Real Birth Journey: Remi Ryan

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:
Monique Gardner, 26.

Due date:

Cravings during pregnancy:
I expected because everyone says you crave something that I would have some kind of outrageous craving but I didn’t really ‘crave’ anything as such – I was quite unwell, so I just ate whatever I could stomach.

Worst symptom/s:
For the first fourteen weeks I did have nausea/’morning sickness’. It was basically like I was hungover for fourteen weeks straight but without the fun night prior. Once I hit fourteen weeks I felt instantly better and pregnancy was a breeze, until 30 weeks when I developed severe reflux and was up vomiting most nights.

Biggest concern about birth was:
If I would be a good mother – I spent 40 weeks worrying that I would be a terrible mother or wouldn’t ‘like’ my baby when she was born. The birthing process didn’t scare me at all (although I did try not to think about it too much).

Ideal birth plan was: 
I had no real ‘plan’ as such. I had expressed to my partner Damon and our midwife Cara that I wanted to stay upright as long as possible, use the bath/shower/heat for pain relief, music to stay calm but I had also said if I ask for an epidural to promise they’d get me one and not try and talk me out of it. I went into birth with a really open mind which I think really helped me. My best friend laboured for 30+ hours with her first so I was basically expecting similar, so much so that I packed Damon a spare outfit just in case he was there for days with me hahaha!

Hours in labour: 
5 hours roughly – my first lot of gel was put in at roughly 7:00pm and I think my first contractions started at 8:30pm-9:00pmish, baby was then born at 1:40am. QUICK!

How we went from wombmate to roommate: 
At 4:00pm on Monday, 22nd February at 40+6 gestation Damon and I arrived at our local hospital to be induced as I was 6 days overdue. I had a stretch and sweep at 40 weeks and I had tried all the old wives tales and nothing had worked to get her out.

When we arrived, a midwife showed us to my bed on the ward (not sure what other hospitals are like but this particular ward room had 4 beds per room, 2 of which had other mothers occupying them already). The midwife then explained to us that they were really short staffed but as we were a special request (as Cara is one of our best friends and a midwife we had requested that she do our birth for us – rare that special requests get approved so we were super lucky) they would induce me still, as Cara would come in if things progressed overnight anyway. The midwife then explained the induction process to us so basically they’d do two lots of gel on my cervix through the night and then break my waters at 7am the following morning.

Prior to putting the first lot of gel in she did an internal check just to see if I was dilated at all already but I wasn’t at all. The first lot of gel got put in at 7:00pm, after the gel was inserted I had to stay laying on my side hooked up to a monitor to check on the baby for half hour. Once the half hour had lapsed she told us that we could go for a walk around the hospital grounds if we wanted to so Damon and I headed out into the foyer of the maternity ward for a walk. I was already having some slight cramping and mentioned it to Damon but he calmed me and said it would be my nerves and I agreed. 

At 8:00pm I asked the midwife for a heatpack as I was having some heavier feeling cramping, she brought me one and told Damon that he should go home and get some rest ready for the next morning, as he went to leave I burst into tears as I was so nervous to be on my own through the night. We signed up for this bubba together yet he couldn’t stay through the night with me to keep my nerves at bay which I thought would be really hard. Anywho, Damon comforted me with a cuddle and then he went home as instructed.

I can’t remember specific times… I think it would have been about 9:00pm I was feeling quite a lot of abdominal pain and I messaged Damon and told him, he told me to buzz the midwife but because they had said they’re short staffed and I am such a people pleaser I didn’t want to annoy them so put it down to me being a bit of a sook and my nerves again. I started trying to watch a show on my phone and then at 9:30pm I started using a contraction timer that I had downloaded on my phone as they were becoming really uncomfortable and regular. I then decided to buzz the midwife she came in and said that it is common to feel cramping from the gel and told me she would reheat my heat pack and get me some Panadol. I took that and continued trying to watch my tv show. All throughout this I was messaging Cara picking her brain about if it could be something or if it was most likely nothing.

At 10:30pm I buzzed the midwife again as the pain was escalating further and she told me to hop in the shower and see if that helped. I remember hopping in the shower and having instant regret, I felt claustrophobic and like I needed Damon back with me more than ever so I hopped straight back out. I was in so much pain that I could scarcely dress myself again. I buzzed her again and asked if she can give me an epidural, she decided to do another internal check as she thought something must be happening if I am asking for the epidural. When she checked she found that my cervix was posterior and therefore she couldn’t reach it and said that I wasn’t dilated. She explained to me that I couldn’t have an epidural until I was atleast 4cm dilated so instead gave me a sleeping tablet and an Endone to try and help me relax and get some rest. I remember messaging Damon at this point and saying ‘if this isn’t labour then there is no way I can do it without an epidural’.

Re-reading my messages to Cara, at 11:30pm was when I started to lose my mind and things really started to ramp up – the messages started to say things like ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘please help me’. Poor Cara. I remember being up on all fours on the bed one minute and leaning over the bed the next in excruciating pain. I basically felt like I was climbing the walls in this tiny curtained cubicle where my bed was all the while trying to be super quiet as there were two other women 2 metres across from me and I didn’t want to disturb them. I wanted to scream out in pain but instead kept cursing under my breath and focusing on my breathing. I had never felt so unsure of myself, usually I felt I had such a good pain threshold yet here I was not in labour and crying and begging for an epidural already. How could I possibly do labour when I couldn’t handle this pre-labour stuff?

At 12:00pm I buzzed the midwife again and told her I wanted to be moved to a birthing suite and that I wanted her to ring Cara and Damon. She explained to me that if Cara came in now she can only stay 12 hours maximum and as I wasn’t dilated at the last internal check she could potentially miss the birth, I told her to call her anyway. She moved me round to a birthing suite where I sat on a birthing ball on my own waiting for Damon and Cara to arrive. 

Damon said when he arrived the midwife met him at the door and explained that I was quite distressed but not dilated and Damon agreed with her that he would try to assist to calm me down. He said when he walked in I was still sitting on the birthing ball leaning over the bed and I burst into tears, he could tell I was in a lot of pain and something had to be happening. Ten minutes later Cara arrived, I honestly felt like a breath of fresh air had just walked in the room when Cara entered, she immediately started running the bath behind me and I could tell she had a plan for me and was there to support and help me.

This is when it gets really blurry for me – I was still sitting on the birthing ball and I remember saying to Cara “I think I just wee’d myself” she then got me up on the bed to do another internal check as they were thinking my waters had broken. Upon inspection I heard Cara and the other midwife say “I think she’s 7cm, maybe even 8cm or 9cm” I knew now that because I was dilated I could finally have the epidural I’d been wanting since all this pain began, so I begged Cara for it, she told me it was possibly too late and I said “but Cara you promised me if I asked for the epidural you’d organise it.” So she called the anaesthetist to come in. He came maybe half an hour later and by this point I was already getting ready to push – damn!!!

At 1:40am with Damon at one of my legs and Cara on the other our beautiful baby girl entered the world. I just remember saying “I did it, I did it!” over and over again. I had honestly thought I wasn’t in labour on the ward and that I couldn’t do it, so I felt so proud and accomplished that I actually had done it!

Most vivid memory during labour:
Once baby had been cleaned up, weighed, etc. Cara asked if I wanted to have a shower and I just remember thinking ‘how the heck am I going to get to the shower without leaving a massacre trail behind me?’ I was so concerned that Cara would have to clean up after me that on my way out of the shower I quickly put my towel on the floor to mop some of it up – OCD at its best!  

Most amusing/interesting moment during labour/birth:
We had a couple of amusing moments… So with each contraction you push (when you get to that stage) and once the contraction stops and you stop pushing the midwife checks the babies heartrate to ensure it isn’t in distress or anything like that. I can’t remember how many pushes I’d done, maybe half a dozen and Cara went to put the monitor on to check her heart rate and before she even had the device on my belly I said “she’s gone isn’t she?” because I couldn’t hear the heartbeat. Cara and Damon still joke about it now. I think I was so shocked at how quickly my labour had progressed that I was sure something ‘bad’ was going to happen.

During labour/birth, I definitely did not expect:
I didn’t expect to labour on my own, I had thought I’d be in labour for a while so I imagined Damon in the room with me (he is a bit of a larrakin) playing some questionable music, encouraging and supporting me. Yet, Damon was only with me for an hour and forty minutes prior to her birth. 

A myth/misconception I believed prior that I now don’t is:
All first time mums labours are long. The whole time I was pregnant I would hear first time mums’ stories of how their labours went on for days and that that was the ‘norm’. 

Baby’s name, birth weight and date:
Remi Ryan Smith
8p6oz (3.79kg)
23rd February 2021

Baby’s name was almost:
I was set on another name but Damon wouldn’t come to the party with it (won’t say what it is in case I can talk Damon into it for the next one) so eventually we found one we both liked instead. Although, she was Remi from the minute we knew she was a girl at 20 weeks. 

Time spent in hospital post birth:
So, I arrived to get induced at 4:00pm on Monday, 22ndFeb and I left at 4:00pm on Tuesday, 23rd Feb. Spot on 24 hours.

Best tip/trick you received for those early days:
NIPPLE SHIELDS! Gosh, that toe curling feeling on day 2 when your milk hasn’t quite came in yet and your nipples feel like they’re being cut with 137,000 razor blades each time your little person latches is messed up!! 

Top 3 lifesaving items for a newborn:
1. Stretchy, jersey material swaddles – we were gifted so many muslin swaddles and no matter how hard we tried we could never get them tight enough so her hands would always escape.
2. A padded waterproof play mat – makes nappy free time soooo easy!
3. Adult nappies – post birth adult nappies rock (I put a pad in mine and then wore high wasted undies over the top), you legit do not have to stress about a leak then!

If you could go back and speak with your pregnant self, what would you say?
I hated pregnancy – I’d give birth 100 times over before I’d do 40 weeks of pregnancy again, I think mainly because I was unwell for over half of it and couldn’t do all the things I normally would. Therefore, I would tell myself to relax without guilt more. So many times I would lay on the couch unwell and feel guilty because I wasn’t doing household jobs, etc. next time I’d just embrace the way I was feeling and try to relax.

If you could speak with yourself during labour, what would you say?
TRUST YOUR BODY. I spent so much of my labour on the ward without my partner when I should have trusted myself and my body and asked to be moved to a birthing suite sooner. I guess because I had nothing to compare it to and the midwife couldn’t reach my cervix and kept saying I wasn’t dilated that I thought I was being a sook. Next time, I’d just trust myself.

If you could speak with yourself on day 3 of having a newborn, what would you say?
It is okay to ask for your baby back. I remember getting to the end of the day of visitor after visitor and feeling like I hadn’t held my own baby all day.

Any words for first time mums-to-be nervous about their own upcoming birth?
Trust yourself, women were made to birth tiny people (sucks, I know) so trust that you can do it. Everyone knows that it is going to hurt, I don’t think I’ll ever hear someone say ‘it didn’t hurt’ but we all do it and most women do it multiple times so trust that you can do it too.

If you have a birth story you’d like to share, then please get in touch and let’s start the conversation and continue celebrating this incredible life changing event!

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