Warning: Contains Graphic Birth Photos!!
Jodie and I wrote our versions of this day separately, yet they seem to just go together! We decided to combine the two different perspectives into one miraculous story…
The date is the 24th April. I am 13 days overdue and have an appointment with the obstetrician in the morning to discuss the babies wellbeing. I am avoiding being induced.
It’s the early hours of Tuesday and I wake again. I think to myself that it’s odd that my braxton hicks contractions hadn’t stopped when I’d gone to bed as they normally do. I realise that it’s the third time that these braxton hicks contractions have woken me and it hits me that there could actually be a little more going on here. I get out of bed and head to the toilet. While sitting there I download a contraction app for my phone. The contractions are no more painful than the braxton hicks contractions which I’ve been having regularly since 18 weeks. It’s 2:30am and I time about five in a row at five minutes apart. I let Tim know that labour could be starting and decide to get as much sleep as I can. I doze between contractions, waking for everyone. As the hours go on they become increasingly stronger. I wake and sing my way through a simple version of the Lord is my Shepherd that had been playing on Nathan’s CD player yesterday. The reassurance of God making me lie down in green pastures is enough to keep me calm and relaxed and I slip right back into sleep when they fade.
Nathan wakes at 6am. It’s too late to watch the sun rise as we had on the day that Nathan was born and there is a cloud cover over the whole sky anyway. So we decide to go to the local park to get some walking in and encourage progress. There is some doubt in my mind as to whether I should go because the contractions are slightly intense, but I need the distraction. On our way to the park we change our mind and decide to go to the river. On our way to the river we change our mind and decide to go to the Lagoon. So we end up at Narda Lagoon, half an hour away from our house. I text my birth team which consists of my midwife, student midwife, photographer, sisters and mum to let them know that I think today will be the day.
We sit at the park and eat donuts for breakfast. Nathan and I play on the swinging bridge and he runs around excitedly. Tim is being overly cautious with time and wants me to head home fairly soon after we’ve arrived. He knows I have a tendency to hide my pain. My contractions are between two and three minutes apart, regular and strong. We call my midwife to let her know what is happening and then we head towards home.
Sara had been contracting throughout the very early morning, frolicking in the park once the sun came up with her little family and eating donuts for ‘breakfast’ like it was just another ordinary day. I love this about Sara, nothing seems to visibly phase her. She takes everything in her stride and today would be the ultimate test for her.
On the way we stop at mum and dads. Nathan is fed a proper breakfast and we hang out for a bit. I’m still trying to hide my contractions and neither of my parents realise I’m in proper labour. It takes a bit of effort to talk through contractions though. After we’ve been there a little while, I pace the courtyard during contractions, counting how many laps I have done and sit down in between. Dad realises that I’m having contractions and how frequently they are coming and freaks out a bit. He insists I go home and call the midwife. My family is all aware of how I hide pain and he is sure this labour will be quicker than Nathan’s.
We decide to head home. My mum and sister plan to follow soon after us.
In the car the worship music is blasting and I decide to try a new tactic of dealing with the contractions. As I feel a wave come on, I make my whole body go limp and focus on making my hands drop. As I tense up, I consciously release it. I can picture a point down the road and tell myself that by the time I reach that point the contraction will be gone. I close my eyes and imagine where we are on the road until the wave is over. And it is before that point. It is working well.
A few minutes before home I get a call from our pastor organising a jumping castle for my sisters birthday party on the weekend. During the phone call I have two contractions, but I talk through them, grateful for the distraction. When he realises I’m in labour he quickly gets off the phone and we are home.
I head for the shower because that’s what comes next. Everything has played out the same as Nathan’s birth except my waters haven’t broken. The warm shower is nice, but not as good as I remember it being. Tim comes in to convince me to call the midwives. I tell him he can if he feels like he needs to but I’m happy doing my own thing. I don’t want them to have to hang around for a few hours. They do live half an hour away though, so he makes the call. I get out of the shower and get dressed. My family has been setting things up. The table has been moved and the pool is ready to be filled. The curtains are drawn on this lovely cool cloudy day. Nathan is excited that everyone is here to play with him and is making the most of it. I ask Lucy to light candles for the table and Tim to play our favourite CD. ‘How Great is Our God’ is soon blaring and the environment is amazing. Calm, supportive and with a buzz of excitement.
A contraction comes and I lean over the exercise ball and rock gently. Lucy rubs my back. Nathan jumps on me. I lose myself in the music and sing. Softly and low. I feel soothed and refreshed. As the wave leaves I feel great. Each one is building me up rather than wearing me down and I’m eager for the next one to come. I’m surrounded by family and I’m cherished. Everyone is just waiting calmly. I’m having a lot of fun.
Despite Sara’s apprehension, her husband Tim decided it was time to ring Sonya and ask us to come out to their house. I remember feeling a little nervous in the car and voiced this to Sonya, and I knew I had to deal with it before stepping through the door and bringing that into Sara’s space. We got to Tim and Sara’s at about 10:05am. As we walked up the stairs to the front door, Chris Tomlin’s song “How Great is Our God” was pumping. Instantly I relaxed.
We were welcomed by a very calm Tim, Sara balancing over a birth ball and smiling at us in greeting, little Nathan playing with his toys, Sara’s Mum with video camera in hand and Sara’s two sisters patiently looking on, pool blown up in the background. Beautiful.
My midwives arrive to the music blaring and they help themselves in. I’m happy to see them because they are such good friends of mine, but it feels too early for them to be here. I’m happy, calm and relaxed. If I was to go to hospital like this, I know they would just send me home.
Sonya and Jodie come and sit on the floor next to me. Jodie, my student and close friend, feels the next few contractions. They have slowed since the midwives arrived and are now coming only every four or five minutes. A contraction has finished and I lie on the floor so they can feel my belly and figure out what my baby is doing. Jodie attempts to palpate my belly but it’s tight and she runs out of time. I’m back up on my knees rocking on the ball through this contraction. We’ve only had three contractions since they arrived. I feel liquid running down my legs and know that my waters have broken. I look at Jodie and tell her. Immediately I let out a sigh. Some part of me knew that when my waters broke things would change.
Jodie grabs a bluey and I put it underneath me. I look down at the liquor and see the colour. It’s meconium stained. “Oh fantastic,” I say, and somebody thinks I’m talking about the carpet and reassures me. But I’ve realised that the game plan has changed.
We chatted with Sara about the morning between a couple of contractions with my hand on her belly. She was working hard but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. I went to palpate her abdomen to see where baby was laying so we could listen to baby’s heart rate when GUSH – her waters released all over the nice, new carpet! Unfortunately those waters were an icky dark green as the baby had done a poo (meconium), not good, we knew we had arrived just in time. Now things became a little more urgent. We needed to hear that baby.
The next few minutes pass in a blur. They listen to the baby’s heart rate and it isn’t encouraging. I move to the birth pool but don’t get in. Sonya asks to do a VE to see what is happening so she can decide whether we transfer. She tells me I’m 8cm dilated. The VE is extremely uncomfortable. It’s the first time I’ve experienced that kind of pain. Since hearing the heart rate and seeing the liquor I’ve lost my focus. The contractions are suddenly more marked with fear and more painful.
Sonya decides that we will wait half an hour. If I progress well we will stay and have a baby. If not, we will transfer. I agree. I ask Sonya if it’s okay for me to go to the toilet. She agrees and follows me with the doppler. We have already heard quite a few decelerations. I’m sitting on the toilet and she is listening and suddenly the heart rate drops. Significantly. I listen and wait for the next heart beat to come. And it does. I wait again and the next one comes. The seconds are stretching out. I ask Sonya what the heart rate is. She tells me I don’t want to know. I know we have to get to hospital. She knows. She makes the phone call.
Sonya is standing outside the toilet door while she does the handover. I hear her tell them that the baby was having decelerations in the 40s and I know that’s bad. Really bad.
The heart rate was dropping through contractions but recovering well. Sonya did a VE and Sara was 8cm. A Multi could dilate to 10 pretty quickly, do we transfer to hospital or stay and have a baby very soon? Sara needed to go to the toilet so Sonya followed her in and listened to the baby. A BIG deceleration of the baby’s heart. Down to 40bpm. Definitely had to go. I threw everything in the car while Tim and Sara’s Mum got their gear organised. Sara was getting distressed and we all paused and surrounded her with prayers, praying out loud for peace and safety.
Jodie and Tim grab the oxygen, drugs and hospital bag and load up the car. I slowly get myself up from the toilet and walk through the dining room, stepping briefly into the pool. I acknowledge that I won’t be having a baby there and then move to find my PJ pants. I forget my shoes. Sonya is trying to tell people what is happening, but it’s all going so quickly. Tim is flustered and organising who will look after Nathan and who will follow us up. I’m not paying very much attention.
I walk down the stairs and have a contraction next to the car. I beg Sonya and Jodie to pray for me and they do. I climb into the back seat, which is covered with towels, and I kneel facing out the back window. Jodie is sitting next to me with a doppler taking the baby’s heart rate. Sonya is driving and Tim is writing notes in the record as Sonya tells him to.
We are on our way. The trip is painful, but I feel like there is an objective end point. I ask Jodie to pray out loud. She speaks calmly and unceasingly and I tune into her words and silently pray with her. My pregnancy notes have been thrown into the back seat and I focus on my name on the cover of that folder. I look up every now and again and find myself amused by the looks of the people we are passing. There is a line of a song going over and over in my head. If our God is for us then what could stand against us. I have little fear. I know the situation I am in. I am aware that there is a real possibility we could lose the baby. If that happens, God is still good. These thoughts are going through my mind. I know that if I become afraid I will lose control of the situation. I will not be able to get the baby out. The instant I let in a slither of doubt, I will lose it. I don’t lose touch of what is going on, but I take the time of quiet to prepare myself. I focus on God, on my baby and I build my faith.
I’m not telling anyone that I’m having contractions; I’m just silently dealing with the pain. I really want to pull my left knee up. I try to and then realise that I’m restrained by the seat belt, so I just tilt my hip out a little. Sonya asks Jodie about my contractions after about fifteen minutes and I realise they want to know, so I tell them when they’re starting and stopping. I start to feel a bit grunty. I have no pushing urge but if I needed to, I think I could start pushing. My body feels like it’s been put on hold. I’m just waiting until we get to the hospital before I allow myself to progress. I don’t really want a baby on the side of the road.
The baby’s heart rate has been getting better.
The half an hour car ride was miraculous. We did not hear one deceleration. I sat in the back listening to the heart rate and praying for Sara throughout each contraction and preparing myself to catch a baby in a car! Sara needed me to pray aloud during contractions which calmed her and helped her to focus. She was watching people’s surprised faces in passing cars out the back window between them! Later she told me she was willing her body and baby to hold on. Tim was documenting contractions and heart rate, Sonya was trying not to speed, both sending up silent prayers. I remember praying “Lord, open up Sara’s cervix when we get to the hospital so that she can push her baby to safety”. The hospital was preparing for a caesarean.
We arrive at the hospital and go in through a back entrance. It is the hospital that I have done midwifery prac at so it’s a familiar environment to me. I don’t even think about the fact that it’s not so familiar to Tim. A midwife I recognise but don’t really know met us downstairs. She is really lovely and kind to me and offers me a wheelchair. I try sitting in it a few different ways and then give up and stand. In the lift I wail. “I can’t do this.” But Sonya, Jodie, Tim & Jane insist that I can and I am. I feel as though I can’t stay in control for a whole lot longer.
I walk into the birth suite feeling extremely self-conscious. These midwives know me. I know the stigma associated to homebirth transfers. I know their lack of respect in general to labouring women. I try to hold it together and I walk straight through into the room they have allocated for me. I hear someone mention that the operating theatre is prepared for me if needed.
We arrived at the hospital at 11:34am where a beautiful midwife Jane met us with a wheelchair. This was God’s hand, providing us with a supportive and respectful midwife to take over Sara’s care. Sara sat in the wheelchair but jumped out again for a contraction in the lift. She was uncomfortable, agitated and obviously a little scared. The lift stopped and that wheel chair held no appeal. We prayed. She stood, determined, and marched out of that lift and into Birth Suite. She was flanked by Tim and I and followed up by Sonya and Jane. As we passed the Midwives Station I felt all eyes upon us (both of us knew all the midwives as we are both student midwives at this hospital). I was just looking at Sara’s ‘Face of Steel’. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I felt surrounded by an army of angels as we walked in there. Everything was going to be alright. I just knew it. Here was a woman, in transition, with meconium stained liquor and decels, contracting 3-4 in 10 minutes, MARCHING into birth suite without even blinking – purely by the strength of the Lord.
I am surprised by the fact that they skip the admission run through that I am used to. Jodie kicks into gear and takes my blood pressure and temperature and straps me up to the CTG. I am supposed to get on the bed on my back, but doing so feels like torture. I have no idea how women willingly do that. I try on the bed for a moment or two which feels like a lifetime, then I roll to my side and get on my hands and knees.
The CTG trace isn’t great. Jane, the midwife, asks permission to do a fetal scalp electrode, where they screw something into the baby’s head to monitor its heart rate more effectively. We have been listening to the baby’s heart rate for the previous forty minutes. We know it isn’t good. It’s not going to get any better. I just need this baby out now. I want a VE so I can decide what the next step will be. I will not have a FSE. It will not make any difference to our decision or outcome. I try to communicate this with the midwife though I don’t know how clear I am being. I feel like I know what needs to happen and I just need to get them to co-operate.
Sara headed for the bed as she knew we were down to business. We connected up the CTG and instantly noted a deceleration in baby’s heart rate again. Jane asked if she could attach a fetal scalp electrode to the baby’s head to get a better reading of baby’s heart rate, to which Sara practically replied “What would be the purpose of that? Just give me a VE. I’m either 10cm and I push, or I’m not and you take me to theatre. Just get the doctor in here to do a VE!!” I must say I had a little giggle inside despite the seriousness of the situation. Again, here is a woman exuding strength of mind (all that Midwifery training coming through), power of choice and sound reasoning in the midst of a quite distressing predicament. But she was perfectly right. What was the use? We already knew this baby needed to come out NOW.
They organise to do a VE and I feel like everything is just taking too long. A doctor comes and does the VE and tells me I’m 9cm with a lip. She pushes the lip aside during a contraction. I’m finally okay to push this baby out. I know that it’s up to me now. I feel as though I’m being really loud but I don’t know.
I don’t have a pushing urge, but I put all of my energy into it. I scream. I push consistently, taking a break to breathe now and again. It feels to me like I’m imitating contractions but I’m not feeling them. All the pain and urges are my own doing, not instinctive. The baby descends and starts to crown. It burns. I tell them that it didn’t burn like this with Nathan. It sounds to me like they are amused and they point out that he was a water birth. “I’m going to tear so badly,” I tell them. I know it. I’m pushing against contractions to get this baby out fast. Nobody tries to assure me otherwise. If they do, I’m not listening. I instinctively put my fingers down on his head to counteract the pressure. It helps me know what is happening. Jodie moves my fingers after a while because they are in the way. I slow my pushing down to breathe the baby through which isn’t a problem because I have no pushing urge. Jodie is ready to catch the baby. I birth the head and there is commotion. The cord is clamped and cut and I stop pushing and wait. There are multiple doctors in the room. Jodie reminds me to push and I birth the baby.
By this time the contractions were full on for Sara. She was on her back on the bed, not a nice place to be. She was calling on the name of Jesus, with Tim by her side as we continued to pray and whisper words of encouragement. I’m sure it was only seconds before the Dr arrived, although it felt like forever. The Dr did the VE but there was still a posterior lip on the cervix (cervix was mostly fully open but had opened unevenly and had a small amount to dilate at the back). The Dr thought Sara could push the baby’s head over it if she held it back – so Sara did. This is a VERY painful procedure, but Sara pushed on and that baby’s head descended over the lip within a matter of seconds. Sara still did not have an urge to push, however with every contraction she gave it all she had and a precious little boy was born within minutes at precisely 11:56am. I could sense the Dr swarming in the background with a ventouse and episiotomy scissors in her pocket, keeping her eye on us as we calmly guided Sara to birth her baby – but due to Sara’s determination and strength, that was quite unnecessary! Another blessing: we didn’t have a doctor who was determined to have all the control.
I have a minor tear and don’t need sutures. I’m so surprised. And thankful.
Tim is up at my head and I realise he is crying when our baby is taken to the resus trolley. The paediatricians spend time with the baby suctioning the thick meconium out. Someone announces that it’s a boy. I don’t pay attention to who. He has apgars of 4 and 8. Tim goes and cuts the remnant of the cord. Jane asks us about vitamin k and I instinctively say no. Then I think a little more about the fact that he didn’t have delayed cord clamping and it was a traumatic birth for him and agree.
Then we get to meet our baby. He is very pale but very gorgeous, with beautiful dark hair. I am surprised that he is so little, he weighs only 6lb 13 despite being two weeks late. His legs are like sticks with skin draped on them. We spend the next few hours cuddling and discussing names.
We decide on Elisha (Eli). It means God’s Salvation.
Baby Elisha’s cord was SO long it was around his neck, around his arm and around his leg and there was still some to spare! After cutting the cord quickly and untangling him, he was taken straight to the resus trolley by the Peads and Special Care staff. They suctioned to clear his airway and within seconds he began to cry. He had not sucked in much of that meconium – Praise the Lord! Welcome to the world little one, you are a trooper!
During this time Sara’s placenta separated on its own (physiological third stage – no drugs) and Sara got up on her haunches and pushed it out herself. She settled back to receive her baby and over the next few hours enjoyed and fed her beautiful new little man, praising God for his safe arrival.
The hospital wants to keep Elisha in for monitoring due to the meconium, but we decide we can do the observations ourselves at home. We have midwifery support on call at any time. So we take him home a few hours after he is born.
Within hours Tim and Sara were ready to go home with Elisha to meet his big brother Nathan and his doting extended family who were obviously quite worried for both of them when we left for hospital. After getting checked by Paediatricians and the Obstetricians, Sara, Tim and Elisha signed themselves out 4:00pm and headed home to enjoy their newest edition in the comfort of their own home, taking it all in their stride, as usual!
My recovery is quick. I feel great. We introduce Nathan to his new little brother and he is so excited. We have friends and relatives over for dinner that night. I’m ready to get up and face the world. Elisha has a high palate which causes some issues with feeding, but he is healthy and he gains weight well.
What an amazing experience this was! I will always feel honoured to have been a part of Elisha’s birth and will forever remember the powerful feeling of God’s hand at work amongst and through us all. It reiterated to me how important it is to include God in every area of our lives and not be ashamed to call boldly upon His name. Tim and Sara live out their Faith every day to all who are around them and their strength in God was shown on this day.
Upon reflection, it is amazing to me how God worked everything in just the right time to create the best possible experience. It WAS an incredible experience. Nothing like what we had planned for, but it was still beautiful and that is truly a miracle. The exact timing of labour – just before our meeting. The exact timing of Tim calling the midwives and them arriving – just a few minutes before my waters broke. The exact timing of arriving at hospital and being fully dilated. A half an hour or even less either way would have meant caesarean, but God had everything completely under control. Crying out to him throughout it all gave me strength, it cleared my mind and it gave me peace and hope. I think my trust in God and his unwavering goodness is what got me through it, not just as a survivor of a horrible event, but as a beautiful event that I believe God orchestrated. I actually loved giving birth. More than my last birth, which was a textbook home waterbirth. This time, with the added fear and tension, the half an hour transfer, the rushed hospital welcome. All those elements which could have made it traumatic are just a part of his story, a story which shows God’s hand at work. I love that he has that story. I love that all the aspects of his life so far speak of the glory and the protection of God.
His name is Elisha (Eli), the salvation of God, because God has already protected and saved him from so much that has been thrown his way.
God strategically placed all the right people in the right places and I am so thankful for each of them. Sonya and Jodie are my friends before my midwives and I love them so much. They made the right calls at the right time and provided me with unwavering support. My family are amazing and I am so blessed to have the husband I do. At the hospital, our midwife Jane was unbelievably accommodating and helpful. Any other midwife and the story would have had a completely different ending. She made the transition from home to hospital seamless and easy, without judgement. If every midwife was like her, to birth in the system would be a beautiful thing.
The only grief from this birth that I hold is that Elisha wasn’t born into the family that I had hoped for, surrounded by people that loved him. I wish my mum and sisters had seen his birth, but most of all I wish his brother would have been with us. I hated taking Elisha home from the hospital to meet Nathan, coming home with a baby. We should have discussed our transfer plan a lot clearer before the birth so they would have followed.
I have walked away feeling satisfied, thankful and empowered as a woman. If I can conquer that, then what else can be thrown at me. If my God is in control of that, then what is there He can’t do?