Hayden’s Birth Story

10 July 2019

I woke up at 01h00 after restless sleep due to the coughing and having to sleep upright. I felt a deep burning like pain, and it felt exactly like the contractions I had experienced during Eliske’s labour. Knowing all to well about prodromal labour and niggling I knew not to get too excited. I had promised myself this time round in early labour I would be calm and try rest, as opposed to walking or bouncing… I knew if this was it, it could be a long day and I needed to conserve energy.  A few minutes later I experienced the burning again and saw that it was 01h04. I didn’t not want to officially time the contractions, but I couldn’t help having a peek at the time just for a few to see if they were regular. At 01h08 I had the third one, and then I was a tiny bit more hopeful as they were regular. Due to been so ill the fear crept in of how I am going to labour while being so sick, and being so sick for so long. I had a pep talk with myself and realised we don’t have a choice- it is time and we will get through it, regardless of the birth method he chooses. I knew then that this was it, I actively choose to do some deep breathing, relax and let go. I was aware of the contractions coming and going but they were short and mild so was able to rest a bit in between.

At around 4am they definitely had increased in strength and intensity, which I was happy about as it was a good sign of true labour. I thought I had been patient enough and allowed myself to time them for a bit. It was also quite boring lying in the dark unable to sleep! At that stage they were 3min apart and 40 seconds long. By about 05h30 I felt it increase again and the pain was radiating into my back, it was becoming difficult to stay in bed. I woke Guido up and told him I am having contractions, he said, “Are you sure its not just Braxton hicks…” I then assured him I have been doping this for almost 5 hours already, and no, it was not Braxton Hicks! He made a hot pack for me and it helped with the back pain and made me a bit more comfortable again. I encouraged Guido to sleep again and tried to relax a bit with the heat.

At about 6am I wanted to let Heather know that I was in labour, so thought I would time them again in order to give her the update of how the contractions were progressing. They were still about 3 min apart and 40sec long but more intense. Heather suggested a warm bath but I felt like I had to save that for later when it was more intense. Also, I knew once Eliske was up and awake it would be chaos until we could get her off to school. I got up at about 7am to get Eliske ready for school, and had to smile at the difference between the first and second kid! Once I was up the contractions suddenly increased and I had a hard time making tea and fitting hair brushing in between contractions. I also did not want Eliske to know something was up so tried to pretend everything was normal.  Guido had to try make arrangements for work and reschedule his day, as this was a little earlier than expected. After Heather and I spoke at 07h30 I think only then did she really think that this was it, and after having to breathe through the contractions once I was standing, I think then only Guido knew this was the real deal too! Once the whole house was up and about and we got Eliske off to school the real planning and packing started! I tried to eat but felt quite nauseous. In between contractions I was trying to get the last few things packed and organised. We sent dad off to buy labour snacks and Energade that we never got around to.

Around 8am I had the first feeling of being overwhelmed by the pain and really struggled to get through them, so I thought it was a good time to try the bath. Of course through the whole labour in the back of my mind I had to also keep myself prepared for the possibility of a c/s, so when it came time for the bath I figured I should ask Guido to help me to shave (as I couldn’t see down there anymore). It was definitely a comical moment- me sitting on a chair in the bathroom giving instructions and Guido trying to help me, but then I would have to jump up when a contraction came and get through it first. Then sit and try again. We both had a good laugh and it’s a light hearted moment I’ll remember.

The hot water in the bath felt good although it was difficult to find a comfortable position. Once we ran the bath the geyser was empty and I remember everyone running around filling buckets to keep the water hot while I sat in the bath and drank tea. I tried to check myself but could only feel the lower segment and not the cervix. At about 08h40, it felt as if the contractions were on top of one another without much of a break in between, so we decided to time them again for a while. They were about 2 and a half minutes apart and still 40 seconds long. Guido asked if it meant we had to head to hospital but I wanted to stay at home until they were at least a minute long, even though they were already 3 in 10 minutes. We then let his parents and Sam the birth photographer know and I asked Marthie if she could come see me for reflexology a bit later. Heather and Marthie were close to my house at Afroboer at a work breakfast. I then reached a point where I felt like I needed to move around and decided to get out the bath.

Once I was out it increased again and I had a hard time finding a comfortable position. Guido managed to cancel most of his day and changed one meeting to a teleconference so he didn’t have to go out. He went to the living room to have the meeting. All I could do during contractions was get onto the bed on my knees and lean over the triangular pillow. I laboured like that for what felt like forever and for the first time cried. The pain was so overwhelming. I listened to his heart for the first time as I felt a bit panicky. His heart was perfect and that reassured me. I also felt very irritated that Guido had been away for so long and didn’t come and check on me. I then looked at the time and saw that he had only been gone for about half an hour. I had seriously lost all concept of time. That level of irritation and emotion at that stage made me think feel like something had shifted and I hoped it maybe meant I was in active labour. At 10h15 I timed the contractions again and they were over a minute long and about 3 minutes apart, although I was timing on my own so I’m not sure how accurate that was!! I was trying so hard to be a good patient and not disturb Heather and Marthie during breakfast, but I figured they had had enough time to eat and have coffee so I let Heather know and she said she would come in about half an hour. Marthie was on her way too and arrived soon after.

Marthie arrived and my idea of having reflexology was a bit unreasonable as I could not sit still in order for her to have access to my feet. Luckily, Marthie brought her doula skills too and helped me with some relaxation, helping to find positions and I felt like she brought a calmness to the room which I needed at the time. When Heather came into my room it was so quiet and calm I didn’t even hear her enter, I was in my own world breathing and working through the contractions. Heather listened to Hayden’s little heart and it sounded really strong and he was coping well with the labour. I went to empty my bladder before she checked me and for the first time I saw show which I was happy about. I had to smile when Heather asked if I would like to know how far I was progressed… of course I wanted to know, the suspense was unbearable! She asked what I was expecting and I really didn’t have any specific expectations, I was hoping for active labour but was really trying to keep an open mind to not be disappointed and lose hope. The check was super quick which I took as a good sign and Heather gave me a smile and said I was 5cm dilated, thin cervix and bulging membranes. I was so happy to hear that, and Heather reassured me that she didn’t see any reason that I would not be able to have an NVD. We discussed when to leave for the hospital and Heather suggested we wait at home for another hour before going, which I was comfortable with.

After the PV however it somehow managed to kick up another notch and I was struggling to cope. Marthie was with me and her quiet presence and relaxation and positioning helped me cope with the contractions for a while. It felt like it had been about 3 hours and I felt the panic rising- what about uterine rupture? I suddenly felt unsafe at home, I wanted a CTG and to be in the hospital. I was also worried about getting to the hospital… once there I know it’s a process to get settled and Guido has to open the file and all. I told Guido I felt like I needed to get going to the hospital, and he spoke to Heather. Turns out it had only been about 40 min but Heather said it was ok if I wanted to go in and we got ready. Marthie was originally only going to stay for reflexology but she offered to come with to the hospital and stay for the birth, I was happy at the way it worked out and so grateful to have her there. Luckily we had two long hot packs so we kept swapping them out so that I always had one tied onto my back. I got a linen saver for the car and jumped into the back seat in a kneeling position. Mom went with us so she could walk in with me while Guido went to park. The car ride was horrible and felt like it took forever, but actually we got there quickly! I didn’t want to be one of those dramatic women in labour that go in on a wheelchair, but with my foot being so sore and the long walk to labour ward we rather got a wheelchair and mom pushed me to the ward. I did however insist on getting out and walking the last bit of the way from the security desk outside of labour ward.

I walked into the ward and had to pause and lean against the wall to get through some contractions. Heather was there and I heard a buzz as some of the staff recognised me. Heather luckily escorted me into the labour room and I was relieved to be able to get the room with the bath. My blood pressure had been elevated slightly towards the end of the pregnancy and on arrival was very high, Heather reassured me she wasn’t worried and I was so happy not to be in a doctors hands who probably would have freaked out. We tried to do a CTG but was a struggle with my coughing it kept losing contact. There were some early decelerations but Heather reassured me and in between I could see good variability and accelerations. I felt safer knowing I was in the hospital. Sam arrived and I got into the bath and felt a bit more settled and calm.

Again time was a foreign concept to me. It felt like we had been at Wilgers for ages. I asked Heather when she was going to PV again and she said it hadn’t even been two hours since the last one. I saw it was only about 13h00, I could have sworn it must have been mid-afternoon already! Guido remembered to put my playlist of songs on which I was so grateful for, I had not thought of the music but it was a welcome distraction and good point of focus for me. I choose familiar songs and would try focus on the music, it really did help me. I think most of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, yet I have specific moments that I clearly remember. I don’t necessarily know if I have them in the correct order but I suppose this is my perspective of it.

Labour has a way of reaching a new level of pain and intensity that completely overwhelms you to a point that you feel as if you can’t go on, yet somehow you dig deep and find the strength and then it is as if it plateaus and you are able to cope again. At one such stage I got out the bath and sat on the toilet. Heather showed Guido how to push back on my knees during the contractions, and that offered relief for my hips and back, it was a great position for me. Not so much for Guido who had to sit on his haunches and lean against the wall behind him in order to put pressure on my knees. We joked that if my membranes ruptured he would be in the firing line and I was not sure if we could ever recover from that. Little did I know at that stage that he would be getting even more of an eyeful later on.

Next PV I was 7-8cm which meant good progress and his heart was still nice and strong. I was hoping this time I would progress quicker than the partogram but of course any progress was good news and I had tried to prepare myself for a long labour. I asked Heather about AROM (hoping of course that we would rupture membranes and he would just pop out) but she reminded me that we don’t want to interfere whilst things are progressing well. I think that’s when the exhaustion started to set in and I felt so tired. I asked Heather if she could check again to see where we were at and she gently reminded me that checking would not, in fact make it go any faster, which of course I know but hey I was desperate!). Heather suggested I try lying down on my side to rest a bit. Guido was behind me putting pressure on my back. I needed lip ice and Marthie got some for me and offered me water. Heather was doing pressure points on my hand, Sam was standing by the foot of the bed. I was so uncomfortable and in so much pain but tried to lie there for a few minutes and soak up and the love and care and tenderness everyone was offering me, drawing on their strength.

At a stage I was in the bathroom and heard Dr. Kruger come into the room, so I decided to hide out and eventually she left. She did help by prescribing pulmicourt for me to nebulise with. It really helped to open up my lungs a bit. She also prescribed pain meds. Heather offered the entonox and pain meds but I knew I did not want them, or the side effects they come with. I was worried that the team thought that I wasn’t coping but I knew that despite my complaining and feeling like I couldn’t do it, and I was and would continue to until I could meet my boy.

I think we got to about 17h00 and I was 9cm. this was very disheartening, it was partogram progress but due to being a 7-8 I was hoping two plus hours later to be complete. I had zero urge to push so I guess 9cm was not too bad. I was so surprised with the strong, frequent contractions and all the coughing that my membranes were still intact. We again discussed AROM and Heather agreed that now it was a better time. I decided to rather do it in the bath as I knew it would be less messy. I got back into the bath and Heather did the AROM. I looked down and saw a cloud of dark meconium stained liquor and got a bit of a fright. Heather looked at me and we both knew this could mean trouble. Luckily we quickly listened to his heart and it still sounded great. Guido asked how much longer we were looking at, and Heather said we will reassess in two hours. I was heartbroken, I did not feel like I had two hours left in me. I felt so overwhelmed and like this might actually not be possible, maybe I can’t do it.

The next hour was the hardest for me, it felt like torture. It had gotten dark and we lit candles around the bath. I was trying all different positions but struggled to find something bearable. I had worked so hard on breathing and relaxing but when the contraction came it was so overwhelming, all I could do was ride it out and wait for it to be over. I was upset with myself for not being able to relax and maximise progress, but I also didn’t know how to fix it. I am surprised at how in my head I was. I was so worried about pushing. I didn’t know how my mind could tell my body to push when it was so consumed with pain that it almost goes blank during a contraction. Guido and Marthie were pouring hot water on my back and Heather was sitting next to the bath talking to me. She asked if I felt like pushing, which I didn’t, and asked if there was anything holding me back, that made me a little worried as that is usually midwife talk for ‘why is it taking so long’. We chatted a bit and she reassured me that when the time comes and I have an urge the pushing won’t be a problem. In my mind I thought I could always ask her to do a kiwi and then it would be over quicker, I think I was going a bit crazy.

Heather asked if I would like Dr. Kruger to come for a second opinion- which I most definitely did not want! I felt a bit of panic in that maybe Heather was worried about something and that something was wrong, but she reassured me that other than the meconium he was doing beautifully, and we were still on track. I felt so uncomfortable and wanted to get out of the bath, but I knew that meant the pain was coming with me. I kind of felt like getting out the bath and leaving the contractions there too. I had no idea what I was going to do once I was out but I felt trapped and constricted in there. Heather suggested I go to the toilet and empty my bladder. It had been an hour since Arom and I so badly wanted to be fully dilated. Guido helped me to the bathroom and I told him to close the door. He laughed at me as I had been naked in front of these people for hours and yet wanted the door closed. It was quite gross I had show all the way down my leg, which is at least another good sign. I cleaned up and then decided I was going to check how far down he was. I felt my cervix and my heart sank… not yet 10cm. I reasoned that I could still be 9cm or it could just be an anterior lip. I felt his head and then I knew I had to just push past the rim, I did not have the energy to continue labour I had reached my end. I knew also that in an hour reassessing could be bad news and needed to get him out before then. I thought I’ll ask Heather to push the rim over… but she said I must act like a patient not a midwife so then I thought maybe I shouldn’t do that.

I got into a kneeling position on the bed and still didn’t have an urge but decided to try push anyway. I gave one big push and could feel him move down. Heather obviously picked up on what I was up to and I could hear her opening the delivery trolley. Guido was standing by me and encouraging me. He saw her open the trolley and told me that it’s a good sign and that hopefully it meant he was coming soon. He had this very calm, melodic reassuring voice. Halfway through the, ‘you doing so well angel he is almost here’ he said, ‘wow those are some scary looking instruments!’. I heard Marthie laugh and although I saw the humour I didn’t have the presence of mind to laugh or smile. Luckily I know those scary instruments well and was not concerned!

The feeling of pushing and having him so low was horrible. So many patients have described it as a relief, having an outlet and direction for the pain but I just felt like it was an all-consuming yucky and uncomfortable to the extreme. I had a little pep talk with myself between contractions. I knew now that it was up to me to push him out. No one could help me, and I most definitely could not do this for two hours. I also though knew that I wanted this so badly and what a privilege it is to be able to get to the point of pushing, so I tried to stay cognisant of that as well. I thought to myself I will push as hard as I can until Heather tells me to stop and breathe his head out. Guido was offering support and encouragement at my head but then leaning over to see what was happening, which I didn’t mind. I am obviously fascinated by birth too! They asked if they could put on the lights so that we could get better photos which I did not mind at all. I was seriously over the ambiance of the candles and dim light… had bigger things to worry about.

I didn’t hear Heather say stop pushing or breathe or anything so I kept pushing as hard as I could. I felt the burning feeling but more on the sides than on the perineum. After the most intense pressure I felt relief and they said his head was out. I was surprised at how neutral having a baby half in half out felt. I didn’t have pain in that moment, and I asked Guido to help me stand up on my knees as soon as he was out. Then I felt the pressure again with the next contraction as his should was birthed, and then the most amazing relief once his body slipped out. Guido helped me up and I scooped down to pick him up (apparently not giving Heather much of a chance to untangle him from the cord around his arm first!).

I picked him up to my chest and a towel to cover him magically appeared. He looked at me with a stunned wide eye expression but didn’t cry. I rubbed his back and kept saying, ‘he is ok’, as if to reassure everyone but I think it was more for me. He didn’t cry or breathe but his cord was still intact and I could see he was becoming pink. He then gave us a very small half-hearted cry and I relaxed knowing he was ok. It was a bit awkward turning around to lie down on the bed but we managed and got him skin to skin. What a moment to remember. Guido said to wow now he can see why I get so excited by a birth, that was amazing! I saw in the video I said, “I can’t believe he is here!” and kept kissing his little head. I cannot describe the immense relief I felt after his little body was out. It is so intense and then feels like the most amazing relief to have those contractions and pushing pressure gone.

I said I wanted the syntocinon injection and I remember feeling a sting as Heather gave it to me. We left the cord intact until it stopped pulsating, which was about 8 minutes only. Seems he had a scrawny little cord. The placenta came out and I felt a moment of that horrible pressure but it was out in a flash, not bad at all. It was tiny but I didn’t really get a look at it. Heather quickly looked and said I would need stitches but that it didn’t look to bad. It felt as though I was bleeding a lot but actually the total blood loss was minimal. At a stage I was really having trouble breathing again, I tried to breathe slowly but was struggling to get relief. We did the pulmicourt nebs again and it helped a lot to be able to breathe easier again. Mom had been waiting outside the whole day, and I wanted her to go home to bath and get Eliske ready for bed as she knows Eliske’s routine best. Mom came in when the whole room was still chaos and Hayden was pretty dirty and still skin to skin with me, so she could get the first official look but not hold him yet.

After mom left Heather came in with two packs of sutures in her hand. I got such a fright thinking it must be a massive tear, but she reassured me she just did not yet know which suture material to open. So everyone laughed at me… not being able to get out of midwife mode. The stitches was pretty scary for me, I think my mind knows exactly what is happening and how it looks. The lignocaine was really sore and feels like it is burning, but after that the stitches were really not bad. What I did find very painful was the dabbing with the swab. Everything feels so dry and rough. I had a long tear but luckily not very deep. I was so grateful that it was on the inside and not on the perineum.

Hayden then decided he wanted to latch, and he latched and fed really well. I was surprised as he was so tiny and looked a bit tired at birth. I was so relieved as I knew he was 100% ok. I then had this urge to get things done. I think it is the backup midwife in me. I was giving everyone jobs to get the room clean and everything ready for Heather to check Hayden and me to get showered. I thought I was being efficient, feedback after was that I was bossy! I think in that time you are 100% yourself. There is no filter, airs or graces, and let’s face it, I am pretty bossy. I thought the sooner we can get done here, the sooner I can take my baby home and everyone on the team that had been working so hard for so long could get home and rest.

I had so much energy and felt ready to get things done. I knew I couldn’t get up alone so asked Marthie to go to the bathroom with me. Luckily I didn’t feel dizzy and walked easily. I sat on the toilet but then was suddenly scared to pee, I knew it would burn! Was actually not bad. I also asked Marthie if I pooped during delivery and thank goodness she said no. Little victory! When Heather started with Hayden she saw how dirty he was. In all my effort to pack him nice new, turquoise coloured towels, all the little turquoise fluffies came off on him. Parenting fail #1 and he was only an hour old!!! So we decided I will rather bath so we could give Hayden a quick rinse too. I am so glad we did as it gave us a nice opportunity to have Sam there for his first bath photos.

I quickly got dressed and really waited to dress Hayden. It was so special to be able to put his first clothes and nappy on. We settled back into bed and started the negotiations on going home. I felt amazing and was keen to sleep in my own bed. After some extra work on Heathers side we were given the all clear to go home. I was very proud of myself for going into labour, birthing and being back home all in one day! Walking out of the hospital to go home with our son was such an unreal feeling. I’m so glad Heather suggested a photo and that picture is very special to me.

All images for this post supplied by Sam Schröder Birth Photography

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