Thursday, September 28, 2006
Date: June 1980
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
I went to my doctor one Friday afternoon to have my pregnancy confirmed. I was to meet my husband after work with the news. I'll never forget walking through the Strand Arcade and sighting him walking toward me. I just could not keep the smile from my face. We laughed and hugged each other and then walked on toward the car. As soon as I sat in it I started to cry. I had this overwhelming feeling of emotion and sudden fear that my baby might not be perfect. (My mother's first baby was stillborn). My husband tried to comfort me although he was totally amazed and confused.
I suddenly realised that I did not know a thing about pregnancy, birth or bringing up a child. I was scared but elated to think it was happening to me.
As my doctor no longer delivered babies I had to find another doctor who would. I asked around and came across one who lived in the area who seemed to specialise in delivering babies. When I first met him, he asked me where I wanted to have the baby. I didn't have a clue where I wanted it, which hospital or how I wanted to give birth. I wasn't ever aware that I had a choice in the matter. All I had considered was that I thought I wanted my husband to be present, to which my doctor replied "if he wasn't, I would want to know why not!". That settled it then, obviously it was the done thing to have one's husband present.
Now I would not ever consider to not have my husband present at a birth. For those that for some reason find it impossible for their partner to be present, I strongly recommend that you have someone that is close to you, your mother, father, sister, brother or friend, with you during the birthing of your child.
I began to read books on pregnancy and childbirth. The more I read, the more I realised how little I knew. I talked with friends who had children. Some were helpful, others kept telling me how awful pregnancy and childbirth were. It never ceased to amaze me the amount of horror stories I heard about labour. It seemed that practically everyone had one tucked away somewhere and some people were only too happy to have the opportunity to impart the facts on yet another willing, captive ear.
It didn't stop there either. Friends would point out their children misbehaving and say "look what you've got yourself into". It disturbed me that people could only relate the woes of childbirth and childrearing. Where was the joy, the excitement? I knew there would be rough times but I wanted this child and you've got to take the good and bad with it.
Pregnancy didn't seem to be what it was cracked up to be. I didn't feel as though I was blossoming. I felt sick from morning to night, I felt emotionally vulnerable to criticism and I felt fat. I couldn't believe my stomach was stretching and still stretching some time later.
I attended antenatal classes and a series of LaLeche League meetings. The League meetings left me thinking that these people were devoted to the aspect of breastfeeding, some of them were even feeding their toddlers. Good grief, I thought, that's a bit of a joke, isn't it? I wasn't aware then of the many benefits to mother and child of breastfeeding and that these benefits are not only applicable to the young baby but carry on through to the older baby too. Neither was I aware of the protective mothering feeling that one has for one's own baby and how that baby seems a baby to the mother long after other people have started to see it as a small child.
I'll never forget my first evening of antenatal class. The physiotherapy was fine, the discussion and supper fine, but then we watched a birth film. It was the first birth film I has ever seen. I didn't want to be sick or faint as it is commonly feared will happen, particularly by the men, I just wanted to stop my pregnancy midstream. How could I go through that? All that stretching, all that pain. I just sat there dumbfounded and thought, oh well, it's got to come out, but does it have to be like that? After the film I couldn't help but notice that none of the women present joined in the discussion and I was wondering if they too felt as I did.
On the way home and for quite a while afterward, I just couldn't stop myself from crying. My husband couldn't understand this at all. He thougth the film was great and felt that we could cope with what was ahead of us.
Another valuable antenatal evening for me was the night we visited the hospital and delivery suite. I knew that once I entered those doors the next time would be easier for me.
By the time our baby was ready to be born I had gained a great deal more confidence in myself, my body and the act of giving birth. I had also gained a great deal more knowledge and knew what I wanted from the birthing experience. We decided that to the best of our abilities we would let nothing interfere with making this one of the most memorable occasions of our lives.
We arrived at the hospital at 11pm one Saturday night, 8 days overdue, very excited and not a little scared. Contractions were a little irregular and not particularly uncomfortable. I later learned that this was really preparatory labour (false labour). I was taken to a prep room, without my husband although he had asked to stay with me all the time. I was examined and found to be only 1cm dilated. The contractions I was having stopped and I felt deflated. With my doctor's permission, I was given an enema.
I was then directed to a first stage labour room and informed that my husband had been told to go home and get a good nights sleep as I would be ages yet. On hearing this I started to cry. "What's wrong?" they asked, and I replied that I didn't want my husband to go home and leave me alone at the hospital. As I said this, he walked into the room and said he wasn't going anywhere. The Sister then told me that it was alright for me, I would be nice and comfortable but my husband would have to sit in a chair all night.
Naturally I felt riddled with guilt, at the same time wondering how on earth this woman thought I was going to be comfortable. Luckily my husband came to the rescue by saying that I had been uncomfortable for the last 9 months, one night wouldn't hurt him. So he stayed and dozed in the chair. Within the next hour or so, painful contractions begain in earnest.
Fortunately, the Sister that came on duty next was wonderful. Encouraging, positive, gentle, quiet, comforting. Not only did she encourage me but also my husband, who strangely enough was finding sleeping between contractions quite easy. As I got a contraction, I would growl at him, "rub". Sometimes I would have to say it 3 times before he awoke and rubbed my back. I found the back rubbing immensely helpful through out the contractions.
Time had lost all perspective for me. I got up and walked around a little and spent what must have been a couple of hours in a warm bath. I found it easier to cope with contractions sitting in the bath. My husband still rubbed my back and between contractions I would start to drop off to sleep, only to be re-awoken by another contraction.
To begin with I tried to concentrate on other things or people during contractions. It didn't take long for me to run out of people; Mum, Dad, my brother, my mother in law, sister in law. I was fighting contractions without knowing it. The midwife suggested that I think of the contractions as power and concentrate on them. Power, a force that was moving down into my pelvis and pushing my baby out into the world. I started to go with the contractions.
Sometime later, back in the first stage room, I was still vomiting and was offered some honey, which unfortunately, only made it worse. My urine indicated that I was running out of energy yet I didn't feel as though I was. The midwife suggested to my husband that he go across the road to the shop and get some sweets that I could suck on. While he was away, the midwife stayed with me continually as she promised she would. I had read in "Spiritual Midwifery" that saying the words 'I love you' helped to dilate the cervix so I kept saying them, keeping a mental picture of my husband constantly in my mind because I hated him leaving me. I'm sure initially the midwife wondered what on earth I was doing but she soon accepted my peculiarities. He was only gone a few minutes and returned brandishing a packet of 'lemon sparkles'. I sucked one of these and immediately went into transition. (A good advertisement for lemon sparkles!). At this stage contractions were almost unbearable and I can remember thinking that I hoped I didn't get offered any medication because I would have been sorely tempted to accept it as much as I hadn't wanted to. I could feel the baby moving down and after a minute or two of this sensation, I recognised it as such and quietly, almost apologetically said "I can feel the baby coming". My husband then pushed my bed into the delivery suite. I realised for the first time that it was day time.
I felt excited and ready for the next stage believing that it wouldn't be long before we would see our baby. The midwife helped me to move from the labour bed to the delivery bed in between contractions, consequently I didn't find it an ordeal at all. I couldn't tolerate the contractions in any position other than my side.
Someone started to explain the use of the mask to me, but I interrupted because the fear of having something covering my face was greater than the pain.
Co-incidentally, the Dr arrived at this time, surprised to find me ready to deliver. He had come to give me accupuncture to help me relax. He stroked the back of my neck and immediately I relaxed just knowing he was there. Both my husband and I had built up a trust in him. I'm sure that made it easier. He tried to examine me to see if I was fully dilated but as contractions were following one directly after another I couldn't stand to go on my back for the examination. He told me to go ahead and push. I couldn't hear a word he was saying and kept impatiently saying to my husband "What's he saying", and my husband would act as interpreter. At the point of the baby's head crowning when I was required to pant I had forgotten how to puff, puff, blow. Fortunately he acted as a guide and I followed him every now and then losing the rhythm and panicking a little but getting back to it. After a few good pushes, Kate flew out onto the table. The Dr immediately picked her up and put her on my tummy. She gave a little squeak as she was delivered, but that was all.
I could feel her body against mine. She immediately clasped my husbands finger. He had tears in his eyes. After a few minutes, the Dr said "Oh, we don't even know what sex it is". He picked up the blanket that was over her announced we had a daughter. Wow! The placenta was born about 20 minutes later without the aid of an injection. Kate, all 8lb 10oz of her, was put to the breast which she enthusiastically suckled at. I required a few stitches for a small tear.
Shortly afterwards she was examined in a crib beside me. She just lay there quietly looking around. Shortly after this, we were left alone to get acquainted with our daughter.
(Writen by Michelle, for a book of birth stories she compiled in the 1980s)