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Labour Journey

Birth Story – Go with the flow

Before our daughter Ivy was born, we didn’t really know what birth was going to be like. Movies and TV programmes just show your waters breaking, everyone screaming, and the baby suddenly appearing! It’s a very one-dimensional and hollow depiction of birth, as it excludes all of the possibilities and wonder it can entail.

At the recommendation of our midwife, Sheryl, we signed up for Kāpiti Parents Centre antenatal classes. The classes were a great combination of partners trying on a pregnancy suit, talking about our fears and excitement, and making an amazing, supportive group of friends.

Being both anxious and ridiculously perfectionistic, I was determined to get our birth plan “right”. However, I couldn’t even decide what I deemed would be “right” in our birth, because every choice felt punctuated with flaws. Instead, Sheryl encouraged us to try and go with the flow and I think that helped us to have such a positive experience.

When labour began

At around midnight, five days before my due date, I was struggling to sleep because of racing thoughts and not being able to get comfortable. I did progressive muscle relaxation to stop myself from panicking that I hadn’t made any frozen meals yet and that I might be the first person in the world to stay pregnant forever. However, I soon began feeling sensations that radiated from my stomach to my back every few minutes. However, I naively ignored them because I knew that labour can stop and start for days for first-time mums and I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Eventually, I sat on the cool bathroom floor for what I thought was 20 minutes, but it turned out to be a few hours. Time during labour is peculiar; each moment feels like it lasts an eternity yet the minutes are actually flying by. I’d get a minute-long contraction every five minutes on the dot and so I finally let myself believe that maybe this was labour. I woke Cameron and he called Sheryl, despite my horror at it being 3:00 am. Yet she was so kind and reassuring to us even though it was an ungodly hour of the morning.

We met Sheryl and our equally lovely student midwife, Abbie, at Paraparaumu Birth Centre around 4:30 am. Armed with our knowledge from binge-watching One Born Every Minute during the third trimester, we were sure it was all a false alarm. However, much to our surprise we weren’t sent home and instead were told that I was 4 cm dilated. At first I thought Sheryl was joking, so I was so happy to find out that labour was very much real and happening.

At this point, we had a big decision to make. We hadn’t yet decided whether we were going to stay at the local birth centre or make the drive down to Wellington Hospital. However, I instinctively knew that things were progressing quickly and I didn’t fancy sitting in the car for almost an hour while contracting, so we chose to stay put. I am so thankful that Sheryl and Abbie encouraged us to choose what we felt was right in the moment and that we made that decision.

There was no one else at the birth centre aside from the midwives, so we had the whole place to ourselves. We paced the corridors and read each poster ten times over. With every contraction, we stopped and I focused on breathing just like we had practised in our classes. I found it helpful to lean on something and breathe slowly in counts of 10.

Just what I needed

As labour progressed, the contractions became closer together and more intense. Sheryl did acupressure on my lower back which provided a great relief and she also set up a diffuser with calming oils. Abbie started running the water in the birthing pool. Climbing into the pool felt wonderful, as the warm water was so soothing. No one talked much because I felt I needed to concentrate, but when I did need a distraction, we all had some good laughs. Abbie only intervened from time to time to measure Ivy’s heart rate, so I was free to move around in the pool and find what worked for me. Having a quiet, relaxed space to birth in was exactly what I needed.

Thinking back about Ivy’s birth, concentration stood out as being one of the most important parts. It helped immensely to keep me calm. Closer to the end when things were getting unbearable, I lost my focus a couple of times and felt panicky. But each time Cameron, Sheryl, and Abbie helped me refocus my breathing and that’s truly what got me through. For most of the experience, I felt calm and in control of the situation. I remember thinking near the end, “Is this when I’m supposed to be doubting myself?” To be completely honest, the support of the people around me coupled with focusing on the moment meant I never doubted myself at all.

At some point I got given gas, as the contractions were getting so close together and it was hard not having much of a break. The gas helped a lot too, but it didn’t do much to take the pain away. It simply gave me another thing to concentrate on, which was really useful.

The sheer intensity of it all

Speaking of pain, the physical feelings of labour and birth are remarkable. While the pain itself was quite a story to be told, what I found most difficult was the sheer intensity of it all. I truly had no idea what my body was capable of until this point. As the pressure and burning sensations rose, it was a relief to hear that this meant Ivy would be born soon.

Reaching 10 cm dilated, I can remember everything in glimpses. Breathing Ivy out, slowly and calmly. My waters breaking with a memorable pop. Abbie wiping my forehead with a cool flannel. Cameron holding my hands. Sheryl talking me through. The water. The towel beneath my elbows. Opening my eyes just a squint between the contractions and noticing the hazy morning light filling the room. It was surreal. This was such a special time for us, because we knew that these were the final moments before we met our daughter.

I had been pushing for around ten minutes when suddenly everything changed. The calm atmosphere in the room vanished and there was a commotion.

Sheryl instructed Cameron to lift me out of the water so that I was standing. She told me that I needed to immediately push as hard as possible. Ivy needed to be born straight away. The umbilical cord had prolapsed; an unexpected and rare turn of events which is a dangerous situation for baby.

Less than one minute later, Ivy was born at 9:55 am on 23rd March 2019. Due to Sheryl’s expertise and very quick thinking, Ivy was absolutely fine. Alongside the prolapsed umbilical cord, the cord was wrapped twice around her neck and around one of her arms too. But soon she was in our arms and it was like time was standing still. Our baby was here. Our family was together. We were scared, joyful, and overwhelmed all at once during this sacred moment.

Cameron got to cut the cord, and having been warned that it tends to be more difficult that one expects, he snipped it effortlessly like a pro. I was then transferred to Wellington Hospital via ambulance due to tearing caused by Ivy’s lightning-speed entrance. There was a possibility I needed general anesthetic to repair it. The traffic on the way to the hospital was bad and Ivy and Cameron were in the car with Cameron’s mum, as they weren’t allowed to come with me. It was a weird time for us all, being together so briefly and then separated. But the ambulance officers were so lovely and kind, and Sheryl and Abbie kept me distracted during the drive. Thankfully, the surgeon could repair the tearing with local anaesthetic, so I was able to return to the birth centre that night and stay there for the next few days.

Beyond amazing

Sheryl and Abbie, as well as the midwives at the birth centre, were all beyond amazing. They were literal angels on earth to us. They helped us with feeding, wiped away our new-parent tears, and answered our weird questions at 2:30 am. We hold the deepest gratitude for them. Their enormous compassion and dedication truly shone.

Having Cameron by my side through the birth and beyond has been an incredible gift. He is immensely supportive, kind, and loving throughout this sometimes painful period of change for both of us. Watching him grow and become a dad to our daughter has been nothing short of fulfilling my wildest dreams.

Becoming parents has been such a life-changing event and the birth was only the beginning! It’s true that birth is transformative in the most powerful of ways, no matter how your baby is born. Ivy has changed us. It is truly magical.„

Kaitlyn Wislang, Wellington

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