· By Tiny Hearts Education
I had the perfect set of birth preferences typed out neatly in an A4 document. It was so perfect my midwives actually kept the copy I gave them during labour to use as an example for future Mums to be. The only problem with my perfect set of birth preferences or "birth plan" is that my baby's birth didn't go to plan at all. I haven't really shared the details of Koda's birth with many people. When I reflect on why a few reasons come to mind — it didn't go the way I always dreamed it would; I felt guilty for grieving the birth experience I never had; and I thought I should just be grateful because I birthed a healthy baby, no matter the circumstances. One year on, I'd love to share with you the birth of my daughter, Koda Daisie.
February 1, 2022
I was 6 days over my due date — I felt confident within myself and trusted my body and baby to do what it needed to do when my daughter was ready to be born. Being a first-time Mum, I had no idea what labour would feel like and how I'd know when it was really happening, but I was so excited for my body to enter labour naturally. I had a stomach ache for a couple of days and felt like my body was preparing itself, which was so exciting and totally nerve-wracking all at once.
I was woken up early that morning by a phone call from my midwife — my doctor wanted to induce me via balloon catheter the following day when I'd be exactly one week 'overdue.' The reason for this was that my doctor was going to be on shift at a different hospital (about an hour away from where I live) instead of at my local hospital over the weekend, so if I went into labour, then we'd likely have to go to the new hospital to give birth. I felt pressure to be induced, but because there was no medical reason, I declined.
I saw my midwife that afternoon, who did a CTG scan and attempted a stretch and sweep, but I was told my cervix was too high and unfavourable. I lost a little bit of my mucus plug later that day but knew this was common after a stretch and sweep and that it could regenerate. With talks of an induction, I was starting to feel like my body wasn't doing what it was supposed to, but at the same time, I knew my baby girl would come when she was ready.
February 3, 2022
A couple of days later, I saw my midwife again for another routine CTG scan and a second attempt at a stretch and sweep. My cervix was still the same - too high and unfavourable. Based on this, my midwife told me that she really couldn't see me going into labour within the next 24-48 hours. This was really disheartening to hear because, from my experience, once I hit 40 weeks, there was definitely a pressure to be induced, and in a way, I could feel my 'perfect,' natural labour and birth slipping away from me. I wanted so badly for my waters to break at an inconvenient moment, to wake up to contractions and know it was finally time… My midwife understood I didn't want to be induced, so we started brainstorming things I could try to help induce labour naturally. The usual methods came up - sex, bouncing on an exercise ball, expressing colostrum, eating dates, curb walking, spicy food… you name it! She also gave me some lavender & clary sage essential oils on a tissue and told me to wear it stuffed down my bra, and whether it's a coincidence or not, this seemed to do the trick!
February 4, 2022
The next day was so busy, and having not slept well for weeks, I couldn't wait for a big sleep that night! My partner, Jesse, and I were running errands all morning, and it was one of those days where so many little things kept going wrong. On the drive home, my car (yes, the one with the car seat fitted and ready to go) actually ran into an issue and needed a part urgently replaced. Our local mechanics were closed, but he managed to source the part and replaced it that day — luckily!
All day I felt a kind of pressure sensation in my lower stomach, but I didn't actually say anything to anyone because, being a first-time Mum, I didn't know if it was 'something' or not. And honestly, I didn't want to get my hopes up either.
At 2pm, I saw my doctor, who didn't attempt a stretch and sweep due to how unfavourable my cervix had been the day before — she didn't expect it to be much different. Now being one week + two days past my due date, my doctor wanted to discuss an induction again. While I knew the choice was ultimately mine, when doctors start telling you (mandatorily - she certainly wasn't trying to scare me or anything) potential health risks to you and your unborn baby as you approach two weeks overdue, it can feel overwhelming. After we spoke about my options, I decided to book it in for the following Tuesday (February 8). I was really hoping it would happen naturally before then.
At around 3pm, I got home from the doctor, and when I went to the toilet, I saw that I'd lost some of my mucus plug. It was at this point the pressure sensation I'd been feeling all day started to turn into mild cramps in both my stomach and lower back. They seemed to ramp up fairly quickly —I decided to have a bath, but this didn't help ease the pain/discomfort. By the time I got out of the bath, they had actually gotten more intense.
I started cooking dinner and had to keep taking breaks to sit down/squat because of the discomfort. At this point, I was starting to think that maybe something was actually happening! After dinner, Jesse and I were watching TV, and he was rubbing my back, but I just felt so uncomfortable no matter where or how I sat. At around 8-9pm, I decided to go to bed to see if I'd be more comfortable there and could maybe sleep through this first part of labour. The contractions continued to get more intense, so I started timing them, and they were about 1 minute long and were 4-5 minutes apart. I used a heat pack on my back, but it was still uncomfortable.
At around 11pm, I jumped in the shower to try and find some comfort and, after about half an hour, got Jesse to call the hospital and let them know what was happening. They put us through to my midwife, who told me I was more than welcome to come in when I was ready, but when the contractions are 2-3 minutes apart is the ideal time if I was able to wait. My partner ran me another bath and sat next to me on a beanbag with our two dogs to time my contractions — we knew we had a big night ahead of us. We definitely weren't going to get a good night's sleep!
February 5, 2022
At around 1am, we called my midwife again to let her know the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart. After chatting to her, my partner loaded our bags in the car, and we headed to the hospital! Once we arrived, we were left standing in the hospital reception for what felt like forever because the staff were checking protocols for me because I didn't have the COVID-19 vaccine. They ended up getting me a face mask and face shield, which of course, came off as soon as I got into the birth suite!
My midwife then called my doctor (who was on shift at a different hospital — of course, just my luck), and they decided that we needed to head to that hospital to give birth. I'd become familiar with the midwives and this hospital, so it was a bit daunting having to head to a new hospital I hadn't really been in before, but I knew I'd be in good hands either way.
My midwife did an internal check, and I was estimated to be around 1-2cm dilated, so it was okay for my partner to drive us the hour there rather than go via ambulance. She also took some blood and gave it to us in a little cooler bag to give to the new hospital once we arrived. We lived just around the corner from our local hospital, so we weren't totally prepared to be so far away from home — my partner left to go fill the car with fuel, load the pram in and sort out the house and our dogs. While he was gone, the contractions started to make me feel super nauseous, and I vomited.
The drive to the second hospital wasn't the greatest — I was sitting on an underpad in case my water broke with a vomit bag in hand, and it was about an hour long with roadworks most of the way, so it was a bumpy ride…not ideal while in labour!
We arrived around 2-3am — my partner dropped me off at emergency and met me inside once he parked the car and grabbed our bags. When I headed into emergency, I actually knew the girl who greeted me at the door from primary school! It was kind of embarrassing, but so nice to see a friendly face.
We were taken to the birth suite, and one of the first things my midwife did was open my little green book, pull out my birth preferences and read over it. I then started on gas pretty much straight away – it definitely gave me some relief and took the edge off the contractions. I was monitored overnight but pretty much left alone with the gas for the most part. Jesse got some rest on the fold-out Dad sofa, but I didn't manage to get any sleep. When my first midwife was letting me know her shift was ending and saying goodbye, I sat up to thank her and ended up vomiting again.
I'm not sure what time it was, but at around 6cm dilated, after pulling an all-nighter, I decided to get the epidural. When I sat up to get it, I vomited again. Right away, I couldn't feel the contractions anymore and was able to doze off and on — it was such a relief to finally get some rest!
Soon after, I had my bloody show. Not long after this, my doctor broke my waters too. This was definitely such a strange sensation but not painful at all with the epidural. At around midday, my baby's heart rate began dipping, so my doctor started to talk to me about doing fetal scalp lactate sampling. I wasn't entirely educated on this, but it's basically where a small blood sample is taken from the baby's scalp to check their lactate levels and for any signs of distress. While my doctor was collecting the sample, she told us she could see lots of thick, dark hair, which was so exciting! The results were a 4.3 - I wasn't entirely sure what this meant at the time, but in reflection, this placed my baby in the borderline range of 4.2-4.8, which means the sampling would need to be repeated again in 30 minutes to compare against the first result. This is where talk of a potential caesarean started.
We knew that our baby would be arriving soon, so Jesse went outside for some fresh air. As soon as he'd made his way out of the hospital and not even five minutes later, everything was kind of flipped upside down. After speaking to another doctor on the fetal scalp lactate sampling, my doctor came back in and explained that I needed an emergency caesarean right away. I started crying, and I don't think I stopped until I passed out after my baby was born.
It all happened very quickly from here - I called Jesse and had him come back right away. In the middle of Covid-19, it was a bit of a process to get into a hospital — he had to fill out forms to be signed in, sanitise, show proof of vaccination, etc. There was talk of me having to be wheeled to surgery without him and having him meet us there. Within minutes I'd signed the paperwork and was dressed for surgery. I remember saying that I really wanted to brush my hair (I'd been in labour all night, and my messy bun was now more of a bird's nest), but I was told there wasn't time. Jesse arrived, and I was wheeled to the emergency surgery room. I cried the whole way there, and my body was uncontrollably shaking.
The surgery room was not where I imagined I'd be giving birth. I'd left my dimmed, calm birthing suite with fairy lights and entered a stark, bright, white room full of people I didn't know. I felt so out of place and like I'd totally lost control of the situation. It was hard to process and understand how the thing I had worked towards for so long had suddenly been taken away, and like a domino effect, all the little things that contributed to my idea of my perfect labour/birth began to slip away too.
My epidural was quickly topped up. My anaesthetist kept repeating the ice test because each time he would move the ice down my body and ask if I could feel it, I could. Each time he repeated it, and each time I could still feel it made me feel more and more nervous. He ended up giving me more pain relief (I remember him telling me he's given me all the pain relief he could), but I still felt as if I could feel too much. The surgery then began.
I'd heard so many positive caesarean birth stories — mothers saying they didn't know the surgery had even begun until their newborn was placed on their chest… and this is what I was expecting. Instead, I laid on the operating table under bright lights, my arms stretched outwards on either side, trying not to look at this big metal square on the ceiling above me because I could see somewhat of a reflection of what was going on behind the drapes. I felt a very intense pressure and pulling kind of pain the entire time. I know it's normal to feel a sensation, but what I felt was beyond what I had expected. I thought it would be like when a dentist numbs your mouth, and you can kind of feel them doing something in there, but there isn't any pain. It seemed to last forever, and I'm not sure how many minutes passed, but all the pain was suddenly relieved, and soon after, I heard my baby's cries.
Koda Daisie was born at 1pm – she was 51cm long and weighed 3870 grams. She was happy, healthy and absolutely perfect.
In my birth preferences, I wanted immediate skin-to-skin and to experience that golden hour. In my set of preferences, there was also a heading at the bottom that read: In case of emergency caesarean, and the first point under it was: immediate skin to skin - baby to stay on Mum's chest during repair and recovery. No matter how I birthed my baby, I had dreamed of this very moment. Of having my baby placed straight on my chest, being the first set of arms to hold her, the first lips to kiss her, the first person to tell her I loved her. Instead, over the next hour, I passed in and out on the operating table. I was later told this was because I'd lost a lot of blood.
I'm so grateful my midwife took photos on my phone because I can look back and see what I missed in the first hour of my baby's life – she was checked over, wiped down and then she did skin-to-skin with her Dad. I can remember he brought her over to me, and my vision was so blurred I could barely see her and make out her tiny little face. I wasn't sure how much time had passed, and I asked him if I had been stitched up yet, and he said I hadn't.
After an hour, I was taken to recovery, where my baby and I finally had skin-to-skin, and she had her first feed. She latched without any issue. It was the very moment I'd been waiting for these nine long months, and while it wasn't exactly how I had envisioned it, it was our moment in our story, and it was truly magical.
Looking back, the loss I felt wasn't just in my baby's birth but the days that followed too. I physically couldn't move from bed to pick up, nurse, rock or change my baby. I watched on as her Dad and the midwives did it. I watched from the bed as her Dad put on her first nappy and first outfit I'd very carefully selected. Each time my baby woke up that first night in hospital, I couldn't move to pick her up and soothe her – I had no choice but to buzz for the nurses and listen to her cries as I waited for someone to pass her to me.
So, my "birth plan" didn't go to plan at all. One year on, I can accept that Koda's birth didn't go the way I always dreamed it would. I allowed myself to grieve the birth experience I never had. I am grateful because I birthed a healthy baby, no matter the circumstances. Koda's birth consisted of an epidural, catheter, seven layers of tissue cut open, organs pulled out, and a badass scar left behind to remind me every day how I birthed my baby to safety. It might not have been what I planned, but I'd do it all again.
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