Pregnancy and Birth

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Ruth's birth

These birth stories are frank and very personal accounts.  They are most likely to be of interest to expectant parents, particularly pregnant women, or to doulas, midwives and people with a particular interest in childbirth.  Please ensure you are comfortable with frank discussion about the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy and birth before deciding to read further.

This is the story of the birth of my second child.  It was a planned homebirth.  The labour lasted about 12 hours and both mother and baby were fine, no intervention or drugs being required.  I didn’t write this birth story at the time, because I was so busy working.  My memory is quite clear about how I felt, but there’s not so much detail.  I think I wrote this when pregnant with Angus, so it would have been 2004, but the birth took place in 1997.

LMP 13/6/96.  I conceived on the second cycle after coming off the pill, as with my first baby.  It was another planned homebirth. Everything had been fine on the ultrasound, (or were there 2?) and we could see her sucking her thumb.  I wanted to know the gender again and we found out we were having a girl. 

I had a bit of nausea & fatigue in the first trimester, & the usual achy hips in bed and breathlessness in the third trimester. 
I had some severe sciatica in the left buttock towards the end, and got myself a walking stick because my left leg would give way sometimes.  Generally though, I was well and healthy throughout the pregnancy, with a hearty appetite.  I started at about 9 ½ stone and put on about 3 stone (I’m 5’6”), same as last time.

I had all my antenatal visits with my midwife Kirsty, at her home.  It’s great not having to wait in a waiting room and having plenty of time at each visit.  The plan was pretty straight forward, ie do everything the same as last time.  I felt fairly relaxed and confident about the birth after my last experience.  I didn’t have a birthing pool this time, but it would have been good.  Only having done it both ways can I now see the difference.

Our house had just been painted & carpeted, & was already clean and organized, so my nesting manifested in buying some new furniture, getting central heating put in and some other small improvements, then the decision to open a business to support our family while my husband studied.  I spent the last 3 months of the pregnancy on the phone, juggling contractors, dealing with council, interviewing staff, menu planning, & seeing accountants & bank managers.  I don’t know where all that energy came from.  My first baby Lola, (from my first marriage), was four, and happily settled at the local pre-school.

I had opened my café 5 days earlier, and on the Friday night I was at work.  I was there til about 2.30 in the morning mopping the floor, and my baby girl was due in exactly 12 days.  I hoped to have the place practically running itself by then; how naïve!  My first baby was born the morning after her due date, and it hadn’t occurred to me that I might go early.  I got home and got into bed, and my husband Alex (2nd husband) ended up sleeping on the floor in the study because I was keeping him awake with my tossing and turning, and possibly snoring.  I’d only been asleep for a couple of hours when I woke up with contractions.  I tried to keep it to myself for a while to make sure this was really it before waking up Alex, but it was soon pretty clear these were proper contractions.  Started timing contractions at 5:26am.  20 secs to 1 min long, 3 to 13 mins apart.  At 7:30 all 45 secs long, 9 to 34 mins apart.

I was really worried about being early.  I had no concept of how early was dangerous, and I thought maybe I’d have to go to hospital because of this instead of having my planned homebirth.   We rang Kirsty, and she assured me it was fine, we would still go ahead with the normal plan.

It was a really nice day, not hot or cold, and the sun was out.  Our house had a beautiful view out the big lounge room window, and I spent the whole day in the lounge room.  The staff carried on without me at the café, I suppose Alex must have gone in and unlocked. As with Lola’s birth, my sense of time was distorted.  I remember feeling a bit lonely early on.  Only Alex and Lola were there, and my dog Jessie & cat Saxophone. I was bored, and the contractions were at the annoying stage, not really bad, but not mild enough to sleep or concentrate on doing anything else.  I moved around the lounge room trying unsuccessfully to get comfortable.  It was just like I remembered with Lola’s birth, it felt like if only I could get into a comfortable position, but no position was comfortable.  I wanted to feel grounded and to hold onto something during the contractions.  I had music playing, but I think it got forgotten about, and I would have had my aromatherapy going too.

At some stage my mother arrived, and also Chris, my mum’s friend who lived around the corner from me.  I don’t know what time Kirsty arrived.  I tried standing under the shower, but it wasn’t helping much, and the bath was too small for that to be much use.  Alex stood by me trying to comfort me.  Mum and Chris were looking after Lola.  There’s a nice picture in early labour of Lola looking at my tummy.  We were talking about what was happening and she was really calm and interested.  I’d found a good book from the library and explained to her about the baby, and how she would be born, and showed her pictures of her own birth.  I had some apricot nibbly things, but I don’t really remember how much I ate.  I don’t remember what I had for breakfast or if I had any lunch, and don’t remember drinking, but I’m sure I must have.

Like with Lola’s birth, as soon as the contractions got quite strong I had to make a sound through each one.  It was like a low howl, quite controlled, and I would sustain the sound as long as possible.  It was a bit like vocal exercises for singing, and gave me some sense of control and something to focus on during the contractions.  Shorter contractions might only need one; the long hard ones would take 2 or 3 with a breath between each one. 

I felt the pain was more intense than it had been with Lola’s birth, and I put this down to not being in a big birthing pool this time.  My legs were tired from holding myself up.  I ended up kneeling on the floor leaning over an arm chair.  This is where I gave birth, and I think I’d spent a fair bit of time there. 

I got to transition, and my sounds were turning from a strong controlled howl to a whimper at times.  It was getting really hard to cope with the pain, and I was pleading “it hurts” to Kirsty.  She was really calm, and said yes I know it hurts, it’s supposed to.  She had rung Robyn, who was booked as second midwife, and when she rang her again and she still hadn’t left, it was too late for her to get there, so she called Dawn, another midwife who lived nearby. 

They had a shower curtain with a sheet over it on the floor under me.  There might have been a thin mattress under that, I’m not sure, but our carpet was nice and soft anyway.  Mum and Chris had taken Lola out for a walk; it must have been getting pretty boring for her and everybody, and it was a good idea to give her a break from the howling.  Alex was holding my hand, which I squeezed very tightly with the pain of the contractions.  I realized later I had really hurt his hands and had bent his wedding ring! 

The waters broke spontaneously, and I think this happened fairly shortly before the birth, but it could have been up to a couple of hours.  My concept of time was gone!  My eyes were closed and I was completely introverted, barely able to communicate.  I had discarded my underwear, but for some reason had put my little light hippy dress back on.  All you can see in the photos is my bum as usual, because I was leaning forward.  As my baby descended, the sounds changed to a grunty sort of noise.  As with Lola’s birth, I was able to help push, but it was more like the pushing was happening by itself, and I didn’t have much control over it.  Kirsty guided me through it, saying when to give a little push and when to stop.  Again I felt the stinging feeling at the front, (probably my graze occurring) which was distressing.  I also felt the generalized stinging with the crowning, which I hadn’t felt much the last time, perhaps because of the water.  The pushing felt better than the contractions, and this part was again much easier than the contractions building up to it.  Also, I felt the contractions slowed down and were more spaced apart during second stage, also like the first time.  I was able to give some pushes between contractions, and I think Kirsty had to ask if I was having one or not, because of the noises changing.  In second stage I didn’t always make a sound during the contractions.

Kirsty looped the cord over Ruth’s head, and caught her as she came out.  First her head, then in a short while the rest of her body all at once. Mum, Chris and Lola walked back into the house moments later, having just missed the actual birth, so it must have been Dawn who caught the great photos.

Ruth Margaret was born at 5.18 pm on Saturday the 8th of March 1997, weighing 3550 g, length 52cm, head circumference 35cm.  Her Apgars were 9 and 9.

Kirsty placed her on the floor just under me, and I was helped to sit back on the floor, where I picked her up and held her close, counting her toes.  I’m naked in the photos here, so someone must have helped me out of the silly dress so I could have my baby next to my skin.  She howled good and strong straight away and looked bright pink. 

Kirsty was very unobtrusive, but observing everything acutely.  The cord was clamped after it stopped pulsating, and Alex cut it.  Someone held Ruth while I delivered the placenta, still sitting on the floor with Alex supporting me from behind.  The contractions for the placenta were still painful, but not too bad.  More painful than last time though.  I had the shakes.  I was then helped up into the arm chair where I held Ruth again.  She fed heartily for quite a while, and I had a cup of tea.  No suction or oxygen was needed.  Kirsty did give me the needle in the thigh, probably more as a precaution, because I don’t think I bled as much as with Lola.  I was moved over onto the sofa bed, where I was cosy under the doona with Ruth feeding well.  Lola was with us, and my dog Jessie was beside me. 

When we were all settled and cleaned up, Kirsty weighed Ruth.  She was in a white blanket knitted by my Grandma, and the blanket was suspended from a hook on the scale.  She was 3550 grams, or 7 lb 14 oz.  Her head circumference was 35 cm, and she was 52 cm long.  Phone calls were made and champagne was had by all, with me in the centre of it on the sofa bed with my baby.  She fed really well, and I was fine.  This time I had a 1 degree tear near the urethra (no stitches) and a slight graze.  The graze stung like crazy when I had to wee, so for a few days I had to pour warm water over myself every time I went to the loo.  The next day I was up in the study doing the wages for the café, and 3 days later I was back at work, though mostly just sitting on a stool in the kitchen, supervising.

It was a very difficult and stressful time in my life, with the stress of a struggling business and the breakdown of my marriage soon afterwards, but Ruth’s birth was lovely, and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to have her at home with such good care and my family and pets around me.  How wonderful to now have two beautiful children who could grow up together.



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