My first thoughts when Emily was born was that she was so big; how did she fit inside me? In fact I think the first time she heard my voice, no longer muffled by amniotic fluid, was when I expressed my awe at her unexpected size.
There was also relief that she was safe. Her heart rate had been dipping towards the end of labour and an OB had been called just in case – she battled through a raging thunderstorm to be there to help us but thankfully our girl was strong and we didn’t need her. I didn’t care that I was border-line heamorraging and my belly was being massaged vigorously and injections were being administered to stem the bleeding. I didn’t care that I had I don’t know how many stitches. All that mattered to me was that she was safe.
Her hair was so beautiful: thick, dark and glossy. She didn’t cry at first, she just took in the new world she’d found herself in and looked into our eyes. She was home.
Twenty-four hours earlier when labour started I thought it was just more Braxton Hicks. Those practice contractions had become particularly annoying as I watched my due date arrive and sail straight by. So I slept between the contractions expecting them to stop after a few hours like they had the night before. But by 7am they were still coming every 20 minutes or so. This was the real thing at last. I clearly wasn’t making much fuss as Ben went to work! My mum was here though, having arrived two days earlier eager to meet her first grandchild.
I spent the morning trying to distract myself by watching films, listening to music, texting friends (who had no idea I was in labour) and taking a long hot shower. By midday the contractions were close enough and strong enough to warrant putting on the TENS machine and for Ben to get his butt home. I wouldn’t describe them as painful, just a really really intense pressure. I knew that my body was doing exactly what it was designed for and that each contraction was bringing us closer to meeting our baby boy or girl. The hypnobirthing CD I’d listened to (and invariably slept through) every night must have sunk in.
By 2pm and with contractions about 5 minutes apart it was time to ask our doula Tara to come and support us. She was amazing. She massaged my back, helped us with positioning, and encouraged us out of the house to go for a walk around our quiet suburban block – twice! We walked through the contractions; I wonder what the neighbours thought as they saw a very heavily pregnant woman walking past their house moaning every few minutes.
At around 5pm my waters broke as I was kneeling on our white duvet-covered bed. I probably should have thought ahead and put towels down! Contractions were only a couple of minutes apart and I was getting a lot more vocal as I breathed through them. It was definitely time to get ready for hospital. I was vaguely aware of Ben getting my things together but I was very much in my own zone.
The next few hours were a blur of labouring. I spent a lot of time in the bath lit only by flickering LED candles (where I fell asleep between contractions). Ben was amazing support: feeding me orange sorbet in the tub (amazing!); keeping me cool with ice-cold towels, water and ice chips; supporting my body during contractions; telling me he loved me and that I was doing brilliantly. Tara was with us throughout keeping the atmosphere calm and relaxed, massaging me, helping us move into positions to progress the labour and emotionally supporting both me and Ben.
By midnight it was at last time to meet our baby. Our midwife told me when to push, when to stop and when to do small pushes. The whole room cheered me on when they could see her head – Tara took a photo to show me which was all the motivation I needed to push a little longer. A push or two later I felt her hair. At the next push I reached out my hands to help Ben deliver her onto my tummy. Then, after double-checking to make sure he had it right, he told me we had a little Emily. He cut her thick cord and together we marvelled at the beautiful little girl we’d created.
After all the post-birth drama at last it was just us three. We made our phone-calls home to let the proud grandparents, aunties and uncles know they had a grand-daughter and niece and I called my best friends to introduce them to the latest member of our far-flung village.
The rest of the night was spent trying to figure out breastfeeding (I had no idea it would be so hard), watching her sleep, cuddling her and asking: is she really ours? It was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. We had become parents.