Before we start, I want to say that I actually found this really hard to write. Giving birth was the hardest, scariest, most traumatic and most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done; and while I will ultimately relay the tale with my usual candour and transparency, I have never been so physically and emotionally vulnerable in my life. It has been difficult to present some parts with the same level of humour that my others stories might have. Don’t worry though. I say the word VAGINA a lot.
Well it had to happen eventually.
I had my baby! Finally, our gorgeous little Thomas George arrived into the world. A perfect male specimen, with all limbs and appendages in check. Blue eyes for days, spitting image of his dad with the exception of his “resting bitch face” which undoubtedly is a maternal trait. And of course he entered the world in the typical dramatic flair I have come to expect from the Quilty’s.
In the days leading up, I had some minor “pre-labour” symptoms. Nothing dramatic and they really just annoyed me more than anything because I felt like I was in perpetual baby limbo. Until I woke up on the 13th at 05:30 and was having actual real contractions – FINALLY! (Ha, I can laugh now at my impatience. I wasn’t even overdue.) I could provide you with details of how I dealt with the first stage of labour, but honestly it’s boring. Basically the contractions got longer in duration, occurred more frequently throughout the day and increased in intensity. It wasn’t actually that bad. As birthing experiences go, this part was completely doable. The contractions weren’t painful, just uncomfortable and I was kind of thinking I had this shit nailed. I honestly wondered if it was actually legitimately happening because it felt too easy. (Don’t worry, I ate my words later.) Hindsight tells me I should have used the day to sleep. That was a rookie error. SLEEP ladies. Sleep like you’ll never sleep again. Because you won’t. Ever again.
For those who don’t know, we chose to go to a midwife-run birth centre to have the baby instead of through the general hospital system or obstetrician. Birth centres provide low intervention care and we got to be case managed by the same midwife throughout the entire pregnancy and birth. They’re big promoters of a positive birth experience, trying natural and non-pharmaceutical methods to deal with pain and allow you to trust your body to do the job it’s supposed to do. I wanted to really experience what it was like to give birth because I just can’t imagine ever having another instance in life where I would feel that… alive? Human? I don’t know, I just wanted to feel it. God knows why. I ate those words later too. (Sidebar: The birth centre and their staff were absolutely amazing and I’d highly recommend for any mother to be.)
So, we went in at 9:30pm, when the contractions were 3 minutes apart and I was about 6cm dilated. I was already getting tired by then having been in pre-labour all day, but lucky I brought my turbo-husband along for the ride. Chatting a mile a minute offering me, the midwife and the midwifery student ice blocks, chips and a variety of other snacks he had packed for the occasion. You’d think he was hosting a party. Totally in his element.
The contractions by now were way more painful – I had started to feel them in my back. It sort of resembled someone shoving hot pokers into your kidneys and twisting them round and round for 90 seconds at a time. Kinda started to get why women asked for epidurals and drugs, however I persevered, reminding myself that this is what I wanted and got into the water. I stayed in there for awhile, having a lovely chat with everyone in between contractions and having that positive birth experience I always wanted. Things were progressing nicely.
Until they weren’t. Because suddenly everything slowed right down. The midwife suggested I get out of the water and start moving around. And let me tell you, I’ve never looked so graceful. I was completely naked, my legs were shaky and wobbly and once I started moving, every 3 minutes or so I would let out an almighty groan that even to my own ears resembled a dying cow/prehistoric beast. I did this for awhile in an attempt to speed things along before getting back in the water when I couldn’t handle it anymore. We were all tired, so much so that Mick began nodding off mid-sentence. So the midwife suggested he have a nap, because quote “you’ll be useless later on when it comes time to push.” Yes, you heard right. Because HE will be useless when it comes time to push. Excuse me a moment.
HE GETS TO HAVE A NAP?! I’ve been up since 5:30am with a tiny person trying to crawl out of my vagina and MICHAEL gets to have a nap?! THE FUCKING INJUSTICE! And of course he falls asleep within about a minute while I, his wife and one true love, continue to labour to bring OUR child into the world. If I wasn’t already focused on another important task like GIVING BIRTH, I would have ripped him a new one. Pun intended.
By this stage, another woman had come into the room next door and was labouring loudly. Seriously she had this amazing, Amazonian, guttural roar that I could have found empowering but instead sent me into a clusterfuck of fear and anxiety. She was loud enough that she woke Mick up. And it wasn’t long until we heard her baby cry. Which made me cry with fury because WE WERE HERE FIRST! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?! Our labour was literally going on forever. This baby was never going to come and I was going to end up in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest pregnancy/labour ever recorded in the history of humankind. The midwife recognised my hysteria (I think she had become familiar with my quirks by now) and decided to re-examine me.
Funny thing about being “examined.” It’s one of those moments when you realise you have no dignity left. I was lying on the floor, naked, legs spread, panting and groaning with each contraction, red-faced from the hot water and sucking on a pipe (because by this stage I needed gas and air). Basically, I looked a million bucks. Then to add a touch more class, another woman shoves her hand up my vagina and fiddles around in there. Not as much fun as it sounds. Apparently my waters were “bulging” and then with a bit more of a fiddle and a pop, they flowed right out of me.
Actually, there. That’s when I lost any remnants of dignity. Nothing quite like soaking the shoes of your midwife and husband with fluid quite literally gushing out of your vagina. Once your self-respect has disappeared, you suddenly don’t care who sees what. I can now safely boast that I have vomited, urinated and defecated in front of more people than I would usually be comfortable – in the toilet not during delivery. (In 5 years together I had avoided ever going to the toilet in front of my husband up until now. I know some people are sweet with a communal bathroom situation – I am not one of them. But there’s no mystery there now. He’s seen everything. And as far as I’m aware, nothing else was pushed out during the delivery other than a baby and if it did, Mick and the midwife happily kept that to themselves.) I dilated the remaining centimetres and then it came time to push.
MOTHER OF LADY GAGA. Imagine the biggest poo you’ve ever had to do in your life. Then multiply it by a million and that’s what childbirth feels like. You strain and push and it literally feels like a fucking ring of fire… Everything burns. The gas and air was taken off me because I was focusing on that rather than “effective pushing.” (Can you blame me? It made me feel drunk, which I hadn’t experienced in 9 months. That shit was awesome.) The Amazonian woman next door had nothing on me… I screamed myself hoarse. I have NEVER felt pain like it. But at the same time, I kind of completely disassociated from it. I was aware that it was painful and that I was PUSHING A HUMAN OUT OF MY VAGINA, but at the same time I kind of felt distanced from it, like I was watching myself do it.
Finally, I felt the head come out. It came out with a pop and kind of shocked me a little – I think I was still skeptical that this baby would ever arrive. I was still contracting, but I wasn’t supposed to push, just to “pant” my way through the next little bit – hardest thing to do when every part of your body is screaming at you to push the rest of the little person out. Things seemed to stall for a minute. Then the midwife’s tone of voice changed. She said that the baby’s chin was stuck and she was trying to loosen it before I was able to push any further.
You know when you can hear it in someone’s voice that they are not shitting around and you better do what they say? That was her. Suddenly she told Mick to help me stand, because the baby was stuck and she couldn’t see what was happening properly. Mick just jumped up and did it, no questions. He supported my upper torso while I balanced precariously on my wobbly legs and offered words of love and encouragement. Never have I loved that man more. I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t feel what was happening though found out later that the midwife had loosened the cord from around the baby’s neck. Once the cord was loosened, he quickly turned his head (another sharp pain I was NOT expecting) and slid right out, caught deftly by the midwife before he could splash back into the water.
Nothing could have prepared me for watching another person enter this world. Months of worrying, waiting, researching, talking about and listening to other women’s birth stories and I have never been so surprised or overwhelmed in my life. I gathered up my baby, both Mick and I desperate to find out who this little person was and finally I was able to say “it’s a boy” and sighed with relief when he instantly began crying.
The moments after that were surreal. I was given an injection in my leg to help the placenta come out. I was vaguely aware that it looked like some sort of shark attack had occurred in the water due to the amount of blood there was. I was carefully manoeuvred out of the water and back onto the floor to be examined. But all I could focus on was the tiny little face that moments ago didn’t exist in the world. Until I felt another contraction, which was VERY NOT OKAY – and again not something that anyone warned me about. I naively thought the placenta would just slide its way right out. But no. You have to push it. Or in my case cough it out, because I was torn to buggery down there.
Yep. You know when they say that giving birth is like pushing a watermelon through the size of a pea? Well my watermelon decided it would be a good idea to have his hands on his face as he entered the world. Essentially like a pair of earmuffs on his head (e.g. dramatic Quilty flair.) And as a result I got a 3rd DEGREE TEAR. I believe I mentioned in a previous post something regarding Google imaging 3rd and 4th degree tears? I again recommend absolutely NOT doing that and instead use your imagination when I tell you that he tore me open right to the edge of my arsehole, though none of the surrounding tissue which apparently is a blessing. I beg to differ.
Mick took our son while I got examined again and coughed the placenta out. Another dignified moment in my life – it’s not so easy to cough when your pelvic floor muscles have been ravaged by a giant watermelon. We discussed the tear and the probable need for surgery to fix it. I believe I said something like “No! I wrote about this shit in my blog, it can’t happen to me!” To which everyone just laughed. Because rude.
Not that any of that mattered once Tom was back in my arms again. A natural greedy guts (maternal and paternal trait) he latched straight on the boob and guzzled for Australia, all the while looking at me with the biggest, bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Everything you hear about the bond and falling in love with your baby when you first see them absolutely came true for me.
I got wheeled up to the maternity ward and met 2 different doctors, both of which examined my tear and said stupid things like “don’t worry you’ll be stitched up real good, your husband will be very happy” and “no rumpy-pumpy for 4 to 6 weeks afterwards.” Then they asked me what I did for a living. Once I informed them I was an RN they were suddenly a lot more professional. I wasn’t able to eat or drink before the surgery so naturally my energy supplies were low, but sleep was out of the question. I couldn’t not look at my boy and my husband and be completely filled with joy.
It came time for me to go to theatre and I’ll be honest, I was shitting myself (not literally. I still had bowel control.) Having a needle shoved into my spine is by far more terrifying a concept than childbirth, one of the many reasons I chose not to go the epidural route. But the feeling afterwards… lying back on that bed numb from the waist down was physically the most comfortable I’d been in 9 months. Even if my vagina was (again) exposed to a roomful of strangers (seriously, there were like 15 people in there). I occupied the surgery time by chatting to the anaesthetist about some mutual friends we had in common; while a team of doctors closely inspected my lady parts and put things back together. Another surreal moment I have no wish to repeat.
I made it back to the ward and my family, unable to walk until the spinal block wore off. By this stage I had been awake for 36 hours. I had stitches in my vagina. A catheter in my urethra. A very messy and uncomfortable blood loss situation happening down below and had not yet been able to shower. I had to learn how to breastfeed properly. A million and one phone calls and texts to respond to. As blissfully happy as I was with my beautiful son, I was fucking tired. And had an overwhelming feeling of “Shit. Now what?”
Which sets a nice precedent for how my first few days as a mother went. But that’s a post for another day.
Thomas George entered the world on Valentine’s day at 0643, weighing 3.475kg and 49.5cm long. We are completely overwhelmed with love and filled with joy to have such a precious, healthy little boy. Thank you so much to everyone for all their well wishes xoxo