Hi Nadia, well, I can't believe that after all this time, and so many classes of listening to other women's stories that I finally get to write my own! I absolutely loved listening to the other women's birth experiences and always wondered what mine would be like. Would it be hard? Would it be long? Would I have the natural birth that I really longed for? Turns out it was all these things so here's my story.....
I was 40 weeks + 2 and was so sure that Bubba D was going to be late that I absorbed and researched all the information I could about induction and how to avoid it. I had my heart set on a natural water birth at The Birth Centre and I felt that being induced would more than likely lead to further intervention down the track so I had made the decision that I was prepared to go to 43 weeks (with careful monitoring of course!) before I would consider induction.
It was 11.45am on Thursday morning the 4th of March and I sent my girlfriends back home (in Australia) an email update on how things were progressing and said that they shouldn't expect any news for at least another week as I didn't think there would be any action until then. I also told them of the intense amount of pressure that I was feeling as he was fully engaged now and that my nether region felt like I'd been riding a horse for 20 hours straight! I was well and truly over being pregnant!
I guess Bubba D was listening and sensing my impatience as not 15 mins after sending the email I had my show. I was excited that things were beginning to happen but also realistically knew that this didn't necessarily mean labour was imminent so went about my day as normal and took my weekly photo of my belly to add to my pregnancy journal. I rang my midwives Katie and Emma to let them know I had had my show and would keep in touch if anything else happened.
3 hours later I had my first contraction. It was weird as I wasn't quite sure if it was a contraction or not as I obviously didn't have a clue what they felt like but I had read a few days earlier that contractions tend to start in your back and then come around to the front which is what I thought was happening. It took a few more of them for me to confidently say "yes! I'm having contractions!'. They were pretty mild and between 10 to 20 mins apart so I just continued to faff around the flat and ensure that all the washing and housework was up to date. I had my clary sage and lavender burning and had all the candles lit to ensure a nice calm and relaxed atmosphere. The afternoon and evening went on with my contractions still about 10 mins apart on only about 30 seconds long.
It was 10pm Thursday night when my contractions finally increased in intensity and were now coming every 5 minutes and lasted between 40 and 45 seconds long. At midnight I had more of my show come away followed closely by a hefty dose of diarrhoea. I rang Katie and she assured me that was all normal and that things were progressing nicely (albeit it slowly). She said to call her again once the contractions were lasting longer (about 60 secs) and were 3 mins apart for a duration of about 2 hours.
At this point I decided it was time to get myself ready so I double checked my birth bag and packed all the last minute items and then had a shower and washed my hair so that I would feel refreshed for whatever lay ahead. It was a rather strange feeling to be blow drying my hair at 1.30am in the morning!!!
At 3am Ev put me to bed so I could try and get some rest but about half an hour later the contractions increased in intensity again so thought it may be time to get the Tens machine out.
At 6.30am Friday morning (16 hours after my first contraction) everything came to a standstill. I had been experiencing contractions every 5 minutes for the past 9 hours and then all of sudden, they went back to every 20 - 30 mins apart. By this time I was getting really frustrated, not to mention tired, so I rang Katie to ask her advice. She said this was totally normal for first time labour and informed me that this may go on for a couple of days. I don't need to tell you the profanities that were running through my head when she said that as I'm sure you can imagine but I managed to stayed calm and took her advice to rest while my body was giving me the chance and waited patiently for Katie to visit later that morning.
Katie popped her head in at 10am Friday morning to see how I was travelling and to ensure Ev was coping too! I asked her to examine me as I wanted to know what was going on however fully prepared myself for her to tell me I was only 1 cm dilated to avoid disappointment. I nearly jumped up and did a dance when she told me I was 4 cm dilated and my cervix was paper thin (i'm sure that was due to the 4000 cups of raspberry leaf tea I had drunk over the past few weeks!). She also said she could feel Bubba D's head and that he had a nice head of hair. Hearing this news gave me such renewed energy and relief that the past 20 hours hadn't been for nothing.
Katie anticipated that things would kick off again about 5pm this afternoon and that I should expect to meet Bubba D either later that night or early the next morning. Ev and I were so excited and it was then that it hit us that we would be bringing our son home within the next 24 hours. Even though I was under strict instructions from Katie to rest, rest, rest I felt like I was on a high and just couldn't calm my mind so I put on my hypno birthing cd and gave myself a manicure and pedicure - no easy task at 40 weeks pregnant and having contractions!!!!
Sure enough at 5.30pm, exactly when Katie said they would, my contractions got closer and much more intense so it was time to get walking to ensure they continued to get longer and stronger. Over the next hour we wandered the streets of Lavender Hill stopping every 4 to 5 minutes to breath through the contractions. I had a few different mantras to get me through labour but the one that stuck and really helped me deal with each contraction was 'relax the jaw, relax the shoulders, relax the pelvis'. As soon as a contraction starts your natural instinct is to lift your shoulders and tense your body but reminding myself to relax and keep my breathing controlled definitely helped me deal with the pain of each contraction.
Once we got back home I ensured I had a decent meal and then another hot bath. Come 9.30pm my contractions were regularly 3 to 4 mins apart and 60 to 90 seconds long and it was at this time we rang Katie and said we were ready to come into the Birth Centre. Ev got everything together while I continued to manage my contractions. As we headed off all I could think about was that the next time I walk through our front door we will have our son with us. At that point I had another cry! (I had had several throughout the past 32 hours!!!!). Driving to the Birth Centre was quite a bizarre experience - as we drove through Clapham Junction at 10.30pm on Friday night we watched as people were spilling out of the clubs and bars all in the party mode and Ev and I looked at each other and simultaneously said "we couldn't be any further from that lifestyle right now!".
We arrived at the Birth Centre at 11pm and Katie was there to greet us. She had our room ready with candles burning, the pool filling and relaxing music playing. It was so calming and both Ev and I felt completely at home. Unfortunately my contractions hadn't increased in frequency so Katie told me take this time to rest as best I could. By 1am I'd had enough and was getting completely bored with this whole malarkey and wanted to get some proper action going on so I asked Katie to examine me as I wanted to know what was doing. She did so and didn't say anything - which I new wasn't a good thing. I had only dilated one more centimetre in the last 15 hours. Needless to say, I dropped the 'F' bomb for the second time since starting labour! I asked her what I could do to get things moving because I was absolutely fed up and getting really impatient by this time. Katie suggested she could try to break my waters. She said it would almost definitely mean my contractions would increase in intensity but not necessarily in frequency - I was willing to take the chance as I really wanted to get this show on the road!
As Katie tried to break my waters, I contracted a further centimetre but my waters didn't break. So I got up and headed for the bath in the hope that gravity might do the trick but still nothing. Now from here on, a lot of it is a blur and am guided by Katie's notes as once I hit that water things went from zero to a hundred very quickly. After 35 and a half hours of labour I was pretty knackered but knew I had to pull on all my reserves as within 15 mins of getting into the pool I was in transition with my contractions being insanely intense and back to back in frequency. I went into a zone of controlled breathing and visualisation. One of my other mantras was a bit of a reality check and to remind myself that 300,000 other women are going through the exact same thing at the same time but at that point I didn't care for reality - in my head - I was the only one experiencing this amount of pain and I wanted everyone to know it!!!!!! Ev tells me there were a couple more 'f' bombs dropped at this time.
I had been in the water only 30 mins before I had the urge to push. I told Katie I needed to do a poo as I knew she would know that meant I was ready to push. Katie was surprised that I was feeling that already as I had only been 5cm dilated 30 mins earlier. I assured her in no uncertain terms that I was feeling immense pressure and the need to push so she decided it was time to ring my second midwife Emma to come and join our little party!
It was 2am and Katie suggested I should try the gas and air to help as I was starting to scream the house down. I really struggled with it as I just couldn't get it together to breathe it in as all I wanted to do was scream but with Ev shoving it in my mouth and giving me no choice but to suck it in, I finally got the hang of it. I felt like it didn't really help reduce the amount of pain I was in but what it did do for me was help me concentrate on my breathing rather than focusing on the pain. Although both Ev and Katie would say otherwise because as I was saying 'this isn't working', my eyes were rolling into the back of my head and my head was swinging from side to side like a drunken old man so I guess it may have taken the edge off!!!
By 2.30am Emma had arrived and I was fully in the zone and bearing down with each contraction. By 2.50am I was ready to push so Katie advised me to stop using the gas and air so that I could be fully aware and in control of my body for this next stage. The one thing that stuck with me from the birth prep classes was to ensure that with each contraction, I expel nice long controlled breathes and try to get 3 to 4 pushes in each contraction. Using the s'ing breathing technique really helped me to do this well and I pushed like I was doing the worlds biggest poo!!
Apparently at 3.01am, only 10 mins after starting to push I was complaining it was taking too long and Emma reassured me everything is progressing normally and with that, I drop another 'f' bomb saying "f! this hurts!!!!'
I knew he was close as I was feeling the ring of fire now so I put my head down and focused on pushing out his head. I hadn't eluded to the girls how close I was so when I said 'something is out', they didn't really believe me! Emma put the mirror in the water and said to Katie, "Oh My God! She's pushed the head out already!". I gave 2 more pushes and our son, Astyn Lee Davidson was born at 3.08am - only 1 hour and 25 mins after being only 5cm dilated!
Now this is where I begin to regain my memory. It felt like waking up from a dream and slowly coming too as Katie and Emma's voice drifted back into my consciousness and when I finally focused on what they were saying I snapped into action...."Jenn, you've got to bring your baby up, you've got to bring your baby up!" I was still in such a zone that I didn't realise and he was just floating around on the bottom of the pool!!!! I quickly brought him to the surface and with that he let our an almighty cry and Emma says "He's saying hello to his mummy!".
My first words were "look at his little willy" followed by "no women is ever going to be good enough for you" followed by "yay, I did it!".
I had chosen to have a physiological 3rd stage so while I was delivery the placenta (which took about 30 mins) Ev had skin to skin contact with Asty. I then had a shower and was examined by Katie and Emma and they confirmed that I had no tearing and everything was looking very good. I strongly believe that using the epi-no in the weeks leading up to the birth played a big part in that outcome and in fact when Katie examined me again 2 days later she said it didn't even look like I'd had a baby! I highly recommend the epi-no!!!
At 4.50am Ev, Asty and I all got into bed together while Emma & Katie made us a great big breakfast which I couldn't wait to eat!!! At about 6am and our stomachs full and satisfied, Katie and Emma went home and left us to have a sleep and spend time together as a family. Ev went out like a light of course (he looked liked he'd given birth!!!!) but I couldn't sleep - I just couldn't take my eyes off my little man.
He's now 6 weeks old and my love for him grows every day. I have to be very honest and say that those first few weeks are really tough and even though at times, you think you won't - you will come out the other side and being a mum is the hardest job I've ever had, it is without a doubt the most enjoying and rewarding - especially when you get a full smile and gurgle for the first time.
I wish all the mummies-to-be the best of luck and really hope your birth experience is what you hope for and don't be afraid - this is what our bodies are built for and we are women! We are capable of great things.
Nadia, I've attached just a few of the thousands of photos I've already taken of our miracle. I look forward to seeing you on Thursday night at postnatal yoga - I can't wait xxxx
Jenn Davidson and baby Astyn