Not only were Erika’s teachings and advice a useful tool during labour and birth, I was able to apply a lot of them to my life in general (as well as the relationship with my husband and son), and it allowed me to enjoy my little family and appreciate what I had all the more. I have been able to carry much of this since Liam’s birth. As well as the personal benefits for me, the benefits for us as a family of 4 are amazing too. The family dynamic is a happier, stronger one, with a happier, more confident, more relaxed mama running the show.
My thoughts about Miranda
I shed a tear when I first read Miranda’s testimonal. She had made such effort to prepare for labour and birth….and she did it! She had a VBAC and was so proud, as was Ryan. Not only of having a VBAC though, she had made changes in her day to day life for the better. She knew what had to be done to be ready, and did it. So her journey is as much a success as the outcome, if not more and that’s something that will last and make an impact on her family for a long time to come. Well done Miranda and Ryan, I wish you and your beautiful family the very best : )
Miranda’s story about her first birth of Ezekiel can be found after the testimonial.
Her VBAC story is now written on her blog
Erika is so sincere. When she tells you that she believes in you, and that you can do it, you believe her, her words and tone are so honest and heartfelt, and it is a huge benefit during labour to have someone who believes in you, and restore your own faith when you might have lost some yourself. Erika genuinely had faith in my body and my ability to give birth, and was never afraid to tell me so. She was never ‘reading from a script’ when supporting me, she meant everything she told me, and hearing such honest, supportive words was a great source of comfort and power. She shared my pride and joy when I was going well, and understood and acknowledged my fear and tiredness – an emotional support the midwives didn’t provide.
Her intuition was amazing too, the first meeting was kind of awkward as I don’t do well with meeting new people, but Erika put me totally at ease, and I felt right away that I had chosen well and could trust her completely. From the first meeting it felt like Erika knew exactly who I was, and what I would need from her. For every one thing I told her it was like there were two things I didn’t need to say, she was able to tune in to me provide exactly what I needed.
Erika’s services encompassed all of me, my mental and emotional state were supported as much as the physical changes, and she understood that my husband’s support was extremely important to me, she always respected that as my primary comfort and never intruded on our connection, but supported hubby fully too, so that he could be there for me. There is no clock or textbook for Erika, everything simply happens when it should, the way it should, and she will work with whatever happens, in the way you need it. She worked from moment to moment, first completely patient and gentle (even when I was swearing black and blue!) the next challenging me and be strong and firm when I needed to keep going.
Not only were Erika’s teachings and advice a useful tool during labour and birth, I was able to apply a lot of them to my life in general as well as the relationship with my husband and son, and it allowed me to enjoy my little family and appreciate what I had all the more. I have been able to carry much of this since Liam’s birth as well, and as well as the personal benefits for me, the benefits for us as a family of 4 are amazing too. The family dynamic is a happier, stronger one, with a happier, more confident, more relaxed mama running the show.
I could go on almost forever about how wonderful Erika’s care as my doula was, but in short it was absolutely amazing and invaluable and took into account every aspect about me, truly complete mental, physical and emotional preparation, education and support. Ryan, Zeke, Liam and I cannot thank her enough for her brilliant care.
Miranda March 2011
Mirandas first birth experience with Zeke
Where to begin? Two weeks on and I’m still not quite sure where Zeke’s eventful birth story starts. Does it begin with May 8, when I thought he’d arrive, or May 19th when he should have arrived?
My due date came and went, after weeks of thinking that he would arrive early I was surprised (and a little disappointed… I was ready to meet my baby!) with every day that passed.
At every prenatal appointment I was told that the baby’s head (we were waiting till birth to find out the gender) still hadn’t descended into my pelvis at all, despite the optimal foetal positioning I had religiously been practising. Zeke had begun to work his way around to a left anterior position, (he had spent the last few weeks posterior) but was more than happy floating up high… well away from my cervix.
I had a number of chiropractic appointments in the last few weeks, in order to prepare my pelvis and hips, and received the wonderful news that everything there was stretching and softening well and physically I was in great shape for labour and birth… turns out the baby had inherited daddy’s stubborn nature!
41 weeks came and went too… the midwives were concerned as the head was still high, I was not dilated much (about 1cm) and Zeke obstinately had his hands jammed up by his face making it impossible for him to fit into my pelvis. After a check up and an ultrasound it was decided by the Birth Centre GP to induce at 42weeks exactly… June 2nd
This was a hard decision for me, I had planned a natural birth, possibly in the water at the Birth Centre, and induction would mean I would be transferred to the main maternity ward instead. Zeke was healthy and well, he had plenty of fluid around him, and his cord and placenta were in great shape. However physically I was exhausted… my hips and back hurt constantly and my entire body had broken out in a stress rash… a sign that it was overworked and if I didn’t do something soon I would not only be tired, but sick as well.
Given that Zeke was well, but I wasn’t it felt like a selfish decision to induce. If he was fine and obviously not ready to come out, why force him… but on the other hand, I was so tired (I was barely able to sleep for more than half an hour in a stretch) how would I cope with possibly another week of pregnancy and then labour? After many talks with my mother, my partner Ryan and my doula Julie I decided for my own well being to go ahead with the induction rather than wait for spontaneous labour.
Julie especially was great in helping me make the decision. She understood both my desire to have the natural birth I planned, and the eagerness to JUST HAVE MY BABY…. NOW! She explained the pros and cons of transferring to the main ward, and what induction would involve, and generally made sure I wasn’t making an uninformed decision. It was with her counselling and advice I finally felt comfortable with the decision to head in at 7am Monday June 2nd for induction, and allowed my appointment to stay on the record.
This didn’t mean I was just going to sit around the house and wait for Monday morning though! I had two acupuncture appointments, which triggered some decent Braxton Hicks contractions, stayed as upright and mobile as possible – shuffling around the house with sciatic pain – ate curry, a very long drive on a bumpy road, had hot baths and generally sent as many loving labour vibes to my belly as I possibly could! However the only thing I achieved by this was a hole in our wallets, a near-empty petrol tank, a constant need to soak in the bath to relieve my back pain, what must be a huge water bill and a lot of curry!
After a sleepless night on the Sunday, Ryan and I dragged ourselves out of bed to call the hospital and confirm they were still ready for me to come in for induction. We were given the all clear, so after a couple of quick phone calls to our parents, a brief text to Julie letting her know we were heading off, and a think about breakfast, I couldn’t eat due to a combination of anxiety and excitement, we did one last check of the car and headed off to the hospital.
Despite my inability to eat breakfast, I still felt thoroughly queasy during the ride and ended up vomiting into an old Hungry Jack’s drink cup! How very glamorous, and what a way to start the day! It had been some weeks since my last bout of morning sickness (at about 18weeks), and the need to constantly have a ‘munt bag’ (an old plastic shopping bag) in the car had long since passed… or so we thought! Ryan pulled over into a (thankfully empty) industrial estate where I left a lovely offering in their gutter and we continued on our way… keeping the cup with us just in case my nerves got the better of me again!
We arrived at the hospital and headed straight upstairs to the maternity ward where we were shown to a delivery room and checked in. They checked my blood pressure (I remember it being remarkably high for me… I think it was 110/60… nervous much?) and other stats, and asked me something I would come to answer what felt like hundreds of times over the next few days… “What are you allergic to?” Answer: beestings, nickel and peanuts.
20 minutes later the obstetrician arrived and performed THE MOST PAINFUL internal exam I had had to date… it was her doing that I would later announce that I’d “rather have a caesarean than another internal exam!” I had had two exams in the past week, both of which I found uncomfortable, but bearable, but this OB rammed her in fingers without any warning, which had me squirming back up the bed trying to get away. In retrospect she had all the grace and delicacy of a rugby player tackling his opponent at the waist! She said I was still 1cm dilated but my cervix was much softer, and inserted the prostaglandin gel. It immediately started some decent cramps, a lot like period pain, but felt stronger (alternately not having had any for some months may have been why they felt so bad.) As soon as they started the only thing I wanted to do was get off my back, but I had to stay put for half an hour or so, so the gel had time to soak in or something.
Those 30 minutes were SOOOOOO slow, but once I was on my feet again it was much better, my back and butt hurt a LOT less than when I was lying down. I was able to waddle around, and went out to the courtyard in the hospital a few times and while Ryan fielded phone calls, I leant on the fence around the fish pond and watched the carp swimming around, relaxing as much as I could and stared at ‘Tumour Fish’… the biggest fish in the pond with these weird growths on its body! ‘Tumour Fish’ became a good friend and distraction during the 3 or 4 trips we made down to the courtyard… he gave me something else to think about!
After a while (an hour or so I guess, maybe two, I really didn’t watch the clock… I know I ate some lunch at some point) we called mum as Ryan was hungry and had no cash, and the hospital cafeteria didn’t have an ATM, so she came to the rescue, also bringing me fruit in jelly – which I didn’t eat in the end – and some drinks, which would be ignored in favour firstly of iced water (the drinks mum had bought weren’t cold) and then “Julie’s drink”… not 100% sure what it was, but it was yummy and had something that really helped keep me going… I think it was basically an electrolyte powder in water, but I really enjoyed it, particularly the slight fizzy-ness and had a bit of a sook later on when I was offered water instead of the drink when Julie was out of the room!
My sciatica kicked in a little while after mum left, and I began to have trouble with my leg aching, which made it harder to walk, and I began to spend contractions kneeling on the floor with my head in Ryan’s lap. My back had begun to ache too, I think at this point Zeke began to rotate back into his pregnancy preferred posterior presentation, away from the optimal LOA positioning I had spent the last week trying to coax him into! After requesting a – lukewarm and thoroughly useless – heat pack, I asked Ryan to call Julie and get her to come in… I was getting pretty anti-social as the contractions (though mild) were coming fairly close together and I didn’t want to talk to anyone on the phone – a sign that I was definitely feeling a bit crappy, I usually have constant verbal diarrhoea! Mind you, even going to the loo was a bit of an effort, the cramping made sitting on the toilet very unpleasant, and going itself impossible, so I would kind of hover and wait for the cramp to pass.
The midwives were in and out through all of this checking how often the contractions came, and I complained about the heat pack. I was brought a new one, which wasn’t much hotter, but helped ease the ache in my right thigh. They offered me the opportunity to go into the ward instead of sitting in the labour room, but I said I would be happier in private and where I had a nice birth mat to kneel/lie/flop on, a toilet that was actually in the same room as I was, and a bigger floor space to attempt to waddle around when I could.
Julie arrived not long after that, and massaged my thigh for a while which helped more, she had also bought her own heat packs which she heated herself and made them MUCH hotter – lovely! This allowed me to get back up on my feet, and after (grudgingly) allowing the midwife to strap on battery operated CTG receivers we padded up and down the hallway, stopping to lean on Ryan when another contraction came and rocking my hips, with Julie guiding me to rock clockwise as I seemed to have no sense of direction!
The CTG was a pain in the ass! Zeke had never liked them (I had had 3 or 4 during the last 2 weeks and he had obstinately fought and punched at everyone, meaning it often took far longer than ‘normal’ to get a decent reading) and would continually move away from the receiver, causing the machine to beep loudly when it lost his heartbeat. This sent us shuffling back to the room so the midwife could re-position the receiver, and with Zeke’s heartbeat throbbing away, we’d set off again, only to have him move away and make the CTG start beeping again! Lather, rinse and repeat for some time. I also remember having an icy pole while walking, I think they were trying to ‘wake’ Zeke to see some acceleration in his heart rate, but he was more than happy asleep… and I was more than happy to enjoy the icy pole!
After an hour or so of walking around, still with a massive cramp down my leg, I was given another internal (why on earth did I consent to another one?) and was told that I had made little progress, I was about 2cm dilated by then but my cervix had effaced properly, and that the contractions were mostly caused by the gel so they wanted to send me to the ward. They also couldn’t give me another lot of gel or start the drip because the baby’s head was still too high. (All the loving vibes in the world don’t work when Zeke’s made his mind up!)
I really didn’t want to go into to the ward, I was sure for some reason (turns out I was wrong… and why would they have done that anyway?) that I would be put in a shared room and have no privacy, but as I really wasn’t making much progress, they were pretty keen to get me out of the delivery suite. Fortunately something ‘down there’ got the message, and another hour later, the contractions had really picked up I was declared ‘officially’ in labour and I started to have some trouble with them… making a bit of noise, and beginning to be uncomfortable in most positions.
It was during this point when the contractions really picked up that I was back on the CTG for a bit, other than the stuffing around needed to find Zeke’s heart I didn’t mind them too much, I enjoyed being able to hear his heart drumming away. Although given how high his head still was it was pretty counter-productive having to sit/lie for the duration, I probably would have been better off upright and moving around as much as I could. I think it was sometime around now that Ryan would later comment “Those contractions were going ALL THE WAY to the top of the chart!” My response “Don’t remind me! I could FEEL them!”
The midwife on at the time offered me a bath, which I jumped at the idea of, and she went to run it while I hugged heat packs, and tried to take the pressure off my back. There was a bit of messing around with the STUPID #%^$%@ CTG machines again before I could get in the bath properly, and then once I had, the tape they used to stick the receivers on dissolved, so they had to tape them on again, then Zeke moved… then the glue wore off… finally they used the elastic stretchy bands they normally use with great success, they had only not wanted to use the bands because having wet fabric would be ‘uncomfortable’… when my whole belly was already immersed, go figure?
At last I could relax in the bath, I can’t really be sure if it helped with the contractions much, but finally having all the weight off my back was fantastic, I immediately felt better. I lay in the bath for a while, sipping Julie’s drink, rocking my body in the water and moaning through the contractions. The midwives brought my dinner in, so Ryan ate the meat portion, declared it bland and unappealing, and fed me bits of the vegetables in between contractions. Lying in a hot bath and being fed a – surprisingly tasty – roast potato was a lovely feeling! By then I was communicating in shorter or one-word sentences, and so Ryan fed me to the chorus of “More!” “Wait!” (when I had a contraction) “No peas!” “More?” “What’s left?” and finally “More!”
Mum came in to say hi, and greeted me with “How are you doing kid?” I don’t remember this (Thanks to Julie’s notes!) but it certainly makes me laugh now. Coming in to see your daughter in labour and calling her kid! She told me afterwards that I seemed to be quite good, working with the contractions and very calm. She didn’t stay long, and would end up hanging in the emergency waiting room till the early hours!
To help avoid drugs, (I was beginning to struggle a little as the bath cooled) Ryan was also using an acupressure point on my hand to dull the pain, which seemed to help, although there would be a bruise for a few days afterwards! I had brought a bunch of my favourite music, but didn’t feel like any of it, however I began to make my own labour ‘soundtrack’ with my short requests, rhythmical moans, and attempted amusing commentary. The ‘music’ in the instance of acupressure being; “Yes, squeeze! Harder…ouch! Keep squeezing! Ouch!” The acupressure had to be very firm to be effective, and Ryan would always ease off when I complained. I guess it meant he was squeezing REALLY hard if I took a break from moaning about the contraction to say ouch about my hand!
Julie had taken a break while mum was gone and at some point my drink had run out… not good, labour is thirsty work! The midwife kindly refilled my glass but when it was next offered, I was extremely disappointed to taste only water, and other than a small initial sip I’m pretty sure I refused any more drinks until I had Julie’s Drink back! I remember telling Ryan very clearly after pulling my head away with a jerk that “Don’t like it!” and “Want Julie’s Drink!” (Particles had all but escaped my vocabulary by now.)
Julie came back after a while, and heated the water in the bath a bit more. I very clearly remember saying “It needs to get hotter or I need to get out!” I really was very demanding! Once the bath was hot again, she encouraged me to get up and move a little. After floating and being so weightless, the pain immediately became unbearable and I began to get upset, asking Ryan and Julie to make it stop, as soon as I moved to kneeling, the pain in my back just went crazy! They very lovingly encouraged me for a while, using the small bloody show in the bottom of the bath as a point of how much work my body was doing, and I worked with them a little longer. The heat and steam of the bath was making me woozy and my back was hurting fairly consistently all the time, and increasing during contractions. My stomach hurt too, but the back pain was my main issue, after weeks of pain because of being pregnant I just couldn’t cope with anything else in that area hurting.
Not long after that the steam and heat started to bother me too much and I started to lose the plot a little, crying instead of moaning and not moving at all when another contraction came, so Ryan asked for a few minutes alone with me. I think I may have asked for him at the time. Before she and Julie left, the midwife on duty (Helen) offered some gas, and I mumbled something inconclusive about my natural birth plan, followed by something to the effect of “Oh god, make it stop!” Helen said she would set it up for me, but I didn’t have to use it, this seemed a fair compromise, as I hadn’t decided either way.
Ryan encouraged me a little more, but I’d had enough of the bath by then, and demanded “OUT!” so with Ryan’s help I got semi-decent again. (I think the staff were relieved I’m pretty sure I had heard another woman wanted the bath then too.) Meanwhile I complained about each contraction, and we (sort of) discussed the option of using the gas, my head was begging for it, knowing I was exhausted and in pain but part of me still begged for the drug-free birth I’d planned. By sort of discussed I mean I went back and forth going, “I want gas, I want no drugs I want gas…” etc while Ryan listened and rationalised each point as it repetitively came up.
Finally we went back to the labour suite where the gas had been set up, as had the birth mat next to the bed. I have a feeling this may have been Julie’s doing knowing I wanted to stay off the bed, but REALLY needed to at least kneel (if not flop) to take the weight off my back. On seeing the mat, I did just that – flop! A contraction made gravity hurry me along, and I hit my knees pretty damn fast. The increased pressure on my back again sealed the deal in favour of the gas, and Helen told me how to use the mouthpiece. I think I moved to sitting with my legs crossed like they have you do at school and gave the gas a go. It had a funny taste, I’m not sure if it was the plastic mouthpiece or the gas itself, and it made me thirsty, but once I got the hang of it I definitely felt some relief.
I sat on the floor for a little, while Ryan stretched (he’d been sitting hunched up next to the bath for almost two hours) and cuddled me. The contractions were tricky to pre-empt so that the gas could kick in, as there was very little warning before one hit full-force. I remember sitting there, with my eyes tightly shut, internally counting my breathing in for 5 seconds, out for 5 and in again, knowing by that third count of 5 the gas should be taking effect. That really worked, and those three counts of 5, seemed far shorter than the “15 seconds” I had been told to wait for relief. It certainly didn’t take all of the pain away, but made it bearable, as I was sitting with my weight on my hips and barely noticed. Julie put the heat packs back on and I settled into my little counts of 5.
After a while I began to get restless again, as my front started to hurt worse and began to yell at the mouthpiece rather than breathing in the gas, and having to pull it out to suck in air. Ryan tried to keep me focused on the right pattern, but I would rarely last more than one or two contractions before loosing my rhythm again and shouting into the tube rather than breathing in. Julie suggested I got up to use the toilet. It had been only 10 minutes, since I started the gas, but felt longer. The gas has a wonderful way of warping time. I apparently resisted the idea for a while as you can’t take the gas to the bathroom, but hobbled up and went. I learned two things, firstly if cramping and toilets are unpleasant, contractions and toilet seats are a HELLISHLY uncomfortable combination – so, like earlier in the day, I sort of hovered over the toilet seat. Secondly, contractions and a full bladder are equally unpleasant and I felt considerably better after going.
While I was in there, Julie told Ryan I’d be due for another contraction, and he came to support me. I remember thinking very clearly that I didn’t want anyone coming in while I was peeing, I didn’t mind being naked, crying or otherwise being a bit of a mess, but that was ‘my’ space, so I was grateful that he waited till I had finished, yes – I needed to go THAT much they could hear me loud and clear in the other room! He came in as I got up, and proudly pointed out to him more of a show in the toilet and on the paper, and I had barely flushed and staggered back toward the main room that my first contraction since going off the gas (residual gas in my system had made the first one in the toilet less intense) hit. Well, I couldn’t make it back to my mat in time, and I remember leaning on Ryan very heavily and making a whole lot of noise. Ryan later tells me that I screamed so loudly, half the maternity ward babies started crying after that! Now the labour suite and maternity wards are separated by fairly heavy doors, so if I made that much noise, I was really making an effort! (Not to mention how many babies would have had to have woken to cry loudly enough to be heard all the way over where we were!)
I was getting pretty tired by then, and really wanted to lay down, but being on my side wasn’t comfortable, any weight on my hips and back quickly became unbearable again, even when sucking on the gas, which I did like it was my only source of oxygen. So Julie and Ryan helped me get up onto the bed kneeling over pillows with my head turned to the side so I could suck away on the gas again. The gas made me pretty woozy, but it seemed to be doing the trick for a while, so I really don’t remember a lot of lying there using the gas other than the heat packs came and went and I think Ryan cuddled me for a while before taking a break.
A while after Ryan got back I’d decided I’d had enough. The gas wasn’t as effective as it had been, and I started to get angry and exhausted. I’d barely slept the previous night, and although I had been in ‘proper’ labour for only 2.5hours, I’d actually been having contractions for around 12 hours, and was thoroughly exhausted. Around now I think another internal was suggested and I got stroppy and flatly refused. I could feel that I hadn’t made much progress, and didn’t need the discomfort to be told the same thing again.
The staff were pretty insistent about the exam, and I really began to argue telling them that I would rather have a caesarean than have an exam, as I remembered how much the earlier ones hurt, and really did not want to go through that again. I had another breakdown saying I couldn’t do anymore, I was exhausted and I just needed sleep. Their insistence about the exam upset me, and in the end I wound up sobbing and begging firstly not for the internal, and secondly to just do a c-section so I could hold my baby. After some arguing we decided on a shot of pethidine, and while the needle went in I sucked on the gas like crazy… it stung like hell!
After 15 minutes or so of shouting at the staff because I couldn’t feel the peth working, the gas wasn’t enough and my thigh throbbed from the shot I passed out cold, my face planted on the pillows, and the mouthpiece for the gas firmly clamped between my teeth! Ryan said he gently took it out, but even as he did my hand tightened around the tube so he couldn’t take it away all together! Thus began what I call the ‘lost hour’ because I fell asleep so suddenly and heavily, still in pain, and woke up in the same position and in pain, I have no memory of the pethidine being effective. Ryan however tells me I lay there on my side, out cold and slept for at least an hour, while he curled beside me for a break.
The next thing I remember after being angry because the shot had hurt like crazy but I had felt no relief is waking up and jamming the gas back in my mouth in a hurry! Ryan went to visit mum in the ER waiting room while I lay on my side again in increasing pain, sipped more of Julie’s Drink and had the heat packs some more, a big one on my back, and a little one on my front which I remember hugging for comfort long after it was too cold to be of use.
I got up to go to the loo again before having another internal, agreeing mostly because by now I was too tired to argue, and also because I looked at the clock and was surprised at how much time had passed (it was now almost 1am, and I had been given the pethidine around 9) and I wanted to know too. There was a lot of mucking around while the staff, who had wrongly assumed I was mentally uncomfortable with the exam not that it HURT LIKE HELL, tried to reassure me that they would be respectful as possible, covering me up with the blanket (which I didn’t want I was overheated anyway) and trying to talk me through the whole thing. The current OB was far gentler than the first one I had met earlier in the day, although it was still by no means comfortable, despite my furious sucking on the gas and I was relieved but disappointed to hear I was at 6cms, but his head was still high. So close yet so far! I was still exhausted though, and once it was finished, I flopped back to my side, and continued sucking on the gas.
Ryan was sitting in front of me, not doing a lot because I didn’t want him to, but strictly not allowed to leave my touch, holding my hand and cuddling me when I wanted it through each contraction. He was also translating to everyone else as I was mumbling exhaustedly around the mouthpiece, which I refused to remove, not that anyone tried, but I had already made my dizzy fondness for the gas clear. I’m not sure if it was any help for the pain by now, but it allowed my mind to become a bit foggy so I could stop stressing and watching the time.
Since the exam the contractions had been getting steadily more intense, when a HUGE contraction was followed by a gigantic warm gush, and the most intense pressure relief I had felt all evening. I mumbled to Ryan I thought my waters had broken, which he translated to the rest of the room, a very patient midwife Karen who had been watching the CTG and Julie who had been rubbing my back and pushing the heat pack onto me harder for relief. A quick peek at the soggy bed confirmed this, Ryan later told me I was in a two inch deep puddle from my toes to my waist! None of this bothered me, I was too busy breathing huge relieved gasps (without the gas if I remember rightly!) as the water continued to gush and the pressure eased further.
As the baby’s head hadn’t descended at the last internal, I was told another exam was necessary to make sure there was no cord prolapse, even though I was reluctant I agreed, as I’d been well versed in the weeks prior about the concern. Karen did the exam this time, and while she was really careful, it hurt like crazy because the contractions were so hard and frequent by now that she couldn’t avoid them, and I spent the entire time crying and begging her to stop, while Ryan held my hand and Julie kept her hand on my forehead, and I did my best to dislodge all three of them writhing in the bed and making no end of noise. The verdict was no prolapse, which I was relieved about, and I was still 6cms.
This whole period felt like (and I remember it as) forever, but was in actuality only 20 minutes, and after that they got me up to change the bedding as there had been yet more fluid and I was soaked and starting to get chilly. Julie and Karen got busy stripping the bed, while I stood next to it, Ryan holding me up from behind, and watching more of my waters pour out onto the floor. This gives us a good laugh now, me stoned out of my brain on gas (I still hadn’t let go of the mouthpiece!) and the residual pethidine, standing there looking at my wet feet and the puddle on the floor going “Whoa… that’s a lot!” in a thoroughly hazy but impressed voice. Ryan merely agreed with me, and carefully took a step backwards to avoid getting his only pair of socks and shoes wet.
Standing up again seemed to kick things up another notch and after a while I began to ask for sleep and complete pain relief, so I was set up for an epidural, sitting on the edge of the bed, curling forward and holding onto Ryan. The anaesthetist talked me through the procedure, and worked very quickly between contractions, he had already had a few false starts interrupted by another contraction, which were now much closer and far more intense. When he started to push the needle in I had already begun to inhale on the gas and didn’t feel anything. I kept sucking continually, as I had been very afraid of the pain from the injection. The rattling noise from the mouthpiece echoed in my head, and my whole back got very hot for a few seconds, I felt like I was shaking and held Ryan tighter, even though I couldn’t feel a thing I was still really scared that I would, I had been terrified of the idea of an epidural for weeks before.
When it was done I finally let go of the mouthpiece and opened my eyes, I was woozy from so much gas, and I could see at least two of Ryan. Once the dizzy spell passed as my oxygen rebalanced, I lay back down and instantly felt SO MUCH better, I was completely numb and for the first time in a few hours I totally relaxed and went to sleep. Ryan and Julie both went to take well-earned breaks while I dozed off and on, barely aware of anything around me.
Julie had gone over to the Birth Centre for some sleep and Ryan was dozing on a mattress on the floor when I suddenly began to have a lot of pain in my front, and began to really loose the plot again. The midwife who had come into check the CTG readings was talking ‘over my head’ (meaning not to me despite the fact I was in the room and could hear her) and had said something to someone else about the baby’s heart rate dropping and that the baby was tired, before disappearing. This freaked me out plenty and I began to cry and shiver as the pain in my front worsened and no one explained to me what was going on with the baby. Ryan had woken and come back to me as soon as I had woken as I’d called out to him with pain, and the midwives called Julie back. I told her what I’d heard and that I was tired, in pain and scared. Another internal was done and I was told I was now at 9cms, with the baby’s head dropped! I remember thinking I’d be seeing my baby soon for sure, if only I wasn’t still so freaked out. I really was terrified, why, if the baby wasn’t ok weren’t they doing a c-section, and why if everything was ok, had she said anything about the baby’s heart rate in the first place?
The reason for the pain soon became clear, I needed to wee again, but being completely numb, they inserted a catheter, and immediately drained 1000mls (1 litre!) For some reason Ryan delights in telling everyone that you could see my bladder on the outside it was so full and the amount drained. The pain eased almost immediately and settled me down somewhat, I stopped crying and shivering and Karen the nice midwife – the other one who mentioned the baby was tired was no where to be seen – explained that though the heart rate dropped a little during contractions, it was still recovering normally and everything was fine.
Reassured, I calmed down again, but that half hour or so was incredibly scary, and it took a while and another epidural top-up (which I don’t even remember consenting to although I would have had to) before I was resting fully again with Ryan cuddling me and Julie now resting on the mattress. After a while they swapped, Julie rubbing my back and working on my hip bones to help the baby descend, and Ryan sleeping.
We all rested on and off for a while, and by 7ish I was getting even more tired, although I couldn’t feel anything I didn’t sleep heaps, and had really just had enough, I just wanted to meet my baby and snuggle up for a sleep with Ryan and my little one safe in my arms. Ryan’s being asleep was wearing on me too, I really needed a cuddle, and had called out to him (albeit softly) a couple of times to see if he’d wake and come lie next to me, but after only an hour or so of sleep, after staying up all night with me he was out cold.
Not long before 8, the new OB came back to check on me. I remember being reassured that he had “very small hands” my physical discomfort with internals having finally being registered, even though I was now well and truly numb below my waist. Dr Lee checked me very quickly and said that the head was high again, directly posterior (spine to spine) and that I was back to around 6cms.
The decision was made to go ahead with a caesarean, and I was extremely relieved. I was tired, frustrated and just wanted to have my baby and for everything to be over with. As soon as he left the room to go get ready I called out to Ryan (who was still sleeping) to let him know what was happening, and he replied “They’re going to have to wait till I’ve had enough sleep!” Like hell I would have waited, he can sleep for 14 or 15 hours in a stretch!
The next hour before I was taken to the theatre passed in haze of checks, questions and sending text messages. I told everyone my allergies at least 3 or 4 times, and would do so several more in the pre-op area! I also signed the consent forms, completely calm and although disappointed totally confident in the decision to have the section done. I wasn’t making progress, in fact I had gone backwards, and I knew this was the way my baby needed to be born. Ryan was finally pulled into consciousness and I was taken down to the operating room.
After a bit more buggering around with gowns and caps for Ryan, and whether or not I should have a red hairnet because I was allergic, but not to any medications, I didn’t care either way! Ryan had to wait outside when they took me into the theatre to get me prepped and top up the epi, so I gave him a kiss and was wheeled in.
The lovely OR technician, Sean, I still remember him, he was wonderful – the only person at the time who really talked to me like I was a patient rather than an object – helped me sit up so they could get my gown fixed and top the epidural up when they discovered that the catheter for the epidural had come out at some point. Great! Now I had to sit up for longer while they firstly decided whether another epidural was the go or whether to do a spinal block (They chose a spinal.) and then to actually do it. Sean was absolutely wonderful, holding me up and letting me slump as much as I needed on him while the anaesthetist took FIVE (yes – 5!) goes to replace the spinal. (As a result, 2 days post-partum I would suffer from an unbearable epidural headache as my spinal column resembled a sieve, and develop a 2-inch bruise along my spine, which I still have a mark from nearly 10 weeks later.)
I was pretty unaware of the number of goes it was taking, and just held onto Sean for dear life; the earlier epidural made me feel like a sack of potatoes and every time his grip even lessened I’d just about collapse sideways. (There was a pretty freaky moment when he let me go to untangle my foot from my IV tubing and I nearly went over backwards. After that he came right up close and let me lean my head on his shoulder.)
Finally the spinal was in place and topped up more and I was able to lay down again, one of the nurses kept poking my belly, and being satisfied that I was numb, they put a screen up and called Ryan in. He came and sat by my head but by then I was so totally exhausted (not to mention numb and woozy from all the drugs) I couldn’t do much more than glance at him. I think he rubbed my hand and everyone got ready to do their work.
Even though I was really out of it, and hadn’t said anything other than answering questions for probably the past hour a really sharp pain across my belly as Dr Lee made the first incision sure got me to yell! I kept shouting for a bit and probably crying as one of the other staff told me “You can’t feel anything,” and while Dr Lee checked to find out if it was just pressure or if I could actually feel the scalpel. Yep, it was a sharp pain alright, on my right side. The spinal block was lopsided and I could still feel the incision, so without any discussion involving me (not that I would have disagreed anyway) Dr Lee and the anaesthetist decided to put me under a general anaesthetic, and hustled Ryan out of the room again.
I remember thinking, but not saying (I was physically and mentally out of everything) to Ryan “I love you,” and “Wherever the baby goes, follow!” I knew Julie would come and look after me if necessary, and I didn’t want the baby to be alone. I was told as the drugs were given that they “might sting a little” and let me tell you they burned! I’m pretty sure I was still hollering about that even as I went under.
Because of the general Ryan was called back in at the very last minute, and says he came back just in time to see them lifting out our baby… our son. That did it for him apparently, Ryan started bawling and didn’t stop till the baby – ‘he’ we could finally stop saying “it” – was taken to the nursery and he left to call everyone.
Zeke cried immediately although the report I read later said they gave him a puff of oxygen. Ryan was allowed to cut the cord and they wiped him down and took a photo to show me in recovery. Dr Lee delivered the placenta and stitched me up – problem free, finally one thing that went right!
Ezekiel David (although he was not yet named) was born June 3 2008 at 10.26am and weighed in at 3406grams (7 pound 8 ounces) was 48cm long (about 18 or 19 inches) and had a whopping head circumference of 38.5cm!
I woke up in recovery and saw the clock, 11.20am and immediately wanted to ask about my baby, but before I knew what I was doing my mouth yelled because my stomach was sore. One of the nurses showed up at my side and added something in my drip, still woozy I complained because my throat hurt, and she told me it was from the tube they inserted after I was out. Checking my vitals woke me up some and I looked at the clock – 11.30am, the last thing I remember was about 10am outside the operating theatre!
Consciousness finally came to me, and I managed to control my mouth to say something other than random grunts… “Where’s my baby?” The same nurse unsympathetically told me that my baby was fine, in just those words as she left “Your baby is fine.” Boy did she need a lesson in bedside manner! I still had no idea whether I’d had a boy or a girl! A few minutes later, she returned with a photo.
As she dropped the photo into my vision, the first thing my eyes settled on was this huge red pair of testicles between my baby’s splayed legs. I had been positive for the whole pregnancy I was having a girl, yet here he was, with his crying, sleepy daddy next to him, my son… screaming for the world to hear, pink, with rolls of fat on his belly and legs, and totally perfect and beautiful in every single way. In that second I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
Smiling to myself, I thought (and maybe said) “Hi Zeke” and stroked my son’s ‘face’ running my finger over the photo, and dozed on and off for a while longer, although I’m not sure how long, and woke up to see Julie next to me along with Cheryl. Both of them affirmed exactly how beautiful and healthy he was, and said that he was waiting in the nursery for me if I was ready to come back up to my room.
Was I ready? Of course I was ready! Mum was in the room when I was wheeled back up there and Ryan was getting our boy from the nursery. Julie helped me get into a slightly upright position, and to get my gown off so I could have skin-to-skin contact. Then a good hour and a half after his birth I finally met him… a tiny little bundle in a plastic cot with wide grey eyes, a calm face and wonderfully warm and soft.
Ryan popped him on my chest and he snuggled there under a bunny rug, while I stroked his back, unable to do anything other than stare. Julie and mum left to give us some time to get to know our baby, but not before Julie took some of the most precious photos I will probably ever have.
Still unnamed, our little boy lay quietly, naked except his nappy while Ryan cried and I just stroked him some more in total awe. After a while, he rooted around and shuffled himself toward my breast and with a little help, latched on. I just stroked and cuddled him and Ryan as much as I could.
Sometime after this Ryan and I officially decided on his name Ezekiel David or Zeke for short, his proud great-grandfather says that Ezekiel means ‘God will strengthen’ and while I may not go to church, I 100% believe that someone was smiling down on us that day, and I am so very grateful that despite all the setbacks and trials, I was able to have my beautiful, perfectly healthy son, and I thank whoever they are every single day.