I've always intended to be honest and open about motherhood and the realities of setting into being a New Mama. So here it is - my daughter's birth story in detail... Blow by blow!
Not all births are as straight forward as this one - and I'm very grateful to have had this experience.
Welcome to the world Miss Maya Joy Settecasse… born 8.09pm on Monday 16th October 2017.
Your due date was Monday 9th October, and that date passed. Then Friday the 13th rolled around and we thought that you might match your brother and come on that day. Nothing! I guess you were cosy inside. However I did feel like you were very low, and that my body was doing lots of cramping and tightening, so you must be close.
You were such a strong and vigorous little baby the whole pregnancy… then at almost 1 week overdue, you decided to have a bit of a rest and make me worry that you weren’t moving enough.
Monday 16th I headed into RPA’s birth centre for my 41 week appointment and a sweep by the midwife. I mentioned that I had to lie on my side to feel you move on the weekend, and that comment was promptly followed by a half hour heart rate scan (which was all normal) and a full ultrasound (which was also perfect). I headed back to the labour ward obstetrician with the results, thinking they would send me home and all was good, but the young obstetrician and her colleague were not going to let me go home. They wanted this baby delivered today. They threw a few really comforting words out there like ‘risk of a dead baby’ etc, which made me more mad than anything else, because I know how scare tactics are used to get women to comply with doctor ad hospital protocol. It made sense that if the placenta is tired that bub could also be tired, but they didn’t need to be so threatening - after all, I was there on my own and already had that anxious feeling of being overdue. They said because I was already 2-3cm (possibly because the morning’s sweep had already taken effect) they could break my waters and see how we go. They were quick to point out that if I wasn’t in full blown labour within four hours of the membranes releasing that I would be put on a drip, and therefore a waterbirth would be out of the question. Very keen to speed things along, they also wanted to break my waters right there - before I had a chance to call Paul or even contemplate that I was having a baby today. I gathered some strength and asked for ten minutes to call my birth support team and make sure they were on their way. They hesitated and said that yes, call them back to the room when i was ready. Phew! Something is going my way, they listened. I felt a bit of strength coming back and less vulnerable than ten minutes ago when I felt a few tears coming on. It didn’t matter (I comforted myself), we were having our baby so I tried to stay excited and not worried. I called Paul and told him to bring all our stuff in and leave Diego with his parents and explain to him what was going on. I called Astrid my birth support to make sure she was also on her way. After that I felt a little more relaxed, so even if things started to happen really fast at least they knew where to find me.
To my delight, a friendly birth centre midwife appeared to ask how I was and see if I was ok. She said she would break my waters, then hand over to a new birth centre midwife who would stay with me in the labour ward until I delivered. I couldn’t believe my luck - it really didn’t matter to me where I gave birth, but to have someone on my wavelength with the best natural intentions for me in the same room was a great relief. She pulled out the good old crochet hook, stuck it up the ‘vagina pipe’ (as Diego calls it) and broke my waters. Just like wetting the bed really! I padded up and stood up, then was shown to a great big delivery suite with the most amazing view of fig trees outside. I sat down and again took a few breaths to think about getting excited to meet my baby today. I smiled and looked at these beautiful surroundings and was very grateful that the level of care in Australia is the best in the world. Not much later Paul arrived - another relief. He distracted me with stories of what crazy Diego was up to that day. I got back on the bed to have a cannula put in my hand incase I had blood loss like my last birth - something I was told would happen so I was ready for it. They had a few goes at getting a vein, which was gross and painful. One midwife and nurse tried and failed, then they called an anesthetist to do the job properly. At the time I was cursing, but actually this delay was fortunate because the new midwife Michelle arrived, and immediately said ‘um - hang on a sec, can you please put that in her forearm? She will need her hands during labour so I would prefer it was in her arm.’ Yes! I loved Michelle immediately! Assertive but not arrogant.
Michelle, Paul and I chatted about Yorkshire tea bags and Nannas and parts of England, then she suggested we go for a big walk and check back in an hour later. She explained she would be with me the whole time, and that she only had a six hour shift (gees that doesn’t give us much time I was thinking). She also made my day by saying I could give birth in the bath (she must have read my preferences in my file), because the heart rate monitors were waterproof.
Astrid arrived armed with the most amazing almond meal muffins, so I grabbed a few in hand and we all strolled around the oval near the hospital. I was seriously waddling by this stage, like her head was in my undies. The surges had definitely kicked in. No more period pain like the last week, this was quite central inside me and enough to stop me walking A few minutes apart. We stopped, surged, laughed at how ridiculous we probably looked, chatted and walked, until I thought I better head back inside and sit on the loo. Just like all the books say, my body needed to purge itself for the final stages.
We cruised back in past Michelle, and I had a big smile on my face. She didn't even have to ask me what was happening - she knew I was surging strongly and very excited. We put on the hypnobirth affirmations track and I got changed into a couple of sarongs. This was it! Finally! I’m in it now, listening to the same track I had been practicing and visualising to for so long. MIchelle suggested I bounce on the ball and rub my nipples to fully get my body going strongly, but every time I sat down I needed to get back up again and lean on the bed and sway to get through a surge. I had a sarong over my face and leaned into my hands and breathed through the surges. I had clary sage on the sarong, and a bit of ylang ylang too. Michelle came over and put a few fingers on my belly to feel what was going on. She said to me that her shift finished in five hours, and that she really thinks she will be delivering the baby! Yes! That was such great motivation to keep doing what I was doing and let my body do its thing. Astrid and Paul took turns getting me drinks, holding my sacrum and hips. and applying the heat pack to my lower abdomen. The breaks were so nice - I stood up, smiled, talked to Paul and Astrid about how they felt, then got back in the zone and leaned over again. That worked well for ages - possibly over an hour, but then all of a sudden I had two back to back surges, and the intensity ramped up.
I moved over to the padded floor mat and got on all fours to get some pressure off my legs and feet. I swayed a bit and got my team to again press my back. During each break I just sat back on my heels and sipped water and got back in touch with my surroundings. I drifted in and out of listening to the affirmations, but every now and again I would catch a really good one that settled my mind and brought my tone and breath back down. I was making soft low noises through surges. I had in my mind I might try to be silent, but I thought the sounds were helping me and not taking away too much energy.
The pressure was moving into my bum a bit more, and was again intensifying. I recognised transition when I loudly pleaded for Paul to tell me where he was. Like a really brief moment of panic or something. He assured me he was right here beside me. Paul had the bath all ready, but I was waiting for the right time to get in. I think this was finally it! I also felt a bit cold so was very keen to get in a warm bath. I asked the team to slowly get my socks and other stuff off so I was ready. I waited a couple more surges to kind of psych myself up for the walk over to the bathroom ( a whole 4m!). I think I surged about four times between standing up and making my way to the bath. I never panicked or rushed, I simply paused and let the surge take its course, and continued toward the bath. Rushing was a really big thing for me last labour, and probably the things I had most worked on in preparation for this birth. No matter how long things needed to take, I was going to be relaxed and okay with it.
Gosh it was good to get in the bath. After so many surges one after another, it seemed like eternity for the first one to come on in the bath. Finally it did. I was in a normal bathing position, and Michelle explained the baths were not deep enough to squat or anything, so I would be semi reclined to give birth. I was not that keen to catch my own baby anyway (...for some reason. I know it looks miraculous in all the videos but I couldn’t see myself doing it) and Michelle would be in the best position to catch her anyway since I was reclined.
Astrid was above my head, putting a cold cloth on my forehead, and Paul was by my side next to the bath holding my hand and giving me water.
Michelle was on the other side, gloves on, and every now and again telling me to trust my body. Her low slow voice was exactly what I needed when my breath got a bit shallow. I did trust that my body can do this, and all I needed to do was be patient enough to let it all happen. It was going really really well so far and I had my peeps around me, and the knowledge from the hypnobirth course. I kept thinking about the uterus pulling and stretching up behind my baby. I also knew the heart rate was perfect so I felt very safe. The warm water and walls of the bath made me feel so at home and comfortable. The room was nice and dark and the team were all in good spirits. It was awesome.
Michelle suggested we get the camera rolling, and Paul started to get some clips of the surges. I then heard Paul say ‘shit, it’s telling me there’s no more memory.’ After many conversations about freeing up phone memory last week, I really had to breathe through not killing him at this point. Quick thinking Astrid suggested he delete the deleted folder to make space, and we were back in business.
I asked Paul if he was ready to catch some poo, and Michelle reminded me that this was just the feeling of baby really moving down the birth path now. How frickin exciting! The next few surges were really something else… more stinging around the vagina and cervix and I felt like I needed to move my legs apart more. I didn’t want Paul to hold my hand or touch me anymore. After the next surge Michelle said she could see the baby’s head! The next few breaks in surges I swore a lot under my breath because they really stung. Paul gripped my left ankle really tight through surges (something I heard in an American hypnobirth track), and that was helping take my mind of the burning sensations.
The team saw the head almost out three times in the next three surges. I breathed through them all. Michelle explained that the water makes bub slip back in, so if I wanted the head to fully come out I could bear down or push if I wanted. Yes, I really did want this baby’s head to come out, I was ready. So with the next surge I kept the bearing down going as long as I could and made some noise - finally - the head and chin were out under the water! Astrid and Paul were saying ‘wow’ and well done, and it was so close and so exciting - the last few hours had absolutely flown by. I asked if she had hair and they confirmed she did. She was facing down still. I think I used the next couple of surges to get myself ready for the actual birth and to meet her. Yep - this was it. The next surge I really bore down and used my arms to prop up and bit and move my legs even further apart. I made even more noise and SLIP! Michelle grabbed our baby and brought her up and onto my chest. We heard a few good cries and she was truly born into this world. An extra midwife that Michelle had called at the last minute rubbed her a bit with a towel and put another warm towel over her. Paul was crying, I couldn’t see Astrid. I was catching my breath for the emotion, and kissing her wet slippery head and saying hello. My eyes were all blurry and teary. Her wet little body was just perfect. The feeling of relief was incredible. After the worry of the morning and the awesomeness of the labour, and to have her in my arms was another level of satisfaction.
I was promptly helped out of the bath in case bleeding was bad, but the whole time they held her against my chest which was beautiful. We dried off and lay on the bed while a saline drip was put in. I was still surging, and Michelle helped me deliver the placenta fairly soon after. This was easy - I had heard that this could be quite full on but it was nothing. Almost ten minutes after the birth, Paul cut the cord and Michelle got to work putting a few stitches in some minor grazing. Another huge relief to know my body had done its thing and me staying relaxed had obviously helped the perineum stay in tact.
This next hour was really precious - as Paul Astrid and I admired the little creature and patted each other on the back. And drank shite loads of fluids! She was sucking her thumb vigorously so I helped her over to my nipple and she sucked for ages on the left then on the right. I had been getting some colostrum before the birth so I think she was happy!
Michelle asked me about names, and I said that Maya was on the cards. She said it was a sign, because Maja (one of my favourite midwives) was about to come in and take over! Yes that was the final sign I needed to confirm Maya as her name, but I waited until the next morning to decide anyway.
Maya was weighed and checked, Paul bought me in a huge burrito from Newtown, and I was able to get up and have a shower by myself - which compared to my last birth was an achievement in itself! I felt so healthy and powerful.
I couldn’t sleep that night I was so excited about her arrival and so happy that I had really achieved what I had set out to do, and that was to deliver naturally and all by myself with nothing more than mind power, knowledge, preparation and the right support around me.