Lola's Birth – November 1992

This is the story of the birth of my first child. It was a planned homebirth. Present were me (Yvette), my first husband Kevin, main Midwife Annie, second Midwife Robyn, my mum Irene, support person Julianne, dog Jessie, cat Saxophone. My brother Gavin also showed up, & fell asleep on the lounge room floor at some point, and afterwards it turned out that my dad Earnest had been out on the front porch.

I conceived on the 2nd cycle after coming off the pill. I was 26. I was healthy and everything was fine throughout the pregnancy. I'm 5'6", and started off at about 9 1/4 stone, and put on 3 stone. During the first trimester I had a little nausea and would get very tired, often falling asleep on the couch when I got home from work. I had 2 ultrasounds. The first one showed the placenta a bit low but it moved up by the next one. The ultrasounds also showed the kidneys slightly larger than they should have been, meaning we'd need to check them again after the birth. We found out we were having a girl. My main nesting instinct was a strong desire to purchase real estate, so we bought our first house. I worked until a couple of weeks before the birth, then thoroughly enjoyed having some time to potter around at home before the big event. We had a birth plan meeting at home with both Midwives. I'd read some books including ones by Janet Balaskas and Sheila Kitsinger, and Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. All my antenatal visits were with Annie at her home, which was great because there was no sitting in a waiting room and plenty of time to talk. I felt as well prepared as I could be.

The due date was Wednesday 18th November 1992, and I went into labour that day. I had recently been getting stronger that usual Braxton Hicks contractions which were a bit painful at night, and I felt the same thing on the Tuesday night. I actually had to sit up in bed and breathe through them. Wednesday morning I had a pinky show and lots of sticky clear discharge. I also had some more contractions like the night before, but they would stop after a little while. I felt excited at these signs that it was getting close, but as the baby's head still hadn't engaged in the pelvis I thought I had 2 weeks or so to go. I was impatiently waiting for the -lightening' I'd heard of to take the pressure off my ribs. I had an appointment to see Annie that morning. She said the baby's head was still a bit mobile and it could be a week or so. It was nearly noon when we got home and I had some more contractions. I wanted to get some errands done and get everything ready in case I went into labour soon. Kevin walked with me up to the local shops as I was still having the odd contraction and wanted him with me just in case. We only wanted to go to the post office and pick up a few things and something for lunch, but it took until 3.30pm. I was moving very slowly and having contractions. When we were in Dimmeys I was looking at baby clothes and bassinet sheets as I thought it might be my last chance to go shopping before the birth. Also I was going to pick up some curtain material as I intended to sew curtains that afternoon, but Kevin had to hurry me along because the contractions were getting stronger. A combination of nesting and denial?

Mum came over about 4.00pm and we were going to do the curtains. I sent Kevin out to get me some herbal stuff. I tried to eat a roll he made me for lunch. I had half of it and a big iced coffee I made myself, but the contractions were still happening and hurting more. By 4.30pm they weren't letting up and were definitely getting stronger so we started timing them. Up until now I really hadn't thought this was it and expected them to stop. Now I was a bit nervous because they hurt and I knew they'd have to hurt a lot more yet. They were ranging from 3 to 9 minutes apart and lasting 30 to 60 seconds. We rang Julianne but she wasn't home, so I rang her husband Tom, and told him I wasn't sure if this was really it. He said he'd find her. I can't remember if I spoke to her on the phone before she arrived. I remember wanting Mum or Kevin to go out and buy a mattress for the single bed then and there so Mum would have somewhere to sleep afterwards. (Hysterical last minute nesting behaviour, everything was supposed to be perfect, I wasn't ready!) Mum went and got some thin ones from home plus some pillows and bought some mirrors.

I got my aromatherapy going and we had some music on, which Kevin kept going for me for the whole labour. We rang Annie at 5.00pm. She said to have dinner and try to rest. I'd been sitting at the kitchen table and moving around the lounge room trying unsuccessfully to get comfortable. We didn't eat but went & lay down to try to sleep or at least rest. At 5.30pm Kevin took over timing the contractions. By 6.30pm they were 4-5 minutes apart and now 1 to 1 1/2 minutes long. I was having hot flushes and waves between contractions and was shivery. I felt the baby having hiccups. I wasn't able to relax on the bed. Kevin suggested a bath. I started off in the shower (about 7.00pm?) then put the plug in. I kept trying to get comfortable but couldn't. Contractions were really starting to hurt, and I felt like if only I could just move into the right position they wouldn't hurt so much, but I started to feel a bit distressed that nothing made any difference. I had to huff & puff through them. Julianne arrived when I was in the bath. Kev got the water heated up in the big bath. (We'd hired a home made birthing tub, made of 4 wooden sides with a huge pool liner in it, and removable immersion heater. It was about waist height standing up in the water, the size of a dining table). Mum was back and she & Julianne were giving me lollies & dried fruit & drinks, putting a cold washer on my forehead etc. Julianne brought bathers & hopped in the bath with me. I was becoming more occupied coping with the pain but was still quite communicative & had my eyes open mostly. Jules tried holding my tummy different ways through contractions & sometimes it helped a bit. I could still feel kicks from inside occasionally. It had got to this stage so quickly, not long ago I was shopping & now I was right in the thick of it. By the time I realized I was definitely in labour (about 5.30pm) it was too late to make any last minute plans or preparations. I'd lost track of time and was now totally consumed with what my body was doing. Kev rang Annie again at 8.00pm. Julianne was mainly looking after me now & was experienced & confident enough (having had 2 home births herself) to make suggestions for which I was grateful. I was reluctant to move but it was decided I should get into the big bath which was now ready. By 8.30pm we'd given up timing the contractions as it was obvious this was it. At some stage I began to make sounds with each contraction, I think while I was still in the small bath. Someone might have suggested it to me, I don't know why I started, but once I'd started the sounds continued for the rest of the labour. It was a low, full, long sort of howl that I sustained until I needed to take a breath. I think about 3 of them for each contraction. The contractions by 8.30 were 3 to 7 minutes apart and 1 to 21/2 minutes long. If they were closer together they were shorter & not as bad; the longer in between, the longer & more painful the contraction.

Getting into the big bath was good. It didn't stop the pain or even ease it much but it made the rest of my body comfortable & helped me relax. Also there was heaps of room in there to move around. I couldn't get comfortable though. Jules was in with me then Kev got into bathers & got in too. I felt too insecure floating around in there. Squatting or leaning against the side I had nothing to hold me down & I wanted some leverage for my legs. We mucked around and finally with Kev behind me up one end & Jules up the other end with some foam rubber I got comfortable leaning back on Kev & pushing against the other end with my feet. It was like I had to do something with the contractions, like I needed an outlet, so pushing with my feet instead of having them floating around felt better. I'd just got comfortable here when Annie arrived. Apparently Kev had rung her or she'd rung us or something at midnight. She arrived at 12.25am. Don't know where all that time went. Everyone seemed to be busy the whole time. At some stage my father arrived, which I didn't know until just after the birth. He waited out on the front porch, and said he could hear the howling from out in the street. My brother showed up too, and fell asleep on a mattress on the lounge room floor. My dog Jessie and cat Saxophone were there too, being unobtrusive but probably wondering what all the fuss was about. Mum was bringing cold washers & drinks & stuff I think & helping Kev maintain the water temperature. My eyes were closed a lot by now and it was all a bit vague to me. Annie put the sonic aid in a condom so it wouldn't get wet & listened to the baby's heart which was fine & I felt really happy to hear it. A photo at this point shows one of my few smiles. And now that I'd got sort of comfortable of course I had to move! Got out of the bath and Annie asked if I wanted an examination & I said yes. 8cm, I smiled again and was thrilled. I thought great, I've handled it so far and I'm nearly there. I hadn't thought about whether the labour was progressing normally or how long I had to go or the fact that soon I'd be holding my child or even that my cervix was opening — I'd been too absorbed in the contractions. Now it suddenly occurred to me that I was doing well. We could feel a "small bag of bulging forewaters" (midwife's notes). Annie was reminding me that the pain was to open my cervix so the baby could descend & be born, and that I needed to help the cervix open. She got me standing leaning on the edge of the bath (outside the bath) with legs wide apart and knees bent and held me from behind getting me to rotate my hips and moving with me. Then Kevin was with me and I was squatting and kneeling on pillows on the floor. I couldn't get comfortable and tried all fours with the big pillow under me. Not really comfortable on the floor. Kevin tried rubbing my back, but I think I was hardly aware of it.

Annie's notes 2am: "having some strong pushy sensations". Annie rang Robyn (our 2nd midwife). I got back in the water. Kev was with me & Mum & Jules were bringing me stuff — water to drink, ice cubes to suck, cold washers for face etc. I accepted nearly everything offered & occasionally asked for things with one or two words to whoever was there. I think I would have eaten a lot more if food was offered but I didn't ask for it. At one stage Annie offered me a piece of orange & I snatched it with my mouth and ate it without noticing the peel was still on it. I was often holding a hand either side of me but didn't know or care whose they were. I squeezed them very hard & demanded them back if they weren't there on the next contraction. I said yes or no to what was offered & generally bossed everyone around without saying much. 2.20am Annie examined me again –I was still in the bath– 9cm dilated & membranes suddenly ruptured with a big gush. I remember Annie telling Robyn she hadn't done it when examining me, it just happened spontaneously. I think I was hardly aware of it though. Annie tried to get the last little bit of cervix over the head but it wouldn't go.

I was squatting in the corner of the bath with my arm over the side, my back to the corner of the bath, a towel over the side for padding. 2.38am Robyn arrived. I felt I might open my bowels and was helped to the loo where I had a very small poo. Robyn's notes say "don't lean on my back, sounds almost transitional, ouch, I don't know what I bloody want, sounds really changing now".

I wasn't aware my sounds were changing but everyone else seemed to notice it. Robyn taped some but I never got around to listening to them. 3am Robyn's notes: "Further quick gush of clear liquid while standing." (I don't remember this). "Back in bath soon after, contractions more spaced now, relaxing well in the water." I was enjoying the longer spaces between contractions but wasn't opening my eyes or talking much, just resting, almost sleeping in the water. Annie made me eat big spoonfuls of honey which was pretty yucky. Apparently she tested my urine and saw my sugar was low. They should have just fed me more fruit all along, I would have eaten it.

3.30am Annie noticed my contractions seemed quite mild and gave me a homeopathy tablet under the tongue. I remember some discussion between the midwives about the contractions losing their force and whether this was of concern or not. Robyn said something about transition being the -rest and be thankful' stage, to give you a chance to rest before the pushing. I only noticed that they were further apart and not as strong when Annie observed it. I remember asking, "so am I in transition then?", and wondering why it hadn't been announced to me: "you are now in transition."

3.50am. Annie wanted me moving again as the water was much too soothing and she thought it might have been taking the oomph out of the contractions. She got me back on the loo and I passed some urine and a bit more poo. Then while there I had the first pushy feeling. "Anterior lip of cervix disappeared, descent of head evident, Yvette can feel baby's head and perineum is bulging. Fully dilated. 4.15 back in bath now. Body more relaxed with each contraction. 4.25 Spontaneous pushing."

I was having trouble getting used to the new sensation of pushing and couldn't get my sounds right. Then Annie said to hold my breath with the pushes. This was much better. I hadn't realized it was now OK to hold my breath. It was a big relief and didn't hurt as much while I was pushing. The contraction would start and hurt for a bit then the pushing feeling would build up like a wave. I'd wait for it then take a big breath and hold it and help push. I'd need several breaths and got 2 to 3 good pushes from each one. The pushing part was much less painful than the contraction, and I felt the worst was over. I could feel the baby's head. Robyn's notes "Yvette very relaxed and well in control during 2nd stage." I did feel well in control only in that I didn't feel out of control. Everyone was encouraging me and telling me I was doing well. My mum said I looked beautiful. I certainly didn't feel it but that made me feel good. Annie kept getting me to push as hard and as long as I could. I was standing in the bath sometimes and sitting squatting sometimes. We had music playing and the lights were dimmed and we were trying to rig up mirrors and torches so I could see, but the water was a bit too dark and hazy to get a good view. As I pushed I could feel a stinging sensation at the very front, and it made me a bit anxious but I tried not to let it stop me pushing, although I told Annie what I was feeling. She checked the baby's heartbeat regularly and as long as I could hear it and Annie said it was OK, I was in no hurry and was happy to take my time stretching. Annie kept saying "on the next one" and Kevin kept telling me to push harder or something. He was being very encouraging but I told him to shut up. It didn't feel to me like the baby was about to come and I was pushing as hard as I wanted to. Not sure if I could have pushed any harder. I could still only feel a bit of the baby's head and I think it went back between contractions. I remember further discussion between the midwives about how long it was taking and that my perineum was long and having trouble stretching. I felt OK though and it hadn't occurred to me that I might tear. I was only concerned about the stinging sensation at the front but no explanation was offered. I turned around to the other side and was standing in the tub leaning forward into the window. I heard Annie say to someone that the baby wasn't going to come until I tore. I think she may have been considering recommending an episiotomy. Robyn seemed to think I could stretch. Annie got me to breath through some of the pushing sensations which I was able to do easily. Perhaps this was to help avoid tearing. I asked everyone to keep the noise down and speak quietly when the baby was born. Annie got Kevin to get ready in position. The music playing at the time was Doctor John. I remember thinking to myself "how am I ever going to manage to do this again." Suddenly out she came all at once, caught by Annie.

Lola Irene was born at 5.26 am on 19th November 1992. She weighed 3990 grams (8 lb, 10 oz), was 55 cm long and her head circumference was 34 cm. Apgar 1 min 10, 5 mins 10. Dad came in and everyone admired the first grandchild in our family.

It didn't hurt and was such a relief. I was stunned as I hadn't realized she was just about to be born, even thought we were all gearing up for it. Annie passed her through my legs to Kev then I sat back down in the water. As I did I caught sight of my daughter as her father held her. She looked right at me with huge eyes and looked at Kevin too. There was a little cry and Kev passed her to me and got down beside me. I took her in and counted her toes. She seemed very alert and was slippery with heaps of vernix. I was unaware I had accidentally dipped her face under the water. I must have been a bit woozy. I know the cord was clamped after it stopped pulsating and cut by Kevin, but I don't remember if this was while we were still in the bath. I think it must have been. I was quite white and wobbly, and had to be helped into bed. There were thunderstorms going on.

I was given a needle in the thigh to help contract the uterus back down to minimise the bleeding. I think this was done after the placenta came out, which was left to come out naturally. (There were 2 vessels in the umbilical cord rather than 3. As baby had also had slightly enlarged kidneys on the ultrasound, tests were done looking for bladder reflux, but none was found.) Annie was concerned about the bleeding and monitored me very closely. Her notes at 7am: "bleeding seems to be coming from vaginal lacerations and has slowed considerably." She had added up a total of 850ml by then, including an estimate of 400ml in the pool. I had a small internal tear not needing a stitch (I couldn't see it) and a graze. It was the graze that I had felt during crowning, and it would sting for a while after the birth. I needed to pour warm water over myself to pee. It was very hard to do my first pee, because of the bashed up, bruised feeling, but Annie threatened me with a catheter and I managed it in a bowl of water by 7.30am. Before that she'd also made me drink a lemon, honey and salt drink (500 ml for the blood loss) and eat a mars bar. She stayed until 9.30am.

We thought our baby looked like a wise old soul. She didn't feed straight away, seeming to need some sleep first, but was feeding strongly at the breast by 6.30am. Wow, I'm a mother!

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