We saw the obstetrician when I was 6 days overdue, and an induction was
booked for the day when I would have been 13 days overdue. Although I knew
that this would be his advice, it still unnerved me and made me more
I was well and truly fed up with being pregnant. I was like a pregnant
sea lion on land: because of pelvic instability I had to use a walking
stick when I walked. I had some semi-regular Braxton Hicks contractions on
Tuesday night but they abated when I went to bed; and when I went to the
Family Birthing Centre on Wednesday morning I was told that the cervix was
still unripe and posterior. I didn’t believe I would ever go into labour.
But from Wednesday (day 11 overdue) at about 4pm, when I woke from a
sleep, regular contractions started at about 7 minute intervals. I
remember hearing myself start to groan on the out-breath (it wasn’t a
decision to do this, it just happened) and realizing that it was all
beginning. We moved into the lounge-room, where I sat for most of the time
straddling a high-backed dining-room chair. My partner conscientiously
recorded the timing of contractions, and acted as music monitor. I
listened to a self-hypnosis tape.
During the pregnancy I had regularly practised relaxation and
self-hypnosis, and I’d also attended a psychologist from some sessions of
hypnosis. As the contractions built up I was able to relax through them.
They were intensely painful, but – during first stage - quite manageable.
I felt them entirely in my tummy. As each one started there was a strange
total body feeling of floating before the pain set in. As they became more
frequent and intense I had to focus quite hard to relax – and for me this
meant remaining as still as possible and not being touched. At one point
the dog came and leaned against my leg and I needed her moved immediately.
We called our friend who was going to assist us at the birth. She
arrived with baskets of stuff – food, camera, mattress for the change
table, but not the portable CD player. So my partner rang around and
arranged for another friend to bring one over and to come and pick up the
dog. I remember this friend poking his head around the lounge-room door
and I acknowledged him with my hand from the middle of a kind of fog.
By 9pm the contractions were about 4 minutely, and we decided it was
time to move. I was half aware of a flurry of activity - my partner
phoning the parents and the birth centre, packing the car, getting the dog
The drive to the birth centre felt quite momentous: as though we were
setting off on this great and perilous adventure. I was surprised and
distressed to find that going over even tiny bumps in the road during a
contraction made the pain worse – and I made my partner drive very slowly
during contractions. I kept thinking "I’m glad we’re not in Bolivia".
Checking in at the admissions desk, I had to pause and lean on the desk
until a contraction passed. And then we were in room 1, and I remember
looking around the room for a comfortable position to sit – missing my
high backed chair. I sat for a while on their sofa – and then propped up
on the bed by a sort of human backrest made of my partner and my friend.
This was perhaps the only time I gave them something physical to do –
apart from handing me the drinking cup. My partner was wonderful and kept
telling me that he loved me, but I noticed that he became quieter as the
labour progressed. I think he found it difficult that I gave him no
Not long after we arrived at the hospital the mild bowel pressure I had
been feeling with contractions became severe and the major source of pain.
I couldn’t understand why I would be having bowel pressure, and when I
asked the midwife she said perhaps the baby was posterior. Although I
didn’t believe she was posterior, this further confirmed my fear that I
was in for a long labour. My hypnotherapist arrived and began talking to
me in her soothing tones to help deepen the trance. When she arrived she
touched me reassuringly on the arm and I had to tell her not to touch me.
I also asked her to speak to me only between contractions. It became
increasingly difficult to find a comfortable position – leaning up over
pillows on the bed was useless – and I was becoming incredibly shaky.
Someone suggested the bath and I agreed to give it a go, even though water
had not been part of my expectations about labour.
In the bath I was able to move around more easily, and in fact I moved
around a lot as the pain became more and more intense. But between
contractions I lay back and relaxed and sometimes even slept. As my noises
became wilder and less under my control (I remember feeling sorry for the
couple in the room next door – but there was nothing I could do about it)
I heard myself making a pushing sound – once again it was not a decision.
I commented on the pushing sound after the contraction, and when it
happened a few more times I asked the midwife what was happening. I still
couldn’t believe that I could be 2nd stageing so soon. Or maybe I just
couldn’t believe that I’d ever have a baby or that the whole thing was
happening at all. She replied "well, you’re having a baby" which irritated
me intensely, but I took her to mean …quite soon. Then I started to feel
stretching of the perineum – or a burning/tearing feeling to be exact; and
still I couldn’t believe it. I did my own vaginal examination and felt the
bulging membranes and the head just a couple of centimeters from the
outside. I decided to harness the pushing feeling, even though it was
incredibly painful to do so, and gave a few long deliberate pushes. I
could hear my voice alternating between sobs and pushes and wild groans.
My partner was sitting beside me very quietly, occasionally saying some
words of encouragement, and my support people were a bit like a chorus –
saying "good", "well done" as the head came into view. The feeling was one
of being totally taken over by a powerful process that was using my body
to have this child born. To have asked me not to push, writhe or groan
would have been totally ridiculous. There was a sense that it didn’t
matter what happened to my body as long as the baby came out: my body
could bleed, tear, scream, writhe - but the objective was birth. And yet
it wasn’t terrifying; if anything I feltpowerful and ‘caught up’ myself in
the whole amazing process.
I became quite un-inhibited between contractions – swearing and
cracking jokes (insisting for example that the baby was trying to come out
of the wrong hole; or when my friend made a slightly corny comment about
how wonderful Mother Nature is I said I would like to have a few words
with Mother Nature right now). I think the volume of laughter in the
bathroom was more about releasing tension than because of my incredible
I didn’t intend to have a water birth, but to have insisted that I move
out of the bath would have been torture – I doubt I could have stood up.
Fortunately the midwife (a ‘virgin’ as far as water births are concerned)
allowed me to stay in the bath, against hospital policy, and I will always
be grateful to her for that. At about 3am the head started to come out and
the midwife who was shining a torch onto my perineum through the water,
was telling me not to push. It was a relief not to have to continue to
intensify the pain by pushing – and with panting and some little pushes
the head came out quite quickly – followed immediately by the shoulders
and the rest – into my partner’s hands. Somewhere in there I thought I
felt myself tear, but that seemed such a minor thing compared to the sense
of relief that flooded through me: relief that I was no longer pregnant,
that the huge lump in my vagina was out, and then to have an incredibly
beautiful baby in my arms.
My partner lifted her out of the water and handed her to me. I sat in
the bath for a few minutes with the baby on my chest before I thought to
check that she was a girl. When she was born she let out a few cries and
quickly turned pink. I just couldn’t take my eyes off her, she seemed so
perfect and precious – and sentient – I think that surprised me the most:
she was looking at me quite intently and penetratingly, as if trying to
fathom me. And the feeling of holding her against my skin was so lovely.
As I sat there I remember seeing the caul ( amniotic membrane ) floating
around in the water. Apparently the first part of her to appear out of the
water was an arm, and the midwife suspected that this arm had punctured
And then the wonderful feeling of being human again – of looking
forward to a shower and a glass of wine and walking around in a body that
felt like mine again. The placenta took a little while but eventually
delivered naturally as I lay on the bed. Blood everywhere – on the
dressing gown, on the bed, but I only lost 250ml. Then we tried to sleep
for a while. My partner slept, but I was too excited to do anything more
than doze. And our bright-eyed baby girl - as yet un-named – lay between
Lara is 6 ½ months old now, and a beautiful smiley fun- and
cuddle-loving little girl. During the pregnancy I was quite unsure about
how I would go as a mum, never having been the maternal type. But from the
moment I saw her – much to my surprise - I have been completely in love.
Even though parenting is such a steep learning curve, now that I know that
I love her so much, I know we’ll get through and that she’ll have a firm
foundation in life.
* * *