Layla’s birth began with a long and trying early labour that lasted a week. On the evening of Friday 27th April, I began having very infrequent mild contractions. They were all felt achingly in my lower back, very sharply in my cervix, and sometimes across the front of my belly. The baby moving around sharply against my cervix hurt in and of itself and also seemed to stimulate the contractions – I think she was twiddling her fingers quite energetically against my cervix as well as ramming her head (and my bulging bag of waters) into it – for most of the week!
I was quite excited initially – I knew that early labour could last a long time, but still thought "is this it?!". I also held a lot of fear about this, my second birth, and looked forward to actually facing the event and moving past the fear and the reality of the birth.
My excitement died down as the contractions continued throughout Saturday day and night (by nighttime I couldn’t sleep through mild to moderate contractions, and so spent the night perched on the couch dozing in between – lying down, even on my side, really intensified the contractions, so I needed to doze semi upright propped up on cushions – not easy or pleasant).
Sunday morning I had my first show, and I vomited a little bit from the contractions. Mild to moderate contractions continued day and night, with another sleepless night on the couch. I found myself leaking colostrum profusely from left breast (literally dripping onto my belly), my first leak for the entire pregnancy…lots of hormones pumping, clearly!
Monday my show continued to emerge in bits and pieces, contractions continued (more intense sometimes now, but still irregular and mostly mild). As this experience continued, I perceived the contractions as milder and milder because I was getting so used to them! My midwife came and checked my blood pressure (fine), my baby’s heartrate (fine), the position of baby (ROA, a little bit ROP, sort of in between), and found my baby VERY low (no surprises there). Monday night I actually took Panadeine to try and get some sleep during contractions, it helped a lot, not a bad night’s sleep.
Tuesday morning (1st May…moving into the next month and still labouring!) I had LOTS of show, with contractions very sporadic and mild today. By now I have decided to just accept this is all just a long "pre"labour – and to try not to focus or dwell on it too much unless I have to. My midwife called to check how I’m coping, I told her I’m fine and nothing new to tell. Not much sleep overnight despite more Panadeine, sporadic contractions weren’t totally the problem, also the noise which I am sensitive to at the moment in this heightened state (someone hammered outside until 10.30pm, Stephen was late coming to bed and woke me up, Aidy was up crying for ages around midnight…argh!).
Wednesday morning I woke up tired and feeling really over it all. Just want this baby to COME OUT! Same old same old…a bit more show…a few more contractions…blah. Is this baby EVER actually going to get born?! All of this mucking around had BETTER be doing something (ie: thinning and dilating my cervix) – if I have a long active labour in addition to this endless prelabour I’m going to be extremely ****ed off! I’m not nearly as frightened of labour now as it will almost be a relief after all this long stuffing about (probably naïve of me to say that). I got interviewed today by the local newspaper who want to write a feature on my homebirth and "demedicalising" childbirth – so now they’re waiting for me to have this baby, too! Stephen is starting to get lots of little comments from colleagues, friends and family: "Has Felicity had that baby yet? What, she’s STILL in early labour?! Poor thing! I hope ‘they’ won’t let that go on too long, you know…" – not sure who "they" are, perhaps the Hospital and doctors who are meant to "save" me from my perfectly normal and healthy (if totally annoying, tiring and frustrating) early labour? Feels like EVERYONE is waiting for this baby now…beautiful support from the women on JB, sometimes it feels like the only thing keeping me going – keeping me focused, trusting, and willing to endure. Stephen being very patient and supportive too but I can tell he’s excited to meet Boo and as frustrated as I am with this process at the moment. I don’t really mind being "overdue" at all (I’ll be 41 weeks according to dates tomorrow), it’s the pain and sleeplessness and feeling of being forever "stuck" in early labour that has gotten to me. If I were pain free (other than the usual discomforts of late pregnancy) and not having constant labour signs I’d just be plodding cosily along!
This all continued throughout Thursday and Friday without much change and with no sleep. Then, on Friday night, as the sun set, my contractions seemed to intensify. It was hard to tell by this point, though, and they always did get stronger after sunset, so I just tried to ignore them as much as possible. It was an insanely windy, rainy night, and I felt some sort of strange expectant electricity in the air. What a nice night to birth, I remember thinking. By about 8pm, I was sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, hoping to relax myself enough to sleep through them. Stephen and Aidy were in bed together (I think Stephen intuitively knew this was the night, as he was keen to go to bed early and get some sleep). The contractions were quite strong and I used my heatpack on my back and sat upright and breathed through them. They’d been this strong previously, though, without a baby eventuating, so I was still trying not to get too excited.
By 9pm, I was feeling restless, and wandering around the loungeroom with no idea why or what to do. I was needing to focus and breathe through each contraction now and yet still didn’t want to think this might be it. Some of them were quite bitey but they were pretty irregular and seemed very short to me, about 30 or 40 seconds.
By 10pm, I was starting to vocalise with each contraction. I remember thinking to myself "I can’t be needing to vocalise yet, they can’t be that strong yet, I must be overreacting, I should just calm down and be quiet"…! Stephen heard me beginning to work hard and got up to see if I needed him. I decided I did – I was wandering very aimlessly now and feeling a bit lost. He began filling the birth pool, and I found myself with the telephone in my hand and half my midwife’s phone number entered…that was as much as I could manage, the contractions kept coming and I was too spaced out to make the call or even to tell Stephen to do it for me. I remember vividly standing in the loungeroom during a particularly powerful contraction, head thrown back, arms flung out behind me, wailing to the sky as the wind gusted outside and I literally felt that wind roar through me with the power of my contraction. It was a moment I won’t forget.
We ran out of hot water, so Stephen came to put some pots on the stove to boil. It must have been close to midnight, and I was now working quite hard during contractions and had a few very loud difficult ones, so Stephen called our midwife and left a message on her pager telling her I was in active labour. I remember hearing him say that and wanting to tell him no, it wasn’t active labour yet, I had a long way to go, don’t mislead the midwife…! When he hung up, I vomited really violently into our kitchen sink (I’d vomited about an hour beforehand quite aggressively, too) and at the end of the vomit, I was simply pushing. I told Stephen the baby was coming NOW and began roaring with each contraction...nnnnnnnggggghhhhhhhhhh...I remembered this feeling very well! I could feel the baby moving down very fast and after a moment of thinking, should I try not to push? I’m freebirthing!…I realised it was out of my control and I just went with it. Stephen applied pressure to my back and somehow managed to set the video camera up in record time so we got the birth on film. I stopped roaring after a few pushes and just breathed, feeling my baby descending, crowning, emerging. I didn’t have to do a thing or make a sound. It was peaceful, calm, and perfect. (NOW I understand how women can "breathe their baby out"!) I told Stephen to catch and he assumed a baseball catcher’s pose between my legs as I stood leaning over the kitchen sink with my legs braced against the cupboard door. I felt Layla’s head emerge and her body came with it in one smooth slippery whooooosh. Stephen caught her (JUST – she was very quick and very slippery) and handed her straight to me. I sat on the kitchen floor, rubbed her back and tilted her down to help with any mucous. After a moment she let out a little squawk and I ripped my top off and cuddled her to my naked body. Stephen brought us a towel and doona to wrap up in and we sat there for a while, just cuddling, welcoming our baby. Eventually Stephen called our midwife and left another message that the baby was born now!