This was how I met my little Sienna biscuit.
My mantra was “what will be, will be” but secretly I knew I was going to have a “good” birth. I was going to labour as much as possible at home and then go into hospital for the hard bit. I was looking forward to the excitement of feeling that first contraction, my waters breaking and the slow waddle into the hospital. I was looking forward to sharing this with my husband. We found the ceremony of getting married very special and we were both looking forward to this next ritual. I packed my bag and then needed items in it and then packed it again and then needed more items. In the end I just lived out of the suitcase for the last three weeks. My baby was due the 2nd of February but I knew my baby was coming earlier. I had to stretch the dates of my last menstrual period to get in to see the obstetrician (all his January dates were full) and so although I was due in early February, my little squiggle always measured ahead.
My pregnancy was good, no problems, brilliant test results. My working day was as per normal but with the added bliss of a baby in my belly and the knowledge I was going to meet a new little human of all my own. I would go about my day, hard and long, but when I got in my car to trundle home at night, I could not stop smiling. I was having a baby.
My hips were sore at the end but people were so kind. Some were alarmed when I swayed into a shop or a party. I liked peoples expressions. I was getting big. I read up all about the birth yet skipped the chapters on caesarean sections. My mother had straight forward births and gave me confidence throughout my life that birth was a wondrous thing. Hard work but beautiful. I wasn't scared, I was curious to see how I would go (last words of a first time mother I hear of my more experienced mama friends). We chose a lovely doctor. We interviewed a couple and then gave Bruce the job. Funny how the doctors seemed surprised that it was not a given my husband and I would give them the job of helping us deliver our baby. I am an older mother and well educated as is my husband. We decided no medical intervention unless absolutely needed, focus on midwives and no pain relief unless asked for. Bruce was our man. He is a father of six, grandfather and his wife worked the reception.
New Years Eve came. We spent it down south with friends. I started laughing and contractions began. Strong and consistent but never growing closer in time. We ate squid we caught that day. We drank mango cocktails (milkshake for me) and sat on the veranda and saw in the new year. Women told me that “you know” when the real contractions start as opposed to Braxton Hicks but I didn’t know and couldn’t tell. A week went by, another. Where was my baby? People asked. Right here, I replied. I was telephoned, texted, facebooked, emailed, message banked and stopped in the street – all wondering when baby was going to make the grand entrance. I closed the door, cooked and dreamed. I saw Bruce each week. My blood pressure was good, all was well with baby but my hips were starting to fall apart. At three days over, Bruce said I could have an induction as I could no longer walk. What was best for Squiggly? Bruce said bubby was very happy and comfortable so we waited. I wanted the excitement, I could sit on a couch for a few more days. 10 days overdue. I was uncomfortable. My lovely friend had lost her baby at birth some years before and I was starting to worry. We went for an appointment and Bruce’s lovely wife saw plus 2 protein in my urine. Bruce reassured us that it could be a contaminated sample (it was quite hard to pee accurately at that point) and my blood pressure was fine. By this time, I had had enough. I wanted to meet my baby. I thought going to hospital might actually bring on the labour. Bruce advised that we could go in that afternoon and then start an induction the next day if things did not start. Contractions were coming and going as they had for the past three weeks. We arrived. Late. This is normal for us. We were laughing and deciding what to order from the local café strip. The anesthetist arrived. Peculiar bunch they are. Just my opinion. He ignored my warning that I had “bad arms” and ignored my further suggestion that the crook of my arm was the only place doctors in the past had been able to put a drip in. Five tries later, he put the drip in the crook of my arm. The midwives smirked. He then had two goes putting the needle into my spine. This was the worst part of it for me. I was adamant that I was not going to have an epidural. No pride involved just bloody scared about having a foreign object in my spine. Bruce gave me the option. I didn’t have to have it but with the increased chance of pre-eclampsia due to the increased protein in my urine sample, he gave me the information that it would be a good precaution to have it in place to control my blood pressure if there were any problems. I was so scared of having an epidural. I am a prepared free spirit. I don’t have to follow any set plan in life but I do like to research and be prepared for any eventuality, whatever they may be. This is how I achieve a peaceful mind. I had the epidural for my baby. The anesthetist was nicknamed “Speedy” said the midwives. Several came to visit to wonder at the sight of the many punctures in my arms and back. The anesthetist slunk away from my room, dismay all over his face. My husband bunkered down and slept. He was ready and getting prepared. I was to take care of baby, he was to take care of me. I couldn’t sleep. My hips hurt. My back hurt. I had contractions. Most of all, my brain was trying to cope with the drip in my arm and the needle in my back. A constant refrain was that this time tomorrow I would have met my baby. I watched the sun rise. I wasn’t peaceful. I was worried, I was scared and I was tired already. My husband held my hand and tried to give me perspective. The midwife arrived mid morning and asked to start the induction. Bruce reassured me that I was delivering the baby, not the drugs. We began. Contractions began but contrary to what I thought would happen in an induction they were not painful. They progressed to being stronger and a shorter time in between. One contraction and the baby’s heart rate dropped suddenly. All action stations but then the heartbeat resumed at a normal pace. Like a little train. We watched Kerri- Anne on the minute television. I breathed. My back hurt. My husband gave me water, held my hands and reminded me to breathe. I had bought a birthing ball but my hips were so painful I couldn’t walk. Bruce came and broke my waters. With my husband on one side, Greg the male midwife on the other (I’m not kidding) and Bruce in the middle, I could not help but think “this is so not my birth plan”. I repeated to myself “Healthy baby, healthy mama, everything else is gravy”. This was not hard to do because for a long time we thought we could not have a baby so my priority was baby out healthy and happy. Contractions continued. Greg’s shift finished and an angel called Rhonda arrived. She asked me how I was doing. I told her my pain was manageable but that the internal examination had been very painful due to my hips. Rhonda, dear Rhonda suggested she pop a small amount of epidural in for the next examination. It would last 10 minutes and it would mean I wouldn’t feel the examination. Rhonda assumed a golden glow at this point. I relaxed. The time for an internal came. The epidural didn’t work. It numbed my right hip but it was my left that was giving me curry. Rhonda thought the baby’s spine was up against mine which is why my contractions were in my back. The epidural didn’t work. Another internal. There was no movement at the station. Each time, I had to ask otherwise Bruce wouldn’t tell me. He didn’t want me to focus on numbers or time, just go with my body. I think even at that stage I instinctively knew that this baby wasn’t coming out. My baby’s heartbeat continued to beat strong and I asked to keep listening to it. It was a comfort, I felt like I was starting to meet my little one. Rhonda ventured she thought it was a girl. Girls’ heartbeats are often strong and steady. Rhonda’s shift changed and a new midwife arrived. She was very young. She also thought it was a girl. She told us about her upcoming wedding and her new home. I breathed. I looked into my husband’s eyes and breathed. He glanced away and I told him I couldn’t breathe if he didn’t look at me. At twenty hours, Bruce mentioned the possibility of a caesarean. I was very tired. I was calm but very tired. I continued. Four hours later, I was still at a three, “maybe three and a half” Bruce pointed out. I was a three when I arrived at the labour ward. Bruce discussed with us that because it was 24 hours since having my waters broken, his recommendation was a caesarean. Both my husband and I trusted his judgement. We had done our research and we knew that he performed relatively few C-sections (for our country and state). This was not something he would recommend without much thought and trying to exhaust all options. We said yes. They assembled a team. Bruce told me that the theatre would be cold but not to worry about that, this was normal and he would make sure the baby would be warm. It was such a “dad” thing to say. While we were waiting for the team, my young midwife looked nervous. I talked to her again about weddings. A new anesthetist arrived. He was irritable and impatient as my husband explained a medical issue. He worked out that I had taught his sons. He became a human, not a doctor. He rubbed my hands. I thought maybe there wasn’t a baby inside and maybe this was all a terrible mistake. I couldn’t comprehend that a baby was coming. My husband was calm and smiling. They began. I told myself I was tired, overwhelmed and thought it was ok if I didn’t feel anything when I met my baby. That euphoria probably wasn’t on the menu given the circumstances but that was ok. I told myself not to expect too much and repeated my mantra “healthy baby, healthy mama”. I hated being in theatre but I focused on the goal at hand. I look at the video and see how much my hand was shaking. My husband held me and told me how much he loved me. They pulled and pulled. “This baby was never coming out” remarked one of the doctors. And then my baby was pulled out. It took two doctors, the anesthetist pushing on my ribs and me pushing as well to get her out. I heard her before I saw her. She is held up high before being placed on my chest. I recognise her. Of course it is her, my daughter. The midwives check on her and she is a 9 and 9 for her agpar scores. My husband tells me of her dimple in her chin, a replica of mine. I hold her for 20 minutes before my husband takes her upstairs to the nursery and I go into recovery for 20 minutes. I watch the clock and talk to the pregnant theatre nurse. I wonder if I can just get up and walk to the nursery. I pester to go and they let me go three minutes early. They wheel me into my room and I am calling, actually shouting for my husband and my baby. I know if my husband hears me, he will come. After the longest 30 seconds, my husband and baby arrive. She is sucking my husband’s knuckle. She latches on and feeds for two hours. We hold her all night. We talk about the past couple of days. My husband tells me of his fears and his relief that all is ok. My husband who normally I can read like a book surprises me with this. I had thought he was remarkably calm during it all. Inside he was worried, anxious and scared but didn’t want me to see that. He tells me how thankful and grateful he is to me for birthing such a beautiful baby. She is beautiful. She has so much hair and her features are delicate. I was expecting a big, bald headed bubba. This is a fine featured little girl with slowly moving starfish hands. Her eyes are wide open and taking us both in. A midwife comes and in, sees me feeding and asks me how many other children we have. She is surprised that this is my first. I can’t get out of bed so my husband takes her to the nursery to change her. We won’t bathe her until I can get up. I am too excited to sleep. We name her Sienna Mae.
In the weeks and months to follow, coming to terms with having a caesarean and such a medical birth is harder than I thought. I find it hard to reconcile my heart and my intellect. People are so kind. My husband tells me how proud he is of me. My parents also. For Sienna’s six week check, the pediatrician spends most of the appointment talking to me about how I did my best. I slowly begin to focus more on parenting and less on the 30 hours of birth (really just one day). I remember how a friend said she felt she hadn’t given birth to her two children because she had two caesareans. I didn’t understand at the time and felt she was too hard on herself. Now I understand. It is not a judgement on oneself, it is just how you feel. I watch the birth video that my husband took. I see how I laboured. I saw the moment I became a mother. I heal. Three months on, I watch my healthy baby giggle and swat her mobile. She is a placid, peaceful baby. Breastfeeding is easy, I know I am lucky. She is happy and so am I.