Monday, September 06, 2010

Thoughts from Cath

I woke up this morning feeling good. I really haven't been sleeping well lately, so I revel in the joys of a good night's sleep. I lie in bed, have a stretch, and slide onto the carpet with all the grace I can muster at 36 weeks pregnant. I brew my cup of tea and tomato on toast (still feeling great) and take great delight sharing it with my friends on the Sunrise breakfast program. My morning routine continues as usual as I make my way (well, maybe I waddle a bit) to the shower. Upon my undress, I notice all the usual bits I've become accustomed to during pregnancy – some wonderfully beautiful, others more grotesque, but as I bend over (and cut off my air supply whilst doing so) to remove my socks I get a monstrous shock at what stands before me. Gasp! Where are my ankles?

Where'd they go? Where are they? I poke at the skin that used to house the neat circular little bone, but all I get is fleshy, fluidy softness. Eek! This can't be right – for 36 weeks I've had a textbook, faultless pregnancy; no morning sickness, no bleeding, no heartburn, only the occasional back ache, some mild
dizziness once or twice but definitely no swelling. I tell myself that I surely must be imagining this misshapen anatomy. I sigh deeply; let me start again. Ok, here I go… hip, leg, leg, leg, knee (so far so good), leg, leg, leg, leg, foot! What? Arrghhh!

Right, what to do….? I resolve that my cankles and I are in this together and optimistically select the‘feet-above-heart’position for half an hour. Nope. Alright, all is not lost, what about the ‘cold-bucket-of-water’ solution? Nope (and holy crap, I do not recommend this unless it's an antidote for your legs actually being on fire). ‘Ah ha’ I exclaim in my light bulb moment; compression socks….! Nope. Nothing I do is making any difference to the tree trunks that have formed off my knee caps. It's now lunch time and my entire day so far has been consumed by my new obsession to rediscover my ankles. In a moment of panic I check my hands, almost expecting to see plump little manicured savaloys, but thankfully they've been spared.

Then, after half a day of panic, I stop for a moment of rare insight and perspective. It's not so bad, is it? I don't have the awful, retching heartburn that many women suffer, I didn't have any morning sickness, and it's not like my cankles are causing me discomfort or pain. Actually my normally cold feet feel as though they've taken a hiatus in the Bahamas. I shouldn't complain, really, because if this is the worst of my pregnancy disorders, I'm still escaping it quite easily. I opt for a pair of long pants and decide that as long as people don't point and shriek at my Elephantitis, then I can handle this. I'll wear my cankles as a badge of honour, in fact, I'll proudly commit myself to this pregnancy ailment – for the greater good, or something…

So, as I rest on the couch marveling at the new found empowerment of pregnancy martyrdom, I think about the billions of women who have gone before me and experienced extraordinary lows during their gestation periods. I tell myself that one day when I'm holding my baby, these cankles were a small – albeit hideous – price to pay for the joyful phenomenon of motherhood.

Now, how to get my shoes on…?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Induced. It's just a word. It's not hard to pronounce or even difficult tounderstand, we all know what it means, and can even insert into sentences with varying contexts in varied conversation. But, no other word can ‘induce’the same horrors in the minds of mothers-to-be as that one little word. In. Duc. Ed. Shudder.

A friend of mine is, like me, pregnant with her first baby. She was due a week and half ago. She's irritable, uncomfortable, aching, over it, and most of all, just desperate to meet her little one (and probably get her body back, though she's not admitting to that). Her last check-up suggested that if she hasn't ‘gone’ by the end of the week she'll be induced [insert sharp intake of breath here].

For me, induction conjures images of days of frustration at home, heaving around a massive belly, with swollen face, hands and feet to match. I imagine being short-breathed, huffing and struggling to get up off the couch, wrestling with my own legs to get a pair of socks on, pointing my fat accusing finger
at the next person who suggests a bath, a walk, a curry, a dose of castor oil, or God forbid, a romp… I'll acquire glances of a pained mix of sympathy and dread from unknowing strangers, scare the poor dog with my thumping waddle on the back patio, and need help getting off the toilet seat. Then I'll arrive at the hospital, where, in my mind, a miniature doctor whom I've never met cowers beneath my enormous frame, and politely attempts to insert a probe resembling a crochet hook into my vagina ‘to get things started.’ I visualise an almighty gush as my waters emerge, knocking mini Doc off his feet at the end of the bed, and immediately being overcome with a contraction so intense I could operate a small power station. At this point, I grip my poor husband by the collar and scream like a wild banshee; “get me drugs!” From there, I endure 37 hours of agonising labour before my 11lb baby tears it's way out, leaving me with 43 stiches, haemorrhoids and a hoarse voice. Oh, but it was all worth it, of course…

Hmm, drama queen much?

Ok, so obviously not all labour inductions are like that, maybe none are like that, but, and some of you mothers reading this can probably take some accountability here; I didn't simply imagine that story. Somewhere, at some point, more than one lady has relived an experience, centred around how
hideous her labour and birth was. Why was it hideous? Not because, as you might suspect, she squeezed a 7lb baby out of a small hole, no, it was because she was induced. Because for her, it all happened too fast, or not fast enough, or she wasn't prepared, or it felt out of control, or, or, or…

What is it about our psyche that commits us to sharing these stories? Is it a subconscious need to feel connected? To attempt educate, or warn? Maybe we want to know that there are others worse than us, and are desperate for our story to ‘topped.’ No doubt for some of us it comes from a deep seeded
martyrdom fixation, and we’re probably not even aware that we're committing that most dreadful of sins – instilling fear in others. The lesson I urge here is; when recounting your story, invoke the waiver; “but of course, it's different for everyone.” Needless to say, this won’t end the panic that can surround this
most wonderful and frightening phenomenon, but it just might help us first timers put it into some greater perspective.

Having said that, I can still employ my rational mind (sometimes) and have no reason to believe it will be outrageously awful. I am visualising a serene, natural, relaxed labour and birth experience. I'm prepared that it might not go as hoped, and realise I may need to re-assess my birth plan at some stage. Just
please, please, don't let me go over…!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Yes, yes, I'm sure there's just one baby in there!” I say with a polite, intentionally dismissive laugh. “Wow,” she exclaims, “are you sure? My cousin's neighbour's sister's best friend had twins, one was hiding behind the other the whole time.” She says it so matter-of-factly and it's clear she's in complete belief of such a bogus theory. “Ha ha, well, there's only one in here.” I'm impressed with the level of courtesy I'm maintaining here, but silently willing her to bugger off. “How long do you have to go then? A week?”“Um, no… [awkward pause] Six weeks actually.” Ooh, the iciness in that response completely demolishes any pride I had in my previously steady demeanour.
“Goodness me! Still six weeks of growing… You're quite big, aren't you?!”

What does she expect me to say to that? The vengeful pregnancy hormones are screaming; “Yes, actually youre' right, I'm huge. I'm an enormous cow, I'm a massive, overgrown elephant. In fact, I'm so gigantic that my poor, tiny little husband has had to retreat to the spare bed. But it's ok, I'm aware of my size and I'll try really hard not to bowl you over!” My dramatic side wants to feign horror and nervously whisper, “Am I? Am I really? I had no idea. Oh my God, what do you think I should do about it? Do you think I could die? Do think the baby will be able to come out? Am I going to need a ceasar? Do think I'll
be ok?” The remnants of my insecure, defensive sixteen year old self wants to blurt “Um, well I am growing a baby. I should look pregnant, shouldn't I? How did you look when you were pregnant? Were you smaller than me?” My nasty side is hurling insults back; “well, I'm pregnant, what's your excuse?!” But, the
normal, strong, capable, intelligent woman in me wants to explain “what you just said sort of hurts my feelings. You might not be aware of how what you say could affect a pregnant woman whose hormone charged mind is already starved of rational thinking. It's lovely that you're showing an interest in my
pregnancy, but it's not nice to hear that you think I'm big. Maybe use this rule of thumb; if it's not ok to say when she's not pregnant, it's not ok to say when she is.”

In all fairness to ‘her’, I do need to acknowledge that I did have my own tummy before the baby took up space, and I'm certainly not sporting a gorgeous basketball from my front. Mine's more generously spread like a luxuriously delicious marshmallow, soft and cuddly, and somewhere I'd want to sleep if I was a baby (yep, just keep telling yourself that!).

Worst thing is, I know I'm not alone here, and the ‘she’ I refer to is any number of probing strangers who have commented on a woman's size during her pregnancy (it might even be our own wonderful mothers in law!) It shocked me to realise, when I first fell pregnant that I'm now public property. People think it's ok to rub my stomach (I'm not a bloody Buddha for pete's sake!), talk about me like I'm not there (“she's dropped, hasn't she!”), make assumptions about me (“she's all out front, that's a girl…”) and, comment
on my size/weight/physicality (“geez, you're big!”). Boundaries ‘they’ would never have crossed if I wasn't obviously pregnant.

So, what is it about being pregnant that blurs those otherwise transparent social margins? And what happened to the old rule; ‘if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all’? Perhaps, all this time, I've only known the shortened version. Maybe it's really ‘if you don't have anything nice to
say, don't say anything at all, unless you're directing your insult at a pregnant woman – they don't mind!’ We know that most humans have a need to feel connected, part of a community. We also know that the limited skill sets of individuals we meet on the street should be nurtured, not condemned and that their seemingly innocent jabs of opinion are just their way of sharing their excitement, and feeling a part of it. But, in our own minds, there are lines that can be crossed and emotions that can be summoned from the deepest recesses of our psyche, and when we're already struggling against nature's gestational cocktail of crazy chemicals, we can burst into tears over the smallest, unassuming things.

Of course I don't loathe every minute of it, some of the attention is quite well placed and genuine and really makes me realise I'm doing something special. But, then there's the occasional intrusion that leaves me angry, upset and full of self doubt. Gasp. Sob. I'm not that big, am I?

My lesson for the day, one I've learnt and implore you to share with me; next time you cross a pregnant woman on the street, comment on your excitement for her and her journey to motherhood, tell her she's gorgeous, tell her she's doing a great job (unless perhaps she's drunk and smoking a joint), just don't
ask her if she's having bloody twins!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Oh, the guilt!
Darling husband arrived home not a minute too soon; I was merely seconds away from sneaking out to the car and carefully backing away from the most challenging little baby on the planet; it had been a tough day. In fact, if I had enough clarity to distinguish one day from the next I'm sure I'd tell you it had been a tough week. That's another story though.

I hear his car pull into the driveway. Then I hear the door close. Then I hear the back gate open. Then I hear him pat the dog. The back door opens. The kettle is on. He's in the ensuite. The tap is on. Off. This leisurely little process seems to have taken a little over three hours so far, so I walk over the monitor in the nursery, and say, very politely, although possibly a bit like a whispering psycho; “if you can hear me, get in here now!” Another two hours and 37 minutes pass…

In waltzes darling husband, fresh from a day at work. I vaguely remember the days when ‘fresh from a day at work’ meant lugging my handbag through the door and throwing myself at the couch. Now though, that same term translates to ‘fresh from a day spent with adults, glorious adults; my favourite
kind of people.’

Anyway, Father of the Year bounds into the nursery with so much energy that I'm immediately insulted, he's earned himself an upgrade from ‘hard working husband’ to ‘patronising SOB.’ He calmly approaches my not quite showered self, and with a sickly sweet delivery says; “give me the baby, you go for a walk.” A seemingly supportive gesture, however when passed through my oestrogen filter it actually sounds like; “I'm a saint. You're fat. Go for a walk.”

I storm out of the house and what's this… silence? Can that be right? The little weetheart who disliked everything I did today is quietly cooing at Daddy, making a liar out of me. I can see him now, regretting his earlier sympathy for my desperate, tear filled phone call. He's no doubt wondering why his fat, hopeless wife complains so much, because evidently, ‘it's not that hard.’

Then, from my patio haven, and over that deafening silence comes a faint whisper that I hear all too often. If I concentrate, it sounds a bit like ‘bad mother’ and feels a bit like ‘guilt.’ Why is it that on the good days I feel like Mother of the Year, and on bad I feel that I'd have more success relocating to
Yemen and breeding endangered mountain goats (are there even mountains in Yemen?).

Patience is a strange beast; a difficult day can be hard enough, but for some reason, as soon as someone's there to share the load, difficult escalates to desperate and the incredible patience and endurance I've exhibited during the day quickly dissolves until I'm seconds away from resigning altogether.
It must be the marvelling phenomenon of having an audience who simply watches without participating. Or even clapping!

Anyhoo, I'm on the patio, listening to the silence of a sweet baby and besotted father. And then, my moment of triumph arrives. The wailing, howling, distraught infant returns, and in my irrational, psychopathic, hormone crazed head, I take delight in the evidence that; “HE CAN'T DO IT EITHER!”

Finally, from nowhere a completely unexpected, fresh wave of patience, love, infatuation and happiness settles over me and I'm immediately revived to go back in for round 73…

Better hide the car keys!

Molly's birth

I got induced because I had Gestational Diabetes and Polyhydramnios (too much fluid around the baby)

Started induction on Tuesday 11th May at 8.30am. First lot of gel was put in and we had to wait 6 hours, then have a internal - was having v bad gel pains/cramps in this time, thought they must've been doing something. 2.30pm - internal done, nothing really had changed. Cervix was still posterior, 1cm long but was soft. This gel/internal crap kept going till Thursday Morn 7am when they decided OOOO we can finally break the waters. Cervix was only 2cm dilated.

After they broke my waters, i gushed for an hour (Sorry severe TMI) i used about 10 towels and they were all soaking wet. I had a lot of fluid!!!! once i had finished gushing and was only trickling, they took me to the delivery suite where they started me on the Syntocin Drip. 5ish mins later i started having contractions. MW turned up the drip then i started having very intense contractions - 5ish in 10 mins - couldn't handle them, they were soooo bad - we find out why they were so bad in a minute. I started gas. Got sooooo high, had next contraction and Molly's heart rate dropped. I didn't know wtf was going on and every time i had a contraction, her HR would drop to like 40. I had to keep taking the gas for the pain, but i couldn't understand what everyone was telling me LOL. At like 4pm ish they decided to do the emergency c-sect because she was so distressed and she was face presentation - her face was smashing into my pelvis every time i had a contraction, which is why it hurt so much.

C-sect went perfect, Molly was born at 4.47pm - weighed 6lb 4oz. Her face looked like she had been in the boxing ring with Mike Tyson because of all the banging into my bones. Poor little mite, even her tongue was bruised.

(She's perfect and beautiful and 6 months old now!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ezra's birth

Easter weekend, I had loads of Braxton-Hicks contractions, so I was pleasantly surprised when I woke Tuesday morning, 4-14-09, to a different kind of contraction. Starting around 5 a.m. the contractions felt a bit more painful, lingering in the small of my back and across my entire belly, lasting for around 30-40 seconds and coming every 10-12 minutes. I went ahead and started getting the kids ready for school.
My husband called the midwife at 7 a.m. since the contractions were staying pretty regular. So the pressure was on. With him missing work and the midwife in the loop, I was determined to have a baby before the day's end. I sat on the birthing ball rocked my hips in circles and watched a movie. My husband got the birthing pool and supplies together and set the water heater up higher. We were going to need a lot of hot water.
Around 10 a.m., my sister and her boyfriend arrived to assist with the birth and take pictures. I began to get more vocal during my contractions, a low moan, and tried balling up my fists in the small of my back to help with the pressure. My husband started filling the pool at this time. The midwife called a few times, but always in between contractions, so she never heard how the contractions sounded through me. They were coming 8-9 minutes apart and lasting around 40 seconds. She kept telling me to let her know if they got to lasting 1 minute coming 5 minutes apart, so in my mind, that was my goal.
To get things moving, my husband and I went for a short walk. Then we all walked to my mom’s (a full 500 foot walk) to eat lunch. As she was cooking, Mom casually mentioned, “You know what today is, don't you? Today's your shower. We're having a surprise baby shower for you.” I laughed and said, “It figures! You guys get to wait a few hours.”
In the meantime, the contractions were about 7 minutes apart and still 45 seconds long, but seemed to grow in intensity. My mom knew from my moans that it wouldn't be too long before the baby was born. The midwife called again for an update and I reported that they were still not 5 minutes apart. We agreed that she'd wait a bit before coming out. The drive between us was about one and a half hours, but she didn't want to stall my labor by arriving too early.
My husband and I took another walk, taking pictures of the wisteria and dogwood in full bloom. We got some awesome photos, especially with the sun shining bright through the dogwood flowers, casting shadows over my pregnant belly. In between contractions, my husband sucked on my nipples to stimulate the contractions. That did the trick. Right after taking photos of the dogwood, I felt a pop and a little gush. I was sure that my water had broken. That was at 3:30 p.m. So as we started back to the house, I stopped for another contraction, looked down and found a very tiny four leaf clover.
When we got back, we called to make sure the midwife was on the way. She'd just left. I went to the bathroom, removed my underwear, then got into the birthing pool, skirt and sports bra still on. My contractions really picked up then. I was on my hands and knees in the water and my husband put his hand on the small of my back to push against the contractions. My sister's boyfriend timed the contractions while my sister took pictures. I wasn't completely aware of more than how fast the contractions seemed to pile one on top of each other. I simply knew that with each one, I could feel the baby come further and further down. I kept saying, “The midwife isn't going to make it. She isn't going to make it.” My husband just stuck with me, saying, “That's alright, we can do this.”
My main coping methods became my husband's hand on the small of my back and my face stuck in the water making motor boat bubbles and nearly drowning myself in the process. The kids came home from school and my youngest daughter declared that she wanted to get into the pool with me. I laughed and told her, “I really don't think you do, Sweetie.” My oldest girl took one look at me and headed out to the treehouse to stay out of the way.
At some point, I said,“I just want to drown.” My mom seemed to think that was transition talking and the baby was definitely almost out. She decided to go check on my nephews who'd also just gotten off the bus. So she stepped out for a bit.
Apparently, that was enough for her to miss it all. Soon enough, the baby decided to crown. I was in the middle of a contraction and my motor boat sound immediately went high pitched with the ring of fire. I struggled to bring it back down to a low moan and gasped, “Baby, Baby!” My husband lifted my skirt in time to see his face begin to emerge. I tried hard to simply relax and let the contractions do the work. He began to press against my back side and I was afraid, so I told him,“Don't push him back in!” He said he wasn't pushing him back, just trying to support him to keep me from tearing. With just a few contractions, the baby was out. My husband lifted him out of the water. It was 4:20 p.m. when Ezra Shea was born.
My sister got on the phone to check where the midwife was. She was still 40 minutes away. She informed her that I'd just had the baby. The midwife said, “You're kidding!” But then she heard the baby cry through the phone as my sister said,“Um, no, she's holding him in her arms.”
I could go on and on, because Ezra's birth was just the beginning. Lots of family arrived (even before the midwives). Everyone got to see the brand new baby. And we still had the baby shower!
No internal exams, no IVs, no tearing. And active labor was only one hour long. I didn't even push!
7 lbs. 12 oz., 20.5 inches long. I am in so much awe of him. Such a beautiful miracle. I'm so thrilled. It was the most beautiful day I could have dreamed of.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Unassisted birth story

Here is a beautiful unassisted birth story that I was given permission to post today - it's lovely. How empowering!

Jericho's birth

Here's a new birth story that Jericho's Mama has kindly shared with us - read it here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hi ladies

Hi there,

Just thought I'd pop in and say hi to everyone who reads this. Does anyone else want to submit a story to be on the blog? Or know anyone who might? Any birth stories welcome no matter where or how you birthed, you still have a story to tell!

I've just rearranged the blog and changed the look. I am now also designing invitations, scrapbooking pages, birth announcements, posters, business logos, and blog headers / blog wear if anyone is interested.

Check out my blog here, or like my page on Facebook. If you mention you found me through this blog I will give you a $5 discount on any order!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tom's birth

My birth story.

Before my due date, I was NOT ready to think about labour. In fact, it wasn't something that I wanted to think too much or too long about until my MW Kathy made the ‘if you go over your due date’ plan which ultimately culminated in an induction and delivery that she wouldn't be able to attend because of a family wedding. This thought horrified me and I started hoping for the slightest sign that things were happening… and therefore preparing myself as best I could. I watched some labour/birthing DVDs, read what I could, but could not get my head around the fact that this would be soon something that I would be facing. I worried about how I would cope, and whether I would be able to ‘surrender’ myself to the experience in the way that the women in the DVDs had.

Two days after my due date, I thought maybe something was happening. I was cramping and suddenly couldn't cope with the idea of moving off the sofa. I didn't want a bar of the outside world. MW came around and checked me out, said it was early days but a start of things to come. I was quite excited! The pain got a bit worse in the evening, but I slept well and when I woke up, it had all stopped. I was disappointed, I felt like the boy who cried wolf, and was not consoled by the news that this was normal. It felt like nothing was going to happen now and I was in a cranky, irritable mood all day. I had some cramps again at bedtime but barely paid attention to them.

At 2am I woke with unusual and new pain in my hips, upper thighs and butt. I was vaguely aware that I was getting stronger pains but was unwilling to commit to them being possible contractions after the earlier disappointment. At around 3am something told me to get out of bed and rush to the toilet- I just made it before my waters broke. I was cautiously excited again, however my intense literature review of the preceding days had warned me that this was not a sign that the baby was going to pop out immediately or anything, so I settled back in bed and spent the next few hours timing contractions (I was prepared to call them contractions now) and bolting for the loo every time another dramatic gush of water appeared. Once it got to an hour that I thought it was safe to contact people without waking them, I texted Kathy and Darlene (birth support partner). Soon enough I had plans for a visit from Kathy and had spoken to Darlene, and said that there was no reason to rush up and that I was just going to stay quiet. Kathy came – there was less progress than I had thought there would be, but she gave me another stretch and sweep so I thought maybe things would happen faster. We made plans for me to go down to North Shore hospital for IV antibiotics that night. I spent the day quietly pottering around. I wasn't worried about the fact that I was going to the hospital – I assumed that things would stay slow and the plan to birth at Warkworth Birthing Centre would go ahead. Contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute each – it had gotten to the point where I couldn't talk during them, but a bit of quiet breathing got me through it. Comments that it was going to get ‘more intense’ were difficult for me to grasp as the discomfort had become ‘pain’ and I didn't have a frame of reference. Soon, it was time to go down to the hospital. I was to take my bag, ‘just in case’. I was relaxed, prepared that perhaps I'd be sent home again, but at least confident that something was going to happen that weekend, at least, and it wasn't going to get to induction stage.

In the car park at the hospital, Darlene drove over a speed bump and kicked the contractions into a bit more intensity – not so intense that we couldn't laugh about it though! Once up in the birthing unit it was great to see Kathy's calm face and efficient demeanour – the small spike of nerves I had walking into the unit calmed again. Another stretch and sweep – I was starting to think I had offended karma in some way – the insertion of the hated lure and what seemed to me a truck load of injections, and I was given the news that I was staying overnight for more antibiotics. Once again, I envisaged a night's sleep then maybe trucking up to Warkworth the following day, especially when Kathy gave me a pethidine injection for me to sleep. Before long, I was alone in quite a sterile, isolated room in the unit. I felt a little scared but soon enough the drugs calmed me, but did not seem to dull the pain of the contractions. My thoughts weren't coherent enough to realise that the contractions were getting stronger, even when I had to get out of the bed shortly after and pace around. Finally, I pressed the button for the nurse. Someone arrived very fast, I just told her that the pain was getting worse and was surprised when her response was “oh you could be in active labour now lets have a look”. This hadn't occurred to me! She checked me out, I was apparently 5cm dilated and she wandered off to call Kathy and arrange a birthing suite for me. I was taken into the birthing suite and left alone again – someone may have popped in to check on me before Kathy and Darlene got back but I don't remember. All I remember is leaning up against the door frame and trying to remember the advice about breathing and going inside myself that Kathy had told me that had been more difficult to imagine applying. Baby was clearly still posterior as I felt each contraction as searing, grinding pain in my lower back. I had been reading about what to expect with a posterior baby so the back pain wasn't a surprise to me, but how quickly it ramped up into a total inability to talk did take me by surprise.

I remember that Darlene was instantly amazing and seemed to know just what I needed – hot flannels on my lower back, sips of water… and it didn't take long before I felt comfortable doing, saying or groaning whatever I felt I needed to. I was kneeling up on a big comfy lazy boy chair, hanging over the back. I know that Kathy arrived. A few hours passed, all I remember is staring at the wall and breathing as deeply as I could. I remember that pushing the breath out as hard as I could felt good, and I remember that taking each breath in took strength and resolve each time. I remember working out that once a contraction started that a ten slow breath repetitions would usually count through the contraction. I remember how good that felt when I got down to ‘four more’, and how much of a mountain to climb each countdown felt at the start. I remember the seemingly impossible moments when all I could think was “I can't do this, I can't cope”… but then thinking at the same time that I WAS doing it and I WAS coping. It was a strangely ‘timeless’ process for me, I wasn't thinking about it being over, or ‘how much longer’ or anything like that, it was 100% being in the moment and tapping into whatever I could find to get me through it. Darlene and Kathy were perfect in this time, encouraging me without distracting me and literally holding me up when I needed it.

It was getting harder to battle gravity, so when Kathy said I could get in the pool after she had done an exam I was relieved. That examination was something I found extremely difficult – it was so painful, and I was also starting to feel quite panicked about the pain and how when I was up on the bed I couldn't do anything to control it. I remember sobbing from the pain and emotion at that point and gripping Darlene's hand for dear life and really not making Kathy's job very easy at all…and then what a change in atmosphere when we went into the pool room. It was warm and quiet and the water seemed to both caress and hold me up. In the respite between contractions it was relaxing to look up at the little twinkling stars they had there. It was very peaceful, the lighting was dim and warm. Hearing Kathy say “good breathing” reminded me to KEEP breathing like that. I never thought it would take so much focus and determination to do something as simple as breathe!!!

When things were starting to feel really overwhelming, Kathy quietly told me that I was starting to enter the transition phase and this was going to be the hardest part. Yep, it was! The words ‘searing’ and ‘unrelenting’ spring to mind at this point… I wanted to say “I can't do this anymore” but I couldn't get the words out – not that it would have made a difference!

I clearly remember Kathy saying “You look beautiful…the goddess”. This was such a strengthening, profound thing for her to say to me at that point… it tapped into all my ‘mists of avalon’ tendencies and boosted my emotional stamina at a point where I really needed for that to happen.

The break came – I felt a slow energy washing over me, I remember holding onto the edge and leaning backwards. The lack of pain for that short time was something to savour and I remember thinking that I should never take for granted lack of pain again! The contractions that soon started up again bought me back to earth with a thud – well, actually, it sent me shooting upwards, away from gravity and from the feeling that the baby was pushing DOWN. It was at this point that Kathy was finding it difficult to pick up the baby's heart rate anymore so I had to get out of the pool so that she could get a good reading. Once back in the birthing room everything gets a bit hazy…suddenly everything hurt like hell again and lying on the bed was agony…Kathy telling me that after all that, I was only 6cm dilated and she was pretty sure he was still posterior… I was so deflated and disappointed and scared…more people in the room, holding Darlene's hand and sobbing that I couldn't do it anymore – sobbing because I knew how futile those words were! Kathy, I think, leaned over and kissed my forehead and consoled me…being told that it was the best idea for me to have an epidural so that I could have a break – relief, but disappointment that I hadn't been able to do it. A scalp electrode, more people in the room…I was trying to calm myself by listening to the beep of the baby’s heart rate – I remember the beeping slowing or stopping or something and Darlene looking worriedly at the screen… more people and just concentrating on breathing in the oxygen mask…getting the epidural and feeling that lovely cold sensation… then just letting myself check out…

When I woke, I don't know how long later, the room was calm again. The day passed calmly and restfully – well, for me at least. Later in the afternoon the news came that it looked like he was turning (finally) and that I was dilating as I should. Everyone was so pleased – I was just scared! My calm peaceful day wasn’t going to stay that way and I didn't know what to expect. It was one thing to comprehend pushing that baby out when you are in the ‘labour zone’… it was quite another to have a day of dozing in a bed and then think about firing up that energy and drive again.

The obstetrician had come in and told Kathy when I needed to start pushing, and Kathy explained to me what was going to happen.When Kathy and Darlene stood on either side of me, and grabbed my numb legs and got them against their hips and Kathy explained how and where to push, it seemed ridiculously impossible. I could feel the contractions in a section of my stomach that had been letting the pain through for the past hour or so – not unbearable however and at least let me know what was going on. I was really struggling with pushing hard enough, and with getting my lungs full enough to feel that I could actually do a good hard push. In some ways it was harder than the labour – it wasn't painful, I just felt so frustrated that I couldn't do what I needed to do. As the room started filling with people after about half an hour of pushing, the obstetrician took a sample of his scalp to see how he was coping, when she came back she said that we had ten minutes to get him out otherwise I would have to have an emergency c-section. She said she was going to use a ventouse to assist me – I had no idea what this was but I was more than slightly panicked regardless. Once they started setting up these leg stirrup things and taking the bed apart and wheeling in a large machine, I was even more scared and worried. Kathy must have noticed, she put her hand on me and told me not to be scared, that it was the right decision. Darlene was by my side holding my hand and I think I was gripping it pretty tight! I still didn't know what to expect and was thanking God for the epidural as the obstetrician fiddling around getting this contraption inside me. It is all a bit of a blur – I could feel him being pulled and I pushed as hard as I could… vaguely aware of the cries of encouragement from everyone and then Darlene said that his head had been born! I was asked if I wanted to put my hand down and feel it, but I was in shock and didn't want to break my concentration until he was really out. One more push and I felt his whole body slither out and sense of elated energy filled the room with exclamations and a bustle of activity. I couldn't believe it, I didn't know what I was feeling. I know they put him up on my chest for a moment, then had to take him to check him over, I know that my eyes filled with tears but I was still too overwhelmed and shocked to even know what I was feeling. As they checked him out and I heard him cry and wail, and then as he was placed back on my chest I felt more confused and panicked and happy than I have ever been in my life. I felt inadequate and responsible and more than a little sorry for this tiny squirming little creature who was going to depend on me for everything. I remember taking a deep breath, and looked at my little baby, Tom, in amazement.