Oh boy, what a week!! My OB had told me many times that when I went into labour, I would be able to tell without any problems and he was right. The night of Sunday 24th February, I was woken several times with painful Braxton Hicks contractions, as had been happening almost every night for some time. Something felt a little bit different though this time. During Monday while Thomas was at preschool, I was feeling quite "off", but was so busy getting the car fixed (discovered we needed a new alternator as the battery wasn't charging), I didn't have too much time to think about it. I picked Thomas up at preschool at 2:30 pm as usual on a Monday and bought him a little treat at the bakery on the way home.
At about 3:30pm, I was hit by what can only be described as a full-on contraction. It was like a very bad period pain, and went on for some time, well over a minute. At that point, I was almost 100% sure that this was "it". I called Andrew at work to say that I thought I might be wanting him to come home soon, but that I was going to wait 20 minutes or so to see what developed. Well, about four minutes after that first contraction, another one hit and I was back on the phone to him asking him to please get a taxi home NOW. I was feeling so excited! I phoned the labour ward and spoke to a lovely midwife who said she would look forward to our arrival. Thomas and I packed up a few toys to add to his bag for Nanna's and Pa's house, I quickly sent a couple of emails, and then when Andrew arrived home at about 4:30pm, we were off.
Andrew dropped me off at the main hospital entrance and took Thomas with him to park the car. When I arrived at the labour ward, I was told the room wasn't ready and to please wait in the foyer! Oh my! It was weird trying to cope with the contractions in "public" but thankfully they just had to make the bed and very soon I was in the privacy of a very nice labour and delivery suite. The midwife, Maureen, was so nice and very happy to help us have the type of birth we wanted. She said my OB was on his way from the airport (he had been at seminars in Melbourne all day) and that she would wait for him to do an examination. So we just "hung out" for a while with Thomas, who wanted to stay until his bedtime.
At this point, the contractions were painful but quite manageable, as long as I rocked or used the ball or beanbag. I also had a hot pack for my lower back, which was getting quite sore. I kept upright as much as possible and it felt SO great to be in the middle of a labour where I wasn't stuck on the bed, wired up to monitors etc. Maureen checked little Katelyn's heart with the doppler every half hour or so, and she was quite fine. Actually, at no point was I connected to continuous monitoring during the labour - they just used a doppler and they even had one that could be used when I was in the shower.
Around 7pm, Dr. C arrived and I was found to be 4cm dilated, very soft, not completely effaced yet (still about 1cm thick), with bulging forewaters. He said that with the forewaters the way they were, it was possible I might not dilate too well until they broke. He said he knew I wanted things to progress naturally as much as possible, so he wouldn't assist by breaking them at this stage, but that I might need to consider it later. I really liked how much everyone was respecting our wishes. At no point was I forced to do anything that I went against our preferences.
A new midwife came on duty at around 9pm, and she was also a real gem. In her spare time, she works as an IBCLC (lactation consultant), a doula, and teaches hypnobirthing! Talk about the exact right sort of person to help me through the sort of labour I wanted! She said that she wouldn't offer me medication, and that if I asked, she would give the minimum necessary (more about that later!)
Thomas left around 8pm to go to my parents' house. Things were still quite bearable and I was in good spirits. Around 10pm or so, I started to feel the pain intensify so I hit the shower. It was WONDERFUL! Both the pressure and the warmth of the water helped unbelievably and I stayed in there for probably at least an hour. Then I started getting a bit tired and it was suggested I might like to rest on my side in bed for a short time to regain some strength. I did this only for a short time, as the pain was much worse in this position.
Dr. C came back around 12:15 am and re-examined me. I was very disappointed to discover I was still at 4 cm, "MAYBE 5cm". There was so much of a cushion there from the forewaters that I just wasn't dilating. I had already been thinking about whether I would agree to having my waters broken under such circumstances and had decided that even though I was prepared to have a long labour, and in no way would have agreed to drugs to get things going, having my waters broken if there was no further dilation would be okay.
It HURT!! Well, actually, the breaking of the waters didn't hurt, but the examination did! The doctor and midwife were amazed at how much fluid came out, and even though I was in incredible pain by now, I joked that I was happy it had happened all over their bed and not mine at home. The doctor added that it wouldn't have been too great all over someone's shoes either! LOL!
I knew from my reading that once the cushion was gone, things would really intensify and boy did they ever! What had seemed before then to be quite bad pain seemed insignificant now. I again hit the shower to try and help, and it did help somewhat. The problem was that the pains were coming every three minutes and lasting at least 90 seconds each, some of them with double peaks. The pain was INTENSE! I feel almost like I must have gone into transition straight after the waters being broken because I had the double-peaked contractions, shaking, nausea, feelings of being unable to cope and so on.
After an hour or so in the shower I was starting to feel it was all getting too much and was getting overheated as well. Ann (the second midwife) suggested I get up on the bed over a beanbag for a while so I could rest a bit. I didn't really like this position, and it really hurt when she rubbed my bottom in the middle of each contraction. If there had been a tub available, I imagine now would have been a good time to get in and try to float the pain away. Unfortunately there wasn't, so I toughed it out on the bed for an hour or so. During this time, I vomited up bile (yuck!), and generally felt overwhelmed by the level of pain I was experiencing. I think I was unprepared for this as it was absolute agony. I kept saying "I CAAAAN'T" and Andrew and Ann kept saying, "But you CAN and you ARE!". I wasn't feeling too positive at this stage and all I could think about during the peaks of the contractions was that I couldn't possibly cope with one more like that. I should have just dealt with the one at hand of course, but I was scared, tired, and shocked by the intensity of everything.
About two to 2 1/2 hours after my waters had been broken I asked for some gas. I had gone into the labour having given myself "permission" to use it if I absolutely had to. Ann let me go a few more contractions and made me ask several times before she gave me any - I think she wanted to make 100% sure I knew what I was asking for. We started out with it extremely low and basically it was useless. Then she turned it up, and I found out later that she was quite cheeky, because even when she turned it up, the percentage of nitrous oxide was quite low. She really was doing her best to honour my birth preferences!
The gas helped somewhat, although I was still in utter agony. Ann suggested to Andrew that he try to take a nap in the recliner chair while he could, and she talked me through the contractions, held my hand (I probably bruised hers!), etc. At one point, I remember saying to her, "This is like a nightmare" and she said something along the lines that it was actually real, but that it would definitely end.
The gas made me feel quite strange. I could hear someone groaning in pain, then it reverberated in my head, before catching up with me and I realised it was ME that was making that noise! It maybe took a little edge off the contractions at their peak, but really didn't help too much at all with the pain. I must admit that being a bit "out of it" though was probably the only way I was going to make it through that last 1 1/2 to 2 hours of the first stage. Towards the very end, I was fantasising about getting an epidural, because I just wanted the pain to go away. I knew though that it was too late, and anyway didn't even see how I could manage until the anaesthetist could arrive nor how I would be able to keep still! Pethidene was also out of contention as I knew I was nearly there and I didn't want a drugged baby. Neither of these things were what I really wanted, but for me to be even contemplating them shows how desperate I was feeling.
Then something amazing happened! I heard this primitive, gutteral grunting sound. That was ME making it! It was totally involuntary and it felt weird to hear it without being aware of making the noise. Even in my extreme pain, I was able to recognise what that meant: from what I had read, I knew that meant I must be either fully dilated or pretty darned close to it. That gave me hope! The midwife of course also knew the score and said she wanted to examine me. It hurt a LOT! She said she was going to get Dr. C, as she wasn't sure. I was worried I was going to have to wait for him to get there from his house but the next minute he was there, so he must have been waiting nearby. After another very painful few minutes I heard him tell Ann, "She's fully." Didn't even bother with the word "dilated". LOL!
Andrew had just headed out to the toilet, and he said the doctor came and got him so he must have felt a real hurry. I had wanted to wait to push until I felt the full-on urge, plus the fact that I was exhausted and wanted a rest. Unfortunately, by this stage, little Katelyn was starting to suffer. Ann was checking her heartbeat after every contraction, and each time, it was slower. So I was kind of "bullied" into pushing. I got in as upright a position as I could and had the OB and midwife to push against with my legs. The pushing itself didn't hurt too much, even though by now the gas mask had somehow disappeared (LOL!). It DID really hurt though that Dr. C had his fingers in me and was pushing down hard to stretch my perineum. It certainly did help though as I only had superficial tearing that
required just a few stitches. The OB was more involved in the birth than I had imagined he would be and he and the midwife really worked together as a team. I was told to breathe in and push but instead was breathing in and screaming! Once Ann and Dr. C got a bit tough on me I managed to push her out without too much trouble. The crowning of her head didn't even feel too bad compared with what I had expected and the degree of pain I had been in towards the end of the first stage. One funny thing though was when I was asked if I wanted to reach down and touch her head and I was so sick of everything by that stage that I shouted out, "NO!".
Eventually I was told her head was out and I heard suctioning. I was told the shoulders were going to be a tight fit and that we needed to do it quickly so to give an almightly push. Before I knew it, there she was, lying on top of me. It seemed unreal. Was this really my baby? Did I really push her out? Then they moved her up higher and she was able to have her first breastfeed. WOW! The second stage lasted only about 15-20 minutes and Katelyn arrived at 4:36am on Tuesday February 26th (four days past her due date).
Unfortunately while this was happening, the OB was having a hard time with the placenta. It just wouldn't budge, despite him pushing down on my poor sore uterus. I wanted to hit him! The pain was supposed to be over by now but instead I was being hurt some more. Then came the news that I was going to have to have a general anaesthetic to have it removed. Total bummer, although I was just so glad the actual birth was over and I had my precious little girl.
It took almost two hours in the operating room and I had an awful time coming out of the anaesthetic, not helped at all by the fact the anaesthetist gave me an anti-nausea drug I get a dreadful reaction to (it was on my chart as a drug NOT to give - sends me almost psychotic). One good thing is that Andrew got a good chance to hold and bond with our little girl while I was gone. She settled off to sleep in his arms!
I feel incredibly blessed to have such a precious, healthy little girl! God has been very kind to us. She weighed 8 lbs, 13 1/2 ounces, and was almost 21 inches long, so she certainly grew well inside me! She has been feeding extremely well since then and is bound to outgrow the clothes I bought her in no time! She is perfect and beautiful in every way. I am still pinching myself as it is just so amazingly wonderful! Talk about a dream come true!
CONGRATULATIONS Gayesy, Andrew, and Thomas! Welcome to the world Baby Katelyn!