My First Experience: Miss A (39 weeks 5 days)
When I had my first daughter, it was pretty hard to recount the birth in detail for this blog. My hypnobirthing instructor asked about my experience and I told her about it in an email, then decided to just post what I wrote to her so I didn’t have to relive it again ( See My Hypnobirthing Birth Story). I made it sound pretty nice and dandy, but in reality I think it was the closest I’m going to get to dying without actually dying. Three years later, I haven’t forgotten the trauma one bit, but at least now I can talk about what really happened:
The entire birth took 28 hours from the first contraction to the last and was 100% drug free because we ended up barely making it to the hospital in time to push her out. At least 24 hours of that labour consisted of tough contractions that were at least 5 minutes apart. I had done the hypnobirthing course and religiously rehearsed the techniques and went through the meditations throughout my pregnancy, but I can tell you it all fell apart in the end. I struggled immensely to relax or take deep breaths throughout most of those contractions in the last 24 hours. I was just hyperventilating throughout the process and wasn’t able to eat or drink anything for most of it. I still think the course helped on a subconscious level as at the end of the day, my body did it all on its own, but it was definitely a battle to consciously putting the techniques in practice.
I had a sleepless night of contractions before we finally went to the hospital for a check the next day, but they insisted I wasn’t far along and strongly recommended we go home (this was after waiting at least a tortuous two hours just to be checked!). After we got sent home, my contractions suddenly ramped up. I got into the bath for pure relief and that’s when my body started pushing and my waters broke. Even then though when we called the hospital they didn’t seem to believe I was that far along.
Part of the trauma of this birth experience was not just the sheer length and intensity, but also that no one seemed to believe I was in labour because it was my first child. I found the attitude of hospital staff a little condescending at times and they made me completely doubt my own body, so much so that even when I was pushing I didn’t recognise how far along I was. So even though we were actually discouraged from returning to hospital, we decided to go back. I literally crawled to the car and was pushing my baby down with back-to-back contractions all through the peak hour traffic there.
Another problem with the hospital we were at is that the labour ward is right at the back through the main entrance. When we got there, I obviously couldn’t walk and we actually couldn’t get any staff to help us get a wheelchair. My husband ended up having to leave me in the hallway while he ran about and eventually a nice lady who was actually a visitor helped us find a wheelchair and wheeled me all the way to the labour wing while my husband carried the bags. We got put into a birth suite and even then we were left for a while on our own, long enough for my husband to even go repark the car in the carpark. I was sitting on the toilet as it was the most comfortable place to be when you have all that pressure coming down, and a midwife finally came in and asked if she could check me. I said no way I’m getting on the bed and told her I feel like I’m pushing. And it was at that point that she suddenly realised Miss A’s head was right in the birth canal and that yes, I am actually having a baby. That was seriously the first time I felt like someone actually believed I was giving birth – and it took the baby’s heading coming out for them to believe it. (ENTER EXPLETIVE HERE)
From there on, everything went super fast. They got out the mat, I got on my knees and was told I could push any time I had a contraction and she was probably out in 15-20 minutes or so. I do wonder if I would have given birth a lot faster if someone just took me seriously as I reckon I was actually in the pushing stage for at least 2 hours, but just needed some directive on pushing her out
The postnatal stay at this hospital was really great and we were looked after well, but the labour process…jeepers…a whole ‘nother story!
My Second Experience: Miss E (38 weeks 4 days)
So we decided to have a second child to give Miss A a friend for life. Three years on, I definitely still had not forgotten about the first experience, but I was banking on the fact that second births are usually shorter, and whatever it was I could tell myself this was the LAST time I was doing this.
This time I ran through the hypnobirthing techniques in my head and visualised what I would do, but I definitely did not spend much effort rehearsing it and did not listen to any of the meditative tracks at all.
I woke up 6 am with some tummy pains and loose bowels. After this was when the first contraction hit at roughly 6.30 am and my first thought was “Why am I doing this again??” But after the initial panic, I managed to calm myself down and focus on the hypnobirthing techniques. I actually managed to do slow, deep breathing and tell myself the contraction would be over in 3-4 deep breaths. These were things I never managed to do properly with the first despite all the practice. I got into a warm shower and stayed there until my husband convinced me we should head to hospital as precaution due to our first experience of the second stage going so fast with Miss A.
At the hospital we were at this time, triage was extremely quick and efficient. We were pretty much immediately seen by a midwife who monitored my contractions and then checked my cervix. At this point it was 9.30 am and I was told my contractions weren’t as close as I had thought and apparently I wasn’t even dilated at all. My husband told me it didn’t appear like the machine picked up all my contractions though, and this time I trusted my body enough myself to know I was definitely having them when I was regardless of what the machine said. However, I couldn’t argue with the fact that my cervix wasn’t dilated.
The midwife was super nice and said it was up to me whether I wanted to hang around the hospital and see if things progressed or go home. I decided to go home though as hanging around the hospital waiting room while having contractions is certainly not the most pleasant experience in the world. It’s worth noting that at this point while waiting for my husband to get the car I even managed to waddle over to the coffee kiosk and order a coffee without breaking into a sweat. I don’t know how I did that.
At home I got straight into the tub, hooked up some Simpsons on my portable DVD player for some background noise/distraction, and my mum even brought me breakfast which I actually managed to eat between contractions. Being in the tub and pouring warm water on my tummy was amazing and 100% helped me focus on staying relaxed, breathing slowly, and letting my uterus do its thing. After an hour or so I decided to get out and hook up my TENS machine. At this point I was still managing to keep my cool, imagining happy things like hugging my loved ones and even massaging my feet during contractions for endorphins (ironic when I don’t like to actually be touched by my loved ones when in pain).
After another half hour, the contractions suddenly started ramping up and it became slightly harder to focus. At this point, my contractions were fluctuating between 3 minutes and 6 minutes. In hindsight, I have realised my contractions with both labours were never consistent and this was definitely my downfall in predicting when to leave for the hospital.
Then there was a particularly bad contraction and it was with the next one that my body suddenly pushed and I thought “Oh no it’s happening at home again!” I told my husband who immediately went down to get the car around. This time we knew what was going on and had zero doubt this baby was coming soon! It was actually kind of perfect timing as Miss A had just gone down for a nap which meant we could leave her with my mum and sneak off to the hospital without her realising. If she were awake, we would’ve had to take her to hospital with us and that would have added some obvious hassle (she came with us for the initial morning visit).
Somehow I managed to make it into the car between contractions. Even though my body was already pushing, this time I noticed there was a noticeable pause between contractions which allowed me to relax and breathe. With Miss A, I felt that the contractions were really back to back at the pushing stage. Just as we pulled into Emergency, I had a contraction and my waters broke. I got out the car and my husband managed to convince the people in the queue to let him push through for obvious reasons. Thankfully, we had already done all the paperwork in the initial visit so we were let straight through. It was in the triage room that I really started bearing down and felt like the baby had now really descended down the birth canal. The staff here were really amazing and a wheelchair was quickly produced and I was whisked straight off to the birth suite. Getting into a wheelchair when you are that far along is definite agony though!
In the birth suite, my husband told the midwives I wanted a water birth but I said “No, I am pushing NOW” so once again, we went for an upright birth. As they were flurrying around me for a mat and a mirror, I just decided I was going to just push this baby out whether they were ready for it or not. I wasn’t going to be in this pain a minute longer more than I needed to this time! Thankfully, they just managed to be ready for it though hah! It seriously all went so fast from there but again the noticeable difference with this labour was really the pause between contractions. I pushed her head out first and then there was a definite pause between that and getting her shoulders and body out which was a strange feeling. And then it was all over 3.5 hours after I was told I was not dilated at all!
Doing two births drug free and almost on my own – that’s definitely enough for me. Miss E was bigger and heavier than Miss A, but it definitely felt so much easier the second time around (though obviously not enough to make me want a third!). Without much mental and physical trauma, I felt like I could really enjoy her and bond with her after the birth – something I did not feel with Miss A. It’s really funny to me that I experienced the calm, hypnobirthing birth I wanted the second time around when I didn’t actively practice the techniques. Maybe just knowing this time what was happening and what to do helped me really trust my own body.
Something no one warned me about though – the pains you get after subsequent births are horrible! The birth itself was not traumatic – this time I didn’t need stitches, felt less swollen, wasn’t exhausted as the labour was so much shorter than the first, and could actually even still feel my pelvic floor afterwards – but gee, the cramps you get later almost feel as bad as contractions! Well, I guess technically it is your uterus contracting back to normal. It basically feels like horrible menstrual cramps and is apparently caused by the fact that your uterus loses more and more tone with each subsequent pregnancy. One week after birth, I’m still popping the occasional ibuprofen and paracetamol when the pains hit. It also hurts to cough or sneeze. Hopefully it passes soon!
So those are my two birth stories. Not much in my life has gone to plan, but at least I ticked two things off the list of “Things Your Teenage Self Would Have Thought You Would Have Done By 30” – married the perfect man and completed my family…with a whole two months to spare to my birthday!