While I have been in my newborn baby bubble for the last 3 months, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what my body has achieved over the last 5 years and my three birth experiences. It seemed quite fitting to post my first birth story today, as today is also the day that Neve first started school!
After each birth and when I was settled in the hospital, I grabbed my phone and wrote down my birth story starting from the first twinge until the moment my baby was in my arms. I was reading back on what I had written for each baby and thought that I would add a little blog series on my three births. They were all quite similar, but also very different!
From the moment I found out that I was pregnant with my first baby, I was convinced that I would end up having all the drugs available, an epidural and a “pain free” birth. My midwife is very pro natural births without any intervention (unless absolutely needed), so much so that early on in my first pregnancy I was going to seek out another midwife as I didn’t really think that I could possibly give birth without pain relief. However, in the end, I managed to have all three babies in the water using only gas. I took myself by surprise!
Sunday 23rd March
Neve’s labour started in the very early hours of a Sunday morning. I had been to my best friends baby shower on the Saturday during the day, then to my sister-in-laws house for her housewarming. We came home and I had gone to bed. I woke up at about 12.50am on Sunday 23rd March and I felt as if I had wet the bed! I checked, and I hadn’t, so I got up and went to the toilet, I had leaked a little fluid but not much else was going on so I was a little confused (I was at that point 6 days before my due date and it was my first pregnancy). So I went back to bed but ended up back up a short while later as I had a bit of a funny tummy. I went back to the bathroom and noticed that I had a little bit of a ‘show’. It wasn’t very much of anything so I went back to bed, but ended up back up again with a dodgy tummy. So back to the bathroom I went, and I was starting to have some crampy pains (I would say similar to the feeling I get before a period but more intense). I decided to just stay up so that I didn’t wake up my husband. I went in to our lounge and started to watch some TV to try to distract myself from overthinking things. At this point it was 2.20am and I noticed that I had a more substantial ‘show’. I realised that things were starting, and I began to get very excited, but also nervous wondering when it was going to happen and how I was going to cope, I thought that in a few hours I would be holding my baby… little did I know!
I spent the rest of the early hours on the couch trying to get some sleep, but I was having pains on and off so it was making resting difficult. I decided to start timing them at around 2.30am and they were coming anywhere from 7-20-30 minutes apart and lasting from around 45 seconds to 1.5 minutes. I decided to try the TENS machine that I had hired off my midwife, so I put that on, and at that point it sort of seemed to help.
At about 7am I decided to go back to bed, Toby was awake & asked me “what’s up”? I told him I thought something was happening but I wasn’t 100% certain.
I text my midwife around 7.30am to let her know that I had had my show and was having some pains. She told me that it sounded like I had a baby making their way, but to try to rest as much as possible and to ignore what was happening as much as I could as this first part of labour could take a while especially with the first – and she was totally correct!
I ended up spending the morning doing a little bit of housework and getting things ready and checking my hospital bag. The pains were still really erratic but were bothering me every time they came. I ended up spending most of the afternoon on the couch watching some TV and trying to distract myself, and my midwife was checking in with me during the day (she was away up North but due back the next day).
Over the day I tried a hot shower which made me feel a bit better and also leaning on a Swiss ball.
Toby busied himself with running some errands, picking up dog food and cleaning the house. We didn’t really know what to do with ourselves!
The contractions started to get closer by about 2pm, they were still about 7-8 minutes apart but were more consistent.
“Only two centimetres…”
Toby called our midwife later in the evening as the pains felt worse and I was feeling a little shattered (hadn’t slept since nearly 1am that morning). My midwife was still driving back from her bach up North so she called her backup midwife to come and see me. She arrived around 8pm and I opened the door when she arrived, had a little chat with her, then she checked me internally. She confirmed that I was “fully effaced” (I had no idea what that meant), and that I was…….. 2cm dilated!! WTF. I felt like I was in agony and was sure that I was nearly ready to go up to the hospital! I was pretty disappointed but also glad to have it confirmed that I was definitely in labour. I remember the midwife telling me that as soon as I answered the door and chatted with her, she knew I had a while to go yet…! She advised me to hop in to bed and sleep as I needed to preserve my energy for the hard part. She left and I crawled in to bed around 8.30pm. My midwife text to say she had spoken with the back up midwife, the baby sounded good, I was in early labour and to get some rest and let her know when the contractions were closer together.
It ended up being one of the longest and hardest nights of my life. I couldn’t sleep as I was having some agonising pains, I couldn’t get comfortable, the TENS machine ended up making the pains worse, I felt so sick at one point with the pain that I was dry retching in to a bowl and I was in tears as I couldn’t sleep and the pains kept coming.
Monday 24th March
The morning finally came around (everything is easier to deal with in daylight) and my midwife text me around 7.30am to see how we were. My husband called her to update her and she said she would pop round to check me again. She turned up around 9am and checked me again and I had dilated to 4cm. I was frustrated again as I was sure after all the pain and hard work of the night before I would be further along. However, not to be! She gave me a stretch and sweep which was a little uncomfortable but not painful and told me to get moving. I stayed in bed for a little while longer trying to wrap my head around the idea that I was only 4cm, and wondering how on earth I was going to deal with everything if the pain I was experiencing wasn’t even near the end! I was shattered. I eventually dragged myself out of bed and my husband drove me down to our local rugby park and we walked up and down some steps and around the park then up and down the steps again double stepping them which did seem to bring on the contractions more.
We came back home and things kept going throughout the day. About 1.45pm my husband updated my midwife again. I was getting quite anxious at this point as the contractions were more intense, and the traffic in and out of where we live gets horrendous after 3pm. I was scared of giving birth in the car! So on that phone call we decided we would meet up at the hospital at 3pm.
My Mum and Sister arrived at our house after they had jumped on a flight from Melbourne when I had told them labour had started (which was a benefit in the end of a prolonged labour that they made it in time). It was lovely that they were here, but I wasn’t really in a state to be chatting. At that point the contractions were doubling me over when they came and the only place I wanted to be was in the hospital. I wanted some pain relief and the security of being around medical professionals who knew what they were doing as I was feeling a little lost and not knowing what the hell was happening! We got in the car and drove up to the hospital. The drive wasn’t that bad although it was certainly uncomfortable when I had a contraction.
We parked the car & walked over to the hospital & up to the labour suite. I could still walk comfortably then. We met the student midwife in our room. She did some checks on me, I had a few contractions while that was happening then my midwife arrived which was a relief to see her. They advised us to go and walk the stairs to try and get the contractions more regular, so we did as told for about half an hour. That did seem to increase the frequency and strength of the contractions. After some discussion, they decided to give me an exam to see how things were progressing. In checking me again they thought that I was still only 4cm, the same as what I was at 9am! I was so deflated, as my energy was quickly flying out the window and I was worried how I would cope with the pushing when I was feeling that shattered. It just seemed like a marathon that had no end in sight. I was also in a lot of pain and had been for a long time and to feel like it wasn’t going anywhere was soul destroying!!
My midwife could see that I was getting fed up so she suggested that we could keep walking and see what happened or she could break my waters. I asked her to break them so that we could get the blimmen show on the blimmen road.
The student midwife tried to break them, but she couldn’t, so my midwife then tried and managed to do it, it was 4.25pm when they were broken. It wasn’t exactly painful, but it was bloody uncomfortable! They go in with this hook thing and wait for a contraction to be able to hook and break the waters… yeah, it felt about as fun as it sounds! It actually felt like a small relief once my waters went. I went in to the bathroom after that was all done to have a little clean up and I had quite an intense contraction in there. My midwife then told me to go and walk the stairs again, so I got ready to do that, walked out of our room then had a huge contraction outside which bent me over and had me gripping on to the hand rail, my midwife saw me and told me not to worry about the stairs and just to come back in the room, within 15 minutes of breaking my waters my contractions were well established and active labour had definitely kicked in! I felt like I had won that marathon (and I also wished we had broken those effing waters a lot earlier)!
These contractions were much closer and stronger and a whole different ball game to what I had been experiencing earlier. I couldn’t get comfortable anywhere. I tried the TENS again but ended up taking it off as it felt like it was making contractions worse and giving me a horrible feeling all up my back every time I had a contraction. After a while of this I asked for some gas and I was using that by 5.15pm. It didn’t really seem to do all that much in the way of pain relief, but I think it distracted me a little with trying to focus breathing through a contraction, I was definitely sucking on that thing as if my life depended on it though! My midwife went to go & fill up the pool which seemed to take forever as I desperately wanted to get in some water – it was like an instinct and I just needed water. I finally got to go around to the other room & get in the pool at 5.30pm. I immediately felt much more comfortable and it gave me some relief, albeit temporarily. They had wheeled in a portable gas bottle so I continued to use that through each contraction.
I laboured away in the pool for what seemed like eternity with Toby giving me cold water to drink & a cold flannel on my forehead and holding my hand through the whole thing – you really do become a team in it all. I think that we were both a bit scared – and I truly do feel like I couldn’t have done it without him. He just quietly urged me on, kept me feeling safe and secure and reminding me that I could do it. I felt stronger with him there.
The student midwife kept checking the baby’s heart rate every 15minutes or so. By 6.45pm I was starting to feel some pressure with the contractions.
The room we were in was quite small and stuffy with the warm birthing pool, so my midwife had left the door ajar to keep some air circulating. At one point another midwife came around to close the room as I was making so much noise it was disturbing some women in the assessment room… oops!
At one stage I remember my midwife went off for a tea break and then the student did as well (nice for some, haha).
As the room was dark they were using a torch to check ‘down there’ through some contractions. I started feeling the urge to push around 7pm but wasn’t actively pushing yet. I had to get out of the pool at one stage and sit on the toilet to see if I could empty my bladder which would help the baby move down. My midwife suggested I reach down and feel with my hand, which I did and I could feel the baby’s head really low down, a weird feeling knowing that I had touched my baby for the first time, and it was a great motivation as I knew that baby was right there and trying to make their entrance. I had a couple of contractions while there and started feeling like I needed to push a little bit.
My leg also started doing some weird involuntary shaking thing while I was sitting there, I think the baby might have been pressing on a nerve somewhere, it felt bizarre!
At 8.05pm I had started feeling a lot of pressure and was involuntarily pushing with contractions, your body starts taking over and you don’t really have any control over it! At 8.45pm I got out of the pool again to see about emptying my bladder again with no luck and was so uncomfortable I quickly got back in to the pool. It was at this stage that I was asking (or maybe begging) for an epidural. My midwife told me that if the baby wasn’t out by 10pm she would get the process started to get one. I think she knew the baby was well on their way.
Time to push
By this time I was finally at the pushing stage. I found I didn’t need the gas anymore, and pushing ended up feeling like a bit of a relief, everything seemed to calm down a bit for me and my focus was solely on pushing. At 9.05 my midwife got a peep of the top of the baby’s head while I was pushing and at 9.24pm the head crowned.
When baby crowned it was pretty bloody intense and sore!!! The ‘burning ring of fire’ is real that’s for sure and I think the name says it all! The head was finally out and my midwife told me there was heaps of hair. I remember looking down and seeing this shock of dark hair in the water.
It’s a girl!
Once the head was out, it took about 2 pushes to get the baby out (and believe me two minutes and two pushes feels like a lifetime when you have a head sticking out of you)! At 9.26pm on Monday 24th March, our baby girl was born. She was put straight on to me. I think I was in a bit of shock that it was finally over – and slightly delirious with joy that I had a baby in my arms! I held her on my chest for a few minutes before we even thought about looking at what gender she was, then we looked and moved the cord & saw that we had a little girl!!! That moment was amazing, soaking her in and counting her fingers and toes and kissing her nose, taking in her pale skin and dark hair! 9 months of wondering what our little girl or boy would look like, and finally meeting this perfect little human we had created, finding out she was a girl, it was a moment I will never forget.
Women’s bodies are amazing, as soon as she was in my arms I felt no pain, no exhaustion, and I remember saying “I could do that again” – how had I forgotten all that palaver and pain within a matter of minutes (and I am sure that about half an hour before I had said that I would never, ever be doing this again)??!! Haha, the mind is a powerful thing!
She was on my tummy with me cuddling her for a while as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing, then once it stopped Toby cut the cord. We named her Neve Victoria Ballard.
Once she was finally here, everything became quite surreal. I stayed in the pool for a bit with Neve just holding her, I couldn’t take my eyes off her, she was the most amazing thing I had ever seen! I eventually got out of the pool and had to wait for the placenta to be delivered. Totally unglamorous – I had to sit on the toilet seat with a plastic bag under me to wait for it to come out. It seemed to take ages and nothing really seemed to be happening, my midwife came and massaged some pressure points on my feet to try to help. Then she left to get an injection to help it come out, and while she was gone it came out after a small contraction and push at 10.28pm (quite a while after the birth). It didn’t really hurt, it just felt very icky! All the while I was holding Neve and she was trying to nuzzle away at my breast.
My Mum, Sister and my best friend arrived around about this time (who was also heavily pregnant) and I made them go and wait in the labour room as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, dizzy and faint – I think from being in the warm pool for so long.
Once I was all sorted out, I walked back around in to the labour room and got on to the bed holding Neve and having skin to skin and she was trying to nurse away. My Mum, Sister and hubby had cracked open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and were drinking that and toasting the safe arrival of our little girl. The student midwife took Neve to take all her measurements. She was 3.5kgs (or 3585 grams / 7.9 pounds), 53cm and her head was 36cm. She scored 9 on both agpars, and lost a point because she was really pale.
My midwife cleaned me up and fixed me up, I needed a few stitches (the worst part was the local anaesthetic which was fricking painful and having anyone prod around in your downstairs region after you have popped a baby out is about the least fun experience you can imagine)!! Everything was a bit of a blur then as I was so entranced by this beautiful little soul in my arms. After a while everyone left and I went and had a shower (best thing ever) and Toby cuddled Neve while I got dressed. Then we packed up and put Neve in the hospital bassinet and walked around to the maternity ward. I got settled in and Toby went to get me some food (I was so freaking hungry, I felt like I could eat a mountain of food and that feeling stayed for a day or two, I was ravenous)! The midwives then left and it was just our new little family left alone for a while. We were so proud of ourselves and what we had created. Toby went home after a bit, and then it was just me and my baby, I had bloody done it! She was here. To be honest I felt a bit like superwoman in that moment, my body had been amazing and delivered me this beautiful healthy baby and her and I were both safe – after 9+ long months we finally had what we had been waiting for and dreaming about, I was beyond happy.
It’s called labour for a reason I guess, from the very first twinge I had with symptoms, it took around 44.5 hours of labour for her to arrive. It was one of the most painful, scariest, happiest, emotional, exhausting, exhilarating couple days of my life, and it really was worth every single second! The day I became a Mum is one that changed my life forever, it is one I will never forget. At that moment when I held my first child for the very first time and said I would do it all again in a heartbeat… I meant it, I ended up doing it two more times!