Ayla’s Birth Story

I started having very, very mild contractions at 9:00 pm on Friday 20 December (this just happened to be Noodles’ due date) and stayed awake with Kris (my partner) for a little while. I was able to time the contractions to be 10-15 minutes apart, each one lasting at least 45 seconds. I’d had nearly three weeks of false/ prodromal labour and nearly every “early labour” sign under the sun including losing my mucus plug, a bloody show, diarrhea, timeable contractions that liked to go on for 3-4 hours then disappear completely, low period cramps, nesting, the list goes on… Needless to say, I did not want to get my hopes up.

My parents and sister both live in different cities and had been on baby watch for weeks, becoming increasingly more on edge as my due date neared. Everyone seemed to have an exam or commitment that needed to happen before I was allowed to go into labour! Needless to say, my parents couldn’t wait any longer and arrived the Monday before my due date. On Thursday, I woke with a throat virus so had a ridiculous amount of phlegm, a blocked nose and headaches on the Friday night when we were timing the early contractions. All of this, coupled with me believing this baby was never going to come out and it was all just more prodromal labour, ensured I was quite irritable having to wake up every hour or so to pee that night. Kris stayed awake (apparently not able to sleep) until I finally got cranky at there being extra light in the room at 12:30 am and we both went to sleep.

I woke at 2:45 am on Saturday 21 December with a strong contraction that I instantly felt was different. I opened my contractions app, ready to time them, knowing that this must finally be it. They ended up being 5-6 minutes apart, so just after 3:00 am I sent my birth photographer a message to let her know I was in early labour (and that it might actually go somewhere this time!). At 3:10 am I stood at the end of our bed and tickled Kris’ foot to wake him up: he looked down at me with such a confused and irritated look on his face until I said, “I’m in labour”. His response was, “are you sure?”.

I called my midwife, Tania, at 3:16 am and she advised me I really needed to stay at home and labour for as long as possible, until the contractions were incredibly strong and 2-3 minutes apart. Because I was birthing through the Birth Centre, I’d only have her for a 12 hour shift and she wanted to ensure she could support me through the birth. I vaguely thought my waters had broken because of a slippery gush of fluid I kept getting, but it was clear and reminded me of leukorrhea, so I didn’t think anything more of it.

I told my mum I was in labour not long after because I passed her in the hallway as she was on her way to the toilet. The contractions pretty quickly established themselves at 5 minutes apart and I was uncomfortable enough that I wanted to stand through them, rather than be sitting on lying down. Tania suggested I take a Panadol and try to sleep through them but they felt too painful. I kept the lights in our bedroom low and did my makeup in between contractions. I had a piece of toast around 5:00 am.

My birth photographer, Kristy, came around to our place at around 9:00 am to start documenting our birth story at home. Mum and dad picked up McDonald’s for everyone and I had half a hashbrown. I drank water and sat through the mild contractions on my bouncy ball with the timings progressing to be around 3.5 minutes apart. When they were consistently 3 minutes apart, I called Tania and let her know we were coming in. We left for the Birth Centre at 10:45 am and arrived just after 11:00 am. I had approximately 5 contractions on the way and remember not being able to speak or open my eyes because of the discomfort that came with sitting down.

We arrived and were checked into Birth Centre room  1. I sat straight on the exercise ball as the contractions were getting stronger and more painful at this point. I still wasn’t making noise but I had to shut my eyes and breathe slowly through each one. Tania wanted to determine if it was actually my waters that had broken because there is protocol at the RBWH to administer antibiotics within 18 hours after the waters have gone, if you haven’t given birth. I really wasn’t too keen about lying flat on my back but had to have CTG monitoring for half an hour whilst it gave my waters a chance to pool in my cervix: Tania would then perform a speculum examination to see if it was my waters leaking. At 12:30 pm, it was confirmed it was my hind waters which were leaking and my contractions were getting worse from from having had to lie in bed so I declined going home and opted in to have an internal exam done.

I was 4 cm dilated and nearly 100% effaced so Tania was happy with my decision to not have gone home. My forewaters were still very much intact and bulging, she was also able to see our baby’s hair: it was dark! Kris and I were both shocked as we’d assumed our baby would be born with really light or red hair, if any at all! I tried a few different labouring positions, swaying and leaning over an exercise ball to get my way through the contractions. I opted to try the shower at 1:00 pm, finding myself increasingly more vocal. I had one shower head on my stomach and one on my lower back, sitting to face Kris on my exercise ball in between contractions (still approximately 3 minutes apart at this stage). During contractions I would stand and turn to face the shower wall, pulling strongly on the rails, pulling into the pain. I ended up leaning into the exercise ball as I pulled, as the need to push became stronger. I was still experiencing quite a degree of strong contractions in the front lower half of my belly, which I found out later ended up being my body still trying to dilate my cervix coupled with pushing at the same time.

Since my need to push was getting stronger, they began filling up the bath and I got in at 2:25 pm. I laboured in the bath for a while before the pushing sensation got too strong, without me being able to feel for the baby’s head myself so I was offered another internal to check my dilation and waters (my midwife didn’t feel as though baby’s head was low enough for me to be experiencing such pressure and involuntary pushing and she didn’t want me to cause my cervix to swell). At 3:15 pm I had to get back on the bed whilst enduring contractions, only to find out I was just 5 cm dilated with my forewaters still intact. I consented to having my forewaters broken as my midwife believed it would help things progress and I was getting quite tired. There was a huge gush of fluid on the bed and a lot of blood. I got back into the pool at 3:30 pm, but my contractions were now coming thick and fast and one on top of the other.

I was beginning to not cope with the back to back double contractions and the pushing was taking over my body. I became very vocal and distressed, begging for pain relief of some sort. I tried the gas and air for a short while but it only took the edge off (ever so slightly). I became very faint and delirious from the pain of the contractions coupled with the gas and almost fell under in the birth pool. Kris had to lift me out as the midwives were doing their best to keep my birth intervention free and non-medicated as I had originally wished.

Kris pretty much carried me from the birthing pool and onto the bed so my midwife could do another internal as she assured me the intensity would likely mean I’d made significant progress. I was doubtful but desperate to get this baby out. At 4:00 pm my midwife confirmed that I’d progressed to 8 cm and she could feel the last two centimetres of cervix. She offered to have me bear down into her hands in each contraction so she could manually strip away the last few centimetres of membrane and I consented. It was incredibly painful but I was so ready to push and get this baby out, I was beyond desperate and felt like I was in another world.

Once all of my cervix was away, I transitioned to a birth stool right beside the pool so I could get baby’s head further down (using gravity) with the intention to transition back into the water for the birth. However, I was able to get her to crowning quickly and her heart rate had started to drop so the pool was no longer a safe option. I waddled over to the birthing mat, feeling the top of my baby’s head between my legs. I got down on all fours at Tania’s suggestion so that way I’d have the best chance at a quick birth considering her dropping heart rate. An episiotomoy was briefly considered in the interest of getting her out as soon as possible but I delivered her head quickly at 4:24 pm and and within another contraction, I’d pushed her shoulders and the rest of her body out too (I felt the deep graze as I passed her shoulders). She arrived at 4:25 pm. I was in shock and couldn’t stop shaking. We did delayed cord clamping and I naturally passed my placenta ten minutes later while we did skin to skin for an hour. She cried non stop for about 10 minutes to start with but settled, fed and we were discharged to go home at 10:45 pm that night.

Everything happened so fast once I began pushing and that’s where the blanks in my birth story had to be filled in for me (by my midwife, Kris and my wonderful birth photographer Kristy). I didn’t cry when she was born, I didn’t scream, I didn’t pick her up immediately, I didn’t even smile. I think it took a solid hour or so before I came back down to earth and properly looked at our little girl. We’d left the gender a surprise until birth but I was in such shock after delivering her it took me about 15 minutes before I checked to see what we’d had – I’m pretty sure they were the first words I spoke.

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