Category Archives: Labour/Delivery

My Newest Man

I’m not going to write a post about MJ’s birth because there isn’t much to say. I made it to full term without any signs of labour and at 40 weeks 2 days we arrived at the hospital for our back-up plan c-section. The operation went smoothly and at 9:41 am Matthew James was born.

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I do, however, want to record some of my thoughts about the early days of MJ’s presence in my life before it all recedes into a haze.

There’s no denying that for many reasons I found this pregnancy more difficult than my first. Every pregnancy is different and with a toddler and a very demanding job life was already pretty challenging; the addition of an unexpected pregnancy really amplified those difficulties. I was physically uncomfortable, and didn’t really feel that healthy ‘pregnancy glow’ I experienced with Will.

Although the pregnancy was welcome and cherished, I wonder whether it’s unexpected nature contributed to my less positive experience. The first time around I worked for the pregnancy; I spent months planning for pregnancy and imaging how it would feel. The second time around the opposite was true – the pregnancy required me to change my view of what my life would be like. If I’m honest, I’m sure that coloured how I experienced the pregnancy.

All that aside, however, this pregnancy was physically more difficult. Surprisingly my pelvic instability, although starting earlier, was actually less problematic than last time. However I experienced 20 weeks of significant morning sickness, followed closely by significant abdominal pain and discomfort which I endured for many, many weeks. My first pregnancy felt natural – I felt like it was something I was good at. This pregnancy, despite occurring ‘naturally’ (that term makes me cringe) felt somewhat unnatural. Like many women by the end of the pregnancy I was ready for it to be over.

A tiny part of me was concerned though; I admit that I wondered if my comparatively negative experiences would continue once the baby was born.

Interestingly, during the pregnancy I never worried that I wouldn’t love this baby as much as I love Will. I was sure that I would love my second son just as I did my first. When MJ was born however, I admit it felt a little anti-climactic. Yes, I loved MJ, but it didn’t feel like the powerful, all-encompassing in love that I feel for Will. I was scared that I would never feel as much love for this new, unplanned baby. I spent a day feeling oh-so-happy but also slightly anxious; and then I realised something. I was comparing apples with oranges. I was comparing the love I felt for MJ, this new, somewhat unformed and unfocused being, with the love I feel for Will, the rambunctious, hilarious toddler of today. The toddler that I know, and that knowing is the difference. I didn’t love MJ less, the quality of love was just different. I love Will for being Will; I loved MJ solely because he was my baby. I’m sure, in retrospect, that it was the same with Will – I simply didn’t have anything to compare my love to.

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I still haven’t discussed any of these initial feelings with anyone – with the exception of a couple of conversations with my mother in which we talked about the differences between first and second births, the fact that the second time around it is no less wonderous but doesn’t have the same life-changing quality. I haven’t kept quiet out of guilt, rather it just doesn’t seem important now that I understand my feelings.

Once I reached that understanding I relaxed and just allowed myself to enjoy MJ. I still compare the two boys, but now it’s done out of curiosity rather than fear. Already, at 7 weeks of age, I can feel my love for MJ changing; I can feel myself starting to love him for who he is. And I know that my love will only grow with each and every day, each new trait he reveals to me will deepen my love for him. The well from which that love springs is infinite, for both of my sons.

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With all that said, it feels like the comparative difficulties of pregnancy have continued into the neonatal period. Like his older brother, MJ is a champion feeder, but in the early days his latch wasn’t as easy and I suffered with painful grazed nipples and a mild case of mastitis. Although I felt almost back to normal by two weeks following the caesarean, the recovery period (although quick compared to most) didn’t feel quite as painless. And MJ hasn’t been an easy baby. In retrospect, Will wasn’t the easiest baby either (although I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time), but caring for MJ has felt more difficult. I’m sure that balancing the needs of two children contributes to the difficulty but both my husband and I have agreed that MJ can be a challenge. He is unsettled and suffers from some reflux. It can be very difficult to settle him to sleep and during the day he tends to only catnap for periods of 10 to 20 minutes. He hates being put down and tends to fuss if I’m not holding him – something that I simply can’t do all day while also caring for Will.

I’m lucky that as far as toddlers go Will is generally easy-going. Yes, he throws some epic tantrums, and he’s a bossy, opinionated kid, but he is supremely good at entertaining himself and is pretty understanding that I can’t always play with him when he wants. He also loves MJ and has never shown the slightest resentment towards him. (I make a point to say thing like “Mum is busy” rather than using MJ as the reason Will can’t have what he wants, but I’m still quite aware that there will be periods of resentment or rivalry in the future.)

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In the last week or two MJ seems to have settled down somewhat. We have made some changes to help with his reflux and either those measures or his age seem to be improving the situation. He has, on occasion, actually settled himself to sleep, something that makes me irrationally proud and was something Will was never able to do until we sleep trained him at, I think, seven months.

Although we still have some very difficult days, lately they have been fewer and further between. One thing I learnt from Will’s babyhood is that these changes often occur with no clear explanation and are unpredictable in nature. With that in mind, I want to neither court disappointment nor allow myself to worry about what may not come to be, but simply enjoy those times that MJ is easy and not allow myself to feel hopeless during the difficult times.

That would be a valuable lesson to remember throughout their childhoods.

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How Will made his entry to this world: The third installment

So, an emergency c-section it was to be. My doctor made the pronouncement and somehow, despite knowing that I hadn’t dilated at all over a total of 16 hours of  labour, I was still surprised.

I waited for the doctor to leave the room before I cried on my husband’s shoulder.

I was scared – not about the operation itself, but about the implications. I was devastated that I would miss that initial skin-to-skin contact with my bub; I was worried about the impact it might have on breastfeeding; I was concerned about the effect recovering from surgery would have on my ability to care for my child.

I let myself feel sad for about a minute – about all the time I could afford. The baby’s heart rate was just starting to show signs of some distress, and within twenty minutes of the decision being made I was being wheeled into theatre. I accepted things for what they were – I sure as hell wanted to meet this baby, and a c-section was the only way it was going to happen. At this point my earlier decision to have the epidural seemed like great wisdom. All they had to do was top it off and then break out the scalpels! I joked with the anaesthetist, told H that he wasn’t to take his eyes off the baby for one moment until I was reunited with them, and frantically reminded him to take some photos, and then… a cry. A wonderful cry. I was so intent on listening to the sound of my baby that I totally missed hearing the sex being announced. I had to ask H who told me it was a boy and instantly I thought “of course, I knew all along that it was a boy”.

As soon as we saw the baby we thought two things. (1) He looked remarkably like H, and (2) he looked like a William. And you know what, the whole experience wasn’t that bad. Yes I spent 90 minutes away from my baby while I was in recovery, but gee I needed that rest! Yes, I underwent fairly major surgery, but I recovered remarkably quickly and had few issues with pain. And Will and H had some wonderful bonding time together.

When I left recovery I was wheeled into our room… and I saw my stoic, manly husband holding our child while tears ran down his face. In the ten years I have known H I have never seen him cry.

Best. Moment. Of. My. Life.

Later, when the dust had settled, H and I thanked our stars that we were in a situation in which a c-section was readily available. Had we faced this situation a few hundred years ago or today in some parts of the world, neither Will nor I would be here today. What a sobering thought.

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How Will made his entry to this world: The second installment

Where were we? That’s right….

We arrived at the hospital and were shown to our room. Our midwife strapped the monitor on for a check-up, and then H and I went downstairs to get some breakfast. By this time the contractions were noticeably stronger. I was still managing them very well with the TENS machine and some gentle breathing, but by the time we were in the hospital cafeteria it was difficult to keep a straight face and remain still during the contractions. I wasn’t all that keen on moaning and groaning around all the early morning breakfasters so we headed back to our room as soon as H had eaten – and I’m sure all those people trying to enjoy their morning caffeine hits in peace were grateful! The contractions continued and with the TENS, breathing, and rocking my pelvis or sitting on the Swiss ball I coped with them very well. My doc arrived about 9am and examined me. I was 1cm dilated. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. I didn’t want to be unrealistic but I’d had such regular contractions ever since my water broke that I thought I might be 2, 3 or even 4 cm dilated. I was still expecting to be a mum by that afternoon.

Unfortunately over the next couple of hours my contractions slowed down and eventually stopped all together. H and I paced the corridors and whispered encouragement to my belly and I rocked on the Swiss ball all to no avail. At midday the decision was made to start me on an Oxytocin infusion to augment labour, with the aim to increase the dose until I was having four contractions every 10 minutes. My doctor warned me that it was going to be a long night – not the words a labouring woman wants to hear! This is the point at which I stopped enjoying the labour process. I had to be continuously monitored. I was lucky that they had a portable monitor so I didn’t actually have to be connected to the machine with wires, but the bands across my belly were uncomfortable and inevitably every time I changed position one of the sensors would shift and the midwife would lose the trace. And by this stage I was needing to change position almost constantly. The augmented contractions were very different to my natural contractions; they quickly became much more intense and uncomfortable but something in their nature changed too and made them difficult to manage. I think I big part of the discomfort at this point was that I had a definite sense that my body wasn’t controlling this process but that rather these contractions were something that was being done to me.

I started using the nitrous gas. I had been concerned that the gas might make me nauseated but thankfully it did not. I’m not really sure whether the gas helped the pain or not – but it sure make me feel tipsy! H even had a couple of quick puffs to try it out. I was still able to relax and crack jokes between contractions but I was finding it more and more difficult to stay relaxed during the contractions and really had to concentrate to stop my whole body tensing up. The afternoon progressed much the same way, but with the contractions becoming quicker and more intense and me becoming more and more exhausted. There were no more jokes. In fact, I morphed into every woman you’ve ever seen give birth on television. “Uhhhhhhhhhhhg. I can’t do this anymore. Uhhhhhhhhhhhg. Please make it stop!”.

I’d wanted to avoid an epidural if possible because I wanted to remain mobile during labour and I didn’t want a urinary catheter, but by mid-afternoon my every thought was centred around whether I should ask for an epidural. At the least I wanted to be re-examined before I decided what to do, because if  I was 8 or 9 cm dilated I was sure I could find the strength to get through the last few hours. Unfortunately the contractions continued to intensify and 5 pm appeared before my doctor did. I gave in and asked for the epidural. To be honest I did feel minimally like I had failed somehow by doing this, but the contractions were so intense that it was definitely the right decision, and if I’d waited past 5 o-clock the anaesthetist would have had to be called in after-hours, significantly increasing my wait. I’d been in labour 13 hours and just couldn’t do it any longer. Luckily for me the anaesthetist appeared within 5 minutes, and I was blissfully comfortable within 10 minutes more.

All of a sudden I felt like I was hanging out at a fancy hotel rather than sitting in a delivery suite. I sat up in bed, channel-surfed, laughed with H, and had dinner delivered to me. The monitor showed that my contractions were coming on top of each other, with basically no break in between and even the midwife commented on how powerful they were. Luckily I was feeling nothing but blissful comfort but with contractions like that surely there was some real action going on downstairs? My doctor arrived to re-examine me: still only 1cm dilated.

I had made exactly no progress over the last 14 hours.

At 7:40 pm the decision was made to proceed to emergency caesarean section. By 8:40 pm William had arrived.

To be continued (and hopefully completed!) in the third installment.

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How Will made his entry to this world: the first installment

Even though I’m in the midst of trying to organise for our trip to New Zealand, as well as trying to encourage naps from our babe who hates to sleep during the day, I have decided that I’m loooong overdue posting about Will’s birth. Seriously overdue. And my memory of the event is probably already fading, so I need to put my pen to paper (in a figurative sense) before it becomes nothing more than a hazy dream. I have no illusions that I’ll get this story written in one sitting, one day, or possibly even one week. Starting it is the important part; eventually it will get finished, and posted.

I was due to give birth on October 30. I knew that meant that I may well deliver in early November, but as my pregnancy progressed I was really hopeful that I’d go into labour around my due date. I was very keen to avoid induction – my mother had two inductions both of which became c-sections, and I knew labour could be more painful if I needed to be induced. As keen as I was to avoid induction, I was also ready to get the party started. That last week of being pregnant felt like a month! The funny thing is that even a few days after Will was born, pregnancy felt like a distant dream. I have to look at photographs to remember how big my belly was.

I got my wish to avoid going overdue and went into labour early on October 29. I’d felt what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions that afternoon, but they’d been short-lived.  H and I are both night owls (and subsequently very bad early risers!) and I’d gone to bed at 1am. H, who didn’t start work until 3pm the next day, didn’t come to bed until 4am. I woke up when he got into bed, and was aware of a couple more BH type contractions, and then one which felt slightly different – a little more intense. To be honest I didn’t think much of it. I got out of bed to go to the toilet, but only got a few steps down the hallway before I noticed that my pyjamas were suddenly wet. I’d had no continence issues during the pregnancy so didn’t think it was likely that I’d wet myself, but somehow I couldn’t quite believe that my waters had broken. The leak quickly became a gush however, and it was pretty obvious what was happening. Poor H had barely had 5 minutes in bed before I called to him from the bathroom telling him that he had to get up again! He was a little grumpy about it until I told him why! At this point it all started to feel a little surreal. Within a minute or so I was having semi-regular contractions, but I wasn’t timing them. I called the delivery suite while H packed his hospital bag (no amount of nagging had managed to get him to pack it any earlier! And so he of course forgot some important items – like his pyjamas!). I took a shower and then H taped the TENS machine to my back. By 5.45am we were on our way to the hospital. In the car I started timing my contractions and they were 2 to 3 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds. Once I realised how close the contractions were I was glad that we were on our way – part of me thought I might end up with a very quick labour.

Oh, how wrong I was!

To be continued…

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Some progress… or not?

This afternoon I started getting some uncomfortable tightenings in my belly. When I felt my tummy it certainly felt firm during the tightenings, and I (finally) diagnosed myself with Braxton Hicks contractions. Even though I know this might not indicate that labour is near, I started to get excited (and H started to get nervous!).

But as soon as I posted on Twitter that something might be happening…. nothing. The contractions – if that’s what they were – stopped. Jinxed.

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This ain’t a massage…

Perineal massage.

What a massive misnomer.

The perineal part is right, I suppose, but there’s no way that what it entails can be considered massage. In my experience a massage involves pleasant feelings and relaxation. Sure there might be moments that are uncomfortable – working out a very tense knot of muscle, for example – but it’s a good sort of uncomfortable.

There is nothing relaxing or pleasant about perineal massage.

But. I’m persevering with it because I know that every moment of discomfort now might equate to less discomfort later – and hopefully less chance of tearing. Plus it gives me a chance to practise my breathing and relaxation techniques.

Practise makes perfect, right?

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A Real Pain in The…

I’ve developed some pelvic instability – or Pubis Symphysis Dysfunction, as it is technically called.

I’m particularly sore on the right side, and it makes walking pretty uncomfortable. I am well and truly waddling like a goose these days! Sleeping can be difficult during a flare up too because every time I move in bed (or even if H moves) the pain wakes me up. Last night I only got a few hours of sleep and today I’m taking my second day off work in a row – largely because of a flare up of the PSD pain, and also because I feel generally unwell with a headache and a very uncomfortable belly. I think Bert must be going through one of his growth spurts because it all feels very tight in there and I’m getting short of breath very easily.

The silver lining of experiencing this pelvic pain is that one of the physiotherapists at work referred me to a specialist in women’s physiotherapy who has a particular interest in pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. I have seen her twice and am so thoroughly impressed. Not only has she addressed the pelvic instability, but she has given me a really good understanding of how to use my pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and has even – don’t laugh – taught me how to poo properly. Trust me, most of us have been doing it wrong! I really wish that I’d gone to see her earlier, just for basic pregnancy advice and exercise. She also runs a birth class which I have signed up for, which sounds like it will be much more practical that the classes run by our birthing centre. While those classes focussed more on simply explaining the options for pain relief, these classes actually go through the mechanics of how to effectively push, which muscles to recruit during which stages of labour and very useful info like that. And at the end of the class you go home with a TENS machine so you have it available to use as soon as the contractions start. The classes aren’t until I’m 36 to almost 38 weeks’ pregnant, so Bert better not decide to come before 38 weeks!

I think all pregnant women should go and see a specialist like this – they are a font of knowledge and have much more time to spend with you than the average obstetrician. I truly cannot recommend this particular practitioner highly enough.

In other news, everything else remains well. I am astounded every day at just how strong Bert is! His movements can almost throw me off balance and if I dare rest a book against the top of my tummy he will promptly kick it right off! We are now just about fully stocked up on baby products – we just need to get organised and shift bedrooms sometime in the next month as planned, and then I can have fun setting the nursery up properly!

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