Lessons in strength #4: My birth plan, and what not to watch on Netflix while in labour

I had a few weeks off work before Finn was due, which I filled with the usual coffee dates/Netflix viewing/medical appointments/nesting. Washing baby clothes. Walking the dogs. It was just before my sister’s 30th, so I had some additional projects in putting together a slideshow for the party and organising decorations. I’d highly recommend a project like that (with a deadline) for mat leave, by the way. I’d been reading my birth books, taking notes in my journal, and was feeling as ready as I was ever going to. But even still, every time I felt a twinge I’d start to panic a little. “No!” I’d think suddenly. “I’m not ready! Not now! I don’t want to push out a baby!”

I had a midwife appointment on Thursday 25 June and ran into Dr Davis while I was at the hospital. “Are you going to have a baby soon?” he beamed at me.

“I’m hoping so,” I replied.

He looked at my stomach. “You don’t look like a woman who’s about to have a baby,” he said matter-of-factly, and kept walking. Which is funny, because I’d looked like I was about to have a baby for three months by then. Then again, he’d said the same thing to me once before, and Emma had been born the next day, so I decided to ignore him.

On Friday 26 June I woke up to some show. And strangely enough, with that one sign that things were definitely going to start happening (with Emma contractions started a few hours after), I was suddenly very calm. Yes, this was going to happen. Yes, I was going to push out a ‘not small’ baby, as Dr Davis kept describing him. It didn’t matter if I wanted to, or was ready – it was going to happen. For some reason, that was a very calming thought. There is after all no point worrying about something that you cannot control.

I wrote about my birth plan for Emma, but didn’t have one this time around. Partly because I knew Queanbeyan Hospital, and Dr Davis and his back-up, already operated in the way I wanted (why I’d chosen them in the first place). Partly because, to use my analogy from last time about a birth plan being like a plan for exploring a new city – I’d been there before. But I did have three clear goals that I kept repeating to myself like a mantra:

  1. I was going to ignore early labour as long as possible. Margie had assured me this was much easier with a toddler around, because they are a perfect distraction.
  2. I was going to stay at home as long as possible. As soon as I got to hospital things were going to be less in my control, and I didn’t know who would be on duty, so I wanted to stay in my comfort zone.
  3. I was going to do what the doctor and midwives told me to do. One of my lasting memories of Emma’s birth was of a midwife suggesting I move from my back to a different position. But I’d been too tired, and she hadn’t pushed it. In hindsight I’d always wondered if she’d been right, if it might have made a difference, and I was annoyed at myself for ignoring her advice – and a bit annoyed at her for not helping me given how tired I was. I may have given birth before, but they do this every day, so I decided I was going to listen to their advice.
So on that Friday morning, in the spirit of ignoring labour as long as possible, I told Toby things might happen today, and sent him off to work. Then Emma and I ticked a couple of things off my “things to do in labour” checklist, including making these delicious cupcakes and sweeping the front steps which had been annoying me. For some reason I thought I’d like coming home from hospital to swept front steps. (Of course I don’t remember noticing the steps when I came home.) Nothing was actually happening yet so it was pretty easy to just get on with the day. We went to Grill’d to have lunch with my sister and I carb-loaded like a boss. I bought a hair crimper in preparation for the 30th (1980s theme) and we got home about 2pm.
My waters broke at 2.05pm. My waters didn’t break with Emma until I was nearly ready to push so I didn’t really know what to expect, suffice to say, it is not like the movies but it was also not the little trickle friends had told me about. Luckily Emma was distracted by a movie while I was busy in the bedroom mopping things up then running to the bathroom to sit down and let it all happen. I rang Toby and suggested he start getting ready to come home. I rang mum and asked if she could come over in the next hour or so. I didn’t think there was any rush, since nothing else had happened.

So glad my waters broke after we got home from the shops, otherwise I would have been like Charlotte (but in trackies instead of a white dress, obvs).

Then I rang the hospital and said my waters had broken.
“What makes you think that?” asked the midwife.
“Um…there’s stuff everywhere?” I thought it was a strange question. It turned out there was a need to rush – the hospital wanted to see me ASAP. So I had to ring Toby and mum back and say actually can you come right now please.
Mum looked after Emma while Toby and I drove to the hospital. I didn’t know this but there’s a test they do to see if your waters have broken which is a lot like a pregnancy test, involving wee and then sitting on a bed together waiting for a second line to appear. There was a second line. Hurray! They strapped me up to a monitor to make sure the baby was happy enough. I wasn’t having any contractions at this point, although I was starting to feel something in my back. So they sent us home again. If nothing happened overnight we were to come back at 8am to start antibiotics. But they were pretty confident we wouldn’t have to do that, being a second baby and all. “You’ll have a baby tonight,” the midwife told me. What a casual way to describe a life-changing event.
We got home and packed Emma up for a night at nana and pop’s house. It was so strange kissing her goodbye knowing the next time we saw her, she’d be a big sister. Then we continued to ignore early labour, which was actually starting by this point. We took the dogs for a walk. I was trying to ignore the contractions, to just keep moving and breathing. A door to door salesman saw us and said hello and I felt like saying to him, “I’m having a baby tonight!” While Toby cooked dinner I sat on the couch and ordered decorations for my sister’s party online (another item on my to do list). I rang my friend Andy and told him I was in labour. He was at Friday night drinks and couldn’t believe I was having a normal conversation while in labour. “It’s not like the movies,” I told him.
We ate dinner (more carb-loading) and then sat in the media room and watched Sense8, which was our Netflix show of choice at the time. It was probably not a great choice that night, as the episode we saw (SPOILER ALERT) involved a couple driving to the hospital to have a baby in a snowstorm, only he lost control of the car and they crashed and he died, and she had the baby in the car all by herself. Yeah, really not a great idea. (Although I would highly recommend the show otherwise.)

Please don’t make me have my baby on a mountain like poor Riley.

I was having to get up off the couch for contractions by that point, and we were timing them, and they were getting pretty painful, but we still decided to have a shower and go to bed to try and get some rest. I was taking my “pretend I’m not in labour” and “stay at home as long as possible” goals very seriously.
To be continued…
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