By photographer Sally Goodall
I still remember that exact moment Maisie was born. I reached down and pulled her up onto my chest. She pushed up with her little arms, lifted her wee head & just lay there looking at me with these dark, wide open eyes. It was as though time stood still. A moment later she turned her little head and locked eyes with her daddy. I looked at my husband, his eyes were filled with tears and I’ll never forget the expression on his face. He looked over to me, overwhelmed, we were both experiencing a love we never knew. Joy at it’s purest. Hands down the most magical moment of our lives and we’ve been in a bubble of love ever since.
I still look back at my entire birth experience as one of the best moments of my life. Birth is often feared by soon to be mums and unfortunately it’s very rare you hear the positive birth stories. It’s hard to truly articulate my entire experience without going into detail, but I can honestly say I loved it and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Below I’m going to share with you a snippet of my story and a few helpful Q&A’s. I hope any expectant mothers reading this will embrace their birth experience as much as I did.
For me it all started on the 7th July. It was my due date and we decided to go to the movies. That night in particular I had mega cravings and I remember one of my close girlfriends telling me she was the same the night before she gave birth. She’d sent her hubby back to the candy bar three times throughout the movie.
With that in mind I made sure I loaded up on all the essentials, popcorn, choc top ice cream, m&m’s and a large coke. After the movie, we got home and I made a chocolate pudding with vanilla custard. I literally hadn’t eaten that since my university days so I must have had an inkling our baby girl wasn’t far away.
Almost on cue, later that next morning in the wee hours, my contractions started to kick in. Very subtle, lasting only 50-60 seconds and coming every 10 minutes. I quietly woke up my hubby and told him it was happening. He shot up in bed in an instant and reached for his phone. He immediately dialled the hospital and a midwife answered and asked to speak to me. From what we’ve since heard, they like to speak to the mother to be, rather than the partner, as they can usually get a good idea of how much pain you are in and what point you’re at over the phone. She told us to start recording the contractions, relax and come in whenever we were ready.
Being that we lived down the coast, an hours drive from the hospital and there was no way we wanted to risk being stuck in peak hour motorway traffic, we left home early at 5.45am and made our way to the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital car park just before 7am and I told Cal we might as well hold off going in, as things hadn’t progressed since leaving home and I didn’t feel it was going to happen any time soon. The contractions were still very light, so instead of heading inside to the hospital, we decided to go to my mother-in-law’s house, which was only a 10 minute drive away. She was kind enough to let us have her cozy little place to ourselves for the day and it was perfect. I took myself off to the bedroom, pulled the blinds, turned the lights down and jumped into bed. I rested, literally from 7am until 7pm and by that point my contractions were 3 minutes apart & a lot stronger.
Again, we decided to wait until the traffic had died down as there was no way I wanted to be stuck on Punt road going through contractions in the car. What a nightmare that would be! We arrived at the hospital just after 7pm. Cal and I were taken into a private birthing suite where I was hooked up to a machine to check my little girl’s heart rate for about half an hour. So far, so good.
Next my obstetrician did an internal to see how far along I was. Zero centimeters! I was a little taken aback, to say the least. She said it could still be a couple of days yet, however, I felt that this wee munchkin was going to come much sooner than that. Mum’s intuition I guess. At that point it had been 17 hours since my first contraction and they were now almost 2 minutes apart. The pain had increased gradually throughout the day, however it was considerably stronger now. Probably a 6 out of 10 and in retrospect, that’s pretty much what it was. I wasn’t expecting to have my baby any time within the hour, however I did quietly think to myself this baby is coming sooner than they think.
“You two can head home if you like as you might be more comfortable”, said the doc. I quietly whispered to Cal “we are not going anywhere”. He was on the same page and nodded strongly in agreement. Fortunately, thanks to private health care, we had the option of staying, so of course, we did. The midwife brought in a sleeping pill and a Panadeine. She told me to take both and to try and sleep in-between contractions. Say what? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! I contained myself, smiled and thanked her. The staff let us be and wandered off back down the hallway. I turned to Cal and said there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to sleep. Did they really have any idea where I was at? Cal calmly said “Honey, it’s all part of their process”. So of course I just rolled with it.
Cal had been up all night the evening prior watching the Wimbledon tennis finals, so he gladly eyed up the lazyboy in the corner of the room and tried to get some shut-eye while I rode out the contractions in the shower for the next few hours.
At about 10.30pm I got out of the shower (which definitely helped) and decided to spend the next couple of hours of contractions switching between bouncing on the Swiss ball and lying on the bed.
After all the reading I had done, the one bit of advice that was consistent across the board was ‘rest between contractions’. So of course that was one of my main focuses. Easier said than done when it gets close to game time!
They were now a minute apart and getting stronger. I’d lay down on the bed, close my eyes for a minute, then as soon as I felt one coming on I’d call out to Cal. “Honey. Wake up. Cal get up. Hurry up & get me off this bed!” My entire body was now shaking and my hips and thighs were aching like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The only thing getting me through the pain at that point was bouncing on the Swiss ball making all sorts of moans & groans to distract myself.
I looked at the clock, it was midnight and I’d just gotten through a contraction & was ready for Cal to help me get back onto the bed to rest. But before I even got the chance to get off the ball, another full on contraction came straight after the previous one. I won’t tell you what I said next!
At that point once I got through it I grabbed Cal’s hand and with little breath I said, “Honey, if I’m still at zero centimeters and this is going to go on for another few days, I’m going to need some sort of pain relief”.
Cal quickly left the room in search of a midwife and right on cue as I was having a contraction, Linda (‘the amazing’) came waltzing in as chirpy as can be. “Righto love, I’m going to give you an internal first and then we can give you some pain relief”. She took one look at me and could see I was in a world of pain so decided to give me a shot of Pethidine straight away. I’m embarrassed to say this but the one thing I was really nervous about was getting a needle. I hate them. I had to get Cal to distract me when they jabbed me and thankfully I survived, ha ha. After Linda administered the ‘Peth’ she did an internal to check how far I was dilated. It was at that moment when this look came over her face and she said, in a very relaxed yet somewhat surprised manner, “Love, you’re fully dilated”. “I’m not surprised,” I said, “I feel as though I could push now”. “Go for it”, she said encouragingly . Linda quickly got on the phone to my obstetrician, who at that time of night was no doubt in bed fast asleep and asked her to come in asap. She made it back to the hospital just in the nick of time.
After the first small push my waters broke, after the second small push she was crowning and I couldn’t quite believe I could feel her head already. It really did give me the confidence and strength to get through the final stage of labour and less than an hour later, our wee Maisie was born. The delivery went really smoothly, except her umbilical cord was wrapped around her little neck as her shoulders were trying to come out. I didn’t know it at the time but Cal had been watching the baby’s heart rate monitor and was quietly freaking out when he heard the heart rate alarm go off and then saw the cord around Maisie’s neck.
Thankfully we had an amazing medical team around us and the next thing I heard was my very calm and collected obstetrician gently say, “I’m going to cut the cord now”. Maisie let out a little squeak and before I knew it she was in my arms.
It had been 9 months in the making and a long 24 hours and even though she was peacefully lying on my chest, it was still hard to believe that our baby girl was finally with us.
How did you prepare for your birth?
I spoke to friends about their experiences, read a few books, listened to podcasts, watched a few births online and kept up with low impact exercise. Lisa Begg at Grow Obstetrics came highly recommended to Callum and I. She was one of four incredible women who were a team of obstetricians at Freemasons Hospital in East Melbourne and we’d had many friends have fantastic experiences at this hospital so we looked no further and locked her in. These ladies were true professionals in every sense. They made us feel so at ease, answered any questions we had, never rushed us, gave me the confidence I needed & made the entire process a wonderful experience for both my husband and I.
How did you feel about the idea of birth?
I felt intrigued and excited about it. I think after preparing myself as best as I could I felt relaxed and ready to go. For me it was important to go in with as much knowledge as possible. I wanted to feel confident and calm and enjoy the process.
Knowing that giving birth was a natural process and we as women were built to do this put me in a great frame of mind throughout my pregnancy and during labour. Another thing that helped me was knowing that the pain I was going through was just a muscle working and becoming fatigued. So the way I thought of it was a good pain (if that makes any sense).
Did you have a birth plan?
Not as such. I knew I’d love to try for a natural birth, however I was prepared to do whatever I needed to do to deliver a healthy bub. My obstetrician filled me with confidence throughout the entire process of my pregnancy. Ironically she was booked to be on holiday when Maisie was due and in the end we had one of her colleagues fill in on the day. Obviously this can be a common occurrence due to the nature of not knowing exactly when these wee slices of heaven are going to arrive into the world. This was another reason we decided to go with Grow Obstetrics, as you have the opportunity to meet with them all. My midwife ‘Linda’ on the day was absolutely incredible too. She was laid back and had a brilliant sense of humour, which was absolutely what I needed.
What did you find helped during the different stages of labour for pain management?
I set up camp in a dimly lit cozy bedroom for the day. Listened to my favourite music and rested as much as I possibly could. I found a hot wheat bag was a huge comfort when riding out the early contractions and my hubby did a brilliant job keeping the wheat bag heated. I kept hydrated & had lots of good healthy snacks to keep my energy levels up for what was a head of me.
Once the pain was at a 6 out of 10 I found a hot shower a nice distraction. I could make as much noise as I wanted too. I actually found that using my voice helped take away the pain (arrgghhh, ouch ouch ouch, moaning, groaning, you name it!)
Bouncing on the Swiss ball helped take the pressure off my achy hips & again was a good distraction.
Having my husband count down loud and quick during each contraction meant that I could handle the pain knowing it wasn’t forever and it actually reminded me a bit of my spin classes where you are pedalling your heart out & you know you just have to keep going for another 30 seconds giving it your all then you can rest. I needed him to match the intensity of the pain I was going through with his loud voice & remember telling him to count faster and louder. He tried to explain it didn’t work like that but I didn’t care & told him to just do it. I could see he was trying not to laugh, but he knew not to mess with me, ha ha.
A shot of Pethidine meant I could rest and relax between contractions, however, unfortunately it didn’t stop the pain. And lastly the gas helped to get my breathing on track so I didn’t hyperventilate.
What was your biggest challenge during labour?
My heartburn decided to come back during the pointy end which resulted in me being physically sick. Not ideal when you’re having to hold off from pushing and concentrate on slow breathing all the while having a full on contraction. Ha the joys!
How did you feel during labour?
Ha that’s a big question, they don’t call it labour for nothing that’s for sure. Towards the end it was intense and hard work but overall I felt in control, empowered and super proud of myself.
How did you feel when you saw your baby for the first time?
I felt instant love and a need to protect our baby girl.
What was your hospital experience like?
Incredible. I wanted to individually squeeze every midwife that helped us along the way. What a fulfilling job they have. We’ll be forever grateful to those lovely ladies!
My hubby’s Q & A’s:
How would you describe the birth experience?
In one word, incomparable.
Any memorable moments throughout the labour?
Are you kidding? The entire thing! What could be more memorable than seeing your favorite person on the planet about to bring your first child into the world.
What were your feelings when you first laid eyes on your baby?
Pure, unconditional love. Could not wipe the smile off my face, and you still can’t.
Read previous instalments of THE FIRST TWELVE MONTHS here… http://bit.ly/1VLkEiz
You can contact Sally on:
Mobile: 0450 099107 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org