The birth story of Reuben Michael, born 15th of February on his due date.
This was my third and final pregnancy, baby boy number three. I was determined to have a birth that was worlds apart from my second birth, which left me with birth trauma and fear. I was prepared to do whatever it took to ensure a calm, positive, homebirth.
I hired a private midwife with an amazing reputation (and she is amazing), I had the support of my husband and a student midwife who is also a friend.
My pregnancy was fairly uneventful, except for the backlash from my previous pregnancy. In my second pregnancy, I was “diagnosed” with gestational diabetes after I did the routine glucose tolerance test. This pregnancy, I had researched and decided against taking this test. Instead, under the guidance of my midwife I elected to test my own blood sugars throughout pregnancy.
My sugars were completely normal.
My midwife suggested a third trimester growth scan, just in case. Considering my previous history (possible shoulder dystocia, gestational diabetes, “large baby”), I thought why not, what’s the harm.
Unfortunately, that ultrasound did nothing more than create anxiety and risk. Bubs head was measuring 97th percentile and his abdomen was measuring on the 95th and I had polyhydramnios (albeit mild).
Alas, signs of gestational diabetes! Yet my sugars were fine. I wasn’t concerned, however I now required to meet with the hospital to discuss my risks and to be advised against a home birth, rather to elect for a hospital induction at 38 weeks.
I sat through three of these meetings, I heard the risks over and over. It created a lot of fear and doubt and anxiety. Could I birth this baby? Is home the safest option? Am I making the right choice?
In the end, I agreed to a hospital induction at 40 weeks and 4 days, hoping that I would have gone into spontaneous labour before then and had my home birth as planned.
Leading up to my due date, I had noticed bubs movements slowing down. I found myself really have to sit and concentrate to feel him. This was unusual for him. I felt a bit paranoid but thought, maybe he’s running out of space.
Then came my due date, and things were still quiet as they had been for 3 days. My midwife came over to check, and I mentioned his movements changing. She checked his heart rate and noticed the baseline had increased from his usual. She suggested we head up to the hospital for a CTG, and for me to pack a bag because there was a possibility I would be staying and having my baby.
When she left, it hit me. What if my baby wasn’t ok? What if I had to be induced? What if I couldn’t have my home birth? What if this birth was going to be exactly like my last?
I frantically ran around the house, gathering the affirmation cards I had stuck on the walls of my house, and I cried. I cried because I might not have the beautiful home birth I envisioned and excitedly anticipated.
Fast forward a few hours later, the CTG monitoring bubs heart rate delivered some not so great news. My midwife declared home was no longer the safest place to have this baby and he needed to come out sooner rather than later.
Gutted. Devastated. Disappointed.
I was told it wouldn’t happen that night, but rather we would monitor heart rate through the night and do the induction the next morning.
Here I was, left alone in the hospital maternity ward with 3 strangers and their newborns to process this huge deviation of plan. To process all of my fears at once. My husband had gone home and so had my other support, and I wasn’t going to get any sleep.
The next morning, Drs told me I would have an artificial rupture of membranes in theatre, in case of a cord prolapse (one of the risks of polyhydramnios). Thankfully, another doctor was happy enough that bubs head was engaged enough to prevent any possible cord prolapse, meaning it could be performed in birth suite.
Then, it was my turn to go to birth suite. The hospital staff first led me into the room where I delivered my second baby. The room that held a lot of trauma and fear for me. I instantly burst into tears. I wanted to run far, far away from that hospital. I even said to my husband that I felt like a prisoner. Thankfully, they could see how visibly traumatised I was and moved me into a separate room.
Once in the room, it was 10am and a cannula was placed into my arm. My second midwife (who was supporting as a doula) arrived and comforted me as they were about to break my waters. It was over in 2 minutes, no cord prolapse and no meconium, yay!
I was then allowed to eat, drink and move as normal. I got up, sat on the birth ball and inhaled some clary sage. My primary midwife then arrived and checked in on me. My doula rubbed some pressure points on my ankle and shoulders with clary sage. It felt so nice to be nurtured. Half an hour passed, still no contractions. Hubby and I decided to climb some stairs for 20 minutes. Apart from making me tired, it did nothing. We returned to the room to be monitored some more. Everything looked fine, so we went for another walk, did squats, lunges, you name it.
I had one contraction that got me excited. I then received a phone call from the OB reg, “it isn’t safe for you to be walking around, we need you to come back to be monitored”. I agreed to come back, when I was ready.
Nearing the two hour mark, I was recommended to start the syntocin drip. I declined and asked for just one more hour. I wanted to exhaust every remedy I knew first. I took homeopathic and inhaled some more essential oils. I then jumped into the shower, turned off the lights and tried to relax. Hubby sat in the bathroom with him, as I wanted to know he was nearby. We tried some cuddling and nipple stimulation.
It was nearing 2pm, the 3 hour mark. Suddenly exhaustion had caught up to me, a combination of no sleep the night before and trying to get labour started. I hopped out of the shower, and laid down on the bed, hoping to get 15 min of shut eye.
I agreed to start the drip, thinking it may take a while for any effect to take place. Usually, the drip is started on 1unit and doubled until a woman is having 4 contractions in 10 minutes.
Within seconds of the drip starting, I had a strong contraction. A few minutes go by and I have another. Within 10 minutes, I was super uncomfortable and could no longer lay down.
This is where things get a little blurry. I believe I got up from the bed, went to the bathroom and returned. My midwives had set up a foam mattress on the floor with a chair for me to lean over.
I begin breathing and vocalising through contractions, which felt like they were coming on top of each other. My doula was giving me counter pressure on my hips, rubbing some acupressure points in my ankles and lower back. I was managing ok, but it hurt so much. I was in my head the entire time, thinking “this is so hard, this is so painful, I can’t do this”.
After possibly 30 minutes (again, fuzzy memory), I decided to jump into the shower. I had two shower heads on super-hot temperature, one on my lower belly and the other on my lower back. I was standing straight and moving my hips around in a circular motion. That seemed to help a lot.
Unsure of how long I was in there for, but I began to feel weak and faint at this stage from such a hot shower, so I opted to go and lay on the bed to recoup.
Laying on my side was painful, I continued to breathe/moan/vocalise through them and I also had a heat pack on my lower back and belly. Suddenly, I began to feel some pressure and without force or instruction, my vocalisations changed and I was feeling pushy. It wasn’t full blown, but every now and then I was having urges. I felt excited, maybe this meant I was close to the end!
I got up, went to the bathroom and returned. My midwife suggested I stay upright on the bed and lean over the bed head (on an all fours position). I continued to breathe through the contractions, and push a little when I had the urge, just little nudges.
I continued doing this for a while. Then the Doctor walked in. She wanted me to be checked, however my midwife told her it was unnecessary and I was pushing. The Doctor kept hassling, so I gave in and told her just to do it. Dr did the VE and decided I had an anterior lip and was not fully dilated, therefore I needed to stop pushing.
Suddenly, I lost control. I panicked. What did she mean stop pushing? I can’t just stop!
I was crying, saying “I can’t do this, make it stop”. Every time I pushed I could feel a burning sensation, which would have been my cervix I was pushing down onto.
With a lot of support and coaching, I breathed through contractions as best as I could, trying to stop myself from pushing.
I remember thinking in my head “I just want this to stop, I want an epidural, I want a caesarean, I just want it to end”. After 30 minutes of pushing-but not pushing, my midwife suggested she try to physically push the cervix over bubs head. I said ok.
So I rolled over onto my back and allowed her to move the cervix, which worked without any problem. With the next contraction, I could feel my baby’s head descend! I was excited, the end was close.
I then rolled back over onto an all fours position and tried for a few contractions, but it didn’t feel like anything was really happening. My midwife then asked me to do a supported squat position on the bed, and in this position I could really feel him moving down. I think within 2 contractions his head was out. The sensation of stretching slowly, bit by bit, was insane. It’s so tempting to want to push and get the baby out as fast as possible, but I really didn’t want to tear so I followed my midwives cues, to relax and allow myself to stretch slowly over baby’s head.
I was assisted to change positions once more to open my pelvis up and allow his shoulders to move through (pre-empting a baby with a large abdominal circumference and previous tight shoulders). At this moment, I felt a wave of calm come over me. I smiled to myself, knowing my baby would be born soon. Also, consciously choosing not be fearful. This was the “scariest” moment of my labour, the moment we had spoken about during pregnancy, the possibility of a shoulder dystocia. Every Doctors worst fear. I knew the implications of this happening, but I chose to trust my body, my baby and my midwife.
I felt the next contraction come. With that push, my midwife gently pulled his hand out (which he had up near his neck) and his body slid out easily. Next thing I knew, I had a slippery, wet, baby boy placed on my chest. He let out a huge cry. I was so relieved, he was healthy and perfect.
My placenta came away quite quickly, but I continued to bleed. I had a number of large clots as well. All in all, I lost around 950ml, and I felt awful cause of it. That was the only crappy part of the birth.
He was 8 pounds 13 ounces, of 4.01 kg.
Overall, it was a medically good birth, but it was a real mental struggle for me. Having to process the drastic change in birth plan, knowing all the possible complications that come with having an induction and trying to cope with artificial contractions.