Sunshine Girl is now nine months old. Her arrival into this world is a story worth telling. Why? Because I had no labour (labor for my US friends). She was born naturally and without drugs, and with no painful contractions until it came time to push. This is kinda long, so settle in with a cuppa.
For six weeks prior to her birth, Sunshine Girl was sitting very low in my pelvis, fully engaged. My obstetrician remarked that he did not know how I could walk because there was a head between my legs, and each week when I would visit for my check-up he was shocked that I had not given birth yet. I declined any kind of internal examination until 39 weeks, at which point curiosity got the better of me. I really just wanted to know if I was dilated at all.
I live an hour from the hospital that I chose to birth in (I had hospital births – I admire home birthing mamas with doulas, but that wasn’t for me), and my mother was starting to panic that I would end up having the baby on the side of the road. She thought it would be a quick labour, as I had progressed quickly when I had Boy Wonder. My obstetrician offered to induce me a few weeks earlier so that any need for panic would be removed, but I am opposed to unnecessary intervention with child birth, and knew that all would be well if I trusted my body and let nature take its course. I also know that induction commences a slippery slope often leading to multiple interventions, and I was not interested in that.
So I went in for my 39 week check-up and agreed to an internal examination. I positioned myself on the bed and looked up at the ceiling wondering what I was about to be told. Please God, let me have started dilating, I thought! My thoughts were interrupted by my obstetrician swearing. ‘You’re 7 – 8cm dilated!’ he exclaimed. ‘You’re going straight to hospital. The baby’s head is right there. I could break your waters and it would fall out.’ I started to cry. Things just got real.
I got up, gathered my thoughts, composed myself and then became a little giddy and excited. I was having a baby! ‘I didn’t pack my hair dryer!’ I said to my obstetrician, who replied, ‘You won’t need it tonight’.
My parents had joined me for this visit so they could look after Boy Wonder in the waiting room while I was having my appointment. Informed Papa was with me and privy to the excitement, which I was happy about because earlier in the day he wasn’t sure if he was able to get away from work early enough to make it.
I walked out into the waiting room and said to my mum, ‘Guess how far?’ and she replied, ‘7?’ I nodded. I wiped away a little tear and went back in to my obstetrician’s office where he was on the phone to the hospital asking them for a room. Turned out the delivery suites were extra busy that afternoon and they were low on staff, but they said to send me over and they would sort something out.
We left my obstetrician’s building to go to the hospital, which was across the road. My mum phoned the student midwife who had been following me through my pregnancy. I was to be the first birth she would witness. She just happened to be at the hospital finishing a shift on her prac, so she said she would meet us in the waiting room.
And wait we did. And wait and wait and wait. I watched pregnant labouring women walking in and felt like grabbing them and saying, ‘hey! I was here first!’, but the problem was I didn’t look like I was in labour. I was experiencing no pain whatsoever. In fact I felt completely normal. At some stage during this time my obstetrician arrived and asked me how I was going. He held both my arms and said, ‘You’re having a baby tonight’. He then raced off – to deliver another baby, I imagine.
For five hours we sat in the waiting room – my mum, my dad, my son, my husband and my younger brother. We ate dinner, we watched Boy Wonder play with another little girl, I updated my Facebook status, and we sat around chatting. Eventually we were told that a room was ready and we could go in. I then realised I wasn’t going to labour in water like I imagined and planned. One of the reasons I had chosen this hospital was that each suite included a big tub.
My obstetrician met Informed Papa and I in the room and asked how I was feeling. I told him I was fine, and he said to keep doing whatever it was I was doing, because it was obviously working and had already got me this far. So I continued doing nothing. He said he would be back shortly, but not before offering to put me on some kind of drug or hormone to kick-start things. Ummm, no. And I thought he knew me by now. So I had a shower, then Informed Papa had a shower, and my mum popped in for a while and my student midwife joined us. My obstetrician returned and my mum left and went back to the waiting room. By now it was around 8pm.
It was time for another examination. My obstetrician shook his head. ‘You’re 10cm. You’re ready to push.’ ‘Umm but how do I know when to push? I don’t feel anything’, I replied. He told me to just try pushing. Ha! Nothing happened. He said he would break my waters. Earlier in the evening I had spoken on the phone to my sister-in-law who is a midwife, and she assured me that breaking the waters would be fine, so I agreed. There was a lot of water. It was warm and icky and I really didn’t enjoy the experience. Boy Wonder’s waters had ruptured naturally and at home, so this was all new to me.
Once my waters were broken I was told I needed a suppository and to go to the toilet! So I obliged. On my way back from the bathroom to the bed I suddenly got a crippling contraction, followed by another and an urgent need to push. I was standing up, leaning against the bed. My obstetrician told me to get on the bed, and I said, ‘I can’t!’. He replied that I needed to or else the baby’s head would fall on the floor. I knew that wasn’t true, but with a lot of help I made it onto the bed.
My obstetrician told me to lay on my side. I looked at him like he was crazy. Didn’t he know about gravity? Come on! I had read all the natural birthing books, I knew what I was doing! I turned around so I was on my knees on the bed, holding on to the bed head with both hands. I had watched Ina May Gaskin on YouTube and read her books, so I softened my jaw and visualised my body opening up like a flower. I remained very calm and was repeating positive affirmations to myself in my head. Every time I needed to push I was told that they could see the head, but it kept slipping back up. Ugh!
After about 20 minutes I agreed to go on my side, even though it felt awkward and I wasn’t sure what to do with my leg. Sure enough, as soon as I was on my side and gave a push, Sunshine Girl made her entrance into this world and our lives. I do remember saying a few times something along the lines of, ‘Can’t you just reach in and pull it out? Please?’ My student midwife told me later that at that point my obstetrician turned and winked at her. He must have known how close I was to delivering. Once Sunshine Girl’s head was out, I was told to stop pushing for a moment while my obstetrician removed the cord from around her head. Another push and her slippery, slimy little body was fully out! She was healthy and perfect, weighing in at 4.09kg (9lb).
From waters breaking to delivery was about 40 minutes. The first 15 minutes of that I felt nothing, so I had a total of about 25 minutes worth of contractions and pushing. I am sure it would have been faster if I had gone on my side straight away instead of stubbornly trying to birth on my knees. I’m not sure why I thought I knew more about this than my obstetrician who delivers babies constantly and has done for many years.
‘What did we have!’ I asked. When I was told it was a girl I kept repeating, ‘I did not have a girl! I did not!’ She laid on my chest while we waited for her cord to stop pulsing, and then Informed Papa cut it and I had more snuggles. After my placenta was delivered, I asked the midwife to show it to me, because I never got to see Boy Wonder’s. The midwife was amazing – she not only showed it to me, she took her time to explain all the parts and how it worked. It was fascintating.
My beautiful daughter. I was stunned and thrilled and filled with disbelief at what had just happened. How could I have no labour pains? It certainly made up for nine months of awful pregnancy and hyperemisis gravidarum. My student midwife went out to the waiting room to tell my parents they could come in. My younger brother came in first, and then mum and dad followed. They had sat in the waiting room the whole time, not wanting to be too far from the action (or lack of, until that point!)
And thus began our wonderful lives as a family of four. I didn’t know I wanted a daughter until I had one, and now I am completely smitten. If I could skip pregnancy and go straight to childbirth, I’d have another baby in a heartbeat! Well, maybe.