By Emalitza H
Positive birth, skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, powerful, euphoric. These were not common terms I associated with giving birth. Epidural, hospital, pain, emergency caesarean, haemorrhage, these were the words I was familiar with.
So you can see why, when I found out I was pregnant, the thought of giving birth terrified me. Everything I had seen on TV or in movies, offhand comments by well-meaning people, had all been along the lines of ‘oh it’s going to hurt, oh it going to be hard, oh oh oh, ow ow ow’. And that’s not fair. It’s not fair that expectant mums are exposed to such negative experiences. Why do we not share the positive as readily as the negative?
I had one workmate wait until the lunchroom was clear to confess to me that her birth was easy, painless in fact (not the biological norm I know) but she felt that unless she had experienced some form of horror, she had to keep quiet. She felt no one wanted to hear about her positive birth. And that made me so sad.
I know births can be traumatic, and I know they don’t always go to plan, but I don’t think it’s fair to make that the main focus to an expectant mama. We have Google, we have antenatal classes. You can rest assured we’ve looked into all that can go wrong. We obsess over it enough as it is. But when we go into labour, we need to be positive. That way if something does happen, we’ve got mental strength there, ready to get through it. And we mamas need to share the positive. As much as we can.
This is the birth story of Ziggy Jay.
Leading up to his birth, we had a few false alarms. They were so frustrating. I was ready, I was so ready to give birth. I’d get all excited thinking today was the day, only to be disappointed when a few hours later the feelings subsided.
September 17th (4 days before our due date) I went into labour. I didn’t realise that’s what it was, it felt too . . . gentle. I had been having regular, what I assumed were Braxton Hicks, all day. I went for a walk. They stuck around. I cleaned the house, they stuck around. I had a bath, they stuck around. Was this it? It didn’t ‘feel’ like what I thought labour would feel like. They didn’t hurt. My waters hadn’t broken, there was no bloody tinged discharge. Where was the fast onset of pain portrayed in every movie or TV birth I had ever seen?
Looking at my ‘am I in labour?’ sheet of paper . . . the only box I could tick was ‘6 – 10 mins apart’. I called my midwife Sam, and she confirmed she thought I was in early labour . . . go to bed, get some rest and we’ll touch base in the morning. At 8:30pm I messaged Cassie to give her a heads up I was in ‘early labour’ and we’d see what the morning would bring.
So we went to bed. But I was too uncomfortable, and once AJ fell asleep I slipped out to the lounge, turned on the TV and with our two cats as company, started swaying through the contractions.
AJ woke up at 11pm to an empty bed and came to find me. I had just thrown up and the contractions were getting stronger, starting to hurt and they were only about 3 mins apart. He wanted to call our midwife. I didn’t feel we needed to. First births go on for ages don’t they. Don’t they? We called our midwife.
Sam got to our place at midnight, took one look at me working through another contraction and decided we leave for Waterford. AJ called Cassie. I panicked, I was not prepared to go to the birth centre, I didn’t even have clothes on, just a dressing gown! So much for the ‘stunning shots under the pear tree’ huh.
We arrived at Waterford, birthing room 2, at 00:30am on September 18th. We left the house in such a hurry that AJ dropped me off, then shot off back home to grab a few things and dress himself properly. The contractions had really hit it up a notch and I was trying anything to get comfy while Sam ran the bath. The swiss ball, the bed, swaying, nothing was helping. As soon as AJ got back I grabbed him and he held me as I laboured. The second the bath was ready I was in there. Oh it was bliss.
The next few hours were hard work. I had declined any form of pain relief as I am the worlds biggest wuss when it comes to needles (I pass out at blood tests remember), and there was no way anyone was coming anywhere near me with one! You know how in antenatal classes you have that one person that almost faints watching the birth video? Well that was me, except it was during the talk about epidurals and forceps and all the possible interventions. I got so woozy I had to put my head between my knees.
I also really wanted to deliver my baby myself. I wanted to be the first person to touch him. I didn’t know that was an option before all my ‘positive birth’ searchings, but when I found out it was, I was determined that I was going to do it, and for that to happen, I needed to be alert, I needed to go into this intervention free.
Having a solid birth plan helped. I was able to focus. All my concentration was on riding out each contraction and knowing the end result I was hoping for. I started moaning with each contraction, soft quiet moans as my stomach clenched. As they contractions got stronger, the moans got louder. Soon I started verbalising. ‘ow ow ow’ turned into OW, OW, OW – as the contractions intensified, so did my volume. I tried to yell the pain away. It didn’t really work, it still hurt, but it did help.
I started throwing up a lot. After each contraction I’d catch my breath and then I’d vomit. I’d have a sip of water, so I had something in my stomach, ride another contraction, gripping the sides of the bath, and vomit again. Sam offered me something for the nausea, but needles were involved so I declined. I had AJ there with the spew bucket in one hand, a glass of water in the other and a cold cloth for my forehead.
My labour was very hands off. Sam said she could tell how far along I was by the sounds I was making. There was no checking how dilated I was, or hooking up to any machines to monitor my heart rate. Sam would leave the room at times, leaving AJ, myself and of course Cassie. I remember at one stage there was a strange pop-like sensation and then a gush of pink filled the pool. AJ panicked ‘what the hell is that’? Cassie had a look and told us it was nothing to worry about, my waters had broken. I guess when you have attended as many births as she has, you get good at knowing what is going on!
As the contractions intensified, I started to worry I wouldn’t be able to do this for much longer. I said as much to AJ, I was exhausted, almost falling asleep between every contraction. ‘This is fucking hard’ I proclaimed to Sam. ‘Where the fuck are these endorphins?’. She cracked up laughing at me ‘you’re nearly there’ she said. Looking back I realise I had hit transition, that final intense part of labour before gears change and you start to push.
Pushing is intense. You just grab onto something and hold on for the ride. Have you ever been so hungover that you’re throwing your guts up into the toilet? You know that uncontrollable retching your body does as it violently expels all the alcohol you ingested the night before? Pushing is like that. You have no say in the matter, your body just heaves and you go with it, you have to. It’s totally different to a contraction, the pain is different, it’s not as sharp, in fact it’s almost painless. This is also when you shit yourself. Literally. This fact of birth is something you giggle and feel embarrassed about before you go into labour. But I’m telling you now, there’s no stopping it, it happens and it’s not a big deal. In fact, with everything that’s going on at this stage – you barely register. And your midwife takes care of you – cheers Sam!
It is a surreal experience to feel your babys head crowning. It’s intense. It’s unforgettable. With each push, his head came that closer to being birthed. I could feel my skin stretch to make room, the burn they talk about, real, but not unbearable. I used my fingers to try and to ease the skin of my vagina around his head. Trying to be gentile, to minimise any tearing, yes, all this was running through my head as my baby pushed his way out. Then there was a ‘pop’ as his head birthed. I felt this rush of emotion, I could feel a nose!
Time stood still as I held my babys head in my hands. This was actually happening. I asked AJ if he wanted to feel, but he was just crouching there with his mouth wide open, in awe. I don’t think he moved an inch as all of this was happening. With the next push, the rest of the body slipped out in a rush and I bought him to my chest.
I had peek between his legs, the first person to touch him, the first person to see the sex of our child. We had a little boy and he was perfect. We sat there in the pool, skin to skin, my son and I. He was so calm. No screaming, no crying. He just looked up at me, taking it all in.
‘He looks like a goblin’ I said. He did, he was grey and wrinkled and so small. But it only took a minute or two till the blood from the placenta pumped into his body and he turned bright pink.
Once his placenta had stopped pulsing, AJ cut his cord. Then Sam wrapped a towel around us, I bought him to my chest, and little Ziggy Jay nuzzled in for his first feed.
I can’t describe the emotions flooding through me at that moment. All that work, the pain and the effort was so worth it to have this bundle of deliciousness snuggled close to me. It’s a moment in our lives we will never forget. It was empowering, beautiful and I’ve never known love like it.
Eventually, we had to get out of the bath. My placenta was yet to pass, so I handed Ziggy to his dad for his first cuddle. The moment I stood up, I felt the placenta drop down, Sam gave the cord a gentle tug and out it came. Sheesh – it’s rather large isn’t it!
I was exhausted, wet, yet on such a high. Holy crap I had done it! I made my way to the bed and climbed in. AJ gave Ziggy back to me and the hungry little dude went right back to eating.
Sam came to check on me, I had a wide shallow tear that she offered to stitch up. ‘Does it really need stitches?” I asked, the thought of going through all of that only to have to brave a needle was overwhelming. Sam laughed, ‘You just gave birth and you’re worried about a teeny needle?” I didn’t get the stitches.
Once Ziggy had eaten his fill, again, Sam took him to perform all those first checks. Yes, 10 fingers, yes, 10 toes. He wasn’t too impressed with this carry-on, but it was done so calmly and so gently. I just looked on in awe. This baby I had been carrying around inside me for the last 9 months, he was here. He was a teeny human and he captivated me.
Thank you Cassie for giving us memories we’ll cherish forever. Thank you Sam & Sarah for your support during our pregnancy and our birth. And thank you to the light of my life, for being there for me, wiping away my puke, holding me up, you were amazing and I love you. Look what we made. Ziggy Jay. Perfection.
Credit to Cassie at Capturing Life Birth Photography for the beautiful images.