Once I got the hang of how to bear down and could see my progress in the mirror it wasn’t long before his head was out.

Otis George Ottley – Born: 11:47am, 16th January 2021 (EDD: 19th Jan 21 – 3.65kg (8 pounds), 51cm

On the 15th January, at 39+3 weeks I was getting pretty over being pregnant so I started thinking about natural ways to induce labour. I booked an acupuncture session for the following day in the hopes it would help get things started. As a first time mum, I had no idea what the surges were going to feel like so when I started having period like cramps while watching TV at around 8pm, I didn’t think much of it. My mum who was staying with us told me to tell her whenever I had a cramp and we worked out that they were 20 minutes apart! I decided to go to bed and see what happened from there.

At 2.40am on the 16th January I woke up with stronger surges and decided to get up and have a shower. I tried to calm my mind and focus on the signs my body was giving me. The first two surges I had in the shower were around 15 minutes apart and lasted for around 1.5 minutes each. After hopping out of the shower and walking around packing my bags, the surge intensity increased again and I emailed the acupuncturist apologising for not giving 24 hours notice of cancellation! All I wanted to do was sit on the toilet! I thought about waking my husband but was well aware that a first birth can take a very long time and I should try to breathe through at home for as long as possible and let him rest for the marathon we were about to run.

While sitting on the toilet, my surges went from 15 minutes apart to 7 minutes apart in a span of around 20 minutes. There was a LOT of blood in the toilet and I’d assumed this was my mucus plug/bloody show but it seemed like a bit too much so I took some pictures on my phone. I quietly laboured for around 2.5 hours and although the surges were intense, they still felt like strong period cramps. I continued to feel most comfortable walking around and sitting on my birth ball. My husband came out at around 4.30am and called the hospital. They told me to try to go back to bed and get some rest because it would be a while yet.My Mum woke up and my husband showed her the pictures of the blood that I had taken in the toilet and she was immediately concerned, she said it wasn’t normal. I dozed in and out of sleep while listening to Melissa reading ‘surge of the sea’ while my surges were now 4-5 minutes apart. I layed in bed for almost an hour until my husband came in to get me ready for the car. My mother had called the hospital and explained about the blood in the toilet, they told her to get us to come in to be checked but it was probably nothing to worry about. My mother was meant to be my second birth partner but because of COVID, was not allowed to come to the hospital.

After an uncomfortable 15 minute car trip, we arrived at the Royal Womens Hospital at about 7am. My surges were 2.5 minutes apart and I was focusing all my energy on breathing through and trying to relax my face. The staff at emergency made me scan a QR code with my phone and complete a COVID form before they would let me into the waiting room. My husband was pretty annoyed about this and couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let him complete it on my behalf. I got it done as quickly as possible between surges and we were left in the waiting area for about 30 minutes before being taken into triage where my blood pressure was taken, my husband was told to move our car and I was left for almost an hour. We were then taken up to another room and my husband asked the nurse if he could start setting up LED candles and a speaker as we were practising hypnobirthing, the nurse replied “Oh no dear – this is just the room where she’ll be checked and we’ll probably send you both home until she gets a bit more uncomfortable”.

I was on the toilet again when the nurse was finally ready to check me. She had a look and her face went into a bit of a panic. She made a call and our assigned midwife Elise quickly arrived with a wheelchair, we asked what was going on and were told that I was ‘complete’ with membranes bulging. The midwife who rushed us up to the birthing suite said I’d caused quite a stir in the ward and asked “are you the first time mum who is completely dilated? You must be quite tough to be handling things the way you are! You tricked all the staff into thinking you were in early labour!”. This made me feel pretty proud and I knew that the hypnobirthing techniques were actually working. She also said that the blood that I saw in the toilet at around 4am would have been my cervix completely dilating very rapidly, which can cause quite a lot of blood. I told her about my mother who had precipitous labour with all three of her pregnancies so I probably should have realised that it could happen to me too!

Once in the birthing suite, my husband set up LED candles and our midwife took the time to read through our birth preferences. I went to sit on the toilet again and my husband got the speaker out to play the positive affirmations track voiced by Melissa (this track played on repeat for the next few hours and was so calming!). Our midwife Elise was so amazing, she was on our side and tried to accommodate all our preferences as best she could. I was fitted with a heart monitor for the baby and after an hour or so of changing positions in the birthing suite, she asked if it would be ok if she broke my membranes to help baby move down, we agreed and as soon as my membranes released, baby’s heart rate plummeted and about 6 people ran into the room! It was pretty scary but slowly his heart rate steadily increased again and the extra staff left the room. I continued to breathe through the surges which, after the membranes released, I felt more in my back rather than period pain. I continued to move positions, guided by my midwife and supported by my husband with light touch massage and whispering affirmations in my ear. I focused on our baby moving down the birth canal and thought of the muscles of my amazing uterus banding and contacting (like the picture in the hypnobirthing booklet).

It came time when I felt the urge to push and I started trying on my knees, bent forward. I was pretty tired by this point so Elise suggested laying back and putting my legs up on a bar to push – which also helped them to see what was going on without being too invasive. After about 30 minutes of pushing and not getting anywhere, she suggested I take a look in the mirror at what was going on downstairs! As soon as I saw his head coming further out and then relaxing and going back in I realised that what I was doing wasn’t working. The mirror helped me to breathe, push, hold him there and do a quick sharp breath and push him further out. Once I got the hang of how to bear down and could see my progress in the mirror it wasn’t long before his head was out! There were a few minutes of calm before my next surge – like my body was giving me a little break and my husband went down the business end (which we weren’t sure he would be able to stomach!). With one push our baby’s body came out for my husband to catch – which was pretty tricky as he had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck twice and once around his body. The two midwives and my husband frantically untangled our baby and Elise told me that in her 10 years working at the hospital, she had never seen a baby more tangled in his cord and thank goodness it was so long! It also explained the heart rate drop when my membranes were released.

Our baby was passed up to me and we waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing before our midwife explained that because of the blood in the toilet earlier she would prefer to give me an injection of synctosin to help birth the placenta quicker in case there was a chance of haemorrhage. The midwives helped take my clothes off for skin to skin and our baby latched on immediately. My husband Rhys and I looked at each other and our baby, we were both crying and filled with so much love. It makes me teary just thinking about the moment we met our little man! The cord was clamped, my husband cut it and I agreed to the injection. I birthed the placenta pretty easily in 10 minutes or so and was so high off adrenaline alone that I actually thought I hadn’t torn at all. I was really surprised when the surgeon came in to stitch me up! He had to get a second opinion on whether I’d torn all the way into my bowel but thankfully I hadn’t. The surgeon stitched for an hour and a half in the birth suite while our baby was latched and feeding. The surgeon kept trying to give me some gas to help but I said to him if I just gave birth with zero pain relief – a few stitches are really not going to bother me! He had trouble stitching a star-shaped tear from where our baby’s hand came out with his head so had to get another surgeon to come in and take over.Once all stitched up, my blood pressure was reading quite high so I was on watch for preeclampsia. My husband was made to leave at 8pm due to COVID and I could not sleep because of the adrenaline and worry that my baby would stop breathing! I was given the all-clear the day after birth and got to go home. We have the most beautiful baby boy and I am already thinking about the next birth! Some women scream some women labour silently. My advice is to listen to your body, even if the nurses and hospital staff seem like they’ve seen it all – every birth is different. I want to thank our hypnobirthing instructor Vanessa for giving us the tools and knowledge that allowed us to feel empowered and prepared for any situation. My husband Rhys was the most amazing support throughout pregnancy and labour, Hypnobirthing gave him the confidence to support me and speak for me in those difficult times when I couldn’t speak. Our midwife Elise was the most amazing person and I feel like, without her help and guidance, our birth story could have been very different.

Sarah Ottley

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