So many people who have heard the basics of our birth story second-hand, have said to us later how much of a tough time we had, and congratulated me on getting through a traumatic birth. But I correct them every time. Olivia’s birth wasn’t traumatic, it was wonderful. It wasn’t easy to let go of the intervention-free, vaginal birth that I had imagined. But being able to accept that my birthing went down another path is a huge step. Being informed, knowing my options and feeling empowered made all the difference.
I was lucky enough to have a mostly uneventful pregnancy with Olivia. Aside from a couple of very minor issues (which always turned out to be nothing) we sailed through fairly comfortably, so comfortably in fact that at my appointment at almost 41 weeks, Olivia seemed to be planning to stay put as long as possible. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of an induction, but I also wasn’t thrilled with the idea of staying pregnant much longer. My obstetrician discussed our options with me, suggesting a gel on the cervix at 10 days post dates. I asked if we could do a balloon induction instead, hoping to stay away from synthetics and she agreed, so we booked a balloon induction for a few days later.
In the meantime, I tried to get things going myself! I knew Olivia had her back down my right side at the appointment, and that she was still sitting high. So I walked. And walked. And walked. 5km walks at over 41 weeks pregnant isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. I was doing inversions from the spinning babies website daily to try and get her in position, and binged Netflix series while bouncing on a ball. I was also taking baths regularly (our water tanks didn’t love that) and listening to my hypnosis tracks. Other than a bit of sciatica though, I was still feeling good, and Olivia seemed happy to stay put.
We arrived at the hospital on the Thursday night, and I was feeling a little disappointed that labour hadn’t started spontaneously, but my worry was for nothing anyway! One of the joys of a smaller country hospital is the “one induction per day” rule. We’d been bumped for someone who needed it more! My obstetrician came and delivered the “bad news”, I could tell she was worried I would be upset. She couldn’t have been more surprised when I was happy that so long as everything looked okay with the baby, I was more than fine to wait until after the weekend. She offered to do a stretch and sweep, which I was happy with, if she could get to my cervix, as I suspected she wouldn’t be able to! I was almost right. My cervix was high and closed, and while she could reach it just, a stretch and sweep wasn’t on the cards. We went home to wait things out over the weekend.
Very late on Thursday night, I was awakened to tight, cramping type feelings in my abdomen. I was in and out of sleep so I wasn’t really registering what was happening, and just assumed that the attempted stretch and sweep had perhaps irritated things a bit. A couple of hours later I got the timer out and discovered they were pretty regular! Around 4 minutes apart and lasting for about 40 seconds. With a smile on my face I went back to sleep, hoping that this was the start. I woke up again at 6am to a sudden “popping” feeling and a small gush of fluid. Luckily I’d been sleeping on a towel. I rang the hospital to let them know where I was at. They advised they’d like me to come in by 6pm if not before, just to see if my waters had indeed broken.
Throughout the day the tightenings stayed fairly regular, not getting really much more intense, nor closer together. We walked laps around the block with the dogs, watched movies and tidied the house. We went in to the hospital and despite the fact that based on my description it did sound like a waters leak, the test didn’t show any fluid. The midwives agreed it might have been a hind water leak, and because I was already on antibiotics (due to a persistent uti in pregnancy) that I didn’t need any more and could choose if I wanted to stay or go home. Tightenings seemed to come to a grinding halt when we got to the hospital, slowing to 8-10 minutes apart, and so I decided I’d prefer to continue on at home. Unfortunately the hospital had policy of what pattern of movement they needed to see on the ctg monitor, and Olivia just wouldn’t calm down! We got stuck for over two hours, and lying still was making me extremely uncomfortable. I decided when we got back that there was no way I was lying on the bed on that monitor again when we eventually went back. When we got home I got in the bath and relaxed, played my hypnobirthing tracks, my playlist (for anyone looking for beautiful ambient music to use during labour, I recommend the band “Hammock”. They’re on spotify) and chatted with Dave. Once I relaxed then I felt like the tightenings became surges. They shortened to between 2 and 3 minutes apart, and were lasting well over a minute. I tried to sleep that night but to no avail. It seemed that lying down was counter-productive. Surges got much more intense and longer, but with bigger gaps. Despite him feeling bad, I encouraged Dave to sleep. I felt it was important that at least one of us be rested.
Early labour continued all through Saturday. We walked some more, but I had to stop and use my surge breathing every time one came along. Sitting or lying down by this point was just about out of the question, and at about 7pm Saturday night I felt like something had changed. The surges felt different, and were very intense in my back. I continued my breathing, and decided to start using the tens machine. At this point I told Dave I would like to head back into the hospital, as despite the fact that I was handling the surges quite well, the sensation in my lower back meant I was facing another night of no sleep, so I suspected I was going to need some assistance.
We settled in at the hospital with our lovely midwives. I was happy for them to check my progression, but I didn’t want to know how dilated I was, and preferred for them to just let me know if we had a long way to go, the midwife assured me that we did. I also politely turned down the CTG, and we settled in for the night and tried to get some rest. I managed to get about an hour of sleep, before getting in the shower where I stayed for most of the night, standing leaning against the wall, or on hands and knees.
“Dave was a champion at this point, doing absolutely everything I needed. I used my surge breathing and found it worked really well to keep my head in the game and to stop me from getting anxious. I also pictured the rising wave, a visualisation that I found incredibly useful as I knew that during each surge it would intensify to a point, and then I would drift back down the other side.”
I asked for gas at around 3am, and found that it helped me to be able to sit down on a fit ball, and I could get some rest from standing. I leaned forward with my head and arms on the bed, and with Dave putting counter pressure on my back. We had been able to hear another woman labouring in the ward next door, and despite the fact that things sounded like they weren’t going so well, I was able to put the noise aside and remain relaxed. We put some quiet music on and had LED candles around.
It was a really great atmosphere, to the point where a midwife arrived in through the door and gave a sigh of relief, exclaiming “gosh, it’s so lovely and calm in here!”
By Sunday morning though, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I asked Dave to put on another one of my birthing playlists that I’d made, and when it started with “Let it be” by The Beatles, I just became totally overwhelmed. It felt like despite all the time and effort, our baby girl was still so far away. Dave was so great at this point. He let me have my moment, and supported me through it. Once I’d gathered myself again, I just kept imagining that wave, and that every surge was bringing my baby closer to me.
After the midwives had their change over at 7am, I was asked if I would consent to be examined again. Again I requested to not be given a number in regards to dilation, but just an indication of how far off we were. Again I was told we still had a ways to go, and that the obstetrician would come and see me at 11am. Dave and I discussed where we were at and I decided that I would request an epidural. We knew by this point that Olivia was posterior, and as such I had still been unable to lay down. I was becoming very sleep deprived.
We discussed our options at this point with our obstetrician. She had read our birth preferences and was wonderfully considerate of us with how she presented our options. There was no mention at all of “failure to progress”, however by this point it was becoming obvious that things weren’t moving along as quickly as all of us would have liked, despite my best attempts to be patient. I agreed to have my waters broken by the obstetrician there and then, to see if that would help things to move along, and a request was made to have the anaesthetist attend when he was free to discuss an epidural.
The anaesthetist arrived at around 2pm, and I have to say, he was absolutely lovely. Explained everything extremely well, and answered all of our questions. While he was preparing and administering the epidural he explained everything he was doing and kept us well informed. I felt that I was in safe hands. Strangely, after having had my waters broken the surges slowed, and so we also had the syntocinon drip administered.
I was starting to feel disappointed at how “medical” our birth was becoming, but I kept reminding myself that I would “accept whatever turn my birthing takes”, and that we had felt fully informed and in control of the decisions we had made so far. I was still feeling the pressure of the surges, and so was still using my surge breathing to get through. I felt really happy that I still had some feeling of what was going on despite the epidural, and I could move my legs and was able to turn myself from side to side.
Dave and I managed to get a couple of hours sleep at this point, which was great. I woke with a clearer head and feeling a lot more comfortable. However, I had noticed the midwives watching our monitor very closely. Surges were coming fairly quickly now, and during each one I could see Olivia’s heart rate dropping down, and then recovering once the surge was over. We tried changing positions, sitting up, laying down, switching sides, to see if we could take some pressure off her and get her to relax, but it didn’t seem to be helping. At this point it was around 4 in the afternoon on Sunday, so we had been at it for a long time. I was starting to really get stressed about Olivia, and my heart rate had risen so much that it was getting hard for the midwives to tell which was her and which was me. Dave really helped me, despite his own worries, by reminding me to use relaxation breathing, and counted my breaths for me. He was so reassuring, and within minutes my heart rate was back down, and I was able to focus and get back into that state of relaxation. I was starting to see that the writing was on the wall though. Dave and I had discussed days prior, that I would much rather try and make the call to have a C-Section before it became an “emergency” emergency, where it would be hugely rushed and stressful. Our obstetrician arrived and we discussed what was going on. She explained that the midwives had been slowing the hormone drip to see if it helped Olivia, which it did, but it also meant that everything stopped. She did an examination and this time I wanted to know. She told me we were at 4, maybe 5cm, and cervix still not fully effaced. She also suspected that Olivia was brow presenting as well as posterior. She told me that the choice was mine to go longer if we wanted to, but that her opinion was that the safest thing to do would be a C-Section. Thinking back to my earlier decision about wanting to make the decision for a C-Section before it became a true emergency, I felt like the time had come to make that call. Dave had a bit of a moment when he was brought into theatre after I was prepped, and as they were making the first incision I was talking him through relaxation breathing to try and calm him down! All the theatre staff were amazing, keeping the atmosphere calm and positive, and the anaesthetist explained everything that was happening as it happened. Hearing that first cry when she was born was the best sound I’ve ever heard in my life, and boy did she have a set of lungs on her! Finally after those first tightenings starting 1am Friday morning, at 6.29pm Sunday night Olivia Joe made her grand entrance at 41+6, weighing 3.6kg and 53cm long. Tall and skinny! She had delayed cord clamping, and was pink as pink can be, with APGAR scores of 9 and 9 (apparently they never give a 10). It was cold in theatre; so skin-to-skin wasn’t possible straight away. But the moment I was stitched up she was placed on my chest. She found her way to the breast within minutes, and fed like a champion the whole way being wheeled from theatre back to the ward. Our obstetrician told me later that she had indeed managed to wedge herself into a very tight spot. She tried so hard to get out it only made me love her more, even though it made things a little difficult in the end.
We couldn’t be more in love with our gorgeous girl, and we’re so thankful to everyone who helped us bring her safely into the world.
The Hypnobirthing Australia course that we did with Simone in Warragul was invaluable. I firmly believe all pregnant women should do it! It’s funny, so many people who have heard the basics of our birth story second-hand, have said to us later how much of a tough time we had, and congratulated me on getting through a traumatic birth. But I correct them every time. Olivia’s birth wasn’t traumatic, it was wonderful. It wasn’t easy to let go of the intervention-free, vaginal birth that I had imagined. But being able to accept that my birthing went down another path is a huge step. Being informed, knowing my options and feeling empowered made all the difference.
Olivia Joe Beatson was born 6.29pm 28th July 2019 3.6kg.
Welcome earthside Olivia!