The birth story of Evangeline Flora
At exactly 40 weeks, on the 18th of December, I had a craniosacral therapy appointment to get everything pelvic related in tip-top condition for the birth. I didn’t really have any signs apart from my continuing Braxton-Hicks, so I wasn’t expecting anything to happen very soon. At my 40 week midwife appointment the midwife explained that if nothing had happened by my 41 w 3 day appointment they would do a stretch and sweep and then another two days later. I would also be booked into for an induction at 42 weeks, but the midwife said judging from all the Braxton Hicks etc she didn’t think I’d make it to the next appointment anyway.
I still had niggling thoughts that during my hospital stay with Abi I had also had all the same Braxton-Hicks - I’d get a series of them, some quite strong, and then they’d just fade away. I had this superstition that my body just didn’t know how to go into labour and that the same thing would happen with this baby. I realised that I needed to address this kind of thinking so I spent a bit of time each day trying to do affirmations like “My body knows what to do to birth this baby”.
Anyway, at the CS appointment, my therapist said as she was working on my pelvis “Hmm, I’m getting Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday the 22nd, a very powerful number in numerology. I’m going to predict that this baby will come on Tuesday.”
Sounded good to me. Still a few days before Christmas and comfortably both full-term and well away from any need for medical induction. So I decided to focus on that day during my relaxation and visualisation sessions. I hadn’t been doing them every night, but tried to at least every second night. I can’t say I had much faith in the efficacy of this plan, but had nothing to lose by trying.
On Monday night poor DH had a migraine, the last in a long series of illnesses which had been stressing us both as we really needed him to be healthy. He went to bed early and I stayed up watching a movie. I noticed my Braxton Hicks were hanging around and I decided to time them over the course of the movie to see what they did. I worked out they were coming every 8-10 minutes, not particularly strong, but they did continue for the length of the movie. I started to get excited but kept admonishing myself to stay calm, stay calm, it could easily all fade away.
The movie finished and I got into bed with my trusty iPod to listen to music, podcasts, relaxation stuff, whatever would help me stay relaxed as per my Calmbirth class. I kept timing the BH, which I was trying to remember to call surges and they continued at approx 9 minute intervals, sometimes more, sometimes less. Some were starting to feel a bit stronger now, but I managed to doze off sometime after midnight. I discovered the next morning that DH could hear the iPod and was lying there wondering if I was in labour but not wanting to wake him up.
Next morning, surges still there, still around 8 minutes apart and not especially troublesome. I told DH about them and said if he could entertain Abi I would make some cereal and sit on the computer for a while so I could time them. During this time they moved to around 7 minutes apart, but still not completely regular. I was starting to feel them around the back now and was becoming more convinced that yes! this is it! Here I am going into spontaneous labour, whooo! I made breakfast for DH and Abi and then rang mum and dad to let them know what was going on. Mum felt I was in early labour but that it would be a while yet and they would make their way up to our house from their place at the beach, arriving in a couple of hours or so. It was about 9am by this stage, maybe a bit before.
I suggested DH take Abi to the park for a play and I would have a bath. He was a bit worried about leaving me, but they took the car and his phone, so I knew they would get back quickly when I needed them. So off they went and I lay in the bath reading a magazine and excitedly noting that the surges were coming closer together and feeling more intense. Our baby was finally going to make an appearance! I spent about 40 minutes in the bath and then decided to get out and ring my sister who was going to come and help look after Abi.
She was very excited and asked me if I thought she should set off now or when my parents arrived. I thought about it for a while and said, no, she should come now, as I knew it would take her around 45 mins - 1hr to get here. In retrospect I am very glad I said for her to leave straight away...
I got dressed in a glamourous labour outfit of old exercise shorts and a faded black singlet. I then went upstairs to inflate my exercise ball which took a little while and which I kind of wished I’d done the day before, but who knew? I also thought I’d better ring the birth centre to give them the heads up, which I did. The surges were getting stronger now and I found it was most comfortable to get on my hands and knees and rock my pelvis a little bit through them. Still quite managable though, and I started doing my Calmbirth breathing through them, just to keep in practice. The birth centre midwife asked me a few questions about the regularity of the surges (between 4 and 7 minutes at this stage) and said to stay home as long as I was comfortable and to let them know how it was going a bit later.
It must have been about 10am at this stage, maybe a bit before. I went up onto my exercise ball and sat on it for a while, staring out of the window between surges and trying to stay relaxed and focussed. I could really feel the surges right around the back and front now and was having to concentrate to breathe through them, finding it most comfortable if I knelt down and hugged the exercise ball while they were going on.
The surges had settled into a more regular pattern now and I timed a few, noting they were pretty much 4 minutes apart. I was still reasonably comfortable, but I decided to ring DH and ask him to come home - I wanted him around to bring me water and things. He said he’d be right there and I grabbed my iPod with all my special labour music (Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Cave - somehow I felt all those deep male voices were what I’d need) and listened to a song or two. After all the trouble I went to to select them all, I think I listened to about four songs altogether.
DH and Abi soon arrived back and DH brought me my specially procured lime water and then asked me what I needed. I told him I’d just continue on my own upstairs until I thought we should go and that Mum and Dad and Lucy were on their way. Back to my friend the excercise ball I went.
I could hear DH and Abi chatting away and playing downstairs. Abi wanted to come and see me, but DH was telling her our new baby was coming and Mummy needed to work very hard for a while. She seemed pretty cheerful about this and I loved hearing her chirpy little voice as I laboured.
By about 10.45 the surges were getting really intense and quite painful. Even leaning over the exercise ball wasn’t helping anymore and I had a few moments of panic about “how bad is this going to get? How am I going to cope? etc etc” This is where the Calmbirth preparation I had done really came into its own. I can’t say it made the pain go away or anything, but it allowed me to pull my mind back to concentrating on one surge at a time and not thinking about what was coming next. I kept doing the breathing, but it wasn’t flowing particularly naturally so I may have stopped thinking about it at that point.
I felt like I needed to be able to relax my legs more and as sitting on the ball felt uncomfortable I remembered hearing that sitting on the toilet was often the most comfortable position so I decided to give that a go. I went downstairs again, passing DH on the way and telling him they were getting pretty painful now and could he please ring my sister to find out where she was. I went and sat on the toilet and it did feel more comfortable, but now things really started getting serious. Pretty soon I started to make a fair bit of noise and DH was getting worried; he told me my sister was about 10 minutes away, which I was very relieved to hear. I told him to ring the birth centre and tell them we’d be coming in soon.
He got on the phone and was relaying questions to me through the door as I refused to leave the small, dark haven of the toilet. I think I was well into transition by this stage and felt totally taken over, but managing to ride the waves and stay ‘in my body’ rather than in my head. I was acting completely instinctively, vocalising when I needed to and getting up and down during surges, holding on desperately to the doorknob. A phrase a friend used about her labour came into my mind - she said it got to a point that she was climbing the walls - and I thought in a lucid moment that that was an excellent description of what was going on.
My poor Abi could hear all of this and became very distressed, I could hear her screaming “Mummy, come out here! Come out here!” and crying and crying. Poor DH was trying to talk to the midwife on the phone, and in the middle of all this I started feeling very pushy. I reached down between my legs and wiped with toilet paper to see that I had finally had a bloody show. Reported this to DH and then on the next push contraction my waters broke.
I can remember the deep, involuntary noises I was making and even there right in the middle of it all I was thinking, ‘wow, so you really can’t stop, it really is all automatic.’ My first induced labour was so different, I never really got to go into my body, I was all in my head with so much fear, and then I had an epidural so I never felt that amazing sensation of my body just taking over and doing everything itself.
I think my sister arrived at that point, I can remember her cheery “Hi!” at the front door and then a shocked silence as she heard what was going on. She quickly took Abi outside and I could hear Abi was immediately fine and chatting away, so that was one stress eliminated. DH had got off the phone at this point and was trying to get me out of the toilet so we could get in the car and go to the hospital. There was just no way I could have done that at that point, he may as well have been suggesting a quick 10km run before setting off.
I had another voice in my head which was my Calmbirth instructor saying “In the case of a precipitous birth, if you feel as though you are pushing and you can’t stop then Do Not Get In The Car. Call an ambulance.” So I called through the door in a break between surges, “the baby’s coming, you need to call an ambulance.” God knows what DH was going through at that point, but he duly called 000 and explained what was going on. I remember I was saying “Oh god, oh no, oh god, oh no” during each surge and just feeling those incredibly powerful pulses as my body pushed.
DH started telling me I had to get off the toilet, as the 000 operator was telling him it wasn’t safe for the baby, perfectly reasonably, who wants to make an entrance via a toilet? I still couldn’t really respond properly and as our toilet is small enough for someone inside to keep their knee against the door, he was completely helpless. I started to get a bit more of a break between surges though, and I realised that yes, I needed to get off the toilet and I opened the door and DH lifted me off the toilet. However I then said “Oh, another one’s coming and got back on the toilet and shut the door in his face, sending him back to ground zero.
I did get off again though and DH was still on the phone, the operator asking if I could feel the head, which I couldn’t at that stage, just softness when I pushed which I remember I was worried about as I thought I should feel the head, remembering how Abi went back and forth for a while before crowning. I got down on my hands and knees, DH went to look for a mirror, couldn’t find one, and when he came back I was in the middle of another big push, felt a stretching I think and then saw and felt a head emerge! I heard DH saying, ‘Oh the baby’s crowned!” and I was impressed by his terminology and I also remember hazily thinking, okay that’s the hard part done. The 000 operator had told him to get me to lie down to slow things down and he was dragging a mattress out, but I said sharply for him to stop, there was no way I was going to lie down. Next surge and push and my little girl slipped into my waiting hands. I saw that she was a girl and she had her eyes open and a look of surprise on her dear little squishy face. She gave a little grumbly cry, nothing like the extended screaming that Abi did, and turned pink so I knew she was okay. Time was abot 11.30, so active labour of an hour and a half.
I was laughing and crying and saying “Look! Look what I did!” and DH was wrapping us up in blankets and towels, as I knew the most important thing was that she not get cold. The Ambos arrived about 10 minutes later, pronounced our little Evangeline perfectly healthy, clamped and cut the cord, which had pretty well stopped pulsing now anyway and organised to take us to hospital, which I wanted. We said goodbye to a wary little Abi and a very surprised Auntie and off we went.
So that’s our birth story. Stupendous. Have more to say, but will finish later.
One other thing. Two days before she was born I chose a song for Evie. Nick Cave’s ‘Into my arms’. Appropriate, no?