This is the second instalment in the story of Juno’s birth – read the first here!
It was 8am in the morning, I had been experiencing contractions for almost twelve hours. My wonderful friend and midwife, Nikki had arrived and we were all excited about the journey towards meeting our new baby.
Shortly after Ramona and Mum left, in response to me feeling a bit “Eeep, I can’t do this!” (mostly due to back pain) we hunkered down in the front room. We put on some classical (I don’t usually listen to classical but in late pregnancy had really been getting down to some Mozart, weird eh?) and I kind of snoozed. Like really, totally napped and blissed out.
A second midwife appeared and after this bliss out on the sofa – which possibly lasted about an hour but time goes a bit quantum during labour, eh?- I went into the kitchen to say hi, to sip at a cuppa and bounce on the ball. As we chatted I had a few surprise big surges and things shifted into another gear.
The birth pool was full and I was ready to jump in. I hadn’t gone in earlier as I had wanted to sort of save it up for when I really needed relief. When I finally tumbled my behemothic body into the pool it was with the ecstasy of an Oompa Loompa diving into a chocolate lake.
I was so happy. The hot water and buoyancy eased my back pain. The contractions were really hitting me up with their bad selves. The baby was coming. I reached up, I felt her head. I would meet her soon.
I had one or two big, beautiful squeezing surges and then WOAH she hit the ejection button! My whole body was pushing in the most magnificent way! The contractions were quite far apart but they were extremely purposeful!
Tim was leaning on the edge of the pool and I leant my head on his arms in one of those breaks between contractions – those breaks that are sheer NOTHINGNESS. Your body empties, your mind empties. I caught his eyes and smiled “This is EXACTLY what birth is meant to be like, Tim!”
The midwives had laid out the tools of their trade and had the mirror in position.
With the next push I got a cramp in my leg. It was the most excruciating pain! How bizarre that something as rubbish as a cramp could outdo the feeling of a contraction?! I think there was something about being mentally able to deal labour pains. I was fully prepared. My whole body and mind was involved in meeting each wave, in anticipating and greeting and getting through it. And then this sneaky cramp jumped in and threw everything out of kilter.
That cramp heralded another stage in labour, it changed the course of Juno’s birth and after much analyzing I still don’t know why.
Since getting the push reflex my midwife had been monitoring me, just the occasional blood pressure and baby’s heart rate. After the cramp, she upped her monitoring and got quite anxious.
My temperature was up, my blood pressure was up and the baby’s heart rate was up. It was decided it would be better for me to get out of the pool, to get my temperature down, have a drink and to see how things progress.
Within moments the pushing reflex faded and the contractions continued to be quite far apart.
My vitals were all screaming, just as they had with Ramona’s birth. The homebirth that ended up in hospital.
Unbeknown to me the midwives were a bit worried, they called their supervisor and consulted her. This was a dedicated home birth team, committed to supporting safe home births but even so it was decided that if my temperature, pressure and baby’s heart rate didn’t decrease within half an hour I should get transferred to hospital. They were worried about an infection and a posterior position amongst other things. A back to back labour can imitate some of the stages of real labour without other parts of the system being qute ready. A sort of “false” transition and ejection reflex can happen, without the the passage being open.
I allowed my midwife to do the first vaginal examination of the labour. I was only at 4cm. (Which, in a way suggests something… and in another way says nothing at all.)
Was my body acting like it was all systems go, when it actually wasn’t, because of a back to back position? Nikki could only feel the part of the baby’s head that would suggest was posterior. It would explain the extreme back pain. But, maybe I was only at 4cm because I was being examined? Maybe I had been more ready but closed up? Legendary midwife Ina May Gaskin does recall births where mothers have closed back from 9cm dilated due to fear. She also recalls a mother opening from 5cm to fully dilated in the course of 3 surges. The question I still wonder about today, is whether if I had just stayed in the pool and left my body alone, would this have happened to me?
Tim and I went up to the bedroom to half some time alone, to try and get contractions firming up again and to try and lower my temperature etc.
Of course, I was really out of the zone now and fighting a fug of disappointment. I downed water and twiddled nipples and marched and spoke to my baby.
Come on out! It is safe here for you.
Half an hour later, at about 12pm my midwife came in for a check and things were still in warning mode.
They called an ambulance.
Within moments I was buckled into the back, siren blazing, heading for the hospital. The ambulance people were trying to be kind but I was pretty mad. Just absolutely gutted that things had changed so dramatically within half an hour.
During the hospital transfer with Ramona’s birth I was stoic and still in the zone. This time I was just deflated.
We arrived at the hospital and got into a quiet room. They put me on a IV to hydrate me and after some discussion I let them put in a drip of antibiotics to ward off any possible infection, as my signs were indicating this was the case.
My midwife sat down with me and gave me a pep talk.
I was so close! The baby could be out in just an hour or two! I perked up – really?! Shall I go for a walk to try and make that happen?! She bought me back down to earth by suggesting a tiny bit of Syntocin (fake oxytocin) would help. Oh man, really? Not that crap again? On one hand I was grateful for the Syntocin I had during Ramona’s birth as after three days I was completely wrecked and I fully believe that things might have ended up on a surgeons table without it. On the other hand I knew all about Michel Odent’s work on naturally produced oxytocin, on how vital it is for mother, baby and world peace!!!
In the end I considered my baby’s head… She had been tucked in quite a tight spot for many hours now, I knew she was ready to make an appearance. I also felt that I didn’t have the emotional resource left to get out of my fug and get in the zone by myself.
I asked for the smallest dose of oxytocin and the assurance that despite being hooked up I could still have an active birth.
My community midwife had to leave now so I was introduced to the hospital midwife. Julia was quiet and respectful and was everything a midwife should be. We barely knew she was there.
I knelt down, my head on Tim’s lap. My hips wide open. The syntocin was kicking in. The surges were back and I was able to greet them. My bad mood ebbed away as the surges took all my concentration. I breathed them towards me and breathed them away again.
The room was dark, the midwife was the ideal part of the furniture, there were no interruptions. I could squat, rock, spiral and kneel. Again I was cocooned in the task of giving birth to a new soul.
Surges built, turning from squeezes to downward flexes. I could feel myself opening, opening, opening.
5 hours after I originally thought we were going to meet our baby, we were going to meet her!
She arrived sooner than I thought she would, just a few big pushy surges and here was her head! Oh! Her head only managed to get half out!!!
A few minutes passed with my vagina grasping my baby’s head, awaiting the final surge. I was aware of all the sensation that involved, but I was mostly just filled with the excitement and anticipation of meeting my baby!
And one final surge…. Here she is! She slithers out, I clutch at her through my legs, sit back on my heels and welcome our new baby.
We leave the cord for a few minutes and then it is cut. I was considering a lotus birth but due to the syntocin the hospital is worried about haemorrhaging. I get an extra shot to get the placenta out quickly for the same reason.
I am gazing at my baby in too much awe to feel any disappointment about not having a lotus birth, or even eating the placenta as I had considered- slightly to my husband’s disgust!
It is 7:30 pm and we call my mum and 20 minutes later Ramona tiptoes into the room, climbs on my lap and meets her new sister, Juno Atawhai.
There is just one more little instalment to come… Hospital: The Great Escape and also some of the feelings and left over emotions I have about this second birth.