We attended your December 2021 class and James arrived in March 2022. I gave birth at 42 weeks exactly so our story involves induction but with a few twists! I loved my labour and l was on such a high from it. It was everything I had hoped the birth would be. I actually had the midwives that attended the birth saying that I should send you our story, and my midwife that I had through TCH’s continuity program said afterwards that she would have loved to get my partner and I to talk at the hospital’s classes if they were still running them face-to-face because we were so calm about everything!

I credit so much of it to attending your class, I am so very glad that we did it, the birth wouldn’t have been what it was without you. I did my fucking practices and we took so many tools you taught us into labour! When I was pregnant, most of the women around me only had negative things to say about birth. With advice to just get the drugs, you don’t need to be in pain, etc. but I was so determined to do it without drugs and completely calmly. And there was no screaming, no crying, no swearing. Apparently, I still said my please and thank you’s! I was very lucky that labour went smoothly but I don’t want that to undermine the work Justin and I put in during labour and when I was pregnant preparing for labour to create that calm mindset and environment for labour. 

Anyway on to the birth story:

When we got to 41w, we first talked about induction at 42w with our midwife, and the prospect of that upset me. I had wanted to let labour start naturally but also didn’t want to go past 42w, but Justin has always been amazing for me to lean on and help me come to a calm mindset. So we knew that if by 41+6 James was not here, I would get the foley bulb placed (which usually leads to breaking the waters and starting the drip). I consented to some cervical checks to see where things were at in order to make decisions about induction. I was checked on 41+3 and was 1.5cm dilated, so things were happening, but by 41+5 I was still 1.5cm. So the next day we were to go in to have the foley bulb placed. It was so exciting having a date we knew we’d finally meet James! Justin cooked us up some burgers that night which we enjoyed on the deck and we soaked up our last day as just us two.

At 5am, I woke up with a cramp – I had been waking up to braxton hicks cramping every night for weeks whenever I needed to pee, and when I got back into bed it would go away. I couldn’t get back to sleep right away and I noticed another tightening… and then another. And I thought, that doesn’t usually happen, maybe I should time them if I get more? I wrote down the time any time I felt a tightening. Most felt just like my braxton hicks tightenings, but occasionally I would get a noticeably crampy one. They were coming every ~10 minutes. I thought I was probably just leaning into my braxton hicks more because I was being induced today, but was still wanting labour to start naturally. I lay in bed timing them for an hour before falling asleep. I figured if this was labour starting, they would get more intense, and if not, we’d still meet James tomorrow anyway.

By the time I got up for the day the contractions were gone, and I knew it was common for them to start overnight and then fizzle out. Oh well. We got a call from my midwife at 9am to come in at 1.30pm to have the foley bulb placed. I would have it placed and stay overnight while it did its thing working to dilate my cervix some more. We spent the hours beforehand getting some chores done and tidying the house so it was tidy for when we’d come home with the baby. I had a lie down around midday and the contractions came back. We then took our dog for a short walk right before we had to leave and I noticed the contractions seemed closer together and a bit more crampy so I timed them on our walk. They were 7-8 minutes apart. When we got back from the walk, we loaded up the labour bag with the last few things and were on our way to the hospital. We were so excited to get induction started and finally meet James! Next time we’d come home it would be with the baby!

My usual midwife wasn’t on that day so we had her backup, Shilpa. We got into the birthing centre and Shilpa first hooked me up to the CTG machine which would measure James’ heartbeats and any contractions I might have. Then she checked my cervix and I was still 1.5cm. I was having small contractions, most of which just felt like a tightening, but occasionally I would have a bigger crampy one. I mentioned to Shilpa that I’d had some cramping this morning and if it was early labour what that would mean for the induction process. She straight up said you’re not in early labour, she could tell by how I was acting that it wasn’t early labour, but it could be pre labour getting my body ready for labour. That was a bit discouraging to hear, I thought these contractions felt different, but oh well. The head midwife joined us to oversee Shilpa place the foley bulb and they got to work. The head midwife explained that the potential problem was being able to see the cervix to be able to place the foley bulb correctly, but we were all still hopeful it would work.

The procedure felt similar to a pap smear but lasted longer. I focused on my breathing and on Justin’s voice and touch. Justin reminded me things like how we’d be meeting our baby soon, and how great I was doing, and he was stroking my arm. His voice and touch were a soothing distraction. Shilpa had tried to place the foley bulb but said it hadn’t gone in. The head midwife asked me if she could try so I said yes, but the same thing happened. That was disappointing, I’d hoped the foley bulb would dilate me more so that maybe the drip had less work to do, and I might only need a little bit or even have it turned off if my body took over. The head midwife said we could still start the induction at 1.5cm, but she just wanted to check how dilated I am again. And she straight away was amazed and said it hadn’t stayed in because it instantly stretched me to 3cm!

We could go ahead and break my waters and start induction. That was the best news! Not only had the foley bulb worked, I didn’t need it overnight. But I was also a little apprehensive – I’d prepared myself for it to happen tomorrow, not today! But there was some bad news too – there were no beds in the birth suite and we couldn’t do the induction today and we could even potentially be bumped to Sunday! We had built ourselves up that it was our last night just us two, that next time we got home we would have the baby. And we were leaving to have our last night *again*. We felt a bit disappointed to be leaving without the baby but I was also glad to have one more night to let labour start by itself. I was mildly hopeful but really didn’t put much thought to it. I had fully accepted the induction tomorrow. 

We decided that we would go home, have dinner right away, go for a walk, and then have an early night. I sat on my ball while we watched some TV and ate dinner and I timed the contractions again – they were 8 minutes apart. We then went for a walk and I noticed the contractions were more intense. I timed them throughout the walk and they were 6-7 minutes apart but I could still walk through them. I stopped timing them again while we got ready for bed and watched some more TV in bed.

By 9pm when we went to shut off the TV they were around 3 minutes apart but as I tried to fall asleep they were picking up in intensity, so I started timing them again at 9.30pm. They were around 2 minutes apart now, and I lay in bed timing them for an hour. I figured if this is active labour they will stay 2 minutes apart if I get up and change position, so I went out into the lounge room to sit on and lean on my ball. They stayed 2 minutes apart. I don’t know if I fully believed this was happening but I just wasn’t really thinking about things too much, I was just responding to the contractions, trying to relax through the contractions, and willing them to continue. I was welcoming each one, being 42 weeks I was definitely ready to meet this baby! I wanted to stay at home for as long as I could so I tried to stay on the ball for as long as I could.

After about 25 minutes Justin came to check on me and I said I think we should call the midwife. The midwife had said to call once contractions were 2 minutes apart for 2 hours but the intensity seemed to have picked up pretty quickly so I wanted to call at 1.5 hours. Justin called her and told her that I had started having contractions this evening and they were now 2 minutes apart and had been for an hour and a half now. I don’t think she believed us because the first thing she asked was if these were like the contractions I was having and asking about earlier when we were at the hospital. I said no these are more intense! She asked me a few questions, and I knew they like to try and talk to you to try to gauge how far along you are. She told me to have some panadol and get in the shower and use a heat pack. I don’t think she expected us to need to call her back before being admitted for induction in the morning, because Justin had to ask her whether we should call her back in a little bit or what!

Justin jumped into action, I jumped into the shower while he brought me some panadol and got the heat pack out of the labour bag that we’d left in the car. It was 11pm at this point and I stayed in the shower until midnight. I would have the water run on my back during contractions and then run down my front while leaning against the wall to rest between contractions.There were so many little things that Justin was already doing that were actually hugely helpful which meant I didn’t have to think about a thing! Like what the midwife’s number was, where we had packed things, where my phone was, keeping the family updated, and he was just there to grab me whatever I asked for. It got to a point where I felt like I wouldn’t be able to do the car ride soon, so I gave it a couple more contractions and then asked Justin to call the midwife again, let her know that I’m in the shower still having intense contractions and wouldn’t be able to do the car ride soon so I wanted to come in. Apparently, I talked to the midwife again in the shower although I can’t recall it at all!

Justin said that Shilpa had sighed a little and sounded a little annoyed – again I don’t think she believed I was as far along as I was and perhaps annoyed we had called back so soon. In the end, Justin had to tell her, we are coming in now! So Shilpa said she would meet us there. I got dressed, grabbed my pillow, Justin reheated my heat pack and we got in the car. I had stopped timing contractions when I got in the shower so I have no idea where they were at. My contractions felt a bit less intense once we got in the car so I was hoping we hadn’t left too early. But once we got out of the car when we arrived I found I could no longer walk through the contractions. We got to the birth suite where Shilpa met us and took us into our room. I sat up on the bed and Shilpa hooked up the CTG monitors. I sat through a few contractions like that, it wasn’t very comfortable but it was more uncomfortable to move. I hadn’t wanted continuous monitoring, but because I developed thrombocytopenia (drop in platelet count during pregnancy) they wanted continuous monitoring and a cannula on me.

I also couldn’t give birth in the birth centre, we were in the regular birthing suite, but the rooms felt very similar, the only difference was I didn’t have a double bed. We set up the room to be extra cozy which helped staying relaxed. Justin set up our salt lamp, LED candles, and music and asked Shilpa to turn off the main lights. There were even fairy lights over the bath. The room felt very cozy and relaxing. After a few contractions Shilpa checked how dilated I was. We told her I didn’t want to know what the number was, but she wrote it down for Justin and did a little happy dance – I had my eyes closed so I didn’t see – she was happy I was 5cm and my cervix was thin. Justin said he felt like there was a lot of time left then, if I had another 5cm to go, and they say half a centimetre an hour. After Shilpa checked me I turned over to lay on my left side, and I stayed like that for an hour and a half. I felt James move all the way through labour. I was really comfortable on the bed on my side so I could really relax – almost try and sleep – between contractions.

I was focused on conserving my energy. I would squeeze my comb in my right hand during contractions and try my best to focus on that pain instead, and I would repeat some affirmations in my head, mostly that I am calm and strong, and I can do this. I had planned to use the shower and the bath but where I was on the bed felt right. All the way through Justin would tell me how strong and powerful I am, and each contraction brought us closer to meeting our baby. Hearing those words and his voice was so comforting through the pain. I loved listening to Ball Park Music during labour, I was jamming to it in my head between contractions. It wasn’t long at all before I could feel my body starting to bear down. I told Shilpa and she said not to start pushing yet because I wasn’t fully dilated yet. She said things were moving faster than she expected and was still setting up the room, and to squeeze my buttocks to stop myself from pushing and let her know when I can’t control the urge to push.

She showed Justin a call button and told him to push it when she tells him to because there needs to be two midwives here for the pushing stage. I don’t know how many contractions there were before I had to call for Shilpa to tell her I couldn’t stop my body from pushing. She got me to roll onto my back so she could check me. She said I was fully dilated! I opened my eyes to look at her shocked, I said ‘What?!’ She said you’re fully dilated you can start pushing! This was 1.5hrs after arriving at the hospital. I was so shocked that I had gotten through transition without realising it. I had prepared myself and Justin for that feeling of not being able to keep going but I never felt that way. Justin pushed the call button and another younger midwife Daniella joined us. Shilpa suggested I lean on the back of the bed in an all-fours position. I pushed like that for a while but I couldn’t feel much progress being made, so Shilpa suggested I lay on my right side and she and Justin held my legs up to push against.

I could feel my pushing was a lot more effective like this. At one point James’ heart rate dropped so they called in the doctor, but by the time she arrived his heart rate had recovered. The doctor got down to my level on the bed and told me it’s very normal for a baby’s heart rate to drop when their head is being squeezed and he was fine. She told me I was being very calm. I remember telling myself that staying calm and breathing deeply will help him the most, and that way I could keep myself calm. After that he didn’t have any more heart decelerations but I tried to check the CTG a few times, and Justin would reassure me that he’s doing fine. I got so sweaty during pushing Justin would fan me between contractions. I was also burping and getting bad indigestion from all the pushing! I had a lot of indigestion throughout the pregnancy but I hadn’t expected that! When his head first became visible Shilpa was excited about getting Justin to come look.

Justin was excitedly already trying to work out what colour hair he had. Shilpa told him to take a photo so I could see too, which he did a bunch more throughout the pushing stage, and that was cool to see the progress I was making. But I think progress might have been a little too slow because Shilpa asked Daniella to grab the pack for performing an episiotomy and I said something disappointedly like ‘aw man’ and Justin told Shilpa that I’d prefer to tear (I loved that he advocated for me here) but I said if that’s what we need to do to get him here obviously let’s do it. Shilpa said it was just a precaution and was happy for me to keep pushing because James was doing well with it, but if he started to struggle we’d need to get him out faster. From then on I tried to push even harder and do more pushes with every contraction. My waters still hadn’t broken and Shilpa was saying he could be born in his sac! But we decided to break them to hopefully speed things up.

After 2 hours of pushing James was here and he was placed straight on my stomach. I didn’t cry like I thought I would but still felt sooo elated and out of this world – he coughed and spat a few times and cried. Justin cut his cord and we pulled him up a bit higher onto my chest. As soon as he heard Justin’s voice he was bopping his head around to look for him, it was very sweet. James started to feed right away. I had a small tear near my urethra needing stitching but that was it. While we waited for a doctor, Shilpa did some tests and paperwork. Justin took a nap on the day bed while a doctor stitched me up since we had missed a full night’s sleep. I stroked little James’ face. He was done eating and fell asleep on my chest. The first stage of labour (active labour) was recorded as being just 4 hours long and the second stage (pushing) was 2 hours. It was hard to wait for so long but I’m so glad I pushed induction back to 42w. I definitely believe labour was so quick because my body was very ready! Whether the foley bulb was just the nudge I needed to put me into active labour or whether I would have gone into active labour anyway, I’m very glad we were sent home that night so things could happen by themselves.

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