Well, it has never taken me this long to write one of the kid's birth stories before! I started writing it a few months ago, but just decided tonight to sit down and get it all out. At least I've done it before her first birthday (which is only two months away!!).
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The Birth of Annabelle Sarah Louise
Annabelle was born at 6:52am on Wednesday morning, the 1st of July, 2015. She was exactly 42 weeks gestation. I have gone past 40 weeks will all my babies except Elliot, my first, so getting to 41 weeks this time around was no surprise. Week 41 and 42 were incredibly hard. I was physically in a lot of pain and, because of that, mentally struggling to make it through. I started my pregnancy with a lot of pain in the front joint of my pelvis; this was the worst at 26-28 weeks. After that, the pain moved around to the back of my pelvis, in my sacroiliac joints, which made every step and most movements painful! In that last week of pregnancy I was doing very little, and walking from the school carpark to the kid’s classrooms was a pretty massive hurdle every day. Thankfully, Baby was healthy and (discounting the pain) so was I.
Tuesday rolled around (41 weeks + 6 days) and off I went to have a bio-physical profile ultrasound to check that Baby was doing good and that the amniotic fluid levels were fine. Tristan was at kindy and my friend Jackie came over to watch Gryffen. The scan was fine, I came home and started chatting with Jackie before school pick-up time. We had organised for the younger boys to go to Jackie when I went into labour, and for Elliot and Rosie to go to my Mum’s. A slight problem was that Mum was away until Wednesday night, so Jackie agreed to have all four, if needed, and to call in help as needed. She’s a Superwoman, is Jackie! We made plans for how things would go if we called in the night time and I quickly packed some bags for the kids, which I had been delaying knowing that it would be annoying constantly packing then unpacking the things we needed. I figured I was just about 42 weeks so we were right at the end now. I remember very clearly a certainty of needing to have those bags packed that day, and talking with Jackie about the plan for the next day because Mum was away, almost like I knew we’d need to have something in place.
Well, sure enough, labour began overnight, in the early hours of Wednesday morning. At 3:02am I am woken by what I am pretty sure is a contraction. I lay still, and have another at 3:09am, and another at 3:17am. Nothing urgent, and yet nothing to shake a stick at. I don’t really get Braxton Hicks at all, so contractions for me are the real deal. I continue to have contractions, and by 3:50am they are coming about five minutes apart. For me, five minute contractions is my sweet spot; the top of the hill from which it all goes pretty quick towards birthing the baby. It felt slightly different this time; I was surprised they were that close, because they didn’t feel intense enough. I rang my midwife at about 3:45am and she told me to call back when the contractions were lasting for a minute. I hadn’t timed their duration at that point, and had estimated them to be lasting about 30 seconds. I was very surprised to find that actually they were already lasting a minute or more! I called my midwife back about 15 minutes later and she, knowing my history of birthing quickly (with Tristan it was two hours from start to finish!), was already up and getting ready to attend.
I think I called Jackie around 4:30am and she came straight over with her sleeping bag. At this point I was walking up and down in my bedroom in the dim light of the lamp, lightly rubbing my big round tummy and saying to myself, “I will not fight my body or my baby,” and, “This is the way that babies are born,” while consciously relaxing my tummy muscles and letting my hips open. After a while I started singing, “This is the way that babies are born,” to the tune of ‘He We Go Round The Mulberry Bush,’ inside my head. (A catchy little ditty that I still sometimes find stuck in my head ten months later!) It helped me to remind myself that what was happening – and what was about to happen! – was necessary and well designed and not something I needed to fear. I had previously been feeling quite fearful of labour and birth, even knowing I had had four previous complication-free, wonderful experiences. I think I felt like surely I was pushing my luck, after having four beautiful healthy babies, the law of averages surely said I was due for something to go horribly wrong? I am ever so grateful that those fears were unfounded.
I was reluctant to leave the sanctuary of my dim upstairs retreat, but knew we had to move to the birth centre now. I didn’t feel comfortable birthing in such a new-to-us home – we’d been there only two months – and was quite keen on the idea of the hotel-like stay at the lovely River Ridge here in Hamilton. It was a great decision. I think if we’d stayed at home, this is the point where Baby would have rocketed out within half an hour. I could feel my contractions coming faster and stronger, so I just prayed that we would have a peaceful trip to the birth centre, without stressing about a baby crowning in the car! The trip – my first ever in active labour! – was totally fine. Contractions slowed; I think I only had two or three in the 12-ish minutes it took us to get there, and I was able to converse quite naturally with Hayden on the way.
We got there at 4:50am and my midwife hadn’t arrived yet so the staff midwives met us at the door after we parked the car, and they ribbed Hayden for not dropping me at the door. (I didn’t mind.) They showed me down to the birthing room and we settled in a bit. Bags down, checked out the tea and coffee tray, saw the birth pool was right next door. The midwives took my blood pressure and listened to Baby then grabbed me a wheatie bag because we’d forgotten ours and left me to it.
I started pacing the room, which was unusual for me. In other labours I’ve generally found a spot and stayed there. It took some time again for contractions to gain in speed and intensity, which I had expected to be a consequence of moving out of my comfort zone. I had Hayden follow behind me and press the hot wheatie bag against my sacrum as I had a contraction. I felt a bit silly, but that was my ‘thing’ at that time! 10 minutes after we arrived, my wonderful midwife Sue did too and I felt myself relax. I had my people. Now I just needed my baby.
My labour notes tell me that I paced the room for about an hour, and by 5:50am I was feeling that my labour was slowing down. Sue reassured me that it was okay, we were in a strange place and I was doing different things, but I was still contracting moderately. I soon found my place in the big sling hanging from the ceiling. I put my arms through it, hid my face, and sort of hung and swayed there, with Hayden again pressing the hot wheatie into my back with every contraction. Sue asked me if I wanted to get into the pool. I wasn’t sure at first. I definitely wanted to get in, but I wasn’t sure how close I was to delivery. With my other births, I hopped in the pool pretty much at transition time, and I didn’t feel like I was there yet. I think I figured I’d head into the pool room, then I saw the water and decided that I’d just enjoy it for a while, so at 6:19am I hopped in. There was another sling right beside the pool, which was great. Again, I hung my arms through it, hid my face, and did my labour-dance. I got hot from being in the water, so Hayden and Sue helped by keeping me supplied with cold wet cloths to put on my forehead.
From my notes: “6:33am: Jess is now contracting 3:10 (that means three contractions in ten minutes) – 60-90 seconds long. Leaning forward into the sling while enjoying the pool.
6:50am: Jess is feeling the intense moment of transition.”
Yes I was! My exact words were, “I can’t do this!” (How many times have those words been uttered by women in transition?!) Sue said to me, “Yes, you can. Your baby needs you to.” (Or something like that.) So I revised my previous statement to what I really meant, which was, “I don’t WANT TO do this!” There was some chuckling, I recall. (Not from me.)
I had felt things ramping up, now here we were in that intense transitional moment and it was time to push. Incredibly, and it felt quick, but even I was surprised, only two minutes after I began pushing, I was holding my precious baby in my arms. Oh, sweet relief. 6:52am, Baby born peacefully into the water.
I will never, never forget the moment when we discovered that it was a girl. Let’s just take a moment to explain a few things. Long before I was pregnant with this baby, before I had any idea I would even carry a fifth child, I had my heart set on the name Annabelle Sarah Louise, and a sister for Rosie. Then I spent a VERY long 42 weeks hoping it was her, but desperately trying to prepare myself to welcome Monty Willem Louis instead. The moment I first held her, when she came up through the water, and I realised that here was the daughter I had longed for, was totally indescribable. I just remember saying, “It’s a girl!” And then saying it even louder again and again and having a bit of a hysterical cry in the birthing pool. (Hayden later told me it was a bit embarrassing, but whatever, I’ll own it. You’re allowed to be hysterical when you’ve just given birth to your fifth baby.)
Annabelle and I hung out in the pool for just under 20 minutes, then I hopped out (less gracefully than that sounds) and rather quickly delivered the placenta at 7:11am. Sue was still scrabbling around for a container, I think! Hayden clamped and cut Annabelle’s cord then had some skin-to-skin time while I waddled over to the bed to get ready to feed my dear daughter. She had a great breastfeed, then I had a great shower, though my centre of gravity was so whacked out that it felt pretty strange. Then we toddled down the hall to our postnatal room and hunkered down for two fabulous days cocooned with our new baby girl and some incredible birth centre food. (I truly loved birthing at River Ridge. In fact, I cried when I got home on Friday morning because I then had to make my own lunch. Boo.)
Jackie brought the kids in the meet their new sister. They were pretty excited – and I was pretty overwhelmed! I forgot how mental bigger kids seem when you’ve just been re-introduced to a newborn baby. However, it is a wonderful thing to see your children meet a new sibling for the first time.
And now here we are, nearly a year down the track! We are now a family of seven (still getting my head around that one) and Rosie has the sister she (and I) had hoped for for such a long time. Their relationship is very special. It has been a pretty difficult year, to be honest. Annabelle is truly a delight, but she hasn’t been particularly easy, though I’m thankful we haven’t dealt with reflux or anything like that. That’s a whole other level of difficult. I have had some postnatal depression, and while I feel like I’m out of the dark place now, I still don’t feel totally back to normal - though that could be because she still wakes at least once or twice a night, grrrrr! I’m working on training her out of that at the moment because I can’t sustain broken sleep AND a large family. Wish me luck!