Recently, I reread a post I wrote while still pregnant with Ivy and I had myself a good laugh. I was reminded that my doctors were sure she wasn’t a big baby. My muscles were just overstretched. Not only that, but hadn’t she shown up on her due date, I would have been induced a whole 10 days later (by which time she would have had to be cut out of me).
I love reading birth stories. Each one, whether by C-section, with the help of an epidural or completely natural, is a reminder of the magic that is childbirth. If you don’t share my love for all things newborn, you should probably stop reading now.
This is the story of how Ivy joined our family more than thirteen months ago:
At 11pm on the 4th of December, after two hours of breathing through Braxton Hicks, I decided it would be best to go to hospital and have myself checked. My parents drove over to sleep with Maia and Robin and my husband and I spent the rest of the night timing contractions which became more frequent and stronger as the hours ticked by. At 6am, I managed to nod off and, half an hour later, the pain was gone. I was so disappointed! We were sure the baby was on its way. It would have been the perfect birthday present for my husband who turned 40 on that day. Unfortunately, the only present we got from the whole experience was a day of exhaustion and cancelled plans.
In case you missed the couple of posts I wrote while still pregnant with her (you can read them HERE and HERE), I was big. I struggled to walk, sleep, breathe, sit…I felt trapped inside a body that felt alien to me. So, at 39 weeks, I begged my gynaecologist to do something while I gasped for breath on the examination table. He insisted that I had to be patient and that unless the baby showed up on its own, he would induce me on the 28th of December. That meant that the baby would have more than another two weeks to grow and I wasn’t sure I could survive a bigger baby (it had to be a big baby, no matter what the doctors said). In the end, he agreed to do a membrane sweep. Contrary to what I had been told, I felt absolutely no pain or discomfort and left the hospital with a bounce in my step, hoping my body would keep up the pain I was already feeling.
Another week passed and I was still pregnant. Again, I pleaded with the doctor to help me out a little and, after some hesitation, he agreed to perform another sweep. Again, no pain at all. A couple of hours later, I started feeling some discomfort but I was so used to having Braxton Hicks around the clock that I didn’t give it much thought. Life went on. There were costumes to prepare for the children’s Christmas concert, a school run, dinner to cook and Christmas presents to wrap. The discomfort persisted throughout the day and night and by the following morning it felt like constant period pain. My dad picked up the girls and took them to school so I could rest a bit but I realised that Maia had forgotten her jacket, so I had to drive to school anyway. Luckily, my sister met me in the parking lot and I handed the jacket over to her because, by now, I was struggling to get in and out of the car. So I decided to go to hospital to have the baby’s heart monitored.
The baby was fine but I wasn’t. The pain was pretty intense and it just would not slow down. To make matters worse, the TOCO monitor didn’t show any contractions at all. I felt defeated and was about to head back home when the midwife asked me whether I would mind being examined. Would I mind?! It took me about five seconds to undress and lie down on the examination table! The midwife’s face changed the moment she examined me. She announced proudly that I was 4cm dilated and full effaced. She told me I was in active labour and that she wouldn’t risk letting me go home again. I didn’t argue. I wanted to have this baby right there and then. The only problem was that my husband was at work and he had just left the smaller island on the ferry he is an officer on. So it was decided that as soon as he was back on this island, he would come to hospital and the midwife would break my waters.
90 minutes later, he walked in, grinning from ear to ear and we got down to business (not that kind of business!). My waters were broken and the waiting began. I breathed through each contraction, knowing full well I might need pain relief as they got stronger. As the pain intensified and the breaks between the contractions shortened, I surprised myself by refusing to have any pain relief and relying on breathing and visualisation. I’m a Gemini and although I don’t really believe in astrology, I have always felt like I was split into two. In this case, half of me insisted I at least have some Entonox but the other half kept breathing and reassuring my doubtful half that I could do this.
About five hours later, just as the pain became almost unbearable, the contractions started to slow down. So I changed position (read: I was pulled and pushed by the midwife and my husband until I was on all fours…not my finest hour). The midwife assured me that, even though I was still at 7cm, one strong contraction was all I needed to go into transition. The momentum picked up again, but I was starting to get tired and that strong contraction was proving to be elusive. So I agreed to have a Syntocinon drip to help speed things up and, sure enough, half an hour later, I needed to push.
And here comes my favourite part of the story. It wasn’t my favourite at the time but, in hindsight, it told us a few things about Ivy. A few pushes in, I felt like I just did not have any more energy to see her into this world. I had had this feeling before, both during Maia’s and Robin’s births, but this time I felt like she was just too big to leave my body that way. Then she crowned. By that time, we had been joined by another midwife, who whispered something into the ear of our first midwife. All I could make out was “…ghax ha taqta’ qalbha” (“…otherwise she is going to get discouraged”). So the latter grabbed a pair of scissors and, two seconds later held up a tuft of hair from Ivy’s head. That second midwife knew what she was doing because that’s all the motivation I needed. I couldn’t wait one second longer to hold the baby in my arms. So I pushed again. This time, I felt her coming out…only for her to stop halfway. Her shoulders, being a little wide, had got stuck. Not only that, but Ivy was holding a hand up to her face, which only increased the width of her head. So our star of a midwife reached in for her and pulled her out as I gave one last push.
And there she was, all 4.36 kilos of her. The palest, chubbiest baby I have given birth to. The blue of her eyes was so bright I was afraid there was something terribly wrong with her sight. And I finally felt vindicated. I was right. She was big. I was not imagining things. I had every reason to feel like my body would buckle under the weight of my belly every time I stood up. But, suddenly, the previous nine months meant nothing anymore. She was here and she was perfect.
And in case you were wondering what the last part of her birth told us about her, it’s that she is a pretty easygoing person but she will still make her presence felt, even though she has to compete with two sisters for attention. It also told us that the doctors couldn’t have been more wrong about her size (and they will never hear the end of it, either).