by JulieAnne van der Lek
I had been running around all week frustrated because my baby was overdue, and at the same time, I often joked about ‘…having this baby under the Christmas tree!’ The joke was almost on me, because I had no idea how close to that I would come to be.
If I went by the doctor’s calculated dates, I was eight days past my due date. And if I went by my own calculations; where I used the old fashioned method of adding 10 days and 9 months to the 1st day of my last period, it was only one day past my due date on …
Boxing Day 2003.
I woke up that morning feeling awful because the weather had been oppressively hot for days. There had been very little relief at night time either, and coupling that with being hugely pregnant, I wasn’t getting very much sleep. I was big and awkward, and dreading yet another day of promised high summer temperatures, and no baby.
We lived in an old fibro house, with a tin roof and no insulation. Our main respite from the heat was a single fan, and our knee-deep wading pool that we would sit in once the afternoon shade moved across it to protect us from burning in the sun.
I pottered around a bit that morning, drinking a lot of water, and sucking on frozen oranges, as I tried to keep my twenty–one month old daughter occupied and reasonably cool. The oranges helped me to tolerate the heat a little bit, but it was too hot to do much of anything, and because everything inside the house was hot too, sitting still wasn’t really an option either.
After lunch, I put my daughter down for her nap in front of our only fan, and I decided to try to rest for a little while as well. But I was too hot to fall asleep, or even to just lay on the bed, and I eventually gave up and decided to get up and go help my husband wash the dishes.
Once the dishes were done, and our daughter had woken up, we intended to go sit in our wading pool for a while. Just thinking about that was wonderful because it promised some much needed respite from the unrelenting heat of the day…
Just as we were finishing up in the kitchen, I felt this gentle ‘snapping’ sensation, deep and low inside me. My immediate thought was that my waters might have broken and, although there was no external evidence of it, the thought that it might have been a sign that I was going into labour sent a thrill of excitement through me. I was excited to think that my baby might be on its way!
About fifteen minutes after that ‘snap’, my daughter woke from her nap, so I got her up, and started to get her ready for her swim in the wading pool. And just as I was finished getting her ready, I noticed a little spontaneous leak from between my legs. So I handed my daughter over to my husband who would take her outside to the pool; and I headed for the bathroom.
In the bathroom, there was no evidence to indicate that my waters had broken, so I grabbed some towels, and went outside to join my husband and little girl by the pool.
When I got there, I dragged a chair up close, and sat on it so I could reach the water, and trail my fingers through it as I talked to my husband and watched our little girl play. She was taking such delight in the water that she made me smile, and laugh. Watching her enthusiasm as she jumped about happily made me want to get in that pool even more, but I didn’t think I should.
I’d been admitted to hospital a couple of times with ruptured membranes, and had been told not to go swimming or take a bath to minimise the risk of infection, so I didn’t think it was worth the risk.
A few moments later, I felt a very light contraction, and with it came a little bit of leakage. There was the ‘proof’ that my waters had broken, I had been looking for just a few moments earlier.
After a few more contractions, I could feel that they were growing slightly stronger, and although I wasn’t timing them, it did feel like they were coming at fairly regular intervals too. It wasn’t all that important though, because I knew that I was in early labour!
I told my husband that I thought I was in early labour, and he looked pleased, and excited. Then he seemed to relax and settle into the water even more than he already had been.
I looked at him for a moment, feeling a little perplexed.
For some reason, I had expected him to get all nervous and tense, and start hurrying us up to get ready. But he seemed to be doing just the opposite! Our last baby had been induced, so there were a few hours warning before all of that had started, but this was spontaneous; I was in labour now!
Then I felt another contraction, and it felt quite a bit more substantial than the last one had been, plus the amount of amniotic fluid leaking out was a bit more substantial too. So I said, ‘Uhm, I don’t think you’re going to have time to sit in there for much longer, this might only take a few hours!’ (And the hospital was 45 minutes away!)
I asked him if he’d get our daughter out of the pool and dressed and ready to go while I had a shower to clean up, and cool off a bit, and he agreed. So, I left him to it and started to waddle across the back yard. Every step caused a bit more of a leak, so I went back and grabbed one of the towels and put it between my legs, and waddled even more awkwardly towards the house, and the relief I knew I would find in the shower.
It was lovely! The water was set to just above lukewarm, and I dragged a chair in with me so I could sit down, relax, and enjoy my little water obsession for a few moments longer.
I could feel the contractions come and go, and I found that I was actually enjoying the feeling of them because they didn’t hurt at all. With each one, I knew I was getting one step closer to having my baby. I didn’t time them because they seemed to be well spaced, and it was too early yet anyway.
Besides that, I could let the hot water system be my backup timer. I was only planning to be in there for ten minutes, or so, and if I did happen to go over time, I knew that the hot water would run out after about fifteen minutes, because it was small and because we’d been living there long enough to know that. So, for a while at least, I could just sit there and enjoy my shower without any distractions, or concerns, whatsoever!
I was relaxed and worry free, and it was amazing. I loved every part of it! I was entranced by all of the sensations that I was feeling. I was in awe of how different it felt to labour without pain, and without the expectation of it. I was completely comfortable, and really enjoying the feel of the water running over my skin.
Before long, and before the hot water ran out, a sudden sense of urgency came over me. It couldn’t see any reason for it, and it took me by surprise. I didn’t know what it meant, but I did know that I couldn’t sit there any longer; I just couldn’t! I had to get up and get out of that shower. I didn’t even bother to wipe myself dry. Instead, I turned off the water and threw on the old nightie that I had hanging on the back of the bathroom door, and went to look for my husband in my bare feet; and walking in bare feet is not something I would normally do!
I have no movement in my left ankle joint, plus a few other foot and leg problems that make walking bare footed very difficult for me. These were the result of the injuries I’d received in a car accident when I was 15, so, even though walking barefoot was difficult, it was something I just had to do in that moment.
Something was happening. I could feel it. I didn’t know what exactly, but it was urgent, and I needed to find my husband; and fast!
When I did find him, I found myself telling him that I needed some pillows, sheets, and towels put ‘Right there!’ as I pointed to a spot on the lounge room floor, in front of our single seater lounge chair. Almost in the same breath, I asked him if he could please get me something to drink.
I saw him hesitate, probably not sure which one he should do first and, because neither of them was done immediately, I started to cry. I knew it didn’t make any sense because I knew he hadn’t had time to do anything yet, but it made me cry anyway.
Then I suddenly remembered when I’d felt this way before. My labour was changing.
I was going into transition!
I knew this stage of labour, I knew what it meant, but I couldn’t believe that my labour had progressed so far, so fast! It seemed way too soon to be that far advanced. It actually seemed like hardly any time had passed at all. It was just too early, so it had to be something else! But, even as I had these thoughts I knew that I was in transition, and that the baby was coming and that it would be born very soon.
It frightened me for a moment, and I could feel something like panic begin to well up inside me. I had begun to grasp what being in transition meant. It meant that I was going to have to have my baby right there, on the lounge room floor! How was I supposed to do that without any midwives, or doctors, or nurses, there to help me? I just couldn’t believe it! What if something went wrong? My thoughts were coming fast and frantic as I tried to decide what I should do next.
For a moment, I felt like time was standing still while I tried to sort it all out. It felt like everything was waiting for my next move before the next thing, that would happen, could be decided. It was really hard to think clearly, but then the things I’d taught myself during pregnancy began to kick in, and I was able to move beyond the panic so I could have my baby.
I began to accept that I had no choice, and I soothed myself by deliberately realising that I was okay now, that nothing was truly wrong, and that I could do this. I started reminding myself that childbirth is a natural process and that when it came right down to it, I’d had all my babies myself, and that I’d never really needed any real help with it before. So there was every reason to believe that I’d need help this time either.
The more I settled myself, the better I felt, and the more accepting I became of my situation as well.
All of this only took a few moments. Just long enough for my husband to quickly get some sheets, towels, and pillows, and put them on the floor where I’d said I wanted them. When they were in place, I intended to kneel down onto them and have my baby.
Suddenly, nothing mattered any more! I instinctively knelt down on the sheets and towels, and grabbed a quick drink from the glass of water that my husband had brought to me, and finished just in time for the next contraction.
Once that contraction had subsided, I tried resting my arms, and upper torso, on the lounge in front of me, and the relief I felt when I did that was a huge surprise. It was relief from things I hadn’t even thought of, like carrying the weight of the pregnancy around for so long, and the heat, and relief from labouring (Even though it wasn’t painful!), and relief from all of the previous fears, and concerns, that I’d been having. It was at that moment that I could fully let my concerns, about having the baby at home, go. It completely amazed me just how wonderful I could feel at this stage of labour!
Then, for a brief moment, I felt like my perceptions changed. I became completely focused within, inside of myself. I saw a vision of myself standing alone in a safe, dimly lit place, just me and my baby, still inside me.
At this point, a wonderful sense of well being came over me. I became calm, centred, and relaxed. I knew everything was going to be alright. I also knew that my baby’s birth was very close. We were still one, but were about to separate and come together in a way that would allow me to hold him/her, in my arms, and to love my baby as the complete, and separate being, that I knew it was about to become.
It was from this place that I noticed an amazing change in my focus. Whilst I was totally focused on my body during a contraction, once it ended, I found that I had been aware of what had been going on in my surroundings as well! I could tell my husband was worried, and I reassured him that all was well. And I could tell that my little girl was running into, and out of, the room, and that she needed to be kept close to us so we knew she was safe. I asked my husband if he could turn on the television, and put it on the ABC channel, so our daughter could watch for a while.
ABC TV played children’s programs at that time of day, and I knew that they would distract her. It would help keep her in one place and decrease the likelihood of her running off, and possibly getting into something she shouldn’t whilst we were busy birthing the baby.
Then, another contraction came, and with it, I thought, a very slight urge to push. It scared me a little. I wasn’t sure, and I doubted it could be true because, again, it just seemed to be way too soon! But, before I could give it much more thought, another contraction came, and again there was a slight urge to push, but a little stronger this time.
Once I realised where I was up to, it occurred to me that with all of my other births, the urge to push seemed to come on hard and strong, and there was no denying it. In the past, I had been told not to push yet, until I was checked to make sure my body was ready to push!
I realised that I had always been told when it was alright for me to push! So how was I supposed to be able to tell whether, or not, it was safe to push without their ok?
But then, I started thinking…
There was no one there to guide me, and I couldn’t be sure whether it was safe to push, or not, but there was nothing I could do about that, except to try. So rather than worrying about what I should, or shouldn’t, do, I chose to err on the side of caution, and the next time I felt the urge to push, I decided that I would give a little ‘test push’; just to see how it felt.
I would not push any more than I was comfortable with. I would put just enough force behind it so that I could feel ‘something’ without causing any form of discomfort at all. If I felt something happen, I would go from there. I knew I would have control because the urges were still mild, and I felt okay at the thought of trying it. So with the next contraction I would ‘test push’ and see what happened, and to see if I could tell whether, or not, it was safe for me to push properly if I wanted to.
As the next contraction began, and the urge to push came with it, I put my plan into action, and began to push very gently, and nothing happened. But, I could feel that I wasn’t putting any strain on anything, and there was no pain or discomfort at all, so I slowly, and gently, began to increase the force behind my pushing until I felt a just a little bit of downward pressure. When I realised that that felt okay too, I felt more confident, and increased the pressure a little more, and then a little more; and then I felt it!
I couldn’t believe it, but I actually felt my baby’s head pass through my cervix! It startled me so much that I instantly stopped the pushing, so I could assess what had just happened. I wanted to gather my thoughts, to make sure everything was still alright before I went any further, and when I stopped the pushing, I felt my baby’s head slip back through my cervix. It felt like it had moved right back to where it had been before I pushed. I had never, ever, felt this before, and it was quite a moment! I began to realise just how amazingly capable my body truly is!
After that I knew, without a doubt, that my body was ready. I’d felt my baby safely passed through that place that had always been checked by the medical staff before, so I knew it was safe to push! I knew that it was time for my baby to make its journey out of my body and into the outside world!
As I was pushing, I noticed that it wasn’t an ‘out of control’ thing that it had been with my previous births. It was still work, but it wasn’t the overwhelming, uncontrollable urge, that it had been before. I was able to pace myself better, and I had more control over how hard I pushed, and there was no pain at all.
I could feel my baby progress with each push, and then recede a little when I stopped, but I could feel that the baby was gradually making progress with each one.
Just after I had the thought that it felt like the baby was just over half way there, another contraction came, and with it I felt the head pushing to be born. It wasn’t forceful in any way, but it did startle me that my baby was ready to begin crowning! Crowning was when my last baby’s birth started to hurt, and as I remembered that, I started to falter.
What if I was wrong? What if it did have to hurt? Or, what if I just wasn’t ready and it started to hurt, regardless?
I tried to remind myself that it didn’t have to be painful. Labour doesn’t have to hurt, I knew that! But I wasn’t sure about this new theory yet, and I found myself doubting. I could feel myself starting to resist what was about to happen and I was running out of time to make myself okay with it again.
Another contraction came, and I had to push, and I could feel myself begin to stretch a little as I did so. It felt strange and unnerving, but it didn’t hurt.
With the first few pushes, I could feel my baby’s head stretch me a little more, and then recede again when the pushing stopped. It was just like the gradual progress that my baby had been making all along. But the more I stretched, the more unnerved I became.
I’d begun to think that I couldn’t possibly stretch anymore, and yet with the next contraction, I would! I’d never felt the stretching in this way before, and it began to unnerve me more and more. I could feel that I was building up resistance to allowing it to happen, and I knew that if that ‘resistance’ built up enough, it would begin to hurt.
I tried to just let it go, but it had my complete attention, and it just seemed impossible to do. I realised that I needed to get my focus off of that sensation, and fast, or it would start hurting like last time.
I didn’t have time to think about how I might go about doing that, but my natural instinct was to start making a noise. To my surprise, and very huge relief, I found that the sound, plus the act of making it, became the new focus that I needed.
I began with a soft, low kind of moaning, and found I could pay complete attention to that. Once I noticed how it diverted my attention, from the unnerving feeling of being stretched, I deliberately put all of my attention on to that sound, and the making of that sound as well, and then into controlling it.
I could still feel that sensation of stretching and, on the couple of occasions that it began to bother me again, I would just put more effort into making that sound, and make it louder, and I could maintain enough ‘focusing distance’ to let it happen without resisting it too much.
When I started to make my sound louder, it began to scare my daughter, and made my husband begin to voice his concerns, and even though I was about to deliver my baby, I was still in control enough, and able to tell my little girl that it was alright, and that I was just being loud, and I also reassured my husband that nothing was going wrong, before sinking into the final moments of my baby’s birth…
The effects of that sound, and the making of it, meant that I could feel my baby stretch me, I could let it be. I could let it happen even though those same sensations were causing me problems just moments before. It felt like I was being stretched to the limits that my body could take, right to the very edge of that place where pain must begin, but thankfully, it wasn’t true. There was no pain, and no ‘ring of fire’ sensation that I’d experienced so many times before.
There was just no pain at all; only stretching!
I was in awe as I pushed, and made my sounds! I could feel my baby’s head emerge from my body. Then there was this lovely relief from stretching, and I closed my eyes for a moment, and enjoyed that relief as I waited until my body indicated that it was ready for my baby’s shoulders to be born.
Again I was stretched as I pushed, but it didn’t hurt, and I even felt a high-pressure squirt of fluid shoot out past the baby as its body emerged. It sounded like the squirted liquid hit the something somewhere behind me, and I wondered if it had hit my husband! I wanted to laugh at the idea, but I knew he would be grossed out if it did get him. And even though I couldn’t hear him complaining, I decided it best to let it be. 🙂
And then my baby was was there, arriving with a huge gush of fluid, and into my husband’s very nervous hands. She gave just a little cry as I turned around to sit. I was ready to meet my new baby girl, and hold her for the very first time.
She was still attached by the umbilical cord, but that was okay. I felt such relief and such overwhelming love, and I still felt no real pain. There was this slightly sore edgy feeling of tenderness between my legs. It wasn’t enough to cause any real pain, but it was enough to make me careful so it wouldn’t!
As I held our little girl, my husband gathered a shoelace, and scissors, so we could tie off and cut the umbilical cord. Afterwards, we rang the hospital, and then my sister to see if she could come and drive us there.
It was so hot that day, and I’d had the fan on the entire time during her delivery, but we had to turn it off after she was born just in case it make her cold, even though it was 47℃ (or about 116℉) that day! (I found that out later!)
We cuddled her and loosely wrapped her up in a dry, summer bunny rug, and we made the trip to hospital to have her checked over.
Once we arrived, we were both examined, and that all was well with us both. She weighed in at 9lbs even (about 4083g). I wanted to leave, and go home, straight away, but I was convinced to stay for 4 hours before we took her back home with us; just to make sure.
I was still tired after this birth, still hugely relieved, but I was also energised and elated and it felt so wonderful to have birthed my baby without it hurting. I did not tear, and our little one was healthy, and happy.
And we called her Melanie Jane. 🙂