It was 3am on Wednesday the 9th of August 2017. I had only just gotten to sleep after being in and out of bed since about 10pm with a constant, uncomfortable, period-like ache in my lower abdomen. I was nearly a week overdue and convinced that I’d be pregnant forever, when I woke up to a gush of fluid in my underwear. It wasn’t enough to soak the sheets (thank god – who can be bothered changing bed sheets at 3am!) but it was enough to wake me. I went to the bathroom and cleaned myself up, and then went back to bed. I told my husband, Anders, that I thought my water may have broken, but I wanted to just wait it out for a bit and see if any more came out or contractions started before calling the hospital (I was still convinced that I’d be pregnant forever at this point).
Sure enough, more fluid was slowly leaking out of me and contractions had started. The contractions were coming between 4-6 minutes apart and felt like period cramps, which is exactly how most other mums I’ve spoken to had described them. They were somewhat painful but totally manageable and not that bad, really. At my midwife appointments, I was told to call the hospital if my water breaks or contractions are 4-5 minutes apart, so I did. I explained what was going on and was told to come in to be assessed. Anders and I showered, got dressed, finished packing my hospital bag, and off we went.
On the way, I texted our student midwife, Zoe (she had been following us throughout my pregnancy as part of her practical requirements for uni), and my mum to let them know what was going on. Because the contractions were coming so frequently, I was sure that I was in active labour and would be admitted, finally!
We arrived at the hospital and after much trying to convince me that I’d probably just peed myself (major eye roll – I think I know my own body!), the midwife tested the fluid that had leaked out of me and determined that my water had broken, but that it was likely my hindwaters (my forewaters will also need to break in order for labour to really intensify). However, a vaginal exam showed that I was still only 1-2cm dilated, so I was sent home to labour there for a while until my contractions picked up more (they had slowed down a bit by this point).
I was a little disappointed that I was still in early labour, but at the same time, I was happy to be able to labour at home for a while because I knew I’d be much more comfortable there. My mum came over around mid-morning and she, Anders and I binge-watched Catfish, while I alternated pacing around the house, bouncing on my fit ball, and rocking on all fours. I even managed to have a snooze in between contractions for a while, which was much-needed!
Around lunchtime, I noticed that the fluid leaking out of me had changed colour slightly, so I called the hospital (as per their instructions) and they asked me to come back in to check everything was okay. We got to the hospital and the midwife told me that my fluid was all normal and my cervix was fully effaced and 3cm dilated. Progress! I was then sent home again until my contractions became more intense and closer together, my forewaters broke, or 9pm that night (I would need antibiotics if my water had been broken for 18 hours as bub would have been at risk of infection).
When we got home, I did much the same as earlier that day until we left for the hospital, ready to have a baby! When we got to the hospital, my friend Hannah’s mum, Julie, was one of the midwives on shift at the time, so she looked after me for the next few hours. It was really nice to have a familiar, friendly face looking after me. Zoe met us at the hospital too – our birth team was ready to go! I was in the assessment room for a while, getting my antibiotics administered via IV and having another vaginal exam, which showed that I was still only about 4cm dilated. My contractions were intensifying, though, so I was expected to make some more progress soon.
About midnight, we got moved to the birthing suite, where my superstar husband set up my essential oil diffuser and put my hypnobirthing playlist on (I didn’t do a hypnobirthing course, I just downloaded some of the music, which was so relaxing!). A really nice midwife whose name I can’t remember looked after me for a while until the next shift change. All the midwives we encountered were all so lovely!
I was pretty tired by this point, but I was doing my best to move as much as I could. A few hours later, I had another vaginal exam and was told I was only 5cm dilated still. It had been 24 hours since my hindwaters first broke, so the midwives suggested that they break my forewaters for me so that labour would progress more quickly. I agreed because I knew that it was getting a little risky for bub to still be in there. Zoe broke my forewaters and I continued to labour for a while, until a really rude obstetrician came in to check on me. The obstetrician informed me that bub had pooped in utero, which wasn’t the end of the world, but we did need things to progress more quickly in case he inhaled any meconium (baby’s first poop). She noticed that I still had some forewaters which hadn’t been broken, so she broke them and it was like Niagara Falls between my legs – I couldn’t believe how much fluid was coming out! It flooded the bed and even went up my back and over the bed. Litres of fluid must have gushed out, and I continued to leak for a while after that, too!
I went and had a shower to clean myself up, and when I came out there had been a shift change and we met the midwife who would end up delivering our baby. Her name was Eleanor and she was lovely! She asked for my birth plan straight away and asked me a few questions to make sure she understood exactly what I wanted, which was really comforting.
Once the mess had been cleaned up, the obstetrician came back and suggested that I have a syntocinon drip to speed up my contractions. This was something I really didn’t want, but I knew that bub needed to come out ASAP so I agreed. However, Eleanor knew that it wasn’t what I wanted, so she explained to me that she was monitoring my contractions and was confident that I would progress on my own without the drugs. The obstetrician did not offer me this option. Eleanor later told us that she fought with the obstetrician for me to not have the syntocinon, which I appreciated so so much! The following few hours would have gone a lot differently if I had ended up taking the syntocinon.
The contractions were now really intense and coming one on top of another, or with only a minute or two in between. Transition, the last and most intense phase of labour, was starting. I was so exhausted, all I wanted to do was lay on my side on the bed, but that made the contractions more painful. I tried standing up or leaning over the bed, but I was so weak it was difficult. I was starting to lose it, and couldn’t control the screams that came out during contractions. I could only feel the pain in my lower back and hips, which I knew meant that the baby was posterior (his back against my back), which was causing my labour to be so long. I started to get hysterical and say I couldn’t do it anymore, but Anders, my mum, Zoe and Eleanor all continued to reassure me that I could do it and that I was doing an amazing job. In my birth plan, I had predicted that this would happen, and stated that no one is to even suggest an epidural because it’s not what I want and I know I’d regret it if I did have one. As per my wishes, no one even said the word “epidural”, so I continued labouring with no pain relief. Poor Anders was getting quite upset watching me in so much pain, but he continued to support me all the way through.
Before I knew it, Eleanor told me that I was 9cm dilated and to let her know when I felt the urge to push. I was so exhausted and delirious, I knew that I wanted to push so that I didn’t have to feel the pain of my contractions anymore, but I wasn’t sure that I actually needed to push just yet. A little while later, I felt the urge to push, so I started to do so for a few contractions. Eleanor told me that I had a cervical lip and that I should try to labour for a little longer so that it would move itself out of the way, but she could try to push it behind the baby’s head. After a few more contractions, Eleanor managed to push the cervical lip behind bub’s head so I could continue to push. I moved off the bed and stood next to it, leaning over the edge of the bed and squatting down with every push to get gravity to assist moving the baby down, as per Eleanor’s instructions. I was pushing for quite some time and was really struggling to keep going, but the support I had from my birth team kept me going. Once bub started crowning, Eleanor made me touch the top of his head, which really helped me to keep pushing hard because I knew he was so close.
As soon as the baby’s head was out, Eleanor and Zoe discovered that his shoulders were stuck, so they managed to move me from standing next to the bed to laying on my back on the bed, all with my baby’s head hanging between my legs! I didn’t know what was happening at the time – I was just pushing with everything I had to get the rest of his body out, while Eleanor maneuvered his body to get his shoulders out without causing him or myself any damage. I heard an alarm going off and saw a lot of people rush in the room, but I still didn’t know what was happening.
Finally, at 11:32am on Thursday the 10th August 2017, after two hours of pushing, Bowie Kenneth McLeod was born! He was put on my chest for about one second before he was whisked away to the crib beside me to have help breathing, make sure he hadn’t inhaled any meconium, and check that his shoulders weren’t injured on the way out. I just laid on the bed and watched the swarm of doctors and nurses around my baby, with no idea what was going on, but comforted by the fact that Anders was right next to him and everyone was telling me he was okay. My dad was in the waiting room, so Zoe went and brought him into the room. He had heard the alarm and saw the doctors and nurses rushing through the hall and was panicking, so he was very emotional and relieved to see that bub and I were both okay! Once bub was stabilized, he was handed to me again for a very brief moment so I could meet him before he was taken away to the NICU for further monitoring. The love that I felt for him and for my husband in that moment was so intense and overwhelming, I knew that I’d go through all of that pain again in a heartbeat for my son.
Anders went with Bowie to the NICU while I stayed in the birthing suite to deliver my placenta and have my small internal graze stitched up. While I was waiting to be stitched up, Eleanor came back to tell me that Bowie was doing well and was just being given antibiotics and being monitored as a precaution. She also told me that he weighed 9lb 3oz (4.16kg) and was 58cm long, with a 36.5cm head, which I was extremely shocked by! How did a baby that big, plus all that fluid, fit inside me!?
Another midwife finally arrived to stitch me up, and she offered me the “happy gas” while she gave me the local anaesthetic needle in my vagina before stitching me up. I’d just been through 32 hours of labour with no pain relief, so I thought I may as well give the gas a try! It was a super weird feeling – kind of like being drunk. It definitely distracted me from the needle in my vagina, thankfully! Once I was stitched up, I was examined further, went to the toilet to pee, got dressed, and went to see my son.