Birth. It is the most incredible, indescribable, unpredictable and miraculous occurrence. Bringing life into the world is an experience that is personal and precious beyond belief. Each delivery is different to the next, and yet I feel that despite the varying differences it is something so special it can actually bring us altogether. I’m pulling together a range of real birth stories to share in the hope of expanding our knowledge and expectations of birth, and to dwell in the wonder that is the gift of life, in the countless forms it may arrive in!
Name & age at birth:
Amy Shaw-Johnston, 26
Cravings during pregnancy:
I was sick up until 14 weeks, and really struggled to eat anything, but needed to eat in order to not feel sick. I ate lots of dry crackers, salt & vinegar chips, and toast with Vegemite up until 14 weeks. Then I wanted orange juice and healthy food, apart from any orange vegetables. Sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin etc. made me feel sick to even think about… Weird. I am a vegetarian, but craved roast chicken so had that a couple of times during pregnancy. I trusted that my body knew what it needed, and I listened.
Heartburn up until giving birth, especially with my first and being uncomfortable while sleeping.
Biggest concern about birth was:
Having an episiotomy or c-section.
Ideal birth plan was:
All natural in the water.
Hours in labour:
From first contraction to being born was 6 hours.
How we went from wombmate to roommate:
Like with my firstborn Lyla, I was due on the 11th. I was 3 days late again, and booked in for a stretch and sweep, which took place around midday. Pretty much immediately after the appointment, my contractions started. However, what was different this time was my mind set. I knew I could do it, and I was looking forward to experiencing birth again. I had planned to truly lean into every contraction, and let it do exactly what it was trying to do. I let go of fear, and embraced the pressure and the opening of my body through breath and movement. I knew that the more relaxed I was, the easier it would be for my body to do what it needed to do. Fear = tension, which is the opposite of what you want for giving birth.
We met my parents and went out for lunch. I was having contractions throughout lunch, so was taking bites of my bagel in between, and then breathing when another one came. I decided to go home and relax as much as I could. We live 30 minutes from the hospital, so I could have opted to stay in the city, but wanted to be at home instead.
Once I was home, my partner ran me a warm bath, put some music on for me, and brought me a cup of tea. My parents were upstairs with Lyla, my 20 month old. I knew from my last experience that when I give birth, I like to be quiet, in my own world, and not have too many people fussing around me.
After about half an hour in the bath, and my partner checking on me regularly, we decided together that it was time to go back to the hospital. My contractions were about 3 minutes apart and slowly getting more intense. I remember my biggest concern leading up to the birth being my toddler – where she would be and if she’d be ok. It was such a relief to know she was at home with my parents and my partners mum. I could let go of that worry, and just focus on my birth.
We arrived at the hospital and I had no idea who my midwife would be. I was lucky to get a wonderful, gentle, kind woman, who was very in touch with what I wanted.
My labour was different this time. I needed to sit on the toilet for a small part at the beginning, but didn’t vomit like I did with my first. I was also much more active. I walked around between contractions, and then held onto the bed, still standing, once the contraction was there. Small things made a difference to how I felt. There was a salt lamp in the room, and a diffuser. I had lavender diffusing, the glow from the salt lamp, and playlist I’d made specifically for my birth.
After labouring for about an hour, I asked the midwife to check how dilated I was. She said I was only 3cm, and she was a bit concerned about my heart rate and the babies, as they were both a bit high. It ended up being due to me being dehydrated (so remember to have plenty of fluids during labour!). I was put onto a drip and positioned to sit upright on the bed when my contractions went to another level. I asked for an epidural or to get into a bath, and for her to check me again. She said I was still only 3cm, and that we would wait until I was 5cm to get into the bath, and again, that I was doing beautifully and to hold off from an epidural. I felt annoyed, and went into my “zone” again. The contractions were so close together and unbearable. With every contraction I pushed my fists into the bed to relieve the pressure coming down, and breathed.
30 minutes after I had been checked and told I was only 3cm, something very unexpected happened – a contraction came, and with it my body pushed without my control. In my head I was thinking I had at least another 6 hours to go. But my body and baby thought otherwise. My midwife looked between my legs and her eyes went big and she said, “here comes your baby’s head!” With the second push, her head was born. I remember looking down and seeing her little head born, just lying there on the bed while I waited for the next contraction. With the next contraction, her body was out and she was up on my chest. 1 minute. That was my total pushing time. With my first birth it was 2 hours! What a different, crazy experience to have the second time.
My body went into a bit a shock and I shook uncontrollably for a few hours after birth, and I felt very cold. They were worried about my blood loss, so as I was feeding my baby (after being super surprised she was a girl), they were massaging my uterus to try to get any clots out. It hurt a lot. They gave me a few different types of drugs to try to stop my bleeding, which made me feel extremely sick, and then stitched up my tears. I remember meeting one of my partners friends (a colleague of his, who happened to be working) as she handed my suppositories to the midwife.
After a few hours as the medication wore off, I started to feel better. I remember eating 4 lots of sandwiches and having 5 cups of warm, milky, sweet tea. It was the best meal ever! I also finally got to take my baby in properly. To look at her little toes and her tiny mouth, and tell her about her sister, and how excited I was to finally meet her. And apologise for thinking she was a boy my whole pregnancy!
I didn’t sleep at all that night. Evie did! She slept the whole night through. The nurse made me wake her for a feed in the morning. I felt like I was floating on a cloud of happiness and love. It was wonderful, and a vastly different experience from my first birth. Both of my births were so special in their own ways.
Most vivid memory during labour:
Seeing her head being born and then waiting for my next contraction.
Most amusing/interesting moment during labour/birth:
Seeing my midwives eyes when she almost came shooting out.
During labour/birth, I definitely did not expect:
To honestly not care about being naked and who sees what. Also, to feel so sick.
A myth I believed prior that I now don’t is:
You immediately get an overwhelming love come over you. Yes, you do feel love, but also many other emotions – shock, overwhelm, confusion, wonder etc.
Baby’s name, birth weight and date:
Evelyn Louise, 3.8kg, 14/02/2019 (Valentine’s Day)
Baby’s name was almost:
I never really had any other names. But had Evie been a boy we would have chosen Huey, and Finn if Lyla had been a boy.
Time spent in hospital post birth:
1 night both times.
Best tip/trick you received for those early days:
Just relax and be. Don’t worry about anything else apart from being with your baby, and feeling anything you need to feel.
If you could go back and speak with your pregnant self, what would you say?
Enjoy it. Remember the sensations and be gentle and kind to yourself.
If you could speak with yourself during labour, what would you say?
You’re amazing and strong. You’ve got this. Each contraction is one more you never have to have again, and a step closer to your baby. Trust your body, let it open. Lean into and breathe through the pain. You’re already doing it.
If you could speak with yourself on day 3 of having a newborn, what would you say?
It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to say no to seeing people. It’s ok to go into a bubble and stay in bed with your baby all day if you want to.
Any words for first time mums-to-be nervous about their own upcoming birth?
YOU’VE GOT THIS! Your birth will be what it’s meant to be. Go with the flow of the day. Trust your instincts. Trust your body. Realise your power. Remember to breathe. Your breath is all you have control of, so use it wisely and let it get you to the end. The pain will end. You are a warrior goddess. You are incredible and have all the strength of every other mother before you to lean into. Let that hold you in those moments where you feel like you can’t go on, because you can and you will.
Any further notes you’d like to include:
Birth is transformative. Remember that it’s your birth. You get to decide what happens and what doesn’t happen. You are important and deserve to be heard. Birth can be beautiful and hectic all at once. Every birth, no matter what happens, is special and how it ends up is how it’s meant to be.
If you have a birth story you’d like to share then please get in touch and let’s start the conversation!