Saturday, November 20, 2010

This be the tale

On Sunday the 14th we had a day of busyness and reflection. Martin went and picked up the St Andrews Cradle, a beautiful tradition for the babies of the area, which deserves a blog post of its own. He finished setting up our room for the baby and washed our bed sheets. I wrote that last blog post about being ready. We pottered around home mostly, did a quick drive to Diamond Creek to top up on a few things (including some new needles and paper strips for my blood monitor, which are now sitting unopened in the kitchen).I'd felt different for a few days - a little weepier for one, and irritable with the kids, and for the first time since I'd altered my diet for the diabetes I found myself inclined to having short naps. If I'd been a cat I would have found a cardboard box in a cupboard to hide in. The baby's head was lower (he "engaged" at about 38.5 weeks) and I was feeling calm about the approaching birth. I was suspecting I would not get to my due date (on which I had a doctor's appointment to talk about the possibility of an induction, about which I had very mixed feelings).

I made a chicken curry for dinner to use up the remainder of a roast, very mildly spiced, with a quick homemade apple and sultana chutney and corn on the cob and rice for Martin and the girls. I went for a walk. Not a long one. Some nights I'd been walking 5km or more, but over the past few days I'd found I didn't have as much energy for long sustained walks. I took some photos in the bush, almost as if I knew that these long last days of pregnancy were coming to an end and I wanted to record this experience – the evening walks will be some of my most cherished memories of what will be my last pregnancy. I came home. Martin was bathing the children, Fred was hiding in the lounge room, shushing me not to give her position away. I slipped off to bed. Just before Una went to bed she came in, all pink and clean, and gave me a long cuddle on the bed, pressing her head against the baby, and we talked about what it would be like when he was born.

After she went to her own bed, I drifted off to sleep. I woke up to a text from Martin. "Coming home soon?" I texted back: "Look harder." He came down to the bedroom to find me, stroked my forehead, and then sat down at his computer in the little study off our room. A few minutes later, I felt a prolonged liquid trickle.

"I think my waters are breaking," I said to Martin who immediately leapt up. I got up too (not so much with the leaping) and went the toilet to investigate. There wasn't the floods that came when I went into labour with Fred, but something had spilled. We called the hospital (I had tested positive for Strep B, one of those annoying but unserious complications, which means you have to have antibiotics every four hours in labour and you need to get two lots in if you don't want them faffing about with your baby afterwards). They said to come in and check it out. Martin rang his mum and Lisa, our lovely next door neighbour, came over to watch the kids until their Nana arrived. The kids were asleep.

We got to the hospital and the midwives and registrar played fun games with speculums until they decided that yes, it was my waters (probably just a little leak of my hindwaters). Then we had the Fun Conversation with the birthing suite docs about how because I was strep B I should be induced, but luckily I'd had this conversation before, since the same thing happened with Fred. I knew I had 18 hours in the birth centre to progress into labour on my own, and this is what I chose to do. They were closing down the birth centre, as we were the only ones in it and the birthing suites were understaffed. But we got to stay anyway, and eerily enough had the whole birth centre to ourselves. After some more jiggery-pokery with needles (they put a cannula in my hand for the antibiotics) and a bit of baby monitoring, we had our evening milo and went to bed, Lauren the midwife leaving us her extension in case something happened. I couldn't resist a quick tweet before I went to bed.

I slept on and off, contractions getting more painful, coming and going, about 6 minutes apart. I got up for a while in the night and sat in the eerily deserted lounge of the birth centre.

I woke Martin up at about 6, ready to get the show on the road. The contractions kept coming, sometimes intense, sometimes a little milder, not exactly clockwork, but regular enough for me to know I was in labour. Now here's the weird bit. No matter how much I talked about contractions, frequency, intensity none of the midwives really thought I was in labour. Right up till about 11 o'clock they were talking about sending me down the hall to the birth suite to be induced. I put this down to hypnobirthing - I'd done a course because labour with Una had been so long and the second stage so protracted and a little brutal, I was actually shitscared quite anxious about the birth (for the first time). The course had been good, we learned some different positions for labour, practiced calm breathing, ran through some visualisations. And many of the things we learned and talked about came back to me during labour. The relaxation tape had a woman with a funny old British accent and I've lost count of the number of times Martin and I made fun of her saying "limp and loose and heavy". And yet that mantra ran through my head in the early parts of labour and helped me to relax through each contraction. Later on I counted down from eight with each long breath, knowing that the "surge" (nice way of saying pain) would peak at about 6 or 5 and that after that it would subside with each breath. If I got to one and the contraction was still going, I would just repeat one over and over in my head (and the word one is quite a nice word to meditate on). The midwives kept hassling me to get up and get moving to "get things started" but I kept ending up on the bed, breathing through the contractions.

At about eleven, a little fed up I asked the midwife to give me an internal. I said I thought I might even be near transition, since I was ready (if she told me I hadn't made any/much progress) to nick off down the hall to the birth suite and get myself an epidural. Though quietly I knew I was in labour. She said "I don't think you're in transition, but I can always give you a stretch and sweep." (which is something they do to induce you before you start really dilating). And I said I could feel the pressure in my bum and she said "wouldn't it be funny if..." and it was funny because as she examined me she said "Oh! You're about 5cm dilated, no 6, oh...maybe even a bit more..." Which meant no more talk about inductions. "I can feel your forewaters bulging," she told me. "Do you want me to break them?" I thought about it. I had a suspicion that once my waters broke it would be all over red rover, and I decided to give the baby and my body more time. I tried the gas, it did absolutely nothing, but holding onto Martin was perfect, so with every contraction I leaned into his chest with my arms around his neck and took my strength from him, breathing 8, 7, 6, 5... Amazingly at this stage I actually nodded off between contractions, having strange flashes of dreams: red and white checked tablecloths hanging on a stone wall.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, about an hour or so later, feeling the baby was ready, and feeling the urge to push, I got Martin to get her and she got all the stuff ready to break my waters. It seemed to take ages for her to gather it all together. They lowered the bedhead, she poked inside me with her poking stick and broke my waters and a tidal wave came out. Seriously. She was almost washed away. I've had the line from Where the Wild Things Are in my head ever since: "And an ocean tumbled by..."

And I flipped over on my stomach and began to breathe the baby out. And (at this point another midwife had come in, the same midwife who had helped Una be born) they said "maybe just a little push to get him round the bend" (female anatomy is a funny thing) and so I pushed and out he came. "Stop pushing!" they cried. "Breathe! Breathe!" He stuck his head out, opened his mouth and shouted while the midwife fiddled around with the shoulders and then more fluid and then he was there, out in the world and it was over. And despite all the oogidy boogidy predictions through the whole pregnancy:

big baby...

fourth degree tear...

blood transfusion...


he was a teeny 7 pounds 11 ounces or 3.61kg, I didn't bleed, didn't tear and everything was perfect.

Today is Monday. He is one week old. We are home alone, Martin has gone to work, Fred is at school, Una is at creche. Avery is sleeping. This is my life now. This is the world I live in. Lucky me. I even love the nightfeeds, creeping out to the loungeroom with Avery, listening to Agatha Christie radio plays as Avery feeds and watches the dark with careful eyes.

As for me, I feel clear-headed and well, though I am still recovering and taking it easy. I haven't come home and binged on all the forbidden fruits of a gestational diabetes pregnancy - instead I've been enjoying the luxury of eating a WHOLE wholegrain roll for lunch with avocado, tuna and green leaf mix. I am so glad not to be testing my blood sugar anymore and feeling that little rhythmic anxiety between my blood drawing up into the strip and the beep-beep and flash of the tell-tale numbers. I'm enjoying not having to spend quite so much time thinking about what I can and can't eat. I am already back to the weight I was when I got pregnant with Avery. At six weeks (which happens to be my birthday) I have to do another glucose challenge test (ack ack horrible drink) to see if I am diabetes free. Whatever the outcome, I think the way I eat now is a lesson I've learned for life, and I hope to keep up with it, albeit to a more moderate degree.


  1. Goodness, your tale gives me hope that maybe I *could* do it all over again...

    And well done, you! xx

  2. This is quite the loveliest birth story I've read in some time. Glad it went so well for you, and glad you wrote it down before you forgot everything!

  3. That is simply amazing and so well-written, Penni.

    I'm so glad everything went well and he's healthy:)

  4. Frangipani10:20 PM

    Such a lovely way to record this wonderful memory for you all. The hypnobirthing has been very positive for you both. All our love to all of you.

  5. Beautiful. Reminds me of Charlie's birth.

  6. A lovely story, well told. I'm so happy for you.

  7. Wonderful story - I am at work but rushed to finish reading this before I do anything worky-like. So happy for you Penni. Can't wait to meet him. Also - Martin is a keeper. Wow.

  8. What a lovely birthstory :). Had a giggle at the midwives not believing you about being in labour. I have this happen twice (my two shortest births). Another smile at the oogedy-boogedy stories, thank goodness fortune telling isn't their day job! Enjoy your babymoon!

  9. It's funny, almost the most evocative part of the story for me was when you talk about counting through the contractions; I had forgotten that I did this too. That steady drum of numbers, linked to the breathing, really helped me to feel that I was in control, or more important that the pain wasn't controlling me -- it's so much easier to hang on until eight or nine (the "surge"! love that) than to feel that you're in the grip of waves and waves of agony. The counting gave me a rope to hang onto in that big scary ocean.

    Jeez, you're going to give up? Just now you've got the whole thing down perfectly? ;-)

  10. Lovely, lovely. If there is a surge in pregnancies in your readership you'll know it's your beautiful writing to blame. Well, indirectly.

  11. Sounds awesome Pen! Back to pre-pregnancy weight??? You should be in Who Magazine!

  12. A lovely birth to end the cycle. X Welcome little man.

    I simply cannot believe how many times I"ve heard of midwives 'not believing' we are in labour. I was told by mine that I was a 'drama queen' less than three hours before Lulu was born.

  13. How wonderful to be able to remember all of that journey in such moving detail. And to have the chutzpah to blog about it! It brought back all the memoeries of birthday my two 'babies' - now 15 and 13. Thanks Penni. :)

  14. How wonderful to be able to remember all of that journey in such moving detail. And to have the chutzpah to blog about it! It brought back all the memoeries of birthday my two 'babies' - now 15 and 13. Thanks Penni. :)

  15. It be a beautiful tale.

  16. congratulation penni, that was beautiful xxx

  17. beautiful, beautiful story...thank you for sharing it

    and congratulations to you all

  18. Congratulations, such a lovely tale to tell. Good luck with the sugar levels!

  19. I am soaking up birth stories like a sponge these days, and yours makes me think perhaps I can do this thing after all...

    Thanks a bunch.

  20. So so so lovely to read your birth story, with its happy news... and might I say, you write so beautifully, naturally I guess for a writer but this was just a gorgeous read and birth stories aren't always easy to write well. Can't wait to see photos of the baby.

    Huge congratultions!