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Ash James Le was born on 22 September at 6am, after a 30 hour labour.

Yeah it was hard, like, the hardest workout I’ve ever done by any stretch of the imagination. And yeah it hurt, like, a lot – even for a tough girl with a background in contact sports. But, it was the most incredible experience of my life!

Like many women I know, I hoped to have an active labour and vaginal birth with no medical intervention. I had my birth preferences written up as a “best case scenario” where I laboured at home for as long as possible, received little or no artificial pain relief, and just had my husband and midwife at my side when our baby would be born in the birth centre.

For the most part, this is certainly how it went.

I was 6 days overdue, feeling a little anxious and frustrated (I was huge and really wanted to just have the baby), when my waters broke at home at midnight.

I was really excited, but knew I should go back to bed to conserve my energy. I told Simmo what had happened, but urged him to go back to sleep – which he did without too much protest!

After about 10 minutes of lying in bed I had my first contraction, which was followed by another one about 15 minutes later. They continued to come every 15 minutes, and were quite uncomfortable, so I started doing some light yogic breathing during the contractions (I could hear my pre-natal yoga teacher’s voice as I counted).

After an hour or so, the strength of the contractions had increased, so I opted to sit on the floor of our bedroom, wrapped in a blanket, just breathing gently and staying calm. I did this until 5am, by which time the contractions were 5-7 minutes apart.

I woke Simmo and told him to pack his hospital bag and call my dad so he could come and pick up our cat, just in case we were kept in hospital for a while.

I called my midwife to let her know what was happening. She talked to me on the phone for a while, I knew she wanted to listen to me having contractions, so she knew whether I should be going in to the birth centre or staying at home.

After about 15 minutes she said that we should head to the birth centre at 7am, so we did.

The next 25-ish hours went by really quickly for me (not so much for Simmo though), because I was “in the zone”, and just going with the whole experience. I tried not to predict what would happen next, or dwell on how much each contraction hurt, I just kept reminding myself that we would soon be meeting our little guy!

As the contractions became stronger, I really used the full ujjayi breathing that I’d learnt in yoga class. It gradually became louder as the pain increased, until I started to use my voice to match the sensation of the toughest contractions.

I briefly felt a bit weird about making lots of noise, I thought of the people on the other side of the door who could probably (no, definitely) hear me, but that thought quickly went away when the next contraction came!

I remember being in the bath, and thinking how strange it was to feel such intense sensations during contractions, but being so relaxed in between that I was literally falling asleep (again, I heard my yoga teacher’s voice saying “it’s important to completely let go and relax during contractions”, so that’s what I did!).

I felt really calm, in control, and so well supported by the lovely midwives (there were a few of them as they changed shifts throughout my labour) and Simmo, who was by my side, breathing with me, making noises with me, giving me sips of water and mouthfuls of crushed ice.

He used the shower head to spray warm water over my back, and refill the bath when it got a bit cold. I was really particular about how full the bath needed to be – too much water and I felt like I was floating, too little water and I felt like my body weighed 100kg!

I soon had the urge to push, and the midwives thought I had transitioned. After a while though, they became doubtful that I actually had transitioned and were worried that I might not be fully dilated.

They suggested that they have a look at my cervix to see what it was up to. I got out of the bath, up onto the bed. They could see that I was 7cm dilated, and they told me not to push anymore. It was hard because I felt like my body continued to push during the contractions, even though I was just breathing through them.

They kept tracking the progress of my cervix opening, but it hit a plateau after they had monitored for six hours, only increasing 1cm in the subsequent three hours.

At this stage I had been labouring for about 25 hours, and they suggested I have an epidural so I could relax for a couple of hours and let my cervix fully open. They said that because I had already laboured for a long time, that this would give me the best chance at having a vaginal birth.

I agreed, albeit reluctantly. I had the epidural, the midwives told Simmo to go and get an hour’s sleep in the birth centre.

A couple of hours later I had the opportunity to try and push my baby out. At this stage I felt a little tired, but I was so excited about seeing our little boy!

They checked my cervix and I was fully dilated – yey!

I pushed for the next two hours, in almost every position imaginable. For some reason, each time I pushed I got really painful cramps in both of my hip flexors, and felt immense pressure in my pelvis – this was the most uncomfortable part of the labour for sure.

Soon a surgeon appeared at the door (Simmo says he looked like Billy Dee Williams), introduced himself, and said that he felt they should try to assist my pushing with the vacuum. He did also say that Ash was still quite high up in the pelvis, and he was doubtful that it would work!

I was a bit annoyed with that comment, and wanted to prove him wrong, but unfortunately after two attempts, Ash wasn’t shifting down.

He then spoke to my midwife, and they agreed that given how long I had been in labour for, and the fact that Ash was still quite high up, that I should have a Cesarean. While I really didn’t want to have surgery, I knew deep down that it was very unlikely that it would happen any other way. Oh, and I was pretty tired by this stage!

I soon arrived in the theatre, and they topped up my epidural. The sheet went up and Simon was at my side. They did some “test cuts” and unfortunately I could feel them, and move my feet, which meant I had to have a general anaesthetic, and they asked Simon to leave.

I was pretty emotional at this point, mainly because I wanted to see the baby when he was born, and I wanted Simmo to be by my side. The surgeon and paediatrician were really lovely though, and they spoke to me kindly as I drifted off to sleep.

Next thing I knew I was in a room with Simmo, who was standing there looking very handsome in blue scrubs, holding our little Ash! My feelings of disappointment (and nausea) quickly vanished when I saw the two of them – I couldn’t believe he was finally here. Our 4.5kg, 54cm long bundle of cuteness was the most extraordinary thing I had ever seen!

Simon had already changed his nappy, fed him some of my colostrum that I expressed when pregnant, and wrapped him tightly in a swaddle, ready to meet me.

We spent the next two days in hospital, receiving the most wonderful care from all the midwives and nurses. Thankfully, Ash breastfed well from the beginning, and slept like a champion.

While Ash’s birth didn’t turn out how I had hoped, I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to utilise all my active birth skills, and labour for as long as I did. I also couldn’t wish for anything more than a healthy, robust little boy who is thriving and growing every day.

I wanted to publish this post because I know lots of women who are afraid that their future birth experience will not go according to plan (I know I was). This is despite the fact that they have no medical reason to worry, and no prior health or fertility issues.

Maybe it’s all the horror stories we’re told when pregnant by our well-meaning (but stupid) friends, family and colleagues? Maybe it’s the Dr Googling we all do when we feel a bit anxious? Maybe it’s the parenting blogs that publish click bait rather than balanced perspectives?

I’m not saying that terrible things don’t happen during childbirth. But if you don’t have reason to be afraid or worried, then try to stay in the moment, and enjoy it (in between contractions).

I’m still surprised at people’s reactions to this story when I tell them. Nine times out of 10 its “oh my god, you must be so traumatised, you poor thing” or words to that effect.

Thing is, both Ashie and I were fine throughout the labour, nothing was going wrong, it was just taking a long time.

I never expected childbirth to be quick or easy either – makes sense that getting another human out of your own body is going to be pretty intense. But intense doesn’t have to mean horrible.

If there’s no medical issues, you don’t need to be afraid – just go with the flow (good pre natal yoga classes will help with this). In the end you’ll see your gorgeous little person, and your new life will begin!

Oh, and sleep deprivation is way harder than labour 😉

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