My due date had come and gone with absolutely no sign that my already stubborn little girl would make her grand appearance. When I woke up at 2 am with heartburn, I thought nothing more of it than just another pregnancy symptom. I took some medication and went back to bed. I woke up about an hour later, and my back was sore, so like I had done a few times during my pregnancy, I moved out to the couch and tried to get comfy there. About an hour later a little voice in my head said, "Shan this could be it!" but I didn't want to get my hopes up just yet. My partner Paul had organised to have his last day of work that day so we could spend some time together seeing as our bub seemed to be staying put but as soon as he was up, he knew he wouldn't be going in that day.
At around 10 am I ran a bath, which really helped me relax. I watched movies and timed my surges for around 2 hours before I, to be honest, just got a bit bored. At this stage, they were coming every five or so minutes. From my prenatal classes, I knew the 4-1-1 rule and felt like I wasn't far off. I lived about a 45-minute drive from the hospital and was quite anxious about getting there in time, so I called the hospital. The midwife said that I didn't sound like I was in active labour and to try and get some sleep. I lay down in bed, but the surges were all in my back and shooting down my legs, so I opted to sit on the fit ball again and just walk around the house. This went on for multiple hours while the realisation set in that I wasn't going to be a mum who had a quick labour.
At around 6 pm I went to the bathroom and lost my mucus plug. This was the strongest surge I'd had so far and the fact that the few surges that followed matched that intensity, I thought we better head to the hospital. Sitting in the car seat was really uncomfortable and felt a bit unnatural at that stage so I couldn't wait to get there.
We arrived, and I had four surges walking from the car up to the department I'd been told to go to. I had requested minimal internal checks, but as part of the admission process, I agreed to one. I thought I've been in labour for about 17 hours now so I must be pretty dilated so you can just imagine the disappointment when I was told I was 3cm's dilated. I felt so deflated.
Our night consisted of my partner Paul and I both trying to get some sleep on a single bed and me not dilating even 1cm more between when I arrived, and 8 am the next morning. We had been placed in a room on a pre-labour type ward, and all I wanted was to move to a birth suite so I could set up my essential oils and music. I think in the back of my mind, I was focused on getting there and the moving there rather than focusing on each surge and the work it was doing to bring my baby earthside.
When I was told at 8 am the next morning that I was still 3cm, and my waters still hadn't broken, my plans for an as natural as possible birth felt like they were slipping away from me. It was at this time that I broke down and cried to the midwife and said I needed some pain relief.
The midwife tried to reassure me, but I felt like I was failing. She said let's start with something not so heavy duty and offered Pethidine or the gas. I'd heard from basically everyone that the gas didn't work and would just make them sick, but I chose this over the Pethidine thinking it was the lesser of two evils. I said to my Paul "The gas isn't going to work, and then they are just going to have to give me an epidural and then I'll be fine."
The room I was in didn't have gas facilities so as well as a new midwife with shift change, I got moved to another room on the ward I was on. This change gave my labour the real refresh it needed. The new room was bigger and brighter, and the midwife seemed just to know what I needed. As she instructed me on how to use the gas, a realisation swept over me that the gas was working wonders for me. I think it may have been more psychological as it was on a really low percentage, but it gave me something to focus on through the surges.
After only about an hour, my surges really stepped up. The tightening moved to my stomach, and I felt like some progress was really being made. My midwife came back in to check on me as I was mid surge and she said, "Oh good job, you're really working now!" We discussed the fact that my water hadn't broken and that might be stopping me from progressing. She said to me "I can't break your waters, but I will do a stretch and sweep and see if that helps". She obviously knew more than I did because as she did the stretch and sweep, my waters broke all over her and the bed and she let me know I'd got to 5-6cm.
I moved down to the birth suite at this stage. As soon as we walked in my partner was on music and essential oils duty and then moved to massaging my back through surges. In this birth space, I felt like I was in charge. I worked with each surge instead of fighting them, and it wasn't long before I felt the pressure to push. I had been standing up until this point, but my feet were so sore from so much standing I opted to kneel on the bed with the bed head raised for some added support. I pushed for around half an hour and felt like I was getting absolutely nowhere, but when I look back now and realise I was in transition. With some reassuring words from my partner and midwife I powered through, and it wasn't long before I felt my baby's head about to crown. It was the most overwhelming feeling of excitement I'd ever felt. Her head was born, and her body followed quickly after.
As my little girl was passed up to me, and I felt her slippery little body against mine, I felt so complete. We were able to do amazing skin-to-skin and delayed the cord clamping for about an hour.
I'd chosen to have a physiological third stage, and my placenta delivered fairly easily, but it was after it was delivered the midwives became concerned about my blood loss. I'd lost over half a litre of blood and was starting to get the shakes and feeling dizzy, so an obstetrician was called. I'd had no tears but ended up having a couple of stitches for some grazing to ensure they didn't cause any extra bleeding and a few clots manually removed. This wasn't my ideal after birth scenario as I wanted to have continued skin-to-skin, but again my partner was great and was ensuring he did that while I couldn't. After an hour or so, the bleeding was under control, and I felt a million dollars.
Even though I had a 36-hour labour and the small bleed after I really feel that that overwhelming sense of empowerment made it a positive experience for me, I felt so powerful and strong growing this baby and bringing her into the world and my life felt to fulfilled. Twenty-four hours after her birth, we were driving home to start our lives as a new little family.