The Birth – Part 2

Well that took me a while! Who’d have thought that having a baby was time consuming? My humble apologies at my delay in blogging of late, things have been a little crazy. My little lovebug is now almost 6 weeks old, and I have no idea where the time went. I’ll post a 1 month update soon, but for now, let’s get through the rest of the birth.

So, when I left you last, I was 5cm dilated and fast tracking my way to delivering my baby. After the doctor had realised how fast my labour was progressing, the midwives very quickly arranged for me to be transferred to the labour ward. It was maybe a 30 metre walk from the room I was in. I had two contractions on the way, both as strong as hell, both causing me to bellow like a cow to get through them. What made this even more elegant was the fact that I was naked from the waist down (they’d wrapped me in a blanket to get to the labour room), and that with each contraction along the way I had nothing to brace myself on. Those two were hard. On the funny side, I had the second contraction right outside the open door of another labour room, with the father-to-be watching me in horror. Poor bastard, I bet he didn’t think it would be that bad!

After what felt like a thousand miles, we were in the labour suite. From that point on, my contractions were back to back. No break. I was not a happy camper. I was “vocalising” through every peak, and when the midwife asked if I wanted any pain relief, I think the next country over heard me scream yes! She set me up with some gas and air, which basically you stick in your mouth and breathe through – in and out, in and out – until the sensation kicks in. My problem was I was using noise to deal with the pain of the contractions, and with the gas nozzle in my mouth I couldn’t get the yelling up like I wanted. After one breath through it, I basically threw it across the room with a “this isn’t working!!!”. Good thing my midwife was the no bullshit type, as she explained to me that it would take a good 10 minutes, and I needed to keep it in my mouth. Turns out she was right. It started to take the edge off the peak of the contractions (still bloody painful though!), but it also made me extremely dizzy, and nauseous. I had to lie down to cope with it, which I really didn’t want to do, as I’d been told that it was the worst way to give birth. Too bad. There wasn’t a chance in hell of getting me off of that bed from that point – the combination of back to back contractions and the dizziness meant that the bed was the only place for me.

After about an hour of this, I suddenly had an urge to push. I’d read multiple stories of how this sensation can feel like a need to go to the toilet, and this must have been in the back of my mind, because at that point I felt the best way to let the midwife know was to yell “I feel like I need to poooooooo!!!”. Lovely. She tried to pull me back a little, saying that I wasn’t ready yet and I needed to keep calm, then decided to check to see if I had progressed any further. At that point, she looked extremely shocked, let us know that “the head is right there!”, and raced around the room getting everything ready for the baby I was about to have!

The midwife, might I mention, was amazing. She cut through all of my fear and brought me back plenty of times when the gas had sort of removed me from the situation – I was quite high on it, not in a happy, “duuuuuude” kind of way, but just not really with it, not really present in what was going on. She now tasked me with panting through the contractions rather than vocalising, and suddenly I realised how close I was to meeting my baby girl. I pulled the gas out of my mouth (can’t pant and suck through that thing), and focused with everything I had. Something about the midwife telling me to pant switched me back on, as I realised I was at the final stage, I was nearly there, and I could do this!

With each contraction the urge to push became stronger. It’s such a hard feeling to describe, as it sort of overtakes your body. I would be panting my way through a contraction, and then this force would take over, completely without me pushing, and drive the head closer and closer. I had to fight each of these to stop myself tearing, but eventually they were just too strong to be able to hold back. I pushed with everything I had (and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the baby that I pushed out, although Mr Nester swears he didn’t see any, um, waste…), and all of a sudden her head was out. Again, the midwife urged me to pant and not push, but that following contraction felt even stronger, and there was no holding me back. The rest of her slid out of me, feeling as if I was birthing a squid (just as slippery and slimy as it sounds). Then, incomprehensibly, she was there, screaming, and lying on my stomach. My baby girl had rocketed into the world, wide eyed and vocal! I really thought at this moment that I’d be overcome, I’d be emotional and weepy, but I was so shocked that all I could do was stare. As stupid as it sounds, it felt unbelievable that this baby had just been inside of me, and was now in the world.

The midwife rubbed her down, Mr Nester cut the cord, and then there she was, on my chest and already latching on to feed. She stayed on me for quite some time, and then had all her measurements done, and she was wrapped up and put in the crib next to me. Mr Nester went home to get some sleep, the midwife left me alone, and though I knew I needed to sleep, all I could do was stare at my perfect little girl.

So there you have it. My birth story. There are a few more details about the hospital, her first day, etc etc, but this was the most memorable. In all of 3.5 hours, my Birdie arrived into the world.

As for my advice for those nearing labour – certainly prepare yourself: read books, do exercises, think about what your ideal experience would be. But also, let it happen. I didn’t get a chance to do really anything of what I had planned – no birthing ball, no exercises, no visualisations. All I managed was vocalising and a bit of early movement before the labour took over. Also, trust your midwife. If I had fought her, it would have been a much harder experience – being able to trust her instructions meant I could focus much better, and could work my way through whatever was being thrown at me. In all, it was certainly the most pain I have experienced, and at time was the scariest thing I’ve been through. But it was also the most incredible experience – I realised both during and after labour how strong my body was, how strong I was, and what I was capable of. Don’t fear it, embrace it. You’ll get through it just as I did.

Jane xx

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The Birth – Part 1

So, I promised you I would give you a full rundown of the birth, all 3 and a half hours of it. It’s funny, whenever I tell people the length of the labour, I get a resounding “you’re so lucky!”, and then when I try to explain that speed doesn’t necessarily improve the experience, I get a “yeah, but better than a 20 hour labour!”. I feel like I’m being ungrateful for feeling like 3.5 hours was far too much, too fast. It was certainly better than enduring the pain for some horrifically long stretch, but when I mention that I wouldn’t have minded another hour or so, just so I could come to terms with what I was going through at the time, I get scoffs and faces full of disbelief. The only people who have given me sympathetic responses are those that have also been through a similar experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong – everything went according to plan in terms of a normal labour, and my beautiful Birdie was born wide eyed and healthy. I am enormously thankful for that. But I do want to take the shine off the short labour a little, because I was in a panic for much of that time. I didn’t know how far progressed I was, couldn’t tell what stage of labour I was in, and everything was moving so fast my contractions were back to back for most of the labour. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

On Friday night, at around 10pm, I was hanging some pictures in the nursery when I felt a trickle. Mr Nester had a friend over, and they were happily playing video games in the lounge room. I had a moment where I thought “Ooh. I wonder if that’s anything?”. I headed to the toilet to check, and it was a decent amount of liquid, and had a bit of a funky smell (if you’ve read the books, you’ll know that amniotic fluid apparently smells like semen. I can confirm this. Ick.). I thought I’d wait it out, it could be nothing, and I hadn’t been having any contractions yet. About half an hour later, I had another trickle, this time with a pink tinge. By this point, Mr Nester’s friend had gone home, and he wandered over to see what was happening with me. Our actual conversation was:

Mr Nester: “How are you getting on?”

Me: “Good, I think my water just broke…”

Mr Nester: “nfewghwb uono3iqnojq!!!!!”

And so, he suggested I call the hospital. I explained the situation, and they advised to come in to get checked out, at which point they would likely send me home until I was in active labour.

We already had everything packed, so it was just a case of driving the 15 minutes to the hospital. On the way, I had 2 contractions, about 12 minutes apart. We were told to go to Emergency for our check up, and waited about 15 minutes before we were admitted. I had another 3 contractions in this time, now about 8 minutes apart. They weren’t actually all that bad, just a building pressure and a bit of pain at the peak. My main issue was discomfort – I couldn’t stay sitting down, and so I paced around the waiting area.

Once we were in, I had a check up (blood pressure, pulse etc) and they took a sample to check if it was amniotic fluid I was leaking. While we waited for the results, they put us into a room by ourselves, and said they would check on us soon. By now, my contractions were 5 minutes apart, and by the time we’d been at the hospital for 45 minutes, they were 3 minutes apart. By this stage, I was having a lot of difficulty focusing on anything but the contractions, and the nurses were monitoring me with a band across my stomach. I was watching the feed on the monitor, and seeing the contractions spiking higher and higher, sharper and sharper. I was starting to moan through each contraction, and we were still left to ourselves in the room. I think the nurses had assumed that I would be quite some time before anything kicked off, and had actually told us that they wouldn’t take us across to the labour ward until I’d been in active labour for 4 hours.

At this point, I was panicking. I’d only been in labour for 45 minutes, and already I was feeling like I could barely get through the contractions. They were coming thick and fast, and man I was in pain. I was leaning on the bed through each contraction, while Mr Nester timed them, and let me tell you, 3 minutes apart is not much. I barely had time to catch my breath before the next one hit. At the peak of one contraction, my water properly broke. It gushed down my leg, soaking my clothes. I waddled to the toilet to clean up, and what was pouring out of me was bright red. I thought I might be haemorrhaging, and called Mr Nester to find a nurse. He went running down the hall, practically dragging a nurse back with him. The nurse seemed extremely surprised to see the state I was in, and sent for a doctor to check my progress. Unfortunately, this involves a hand right up, well, you know where, and it happened to occur right between my contractions, in my 2-3 minutes of peace. I was not happy, and still fighting the panic that perhaps I couldn’t do this. The doctor had a good feel around, and told me I was 5 centimetres dilated. Shit! OK, maybe I could do this! It was such a relief to hear that the extreme pain I was feeling was due to a quick dilation, and it wasn’t just me not being able to handle it.

To be honest, that was the hardest part of the labour – not knowing how far along I was, not knowing how long I had left to go, not knowing how much more I could handle (most of the time it felt like I was at my limit).

SO that was the first 5 centimetres. I’ll save the second half of the labour (the other hour and a bit) for the next post.

Jane xx

Introducing…

This post should have been my 40 week pregnancy update, but I didn’t quite get there in time! At 39 weeks and 5 days, my water broke. Early the next morning, my little girl arrived into the world! I’ll cover the details of the birth in a separate post, but suffice to say it was fast and furious, with a total of 3.5hrs from start to finish!

We’re now at day 5 of our little Baby Bird’s life (I’ll call her Birdie on this blog) and what a week it’s been! I had two full days in hospital, where Birdie learnt how to feed and sleep, and I learnt how to eat while holding a baby, pee as quickly as possible, and how to survive on quick chunks of sleep in the small hours. Birdie passed all of her checks with flying colours, and so after the two days had past we were allowed to go home, this time as a family of 3.

This week has been a bit of a whirlwind, but Birdie’s been incredible throughout. We’re now on Day 5, and she feeds amazingly well, sleeps for long stretches, and is a delight 24/7.

The only issue I’ve had has been some soreness in recovering from the birth, and some issues with breastfeeding. I’ve been getting quite frustrated at the “if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong” line that so many books and guides parrot. Every midwife and nurse has said how well Birdie is latching, and that it looks exactly as it should. And yet, I have grazed, cracked nipples that cause a substantial amount of pain when Birdie feeds. I put it down to two things: on Birdie’s first night, she cluster fed back to back from 10pm until 5am, without a break. Regardless of how well she latches, the intensity of usage on my poor nipples left its mark. Secondly, the milk came in two days ago, and my god did it come in! My boobs were like boulders, and felt like they’d been hit by them as well. They were so swollen, Birdie struggled to latch on properly, and so my tender nipples worsened. Thankfully, one is recovering well, while the other is getting a day’s break, thanks to a breast pump. For those of you reading this, dreading the same outcome, I can tell you that it is improving, and it’s so worth it. I’ve been using a range of products and techniques to help with the healing, and if you’re interested, they are:

  • Lansinoh ointment – a lanolin gel that coats the nipple and protects it, while also helping it heal. This stuff is awesome. Buy big tubes of it
  • Multi Mums compresses – expensive, but fantastic. Soothing, cool and a great barrier between sore nipples and clothes
  • Hand expressing – just to relieve the pressure. Feels weird, but it works
  • Warm showers – just because. They help to reduce the pain and swelling prior to feeding

There are a few more things I’ve been doing, but those have had the most impact.

Anyway, I’m getting lost in the details of breastfeeding, when this post was meant to be an introduction to my gorgeous girl. She really is perfect, in my eyes, and all I want to do each day is make sure she’s ok.

This is Birdie and I, in her first week in the world. I couldn’t love her more.

Week 1
Jane xx

Mountains & Motherhood

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The sweet, sweet view from the top

Now that I am fully recovered from my mountain trek (a month ago!), I thought I might share a little of the journey with you. While we had our share of ups and downs (pun intended), there was one particular section of trip that warrants a mention. Mainly because it nearly broke me, in a fuck-this-I’m-sitting-down-and-not-moving-ever kind of way.

Let me set the scene for you: perfectly sunny, mild day, fresh air. Oh, and the biggest friggin’ mountain you’ve ever seen. Plus an 18kg pack. Plus 3 hours of climbing. The reason I’m telling you all of this is because as I was climbing (and climbing, and climbing), I couldn’t help but relate the hike to labour. Now I know I have zero experience of actually going through labour, and I’m sure it is about 100 times harder than my hike, but it did share some key elements. Of course, thankfully it wasn’t a 24 or 30 hour hike like some labours can be. Instead, my step by step battle was more easily related to the later stages of labour. So here we go:

1. Firstly, the neverending-ness of it. We climbed for about 5 hours that day, and while some of it was quite manageable, some of it actually enjoyable, the majority was a complete Slog. With a capital friggin’ S.

2. The excess weight. 18kg is one big ass baby. Carrying that weight on your back while climbing up a hill did not help my posture, my breathing or my mood one iota. The plus side of my extra weight is that once I reached the top, one swing and voila! Back to my old shape. Something tells me my post-baby body might not bounce back quite so speedily.

3. The overwhelming need to focus mentally. That sounds a bit odd, right? I’m climbing a hill, what on earth do I need to think about? It was my own state of mind that gave me the most grief on the ascent. That little voice in your head that says, “Uh, what the fuck do you think you’re doing? You can’t do this! Turn right back around this minute, loser!”. As I’ve said before, I think my mental preparation will be what really counts in the labour ward, being able to focus and not panic will be what gets me through. I was pretty damn proud of myself for proving that little voice wrong.

4. The point of giving up. I was so close, SO close to the top at one point, and I nearly gave up. Nearly said no, sat down, and gave up. All I could see was hill. More, more and more hill. I was never going to get there, I wasn’t making any progress, I was failing. I was actually only 10 minutes from the top, but having pushed myself for so long, I couldn’t see it. Watching my plethora of reality shows, I’ve seen this moment so many times with women in labour. They’ve endured hours of pain, are pushing with all their might, and almost every one of them hits a point when they’re yelling “I can’t! I can’t do it. It’s not working” – usually about one or two pushes away from giving birth. It’s that moment, that mountain, that last push that is the hardest of the whole ordeal.

5. The summit. The top, the grin-inducing, endorphin-rushing relief/joy/impossible dream that is the end result. All the pain, the exhaustion and feelings of defeat vanish instantly when you hit the peak and see that magnificent view, and I can only imagine the intensity of that moment when your child is born. No wonder people go back for more.

For me, the mountain was evidence that I am tougher than I think, and that if I can focus and put one foot in front of the other, I can achieve what I had thought was impossible. It might not be Everest, but for me it was enough.

To all of those reading this who are mothers, who have been there, I applaud your strength.

Jane xx

Maintaining calm in the labour ward

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Obviously not in any pain at all…

I’ve been watching more One Born Every Minute. I love YouTube! I’ve just started Season 3, and with each new episode I get weepier. Usually when the new Dad cries. Then I bawl. However, what I’ve been noticing with each story is the mindset of the women in labour.

Let me preface this with a great big “I KNOW”: regardless of how you think you’ll be when giving birth, you have no idea until you’re in it. I know. But I think the level of calm plays an enormous role, not only in the actual birth, but in the lead up and in the general demeanour of the room.

Watching these women, for some of them the fear just kicks in from the first contraction. Whether it’s the unknown, or just the level of pain, the women who are panicking at the start seem to be far more likely to be those who are having a rough time for the delivery. Now I’m not necessary talking about any of the specific trends: hypnobirhing, affirmations or any of that. The women who cope the best are the calm ones. They maintain focus, concentrate on their breathing, and have a great support person with them, whether it be their partner or family member. Some of the men are just fantastic. While the man in the delivery room is often described as feeling hopeless or disconnected, those who become their partner’s personal coach/cheer squad seem to be the ones who are right in the thick of it, and play a vital part in the mother’s wellbeing and ability to get through the pain.

I’m hoping that I am able to emulate the calm women I’ve watched, allow myself to follow my body’s messages and let my instinct take over, without getting too stressed about things being out of my control. Having a birth plan is obviously a good idea to describe the ideal scenario, but also being realistic about the fact that things may not go to plan is also important to remember. This all sounds quite preachy and all knowing, however I’m hoping I return to this post in 10 or so months to remind myself of my infinite wisdom (read: ideas gleaned from watching reality TV).

In the meantime, I’m going to watch more One Born, and adjust my level of hand-over-mouth and sinking under the covers according to the volume of their shrieks.

Jane xx

Watching live births (cue screaming!)

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My current obsession

In the last couple of weeks, ever since Mr Nester and I decided properly that we would try this year for a baby, I’ve been watching a lot of baby shows. Reading a lot of baby books. A lot.

At the moment I’m a little obsessed with One Born Every Minute – a UK reality/documentary show showing all walks of life having babies. There’s no candy coating, no fluffing, it’s just the reality of the labour ward. And it’s brilliant. I can’t get enough of watching these amazing women and their poor worried partners go through the most harrowing 24 hours of their lives. Some scream, some yell, most swear. Some scream so loudly you can’t help but giggle. Some are so calm, so strong, you wonder where they get their amazing powers from. Every one of them makes me cringe and retreat into the couch when they’re bellowing in pain, and yet I cry for every one of them at the moment they hold their baby in their arms. There’s something so profound about that moment, where you’re witnessing the exact second that someone’s life changes, but also where they change as a person. Their expressions get me every time – a perfect combination of joy, overwhelming love, surprise and relief. All are instantly besotted with this tiny, red screaming creature, and it sets me off every time.

While I dread the pain that these incredible women get through, I want that moment. I want to share it with my wonderful husband, and see our lives change in the face of the little wrinkled person we created. I can’t wait for that. Here’s hoping we’re lucky enough to have that opportunity.

Yours rather tearily (of course I’m watching at the moment!),

Jane Nester xx