I am not even sure where to begin. Giving birth to our beautiful daughter has been one of the most exhausting, pain staking, emotionally draining, yet life changing experiences where we couldn’t be any more in love and in awe at the miracles of life.
I guess you could say it all began at 5am on Thursday 20th February 2014, where I started getting what I would describe as period like pains. At first I didn’t think much of them, they weren’t painful, they were just uncomfortable. Or maybe that was the airbed I was sleeping on? It was the night I slept at our old place, where my family had been camping out at while we waited for little miss to make her appearance. I had decided to stay there the night because I knew I had a Midwife appointment at the Healthcare centre close by that morning. It would have saved me having to get up early, even though I already was up, to travel from our new place 30mins away. So, can you imagine my parents and four of my siblings sprawled out on mattresses everywhere. Not the most comfortable way to start labouring. Anyway, the pains I was experiencing developed into a pattern and were coming every half an hour. I couldn’t really believe it. I wondered if this was actually happening or maybe my body was playing some sort of pre-labour trick on me. So, I tried my hardest to get some more sleep. It was impossible. I’d wake up every half hour for a couple hours in this pain. I then decided to wake mum to tell her what was happening. She knew that this was it and I was at the very beginning stages of labour.
This period-like pain continued for quite some time. It was ok because it was nothing I had never experienced before. I mean usually it wasn’t in a rhythm like it was but at least it was a familiar pain and I was fine to continue going about my day. First up, I had a midwife appointment, which I still went to. They measured me and listened to the baby’s heartbeat. She was happy and healthy. Everything was on track. And even though I mentioned what had been happening since 5am, nothing seemed to back me up when I was with the midwife. She probably thought I was making it up. And who knows, at that moment I thought maybe I was too.
It wasn’t till about 2 o’clock in the afternoon that I really thought “This is it.” I had been keeping my husband Trent informed at work all day but this is the point when I really needed him. We decided that maybe it was time for him to come home, even if not a whole lot had progressed, at least he was there by my side. The pains started getting more intense and more regular. At this stage they were every 15 minutes or so. Still no where near what they needed to be for me to even consider heading to the hospital. From this point till that car ride in, was probably the worst. I was in pain. I was vomiting. And I will never forget the hours of waiting. I just wanted to know if any of this pain had been doing anything. The only thing at that moment that would give me some relief was a cold bath. I couldn’t even tell you how long I was in there for. My fingers were the most shrivelled I have ever seen them. But the pain kept getting more intense and closer together. All through this I was being guided by Trent and Mum. I’m so happy they both were there by my side. During each contraction, I’d have Mum pushing on my back to dull the back pain I was having while my husband Trent coached me through my breathing. We recorded each contraction and when they started lasting 1 minute but coming every 7 – 8 minutes I was feeling anxious. I just wanted to be at the point where I could go to hospital and they could tell me how far along I might have come. So at around 10pm I decided that perhaps I should give them a call, but they suggested that I stay home a little longer. With that advice, things sped up a little bit.
It was only half an hour later that my contractions were coming every 4 minutes and lasting just as long. The midwife suggested they be 3 to 4 minutes apart but it was becoming unbearable. I needed to get to the hospital. I just felt I had to and that I had waited long enough. It was hard enough getting to the car. I couldn’t stand having contractions while I stood up, but walking out the door I was hit with them. I will never forget the piece of thread that hung from the headrest of the driver’s seat that I was sitting behind. I focussed so hard on that little thing the whole way in. Finally, at 11pm, after a 30minute ride, we arrived at the hospital. I felt a sense of relief as we pulled into the car park. But at the same time, I knew I had to get myself to the Birthing Suite whilst dealing with each contraction. It took awhile, pausing and almost falling to the floor each time. Then to make it worse, it seemed like such an eternity for the midwifes to sort out their paperwork and get me settled into a room.
Finally, I was where I wanted to be the whole time. In the birthing suite, ready to hold this baby in my arms. Although, we had hours to go yet. They examined me at 11:45pm to find that I was 6cm dilated. I couldn’t believe it. I had actually made it over half way with no pain relief what so ever. It was a killer but I already had done way more than I expected I would be able to cope with. I truly was expecting the midwife to say that I was only a disappointing few centimentres. But I will take the full six! We were well on our way to having this baby.
Now, the baby was posterior, which means that her back was against my back. This explains all the back pain I was having during labour. I couldn’t take it any longer. Trying to deal with that and contractions. One thing at a time, please! So at 12:30pm I had sterile water injections in my back. These injections were honestly the most painful of the whole experience. Give me contractions any day. Ok maybe not, but these stung so bad. I honestly don’t know it was worth the two hours it only lasted for. But when it’s your first time, you may as well give things a try. So I don’t regret it. After all, it did help a lot for those next couple hours.
Although meanwhile, my contractions were getting more painful with little rest time between. It was time to start thinking seriously about how I was going to see out the rest of the labour. And doing it naturally with no pain relief was looking slim to none. I opted to try the Entonox Gas or happy gas at around 1am. I didn’t really like this but I endured with it for a few hours. It would give me a dry mouth and make me super dizzy, which later I am told that my head was dropping back and forth with my eyes rolling in all directions. I remember it being such a strange feeling. I could still feel some of the pain but it was if it took me to another place, outside of my body almost. I also could hear everything happening around me but when I was directly spoken to I could hardly respond. It was like I was there but not completely. I really was in La-La-Land. Apparently after a contraction, just out of the blue, I said to my husband that “Her name is B.” Then, I’m sure they all had a little chuckle at me! Now I don’t know if that was some kind of revelation or something but she really did look like a B when she was born.
Anyway, it had been almost an hour on the Gas and all I could think about was the fact that I didn’t want to be completely out of it when our baby girl actually arrived. I wanted to be able to take it all in and remember every detail. So, I asked for more pain relief. Something to take me off this gas and bring me back down to reality. This meant going for the Epidural. Now I’m not superhuman so I wasn’t there to prove anything to anyone. I felt like I had given labour a decent shot. To be honest, I lasted a lot longer than I had ever expected and that I was proud of.
Before I could get the epidural though, the midwife checked me again. I was still only at 6cm dilation. This was a little heart breaking. It had been just over three hours since my last check and nothing had happened. So, the midwife decided that I needed to have my water broken in order to speed things up a little bit. This didn’t hurt at all but it felt like I had just wet myself and it was warm! Then with this came slightly more intense contractions and the involuntary urge to push. I knew it wasn’t time yet, but I couldn’t help myself. The midwife would sternly say “Do not push Rachel. Do not push” and boy I was trying with everything I had not to push. So, the epidural was exactly right for me at this moment. I needed it to stop that urge. Because if I didn’t, my cervix would start to swell with this pressure and with that closing, that would mean I would need an emergency c-section. My midwife quickly examined me again at 3am to check that the cervix was not going down this path yet. And luckily it hadn’t and I was now 7cm dilated. So within half an hour of my waters broken, things were surely back on track. I just needed that epidural to avoid any other complications at this point.
So the doctors came in at 3:40am to give me that epidural. I will never forget that angel’s face! Although it took a little while to kick in, and I was slightly concerned that for some reason it wasn’t going to work for me, when it did start working, I’m not sure why I waited so long. This was the best part of the labour. I couldn’t feel any pain, only the pressure. The midwife suggested I take a rest so I had some energy for when it was time to push. But I was too excited at this point. Trent, he was so exhausted and fell asleep in the chair beside me. As for the rest of us, it was just like a girly sleepover. We stayed up for the rest of the night chatting, laughing and having a great time. All so excited for what was ahead. And with all the adrenalin running through me, I was wide awake.
Then at 7am, I was due for my next examination. I was pretty nervous at this point. I wanted so badly to have progressed at least slightly more than last time but prepared myself for the worst. I will never forget the smile on the midwife’s face when she looked up at me and said, “You are 10cm dilated. We can start pushing.” I guess this was the point that it all became so real. My baby girl was going to be with us in no time at all. Now, I had to wait an hour before I could actually start pushing. I’m not entirely sure but it was part of their policy. Something about allowing the head to descend further I suppose.
So at 8:05am I started pushing. Then at 8:40am, things started to get a little more serious. Now this may be a little too much information, but the midwives could see fresh blood and the doctors were informed to come and inspect. They could see that our baby was coming down the birth pathway with her little hand up against her face. And the fresh blood was from tearing me inside. This had the whole room in a panic because I was losing a lot of blood at the same time. I needed to get that baby out pretty quickly for my own health. It was at 9:35am that the midwives noted the descent of the baby was seen, whilst they yelled out, “She has beautiful long brown hair.” I couldn’t believe it. My baby girl with long brown hair? I was so excited to see for myself.
And at 9:54am on Friday February 21st 2014, our beautiful baby girl was born. I will never forget the immediate relief I felt when her little body popped out. She was here and she was all ours. She was so alert and bright eyed looking up at me as she laid on my chest. I just couldn’t stop crying. This was the moment that changed my life forever. She was so calm. I was expecting a newborn squeal, but her petite but plump little lips lay there along with the rest of her beautiful face, in awe at the new world around her. I didn’t want to ever leave her sight and this is what made the next part of the whole experience so traumatic.
It was only half an hour later that I was rushed off to surgery to have my third degree tear repaired. I had to leave my husband and baby to have my own health looked at, which I was ok with. But what I didn’t realise was the time it would take to then be reunited with my little family. The midwives in the room suggested that perhaps an hour at most and I would be back. How wrong they were. It was a whole hour before they even operated on me. Miscommunication number 1. I was waiting in a small room by myself. You can only imagine my urgency to get this done. What I didn’t know at the time was that my mum, worried about me, had asked if Trent and B could wait with me. Originally they had said that was fine, but then the nurses said it was too late and that I was already prepped to go in. Miscommunication number 2. Then when I finally went to be stitched up, what was only meant to be 20 minutes turned into another hour. I remember being fully aware of everything happening while I laid there watching the clock slowly click on. Nothing was getting me back to my baby quick enough. Miscommunication number 3. I was so excited when I heard the doctors say, ‘Ok Mrs Stokes, You’re done” that I completely forgot I still needed to wait in recovery for a little while. Well, a little while turned into another 2 hours. The biggest miscommunication of them all. I swear the nurses looking after me were more concerned with their lunch breaks and a little squabble they had, than to really consider my state and allow me to head back to my room. I kept asking them, ‘What was going on?’ ‘Why I was still there?’ and ‘How much longer it was going to be?’ All they could say was ‘Your heart rate.” No kidding! I remember lying there thinking it was never going to end. I was struggling to keep myself calm through the whole thing. There’s no wonder my heart rate kept going up and down. But the nurses couldn’t see that, for reasons unknown to me. Surely they would understand what I had just been through. It was getting ridiculous. I thought I was never going to get out of there, which psyched me into becoming an emotional wreck. I’ll only partially blame the hormones. Well there went my heart rate again, sky rocketing. I couldn’t help it and I knew there was nothing wrong. I just needed to see my husband and baby. I’ll never forget what the nurse said to me next, “You’re making me feel bad now”. I couldn’t believe it, I never meant to make anyone feel bad, I just wanted to get out of there. Like I’m sure any woman would want after being separated from anyone she knew, let alone the baby she just gave birth to, now four hours earlier.
I was a little upset that while all this was happening, I missed seeing B being measured, weighed and dressed for the first time. I know her daddy was right by her side the whole way, so I am ok with it now. But initially, I felt like the staff had taken that opportunity away from me that I will never get back again. Now, I realise that I needed to address myself first and that it was important to surgically repair ‘the damage’ for my own health and well being. I totally get that. I just wish it happened with a little less communicational error on the hospitals part. But this is our story, and I can’t change that now.
Meanwhile, I also didn’t know this, but my family were looking for me. They had heard nothing about whether I was ok or what had been happening. They too thought I was only going to be in surgery for an hour, so they were pretty concerned at this point. The midwives, nurses and doctors were not giving them any information. Miscommunication number… I’ve lost count. So my mum decided to take herself to where theatre was in search for me. Finally, I was being wheeled out the doors and to my room. I was a mess and became an even bigger mess when I saw my family. My hormones were everywhere, but I was so relieved. I was back with my husband and baby. There, B was quickly unwrapped and we had that skin-to-skin time I was longing for. The poor little darling hadn’t even had her first feed yet. I felt horrible, but knew none of that was my fault. I was just glad to be holding her close, knowing I will never again leave from her sight ever again.
Writing this, being two weeks in as a mother, I can’t even describe the emotions that have run through my body. I never comprehended how much one could love such a tiny little human. She is my world and I can’t believe how much more complete my life now feels with her in it. This is all I have ever wanted and no matter how the whole birthing experience went, I could hold my little B in my arms forever. She has been worth every inch of pain, and tear I have cried. And I believe that is why we go through what we do. I truly wouldn’t have my little family any other way. I love being her mother!