"We left the course feeling incredibly empowered and excited for our journey as parents"
Isa and I welcomed our beautiful son, Arlo Alemi Martin, into the world at 6:20 am on Saturday 8th February. He weighed 3.784 kgs and was 52 cm long. Arlo was due to be born on or around the 30th of January 2020. As my pregnancy progressed toward (and beyond) the 40-week mark, the pressure from the hospital to consider an induction increased quite significantly. On Thursday 6th February our midwifery team informed me that the hospital’s position was that any pregnancy that progressed beyond the 42-week mark required an induction, to mitigate the risk of stillbirth. If I agreed to be induced, I would not be able to have a water birth or use the hospital pool facilities for pain management (a large part of my birth plan). However, if I chose not to be induced and the pregnancy progressed beyond the 42 mark, I would also not be able to use water facilities as my pregnancy would no longer be deemed ‘low’ risk.
I began to explore my options closely. According to hospital policy, a membrane sweep was not a form of ‘induction’ that would preclude me from having a water birth, so I opted to have one performed that afternoon following discussions with my midwife. During the examination, our midwife said that my body had done most of the work in preparation for birth and was optimistic that I would go into spontaneous labour over the next few days. Despite this, an induction was scheduled for the following Wednesday, 13 February 2020. I told our midwife my hesitations about induction – in particular via syntocinon drip, as I had dreamt that the baby was not optimally positioned and felt strongly that if he had not come yet it was because he was trying to tell us something. I consented to undergo an induction the following week provided that an additional ultrasound be performed on the day.
That evening, at around 11:30 pm I started to feel significant discomfort in my lower back. I positioned myself in a ‘forward’ inversion off the bed and felt a large gush and movement from within as though bub had completely rotated himself around. I should also mention that I had received acupuncture by Dr Amie Akhurst, who specialises in IVF, fertility and pregnancy that day (and for several weeks prior) at the recommendation of your friend/ colleague, Emily (Embody Acupuncture). She was absolutely amazing, and I would highly recommend to any other Brisbane based mummas who are unable to travel to the GC to see Emily.
At 1:47 pm on the 7th February 2020, I lost my mucus plug and started to experience the beginning of early labour symptoms within the hour. I knew that the sensations I was experiencing were not true labour and that it could be a while yet before I started to progress. Isa came home at 3:30 pm, just as my contractions had started to become more regular – every 10 minutes, lasting about 30 seconds each time. I sat on my yoga ball, leaning over the back of the couch to try and distract myself, as I had done most nights since we moved home from Singapore. The sensations began to intensify, and Isa ran me a hot bath with the surges of the sea soundtrack playing in the background.
In between contractions, Isa disappeared and made sure everything was packed in the car ready to go. At 9:30 pm he presented at the side of the bath with a towel, maternity nightgown, eye mask and dressing robe (...and my mother! who lives over an hour away). He had been conversing with our midwife through the night who had advised him when to come to the hospital. It was the car ride to the hospital that I was dreading the most, and rightly so as with each contraction, I felt overwhelming sensations to the point where Isa had to pull over to let me out of the car. With each contraction, I tried to concentrate on breathing love down to our baby and as the sensations passed, back into the car I went, and we drove until I needed to stop again. I wore the eye mask through each contraction, which allowed me to concentrate on my breath ( ... it also distracted me from the fact that I was labouring in a bus zone... on a Friday night... in my pyjamas... outside a sushi train haha). Others soon got the message that when the eye mask was down, I would not be responsive to them which was fantastic – especially at the hospital. In the foyer, we were met by a friendly security guard, who asked me if I would like to use a wheelchair, which I politely declined. It took me several attempts to walk to the far elevator of the hospital, pausing still with each contraction – slow and steady – gently smiling to my mother shortly after. What a beautiful day, the day I meet my baby, I thought.
When we presented to the Birth Centre, we were informed that the team was experiencing a busier than usual night and that all of the midwives in our team were busy with other birthing mothers. I tried to block out the words of the nurse who spoke to Isa, telling him that we would have to try and find an on-call midwife to come to the Birth Centre to deliver our baby. The thought of having a new midwife brought with it feelings of great anxiety and stress that I had worked hard to overcome throughout my pregnancy, and I had to remind myself that no matter what happened that it would be okay as it was almost time to meet our baby. As the Birth Centre would have to contact an on-call midwife, they requested that I undergo a vaginal examination to determine whether I was in established labour and asked us to follow them to a small examination room down the corridor (I think they were particularly sceptical as I was a first-time mother and so calm). In between contractions, the eye mask came off. I declined the examination and asked them to source a copy of the birth preferences that I had provided to the hospital.
While I understood that it was common practice for hospitals to perform a vaginal examination upon arrival, nothing had prepared me for the response that I received from the midwife when I refused to provide consent to undergo the examination. We were left in the small examination room for the next 20 + minutes while she obtained “another opinion” from her colleague. The longer I sat in the room, the more difficult I found it to concentrate on our labour. I decided to close the door and turn off the lights as I laboured against an adjacent door, with Isa performing light compression against my lower back. Several different nurses/ midwives presented and told me that it was necessary to perform the examination to determine if I was in “true” labour, otherwise, they would like me to go home and wait until 2:30 am when our midwife was able to come to the hospital.
The constant pressure and insistence led me to a point where I was almost ready to give in, not the mention the fact that I couldn’t wait to be let out of the examination room. The midwife asked one final time whether I had changed my mind, and I remained completely silent. I was worried that if I spoke, I would give in and allow her to perform the examination, even though I had made it clear that it was not something I wanted. That’s when I heard Isa say that we didn’t want the examination and that he thought it would be best for her to contact the on-call midwife. A wave of relief drifted over my body at a time where I was feeling so vulnerable, knowing that Isa was there advocating for me and the birth that we wanted. I was so proud of him, as I know that it would have been very difficult for him to go against the advice of a medical practitioner as a first-time parent. I honestly believe that without our course with you, Shari, that he would not have had the confidence to do this (of course, if there was a legitimate medical reason for the examination that would be a different story).
The on-call midwife was phoned and began to make her way into the hospital. I felt so disheartened that all three of our midwives were unavailable, although was reassured when I met the on-call midwife who had a beautiful and friendly disposition. When asked, she was very respectful of my request not to undergo a VE, and instead looked for other signs for established labour while she ran me a warm bath. The room was dimly lit, and water warm. Isa prepared the room by spreading fairy lights across the bathtub and playing the hypnobirthing soundtracks through our speakers (which we listened to on repeat for the next 8 hours!). As I lay half-submerged across the edge of the bathtub, I peered over to the midwife who was sitting at a desk beside the bath with a small lamp reading through my birth preferences – every single page. It was at this point I knew that she was my person and prepared to advocate for my interests. I was also very thankful that I had gone to the effort to draft in-depth birth preferences, which Isa and I had based on the Hypnobirthing Australia resources that you provided to us. Isa was beside me the whole time, constantly reassuring me that he was there to love and support me as we brought our little man into the world.
Our primary midwife arrived at the hospital at around 2:30 am and smiled gently towards me as she walked into the room. By this stage, things were starting to become more intense and the relief of the gas and the TENS machine was less effective. As I laboured over the side of the bathtub, I felt a release from within me – like a “pop” and a movement of fluid between my legs. My waters had broken, though I was unsure at the time. After some time, I was advised to get out of the bath to change position to give the baby more space. After extensive deliberation, a VE was performed while I lay on the floor. Our on-call midwife, my mum and Isa remained by my side which created a beautiful safe space for me. I rotated on all fours and found myself leaning across a beanbag as my mum perform light touch. The sensation of having someone play with my hair was a great distraction, which I kept asking for every time it stopped! haha. It's funny because I always hated the feeling of the scalp massager until birth.
Towards the end of labour, the sensations became more and more overwhelming and I found the only way to release was by being vocal – a release that allowed me to concentrate on my exhale by focusing on the strong downward vibrations. This was the distraction that I needed to rebalance myself, as I started to feel exhausted and defeated as I saw the morning light shine through the window.
The pushing phase started at around 5 am. I could feel his crowning and my perineum stretch as his head went in and out of my body for almost an hour. Each time I felt a contraction, I noticed that his head would leave a little bit more before going back in. I reminded myself that my baby and my body are the perfect teams and that he is just giving me time to stretch and adjust for the next stage. I focused on my keyword: surrender and the Rainbow mist soundtrack that played on repeat in the background. I had never heard this soundtrack before birth, and remember hearing the colour purple over and over. It was only during subsequent conversations with my mum and midwife that I realised that there were also other colours on the soundtrack, which I didn’t even take notice of, as I was so concentrated on bringing this little man into the world and the love that this would mean for our family.
After the final push, there was a long-awaited silence until he took his first breath. I felt our midwife move behind me to try and stimulate his breathing, as I leaned through my legs and held his hand. Though there was no immediate cry, I knew within my heart that everything would be okay as he held on tight to my finger. It took 23 seconds for his first breath, and what a surreal moment it was to hear the sound of his first cry. Arlo was born with a true knot. Thankfully, the true knot was not constricted in utero, however, did begin to tighten during birth as the umbilical cord – where the true knot was located - was also wrapped around his neck. Our primary midwife was a superstar and highly responsive, and managed to place her finger in between the knot to prevent it from tightening further and restricting his oxygen/ nutrient supply – phew!
What a blessing it was to have found you and to have done a Hypnobirthing Australia course. We are so thankful for all the support that you provided us in the lead up to our birth. We were so well-positioned for birth, and couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Isa, in particular, found the course so beneficial, as it provided him with a number of ways to assist me in the lead up to, and during, birth. It also provided the forum for discussion where we were able to create a mutual understanding of what an 'ideal' birth meant for us - that is, a safe birth where I felt loved and supported by our birthing team. Both Isa and I left the course feeling incredibly empowered and excited for our journey as parents, providing us with a wonderful foundation for what lay ahead - birth & beyond.
So thank you!
Aanah, Isa & Arlo Martin
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