39+1. It was a Tuesday. I felt different all day. Like maybe something was going to happen. So much so that I cancelled a play date for Wednesday morning. Ben thought I was being over cautious :)
I lost quite a bit of mucous throughout the day and had constant cramping but still just thought it was my body preparing. I had a friend visit from Newman with her little boy and while she was over, all my symptoms stopped (flight, fright, freeze, appease!). Within 20 minutes of her leaving in the afternoon, the cramping started again but it was nothing major.
At around 7.30pm I could feel regular surges but wasn't sure if it was the real deal because they weren't regular and were quite dull in intensity. I bounced on the fit ball in the lounge watching My Kitchen Rules. Not long after, I asked Ben to put the TENS machine on my back so I could get a feel for it as I didn't want to be fiddling around learning how to use it when labour actually started. I was pretty sure it was labour by this stage but still thought it was early days (especially when my first labour was around 27 hours!). We toyed with the idea of giving my mum a heads up in case we needed to call in the middle of the night to look after Luca but decided against it as she would get too excited and not sleep at all and we still thought the baby could be at least a day away. Ben packed his bag for the hospital then we went to bed like normal and tried to get some sleep. I still had the TENS on low and put my headphones on and listened to my hypnosis tracks and breathed through the surges. By midnight, it was well and truly on. Surges were building in intensity and were about 2 minutes apart. I had to get out of bed and started to walk or use the fit ball by the bed. The next couple of hours seemed to pass pretty quickly and I started becoming vocal during the contractions which really helped. Just a low aaaahhh sound when I was exhaling. Ben was helping me to stay in control reminding me when I needed to slow my breathing and he occasionally timed the surges. He was able to tell me when the surge was nearly over by counting down which really helped. I kept asking if we should call the hospital but Ben held off knowing I was labouring fine and that they would say to come in and our plan was to stay at home as long as possible (to avoid the cascade of intervention that happened with our first birth).
At about 2.30am Ben called the hospital. My surges were a minute long and I was only getting a minute break between. The hospital said to come in right away so Ben called my mum to get her to come over. I started putting our bags in the car and mum was at our house in about 10 minutes. The drive to the hospital, usually about 20 mins away took about 15 mins without traffic (I was getting mad at Ben for doing the speed limit). It was super uncomfortable so I ended up facing backwards leaning on the back of the seat. We got to the hospital and a Security Guard unlocked the door for us (it's not a 24 hour hospital) and I started having a surge so stopped walking and breathed through it while it passed. The Security Guard looked scared and worried and asked if I needed a wheelchair, I said no, then he asked if he should get help. Ben said 'she'll be right in about 30 seconds'. We had a giggle in the lift to ourselves. We buzzed for a Midwife and were taken straight to a birthing suite and got comfy. I told Ben to hop on the bed so I wouldn't be tempted to lay down. I had agreed to continual fetal monitoring providing it didn't bother me (it was a MAJOR hindrance in my first labour) which they popped on not long after we arrived and the baby's heart rate was good. I tested Group B Strep positive and had decided to consent to antibiotics so the Midwife asked if she could insert the cannula. She was struggling to find a vein so called in a senior Midwife who said I was a little dehydrated so once the cannula was in, they hooked up the antibiotics and a bag of fluid. The cannula didn't bother me and I was still about to remain as mobile as I wanted.
After a while, the Midwife set up the gas and showed me how to use it. I don't think it actually did anything as I felt normal and it didn't take anything away from the intensity of the surges but it was a great distraction and allowed me to breathe effectively. I had it written on my birth preferences that I would only allow vaginal exams when I wanted them and I wanted one now. I needed to know if all this hard work was doing anything. The Midwife said I was 4cm which made me feel a bit deflated as that's exactly what I was when I got to the hospital with Luca (and ended up labouring for another 15 hours before I was fully dilated). The Midwife said my hand-picked OB wasn't on call. One of his colleagues was and I immediately felt deflated again as I had met with her and she was the least supportive of a VBAC out of all the OBs I had met with. I told the Midwife this and she said they would keep her out of the room. Phew!
I kept labouring standing up next to the bed with the TENS machine, gas and heat packs. We kept the lights dim and it was nice and quiet so I was able to get back into a rhythm. After about an hour, at 4am, I asked Ben to ask about pain relief. He knew I explicitly didn't want any, as did the Midwife. When he spoke to her, she reminded me that I wanted to do this drug free to ensure my chances of a VBAC were high and to avoid any potential intervention an epidural would bring. She then send an Anaesthetist would be in at 6.30am and if I still wanted some pain relief then, then we could speak to him about our options. I remember thinking, I just need to keep doing this for 2 more hours then. I am so thankful for the Midwife for this. She knew I didn't want any pain relief and instead of offering alternatives, she made a deal with me which satisfied my crazy-labour-lady mind.
I was starting to get tired so laid on the bed on my side rest and popped my headphones on with some hypnosis tracks playing. I immediately felt relaxed and was doing my breathing between surges and visualisations. The Midwife even asked Ben what I was listening to as I was really calm.
Within about 30 mins things were getting even more intense and I had to change positions. It was about 6am and I remember feeling so much intense pressure in my lower back, I thought it was going to rip open and the baby be born that way. I couldn't stop making sounds which I can distinctly remember thinking resembled an elephant haha. Another Midwife heard me and came in to help me slow my breathing down. This was great! Things were getting intense and she was able to bring my mind back into focus. She asked if I wanted a vaginal exam as my sounds had changed she thought I sounded very close. I consented and my Midwife asked me to hop on the bed. I complained. The senior Midwife said I didn't have to and told my Midwife to do it while I was standing up. She said I was 8cm and my waters were bulging and would go pretty soon. I remember thinking, 'shit! 8cm means I won't get any pain relief and there's no way for me to stop this but to get the baby out on my own' and 'I just dilated 5cm in less than 3 hours!'. The next surge came and my membranes released all over the floor. It was so cool and gross at the same time and gave me a slight sense of relief for a few seconds. I didn't realise it at the time but Ben kept urging them to call my OB instead of the on call OB. Then transition hit. I cried. Hugged Ben and said I didn't want to do it anymore. He gave me a pep-talk, I pulled myself together. The Midwife told Ben that was transition. I remember thinking that was good. Transition is the part just before the pushing.
Almost instantly I was getting bearing down urges with the next surge. I was still standing up at this point and after a while, the Midwives asked me if I wanted to get up on the bed. It was so hard to move but I eventually climbed up on the bed and leaned over the head rest and continued bearing down in that position. I was getting tired! After some time they suggested I lay on my side and continue to bear down while semi-resting. Even though I was following my body's natural urges, I couldn't feel the baby moving down like I expected so I still didn't think at that point that the baby was so close to being born. Ben was really helping me to focus on effective breathing/bearing down at this point. He was reminding me to breathe the baby down and that the baby was working with me to come out. Ben told me that my OB had arrived. I was oblivious to who was even in the room at this point. By now I was on my back which strangely felt good (especially as I knew upright positions were more conducive to effective pushing). I was on my back when a Midwife asked if I wanted to feel the head. I said no. At that point, I was too focused to even move. There were lights on the ceiling that weren't on but I got a perfect reflection so I could see what was happening. It was at this point I realised how close I actually was to getting the baby out. My OB said the head wasn't coming through still and I was really stretched so he offered to do a small cut if I wanted and the head would come straight out. YES I said as I just wanted the baby out NOW. I kept bearing down while waiting for the local anaesthetic to take effect. The OB did the cut which I didn't feel and on the next surge, I pushed the baby's head out. It felt like such a relief. Then the body slipped out in the next second. No one was expecting it to just slip out in one go so the baby shot out onto the bed. Someone passed the baby up to my chest all covered in vernix and I felt a big sense of relief that all the intense pressure I was feeling was gone. It still felt surreal at this point that I had actually done it and I think I was in a bit of shock. One of the Midwives asked what the baby was as they knew we didn't know and wanted to find out for ourselves. I moved the cord out of the way and saw the baby was a girl! Although I had to ask them if I was right! We couldn't believe it! I was sure it was a little boy inside my belly all this time.
I wanted a physiological third stage but really didn't want any more surges at this point. I was DONE! Luckily for me, I didn't feel any surges as my placenta came away on its own and was completely out within 15 minutes. The OB and Midwives thought it was pretty cool as a physiological stage isn't common at the hospital. I was stitched up pretty quickly and within minutes the room went quiet as the Midwife and OB were writing notes. She never cried and we laid there having skin to skin and cuddles while she looked around so wide-eyed. They brought us breakfast while Ben and I sat in shock that we had a baby girl and I sat in shock that Id had a drug free VBAC. I felt like a super hero! I wanted to get up and walk the halls knocking on all the doors telling everyone what I had just done and show off my new baby GIRL! I felt amazing! I had a shower while Ben snuggled with our little girl then we moved to our room and called our families.
Introducing Ivy Alice born at 7.12am. 3.0kg, 50cm long