Marley came into the world at 10.41am on Wednesday 28th January after a very long, long labour.
I had a dream pregnancy. I had the slightest hint of nausea right at the very beginning, but after that the only symptom that gave me any hassle at all was heartburn when I lay down at night and an insattiable appetite for anything chocolate . I decided early on that with my mom and sisters a world away in South Africa and this being my first, I really wanted a more softer, feminine approach than the detached male OBGYN I saw at the start so I began seeing a private midwife in my second trimester. Steph and her colleagues aim to take the fear out of childbirth and I felt so well supported in wanting to have as natural a birth as possible. I read positive birthing stories and tried to visualize my own beautiful water birth whilst still trying to remain detached from outcomes. Steph and I spoke about a birth plan, but nothing was set in stone because you really can’t plan a birth. I understood very well that while you can have preferences for how you would like to birth your baby, when it comes down to it you do what is needed to get your baby out happy and safely. I knew that things could change in an instant in the delivery room.
The last month of pregnancy was hard. We were experiencing the hottest summer in ages on the Gold Coast and I could barely leave the house for fear of overheating so with my due date approaching I was wishing for labour to start. I had a feeling all along that she would come early so when I started to have period like cramps 10 days before my due date I wasn’t too surprised.
Along with the cramps I had a strong urge to either bake or clean that day so I cleaned out my mother in-laws fridge and baked some muffins. Nesting much? The cramps carried on into the night waking me up every now and then, but they weren’t strong enough to have to get up for. I knew something was happening, but I wasn’t convinced I was actually going into labour yet.
The next day (Sunday) the cramps became stronger and progressed into contractions that were 15-20 minutes apart. I had to get up and walk through them. There was no way I could just sit and have one. This carried on throughout the day and into the night and I really thought that soon, we would be heading to the hospital. This time I could only dose in between and I had to get up, walk around the bed and hold onto Marley’s change table and breathe through the peaks, but at 4am the contractions dropped off and I managed to get an hour or two of sleep.
When I woke up in the morning (Monday) they started again at consistent 15 minutes intervals. For another day I walked around the house breathing my way through contractions that were getting consistently stronger. Again I was convinced that we were having a baby that day, but the day turned into night and despite the 10 minute intervals, pacing throughout the night and very strong painful contractions they again dropped off at 4am. I was beginning to think she was never going to come out.
The next day (Tuesday) was my birthday and for a while when anyone had asked me what I wanted for my birthday I had said.. “my baby” so today had to the day she arrived. I had an appointment to see Steph and it was an uncomfortable drive there. I walked into the clinic with Corey very slowly having to stop and breath through strong contractions. Steph examined me and thank goodness I was 3cm dilated. She was relived as well because some women can have a prelabour that drops off after a few days and they only go into active labour a week later so it a relief to hear that all that work already wasn’t for nothing.
Steph performed a membrane sweep to help things along and we went home. By lunch time I could hardly talk the contractions were so strong. We called Steph to tell her that my contractions were now 5 minutes apart and she came out to the house to examine me, but I was only about 4cm. At 4pm I was pacing around our room when a really strong contraction took over me. I felt a pop and water gushed down my legs. I ran into the shower while Corey called Steph and told her we were heading to the hospital. We grabbed our hospital bags that had been packed for weeks and slowly I made my way downstairs. Our family was wishing us luck and giving us hugs as we left but I could barely speak. I was just breathing deeply and going inside myself to deal with each wave that rushed over me.
The contractions were now 3 minutes apart and because I couldn’t sit through them, Corey had to pull over at the side of the road so I could get out, stand up and hold onto the door during each one. This caused major concern for bystanders with one man offering to call triple zero for us. All the while my waters continued to flow from me and soak my pants. When we got to the hospital, Steph had advised us to park in the parking lot and walk to the labour ward to keep things going so as I walked through the busy hospital at peak visiting hours with water still gushing from me and having to stop every few paces and hold onto the side rails, I got more than a few sideways looks from people. We went straight to the birth suite where Steph was waiting and I immediately got in the shower. Corey held the shower on my back for what felt like hours. My lower back had started to hurt with each contraction and the warm water was soothing. I put on a robe and went to sit down in between contractions. I was already feeling exhausted having not slept properly for 3 nights, but I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick birth and I needed to make the most of the time in between contractions.
At around 11 pm I got in the pool. The warm water and weightlessness was heavenly. Corey got in with me and poured warm water over my shoulders in a constant and endless stream for hours. We had the lights dimmed right down, salt lamps on and Devi Prayer playing on repeat sending me into what felt like a deep trance in between contractions. At times I was even falling asleep, but when the rushes came I was now in real pain. The pain of the contractions I could deal with, but my lower back was causing me to scream out now. Marley was lying the wrong way around and pressing against the ligaments in my lower back. I was kneeling with my thighs spread apart and leaning over the side of the pool, but that position was doing nothing to help her turn so Steph suggested I lie with my back against Corey and my knees up, but the back pain was unbearable in that position. There were positive affirmations stuck on the walls of the birthing suite with words like calm, love and surrender. I kept coming back to the word surrender. With each contraction I tried to surrender my mind to my body.
At 2am with the back pain still excruciating, I was offered sterile water injections. I had read how they can relieve back pain, but that they hurt. I figured it couldn’t be any worse that what I was already experiencing. I was wrong. Steph had me hold onto Corey’s arms while she and another midwife administered them at the same time. It felt like a thousand wasps stinging me in the same place at once. I screamed like I have never screamed before, probably scaring the other women in the labour ward. They worked and the next few contractions were bearable, but I only had 10 minutes of relief before the back pain started again. We tried everything to turn her. I was walking up and down stairs side ways and Steph was holding and moving my belly while I contracted, but Marley was having none of it. She was quite happy how she was.
At around 4am I felt the urge to push. Up until that point I hadn’t wanted Corey near me when I was having a contraction as I just had to go inside myself to get through them, but once the contractions changed and the urge to push took over I needed to draw strength from him. I gripped his hands while my whole body beared down.
After an hour of pushing the contractions started getting further and further apart going from 3 minutes to 5 minutes to 7 minutes. They were dropping off because I was so exhausted so Steph decided to put an oxytocin drip in to keep them going. I was hooked up and had a fetal heart rate monitor strapped on. This meant no more pool. I wasn’t disappointed to not be having a water birth because at this stage I was just so focussed on getting her out. Her heartbeat was strong and although I was having a tough time, she was happy.
I was starting to feel like I had just about had enough so I asked for some gas and that really helped me to focus my breathing when pushing. It also just took the edge off the pain.
At 5 am, Rosie, Steph’s colleague came in to take over as by law they can only be in the hospital delivering for 12 hours before they have to take a break. Steph didn’t want to leave and stayed on. After lying on my side and pushing, Rosie suggested I try a birthing stool. It was way easier to really put my all into pushing on the birthing stool and soon her head started to come down. Rosie could feel the full head of hair she had, but her head kept going back up. This went on for ages and I was trying so hard to make the most of each contraction, but I was so tired. At 7am Steph and Rosie decided to call in the doctor. I was ready for it to all be over, even if that mean having a cesarean. The doctor did a scan and decided to give me an epidural. Marley was going to have to be rotated because she just wasn’t coming out in the position she was in. Having an epidural placed in your spine while you are having contractions and bearing down is not ideal however the relief that washed over me was like nothing I have ever felt before. Once it had kicked in and I was calm the doctors explained each of my options and what they recommended I do which meant going into theater for a kiellands rotation and forceps birth, with a cesarean should the rotation not be successful.
The thought of a rotation and having her yanked out of me was pretty scary. I was terrified of tearing really badly and thought a clean incision with a cesarean may be better. I was utterly exhausted and high on gas and I’m pretty sure I said to Corey to just get them to take her out the sunroof, but I went with the doctors recommendations and was on my way to theater where they upped my epidural so that I was completely numb from my chest down. I could feel the pressure and a swirl in my side as they rotated her but no pain. I was still having contractions but I couldn’t feel them and when the doctor told me to push I had no idea if I was, but in what felt like seconds ( especially after the 4 days to get there) she was out, on my chest and finally here.
I wish I could say I tuned into my baby and knew that she was ok ,but to tell you the truth I was so grateful to be in a hospital hooked up to a baby heart rate monitor because hearing her strong heartbeat the whole way through meant that she was ok, she was happy and because there was no stress on her, I actually felt pretty calm all the way through.
Since her birth a few people have asked me if I’m traumatized by it and my answer is no. Yes it didn’t go as I had “planned” and it was pretty tough, but when I think back I never saw one outcome other than her arriving safety. I’m actually super proud of myself because I labored like a BOSS for 4 days with little more than a panadol or two before succumbing to interventions. I felt empowered the whole way through and even when the interventions started I knew that each one was necessary for her safety and I was well informed at every step of the way.
What also stands out to me is the way Corey tenderly watched me in awe ( and agony at not being able to do anything to help), the way he sobbed when he held Marley for the first time and the way he looked at me when I delivered our precious baby girl. My husband is one in a million and the best birthing partner I could have asked for.
Oh and I also ate my placenta. Not in a game of thrones kallesi kind of way, but dried by a yogi in little capsules. You can google all the benefits and you will find justification like we are the only mammals who don’t eat their placenta and those who are disgusted saying that animals eat their placenta so as not to attract predators, but then even lions eat theirs. For me I figured anything that was going to help me stop bleeding, give me some strength back and help me deal with the roller coaster of emotions that accompany the first few weeks post birth was A-ok in my books. I would have eaten bovine stool if I thought it would help me deal with how absolutely shattered I felt after labour. Maybe its a placebo effect, I don’t care it worked and I could tell on the days I forgot to take any.
Us women are incredible beings. I never knew I was capable of enduring such an experience and I never knew I had the capacity to love someone as fiercely as I do my little girl.