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Birth story - Lexi

 

Ever heard that saying “Man makes plans; God laughs”?

 

Well that is kind of what my labour and birth felt like.

 

I had all these grand visions for the birth of our daughter. It was going to be at home, it was going to be peaceful and beautiful and calm, I was going to have candles and I was going to dance my way through early labour and breathe my way, through active labour and have a beautiful water birth, and have Riaan catch our baby.

 

Yeah right!

 

While I did get some of my deepest desires (Home Birth at the top of the list), that’s not at all how it panned out. There was a lot of screaming, a lot of swearing, a lot of crying, a lot of shouting at my midwife (much to my immense dismay now), a lot of noise in my head and panic, disappointment, frustration, anger, pain, fear. And my daughter was not born into water, as I so deeply desired.

 

I was sitting watching TV on Tuesday evening (the 20th of October) when I had an intense Braxton hicks contraction and I heard a little pop and felt something between my legs . Leaping up in surprise, my waters released all over the lounge floor. I looked at my husband, wide eyed, and said “oh my God, my water just broke – get a towel!!”

He came back with a bowl – no towel -  and put it between my legs. Ever practical!. Standing over the bowl I texted my doula first and then my midwife. Fluid continued to spurt out of me. Both told me to get some rest and to call them when things started happening. We excitedly called my mother in law and my mom (who insisted on coming right through - 4 hour drive - as she was our plan for our toddler.) I put on a pad and waddled off to bed to do as told but hardly getting any sleep due to the anticipation of what lay ahead.

 

My mom arrived at 2am. Everyone was very excited. It was with a bit of confusion and disappointment that I woke up the next morning, without a contraction in sight. I’d had a few Braxton Hicks contractions through the night, but nothing substantial. Waiting for contractions to start was like a combination of watching paint dry while listening to a dripping tap in the background : boring at best but more than a little soul destroying. I thought I would go mad. I tried to stay busy by going for walks and even went for a pedicure with my mom.

 

By Thursday afternoon nothing was happening yet and I was starting to get concerned that my body didn’t know what to do to get things kick started and that things were never going to happen (Despite the fact that I had gone into labour with my first) My midwife and doula came through to discuss a plan of action. I had had a NST on the Wednesday afternoon and everything was fine with baby. After a long discussion on our options, and a lot of crying on my part, my midwife prescribed some antibiotics to buy me some more time before considering the hospital route / transferring care to my OB. She also suggested I see a reflexologist to help induce contractions, which I duly took myself off to.

 

At 00h00, 52 hours after spontaneous rupture of membranes, on Friday the 23rd my contractions started in earnest. I laboured in bed and tried to sleep between contractions. They were 10 minutes apart. At 2am I decided to go through to the lounge as I didn’t want to wake my husband and sleeping toddler. I saw my mom’s light was on (not sure why she was even awake – she must have sensed something – and she was lying there reading) I went and laboured with her which was considerably easier as I had a distraction and someone to talk to in between. It was so weird feeling absolutely normal between the same contractions which had me doubled over in pain moments before.

 

At 4:30 am my contractions suddenly jumped to 5 minutes apart and I called my doula. She arrived and they seemed to space out a little again. She monitored my contractions for me for a while and updated my midwife, who came through just before 8am. Somewhere along the line my doula had let my photographer know to come through. It still boggles my mind that when she arrived at the wrong house, camera at the ready, the woman living there just let her in before informing her they weren’t expecting anyone. Who lets random strangers into their house? It didn’t take her long to figure out she was at the wrong address and make her way to me a few houses down the road.

 

I laboured till 11am with my husband, doula and midwife (my mom had taken our 2 ½ year old out as he was scared by the groans and noises). I had no intention of getting cervical checks, but contractions were very close together and I wanted to get into the birthing pool. I consented to a check, against my better judgement. Everyone was convinced that I would be at least a 7, if not further. Well, upon checking me I was a loose 1.

 

A ONE!!!

 

My midwife stretched me to a 2. Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe my state of mind. I wept like a little child – inconsolable. This was exactly why I hadn’t wanted to get checked – I had read so many stories on how disappointing it was when you weren’t as far progressed as imagined. My midwife informed me that I would need to get to a 4 within the next 2 hours else we would have to start considering a hospital transfer, and told me I could get in the pool. Everyone, except my husband, then left the room to let me labour alone for 2 hours. During this time we discussed what we’d be comfortable with. I felt that if baby’s heart tones were good, my blood pressure was good, there wasn’t bleeding or unbearable pain between contractions, that I would be happy to continue labouring beyond my deadline and give myself more time. We conveyed this to our doula – and I’m sure she must have conveyed it to our midwife. After two hours my midwife came back in for another check. To everyone’s surprise, and immense relief, I had dilated to an 8. My husband still said to the midwife “ you’re not just saying that to make us feel better?” to which she responded “I never joke about things like this!” I returned to the water and continued labouring.

 

Things get a little foggy, time and order wise from here. I was lost in a sea of contactions – just trying to get through each one as they came. At some point, after being in the water for a long time, the midwife had me climb out again to find out what was happening to our baby. Turns out she had flexed her neck and was presenting her face instead of her crown. Our midwife decided it would benefit us the most if she tried to turn the baby into the correct position. This was the most excruciating thing I have ever experienced. She would turn baby a little, and every contraction that hit she would hold baby in position. I thought I might die right there. This was far worse than labour. I screamed and cried my way through it. When that was done I went back to the pool and continued labouring, pushing a little with each contraction to try and help bring her down a bit. This is the part where I got all panicky, convinced she’d be stuck within me forever. I didn’t want to push – it didn’t feel good at all like I’d read it would. It intensified the contractions infinitely. I can remember crawling round in the pool crying and trying to escape the pain. With each push I could feel haemorrhoids developing.

 

I cried that my butt was going to explode (and was just as quickly assured by my midwife that no one’s butt had ever exploded in labour)

 

I demanded a hospital transfer for a c-section, convinced I couldn’t get my baby out.

 

My midwife told me we could go, but it would be a waste of time a) because I was too far along and I would probably have the baby in the car and b) if I did somehow make it to hospital, that they would just cut an episiotomy and suction baby out. She and my doula encouraged me to insert my fingers and feel for baby. This really helped me focus when I could feel her little head but it was, at the same time, discouraging everytime I stopped pushing and felt her slip out of reach.

 

I was so tired. Beyond tired. The fight in me was gone - I just wanted to sleep. I just wanted to stop. I just wanted her out and for it to be over with. In fact, I even fell asleep between contractions, beyond exhausted.

 

I heard my midwife request I get out of the pool again, so they could assess where I was at. I didn’t want to get out, but I was too tired at this point to object. It took a bit longer than expected as I dealt with contractions. Climbing out, I managed to walk 5 paces towards the bed before my next contraction hit. This was different! Something had changed. It had me dropping to a squat in front of my bed. Hello pushing reflex!

 

All of a sudden I had the most intense urge to bear down. There was no stopping it, my body just took control of the situation. I put my hand down and shouted “she’s crowning, she’s crowning”. The midwife dived onto the floor behind me to help. I remember her calling for a warm wet facecloth – none was to be found. My doula brought a sponge she had been using for me and my midwife supported my perineum with that. I remember thinking “wow, this sponge feels so rough and coarse!” The ring of fire was exactly that. There is no better way to describe it but as much as it burned, I was so happy to feel it, because I now knew the end was in sight. Her little head popped out (Riaan still insists it made an actual popping sound) and my midwife grabbed hold of it, helping to ease her shoulders out. Once her little shoulders were delivered I scooped below me, grabbing her under the arms and pulling her onto my chest, crying to my husband, “we have a baby! We have a baby” over and over again. The elation was indescribable.

 

Our little girl, Lexi Cathlynn, was born into the world and welcomed earth side at 4:35pm on Friday the 23rd of October 2015. A perfect, healthy, home-birthed, little chubby baby girl, weighing in at 3.53kg. From rupture of membrances to birth was 68 hours. Almost 3 days. Lying on the bed afterwards and being checked over by the midwife, I saw her call the doula over indicate for her to have a look. I asked why they were laughing at my vagina. Amazingly, my perineum was intact! I couldn’t believe it, I was sure I had torn. But I did tear a labia - I didn’t even know that was possible!

 

The birth high lasted for days. I felt strong, invincible - like a warrior. I had birthed my child in the most primal and instinctual way, I had let my body do what it needed to. I have gone through a range of emotions, from elation, to disappointment, to pride.

 

I didn’t get my picture perfect birth, and I’m sad about a lot of the stuff that did and didn’t happen. It’s been both a celebration of what I accomplished as well as mourning and letting go of the parts that weren’t perfect. I don’t think it’s ever perfect. It’s ok to acknowledge that.

 

I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

 

I had a phenomenal support team :

I had the most amazing doula – who is a such special soul, so gentle, encouraging, empathetic, supportive and amazing and who shines with a special light. I can only strive to be more like her ...

 

My midwife has blessed hands – I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this without her love and help, knowledge and guidance. Our daughter is here safely because of her ...

 

My mom who, I know, would have loved to have been in on the action and there holding my hand, selflessly took our son for the day and kept him busy ...

 

My special family and friends who lit candles for us and sent thoughts and love for the safe passage of Lexi into this world ...

 

And most importantly I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my husband at my side. A constant, strong rock – defending and holding my space, holding my hand, welcoming our child. Brave and strong enough for both of us.

 

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