I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl 11 weeks ago, and WOW, what an incredible, heart-expanding journey it has been. I imagined what the birth and early weeks of motherhood would look and feel like, but oh boy, has it been so much more.
On the 7th of April at approximately 10.30pm, I went into a spontaneous labour. I knew it was coming as I’d been having pre-labour signs for 4 days prior that even included a trip to the Family Birth Centre to check if my waters had broken – turns out it was just my ‘show’, which is a strong sign labour isn’t far away!
In the afternoon I had asked my sister Katherine to pick up a labour kit for me that my friend recommended I get earlier that day. Amazingly, it was at 10.45pm when she arrived at our house (she is a night-owl!). It was so lovely having my big sis there for the first couple of hours of my labour, and an eye-opener for her.
Early Labour – (First Stage)
It makes me laugh now to think that when I went into labour I was still unsure if it was real labour! I remember calling the birth centre even before waking up Gav as I wanted to be 100% sure. The midwife kept me talking until my next surge (the HypnoBirthing word for ‘contractions’) so she could listen to my voice and breathing – I think when I paused and could no longer talk for 30 seconds, it was a definite sign I was in labour, ha!
The timing is all a bit of a blur now, but at this stage I believe my surges were about 6 minutes apart. I was a little surprised at how intense it felt already, but in between the surges I was very calm and able to carry on chatting to Gav and my sister. I was very conscious of my breath and to keep my body as relaxed as possible.
I decided to call our back-up Doula Feona to inform her (unfortunately, our original Doula Helena was on holiday in Bali – something I knew could be a possibility from the moment I hired her but decided to take the risk). Would you believe that Feona had another client in labour that she was getting ready to go to?! She ended up coming to our place for about half an hour, and then at 1.30am, her back-up Doula, Emma, arrived.
Athough Gav and I were really disappointed to end up with a Doula we’d never met before, we just had to trust that this was how it was meant to be.
I laboured at home until 3.15am until my surges were only a couple of minutes apart and around a minute in duration. I couldn’t wait to get to the birth centre and meet my bubba! I was also hanging to labour in the birthing tub and get settled at the centre, but so far the shower at home offered massive relief.
I was dreading the car trip and had a bucket with me incase I needed to vomit on the way, but thankfully it wasn’t needed. Gav had worked out the best route there that included no speed bumps, and at that time of the morning it only took us 10 minutes.
When we arrived it was another midwife looking after me as my midwife wouldn’t be there until 7am. She was super lovely and took us into our birthing room that had a double bed, swissball, ensuite and a birthing bed set up on the floor. Including the birthing tub that was opposite our room, there were a few options for birthing my baby girl.
After setting up our room the midwife asked if she could examine me to see how dilated I was. I decided that I didn’t want to know so I could avoid any disappointment if it wasn’t the outcome I had expected (this can sometimes slow down the process), but she told me everything was looking good. I later found out I was 4-5 centimetres dilated which meant I was in active labour.
My surges were really starting to intensify and I found myself leaning on the same patch of wall next to the bed each time. For some reason, this position felt the most comfortable…that was until I decided to use the shower whilst we waited for the birthing tub to fill up, and oh lordy, was this the best shower ever! It had two shower heads so I could have one facing my tummy and one facing my lower back, and the pressure was perfect.
At 5.30am Gav decided to text his parents to let them know they would be meeting their granddaughter very soon. It was so beautiful watching him tear up and become emotional as he quietly sent the message. This would be the last moment I’d have any awareness of time.
A few hours later when my midwife Nicole was now looking after me, she asked if I would mind being examined again. I had now been in active labour for 12 hours, was physically and visibly exhausted and my waters hadn’t broken yet…so we thought. Turns out they had broken, but only a small amount was trickling out and I hadn’t dilated any further. Nicole made the decision to manually break my waters some more to speed up the process, and the next thing I knew there was this big gush of fluid releasing from me.
It wasn’t long after this big release of fluid that I finally moved into the transitional phase, and holy moly was it INTENSE. My uterus started involuntary pushing my baby down which is a normal process of birth but feels very unusual at first. Emma and Nicole talked me through it and really encouraged me through this stage, but I definitely had ‘that moment’ most women go through when having a natural, drug-free birth…I mouthed the words ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore’ and can remember thinking there was no way I was EVER going through this again!! Haha. I feel completely different about it now, but at the time all I wanted to do was fall asleep and then wake up with my baby in my arms, job done.
After labouring in the room for a while, I decided it was time to get back into the tub. I tried every position possible in the room but could not get comfortable at all – I desperately needed the buoyancy of the water to take my weight so I could relax and rest in between the surges that were growing in length and intensity.
It wasn’t long after getting into the tub again that the pushing phase began and I started to breathe my baby down. This phase of child birth required every bit of my energy, determination and concentration to complete, and was by far the most challenging hour and 18 minutes (to be exact) of this experience, but also the most rewarding.
After I’d been trying to crown my baby’s head for about 20 minutes, my mum arrived unexpectedly and came into the room. I remember her asking for a cold wash cloth and then wiping my forehead and telling me to make as much noise as I needed to – she totally went into ‘mum mode’ which was beautiful and endearing, but it wasn’t long after that I asked her to wait outside as I could tell she was getting a bit anxious about it all as I’d been in labour for 16 hours! Love you mum.
The crowning phase felt like it went on for eternity. Each time I I heard the midwife say she could see Chloe’s head and to keep pushing throughout the surge, it would stop and her head would get sucked back up. Ha, that sounds a tad crude but is the best way of describing it!
I felt Gav’s presence the whole time. He was so strong, supportive and calm throughout and I only managed to get annoyed at him once, hehe. I swear the flower essence that was in the labour kit really contributed to my mood, as did the HypnoBirthing breathing and affirmations. I was relatively calm throughout the whole birthing process.
Finally, my baby’s head crowned. Relief and elation flooded my mind and body. It then took 6 minutes for the body to be birthed which was getting a bit too long, so I was quickly instructed to stand up to let gravity come into play. The next thing I knew my baby slipped out, was handed to me, and she let out a healthy, roaring cry.
Chloe Isabel Harrigan was born on 8/4/16 at 3.36pm weighing 3.4kg and 51.5cm long, when I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant
Gavey had been tearing up since the moment Nicole told him he’d be meeting his daughter soon (when I was starting to crown her), and continued to show his beautiful, raw emotion. His heart had been cracked wide open with the most visible outpouring of love for our little Chloe…it was incredibly beautiful to witness.
As I held my babe in my arms, soaking this moment in in all its splendour, I felt a mix of joy, shock and exhaustion. I lent back in the tub as she stayed connected to the umbilical cord, and looked down at the water which was filling with blood. It’s normal to lose some blood in child birth, some do more than others, but I was beginning to sense this was more than ‘normal’.
The two midwives (you always have two midwives caring for you once you’re in the pushing phase) were starting to express concern so got us out of the tub and slowly walking back to my room where they had me lay down on the bed, with Chloe still in my arms.
As much as I wanted to wait for my placenta to expel naturally in its own time, there was a bit of urgency to get it out as the midwives weren’t sure what was causing the haemorrhage. Once it was out, it didn’t take long until I was sent up to King Edward Hospital (which the birth centre is connected to) as I’d lost 2 litres of blood.
Thankfully, one of the midwives expressed my colostrum so they could feed it to Chloe whilst I was in theatre. I was so relieved to hear that I had a great supply and that it was so rich in colour.
What caused the bleed was quite simply a very tired uterus from a 17 hour labour, that went flaccid after Chloe came out instead of contracting. I didn’t require surgery, rather a procedure that involved inserting a balloon into my uterus to help it contract, and within 24hrs it was back to normal and the balloon removed.
I ended up needing a blood transfusion as I couldn’t take more than three steps without feeling like I was going to faint. Having an iron transfusion was the alternative, but it would take three weeks to take affect and I just couldn’t go home with a newborn feeling the way I was feeling.
The transfusion, having my placenta encapsulated and no doubt being so health conscious throughout my pregnancy, really sped up my recovery. Within a week I was feeling great and taking Chloe out in the pram for some light walking.
I was in hospital for 3 days, which was obviously not in my birth ‘plan’ and was very disappointing, but I always look for the positives in every situation. At least I still had the birth I wanted – a drug-free water birth – and being in hospital surrounded by amazing midwives was a blessing. Gav and I learnt so much from them, and Chloe was by my side the whole time.
It may sound a bit dramatic and I don’t want to scare any expecting mama’s! To be honest, when I look back on my birth experience I only focus on the first and second stage. I feel proud of myself and extremely happy that I birthed Chloe the way I had hoped…what followed is still part of my story but it certainly doesn’t define it.
A Few More Notables Summed Up
// Each time I had a surge I couldn’t be touched…I learnt this very early on! Massage in between though was welcomed. Emma would massage my back with the beautiful blend that was in the labour kit.
// I loved using DoTerra essential oils throughout my pregnancy, and had a few on hand during the labour. I diffused a bit of peppermint oil in the early stages when I felt nauseous, and lavender, wild orange and balance oils when we first arrived at the birth centre and in the birthing tub room. I had Frankincense to anoint Chloe with post birth, but with all that happened I wasn’t able to use it on her until the day after.
// My midwife Nicole was brilliant! During the pushing phase, she was so supportive and encouraging and only instructed me to push when I really needed to. I’m sure that’s why I *gratefully* had no tearing – plus also the perineum stretching I did in the four weeks leading up to the birth.
Child birth is an incredible event, and I’m not just talking about vaginal births – cesarians too. That moment you get to hold your baby in your arms for the first time is the most precious moment all parents get to experience.
Thank you for choosing us to be your parents, my beautiful girl.
P.S. To read my pregnancy series from the beginning, head on over here.
P.P.S. The last post instalment of this series will be a blog post about the first 3 months of motherhood. Stay tuned, and thank you for reading about my journey so far.