Birth. It is the most incredible, indescribable, unpredictable and miraculous occurrence. Bringing life into the world is an experience that is personal and precious beyond belief. Each delivery is different to the next, and yet I feel that despite the varying differences it is something so special it can actually bring us altogether. I’m pulling together a range of real birth stories to share in the hope of expanding our knowledge and expectations of birth, and to dwell in the wonder that is the gift of life, in the countless forms it may arrive in!
Name & age at birth:
Amy Shaw-Johnston, 24
Cravings during pregnancy:
I was sick up until 14 weeks, and really struggled to eat anything, but needed to eat to not feel sick. I ate lots of dry crackers, salt & vinegar chips, and toast with Vegemite up until 14 weeks.
Then I wanted orange juice and healthy food, apart from any orange vegetables. Sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin etc. made me feel sick to even think about… weird.
I am a vegetarian, but craved roast chicken so I had that a couple of times during pregnancy. I trusted that my body knew what it needed, and I listened.
Heartburn up until giving birth and being uncomfortable while sleeping.
Biggest concern about birth was:
Having an episiotomy or C-section.
Ideal birth plan was:
All natural in the water.
Hours in labour:
From first contraction to being born was 10.5 hours.
How we went from wombmate to roommate:
I went into labour 3 days late (after due date) around midnight. I had been having braxton hicks for about a week, and could immediately tell the difference due to the intensity. My contractions were immediately 3 minutes apart. I called my midwife, who said to go to the hospital when I felt it was time. I had in my head that I would labour at home for as long as I could! But as soon as I had my first contraction, all I wanted to do was go to the hospital.
When I got there I had a midwife for 5 hours who I hadn’t met before. She was amazing; gentle and intuitive. I felt at ease and comfortable with her. I didn’t have a rigid plan because I wanted to avoid disappointment, and accept my birth for what it was meant to be. I asked for an epidural a couple of hours in. I was never opposed to one, and knew it was early enough. My partner, who is a doctor, talked me out of it. He said that it may mean I’d need extra intervention to get the baby out, and that he believed in me and that I could do this without one. The midwife gave me the gas to try, and from that point on I was pretty “zen” for the rest of my birth.
They ran me a bath, but it took me a while to feel comfortable being in it because I had to go to the toilet constantly. I had diarrhoea and vomiting for the first few hours of labour. I sat on the toilet with the midwife next to me checking on the babies heart rate every now and then, and my partner was crouched in front of me, holding a bin for me to vomit into. I laboured on the toilet like this with the gas for a while until I felt it was time to get into the water. Once I was in the bath I felt a sense of relief. The water definitely helps in a way that’s difficult to put into words. My partner kept the water temperature right, and through my contractions held the shower head on my back to try to relieve some of the pain. Baby was posterior, so the pain was all in my lower back.
My midwife arrived around 5am. At this stage, I hadn’t spoken or really made a noise since having the gas a couple of hours before. My body had started to push with the contractions in an attempt to meet the pain. I was breathing slowly and quite loudly, but was totally in an impenetrable zone. It was just me in a bubble with my breath, and nothing else was really going in or out.
At around 8am my midwife asked me to get out of the bath. I had started to push properly but was struggling to make progress. She was holding a mirror between my legs to help me to see what was happening. I very slowly got out of the bath and onto the bed on all fours, my upper body resting on pillows. I knew it was the best position to be in, but my body didn’t like it. I started to vomit again, and just wanted to turn over onto my back, but stay upright, which is what I did. At this stage it was still just me, my partner and midwife in the room. She was holding the mirror between my legs, and with every contraction I pushed and saw my babies head reveal itself slightly, and then go back in. I felt incredibly frustrated, exhausted and was obviously in a lot of pain.
I had been pushing for 2 hours when the doctors arrived. The 3 of us knew (midwife, partner and me) that there would be an intervention soon. I remember them each taking one of my legs in an attempt to help me to push the baby out before there was intervention. Unfortunately, due to her being posterior, she just wouldn’t come out. That’s when I started to “come back into the world” if you like. I opened my eyes fully and looked around. There was suddenly a lot of people in the room. My legs were put into stirrups and the doctor told me that they needed to help the baby come out, so they were going to give me an episiotomy and use a suction on her head. I remember groaning but nodding my head, seeing the scissors being passed over and then disappear between my legs. The thought of it is worse than the feeling. Once they’d cut me, they attached the suction to the babies head and told me that I had to push while they pulled. They would do this 3 times, and if she wasn’t out would try something else. By the second pull and push she was out.
I remember looking down and thinking there was something wrong with her because her head was so misshapen. They brought her up onto my chest, and everything after that becomes a bit blurry. I know they were stitching me up and doing things around me, but I was just totally focused on this funny looking little baby who was crying a lot. Within 2 minutes of birth, she had attached to my breast and was quietly suckling. One of my favourite feelings is holding your tiny new naked baby, feeling their tiny little bottom in your hand while they’re close against your chest. I was expecting that “movie moment”… that overwhelming feeling of love. But what I felt was unexpected. I felt love, but also intrigue, wonder and a bit of shock. I had MY child on my chest, who had just grown inside me for 9 months, and yet she was a total stranger. A tiny little being who depended on me completely, who I didn’t really know at all.
You think your child is born and you know them because they’re yours. But really, what I’ve come to realise is that they’re their own person on their own journey with their own personality. And they’re not “yours” in an ownership sense of the word. Instead, you are theirs. You get to guide them through their life. To be with them at their highest and lowest moments, and to see flashes of yourself in them as they grow. You are their example, their warm place, their home, their sense of love and safety. You are their entire world for a short time in their life. You are their light, their food, their comfort. You are their mother.
Post birth, I was on a high for the rest of the day and night. Day 3, the day after my own birthday and seeing A LOT of people, is when I didn’t feel so great. Healing from the episiotomy was very painful.
I realise now, in hindsight, that giving birth is a transformative experience. You learn so much about your mind and your body. You are pushed to your limits, and then just a bit further than that. And afterwards, you’re left with not only a baby and a whole new life ahead of you, but a new you. A person that you don’t actually know yet. So while you’re trying to figure out motherhood, you also realise that you are a very different person. And that’s ok! It’s how it’s meant to be. Accept your new way of being with an open heart and an open mind as much as you can. See yourself with a loving awareness, and be gentle, forgiving and remember to breathe. It is all as it’s meant to be.
Most vivid memory during labour:
A song “Black as Night” by Nahko and Medicine for the People. Every time I hear it, it takes me back to her birth. Also, the feeling of peace in the room.
Most amusing/interesting moment during labour/birth:
When the midwife left the room and told my partner and I to kiss and cuddle each other (to release the hormones that help with labour). She left, we looked at each other and I was like, don’t even think about it. I don’t want to be touched!
During labour/birth, I definitely did not expect:
To honestly not care about being naked and who sees what.bAlso, to feel so sick.
A myth I believed prior that I now don’t is:
You immediately get an overwhelming love come over you. Yes, you feel love, but also many other emotions. Shock, overwhelm, confusion, wonder etc.
Baby’s name, birth weight and date:
Lyla Rose, 3.5kg, 14/06/2017
Baby’s name was almost:
I never really had any other names, But Finn if she had been a boy.
Time spent in hospital post birth:
Best tip/trick you received for those early days:
Just relax and be. Don’t worry about anything else apart from being with your baby, and feeling anything you need to feel.
If you could go back and speak with your pregnant self, what would you say?
Enjoy it. Remember the sensations and be gentle and kind to yourself.
If you could speak with yourself during labour, what would you say?
You’re amazing and strong. You’ve got this. Each contraction is one more you never have to have again, and a step closer to your baby. Trust your body, let it open. Lean into and breathe through the pain. You’re already doing it.
If you could speak with yourself on day 3 of having a newborn, what would you say?
It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to say no to seeing people. It’s ok to go into a bubble and stay in bed with your baby all day if you want to.
Any words for first time mums-to-be nervous about their own upcoming birth?
YOU’VE GOT THIS! Your birth will be what it’s meant to be. Go with the flow of the day. Trust your instincts. Trust your body. Realise your power. Remember to breathe. Your breath is all you have control of, so use it wisely and let it get you to the end. The pain will end. You are a warrior goddess. You are incredible and have all the strength of every other mother before you to lean into. Let that hold you in those moments where you feel like you can’t go on, because you can and you will.
Any further notes you’d like to include:
Birth is transformative. Remember that it’s your birth. You get to decide what happens and what doesn’t happen. You are important and deserve to be heard. Birth can be beautiful and hectic all at once. Every birth, no matter what happens, is special and how it ends up is how it’s meant to be.
If you have a birth story you’d like to share then please get in touch and let’s start the conversation!