I have never been fearful of childbirth and I think this is part of the reason why I’ve had two positive birthing experiences. I was very fortunate with the birth of my first daughter, Eva, to have a beautiful birthing experience at the Mullumbimby birth centre. It was what my midwife described to me as a very standard first birth: 12 hours of labour which built gradually, no drugs or intervention involved, and a beautiful healthy baby girl as a result.
Fast forward to Christmas Eve 20 months later I had been feeling ‘off’ for a few days with what I thought was a virus. My husband had made a passing joke saying ‘ you’ve probably got a belly full of arms and legs’. I panicked a bit at this possibility, because surely I would KNOW if I was pregnant. To put my mind at ease I did a pregnancy test and quickly saw one line – not pregnant, phew. Of course I would know if I was pregnant.
We had been out that day, and I was still feeling off with this ‘virus’, which had now lasted a week or so. We returned home, and just as I was about to jump in the shower I thought I’d double check the test I’d done in the morning, which was still sitting in the bathroom bin.
TWO LINES – crap!! Where did that extra line come from?! Sure enough, that virus was actually a tiny life that had started to grow inside of me. That was the best Christmas present we received in 2013.
My pregnancy was relatively uneventful, however I don’t do pregnancy well. I appreciate the miracle it is, but I just generally don’t feel my best when pregnant. I’m not one of those flourishing pregnant women, I’m the type that counts down the days until due date and whinges endlessly to my husband – sorry Shannon.
After going over due 5 days with Eva, I was really hoping that baby number 2 might decide to come a little bit early, or on time. However, due date rolled around and there was no action, no cramping, no show, no practice contractions – nothing. By this stage I’d had acupuncture, herbal tinctures, had been inserting evening primrose for a few weeks, as well as taking it orally. I’d tried taking castor oil on my due date, (2 doses!!), eaten pineapple, spicy food, clary sage, gone for a big walk up the headland near my house, drank raspberry leaf tea and swallowed the tablets. You name it, I was doing it. So by the time I got to my due date I was absolutely over it.
I had the same midwife for this pregnancy that I’d had for Eva. Knowing the impatient person I am, Leanne offered a stretch and sweep at 40 + 4. She told me my cervix was stretching to about 3-4 cm, which sounded promising, so off I went, hopeful. Another two days went by and nothing. By this stage I was beside myself. I was worried that there was something wrong with my baby, worrying about being sent to the larger hospital to be induced, and worried about being pregnant forever! When I turned up to my next appointment at 40 + 6, my midwife handed me a pamphlet on my options around being induced. I could not believe I had gotten to this point that induction could be a possibility. It scared me. I had another stretch and sweep that day, and was told my cervix was stretching to 5cm. I didn’t get my hopes up with this news though, as the previous stretch and sweep had no effect. I went home feeling emotional and anxious.
We went to bed around 9:30 that night, business as usual. At 12:30am, now 7 days over due, I woke to a HUGE contraction. In denial, I thought maybe I just had to go to the toilet. And then another enormous contraction. It took 2 or 3 of these for me to believe I was ACTUALLY in labour. Looking back, I now realise Id woken up in transition. My husband woke up and could obviously see the intensity of the contractions and wanted to call our midwife. As Eva’s labour went for 12 hours, I was sure this was going to take a while, so I asked him to let me have a shower and take a bit of time to see if this was it. Shannon sat there watching me in the shower timing the contractions, which were coming every two minutes and lasting a minute. They were so intense that I would tense my whole body and come up on to the ball of my feet and grab onto anything I could. After about 20 minutes of these contractions Shannon called our midwife who told us to come into the birth centre.
We both scrambled around; Shannon grabbing bags and me trying to get dressed in between contractions when I had a monster contraction where I thought I had lost all control over my body and was going to poo. And then the next contraction came and I had the same sensation, and then came the realisation of ohhh…no no, that is my body pushing. I think I kept this to myself not wanting to scare Shannon, as he was quite frantic by this stage trying to get me to get into the car and get going. As we were going to leave the house I had a contraction at the top of my stairs, Shannon had gone to get a sheet, and I put my hand down my pants and I could feel my waters bulging. I still hadn’t relayed any of this to Shannon as I didn’t want to give him a heart attack.
By the time we got into the car it had been about 45 minutes after we woke up, and I thought Id better tell him that I needed to push with every contraction. He rang our midwife again, and she told him to ring her if we needed to pull over.
By this stage my body had completely taken over and was pushing my baby down. I remember being in the passenger seat on my knees with my back to the windscreen hugging the seat, groaning through each contraction as I could feel my baby’s head pushing down further and harder with each contraction.
About 20 minutes into the 40-minute journey to the birth centre, I told Shannon he needed to pull over as I couldn’t hold on any longer. Somehow he managed to ring our midwife and tell her where he was going to pull over and she told him to ring the paramedics, which he somehow managed to do whilst driving at 140km per hour along the highway. Not that there was much that they could do at this stage. He pulled off the highway onto a country lane, next to a paddock with horses, under a huge tree.
As soon as the car stopped my baby’s head came out – I still had my tights on. It was such a relief when her head was born as I think I’d been trying to hold her in there. Shannon ran around to open the passenger door and by this stage I had managed to pull my tights down, and baby Violet was out to her elbows. Shannon was still on the phone to the paramedics, and was franticly trying to explain the situation. All I remember him saying was fuck! fuck! fuck! in frustration, trying to get them to understand that this was happening NOW.
I remember the distinct smell of liquor, as I heard Violet gurgling and starting to breathe. In an attempt to reassure Shannon I said ‘ I can hear her breathing, its ok’. With the next contraction the rest of Violet’s body gracefully slid out and Shannon guided her onto the towels, which were on the seat of the car. He wrapped her in the sheet he had brought to keep her warm. I looked through my legs and saw this tiny baby lying there wrapped in a white sheet, and I took a deep breathe of relief. Still on my knees, hugging the seat of the car I needed to take a moment to realise what had just happened. In the background of my thoughts I could hear Shannon talking to Violet, saying ‘hello darling’, welcoming her to the world. Violet Belle was born after only 1 hour and 10 minutes.
I slowly got up, out of the car, with bare feet and no pants on, and held Violet, still wrapped in the sheet, chord still attached. The moon was magnificent that night, a small slither in the clear sky.
It took 10 minutes for the paramedics and our midwife to arrive. I birthed the placenta in the ambulance on the way to the birth centre.
We were lucky that everything went as smoothly as it did. At our birth plan meeting at 37 weeks, our midwife mentioned that she was concerned about us making it to the birth centre in time. She had told Shannon what to take in the car in case this exact scenario happened. I was never concerned about having the baby in the car, just worried about what to do if she wasn’t breathing or if the chord was wrapped around her neck. Leanne assured us that if the baby was going to be born that quickly then there would be nothing wrong. I must have stored her words in my subconscious as I can honestly say I felt no fear during Violets labour and birth.
Straight after the birth of my first daughter, Leanne, said to me ‘ now you have done that, you can do anything’. Those words truly resonated with me and I feel that they have been imprinted on my subconscious mind, and that is possibly why I felt so calm during Violets birth.
Violet has surprised us from her conception and also her birth, I’m looking forward to seeing what else our determined little girl has in store for us.
Photo credit: www.ameliafullarton.com