This is a long one, best either read in installments or with a ready cup of tea …
The birth of our baby started, for me, on 4 December. On that day I went for a routine post-40 weeks check-up, at which the gynaecologist who performed the ultrasound told me that my amniotic fluid was low. He instructed me to come in the next day to collect a referral to the hospital so that they could do an ultrasound and set a date for inducing labour. After that disappointing news, I went home and stressed out and cried all over the place, called the doula in a panic and so on.
On 5 December I went in to work for a meeting in the morning. When I went to collect the referral, the clinic had closed early that day, so I went home. On 7 December I went back for another check-up, and a different gynaecologist told me that the fluid was fine, but she also recommended setting a date for induction. I said to her that if the whole pregnancy had gone so well, couldn’t we not interfere? She said, fine, we won’t interfere … see you in two days. Unimaginable relief.
Having been given the permission to go into labour when they wanted, my baby and my body decided to start getting what seemed to be contractions in the afternoon of 6 December. It being Chanukah, I made potato pancakes for dinner. At about 8:00pm the contractions were about 8 minutes apart and lasting 40-50 seconds. I called the doula to tell her what was happening, and she recommended trying to rest, and that the contractions could slow down if I managed to sleep. I tried that, listening to a relaxation CD that would usually send me off, but the contractions were so strong that they were distracting me from sleep, so I got up and sat with hubby, eventually reaching a point where I was dealing with the contractions quite loudly … not yelling and screaming, but issuing some very intense humming and la-la-la-ing.
At about 10:00pm the contractions were five minutes apart, and by 11:00 the were 2-3 minutes apart and lasting at least a minute. My husband called the doula, as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get out full sentences. By the time she arrived I had thrown up a couple of times … goodbye potato pancakes. She says we should go to the hospital now, so we leave. Pouring rain outside. The walk from the carpark to the maternity ward should take about 5 minutes, I guess it took us half an hour because I slowed down with every contraction, and threw up again.
At the maternity ward reception there’s no-one there. I get a feeling like I’m peeing myself – like I thought I’d done a while ago at home, the first time I vomited. (In fact, only a few months later did I realise that what I thought was peeing myself at home was the initial stage of my waters breaking.) A woman gives me a stick to pee on, I go to the bathroom and discover my waters have broken. I can’t pee – sitting on the toilet seems to bring on contractions more anyway, so I go back out and say “no-can-do”. They say ok, they’ll check my dilation. As I take off my knickers, the mucous plug comes out, the nurse checks me and, clearly surprised, tells us that I’m 7 centimetres. At this point I’m very deep inside myself dealing with contractions and everything I do takes a long time – like, the nurse says ‘lie on your back’ and I sort of gaze around and take a deep breath and within (what feels like) a couple of minutes, manage to get onto my back. Then she says ‘lie on your left side’ … we wait …
Even with my focus being so strongly on myself, I was registering everything and I was thrilled that I was 7 centimetres. I was also really happy about the waters and the plug because I know many women who have had to have their sac broken for them and to see everything progressing normally like that made me really confident and happy. Anyway, since I was 7 centimetres they sent me through to a birthing room without further checks. I’ve got blood and stuff running down my legs as I walk there. They hook me up to a monitor and I stand around for about an hour while they get stuff ready and keep an eye on the monitor. Arik and the doula have been with me the whole time, and still are. Arik gives the staff our birth plan, which is based on a form that the hospital provides. It looks like none of them have time to read it.
At some point a nurse asks if I’m taking epidural, I say no, she says ok and leaves. They tell me to get up on the bed to check me. I get up, they check me and say ‘start pushing’. They also put an oxygen mask on me and said that the foetus was in some distress and would need that oxygen.
After about an hour and a half of pushing the doctor who had been in and out said that we would have to vacuum him out. The midwives made him give me quite a few more chances to push but it wasn’t happening. Apparently they could see the head and I could have touched it but I wasn’t able to push him out the last two inches. The doctor gave me an episiotomy, and that was the first time I screamed, in frustration and disappointment more than pain. Then they attached the vacuum and in two sucks the head was out. Only from when he cut me did I start screaming, and I only screamed for a few minutes, but it did get a bit crazy painful around about then. When the rest of his body came out the doctor wanted to cut the cord immediately. Arik told him that we wanted to leave it until it stopped pulsing but the doctor didn’t agree, and clamped and cut it. He was born at 2:08am.
They put the baby on my chest immediately after he came out. Then they took him to the other side of the room to clean and weigh him (3.14 kg). They gave him to Arik to hold, and the doula said it would be nice to do it shirtless so Arik lifted his shirt and held the baby like that which I think was a really good start to their relationship. They brought the baby to me again and I was able to start feeding him a bit, he took to it immediately. One of the midwives said she would check to see if the placenta had detached, but when she went to check it was already on the way out anyway. It looked fantastic, I didn’t realise it would be so big. For one day shy of 42 weeks it looked very healthy – to me, anyway! Solid and impressive. Then a nurse massaged my belly so all the other stuff would start coming out. What a huge quantity of … stuff!
After a while they said that had to take the baby away (they do that), we asked for a few more minutes since he was still attached to the breast but in the end they made me pry him off – he immediately started crying, it was terrible! I felt like: great, here’s the first in a long line of disappointments that I’ll be guilty for causing … anyway, all the rest was stitching and recovery room and being hooked up to a pitocin drip to encourage uterine contractions, and a room in a ward. That’s basically how the birth went. I haven’t spoken much about Arik and the doula but I couldn’t have done it without either of them and Arik especially was an amazing advocate, always repeating to me what they were doing, and making sure that I agreed that it was ok and things like that.
Apparently at one point the nurses were trying to get the needle in my arm, in case I needed an IV. They couldn’t find a vein in my left arm, so eventually switched to the right … but they had tried so hard, and so many times in the left, that I had a huge bruise for days. I didn’t even remember them trying! If I’d noticed, I’d have told them that my right was better for veins. That’s how focused I was on my insides, I guess – I had very little idea of what else was happening.
So that’s my story. I do think it was a pity that I couldn’t push him out all by myself, and also a pity that the doctor cut the cord so soon, and a dreadful pity that they took the baby away from me so quickly, but the whole initial and transition parts of the labour at home, and the waters breaking spontaneously, and the dilation, and the drugless birth were things I had fantasised about and I was really happy that those things happened the way they did!