The end of my pregnancy was approaching – after so many months of sickness, it seemed surreal that the birth was actually going to happen! At 39 weeks, I began to feel mild and irregular cramping/contractions. I hoped for the birth to be soon but given my previous history with many days of pre-labour, it was hard to tell when baby would really come! I was hoping to make it to a ‘last hurrah’ girl’s dinner on the Saturday night (at 39+1) then I was set to go anytime! I did make the dinner (oh, it was lovely) but felt like it might not be much longer.
On Sunday 20th, I spent the day at home while Mark took the kids to church. It was good to sleep and rest and quietly potter… ‘nesting’ I guess, as I finished packing baby/labour/birth centre bags and taking care of other odds and ends – including giving the kids haircuts in the carport outside and having a family treat of ice-cream cones which was enjoyed by all! It was a quiet, sweet, relaxing day with my little family. Not many contractions all day Sunday, just every now and then, so that night Mark went to his own ‘last hurrah’ burgers and a movie with the guys. He kept saying he should stay home, giving me funny looks all day and asking me out of 10 how things were progressing. Just two or three, I would reply. ‘Nothing major, so just keep your phone on and go!’ I insisted. So he did. As the evening progressed the contractions did heat up a little – only every five to ten minutes or so, mild but seemed like they could be heading somewhere. Perhaps this really was it?!
I pottered around, getting dressed to go to the Birth Centre just in case, knowing Mark would be home soon. I was feeling torn between wanting to stay home as long as possible, ensure labour was truly established before heading in too early, and also not wanting to leave it too long and end up birthing on the bedroom floor again! Ahhh, labour – so unpredictable. I texted my midwife AnneMaree about 11pm telling her I had some sporadic contractions, just as a heads up but wasn’t sure if it was going anywhere. As soon as Mark got home and saw things were increasing, he wanted to head in to the hospital, but I wasn’t ready yet! So he recorded the contraction times for half an hour then called AnneMaree to let her know. It was up to me whether to go in or not and I just didn’t know… as I feel a bit of ‘performance anxiety’ when I get to hospital which I think slows things down, and I also really didn’t want to go and then come home again like last time with Eli. She suggested rather than walking around or sitting on fit ball as I had been, to try lying down for half an hour and see if the contractions kept coming. So we did that – it was about midnight at this point. They spaced out quite a bit – like over five minutes apart, but were feeling fairly consistent and a minute in length, so when we called back she suggested we just head in, just in case, which Mark was keen to do!
So we called my step-dad David and he kindly dragged himself out of bed and came over to sleep in the guest room so we didn’t need to wake the kids in the middle of the night. And then off we went at about 1am on what was now Monday the 21st! This was it?!
Once we got to the Birth Centre and confirmed that things were indeed happening (I was 5cm dilated it turned out), I finally called my dear friend Amber who was kindly lending her amazing photography talents to our little one’s arrival. She had insisted I call her no matter what was happening or at what time, and so eventually I did call her – I kept delaying not wanting to wake her too early or unnecessarily but also knowing how random my births could be, didn’t want her to miss the big moment after all the build-up and planning we had done! So I called and she came in around 2am I think. She was a quiet, discreet, supportive and calm presence throughout the entire night – not to mention photographing some amazing moments. What a wonderful friend!
From there on in it was just… quiet. Lights dimmed. Candles lit. Cosy, quiet atmosphere. Huge glorious bath filled with warm water for a hopeful water birth (took over an hour to fill that massive tub!). The same music playing on the iPod as we had at Lily’s birth… (no chance for music with Eli's birth, lol)… bringing back so many wonderful memories. Music for Dreaming… so gentle and soothing! After going through the Birth Centre system twice before (love their approach and the continuity of care!) but never actually birthing in the Birth Centre, it was quite bizarre to finally be there – I almost couldn’t believe I was actually going to have that natural Birth Centre water birth after all this time - I think I said this to Mark about a dozen times that night, haha!
The time ticked on and the contractions slowly built though they seemed to still be quite sporadic and mild. I would find myself thinking ‘This can’t be real labour’ and wondering if I would just end up going home again! I had to catch myself and reassure myself that this was indeed it, I was not going home and to just focus myself on the task at hand! I was wishing a bit we could have stayed at home a little longer before heading in but as we didn’t want to get caught out again – and seeing how spaced out my contractions remained the whole time - I don’t think I would have ever felt sure of when to come in!
I was keen to get in the lovely bath but knew that it could slow down labour if I wasn’t far along enough. I held off for quite a while and also felt like I needed to be walking, rocking, swaying on the fit ball to keep the contractions coming and building. As lovely and warm as the bath looked, I did kind of wonder what I would do in there, lol!! Eventually I did get in and it was indeed warm and cosy but my contractions slowed right down – actually, pretty much stopped for 15 minutes! Well, I wanted to keep things moving – and felt like I needed to be actually moving, so I hopped back out and returned to just walking and swaying on the fit ball.
It was probably 4 or 5am at this point. I was feeling tiiiiired. Not so much from the labour which was really very gentle and low-key (almost too low-key!), but just tired from being awake all night. I would catch myself drifting off between contractions and even my legs started to give way as I walked around. Oh, I longed for sleep but knew I just had to keep going in order to meet this baby! I have to admit the primary motivation for birthing the baby at this point was just so afterwards we could all curl up and take a nap!! (Of course, as soon as baby was born, the adrenalin kicked in and as much as I tried to sleep, I couldn’t catch a wink all day! Don’t worry, Miles and Mark got plenty of zzz’s, haha!).
Anyway, slowly but surely I worked towards the goal. Mark was amazing, just gently supporting me, encouraging me and helping me not feel anxious or pressured about how long this was taking – I do realise it wasn’t very long compared to many labours but it was long compared to what I was used to (which in retrospect was probably because I was a few days early so my body wasn’t quite as ready as it had been the other times?). After two very fast previous labours (four hours and one-ish hours) I did begin to feel a little frustrated at the time it was taking, mostly because I was very conscious about keeping Amber and Anne Maree up all night and feeling terrible about that! But Mark reminded me that Amber wanted to be there, Anne Maree was being paid to be there, and I needed to not worry about them but just relax and focus on the baby. Ok, ok! He was a wonderful and calm support – I focus pretty internally in my labours so I didn’t need much done for me, but just having him there and being so tender was wonderful.
Somewhere in the wee small hours of the morning my waters started leaking (at last) and then my midwife broke the rest which helped things really get moving. Finally, things got strong enough that it seemed I was ready to get into the birthing tub again. I still needed to move though, and the contractions were still a few minutes apart (up to 5 minutes right up till the very end!), so between contractions I would stand up (in the tub - carefully!) and sway, then kneel down and do my breathing during each contraction! I was using the ‘hypno-birthing/calm birth’ breathing technique through all of this – the philosophy and breathing techniques being something that has equipped me and helped me through all three of my births – along with the things I learnt from doing pre-natal yoga. I just find the approach to be excellent for understanding what our bodies are actually doing as they birth (God created them so wonderfully!), and how to focus, keep calm, work with your body and make the most of every contraction. It has been such an excellent tool, I couldn’t imagine labouring without the knowledge and strategies it equipped me with.
And so then…. I felt things shift and start to open. I focused my breathing on flowing down and out and suddenly, my baby was coming. Yes, this was really happening! Up till this point I really hadn’t been sure! I knelt in the tub as Mark held my hands and I breathed and I think for the first time in the labour made some noise… up till now, I breathed silently through every contraction but as my body birthed my baby, well…. I think I shouted the house down!! In that incredibly surreal blur of time and emotion and intensity, his head was out, and then he was coming all out. 7.38am. I received him into my hands, scooping him up and out of the water. My baby, here with me, at last!
His precious little face was scrunched up, eyes closed, face and body covered in incredibly thick white vernix though he was only 4 days early… he whimpered a little as I snuggled him close in the warm water. I was laughing and crying and who knows what else. Mark was behind me, grinning, holding my shoulders, gazing at his little boy. It was beautiful. Miles was healthy and strong and we could only sit there, marvelling and thanking God for this beautiful blessing! His temperament already seemed as gentle and quiet as his birth. No shrieking, just this scrunched up little face quietly squinting against the emerging light, trying to open his eyes to look at these strange parents of his. It was only when I moved to hold him out in front of me to look at his little face some more that he squawked in protest!! As soon as I snuggled him back against me, he was happy once more.
We sat there in the warm water for ages – 45 minutes I think – just admiring this little guy. While there he started to nuzzle against me and then basically just latched himself on for a feed – amazing! Even the midwife seemed to marvel at how naturally it all happened! After a while Mark and Anne Maree somewhat delicately extricated me (still holding baby) from the tub and we were bundled onto the cosy double bed where Miles and I were covered in warm towels and blankets. We snuggled up happily together and he shortly afterwards latched on again with almost no assistance for a mega-two-hour-feeding session! I laid there – happy, exhausted, thankful, marvelling.
It had been my toughest pregnancy, and at times I almost forgot about the prize at the end of that marathon…. Yet here he was, in my arms at last and just as I suspected, worth every moment of sickness. I feel hardly able to comprehend how undeservedly blessed we have been by God, to have a third healthy beautiful child in our family. We are so grateful!
Sweet baby Miles – welcome to our world, and our family. We love you, darling boy!
Born 7.38am, Monday 21st January 2013
(For more photos of Miles' birth, go here!)