apparently in a dead spot – a previously unknown one – in her house, but her backup had rung her house number (which she doesn’t distribute) and managed to get ahold of her. She was free, did we want her to come over? Don said yes – rather calmly I thought, given the situation. She said she’d head straight out.
Don sat by my side, holding my hand (poor him) during the contractions, whist I stayed on my knees in the pool, in much the same position I had been for most of the labour.
I decided at this point that I’d quite like an epidural thankyouverymuch – I’d fully had enough of this whole business.
I felt really pushy. Still wondering how far I was, I reached down to see if I could feel anything, as I was at least convinced that baby was on his way down, but I had no idea how far. I first felt soft and squishy again – then pushed with the contraction, and realised the soft and squishy was halfway outside, and these must be the (still intact) waters, rather than the firm surface of the skull. So I gave another almighty push, and suddenly the baby crowned, then another quick push and he was born, waters breaking as his body came out – much to the surprise of Lou and Don as I simply sat back and picked up the baby. (Honestly I was about as surprised as they were). Don pointed out the cord was around his neck, but it wasn’t tight, and we simply unwound it. Baby seemed as stunned as I was (but was a decent colour and clearly breathing, though he took an extra 30 seconds or so to cry).
I sat back against the pool side and cuddled baby to my chest, and we waited for the midwives, who arrived within about five minutes after. I was glad to have them – they reminded me to push out the placenta when I felt it, and then sorted out the cutting of the cord (after placenta was out) and were especially handy for the mundane but necessary stuff – tarps etc on the furniture, helping me out, keeping me and baby warm and skin to skin and sorting out food for me. Eventually they did the official once-over and weighing of the baby, but by then he’d been skin to skin with me for a decent amount of time (no idea of actual amount, but I’d been dried off and had half a sandwich and some tea by then) and had had his first feed as well. He weighed in at 3.9kg, or 8lb 10oz – roughly a lb and a half more than any of my other babies.
He wasn’t officially named until a couple days later, but in the end we’d decided on what we’d been thinking of during the pregnancy. William (after my father – and both my grandfathers to boot) Edward (Don’s middle name) – though I’m still trying to get the nickname ‘Teddy’ to stick. Born 11:11pm, 5th February 2013, weighing 8lb 10oz.