This is Part 2 of my birth story. You can find Part 1 here.
So we got settled in at Auckland Hospital and even had a room with a view of the city!
They wanted to monitor baby under these circumstances (high blood pressure and IUGR) so I got hooked up and was told to rest. Dale did some acupressure he learned at my acupuncture appointments as we really wanted labour to miraculously begin on its own. I don’t think I slept a wink that night, and haven’t slept since! Ha!
In the morning midwife Tilly arrived and got a PICC line in which hurt like crazy but I thought, hey, if I’m going to push out a baby I can handle this! Tilly got blood all over her jeans so maybe that’s a testament to why it was so painful. Anyhoo….we decided to do the suppository gel for induction and play the waiting game. That was around noon so Dale went home to rest as I was instructed to do - not so easy at a hospital being attached to mom and baby monitors. After a couple hours I started to feel some light cramping and remember a friend texting to check on me and saying cramps were a good thing! Things kept progressing from then on; the cramps turned to contractions and so the nurses started to fill up the birthing pool (YAY!! And a pool at the hospital even a bigger YAY!) Well, my water broke as the pool was filling up so that changed the plans. I called Dale and asked him to come back as contractions were getting a bit more intense and I needed his support. I remember the birth ball. My best friend. I sat and bounced and swayed on that ball almost the entire time. Dale arrived and at that point I wasn’t keen on any form of touch so he sat at my side, wrote in our journal we were keeping for baby and offered me water and kept the music playlist going.
As I look back, I can see myself on the ball progressing well and coping well with my contractions. My midwife decided to suggest the epidural route (which she knew I didn’t want) and told me this pain could go on for another 24 hours and I should consider it. Well, once that was thrown into my mind it’s like the back-up option is there and it seems the pain intensifies. I wish she never suggested it because it messed with my mind and the way I was coping and in my opinion, I caved. (NOW, having an epidural is not ‘giving in’ but in my scenario I felt like it was.) We discussed it and in came the anesthetist. I was prepped while using the laughing gas and leaning on Dale. It seemed like she was taking forever yet in my head I thought “I’m doing fine, I don’t even need this!” Then she said she couldn’t get the needle in because my back was too strong. Her words. Yay for exercise!! And I said “I’m feeling a lot of pressure Tilly! I need to push!” And sure enough I had dilated from 6cm to 10cm in the 20 minutes she tried to administer the epidural. I remember Tilly getting her things prepped and Dale saying “It’s Go time? It’s GO time!!!”
Time to welcome babe. Everything faded away and I knew I had to listen to my body. I was semi-reclined, Dale on my right side holding my hand with Tilly directing breathing and pushing. Oh it was so intense! Tilly said “I know it feels as if you’re going to tear in half, but that’s normal so keep going!”
“It has a head!! It has a head!!”
I’ll never forget those words from Dale’s lips as the head was born. He had been so worried and fearful that something would happen to the baby or to me, or to both of us that when he saw the head I think he was overjoyed. And then one final push and baby arrived, and was placed on my chest. Tilly asked Dale to announce what it was. “We have a baby boy. Jack Alexander.”
He was laid on my chest and I was in love. He was wet and sticky and crying like a goat and he was ours.
His breathing wasn’t sounding so good so they took him to the warming table to check his vitals and listen to his lungs. The pediatrician popped in to have a look and they decided he was just fine.
Five pounds, four ounces. A tiny little bundle. He was wrapped up and handed to dad while Tilly tended to me. I had to have an episiotomy because Jack had his hand by his face and had a bit of trouble getting out. I then had a quick shower and remember feeling so weak. I got back in bed in my recovery room and we snuggled in as a family and called my mom on Skype to introduce her to Jack. She was so happy and even more eager to arrive a few weeks later to meet him! Dale went home to get some sleep and Jack’s temperature had dropped a bit so he went into the warming bed for a bit and then it was time to try breastfeeding. Well, it didn’t go so well. In hindsight I wish the shower had waited and the phone calls and I spent those early hours skin-to-skin. The nurse was helpful trying to get Jack to latch but it was so tricky. I was so emotional and feeling overwhelmed and worried that he didn’t’ want to feed. Feeding a baby is no easy task!! I think we got a couple hours rest and then tried again…and it seemed like it was always a different nurse. A Lactation Consultant (on staff at the hospital!) came in the morning and gave some good tips, but I didn’t feel like it made things easier. Jack was so tiny. Things didn’t progress as we had hoped so Jack needed to have an NGT inserted (now that is not fun to watch and I’m so thankful Dale was there to help!) I hand expressed colostrum until my milk came in, used the hospital grade double pump to help my milk come in and we fed Jack via syringe when we weren’t trying to breastfeed. He had lost more than he was supposed to and not gained when he was supposed to so they wanted to keep the tube in so we could keep giving him milk. Talk about roller coaster. Pumping. Hand expressing. Consultants. Different nurses. NGT tubes. Syringe feeds. Storing breast milk. Warming breast milk. Keeping track for the staff. For two whole weeks we stayed. It felt like forever and all I wanted to was to go home and be in my own environment. It came in time.
I would sit on the bed with Jack in my arms and sing “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” I’d sing it over and over as it seemed the only words I could muster through my emotion and frustration of trying to feed my son.
Each day we made a bit of progress and he finally started to get the hang of it and put on a bit of weight! So after two weeks we were SO ready to go home. Dale was coming and going everyday, friends would give us space and drop off meals on the main floor, Dale would bring in meals and cards from friends as I just wanted the space to figure out our rhythms. I remember Dale even lugging in everything to let me soak my feet and give me a foot massage.
We packed up what seemed like our entire home that had followed us to the hospital and off we went. I arrived home to delicious smells of home cooked food and little lavender bundles in every room with notes from Dale of how we are his heroes. So special. I sunk into my bed with all my own blankets and pillows and had the best nap ever. And we found our rhythm. Jack got the hang of feeding with the use of nipple shields (they really helped us!!) and we found positions that worked for us and entered into parenthood the best we knew how.
Dale went back to work the day after I got home (thank goodness he had two weeks off) and then two weeks later my mom arrived with my sister! Good surprise!! It was nice to have them around while Dale was at work. I wanted to play host and tourist all at the same time and had to find the balance of being a new mother amidst it all. I vividly remember trying to nurse Jack at a café with a cover over his head while milk was spraying all over the place, Jack crying and feeling so overwhelmed that we had to head home. I think all these factors taught me so much, and led me to become so passionate about postpartum care because I know how real and raw it can all be and that it’s not a walk in the park!!
Tilly set me up with a group of women who all had babies around the same time so we started a weekly coffee group to share the motherhood journey. It was so nice to connect with them and learn and grow together as new parents. And we had a good community in Auckland that supported us and gave us space when needed or delivered meals to be kind and eventually babysat when the time came. maternity leave in NZ is only four months so after that I was back to work, and although lots of it was from home it was crazy to be back at it already! Thankfully Dale’s hours were awesome and he was able to come home and hang out with Jack while I worked and to see their bond develop over those one-on-one times was priceless.
And Jack grew. He ate. He napped. He slept. He ate solids. He had his first words. He cried. He walked. He ran. He sang. He stole our hearts. And to this day, he still asks me to sing him “You are my sunshine” every night before he goes to sleep.
As I reflect on this, my birth story I’m reminded that each person has their own story. Maybe it was a walk in the park, maybe it involved loss or trauma or maybe the bond wasn’t there. Maybe you couldn’t breastfeed or had allergic reactions to formula. Maybe you had to do it all alone or maybe your caregivers weren’t supportive. Maybe everything went according to your plan and you had the experience you had hoped for. Maybe you’re overseas wishing your family was around or maybe you have too many visitors and wish you had space. Through my own experience I learned how unique the birth journey is and how it’s different for everyone. I learned that things don’t always go as planned and that things are really, really hard. I learned what it means to fall in love with your baby yet be so overtired you don’t think you can get through another day. I witnessed a bond between father and son that I didn’t know existed until it was personal. And all this….this is part of my birth story and I’m proud to own it, share it and feel empowered by it. It’s led me to my calling of doula work and I know it has shaped and taught me so much.
Jack Alexander, you are my sunshine and always will be.