I woke up on the morning of my due date, still pregnant. I was supposed to go into the hospital that day for a growth scan and an appointment with a midwife to discuss the scan, which meant I’d likely be pushing back on pressure to book an induction that I didn’t want or need. My almost 3 year old son, Bowie, was a “big baby” and had shoulder dystocia at birth, so my entire pregnancy had included pressure to induce labour, and options taken away (eg. birthing at a Family Birthing Centre, and having a government-funded home birth with the Community Midwifery Program) due to being “high risk”. I had complete faith that I could birth my own baby without intervention, and to be honest I could not be bothered having that scan and the same conversation I’d had several times with various care providers, stating that I would not be having an induction or C-section unless there was a genuine emergency and the health of myself or my baby were in danger. So I rang the hospital to cancel the scan but agreed to go in for an appointment because I was told that I “had to”, because I had been seeing a midwife from Perth Maternity (who was amazing and totally supportive of my decisions) for all my antenatal appointments but apparently needed to see a hospital midwife because it was my due date. Not sure why that matters, but I couldn’t be bothered fighting it so I agreed to the appointment.
A few minutes after I got off the phone with the hospital midwife, I felt a trickle down my leg, which I assumed was a hind water leak because I definitely did not wee myself, and the same thing had happened when Bowie’s labour started. I didn’t bother calling the hospital again because I was going in that afternoon anyway. I started having mild contractions not long after, which continued throughout the day. They were definitely “real” contractions, but mild enough that I could go about my day as normal.
My mum came over to watch Bowie and I got to the hospital at about 3:30pm. I waited a while and was still having irregular contractions. A really nice midwife saw me and I told her that I was sure my hind waters had broken and had been having contractions all day, so she hooked me up to the monitors on the bed in one of the assessment rooms. I also told her that I had been having some yellowish discharge for a couple of days and thought it might have been thrush.
The midwife left the room for a little while and then came back with the test to see whether my waters had broken, which came back positive. She then said that she thought the discharge was meconium, and confirmed this with a doctor. I was then informed by the midwife and a doctor who came in later that they recommended I stay in hospital so that the baby could be continuously monitored in case it was fetal distress that had caused her to release the meconium, and that it would be hospital policy to induce labour by having my fore waters broken and if too little progress was made within four hours, I would be given syntocinon. I didn’t want any of those things to happen. I had been hooked up to the monitors for about 2 hours by the time the doctor came in to speak to me, and the baby’s heart rate had been perfect the whole time, so I knew she was fine and not in distress. I also knew that the chance of meconium aspiration was extremely minimal, so I decided to go home so I could say goodbye to Bowie, shower, get all my stuff ready, and be in my own space for a while to see if things get going a bit more on their own, and then return to the hospital at 9:30pm (2 hours after I finally left the hospital). I had to sign a waiver saying that I had gone against medical advice before I left the hospital.
I then went home and the contractions started to intensify a bit while I was driving home, but I could still drive safely. I had allowed the midwife to do a stretch and sweep while she checked my dilation (I was 2cm dilated and she managed to stretch me to 3cm) before I left the hospital. I figured I may as well give it a shot, in the hopes that it would help get things moving and I wouldn’t need any further interventions. I got home, said goodbye to Bowie (my mum took him to her place), showered, ate some food, and got ready to go. The contractions really picked up while I was at home, so much so that I had to stop what I was doing and breathe through each one, so I guess the stretch and sweep worked. Either that or I felt safe at home in my own space, so my body relaxed and started to open more. My doula, Jessie, met my husband, Anders, and I at home and followed us to the hospital.
By the time we got to the hospital, it was almost 10pm. We went straight up to the birthing suite as they were expecting me, and the midwife who let us in told me that Julie was waiting for me. Julie is a midwife at the hospital, and is also the mum of one of my close friends, who I have known since I was 15. As soon as I knew she would be looking after us, I felt SO much relief because she knows me and my history, and I trust her completely.
Julie had set up the birthing suite beautifully, with dim lights, birthing balls, and a yoga mat. Jessie and Anders also set up the essential oil diffuser and made the space nice and comfortable. We had a bit of a chat when we arrived and discussed my options. Julie did a VE (vaginal examination) and I was 4cm dilated. I hadn’t leaked any more fluid since this morning and she couldn’t see any yellow discharge on the pad I had on, so she wasn’t convinced that my hind waters had broken at all, nor that there was any meconium. Sometimes the test they do to confirm the presence of amniotic fluid can give an incorrect result. She said that we could wait a while to see whether I would progress on my own before breaking my fore waters, which I was very happy about!
I had to have wireless monitors strapped to me for a while, which was a bit of a pain, but they needed to get a decent trace on the baby’s heart rate to confirm she wasn’t in distress. The monitors kept slipping down so Jessie had to hold them in place while I tried to get into comfortable positions. After a while, Julie said the baby’s heart rate was perfect and that she could take the monitors off and just listen to her heart rate with a handheld doppler sporadically. Once the monitors were off, the contractions picked up and I laboured nicely with the support of Anders and Jessie for a few hours. I spent time in the shower, on all fours on the yoga mat, leaning over the upright back of the bed, and laying on my side with a peanut ball between my legs when I needed a rest.
A few hours passed and I started to feel like I might be getting close to transition – my contractions were getting stronger and closer together, I had the shakes, I had vomited, and my back and hips were aching. This was when I started to really go deep into labour land – I couldn’t get many words out and felt like I was in a trance. Julie did another VE and said I was 5cm dilated, so I wasn’t quite in transition yet. At this point it was around 3am and it had been 18 hours since my hind waters had apparently broken, although by this point we were all sure that they hadn’t because no more fluid or discharge had leaked out. Hospital policy states that at 18 hours after waters had broken, antibiotics would need to be administered via an intravenous drip. I couldn’t think of anything worse than having an IV inserted into my arm or hand, so I declined this. Julie said that she could easily break my fore waters if I wanted her to, however she also said that the baby’s head was in a bit of a funny position, slightly cocked to one side. We asked what would happen if my waters were broken while her head was in this position and Julie explained that the contractions would likely intensify and could then help move her head into the right position, or it might not, there was no way to tell. Anders, Jessie and I all discussed this for quite some time before I decided to go ahead with having my waters broken and hoped the baby’s head would straighten out. I was starting to get very tired by this point and knew that I would have trouble continuing into transition and pushing if I kept progressing as slowly as I had so far.
Julie broke my waters with ease at 3:30am, and they were completely clear – no meconium! Once the big gush had eased off a bit, I got back in the shower and my contractions intensified quite a lot and became closer together. I continued labouring with my amazing support team, but I was feeling my contractions in my back and my front. I didn’t assume the baby was posterior because I was feeling some contractions in the front, so I just thought I was sore in my lower back and hips because they were fatigued and opening up more. Julie did another VE around 5:30am and I had progressed to 7cm. This was when transition really started. I had gone completely into labour land by this point, and I could only get out single words like, “hips” when I needed hip squeezes, or “ice” when I needed to eat some ice cubes.
After a while, I felt like I needed to rest so I laid down on the bed, but my contractions started to slow a bit, so I stood up and every time I had a contraction, I wrapped my arms around Anders’ neck and put all my weight on him to try and get the baby to move down. This worked a treat – I started to feel the urge to bear down. After doing this for a while, at about 6:25am (thank you Jessie for taking note of the time!), I got back on the bed and leaned over the upright back of the bed on my knees and started feeling the urge to push. Julie encouraged me to listen to my body and push when I felt like I needed to, so I did. I did this for a while but not much was happening, so Julie checked and I had a cervical lip, which she tried to tuck behind the baby’s head but couldn’t quite get it there. She suggested I try not to push and just breathe through the next few contractions, if possible, to try and get the lip to disappear. I tried this for a little while but it wasn’t long before I couldn’t stop myself from pushing. I was worried that I was pushing against the cervical lip, making it swell, so I told Julie that I couldn’t stop pushing and asked if that was okay, and she told me that if I couldn’t stop pushing then that’s fine, I needed to listen to my body.
After a few minutes more of pushing on my knees, leaning over the back of the bed, Julie suggested I lay down on the bed on my right side with my left knee pulled up to my chest to help get the cervical lip to disappear, if it was still there. Jessie helped me hold my knee up while Anders was down the business end watching everything happening. Pushing was SO hard and my hips and lower back were in agony. I was pushing with everything I had, it was such hard work, and I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t upset or worried, but I knew that there was something a bit off. The baby’s head was going out and back in again for quite a while, so Julie said that that could be an indication that shoulder dystocia might happen. This didn’t upset me, but gave me a bit more motivation to push harder to get my baby out. I knew that if shoulder dystocia did happen, we were safe and would be fine. Finally, the baby was crowning and I put my hand down and felt her head. After a few more pushes, her head came out and Julie said, “she’s sunny side up, Lauren!” I looked down and sure enough, my baby’s face was looking up at me – she was completely posterior. That explained why it was so hard to get her out, and why my back and hips were hurting so badly! A few seconds later, at 7:55am on the 27th of May 2020, 23 hours after my hind waters had supposedly broken and labour had started, Tigerlily was born into her Daddy’s hands and passed straight up to me. She let out a big cry as her chunky, vernix-covered body was coming out. She was perfect!
I felt more relief than I’ve ever felt in my life, and said to my daughter, “we did it, I love you so much!” I held her on my chest and Anders and I felt so much love for our daughter and each other. Julie had to go as soon as Tigerlily was born because it was almost an hour after her shift ended (how amazing is she for staying so she didn’t miss the birth!), so we were left with another lovely midwife, Bre. I didn’t want the syntocinon injection to release my placenta, so Bre just gave my belly a bit of a massage and my placenta came right out 4 minutes after birth. I held my baby for probably around 15 minutes while her placenta and umbilical cord were still attached, until her cord turned white and stopped pulsating. Anders cut her cord, and she found her own way up to my breast for her first breastfeed.
After I birthed my placenta, I started bleeding a bit more than I should have, so I ended up having the syntocinon injection to ease off the bleeding. Bre checked me and said I had a second degree tear, so a doctor came in and stitched me up about 2 hours after Tigerlily was born. I handed Tigerlily over to Anders for some skin to skin while I was being stitched up, and they also weighed and measured her. My pregnant belly was huge, so I wasn’t really that surprised that she weighed 4.57kg, which was 10lb! She was 54cm long, 4cm shorter than Bowie was, and 0.41kg heavier, so she was much chunkier than him. She also had a full head of beautiful dark brown hair, whereas Bowie had a tiny tuft of blonde hair.
Anders and Jessie were absolutely wrecked, and I was high on the rush of beautiful hormones running through my body, and also absolutely starving! Jessie helped me shower while Anders held Tigerlily, and then went home to have a brief nap before her own three children came home. What an absolute superstar!
We still don’t know for sure whether it was my hind waters that broke at the very start of my labour. It could have potentially been cervical weeping, or maybe something else – who knows! All we knew was that we had our perfect, chunky baby and everything had worked out absolutely perfectly. We couldn’t be happier!
And to everyone who ever doubted that my body could birth another big baby and not have shoulder dystocia again: I told you so!!
Below images taken by Jessie McGarry and edited by Lion Fox and Co.