The one about our birth stories.
Neall: Did you have a birth plan?
Caitlin: HA. Birth plan. What a funny joke. I’m amazed by people who have them but my whole birth plan was to actually make it to the birth. HG had me convinced that I wouldn’t make it to that blessed day and if I did? Well, then the best thing I could do would be to just try to survive and make sure my baby got here safely. The rest was gravy.
N: Were you scared, though?
C: I was a little. But then I read a book that ended up not at all helping me in the way it was intended (to give me a CALM birth) but did explain all the physiology of birth. Why things happen, why they hurt and why then need to happen in that way in order to get the baby out. So, that helped. And then on the actual day it was all too quick for me to even think about being scared - and also, epidural.
N: I didn’t really have a plan. When I first found out I was pregnant, I immediately started asking for obstetrician recommendations. I always knew that I wanted to go private, mostly to have the consistent care of a single doctor (don’t @ me – some people get great care from the public system). I tend towards anxiety, so having a singular point of contact was one way to maintain a bit of calm. I spoke to friends that I trusted, and knew I could count on their assurances that I’d like this doctor (and they were right).
N: Then, I think the best promise I kept to myself during my entire pregnancy was to not research. I read ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ and that’s it. I’d been around enough procreating people to understand that births never go to plan, so committed to not give myself the opportunity to be disappointed: underpromise and over deliver.
C: And fear?
N: In retrospect, I think I was actually really, really scared. So scared, that I kept my commitment to myself: I didn’t Google, I didn’t over-research. The one time I had a weird pregnancy symptom that wasn’t in WTEWYE, a friend did some searching for so that I wouldn’t collapse in a hypochondria-induced panic attack. But, what it did allow me to do was entirely submit to my doctor’s advice: she had a medical degree and extended career that I didn’t. And, when I needed it – when things did go awry – I felt complete trust, relief and no hesitation in relying on her advice.
N: When did you go into labour?
C: After suffering nine months of HG I was at breaking point and demanded a meeting with an OB when I was 38 weeks. I’d just been admitted for dehydration and a midwife, who I’d seen regularly and would later help me spoon feed my two day old baby breastmilk, said she’d had enough of seeing me admitted for fluids. She called the registrar and organised a meeting that afternoon for me to speak to him about being induced. It’s a story for another post but basically he laughed me out of the office, told me to suck it up, drink some water, eat some ginger and be grateful I was one of lucky enough to be able to carry my baby to term. When I was admitted twice more that week for fluids to midwives rallied, trumped him and went to his boss - who swiftly booked me in for an induction two days before my due date. But Baby Monty had other ideas. I was 39 weeks and four days, it was 1.30am in the morning when my waters broke the day before I was due to be induced. It was so mental. My contractions started at 7am and she was born at 10.23am that very same day – after a tonne of gas and one hell of an epidural.
N: And, did she just slip right into the world like the carefree baby she is today?
C: HA. She literally rocketed into the world like a firework. Scissors and thirty stitches were involved – I’ll probably never sit straight again. I pushed for less than ten minutes. It was glorious – maybe four pushes in total, if I’m generous.
N: Well, bar the stitches, you were kind of due a bit of a break by that stage, no?
C: I’d like to think so, yes. Yours couldn’t have been more opposite right?
N: Polar. By week 38, I was begging to go into labour. At that stage, I was nearing 100kg, my feet were expanding beyond my oversized birkenstocks, and it was February and we lived in an unairconditioned apartment. At 37 weeks, I’d seen another OBGYN who was filling in for my regular, who did a little ultrasound in his office and informed me that my baby was looking rather large. So, I went in for a sizing scan that predicted that my not-so-tiny parasite would be on the heavier side of 4 kgs at birth. This, more than the physical discomfort and general (albeit mild) shittiness of being pregnant, really cemented in my mind that I didn’t want to last to 40 weeks (much less go over). But, last I did. On the day he was due (insert joke around German efficiency here) I started to feel what I guessed were contractions. We saw my regular doctor for a routine check up later that morning, and she saw no cause for alarm – it appeared that I would be having a baby sometime soon. At 7 pm that night, we made the obligatory trip to the hospital once the lovely contractions app started to flash red and demand we leave the house. We were sent home with panadeine forte, instructions to drink lots of water, have a sleep, and full-blown labour will have set in by the morning.
N: Alas, ‘twas not to be. We returned home to a nest that Sebastian had constructed for me (I couldn’t face the thought of having to climb up and down our stairs with contractions). It was basically every pillow and cushion we owned, piled on top of our sofa, with a blow-up mattress on the floor for SK. We stocked up on gatorade, and logged onto Netflix. What ensued was an entire evening of what feel like my insides being wrung in knots while SK snored on the floor.
C: How far apart where you contractions when they started and as they progressed?
N: They really varied. There were long periods when they were quite consistently 5–7 mins apart, but then with the night, they seemed to spread out, but become longer and more intense. When we finally returned to the hospital the following night (36 hours of labour and counting), they were semi-regular, and quite long. Of course, though, they strapped me on to the monitor, and no contractions came for ages. That said, I think the midwife could see that there was no way they could send me home. So, I was admitted, given an IV and an epidural, and a fucktonne of syntocin. (Fact #674 of what no one tells you: press the fucking epidural button, that shit wears off.)
N: After a rather dozy night, interrupted so that my waters could be broken (note: there’s a particular type of humiliation in watching your husband’s face as a complete strange scoops liquid from your nether regions that I hope to never have to relive), my doctor arrived at 9 am (48 hours and counting) to inform me that my midwife had been optimistic through the night and I wasn’t near as dilated as she’d been telling me. And, as an added bonus, my large-headed parasite had been bouncing around on my cervix – desperately hoping for exit – for the last 2 days, and was now posterior. She then suggested that we could up the syntocinon and hope for the best or opt for a caesarean. We went for caesarean. No more than 2 hours later, my not-so-tiny, backward, parasite was born. And, honestly, there is no memory in my mind that will ever surpass SK bending down to tell me that it was Valo.
N: Did the gas make you feel woozy? I was always worried that it would make me feel stoned, so was pretty adamant it wouldn’t be an option.
C: The gas did nothing for my pain. But it did make me high as a kite. I was so off the wall - the midwife vaguely resembled my sister in law - who is a vet nurse so it all made sense to fucked up me - and I kept calling her Kirsti. To this day I cannot remember her real name. I don’t think my epidural had a button - or maybe it did and someone else was pressing it for me. About fifteen minutes after it went in I couldn’t feel my left side - I was curled up in a ball on that side and they asked me to roll onto my back so that it would drip evenly. I burst into tears and the midwife asked me what was wrong. I remember telling her I was too scared to roll over. So she gently pushed my shoulder and suddenly I was on my back. Five minutes after that I was pain free. It was the most luxurious experience of my life. Monty’s heart rate kept dropping so they stuck an internal monitoring clip to her head. My dad had texted Roland a message of good luck, using those animoji things Apple phones do. Roland responded by recording me with one - so now there is my voice, coming out of an animated pig, asking my dad (in a very druggy voice) why he didn’t care about me. I also didn’t understand what the anaesthetist was - he was all gowned up in blue and I kept referring to him as the blue man who was helping me. At one point I tried to get up off the bed and announced I was going home to see my dog. I was completely off my tits.
N: You sure packed some action into your brief birthing suite jaunt. What was Roland doing during all of this?
C: I’m not totally sure to be honest, but he was there. I’m pretty sure he was just holding my hand and telling me what was going on around me. And explaining who the blue man was, why I couldn’t go home to Mr Fox and that it wasn’t actually Kirsti there with me.
N: Bless. It must be such a frightening and confusing experience for the men. Poor them. We had the sudden heart rate drop, too, so they stuck the monitor on Valo’s head. When they were prepping me for the caesar, they couldn’t get it off (it was stuck in his hair), so they cut the cable and he was born with an antenna.
C: Ha poor V! That’s so weird. I think the hardest part for Roland was after she was born. I had a little cuddle and then he took her because I started crashing out - they were stitching me up, I’d blacked out and they were pumping me full of fluid trying to work out why I’d passed out. Roland crouched in a corner as they hit the emergency buzzer and an additional ten people (not exaggerated) ran in to help. He was holding Monty and the OB stitching me up was running him through what was happening so he wouldn’t freak out. I couldn’t see him or the baby from the bed, but I wasn’t really conscious either. I passed out a few times over the course of the next twelve hours, before they worked out I needed a blood transfusion. At one point an OB asked me some questions to keep me conscious - she said ‘Caitlin, what did you do today’ and I had to really think about it. I was like well …. Somehow I’m here and you’re asking me these questions and something must be really wrong but I don’t know OH WAIT I HAD A BABY. And she said ‘YOU HAD A WHOLE BABY TODAY!”. And that was pretty great.
C: How was your recovery after the caesar?
N: Fortunately, the recovery wasn’t as bad as I think it could have been. It was really weird immediately after he was born, because we were in an operating theatre, so there’s not a lot of bonding time before they get to work on putting your insides back together. SK stayed with Valo, and the anaesthetist stayed with me – he gave me a morphine injection into the epidural tube, and I think that’s why my recovery was probably ok. The weird thing was that I started to shake uncontrollably for about 2 hours – chattering teeth and all. He sat with me when we moved out to recovery (where he kindly informed me we’d receive an invoice for his services in the coming weeks). Then, back to our room.
N: After about 24 hours, I had a gorgeous midwife come and coax me out of bed with the promise of a hot shower. Those first steps felt quite triumphant. It really dawned on me in that moment everything that I’d been through.
N: We were in hospital for a full week. But, honestly, the most painful part – when the midwife ripped the wonderful waterproof bandage off my scar (and pubes) to ready me to go home. I could have kicked her in the face.
N: Did the HG stop completely once you’d given birth?
C: Once I’d recovered a bit, and had been pumped full of endone, fluids and antibiotics - but before the transfusion - it was like a switch had flipped. I was RAVENOUS and so thirsty. One of the things about HG is that you’re massively dehydrated but water is a no-go zone. So the best I could really do was chomping on ice. I was so keen for some water and just drank and drank and drank for days it seemed. And I made my parents bring me maccas once they finally could come visit. I ate so much shit those first few days - Maccas, KFC and Subway for days. It was amazing.
N: LOL. SK arrived back at the hospital on our 2nd day with about 6 bags from the David Jones Food Hall – all the cured meats and soft cheese that I could dream of.
C: You’re so much more high-brow than me!
N: That’s cause I forgot to mention that I’d stuffed my face with KFC on the day I went into labour – I figured that I needed the strength.
C: Agreed. I hadn’t really eaten much for a while so that’s my excuse. What were your big takeaways from the whole experience?
N: Mostly, that I needed to stick with what worked for me. The ignorance-is-bliss approach worked well for me: I didn’t spend time worrying about things that would never eventuate, and I found it quite easy to go with the flow when the time came. You?
C: That women needed to be listened to – they need to feel empowered to advocate for what they need, especially if what they need falls outside the usual realm. That you do yourself no favours by kowtowing to the perceived expertise of others – yes, they are there because they are trained to help you, but they are also trained to serve you and help you, we forget that. There’s a lot about the whole process that is designed to strip women of their agency from the get go – midwives are starting to be trained to not immediately begin referring to women as ‘mum’ as soon as birth is over, they need to keep using their patient’s names so they don’t immediately lose their identity – and once you start chipping away at confidence, then send a person home with a tiny person to keep alive, you’ve totally fucked up. We need to remind people that we exist, and that our baby is not the only patient. That’s part of a much bigger rant that I think I’ll save for another post because I need to go wake up my kid and feed her. But one last thing – get the fucking epidural. It’s not the dark ages, you’ve earned it. (don’t @ me, I already know).