disclaimer- this post describes birth stress, think twice if you would like to read if you are due to birth your own babe in the close future. I do hope I have expressed this in a positive, empowering light, but make your own decision whether it feels right to read.
Harrison Ocean O’Rourke
Born 20/9/18 at 7:37am after what my midwives described as a ‘long and tricky’ birth.
To start at the beginning is to start about a week prior to Harrison’s birth. I was experiencing strong and consistent Braxton Hick’s for a least a week prior and then pretty much every second night, these would develop into what felt like lovely waves of contractions through the night then gradually peter out as morning approached. Each night this happened, I was sure Harry was ready to greet the world, but each night I was wrong. I’d take a deep breath, surrender my desire for his arrival and go on with the day. Little did I know that this was just the start of this lesson of surrender. If I’m truly honest and reflective, most of this pregnancy was a lesson in letting go and trusting. This pregnancy was a much more emotional experience, feeling on edge, guilt around bringing another baby into our family, having less vitality for my daughter etc etc etc
So, back to the birth… I eventually went to see my midwife at about 5pm on
Wednesday 19th Sept, (I chose to birth at a birth centre with a team of 3 midwives) It was quite clear Harrison had turned posterior. This explained the stop-start nature of the past week. I went home with some exercises to help him to turn into a more optimal position- primarily some inversions (thankfully we had practiced these in yogababy classes and I also used the spinning babies website as a resource) This certainly got things going and helped him into a better position. By 11pm my waters broke and my contractions were strong, long and regular (3 contractions every 10mins). So off to the birth centre we went. I honestly thought we might not make it to the hospital in time, things were moving so quickly! However, things from here did not progress as planned. After some beautiful strong labouring in the shower and then bath (my happy place in labour) I was ready to push. In my imagination I had been swimming in the depths of the blue ocean, searching for our babe. After some pushing, my midwife suggested I move out of the bath as things were not progressing. I think it was then that we then realised I wasn’t fully dilated and that Harrison had turned back to a posterior placement. My midwife thought he was coming out forehead first (rather than with the crown of his head as most babies come), but she couldn’t quite tell (with hindsight this was due to the unusual head presentation and shaping of his scull). This meant he wasn’t applying even pressure onto my cervix to aid dilation. We tried to turn him into a more optimal position, but at this point of the labour I didn’t have the energy to maintain the inversion positions, so we tried some side lying and took a break as the contractions had begun to slow. After a little lie down on the bed (still with contractions and the urge to push!) things amped up again. Did I mention that I was also cramping in my gluteal muscles with each contraction??
From here I felt that things got messy. I started to lose myself and felt like I was starting the labour all over again. I didn’t believe I could birth this baby. I felt it had all been going on for too long now- something I now realise was all tied up in my expectation that a second baby arrives quicker and perhaps is an easier birth. At around 6am my midwife did another vaginal examination and we then realised he was coming with his chin lifted and tilted, meaning he came out forehead first, almost ear first… apparently about an additional 4cm diameter than in a normal crown presentation (thanks Harry!) By this stage we needed to birth our babe quickly as I had been pushing for almost as long as the hospital policy allows, before some form of intervention would be needed. I really wanted to avoid if possible, but honestly by this point, I was willing to do anything to get the bubba out!! I was in strong pain, still cramping, very tired and feeling that my fuel was very low.
Luckily we received a breath of fresh air as a new midwife came in to assist (nothing against our original midwife, but we were all tired and on the go all night) Nicole got me moving around and tried all sorts of positions to push our little Harrison. We found the position where I was making the most progress and then just went for it. Both midwifes, a student midwife and Mike were all cheering me on, rubbing acupressure points and pretty much coaching me through it. On reflection it was a bit like one of those awful gym classes where the instructor just hounds you when you’re ready to throw in the towel and walk out…
I knew there was no other option, this was happening whether I liked it or not. Not quite the beautiful spiritual experience like I had with my first born, Matraya. This birth was pointier, more physically demanding and emotionally raw. I now know why I intuitively chose the mantra ‘the power of birth strengthens me’. I pushed through limits I didn’t think I ever could. It was a true battleground, fighting for my baby.
At 7:37 Harrison decided to be born. Unfortunately, he also decided not to take his first breath. I think it might have been the shock from the pressure and time in the birth canal to then coming into the outside world in one swift push. So terror ensued. This little babe was on my chest not making a sound or a move. It was terrifying. Pretty quickly he was moved up to the resuscitation table. I remember looking over (I was on the floor from pushing) and seeing my midwife performing CPR on our little babe. Next thing there were what felt like 20 people in the room all in action zone. It’s amazing how clear my memories are of this and the ensuing moments. I remember looking down and seeing a needle going into my hip- the syntocin to birth the placenta- then the placenta almost exploding out of me, again very different from my first physiological placenta delivery. I don’t know where I was, but I wasn’t there, I was split in pieces. I felt the lovely student midwife rubbing my feet, helping me to stay grounded as I wailed to mike to go to Harrison and hold his hand. I remember another midwife holding my hand trying to explain to me what was happening. I felt out of control, crying and confused. I thought I was through the hard work. I was ready for cuddles and oxytocin bliss. Instead I was in flight or fight mode.
Harrison was then whisked from the birth room to NICU, I didn’t get to see him or hold him for about 3 hours while there were working with him. I think I showered and ate something. I think I might have made a joke to let the midwives know I was OK. But I was breaking inside. My baby was gone. Mike was gone. Luckily the beautiful women didn’t leave me for a minute, they made me toast and kept updating me and trying to make sense of what happened.
When Harry was stable and able to be seen, Mike wheeled me around to him. The image of this tiny baby alone in this humid-crib thing with cords and wires poking out from him is quite horrendous. BUT he was alive and breathing (with some help at this stage) he was moving about and crying on and off. I got to touch him and meet him properly in this world.
From here, things did improve rapidly. Harrison was strong and almost full term, so he was quickly off the breathing support and moved into a special care unit. That afternoon I could hold him and we had a few hours of delicious skin to skin connection. The next day he was ready to breastfeed and took to my breast easily and hungrily! (prior to that I was expressing colostrum and they were feeding him through a feeding tube) After two nights in special care, he was able to come up to the maternity ward with me and we had one night together there off all the monitors and with all tubes out. What an anxious night wondering if he would keep breathing. He did.
We then went home the next day.
It has all been quite emotional and stressful, but working through things now we are home. I can see so many lessons for me in this, I truly believe that due to the kind hearted support from the midwives and other hospital staff, this horrendous experience wasn’t truly traumatic. I don’t feel violated or invisible as I know some women feel after traumatic births. The staff held me through this and I hope Harrison feels the same. I felt my role once he was born was to hold him energetically with love and calm grounded-ness. I hope he felt that through the separation and trauma he experienced. My heart never left him.
Harrison is an amazing little man, with a depth to him that I can already feel. Once home we helped him out with Arnica, saved colostrum, probiotics (he needed antibiotics whilst in the hospital as a precaution for infection) and lots of skin to skin time. He made a super speedy recovery with his forehead bruise and facial swelling subsiding within a week.
I can’t praise the staff at the hospital enough, they made a unbearable experience bearable.
I had to let go of so many of my expectations and indeed my belief system of what a birth can be and of my ‘natural health’ desires. I felt I had created the environment and support I needed for a physiological birth, however things still can turn and go their own way. I now know (once again- I’m sure this is a lesson I’ve faced before!) that there is no way to control how life unfolds. However, with the right support, you can move through anything.
Ah the joys of birthing our babies…. precarious, the veil between life and death so fragile and fine.
I wish all families the best for their births and wish to install a sense of trust in women to know that we are so powerful. Through trauma, pain, blood, tears and true grit, we can bring our babies into the world with love. That’s the main thing, that there is love. So much love. The rest can be overcome.
Much love to you