Our new addition: Oliver James
Welcome baby Oliver James to the world! He arrived early, at 37+3 weeks, weighing in at 2.8kg. Below is the story of his birth. I wrote most of the below as it was happening so that I would be able to remember this time in my life. It is, after all, probably the last time I will ever give birth. I wrote about Ella’s birth here, and I love being able to go back to that time to remind myself of what it was like. Warning: this is a pretty long post, so settle in!
Tuesday 15th May
I’m exactly 37 weeks pregnant today. I've gone in to the hospital this morning for a normal pre-natal check-up. The midwife does my fundal height measurement and there is no growth from the week before. This has been a pattern from about 30 weeks, where I have been consistently measuring small for dates. She asks a second midwife to measure me, who gets the same number, so they then go to get a doctor to consult. The doctor also measures me, and feels around my tummy for a while before stating that she feels I am too small for 37 weeks. She recommends that I be induced, as the baby is full term now and may not be getting the nutrients it needs from my placenta. If this is the case then it is better for the baby to be out than in. Of course, it could just be a small baby, so I’m a bit torn about whether or not I want to go through with the induction. I know I can refuse, but I do believe that the doctor has the baby’s best interest in mind. The major downside is that if induced I will not be able to have a water birth like I had with Ella, as they have to constantly monitor the baby’s heartbeat. I’m pretty sad about that.
The doctor sends me to have a CTG to monitor the baby. While waiting I email work and let them know I'm not coming back in, as my original plan was to work until Friday. I text Andy and he leaves work to come and meet me at the hospital. The CTG is fine, so next I have a scan to check the level of amniotic fluid, which is also fine. So good news, I don't have to be induced today, and instead am scheduled to come back to the hospital on Thursday morning to be induced.
At 1pm I'm finally released from hospital. Andy and I go for what could be our last nice kid-free lunch in a while at Wide Open Road in Brunswick, and then I have an acupuncture treatment. My acupuncturist manages to squeeze me in today which is lovely - it is actually a day she works at another clinic so she makes a special trip in to treat me which is so awesome of her! After my treatment I go home to see everyone. My parents are excited that the baby is coming sooner so they will have more time with us while it is here. That is definitely a silver lining to all this.
Wednesday 16th May
This morning I have a massage at my friend Louisa’s house. She is from my mother’s group and is studying shiatsu massage, so practises on all of us from the group. She is wonderful and it’s amazing to get a free massage every few months! She is particularly happy to be practising on a late term pregnant woman, so it’s a win for both of us. She lends me a book called Golden Month, which is all about how different cultures take care of women after childbirth. Looks like an interesting read!
Next I meet my parents to do a bit of last minute shopping for my hospital bag, and then we go for lunch at Four Larks in Abbotsford. I then get my eyebrows waxed… I am trying to cram as much into my last day without a newborn as possible! These are all jobs I was hoping to get done on maternity leave. I can’t believe I only have one day of maternity leave this time… what a rip off!
After dinner I go to my last prenatal yoga class. I tell my yoga instructor about the induction, she assures me that my body knows what to do this time so even though I’m being induced, it will probably be quick. I hope she’s right!
Thursday 17th May - Induction Day!
6am. I’m feeling a mixture of emotions this morning. I have a little cry with Andy when I wake up, as I don’t want to be induced and I’m a little scared about what is coming up today. I’m still not 100% decided that I want to go through with it, however if they say that is what is best for the baby then that is what we will do. I know that the more fearful/scared/stressed I am, the harder my labour will be. After my little cry I do some meditation and feel a bit calmer. I’ve got my hypnobirthing tracks loaded on my iPhone and ready for use. It is obviously exciting to think I’ll have a baby in my arms by the end of the day. There is a part of me that wants to go through with it just to “get it done”, especially now that I’ve anticipated it over the past two days. It’s 6am; we need to leave for the hospital in about 20 minutes.
9:30 am. We arrive at the hospital just before 7am. There are two other couples in emergency for an induction today as well. The clinical midwife who is on duty this morning answers some of our questions about being induced, and assures me I do not have to go through with it. But that as there has not been much growth since 34 weeks, this is what they recommend as the best course of action for the baby. So on we go!
Step one is to insert a prostaglandin gel, which helps to soften the cervix and prepare the body for labour. Once inserted I stay lying down for about 30 minutes while they monitor the baby. I listen to my hypnobirthing relaxation tracks which help me feel more calm. I’m trying really hard to stay present and not think about what the rest of the day might be like. The monitoring goes well so we are allowed to leave for a bit, and told to check back in at 10am. I think we are meant to stay in the hospital, but instead we sneak across the street to the St Cooper Café for a small breakfast and some good coffee.
11:15am At 10am we go back to the hospital and they check of my blood pressure and baby’s heart rate. Both are fine so we are told to come back at 1:30pm when they will check my cervix. If it looks “soft and open” (whatever that means) they will then break my waters, which could then start labour. If it is not soft and open (so hard and closed?) I’ll need to get another dose of the gel, and wait another 6 hours. Apparently it can take 2-3 doses of the gel to get things going, which is why having an induction can be a very long process. The midwife seems to think that as this is my second child I may only need one dose. Fingers crossed. The best result would be if I just go into labour or my waters break within the next two hours, but realistically I know that is unlikely to happen. I am trying to channel my inner yogi and “let go” of any expectations or trying to control any of this process!
We are at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre across the street from the Women’s. The midwife recommended coming to the café on the 7th floor, The Loft, and it’s brilliant! Tons of healthy food options and a lovely rooftop terrace overlooking the city. It is a bit too cold to sit outside, so we sit inside and enjoy a Mango Green smoothie (oh, and a chocolate cronut that Andy insisted on!) while I catch up on the blog.
2:30pm. We go back to pregnancy day care at 1:30pm. More monitoring. The next step is to go to a birthing suite, but there are no beds available. So now we just wait around until one becomes available. I’ve started to get some mild cramping but nothing too exciting. In a weird way I’m looking forward for something more painful to start happening.
Andy has gone to get us a snack as I’m hungry again. It’s been a long day already but not too bad, I’ve done some reading and blogging and am feeling pretty calm and rested right now.
4:30pm. Still no birthing suites available. We are moved into a maternity room, where I’d be if I had already had a baby. At least it is sort of private (there is a new mom in the bed next to me, but of course there are curtains separating us) and there is a bed. I’m not particularly tired but it’s better than being in the waiting room.
10pm. Still no birthing suite. We’ve been here for hours, which has given us time to decide and agree on baby names: we’ve got a girls name ready to go, and have a tentative name if it is a boy. We’ve asked if we can go home and come back in the morning, but the midwife says they highly recommend that I stay. Andy goes home to try to get some sleep, and when a suite becomes available I’ll call him to come back. I’m hope to get a few hours sleep as well, as I’m pretty tired and starting to get stressed that I am going to go into labour already exhausted.
The rest of this is written as best as Andy and I recall from memory. I’ve kept the present tense for consistency, however I’m writing this about a week postpartum from notes I took in the day or two after giving birth.
Friday 18th May
2:30am. The midwife wakes me up to tell me a birthing suite has become available! Hurrah! I’m very tired but glad to finally get things going. I ask her if I should call Andy, she recommends I hold off until I get down to the suite. There is a possibility that I will just need another dose of the gel, and in that case it will be another six hours until they consider breaking my waters. However if my cervix is soft enough, they will be able to break my waters right away.
3:45am. My waters are broken and I call Andy. He has to wake up my dad to come back to the hospital. Luckily there is no traffic at this time of the night and he arrives just after 4am. In the meantime I am hooked up to the monitors: one for the baby’s heart rate, and one to measure my contractions. They are pretty annoying and any remaining hope I have for a water birth is killed. My midwife is called Aoife; she’s Irish. We bond over the shared experience of being an expat in Australia, it’s nice to have some idle chit chat with her to pass the time and keep my mind off what is coming.
4:40am. The next step in the induction is getting the hormone oxytocin through a drip, which will start the contractions. This is the worst part, having the drip inserted. I’m not a fan of needles, so Aoife kindly wraps up my hand so I don’t have to look at it.
5:20am. Some very mild contractions start. Aoife calls it pre-labour and I’m already wondering just how long this is going to take. My 3.5 hour labour with Ella seems like a distant dream, and I realise just how lucky I was with her.
Aoife tells us that they will check my cervix to see how dilated I am about six hours after the drip is started. Six hours! This is disheartening news…
7am. It is shift change time, so we have a new midwife called Morgan, along with a student midwife. I had my 30 week appointment with Morgan so it’s nice to see a familiar face. She also seems to know my history a bit better, and seems more confident that my labour will be quick, in fact she remarks that she is surprised that I haven’t had the baby yet! The contractions start to ramp up over the next hour and I’m pretty tired. I alternate between kneeling and leaning on the bed, and lying down on my side when I feel completely exhausted. I actually hate lying down, as the contractions are much more uncomfortable in this position, but I’m just so, so tired by this point.
When I’m in the kneeling position Andy is able to press down on an acupressure point in my sacrum that is supposed to help relieve pain during a contraction. I’m not sure if it is a placebo effect, but it does seem to help a lot.
I keep thinking I should get Andy to get my phone so that I can listen to my hypnobirthing relaxation tracks but I never do. I’m not sure why. But I’ve listened to them so many times that I can recite them in my head. While breathing through the contractions I use the mantra “I breathe in, I am strong, I breathe out, I let go”. Sounds wanky, but it really helps.
8:30am. I’m in full blown, hard labour. Transition, I think they call it. Although I don’t think I’m aware I’m at this point, as I still have Aoife’s words in my head about assessing progress after six hours. In between contractions I ask Morgan if I should try gas and air. She is very strong and assertive and tells me it is not part of my birth plan and that I wanted to go without any pain management, so she doesn’t think I should, nor that I really want to. She assures me that most women ask for things they don’t really want at this point. I’m too tired to argue, and also retrospectively very happy that she responded in that way.
I’ve been using “horse lips breathing” to get me through my contractions. I learned it in my prenatal yoga class, and although I feel like a total knob doing it, it REALLY helps. Apparently there is new research that links tightness in the jaw and mouth to the cervix, so if your jaw area is relaxed your cervix will be as well.
At around this time Andy says to me “You’re nearly there!” and I shout back “NO I’M NOT!” But then Morgan says “Actually, I think you are” and according to Andy my face lights up. I’m starting to push and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
8:59 am. It’s a boy! After about half an hour of pushing, out comes our little boy. The relief you feel after giving birth is amazing. It’s like all the pain and exhaustion just disappears, and you are flooded with euphoria.
9:15am. It’s a bit of a cruel joke that once you’ve had your baby you still have to deliver the placenta. Fortunately this happens with minimal effort. Next the midwives poke and prod me, pressing down on my stomach to get out blood clots and rummaging around “down there” to see if there have been any tears. Oh, the glamour of giving birth.
The midwives are discussing a very tiny tear that they feel could have a stitch or two, but might not be necessary. They leave to call a doctor to get a second opinion.
I’m then told that they’ve been looking at my placenta with four other doctors, and there is disagreement over whether or not my placenta looks complete. As in, there could be a tiny piece of it still in my uterus. Awesome! Not really though. This means that I need to go into the operating theatre to get it checked out. I’m initially freaked out, does this mean they need to cut into me?! But no, they will go in some other way, but I will need a spinal tap to numb my lower body. At least they can get that silly stitch out of the way while they are at it.
Before I go into the theatre Morgan hand expresses some collostrum from me to give to baby boy for his first feed. I remember when I had Ella I felt so weird about how many people handled my boobs in those first few days while I learned how to breastfeed. This time around I couldn’t care less.
11am. Operating theatre. This is a totally new experience for me. I’m expecting some sort of dark, Grey’s Anatomy like operating theatre, but the room I go into is light, with windows, and Ed Sheeran playing. The whole team at the Women’s are fantastic, from the anaesthesiologist to the nurses and technicians and the doctor (who is Canadian! More expat bonding!) They all joke around with each other and I get the impression that they really like each other and their jobs. It definitely puts me at ease. I have a spinal block to numb my body from the waist down, and it is SO WEIRD, I can see my legs but I can’t feel them, and when the doctors move them around I feel like they are not a part of me.
The whole process takes only 20 minutes, and I’m then wheeled into recovery for about 45 minutes. They don’t find any of the placenta, but they do remove some blood clots which is good, and my stitch is taken care of. I’m not really annoyed that the whole thing was probably unnecessary, rather I’m glad they’ve taken precautions to ensure that any post-birth complications have been minimised.
During this time our baby is with Andy, getting fed via syringe and having his first injections of Vitamin K and a Hepatitis B vaccine. If this was our first baby I probably would have felt stressed at not being with him for his first hour or two, but I have every confidence that he is being well taken care of by Andy.
12:30pm. I’m back in the maternity ward now, joined by Andy and our new baby. We’ve decided on the name Oliver. It will take us another day or two to agree on the middle name James.
I spend the next two nights in hospital, with my parents, Andy and Ella visiting each day. Currently in Australia new mums only stay one night in hospital in the public system, I’m given the extra night I think due to the operation. Ella initially seems scared by the new baby, but that quickly turns to intrigue. So far she has been very lovely and gentle with him. Her favourite thing is watching me change his nappy, she is obsessed with poo (and has been since we potty trained five months ago!) and loves to see if his nappy is dirty or not. She has also started mimicking a lot of what I do with him with her dolls, including wrapping them up and yes, breastfeeding.