I KNEW she was ready to be born, the fact that my feet turned a little blue every time I had a Braxton Hicks contraction because her head was so far down confirmed that to me! The heat waves and my very sore pelvis were contributing to me turning into one of “those” pregnant women. You know, the ones who complain all the time about their discomfort rather than being thankful for a healthy baby and normal pregnancy. Anyway, I remembered that when I was pregnant with Christopher (who was two weeks overdue) labour didn’t kick in until I was away from home with the kids well cared for and relaxed, so I suggested a date night to Beloved.
You know you’re a Mum when preparation for a date night includes treating the family for a potential head lice infestation and putting the labour bag and baby seat in the car just in case. I was semi-hopeful something would happen, Beloved was fairly sure bub would stay put until Sunday (my brother’s birthday) and my Mum (babysitter extraordinare) split the difference and said I’d have bub on the way home!
So we went into town and ran a few errands (an appointment with my midwife, haircut for Beloved etc.) and then went out to eat. Beloved took me to my favourite restaurant where I hadn’t been for four years and bought me a VERY yummy steak dinner! Looking back now, the frequent loo visits during this time should have told me something, but when you are overdue, especially when you went two weeks overdue last time, you studiously ignore all signs of labour until things get a bit obvious, otherwise you go insane. Especially if you have pre-labour for a week or more!
After our very nice meal we went for a bit of a walk, went to a service station to use the ladies (again) and headed home at about 10. As we drove up the outlet I felt a painless but firm contraction which I all but ignored because I’d been having them for a week or more at this stage. I noticed that they were coming about every five minutes as we drove along and debated the wisdom of saying something. I didn’t want to go back and have nothing happen. I mentioned it to Beloved and we pulled over about half way home to discuss it. I called my midwife and we decided to head back to the Birth Centre just in case. I phoned Mum and let her know that she MAY have been right and I MAY be going into labour half way home, but not to get too excited because I wasn’t sure yet. And I didn’t get ANY more contractions. Not one the whole way back to Launceston! Exasperated, we decided to stay at the Birth Centre for the night anyway and just make it an extension of Date Night. My midwife went home to get some sleep and I had a shower before climbing into the queen size four poster bed fully expecting to wake up and go home in the morning and trying to work out the logistics of how to get everyone dressed and ready to be at the church camp meeting in the morning. When Beloved came to bed after his shower at about 1:20am by this stage. I opened one eye and said “I have had two real contractions since you got in the shower – I’m going to sleep” and he climbed into bed next to me and promptly fell asleep too.
I think you are a little more relaxed about labour by the fourth bub! Contractions kept coming and I dozed and prayed in bed for about an hour. I prayed that I would have no fear, that God’s hand would be on my labour and birth and that I’d draw on His strength when things got tough. After a while it got to the point where I was finding it difficult to relax during a contractions and I didn’t want to wake Beloved quite yet so I went into the bathroom, put a pillow on top of the cistern and sat backwards on the loo with my head resting on the pillow. This was a really good position for me because my pelvis, which had been very sore for about three months at this stage, was fully supported and I could just relax. I sang softly and meditated on scripture and prayed for a while. When it got to the point that I started feeling like making noise through the contractions, I got up and made Beloved a coffee and woke him up. I was enjoying the solitude so I told him not to stress about getting up yet, I just wanted to let him know I was calling my midwife. By this time it was 3:20am and I let my midwife know what was happening and went back to the bathroom.
When Beloved came in I gave the hand-held shower to him to put on my back and knelt at the end of the bath on a towel with my arms resting on another pile of towels. This was very nice, but I felt that it was almost too nice and was slowing things down a bit, plus I had a feeling for some reason that this baby was meant to be born on dry land (my two boys were both peacefully born in the bath) and knew it was going to be hard to convince myself to move out of the bath. So my midwife laid out the birth pad in the lounge room next to the coffee table and we put some pillows on top of it for me to lean on. My midwife heated a wheat bag and Beloved put it on my back for me. I stayed like this for a while just gently working through each contraction as it came, with some quiet instrumental music going in the background. Every now and then my midwife would sing along to one of the praise songs, or I would, and Beloved just sat quietly being there for me. I asked him to sit back on the couch and flopped kneeling on the floor draping (as much as you can drape at 41 weeks pregnant!) across his lap. The wheat pack wasn’t cutting it so my midwife started heating wet towels to put over my back at the peak of each contraction and this was HEAVEN! I was feeling very tired at this stage and just wanted to curl up and go to sleep.
After a while I got up and went back to the loo on my own where I promptly vomited what was left of my dinner which annoyed me because it was such a nice dinner, but it made me feel better physically. Memories of time and sequence get a bit blurry about here, but I know I ended up back on the loo backwards with the pillow and then I fell asleep, waking only at the peak of each contraction. Contractions were still a bit erratic, lasting different lengths and spaced unevenly so I thought I had ages to go yet. So I dozed, meditated on scripture and songs as each contraction came. While I was sleeping my midwife bought in a candle, the music continued to play and it was very peaceful.
I was making a bit of noise at the peak of each contraction. Suddenly I had a contraction which ramped it up a notch and I made a lot more noise with that one including a POP that could be heard in the next room as my waters broke. Beloved appeared at the door and asked what he could do for me, I told him to tell my midwife that my waters broke and get me a bowl to throw up in. I had a little vomit and sort of woke up at that point. While I didn’t have a strong urge to push yet, there was definite pressure, but seeing as my contractions were still about five minutes apart and a bit erratic I thought I still had a fair way to go yet. I started stressing out about that then caught myself and started singing “He makes all things beautiful in His time”. This calmed me and focused me again. I asked for more hot towels on the next contraction and asked for one to go on my belly. When I was having a contraction I tried to put the hot towel on my tummy but my stretch marks were sensitive to the heat and my belly was up against the toilet cistern so it was difficult to position the towel but I wanted the towel on there and it was all too CONFUSING! So I just sat holding my hot towel softly crying into my pillow. My midwife and Beloved asked what I wanted and I sobbed “I don’t know!!”
I decided to get up and move into the lounge room again and was surprised to see the sky turning pink. I looked at it and thought of a scripture in Isaiah chapter 44 (a chapter I had been drawn to repeatedly as I prepared for labour) which says something about our sins being burned up like the morning mist. That thought was very comforting; whatever discomfort I was facing right now was temporary and I have a reassurance that my sins were burned up as the morning mist and I was pure, clean and fresh as the morning in God’s eyes. I remember starting to feel a bit more bright and chirpy. Hot towels kept coming at the peak of each contraction and I was kneeling on one knee beside the coffee table again. Between contractions I asked Beloved if he thought we had a boy or a girl. We both agreed that we didn’t know, but if we had to pick we thought it was a girl. My midwife joked that it had to be a girl because she was being so gentle with me! I asked what time it was at about ten to six and told Beloved that it’d probably be a good idea to call Mum in about an hour and let her know I really was in labour.
Then I had a contraction that felt a bit pushy, followed by two that didn’t feel pushy at all then one where I pushed and felt a little head rush down! I put my hand down and a small head slipped into my hand much to the surprise of us all! I remember thinking that the head felt so tiny (I found out later that she had the smallest head of all my four kids). Once her shoulders were free, bub literally fell out of me into my midwife’s hands. I held bub close to me as I knelt up and called out to Beloved “We were right! Erin will be SO pleased!” (our oldest daughter Erin had prayed for a sister since before I was pregnant). I kept repeating “Erin will be SO pleased! Oh, thank you, God!” We exclaimed over how small she was. My next youngest was ten pound one at birth so she seemed very small in comparison at eight pound nine! She was very pale and her eye lids were puffy but she was dainty and beautiful all the same. I cuddled her close and Beloved got the camera to take a few photos. I remember turning to our midwife (who, after being with us through three pregnancies and births in three years, seems like one of the family!) and introducing her to Anna Francesca, our little girl. I delivered the placenta, and Anna did her first poo all over me (ewww) and we waved a bit of oxygen at her to help her pink up a bit. We cuddled and weighed and measured our little girl and I cleaned up a bit and called home to let the three older kids know they had a sister. Erin (aged 4) was “thrilled about my new sister!” Billy (aged 2 and a half) was a little confused as to who exactly he was talking to and what was going on and Christopher (aged 15 months) didn’t say much at all. After we rang our parents and I had something to eat, our midwife checked me out and headed home. Beloved and I tucked into bed and went back to sleep for a while with our newest baby, our precious Anna Francesca!
We finally headed home a little after midday and introduced our little girl to her siblings.
I loved having the freedom and flexibility that the birth centre allowed me. I loved having the personalised care of my own midwife. I loved being listened to and being an active part of my own care. I loved not having to go through my whole history at each appointment or wait for two to three hours for an appointment like I did when I was a public patient at the hospital having my oldest child. I look forward to having any and all of my future babies at the birth centre!