I always thought that I would share the story of our first child’s birth story on She Sows Seeds. Absolutely. That’s what I did as a blogger, share life experiences on my own terms, in my own format. Giving birth to a child seemed like a pretty big lifetime milestone, so I assumed I would share it. And then…I had our baby. Our baby ‘Blueberry’ we had dreamed of for so many years. And my thoughts on sharing her birthing story shifted. What happened in that dark birth suite ‘cave’ (as Lou called it) on that cold Winter’s evening was very sacred to me, to us. It’s that old blogging/social media chestnut – if I don’t share it, it didn’t happen. Well, I can assure you that it did happen. And it was phenomenally life changing, for a lot of reasons I didn’t even realise before I gave birth to a chubby little blossom with long fingers and heart shaped lips.
Now, exactly one year on, to commemorate my first year of Mothering, I am ready to share the story of welcoming Eleanor Joy. Hold onto your hats, this is LONG. Many won’t read this in its entirity, that’s ok, it’s not for other people, it’s a lot for me. Just to have it here as a record, along with other records of our life here in little farmhouse on the hill, is important to me. So here it is – with thanks to my dear friend, doula and birth coach, oh and birth photographer. Thank you Lou. Two simple words do not seem enough, but thank you.
Thursday 19th June, 2014 – my due date. I was fully prepared to go a week, or longer, overdue. I had this as my mindset so as not to be disappointed or frustrated that I was still pregnant past 40 weeks. Although, I loved being pregnant. I was not impatient to meet our baby, or willing on labour eager to meet him/her. I was happy to just wait. Blueberry would come eventually. I didn’t feel overly pregnant, it felt just right being 40 weeks pregnant. I was awaiting that feeling of being just over it that some women get. I hadn’t had it yet.
I took my 40 week photos, my camera on my tripod out the front of our little farmhouse, next to the flowering pink camellia. I came inside and edited the photos, wrote a little blog post and hit publish. I spent the afternoon on my laptop on the couch doing this, and felt a twinge. Or not even a twinge. Everyone talks about ‘a twinge’, but I can’t honestly say that’s what it was. It was just…a difference. I had not experienced any Braxton Hicks at all in my pregnancy, so I thought possibly that was it. Maybe? It was just a bit of a new type of uncomfortable, which is nothing quite remarkable to a 40 week pregnant woman. I thought not much of it, Matt came home at about 6pm that night and I didn’t mention it to him, it wasn’t continuing like a ‘contraction’ as I thought would happen, but since that afternoon on the couch I felt…different. By dinnertime at 7pm I definitely felt a contraction, a ‘twinge’ more twingey than before. Oooh. These continued about every 20 minutes, although not very regularly, not much rhyme or reason to them, until we were heading to bed at about 10pm. I called the hospital and told them that I thought I would be having a baby soon! They didn’t seem very phased about it all, told me to go to bed, try and get some sleep and rest. Call them if things got more exciting and maybe they’ll see me tomorrow. I went to bed, but as soon as I lay down the contractions became more intense, it was extremely uncomfortable lying on my side, riding the wave of a contraction. I knew that I needed to rest, and I was more aware of Matt’s need to rest also, I knew I’d need him soon enough. I got up and paced around the house for a few hours, the contractions were still about every 15-20 minutes. still nothing regular about them though. I lay on the couch and would breathe through them, they were worse lying down but I really wanted to try and rest. I think I did get some broken power naps of 20 minutes in there somewhere. Looking back now, the contractions throughout that Thursday night, my due date, were possibly the most intense that I actually experienced throughout Eleanor’s birth. Even though they were far apart, they were hard and intense, I didn’t know what to expect with each one but it seemed the more contractions I experienced, the better prepared I was to deal with them and hurdle over them. So those first Thursday night contractions in the dark quiet of our farmhouse whilst Matt slept were something else.
By the morning not much had changed, they were still about 15-20 minutes apart. Matt called work to say he wouldn’t be in, then we called my mum to tell her that things were happening and she came over to our house. Sitting or lying down was great in between contractions, but once I could feel one coming on I was just paralyzed and couldn’t move, and they were so much worse if I was sitting/lying down so I just kept on walking, often I couldn’t get to a standing position in time to ride the contraction out so I figured I’d just keep upright! Plus I knew if I walked and walked that I would be helping things along. So I walked. And walked. And walked. Around and around and around our tiny farmhouse. Mum and Matt sat and drank cups of tea, timing my contractions. We called the hospital again to let them know what was happening…which was really not much. It seemed I was in labour, but was taking a very long time to progress. They advised us to come in if contractions got to about 5-8 minutes apart, or if I felt I needed help with pain. We live about 25 minutes drive to the hospital, but with how slowly I was progressing I didn’t want to go in too early.
So, I walked.
Leaning against our kitchen table to breathe through a contraction, now about every 10 minutes…then 9…then 10…then 12…then 9… They weren’t following a pattern or regularity. So, I walked. And breathed. And counted. And chanted in my head. I had read Juju Sundin’s ‘Birth Skills’ as suggested to me by my best friend, and boy was I glad I did! I now recommend this book to any pregnant friend. The skills and techniques I used to switch my mind into ‘pressure, not pain’ mode were amazing. As I walked around and around the house, I counted my steps, I counted the notches in our ornate ceilings cornice. I chanted in my head: “Pressure, not pain. Pressure, not pain.” I was determined to ‘trick’ my mind into being solely focused on what my body was actually doing – every contraction I breathed and winced through I knew was bringing me closer to active labour. I visualised every contraction as an actual physical ‘thing’ in my mind that once I was through it I ‘pushed’ it to the side. This visualisation helped enormously during that Friday Winter’s afternoon, pacing, pacing, around and around our kitchen table.
All day, I walked. I worked and worked and worked to make the contractions get down to 8 minutes apart, hoping that it would be the signal to head to hospital and get things moving. I got there several times – the magic 8 minute mark! But they had to be regular, Mum would watch the clock and I’d have a few contractions 8 minutes apart…and then back up to 12…then I would work at it again, getting them to 10 minutes, then 9 minutes, then a few at 8 minutes apart…then it would shoot back up to 10 or 12 minutes apart. Sheesh. My sister Creina was coming home from Melbourne for the Friday night by herself to do one of her Intimo parties and arrived at mum’s to find that she was actually at my house nearby, and that I was in labour. Although Creina’s had three girls of her own, they were all caesarians and she never went into labour. Mum was a little bit more experienced in having four natural labours! But Creina arrived on the Friday afternoon to time my contractions as well as I walked.
At about 5pm we decided that at some point that night we would go into the hospital, but I’d like to try and get my contractions regular and closer together first if I could. My feet were getting really sore from walking all day. Our house doesn’t have a bath and I thought being in the water would not only take some pressure off my feet (and cervix!) but that it might help in hurrying things along. So we headed over to mum’s with the hospital bag. I had a bath for about half an hour, it was so good. Feeling bouyant was bliss and I closed my eyes and practiced my visualisation methods I’d learnt, picturing a lot of ‘opening’ to help my baby. As I lay in the bath I remember looking around and almost deliriously giggling that once upon a time I used to have my childhood bath’s there, now look at me! Focus Emma, eyes on the prize… Contractions were at about 8 minutes apart, which had happened throughout the day so it wasn’t exactly progress, but they were (perhaps?) with more regularity, about 3 or 4 in a row at 8 minutes apart before they would be about 9-10 minutes apart. I felt I was ‘progressing’ though so we called the hospital and said we would be in soon. I was dreading the drive to Warragul. Sitting down throughout a contraction was horrendous, so I waited at the door, leaning against the wall as I breathed through one before getting in the car the moment it passed, giving myself the biggest window of time in the car contraction free. I knew that I would probably experience at least one contraction in the car, and considered possibly lying down on the backseat but discounted that as too uncomfortable anyway. My mindset of dreading a contraction in the car though didn’t help with the progress, as I started feeling a contraction coming on when we were almost at the hospital, about 20 minutes later. After working so hard to get them to 8 minutes apart! Matt parked the car and I wanted to hurry to get out to try and stand through the contraction, but I couldn’t. I sat in the car and rode it out, they were much worse sitting down! Matt tried to make me stand up beside the car to ride it out but I was just paralyzed once a contraction began, there was no moving me. I described them to Matt as like the worst foot cramp you’ve ever had…but times it by about a thousand. But it was that same feeling of tightness, and feeling like you need to stretch it out somehow as that would help, but to help it it’s going to hurt more.
We went up to the maternity ward and were taken into a birth suite, it seemed very busy that night, it was about 9pm by this point. We settled in and waited for a midwife to come see me, I had a few more contractions in the 15 or so minutes we waited so that made me feel better after the long 20+ minute wait in the car, I was worried I’d undone all my good work, but it really cemented to me how important my mindset was in determining this whole business! The midwife came and we told her what had been happening since Thursday night. She said by the sounds of it I wasn’t going to have a baby anytime soon. I was not devastated or upset as a lot of heavily pregnant women in early stages labour might be. I seemed to know it anyway, I just knew. She examined me and I was only 1-2 cm’s dilated. Again, this didn’t surprise me, I had no expectations to be further along than that so I think if you have no expectations you are just pleasantly surprised with any outcome at all! The midwife told me that they would keep me in overnight, give me some sleeping pills to rest as I hadn’t had much sleep the night before and in all likelihood I would be having a baby the next day. Matt considered going to stay at a friend’s house in Warragul, there was no bed for him in our birth suite, but I didn’t want him to leave me, so he slept in the chair. We had a big bath in the birth suite so I considered getting in and trying to hurry things along again…but decided that I was actually quite happy to try and have a good night’s sleep instead. Tomorrow would be a new day, the day we would have a baby, or so I thought.
I don’t remember having many contractions throughout the night, I slept reasonably soundly for someone who was in labour. At some points this worried me as I thought I’d have to start all over again and I was undoing all the work I’d done on the Thursday night and throughout Friday, but I pushed those thoughts aside as I knew I just needed a good nights sleep. The sleeping drugs worked and I slept on and off until 7am, when the midwife came in and examined me again. I was still 1-2 cm’s and not contracting with any regularity, sometimes 20 minutes apart. They were going to send us home. Again, this didn’t phase me, or surprise me. I just seemed to ‘know’ that my body wasn’t quite ready, and wasn’t frustrated by it at all. I was patient and calm, but I was just worried about the inevitable trip back to the hospital in the car! So we packed up and headed home again by 9am.
All day Saturday I pottered around the house, contractions slowed down considerably, to only every 20-30 minutes. Still with no real regularity, some were more intense than others, but on the whole they were very mild. It was quite disorientating as I wasn’t sure if I was just becoming accustomed to the uncomfortable pain, or if they were actually not as strong. As the contractions were so far apart, I could get some rest in between by lying on the couch. In the afternoon I decided to do something productive and got up and completely styled and shot the baby’s nursery for a blog post. Yes, I am nuts. It gave me something to do though and I sat for the afternoon on the couch with my laptop, breathing through contractions, timing them with my phone, editing photos and writing the blog post.
At about 4pm we rang the hospital to give them an update (that not much more was happening!) As I’d been in ‘labour’ for so long they wanted to check on the baby and for me to come back in for monitoring of the baby if nothing else. So back we went, contractions were about 20 minutes apart still and ‘mild’. As we drove to the hospital though I experienced about 2-3 contractions, meaning they were about 8-10 minutes apart. All of a sudden things seemed to be happening again! I sincerely believe in the power of my mind from this, I was heading back to the hospital to have my baby, and my body kicked into gear.
When we arrived back on the maternity ward we discovered I’d never been discharged that morning, so settled back into an examination room (all the birth suites were busy, baby boom!) I was so happy to hear that my lovely obstetrician Alison was on duty, I hadn’t seen a doctor, just a midwife previously. A midwife hooked me up to the machine to monitor the baby’s heart rate, meaning I couldn’t move around too much which wasn’t my cup of tea but I was keen for them to check on the baby as I’d been doing this for so long now! Alison came and examined me and I had a few contractions in quick succession – about 6 minutes apart! I was still only about 2cm dilated though. We sat tight for another 30-40 minutes, me lying with the monitor on, timing contractions, to see if this was actually some real progression. Contractions continued at about 5-6 minutes apart, the furthest I’d come so far! The baby knew we were at the hospital, and that Alison was on duty that night! Alison came back and said we would stay in hospital the night, that she would not be letting me leave the hospital until I had a baby in my arms. She said “Let’s have a baby.” Yes, let’s! I would be monitored overnight and re-assessed in the morning, if I was still failing to progress they would break my waters in the hope that would bring labour along…if not, I would be induced and put on the drip. No worries, just with the way I had progressed in the last hour I thought surely I would continue down that path in the night and possibly have a baby in the wee hours of the morning.
We got the big birth suite this time, with a double bed so Matt got a sleep! We settled in for the night, watched the footy, I crocheted on the bed, hurrying to stand up and walk when I felt a contraction coming on. Matt helped me to have a shower in between contractions, they were still about 5-6 minutes apart. A midwife came to hook me up to the monitor again to keep an eye on the baby, she agreed though that I needed another night of rest so they put me on a remote monitor that would sit just outside the birth suite’s door as it beeped all night. Throughout the night I swayed between trying to progress my labour as I thought I could do it without being put on the drip (although I was fine with that idea too, if it’s what needed to happen) and trying to get enough rest. I continued contractions all night between 5-8 minutes apart, I rested when I could, but walked around the birth suite a lot as well, letting Matt sleep as I knew tomorrow I would need him more than ever.
Sometime between 5-7am I seemed to catch more than 20 minutes at a time sleep and woke to a midwife coming in with the monitor, the baby was fine, I was fine, and Alison came in to tell me that I would probably progress sometime in the next 24-48 hours by myself, but I would be exhausted and so would the baby. I needed to get this show on the road if I was still going to get through the hard part with any energy! So we were moved into another birth suite to get things really started, at about 8.30am Alison examined me – I was 4cm dilated! I’d done more work in past 12 hours than I had in the past 2 days. Hurray! Alison broke my waters, the strangest sensation. The idea was that we would wait about half an hour to see if things would progress before we reached for the drip. I remember just feeling like I needed to constantly go to the toilet, and struggling to walk over there with Matt and a midwife’s help, but it was just my waters constantly flowing. Eeek! I kept apologising profusely to the midwife who basically laughed at me, they must get that all the time from first time shocked mothers. Looking back now it seemed so silly, considering what was to come! But at the very beginning I was all apologetic – ha!
Nothing happened. Or rather, nothing changed. So the drip went in. Considering how long I had laboured for and how far I had progressed in comparison in the last 12 hours, Alison warned me that once I went on the drip, labour could be quite hard and fast, she expected that my labour would progress rapidly and that by lunchtime we would have a baby, if not before. Be prepared. Wooo…ok. A long drawn out labour like I was experiencing did not phase me in the slightest, a fast and intense birth was something I was quite worried about. And scared me. That feeling of the uncontrollable did not appeal at all. The drip went in and the first contraction came exactly as Alison warned me – hard and fast. It was incredibly intense. And I fell apart. I started crying and couldn’t stand up, if this was how it was going to be I thought I couldn’t possibly do this. The first time I had ever thought that. The fear crept in, something I had never given a second thought as I worked over the past 3 days with my visualisations and mindfulness. Now it was unraveling. I was scared.
Shortly after this first contraction with the drip in, Matt went downstairs to meet our friend and birth photographer Lou at the hospital entrance. I vaguely remember Lou walking into the birth suite, but I honestly didn’t even register that she was there. Over the past few days we’d kept Lou updated via text messages as to what was going on, she has young kids herself and lives in Melbourne so Matt basically told her not to bother coming out to Warragul. But lovely Lou came anyway, determined to keep her promise to be my birth photographer, just as she’d shot our engagement and wedding photos. We joked she was our full circle photographer for life.
From this point on I went into a completely different zone – I pushed away the fear, the doubt and settled in to the task at hand. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the contractions with the drip actually continued just the way they had been previously, that first one was just a doozy! I’m not sure if this was possibly because of my mindset too, in hindsight now I think it definitely had something to do with it. The power of my mind astounded me. I was determined and concentrated. After the first scary contraction I became more determined, I basically told those contractions who was boss. No, bugger you, I thought. I’ve been doing this bloody well for the past three days, I’ll be damned if it all came undone now! I could feel the contractions coming harder and faster, but welcomed them as I knew they were bringing labour further along, something that had elluded me in the past few days. Pressure, not pain. Pressure, not pain.
Midwives came and went, I started on the gas and quickly learnt how to regulate it to suit me. Too much and I would feel light headed and out of control, not something I wanted. Too late with the gas and it was ineffective. I got into a rhythm. Rhythm became everything. I leaned over the bed, standing up, gas in hand, and swayed. Swayed and swayed. Eyes closed and practicing my chanting, counting, rhythm and repeat. Time became very hazy, very irrelevant. I couldn’t tell you how long I stood there swaying and chanting in my head, counting, over and back, back and over. One contraction melded into another. And always with my eyes closed. In my zone. I heard different voices around me, different midwives, Alison and her sister Carolyn who I vaguely remember being introduced to, another obstetrician who looked remarkably like her sister – how confusing for me in my hazy state! I wasn’t even aware of Lou being there, I was vaguely aware of Matt and Lou having conversation, but it seemed very distant, like I was in another room, or looking down on them watching. I swayed and breathed and chanted and counted. In hindsight now looking back, I know that this time was actually over hours and hours, but at the time it seemed like minutes…and years…all at once. It was beyond strange.
The whole time Matt had a wheat bag on my lower back, a face washer on my forehead, fed me almonds and sips of apple juice. Sway, breathe, chant, count. Pressure, not pain. Pressure, not pain.
Hours and hours went past. I had no notion of time. I completely forgot what Alison had told me about having a baby in my arms before lunchtime. I don’t think Matt had though! I swayed and breathed and chanted and counted. Eyes closed. Leaning against the bed. At about 2 or 3pm (I think?) my legs began to wobble, I couldn’t feel them anymore. I wanted to go to sleep. I had this intense desire to sleep. I was so incredibly relaxed and in my ‘zone’. I told Matt I needed to go to sleep, like needed to sleep. I remember just mumbling to him “I’m so sleepy, I’m just going to have a little sleep…” I think he thought I was beyond bonkers, sleeping through labour. I remember actually nodding off, it was the best kind of sleep I’d ever experienced. Sleeping through contractions, I’m that weirdo. I opened my eyes and looked around the room to try and orientate myself. Whoa. My legs started giving out, Matt caught me and I knew he was panicked. He thought I was passing out, but the midwives explained simply to him that my legs were just exhausted and I needed a rest. I loved standing up, leaning over the bed, but my body couldn’t do it anymore. I shuffled to the toilet, Matt helping me bring the drip with me, sitting down was both blissful and awful. My legs screamed out thanks, but contracting sitting down was horrid. In a squatting position though was absolutely instinctual. I leant against the wall of the toilet and didn’t want to move. Matt told me I had to get up though, I had to keep going, or I’d be having a baby in the toilet! I wanted to keep leaning on the bed, but knew my legs needed a rest. I got up on the bed and lay on my back, not my ideal position but my body thanked me for the rest. Alison examined me and I was almost 10cm! Right, I thought. Almost game time.
I got to 10cm at about 5pm, alternating from lying on the bed and my favoured standing position leaning my forearms on the bed. My beautiful supportive midwives suggested we prop the bed up and I kneel on there, facing backwards. The best of both my favoured position and the comfort of the bed, and they could examine me easily in this position. They told me I could start pushing. I had no massive urge to push like you hear of, perhaps a slight urge, but nothing overwhelming. Although once I started, I think once again the power of my mind switched on. I went from the zone of labouring, labouring, all day, swaying, eyes closed, to a more productive zone. I was actually doing something now. I remember vividly kneeling on the bed, facing the wall which had a clock on it. The clock was 5.10pm. Great, I thought. From my birthing material I’d read and my birthing class I expected to push for between 20-40 minutes (maximum!) and to have my baby. That short amount of time after almost four days seemed amazing.
So, I pushed.
With every contraction the midwives and Matt and Lou urged me to push harder. I remember Lou switched from photographer to birth coach like a pro. I don’t at all remember her having a camera in her hand, although I’m sure she must have. Having birthed three babies herself I took so much comfort in her telling to push, she must know what she was doing! So they told me to push. I was pushing hard, couldn’t they see that?! But it didn’t seem hard enough. It seemed I was expending about 100% effort for about 70% result. I could feel it. The baby was stuck. It felt wrong. I knew it. In between a contraction the midwives would say to me “Ok, next contraction push as HARD as you can!” I thought my goodness, don’t you think I am?! I was alternating between being up on my knees and on my back. The contractions were coming harder and faster again, I was reaching for the gas but the midwives took it away from me (noooooo!) They told me it was counter productive now and that I just needed to feel the contractions and work with them. I remember Matt taking the mask away from me and I wanted to cry. I cried that I wanted an epidural, but in all honesty I didn’t really. I was more of a musing out loud…I knew it was too late anyway, and that if my pleas for an epidural were met I probably would have refused it. I was so close. But I could feel it – the baby was stuck.
The midwives told me that Alison would have to examine me, that I had to be on my back, legs in stirrups, the most uncomfortable position to be in to ride out a contraction, I just wanted to stay on my knees. But I thought if it meant a faster result, that it was worth it. Alison felt the babies head, I remember feeling it distinctly in the birth canal, off to the left. Wrong. Stuck. The baby was posterior, and a not aligned correctly. I could push all I wanted but that baby was stuck. I knew it, it wasn’t news to me, I could feel it. A few more contractions with Alison, midwives and Lou urging me on to push. It was no good. Stuck. All I could think was “Cesar. They are going to Cesar me. After all this work.” At the same time Matt was falling apart, after a long day (four days!) of stoicism it was all becoming too much at the pointy end of business. All day I had been aware of his presence, constantly there, but I hadn’t really looked at him. I looked over to him by my side, holding my hand, and big tears were rolling down his cheeks. He looked so scared. I actually smiled and laughed at him and said “Hey, it’s ok! We’re just having a baby. It’s ok. I’ll be ok. I’m fine. Are you ok?” He was gobsmacked I was asking if he was ok, that I was fine!
The baby’s heart rate started to speed up at this time. I wasn’t aware of it but the midwives started buzzing about, Alison and Carolyn were exchanging looks of concern. I saw none of this, thank goodness, but poor Matt saw it all. Alison took a deep breath and began to say something to me…I was so prepared for her to say the word ‘Cesar’ and I wanted to scream no. But I knew I couldn’t push this baby out. I’d been trying. I don’t fully remember but around this time I remember the midwives telling me that I would need to have an episiotomy, I was simply too small and the baby simply too big. Sheer physics were not in my favour. I remember the cutting sensation but honestly didn’t feel any pain as they’d numbed the area. I remember looking up at the clock now and it was around 6.30pm. I remembered back to when I started pushing at 5pm and thought I had another 20 minutes to go. After her deep breath, and the episiotomy, Alison said “The baby is stuck in the birth canal. We are going to try and use the vacuum.” It was like choirs of angels singing! She was so worried I’d be so disappointed but I was just relieved! I felt like shouting “I know! I know the baby’s stuck! TOTALLY STUCK! Bring that vacuum in, let’s do this!”
The heart rate monitor was beeping a lot, I had no real concept of this, but poor Matt was watching it like a hawk. The baby was becoming distressed. A pediatrician came into the room, a standard practice for any assisted delivery, but Matt just thought that there was something terribly wrong with the baby. Or me. Things happened quickly from here. They attached the vaccum to the baby’s head, off to the left, I could feel it, bone on bone pushing into my pelvis. Stuck.
Alison and Carolyn gave me the warning that they were going to assist the delivery on the next contraction, the vaccum doesn’t do all the work though, it’s just an assistance. I nodded and braced myself to push as hard as I ever had. I told them I could feel it coming, the contraction that would birth our baby.
I felt the baby’s head align. Just like that. The vacuum did the trick. The baby turned it’s head from posterior to the correct position, and to the right. And I knew I could do it. As soon as Alison had used the vaccum to align the baby’s head it just felt better. Everything was better. It felt right. And I was able to push the baby’s head out. Just like that. It just needed to be pulled to the right slightly.
The baby’s head was born. What a relief, I knew the hard part was over. I asked if the baby had hair. Did it have a head of hair? I don’t know why this was important or of note, but I just imagined our baby to have a head of dark hair. Was it how I imagined? Lou said yes, it was hair, dark hair. On the next contraction the midwives urged me to push again, and it was so easy! Now the baby was aligned correctly it felt like a walk in the park. That business before when she was off to the left was hard work! The baby was born. Alison lifted her up high, through my legs and up onto my chest.
Incredibly warm. Incredibly pudgy. Covered in a lot of white vernix, the midwives remarked it was a lot. The feeling of her warm body, so warm, on me was pure bliss. Our baby.
Earlier in the day the midwives had asked if we wanted them to announce the sex of the baby or if we wanted to ‘discover’ it for ourselves, we said definitely the latter. A minute or so after the baby was placed on me we looked to see if it were a boy or girl. I couldn’t really see anything…so assumed a girl! I remember saying the words “It’s a girl!” vividly and laughing. I was so convinced we were having a boy.
A little girl. A perfect little girl.
The pediatrician was hovering with his stethescope, wanting to check that the baby was ok after the assisted delivery. I remember our amazing midwife Deb shooing him away and telling him to leave us alone, the baby was fine! I remember looking apologetically at the poor guy, he was a young doctor and didn’t seem too sure of himself faced with a clearly very experienced midwife telling him to rack off!
Deb put a warmed blanket over the baby and I, adjusted my singlet top so the baby could sit against my skin. She was so warm, and I was surprised at how chubby she was, although I don’t know why, considering the labour we’d had trying to get her out – of course she was chubby! The midwives buzzing about us asked us if we had a name. Matt had been by my side but I’d lost sight of him, it was all a bit of a blur, I said yes, where’s Matt? Where’s Matt? He appeared and I looked at him and he nodded, we’d decided on a boys name and a girls name but we wanted to meet the baby first before we 100% decided. I said “Eleanor. Eleanor Joy.” I remember hearing Lou, who I had forgotten was even in the room, say that it was lovely, so lovely.
Midwives continued buzzing about, I remember noticing that Lou was taking photos of us – us three. Matt, me…and Eleanor. Now we were three. I was exhausted. But happy. So happy. I remember closing my eyes and locking away the moment in my mind. Eleanor started to stir, nuzzling around, she began to move. She was trying to find my nipple! I was completely blown away that this little mouse who had just been born, was literally moving across my chest to find the breast. It was beyond incredible. Deb came and helped me feed her, Eleanor knew just what to do, she latched well and was a contented chubby thing.
Here is where most birth stories end. But any Mother knows this is far from the case. At some point I delivered the placenta. Funnily enough, Alison dropped it on the floor! She was mortified to say the least, the poor thing. The baby (it was so hard to call ‘her’ anything other than ‘The Baby’ for a good week or two!) was taken to be weighed, I remember Matt going over to that side of the room to take a photo with his phone, to be with her when she was taken from me. Lou left sometime, she had to get back to her own babies, considering we thought my labour would be over by lunchtime! I remember looking around the room and out the window, the curtains were half drawn but I could see that it was dark outside. Although I had been looking at the clock from the time I was pushing, I had lost all concept of time. I said to Matt “Oh my goodness, it’s dark!” He said of course it is, you’ve been labouring all day, it’s night time now! Mind. Officially. Blown.
Little did I know that I’d actually done a fair bit of damage pushing Eleanor’s head out, despite the episiotomy, I had torn as well, and Alison had performed a ‘double’ episiotomy also (two cuts in a V-shape rather than just the one cut). I spent the next few hours still in the stirrups as Alison stitched. Yup. They handed me the gas back again – thank you very much! But I started to misuse it, not like I had been careful of early in the day, and started to feel like I was drunk and disorientated. I eased up on it. Alison had numbed me so it was not overly painful, but uncomfortable. The main discomfort was that I was still in the stirrups, having my legs in the same position for hours and hours was my main issue. I couldn’t feel my legs and just wanted to move them, but couldn’t. This whole time Matt was with Eleanor, she’d been put in the pre-warmed jumpsuit we’d selected for her and wrapped up in a blanket. Matt wheeled her over next to me and we looked at her. She had heart shaped lips, apple cheeks and long long fingers, just like me.
Finally, Alison was done with the stitching. I was allowed to lower my legs. Deb helped me though and told me to go very slowly. My legs were jelly, I couldn’t feel them. I don’t remember how long I waited and stayed on the bed, maybe half an hour. I wanted to try and get up though. I slowly sat up, immediately felt like I would pass out so leaned back again. This was going to be harder than I thought. I kept sitting up, only to be forced down again. The midwives told me to just go slowly. After about six attempts I sat on the edge of the bed. Then my body went into shock. I started shaking uncontrollably, I couldn’t stop, I was chillingly cold, then hot. Matt says now that I looked like I was fitting, understandably he lost it a little bit again, but the amazing midwives assured him it was all very normal and that I was fine. I would be fine. I just needed to go slowly. Eventually my body adjusted. I tried to stand up, but it was the same as sitting up. I tried several times, on my jelly legs, I was still heavily bleeding too. I wanted to try and have a shower. The midwives arranged a chair in the corner shower and ever so slowly Matt helped me walk over to the shower, I still couldn’t feel my legs and my whole body was shaking violently. As Matt washed me though with the warm water and the handheld shower head I began to stop shaking and felt much better. I sat in the chair (somehow I sat?!) or stood leaning against Matt. Nobody tells you about these parts, I thought!
By this time it was about 11pm, by the time I was stitched and my body was ready to move, ever so gingerly, hours had somehow passed. Eleanor slept soundly in her little mobile bassinet. I honestly hadn’t given the baby much thought as my body had gone into shock. The midwives came and went, quietly but efficiently, checking how we were doing. They said we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted in the birth suite, but that a room was ready for us on the ward. I wanted to try and walk to the room, the midwives suggested I push the baby’s bassinet and use it for support. I was worried I’d fall though and the baby would go rolling! I tried just walking about the six steps from the shower to the door and couldn’t do it. A wheelchair was called for and Matt wheeled me to our room.
Looking back now I feel horrible that I was not very focused on the baby, my mind and body had just switched off and I was in survival mode for myself, not my child. I credit this frame of mind a lot to the amazing midwives who cared for us, I had complete and utter faith in them. They were beyond brilliant. The lovely midwives offered to take the baby to the nursery, I had no problem with this, I was exhausted, I had hit the wall. The absolute high and adrenalin from the birth was wearing off. I slept soundly until about 7am, exhausted but happy. So happy.
Our baby ‘Blueberry’ was finally here. A moment we’d both dreamed of for so long, literally years. We were parents – parents to a chubby baby girl with heart shaped lips and long fine fingers.
Our blossom Eleanor.
Born 22nd June, 2014 at 6.48pm.
Happy birthday, Eleanor. I love you.