I was awake, as usual, at 5 a.m., staring at the wall, wishing that I were asleep when I thought I had wet my pants.
I hopped up to go to the loo and noticed a little blood which was the mucous plug coming away. Then a gush of water came that I knew was not wee, my waters had broken and I thought labour was imminent. Much to my surprise, it was hours before anything happened.
It was 6 a.m. on a beautiful crisp autumn morning and I felt great! I was excited and nervous, had a little cry, fed my cat, put the dishes away, swept the floor and rang Elisabeth (my midwife) at 7.30 a.m.
I had planned to go to Mullumbimby markets that morning, and Elisabeth and I decided that as long as I felt happy to, then I could go, and maybe walking around would start things up. I started to experience mild period-like pains in the car and a feeling like a hand gently gripping my pubic bone, squeeze, release, squeeze, release.
Just after 12 noon a friend rang and in mid-conversation I had the urgent need to go to the toilet and passed blood clots. I rushed back to the phone to ring my midwife. She reassured me that the blood was fine. ‘Am I feeling okay? Am I scared?’ I said I was fine. She told me she’d come over straight after lunch. The next moment I looked again and blood was dripping out of me. I freaked out and rang her straight back. She said she’d come right over and check the baby and myself.
Elisabeth arrived and checked me. I had passed a couple of more clots, but everything was cool, so we didn’t worry. I was having the odd contraction and Elisabeth just watched. By about 1 p.m. they became regular, 30 seconds long and five minutes apart. I walked around with a hot water bottle around my lower belly and before I knew it, contractions were 45 seconds and then one minute long and getting stronger.
Jane started to fill the birthing pool. Then I started going into the ‘zone’ and my mind started leaving the picture. I was becoming less and less aware of what was going on around me.
At first it felt good to push and then I started to feel like I couldn’t take it any more. It was hard work and all my efforts seemed to bear little fruit. I thought this stage would go much quicker as the first stage had gone so fast, but it was an hour and a half of pushing, before his head was finally crowning.
Getting his head out was a phenomenal effort but there was more to come. After about three contractions I could finally see around my belly to what everyone was exclaiming about . . . his beautiful head! He gave a wriggle and it made me laugh! Elisabeth said he would come out on the next contraction. I pushed, she pulled, but the baby didn’t budge. I was surprised because I thought the hardest part was over, and that the baby would just slip out. Not so.
Elisabeth told me that on the next contraction I had to push him out. I felt her pulling so hard, yet he still didn’t budge. Next contraction she said, ‘The baby MUST come out!’ and I knew she meant business. I turned over and held onto the bar on the wall and pushed as hard as I’ve ever pushed in my life. He felt like a giant cork that just wouldn’t pop.
Then sweet release, I felt the suction go and his body slide from mine and then there was something warm and floppy on my back. I was thinking who has put that towel on my back at a time like this? So I shouted, ‘What’s that on my back?’ And everyone yelled, ‘It’s your baby!’
Elisabeth told me to turn over and take my baby and talk to him, and that’s when all chaos broke out. Elisabeth is shouting for an ambulance and I’m looking at his floppy, pale body and I can’t believe it, he looks dead and I’m in shock. Elisabeth and all the support people were fantastic, even though I learnt later that they were all scared but not spreading any fear, which really helped me to cope better.
Many thoughts went through my mind as he was being resuscitated but a certainty came to me that he was not going to die, and I trusted that. After what seemed like an eternity, he took his first rattling breath but then stopped. It was at least ten minutes before his breathing was okay. Those ten minutes were the longest of my life!
The ambulance arrived and then it was a rush to deliver the placenta and get me ready to go in the hospital with my little guy. The placenta came out easily and I was up out of the pool, and then down and passed out on the floor, but Katrina caught me before I hit my head. The stretcher was coming for me.
I just couldn’t believe that one minute I was having an amazing birth and the next minute I’m being wheeled out of my house on a stretcher and going to the hospital. At Byron Bay hospital the doctor checked us both out and Elisabeth got the all clear to take us home. But when the doctor realised I had a bad third degree tear, vagina to anus, it was decided that I’d have to go to Lismore Base Hospital to be stitched by an obstetrician.
My baby was assessed again while I was being stitched and x-rays showed retained fluid in his lungs making him pant to breathe and risking lung infection. So we both ended up staying in hospital for four days to get well, with him in a humidity crib, an antibiotic drip and on oxygen and myself recovering from many stitches and living on laxatives so I could go to the toilet more easily!
The little guy turned out to be a whopping 9 pounds and 10 ounces (4370 gms). His shoulder had gotten stuck under my pubic bone during the labour (shoulder dystocia) and that was why it was so hard to get him out and why I tore so badly.
Now day three, we are both doing well and are going home tomorrow. I want to make my baby feel good all the time and when he looks at me…I love him more and more every day and every moment.
Published in byronchild/Kindred, issue 3
This is an excerpt from Katrina Folkwell’s book The First Breath. Katrina is a mother of two and photographer who resides in Byron Bay.