VERY POSITIVE experience, even though it took a day or two for me to process everything.
First time parents
Gender: Known baby boy
Name: Bastian Hancke-Coles
Born: 21 March 2021 (38+6)
Due date: 28 March 2021
Planned: Water birth at Maternity Clinic
Actual: Dry land at Maternity Clinic
Duration: Four hours, 30 minutes from water breaking
Pain relief: Hypnobirthing, paracetamol
Complications: Bub’s heart rate not recovering enough after contractions. Head at awkward position during pregnancy, some cranial swelling at birth. Born during Covid-19 pandemic.
Giving birth naturally always seemed like a kind of right of passage to me, something I wanted to achieve. I do yoga and some meditation, so hypno-birthing sounded like something worth investigating.
I’m one of those annoyingly over-achieving, planning people, which means I did everything I could to prepare for this birth. I tend to blame myself when things go wrong. So my mindset going in was this: All the preparing may or may not help, but it certainly can’t hurt, and if the poo hits the fan, I’ll know it wasn’t anything I did or didn’t do.
We had to get tested for Covid-19 at 38 weeks and isolate until the birth. So the Iast week I spent working from home. On Friday some contractions slowly started to arrive, all the aches and pains had returned. Hubby and I were trying absolutely every trick to get labour going and the oxytocin flowing: pineapple, curry, dates, all the homeopathic stuff, including raspberry leaf extract on top of the tea I had been drinking. We watched a nice movie and went to bed as usual.
Saturday 20 March
Oxytocin day: dearest hubby decided it was GAME ON OXYTOCIN, and spent the whole day treating me like a queen. In the afternoon I forced myself to get up and we took the dogs for a walk at the park and bought ice cream from the stand there.
I started losing a tiny bit of my mucus plug. We watched a Michael McIntyre show and laughed a ton. All in all, it was a lovely, stress-free day.
We went to bed as normal but I was feeling very sore and uncomfortable, so had two paracetamols before bed.
11pm: I chased hubby to the spare bedroom after he complained about my snoring.
Midnight: My water broke in bed, and I lost a bit more of the mucus plug. I sent the midwife a message, but she was obviously asleep. I started timing contractions. Hubby got up to go to the bathroom and found me up, so I happily told him we were having our baby. Thinking it would be hours, I sent him back to bed to get some rest.
1am: The Freya app said I was in established labour. This timed I phone the midwife and told her, but she didn’t trust my app, so asked me to time them manually. I was supposed to do this for 40 minutes, but luckily after 20 she asked for an update and couldn’t believe that I was having five contractions in 10 minutes already. This was around 2am, and she immediately told me to get going to the maternity clinic, but said that if I was less than 4cm dilated we would be sent home.
It’s usually a 30 minute drive, so I was hoping for the best. I woke hubby, we frantically loaded the last things into the car and sorted out the pets. By then contractions had ramped up quite a bit, but I still made him unpack the dishwasher so the dirty things could be put away before we left, as his aunt would be coming over to feed the animals while we were away. Priorities, right?!
As we got to the car I realised hubby thought I would be sitting next to him, so he had packed some stuff on the backseat next to the car seat. I quickly told him that wouldn’t be happening, so he had to reshuffle everything. We drove there with me on my knees, clinging to the back rest.
I tried my best to do the up breathing during the drive, listening with my headphones. I immediately had to put it on three and six seconds and even then I struggled to make it through as contractions were full on by this stage. Luckily the drive was only 15 minutes as it was the middle of the night.
03:15: He dropped me in front of the entrance. Luckily they were expecting me and I was taken to a room immediately, in pyjamas with no mask in sight. Here the details get a bit fuzzy for me.
In my original version I lost control of my breathing completely at this point and never managed to get it under control. I was screaming like mad and in agony and thought I was in the red zone all the way through to the end, but after talking it through with hubby, it turns out this is how it actually went …
When we got to the room they immediately made me lie on my back and did a vaginal examination. I’d never been so happy to hear the words “8cm” in my life. They were trying to monitor baby’s heartbeat, but because the contractions were so intense and I was completely in the red, they kept having to start again and I kept asking to be on my hands and knees instead.
By the third time, hubby stepped up and insisted that they let me turn over. As the baby’s heart rate wasn’t recovering enough after contractions I was no longer allowed in the birthing pool, so there went my peaceful water birth … In hindsight, it went so fast I doubt they would have managed to fill it in time anyway.
At this stage apparently I had calmed down quite a bit and seemed focused and kept telling him that I was okay – even though I was shaking like crazy: hormones, I think? Suddenly it was time to push: I couldn’t believe it. I don’t recall the transition between the up stage and down stage. But my husband says he clearly saw it happening as he knew what to look out for.
After a while on hands and knees my midwife suggested I try squatting instead, so got down next to the bed but quickly went from squatting to leaning over the bed. There are pics of me leaning on the midwife’s back for support while she was on her hands and knees on the floor, but I have no recollection of this.
Around then we were told that the baby’s head was quite swollen and not to be alarmed when he came out. Apparently I was struggling with the pushing. I do remember that the down contractions were way milder and definitely more spaced out.
This is the only time I felt a bit pushed, as suddenly – and what felt like out of the blue – I was told they would be phoning the gynaecologist to do an assisted delivery if I didn’t get baby out in the next few minutes. Hubby and I both got a hell of a fright at this, and when told to push hard, that is exactly what I did. I knew at that point that I was going to tear, but was worried for baby’s safety, so did as asked.
In hindsight, I wish we had stopped here and asked them if this was now an emergency, because I suspect that it wasn’t quite that bad and I could’ve at least tried to do it slower, as I really wanted to avoid getting stitches.
He came shooting out like a cannonball, in one go. That was the biggest feeling of relief! Time of birth was 4.32am. We did delayed cord clamping and randomly sang Happy Birthday to him, and dad cut the cord. This is now my favourite video clip of all time
He then did skin-to-skin while we were waiting for the placenta to be delivered. Interestingly enough, my contractions completely stopped when baby popped out and never came back.
Waiting for the placenta took a while. I started worrying about surgical removal, but I was given the injection and finally the placenta came loose and plopped out. I had to confirm that we didn’t want to take it home and do weird things with it: I even had to sign a form to confirm they should dispose of it.
When checked over I had one small first degree tear that didn’t require stitches, but in the end it wouldn’t stop bleeding, so they closed it up anyway. The other tear was probably second degree, but also only required three stitches.
This was by far the worst bit of the whole labour process. For some strange reason they don’t use local anaesthetic, only a numbing spray. This obviously runs off if there are other liquids like blood, so I didn’t find it especially effective. I was swearing like a sailor trying to get through that, but somehow I made it.
After this my midwife helped me to have a shower and I got back into the bed for the first feed.
Hubby and I were both in a bit of a shock because of how fast this baby came. We didn’t even have time to unpack anything, let alone set up the room, but we were happy that it was over and everyone was doing fine. I only realised afterwards that it didn’t even cross my mind to ask for pain relief: I was just focused on getting the baby out and knowing that things were going really fast, so it would be over soon.
The private rooms at the clinic each have their own little garden and by the afternoon I was feeling well enough to go outside with bub and get a bit of fresh air.
- Do not let bum troubles escalate, ever. If they are there, be sure it will be three times worse after labour. Luckily I pre-empted this and made sure to keep everything as loose as possible. Getting through the first few days after would’ve been an absolute nightmare if one happened to be blocked up on top of everything else.
- This one I’ve read on this group a few times and then I still ignored it initially. Do yourself a favour and get a pack of incontinence pants – they are soooo much more comfy than the stupid mesh panties and you can still put pads in there to make them last longer.
- Make sure to take your partner through the birthing bag so he can know where to find things and also be aware of what you packed.
- Even better would be to have a smaller bag of the main essentials so he can just throw everything out and grab as needed if you have a very fast labour. I took so much care to pack but didn’t bother to give him a tour. High energy snacks, energade, as well as the handheld fan and room spray would’ve made a huge difference, as well as Freya counting on a speaker. But as I was barely able to speak, I only managed to whisper and ask for some Energade close to the the end. All the snacks and things did come in handy after the birth, though.
You can follow Berna’s parenting journey on Instagram @schneckicreative.