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written by her mother, Monica Zetlin

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My Third Baby
Erin Maree
Hannah Jane

It seemed as if my baby did not want to be born. I was 10 days overdue and had no signs at all of labour. I was trying everything - walking, herbal teas, spicy foods, sex ... but no twinges even. So it was with some relief that I went into the hospital to be induced. My obstetrician was quite understanding that I wanted to have as natural a birth as possible, but at the same time we all agreed that the baby should come out sometime! I talked to Joy about it as well, and we discussed the issue that I shouldn't feel 'failed' in my attempt for a natural birth given that the first step - ie: spontaneous labour - wasn't going to happen.

I went into hospital and settled in for the birth. I was calm, but a bit excited. I was induced using gel on the cervix, applied twice over a 12 hour period - no drips, so labour came on fairly smoothly. About 12 hours after the first application, I started to feel stronger contractions. My husband and I took a walk around the neighbourhood in the bright fresh sunshine, and I managed that pretty well, only stopping occasionally to let a particularly strong contraction wash over me. At this stage, they were like very strong period cramps.

I rang Joy and arranged for her to come in to the hospital around midday, as that was when the doctor was coming in to break the waters and really get the labour moving along. When Joy came, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, but I was still able to talk and walk around. I was starting to feel a bit 'out of it' with the new sensations, but so far was feeling in control. Joy helped me with a bit of back massage on the birthing ball. When the doctor came to get me on the bed to break the waters, I knew things were moving along. The actual procedure to break the waters, using the crochet-hook object was a bit uncomfortable and frustrating, as the doctor didn't seem to think he was able to successfully break the waters after what seemed like a thousand attempts! He finished up the job, saying that I was progressing fine anyway, and that hopefully labour would continue to progress without any more interference.

Almost as soon as he left, it seemed as though I went into the next phase of labour. Joy and I went for a walk down the hospital corridor, and even towards the end of that walk, I knew that my body was quickly gearing up for the harder, 'business end' of labour. I just wanted to go back to the room and dig myself in, ready for the birth.

The next four hours are a bit blurry in my mind, but I know that Joy helped me out immeasurably. She had me kneeling on the floor, my arms and head resting on the birthing ball while she gently rotated my pelvis. This is when I had my 'show', which I was dimly aware of when I looked down between my legs and saw some blood. "Aha!" I thought - action!

I insisted on going to the toilet, and Joy helped me limp over. I was definitely feeling a bit helpless as my body started to take over. As I sat there with Joy in front of me, I felt the biggest contraction yet, although I thought it was something else! I ground my head into her stomach with a huge groan and Joy said "What was that?!" and I whimpered pathetically "A big poo...". Of course, it wasn't a poo, but Joy knew that this was a good sign and told me so.

Next, I was in the shower, with Joy sitting nearby giving me encouragement. I was truly zoning out now between the contractions, and when they came, they took hold of me in a fierce wrench. I was grinding my head into the tiles of the shower wall and moaning very very loudly!

The shower was good, but my legs were feeling a bit weak. So, Joy and the other midwife poured me a bath. I was in the bath for what seemed like ages. The best thing about the bath was being able to lie down, but without the pressure on my backside, which was where all the pain of the contractions was concentrated. At this stage, I had my eyes closed pretty much all the time. It was if I had no 'consciousness' - that part of me had shut down and all I was operating on was instinct. I was aware of the others around me, and knew when they were listening to the baby's heartbeat and so forth, but all my concentration was going into preparing myself for the next wave of contractions. Each wave was stronger and more intense than the next, and the only thing that seemed to get me through them was some hearty bellowing and moaning. I'm sure I was loud enough to scare the construction workers near by!

The best thing about this whole period was that at no time was it arrested or interrupted to do an internal examination, or similar. I was allowed to do my own thing, and luckily, my own thing was good enough! I was getting constant encouragement from Joy, and her calm patience and professionalism made me feel I was in capable and confident hands. That meant all stress and "what ifs?" and "what next?" were banished from my thoughts. Even though I could hear her telling me that I was doing well, and that things were moving along, I didn't need to know the details - I think I instinctively knew that labour was progressing how it should be, and time was completely irrelevant.

Still, it was a shock when at one stage, Joy said I could put my hands up between my legs and I would feel the baby's head! I put my fingers up my vagina (which was an effort in itself ...) and felt this completely strange, soft object. I remember thinking to myself "it feels like a jellyfish, that can't be the baby!". At that stage, the pain of the contractions was moving from bands around my backside, down into a huge pressure inside my pelvis. I wanted to get out of the bath, but didn't think I had the energy or strength to actually do it.

Joy knew the baby was about to be born, so she and the other midwife helped me get out. The walk from bath to bed was the longest in my life! On the bed, I felt like the only comfortable position for me was on my back, but with my head as high as possible. Once in position, everything seemed to thunder on like a steam train. I was pushing down now with each contraction, but wasn't aware of the details. I knew that I was nearly finished. As the head was crowning, I felt the intense stretching and 'burning' sensation. Luckily, I didn't need to do too many of these pushes! As the head came out, I heard Joy or one of the midwives say "I thought so", and the other say "Yes, facing the stars" and I managed to ask "What?", to which she replied that my baby was posterior - the head was facing up, not down. All this time, my husband was holding my hand, and I opened my eyes for the first time to see his expression as the head came out - that was a good thing to see!

When the baby finally slithered out, I was completely zonked out, so when the warm and soft body was placed on my stomach, it was hard to believe it was true. I had a weird sensation that this baby must of come from somewhere else! As soon as these dark eyes looked up at me, I knew that this was the most brilliant, exciting and mind-blowing thing ever. It took me a few seconds to realise that I didn't know what sex it was. I asked around, and Joy said to take a look. I lifted one leg up ("this is like sexing a puppy" I thought) and yelled "It's a girly!".

My doctor arrived in time to help deliver the placenta. He looked a bit put out that he missed the birth, but got himself busy stitching up the tears my baby made as her good-sized head pushed through. I think after all the pain and agony of labour and delivering the baby posterior, the stitches were the hardest thing to take. It seemed to take an eternity and all I wanted to do was spend time with my baby, and never, never have anyone poke around in my nether regions again! I had to have my legs up in stirrups and he kept telling me to relax my bottom - possibly the hardest thing in the world at that stage of my life...

Everything else went smoothly, and I had my baby on my stomach for ages while everyone else busied themselves with whatever they had to do. I was completely elated and on the biggest high I have ever experienced. The hormones must have been surging through me, and I was happy happy happy. My baby girl (we called her Lois) was quiet and calm and lay on me staring into my eyes as the rest of the room bustled about. Joy helped angle her towards a nipple and Lois fairly confidently started to suckle.

For the next week I remained on that high, even finding it hard to sleep I was so excited and just wanted to see and hold Lois all the time. Joy visited me in hospital a couple of times to help out with the breastfeeding, which both Lois and I managed to get the hang of without too much trouble (you do need all the help you can get though!).

I believe that my labour and birth experience were totally positive and that this can be attributed partly to luck, to my physiology, my preparedness mentally and emotionally for what was going to happen, and in a large part to Joy. I also believe this natural birth experience has helped Lois to be a happy, easily contented baby who was alert right from the start and so far, at three months, a good sleeper, and an excellent feeder!

I would never judge a woman for choosing drugs for pain relief or other types of intervention however, as I understand not all labours are the same. Now that I know the level of pain I am not surprised a lot of women demand an epidural! At one stage while in the bath, I did experience a sudden crisis in confidence that I couldn't take another contraction, so asked for some gas. When they set it up and handed the mask to me, telling me to take a deep breath in, I knew straight away that it wasn't going to work for me - no relief, plus the mask made it extremely difficult to yell out! So, I chucked it way thinking to myself that I was in for the long haul. In some ways, it was good to at least try the gas, to know that I could do this on my own.

Having my own midwife with me at the hospital seemed the most logical way to do things. Even the hospital midwives agreed, one telling me that she wished more women would bring their own midwives into the hospital. The hospital midwives were kind and gentle and worked well with Joy, seeming to be happy to let her to work closely with me while they took the necessary tests to satisfy hospital protocol. From their point of view, they can come and go as they please, knowing that Joy is monitoring me and always there.

All in all, my husband and I were extremely happy with the decision to have an independent midwife during the pregnancy and birth - I would definately do it again, and I would definately aim for another natural birth - hopefully next time the baby won't need to be coaxed out!