It was the very wee hours in the morning of May 3rd 1998, around 3:25 am when I woke with period-like cramps in my abdomen. It was fairly mild, and although I had read about Braxton Hicks contractions in the 15 or so books that I had read during my pregnancy, I had a funny feeling that what I was experiencing was the first contraction of my labor.
I was 37 1/2 weeks pregnant with my first child, and having a tough time with my partner (unfortunately he was a real jerk, physically and emotionally) so I chose not to wake him although my excitement made this very difficult. I got out of bed and got myself a glass of water, and toddled off back to bed. I lay thinking about what the day had in store for me, and realized that if I didn't get plenty of sleep, I wouldn't have the energy to see this through. I drifted off back to sleep and woke again shortly after with the next contraction. Looking at my alarm clock I saw that it was only 22 minutes after the first, and that feeling I had about it being labor really sank in.
I got to my feet and made my way to the living room where I sat on the sofa and watched television for a couple of hours, timing my contractions as they passed. Each one was exactly 22 minutes apart and only lasting 20 seconds or so, and once again I thought about my energy and went back to bed. Knowing that it was going to be a long day, I forced myself to sleep and did not wake again until 9am.
Boy, did it ever turn out to be a long day... We had carpets to steam clean, which I spent the early part of the day doing while my partner went to a friend's house to help them move. This I did not mind, because the bond that I had formed with my unborn child during my pregnancy gave me all the strength I needed to get me though whatever was headed my way. However, cleaning the carpets was a tough job. I wanted to have it done by the time I brought my baby home, so I carried on, stopping every 22 minutes to lean on the kitchen bench while another contraction passed.
I finished the steam cleaning and placed all the furniture back in its rightful place. I think all that work gave my labor a little boost, because from the moment I sat to rest I felt the contractions a little more intense, and they went from 22 minutes apart to 15. I thought I should call my mother, who was going to be my birth partner (my partner had very little interest in what was happening) and she became quite excited, as I was giving her the first grandchild. After asking me a hundred questions about the timing of them, she told me to call her when they became 5 minutes apart and she would come over.
The rest of the day went as any normal day would, the contractions slowly but surely becoming a little more intense and closer together. By 10 pm they were at 6 minutes apart and lasting about 60 seconds. I called my mother again, and she made her way over to me. We sat in my living room and talked for what seemed like hours, until further timing told us it was time to go to the hospital. We gathered our things, and my hospital bag which I had packed some 2 months earlier, and made our way to the hospital.
The car ride was horrific. I must have had 5-10 contractions along the way, and each bump we traveled over felt like an electric shock surging through my body like I imagine a lightning bolt would. The contractions were almost unbearable by this time and as we arrived at the hospital at 12:00 they were no more than 3 minutes apart and excruciatingly painful.
I was admitted immediately and taken to the birthing suite which was decked out like a beautiful bedroom that was beautifully decorated, and had a really calm and relaxing atmosphere. I was so glad to finally be there; I lay on the bed and gathered my thoughts and feelings about what the next few hours had in store. The lovely midwife came in to examine me, only to tell me that I was a mere 2 1/2 cm dilated and a long way from meeting my baby, so she suggested that I take a bath and try to relax. She filled the tub for me, and as I climbed in and immersed myself I felt a wave of relief rush over me like I had never felt before. The water made my contractions feel like period-like cramps again and I lay back with my head on the cushion as my mother stroked my hair gently, and I fell asleep.
I had been in the tub about half an hour when I woke to a very painful contraction. I jumped up and immediately yelled for help out of the tub, and my wishes were granted instantly. The midwife came in and told me that her shift was over, and introduced me to the new midwife on duty. This midwife was even lovelier than the first, and she took me to the bed to examine me and check on my progress. She found that my membranes were bulging from my cervix, and the moment she touched them, they burst and released what seemed like buckets upon buckets of warm water all over the floor. It was the most incredible feeling I had felt to this stage of my labor. I was 7 cm dilated, and knowing this really gave me a boost of confidence. All that pain was actually doing something!
I really began to feel uncomfortable after that, I couldn't bear to have anything touch me, and became really agitated. The contractions seemed to triple in intensity; I honestly didn't think they could get any worse than what they were beforehand! I went from rocking backward and forward on all fours, to crouching on the floor, to sitting on the toilet, to rolling around on the exercise ball, all over and over again. I stripped off my clothes, and couldn't even bear to have my mother massage my back. I began to moan quietly, and I think I even said the 'F' word a few times, which I remember apologizing adamantly to the midwife for any insult that might have come out of it.
I was offered a shot of pethadine, and some gas to take the 'edge' off the pain, to which I jumped at the opportunity. The anesthesiologist came in and gave me the shot of pethadine, which instantly made me violently ill. I don't remember feeling any decrease in pain, and to be vomiting among all the other things just made me want to scream. It was nearing 4am by this stage, and I was soo tired, I began to fall into a deep sleep in-between my 1 minute contractions. I remember waking to see my mother smiling at me and feeling like I had slept for hours. (She tells me later that I was really cute while this was going on, I don't believe her!)
The midwife finally came in with the gas machine, to which I took to like a duck to water. By the time she began explaining how to use it, I already had it down pat, and was not letting it go for anyone! It didn't take away any pain, but it gave me something to concentrate on and became like a security blanket throughout the rest of my labor. I got through the next few hours on my elbows and knees rocking back and forward, and with the gas mask shoved hard against my mouth (just so I didn't waste any, haha) until it was time for another examination. I was completely exhausted, and I felt like I could go no further so when the midwife came in I was begging her for a caesarean. The hospital I was at didn't perform the operation, not that the midwife considered it anyway, and to my surprise the examination showed I was almost fully dilated, and would be greeting my little one very soon.
About 8 am while I was walking around the birthing suite, I had the most incredible urge to push. It was so completely uncontrollable, it buckled my knees and my mum caught me as I was falling to the floor. She called in the midwife who was sitting at her desk right outside the door, and she came in and placed me on the bed. I started to panic, because up until now I had felt like I had control over my body and did not like how this was feeling. My GP/Obstetrician followed shortly after, and I watched him kick back in the armchair with his hands behind his head. He turned to me and said "You are doing absolutely fine, I am so proud of you". I thought he had gone completely mad, and with another urge to push, this incredible noise came from my mouth, it scared me! The midwife told me that my baby's head was crowning, and she fetched a mirror so that I could see. I was completely taken back by what I saw. Here was the top of my babies head, emerging from my body.
With each push, I couldn't help but relax in between, and the baby's head would pop back inside. The midwife was stressing to me how important it was that I hold the pressure of my push until the next contraction, so I began to do as she said. Oh my gosh, it was hard work, and lasted almost 20 minutes, but finally, my baby's head was born, and with one more push, the body followed and my doctor announced that I had a baby girl! She was born at 8:33am on the 4th May 1998, 29 hours from my first contraction.
I was so elated, my doctor raised her up to my belly and the rest was a blur. I looked down at my perfect baby girl, and my mum and I cried together over this incredible miracle. She was born with a natural hunger, and latched on right away, after receiving a 9 on the apgar, and having a quick exam.
I was discharged 3 days later, and went home with my perfect baby girl. My mum chose her name, Kayla Jade, and I am pleased to say that I ended my relationship with her father 3 months later, and have since become engaged to a wonderful man, who has taken Kayla in as if she were his own. We have given her a little brother to keep her company, and are now expecting another addition to the family! I couldn't be happier!