Felicity Cook is a reknowned photographer and blogger so you can image my excitement when she became a Labour Tens Hire customer. She has shared her birth story and it is a beautiful reminder of how things can not go to plan and still go so right.
It feels so surreal to be writing this down- a little bit because she arrived early, a little bit because it will be the last time, a little bit because I’m still reeling from the fact that it all actually happened. But our darling girl, our Fallon, arrived on the 1st of May, and this, this is the story of her journey to join us earth side.
She was due on 20th May, two days after Tilly’s birthday. Because of this, and because I wanted to ensure Tilly was able to have a proper birthday celebration, I chose to plan a birthday party for her 3 weeks before her actual birthday, and therefore 3 weeks before I was due with baby. As Tilly had been almost bang on time (she was 4 days before due date), I had assumed this was the cusp of safety net for any surprises.
Which is why I found myself on the Friday night, standing in the kitchen, having just turned the oven on, about to bake some cookies for Tilly’s birthday party on the Sunday, when I all of a sudden felt oddly wet in my pants. It was 8:45pm. And you hear about women when their waters break say that they wonder if they’ve peed themselves, and it turns out you really do wonder that! It was so strange- part of me knew what it was, but part of me also wondered if I had somehow suddenly, inexplicably, lost control of my bladder. I hurried off to the toilet, and Luke came to check on me- I said to him, “I think my water just broke”, and he said, “are you feeling anything?”. I wasn’t! No contractions, not even a hint of it. But while I sat on the toilet and waited to see if the wetness was stopping (it wasn’t), I tried to wrap my head around the fact that somehow, baby was on her way.
I did panic shortly after confirming that indeed, my waters had gone. I had put so much effort into planning Tilly’s party, I had baked a cake, I was baking cookies, I had booked a jumping castle to arrive first thing on the Sunday morning. I freaked out. All I could think was, why now? How is it happening right now? I’ve only just hit 37 weeks! Thankfully, the training and prep work from the Hypnobirthing course we did kicked in, and helped me to keep my panic at as low a level as possible- in fact, I credit the Hypnobirthing techniques with keeping me level headed and calm in those early moments, simply because it WAS so unexpected.
I started my Hypnobirthing meditations pretty much as soon as I had confirmed that the process was beginning- mainly to keep myself calm and controlled, because I knew I could reach a state of panic if I wasn’t proactive. It was hugely beneficial, and I found great solace in it as I was wrapping my head around what was going on. And at times, when I found them too irritating to listen to anymore, I would turn them off…. only to turn them back on a few minutes later, because they were helping more than I realised! (I purchased the digital Hypnobirthing pack from the The Positive Birth Company and also used their Freya app- find them HERE)
Leaving Tilly to head to the hospital was, by far, the hardest part of childbirth. I had planned on prepping her for what would happen when baby was ready to arrive, about how I’d be away for a few days, and that she might see her grandparents instead of us etc. But I had planned on doing that a little closer to the end- in fact, the very next week. But she was in bed, asleep, when my waters broke, and so when we left to go to the hospital, all I could think of was my baby girl, asleep upstairs, oblivious to the fact that she’d wake up to a situation she didn’t really understand. Walking out the front door was the most difficult thing I had to do in that 24 hours.
At the hospital, in our birthing suite, we quickly handed over our birth preferences (this time, I wanted to be left alone as much as possible, without internal examinations or mention of pain or centimetres dilated. I also wanted to avoid being on my back, or being coached to push) and discussions were had about what was hoped to be achieved, considering that I wasn’t exactly in labour. I wanted to wait and see if it would start on its own, which is what we did. After a couple of hours, I did indeed begin to experience some contractions, and they continued through the night hours. However, just as had happened with Tilly, when the sun came up, the contractions disappeared. I sent Luke home to be there when Tilly woke up, and waited for my obstetrician to visit me, to discuss the next stage.
My hopes had been to avoid induction, and epidural this time. I had hoped to labour at home as long as possible, and then quickly and calmly birth my baby at the hospital. Of course, things being different to what I had hoped, it meant that discussion around induction became more prominent. I deliberated for a while, and spoke with Luke about it, and ultimately decided it was the right course of action for me, as I didn’t want to be on and off again for the next day- I wanted to get my baby here, and get home to my other baby! So I willingly agreed to an induction, to help encourage labour along.
With the induction underway, I began to use my TENS machine to help with the management of the contractions (I hired my TENS machine from Bliss Birth, you can find it HERE). I honestly couldn’t have gotten through the early stages of labour without it, and I wish I had known more about it when I had Tilly, because it might have made that less traumatic for me too. The TENS helped distract and mask the increasing intensity of the contractions, and allowed me to stay pain-med-free for a lot longer. Unfortunately- although I had sincerely hoped I would be- I didn’t end up being one of those superwomen who need nothing other than the TENS to get them all the way to the end, but for the time I used it, it was a godsend, and I can’t recommend it enough!
So I did start to find the contractions becoming harder to bear, and the power of them was overtaking even the TENS, and as I began to fatigue more and more, I felt myself starting to lose my focus. I was as mobile as possible, using the birth ball, leaning across the bed, sitting on the toilet, pacing the floor, keeping my body upright and forward, allowing gravity to help my baby move down, and I was present for every movement, every sensation in my body. There came a point where I felt that perhaps my contractions were changing, that there was a need to bear down, and as the surges became overpowering, I finally asked my midwife to do an internal examination, and tell me if I was indeed at that point.
Aaaand, here’s where it was just like Tilly’s birth. After hours of labouring, I was only 3cm dilated. And there, lying on the floor of the bathroom of the birthing suite, exhausted and in agony, I felt defeated once again. It was just the same as with Tilly- labouring in extreme contractions for hours and hours, only to be barely coming to an established state? It almost broke me. I just remember weeping, and begging Luke to make it all stop. I was so incredibly disappointed in my body. Later, the midwife explained that getting past the 3-4cm mark is quite a huge part of labour, and that that was probably what I was feeling when I had thought I had needed to bear down.
What I learnt through the birthing course we took was that a positive birth doesn’t just mean a drug-free, intervention-free birth. An emergency caesarean can still be a positive birth- because a positive birth is one where you are informed, in control, and respected. So for me, the decision to finally opt for an epidural was a very positive one this time. With Tilly, I was somewhat ‘scared’ into it- and the fact that it didn’t work very well didn’t help matters! This time, I made the choice on my own, and I made peace with that decision before going ahead with it too.
My request for the epidural was to still be able to feel- I wanted to know my contractions were happening, and I wanted to ensure I could still move when the time to get baby out arrived. Waiting for the epidural to be administered though, is always an excruciating wait. Once you’ve made the decision to get it, you kinda want it to happen that very instant! So I reckon that’s the worst part of labour, haha! Epidurals are administered at full rate to begin with, and then it can be tapered as needed after that. So I was able to get a bit of a rest when it was first given to me, and then as the hours progressed and my body relaxed, I finally began to process through labour. The epidural worked just as I had hoped it would- it provided my body a chance to do what it needed to without interruption, and took just enough of the edge off to allow me to mentally cope with labour.
My number one goal for this labour was that I wanted to get baby out by myself this time. With Tilly, she had to have the vacuum to get her out, which not only left a bruise on her, but caused severe bruising and trauma to my downstairs that took weeks and weeks to heal. In fact, I was so determined to get this baby out on my own, that I all but told my obstetrician I wouldn’t be needing him (not a bad gig- being paid to stand outside the door, haha!).
The epidural began to wear off to a point where I was experiencing contractions again- it was still taking the edge off, but now I could move my legs and my body (with a bit of help). My obstetrician was called, and the midwife told me he’d be there at 8pm. I distinctly remember that, because I looked at the clock and it was 7:30pm, and I remember thinking- I need to get her out before he gets here. I did not want to be on my back, or being told to push. I wanted to trust my body to do what it needed to do, and breathe her out when the time was right.
And this is where the turmoil of a labour gone unexpected turns into the positive story I had hoped for. Because I did. I breathed my baby out. I was helped onto my knees, leaning over the back of the bed for support. The contractions were intense again at this point, and I was exhausted- I kept begging Luke to make it stop, that I couldn’t do it anymore. I was bearing down, grunting and mooing like a cow (it really does happen!), sweating, and swearing, desperate to be done.
And then, suddenly, somewhere in the panic and chaos that was me, there came a focus, an inner voice that said ‘now it is time to step up, and bring her here’. And without telling anyone, I simply retreated into myself, and felt the power of my body. And, I will never forget this, I felt her begin to emerge. I felt her come down, I felt her move through the birth canal, I breathed down as she moved. I felt her move back up as each breath and contraction ended, and then move down again with the next one. And then, I felt her head finally emerge (that was the only moment I lost focus then- I suddenly went, is that a head? Was that her head?!). And then with one final breath, out she came.
My obstetrician hadn’t arrived. She was born at 8:36pm. I did it all on my own.
Fallon was passed up through my legs, and I clasped her to my chest. I was helped to turn back over onto the bed, and a towel was placed over Fallon. She had made one quick cry when she came out, but then the moment she was on my chest, she was so still, so calm, so perfectly at home. My girl was here.
My obstetrician arrived, and he tried to hide it, but I know he was impressed/proud of me. I had done what I had said I wanted to do. I was so damn proud of myself, I couldn’t stop smiling.
We had wanted delayed cord clamping, which we did. Fallon received all of her placental blood back before the cord was cut. I had managed a fairly superficial 2nd degree tear, which my obstetrician stitched up for me, and then we were left alone to enjoy golden hour with our Fallon. She had her first breastfeed there in the birthing suite, and I marvelled in the perfection of her.
Birth is unpredictable. It is messy and hectic and overwhelming. And it changes you. For me, Fallon’s birth was healing. I was able to heal from the trauma of Tilly’s birth, and enjoy the aftermath of Fallon’s. It was indeed a positive birth- even if it didn’t all go completely to plan.
Fallon Ronnie Cook was born on Saturday 1st May, 2021 at 8:36pm. My second and final baby. What a wonderful way to complete our family.