Meeting Evelyn Florence
“Birth plan”. What an oxymoron.
I had been told time and time again throughout pregnancy that you cannot plan your birth. I understood that. I have listened to countless podcasts, read all the books, attended a two-day Calmbirth course and completed six weeks of antenatal classes at the hospital. I knew birth was unpredictable. I knew I might want to have an epidural. I knew I might need to have a caesarean. I knew I might not be able to have the water birth I’d dreamed of. However, all the possible scenarios I’d gone through involved delivering my baby in a hospital. But they were right when they told me to expect the unexpected.
I always looked forward to pregnancy, even as a little girl. I looked at these beautiful pregnant women and thought, ‘how lovely, to be in a constant state of anticipation for something so wonderful’ and ‘how lovely to be able to eat whatever the heck you want’. Unfortunately, the reality of pregnancy wasn’t quite the romantic fairy-tale I’d imagined. There were moments of joy, of course, of excitement, of peace, but on the whole – I didn’t enjoy it. Nausea, backache, heartburn, food aversions, food cravings, 20kg of weight gain, lightning crotch, stretch marks, nose bleeds, exhaustion…what’s there to enjoy!? Not to mention the extreme guilt of hating pregnancy when I knew how lucky I was to be pregnant.
As a generally anxious person, I had feared infertility for many years, and when I found out that I had an extremely low egg count in late 2018, I was sure I would never get pregnant. As is usually the case in my life, the things I should worry about never occur to me and the things that plague my thoughts for months never eventuate. We were lucky enough to get pregnant our first go. Being the Negative Nancy I am, I thought this was too good to be true and waited for us to miscarry. This train of thought wasn’t helped by the fact that I had experienced significant amounts of bleeding two days before seeing the positive pregnancy test and my GP had told me it was possible that I might have miscarried already. After two blood tests and a few excruciating days, he called to confirm that my HCG levels were increasing. Good news.
We awaited our first scan at 8 weeks and wanted to jump for joy when we saw the little pulsing of the heartbeat. Unfortunately, the moment of joy lasted about five seconds before the sonographer told us I had a subchorionic haemorrhage which she said: “didn’t necessarily mean an inevitable miscarriage”. Very reassuring. We waited for the results of the non-invasive prenatal testing with bated breath. I’ll never forget the moment I received the news that I was low risk for fetal abnormalities and surprise; it’s a girl (not really a surprise at all. I had a feeling)! We started to relax slowly, and the day we had our 12-week scan and saw the baby was alive and well (and the haemorrhage had resolved itself), and doing yoga poses in utero, we really started to get excited.
I started feeling cramps on-and-off at night from 36 weeks, and my midwife told me that she thought there was a chance I could go into labour sooner rather than later. You can imagine my disdain as I sat at home on my due date looking at my comically large belly and wondering why I had been pregnant for what felt like 63 years already. I waited, …and waited. I drank the raspberry leaf tea, I ate six dates every day for six weeks, I did the YouTube ‘inducing labour’ videos, I had sex, I ate curries, I ate eggplant, I did acupuncture, I bounced on my exercise ball, I meditated – and still, no baby. At 41 weeks, I set my induction date for 41+6. I wanted to go as long as me, my husband and my midwife felt comfortable, to give the baby as much of a chance to come on her own as possible. From my due date onwards, I cried every day. I remember saying to my husband Julian, ‘it just feels like everyone else is getting their baby, and we won’t.’
Looking back, it seems silly – of course, I knew we’d get our baby one way or another, but I was at my wit’s end, mentally and physically exhausted. Every message from friends and family (‘where’s the baby!?’, ‘is she here yet?’, ‘still pregnant?’) made me feel like me, and my body was failing everyone. Once I resigned myself to the reality of an inevitable induction, I was a lot happier. We had a date set, and I knew we’d have a baby by Friday the 13th.
I woke up on the night of Saturday, December 7th with cramps again and didn’t think much of it. The cramps continued throughout the morning of Sunday the 8th. I remember getting up, eating breakfast, showering, and it wasn’t until I sat down to do my make-up that I thought: ’is this something?’. I told Julian I still had a bit of pain, and he was his typical cool, calm, collected self. I could tell he didn’t want either of us to get too excited in case it was a whole lot of nothing. I tried to distract myself and called my big sister to talk through the prospect of induction as the birth of her firstborn was induced. We chatted, and I mentioned I had a bit of pain and general crampiness. She said it sounded exactly like the start of her labour with her son, who had just been born in October. Hmm…maybe this was something?
I continued to get excited as the pain progressed. By 3 pm I was sure I was in early labour, but I had heard that this stage could last days and start and stop. We called my mum in Canberra and told them not to hit the road yet, but to be on standby. We would call again with an update by 5 pm. I even took a selfie while Jules went to Woolworths to get supplies so I could remember the moment. I was uncomfortable and in a bit of pain, but I was still taking selfies, so it obviously wasn’t too bad. We set up Gilmore Girls and snacks, thinking we were in for a long road.
Those snacks are still sitting in the cupboard, and Gilmore Girls remains unwatched. At some point, I remember labouring in our study after we’d set up the tens machine, and I started crying as Jules bounced about doing laundry. I asked him to come be with me and help me through these contractions. I think we were both surprised at how I’d gone from totally fine to in-quite-a-bit-of-pain.
I was in a midwifery group practice program, and unfortunately, the midwife I had seen throughout my pregnancy was not working that Sunday, so we called and spoke to one of the other midwives in the program. Claire listened to my contractions, and ironically, I had the longest break between contractions that I’d had thus far while on the phone to her. She assured us that I was in early labour and that we were in for a long night, so to hunker down and try and relax (ha!).
The rest of the evening is a little bit of a blur. I remember soon after I had my ‘bloody show’ and I recall another call to Claire where she recommended that Jules run me a bath to try and help ease the pain, which was at an unbearable high. Although my memory is foggy, I vividly remember lying naked on the bathroom pain and screaming as loudly as I could. I never made it into the bath. I kept walking through the necessary steps in my brain – ‘lift leg up, balance enough to get leg in bath, hoist entire body into bath, lie down…’ It all felt completely impossible. The thought that it might help ease the pain wasn’t worth the risk that it wouldn’t, and then I’d be stuck in a bathtub with nothing to grab onto.
When Jules realised the bath effort was futile, he moved me to our bed, and that’s when things started to get messy. I started bleeding all over our white doona, and I remember saying to Jules, “I think she’s coming”. I suddenly had an intense urge to poop, and I’d read enough to know what that meant. Jules called Claire straight away, and I could hear the urgency and alarm in her voice as she told me not to push. She instructed us to leave for the hospital right away; this was about 7 pm. Jules raced to get our bags in the car. He got back, managed to get my dress back on, get some slippers on me, and started to walk me to the front door. I collapsed on the floor about a metre from the doorway, and we both realised, almost in unison, that there was no way we were making it to that hospital.
Jules dialled 000 as I laboured on the floor and stayed as calm as he possibly could. I had Claire on the speaker next to me as the 000 call-taker talked Jules through how to deliver a baby. I just remember repeating over and over – “I’m so scared.” I just couldn’t believe I was about to have my baby at home. How had we got to this point? After all the classes, all the research, all the planning - how was this my life? How was this part of our story? I have truly never been so scared.
I have to give credit to Jules for being the most incredible support person throughout the labour, and particularly when the you-know-what hit the fan. He never lost his cool, and his take-charge attitude kept me from panicking.
Twenty terrifying minutes passed before the two ambulances arrived, and four paramedics burst through the door. Somehow, I still managed to notice that there were three handsome men and one attractive young woman in my apartment as I lay spread eagle on the floor, and I actually had the presence of mind to be embarrassed! The team discussed plans and said that they saw no sign of the baby, so would attempt a hospital transfer. Relief. For a millisecond.
“Nope! We see a head. We’re having this baby here.”
Less than ten minutes after the paramedics arrived at our place, at 8.03 pm, little Evelyn Florence D’Arcy was born. It’s hard to put into words how I felt when I saw her for the first time, but the one word that comes to me is ‘peace’. After the chaos, mess and fear of the birth, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace as soon as I saw her face, and they laid her on my chest. I remember kissing her little head, straining to get a look at her face. She looked completely different to how I’d imagined her, but it immediately felt like she was mine. I’d imagined meeting her countless times, all throughout pregnancy (and before) but nothing could have prepared me for that moment. It felt like we were in our own little bubble for a moment and everything just felt right.
I came back to earth and Evie and I were loaded onto a stretcher before being taken by ambulance to the hospital where I birthed the placenta, and I was stitched up (yikes – no-one prepared me for THAT!). My parents met us at the hospital. Little did I know Jules was managing to find time to keep them updated throughout the labour and they weren’t thrilled to get the “Actually, meet us at home. We’re having the baby here.” text. That can’t have been a fun car trip!
We were warned by Claire and our regular midwife Ash that I may feel quite traumatised by the birth and want to talk it through in the days that followed. It’s now eight weeks later, and while I still haven’t fully processed my feelings about it, I mostly look back at it with incredulity and joy. I would have loved to have had my calm waterbirth in the safety and security of the hospital’s birth centre, but that wasn’t our story. Our story is unique, intense, and it ended with the birth of my gorgeous daughter. Plus, it’s pretty damn badass.