Leo's Birth Story
[Preface: I believe every birth experience is unique and different. I share my personal experience and what worked/didn’t work for me knowing that no one person experiences labour and birth in the same way. I want to honour all mothers, would be mothers and to-be mothers and their experiences as precious, valued and highly personal, each and every one].
It was the day before Leo’s “guess date” (aka due date) when I felt my first contraction around 9am on Wednesday August 15th. So far in my pregnancy I hadn’t experienced any braxton hicks contractions, or any other signs that labour was close. So even that morning, I wasn’t quite sure it was even what I thought it was.
I told Mum and Dan, and decided I’d mostly stay in bed, in case it was the real thing, as I wanted to conserve my energy for later.
Throughout the day the contractions varied from 5 minutes apart to 20 minutes apart, but they didn’t ever really stop.
I had a new fitness session starting that afternoon that one of my trainers was running, but I was really keen to be there just to make sure it all went well. Thankfully it was only a 3 minute drive away, so about 3:30pm Mum (a highly experienced Doula) drove me there, and I (slowly) walked to the spot and introduced myself to the new crew, also mentioning that I was possibly in labour, and taking a moment to sit down when a contraction came. They all thought I was crazy.
I’d just gotten in the habit of focusing on my breath when the contractions happened, and relaxing as much as possible.
By evening, the contractions were slowly getting closer together. I wanted to stay at home as long as possible, because I knew it would be where I was most relaxed and comfortable, and that moving into an unfamiliar space could slow down the labour. However by about 9:30pm, the frequency and intensity had increased to about 2 and a half minutes apart (4 in 10 minutes), so we called the midwife and let her know we’d be heading into the hospital soon.
I’d only seen her the day before, at which I’d said, ‘I’m pretty sure he’s not coming anytime soon, as I think he’ll be a week and a half over his guess date.’ The LAST thing I ever thought was that he’d actually be born ON his guess date!
Arriving at the hospital we were greeted by my midwife Pam. She got the bath running, and helped Mum pin up my birth affirmations bunting that my wonderful girlfriends had made for me at my Mother Blessing. I already had my necklace on which was a string of unique beads which each carried a meaning and thought from my circle of support.
I decided I wanted to be in the water first, as I’d imagined I would like to have a water birth. However after a while in the bath, I wasn’t as comfortable as I wanted, so it was suggested I try something different. I remember shivering a lot going from the bath to the bed.
I had my eyes closed by the way, through every contraction from 9am that morning til the moment Leo was born. It was my way of being “in the zone,” and focusing on my breathing. I don’t remember looking much at my birth affirmations, however I’d had them hung at home for the last few weeks, so a lot of them were already in my head, and they would pop into my mind here and there throughout the night.
I also had no sense of time (which was a good thing, actually). Throughout the night with the guidance of my Mum and midwife, I experimented with different positions - lying on my side in the bed, kneeling and leaning over the upright bedhead, standing bent over with my head on the bed, leaning on the CUB (Comfortable Upright Birth) seat, sitting on the toilet facing backwards, lying in the bath, and squatting leaning back on Dan.
At one point when I was in the bath for the second time, I just couldn’t get comfortable. I’d read that most women experience at some point during the labour a ‘crisis of confidence’ where they question their ability to continue or get discouraged by lack of progression. I remember saying to Mum, “Mum, I think I’m about to have a crisis of confidence.” Mum and my midwife were smart enough to suggest trying something different and getting out of the bath as it just wasn’t working for me.
At some point in the early hours of the morning, Mum suggested putting on the hypno-birthing tracks I’d listened to during my pregnancy. Basically it’s soft calming music with a lady speaking a guided breathing routine and affirmations throughout it. Amazingly, I was able to lie on my side in the bed, with the CUB between my legs, and progress through the contractions for a few hours peacefully with the hypnobirthing playing. It was exactly what I needed, as I was pretty tired by that point.
Apparently at some point during this time, the obstetrician on duty came in and was concerned that I’d stopped contracting because I looked asleep. My midwife assured her that I was still having regular contractions, as she felt my abdomen pulpating, and noticed my breathing changed whenever a contraction came. What I was doing, as a new contraction would come, was saying to myself ‘Here’s another wave, I can ride it. I can work through this one contraction.’ Then I would count 3 counts as I inhaled, and 6 counts as I exhaled, while drumming my fingers on the side of the bed. Apparently this is what I’d been doing for hours to the hynobirthing tracks.
Around 5am, my midwife decided it was probably time to do an internal check on how things were progressing with dilation. I was nervous because I knew it was possible that I hadn’t progressed as far as everyone would like, and if that was the case, after a long night, I knew I’d be discouraged. So they decided to check but just not tell me. What Mum did tell me was that I was ‘over half way’ (later found out I was about 7cm dilated), but that there was a bit of a hiccup. The cervix wasn’t opening evenly, and there was what is called an ‘anterior lip’ - part of the cervix was not thinning out and moving back to let Bub’s head through.
Mum sprang into action and using some Spinning Babies methods, we spent the next few hours trying some techniques to lift Bub’s head off the cervix in order for the anterior lip to move. This included standing and leaning back on Mum or Dan, and during contractions they would have their arms around and under my belly and lift it up throughout contractions. Another position was on the floor head down, bum up, with a scarf-like piece of material around my belly, while Mum and the midwife shimmied my belly during contractions. Amazingly, when the midwife did the next internal, I was 8cm, and although the anterior lip was still there, it had thinned out.
The next option was to either get an injection of ‘hormone’ to ‘help dilation progress,’ or have the midwife attempt to manually push back the lip with her fingers. I opted for latter, and while it was uncomfortable, it wasn’t overly painful. Thankfully my midwife was able to succeed in pushing it back, and within about an hour or so I’d reached full dilation.
By this time, I was pretty tired, but also kinda excited that the end was close. The urge to push didn’t quite kick in straight away though, and it was a challenge for me to switch from just breathing through contractions to ‘pushing’ with them and using my breath differently. I tried kneeling on the bed leaning over the bedhead, but my legs were so tired they were hardly keeping me up. So we moved to standing and leaning over the bed. I didn’t last super long here either though, because my legs were dying. Then I moved to sitting backwards on the toilet. This was pretty good as I could rest my head on the toilet top between contractions.
The whole cue of ‘push like you’re doing a poo’ is really helpful to focus on where to send the energy, BUT it also made me actually poo. Dang it. That was one thing I was hoping to avoid during the birth. However by this time, it really didn’t matter, and I figured I just needed my body to do whatever it took to get this baby earth-side.
My awesome husband came over to me at on point and whispered in my ear, ‘Don’t worry about all that stuff, it doesn’t bother me at all.’ That REALLY helped, as I had originally been concerned that he’d be put off my all the bodily excretions happening, lol.
Eventually my midwife (a new one by this point) suggested I hop on the bed. So, in the position I LEAST expected to birth my baby, here I was on the bed, semi-upright, with Dan holding one leg back and Mum holding the other, while I PUSHED.
The obstetrician visited a few more times to let me know that it was taking ‘longer than they would like’ for Leo to arrive, and that if things didn’t progress soon, I’d need an episiotomy (cut the perineum) and vacuum suction to help him out. Well I tell you, there’s nothing like the threat of those two things to motivate a natural-minded Mumma to push her baby out without assistance!
So with the encouragement of the two midwives, Mum, Dan and Dad, the real pushing began. I was still trying to work out how to use my breath to help push at this point, and I asked Mum, ‘What do I do with my mouth?’ Her reply was, ‘Shut it. Put your head in your vagina.’ I realised that what I needed to do was actually take a big breath, hold it, and focus on pushing down so baby would come out.
It took a while, but eventually his head was visible. They moved the mirror on the door to the end of the bed so I could see. For just a second I looked up, and could see his head. This motivated me that I COULD finish this, and the obstetrician could go “elsewhere.” With each push he’d come out a bit, then retract a bit. I was finally able to get his head to stay and not retreat. I remember being told about the ‘ring of fire’ feeling when the head’s crowning. I could feel it, and to me it just felt like a BIG stretch of the skin and muscles down there. Once his head was born, the midwife told me that with the next contraction, I’d need to push with everything I had left to get him out. Funnily though, it felt like the next contraction didn’t come for ages. Finally I felt the wave building again, and with literally everything I had left I pushed with all my might. I remember feeling the muscles in my stomach working super hard. Everything in my whole body was working to bring this little man into the world.
Then, as he exited his watery world for good, in an instant all the pain and exhaustion vanished as Dan grabbed little Leo and passed him to me and lay him on my chest. Relief. Joy. Euphoria. Such a mix of emotions in that moment. After 17+ hours since arriving at the hospital, I felt amazingly awake, strong and full of energy as my little boy lay on my chest taking his first breaths. The surge of hormones was insane. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life.
I couldn’t believe it, he was finally here! Every contraction had brought him closer and closer. And the little munchkin arrived at 2:20pm ON his guess date - something I never thought would happen! …I wonder if he’ll be an ‘on time’ personality as he grows up??
Looking back, there was never a point at which I felt unbearable pain, so I never felt the need to ask for pain relief. There were certainly several times that I doubted myself in my head, but I never voiced it. All I did was focus on each contraction as it built, let it roll over me, breath my way through it, and rest in-between.
As I was lying there holding Leo in the few hours after he was born, a few thoughts ran through my head: next time I am definitely going to train legs more and do more flexibility work during pregnancy, because I was disappointed that my legs let me down and I didn’t birth in an upright position. I also thought next time I’d stay at home even longer if I could (or maybe just have a home birth). And I thought I will definitely use the hypno-birthing tracks earlier on during labour to help work through contractions. Labour and birth is absolutely a mindset game, more than a physical effort. I theoretically knew that, and wasn’t sure if my mindset would be as strong as I hoped, but in the end it was! This has given be so much confidence in myself, my body and what I am capable of as a woman, wife and mother.
In saying that, however, I certainly acknowledge that Leo’s labour and birth is the most physically demanding experience of my life. I haven’t run a full marathon before (although I’ve completed a few half marathons), but the birth certainly felt like a marathon, and I am so proud of my body, and my mind for staying strong the whole time. I definitely believe that being physically fit and being used to a training and working-out mindset helped me heaps. I approached the contractions during labour just like reps and sets in the gym. When you do interval training, you might do 40 seconds work and have 20 seconds rest, for example. Well, I just applied my mind to each contraction like it was an interval. I breathed through it, and let my body do its work. Then I rested and relaxed as much as possible in-between each contraction. It was seriously the biggest endurance workout of my life! I felt like freaking superwoman when Leo was born. I felt so empowered that my body was capable of bringing him into the world. Our bodies are TRULY amazing!
I also know, too, that I couldn’t have done it without the support I had. The support of fantastic midwives, my Mum & doula, my husband and my Dad who were present, and my circle of support who were thinking of and praying for me throughout the whole labour and birth. Without this, and my belief that God created our bodies to be powerful, capable and built for birth, I wouldn’t have been able to endure. But WITH the support I had, and mindset I adopted, I can look back on Leo’s birth with so much joy, appreciation and gratefulness for such an amazing experience.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read about my experience. I would love to hear from you!