I had a wonderful doula, Cherie, to support me throughout my pregnancy and birth. A few weeks ago I wrote my birth story for her website and have decided to post it here also. It's quite long but I wanted to get down all the details of the most amazing day of my life.
My Birth Story
(originally posted here)
I first heard about doulas three years ago and knew that I wanted to have one when it came time for me to have a baby. Soon after my partner Rob and I found out that we were expecting, we started researching doulas and organised a meeting with Cherie. The minute she left we agreed that we didn’t need to meet with anyone else as we had found our doula. We both found her to be warm, supportive and informative and were thrilled.
My partner is visually impaired and we knew that having Cherie at the birth would not only provide support for me but for him as well as he would be kept informed of everything that was happening. Cherie also let us know that she would be happy to drive us to hospital when the time came, which was a load off as I had had visions of having contractions in a taxi!
Throughout the pregnancy, Cherie came to our home several times to discuss the birth and provide information and support. These meetings were invaluable to set my mind at ease regarding any concerns I had, and Rob and I both felt so comfortable with Cherie that we were able to tell her anything and feel like we were talking with a trusted friend.
The week leading up to the birth was fairly difficult. My due date had come and gone and I was uncomfortable, sore and sleep deprived. We had an appointment on the Monday for a stretch and sweep and learnt that I was already three centimetres dilated. However, my blood pressure was also high and an induction was booked for the coming Sunday, when I would be ten days overdue. This frightened me as I had always been very clear that I did not want to be induced. I felt it went against everything I had been learning in my prenatal yoga classes and would not give me the calm birth I wanted. The next few days were somewhat stressful as Sunday started to loom closer. Cherie was a rock during this time, offering support and encouragement over the phone and by text, and it was wonderful having her to talk to. Rob was also amazing at putting up with my mood swings!
My waters finally broke at 12.45am on Friday morning and Cherie arrived to take us the hospital for a check up at 8am. Imagine my dismay when the doctors were not convinced that my waters had actually broken! The doctor also seemed of the opinion that the scheduled induction was a certainty, which was not helpful. Cherie was quick to allay my worries and with the help of her and Rob, I focused on the positives and the fact that it was my body and that I knew that my waters had broken and that labour could not be far off. We returned home to get some rest with Cherie checking up on me throughout the day.
Saturday morning I awoke at 4.30am feeling strange. Moments later I had my first contraction. I walked around the lounge room until 5am, breathing through a few more contractions, before waking Rob at 5am and telling him I needed him. We sat together in the lounge room for half an hour as Rob slowly woke up fully, with the contractions now 5 minutes apart and growing stronger. As they increased in strength I found I needed to be upright and leaning forwards and found myself kneeling and leaning over the arm of the couch. A shower helped relax me but it was difficult having contractions in the shower with nothing to lean on or hold onto so I returned to my place on the couch, rocking and circling my hips with each surge. I also began to get sick after each contraction. In between looking after me, Rob contacted the hospital at 6am and Cherie at 6.16am to let her know what was happening. Over the next hour the contractions increased in strength and duration until by 7.30am they were two minutes apart and about 30 seconds to a minute long. I was starting to find it harder to cope and Rob rang Cherie to let her know that I would like her to come over now. When Cherie arrived at 8am she brought with her a sense of calm and I felt new energy. She sat with me and timed several contractions, and gave me a cloth with some essential oils to help with the nausea. From the time Rob had woken up I had realised that I didn’t want anyone asking me any questions during contractions, which he also realised quickly from my first ‘Shush!’ As I laboured on the couch, one of my cats jumped onto the chair directly in front of my face and meowed at me in an undeniably questioning way, right in the middle of a contraction. I have to say I reacted by pushing her off the chair with a hand to her face!
Just after 8.30 I felt that it was time to go to the hospital. It was four hours since I had woken up. The contractions were getting even stronger and the pain was starting to move down my back and legs, and there didn’t seem to be much ‘recovery’ time between them. I let Cherie know that I was ready and she and Rob started getting the bags organised. I nearly made it to the front door before being hit by another big contraction, which had me leaning forwards over my desk. Cherie started rubbing my back with firm, calm strokes which felt wonderful and definitely helped ease the pain. We made it to the car and I got into the back seat while Rob and his Seeing Eye Dog, Jasper, sat in the front with Cherie. The car trip was one of the most difficult parts of labour as I was hit by several contractions, which were agony when sitting upright. Cherie advised me to sit on the floor behind her seat and lean over the backseat, which made the journey bearable.
We made it to the hospital and after another contraction next to the car with Rob holding me up, we headed inside. I knew I didn’t have long before the next surge and so moved as quickly as I could towards the labour ward, at one point almost leaving Rob, Jasper and Cherie behind. I made it to the doors and Rob rang the bell and let them know we had arrived, just as I was hit by another surge that had me leaning over some chairs in the corridor. The midwife who had been assigned to us, Mel, came out to take us through to a delivery suite. I felt relief when we entered the room as I knew I could focus now and not worry about going anywhere else. Mel wanted to hook me up to the monitor to check on the baby, so while she did that Cherie calmly moved about the room dimming the lights, putting on instrumental music and putting some new essential oils on a cloth for me. Mel left us to it for a while and Cherie and Rob helped me get my nightie out and put it on, which made me feel a lot better. I knelt up on the bed leaning forwards over the bed head, and when Mel returned I asked for some gas and air. This definitely took the edge off the contractions somewhat, though they were still difficult. Rob asked if I wanted my sister Lisa to come to the hospital and I replied with a definite yes, so he called her to let her know we needed her.
By 9.45am the contractions were growing even stronger and I was in a lot of pain, though still fairly silent. Cherie was wonderful at getting me to focus on the music and the sound of the gas and air as opposed to focusing on the pain. She also suggested a heat pack which Rob held on my back as I knelt next to the bed leaning forwards. Mel knelt down next to me and said that she didn’t want to worry me but the baby’s heart rate was going up and down a bit, probably as I was dehydrated from being sick all morning. She said they wanted to give me some fluids but could try getting me to drink some cordial first. By 10.15am my sister arrived. She came into the room as I was breathing through a contraction, so it took me some time to acknowledge that she had arrived. I felt so surrounded by support from Rob, Lisa and Cherie and it was such a calm atmosphere in the room despite the pain I was in.
The decision was made to put a line in to give me some fluids, so Dr Kate arrived to do so. Sitting still during this process, during which several contractions occurred, was not easy. Once the line was in I resumed my position kneeling over the head of the bed, with Rob sitting next to me and Lisa and Cherie taking turns to rub my back. I felt so focused on the contractions that I wasn’t always fully aware of what was happening around me, only that everyone was supporting me. I remember opening my eyes to see Rob sitting next to me and saying “Hi baby” as he had been hanging back while the doctor worked on putting the line in so I didn’t feel overcrowded. Lisa left the room twice to keep my parents informed over the phone as to what was happening. They were waiting on Maatsuyker Island to hear any news and were very tense.
At 10.50am things felt different. I felt an immense amount of pressure and the urge to push. I groaned that I wanted to push and Mel told me that I needed to wait a little longer and breathe through a few more contractions. This was not easy as the urge was growing stronger and stronger, but my team kept encouraging me to just breathe. Apparently at this point, Jasper became anxious over the noises I was making and tried to come forwards from his place in the corner. It took some reassuring words from Rob to get him to settle down again.
Finally, at 11.30am, I was told that I could start pushing, which I immediately did so with the next contraction. Another midwife, Janet, was brought in to assist with catching the baby and I realised that the end was indeed in sight. I continued kneeling up over the bed while I pushed, resting my body forwards onto the pillows between pushes. My legs were starting to feel very shaky, weak and tired. I could hear the voices of the midwives, Cherie, Rob and Lisa encouraging me which gave me something to focus on. Cherie left the room to call my mum and tell her that I had started pushing and that the next call would be to tell them that the baby had arrived, which made Mum very excited and emotional. At 11.50 I was asked to turn onto my back for an internal examination. I immediately felt more comfortable and it gave my legs a rest, though I expressed concern as I had wanted to give birth in an upright position as I had learnt in yoga. Everyone reassured me that whatever felt the most comfortable was the right way, and Mel confirmed that I was pushing better now that I was propped up on my back. The internal confirmed that all was well and Mel told us she could feel the baby’s head. I continued to push, focusing on the voices of my team, holding Rob’s hand and feeling the support all around me. Rob stayed by my side, feeling through my hand and the tension in my body as I pushed and telling me how well I was doing, especially after the big pushes. Lisa praised me for not wasting energy by making noise and at 12.05 the baby’s head crowned. I reached down to touch him and felt overwhelmed that I had nearly done it. Rob also felt the baby’s head and found it a wonderful experience. As I prepared to push again, Cherie calmly told me that the next part would be painful but that I could do it. She was right; it was an intense and different kind of pain as I pushed as hard as I could and felt my baby’s head and body slide out of me in one contraction. I was overwhelmed that he was here and so quickly, and kept repeating “Is he here? He’s here!” as my beautiful boy, Liam Craig, was brought up onto my chest for skin-to-skin contact. With his arrival came a whole new chapter in our story.
I am so glad that I had such a supportive environment during my labour and delivery. My sister was a wonderful support and it was a comfort to have her there, my lovely Rob was a tower of strength from start to finish and I will definitely be asking Cherie to be our doula again next time as she brought such serenity, knowledge and encouragement to the birth. She knew what I needed without me having to ask and usually before I knew I needed it myself. Rob also appreciated her coffee-making skills! With her help I had the calm, empowered birth I had wanted all along and it was a day I will never forget.
Liam is now three weeks old and I am so happy that he is finally here. We are still resting at home together and I am loving being a mum. My world has changed, but definitely for the better.