‘Please let me go the weekend’, I prayed as the ultrasound technician scanned my huge, eleven days overdue, belly. I’d had a trouble free pregnancy, only a hint of morning sickness and had kept fit throughout with walking, swimming, pregnancy yoga, sleeping on my side for optimum positioning, no drinking etc. I knew my dates were right. I always felt a little ache in my side when I ovulated and I had a midwife organised when I was only 5 weeks pregnant. I had my heart set on a homebirth and on meeting my midwife for the first time I felt an instant connection.
Eleven days overdue and so ready for the action.
‘You’ve certainly got a healthy baby’, the ultrasound woman said with a smile – or was it a grimace, as I’m sure she crossed her legs. ‘Eight to nine pounds and I don’t think you’ll have to wait too much longer.’
I sat in reception, with my husband – Dan, waiting for my scan results. We were to phone our midwife straight afterwards and she’d let us know the plan of action. I’d seen an acupuncturist the day before to get things moving and could write the book on 101 ways to get labour going (except so far my 101 ways had been unsuccessful!)… Walking one foot on, one foot off a kerb for miles on end to put pressure on the cervix, eating a whole fresh pineapple in one sitting (something to do with prostaglandins), inserting evening primrose oil capsules for the previous two weeks (ditto about the prostaglandins), homeopathic remedies, raspberry leaf tea by the bucket, then the standard hot curry (had several) and sex (easier said than done!).
The birth pool was primed for action in our living room, I’d washed babies clothes twice (knowing I’d never again have so much time to lovingly launder them), lavender oil brimmed to overflowing in the incense burner, the dining room table was strewn with various labour-pain relieving instruments; wooden spoons for acupressure points, combs (ditto), wheat packs, homeopathic birth kit, energy drinks, sweets, frozen meals stuffed every orifice of the freezer – I was READY!
Then it happened. I felt a murmur. A distinct feeling I’d not felt before. A contraction! I didn’t say anything at first, not wanting to excite my patient husband (who’d already turned down tickets to a NZ versus England rugby match and said no to a boys night out in the past couple of weeks on account of, ‘the wife is due any day’). Then it happened again. Five minutes later. That was soon, I thought. But reminded myself it could be a long labour, so not to get too excited. The scan arrived and I excitedly grabbed Dan’s hand, ‘It’s started!’. We got home and phoned the midwife. She told us to contact her when things started to ‘hot up’.
It was a beautiful sunny day at the end of June so we took a drive to a cafe in Scorching Bay, Wellington and had a big brunch. Then we went for a lovely walk along Lyall Bay beach, with me stopping every five-minutes as my contractions got slightly stronger – but still very comfortable. I still couldn’t believe I was finally going to see my baby. It wasn’t until the evening that I started to feel any pain. I phoned my midwife and she came over at 7pm. I was only at 2cm!
I laboured through the night, with the contractions getting more intense but remaining at five minute intervals. I’d tried to rest, but found it too painful to lie down, so in between contractions I squatted on a footrest and draped my arms over the sofa. I stood for contractions, leaning forward and rotating my hips, with Dan applying pressure on an acupressure point on my lower-spine. I found this brought much relief and gave Dan a feeling of usefulness! When I felt really tired I stood in the shower, which helped to energise me. The lavender was burning furiously in the incense burner and my midwife kept close attention on baby’s heartbeat and kept giving me various homeopathic remedies to take.
When my midwife examined me at 7.30am on Saturday morning I was at 4cm. I was having what is known as an ‘active latent phase’. I was disappointed with the slow progress, but still determined to have a home-birth and was coping well. We made the decision to break my waters. This helped to speed things up a bit. I was in a bit of pain at this stage and found sitting on the toilet seat (of all places!) brought some relief! I remember Dan, returning from one of his errand runs to the kitchen to get me various things – ice/hot pack/something to eat etc. – that there was the most beautiful sunrise. Dawn break fuelled my determination to see my baby and I laboured on, letting out increasingly louder animal groans!
By around 9am I started to feel a bit sick and shivery so my midwife suggested I get in the birth pool as I was showing signs of transition. Dan had engineered a pipe from our tap to the birth pool and got it nice and toasty for me. I spent most of the morning, and early afternoon, in the birth pool. I started to get pins and needles so badly in my legs with all the squatting and kneeling that my legs kept going numb. I remember this being more painful than my contractions! I tried to stand out of the water for a contraction, to get the circulation going in my legs, but the intensity was so much stronger that I sunk back in deciding pins and needles were nothing to complain about!
My midwife started to get excited that baby might be on his or her way, so she phoned the back-up midwife and started to sterilise various instruments on the stovetop! By the fire she laid out towels and baby clothes. It seemed the day we’d so eagerly waited for was finally going to arrive.
But by 2.30pm I was starting to get tired and losing confidence. My midwife did an internal. I was still only at 7cm. I made the decision to transfer to hospital. In the hospital I was examined again and found to be between 6 to 7cm with the baby in a suspected ROP position with head asynclitic (tilted to one side). Basically baby was facing my tummy instead of my back – interestingly babies generally tend to face the placenta and my baby’s placenta was attached to the front wall of the uterus (anterior placenta), whereas most placentea implant on the back wall of the uterus (posterior placenta). My baby would need to rotate 180 degrees to get into position to come through the pelvis and be born.
At 4pm I agreed to be put on a syntocinon drip (which contains an artificial form of the labour hormone, oxytocin) to increase the effectiveness of my contractions and hopefully aid my baby’s rotation. Baby’s heartbeat was continuously monitored with electronic sensors strapped to my tummy.
At 5.15pm I had an epidural to cope with the increased intensity of the contractions. It felt extremely strange to go from being in active ‘control’ of my labour to being on a hospital bed, unable to feel sensation in my legs or the constant wave of contractions. However it was a relief to actually get some rest and I found myself sleeping between contractions (I even phoned my Mum in the UK on Dan’s mobile!).
By 9.30pm I was contracting strongly every 2 minutes and baby’s heartbeat was stable. At 10pm I was given an internal and found to be only 8cm dilated with my cervix still obstructed on one side. The decision was made to perform an emergency caesarean section.
This was a great disappointment to me after such a brilliant pregnancy, but at the end of the day the health of my baby had to come before everything else and I was relieved that I would be finally meeting the little person I’d carried for nine months.
Charlotte Ann was delivered at 11.12pm on 28 June 2003, weighing 8 pound 4 ounces and found to be in a direct OP position. Everyone in theatre was so friendly. I remember shaking uncontrollably and looking deeply into Dan’s eyes, from where I took great strength. Dan bravely looked ‘over the screen’ to see Charlotte’s arrival into the world. I remember just seeing an arm and feeling as though an eternity of time past till she was in my arms. Though in actual fact it was only a matter of minutes. Our brilliant midwife had stayed with us throughout and ensured that I had my baby in my arms as quickly as was possible. The surgeon commented on how amazingly alert she was and her Agpars were 9/10 at birth and 10/10 after five minutes.
We were in the recovery room by midnight. After three days in hospital and a painful start to breastfeeding (so much for it being natural!) we returned home (as soon as we were allowed!) on Wednesday 2 July. After the harsh glare of the hospital lights it was so wonderful to take Charlotte home. She slept so well that first night and on Thursday morning I remember waking before she did to see her uncurl her arms and yawn. That morning I fell in love with my baby.