Rach and Pat had a positive experience of the birth of their son in a public hospital at 34 weeks! They have given permission for their story to be shared.
I woke up at around 3am on Tuesday 27th December 2022 to some bleeding. We had only been back in Newcastle less than a week and in our new house for 3 nights. I woke up Pat and we called the birthing suite at our hospital for advice. The birth suite advised to come in for a check. We arrived at the hospital just before 4am and went straight up to birthing suite where we saw the doctor and midwife within the hour. They were unsure where the bleeding had come from and it appeared to have stopped bleeding. The doctors popped us on the continuous monitoring to check bubs heart rate (which was all good) and advised me that I was having some tightenings. At this point I didn’t know what these were nor could I really feel them – I just thought bub was moving around a lot.
The doctors said they wanted to admit me for 24 hours of monitoring to ensure no further bleeding and also wanted to order a transvaginal ultrasound to check my cervix length (my cervix was already found to be shortening from 28 weeks and I had been on progesterone to manage this). They doctors said on visual examination that my cervix looked soft but not dilated at all. We had the ultrasound which confirmed no further shortening of my cervix since my previous scan about a week and a half ago which was good.
A bed became available on the ward so we were moved there – into a private room (yay). Did a few walks and spent some time wandering to the cafe to fill in the day. Pat spent most of the day with me which made things so much better. On the morning of the 28th the doctors advised they wanted to keep me in for another night to ensure 48 hours of no bleeding. Bummer as I’d had no further bleeding or tightenings and the scan showed no further shortening of my cervix but better to be safe than sorry I suppose. Another uneventful day – mum and dad visited for a coffee and Pat left the ward at about 7:30pm. I just relaxed in my private room watching movies and getting some rest before getting to go home in the morning and getting back into unpacking the house.
I woke up about 11:30pm to my waters breaking. The midwives were great and sat with me while they popped the monitoring back on and chatted with me for a long time making me feel at ease. I was told this would mean I would have to stay in hospital until bub arrived due to the risk of infection now the membrane was broken. I would need IV antibiotics and also steroids injections for bubs lungs in case they decided to come early. Midwives advised I was having more tightenings – again, I couldn’t really feel anything, just an odd painless pressure/movement feeling. They sat with me and timed how many I was having – about 4 in 10 minutes. The doctor came by about 6am and re-explained that I would need to stay in. They said I may or may not go into spontaneous labour. If I did, they would not intervene as bub was far enough along to be low risk for major complications despite still being early. If I didn’t go into labour spontaneously, they would induce me at 37 weeks. I was currently 34 weeks, 5 days so could potentially mean another 2 weeks in hospital. At this time, they checked my cervix again – still not dilating. They said it looked ‘soft’ but did not appear to be in early labour.
Pat arrived to the ward about 7am on the morning of the 29th December. He brought with him our ‘labour bag’ packed full of our tools that we’d planned to use – things like a tens machine, clary sage oils, playlists, swimmers for the shower, snacks etc.
By about 8:30-9am I was becoming more aware of the tightenings/pressure and finding it difficult to sleep or rest. Still not painful but little twinges that were too regular to have any downtime. Pat and I went to the cafe for a coffee and then hung out in the room.
By this time, I was starting to feel quite painful cramps. I had a long hot shower which helped with the cramps. I was told by midwives that this was potentially braxton hicks and to wait and see how it progressed but it would likely pass.
The cramps continued to intensify and I used movement including rocking my hips and leaning over the bed as well as deep breathing to help with the pain. We also did the ‘Shake the apples’ movement where Pat jiggled my hips from behind which also helped.
Eventually I got given some panadeine forte and was told it would likely stop the cramping. It did not. The tightenings continued to build in intensity and frequency. By 11:20am the midwives wanted to pop the monitoring back on so I was told to get back into bed. This was super uncomfortable as I found movement was what had been helping mostly and I hated having to lay still in the bed. While lying in bed, I would say my pain was about an 8/10. The midwives agreed that my demeanour had changed and called for the doctor to come and check me. They arrived about 11:50am and were hesitant to check my cervix as there was a risk of infection due to membranes already being broken but they agreed to check as they could see that I was super uncomfortable.
The doctor checked me and I just remember her saying ‘Okay, I can see a head’. I looked at Pat and we were both in absolute shock. He had some tears in his eyes – we were definitely not expecting to hear that. I think the medical team were also surprised.
I honestly think that it was the strategies we learnt in Calmbirth about moving and breathing through the pain that helped us progress to this point so calmly!
From here things happened so fast, people arrived from what seemed like nowhere and pushed my bed through the hospital to the birthing suite. I remember asking the doctor on the way there if she could see if the baby had hair. She said yes, it seemed like it had dark hair and I replied oh, so not a redhead like me then! Pat was following along with the midwife who was explaining that after the baby was born, he would go with the baby to NICU. Within a few minutes of arriving to the birthing suite, I had the urge to push. The midwives said my contractions were quite short and were trying to get two pushes from me during each contraction. It was hard work and I definitely remember saying ‘I can’t’ when they told me to keep pushing.
I began to make a throaty grunting noise. The midwife said that they were bringing the gas in – it never ended up arriving and I was glad I didn’t need it. Completing the Calmbirth course gave me the confidence to want to try to have birth without pain relief if possible. I was definitely open to it if needed but felt like I had the tools to do so without!
I was pushing while lying on my back and the midwife asked if I wanted to move positions. I did as my plan was to not be on my back if I could avoid it. So I stood up and leant over the bed and did some pushing standing up. It felt so much better being up standing and able to move and sway my hips. Pat was on the other side of the bed, looking across at me and giving me words of encouragement and love throughout.
The midwife said that baby had their hand up against their face and seemed like they were a bit stuck. They asked me to get back on the bed and called the doctor to review me for a potential episiotomy and assisted delivery. The doctor arrived and said she didn’t think it was needed and was happy to let me have a bit more time trying.
Within another 5 minutes of pushing while on my back, you were out – born at 12:37pm on 29th December 2022 at 34 weeks and 5 days! We’d been in the birthing suite less than 30 minutes and you were here! Pat helped catch you as you came out and he helped the midwife place you onto my chest. You were absolutely perfect.
You were placed on my chest before they even told us the sex. Eventually the midwife picked you up again to show Pat your sex and he was the one who told me – a little boy! Our baby boy Nash.
You scored 9 on all three APGARS but did need some suctioning to clear some secretions. The nurse from NICU was there and she did some additional checks with Pat by your side while I birthed the placenta. I was given the injection to help speed this process up. At 23 minutes of age, you were admitted to the special care nursery in the NICU with your dad with you the whole time. He texted me from the NICU to tell me you weighed 2.63kg, were 49cms long and had a head circumference of 31cm. You were tiny to us but everyone kept saying you were such a good size for a premmie babe!
I was assessed by the midwives and only had one small grade 1 tear and two small grazes. I did not require any stitches. And I only lost 150mL of blood. I felt great and within 20 minutes after you were whisked away I was up and showering. Because we got moved so quickly, I had none of my belongings so it was a very sad soapless shower and back into the same clothes I was wearing before. I had no shoes either so into the nice hospital non-slip red socks. I was taken up to the NICU and got to do some skin to skin cuddles with you. You were on CPAP so we were unable to try a breastfeed. You had a tube for feeds. Luckily, you didn’t need the CPAP for too long so we got to try our first breastfeed the next day on the 30th December. You were so sleepy and found it hard to breastfeed. We ended up using a nipple shield and you got better and stronger with feeding each day.
14 days in the special care nursery, a heap of tube feeds and a couple of rounds of phototherapy later and we were allowed to take you home! You came home on the 12th January 2023 exclusively breastfeeding and have been feeding and sleeping like a champ ever since! Still as perfect as the day we met you and we consider ourselves so lucky we got to meet you five and a bit weeks earlier than expected.
As per my discharge summary – labour times were: Stage one: 1 hour, 10 minutes, Second stage: 27 minutes, Total labour time: 1 hour, 48 minutes.
Despite how quickly everything happened, we were still able to incorporate the Calmbirth techniques. Pat also said he felt a lot more confident and had more of an understanding of what was happening due to what we learnt in the course. The course was also highly regarded by the midwives and when things got a little intense, the midwives actually redirected us back to what we learnt in Calmbirth!
Just wanted to say thanks again for the course and all the best with your future classes!
I’m loving mum life and having the best time with little (not so little anymore) Nash! He’s almost 5 months old – cannot believe it!