On Thursday 16th January 2014, I was having a leisurely day, a break from a busy day of getting things done around the house the day before (including scrubbing the windows in our bedroom, which some say was a nesting sign in itself!). I went for my morning walk, enjoyed a decaf coffee with a friend at a local café, then I met a tradesman back at the house to get a quote to paint the kitchen.
I polished off some leftover salad (‘raw energy’ salad which in retrospect was probably ideal) and then went to meet the girls from antenatal class for our first coffee group at a café in Mt Eden. With my due date the furthest on the horizon (February 14), I had absolutely no idea that I would be in labour a few short hours later.
After a pastry and some good chat I headed off to Harvest to pick up some naturopathic supplies before having an appointment with my acupuncturist, a proactive wellness session designed to help prepare the body overall for labour (as our baby was already engaged and in the right position). A short stop at the butcher, and I was on my way home.
4.30 PM – as I hit the curb up the driveway I felt a warm wet sensation and immediately thought I had peed my pants, as it continued I realised that in fact my waters had broken. I called Bede who was suitably surprised, and we agreed things might be a way off so he should stay at work until after I had talked to my midwife.
My midwife said ‘I know you wanted a waterbirth at birthcare, but you are going to have to let that go because you’re just 36 weeks you need to go Auckland Women’s. Don’t panic but don’t dilly dally, get yourself there as soon as you can.’ She went on to explain that the timing was particularly terrible as it was the one time she wasn’t available, she was busy with her son’s wedding. We hadn’t had a chance to meet her backup midwife either as we had only recently changed our LMC. She said we would be in the care of the hospital midwives for our birth, something we were not at all prepared for.
A hospital birth was something I had worked on with fear release during hypnobirthing and I had a moment of real sadness about going there, but at no point was I fearful. Bede made his way home and I called my Mum who booked herself on a flight from Wellington immediately, only the day before had she decided she should pack a few things in case the call came early, and all day that day she had been feeling a bit strange.
I threw a few things into our labour bag, topping up the small preparations we had made and put aside the swiss ball, our rainbow relaxation and some calming music.
By the time we were in the car it was around 6 PM and as we neared the hospital I began to feel the first surge, it was concentrated in my back and I breathed comfortably through it. We parked and made our way slowly to the assessment unit. They were expecting us and ushered me into an assessment room, a very small space with a bed and adjacent bathroom (it was such an unpleasant room that Bede would later refer to it as the ‘holding pen’).
By this stage the surges had increased in frequency and they wanted to monitor me on a machine, I was asked to lie still in my back and they strapped me to a monitor, this had been my fear; the exact position I wanted to avoid and I was not comfortable, but I remained very calm, continued to breathe and Bede remained tenacious about engaging with staff around making changes that would be more comfortable for me.
After 20 mins of monitoring I was able to move and I got down on the floor, on my knees leaning forward on the swissball, I went deep inside my mind and worked hard to stay focussed through each surge as they started to come on faster. We played the rainbow relaxation CD and Bede reminded me of the breathing with each surge. He also and applied light touch massage frequently, as well as using piping hot towels on my lower back, this kept me very comfortable and aided my relaxation.
My Mum arrived from Wellington at 8.30 PM and said ‘you could have this baby anywhere’ and I felt really empowered; despite the environment being the total opposite of what I would have chosen, I was labouring well and all my practice was working, I was experiencing labour just as I had hoped to – meeting each surge with a sense of welcome, each time the affirmation ‘each surge brings my baby closer to me’ was floating through my mind. I focussed on the opening rose and completely gave over to my body.
The delivery suites were busy and the hospital staff had largely left us alone, we assume because they thought it would take some time for labour to advance, and because I did not appear to be ‘in pain’. In the end Bede had to get quite assertive with staff about moving us to a delivery suite as it was apparent to us that our baby was quite close, surges were increasing in intensity and were less than a minute apart. Finally a midwife examined me, and was very surprised by our progress, she arranged a speedy transition to a delivery suite. I was breathing our baby down, kneeling on the bed under a sheet as we where wheeled down the corridor at pace.
At 10.45 PM we were in the delivery suite with two young midwives who were very supportive and excited to be part of a hypnobirth. Later they would say it was a privilege to be part of such a great birth, rarely do they get to see hypnobirths at the hospital.
In between each surge Bede would press firmly on my shoulder and say ‘ deeply relax’, and I would, feeling a rush of endorphins, Mum spooned ice chips into my mouth and wiped my face with a cool face cloth which I found soothing. With the support of everyone in the room I was able to breathe our baby down into Bede’s arms from a kneeling/crouch position on the stroke of midnight exactly. Weighing a petite 5.6 pounds our little girl was alert and eager to embrace us.
From my waters breaking to Elsie’s safe arrival the entire birth was just 7.5 hours. The 2-3 hours where labour was intense went by in want seemed like a very short time to me. I had two small grazes from Elsie’s hand which came out beside her head in a superman kind of way, but there was no tearing, so no stitches and no need for any follow up care. I couldn’t feel them during the birth and it was only afterwards that I was told they were there.
Due to her ‘pre-term’ arrival and size we spent a night at Auckland Hospital and then 5 nights at Birthcare to get her weight up. On arrival at Birthcare we were asked a series of questions for admission assessment, I remember one of them was ‘how do you feel about your birth experience’, I said I was delighted.