My Birth Story
I’m obsessed with birth. Birth is amazing. Birth is challenging. Birth is epic. No matter what type of birth you had or will have, whether it be a vaginal, cesarean, non-medicated, medicated, emergency or home birth, women are undoubtably strong and powerful human beings. I hope this can give you insight into my unique and personal experience birthing my daughter Aubrey Rose.
It was the 14th July and my now husband, Scott was out enjoying his Buck’s night. We were engaged to be married in September and my mind was consumed with planning for it. Everyone always tells you how stressful organising a wedding is, but you don’t realise this until your deep down the rabbit hole of invitations, decorations, catering and bridal gowns. So getting pregnant was far away in the corner of my mind. I had decided to come off the pill in February, with the intention to give my body and hormones time to regulate themselves. Scott and I were ready to start a family and had both decided that the wedding was already stressful enough, so we didn’t put too much thought into getting pregnant and left it up to fate. I had heard of so many people taking up to a year to fall pregnant, so we both weren’t too worried about it happening before the wedding. How naive we were. So July comes around and Scott goes out to enjoy himself at his bucks. Home alone, I notice that I felt pretty off. I put it down to a really long hangover as I had also had my bridal shower a few days before. Too many champagnes and too much dancing was bound to make you feel a bit worse for wear a fews days later right? The ever dutiful fiancee, I had planned to pick up Scott in the early morning. But I was feeling more then just off and told him to find his on way home. I remember him finally getting through the door and collapsing next to me in bed. Him with the beginnings of a hangover and me, although I didn’t know it yet, the beginnings of a baby. That whole next day was spent in bed or on the couch, sprawled and nursing each others pains. I don’t know what made me say it, but that afternoon I remember joking to Scott that maybe I was pregnant and that’s why I felt gross. We almost used it as an excuse to draw our sorry selves out of the house to go buy a pregnancy test. Next minute I’m sitting on the toilet and Scott is holding himself up on the vanity, still not feeling his best. Balancing the test in front of me on the edge of the bath we nervously waited. Slowly the pee soaked through and there it was. Those two little pink lines. Staring at each other and then back at the lines, we both couldn’t believe it. I remember just uttering ‘no, no, no, no’, the shock of this new reality hitting me like a bus. We wanted to get pregnant but when it comes to actually seeing those two lines, it’s hard to actually process. After that we didn’t exactly know what to do. Should we dance, hug, scream, check our bank account, or drink? Well, Scott could drink. Our partnership of two would soon be a family of three.
Almost the instant we found out we were pregnant I was researching on how to prepare my body and mind for the birth. I had to figure out what type of birth was right for Scott and I, and what steps we could do to hopefully get there. I’m not the most spontaneous person and therefore I like to be prepared and ready for anything thrown at me. I had heard of Hypnobirthing before I got pregnant, from a friend at work. He and his wife had had this dream 8 hour, drug-free birth the year before and the way he described their experience got me hooked. I was desperate to have a birth that was like theirs. But first I had to convince Scott that this was the right birth plan for us. Actually, scrap that I had to convince myself first. I remember loving the idea of a calm birth but questioned whether I had the endurance to handle the pain. I hated the idea of an epidural, as the thought of a huge ass needle and not feeling my legs freaked me out. Weird huh, that not feeling my legs got me more scared then the idea of pushing a 3kg baby out of my vagina! Birth was a world of the unknown and I pleaded Scott to make the decision for me, as I was so worried I’d make the wrong one. “It’s up to you” I remember him saying, “But whatever you decide, I want you to tackle it with your full force. Make a decision and stick by it.” My husband is a strength and conditioning coach, and knew exactly what to say to make me decide. I was going to do this for me, and me alone. I needed to stop doubting myself and my abilities and stop God damn worrying! So we put in an application at the Family Birthing Centre to get midwifery care and signed up to attend Hypnobirthing Australia classes a month before the baby was due.
We were first a little skeptical about Hypnobirthing. It sounded a bit kooky. After all it does have ‘hypno’ in its title. Was Scott going to learn how to put me into some sort of trance? Was I going to pop this baby out without knowing it because I was too drugged up on Sounds of the Sea music and incense sticks? Was a lady with a bongo drum and dreadlocks going to help me sing and dance the baby out? We couldn’t help but wonder what we had signed up for. I had watched a few Hypnobirth water births and it looked too good to be true. These women, no, these goddesses, swayed to and fro, calmly and collected, in the water and pushed out their babies without a scream in sight. This was acting surely, I thought. Hollywood had got it right and these women were fakes. Birth is meant to be hectic right? Screaming, yelling, swearing, all consuming pain. How wrong I found out I was. If anyone is pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, I would highly recommend attending a Hypnobirthing class, or similar. Spaced over two whole Sundays, the class enlightened us. Scott and I came away from the first class, overwhelmed with information and tools to help us in birth. We learnt that birth doesn’t have to be medicalised. Women have been giving birth naturally for centuries and their bodies have biologically adapted to do this. We learnt that the traditional “lie on the bed and scream out a baby” didn’t have to happen to us, and that I had to trust in my own natural abilities. Informed choice was at the core of these Hypnobirthing classes, as well as learning how to work as a team to keep my cortisol levels low and therefore help open up my body.
“Hypnobirthing is as much a philosophy of birthing as it is techniques. When a mother and her birth partner are able to approach their birth without fear and with knowledge, good support, and tools for the birth – then their birthing can be a positive and empowering experience.” Melissa Spilsted, 2011
Empowering and without fear. This is what I wanted to hear. Feeling puffy, huge, heavy and tired, I was determined to find inner peace and calm so that my birth would be a positive one. I had previously suffered from anxiety the year before and I knew that without the proper preparation and tools, I would be an absolute wreck when it came to pushing out a baby. So I read all the research and evidence based information surrounding birth. And I mean a lot of reading! I was a birth sponge, soaking up as much as I could so that I could make informed decisions that suited me and my baby. I did pregnancy pilates to stretch and strengthen my body. I listened to the Hypnobirthing meditation tracks and affirmations every single night. I bounced and bounced and bounced on my birth ball. I visualised my hips opening up, my cervix softening and my baby moving down. I trusted my body and it’s natural abilities. I envisioned my birth to be what I knew it could be and actually felt excited at the prospect of birth. It certainly surprised me how excited and calm I felt about it all. The idea of pain, hardly crossed my mind. I wasn’t afraid, much to the horror of my mum, who is a theatre nurse and has seen the negative side of birth. I was painfully too determined to have a natural Hypnobirth. In fact, when I was told that my baby was still in the breech position at 37 weeks, I bawled my eyes out at the prospect of not being allowed to birth at the Birth Centre. Hospitals to me symbolised sickness, and I was suddenly afraid that all my preparation would go to waste. I loved the idea of Hypnobirthing so much that I couldn’t let go of it. In the back of my mind I knew that birth often doesn’t go to plan. But I didn’t understand just how much this happens and that it would eventually become my reality.
So my baby was breech. I was 37 weeks pregnant and my stubborn child was showing no signs of moving towards the exit. No matter what I did, and I did a lot of things, including hand stands in the pool, but she was determined to do her own thing. It was like she knew that I had this “perfect” birth envisioned in my head and wanted none of it. I had made her little dark warm home so comfortable that she wasn’t going to budge. Having a breech baby meant that I wouldn’t be allowed to birth at the Family Birth Centre as I was now considered high risk. I never quite knew how focused I was on a natural vaginal birth until I was told this news. I remember crying in the car after my appointment with my midwife and blubbering the sad news to my husband over the phone. Ever the rational man, my husband reminded me what was important – mine and the baby’s safety. If we had to birth at the hospital, that was okay, safe was better than sorry. Those pregnancy hormones and my obsession with Hypnobirthing completely masked my rational self and it took me a while to understand that I couldn’t control everything. But there was one last thing we could try. My midwife booked us in for a ECV (External cephalic version) and true to form I prepared myself to tackle this next feat. Scott was unfortunately away for work when I went into the hospital to get the procedure done, so I had my mum and sister, and a midwife friend who was working at the same hospital, as my support team. After a few ultrasounds, I got the go ahead to get the procedure done. All we had to do was wait for the doctor to do it. So there I was, lying on a hospital bed and strapped to an ECG machine. The loud whirring noise of mine and my baby’s heart beat filling the room with rhythmic thumping. My midwife was busy checking the machine and writing on forms. My mum, who was also working at the hospital and had come in on her break, was wearing full scrubs and trying to distract me with small chit chat. My mum is a very strong woman and although I knew she was nervous for me, she remained calm and collected. My sister sat quietly next to me, also nervous with anticipation. An ECV is when the doctor uses their hands to manually turn the baby out of the breech position. Sounds freaky doesn’t it. And I’m not going to lie, I was worried. Was it going to hurt? Was it going to make things worse? Was the baby going to be affected? This is where I feel the Hypnobirthing classes helped the most. I had brought my earphones and realised that all my nerves and worry were reflecting in my body. I felt tense and tight and the doctor surely would find it harder to turn the baby if I was like this. So I popped in my earphones, turned on my Hypnobirthing affirmations track, closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. Half an hour went by and I could hear murmurings that the doctor was on her way. Opening my eyes I see my mum and sister looking at me incredulously. “Look at the heart rate monitor” my mum said stunned. Over on the screen you could see a clear difference in mine and my baby’s heart rate. It had gone from high nervous all over the place beats, to a low regular and calm one. I was completely relaxed and at peace with what was about to happen. My mum and sister were completely in awe as my nerves often get the better of me. Soon after, the doctor walks in and quickly and efficiently places her cold hands onto my belly and turns my baby. No pain in sight, the procedure was done in a few minutes. I had done it! I had trusted my body and the people around me, and my daughter was now head down and ready to exit the building.
Head down and giving me every little sign that she was ready to emerge, my daughters due date came and went. In fact we had to wait 9 days after the due date till she came Earth side. This was frustrating to say the least. So much so that every time someone would check up on me or even mention a syllable about being overdue I would feel a rage inside of me. Yes I’m still pregnant and no I have no idea when she wants to come out. I felt like she would call it quits and I would be stuck with a huge swollen body forever. It didn’t help too that my body kept giving me signs that it was ready to birth out this baby. Braxton hicks and hints of contractions filled my days for at least 3 weeks before giving birth. Luckily, they weren’t too painful and I could easily go about my day. They were just God damn bothersome, like my body and my baby were teasing me. Maybe today’s the day, maybe it’s not. It became a regular joke whenever we went out. What if my waters broke in this restaurant?! How embarrassing that would be. Please can my waters brake in this restaurant. I can handle feeling embarrassed but I can’t handle feeling this pregnant any longer. We tried almost every induction method under the sun. I started walking religiously around our block, I had raspberry leaf tea with most meals, I added medidool dates to my breakfast smoothies, we even tried sex. That last one you would think would be enjoyable, but boy was it difficult to achieve. Just think about a whale and you’ll get the picture. I had also had 3 stretch and sweeps, but still no baby in sight. Finally, we were told we couldn’t wait any longer and our midwife booked us in to the hospital to get my waters broken. As much as I wanted to go into labour naturally I remember feeling an immense sense of relief when our midwife told us this. We were booked in for Sunday 31st March, and I was so excited and ready.
It was as the night of Friday the 29th of March and my parents had come over with take away curry for dinner. Eating hot spicy food is yet another natural induction method that was recommended to us. We all sat around the table excited because in under two days we would be meeting our daughter. Maybe it was the curry, or maybe it was because we had an end date in sight, but we were going to see our daughter even sooner than expected. At 4am in the morning I was woken suddenly by a cramping feeling in my lower belly. I didn’t think much of it as I had been feeling these kind of cramps for weeks now. I told myself to wait for an hour and try go back to sleep. The cramping continued and I decided to get myself a hot water bottle and panadol. Weeks before, I experienced a really intense cramping and called our midwife as result. She suggested at the time to take panadol and see what happens. Turned out that it was another false alarm and the panadol helped to subside it. This time however, panadol did nothing, nor did the hot water bottle. It was 6am when I woke Scott and told him that I think I’m finally in labour. I was so nervous I was going to jinx it and that it would be another false alarm so we tried to keep calm and not get too excited. I decided to get in the shower and wash my hair. The heat of the shower was soothing and the act of washing my hair was a great distraction. As the pain became more and more noticeable, I begun to feel excited with anticipation for what was to come. This was it, I could finally put into practice everything we had learnt over the last 9 months. Out of the shower and brushing my hair I started to listen to the Harry Potter audio book to again try and distract me. Unfortunately, the posh English accent of Stephen Fry just wasn’t cutting it for me. With a hot water bottle on my back and a heat bead on my belly, I sat on the side of our bed and felt myself rocking side to side with the contractions. In charge of timing the contractions on a phone app, Scott saw that they were becoming regular and steadily more intense. He decided it was time to call our midwife and I decided I would try watch Grand Designs. I don’t know what it was, but throughout my whole pregnancy, I became addicted to listening to the voices of English men. We were told at the Hypnobirthing classes that cortisol was the enemy when it came to birth, and to use anything that would help reduce this stress hormone. I thought that Kevin McCloud from Grand Designs, and his deep soothing voice walking me through the beautiful English countryside would help me, but unfortunately I just couldn’t concentrate. Trying to eat breakfast between contractions I was at the point where my body was telling me to walk up and down the hallway. Nothing was helping and I could feel myself getting nervous and worried. So in the bath I went and I tried to focus on the Hypnobirthing tracks and my breathing. The water felt amazing but our bath is very small, so the water barely covered my bump. By the time Scott called our midwife again at 8.30, my contractions had ramped up. I was at the point where I was making those moaning animal like sounds and knowing that we had a long drive ahead of us, our midwife encouraged us to make our way to the Birth Centre. I remember faintly seeing Scott rush around packing the car and getting things ready, while I tried to put clothes on in between contractions. Now the car ride sucked. It was bright, loud and uncomfortable. Everything that went against what we had learnt in Hypnobirthing. Unbeknownst to me, Scott had taken a photo of me on our drive to the Birth Centre. That photo shows exactly how I felt, in pain and exhausted. I had been in labour for just over 4 hours and I already felt myself loose control. As soon as we got to the Birth Centre I remember stripping off and getting straight into the bath that the midwife had prepared for us. I felt a sudden relief. The room was dark, the water was warm and I felt safe and supported. With the Hypnobirthing tracks still playing in the background I sat in the bath and let the warmth soothe and calm me. I felt like I was getting into a rhythm and felt almost excited again for what was to come. A few hours had passed like this and suddenly I felt an uncontrollable urge to push. I remember questioning to myself whether or not I wanted to have the baby in the bath or not. Is this it? Am I going to have one of the those true water births, where they bring the baby slowly out of the water and into the world? Am I ready for this? This doesn’t feel real. As if my body could feel my apprehension, the urge to push got greater and I felt myself almost yell out with the immense pressure. Assuming I was ready to push, my midwife encouraged me to go with what my body was telling me. But the feeling of pushing was just a feeling, and no baby was in sight. So out I came from the bath so the midwife could do a vaginal examination. It was at this point that my calm rhythmic flow was suddenly affected. You are only 6cm dilated, she had said. The impact of these words was like a lead weight on my chest. Only 6cm. And yet I was feeling an overwhelming urge to push. So my midwife had suggested I use the gas and air and see if the shower would offer any relief. In hindsight, I wish that I had got back into the bath. It was in the bath that I felt the most calm and confident. In the shower I was uncomfortable, cold and deflated, not to mention I was incredibly exhausted with the ever uncontrollable urge to push becoming stronger and stronger. Breathing and moaning I had to dig deep. I had completely internalised and felt like Scott and our midwife were far away from me. I felt like I couldn’t talk and tell them what I needed. My whole focus was on controlling the uncontrollable. The Hypnobirthing tracks were distant memories and I was sucking the gas tube dry. I was so exhausted, that at one point I forgot how to use it and started to breathe out into the tube instead of breathe in. They call birth a marathon, and that is exactly how it felt. My thighs were squished and overflowing uncomfortably out of the shower chair and I was sick of sipping red cordial, which the midwife insist I take. Somehow, in the back of my mind I knew I was stronger than this and literally started to give myself a pep talk. Come on Emma, you can do this. I could handle the contractions. They came and went like waves. But the urge to push was unbearable. Everything I had learnt in the classes was centred around trusting your body. But here I was forcing my body not to push, despite it telling me otherwise. My body felt spent and I remember barely holding myself up on the shower rail. My pep talk wasn’t quite enough and pleaded for Scott to help me. I remember apologising to him, thinking I had failed him. That I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. “Give me the epidural” I remember whispering to him. I know I didn’t want it but I no longer was in a good state of mind. Fortunately, epidurals are against the philosophy of the Birth Centre, and in hindsight despite me asking for one I’m glad I didn’t get given one. Almost 10 hours in, my midwife wanted to check my dilation. Dragging myself out of the shower, I lay on the bed and squirmed with pain while she checked me. Hoping that she would be quick and that I would hear good news, I asked Scott to change the music. The Hypnobirthing tracks no longer worked for me as the urge to push had taken over. Weirdly enough I wanted to hear Ariana Grande. Enough mediation music, give me pumping pop bangers. No more tears left to cry, Ariana sung to me and I was determined to get this baby moving. I was now 8cm and back in the bath I went. Monitoring me with her doppler, the midwife noticed a change in my baby’s heart rate. Her rate had suddenly gone from 150 to 190bpm. So out of precaution she got me out of the bath and back on the bed to examine me. I was so spent by this stage that getting out of the bath was incredibly hard. I was also worried that I would find out I hadn’t dilated any further. I know that for my next birth that I don’t want to know this information. Numbers and time are huge deterrents in birth, and you can’t underestimate how much they play with your mind. So I lay there on the bed trying my hardest to focus on the music and not the number my midwife was about to tell me. Much to my relief I was fully dilated and suddenly able to let my body push to its hearts content. I have never felt relief and excitement as I had when our midwife told me I was ready. I even remember smiling and kissing my husband. This was it, our daughter was on her way. I’ve heard some women describe the pushing part as the worst part of the birth. That wasn’t the case for me. I had been going against what my body wanted for at least 7 hours or more and I was so ready to let it do it’s thing. Not even the burning ring of fire would change the relief I felt. Squeezing my husband’s hand tightly I pushed when each contraction came. Ariana Grande was still blaring and I remember even singing along with her at times. Soon enough the midwife could see a head and we were minutes away from meeting our daughter. Suddenly this immense feeling of gushing was felt and the midwife was placing my daughter, naked and perfect, onto my chest. 13 hours of labour and 45 minutes of pushing and our little Aubrey Rose was Earth-side. Ever the cheeky little monkey, our daughter had made an entrance to remember. As the midwife pulled her out, Aubrey pooed that black sticky meconium all over my belly and legs. I was fortunately oblivious to this fact and to preoccupied with the absolute joy of finally meeting her. Unaware of the time or how long I had been in labour, I asked what the date was. It was still Saturday. My daughter was born at 5.14pm on Saturday the 30th March 2019. I cried with immense joy that my daughter is now sharing the birthday of her late great grandfather. What a day to be born!