I wrote his birth story in the weeks after he was born, but somehow wasn’t comfortable sharing it. Maybe it was too special, too private, too soon. I also wanted to honour the precious newborn days, keeping it close, not jumping straight back into computer-filled nights. I then rewrote it, with less detail. Three times. It's Mother's Day, and I am sentimental. So here it is.
First, some background. After going into spontaneous labour with Ellery at 31 weeks, we’d been worried this babe would arrive early. There was about a 15 percent increased risk of premature birth, but with additional worries early on in this pregnancy, including an impromptu hospital admission around 20 weeks (for what turned out to be a typo on a routine scan), our concerns were heightened. I’d been advised to decamp from the island to Brisbane from about 23 weeks. Ellery and I made the move a little earlier, thanks to that hospital admission and the fortuitous purchase of our first house. All of this meant I’d had to relinquish my desire for a water birth through our hospital’s Birth Centre. Keiran was working nine day shifts on the island and returning to us on his five-day weekends. With infrequent ferry services between the island and mainland, I was worried he’d miss the birth.
We crossed the psychological milestone of 31 weeks, and by 37 weeks, felt stupendous relief to be still cooking a full term baby – hurrah! The only question now was K’s presence for the birth.
Babe was due on 28 February – the last day of summer. K had a month’s leave locked in, and his ferry ticket to Brisbane booked. His shift finished on a Tuesday but the vehicle ferry didn’t leave until Wednesday afternoon. At the last minute, he had a feeling he just couldn’t wait that extra day. He pulled up stumps on the Monday and got the boat home that afternoon. Sweet relief, and the blessed end of four months of our little family living apart.
That night, I noticed some discomfort when I got up to pee. In the morning I noticed mild cramps in my lower belly, and lost what I supposed was the mucous plug. I stood in the kitchen telling K, and then noticed the cramps peaking and subsiding. I told him this might be the start of things, and went back to bed to rest.
I started timing ‘contractions’ (though they didn’t quite feel like that just yet) at 8am sharp. They were irregular. K asked if he had time to shower – instinctively I told him to hurry. I asked him to get my labour notes from my bag and to make four phone calls: to put our au pair and Nana on standby to take care of Ellery; let our doula know things had started; and call the hospital. In hindsight, we should have made the calls the other way around.
This is where my memory gets really blurry. Thankfully a contraction timer app has left a trail of breadcrumbs!
By 8.24am, contractions were a minute and a half apart and lasting around 40 seconds. From here it all got regular. And loud. And wet.
By the time he was onto the fourth phone call – to the hospital – the midwife, who could hear me, suggested he call an ambulance. He deferred to me. I said yes. He did.
My rational brain was long gone, and being the thick of peak hour, the ambulance was, in hindsight, an excellent decision.
The woman on ‘000’ kept him on the phone whilst an ambulance was despatched. There was talk of clean towels and ‘can you see the baby?’.
K was a bastion of calm throughout all this, coordinating all the things whilst letting me clamp onto him and roar in his ear.
The ambos arrived and were great – very calm. They decided to wait and see how things were progressing – in hindsight I realise they were wondering if I might have the baby there and then. After a few minutes, they made the call to get me into the truck and on the way to hospital.
I barked a few one-word instructions: ‘pillows’, ‘undies’, ‘bags’ and other things I wanted K to bring with us. It was the same headspace as with Ellery’s birth – my focus went within and I couldn’t even commander my eyes to look at anyone.
I somehow hobbled into a wheelchair and was lifted downstairs and onto the trolley-bed. I heard the main guy say ‘code one’ and K telling me we were going with lights and sirens. By this stage I was panting through the urge to push.
We went in through emergency and my crew insisted to the emergency peeps that we had time to get to Birth Suite. Not only did we have time to get to Birth Suite, we had time to take the scenic route, thanks to a bum steer up the wrong lift. Back down to the ground floor! Although I could barely gather my eyes to see, I could tell we were somehow now going through the main public part of the building, me writhing in full-blown contractions. Oh. My. God!! One of the ambos told the people waiting for a lift that we would be getting the next lift, thank you. There weren’t any objections. Our doula Jennie met us on the way in.
Finally we got to Birth Suite and were greeted by one midwife, Helen, who coincidentally happened to be who K had talked to on the phone. We got incredibly lucky; she was the perfect midwife for us. And whose name, I later found out, is Helen Kay. As in, my Mum’s name, with a minor spelling difference!
From the moment we arrived at Birth Suite, everything happened seamlessly and in accordance with our wishes, without our written birth preferences – essentially for a natural, unmedicated labour with no time restrictions – even coming out of our bag. The lights were dimmed and voices hushed.
Helen quickly endeared herself. She mentioned that a doctor was asking to come into the room to get their birth attendances up, but that she would object on our behalf, if that was OK with us. She radiated calm, friendly, reassuring and clearly had control of what was happening in that room. I now know what it means in birth talk to ‘hold the space’.
After a short stint laying on my side, I was helped into an upright position over the head of the bed. Helen gave loads of encouragement and guidance on how to push. It wasn’t long before she called K to catch the baby. I heard Helen suggest to Jennie that she thought perhaps I was scared to really let go. I thought, ‘No, contractions aren’t lasting long enough for me to push past a certain point!’.
I was willing this baby out with everything I had. I remembered my affirmations, and countered every thought of ‘it hurts’ and ‘I want this to be over’ with the knowledge that every contraction was another one done, and that we would soon meet our baby.
K told me he could see the head – dark hair! I smiled. Some very intense pushing and burning – and his head was out! The relief! I will never forget the sensation of his head moving around.
I then felt Helen help to turn him. Another push – or two, I can’t recall – and he was born into his Daddy’s hands. K passed him under my legs and I took him up to my chest. I turned around and melted back into the bed with our baby in my arms!
After a few seconds, I asked ‘is it a boy?’ Despite having no intuition about this baby's gender during my pregnancy, a very primal part of me had known all along. I dreamed of this boy – of both our boys – when Ellery was a wee sprout in my belly.
We snuggled on the bed. Helen got us a warm blanket. He was perfect, though a little upset. He latched on within half an hour and settled down.
Helen told us the cord had stopped pulsing, and let us feel. I asked to wait ten minutes. She agreed, and helped K clamp and cut the cord. The placenta came out without a hitch, and Helen packed it up ready for us to take.
The next eight hours were interrupted only by food, a shower and eventually a weigh and measure. In the afternoon we had a visit from Ellery and Nana. There were lots of congratulations and a very happy vibe all round. Our doula and midwife hugged on parting.
Helen left us with some beautiful words. She thanked us and said it had been a privilege to be at our birth. She told us that as a senior midwife, she didn’t usually get to attend normal, natural births anymore. It was the birth she needed, she said. She noticed in my file that I’d requested to birth in the Birth Centre, and urged me to really press for this, if we had another baby, as I was the ‘perfect candidate’. I was quietly chuffed. Lucky, otherwise I would have died from the irony.
We’d asked for an early discharge, and after some scurrying by K to procure a capsule, we left hospital around 8pm. On our way out we passed a doctor, who said, all agog, that I looked great. I wonder if he was the one who’d asked to attend our birth.
They say quick births can be a shock – and it was certainly surreal arriving home that night with a baby – but it was all pretty cruisy after Ellery’s birth.
This boy was born in under three hours, though in hindsight, was ready to be born in about an hour. And probably would have been under different circumstances. With the early concerns, I never asked K about a planned homebirth because I knew he would never have gone for it. And yet he was so calm about the prospect of nearly having an unplanned one.
I am eternally grateful for this experience. It was the natural birth I’d always wanted. Peaceful, and healing. I didn't get to hold my first baby for three days. I waited five weeks to bring him home. This boy spent his first night in the world at home, with us.
And despite feeling not quite prepared, in the end I had all I needed. I mean, how lucky are we that I went into labour the morning after K came home! We did it!
Welcome to the world, sweet little Aubrey Finn. Your amazing journey starts here.