Birth Story of Aiden Peter Laurence Gray
Born naturally at 3.46am, Sunday, 12th June 2005
Weight: 8lb 11oz
Head Circumfrence: 36cm
Apgars: 1 minute=8; 5 minutes=9
I started having mild period like contraction pains a few days before my estimated due date of 30th May 2005. I knew early labour could go for days (and in some cases, weeks) and that I shouldn't get excited, but of course, I got excited nonetheless! My excitement wore off after 2 weeks of the contractions rolled slowly by, continuing without increasing in regularity or severity. Eventually, on Thursday 9th June 2005, at 10 days overdue, I was given an internal examination and a "stretch and sweep" by the doctor at the Birth Centre of the Hospital I would birth at, in an attempt to establish labour spontaneously. The doctor told me I was at least 1cm dilated and very effaced, and predicted I would be in labour within 48 hours. If I wasn't, however, they would break my waters on Sunday 12th June 2005, and if THAT didn't work, then it was induction for me the next day.
I went home downhearted - a spontaneous, natural birth was extremely important to me, and I was terrified of induction. I burnt Clary Sage Oil, had sex, went for a long walk, nipple tweaked...everything I could think of to stimulate labour! My period like pains seemed to have increased since the stretch and sweep, but I didn't dare get excited.
On the evening of Friday 10th June, my period pains were enough to keep me awake on and off throughout the early hours of Saturday morning. At 6am Saturday 11th June, I went to the toilet and passed huge amounts of bloody mucous. Hurrah! This must be it!
Well, the mucous came all day long (it was revolting), and the contractions began to take some definite shape and regularity. By the afternoon, they were coming every 5 minutes apart and I was breathing through them. By 5pm Saturday night, I was beginning to moan softly through them. I called the Birth Centre to let them know that I was in labour, and they told me I seemed to be doing very well at home and to continue on there for as long as I felt I could. I also contacted my doula, and let her know where I was at. She also encouraged me to stay home and told me I was doing well.
By about 9pm, I was restlessly pacing the loungeroom, leaning on the wall with my partner Stephen pressing a hot towel to my lower back with each contraction, as I moaned loudly through them. The pain rolled into my lower spine each time and gripped me like a vice, and I was finding it increasingly difficult to handle it. I had been vomiting, and began crying to Stephen that I didn't want to do this anymore. We decided it must be time to go to hospital!
We rang the Birth Centre again and let them know we were on our way. The ride in the car was awful, luckily the trip was traffic free and only took about 20 minutes, but I had about 3 strong contractions during it and sitting in the carseat moaning and huffing was terrible. The moment we got out of the car and walked into the hospital, my contractions picked up another notch, and I scared a good few people on the street outside the hospital with my frequent stops to moan and breath!
Inside the hospital at about 10.30pm, we met with our lovely midwife. She was a very gentle and calm soul, and she asked me what I wanted. I grunted "gas!" and she laughed and said "how about we try the bath first?". She had read my birth plan, knew my goals, and immediately set about encouraging me to meet them. Grudgingly I agreed. I spent about half an hour in the bath, and the bouyancy and water felt great, but I had to lie fairly flat in it which intensified my vomiting terribly, so out I hopped (flooding the entire room with water). By this stage, Stephen had let our doula know where we were at, and she was on her way to the hospital. When she arrived, our midwife had moved Stephen and I into the shower, where I sat on a fitball, rocking in between contractions and gripping the bars on the wall during them while Stephen directed the hot water spray at my lower back. This felt good for an hour or so, and we stayed in there, with our doula encouraging us both.
After a while, the pressure on my tailbone and the intensity of contractions meant the shower was no longer comfortable. I felt exhausted by now (it was about 1am I think? My grip on time was slipping majorly by now...) and began begging to lie down - however, lying on even my side made the contractions worse. I was so tired that I did it anyway (after briefly trying the beanbag on a mat on the floor) and the contractions were now making me wail. I couldn't help but thrash during them and began crying "please God, somebody help me, it hurts so much" during them. I really felt unable to continue effectively moaning and breathing through them and began demanding an epidural at this stage. Our doula and midwife both tried to offer me alternatives such as gas, or an internal to check how far I had come so I might feel inspired to continue - they knew how important my natural birth was to me, and they suspected I was entering transition, as I was showing pretty obvious signs. However, I stubbornly refused to negotiate and continued insisting I didn't care anymore and I wanted, NEEDED, an epidural. Our midwife gave me an internal and I refused to hear what my progress was even though she said it was excellent and she wanted to tell me so that I might be able to go on. Eventually, we made the walk up to the Ward for the epidural. Walking intensified my contractions even more (I hadn't thought it possible!) and as we waited in the room for the anaesthetist, I began grunting and heaving at the end of each contraction. I could feel my baby low in my pelvis, and I felt the powerful urge to push beginning, but I so wanted the pain to stop, so I pretended not to be pushing. Of course, our midwife and doula saw straight through me (probably not difficult to do so, with me sitting on my haunches on the bed, making "hhh-uunnngghhh" sounds and my abdomen heaving!). With the anaesthetist literally waiting outside the room, our midwife inspected me again. She barely even put her finger inside me before she felt my baby's head. We were in stage 2, my baby was coming, and I finally let our midwife and doula convince me to get on all fours and get down to the business of pushing my baby out. Stephen supported me all through this traumatic stage, with his constant presence, mopping my brow, feeding me sips of water, just being there. Our doula gave me constant encouragement and whilst I wasn't really all that lucid or responsive through this period, I was still aware of both of them, and couldn't have done it without them.
Gripping the head of the bed, I began feeling huge pushing contractions, and felt my baby's head moving swiftly down inside me with each one. I roared through them all - no pushing was required on my part, my body simply did it by itself with each contraction and dragged me along for the ride!!! All I could do was squeeze the bedhead, roar, and let it happen - and flop against the pillows in between each massive push, sweating and breathing heavily as I felt my tailbone pushing outwards against my baby's head.
It seemed to go so quickly...before I knew it, I felt stinging and stretching in my perineum. I had been terrified of how this would feel - but it was WONDERFUL! I welcomed it with pleasure and pushed into it, and it wasn't really pain, it was sweet relief. Each push brought the head further and I knew I was making quick progress. Our midwife and doula told me "well done, excellent, good job, keep doing what you're doing" with each push, and it really encouraged me, I heard every word. The stretching sensation briefly peaked and suddenly there was a "pop" feeling and I knew my baby's head was out, and I was surprised...had I done it already?! Another good pushing contraction, and a soft tug from our midwife under my baby's arms, and he slid out of me...ahhh, that feeling was the most blessed relief I have ever felt in my life. I was so shocked by the whole experience, and the pushing seemed over so quickly, that I couldn't even turn around and see my baby...I remained in a stupor hanging over the head of the bed, and eventually our midwife simply placed my baby in front of me.
I was shaking, and stunned, and could only look at him and stare at everyone in the room and gasp "it's a baby! I've had a baby! It's my baby!". They all laughed and told me yes, it was my baby, I'd done it. I turned to our doula and said "I had my natural birth!" and she smiled at me. Stephen had to hold Aiden for much of this period as I was simply too stunned and shaken up to be of any use to anyone (I think I may have been in shock). I had wanted to deliver the placenta naturally, but despite squatting, pushing, standing...it didn't want to come out, and I had the injection and controlled cord traction to get it out. It was intact, and gruesome!
I had a second degree tear and some grazing...it's funny, I thought I hadn't torn at all, as I couldn't feel any pain in that region whatsoever and didn't feel tearing when Aiden came out, just stretching and him emerging. The stitches were awful, and I sucked on the gas through them (I had briefly tried the gas just before pushing, but threw it away, as I found it hard to breath in enough to get it to work, and it didn't help anyway). The saline drip that had been administered in expectation of the epidural was removed, and I was left to sit on the bed, sipping water, and being with Stephen and our new baby. (Our doula left us alone to bond - she took some photos during the pushing stage as Aiden emerged which I will prize forever - they're amazing to look at!)
The whole experience has already faded in my memory, which I'm sure is as nature intended, so I know I haven't done it justice here. It was intense, overwhelming, extremely painful, traumatic, agonising, long...but also so wonderful, so primal, so powerful. I feel like I know a secret now that I share with all other women who have experienced labour. I feel like my body has achieved a sort of nirvana that it was designed to achieve. I feel like a woman. I feel like a Mother!
It is amazing and beautiful to have discovered that, in the words of Ina May Gaskin, "my body is not a lemon"! It was only my mental fear that tried to hamper my natural birth…my body knew what to do all along, and performed flawlessly. Once I stepped out of the way and surrendered to my labour, my baby came out like a freight train…and it was magnificent. I can't wait to do it again.
Thankyou to Stephen, our doula and our midwife, without whom I think my birth experience would have been very different and I wouldn't be able to look back on it with love and awe.
And thankyou to Aiden, for (finally!) coming out into the world, and changing Stephen and I forever.
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