This is Paula’s story:
With my firstborn, there was no indication of her impending arrival until my labour started and she was born 24 hours later. At 37 weeks with Aurora, I started getting little nigglings each night that suggested she would be arriving shortly; along with the less glamorous aspects, such as losing bits of my mucous plug.
Finally, on a Sunday at 39+2 I woke up at 2am to the beginnings of a bloody show. I quickly jumped back into bed and eagerly awaited the surges. Sure enough, they began lightly and very soon were regular at 8 minutes apart. We were birthing at a hospital 1.5 hours away but only 12 minutes away from my parents house, so the plan was to get to their house soon after labour started. I decided to get up and slowly pack the car while my partner, Sam, and 4 year old daughter slept. Once all that was done, I woke the gang up and we were on our way to my parents. During the drive, the surges were relatively light but getting closer together- at one stage they were only 3 minutes apart! We got to mum and dad’s, unpacked and went back into bed to rest. The surges however, began to slow down. I watched the sun slowly rise and realised that they were 10 minutes apart, so I got out of bed and decided to jump on our fit ball and watch a comedy series. Sadly, the surges spaced out even more and when they were 20 minutes apart, I gave up and went back to bed.
That day, we went out to lunch and on a nice long walk, sure that once it got dark things would pick up. Night came and went and I woke up the next morning feeling dejected and very emotional. I messaged Hypnobirthing Australia™ practitioner, friend, neighbour and all round great person, Elyse, to have a tanti. She gave me some words of wisdom and then I promptly went to bed and had a big cry. This baby was quite clearly never going to exit my vagina.
That done, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and get dressed. The only problem was that I had packed clothes for a non-pregnant me, as I was supposed to give birth yesterday. That decided my course of action, we were going to spend the day at a shopping centre and I was going to drown my sorrows in cheap Kmart clothing. (I should mention, that I was still getting 2-3 surges every hour since the day before).
Clothes purchased, I decided to sort out my phone contract while we were ‘in the big smoke.’ It’s around this time that I noticed the surges were making me stop and breathe. I told the man at the Telstra shop to just ignore me if I had to stop talking suddenly, that I’d be having my baby any day now. He suddenly stopped trying to log onto his computer, excused himself and returned a minute later with a piece of paper. He told me to just sign my name, circle the plan I was after and he’d do the rest. Sure enough, half an hour later I received a text saying that it was all sorted. Best customer service ever.
Back at the parents house, I watched as Sam cooked dinner. Slowly, the surges increased in frequency and I had to start walking through them. I still didn’t think much of them- they tricked me once, the were probably tricking me again.
I download a ‘contraction timer’ app, just to help keep tabs on things. About 6 minutes apart, no big deal. It’s about 3pm, Sam finishes cooking, we go upstairs and I start jumping on the fit ball. Sam starts giving me light touch massages. The surges are strong and I’m watching the TV screen- our daughter is watching Peppa Pig- and thinking that this is the worst show ever but if I turn it off I’ll have to start parenting and I don’t think I can do that right now. Sam asks if I want some dinner but I’m not hungry.
The surges increase in intensity. Our daughter goes down to have a bath and I start moaning through each surge. I’m leaning over the back of the couch, swaying from side to side. I still don’t think this baby is coming anytime soon. I start getting the shakes. It’s around 7pm and I again message Elyse and she suggests calling the hospital (unbeknownst to me, she also messaged Sam telling him to make sure there are towels in the car, just in case we don’t make it there in time). I do just that, and tell them that the surges are 3-4 minutes apart (I’ve added a photo of the contractions app – I stopped timing when I called the hospital and as you can see, they were actually more like 1-2 minutes apart 😬). They listen through a surge and suggest I stay home. I tell them that I’m getting the shakes and that I’d prefer to come in, just in case. I text our friend, Nat, who we organised to photograph either the birth or soon after- she has a young family of her own, so we agreed earlier that she would come when she could. I tell Nat that I’m heading to the hospital and she suggests that she should start making her way over but I tell her to wait until I talk to the midwives – I think there’s a chance that all this could stop and I could still be pregnant tomorrow.
"My contraction timer. For some reason I thought my surges were 3-4 minutes apart here."
On the drive to the hospital, I decide to start listening to my hypnobirthing tracks. I’ve done lots of prep work and I find Melissa’s voice instantly calming. We get to the hospital and I tell Sam to just park in the usual car park, I’d like the walk. In my nightie, trusty robe and ugg boots, stopping several times as I breathe and moan through surges. We walk up the steps to the maternity ward and wait until they let us in. There’s a couple with a young boy behind us and I hear the dad telling their son that I’m a very special lady, that I’m about to have a baby. I then hear Sam say something about it being easy. I stick my middle finger up.
We get buzzed into the maternity ward and wait at reception for what feels like forever. Finally, we get put into an examination room but there’s still more waiting. I’m still listening to the hypno tracks but I don’t feel comfortable in the room. The midwife we get given is lovely but likes to touch. I currently don’t like being touched. As I’m surging, she touches my bump for 10 minutes and tells me that I’m doing a great job. I’m focussing very much on breathing down to my baby, it feels good.
The midwife (Hannah, I think? Let’s call her Hannah) asks if I want an internal examination now or later. Apparently, they require an internal within the first 4 hours. I say later (lolz, no, I won’t be having one). I request a bath, which Hannah is happy to provide but warns there’s no waterbirthing midwife on at the moment. She tells me her shift ends at 10pm and there might be one on then. I say that’s fine and Hannah goes and organises the bath. I text Nat and suggest she comes.
There’s still more waiting. I’m really struggling in this room. It’s bright and cramped. I don’t voice this out loud though. Hannah comes in and out letting me know that the bath is slowly filling.
Finally, finally the bath is ready. When I jump in, it’s glorious. I tell Hannah just how fabulous it is when the surges ramp up even more. I lean over the edge of the bath. I ask for ‘Tranquil Chambers’ to play in the background and then Sam starts pouring warm water over my back. The lights are out and there’s just a big, beautiful salt lamp on in the room. Suddenly, I’m extremely nauseous through a surge. I remember this happening when I birthed my first daughter; very early in that labour the nausea started and I think that I still have so long to go. I ask for something to take the nausea away as I don’t fancy feeling like I’m going to vomit for the next several hours. Again, it feels like forever for the anti-nausea tablet to come. In that time, I vomit all throughout a surge. It feels better now but I still take the tablet when I get it. Another strong surge starts and Hannah tries to listen to the foetal heartbeat. The doppler squeals loudly as it enters the water and I feel white-hot rage. I kindly suggest that she waits until this surge is over.
I get told that it’s changeover time and there is a waterbirthing midwife on the night shift. It turns out to my mum’s friend, Gemma, and I’m so relieved. Hannah is lovely but have I mentioned that she likes to touch? And I still do not want anyone to touch me. She again feels my surges for 10 minutes. I then hear her telling Gemma how things are going. I don’t know what exactly she says but in my mind I interpret it as my contractions are still far apart and I think ‘fuck, still so much more to go.’ I ask Gemma if it’s too soon for gas and she assures me it’s not. I have one big surge with the gas while Hannah is still talking to Gemma. I let out a big, long roar, or as Sam said afterwards, it was as if I was yelling ‘shut up!’ I refocus, ensuring that each sound I make goes down to my baby and not up high.
"She's here! At 10:02pm"
Reflecting on my labour afterwards, I realise how my body instinctively drew on the hypnobirthing skills that I practiced in the months leading up to Aurora’s birth. I didn’t have a pain free birth. It wasn’t easy. But I felt in control and I enjoyed the experience. There were parts where my brain disconnected and my body just did its thing.
Part of me wants to say that I’ve been lucky; both of my births have been fantastic. However, I think back to the blog post that Elyse wrote about how she wasn’t lucky, she put in a lot of work to ensure she birthed her twins like a boss. Likewise, although nowhere near to the same extent, I feel as though I had the births that I did due to the preparation I put into them.
So, if you’re reading this and you’re pregnant; do the work and trust yourself, you’ve got this, mama.
Aurora (photo by Natalie Hodgkin Photography)
Meeting big sister (photo by Natalie Hodgkin Photography)
Committed to preparing for your AMAZING birth, just like Paula? Let’s chat, to find out how I can best support you.
Elyse Jamieson – Hypnobirthing Australia™ Practitioner & Doula
Supporting women and couples who are truly committed to working towards their positive birth in Phillip Island, Wonthaggi, Leongatha, South Gippsland, and surrounding areas.
* featured image, by Natalie Hodgkin Photography