The Birth Of Albie
We had assumed Albie’s birth would be similar to his big sister Remi’s, and that’s what we wanted. It turns out it was going to be very different, a more overwhelming and powerful physical journey as well as one of the biggest mind games I have encountered (a rivalry between midwife Abi and maternal Abi), but equally as significant and brilliant in its own way, one where it didn’t go to plan, but ended up even better.
The pregnancy had been somewhat smooth, only the unexpected diagnosis of gestational diabetes (GDM) took us very off guard. My sugars were stable and baby’s growth within normal limits. We had discussed our wishes for a water birth in the birth centre at GCUH (my work, Gold Coast University Hospital), with our amazing and extremely knowledgeable and experienced midwife, Graham. We knew when to call him, and when to make the call to head into hospital, it was a very clear cut moment during Remi’s labour and the timing worked out perfectly. We had prepared Remi by showing her birth videos, and talking about what would happen and openly answering all her questions, in the hope she would be there to see her new sibling being born.
We had my sister on standby to take care of her and my sister in law prepared to take photos throughout the labour and birth. We were organised, and complacently awaiting it all to happen.
It was Thursday night and I had just hit 39 weeks. I had been having Braxton Hicks and irregular mild tightenings the whole week so didn’t think much of it when they started again that evening. I went to sleep as normal, waking often to go to the toilet (as every pregnant woman knows!). But at 4am Friday morning I had a bit more fluid coming out than just a normal wee, which I thought had potential to be my waters, but I wasn’t convinced as it was dark in the bathroom and it wasn’t a large gush. I put on a pad and headed back to bed. About 0420, I’m not sure I made it back to sleep in this time, I got up to check my pad. It had pink liquor on it, midwife Abi knew it, my waters had broken.
From that moment it started, and each one substantially stronger than the one before. It was freezing. That is one feeling I won’t forget, the crisp, middle of winter morning in which he was told not to come on! My husband Clay woke up and began supporting me and trying to get me ready. I tried to get organised for the trip to hospital and eat etc, as I did in early labour with Remi, but I couldn’t get far without an even stronger contraction taking over my body. I managed to get half dressed into my prepared labour outfit, and have three bites of toast! I rang Graham at 0500 to let him know I was in “early labour” but his phone got diverted to another midwife on-call, who I told I probably wasn’t ready to go into hospital thinking it was too early on in the labour. I sat on the toilet unable to get off, and before I could even stop for a second to consider it, midwife Abi was examining herself to see what was going on! I was 9cm dilated and baby’s head was at +1 (I could easily feel the head was low and I was almost due to push, and as someone who’s had a vaginal birth before, knew I was probably going to have the baby VERY soon!).
So only 15 minutes after the first phone call thinking I wasn’t ready, I had to call Graham again to tell him I wasn’t going to make it into hospital at all. I got the on-call midwife again who said she would try and call Graham on his personal number again. I didn’t have time for not knowing who was going to come (if anyone), so I called a good friend and colleague Ebeth, who was only orientating to this model of care, but knows what she’s doing! She said she would come straight away. Although Clay is an amazing support person (and played cricket so I know he can catch!), I felt I needed this professional help. I have total faith in low risk homebirths for ones that are planned and have trained personnel present but I felt that something wasn’t right. This is not a good mindset to be in during labour and I began to lose control. Actually, I’m not sure I ever had control, there was no nice gradual build up to get momentum, and I didn’t like that. I’m not a spontaneous person and I need the notice! My fight or flight response kicked in and I called the ambulance (probably my biggest mistake in hind sight, but it felt right at the time).
I’m not sure I can put into (nice) words what it was like having the operator on the phone commentating throughout the phone call; “Clay, don’t let her sit on the toilet” (too late, and Clay didn’t dare move me!), “Clay, I’ll get you to grab some warm towels” (like we had WARM towels prepared for this moment), but the best one was, “Clay, what is she contracting?” (to which I snapped ‘the baby is coming, it doesn’t matter!’). I know, he was just doing his job, and he probably did a good job of it (to the paramedics), but as a woman who felt so out of control of her body and mind I needed reassurance and a calm voice, a midwife. I told him (probably too rudely) I needed to call my midwife because this phone call wasn’t helping, to which he told me to use another phone. There was no getting rid of him, bless him.
The QAS (Queensland Ambulance Service) were the first to arrive, and much to my dismay the first thing they tried to make me do was get off my comfy chair, the toilet, and onto the bed. As well as not wanting to get off my sorry ass, there was no way I was getting on the bed, we have white bedding! Just kidding (but not really), I knew the bed was not where I wanted to be, so the inner midwife in my adorable husband suggested all fours on the floor leaning over the bed. Genius, I knew I married him for a reason. We put towels down to save the carpet, and Clay covered me in my dressing gown, another win for the husband as this turned out to be where I felt safest, and warmest!
Did I mention it was middle of winter at the coldest time of day? The paramedic gowned up and the poor guy just wanted Ebeth to get there already. These guys are very well trained and I trust them with my life, but I needed my midwife, no offense! My Sister was next to arrive and we told her to wake Remi up to watch, and don’t forget our poor cat who is probably still scarred to this day after witnessing human childbirth! Remi was amazing, she stayed silent and still, glancing small smiles my way when I peeked out from my dressing gown. The comfort those small gestures gave me, she will never understand. In fact, she did more to comfort me than the three paramedics and operator did put together. Maybe it reminded me of how normal birth is, she wasn’t worried or scared, why should I be?
Ebeth arrived and hallelujah, someone can tell me what on earth is going on. Midwife Abi knows, really, I see it often. Women arriving on ambulance beds after delivering at home. I even advise women to come in early as they will probably birth quickly, but I just didn’t think that would ever be me. Ebeth was so calm and so reassuring, and appropriately trained for this scenario. Midwife Abi asked Ebeth to listen to baby’s heart rate, as QAS didn’t have this equipment available. It turns out because Ebeth was technically still orientating to the MGP team, she was minus her doppler too. Midwife Abi didn’t like this, but maternal Abi knew her baby was fine, and just needed to keep on keeping on.
Considering my first stage of labour (from strong, regular contractions/approx 4cms-10cms) was VERY fast, my second stage (pushing) felt like eternity for a multi (somebody who has had a baby before). Ebeth and I agree now that I was holding back. I had built up too much fear and because I had no control, I wasn’t in tune with my body or contractions so I didn’t know when to push. Midwife Abi asked her, “what’s happening Ebeth?”, to which she replied “everything is fine”, and we agreed if baby didn’t come with the next three to four contractions, we would change position. Maternal Abi didn’t like the sound of that extreme intervention (getting off the toilet and now this!) so I pushed harder than I’d ever pushed before. With my hand, I felt baby’s head come more and more, and midwife Abi was worried she couldn’t hear Ebeth, expecting to hear “stop pushing, just breath baby out” as baby was crowning. I wasn’t quite there yet, but Ebeth spoke up anyway. The pushing definitely felt better than trying to breathe through contractions, so I began to feel much more in control and I even remember my face relaxing more, and actually pushing well with my contractions. Baby’s head was birthed perfectly, still on all fours, and the body followed with the next push.
Albie was born at 0643 on the 28th of July 2017.
Ebeth, midwife Abi, maternal Abi and the so-called cricket player ALL failed to catch the baby in two hands, but he had a smooth landing to the towels below, I promise.
Maternal Abi called out “its a boy!” before holding him close and not letting him go. I never had strong maternal instincts to what gender baby would be, I changed my mind the whole time, but when I saw him, it made sense. Albie was perfect, crying, warm, pink and just beautiful. I don’t remember anyone else around Albie and I for the next few moments, it was just the two of us, even though there were seven other people in my bedroom watching on!
Midwife Abi returned and I tried to force Albie to breastfeed (probably only three minutes old at this time!) as she knew the importance of initiating an early breastfeed due to the gestational diabetes. Ebeth reassured me there was plenty of time and so I just enjoyed cuddles. About 10 minutes later Ebeth thought the placenta was separating, so I stood up to help it out, in which came a large (but still normal) gush of blood all over my poor carpet (good work towels!) and my poor midwife. Ebeth suggested I have Syntocinon (a drug to help the placenta come away and reduce bleeding), and midwife Abi, simultaneously thinking the same thing, agreed. The placenta was birthed on the toilet (hooray back to the toilet!), and I managed to catch it, sorry Albie!
I then went via ambulance to the hospital for a couple of check ups and the usual paper work process. Albie weighed 3670g, approx 8 pound 1 ounce, and was a lanky 55cm long! We felt great and we were home again by just after lunch time.
Midwife Abi and maternal Abi didn’t agree on much during the labour and birth, but one thing we did agree on was discharging against medical advice.
As I had GDM, it is protocol for the baby to have 24 hours worth of blood sugar monitoring in hospital. Midwife Abi knew I had 100ml of expressed breastmilk frozen at home, she knew it was well controlled in pregnancy and the actual risks of baby getting hypoglycaemia were small and she knows the clinical signs of hypoglycaemia. She’s also not silly, she would re-present to the hospital if concerned. Maternal Abi knew her baby was perfect and healthy the moment she held him, she knew the safest place for Albie was at home.
We enjoyed the rest of the day snuggling and staring at our beautiful new baby. We didn’t nap, we kept talking about how surreal it was and our adrenaline levels were too high. I kept going over it in my head, trying to comprehend what had happened. Yes, it was SO normal, just so unexpected. Graham said if he had answered his phone the first time I called, he would have advised me to come into the hospital straight away. He is a midwife wizard and secretly knew I would birth quickly. It made me wonder how my experience would have been if he had answered the phone. A waterbirth in the birthcentre as planned, perhaps? Whatever may have been, Albie had a different plan, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Written by Midwife and Mother of 2, Abi.
(This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional. All information is written from the experience and knowledge of the person writing the post).