The birth of my first child, my daughter was the greatest gift I was ever given.
It changed me in ways I can’t even articulate, but it wasn’t without struggles. I set out to have a drug free vaginal birth. It was going to be blissful and I was a woman hear me roar. Oh, but how naïve I was. I am not sharing this story because I want to promote a negative view on childbirth, it’s actually the opposite. I want to share with you my story in hopes it helps you make the right choices for your birth story.
My husband was working away and was due home right on 38 weeks. Plenty of time to spend together, to relax and prepare for this little bundle’s arrival. Hmmm, oh but my daughter had other ideas. I finished work on the Tuesday and was picking hubby up late on Wednesday afternoon from the airport. I spent Wednesday morning cleaning like a mad woman. I even gardened, pulled weeds & threw rocks. Like hello, can I hear a hell yeah?! Go Mumma, Go! I just couldn’t control the urge.
In between this crazy nesting I was running to the toilet with what I thought was an ‘upset’ tummy….No, Peta, that’s signs of pre labour!
Showing my rookie first time mum naivety.
Picking hubby up from his flight, I remember waddling through the airport with what felt like a bowling ball between my legs. It was so uncomfortable but I brushed it aside because I didn’t know any different and to be honest I didn’t care, he was home, wahooooo!! He’d been away for 2 weeks, so that night sex was on our checklist and if you ask him, his magic sperm did the trick but we weren’t even thinking of inducing labour. The following morning after our sizzling session, well that’s what I’ll call it but if I’m honest, I was more of a beached whale trying to be seductive to my overly eager hubby. At about 3am I woke with period like cramping coming every 10 or so minutes. Nothing painful but definitely a new feeling. I remember messaging me friend who was a seasoned Mum & she was like…labour, you are in labour. No, I’m sure I wasn’t… I didn’t believe it.
But I was. I was in early labour!
The contractions got stronger & stronger, it was happening!!! At about 11am contractions were about 4-5mins apart last 40-60secs. We called the hospital and they said to head in, which we did.
My gosh! the 40 minute commute was the most horrendous drive EVER. When we arrived to the hospital contractions had slowed (derrrr Peta!). I had an internal and I was 1cm. I said, are you serious?!
No fucking way.
I couldn’t believe it!! Ummm, hello? Didn’t they realise I had been labouring for a good 6hrs and I’m only 1cm! I was flawed. No one told me labour went like this. Wasn’t I meant to contract then dilate & boom a baby was here?
So we left the hospital and decided to check into a motel close by with the instructions from the midwife to have sex. The most awkward, un-orgasmic sex possible. But it helped, I had a bloody show and the contractions picked right back up. They were so painful. All through my back, it almost paralysed me. I remember crying & moaning in the shower thinking I can’t do this, how the fuck can I do this? Even though my husband was there with me, I felt alone.
I wanted someone to hold me, tell me I could do this & believe in me. Where were they?!
About 4 hours later at 3pm we went back to hospital, the back pain was horrible. I wasn’t coping. My husband and I had no idea on how to get through this. We had no guidance. I was so lost. We were both lost. Another internal, 3cms.
I think my heart shattered at that moment.
I cried to the midwife I can’t do this, I’m not coping, you need to give me something! She looked at me with these eyes of pity and reluctantly took me through to birth suite. Yay!!! This was happening. I am here. I’m walking into the birth suite. It’s happening! It wasn’t excitement I felt, it was relief. I thought I was where I needed to be with the people who were there to support me.
By this stage the back pain was so strong, I was naked before the birth suite door closed and I jumped straight into the shower. The place I stayed for a LONG time. You see I couldn’t move, even between contractions. I just couldn’t move. My whole body felt stiff.
I remember looking at my husband who was down the other end of the room and I just felt lost and so unsupported. It wasn’t his fault; he had no idea how to help me. He was like a deer in headlights.
But that’s ok, I remembered the midwife. She is here. She will help me. She will be that guiding light I ever so craved. Unfortunately this was not the case.
I was lucky to have her spend 5 minutes in a row with me. She had paperwork to do, she had other patients. She was run off her feet and couldn’t be the support I needed even if she wanted to be. So I laboured. My husband watched me and TV. Before long the 4 hour internal had arrived and shift change of midwife as well. I was so ready for this; gosh I had been working so hard surely I’m almost there? Surely I will be meeting my baby soon!
The midwife commented, why are you here? I wouldn’t have admitted you. You aren’t in labour.
Geee, thanks for the encouragement. Cause that’s exactly what a labouring woman needs to hear as someone’s hands are jammed into her vagina!
That’s when she started pushing interventions on me. She listed all the pain relief options. I had no idea on these, this wasn’t in my plan. I was so overwhelmed at the thought of any of it and felt so judged and unsupported with this woman staring at me.
I did however choose sterile water injections in hopes it would help my back pain.
And it worked. It did help but it was also the most excruciating pain. By the next contraction my back pain had eased. It had eased between contractions too. I could move! Wahoooo! This relief was so welcomed.
We are back on track I thought to myself. You can do this I remember telling myself.
Hmmmm, not according to the midwife though! She sat there looking at me swaying in the shower.
She started listing the timeline I wasn’t meeting. She told me my labour wasn’t progressing as it should. She told me if I didn’t have a baby by 1am it would be an epidural & most likely c section because she finished at 3am.
Ummmm what?! No! That’s not what I want.
Gosh I have only been here for 4hrs!! She didn’t care, or so she made me feel anyway.
I felt so much pressure to just do as I was told. I remember saying to her, well just give it to me now. I felt so defeated. This is not how it was supposed to be! This isn’t how I was supposed to feel! Why wasn’t she listening to me? Why wasn’t I being heard?
In the end I opted to have the gas hoping 1. She would leave me alone and 2. I wouldn’t need a c section. I just wanted anything, something that would help me.
I laboured hard for the next 3 hours. I swayed. I danced. I sucked on that gas. I was a birthing queen!! I was in my bubble and I was doing this! I was bringing my baby earthside no matter what! No one could stop me, I felt invincible.
I was suddenly jolted from my birth haze by this urge to bare down. It was such an amazing instinctual feeling. I moaned deeply and my body bared down. I went from standing to squatting while letting out a deep mooing sound. I was a primal birthing queen! I yelled at Greg, I think the baby is coming, get the midwife.
I was barring down. I was uncontrollably doing it. THIS WAS AMAZING!!
I was there on all fours in the shower with my husband hosing me. Picture him standing like he is leisurely watering his garden & I’m the beautiful sunflower rising. My baby was coming. I felt comfortable there, I felt secure, I was in control & ready to meet her.
This was it!
The midwife had other ideas…again! She wouldn’t allow me to deliver where I was as she had a back injury and couldn’t kneel down. Ummm, excuse me what?! Can we just take a moment to re-read that? A back injury, so she demands the labouring, ready to squeeze a head out Mumma to move?
So I was ‘told’ I needed to get on the bed. I wish I had said no. I wish I had a voice but regretfully I did as I was ‘told’ and got on that damn bed!
I didn’t move from there because I was exhausted. Hello? You put a tired, aching, labouring woman on a bed…what are the chances of getting her off? NONE!
My body stopped its urges so I was coached to push. Laying there on my back, legs in the air with bright sterile lights beaming down on me. I felt powerless, where did that birthing queen go?
50 minutes later my daughter was here, head & arm first like superman flying in the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No…It’s PIPER!
That feeling that floods you when they are placed on your chest is almost indescribable. She was here, oh my sweet baby was here! She cried, I was so relieved. I was exhausted, but so excited that she was here & I did it! A baby just came out of my vagina!!! A baby I grew. Nothing can top that feeling. That birthing queen was BACK, even if it was only for a moment.
I was soon interrupted and jolted out of my beautiful baby bubble. I was bleeding. Red buttons were pushed. Extra staff were in the room. Alarms sounding.
I was given the injection I didn’t want and had the gas jammed into my mouth because my uterus needed help contracting. That ‘help’ resulted in bruises all over my belly from the sheer force used.
That was such a surreal experience.
Watching my blood spray the end of the bed with no one talking to me or my husband. No one was with me. My husband had to leave because he was getting faint. He walked out of that room thinking I was going to die. How awful?!. That moment in time still sticks with me to this day. The way I felt still makes me well up with tears. I had never felt so alone even with my baby laying there on my chest.
The rest was a bit of a blur but the bleeding did get under control and I had my perfect baby.
I was a Mum!!
Looking back on my birth with all I know now I can see where I failed myself. I can see where the continuity of care was needed. I can see why I needed a Doula to be there for me & my husband.
Why didn’t I know this? Why didn’t anyone tell me this? Why did I naively think my husband and I could do this on our own?
This birth shaped the rest of my pregnancies and birthing journeys. It lit something inside, a passion for birth and my right to be heard & supported. Something the healthcare system and hospital couldn’t and didn’t provide to me.
Was my birth a horrific birth? No, maybe not to the outsider looking in. But it felt like it to me. I was lucky I was able to achieve my vaginal birth. And I don’t use that word lightly, you see LUCK should have nothing to do with it but in my case it did. I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t have the right support around me. I was leaving my birthing experience to sheer luck.
Was it traumatic? YES – To both me & my husband. Trauma is seen and felt differently by all involved. Yes my baby was healthy but that is the base line expectation for birth.
Do I regret it? No. I don’t. I needed to travel this path so I can now do what I do today. I needed that journey to fuel my passion and ensure that I went on to have 2 completely polar opposite experiences of positive and supported births!
You are not meant to feel the way I did, the way my husband did. Birth shouldn’t be like that. It shouldn’t be feared, it shouldn’t be surrounded by negativity and disempowerment.
Don’t let your birth story be like mine.