(As you’ll see – Dee experienced some complications immediately following the birth of her daughter, and while this can be a frightening experience for all concerned, having the right support can make all the difference.)
My birth with my second baby didn’t go “to plan” – but it was still a more positive experience than my textbook, straight forward first labour and birth!
When I found out I was pregnant, I decided to choose the hospital I was going to birth at, even though it wasn’t the closest one. I was a student midwife at studying there at the time, and knew that I needed a known care provider to be comfortable this time round.
I was very stressed leading up to the birth; I had a threatened pre-term labour scare at 34 weeks, which ended up with me on bedrest for six weeks, my mum was still living us and hadn’t found her own place yet, and I was desperately trying to complete my degree before the baby came! On my due date night, my husband cooked dinner, just pie and vegies – nothing fancy, and lit a few of my favourite scented candles. He wrestled our toddler to bed while I had a bubble bath to relax. Well, turns out relaxing was what my body needed to kick start into real labour! I woke up at 2am on the dot to a sharp pain in my lower abdomen. Seeing as I had pains like this for 6 weeks, I ignored it and tried to go back to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. The next pain come six minutes later. Still, I laid in bed, just breathing through, using my heat pack, convinced this was just another night of nothing and that my baby was NEVER going to come. Suddenly, I felt damp. I squeezed all my (terrible) pelvic floor muscles together and waddled to the toilet and noticed my waters had definitely broken! Yay! It was on!
It was most definitely on. The next contraction was only 2 mins from the last, and I had to sway and breathe. The hospital was almost an hour away, and I realised this labour was going to be much faster than the last and that we needed to get moving. By the time we arrived in the hospital I was in my own space. Do not try to talk to me, touch me or ask me to focus while I’m labouring hard. My midwife had a room set up with dimmed lights, LED tea lights, soft music playing when I waddled in, and she noticed that I said I wanted a waterbirth in my handheld record. The option to use warm water to labour was a huge part of my decision to attend the hospital I did, and I didn’t need to say anything to the midwife. She just quietly went and ran the bath, adding more tea lights to the bathroom and asking my husband if he wanted to connect a playlist. Our birth photographer arrived, just in time, and she only added to the atmosphere of love that I felt. As soon as the bath was filled, my midwife helped me undress, listened to baby’s heart one more time, and helped me into the bath. I was not so quietly labouring anymore. I could feel my baby moving down and I roared with each and every contraction. My amazing midwives, Sylvia and Jo, held me. She held my hand, and held my face while my baby prepared for birth. Sylvia was calm and used soft words. I don’t remember what she said, just the way she made me feel: supported, safe, and loved.
I knelt down into the bath and leaned back. “The baby’s coming!” I could FEEL the baby moving down and coming. I yelled out, it was happening! I reached down between my legs and could feel my own baby sitting there, suspended halfway between this world and the wombside. And then, with the very next contraction, my baby was earthside – it was only 5.15am!
I held my wet, squishy, potato-resembling baby out at arms length and found we had a GIRL! I was ecstatic and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Very suddenly, I heard the most awful, gut wrenching sound; the code blue alarm. I recognised the insistent piercing sound from when I was on prac as a student and staff members all came running in. My daughter was flopping and not breathing, and she was whisked out of the room to the resuscitaire. The midwife looked at me suddenly and demanded I get out of the bath. As she gently helped me out, I noticed a large number of staff running back into the bathroom to me, and the emergency buzzer was sounding again. I was bleeding very heavily. Sylvia never left my side. Even while I was being cannulated (SIX times, because I have crap veins!), and having injections and my fundus rubbed to try and stem the bleeding, she was by my side, explaining everything that was happening and why – not only about me, but also my baby. As soon as our daughter, Charlie, was breathing and crying up a storm, Sylvia made sure she was brought back to me for skin to skin, even while still being worked on and bleeding. She advocated for me, and my wishes to breastfeed, even when I wasn’t coherent or in my right frame of mind. When I started to become too unwell to hold my baby safely, she ensured my husband continued skin to skin, until I was stable again. Unfortunately, being at a public hospital, the shift changed, and a new midwife took over my care, but she was as amazing as the others. While the doctor was giving me medication in my bottom and prepping me for theatre, to stop the bleed, she put Charlie to my breast and assisted me in my first ever breastfeed! Second baby, but the first time I had breastfed. She also read my pregnancy record and knew how passionate I was about feeding this time, so took steps to try and help me off to the best start.
Luckily, I didn’t need to go to theatre; the cocktail of drugs finally slowed the bleeding and my baby and I were able to breastfeed and have lots of cuddles. I lost 1.5L of blood, and also ended up high as a kite on morphine, which was given to me due to the pain of the contractions after birth. I am so beyond grateful that I had such an amazing, caring team of midwives and doctors around me, who not only listened to me, but advocated for my choices. At no point during the entire birth, or the following emergencies, did I feel unsafe or not listened too. I knew what was happening and why (until I was too crazy from the morphine, when my husband made any decisions) at every point and I felt respected. Emergencies aren’t rainbows and fairies; they are emergencies – but that doesn’t mean your choices have to be taken away. A good team of health professionals will make sure you and your baby are both safe and cared for, which ALSO includes your emotional health too. Six weeks after the birth, the hospital offered us a formal debrief with the Nurse Unit Manager and the Obstetrician who was working that morning, so we could have the opportunity to ask any other questions and make sure we had a thorough understanding of what happened.
Even though this birth was scary, waaaaaaay too fast and full of craziness, it was still an amazing positive experience, because of the people who surrounded us and I look forward to receiving the same level of care if we decide to have another baby down the track.