Some words from Michelle
This is the birth story of my first nephew, Indiana. This birth changed everything for me. It was hard, long, humbling and eye opening. I used to pay lip service to ‘any type of birth can be a great birth’ but I think in reality I still thought it had to be a no/low intervention birth for it to be truly positive. This birth threw that theory on it’s head. A birth which from the outside seemed so tough, was experienced as amazing and beautiful by my sister. I will write my experience of this birth and share it soon. Welcome to the world Indy. Love Aunty Mish xo
Some words from Mum
I am a massive control freak, so when my husband and I decided to try for a baby I immersed myself in all things fertility. I was using ovulation tests, tracking my temperature, taking supplements and recording everything I felt both physically and emotionally. After 5 failed cycles, we ended up conceiving over the summer holidays, when I was listening to meditation tracks every day, walking on the beach and spending time relaxing with friends and family.
When we found out we were pregnant, the control freak in me went in to overdrive. I knew that with something as unpredictable as birth, that educating myself was the best way to maintain some level of control over the process. So I set out to educate the hell out of myself. Luckily both my mum and sister are HypnoBirthing practitioners, so we were booked in to classes months in advance. I read books by Rhea Dempsey, Marie Mongan, Ina May Gaskin, Dr Sarah Buckley, Juju Sundin and a few others. I spent most nights on forums or facebook groups reading positive birth stories, as well as listening to affirmations or hypnosis tracks. I was birth obsessed.
In my research, one thing that came up time and time again was women regretting not having a doula, private midwife or birth support person in addition to their partner, so my husband and I decided we’d keep my sister as a backup, and get her to join us if we felt we needed her at the birth. However we didn’t communicate this with her very well, so as my birth was approaching she reached out to us and asked that we strongly consider having her at the birth. We quickly decided that we’d formalise the arrangement and organised a ‘meeting’ to discuss our wishes. We were definitely all on the same page.
My estimated due date was quickly approaching, and I was having a lot of niggles and period like cramps. Baby was head down and engaged, and my midwife said it wouldn’t be far off. But as it often does, my estimated due date of October 4th came and went. I had been very vague about my due date with friends and family, to try to minimise any external pressures, so had told people the baby would come mid October.
On Monday the 9th of October I headed to the toilet just before bed at about 10pm, and discovered I’d lost my uterine seal. Immediately I had a wave of anxiety rush over me as I realised that once I was on the birth ‘roller coaster’ there was no getting off. But after my husband calmed me down with my essential oils and a hypnosis script I was good to go. But of course nothing eventuated over the course of the night.
The next morning, I woke up having quite regular period like cramps. Just for fun I started timing them, and they were consistently 6 minutes apart, and lasting for 45-60 seconds. However they were very mild, and I even managed to have a cup of tea with my mother in law without giving away the fact that labour wasn’t far off.
By the end of the day I was keen for things to amp up, so I had my 4th cup of raspberry leaf tea, rubbed clary sage essential oil on my tummy, and expressed a few millilitres of colostrum. About 10 minutes later I felt a little ‘pop’ and my membranes released. My husband was playing soccer, and I knew he wouldn’t be finished for another 10 minutes, but I tried his phone anyway and got his message bank. Knowing how I responded after losing my uterine seal the night before, I decided to call my sister and get some reassurance that I could do this! My husband called me back minutes later and raced home. Leaving his soccer mates somewhat confused, as we’d also decided not to tell anyone when we went in to labour.
When my husband got home, he called the hospital to let them know my membranes had released and my ‘surges’ were increasing in intensity.
Of everything that happened during the birth, this was one of the only things that I wasn’t happy about. They wanted us to go in immediately for monitoring. I knew from everything that I’d read that I needed to start getting my oxytocin flowing, rest and get in the zone for what was to come. But they mentioned baby might be distressed and checking vitals was important. So we made our way in to the hospital at about 9pm, only to be put in a room and told someone would be with us shortly. Three hours later someone came in, put a monitor on and left us for another half an hour. While this monitor was on, I felt another little pop, and a big gush of fluid came out. After this, things picked up in intensity again, and I really wanted to get home. Eventually we were told everything was fine, and we could leave. However they booked a monitoring appointment for the following afternoon, and induction for Thursday morning in case things didn’t progress on their own. We arrived home at 1.30am, and I was tired, and upset that we’d just spent so long at the hospital.
I got in to bed, and tried to sleep between surges, which became harder and harder to do. I wasn’t timing at this stage, but they felt regular. By 6.30am I couldn’t lie down through them any more so made my way to the lounge room to try some different positions. My husband got up soon after and started setting up our space. He lit lots of candles, put on my aroma diffuser with my favourite essential oil, put on my birth playlist and shut the curtains. He read me scripts, helped me move positions, swayed with me and was my anchor point to hold on to during a surge.
I called my sister to let her know that things were picking up, and we’d probably go to hospital later that day. I asked her when she thought we should go, and she said when I felt that I just needed something more. My something more was the bath in the birth suite. By 2.30pm I felt I had tried all the positions I could think of, and the thought of a big warm bath was pulling me in. So we arrived at the hospital at about 3.30pm, and my sister was waiting in the car park for us.
I had a couple of surges on the way up to the birth suite, but breathed my way through them. I remember hearing a midwife say ‘Looks like she got here just in time’, which gave me a little boost. Little did we all know that this was just the beginning. I declined an internal exam on arrival, and hopped in the bath as soon as it was full. When I was in, I was informed that because my waters had broken the night before, hospital policy states I could only have a water birth if it was within 24hrs of my waters breaking. So I was on the clock. I had 4 hours to go by this point, but things seemed to be pretty far along. I had some double peaked surges, with only short breaks in between. And things were pretty intense. I asked my husband and sister to say ‘open, open, open’ during a surge, and I visualised my cervix opening up, which seemed to intensify the surges even more. I had also started feeling a bit spaced out, like I was (sorry mum and dad) on ecstasy or something.
And then before I knew it, my time was almost up. We had a visit from a doctor who not very politely informed me about how dangerous it was to stay in the water, that I should go on IV antibiotics, and that I needed an internal because I might only be 1cm and ‘behaving in this way’ (which was the one other thing I didn’t like). My husband asked for some time to discuss, and she left the room. My sister then suggested getting our midwife who had been with us for the last few hours to do the internal, and not the doctor. Although I didn’t like the sound of this, and especially didn’t want to get out of the bath, I agreed. If I was close enough I could get back in the bath to have my baby.
To my disappointment, I was 4-5cm dilated. My team urged me on, and told me I was strong and was doing great and I felt ok again. We decided the bath might not be the best place anyway, so I started using gravity. However things still weren’t progressing in a hurry. At midnight I agreed to another internal, and I was at 6cm, and the midwife said she felt like baby wasn’t in a very good position, and that his head wasn’t putting even pressure on my cervix.
After the internal we also spotted meconium in my waters, which were slowly leaking out throughout the whole labour. Baby’s heart rate was fine, and I wasn’t worried.
I then started having a premature pushing urge, and lots and lots of pressure in my lower back and bum. I had to resist the urge to push, as I knew that if I did push my cervix may swell and it would be even more difficult for baby to descend. With each surge I took a long deep breath in, and then imagined I was blowing out 50 candles as I exhaled, which helped to a point, but every now and then my body pushed anyway.
By 4am, I was at 8-9cm, and it was obvious baby was not in an ideal position. I was getting very tired, and feeling like I was out of ideas. I’d sat on the toilet, on the birth ball, squatted, knelt on all fours, hidden away in the candlelight with my husband for some kisses and cuddles, but it just didn’t seem enough.
At 8am, I was 9.5cm, and my midwife and doctors were getting concerned with the babies position, the meconium getting thicker, the prolonged labour, and the fact my waters had broken 36hrs ago. They felt that my surges were not efficient enough to move the baby down, and that they recommended syntocin, as well as pain relief to help my muscles relax and increase the strength of the surges. And that if this combination didn’t work, that I may need an assisted delivery, or a caesarian. I knew that at this point I couldn’t handle syntocin induced surges without pain relief, and that if it came to a caesarian that I wanted to be awake for it. Because my cervix was almost fully open, pethadine wasn’t an option, so after asking the staff to leave the room, and having a quick chat with my husband and sister, I told them I wanted an epidural. The next 20 minutes were the hardest of the whole labour. After saying the words, I just didn’t want to feel anything any more, relief was so close, and I just wanted to tap out. I tried the gas, which didn’t really do anything, so I just continued to breathe through it.
Eventually the anesthetists came and administered the epidural. I was given 30mins to rest, and we all immediately fell asleep. After 30mins I was at 10cm, and was given 2 hours to try to push baby out. The doctor tried to manually move the baby, but with no luck. So I pushed and pushed, and then my time was up and the doctor suggested an attempted forceps delivery, and due to the risks and chance it might not work, we needed to go to theatre and be prepped for a caesarian just in case. This all took a little while, so I just kept pushing with every surge to try to get baby as low as possible.
My husband read out our caesarian preferences, and it was at this stage that I asked my midwife and the student midwife who’d both been with us for the last 8 hours if they could come to theatre with us, despite their shift finishing and they agreed. Unfortunately I could only have one support person, so we said our goodbyes to my sister, and I was wheeled down to theatre. I was separated from my husband while they prepped me for the potential surgery. I was in a small room, filled with people asking lots of questions, and a doctor who told me that there was a 70-80% chance that I’d need a caesarian, but still I remained calm.
In theatre I was reunited with my husband and midwife, who I later found out had just been sitting with my husband so he wasn’t left alone. A small gesture that meant so much to me, as I knew he was feeling very exhausted and emotional. She also knew what a beautiful space we’d just come from, so she then went on to get the pop music turned off, asked half the room to move up the ‘head’ end of the bed, and reassured me that I was in good hands.
The room was bright, and filled with about 20+ people, my legs were put up in stirrups, I was covered in wires, machines were beeping and two doctors stood between my legs with forceps. It wasn’t how I imagined things would be, but I felt OK. My husband was next to me and I knew we’d be meeting our baby very soon. My midwife held her hand on my tummy and when she felt it tighten she told me to push. Then all of a sudden the doctors said your baby is coming out! I was shocked, as I felt I’d just come to terms with the fact I’d need a caesarian. I was told to give a big push, and then the baby’s head was out, I pushed again, and our whole baby was out. They placed baby straight on my chest, and we discovered that he was a he. He wasn’t crying, so the doctors briefly took him away, but got him crying and brought him straight back to my chest, and he latched almost straight away all by himself.
He was amazing, and I couldn’t believe he was really our baby. Indiana Douglas Frost, born at 3.25pm on the 12th of October. 44 hours after my water broke, 24hrs after arriving at hospital and with 4 hours of pushing we had ourselves a son.
The whole experience was amazing. I had done so much research, that I’d already made most of the decisions we were faced with in advance, and I really felt like I was respected throughout the whole process. The midwives were also all amazing, all 4 that were on shifts during my labour, as well as the ones who looked after me during recovery. I truly cannot speak highly enough of those women, and have so much respect for the profession.
Having my sister there as an added support was also invaluable. I don’t think I would’ve let my husband go to the toilet or have a coffee during the whole labour had she not been there. During every surge I needed to hold on to him for both physical and emotional support, and he would tell me how strong I was and how great I was doing. This meant my sister could do lots of the practical things, of which she did many, from cold face washers, heat packs, spoonfuls of honey to displaying my affirmations, playing my hypnosis tracks and holding the beautiful space they’d created for me. We were a perfect team.
I knew that birth could be unpredictable, so I armed myself with knowledge and the skills to keep myself calm during the process and I really believe it paid off.
Although things didn’t go as I’d imagined them to, I still loved my birth, and felt like an absolute super hero.
Some words from Dad
This stint between midnight and 8am on Thursday was really tough. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it was for Leah. We must have changed positions hundreds of times, got into the shower and out a few times, moved from the bed to the toilet, to standing, to all fours, to birth ball. We used the whole roll of toilet paper, which I think was 1000 sheets, and about 30 towels. Exhaustion was really setting in, and I was finding it very difficult to not burst out laughing or crying, and was struggling to keep my eyes open. My muscles were all aching, and I was having a tough time watching Leah going through so much, for such slow gains. But I knew that whatever I was going through was nothing compared to what Leah was going through, and pushing through was non-negotiable for her, so it was non-negotiable for me. It’s something that never gets discussed for obvious reasons, but childbirth it grueling for the partners, and will probably be one of the toughest things a partner ever has to go through (Just don’t ever say this to mum).
However HypnoBirthing taught me techniques to deal with the challenges of supporting my wife during childbirth. I can’t imagine how things would have played out had I not attended these classes, or been as educated as I was.
The classes took me from knowing nothing to giving me a toolkit of things to try, and things to say, to make my wife’s ‘job’ easier and keep her relaxed, both during her pregnancy and during the labour.
But even that is just one side of HypnoBirthing. The classes also gave me a solid and hugely valuable education about birth in general, how the body and hormones work during labour, and also how the hospital systems work, and how to navigate them.
Although it was tough going, I was confident and grateful that I the knowledge and tools that I did.
**Photo credit to Jade Tauber for the stunning family shots after the birth. To contact Jade, CLICK HERE.