In the last part of my birth story, I was 5cms, and then all of a sudden, I was pushing.
What? No. I’m only 5cms. Why do I need to push?
Our midwife was shouting at me to stop pushing. “Your only 5cms, you’re bleeding a lot, please don’t push now, you are hurting yourself”.
When someone is telling you NOT to push, but you are having THOSE urges? Actual agony. I think I almost broke fingers squeezing Sam’s hand to try and stop the pushing urges.
The midwife, concerned about my bleeding, pulled the emergency alarm. So, a whole load of medical staff, plus the anaesthetist team who had come to administer my epidural, all arrived at the same time. Sam said there were about ten people in the room to witness my complete breakdown and our baby being born. (In the video below, you can hear the alarm still going off in the moments after his birth).
I was oblivious to all of this. The only thing I heard was the voice of the senior midwife, who said “If you want to push, you can push”. The best thing I’ve ever heard.
It was probably only a minute of pushing, but I had no idea how I was progressing. I was flat on my back, so I couldn’t see anything that was going on down there. No one was talking me through what was happening. I hadn’t even realised the head was out, until I asked. I think the head might have already been out before I was given ‘permission’ to push.
With my worries about my second stage with Rory, I felt anxious not to have any guidance at this important point. And very anxious to be trapped in the position I was, which is not ideal for birthing.
But, my worry was only momentary, as with just one more push, his body shifted effortlessly. No shoulder dystocia this time round.
He was here.
An entirely normal ETERNITY of quiet before the cry. And then there it was.
I asked if he was OK. I know they were concerned about my bleeding and his fast arrival. He was OK.
I couldn’t see him, because I was flat on my back. I couldn’t see anything. Another eternity passed before he was handed to me.
The midwives had decided to wipe him down with a towel before passing him up to me. My other two had been handed to me straight away, and I hadn’t specified anything in my birth plan, because to be honest, I just assumed babies were generally always given to you straight away.
I also think he might have been rather messy, judging by the midwife who kept jovially shaking her head and saying, “MY GOD. There’s SO MUCH BLOOD” in the minutes after I’d given birth.
(Sam and I still laugh about her subtlety – can you imagine if that was your first birth? You’d be freaking out massively).
I know we are meant to say “Oh well, healthy baby is all that matters”, but I will be honest and say that I am still a bit sad that he wasn’t given to me straight away. And still a bit sad about his birth in general. Despite it being my third time, it was vastly different to my previous labours and I feel like I’ve learnt a whole lot in hindsight.
Because of the concern for my bleeding, they had to clamp his cord straight away, and give me the injection for the placenta. In my birth plan, I’d asked for delayed cord clamping, and a natural third stage, just as I’d had with Arlo and Rory, but this time it had to be different. They did talk me through this as they were doing it, though, which I appreciated as it otherwise would have felt like another decision entirely taken away from me.
Then, he was in my arms. I got the all clear, he got the all clear. It was over.
The relief was IMMENSE. There is nothing quite like that euphoric feeling of knowing labour is over, and your baby is healthy and safe. I’ve done it, I don’t have to do this any more.
This time, that relief was also combined with the fact that I couldn’t believe he was here already. It had been so, so quick. I had been completely convinced that I was in for a L.O.N.G. labour and at least another two days in hospital. I had been convinced that I wasn’t going to get to give birth to him, and that labour would end in theatre.
And yet he was here, not even three hours after breaking my waters. And after only a couple of full blown contractions. Hadn’t I only been 5cms half an hour ago? It was only lunchtime. I’d get to go home by dinner time. It was actually baffling for me to get my head around.
Immediately, I felt that protective love for him. He seemed so tiny, and I knew it all would have been a big shock for him, being booted out of his home three weeks early.
He had hair. I’d predicted he would have hair like Arlo did, and I was right.
Sam surprised our family with a photo of him holding a baby a mere two hours after texting them to say I was off to labour ward to have my waters broken.
I texted my home birth midwife to let her know. She’d only been with us 40 minutes ago and at that point it looked like I wasn’t even in established labour yet.
She popped back in, and gave us the all clear to go home straight from labour ward after a couple of hours, despite the labour ward staff not being so keen. (Another benefit to being under the care of the home birth team despite not actually having a home birth in the end). After being there for five days, I wasn’t keen to spend ANY more time at that hospital.
We spent a few more hours in that stuffy room with the rattly air conditioning that no longer bothered me, and then the three of us went home.
I had what is known as a precipitate labour, where the first and second stage happen very quickly, usually in under two hours. I went from 2cm to 5cm in just a few hours, and then 5cm to 10cm in under twenty minutes. I’m not even sure if my “established labour” time was recorded.
It sounds ideal, as labour is very short. But to be honest, it felt a LOT more hectic than either of my other labours (12 hrs and 8 hrs of established labour, respectively). It was too fast for me to register what was happening, it was too fast for me to remember who I was and why this was happening. I was completely lost in myself, and the loss of control felt very scary. My other labours were long and enduring. With Arlo, especially, it was an actual marathon, but I now realise that the pace was right for my body.
Had I known I was in transition, and been able to stand up, perhaps I would have managed better, but the whole experience caught me completely off guard. I also think that the nervousness of a medically induced labour affected my experience in a negative way, too. Try as I might, I could just not muster up any hopefulness or positivity about my impending labour, and I wish I’d been able to have more faith in myself and my body.
This isn’t a romanticised birth story. I haven’t skipped over the nitty gritty details or brushed off the aspects that I wasn’t happy with. I’m in two minds when I look back at the birth. On the one hand, it was the day we got to meet our beautiful boy, and we got there without the need for the further interventions that I was so scared about.
On the other hand, the lack of control allowed to me by the medical professionals seriously affected my birthing efficiency and to be honest still leaves me feeling a bit shell shocked and also a little bit angry. Promises weren’t delivered, I wasn’t presented with any ‘choice’ in birthing options, at times I wasn’t even granted permission to speak with the medical professionals.
The whole experience has reaffirmed the vast difference in quality of care that you get with a home birth team, or a caseloading midwife. The simple fact is that they have more time to listen to you, and that can make all the difference in having a positive birth.
I may not have managed the birth of our littlest member of the family with the quiet dignity and confidence of the “zen” birthing mother that I always try and fail to be, the circumstances may not have been ideal, and the short stretch of active labour incredibly hectic and scary.
I may have completely shut out all hope for a positive birth experience, I may have resigned myself to the worst case scenario.
But I did it. Despite being scared, giving up all control over the birth I had wished for, and not even trying to muster any positive mental attitude, I did it.
I’ve put together a little video of my time in hospital and our first few minutes with our littlest boy. Aside from the excruciatingly boring stay in hospital and then a very fast labour, there wasn’t too much to film. But I really love what we did manage to capture, especially the footage of all three of my boys together for the first time.