Let me begin the birth of Charlotte Eve with a brief summary of my first birth. My son Sebastien is now 26 months old. My labour with Sebastien began with my membranes rupturing and was followed by 10 hours of active labour, which included 1 hour and 20 minutes of pushing. Throughout this labour I was very vocal and the contractions were obvious and intense for almost the entire labour. Sebastien was born weighing 6 pound 5 ounces and I experienced a 2nd degree perennial tear. This was a natural hospital birth with assistance from my amazing husband and a wonderful midwife (L), who also cared for my second pregnancy and labour. My expectations for my second labour were much the same…but my birth team and I were in for a great surprise!
In the weeks leading up to Charlotte’s birth I was receiving Chiropractic adjustments as Charlotte was laying diagonally, bottom up and her head towards my right hip. I really only did this to “stack the deck” in my favour, so to say. I didn’t note any obvious changes after these appointments and wasn’t concerned; she was a very active baby in utero and constantly amazed me with her incredible strength and activity! I could never keep track of her position as it was constantly changing.
Her birth story really begins the weekend before her arrival. My hubby, son and I had spent the time walking steep hills, large blocks and had even attempted some 4WDing to encourage her arrival. My tummy was beginning to feel that it would not be able to contain her for much longer and emotionally, I felt well and truly ready. The Monday following this weekend of brisk activity I began experiencing irregular and mild Braxton Hicks contractions. I thought they were wonderful, because I was entertaining the idea that they would be doing all of the hard work for me!
Come Monday afternoon, we went for another brisk walk around our large block which includes a steep hill. I am convinced that this walk encouraged mild contractions that night, at intervals of 10 minutes that lasted from 7pm onwards until around 5am. Once hubby had left for work on Tuesday morning, I managed to fall asleep on the couch contraction free for a couple of hours until Sebastien woke. As soon as I stood to attend Sebastien my contractions returned, but I recognised them to be immediately different; the intensity was sharper and I eventually averaged them at around 5 minutes apart. I had a clinic appointment that morning for what I was hoping would be one of my final check-ups (I was 39+6 weeks) but realised that driving with contractions might not prove to be the wisest of ideas no matter how mild. I text L to let her know I wouldn’t be attending as I was experiencing mild but regular contractions. We joked that we would meet up that afternoon when I was ready to give birth, and that prospect made me very excited!
As the morning progressed I needed more focus with my contractions which I realised, can be quite challenging with a very energetic toddler. I called hubby and asked him to come home from work as I thought this might be the day to meet our little princess. I was excited, but I also tried to stay realistic in acknowledging the possibility it could fizzle out. I then called a close friend to give her heads up that “today might be the day” and that she might need to collect Sebastien at some stage. We joked how polite it was for our little girl to wait until 9am in the morning before prompting action. It was really lovely to feel so relaxed and so happy!
From then on my contractions remained fairly consistent, so I kept up with doing my usual jobs around the house and entertaining my little man – knowing that it was highly probable this would be the last day as a little family of three. As soon as hubby arrived home from work we ate and decided to hit the streets again and go for a walk. I really wanted to ensure that the contractions would stay and intensify! The walk was wonderful, the sun was so hot and felt beautiful on my skin but as soon as we had returned home the contractions eased. I began to think that perhaps I had been a little too eager and that maybe this wasn’t the day after all, but I didn’t say anything. We continued with our usual routine and put Sebastien down for a sleep when L called to check in. I explained that my contractions weren’t as intense as they had been and that I was in a bit of a lull. I was trying to encourage their return by bouncing on my fit ball and staying active. I was feeling restless, so I continued with the laundry while hubby relaxed and watched a movie. While at the clothesline my neighbour joked that our 4WDing on the weekend obviously didn’t work and asked how we were going. I smiled and jested that I was still trying to convince her to make an appearance but mentioned nothing of the possibility of being in labour. All the while my contractions remained somewhat consistent, peppered with random breaks in between. I thought to myself that my baby still felt so high in my pelvis, but also that I hadn’t ever seen my tummy as low. I figured she must have been so close to engaging, so I stayed positive and repeated to myself “relax and open” with each contraction. I visualised her head engaging to help open my cervix. When my contractions picked up again at around 1:30pm I began to wander around and gather things together for our hospital visit and asked hubby to pack the car. In my mind I honestly thought it would be evening before we even considered making that trip, but I felt better to be ready. Just in case.
By the time Sebastien woke, I was beginning to tone through contractions but really didn’t consider it serious. I mentioned to hubby that I felt that things would probably pick up once Sebastien left as I felt like I was holding back a little with him at home. Contractions were still dropping off randomly, and I still felt like things were a way off. Sebastien was excited when he left at 3:00pm. When I told him where he was going he grabbed his favourite plush toy and ran to the door saying “K! Bai!” I tried not to be emotional, but this was the first night that he would be spending away from us. I did get a little teary!
L called shortly afterward to see how I was progressing and to double check that it would be okay for her to head home for a rest. We agreed that sounded good, as I still felt that things had a while to go as my baby was low but not quite low enough for me to feel like things were moving. I said I would call if anything changed and we agreed that should my membranes rupture, we would head straight to the hospital. We both concluded that things would happen very fast after my membranes ruptured. I continued to snack and alternate drinking coconut water and water. I was still pretty restless and wanted to stay active.
Hubby started timing contractions at this stage, and they were ranging from 3-4 minutes apart with 1 minute duration. I remember standing at the kitchen bench as I felt a jolt of pain as my baby girl moved and hit my cervix a couple of times. Hindsight tells me that these must have been kicks!
At around 3:30pm I decided to jump in the shower not only to take the edge off the contractions but also to pass some time and hopefully relax. I was running out of things to do and I knew that being tense would hinder any progress. While in the shower I didn’t need to tone at all – I just noted when contractions began and ended, drank coconut water and adjusted the water temperature. I stayed in there until the warm water ran out which was about half an hour. Once out my contractions had almost disappeared, and I was beginning to really doubt if I could birth this baby! I was feeling so deflated, disheartened and unmotivated. I walked out to the living room and began to talk to hubby about it. I was walking around saying that I really didn’t feel like it was time to go into the hospital anytime soon because I was still so coherent, which was not what I was like in Sebastien’s labour. I still felt like I was in early labour. He was wonderful and spoke so encouragingly, continuing to time contractions when they did arrive and made me some vegemite on toast to pick up both my strength and motivation. I found out later that at this stage Robert also thought that birth was still a long way off!
After having half a piece of toast I decided to lie down and rest. I concluded that I would just try and listen to my body. While I was lying I began to feel so strange which made me sit up, and as I did, I felt a big contraction building; much bigger than I had experienced so far. Hubby looked and asked me if a contraction was coming to which I replied yes. I began to wonder how I could prepare to get myself comfortable through it. Hubby was absolutely wonderful! He gave me his undivided attention. I had three HUGE back to back contractions where my vocal tone and pelvic pressure instantly changed; I could hear and feel the changes mid contraction. I could feel my body working, it was incredible. This was the point that I realised that this was too late to be at home! (I had been waiting to get the stage of labour where I couldn’t walk or talk through contractions, and had the idea of arriving at the hospital before transition. I had explained to L that I wanted to labour at home as long as possible.)
At 4:30pm I told hubby to ring L and tell her that we were on our way. He called, but had to leave the room to hear because I was being so loud. After the back to back contractions I immediately slid off the couch and sat on the floor. This is when I felt the next contraction building; it was much bigger than the last and with it came the irresistible urge to bear down. I could hear hubby saying goodbye on the phone and I immediately called out “AMBULANCE!” By now my capacity to communicate was limited to singular words. Hubby ducked straight back into the lounge room with the phone on his ear to see me mid contraction, with my membranes rupturing with a huge gush all over the floor!
I can’t recall how long or far apart my contractions were, but there was a very peaceful pause after my membranes ruptured. The relief of pressure was wonderful! I was a little concerned because I thought to myself that her head must still be sitting so high – I didn’t feel the same pressure that I felt with Sebastien’s labour. As soon as the contractions subsided they returned. Huge waves of intense contractions came and I was struggling; it was like my mind wasn’t ready and couldn’t keep up with them. I was dreadfully uncomfortable on the floor but couldn’t move, and all I could do in between them was mutter words at hubby like, “towels, cushions, dining chair, washer”. I really desired to squat using the dining chair but couldn’t vocalise it, and I wasn’t able to get the strength in between contractions to move my legs let alone my body!
My hubby, Robert, was amazing. He gave me so much strength. He was telling the operator all the necessary detail, whilst fulfilling my every request: giving me water, placing a cold wet face washer on my forehead, telling me how wonderful I was and how well I was breathing, while answering the strangest, general chit-chat questions to the operator. I remember him noting to the operator that there was “black membrane” in the waters, which I immediately recognised to be meconium and I hoped that our princess was okay.
At the initial onset of such intense contractions I felt completely out of control. I was worried that Robert would have to deliver our baby which I knew was something he would prefer not to do. I recall asking Robert “What’s taking them so long?” and it felt like almost instantly he was gently saying to me “Listen, can you hear them? That’s their sirens, they are here” He kept me updated on what was happening and in no time, two medics walked through the door. It was somewhere after 5:00pm.
The medics were so encouraging, asking what I wanted to do (deliver at home or hospital?) but letting me know that they would prefer the hospital. Both Robert and one of the medics helped me to my feet while the other prepared the stretcher downstairs. By this stage I was really deeply and loudly vocal through contractions and was very much in my own world. As we got downstairs, I remember catching sight of roadside spectators (turned out to be the neighbourhood kids) and as I lay down on my left side on the stretcher I felt another intense contraction building. Robert was already in the ambulance and all I can remember saying as they pushed me in is, “Pushing” I began to feel a huge well of strength building which seemed to begin at my uterus and push through my body and I gave the most amazing roar and an immediately bore down. I could hear myself and was amazed, it was a sound that built from deep within me and it was something I just could not stop.
The medic encouraged me to push with contractions if that was what my body was telling me to do. Pushing helped me feel in control, so that is exactly what I did. I felt burning in a specific area, but not similar to Sebastien’s labour, it felt different somehow. I could feel fluid releasing with each push and could feel it being wiped away each time which somewhat frustrated me (this was later revealed to be meconium). The entire time, through every contraction Robert was so wonderful. He was telling me I was breathing really well, kissing my forehead and supporting my body through the braking and turning. All I could focus on was a yellow container held by a white frame, while I had my foot propped up on a shelf with a bar. Every time the ambulance moved I could feel the pressure of baby change and shift, which was frustrating my efforts to push. Soon enough we arrived, and Robert told me that L was there, and they wheeled me into the Emergency Department.
It’s my understanding that the emergency team here don’t get to enjoy front row seats of a birth very often and I’ve been told since, that when we pulled up the medic in the back with us was a pale white, poor guy! Once there I needed to shift from the stretcher onto another bed and somehow (with a great number of helpers I’m sure!) we managed it. I was lying on my left side and could feel bulging and burning with each push. Each contraction felt like it was so long, but I was focused and felt like I was progressing. This progress, coupled with the amazing encouragement from Robert and the three midwives on hand helped me to stay positive. At some point, I remember L grabbing my shoulders, with her face inches from mine staring directly at me to talk to me. Though I don’t remember what was said, whatever it was worked at bringing out of the labour-land I was in. While I was pushing, the sensation was still so different to that of Sebastien’s labour; the pressure was different, there wasn’t a “ring of fire”. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, I just put it down to delivering a baby for the second time.
I really appreciate L’s efforts to help me achieve things that I had expressed were important to me. So that I could have skin to skin contact immediately after birth, she and Robert both helped to remove my clothes despite the fact I was lying on my side and not in any way helpful. She also greatly motivated me by encouraging me to feel for baby’s head as I was pushing (this was another special request of mine and when I obviously didn’t action it she physically grabbed my hand for me). I remember thinking that what I felt didn’t seem at all like a baby’s head and I thought that it was because she wasn’t far enough down the birth canal.
As I was pushing I heard “Wait a minute, we have a foot” and recall being asked to change positions from lying on my side to my hands and knees. I was grateful for this because I knew I would feel so much more efficient. Robert stood at the head of the bed facing me. L explained to me what was happening; that baby’s foot and leg were out and that I needed to push the body out next. I was really happy with my efforts for pushing and was definitely motivated and encouraged constantly by everyone around me. At the stage her body was out, Robert told me that it was definitely a girl! I couldn’t help but smile, how amazing! We had a little princess for sure!
Once her body was out we had to wait for the next contraction so that I could deliver her head. That wait felt like an absolute eternity! While I was waiting I looked down and could see her perfect little body, and could see and feel her moving (I was told later that this is known as the ‘breech dance’) and I was so in love with her already! This entire time everyone just stood back and watched. No one tried to touch Charlotte or myself, and the atmosphere in the room was just beautiful and calm. Eventually the contraction built and I told myself that I had to use absolutely every ounce of strength to on this contraction – I wanted to meet my baby girl!
While pushing with all my might I could feel the midwives working on tilting her head to expose her chin so that her head could be delivered. That feeling of delivering her head was indescribably incredible. On that push I remember gripping Robert’s arm tightly as I drew so much strength from him. It was 5:36pm.
Robert was able to take some photographs for me as I really wanted to see her when she was first born. I did manage to turn my head and body somewhat so that when I looked at her I saw a beautiful, pink, chubby little girl. She had experienced some cord compression in the final stages and needed oxygen briefly, but it was only a matter of seconds before she gave a strong cry. She was passed through my legs so that I could hold her and roll over. We immediately had uninterrupted skin to skin, and she didn’t hesitate to show her keenness to breastfeed. She was just perfect, gorgeous little nose, bright, shiny eyes and the most beautiful little girl I have ever seen. I delivered the placenta and was able to cut the cord after it had stopped pulsating, another special request that L helped me achieve. Afterwards Robert and Charlotte enjoyed some very well deserved skin to skin time – my hubby took his shirt off in the middle of the Emergency Department to cuddle our little girl!
It was after this that we were taken up to the maternity ward so that we could get settled in for the night. We were taken to the same room that Sebastien was delivered in which felt very special. Here is where we decided upon Charlotte’s name, we weighed her and she continued to feed. Charlotte weighed 8 pounds 2 ounces and I only had a small graze. L remained with us the whole time which is something I greatly appreciate. Sebastien got to meet Charlotte for the first time the following day and he adores his little sister and has even nicknamed her “Charls”. We are absolutely smitten and our little family is complete!
This birth was such an incredible experience. A footling breech birth in hospital with no medical intervention is something that I could not have even imagined. No one involved in Charlotte’s birth was fearful or stressed, and the atmosphere despite all the urgency was calm and controlled. Not only was it my first footling breech, but also a first for each of the midwives. I am so grateful to everyone involved and I cannot describe how utterly amazing it is to have the privilege to experience this birth. We are truly amazingly made!