By Petrie Porter
Since beginning my journey to motherhood I have always known that I wanted to learn as much as I could about a Calmbirth method. My partner, Alex, and I attended a wonderful 2 day Calmbirth workshop with Maja at the North Shore Private Hospital when I was 35 weeks pregnant, and three weeks later our little girl made her way into the world.
Maja delivered the Calmbirth course with exceptional understanding, compassion, rationalism and humour that totally reinforced my innate knowledge that my body was designed to give birth, and that I was made to be a mother. I found all the information was not necessarily used on the day, but being so well informed and having my “tool box” of Calmbirth techniques at the ready allowed me to feel in control of my birth experience that could so easily have felt totally out of my control.
The mental fortitude that I was gifted and maintained through the use of these Calmbirth techniques has truly enabled me to look back on this life changing experience with joy and gratitude. I hope this intimate recount of my beautiful Calmbirth experience can inspire others to view birth as a positive and calm experience.
Diary of a woman in labour…
MONDAY 15th July 2019
Monday 11am appointment with my midwife Kim, normal as always (totally uncomplicated pregnancy, tiring but almost boring with normality). Now 37weeks, 6 days. High blood pressure and protein in urine. Plugged in to CTG for an hour, bloods taken, protein “extremely high” so admitted to maternity ward until blood tests can come back. Bloods not great either- showing up some kidney malfunction due to high BP (preeclampsia). Not sure how long I will be in hospital so ask my girlfriend Ingrid to bring my hospital bag from home, send the dog to my mother in law’s with my brother in law (dog is huge and disabled, so needs lots of special care) and cancel my other appointments for the day. One nurse jokes, ” I’ll be here until the baby is born”. I laugh. It is my first day off work and I was looking forward to having a two week break before baby, lots of little jobbies to get done and self care pampering booked in – lunch dates, mani pedi, massage etc. My partner and baby daddy Alex is due to arrive back from an overseas wedding in Amsterdam in 3 more sleeps.
When we agreed he would go, despite knowing the risk of me being technically full term, I happily said to him “I don’t care if you’re there. I could give birth by myself, naked in a forest. I don’t need you to be there.” But he confirmed that HE would be devastated to miss it and wanted to be there for the birth of his first child and to support me. “Well you need to decide if it’s worth the risk,” I said, “I would never resent you for missing it. So go if you want to go”. And he did. “Stay pregnant!” He said jokingly.
On Monday evening, Ingrid has brought my beautifully packed and prepared hospital bag, complete with speaker, stress ball, lavender oil etc and all of my Calmbirth swag for the big event. At this stage, I hope I don’t need it any time soon but in the back of my mind I’m aware that’s probably not the case. Ingrid and I chill out and text everyone photos of my big belly and happy face. Still in shared room- no one else here yet. Air Con and shower both not working. “Good thing I’m not paying for this hotel room” I joke, but also desperate for some comfort. Holding my shit together. “Single parenting” this week I joke. Waiting for Alex to wake up on the other side of the world as no point bothering him until we know what is going on. Still waiting for Doctors to come in- Kim to come back when they have results and discussed. Doctors and midwives on duty are notified by Kim that “hubby” is away overseas until Thursday morning. Doctors want to induce labour ASAP as kidneys are trashed (protein is extremely high and BP not down even with medication). Kim advocates for me and my situation and Dr Ajay agrees we can wait until Wednesday night to induce for Thursday delivery- AT THE LATEST as there is high risk of very serious kidney damage and seizures. We will have a baby by the end of the week! All a bit overwhelming but I’m in high functioning mode so no time for emotions at this stage. I book a flight for my Mum to come from interstate on Tuesday morning. Ingrid goes home for evening and back in the morning with more clothes and toiletries.
TUESDAY 16th JULY
Up all night every 1-3 hours getting BP taken. Very disruptive and no point sleeping. Extremely tired! Did not sleep well the night before either but powering on. Have not slept well for the entire pregnancy, so what’s the difference? Doctors arrive to room in the morning. Have all had a big meeting about my “case” and want to induce NOW. What has changed? Nothing but that’s what they want. “I’m not ready” I say. My friends Amy, Sarah and Amy’s baby Louie drop by after Ingrid leaves. Lovely to see them but very tiring. My mum finally arrives. Everyone else leaves. “No more visitors, yeah?”, says Mum. “Agreed”.
Mum is an emergency dept nurse and understands risks of waiting. Wants me to do as they say. “You need to surrender and accept what they are recommending”. Tears. All day. Call Alex again to update him. He starts crying as soon as I call. Think I’ve seen him cry once in 5 years, my heart is breaking. He is sobbing ucontrollable. I can hear him run to the bathroom and start throwing up. “I am physically sick with sadness” he texts me later. “I should never have put you in this position. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You and this baby are my whole world. Do what you need to do to be safe. I’m so sorry I’m not there. I should be there with you”…
I speak to doctors later on and ask to see my midwife Kim. Still getting BP, CTG, blood tests, medication etc etc – constantly interrupted all day. Still no sleep in 3 days at least. Exhausted.
Kim arrives and rips into doctors about not notifying her this morning. She is angry at them for doing cervical check without her (very very uncomfortable). Cervical check by doctor found that I was already at least 2-3cm dilated, could feel baby’s head- thus could be induced immediately with no ripening. I was told Kim would be informed about change of plans. She wasn’t. I agree to be induced at doctor persuasion. Doctors “relieved”. Mum relieved. Me? Emotional. Stressed. Sobbing. Kim speaks to me privately. She is “so sorry you’ve been put through this. It’s not fair. Do you feel like you’re being pressured?” “Yes. Why has it all of a sudden changed? Thought we had until Wednesday night?” Kim asks me to decide what is best for me holistically as she is worried about my mental emotional wellbeing. “Look into your heart and feel what is best for you to do”, she says. Some consideration, tooing and froing of decision.
I call Alex. He would not ask me to wait. Crying again/still. I tell him I want to wait for him – for his sake too. I remember thinking what a momentous and brave opportunity this is for me to show him how much I love him and why wouldn’t I take that opportunity? We decide to wait. I tell him – “We need to be happy with this decision as a family – no matter what happens going forward”. Agreed. Happy tears- “we get to meet our baby! Let’s get excited! Even if you miss the birth, you need to be happy that we get to meet our new baby!”
WEDNESDAY 17th JULY
I try to get some rest. Kim feels decision is a good one. Mum and doctors on board. Got some tomazepam to help sleep. 4 hours in a row! First time in months. Mum and I have a rest day in between all the checks and obs and go for a short walk (literally 5metres out of door to hospital) to sit in sunshine. Last day being pregnant with this bubby. God bless this little soul. Waiting patiently for its Dad but ready to come out and be held and loved.
Speak to Dr Ajay this morning. He is very kind and compassionate- says his opinion still stands and he is charged with considering the well-being of three people- me, bub and hubby. He feels that the well-being of each has been maintained and not compromised by waiting another day. Kim comes back in the evening to insert tape to ripen cervix. Cervix already in better condition and head lower than yesterday. Baby is getting ready on its own. Tape in. Discomfort all night despite short nap helped by codeine.
THURSDAY 18th JULY
More regular contractions start around 3:30am. Seem to be every minute so little to no break between but not long enough yet. Meralyn (overnight nurse) comes to do CTG around 6am. 6:15am I shout out to her “Meralyn! I’m leaking!”
My waters have broken organically. Waters were due to be artificially ruptured by Kim at 7am- plan was then to kick start extensive and obtrusive induction involving synthetic hormone drip, epidural (plus catheter) etc etc. No longer needed! Baby is making its own way out! We may still have our intended natural and low intervention unmedicated birth we had hoped for.
Meralyn leaves door open “make as much noise as you want darling, I’ll be right out here”. Room is dark. I have a quick shower in between contractions and try to get dressed. I put on my face cream, my deodorant, my lavender oil. I brush my teeth and hair and put on new undies. I feel in charge of this moment and feel comfortable in this space. No; it’s not my home, my birth partner isn’t here and I haven’t set the mood with candles and music. No; it’s not exactly how I imagined and envisioned my potentially 16 hour early labour would go but I feel calm and in control in this space that I have owned. Contractions are getting regular and strong so breathing is not enough. I try to walk around the space and stop to lean on bed, sink or walls to moan through contractions. Sounds a lot like a vocal warm up class in the studio at the Oxford
School of Drama where I studied for 3 years. “Ohhhhhhh” I breathe in through my nose and moan out and down into my base chakra. I find my stress ball and squeeze. I text Mum and Alex “hurry up”.
Kim arrives and gets ready to take me to the birthing unit. She is very excited! “Well done Petrie! You’re doing great! This is great news!”
We walk/moan/sway to the birthing unit. Mum arrives. Cervix is 6cm. Baby monitor on tummy insufficient so clip is attached to baby head through another vaginal exam. I’m losing my patience and somewhat demanding – trying to be polite “water. Touch my legs. Stop. Not there. Rub my back” Mum is a pro and I can hardly hear Kim over my moans but she is calm and supportive. Mum tried to put music on- no time, just leave it. I am lying on my side and feel urge to push “I need to do a poo”. Kim asks “do you really?” I say “I feel like I want to push”.
“Don’t push” they say. “I can’t NOT push”. Mum says ,“Practice your breathing. Practice what you’ve learnt”. I have not learnt anything about THIS. We learnt about breathing through PAIN. This is not pain. I can’t breathe through anything. I feel like I’m trying to suck up but it doesn’t do anything. How do I stop wanting to push? “I CAN’T NOT PUSH!!!!” I keep yelling and in each break I start to panic “What do I do? What do I do?” I don’t want to get a 3rd or 4th degree tear or hurt my baby. Kim offers me some gas. Mum helps me pant. I can almost resist the urge but not for long. It’s too much. Kim does another exam. “I’ve got some good news; you’re fully dilated.” Does this mean I can push? “Yes but my only concern is Alex.” “Fuck Alex.” I say. No but actually, he should probably be here, I consider. “Mum can you call him?” I ask. He’s 10 minutes away. “Tell him to hurry the fuck up” , I yell as another contraction starts.
Kim says, I can do small pushes with each contraction. Feels so good. Like getting out a big solid poo. Baby is getting tired- it’s time to step it up so I change position to all fours, leaning over side bed head. I feel active and engaged in this position. I’m ready to get this baby out. Alex arrives. Mum tells him to wash his hands in case I want him to catch it. I can push now. I can feel baby coming down. Baby is getting tired and I need to really bear down. I feel like I’m going to tear or shatter my pelvis. “I can’t do this. I need more time. How many more pushes do I have?” Maybe 5 says Kim. Ok. I can do this. Big pushes with one contraction. Wait for the next one two big pushes- I feel my vocalisation release and I sound like I’m in pain (which I am.)
It is guttural and visceral and primal. I think about a mantra I read that “Mother’s leave their bodies during labour and travel to the stars to collect the soul of their baby and return to this world together”. I utterly connect with this image and see my soul reaching out to bring my baby into the world. I feel that I cannot possibly give any more of myself to this moment. I am submitted whole bodily.
I can hear Kim yelling but can’t hear what. “Just pant! Just pant!”, confirms mum. Oh shit. Nearly tore myself a new arsehole. The head is out apparently “Hello little soul!” says mum. Next contraction the baby slips out and I ask to catch her. She is very grey/blue, sticky and not crying. “Hello little one” I say. “She’s not crying”. Why isn’t she crying? She needs to breathe. I sit back and hold her on me. Kim gets Alex to come around next to me and tells me to lift baby away to see sex. “What is it?” I can’t tell. “It’s a girl!” Says Kim. A little girl. So small and precious. And still blue. Kim and Mum help me lie down, injection to get the placenta out. A bit stuck. Kim is rushing the other midwife as baby is “a bit blue”. Alex cuts cord quickly and baby girl is put under heater and given oxygen and lots of rubs. Little cry. Good sound. She comes back on me. I’m still in shock I guess. No crying from me. Too tired to smile. Just exhausted. Relieved. My body hasn’t had enough time to produce any happy hormones yet. Just relief.
Kim invites Doctor in to check tear. “Not sure if it’s a 2nd or 3rd degree”. Oh well. Why is my sacrum/coccyx so sore? “Because she came out so fast. You’ll have a bit of bruising”. Doctor confirms only 2nd degree tear. Thank god! Time to stitch up. Back on the gas. Over did it a bit and incredibly high. Alex and Mum leaning over me to talk to baby. Talking to me I guess? Alex has turned music on at my request. We finally get to crack out my carefully planned “Birth Mix”, albeit a bit late. I am hearing and seeing everything in double. Feels good but once I realise how high I am decide I should probably stop sucking. Blood and fluid all over legs, feet, bed. Quite a bit of blood due to hypertension but not too bad. Kim asks do I want a shower? Oh yes please! I have been told I need to do a wee before I’m allowed to go back to my room. Can’t on the loo or in the shower. Mum helps me shower and dress while Alex and bub have some skin on skin. Very cute. She looks like him- big lips, same nose and cheeks.
Bum bone incredibly sore. Lunch brought in. Debrief with Alex and Mum. “What time is it?” Only a 2 hour labour! Holy moly. Alex made it with 20 minutes to spare. Incredible. No intervention. I ask them to take lots of photos and send them to family. I am spent. Kim brings lunch for me. Still no wee but she will ask if I can go back to my room anyway. If I don’t do a wee by 2:30pm they will put in a catheter. No pressure.
Mum goes to get a cuppa and Alex and I decide on name. Harper, like Harper Lee and Jean, like her great grandmother. Both strong, intelligent, kind and compassionate women who changed and shaped my life. I still can’t absorb what has happened. I can’t believe that she’s mine. I can’t believe Alex is here.
FRIDAY 19th-SUNDAY 21st
My BP still high over subsequent days. Will need to stay in hospital 3-4days. Potentially life long kidney damage. Hypertension may go away within a few weeks or may persist for life.
Baby and I practicing feeding. Quite painful and some blisters but getting easier. She is very sweet- no crying, happy and keen to suckle. Making cute noises. Precious. I am so proud of myself and keep breaking down with disbelief and happiness.
Kim says, she believes that spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically I knew exactly what to do. She was in awe at how “natural” it was for me and how logical and calm I was during the birth. She said, “you were made for this.” I know I was.