After harassing everyone possible who had recently given birth in the months leading up to my own due date, I think its about time I shared my story!
At 8:18pm on Wednesday 15 April my beautiful daughter Indie was born after approximately 7 hours of labour. I am proud to say that I did it all with no drugs – not even gas – and within 3-4 weeks I was already feeling a million bucks. At 6 weeks I was back playing sport and at 11 weeks with Indie sleeping from 8pm-8am I can absolutely see why babies are so addictive and I can’t wait to go back for the next one!
In a nutshell, labour was exactly as I had imagined and at the same time, nothing like I had imagined! Now I understand why its so difficult to describe the pain of labour and what a contraction is or feels like. Also, I would happily go through labour again instead of the 9 months of being pregnant. I hated it EVEN THOUGH I really had nothing to complain about – I didn’t get super massive (one of the few times I have been thankful for being tall), I didn’t waddle, and I didn’t get too badly swollen. I did have HECTIC indigestion, some rib pain and sore hands (fluid and its like carpal-tunnel syndrome) but that’s really it. I just hated a belly that gets in the way and not being able to exercise properly.
Anyway, for those who are interested in an in-depth account of my labour here it is. My advice for women about to give birth – and this is the athlete in me talking – it’s all about mental toughness. There’s no point thinking ‘it’s too painful, I can’t do this’ because the truth is you HAVE to do it, that babe HAS to come out and the more you go with your contractions rather than fighting them, the quicker it will be over! You’ll also be a mum and have a beautiful new baby when it’s all over – I just kept thinking about this and pushed until I went purple in the face, and you know what? My labour felt like it went so fast. It was so overwhelming and with all the adrenaline pumping, I seriously felt like it was over in like 15 minutes. I also hardly made a peep throughout my labour and I think that helped – I felt like screaming or yelling would be a waste of energy. But at the end of the day it really is each to their own; I just really feel like these things really helped me.
So… At 40 weeks and 2 days I woke up at 4am with something that felt like period pain, but something that I hadn’t felt so far in my pregnancy. After lying there for about half an hour, I poked Alastair and said “I think today is the day.”
I got up and starting bouncing on my fit ball in the lounge room while watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians – how appropriate that it was the episode where Kourtney gives birth to her first son Mason. I was glued to the TV thinking “holy crap, this is going to be me at some stage today!” Kourtney didn’t make a peep throughout the whole labour, so I made that my goal. Hey, if she could do it, I totally could!
Then I started having what I assumed were contractions, so I started timing them and they were about 10 minutes apart. Alastair got up and got ready for work (he usually leaves at about 5am) but when I started having quite regular contractions he decided not to head in, as he was on a job in Melbourne. I laid down on the couch and tried to have a nap and was woken by a fairly intense contraction. I went to the bathroom and had what I assumed was a ‘show’ so I called the midwife. She said it sounded like I was in early labour and to keep timing the contractions, then to call back when I was having 3-4 within a 10 minute period.
After that, the contractions were all over the place. I’d have a couple in a row, some really intense then some really weak, then nothing for over 15 minutes. It got to about 11:30am and Alastair said, “so is it happening or what?” and I nearly punched him. Men!
I got back on the couch and fell asleep again, and this time I was woken by a REALLY intense contraction. I went to the bathroom again and this time there was a LOT of blood. I called the midwife and she said I had better come in to check what was going on, but to be prepared that I would most likely be sent home.
On the car trip from our house to the hospital (a 5 minute drive, maybe 8 with the traffic) I had about 5 contractions in a row. At the hospital they were completely full and I had to sit in reception for over half an hour. The receptionist could see that I was working really hard and said, “I’m so sorry, we’re trying to get you a bed!” They then took me to an observation room where a midwife checked me over. She kept asking me questions but I was in a fair amount of pain and could hardly answer her. Finally they got me into a room and a new midwife – the one who would be overseeing my birth – checked me over and then said, “OK we’ll leave you here for a bit and I’ll come back at some stage to do an exam. We’ll see how you’re going and if we need to send you home.” The amount of pain I was in, I was thinking “not bloody likely!”
The contractions kept coming and I was dancing all over the room trying to get comfortable. Leaning on the bed, on all fours leaning on a fit ball, marching on the spot or shaking my butt but breathing through the contractions. Soon they were coming one of top of the other until I was getting no break between them. The midwife poked her head in the room to advise that they would do the exam at 5pm. At 5pm she poked her head back in to let us know that they were really busy and babies were being born everywhere, and that she’d do the exam as soon as she could. It was almost 6pm when she was finally able to do the exam and not surprisingly she said, “Oh… Well… You’re 2/3 of the way there. We won’t be sending you home then!” Really lady? REALLY? I could have knocked her out.
The exam actually hurt quite a bit (I had tears in my eyes) but after it was over, I actually felt a bit of relief as the contractions slowed down considerably. I jumped in the shower but after a little while the contractions sped up again and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball. I ended up on the hospital bed – the one place I had wanted to keep away from – laying on my side and hanging onto the side bar for dear life. At this point the contractions became almost unbearable and I physically couldn’t breathe out without pushing down. Alastair told me I needed to breathe out as I was going purple in the face and when I finally exhaled, my waters broke.
It really was like a water balloon bursting – exactly the same sound and the same gush of water. Poor Alastair, he asked “what do I do?” and I said “get the midwife!” and he accidentally pushed the Code Blue button. They all came running and asked what was wrong. “Her waters broke!” he said and to which the midwife replied, “OK, that’s normal. What you did was right but next time, push this button.” Poor Alastair haha.
After my waters broke, it was on. Through my television-watching I knew it was important to wait for the midwife to advise it was time to push. At no time did that instruction come. I was laying on my side just trying to breathe through contractions when all of a sudden, the midwife started lifting my leg every time I had one. “Am I supposed to be pushing?” “Oh… Yes!” THANKS FOR TELLING ME!
So I rolled onto my back and it was like every television show, legs up in the stirrups! For the next hour or so I just pushed until I was purple in the face. I don’t know if I was just so overwhelmed by the entire experience that I was completely numb to the pain, but the contractions and pushing didn’t hurt at all. It was just exhausting to push and it was hurting my ribs from the position that I was in.
The midwives couldn’t work out why the baby wasn’t coming, especially when I was doing such a great job of pushing. They asked if I had any back pain – which I didn’t – and so did some poking around. They realised that the baby was posterior which is face up, spine on spine, and most women have excruciating back pain when this happens. A doctor was called in as the baby’s heart rate kept dropping and she advised me that they really need to get the baby out, so they would be giving me an episiotomy (cut) and they would need to vacuum the baby out.
The next thing I know SHE is out. They took her away momentarily and then she was on my chest, the whole ‘skin-to-skin’ thing. It’s true what they say, that all the pain disappears the minute you’re holding your new baby. I had been numb pretty much since I started pushing but I was also so incredibly overwhelmed and euphoric that I couldn’t feel anything!
Then they were stitching me up and it felt like it took forever. I was also regretting my choice to allow students in the room because it felt like there were at least thirty people staring straight down the barrel while it all happened. Dignity… What dignity?
Alastair was amazing throughout the whole thing. He said he didn’t think he’d venture down the business end of things but he did… He saw her head crowning, he saw them cut me and he also saw the placenta come out which he says was the worst/grossest part of the whole thing. Prior to labour we kept joking that he was going to strap the GoPro to his head and now I wish we had’ve!
Oh… I also had my placenta encapsulated and have been taking it as vitamins ever since. We are the only mammals who don’t eat our placenta and it is meant to assist with neutralising your hormones, breast milk supply, fatigue as well as postpartum depression. It sounds gross but once you get past what you’re actually consuming – it’s not like I fried it up like a steak – I now swear by it. Since the birth I have been so relaxed (like ridiculously) and I haven’t felt stressed or had a sleepless night yet. If the whole placenta thing is just a placebo and I’m only positive because of what I ‘believe’ the pills are doing for me, it can’t hurt!