So Lindsey arrived that evening just as I was finishing up giving Chloe a breastfeed before she went to bed. I hadn’t fed Chloe al day, because I had felt scared that it would make my contractions more intense without anything progressing like the night before. Lindsey checked in with me and the bub, and all was well. She gave me a homeopathic to help with contractions. We discussed doing a vaginal exam, I hadn’t had one up until this point, and I was keen to have that assessment done.
After laboring for over 40hrs with Chloe, I was assessed at3cm dilated which was disheartening to say the least. Our plan was that if I was 5cm or more, we would continue on at home. If I was under 5cm then we would transfer in to hospital. Lindsey assessed me to be spot on 5cm. However I had a small amount of blood loss with the examination, and when we checked in on bub they had an elevated heart rate. So given the length of time I had been laboring, my exhaustion and low energy reserves on top of baby having a high heart rate we decided to transfer in to the hospital. This was an easy decision for me to make as I work as a nurse in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I was very aware from the beginning that if anything was a little bit off with either me or the baby I would want to go to the hospital, and it was great having Lindsey on board with this.
I felt relief and peace that we were transferring in. Possibly because I was still holding fear about birthing at home, but I actually feel it was more from a deep sense that hospital was the right place for this birth to happen now, both for the care I (didn’t know) I would require following the birth, but also to re-write my first birth experience in that space.
We arrived at the hospital and were allocated to the same room we were in when I was in labor with my first daughter. We had continuous monitoring connected up and I started talking to Lindsey about wanting to have an epidural inserted but not running, just in case I needed to go for a C-Section. I was scared of needing another general anesthetic. Lindsey I think acknowledged that just by saying ‘okay’…in a knowing kind of way, and I think just speaking it out loud to her allowed me to move on from that way of thinking. Because the next conversation I ha was with the doctors, and they wanted to put an IV in but I didn’t think it was necessary at all! I didn’t like the idea of being hooked up to things, so I declined. I remember having a little laugh to myself that on one hand I was considering asking for an epidural, but at the same time I was declining IV therapy – clearly the epidural wasn’t actually what I wanted!
The continuous monitoring was becoming problematic. We could see that everything was well with the baby, but the medical team required a ‘good’ 20 minute trace. Every time I had a contraction the machine would pick up my heart rate instead of the baby’s, and the 20 minute timer would start again! Instead of focusing on my actual labor, Joe, Lindseyand I were all just focused on this silly machine and trying to get a good trace! Lindsey and I talked, and we both felt that the monitoring had served its purpose in assuring us that everything was well with the baby following the elevated heart rate at home. And despite not meeting the hospitals requirement I requested that they take it off. How wonderful to feel empowered and informed to make these decisions about my own body and birth experience, and not just follow along with the requirements of the hospital.
Once the monitor was off things really kicked in to gear. My tightenings were getting stronger and closer together and I was moving around the room, upright on the bed, on the floor, on the ball, in the shower. Riding each wave as it came. I had ditched the TENS machine much earlier in the day, and I was actually really starting to enjoy this point of active labor. I could feel everything, and it had stopped feeling so much like a pain, and more like really good hard work.
Lindsey and Joe were incredible supports. At one point I said to them “I just want to be held like a baby” and straight away without hesitation Lindsey set Joe and I up on the chair having a beautiful snuggle. To have that established relationship with her where I didn’t feel any self-consciousness to ask for exactly what I needed in the moment was priceless. She also started doing hip squeezes followed by some bum jiggling with each tightening which just felt incredible, and I could feel was really helping baby to move through my pelvis. I was so, so thankful to have this hands on support that is mostly forgotten midwifery skills in our society and culture.
I eventually got really comfortable up on my knees on the bed, with my arms resting over the elevated head of the bed. And at this point, in this position I started to feel my body just taking over, and doing what it has always been primed for and capable of. I was also astounded by the totally primal noises that were coming from deep within my body. The fierceness that Fiona had helped me discover was coming forth and helping me to birth this baby. I felt one of the tightenings rupture my waters, and then I really knew that I was actually doing this, I was actually birthing my baby, all in my own strength! My roar changed to a heavy breathing out through pursed lips, thanks to some gentle suggesting from Lindsey, and I suddenly felt my babies head emerge, what an incredible feeling! This was unfortunately quickly followed by feeling a pulling on my baby. The hospital midwives were ‘helping’ me by pulling my babies body out. I wanted to do this all on my own, but in the moment I was not able to stop them (and of course stepping foot in the hospital meant that Lindsey was no longer my midwife, but a support person, so it was not in her position to take over).
However the next moment I felt incredibly elated and on top of the world as I picked up my baby between my legs and held her against my body. I was crying from pure emotion as I looked her over, so overjoyed to be meeting her, to have birthed her, to hear her crying. What a moment! Lindsey managed to capture it on video, and I still tear up every time I watch it!
There was quite a bit of blood loss, probably a bit over 1L, which made the midwives quite concerned. They wanted to get that under control by actively managing the 3rd stage (birth of the placenta) – so I had an injection to quickly deliver the placenta. This was another point where the midwives followed their own desires and not mine. I agreed to the injection but did not want them to clamp the cord. It was my understanding that it was possible to keep the cord connected whilst still ‘actively managing’. The senior midwife in the room said the cord had to be clamped and cut at that point, so that is what happened.
Whilst looking back on it this makes me frustrated, in the moment that beautiful cocktail of natural hormones had well and truly hit me, and I was just relishing in this new little human in my arms, and feeling so much love, and so empowered by what I had achieved.
Unfortunately I had a 3rd degree tear. After that very long labor, her head came out quite quickly, with her arm up by her face. So I needed to go to theatre to have that repaired. Thankfully they weren’t in any rush, and I held and breastfed my baby for a good hour or two before having that operation. The doctor doing the repair had a very kind and gentle nature, so I felt I was in good hands, and they brought my baby down to recovery after the operation was finished, so we weren’t separated for too long. How I hated the feeling of numbness from the spinal though, and it made me so thankful I hadn’t gone down the route of having an epidural!
With the blood loss I became quite anaemic, and required 2 blood transfusions in the hospital, so was admitted for just under 48 hours. They wanted to keep me for another night, but thankfully I had my postpartum care organised with Lindsey, so they agreed for me to go home.
And how wonderful it was to be home. I had missed Chloe so much, so it was beautiful being reunited with her and introducing her to her baby sister. We stayed in our newborn bubble as much as we could, and were thankful to have so much support from friends and family, mostly in the way of meals, and taking Chloe for outings.
Working with babies and being a second time Mum the postpartum was where I felt most comfortable and sure of myself, so my times with Lindsey became less and less frequent, and we completed our time together with a beautiful closing the bones at around 8 weeks. It was beautiful in it’s real life messiness – breastfeeding my newborn and toddler at the same time whilst having my body massaged! It was wonderful to honour my body for the work it had done, for what it was doing, and the nourishing and comfort it continues to provide my children. I shared some reflections on the birth, and Lindsey shared a really moving poem that she says just flowed out of her during my long labour – probably around the same time I was starting to feel at my lowest and like I couldn’t go on. The connectedness we shared as woman and midwife was truly something special.
Around this time of closing the bones I was feeling a shift in myself, moving out of the blissful newborn fog, and feeling a bit of a creative surge, so the timing felt perfect to be closing the energy from birthing, and allowing space for creative energy.
**Much gratitude to Kate for sharing her powerful birth story. It was an honor to witness and be a part of such a deeply transformative and healing journey**
Photo by @saskia.karin.photography