The Pregnancy & Birth of James
1st October 2018
Written By (His Mama) Rose
What a whirlwind of a time we have had welcoming this precious little boy into our lives. It all began under some very unfortunate circumstances in January 2018. I was the victim of a violent sexual assault, which unbeknownst to me at the time, had led to a pregnancy.
I spent weeks healing physically and emotionally from the event, wondering why the smell of once-favourite foods had turned sour. I stopped eating, sleeping, drinking alcohol, smoking and generally began to feel a little non-existent. My period stopped, I began losing weight rapidly and I was experiencing mild morning sickness. I put all of these symptoms down to the stress of the event that had happened – never questioning for 10 weeks that I could be pregnant. Silly, I know!
At 10.5 weeks, I decided that enough was enough and I needed to see my GP.
We had a very long appointment together, discussing the event that had taken place in January and the various symptoms I had been experiencing since. She did what any doctor would do. She handed me a paper bag, sent me to the bathroom and told me to take a test. I was so sure I wasn’t pregnant, and that this was “just stress” taking its toll on my body and mind.
I returned from the bathroom, she tested my sample, didn’t tell me the result and sat down at her desk. “So what are we going to do if this is positive?” She said, with a very knowing look in her eyes. My face went cold and I said, “I don’t know, probably talk to my Mum?” I said.
“Well, it’s positive. And given you are almost 11 weeks into the pregnancy, we need to talk fast if you’re considering a termination. I’ll book you an appointment for tomorrow and we can discuss your decision then,” she said.
I had less than 48 hours to make a decision that was going to change my life forever.
Given the circumstances under which this baby was conceived, of course, I considered all of the options. Termination? Adoption? Surely I couldn’t raise this baby all by myself. I barely had $50 in my bank account.
But that night as I tried for hours to fall asleep, I was struck with the feeling that I needed to keep him (not that I knew it was a “him” at the time). Somehow this was meant to happen, and even though I never imagined my life turning out this way, I couldn’t lose him. Not to termination and certainly not to another adoptive family.
And so, my pregnancy journey began.
I spent the most part of my second trimester getting physically healthy and receiving multiple kinds of therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But no amount of therapy felt like it was truly preparing me for the big moment. I was so fearful of going into labour as the thought of anyone touching me was my greatest trigger. Panic attack after panic attack came on as I imagined the ordeal; midwives, nurses and doctors putting needles in me, strapping monitors onto my body, checking my dilation etc.
Terrified doesn’t even begin to cover how I was feeling. I was ready to opt for an elective caesarian so that I could “check out” of the whole process. I just wanted a baby in my arms, and I wanted to skip the rest.
My mum encouraged me to visit Pregnancy Problem House at this time, hoping that someone could help in mentally preparing me for labour. In my first two weeks visiting my PPH counsellor, she suggested something I’d never heard of before – Hypnobirthing. I was so amazingly blessed to receive financial assistance to do the course with Melissa Ayling privately in Geraldton.
I must admit I was hesitant about opening my mind to the course, believing it to be a bit too “whimsical” for me. But all of that changed in my first meeting with Melissa. Can you believe I drove home on my first day actually looking forward to my labour and birth?
In my class, I received reassurance that my experience could be free of medical intervention (unless absolutely necessary), reassurance that I could actually make it through the whole process with minimal (if any) physical touch, reassurance that my body was well equipped and perfectly designed for the job and reassurance that this could actually be a beautiful and positive experience. I was motivated to go home and read the contents of my Hypnobirthing Australia™ folder in one sitting!
In later classes, I encouraged my partner, Chris to join me. He too wasn’t sure about the nature of the course, and only attended at first to make me happy (I think). But he also was changed by his first class with Melissa. He said, “This is great, I’m finally getting an idea of how I can be there for you on the day. I had no idea what to expect before, and now I can see that I have my own role in the whole process.”
We ploughed through the rest of the course, at the end feeling that we were mentally, emotionally and physically prepared for whatever may come in the late stages of my pregnancy. I sat back and trusted my body, and trusted little James’ timing.
My final appointments were almost daily in my 36th week, and it was getting easier every time to cope with my doctor feeling my tummy and measuring the baby. The panic attacks grew less and less, and I felt in this week that I was absolutely ready for his arrival. Little did I know, he was just around the corner!
In my 37th week, I experienced two false labours. Both experiences identical – just a few days apart. I started experiencing tightening in my lower stomach over the course of 5-6 hours. Both times (at around the 6-hour mark), the pain became so strong that I needed to visit the hospital to monitor the baby. Both times I was told that I was in labour, to go home and rest and come back when the contractions were closer together.
In each of these experiences, I felt I used my Hypnobirthing Australia™ techniques all the way through. Rocking on the gym-ball, closing my eyes, focusing on my breathing, listening to music (even singing at times!), walking around when I felt I needed to, keeping a heat pack on my lower back and repeating my favourite words – “my body is perfectly designed to birth my baby… my body is perfectly designed to birth my baby… my body is perfectly designed to birth my baby.”
But strangely, both of my “labours” came to a sudden end after 8 hours. I stopped contracting, my dilation never exceeded 4cm and I went back to life as normal. This was a confusing time. However, I just had to trust that my body knew what it was doing. This was just a very extreme way of my body preparing for the real thing.
And then, in my 38th week, something even stranger happened. I woke up in the morning and my body began a very slow drip of clear liquid. I observed myself carefully over the next few hours, and by that evening I was sure it was my waters breaking. I didn’t want to pay yet another visit to the hospital only to be told it was another false labour, so I held off until 9 pm (I shouldn’t have waited so long!)
At 9 pm, it had been 12 hours of my waters breaking slowly, and the midwife told me on the phone that I needed to come in. I was tested to find out whether it was amniotic fluid, and given a negative reading. Sure enough, I drove home feeling a little defeated and confused. But, upon arriving home I stepped out of the car and a gush of water ran down my legs. “I think I’m peeing myself!” I yelled at Chris. I waddled inside and sat on the toilet, my waters continuing to break slowly for half an hour.
I called the midwife again, and she said, “Oh! I was just about to call you. Your test is now showing a positive for amniotic fluid, your waters have broken and we’ll need you to come back to the hospital now.” So, we slowly packed the bags, showered and had a “this is it” moment before we walked out the door, towel between my legs.
By now it was almost midnight, and we were set up in the labour room to sleep for a few hours. I was put on antibiotics and the midwife properly broke my waters. I was sure to ask whether this medical intervention was necessary, and it absolutely was because my body and baby had been open to infection now for 16 hours. Looking back, I am so glad I received the medical attention I needed because 3 weeks later, I am still fighting a mild womb infection. Imagine how much worse it could have been if I had said no. I was told that at 9 am, I would be induced if the process hadn’t already started by itself.
By 9 am, nothing had happened, and I was reluctantly induced with synthetic oxytocin.
It took only 20 minutes for the contractions to start hard and fast, only 90 seconds apart at the very beginning. The pain got unbearable very quickly as the labour was progressing at such a rapid speed. I asked for pain relief and was handed the gas. I didn’t feel any effect at all from the gas, but it was a great way to control my breathing. After 10 minutes on the gas, I still felt no change whatsoever and asked what else was available.
The midwife explained that morphine could be an option because the anaesthetist wasn’t available. At this time, I was having contractions standing beside the bed, and needed to lie on my back to that they could check my dilation before giving me morphine. I was only 1.5 hours into my labour and they told me that I was already 8-9cm and it was too late for any kind of pain relief.
It was time to push.
And now begins the most painful experience of my life. It’s important to note at this time that Hypnobirthing Australia™ doesn’t promise a pain-free birth.
I pushed standing up, kneeling, on all fours and on my back over the course of an hour. Little James was hardly moving with each push, and I was wasting a lot of energy pushing incorrectly.
My midwife asked me to lie on my back so that she could coach me properly, guiding me through every single push. As much as I didn’t want to be on my back, I knew this was the only way I could focus and listen to my caregivers (of which there were about 10 in the room). I kept pushing.
Soon I had 2 doctors in the room discussing a vacuum delivery because I had been pushing for a dangerous amount of time. I was asked permission to start setting up for the vacuum delivery and in a panic, I yelled, “Yes, whatever, just get him out!” I knew I desperately didn’t want this to happen, but in the moment, my pain got the better of me.
Thank goodness I had discussed this with Chris and my midwife before my labour begun, and they spoke for me when I knew I wasn’t doing a very good job of speaking for myself. My midwife had the vacuum set up and said to the doctors, “leave it a little bit longer, she can do this, I know she doesn’t need it.”
“Damn straight I can do this!” I thought. And that was the final motivation I needed to push my baby out. I gave it everything I had for another 5 minutes and all of a sudden I could feel his head pop out. Then the shoulders were even more painful because he was trying to push his little arm out beside his face.
The midwife started laying towels out on top of me and all of a sudden I looked down and a little baby was launched in the doctor’s arms onto my chest in a big blur. My pain disappeared immediately and I could feel the weight of a tiny baby on me.
3 hours from start to finish, he was here!
But unfortunately, this is where a little medical complication really started for me. Moments after James’ birth, my doctor said with a very firm voice, “you’re losing a lot of blood, I need to cut your cord and remove your placenta as fast as possible.” I felt a waterfall of blood gush out of me onto the bed and was told later that this was a whopping 1.3L loss.
Chris cut the cord, and my placenta followed moments later. James was moved high up on my chest so that medical staff had access to my stomach. They pushed down hard on my stomach over and over again, showing more stress in their eyes than I wanted to see at that time. Eventually, I felt a golf ball sized blood clot come out, and everyone in the room relaxed. I was stitched up for mild tearing over the course of 20 minutes whilst I held my gorgeous little boy in my arms.
It was over; I did it, in 3 hours. It was lunchtime and all I could think about was a shower and food. We were very lucky to be moved straight into our own room and served with a big lunch. Our tiny little boy slept soundly in his bassinet and everything was perfect. Happiness and relief washed over me like a tidal wave.
Even though my labour was far from the videos I had seen in my hypnobirthing classes, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Just because my labour wasn’t quiet and peaceful doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful, I have to keep reminding myself of that. Perhaps with baby number 2, I may have more time to put my hypnobirthing techniques to use.
For now, we have a healthy baby and a healthy Mum – that’s good enough for me.
Please note that the names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of the family in this birth story.
My name is Melissa Ayling and I am a Hypnobirthing Australia™ practitioner and birth doula. Over the years, I have enjoyed sharing this life-changing program with many women and their partners from Geraldton and rural Western Australia. If hypnobirthing is something you have been thinking about, please feel free to check out my next upcoming group classes here. Throughout my website, there are loads of information and birth stories that inspire. And please don’t think twice about reaching out. I’d be honoured to be a part of your journey. There is also an amazing online course available too.