Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Labouring Lara

Lara and I, 24 hours after the big event. Photo by Sheridan Nilsson.

----I kept going backwards and forwards thinking about whether or not to publish this post, but then someone told me that my birth story was so great that someone should make a movie out of it...luckily there wasn't a video camera rolling on the day, but I have decided to share my experience and hopefully help 'mums-to-be' not be so scared about the event they are facing...and maybe Lara would like to read this one day-----

On Friday 20th September, 2013 I woke up around 2am with some fairly uncomfortable stomach cramps, so I got up, went to the toilet, assumed I was in the beginning stages of labour and decided to climb back in to bed and just wait things out. But by 2:20am I was up, leaning over the lounge (patting Jet who was sitting on the lounge and Baxter who was standing in between my legs looking up at me ready to take my weight), breathing deep and timing my contractions which were coming five minutes apart already. In between time I was walking around the house using gravity as my friend and drinking gallons of water and orange juice. I was in disbelief for a while and thought the contractions must be the false labour that you hear people talking about, so I let an hour pass with regular five minute contractions that lasted about a minute each and then I decided it was time to put my back massager and lavender oil in my hospital bag, so I went up to my bedroom to get them out of the dresser. It was at this point that Mark asked me "What's happening?" and I calmly replied "It's happening".

Upon my calm announcement Mark was up out of bed, dressed and telling me I should call the hospital, so I did and the lovely midwife asked me about my contractions and how far away I was from the hospital (about 5 minutes). With those questions answered she encouraged me to run a bath and stay at home for as long as possible as "studies have shown that birthing animals have a much calmer, faster labour if they stay in their comfort spot". Most people when I tell them that story are completely shocked by the midwives reference to labouring animals, but it was almost like she knew who she was talking to when she said that to me because I've always said that the excruciating pain idea associated with labour comes from the movies and women out in fields in Africa have lovely calm births without pain killers, and you don't see animals screaming "I can't do this, give me the epidural". The bath suggestion was just at the right time as my legs were starting to seriously ache-that's what happens when you squat for hours, but thankfully all my training (I didn't stop training until 37 weeks) kept me strong and capable. The midwife that I spoke to also thought that getting in the bath would slow things down, pfft, how wrong she was. I guess she wasn't used to first time mothers going in to real labour so quickly.

In the bath I continued to have five minute contractions and was moving around in all sorts of positions and quietly breathing through them. During this time Mark figured he may as well make himself some bacon and eggs for breakfast and a coffee since we were prepared to be in this for twenty four hours and he didn't know when he would get his next meal. It was whilst Mark was outside barbecuing his breakfast (he asked me if I would mind if he cooked breakfast and I told him to keep the smell outside) that my contractions started to get stronger and more frequent, and I found yelling to be much more therapeutic than deep breathing during the strongest part of the contractions. I think I probably need to apologise to my neighbourhood for that, I've always had a good set of lungs on me and there were times when I was screaming the house down.

So Mark finished his breakfast and came and checked on me, and I told him that I had had a bloody show (sorry for the grossness) so he rang the hospital just to make sure everything was OK. The midwives attempted to ask him a few questions and then asked him to put me on the phone at which point he tried to hand me the mobile, I responded "put it on speaker and hold it!". As if I didn't have enough to do. I was asked a few questions and told to take two Panadol and just sit through it in the bath. So I waited for about half an hour not wanting to take the Panadol and then figured I should take it so I wasn't absolutely exhausted and risking the need for a cesarean in the next fifteen hours or so. Not long after I felt like I was screaming almost non stop. I remember saying "Lara, can you give me a little rest please?" and loving finally being able to say her name. By this stage Mark suggested that we call the hospital again because the contractions were super close together and must be really strong-I think he was just about feeling my pain through my screaming. At least this time he knew to make the call, put the mobile on speaker phone and hold it for me. As I hovered over the toilet shitting for what must have been the fourth time (I was mortified at the idea of shitting on a bed in front of everyone, so it was good to clear everything out), I spoke to a midwife and had a contraction which had me in a deep squat holding on to the towel rail in the bathroom (which surprisingly stayed in the wall). She quietly listened to me scream the house down and calmly responded "that was great work darling, now lets get you to the hospital, you will be more comfortable on all fours in the back seat of the car". No sooner did we hang up the phone and my waters broke, thankfully whilst I was hovering over the toilet.

So I waddled down the four front steps of our house, in the biggest wide legged squat you can imagine, bracing myself on the handrail and garage wall and eventually crawled in to the back seat of the car on all fours. Since I'm always a very independent, can-do person Mark just went about his job of grabbing the hospital bag and camera bag. Whilst he was doing this I was in the back of the car, with the boot open and screaming at the top of my lungs through a contraction, when a lovely lady stuck her head over our front gate and asked if everything was OK because "it sounds like someone is in a lot of pain", very calmly I told her everything was fine, I was just in labour, and she stayed talking to me until Mark got to the car. I hope to see that lovely lady one day to thank her.

The five minute drive to the hospital seemed to have twice as many corners as usual and poor Mark copped my back seat driving as he was trying to get to the hospital as quickly as possible, and must have forgotten that I was in the back seat on all fours without a seat belt on. We parked out the front of the hospital and started to walk down the hill as we would for our weekly antenatal class, only I was walking with one of Mark's big red shirts that barely covered my ass on, and no pants. Despite his encouragement to put them on, the thought of lifting me legs and covering up was more than enough for me not to care who saw my ass. Mark commented "oh well, at least we are at the beach" at which point some poor guy walked up behind me with my ass to the sky, wide legged walking squat position. Two seconds later I stopped to scream for a contraction, it finished, and Mark quickly pulled me down the hill towards the hospital doors, but we must have only taken three steps before the next contraction, at which point a whole heap of nurses who were arriving to start their shifts spotted me heard me. One asked Mark if we needed help, and him being used to my independence said "no thanks, I think we're alright" but thankfully at this point someone was running from emergency with a wheel chair for me and a midwife said "I'm a midwife, lets get you upstairs". I have never heard such reassuring words, there was a brief moment where I was worried that I was going to have my baby in the car park, things were happening that quickly.

It was a bumpy ride on the asphalt, then up a ramp into the hospital entrance before I was wheeled in to the lift and surrounded by medical staff. Once the lift doors opened there were three midwives waiting to receive me. We certainly did make an entrance. As I was wheeled to the birthing suite it felt like it was on the other side of town. All I wanted to do was get out of that uncomfortable wheelchair and stop the pain in my lower back. As I was wheeled through the doorway I realised that the room I was being taken in to didn't look like the birthing suites we had been shown during our classes, and I had a moment where I thought "oh god, I'm not even at birthing suite stage, how much worse is this going to get?". Luckily soon after climbing up on the bed my head midwife Gesina told me we were going to have a baby very soon (it was rush hour in maternity and I was in the 'back up' birthing room). I was lucky enough to have two midwives the whole time since Sophie was doing her internship, so we were all talking having a great time when Gesina said "we wish all Mum's would present like this, you are fully dilated" and boy was that a pleasant surprise. I had to ask "did you just say I was fully dilated?" and with Gesina's positive, bubbly response I knew it wasn't going to be long before I saw my little girl. Another contraction came, I screamed (as quietly as I could) then apologised for screaming and confessed to always being loud. It wasn't until this point that I learnt an important lesson as Gesina said "it's OK, we are used to screaming, but you are better off closing your mouth and putting all that effort in to pushing, otherwise you are just wasting energy". I don't like wasting energy. I remember Mark looking at me in complete disbelief on multiple occasions at this stage and telling me how strong I was-and then a few moments later I was informed that everyone could see her head.

I must admit it felt like forever between everyone else being able to see my little girl and her popping out. And then when she did come out Gesina very calmly went about telling Sophie to "gently loosen the umbilical cord around her neck" at the same time as Mark had a look of horror on his face. But the midwives calmness and control over the situation kept me nice and calm even though I did have that fleeting moment of fear. After a bit more than an hour turning up at the hospital I was cuddling Lara, and no sooner did she show me how healthy she was by christening me. I couldn't have been prouder. It was 8:22 on a Friday morning and I was holding a healthy, light weight (2900 grams), long (49 centimetre) gorgeous little girl. I had finished a 6 hour workout and got the best reward ever. And she had shown her Daddy that his world was going to stop for her from the very beginning no matter what, because he had no chance of dragging himself away from her to go and start his sailing regatta.

Whilst Lara was put on the sunbed for a while (she is a cold blooded lizard just like her Mum), and all her observations were done I got to look out over the ocean and be distracted from a few minor stitches. As soon as my little girl came back to me for a cuddle she was off and feeding and she hasn't stopped since.

After doing most of my labour at home in the lounge room and then in the bath tub when my legs were aching, only taking two Panadol because I thought I was going to have to save my energy for another twenty four hours (in hindsight I wouldn't bother), getting wheeled in to the hospital, and presenting fully dilated, Lara and I had quite the reputation. Midwives were coming in to see us, commenting that it was obvious that Lara was a drug free baby and bringing messages from nurses on other floors that had helped wheel me in to the hospital and wanted to know how we were doing.

I couldn't thank the staff at Mona Vale hospital enough, particularly the intern Sophie who caught Lara, brought me toast and had a great chat with me every time she was on duty. There really is a special bond created between two complete strangers when you bring a life in to the world. With any luck she will be fully qualified and on duty when baby number two is ready to enter the world. I've been told to be careful with that one as it is likely to slip straight out.

How would I sum up labour? It is empowering, I feel like I can do anything now, and I would take on the world for my little girl if I had to. No doubt my strength, fitness and meditative practice helped me prepare for such a monumental event, and I can only hope that things will go as smoothly next time.

Now nine weeks later time feels like it is on fast forward and Lara and I are making a great team. I couldn't have a more settled, happy, beautiful baby. We have an amazing bond and I couldn't be more grateful to have her. She is such a special little soul.

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