At 4:31pm on Thursday 22nd January 2015, Ivy Olivia Hughes entered the world. Here is the story of her birth.
On Wednesday morning I had an appointment with my obstetrician who booked me in for an induction for the following Thursday. I was immediately relieved and allowed myself to hope a little that this time would be different than the previous experience. Throughout the day I felt as if I had more energy than normal, even getting a chance to do the ironing I had put off for the past fortnight. Then, during dinner, I had my first contraction. I continued on as normal, trying to clean up after dinner and make sure everything was in its place.
Just before bedtime, Dave and the boys were wrestling on the ‘wrestle mat’ (previously known as ‘the beautiful rug I got for my birthday’). Hudson and Eli were a little hyped, and they both ran to dive on Dave. Eli made it to the cushions, but Hudson was not so lucky- landing head first into the hard arm of the couch. Immediately, a large bump appeared just above his eye socket and turned purple. I did not handle it well. All I could picture was having to attend the Emergency Department with one child, while needing to be upstairs in Ward G in labour. Hudson calmed down remarkably quickly and Dave reassured his slightly crazed wife that everything would be OK. We got the kids into bed and I told Dave that I had been having a few contractions. We were both a bit reluctant to call the hospital, given our last experience of being sent home so many times, so I decided to have a bath first and then call.
Around 8pm we called the hospital and told us to come in so they could monitor the baby and see if I was actually progressing in any way. We half-heartedly packed the car and waited for Pat to arrive, mostly convinced this would be a false alarm. When we arrived at the hospital, I was hooked up to the machine and stayed there for the next two hours while Ivy performed a circus routine in my uterus, then fell asleep, meaning they could not get a calm base line reading to analyse. For the first half hour I had zero contractions, but then they started coming back… slowly at first, then more regularly until they were about five minutes apart. The midwife did an internal examination and informed us that I was about 1-2 centimeters dilated and gave us the option of heading home or staying for monitoring overnight. We chose the latter.
We were directed to a room and tried to get some sleep. Unfortunately (or fortunately from a rest point of view), my contractions all but ceased overnight. I was convinced we would be heading home exhausted and demoralised in the morning. Around 2am, the nurse returned and said that the Doctor had decided that they would commence me on IV antibiotics and induce me in the morning. A cannula was placed in my arm and I tried to rest as much as I could.
At 8am, the midwives came in to check my progress and attempt to break my waters. The first attempt failed and Laura, the midwife, informed me that she would have to get a doctor to try. As the Nurse in Charge had a go, I was pleading with God over and over that it would work so that we could get the process underway. It was also very uncomfortable but on the second try, there was success. The hormone drip commenced and I spent most of the morning with low level contractions, still quite irregular. We downloaded The Blindside using our mobile phone data, now holding the record of the most expensive movie ever, as we went massively over and now have to pay $100.00 for the excess data charges!
At 12:30pm they did another internal examination and I was only 2cm still. I was a bit demoralised and headed to the bed to rest a bit, thinking it might be a long night. I was able to eat some lunch between contractions which helped my energy levels a bit. At around 2pm, the contractions started to become more intense and difficult to breathe through. I asked for the gas. From this point on, everything became a bit of a blur as I went into the ‘zone’ of labour, being moved into different positions, each time making sure I had a good handle on the gas so I didn’t have to experience a contraction without the masking of the pain relief.
By 4pm, the contractions were almost unbearable and I was exhausted. They did another check and I was only 5cm. I pretty much gave up at that point and was convinced I wouldn’t make it. I asked for an epidural but was reassured that I would be able to make it. When the midwife had left the room, Dave whispered that I was doing so great, and that my gas wasn’t even turned up all the way! I was furious and demanded that he turn the bloody gas up to full. He didn’t listen to me, seeing as I had recently thrown up and gotten very spacy after ODing on the gas, hence the midwife turning it down. The next half an hour was the most intense thing I have ever experienced. It really felt like I was going to die, as my cervix completely opened up and I screamed as the urge to push came on so quickly. With one massive push, she made it into the air and I was told to hold off while they made sure she was OK. I barely made it to the next contraction and then she was out, onto my chest and it was over.
I was in shock for a good hour after that. My face was arranged in a permanent scowl as my body fully comprended the pain I had just experienced. The placenta coming out really hurt and I felt as if my body would never be the same again. Usually after labour I get to use the gas as I’m stitched up, which has helped me zone out a bit as I come down from the epic experience. This time, I felt it all because there was no tearing and therefore no need to use the gas. My body was shaking uncontrollably and I threw up twice afterwards.
When I had finally calmed down a bit, it was time for the first feed. Ivy was amazing and knew exactly what to do, feeding for a solid hour before being weighed and checked over. Dave had arranged for the boys, Mum and Dad and Pat and John and Loren to visit in the birthing suite. I barely made it to the shower to clean up and there was blood all over the bathroom floor and bedsheets literally five minutes before they showed up. I was just able to stand and greet the boys, and Eli’s grave face when he walked in was eye-opening as I realised what a big thing this must have been for him. Eli was very interested in Ivy but Hudson walked straight to the heart monitor machine and began pressing buttons! He then turned his attentions to the two big red fit balls that were resting in the corner. After a few minutes of introducing Ivy to everyone, I collapsed into the bed and Eli came and snuggled with me.
After they left, we headed downstairs to our room on the ward and I lucked out massively to get an empty three bed ward all to myself, complete with a comfortable feeding chair and my own bathroom. I kept expecting a horde of women to descend, but it remained that way for my entire two night stay- making it perfect for having visitors and family attend (and for sleeping at nights as well!)
The first night was interesting. At first I was way too wired to sleep, though I tried very hard to rest. I kept leaning over to check if Ivy was still breathing. She slept for 6 1/2 hours after her first feed. After feeding her at 11:30pm, I tried to put her back to sleep but she was pretty unsettled throughout the night and feeding regularly for comfort. The nurses came to my rescue a number of times and took her out to hold her so I could get some rest. Finally around 5:30am she fell into a contented sleep. I sent an SOS message to Dave to bring a dummy for the next night!
Dave and the boys visited with my mum and it was so cute watching the boys interact with Ivy. They were very keen to hold her and have their turn to stroke her face, nestle their cheeks next to hers and smile eagerly into her contented face. Dave’s side of the family came to visit in the afternoon, as well as Allie, Holly and Nick & Laura after that. The nurses largely left me to do my own thing during the days, so I got heaps of rest and lapped up the three meals a day delivery service while I could! I really love hospital food and was not disappointed with the meals, having steak & chips, grilled fish, pork curry, beef casserole and pea & ham soup as the mains, with chocolate mousse, passionfruit flummery and bread and butter pudding for desserts.
The next day my sister, Hali and her new boyfriend visited us, and it was great to meet him for the first time. Dave came back to spend the afternoon with us while we waited for discharge, though it took a little longer than we expected. Ivy was treated as a potential GBS patient due to the boys’ experience of neonatal sepsis, so she had to have multiple blood tests and be monitored for any signs of infection. Thankfully, the last blood test result came through around 6:00pm and we were cleared to go home!
The first few days at home with Ivy have been pretty amazing. She is calm, patient, picks up patterns quickly, puts up with over-eager cuddles from her two brothers, has the funniest facial expressions after a feed and settles really easily. I know it is early days, but the feeding is already a million times easier than previous experiences. Compared to last time, where I either had to wake up Hudson for every suck or calm him down from massive gut pain, then feed him the expressed milk from one bottle, formula from another, then spend another 20 minutes expressing for the next feed; this time I just put Ivy on one side, watch a show, change her to the other side and put her back to bed! Unbelievably easy!
Today was our first day without Dave, though Mum came to help out for most of the day and I very much appreciated the extra pair of hands. We managed to get through the day fairly easily despite a few emotional breakdowns from Eli. Three is definitely way more tiring and necessitates considerable strategic management, but I can foresee being able to manage alone eventually!
We are just so grateful and thankful that this experience of birth has been positive and the difficulties of last time have been avoided. The awful first stage of labour was managed to perfection, with constant monitoring of the baby, myself and the prevention of both of us becoming exhausted or infected. The physical toll of labour was also so much less, allowing me to heal and ‘bounce’ back so much faster.
Welcome to the world, Ivy! We can’t wait to get to know you better each day!