|Our new family!|
On Wednesday 1st July at 3:32pm Andy and I welcomed our beautiful little girl, Ella Grace, into the world. I am feeling so so happy and blessed at the moment. Not only is she perfect (to us!), she gave me a lovely birthing experience and I also have the most loving and supportive husband and father to our child. I don't think it gets any better than this...
I thought I'd share my birth story on here, as it was a really positive experience and I think it's important that people realise that labour is not always the traumatic experience it is made out to be.
I'll start with things that I did during my pregnancy that I think helped to have a good labour. Or possibly I was just blessed with good genes as my mom also had very quick births!
- Keeping Active. Up until about 33-34 weeks I was swimming once a week and going for a walk at least once a week. I actually think I should have been walking a lot more, however I did walk to and from the train when going to work which is probably about 30-40 minutes total walking each day on its own.
- Yoga. I did yoga regularly about 2-3 times a week pretty much throughout pregnancy until about 34 weeks. I didn't do a pregnancy specific yoga class but made sure the instructors always knew I was pregnant so they could help me modify certain poses. Then I got a pregnancy DVD and book from the library that I did at home during the last few weeks. Totally recommend this as the instructor, Tara Lee, gives ideas of things to do during and in between contractions which I did and really helped.
- Acupuncture. I started this at about 34 weeks. This really helped with back pain, and also is meant to prepare your body for labour. I went to Angea Acupuncture and Yoga in Prahran. I had an appointment scheduled for the day I went into labour, where the birth preparation was to be ramped up. The World Health Organisation has written that acupuncture has been proven to relieve labour pain and reduce the length of labour.
- Meditation. I started using the Headspace App and in the last few months meditated 10-20 minutes almost daily. I haven't meditated since the birth but am aiming to get back into the practice today.
- Read about Hypnobirthing. I wish I had done the full course and would consider it for our next child, if we are so lucky to be able to have another. However just reading about it took away a lot of fear I had about labour and gave me the confidence to trust that my body knew what to do.
- Using an exercise ball. We bought one of those big inflatable balls that you can sit on for me to use instead of just coming home and laying on the sofa (which of course I did do as well!) It was also recommended to rotate your hips while sitting on one as it can help get your baby into prime birthing position.
Things I wish I had done: Pelvic floor exercises more consistently! And more pre-natal pilates. I did a few classes but it would have probably benefited my pelvic floor if I did them more regularly.
And here is how my labour went. I will not to be too graphic! On Wednesday at about 8:30am Andy I were just about to go for a walk. I had just tied my shoes, and when I stood up I felt like I had just peed my pants! I was a bit annoyed about it, but then realised it might be my waters breaking. We called the hospital and they told us to come in and have it checked out just in case. They told us to bring along the hospital bags just in case as well, which I hadn't finished packing. Cue mad rush around the house to throw in a few last minute items and we were off to the hospital.
Since moving to Abbotsford we are actually pretty far from Sandringham Hospital, so it took us about 45 minutes to get there. We arrived about 10am and the midwife who I talked to on the phone, Chris, examined me. She confirmed that my waters had broken, and that most women will go into labour within 24 hours of this happening. If I didn't go into labour naturally by then, I would be induced the next morning as the risk of infection to the baby increases. I really did not want to be induced, so was considering keeping my acupuncture appointment at this point, as there have been studies to show that acupuncture can be used to induce labour naturally. Chris told us to go have some lunch, go for a walk, etc. and come back to the hospital in a few hours, as I didn't feel I was having contractions at that point. I did feel some mild discomfort, which felt like period pains, but nothing too strong at that point.
We ended up going to a nearby shopping mall as I wanted to get a few last minute items for my hospital bag. Walking into Target the greeter saw us walking hand in hand and was like "Oh, how lovely! When are you due?" And I was like "Um, it's happening right now?" Needless to say she was quite surprised! As we walked around there the pains were getting stronger and coming at closer intervals, but I was concerned that we should get some lunch... I knew Andy was going to need some strength to get through this! We sat down to have some sandwiches but before we were halfway through we both thought we should get back to the hospital, the contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes at this point.
We arrived back at the hospital about an hour after we left, at about 12:30pm. We were immediately led to a birthing suite and I quickly found the most comfortable position was on my hands and knees on a yoga mat. During the contractions I tried to focus on my breathing and circled my hips around as I learned in my yoga DVD. In between contractions Chris the midwife was trying to admit me, taking blood pressure, drawing blood, etc. The OB came to see me once, and then we didn't see him again for the whole birth. Chris then examined my cervix and I was 7 cm dilated, meaning I was in the third stage of labour already. She said the bath was available and did I want to try for a water birth? I hadn't really thought about this much but had heard being in the bath helped with pain so thought, why not?!
Chris explained to me some of the conditions for a water birth which are a bit hazy to me now. Basically no drugs and your bum has to stay in the water... that's really all I can remember! The room with the bath was lovely, dimly lit, warm, with soothing music playing. Getting into the tub at first was an incredible feeling, like a lovely warm hug that totally relaxed me. I spent the next 2 hours in there (they did have to put some more hot water in at one point) having strong, regular contractions every minute or so. I'm not going to lie, they were painful. I let out some pretty loud moans. I tried really hard to focus on breathing and just getting through each one, thinking that each contraction was one step closer to the end goal! Chris reminded me that the quicker I relaxed after each one, the longer I would have to recover, and that thought also helped.
When she started crowning the midwife had Andy have a look - something I never thought he would do! I don't think he wanted to at first, but since it was under water I think it was a less confronting view! Once her head was out I knew we were almost there and pushing felt pretty good at that point. Next thing I knew, the midwife was telling me to look down and there she was, underneath me in the bath. Seeing her like that was absolutely amazing, I can't even describe the feeling. I scooped her up, and there she was, our new baby girl!
It is shocking how blissful you feel right after giving birth. I felt like nothing was wrong with me at all, which I'm sure was due to the endorphins running through my body. I had some time with her in the bath while they clamped and cut the umbilical cord, and then I had to get out to deliver the placenta. I didn't have any more contractions so they just had me push and it came out. We then moved from the water bath room to my original birthing suite, where our friend Charlotte was waiting. Charlotte generously agreed to be a second birthing partner, someone to support us if we had had a really long labour. It turned out she didn't have to do much during labour, but it was great to see a familiar face after the birth. Soon after I gave Ella my first breastfeed - which felt great at the time (hello endorphins!) but has been one of the most challenging parts of having a new baby so far! Adam also came by a bit later on with a bag full of goodies he picked up on his way to hospital - muesli bars, magazines, chocolate, etc. Again, I am so thankful for the support of our friends through this - it has been so important seeing as we are so far away from family.
I ended up having a small tear that needed four stitches, that was probably the worst bit of the whole process for me! They used local anaesthetic for it however so it wasn't as bad as I anticipated it would be.
I spent two nights in hospital in a semi-private room. My roommate was a girl called Ally and luckily we got on really well. I originally thought it would kind of suck sharing a room, but actually it was nice to have someone to talk to in the night. We have kept in touch and hopefully I will meet up with her and her little boy in the next few weeks. The midwives at the hospital were all (well, mostly) great. So supportive and helpful - they have such an important job working with new mums and they gave me the confidence needed for when we left.
We've been home now for 3 days and doing well so far. As I mentioned, breastfeeding has been the biggest challenge but it gets better every day. Andy has been fantastic, he has made a great dad already, and has been a huge support for me. It's been excellent timing as Andy is on school holidays for another week and then can take an additional week of paternity leave so we have lots of time to bond as a family.