On the 11 April at 4.57am my baby was finally born. We named her Octavia Leonarda. She weighed 3.616 kilogram and was born healthy, without complications. She is now 14 days old and is already over birth weight at 3.8 kilograms.
Her first weeks so far in this world has been a big learning curve for Marco and me. We didn’t realise how hard it is to look after a newborn. But it is also the most amazing thing to be responsible for a little creature who relies on you for everything and that you love unconditionally.
I had a bit of a rocky start from the initial labour, the extended hospital stay and breastfeeding problems, but things are finally starting to fall into place and we are starting to understand our little one more everyday.
My Birth Story
I had everything planned for how was going to give birth, where I was going to give birth and what kind of pain relief I would and wouldn’t accept. I was meant to give birth in a midwife led birth centre in the hospital. I was accepted in the program during my pregnancy and had all of my appointments with the midwifery team all the way through. However, my plans change dramatically and I was no longer in control of the birth I wanted.
On the 8th of April I had my 40 week appointment with my midwife. I was 4 days over the due date and the midwife was giving me advice on how I could start my labour. She recommended eating paw paw and pineapple, taking evening primrose oil and having sex. So first stop on my way home I picked up some paw paw and pineapple and prepared myself a bowl.
That evening Marco was home from work and I was making a big hearty pot of Minestrone for us between the ad breaks of My Kitchen Rules. I had just finished the Minestrone and rushed back to the couch to see what was going to happen next and I felt this warm sensation down below. I knew I hadn’t lost control of my bladder, this felt different. It was about 8.30pm so in all the excitement I rang birth centre, had a shower and got in the car to go to the hospital. We couldn’t believe it was time. I thought I would give birth to my baby the next day after a short early labour at home. When we arrived the midwife confirmed that yes my waters had broken and to go home and wait for the labour to start.
Labour started around 11pm that evening. It was so painful that I couldn’t sleep. Contractions were spaced between 4-8 minutes apart. So I the next day I went to the birth centre. The midwife didn’t think that my contractions were close together enough or consistent enough and thought I should labour a bit longer at home. She decided to do a vaginal examination to see how much I had dilated. Oh my god it was so painful. I thought it would uncomfortable but I didn’t think it would make me scream and cry out. Turns out I had only dilated 2 cm but I needed to wait until the contractions were closer together. A doctor came in to speak to me and recommended that I should be induced today. I was not interested in any medical intervention so I said no thank you, I rather go home. Before I was sent home I was given antibiotics since the vaginal examine had now put us at risk of infection. Wish I knew that before I decided to do that examine so soon. I also was given sleeping pills so that I could get some sleep. I didn’t really want to take them but later that evening on when the contractions got closer together and more painful I decided it was better to take the pills then not sleep another night and be too tired to give birth.
I ended up getting 2 hours sleep but I was woken up by painful contractions. The contractions had changed as well. They were no longer like period pain. When they came they were more focused in my back and upper thighs and they were paralysing. I actually couldn’t move my legs when they came. This made it hard to labour in different positions. At the time I didn’t realise these were contractions. I thought something else was wrong. I called my midwife and while I was talking to her I found my contractions were not as close together. They had gone from 2-3 minutes to up to 7 minutes apart. She thought I should wait a bit longer. By that afternoon my contractions were definitely 1-2 minutes so I called and said I couldn’t wait I was coming in. When I arrived again my contractions slowed right down. The midwife thought that because I didn’t feel safe I was stopping my own labour. I blame the painful exam from the day before. I tried to labour in the birthing suite for a few hours. However I was told that if things didn’t pick up soon I would be given one more day to continue to labour before I would be induced or I could get another vaginal examine but then I would have to be induced today. Either way birthing in the bath was no longer an option and if I were to be induced I would have to go to the main part of the hospital to give birth. I really didn’t want to be medically induced. I felt bad enough for taken the sleeping pills and antibiotics.
I was told to go for a walk to speed up my labour. So we went decided to go to the hospital food court. I was going to take the stairs, but once I actually left the birth centre my contractions were more painful and had increase. I wish I had the midwife there to witness that. I attempted to eat some roasted vegetables but I was in to much pain to eat. While were were down there my brother turned up out the blue. I had no idea he was coming. He actually drove all the way from Sydney to be there for my birth. He seemed a bit worried when he saw how much pain I was in, but I assured him it was normal. We all ended up going back up to my room, so I would be more comfortable since things had seemed to progress again. However, once I got back up to my room again things slowed down. Especially when my midwife entered the room.
After a few more hours at the hospital and I realised things were not going to pick up enough to give birth any time soon. The pain was still intense and I knew I wouldn’t sleep again that night. I was worried that if I had a third night of no sleep I would no have the energy to push this baby out. As time was running out and I was told I would have to leave my large private birthing suite soon and I would had to make a decision. I agreed to have another examination to see how much I had dilated. I knew they would want to send me away to be induce, but I figured I would still have time to run. However, the midwife didn’t do the exam herself. She sent me down the hall to the main birthing part of the hospital to get this exam. I thought it was a bit strange but I still thought I could come back if I was dilated enough.
I was introduced to another midwife who was setting up the equipment for the induction. I stalled her as long as I could, but soon enough her angry supervisor came to the room and told her to get things going. So I allowed her to do the examination. I was now 5 cm dilated. Silly me thought I could still leave at the point but I was told that was no an option. I was also told I needed another dose of antibiotics to stop the baby getting an infection. I was scared that all this antibiotics was going to kill my baby’s good gut bacteria, but I was assured it was only a tiny amount that would cross over to the baby. After a resident doctor gave 2 attempts to find my vein, his supervisor was called administer the antibiotics. By this stage I was really angry. I had mentally prepared for my completely drug free natural water birth in the birthing centre with one of my midwives. Now I was in the main hospital with a midwife I didn’t know and had already began taking medications. I tried to stall a bit longer but I eventually I was hooked up to the induction fluid. A nice midwife came and and advised me that I should really get an epidural soon, it will make the birth so much easier. I was determined that I would not have an epidural. By this stage my mum was loosing it a bit. She knew how much harder this was about to get for me and thought she would share that with me. At that point I decided my mother and brother needed to go and I was getting this baby out now.
Over the next 6 hours I laboured before I accepted any pain relief. I decided to try sterile water injections to help my back pain. By this stage my back felt so broken that I was unable to walk. I was told it felt like a bee sting and only hurt for 15 seconds. I was recommended to have the 4 injections during a contraction, but I figured my contractions were so painful why make them worse with a few bee stings. It actually it felt like I was being stabbed in the back by four giant knives and it killed me for a few minutes. I screamed and cried and felt so violated and angry. It did actually help with the back pain though, but it didn’t help the terrible thigh pain and stomach pains. So by then I was asking them to bring on the gas. Both these pain reliefs were offered at the birth centre and were an option in my birth plan.
I got really drunk on the gas, but it still didn’t get rid of the pain. I was screaming at my midwives to give me less induction fluid, but she kept assuring me that the baby wasn’t far away now. She checked how much I had dilated and told me that I was 8 cm. By that stage I was losing it. It was already around 10pm and the water injection had started to wear off. The induction fluid was making my contractions more intense then earlier and I felt like I was going to pass out from the pain. So I made a decision that went against everything I wanted. I was having an epidural. Marco was so worried I was going to regret this decision and tried to talk me out of it. But I don’t think he realise how many more hours we still had to go. My midwife listened to his concerns and tried to tell me how long it would take to get an anaesthetist but I said I didn’t care and to just put me on her list. The anaesthetist didn’t end up taking that long. I heard my midwife asking her behind the curtain if she had anyone else she could see first and I screamed out ‘I’m ready now’. Marco had her discuss all the risk with me in great detail, but at that point I didn’t care. I just needed some relief and about half an hour once it all kicked in I felt so much better. Unfortunately I was now confined to the bed and was attached to a catheter but I was comfortable in my decision.
Not long after that the doctor came in to check on me. By that stage I should have dilated another centrimeter. However, when he examined me he found I was still at 8cm. He thought the midwife had been incorrect due to some swelling. He recommended a c-section. I had already came so far and I definitely was not having surgery. He said he didn’t ever like to recommend c-sections, but he was worried the risk to baby since it was taking so long.i He said he would give me an hour and then he would be back. Luckily for me he took 2 hours to return and by that stage I was fully dilated and could start pushing.
Probably the best part of this marathon labour was pushing out the baby. I wasn’t in pain and I knew every push was one push away from meeting my baby. I had lots encouragement from Marco, a new midwife (new shift) and my student midwife. Over the next hour and a half I got to see the babies head starting to come out and feel her little hairy head. At one point there was some concern that it was taking to long as my medically induced contracts were still a little inconsistent. I ended up having to have an episiotomy to help get her head out. We were waiting for another contraction for her body to come out but for some strange reason it didn’t happen. I was then told to push without a contraction. Unfortunately because of this they would no do delayed cord clamping.
After Marco cut the cord she was placed on my chest. She was all white and blue and slimy but I didn’t care. I couldn’t believe she was finally here. When they took her from me to check her over she opened her eyes so I was the first person she saw. The doctors did some tests to see why she had some crackly cry. Marco went with them, but unfortunately I couldn’t. She was then returned to me and we got to spend the next hour just enjoying her.
So it wasn’t the birth I originally wanted or expected, but it was Octavia’s birth story. The most important thing now is that she’s here and healthy.
First weeks with baby
After the birth, Octavia and I spent the next 4 days in the hospital. I was lucky enough to get my own room, since I was probably one of the last women to give birth on Saturday morning. I didn’t really enjoy being in hospital. It was the first time I have ever stayed in a hospital and I wasn’t mentally expecting to stay for that long. I think I got lost in the system, so it took so long to discharge me. By the third night my midwife found out I was in the ward and organised my discharge for the next day.
Over that four days I spent a lot of time waiting for wet nappies, hand expressing colostrum into a syringe and eventually pumping for Octavia. I was having a lot of trouble getting her to latch onto the nipple, so I had to end up having to give her a little formula to supplement as well. I was very unhappy and frustrated by this. It seemed once I agreed to it once I was forced to continue. I did feel better when I spoke to other family members who told me that were forced to do the same in hospital. I didn’t sleep much while I was in hospital. I was lucky if I got one hour. By the time I left the hospital on the Tuesday I ended up getting 8 hours sleep in 6 days. So coming home was really nice. I had Marco and Mum taking night shifts to stay up with me and letting me sleep as well.
The first few days at home were really scary. I was worried that I couldn’t express enough milk fast enough for her. I was also still recovering from the birth. By night three at home Marco and I were on our own. It was hard, but we all survived. Every day has gotten a lot easier since.
When she was 6 days old we took her for a photo shoot with one of the most amazing photographers, Luisa Dunn. I previously saw her work on facebook and feel in love with her style. She is so creative and uses the most amazing colours and props to make any baby look like the most adorable little doll. I really recommend her if you are wanting something a little different to run of the mill baby photos.
Breastfeeding has been much harder then I thought it would be. I thought if breastfeeding was done as soon as baby is born then they were more likely to latch straight away. I didn’t realise that babies and mums both need to learn together and it can take time. When I was in the hospital I shown how to breastfeed by about 15 different people. It was so frustrating for both baby and me. Everyone has their own different styles and positions, which may not work for everyone. When I got home I really persistent with Octavia to breastfeed her, but I also had to feed her my own pumped milk to make sure she still ate. By about the third day at home something clicked from us both and I was exclusively breastfeeding. However it was still really painful. I was assured in hospital and by my visiting midwife that the pain was normal and if it still hurt after 30 seconds then maybe something was wrong. I thought perhaps I was too soft but after a couple of days of painful breastfeeding I was dreading every fed and crying during feeds. I went to see a lactation consultant that I meet in hospital and she confirmed that something was wrong. She noticed my nipples were cracked and advised that I give my nipples a rest for a couple of days and go back to pumping. She also recommended getting a nipple shield. Before my next appointment a few days later Octavia was back on the breast with the nipple shield. I no longer have any pain, so her feeds are a lot more enjoyable. I am struggling now to get her off the nipple shield but I’m not going to rush her. For now it is working for us.
Octavia’s favourite things:
drinking mama’s milk – breast or bottle, she’s not picky
when nonna tells her a story
trying out new faces – smiles, frowns, surprised
sleeping in her bednest co sleeper
daddy’s early morning feeds
mama’s heartbeat and cuddles
when she can’t find mama’s nipple
when the bottle is taken away for a burp – she latches both hands to insure its safety
changing nappy and wet wipes- feeling so exposed
when mama doesn’t realise I’m screaming because I’m still hungry even though I’ve been eating for an hour
gas, its painful