Frank and I, like all prospective parents wished only the best for our coming baby. We had heard that the Wesley Hospital was ‘the’ place to have a baby, so upon learning that we had conceived, we booked into the Wesley as soon as possible. We also, after having been eating organically, and living chemical-free for more than five years, wished for a drug free delivery for our organic baby.
While attending a baby expo, I found out at the Home-midwifery stall about a Doctor, (Dr Sarah Buckley) who was going to be speaking the following week about ‘ecstatic’ birth which I thought sounded intriguing. Frank & I went to hear Dr Sarah Buckley and learned a lot about what medical intervention does during labour and how it interrupts the human body’s natural pain killing birthing hormones which your body produces during labour.
After reading “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering”, Dr Sarah Buckley’s book, I gained a real insight of what birthing should be.
At 17 weeks, Frank and I thought we would do one of many tours of the maternity unit at the Wesley so we could become familiar with these surroundings so it wouldn’t feel like a hospital when the time came for our baby’s birth. After the tour Frank and I admitted to each other that we were horrified with the unit and it looked like the most unnatural place to give birth to a baby. I just wanted to cry. That night I pulled out the leaflets from the baby expo and found the Home-midwifery brochures as I was determined to birth our baby at home. After speaking with our families they felt that we would be compromising the safety of our baby without having medical intervention handy during birthing if the needs arose plus, we found that finding a homebirth-midwife in Brisbane was very difficult as they were scarce. So after speaking to a couple of people within the Home-midwifery association I learnt about the next best thing, which is hiring a ‘Doula’, a support person to assist with natural and gentle birthing. I was given a couple of names of some Doula’s in Brisbane and found Liz Leys who after speaking with her, gave me the confidence to deliver in a hospital. Again, I just wanted to cry, but this time in relief! I was torn between my new ‘natural instincts’ to deliver in a safe and gentle environment at home and to deliver in a place which has medical intervention close at hand if the need arose.
Frank and I met Liz and were both really happy with her and felt excited and relieved. We confirmed Liz’s appointment shortly after. Liz supplied me with lots of reading material which helped me with diet and exercise for the pregnancy and provided us with information so we could make informed choices about our desired birthing experience and this helped us to write our birth plan. At times I would have three books on the go, a natural opinion, a conventional opinion and an in-between opinion. I have never done so much reading in my life! Apart from receiving and returning books from Liz I wouldn’t meet with Liz again until late in the pregnancy when we would start our prenatal chats discussing what Frank and I wished for in our baby’s birth. She would also answer any questions that we had.
During that time I attended yogababy’s classes with Suzanne Swan, which helped me realise how far I could push my pregnant body during exercise as I wasn’t 100% sure how far I could go. Yoga also helped me stretch out any aches and pains I had. Once I reached third trimester I started yogababy’s Active birth Yoga classes which taught me how to breathe and relax, which after birth, I realised was so important.
I finished work at 34 weeks and practiced Yoga at home every second day and walked the other alternate day. I started meeting with Liz for our pre-natal chats. On one visit, Liz brought to my attention that our little baby’s spine was lying on my right side which worried me as a baby can turn breech from this position.. So I undertook exercises and slept on my left side to try to roll our little baby over to the left side, which is the optimal foetal position. After reading up optimal foetal positioning I was relieved to read that in most cases the baby rolls over to the left during labour. So after all of my reading, and yoga preparations I felt ready, and feared nothing of the birth. I was truly relaxed about what lay ahead of me.
As I thought our baby was due two weeks earlier than what our obstetricians date was, we felt it was ok to talk to our baby and let him/her know that if he/she was ready to come, we were ready and that it was ok to start his/her journey to meet us. Frank and I also thought that it would be best if our baby came early so we would be home for when Frank’s parents came up from Adelaide so we could spend more valuable time with them, rather than being stuck in a hospital.
Abby’s Birth Story
On 26 February at 11:50pm, I was woken with a slight pain in my belly that lasted 60 seconds. I woke again at midnight with the same pain lasting the same time. I thought ‘Hmmm, 60 seconds that’s a length of a contraction. This could be something. I went back to sleep. That morning I told Frank that I had those two pains and had a couple more over breakfast and said ‘If these pains are contractions, I don’t think I like the feel of them’. I think I said this because the pains were different to the Braxton Hicks contractions I had throughout the pregnancy. I went about my day going to the shops and picking up bits and pieces and recorded times that I had these recurring, spasmodic pains. They were coming at least every hour and in the back of my mind I kept wondering, ‘Should I buy this or will I be in hospital for the next five days?’ I also went to my acupuncturist appointment as planned and advised the acupuncturist that I think I may be in pre-labour. I had another one of these pains during the appointment.
Finally, I got home and thought I had better iron some clothes as we were going out to dinner with a friend who was up from Adelaide. As I was ironing away I suddenly got a pain which made me stop what I was doing, and made me think that labour was on it’s way. I stopped ironing and waited until I got another one of these pains and after 30-45mins I had another pain so I rang Liz around 3:30pm and asked her about these pains and said there isn’t any pattern yet, but when they stopped me from what I’m doing I thought I should check with you as to what I should do. She questioned me about where the pain was, I said ‘lower abdomen’ and she asked how long is the pain lasting and I said ’60 seconds, which makes me think that they are contractions’ she said ‘Well congratulations, you have made it to pre-labour, now you could have a baby in 24 hours or 2-3 days so go make yourself a good solid dinner and go to bed and sleep’. I said, ‘ok, so when do we call you?’ Liz said, ‘Generally the husband will call when he thinks it’s time’. So after sms’ing Frank to let him know what’s going on, phoning my mum to advise her and cancelling dinner with our friend, I went to bed around 5:30pm. This was Frank’s birthday and I felt bad that we weren’t going out for dinner. I hoped that the birth of our baby would be a good enough excuse for not having a nice birthday dinner! Frank got home around 5:45pm and ate the leftovers of my meal I made for myself. I kept recording the contractions and Frank and I tried to rest/sleep as much as possible.
The evening was progressing and Frank & I were beginning to have a giggle at each contraction. Frank was now timing them and started saying ‘Ok, you going to get a contraction….. Now!’ and sure enough he was right. My contractions were coming at 9mins, 9mins, 9mins, 10mins, 8mins, 8mins, 8mins, 9mins, 7mins, 7mins, 7mins, 8mins etc. I kept saying to Frank, ‘This isn’t labour yet’. Frank kept replying ‘you are in labour ok?’. I was denying it as I was looking for a more consistent pattern. Frank rang Liz around 9:40pm and told her what my contractions were doing and she told us to go to bed and rest. I tried to sleep but I found when I was lying down my contractions seemed more intense and seem to last longer. I told Frank I was ok and sent him to bed as if we were going to have our baby in the next 24 hours, he needed some rest. I put the bath on and laboured in the bath for an hour or so and reached a point where I no longer wanted to record the timing of contractions. Frank woke to hear me vomiting and he rushed to my side. Labour is so good for cleaning out the system! We turned out the lights and lit two candles and burned some lavender aromatherapy. Liz had lent us a CD created for birthing which Frank & I played and it created a quiet and still ambience.
A couple of hours passed in this quiet and peaceful environment. I was just breathing through each contraction as it came along. This is where I now know that the Active birth Yoga preparations really helped. I was still labouring in the bath and was kneeling and leaning on the side of the bath with my arms folded forwards. I was very much within myself. At 1:45am, my contractions were coming every 3mins apart. Frank called Liz and she arrived 45mins later.
My contractions were getting fairly strong now. On some contractions Liz poured a cup of the warm bath water down my back which felt really nice. She suggested Frank jump in the bath with me and showed him some acupressure points to massage on my lower back while she massaged my shoulders. I had been drinking a lot of water during labour as I knew it was important to keep hydrated and Liz was surprised when she arrived to see bottles of Grolsch Beer around the bath. She thought Frank had been drinking beer while I was labouring. Little did she know that we reuse the glass Grolsch swing-top beer bottles instead of drinking from plastic bottles! When she realised this we all had a little giggle. Liz put a straw in my bottle which enabled me to drink without having to move my position. Liz commented to Frank that this was ‘text book labour’ which really encouraged me in what I was doing.
At 4:50am I needed to pee so Liz left the room and while I was on the loo, I had a ‘show’. Frank told Liz and Liz said, ‘Don’t flush, I’d like to have a look at it’. Liz confirmed the show.
Liz could see I was switching into transition and I changed position to standing in the bath and swaying my pelvis. Frank joined me in this gentle dance. Not long after I asked Liz when we should head off to hospital. She said whenever you feel like it. She said my contractions wouldn’t become any stronger now, which surprised me as I didn’t feel like I was in too much pain. I didn’t stay in the standing position too long and hopped out of the bath into the bedroom where I knelt and leant on the side of the bed. As I moved out of the bathroom I joked and said ‘I’m not having fun anymore!’ I only stayed in this position for about 20mins when I heard the local family of Kookaburras calling out to greet the morning sun. I then thought that we should probably make our way into the hospital. (I was also thinking in the back of my mind about the weekday traffic as the hospital is a 30min drive without traffic and I didn’t want to be stuck in traffic). So I said ‘I think we should head into hospital now’.
Frank rang the hospital to advise them that we were on the way. The very first question that the hospital asked Frank was ‘What pain relief will be required?’. Frank just paused as he couldn’t believe that this was the first question they asked. He answered, ‘None.’ He was expecting something like ‘How far apart are the contractions’. I had submitted my birth plan to the hospital and my obstetrician two days prior to this day so we assumed that they would pull out my file and read up on my birth plan as when I submitted my birth plan, the midwife highlighted parts of it for the reference and wrote ‘Drug-free’ at the top of their copy.
It was 5:30am when we left home. Liz and I sat in the back of the car and I sat in the back seat back to front leaning on to the back of the seat. We arrived at the hospital at 6:00am and Liz and Frank escorted me through the foyer. A hospital staff member brought me a wheelchair and Liz and Frank wheeled me down to the maternity unit. To stay within my head and allow no distractions I covered my head and face with my night gown which was very effective. When we reached maternity they were setting up a birthing room for us. We waited in an examination room. Frank lent over the back of the wheelchair and surrounded me with his arms. Liz put the birthing music CD on again on her portable CD player. A midwife tried to speak with me and I remained in my quiet space. Liz and Frank spoke for me. Liz handed her a copy of my birth plan to the midwife just in case the hospital misplaced their copy.
Not long after we were escorted into a birthing room. Liz turned on the shower and turned the lights off and Frank and I went in to the shower. Liz put a chair in the shower for Frank to sit on and put foam knee pads on me. She suggested that I kneel on the floor and lean on Frank. Frank held the shower hose on my lower back. I later moved to sitting on Franks lap, facing him and Frank continued to hold the shower hose on my lower back. We stayed in this position for a while. At 7:30am I said that I felt something pop. Liz said that is probably your membranes and she got her torch to check and see if the membranes were clear and they were. I felt like I was crowning and Frank called to Liz and she checked and said ‘not yet’. At 7:40am my body jerked with a huge involuntary push during a contraction. As I was still sitting on Frank’s lap he felt it all and said ‘Oh Wow’ excitedly. The midwife said that I wasn’t allowed to push yet as she didn’t know if I was fully dilated. Liz said to the midwife, ‘I don’t think Mary is so much pushing, as her body is reacting involuntarily’.
Early in the pregnancy, Frank and I were concerned over the use and effects of ultrasound scanning, after our initial 10 and 13 week scan, we researched and decided to not to have anymore scans after what we found. So we didn’t even opt to listen to our baby’s heart beat with the audio doppler. It took our obstetrician a while to realise that the doppler is a low frequency ultrasound. By 22 weeks Frank was able to hear the heartbeat by putting his ear to my belly and he used to tap out our babies heartbeat on my thigh so we were happy with that and it was a lot more special and personal to hear it this way. So having our ultrasound research behind us we listed on our birth plan that we preferred not to use CTG foetal monitoring during birth or at the maximum, intermittent monitoring. This now caused a problem within the hospital even though our obstetrician and the admissions midwife had previously approved the birth plan and the Maternity unit Team Leader and the relieving obstetrician (our obstetrician was overseas) threatened to put us in an ambulance and send us somewhere else. This conversation was very rudely had with Frank, over the top of me while I was on his lap in the shower, having my contractions. Frank negotiated that we limit its use to 10mins intermittently when it is needed.
The midwife took my temperature and said I had a fever which prompted her to hook me up to the CTG monitor. Our baby’s heart rate was low and I was asked to hop up on to the bed to have some oxygen. After a few contractions with the oxygen the baby’s heart rate returned to a strong healthy beat. The midwife told me I was fully dilated and I could push from the next contraction. The contraction came but I didn’t have a surging urge to push so I just breathed through it. A couple more contractions came but still I didn’t have any urge to push. I said that I wanted to move to the floor which we did.
Liz got a mattress and a beanbag and made a ‘nest’ for Frank and I to get comfy on. I was on my hands and knees and then received an urge to push. It took me a while to get the gist of ‘pushing’ as I was so mellow during the first phase of labour. The second stage was a total change of mind set for me. I worked with each contraction and I had to work as hard or even harder than what I used to when I was a competitive rower. With each contraction I could feel our baby moving down and I could feel the head crowning. After each contraction the head kept slipping back in so Liz suggested that I put one leg out to the side which opened my pelvis even more. I asked Liz for hot washers on my perineum to help ease the stretching sensation as baby’s head was coming. Liz was also applying acupressure on each side of my pelvis during each contraction which was an amazing help in easing the pressure off my pelvis as baby moved down. Poor Liz was running around between each contraction to get hot washers, then I would call out ‘Liz’ when the next contraction came so Liz could apply the acupressure to my pelvis. In between this Liz was showing me our baby’s head coming out in her mirror to encourage me. I couldn’t see the head due to the lights being off in the room and the reflection of the torch in the mirror. Frank saw it though and it brought him to tears. He was on the ground with me and was encouraging me with kind, loving words. When I saw Frank’s tears I knew we would be meeting our baby soon so I gave it my best on the next couple of contractions. The midwife said ‘Babies head is out’ and called Frank to help catch our baby and the baby slipped out straight after. Frank passed me our baby and I held her close to my body. Baby’s arrival time was 10:52am.
At 11:00am the midwife asked if she could clamp the cord as it had stopped pulsing, and my placenta had started to come away. Frank and I felt the cord to see if it stopped pulsing first before we agreed. We had written in our birth plan that we wanted a Lotus birth so the hospital wouldn’t clamp the cord too early as we had read how important delayed clamping is for the baby to receive all of her blood. Frank cut the cord
The midwife was concerned at my blood lost and asked if she could administer an injection of syntocinion to stop the bleeding. As the baby was now detached from me I agreed to receive the shot. I spoke to Liz about this later on and Liz said the amount of blood was normal for a natural birth, and the midwife wouldn’t be used to seeing that amount of blood as syntocinion is given routinely straight after birth to stop any bleeding. What I thought was funny was when the midwife gave me the shot I said loudly ‘Ouch!’ And there I was, just given birth to a baby and a simple injection hurt more than the pain of contractions! I think now it was because it was such an unnatural pain compared to the pain of contractions.
We had been admiring our beautiful baby for about 15 mins when I asked Frank ‘Shall we look to see if it is a boy or a girl?’ He said ‘Yes’. We had a little girl! What a surprise! We listed in our birth plan that we wanted to discover the birth of our baby ourselves as we thought it would be more special instead of the stereotypical midwife from the movies that calls out ‘It’s a Boy/Girl’. Why should the midwife have all the fun of proclaiming what sex our baby is? Liz positioned the beanbag on the mattress so both Frank and I could admire and discover the sex of our baby. Our little baby was so alert, looking around the dimly lit room and finding her parents. Frank commented ‘She is so alert’, Liz answered, ‘Of course she is. She had a drug free birth’.
Our little girl had her first taste of Mummy’s milk at 11:25am. We left the hospital at 6:00pm that night.
What a beautiful and gentle, birth for our baby. It was more perfect than we had imagined. No medical intervention, no obstetrician, and with Liz’s assistance, Frank and I was able to be one and enjoy this most beautiful experience.
Abby Charlotte Wex entered our world at 10:52am, 28 February 2007, weighing 6lb 4oz or 2.8kg