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written by her mother, Katrina Matthews

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My Third Baby
Erin Maree
Hannah Jane

Contractions started about 11pm on Monday night, very mild but regular. They were waking me every 10-15 minutes that night until about 7am when they slowed down a bit. I kept telling myself not to get excited and I refused to get out of bed, I figured that I would need all the rest I could get, especially if it really was the beginning of labour. In the morning Tim and I decided that he should go to work and that I would try and go about my day, firstly seeing Joy for a prenatal visit in the morning. I was still getting contractions, but they were irregular and varying in intensity.

As usual I was reassured by my visit with Joy, we made another appointment for the following week but Joy was doubtful that I would make it to that appointment. I was still very reluctant to believe that this might be early labour, I didn't want to be disappointed if the contractions stopped!

The contx continued through the day, on and off. I decided to go to a "pregnancy session" with Rhea, a childbirth educator at 5.30 as I did most Tuesdays. For the first time I was the only pregnant woman there so Rhea and I talked and we went through some last minute psych issues surrounding birth. The contx seemed to be getting closer and stronger throughout the session. When Rhea asked me if I'd be ok to drive home I started to think "maybe this could be it". I did get home alright and when Tim's friend Marcus arrived we decided to get Vietnamese take-away for dinner. By the time they had ordered, collected the food and dished it up I was having to concentrate to breathe through the contx and then eat in between. We were getting pretty excited that labour had started and we'd probably meet our baby the next day. Having finished dinner, we decided that perhaps we ought to get the tub set up and get Ethan into bed.

So Marcus and Tim set up the tub, I called Kate to tell her that things were happening and she reminded me to turn inward and focus, to get through each contx until some endorphins and relaxen start flowing. Tim was trying to set up the tub and get some water in it while I was following him around to make sure he was near me when each contraction began - I needed him to put counter pressure on my back even at that early stage.

Marcus did a fabulous job setting up the tub and getting some water in it, first using all our hot water and then boiling pots and heating the urn to get enough water in the tub for it to be functional. I called Joy about 9.30pm to let her know what was happening and to expect a call sometime through the night. We called Sue at about 10pm and she was here in half an hour, it was great to see her. Sometime after that Marcus went home. The atmosphere was one of excitement, we were all ready and the contx seemed to be getting longer and stronger and I needed quite alot of counter pressure on my back during each contx. Not long after Sue arrived I started to question the back pain I was experiencing, it was very familiar - Ethan had been posterior. I was thinking that if the baby was still anterior I shouldn't have been experiencing such intense back pain. Sue and Tim were solid in their support and reassurance that everything was fine, telling me this labour was not the same and that it would bring what it would bring. The labour was a rollercoaster for me, one minute I was feeling confident and ready to face whatever the labour was bringing and the next I was full of doubts and worries.

I was in and out of the tub during the next few hours and felt like I was doing a good job relaxing with each contx, keeping myself soft - something I'd felt I couldn't do during Ethan's labour. Lots of vocalising too, lots of talking to the baby, well, moaning really, "down baby, down baby" during contx.

I decided I wanted Joy here sometime after midnight and she arrived around 2am. It was great to see Joy, her calming presence had an immediate impact on the house. The atmosphere felt so serene and calm through the night, very quiet, peaceful, I was so glad to be labouring at home, I felt safe.

I found it hard to trust my body though, the contx seemed to be getting more spaced out and varying in intensity instead of continuing to get stronger. I told Joy I was afraid that I wasn't progressing and I wanted a VE. Joy tried to reassure me and eventually she said "why don't you feel for yourself". So I did and I could feel the baby's head! I couldn't believe it and I immediately thought that this meant I was almost fully dilated. I started crying with relief and Joy started setting up her equipment and talking about calling Genevieve, our second midwife. From this point though, the contractions really slowed down and I started to move around more, trying to get them going again. They didn't really pick up much though and at 4.30am we decided to do a VE. 5cm, I was so disappointed, I really had expected to be much further along than that, even though the pattern of contx indicated that progress was going slowly. Joy didn't tell me at the time but she felt the baby was posterior.

It took Tim quite a while to talk me out of the hole I put myself in after the examination and we took a break, layed down and had a rest. The contractions were quite far apart during this phase (5-6 minutes) but they picked up again after we got up. I began pacing the hallway in an attempt to get things going again and the contractions did grow in intensity during the next few hours, I was moving and using the birth ball, in and out of the pool. I was feeling the back pain and bowel pressure in between contx. I was finding it much harder to stay relaxed during the contx and I was buoyed by the change in strength and intensity during this time. It was also frightening though, wondering how strong they were going to get and whether I could really stand it (what choice did I have?!).

I decided I wanted Kate at around 7am and when she arrived I felt a flood of emotion and cried in her arms. I don't really know why, I think I was just relieved to see her. It felt like a great release.

Contx slowed again after this, we tried a few different things to get them going and decided to have another VE at 8.15am. Still 5cm, no progress in 4 hours, with strong labour. I felt like my worst nightmare was coming true, the labour was happening in the same way as Ethans. Joy started talking about transfer and I lost it. I was so disappointed, upset and sure that transfer equalled c/s. I just didn't see how I could avoid a c/s if we transferred. Yet I knew that we needed help with the labour, that we couldn’t just continue indefinitely.

Tim told me a few days after the birth that when he knew we were going to transfer he left me for a few minutes and started to cry with Sue. She told him to pull himself together and not let me see that he was upset, that his confidence was shaken. I’m so glad she did that, Tim’s support for me never faltered through the entire experience.

Driving to the hospital with Kate, I was so sure that I was headed for another c/s, and statistically my chances weren’t good. But we weren’t any ordinary team! I also expected that the staff would be hostile or prejudiced toward us because we had been attempting a HBAC. But we encountered an amazing group of women that day, Sancha and Lisa, the hosp Midwives and Miranda our Obstetrician Miranda. They were so supportive, sensitive and respectful of me and of Joy’s position as my Midwife.

I knew that we would probably need augmentation at the hosp and I did not want to experience any more back labour, especially with a syntocinon drip speeding things up. So I decided to have an epidural. I had a nagging doubt that I was opting-out but I also felt that I just didn’t want to do the posterior labour anymore, I wanted a rest.

So the epidural was inserted at 10am, but it was only effective in providing pain relief down one side of my body. So I was almost numb down my left side but still feeling the back pain with each contraction down my right side. Although the pain was much reduced overall, it was quite frustrating to be in that kind of limbo, I couldn’t quite relax but I also couldn’t move from the bed. I felt that I had accepted the associated risks of having an epidural but I wasn’t getting the full benefit of its use. But I was aware when I decided on the epidural that it doesn’t always work effectively.

Over the next 5 hours the anaesthetist came in several times to try and correct the epidural, she increased the dosage, pulled the catheter out slightly but it wasn’t until she took it out and re-sited it that it worked effectively. Around that time (2-3pm) the Senior Obstetrician came in to do another VE before we began the Syntocinon in the drip to increase contractions. Miranda, our Obstetrician hadn’t been sure of the baby’s position and so had asked him to check. I hadn’t dilated at all from 4.30am until 3pm. But the baby had turned to anterior, which was very encouraging. At that stage I was happy to have the labour augmented but I still believed I would be having another c/s. The Syntocinon was increased every 30 minutes over the next 2 hours but I was still only getting a low dose.

Miranda came in at 5pm to do another VE, and when she had finished she said, "Guess how dilated you are", I refused to guess and she said "9".

I couldn’t believe it, everyone started crying as we realised that our baby would be born vaginally, I was so happy that I wasn’t going to have another c/s. Miranda suggested we take another hour to make sure dilation was complete and then start pushing.

So at around 6pm Joy and Kate helped me into an upright position and I began to try and push, although I had no pelvic floor or perineal sensation. I also couldn’t feel any pushing urges. It was frustrating, I just couldn’t feel what I was doing. The effort of pushing combined with the length of the labour and sleep deprivation made me feel exhausted, I just wanted it to be over, I wanted to meet our baby.

The epidural had run out around this time and we decided not have a top-in the hope that some sensation would return to my body and I might be able to push effectively. Sensation was very slow to return and when it did it was only on one side due to the unequal amounts of anaesthetic I had received. The pain was very intense and it felt like someone was stabbing me in the hip.

Miranda came in and suggested that she use forceps to help the baby out. I agreed, I didn’t know how else the baby was going to get out at that point. So I was battling 2nd stage contractions, still not feeling any pushing urges or pelvic floor sensation and the staff were preparing themselves and the room for the birth. Perhaps the most distressing point of the process was when Miranda brought out the stirrups. At that point I realised how different the reality of the birth was from what I had planned and hoped it would be. I kept saying "poor baby, poor baby" thinking of her being pulled out with steel instruments. I had to make a concerted effort to reduce my distress and focus on our baby, on ensuring I was present for the first moments of her life. Through the labour I had always thought of her as a girl.

The forceps were applied to her head and with each contraction I was pushing as hard as I could while Miranda worked with the forceps. I began to really feel where and what pushing was about and with each contraction I felt her go lower. That was really satisfying. I felt her head in my vagina at some point before she was crowning and that gave me more impetus to push. I couldn’t believe how much it felt like she was coming out of my bottom! The cliches about doing the biggest shit of your life are true……I had vague fears of my guts coming out with the baby too.

It wasn’t long before her head was out and while we were waiting for the next contraction I pushed as hard as I possibly could and pushed her body out.

As she was lifted up to my chest I saw that she was a girl and had an overwhelming sense of "yes, I knew you were a girl all along". Joy grabbed Claire and put her on my chest, it felt indescribable. She was hot and wet and slippery and she was mine, to mother right from the beginning, no separation.

She didn’t breathe straight away and a hospital midwife who hadn’t been working with us started to rub her back vigorously and I pushed her hand away, saying "be gentle, be gentle". I began to blow on her face and she soon started to breathe.

She cried from the moment she started breathing and she began to open her mouth, rooting for the nipple. It was so amazing to see her lying on my chest, throwing her head to the side trying to reach my nipple. She was clearly hungry and as soon as I was stitched and could sit upright I fed her. She latched on beautifully and fed for a long time.

We made the obligatory phone calls and prepared to go home during the next couple of hours. As soon as the numbness in my legs had subsided enough for me to walk I had a shower and dressed. Tim gave Claire her first bath and we packed our things, including my placenta, which is still in the freezer. We were both feeling exhausted but decided we would get more rest if we went home that night. And we would be there for Ethan in the morning.

So at midnight, a little over 4 hours after the birth, we went home. It was wonderful to have our little baby with us in our bed that night, none of us got much sleep but we were all together, triumphant.