BY MARCIA LEONE
So I think it’s fair to say that my labouring experience started at 37 weeks when I was told my baby’s head was engaged, I was starting to dilate and needed to go home and pack my bags. As soon as I got home the cramping began and the next few days were a blur of frantically cleaning, nesting and packing while trying to distinguish between “pre” and “true” labour…
Despite walking around with what felt like a bowling ball in my vagina, another week passed, the cramps subsided and still no sign of “regular contractions”…
At my 38 week appointment I was 3-4cm dilated, had a sweep and was told I should go into labour within the next 72 hours. Walking around 4cm dilated was A. Really fricken uncomfortable B. A little scary because could mean a super fast labour where I wouldn’t make it to the hospital (or more importantly, miss the opportunity for an epidural!)
I was also concerned that it would happen in the middle of the night so we would have to bring Archie with us until my mum arrived from 1-2 hours away. Archie made it very clear each night that he didn’t want to be woken for any baby. After a few negotiations he agreed that if he could get chocolate from the vending machine at the hospital at ANY hour, then he would be OK with being woken in the night… Thank goodness for bribery right?!
So another week came and went, but other than constant period-like cramps and the baby’s head literally bulging outta my lady parts, still no sign of “true labour.” At my 39 week appointment we made plans to go into the hospital the following day where they would break my waters and I should go into spontaneous labour. After two weeks on tender-hooks, I was relieved we had a plan so I could organise childcare for Archie and ensure we would make the hospital in time.
The night before our babe was born, Archie and I had a lounge room dance-off and hubby and I finalised our name shortlist. I went to bed excited but also a little sad that it would be the last night being woken by those little tummy kicks and somersaults. I really loved this pregnancy, and I’m mourning that it will probably be the last time I get to experience the miracle of growing a baby.
The next morning we arrived at the hospital and spent some time with Archie before my mum picked him up. He ate all the jelly, raised havoc with the midwives, gave the belly and I some big cuddles and then I tearfully kissed him goodbye- the last time it would just be the three of us.
At 10am the midwife attempted to break my waters. OH EM GEE… I remember the pain from having them broken with Archie, but this was next level. Of course I got the midwife with the shortest, stubbiest fingers and because my cervix was still posterior, the fingers and hook were having a hard time getting in. Three attempts, so much blood and pain later I found myself inhaling on the gas like my life depended on it, while the midwife went on search for the nurse with the longest fingers.
Thankfully she was able to break them first go – even though she said the baby might have a scratch on it’s head!!
I spent the next hour or so standing up in the bath holding onto my husband as gushes of fluid escaped my body. What a crazy feeling! There is certainly no dignity in walking around wetting the floor and having your husband clean up after you!
Mild contractions started a while later, but not at the level they were expecting so they started me on some cintocin to get things moving. Even though I knew I wanted an epidural ( I had a grade 3 episiotomy with Archie and knew I would need another with the scar tissue), it was important for me to go through as far as I could without it. I wanted to really feel the contractions.
A couple of hours later I had the epidural- which somehow totally shifted the mood in the room- I’m not sure if it was the drug, or the experience itself which was pretty full on and scary “Whatever you do, don’t move at all”- or the fact that after hours of contractions I was still only 4cm dilated- but my excitement was replaced with anxiety, uncontrollable shaking and a really flat feeling that lasted a couple of hours as I lay there watching a lame game show (afternoon TV is really bad!)
The epidural has changed so much since I had one with Archie and I could feel all the contractions, just not the intense pain. I went from 4 to 10cm quite quickly and easily and as soon I was told I would start pushing in the next 20 minutes, my mood lifted and the excitement came back.
It was such a welcome relief to feel when I needed to push after not being able to feel anything with Archie ( which I’m sure resulted in the 3 hour traumatic second stage.) Dave was my only support person this time and stayed up the right end (strict instructions from me!) The poor guy didn’t know weather I wanted him to breath with me or be my punching bag. All I know is that I squeezed the F out of his hand !
A few pushes in I knew the standard position on my back wasn’t going to work. They lowered the bottom half so it was more like a squat, but I didnt feel like I could push the baby down. As soon as I moved to a side position I could feel the baby coming down. In about three pushes the Doctor said she could see the head and there was a mass of dark hair.. this was the motivation I needed to breathe her down. All that work in meditation and visualisation helped me so much. The Doctor said with next push I could reach down and pull my baby out and up on my chest. She also said she wouldn’t tell me the sex so I could see for myself.
I mustered everything I had with that final push and as I reached down was overwhelmed with emotion and started crying as I pulled her onto my chest. Yes HER!! I couldn’t see the gender at first because of the umbilical cord and then because it looked so swollen I was looking for the penis.. it took a few seconds to grasp I had a girl. I could not believe it. She had a great set of lungs screaming on the way out and as i pulled her on my chest I just kept thinking “Poppy, Poppy, Poppy” We had two names shortlisted if it was a girl, but as soon as I saw her I knew. This was my Poppy Valentine.
As soon as she came out, everyone was commenting on how small she was- we didn’t expect a 2.8kg baby! Archie was almost 4kg and at our 34 week scan she was already measuring 2.8kg. After I delivered the placenta the Doctor noticed that it was split which she said probably was the reason she was so small. But she was healthy and beautiful and perfect.
As I was stitched up she got straight onto the breast and suckled like a champion.
After my traumatic experience with Archie where he was taken away within 24 hours for emergency surgery and had a month long recovery, the midwives and Doctors were determined to give me the birth, care and experience that I missed out on with Archie. And I did. And it was wonderful.
I am so happy that I had a birth photographer from The First Hello Project to capture these moments and emotions. We have kept the most intimate for ourselves and I look at them with amazement and awe- raw beauty at it’s most powerful. I will treasure them forever.