The Birth of Isaac, March 2012

Dave and I welcomed our precious Isaac into our lives and into our hearts on 26 March after a long but mostly calm and positive birthing experience. Here’s our birth story…

After a week of pre-labour contractions, the mucous plug came away and strong and regular surges started in the wee hours on the 24 March (exactly 12 hours after my second acupuncture session – coincidence?!). The surges continued at 10 minutes apart for most of the day, so we stayed at home where I spent most of my time moving between the fit ball and the shower (sometimes both at the same time!). Dave kept me well-fed and hydrated and we were excited to be meeting our son soon.

After 24 hours, the surges increased in frequency (about 5-6 mins apart, lasting 1-1.5 mins each) but felt very different – with pain and pressure through my back. At this stage we thought it might be worth getting checked out by the midwives so we headed to hospital. I consented to an internal exam, however only Dave was told the findings of this. I’m so thankful that we asked for me not to be told anything at this stage, as after 24 hours of labour I was 1cm dilated (the same as three days prior at my OB visit). Dave gently told me that we should go home for a bit longer.

Over the next 16 hours, we spent time at home practicing our visualizations, particularly the crowning rose and satin ribbons. The surges slowly became more frequent, but remained about 3-5 mins apart. I kept eating and drinking, though the lack of sleep was really starting to take its toll on us both. At this stage, after 40 hours of labour at home, we decided it was time to head back to hospital to make sure baby was ok.

On admission to hospital at 8pm on Sunday evening, I chose to be informed of my progress to be told I was now 4cm dilated. I was offered measures to speed up labour including ARM which we declined, though I did have a small dose of pethidine with the aim of giving me some time to rest and regroup (unfortunately at this stage, I was quite anxious and the relaxation techniques weren’t working for me). The pethidine made me feel very spaced out and did nothing to dull the pain or pressure from the surges. I’m not sure I’d choose to have this again, however it did the job of calming me down and giving me some time to regroup.

I continued to labour in hospital much the same as at home – fit ball and showers, and no further pain relief. Dave continued to be the perfect birth companion, earning his new nickname of Doula Dave. The midwives often commented on how calm I was. In the early hours of Monday morning, we consented to another internal examination to be told that I was now 8cm dilated and my membranes had released spontaneously without me entirely realising it – and we became excited that baby would soon be here.

After a few more hours and “limited progress”, it was suggested that I have syntocin to help the cervix dilate. At the time, we felt this was the best decision – we were both exhausted and ready to meet our baby however the syntocin resulted in baby’s heart rate to drop during contractions and meant I was confined to the bed for monitoring. The pain was unbearable at this point and I had the urge to bear down which was discouraged. This was extremely stressful for both me and baby and as a result the syntocin was ceased after about an hour (thank goodness!!).

At 5am, my obstetrician was called in to examine me and found that baby was now positioned posterior and suggested that there was a high chance that a c-section would be required. He knew our birth preference for vaginal delivery and agreed to let us labour for a further 3 hours without intervention (except some gas to accompany my surge breathing).

At 8am, my cervix was found to be fully dilated and with coached pushing and a ventouse-assisted delivery, baby Isaac was born at 8.23am on Monday morning. He was in perfect health and we enjoyed skin-to-skin contact and nuzzling at the breast for 2 hours in birth suite after his birth.

Unfortunately, we were told that delayed cord clamping was not possible due to the need for testing of the cord blood because of the extended labour. I had some first degree tearing requiring a few stitches – I think I got off pretty lightly given the coached nature of the birth.

We have been home a week now and have a beautiful, healthy baby who loves his breastfeeding!!

Due to the posterior presentation and ventouse delivery, we saw an osteopath yesterday who is giving him treatment for some cranial straining and cervical vertebral jamming (poor little bub!).

On reflection, the labour was long and tiring, but for the most part was a good experience. We achieved our goal of a vaginal and mostly calm and drug-free birth experience.

To be honest I felt that HypnoBirthing was most useful in the pre-labour stage; in the week leading up to birth, I was experiencing intermittent irregular surges overnight. By having tools to relax and breathe through contractions, I was able to understand that these surges were preparing my body for birth and this kept us both calm in the lead up to birth.

I also believe that the guided relaxations and progressive relaxation exercises (particularly the 5,4,3,2,1 and the depthometer) helped me to sleep during pregnancy (and now post-partum!!).

While I definitely found it hard to relax toward the end of labour, the breathing helped me get through the surges and asking for drugs never even crossed my mind (until the syntocin drip, anyway!). Dave was truly my white knight, both before and during labour – coaching me through my surge breathing and he was happy to have only been told to “shut up” once and only have his finger squeezed during contractions while on the syntocin drip!

We feel that our choice to birth in a private hospital with an obstetrician did not negatively affect our birthing experience – we were surprised at how “anti-intervention” the staff were (including our obstetrician) and that they were happy to let us birth as we wished.

Bree, a huge thank you for giving us the tools and knowledge to prepare and empower us to make informed decisions and have the birth experience we wanted.

– Dave and Adrienne