I was blessed with a beautiful, natural and quick birth. At 39 weeks I was ready and waiting for our little girl. I was hoping to meet her soon, but preparing that we might have to wait a while as I’d heard first babies often arrive late. But I had little patience. Each day I would wake up and wonder if today was the day we would meet our daughter.
I’d been having practice contractions and cramping for four days. Each time I felt it I felt excited, thinking our little one might be on her way. But I had to check myself, remind myself that people have braxton hicks for weeks and that she could still be a while away. And each time they went away and I was disappointed, but I continued on life as normal.
We had heard that labour can take hours or even days, so we had prepared ourselves for that. We’d spent a lot of time getting ready. For me it was part of the process of mentally preparing. It was also part of not feeling alone despite knowing that I was the only one who could birth my baby. We’d done a birthing class, we’d hired and met with a doula, we’d read all we could about birth, we’d hired a TENS machine, organised a birthing music playlist, prepared snacks and learnt about acupressure techniques we could use for pain relief. We were planning and hoping for a natural water birth. I had finished work two weeks earlier at 37 weeks and was ready for our baby. I’d nested and cleaned the house and stocked the freezer full of food. As strange as it may sound I was excited by the thought of labour. I had no fear. I felt completely ready, prepared and supported.
In fact few times in life have I felt so supported as the final weeks of pregnancy. From a health perspective I was having a good experience with the hospital, I felt well cared for and that I knew what to do if I had concerns. My husband had risen to the challenge of learning how to be a great birth partner. He had invested lots of time in learning about his role, what he could do to guide me through the contractions and he’d even written poems to help remember all the information. Before I became pregnant we didn’t realise that there was so much to learn and learning about pregnancy and birth reminded me that we are on this journey together. I was confident in having him as my birth partner and there was no one I’d prefer to be by my side. I also had the support of Becky, our doula. It was wonderful to feel there was another women, who was specifically and proactively looking out for me and doing things to support. A few weeks before she had sent me a message while I was at work and said ‘I’m just dropping some birthing tea and dvds in your letterbox for you’. This made me feel very cared for. She also came around to our house to discuss the birth. We created a plan of daily activities to ensure I enjoyed the time while waiting for our baby to arrive. For the first time in my life I felt I had someone looking out for my mental health. I appreciated the acknowledgement that waiting is hard. But luckily for us, we didn’t have to wait too long.
The day before I went into labour, I did yoga, cooked a huge birthday cake, went swimming and had a wonderful spa at the pool. Sunday morning I had texted Becky to let her know that I’d had quite a bit of cramping, the cramps went away though so I thought it was nothing. Sunday evening we went out to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate a few family birthdays. We walked home from the restaurant and went to bed about 11pm.
At approximately 1am I woke suddenly, my body covered in pain, I jumped out of bed, I knew, without a doubt that this was it, this was not a practice, this was the real thing. We had began a journey that would be fast, furious and change our lives forever. We did not ease in to labour, I didn’t know it but I was probably already fully dilated and in transition.
I ran to the toilet and sat there, shaking from cold and covered in pain. I had not expected so much pain so quickly, I doubted myself. I thought, if this is just starting I don’t know if I can do this. I did not know how to position my body. I remembered all the positions we had covered in our birth class, I ran to the bedroom and knelt on the floor and leaned against the bed. It didn’t help. I went to the couch. I lay on my side, I knelt, I squatted, I stood. Nothing helped. There was no way to position my body.
We didn’t call Becky straight away as it was the middle of the night and I thought labour was just beginning. I didn’t want to wake her for no reason. I had planned to use water to help with the pain. I ran the bath and jumped in. But couldn’t find a position for myself. I needed my back and my front in the water but I couldn’t sit or lie down. I tried squatting and kneeling on all fours and rolling around to try to get the water to cover me. But the pain was too much and we needed support so we called Becky. The first question she asked was how far apart my contractions were. We had tried to time them, but I could not tell when one ended and another started. They rolled over me constantly, like a powerful hurricane, one after another, non stop. I seemed to have missed the first stage of labour, where contractions build up in timing and intensity. My mind ran through everything we had planned – acupressure, water, heat packs, TENS machine, hypnobirthing etc. But I was well beyond any of these things. Thinking of them seemed like treating an amputated leg with a bandaid. All I could do was scream. My husband was calm and my absolute pillar of strength. He reminded me to breathe in low tones, looked at me closely and showed me how to breathe. I followed his cues. It gave me something to focus on when I had nothing else, it helped.
The pressure was building, I stood up. It felt like I was about to give birth. But this can’t be it, I thought, this has only just started, everyone knows that birthing takes hours. I was in disbelief until I grabbed a mirror to have a look. I could see a head, covered in hair. I felt like the pressure was going to break me open, I thought there was no way I could get to the hospital. I couldn’t move. Yet I didn’t want to birth the baby at home. In a split second we decided to try to make it to the hospital.
It took all my strength to put on some clothes and walk to the car. I climbed in the back seat on my hands and knees. Percy started driving. I was screaming. I could hear him on the phone, but I couldn’t stop screaming, I had no control over it, it was the only thing I could do. I remember looking up and out the window and seeing we were turning out of our street. It felt like it had taken so long just to get to the end of our street. The hospital is very close to our house, yet the drive was taking forever. I imagined for a second getting pulled over by the police and almost laughed. I thought about how much I would scream at them and how ultimately they would be the ones who would be scared. We turned in to the ambulance entrance of emergency at Box Hill hospital. I got out of the car and leaned my hands against the door. I felt our baby was about to be born right there, like there was no way I could make it inside the hospital doors. An ambulance officer was there. He brought me a wheelchair. “I can’t sit down,” I screamed and I started walking towards the entrance.
I walked in to the hospital and from there everything is a bit of a blur. They told us we arrived at 2:11am and she was born at 2:21. Between that time I climbed on a bed, the first one I saw, on all fours. The room was full of people. I didn’t know who they were and I didn’t care. I couldn’t really hear or see what was going on. I remember my husband was holding my hand. I remember a midwife giving me instructions and me saying “I can’t hear you, speak louder”. I later didn’t recognise the midwife. I don’t remember any pain from this point on, I think I’ve blocked it out. Like a traumatic event, my memory of the actual birth is mostly missing. I don’t remember the first moment that I saw our little girl or when she was placed on my chest, I wish I could remember that second. I know my husband cut the umbilical cord. And the midwife said she was going to give me an injection to birth the placenta. “No, I’ll birth it myself,” I said. And I am so glad that I did. The whole birth had been completely natural and drug free. I had birthed our baby, she was here, I could do anything. I certainly could birth my placenta.
I was wheeled away to the birthing suite, our baby girl on my chest. In the birthing suite Becky arrived. She had come as quickly as she could, but she couldn’t believe it when they told her I’d already delivered.
We looked at our little princess, lying skin to skin on my chest. Her eyes looked back at us, her fingers felt around my chest. All this time we’d waited for her and she was finally here. All the birth preparation and we didn’t use any of it. The birth was everything I had wanted – natural and drug free, quick, with no complications or interventions and in our baby’s own timing.
“Hello Nala, hello Joy,” said Percy. These were names we had already chosen for our little one, and when we saw her we knew they suited her perfectly. Percy was glowing with pride. Our little princess, our joy and our beauty had joined our family. Our life as parents was about to start. It was incredibly overwhelming. I held her and thought – I’ll never let you go. She is our most beautiful gift, our ultimate pride. Fully formed, beautifully and wonderfully made. It blew my mind to think that a person, so perfect and so complete, had been hiding deep inside me all this time. She was exactly as I had imagined her – perfect and peaceful and bright as a button. Welcome little one. Our darling daughter – Nala Joy.