I had the most empowering birth with our first child Finn that my only fear leading into this birth was that it wouldn’t be as calm and positive, and if it wasn’t I would be hugely disappointed. To challenge this fear I took time out to prepare myself, mentally and physically and surrendered to whatever birthing experience I was presented with.

Monday 30 November (40 weeks + 1 day)

My Obstetrician completed a stretch and sweep at 3pm. This internal showed that I was already 3cms dilated, cervix was very soft, less that ½ a cm thick and my membranes were bulging. The head was also engaged and low. My Dr advised me to go to the hospital at the onset of labour as she predicted that it was going to be a fast labour. I asked whether I make another appointment for 41 weeks and she said “Don’t bother, I will be seeing you before then.”

Tuesday 1st December (40 weeks + 2 days)

When I woke in the morning I expected to find a bloody show but I only had a small amount of mucus plug come away. Today isn’t going to be the day I thought to myself. I took Finn to playgroup and on the walk home (10.45am) I had a few Braxton hicks, they felt tight but certainly not anything to warrant attention. We returned home and as I made Finn lunch, the tightening’s returned. I started pencilling down the times but as I was doing this I felt I was getting ahead of myself as the tightening were of the same intensity as the Braxton Hicks I had been experiencing for the past few weeks. I put Finn down for his day sleep and carried on as if I would on any day. At 12.30pm I sent my husband Lachie a text to let him know that I was having some tightening’s, but they were mild and completely manageable. I also called the maternity ward at the hospital to let them know what I was feeling but the midwife reassured me that what I was experiencing was an irritable uterus resulting from the stretch and sweep, not labour. After this call the tightening’s stopped for over 30 minutes and I resigned myself to the fact that I would be waiting a bit longer to meet our baby.

Then suddenly at 2.15pm I had one surge that had a peaking sensation after about 15 seconds. That was the feeling – that’s a contraction! This is the start of our baby’s birth I noted to myself. I grabbed my headphones and started playing my relaxation tracks. I felt the need to walk around but it was proving challenging as I also needed to keep my eyes shut to concentrate on the relaxation track too. Bumping into random pieces of furniture while labouring wasn’t helping me stay focused! I grabbed a pile of cushions and positioned myself over the back of one of our couches. Swaying my hips while in the squatting position intensified the surges and made me feel like I was making progress. I called Lachie at work at 2.35pm to ask him to come home. While I was on the phone I became aware that Finn was still asleep and quietly thanked my usually inconsistent sleeper for picking today to have a long day sleep. Lachie arrived home at 2.50pm just as I was having another surge. He ran to me and immediately squeezed my hips together. He knew what I needed and I didn’t even need to ask. I was looking forward to his support and comforting hands as we faced the surges together. Finn woke as Lachie returned and I told Lachie that we needed to make our way to the hospital. We would need to take Finn with us as there was no time for anyone to come to our home and stay with him. We all bundled in the car and as I experienced surges every 2 minutes Finn looked at me with wide eyes but at the same time continued munching on watermelon pieces that Lach gave him. When a surge hit I lent back to Finn’s car seat and rubbed his foot whispering “we are going to have our baby today.”

We arrived at the hospital at 3.20pm and I was taken straight to the delivery suite. Our first midwife spoke to me in a soothing voice and rubbed my back as a surge approached. I started using sound to ride through the surges, low “uhhh’s” felt great to make. She asked me to take my clothes off and helped me into a gown. The gown felt uncomfortable and kept slipping off and the midwife could see this and said “If you want to be naked, be naked.” I felt free now. I asked the midwife if I could use the bath to which she replied “Oh honey you are passed that stage, you are going to have your baby soon.” The midwife listened to the baby’s heartbeat as I leant over the edge of the bed. She asked if she could check my cervix and helped me onto the bed between a surge. I was 8cms. To hear that number was incredibly motivating. Meanwhile Lachie asked one of the nurses at the front desk to look after Finn and made arrangements for a friend to collect him. When he returned I immediately felt more at ease. I had a few more surges leaning forwards against the bed while Lachie rubbed lavender oil across my back. I was vocalizing a lot at this point and impressed that I was able to repeat my affirmations out loud. I took deep breaths in and said “Open. Baby down.” When the surge came to an end I whispered “relax, relax, relax.” I loved saying this word and each time a surge began I reminded myself that I would be saying that magical word in no time. I knew I was close to birthing our baby so I made my way onto the bed. I got on my knees with my head resting against a stack of pillows placed at the head of the bed. Lachie handed me my birth poster I had created. The typed affirmations were staring me in the face and I read them out loud. But it was the newborn photograph of Finn that I stuck in the middle that saw me through some incredibly strong surges.

I started to get anxious that my Dr wasn’t going to make it and asked the midwife where she was. The midwife pointed to the other side of the room and there she was, quietly standing there. I smiled and she said “I didn’t want to disturb you, you are doing so well.” She checked me and I was 10cms and my waters began to trickle away. I didn’t feel the urge to push so I rested. After a few more surges I was beginning to get frustrated as I didn’t feel pushy. My Dr said if I wanted to I could try to give a push and see what happens. I had a go and felt the baby drop down slightly. Throughout the pushing phase I began to doubt myself and believed that I wasn’t making progress. To overcome this I began chanting “I can do this.” Both Lachie and the midwives would call back “you are doing it!” I felt like I was getting back on track now. It was getting close so I slowed down my breathing and made small puffs as I felt the head crowning. It was at this moment that my Dr said that she needed to move me onto my side. I flipped over and everything slowed down. I knew something was wrong but I blocked it out and just concentrated on my breathing. I could feel the baby’s head resting against my thigh and was just waiting for the body to be born. At 4.26pm, after a few manoeuvres by my Dr to remove the cord around baby’s neck and to birth the wide shoulders, our bub was here. Our baby was blue and my Dr told me to talk to her. It didn’t register that we had a girl; I just wanted that colour to go away. I rubbed her chest and said “Hello.” She wasn’t regaining colour so the midwives asked Lachie to hold the oxygen over her mouth. This wasn’t enough so the cord was quickly cut and she was taken to the table to be given more oxygen. The midwives reassured me that she was ok and shortly after she was placed back on my chest where she belonged. Our baby girl, Harper May found her way to the breast and had a long comforting breastfeed.

After delivering the placenta and sharing some special alone time with just Harper and Lachie she was checked over and weighed. She was cold and her temperature was low. Harper was taken to the SCN for about 4 hours to be put under lights and heat. Lachie picked up Finn and he came back to the hospital to meet his new sister during this time. Finn was amazed by Harper and couldn’t stop repeating “baaaaaby, baaaaby” as he leant over to pat her on the chest.

Although shocked by how quick the labour was I am equally overwhelmed and touched by the enormous support I was surrounded with on our baby’s birth day. The care, tenderness and guidance that my husband, my obstetrician and the midwives displayed enabled me to birth Harper in a gentle, calm and loving way.

I also need to acknowledge the support, wisdom and shared understanding I gained from a collection of inspirational women, all who believed that I could birth our baby using my inner resources. Tracey, Julia, Andrea, Mum and Melinda, you all gave me strength in the lead up to our baby’s special day. I cannot thank you enough.

The stats

Established labour: 2 hours 10 minutes

Pushing phase: 18 minutes

Perineum: intact (Yay!)

Weight: 4.020kgs/8 pounds 14 oz

Height: 50cms

Head circumference: 34cms

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