The story of Dara (Part 1)
On the 12th of January, 2019, I was 12 days past my due date, and much to my dislike, I had agreed to be booked for a AROM (Artifical Rupture of Membranes-Break my waters) two or three days after that. Although the last thing I said to the hospital was “I’ll have my baby before then anyway” AND I was right.
It was a Saturday evening, and I had been feeling okay all day… At lunchtime, I decided I’d go for a snooze and in typical me fashion, I went for a shower, I did all of the self-care things. I put on some fake tan, I braided my hair, I put on a face mask. I just lounged about. And nothing was happening. I had some diarrhea and I thought… Also, I had gone beyond my normal trick of bringing on labor, which is fish and chips. The fish and chips we had had the previous night, so I already felt like they didn’t work.
I started to feel kind of, like menstrual cramps. Wasn’t quite sure whether they were menstrual cramps, that feeling, or like, intestinal guts cramping. Either way anyway, I was sitting on a chair in the living room, and I was quite comfortable, but there was something regular happening. So I grabbed a wheat pack and I heated that up and I just tucked it under my huge belly, and I just rocked gently on the chair. That was about 5pm, and my mother was gone to mass, and when she came back I had said to my husband, “I think I’m in labor, but there’s nothing really happening so this could go on for who knows, let’s just lock it down for the time being.
When Mom came back, she said, “Anthony’s packing the car.” We were still way off, but he was getting ready. My little girl, who it became glaringly obvious to me in those moments that she was about to become a sibling. So we read stories, and she sat in my lap and I told her that I thought that the baby might be coming soon, but I didn’t tell her that it would be that night. I was timing my contractions, but bearing in mind I was still sitting quite comfortably with a four year old in my lap.
Soon after I text my midwife, who I’ve known for a few years, she was the midwife in our first birth as well, and I said, “I think I’m in labor.” And she said, “Okay, well when you feel it’s picked up, let me know. I am out, but I’m around and so I’ll be with you when you need, just say.”
I had my gym ball in the living room, I sat on that for a little bit, I watched TV. I was very much in early labor, which I didn’t feel like I ever got that opportunity with my first birth, because my first birth once I was in labor, I was in labor. There was nothing else happening. As the time passed by I went more into myself. You know that expression, and this fits me so well, it’s one of my favorite birth expressions. It says, “It is said that women in labor leave their bodies. They travel to the stars to collect the souls of their babies and return to this world together.” And that’s me. I am in labor land, once everyone is sure that it’s happening, I’m out. I am not contactable.
So I’m somewhere between an awake and you know, just when you’re about to drift off to sleep, that beautiful, everything is okay and I’m so comfortable and I’m safe, just that part. Somewhere between there.
Anyway, I was destined to stay at home for as long as I could. We packed some snacks for my little girl who was coming with us. Our birth team was obviously myself, my husband, my beautiful, independent midwife Melinda, who was there as a breath support in the hospital to me, and then my mom and my little girl Isla who was always going to attend because she wanted to be there. She has a great understanding of birth, it’s very normal for her to listen to us talking about birth. I mean, she lives with me, so if it’s birth or breastfeeding related, she’s on to it.
But we were conscious that if she did become emotionally overwhelmed at some point, that we needed someone to care for her, so my mother was coming too. It was a beautiful opportunity for my mother as well, to be there to see our baby being born. Which we didn’t actually know the sex of our baby, we don’t find out. But I did have a really good picture of him at 33 I think weeks. It wasn’t for a growth scan, we were checking on something else, because I actually declined a growth scan because we knew he’d be big and it didn’t matter to me what number people were putting on it.
So I have a beautiful picture of him, and I used that as one of my focusing tools while I was in labor. You’ll also notice we used it as a fan in most of the pictures too. At about 8pm, I was no longer able to sit. I was leaning over the back of a chair and I was just kind of swaying from side to side. I was starting to make those labor noises. You’ve heard me talk about how I sounded like a cow, and yep, I did. Because that’s how I get babies out.
A few times, I could see my husband looking at me, waiting for me to give the go ahead but I was happy at home. It was important for me to stay at home as long as I could, I really wanted to limit the time that I was in hospital .I’ll tell more of this story another day, but I never really wanted to birth in hospital but there was a set of circumstances in place that meant it was my best option. I was happy to go, but I wanted it very much to be on my own terms, which is very do-able in the system if you have the right support.
At about 9pm I said, “Okay, I think we’re definitely at least halfway there now.” We called the photographer Jess from Shutter & Film and Melinda our midwife. On the drive to the hospital, which is only 10 minutes away, I was backwards on the seat. I remember my husband saying, “You should really put your seatbelt on.” We somehow managed to get a seatbelt on me while I was backwards in the seat I remember vividly my little girl making fun of me for the noises I was making, and I thought, “I love that she’s not frightened by any of this. I love that she thinks this is funny.”
My Mom was in the back with my little girl, and there was an empty baby seat in the back waiting for our baby. We went to hospital, and there’s kind of two flights of stairs up to the birth suite. I remember dragging my yoga bolster in one hand, and I possibly was holding my little girl’s hand with my other hand, and we were coming up the stairs, and I remember thinking, “These stairs are going to be good. This baby is coming down “
Somebody passed in scrubs. He said, “You know there’s a lift just there?” And I said, “Yeah. I’m taking the stairs.” . So I waddled and stretched and huffed all the way up the stairs, and when I got to the front desk, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that saw me that I was in labour. There was no, “Just wait here for a moment.” It was, “Yep, keep walking to birth suite.” I don’t think there was any pause in me from walking through the front door to me getting all the way into birth suite.
When we got into birth suite, and there’s a natural kind of flurry of paperwork and excitement and welcoming energy, and maybe protocol that happens, that I find can be quite disruptive. So I tend to just pick a corner, or the toilet, and I very much keep my focus to something that’s quite close to myself. I’m not looking around waiting to meet eyes with anybody, in case somebody speaks to me maybe.
I was next to the bed, I was leaning on the bed, and I had made this fabric wall hanging that was just lying on the bed. I’ll show you a picture of it. It’s of a baby’s head kind of blooming in the center of a flower because… cervical opening and dilation was something that I had a little bit of difficulty with the last time and I was really conscious, I wanted to make sure that my head was in the right space for it.
I think I reached out to just feel it there, because it was very well-stitched. I wanted to feel the petals and the baby’s head so that I could start visualizing that I was opening and that this baby was coming down. The midwife had moved it and put paperwork on the bed, and I remember vividly my hand landing on this paperwork… I mean, it could have been a cheque for a million dollars, I didn’t want it. And I said to my husband, “Where is the baby? Where is my wall hanging?” It had moved, and so he brought it back to me. He moved the paperwork out of the way, and he said to the staff in the room, which there might have been two, I think there were two, he said, “You’re not to move things. She has things that she needs to look at and that she wants to look at that’s going to help her. You’re not to move them, this is her space.”
And I remember thinking, because he has an accent just like me, I remember thinking, “I hope they don’t think that he’s being aggressive,” because sometimes it comes across as aggressive rather than assertive with the accent, it’s not deliberate, it just happens. And I automatically felt there was a shift in the room, and I bolted. I turned on my heels and went into the toilet and closed the door behind me. I remember hearing him saying, “No look, this is her thing. These are really important things to her. We want this to be as home-like as possible.” And I remember thinking, “God you’re amazing.”
I needed to go to the loo anyway, and I remember sitting on the toilet kind of shifting from side to side, and then Melinda and the hospital midwife said, “We’d like to check to see how far along you are, if you wouldn’t mind us checking your cervix.” And I personally don’t mind the odd check, as long as it’s on my terms. So I jumped up on the bed…. well maybe not jumped, but I jumped up on the bed, and the midwife had a look, and she said two things to me.
She said, “You’re only four centimeters,” and she said, “And your baby is posterior.” I remember my heart dropping into my chest and down towards my stomach, because they were the two things that I was afraid of happening. One was that I wasn’t dilating properly, or not properly, but maybe at a rate that I expected. And the other was posterior, because I had birthed a posterior baby before, and they are bloody hard work.
I had done quite a lot of work in the last few months, in fact throughout my pregnancy to make sure that this baby was in a better position.And this my friends is how cervical checks can ruin your labour. I now had a perceived bump in the road that stirred my fears and weakened my resolve.
In that moment I thought, “Everything I was hoping not to go wrong is going wrong.” So I started then to kind of retreat into myself completely. I could hear the voices in my head, “It’s the same as the last one. This is exactly the same as the last time. It’s happening again. This is going to be really long, you’re going to have trouble having this baby.” And I could feel this whirlwind of negative thoughts. In the same moments, there was somebody else in there, maybe the person that I am when I’m talking to other people about birth, saying, “You are doing this. You have got this, you’re doing it. It’s happening, there is nothing that you can’t do right now.”
So I’ll leave you there, and let’s do part two soon.. Janet x