It's a lovely feeling to finally feel complete - Sylvie was the missing piece to our family puzzle and I'm more than a little relieved to find I'm not yearning for a number 4!
My three births have all been so different. You can read my first birth story here, my second here, and continue reading on below for my third and final...
I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. The hormones are crazy in these hazy early newborn days. I’ve just sung my baby to sleep to the tune of the beautiful ‘you are my sunshine’. At least I thought it was beautiful, but as I got sick of singing the chorus over and over I googled the lyrics and realised what a heartbreaking song of loss it is! Cue more tears.
So onto something truly beautiful. A happy story of love and life for my gorgeous baby girl. I hope one day she reads this and is proud of her Mum, and her wonderful Dad. Sylvie Ann Sokolich…here is the story of your birth.
What a wild ride. This was meant to be my easy third baby. Turns out it was the best and worst experience all rolled into one.
It was a Wednesday night which meant the much anticipated final of Survivor was on telly. Kim and I were comfy on the couch when just a few minutes in I felt a massive kick from baby. “Oh my god” I said to Kim “The baby just kicked me and I wet my pants a little”. We had a good laugh till suddenly I realised I was mistaken…oh my god my waters had just broken!! At 37 weeks and 3 days this couldn’t be happening, I was so convinced I was gonna go overdue.
After a brief visit from the midwife I decided to go to bed and try and get some sleep. I put on my hypnobirthing relaxation and tried to ignore my rising excitement and get into the groove. The surges were mild but things were looking good for our baby being with us the next day. After awhile Kim got in bed with me and we decided it was time to activate the contraction master! What I thought was a handy little device on my iPhone turned out to be the gospel for my wonderfully detail obsessed husband. After awhile he announced my contractions were 5 mins apart and this was when the midwife had told us to head into the hospital. I didn’t think I was ready – everything was still feeling pretty mild – but Kim was having none of it. It was time to activate the plan! After a brief phone call to the MW, and another to my good friend Sarah who was on standby to look after the kids, I continued to relax and breathe my way through the contractions.
Before I knew it Sarah was there and I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer. After a c section for my breech baby first time around, and being induced due to pre-eclampsia second time around, all I had wanted was the excitement of going into labour on my own at some random time. Kim and I kept grinning at each other “this is it, it’s actually happening!!” Sarah was really excited for us too, as only my fellow birth story nerd could be. “This is your birth story happening right now!” she said. I would have loved to have Sarah at the birth but she was our only option for looking after the kids and I was really happy they would wake up in the morning to a familiar face. I had prepped Mila, my nearly 6 year old, for the fact that one morning she might wake up and find Sarah there. Sarah told me later that when she went into the girls bedroom in the morning Mila gasped with excitement “this means our baby is here!!!!” How cute is that?
After a brief flurry of activity Kim and I were in the car. In between surges we kept grinning at each other with crazy anticipation. I knew Kim had one thing on his mind and that was the red button. Auckland hospital has an emergency lift over-ride button that you can press in labour to go straight to the delivery suite. For us, longing for the excitement of a normal non-induced labour, this red button had become the holy grail. But oh what an anti climax, the helpful security guard saw us coming and beat us to it! Oh well, plenty more excitement was coming our way…
In the labour and delivery unit we met our fourth midwife of this pregnancy. My original MW wasn’t well and passed us on to number two. She was on holiday so we had number three when Kim called to say my waters had broken. Unbelievably she was at this moment delivering another baby – so enter Kelly, who we were meeting now for the first time! But luck was on our side because Kelly turned out to be fantastic.
“You’re still smiling” she told me, and sure enough after a quick check she said I was 2cm. 2cm?!! I couldn’t believe it. Luckily they let me go and labour in a room on the ward rather then go home. We put on my hypnobirthing relaxation, Kim had a snooze on the bed, and I bounced on a swiss ball and relaxed my way through the surges. I have no idea how long we were in there for…but things were progressing nicely, to the point I asked for gas. And boy did it help with the relaxation and breathing. Kim was doing lots of light touch massage, and I’m not sure why but it really helped to have him cheering me on like I was some Olympic athlete. All I wanted was to hear him say “You can do it you can do it” as I neared the peak of each surge.
The details get a bit hazy around now, but at some point I was examined and at 6cm I was ready to hit the labour and delivery suite. Everything was feeling a lot more intense, and it was a very slow walk there, with my MW Kelly kneading and massaging my back during each surge – oh how amazing that was! Not something I would ever have thought to ask for but it really helped.
When we arrived Kelly told us the standard hospital recommendation is that I’m monitored continuously (because of the c section nearly 6 years prior), but because everything was going so well she was comfortable with just checking me every 5 minutes.
This totally changed the course of my labour in such a positive way. With my second baby I was hooked up to the monitor the whole time, and with such limited movement I couldn’t deal with the surges productively and ended up having an epidural. I did still get to have a vaginal birth, but it was on a knife edge the whole time, only avoiding c section because baby’s heart rate was so strong.
So this time I knew, again, that my best chance of having a vaginal birth was if I had no epidural. And seeing as I didn’t need continuous monitoring this meant I could get in the shower. Wow, talk about soothing and relaxing! I spent a long time in there with Kim pointing the shower head at my lower back. I was trying so hard to stay in that relaxed space that I learnt to find in Hypnobirthing, but at one point I was really struggling so I bought in another technique I’d read about in my ‘Birth Skills’ book. I started counting the grates in the shower plug. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 as the surges powered through me. I concentrated on those numbers so hard – even seeing them form in front of my eyes, and it really helped. I remember as each surge neared its peak I had a fleeting thought of ‘I can’t do this’, but as it started receeding I would say to Kim “I can do this!”. “Of course you can baby you ARE doing it” he kept saying back to me. That was so good to hear and really spurred me on.
I remember my friend Kirsten arriving to take photos around now. Added bonus – she was a fantastic back massager! As every surge washed over me I would bark “BACK” if someone didn’t instantly massage it. Funny how you lose all your inhibitions and nice-ities in labour! My mother arrived, and I remember feeling so supported with everyone surrounding me and telling me how well I was doing.
And then it was time to push…what a relief! I was about to meet my baby! I got on the bed and pushed. And pushed. And pushed. My MW Kelly kept telling me I was doing well and things were progressing but I knew my baby wasn’t moving down, despite my huge efforts.
This is where everything went a bit mental and I lost my focus. I remember Kim coming up close, with tears in his eyes, to tell me how proud he was of me. His admiration meant the world to me and we both got really emotional.
I was sucking furiously on the gas like a crazy woman, and I wasn’t the only one…I looked up at one point to see Kim having a go at it himself! In between surges I started telling anyone who would listen to get my baby out NOW! I had to dig really deep and trust I had the strength to pull this off. I was starting to flag and feel really disheartened. She really wasn’t coming out, and I was exhausted.
So after an hour and a half of pushing it was time for someone official in green scrubs to get involved. As the consultant walked in I was cheered to see he was from the Positive Birth clinic that I had attended leading up to my labour. He was very pro vaginal birth and had been optimistic of my chances. My husband saw him, and never one to forget a face said “I know you, you did the c section with our first child”. What an amazing co-incidence.
Unfortunately he would deliver our third child the same way. After examining me and asking a lot of questions he told us our baby had her head stuck on a funny angle and I would need a c section. “I don’t care, just get her OUT” I said. Then it hit me. Another c section. I looked at Kim and burst into tears. More then anyone he knew how disappointing that news was for me. Having done it both ways I knew which I preferred. I had worked so hard to have a drug free birth to give myself the best chance of avoiding a c section, only to fall at the last hurdle.
“Alright” I said, “If I’m going to have the drugs then BRING ME THEM NOW!!!!!!!” But no, some sadist decided I had to wait till theater to have the epidural. That waiting was the hardest part. In the face of ending up with an epidural and c section I completely lost any last little bit of focus I had left, and all my coping techniques went out the window. It was a rough time.
I’m going to gloss over the next little bit, as it wasn’t the funnest hour of my life. But after a lot of blood loss (me), a little bit of oxygen (the baby), and quite a bit of trauma (for my husband), suddenly I had my baby girl in my arms and everything was right in the world again. The love was warm and overwhelming, and Kim and I cried happy tears and told her how much we loved her, and how excited her sisters were to meet her. I knew instantly she was perfect for us and I felt complete…a moment I’d dreamed about for 9 months.
As I finish writing this story – which I started in hospital when Sylvie was three days old – my lovely seven week old baby is asleep in her bed. I’m sitting at our dining room table with the sun streaming in, reflecting on the whole experience.
I’m so proud of what I achieved, using only hynobirthing and gas to (nearly!) birth Sylvie. And not because I think I’m tough, or deserve a medal. Simply because I believe the best case scenario for mother and baby is to have a natural labour if at all possible. I set that goal for myself and got there. Even if Sylvie had other plans in the end!
But I know the other side of the coin too. Of my three labours I’ve ended up with three epidurals and two c sections. Kind of ironic for someone who’s always loved the idea of giving birth at home in the water! But if there’s one thing I want my daughters to know when they’re having their own babies it’s this: Shoot for the moon and you may just get there. But it’s ok if you don’t make it. Because you’ll be stronger for trying.
Birth and Newborn photos by Kirsten from Hatched Photography