Written 6 weeks following the birth of my first beautiful child –
Every birth story is different. Birth itself is so personal, we decide our birth plan based on what we value and if the stars align, we get our version of a perfect birth. While I was pregnant I heard all kinds of stories from Mum’s about their horror births, those sickos. Then there are family members who think it’s wise to scare you, when I was 9 days overdue and waiting for baby I received private Facebook messages saying “ooh it’s going to hurt so much” and another “TAKE THE EPIDURAL”. I wanted a natural birth, without fear or intervention. I was disappointed that I suddenly had high blood pressure (hypertension) around 38 weeks. I was sent to the hospital for assessment a few times and declined induction twice. The third time I tried to decline induction the doctor abruptly said, “too bad, you’re having one on Thursday”. While trying to negotiate, “how about Monday?”, I embarassingly broke down in tears and heard myself accepting Thursday as d-day. This was the first instance I had of beginning to lose faith in my strong, womanly body which I believed was designed for childbirth.
Driving away from the hospital that day I felt determined to beat the mean old doctor to it (I understand this is like intervention…) I had three days in which I spoke regularly to my baby about coming out ASAP, got my lovely midwife to do a stretch n sweep, had acupuncture, ate an entire pineapple in one go, drank 4 cups of raspberry leaf tea a day, ate 6 dates per day, did the labor dance on YouTube, raped my partner “I need your sperm”, did meditation and visualization, long walks along the beach, became an excellent curry cook blah blah.. every night I went to bed thinking “tonight will be the night”. My oh my, I felt let down waking up in the mornings with no sign of labour. Even having my bloody show wasn’t enough to put off medical induction. Gutted.
Wednesday morning rolled around. At about 7am I felt a wetness, could it be my water breaking? I got out of bed and saw only a trickle running down my leg… I decided that I was incontinent and that I should quickly pull the bed sheets up before my partner realized I wet the bed. My midwife also thought I may have wet the bed. I checked in my dignity with flushed cheeks and overwhelming disappointment. She scheduled us into the hospital at 7pm that night just in case my water had broken.
I waited all day for contractions. Every hour that passed left me feeling more defeated that I wasn’t going into labour spontaneously. With big sighs, I got on with my day and pumped through the washing, the housework and general nesting activities. I told my partner what had happened and informed him we’d probably be getting induced tonight. He felt my sadness and reassured me that it was totally fine, all that mattered was we were going to meet our baby soon.
I knew how inductions could escalate into c-sections and mentally prepared myself for this.
We stopped at the gassy en route to the hospital to get pies and drinks, eating a bp pie for dinner was a sure sign I had given up. When we finally arrived at the hospital, we were shoved into a room and left for a few hours. My partner slept awkwardly in a small chair and I stared at my giant, moving belly. I saw the life inside it and realized I simply wanted a healthy baby. I was ready for anything.
So it turns out my water did break early that morning, yay, but it had broken at the top of the bag rather than the bottom hence the trickle. A nice doctor arrived to finish breaking my waters and do another strech n sweep. I was utterly shocked to be told I was 4cm dilated despite no pains at all. Awesome! Still, we needed to progress things along as my water had been broken for so long there was a risk of infection.
My partner and I went for a walk into Auckland city and stopped for a curry. I could only feel Braxton Hicks, when would the pain start? Was I so mentally prepared for labour that I wouldn’t feel any pain? Hahaha..
In went the synthetic oxytocin drip at 2am to speed things up, along with the infection preventing antibiotics. I refused to labour in a bed, instead requesting a swiss ball. I offered my partner have a sleep in the bed while I bounced up and down, reading a magazine from 1998 while sipping a cup of tea. As I started to feel pains I noticed the intensity was being recorded. I enjoyed reading how high up the numbers went with every contraction, I’m bit of a weirdo like that. A stand in midwife asked if I could feel the pain yet, I definitely could but it’s part n parcel of labour, I didn’t want to do anything about it so I wasn’t going to complain about it. “Most people would be screaming out at this stage”, she said. My method of breathing through, reminding myself my body would give me a rest between contractions and reading outdated home design articles seemed to be working to manage my labour. At around 4.30am we woke up my partner so I could be examined. “I can feel hair. You’re 9cm dialated.” Pure excitement! The pain had intensified and I was now walking or swaying through contractions in my mans loving arms.
The need to push came just before my midwife arrived. I suddenly panicked, “Oh my gosh I ate curry for dinner, what if I poo!”. I spent two long pushes on the toilet with the door closed before returning to my partner who didn’t realize I was at the pushing stage. He got one hell of a fright seeing me suddenly push standing up. In came my midwife who got me a pushing stool. My partner did so well as a strong and calm presence, offering me chilled water and holding my hands. He even went through my phone and found the hypno birthing track I had been listening to and put it on repeat. Pushing is something no one could have prepared me for. It felt very instinctual and primitive, I felt like an animal. I let its strength take over as I lost all my inhibitions. Turns out I am one of the loud, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar, grunty pushers. I felt every inch of my baby’s journey through me. My partner went to the ‘business end’ to catch his son while I gave it my all. I pushed as hard as I could to ‘get it out of me’. I remember saying “ow ow ow” as quietly as I could when I felt my baby’s head crown “the head’s out, one more push”. With the next contraction I felt the body slip out, and I heard his first wee cry. Our son was born at 5.56am, Thursday 23 January.
My partner passed our baby under me into my arms where I then lay down and had skin to skin. Staring in awe at our son, we both felt so many mixed emotions, to describe them all would make us sound mad. I’ll just say that we were so overcome we both had big tears. In that moment we became parents.
Our baby managed to find his way to the breast and started feeding like a trooper. Good boy.
I barely registered when the midwife said I’d had a 2nd degree tear and needed stitches, actually responded “yep, cool”. I was under a spell.
We did it. We had an amazing birth.
As I was being stitched up, I felt this huge pain. “Something hurts. It’s not the stitches” I told the midwife. She calmy asked my partner to press the button for the doctor.
I suddenly felt insane pain which must have been written all over my face as my partner read it and said “look what can you give her for the pain?”, then I felt this gush of fluid come out down below and with it, the pain subsided. “Don’t worry it doesn’t hurt anymore”.
Our baby continued to nurse and the doctor arrived. The pain came back. Good Lordy, my vag was broken but I couldn’t scream as I didn’t want to give any bad vibes to my baby. Instead I took deep, groaning breaths until I was given gas. The gas was amazing! I felt warm and fuzzy while watching my new baby feed. I kept it coming until someone informed me I was being taken to theatre. I handed bub over to new Dad and noticed how much he suited holding a baby as I was being wheeled off. I was taken to some corner which was concealed by a curtain. I started with the “ow ow ow ow” again and tried to breathe through the pain but it was unrelenting. I am not sure what anyone said to me or how long it was before I was in surgery. I have more or less blocked it out.
I remember the mask being put over my mouth then waking up in yet another room. I had burst a vein causing hematoma, the vein had to be removed. I wasn’t in pain anymore but I had to find my baby and baby daddy. I used a doctor’s cell phone and tracked him down.
My partner was such a welcome sight, his face made me so happy. I smiled the best I could. He let me know the baby was rushed off to NICU with breathing problems but somehow, how he said it put me at ease. I wasn’t worried because our baby was in safe hands being looked after.
My poor man was so strong. He just had a baby then I get whisked away, then his baby gets whisked away too leaving him to wander a hospital alone playing the waiting game. If he broke down at all, I wasn’t aware of it.
I was eating a piece of toast when I felt it again. The pain was back with a vengeance.. oh my gosh, it was nasty! This was followed by another rush of blood down below which left me feeling good once more. The peace lasted all of 5minutes before I started groaning in misery. The nurse quickly gave me unlimited access to the gas and as much self administered morphine as was allowed.
There are some things that hurt more than giving birth and haemotoma is one of them. In this experience, giving birth is a pain score of 5/10 and haemotoma is an excruciating 10/10.
Unfortunately, eating the piece of toast meant waiting hours before I could go into theatre again. My partner and I were left alone in a room so I thought I’d do the polite thing and offer him some gas. We had a giggle together at how it made our voices sound.
A while later, I had to leave my gas pump and my boyfriend to be put in the waiting room for theatre. I became very peaceful and thought to myself that it would be ok if I died because my baby is here on earth now. I pumped 20mg of morphine in those hours and lost over 2L of blood, needing a blood transfusion a few days later when I still couldn’t walk a 10m distance.
Turned out I had actually burst an artery and the blood was pooling in my vulva. My artery was fixed in this operation and my lovely surgeon even apologized for missing it in the first op (bless him).
I couldn’t see my baby until the next day. This was the hardest thing of all. He was discharged from NICU within 48hours and allowed with me in my room while I recovered. Although I couldn’t move to attend to him, the staff were amazing with helping out.
I was a spectacle. I had doctors, nurses, trainees and several midwives all looking at my mega swollen junk. I literally couldn’t put my legs together because it was hanging down in the way. I was unable to leave my bed unassisted for a couple of days. I had to be wheeled into NICU to visit and feed my baby. I actually did wet myself once. Good thing I checked my dignity in at the start of all of this.
A week later I was discharged to go home.
We are so blessed to have a happy, healthy baby. I would do all of this again in a heart beat. My baby is the most magical thing that has ever happened to me. The story sounds intense but we took everything moment by moment, day by day and kept a sense of humour throughout. We were clouded by the warm glow of falling in love with our precious son that we saw it all as a positive experience.
Six weeks later and I am still recovering but doing well. I am yet to find any stories of other woman who have experienced postpartum haematoma to the same extent.