Published on July 17th, 2018 | by Laura Morgan1
How to Give Birth in Two Days or Less
Contractions become more and more frequent until they are one minute apart and one minute in duration. During this time you will dilate to 10cm. When you are at 10cm your baby is ready to be born. You shouldn’t lie on your back, you should stay active. Push your baby out. You are now a mum.
Welcome to motherhood, you’ll be great.
This is what I knew about going into labor and giving birth before I had Miller. I had no reason to prepare for anything different, my pregnancy was very “normal,” like, as normal as it can be when you are growing an actual human being inside of you. I took calm birth classes, I visualized my ideal birth, I was going to labor at home, then I was going to go into the hospital, hop into the bath, push out my baby, and lift him up to my chest. The chord was going to stay intact until it finished pulsating, I was going to birth my placenta naturally. My placenta would be encapsulated because that would definitely stop me from having post-partum depression. We were going to fall in love in that moment. Then we would go home. I wrote a birth plan, I was going to stay in control, and I wasn’t going to use any pain relief. I was going to breathe through my contractions. Breathe through the waves, breathe through the surges. I doubted I’d even make a sound. Somewhere along the line, somewhere in my internalized misogyny, I was made to feel that expressing pain is a measure of how good a mother you are, how good a birther you are, how much you respect yourself.
I knew that my due date wasn’t a definite eviction notice for my baby, but my pregnancy had been so normal that I was probably going to be one of those mums who had their babies on their due date. At 38 weeks I started feeling different, but at 38 weeks the baby is growing very fast, and i was becoming very uncomfortable. Every day was different. I convinced myself that he would come early. He did not. Braxton hicks contractions are very different to actual contractions. At 40 weeks and 5 days I had repeatedly told doctors and midwives that I didn’t want to be induced. I was staying strong and confident, but at this point inducing didn’t seem so bad. I read positive induction stories. Ben and I walked from our house in Fitzroy North to a restaurant in Collingwood, a 45 minute walk that took an hour with my slow waddle. We ate smoked meats and chips and mac and cheese and I drank peach iced tea. I knew this was my last time eating out at a restaurant for a while. On the walk home my belly started comically wobbling from side to side. I watched it and laughed, and I wasn’t worried about time or inductions anymore. I had my first real contraction as we crossed Alexandra parade, and the green man stops flashing so fast on that cross, I just tried to keep walking to get to the other side. I had a contraction every time we crossed a road. My baby was already very, very funny.
We got home, and I had contractions in slow, peaceful motions. They were far apart and sporadic, they came through the night more frequently, but I was managing it, I was enjoying it.
The next day the slow, painful, but still very far apart and sporadic contractions continued. Ben and I went for walks, I went to the shops to buy panty liners as I was leaking light pink fluid and didn’t want to waste my fancy organic maternity pads. I leaned on fences and light poles in Fitzroy North, I moaned as Ben massaged my lower back. The pain would stop as suddenly as it started, and we kept walking. We went to buy bread. We walked home, more leaning, massaging, moaning, pain, walking, leaning, repeat. The pain was like nothing I’d ever imagined, I wanted to fall into a heap, I wanted to be touched, I didn’t want to be touched, I wanted to be alone, I didn’t want Ben to leave my side, I wanted to lie on my back but the pain on my back was too much, I wanted to be on all fours, but my wrists were getting sore. We had spaghetti bolognese for dinner. And bread. I loaded up on carbs because as much as I didn’t know what I was getting into, I knew that I’d need the energy. My friend Jenna phoned and I calmly and excitedly told her my labor was beginning. I hung up the phone, threw it on the floor, kicked the coffee table away from me and collapsed onto the floor, holding onto the couch, and I moaned through another contraction. My movements were that of a cat coughing up a hairball. I finished, hopped back up onto the cough and we watched an episode of Friends.
We went to bed, and I think I slept for a few hours, and then it all happened. I wasn’t ready for just how hard this bit was going to be. I wish I had cushions all over the floor, I wish I had a thousand dry towels ready, I wish I had a tens machine, I wish it wasn’t the middle of a Melbourne winter, I wish it wasn’t the middle of the night, i wish I read more birth stories, I wish I hadn’t been so set on everything being natural. I wish I did a lot of things differently. But I got through it the best I could. This part was everything that is wrong with the world in the form of strong, roaring pains in my lower back. I never knew anything could hurt so much, I never knew the body could experience so much pain and survive it. From midnight until about 5am I routinely sat in bed meditating, jumped forward to be on all fours and moaned, screamed and roared, I roared in the shower, I leaned against the shower wall with boiling hot water on my lower back. Ben timed my contractions and put the towels in the dryer, he meditated with me, sitting in front of me slowly patting my legs with each long breath. This was a continuous cycle all night. My contractions never became regular. I didn’t know that there was no normal. We waited for them to become one minute in duration and one minute apart, but that never happened. I would have ten fast in a row, less than a minute apart, and then I’d breathe slowly and they’d stop for 15 minutes, then they’d come roaring back. I thought something was wrong. As morning came closer this cycle kept up, I scrunched the doona in my fists with each roar, and I screamed that i couldn’t do this anymore, I thought I was going to die, I thought this was going to last forever, Ben tells me it looked like I was so in control, I wanted to die.
We rang Angela, our birth photographer, who is also a doula. She said something about low moans, and that helped, for a few contractions. She wanted me to stay at home as long as possible. I stayed another hour, until I couldn’t do it anymore. Ben called the hospital and I screamed in the background. They told us to come in, and our neighbor messaged us and asked if we needed a lift to the hospital. My screams had kept everyone in our tiny apartment block up most of the night. I’ve never cared less about bothering people. Everyone in the world should be awake for all of this. I sat on the edge of the car seat, I tried not to have a contraction, I had a quiet contraction, i didn’t want to scare our neighbor. We arrived and I ran inside and collapsed on the floor and had another moaning, cat hairballing contraction. I was 5cm dilated, everything was fine, and I thought I was going to go to the birthing room, hop into the bath and push out a baby. The part of my mind that was still pushing for that to happen was slowly being overrun by the rest of my mind, body, heart all screaming in unison “Get this actual demon ball of fire out of me I will literally perform a cesarean on myself how the fuck am I going to love this person who has inflicted this much pain on me.”
We walked up to the birth suite. I leaned on walls. I was deliriously tired. I felt something trickle down my legs and put my hand between them and saw some blood, not a lot of blood, but enough to run down my legs. My baby moved about inside of me, like he always had, I wasn’t worried about him, I was too exhausted to worry, I was too exhausted to think straight, but they wanted to monitor his heart rate, apparently blood means bad, whatever, put the heart monitor on, make sure he’s okay, I don’t care about anything at this point, I’m thinking more and more how much I’d like to be knocked out and have him cut out of me, I can’t get into the bath anymore because of the bleeding and the monitoring, I don’t care, let me get into the shower, but they need to do the paperwork, they need to check our hearts, my heart rate is high, of course it is, what do you think I’ve been doing for the past day and a half, this is the least relaxed I’ve ever been, let me get into the shower, please. Paperwork and numbers seem so meaningless and water on my back will solve all of my problems. I want to be alone, I could do this alone, Ben massages my back and I kick him away, he asks if I want him to massage me or not, I tell him to keep trying to, but I might kick him away. Talking is tiresome and my body communicates for me. The hospital bracelet on my wrist is too tight and it digs in as I move back and forth on all fours, it’s all i can fixate on. Everything will be okay once the bracelet is off. They need to make a new one before they can take it off. I need them to take it off right now. I cry. Someone cuts it off, another one is placed on my ankle, everything is right in the world again for a brief moment, I can continue. A doctor comes in to have a look at me, at this time I hate doctors but this one is very kind, he asks if he can have a look, I try to bargain with him and tell him only if I can get into the shower straight after, he laughs and tells me its my birth and I can do whatever I want. He breaks my waters, or they break as he looks inside of me, he said something about breaking them, it wasn’t asking, I can’t remember. I wasn’t really listening, I’m supposed to be outraged that my waters might have been broken without my consent, I do not give a flying fuck, pull the baby out while you’re down there, take him away and let me have a rest.
Angela the photographer/doula and Nic, my friend/student midwife arrive, they both massage me, rub my shoulders, someone puts lip balm on my dry cracking lips. It’s bliss. These women have magical hands and I relax long enough to rip my clothes off and go into the shower. The pain is so intense that the shower does very little, but it’s nice to be naked. Once again I drop to all fours, my knees and wrists and elbows hurt so much, I lose the last remaining faith I have. I am mentally and physically broken. I’ve never been so tired. I’ve since learned, with a baby, that just as you’re ready to give up, just as you’re really over the constant crying and repetitiveness, they learn a new thing, something changes, they do something like laugh or grab your hair and try to eat it, and it’s so cute and funny, and you can keep going a bit longer. In this moment, Angela asked if i’d like to try gas to take the edge off. The suggestion of gas seemed laughable, what could it possibly do, I needed something strong to knock me out and for someone to just rip this baby out of me while I sleep, but I accepted the gas, and everything stopped. I smiled. I thought I’d forgotten how to smile and my lips cracked at the upwards turn. My jaw, which I’d been trying so hard to let loosen, loosened on its own. Everything slowed down, I professed my love for gas, I confidently told the midwife to turn the gas up to its fullest, I had one more roaring contraction, sucked in the gas, ripped it out from the plug in the bathroom and rushed to the bed, plugged it back in just in time for another contraction. The new rhythm became rest, suck on gas, moan. Ben, Nic and Angela took turns rubbing my feet. I felt like I was a goddess. I lay naked in the middle of the room, very high, resting, occasionally having a chat, cracking jokes and leaning into this new euphoria the gas had given me. I remember trying to talk but I was so stoned I didn’t know if the words were coming out right. This was my birthing day, this was Miller’s birthday, I was the center of attention for the last time now, I let it happen, somebody put some music on, I ate vanilla slice, I forgot what we were all here for, I still thought that I would be in labor forever.
At some point a fetal heart rate monitor was put onto my babies head, another thing I didn’t want to happen, another thing that I didn’t care about anymore. Ben, Angela and Nic discussed these things with me, everyone did, my birth plan was so clear, no interventions, no unnecessary monitoring. I don’t care. I can’t believe I ever did, just get this thing out of me. Why hadn’t anyone offered a cesarean yet? I’d been in hospital 7 hours by now, nothing had changed except that now I had gas, the pain was still there but the gas enabled me to relax and enjoy it. The midwife told me I looked like I’d had an epidural. I laughed and made a mental note that if I was to ever have another baby, which I will definitely not do, but if I do, just get the epidural. I was still 5 cm dilated. All this labor, all this work for nothing, my body was broken, my baby was broken, everything was broken. I suck hard on the gas and bite down on the tube, my jaw is starting to hurt again, the kind doctor (who I later discovered was coincidentally named Dr. Miller) comes back, I feel very safe with this doctor. He tells me he wants to give me a small dose of syntocinon (pitocin) to help my labor progress, inside of me I am screaming “DO WHATEVER YOU WANT I DON’T CARE I WANT THIS TO BE OVER,” but Ben, Angela and Nic all advocate for me. Do I know what this means? Not really. I have no idea what anything means anymore. I don’t remember my old self. I don’t yet know myself as a parent. I’m in this weird limbo and nothing makes sense. My birth plan says no interventions. We decide to wait an hour to see if we can get things happening naturally. I was going to get out of the bed. Angela acted like she was my mother, she was in charge of me, she was my boss, and this is the hardest day of work i’ve ever had, this is all of my hard days combined. She made me get up, I did squats, I swayed my hips, for this hour my new routine was squat, sway, contraction, suck on gas, squat, sway, gas. Blood dripped all over the floor beneath me. I tried not to slip on it. I thought of slipping and falling on my stomach and that pushing the baby out, and I thought that if I slipped they would rush me into theater to have a cesarean, all great options. I held onto the end of the bed, sucked on gas, Ben did something, he was near me, he held me, he breathed for me, he was becoming me, he was part of it all, but he wasn’t. This was all me. I’ve never felt myself like this before.
It was a beautiful day. There was a huge window which filled the room with sunlight. As I squatted, swayed and sucked, I looked out at the city. A whole world was going on out there, people were doing things, it seemed so strange. A whole world was going on in here. The kind doctor came back in, I knew nothing had changed, gives me the syntocinon. I was still 5cm, I can’t go on, my body is never going to birth this thing inside of me. What is this thing inside of me. This body without a head. Feet kicking and a back I can run my finger along, I can feel his hands doing something down low but my baby never has a head, it’s too strange to imagine. I feel nothing for him anymore. Just exhaustion. I only feel for myself.
The syntocinon drip goes in, let’s start with a low dose, I get back onto the bed. This happens so fast. I start moaning. I get louder with each contraction. The gas doesn’t work its magic. Nic thinks I’m ready, I already feel like I’m pushing. She goes to get the midwives, someone looks inside of me and tells me I can have my baby now. I’m not listening. I know, I can feel his head, he has a head now, my body is pushing for me, this is the strongest force coming out of me, the midwife is telling me to stop pushing, go slow because i’ll tear, and I’m not listening to her, because obviously my entire body is about to split in two and there’s no stopping it. I’m pushing, his head comes out and I feel lighter, and then this tiny slippery body flops out of me, I’m on my back, I was never supposed to be on my back, but this is so comfortable, I’m staying on my back, I’m slightly on my side, it all happens so fast, 17 minutes, I’m not pregnant anymore, my big belly is almost already gone, my baby must be dead, I don’t care, I just want to rest, we’ve gone through so much and I need to close my eyes now.
He screams, he is a very, very loud baby. I look at his beautiful head. He has the most beautiful face. They tell me I can’t birth my placenta naturally, because of the syntocinon, why did I ever care about this? I’ve just done the most important thing in the world, can’t you see what I’ve created? Look at him. As if I’m thinking about my placenta anymore.
This is the part I got right. My baby is on chest, we fall in love in that moment. He latches straight away. I’ve never been so tired but I don’t need sleep anymore, Miller sleeps for me. We are the same person now. Miller is the whole world, he is all of me, nothing matters anymore, my vagina is being stitched up and I take one more suck of the magical gas as Ben and I stare at our son and become our new selves. We learn a new love. I am no longer the person I was two days ago.
Welcome to parenthood, you’re going to be great.