I’ve spent many hours, days, months thinking about the day[s] that Bo made the journey into this world. I’ve spent many hours writing and rewriting her story, our story – the story of how she made her very grand entrance into the world. I very dear friend of mine told me that the story will forever change in my mind and on the page. That it will be different if I write it today to the story that I would write tomorrow – but each and every story is valid and real and an experience worth holding on to. This friend was my doula. She was present at Bo’s birth, and a couple of weeks ago she sent me her version of Bo’s birth story.
Late one night after we had put Bo to bed, my husband and I sat on the couch side-by-side and read the story. The words curled around us, bringing us closer together, reminding us of our own journey, our strengths, our weaknesses, our love and our compassion. Her words reminded us of the very first moment we got to touch her. My husbands tears. Bo’s soft hand gripping my fingers. The heady scent of blood and birth and life giving power. The damp warmth of her face. The unbelievable emotion of it all.
We cried reading the words. We cried as we remembered. There is something unbelievable about being present at the birth of a human being, let alone being the person doing the birthing, it is a privilege. We were so lucky to have such support, kindness and compassion in the room with us. My husband, my doula, my mother – all there. Bo’s birth wasn’t easy. It wasn’t quick. And although in hindsight it is, at the time, Bo’s birth wasn’t beautiful. It was hard work, it was emotional – it was 42 hours of blood, sweat and tears. But it is our story. It is her story. It’s what made us, us.
I was 2 weeks overdue and hanging in there. I was patient and at times I was impatient. I was ready. I had tried everything natural that my doula could suggest; acupuncture, electrolysis, castor oil, acupressure, herbal remedies… the list goes on – and nothing. Not even a tiny sign that she was on the way. She had dug her heels in, she was comfortable and not keen to come earth-side.
We ate dinner in front of a movie like any other Sunday night, we’d stopped even guessing if “this would be the night?” All of a sudden I felt a wave of nausea come over my body, no cramps or anything, I just felt sick and tired so I put myself to bed. An hour later, at about 10pm I woke up to throw up. Just as I came out of the bathroom to a worried looking husband, the contractions started. The first one hit me like a frieght train. No words can explain what it feels like. I tried to stay calm (mostly because I really didn’t want to get my hopes up) – I leaned against the wall in the laundry and the cool tiles on my face were such a relief. My husband hovered around me looking concerned. I went to the kitchen made a hot water bottle and my mum came and also hovered looking very excited. The pain was getting stronger across the front of my belly and at around 1am I called my doula – who suggested I try and get a couple of hours sleep and see where we were at from there. I tried to sleep – but it wasn’t happening. The contractions were getting closer together now and I floated from bath to shower to on my hands and knees on my bed – trying to find a comfortable position.
At around 3.30am on Monday my husband couldn’t handle it anymore and told me we had to go to the hospital – he was scared. I relented, I was in no way ready to argue with him… We called our doula who said she would meet us there. When we got to the hospital the contractions were around 3 minutes apart and strong. When they examined me, much to my dismay, we discovered my cervix was posterior and wasn’t dilating. They didn’t send me home, they weren’t sure how we would progress, my contractions were strong and close enough together to warrant being admitted to the birthing rooms. And so the super long time in hospital began. The nursing staff were right, my contractions kept getting closer and closer together and more and more intense. By 11am I was in agony, on my hands and knees, with my doula, my mother and my husband for support. We were sure it was time. My doula was convinced it was moments away. We were all wrong. Bo had other plans.
I had been in labour for over 14 hours. I dozed on and off for 2.5 hours after a shot of morphine and woke up with regular contractions which were coming every 3 minutes exactly. Strangely enough later that afternoon the contractions slowed down – no one knows why. By 6pm they were almost non existent at 10 minutes apart and relatively mild at only 45 seconds long. We sent my doula and my mother home to get some sleep. My husband napped on the couch and I sat talking to my baby, whispering to her in the dark of the night. The night midwives and insisted I had some sleeping tablets and they wanted to send my husband home and put me on the ward. I took the tablets but refused the rest of their advice. We stayed in the birthing suite.
We called our doula at 4am on Tuesday and she returned to us. The contractions were again 1 minute apart and over 1 minute long and increasing quickly… I was checked at around 7am and was 5cm dilated. I heard talk of an epidural, but no one mentioned it to me, I would have refused it anyway. Another four hours of contractions like this and I was 8cm dilated (I had now being doing 1.5 minutes with a 30 second break again for 7 hours). Finally we were getting somewhere… I was in extraordinary pain particularly across my lower back and I couldn’t find any relief from the pressure, I could hear talk of a c-section, I zoned it out. At around 11am I was in transition, I dozed for almost an hour in an absolute trance in my doula’s arms. It was 12pm when I was fully dilated with a cervical lip – I got in the bathtub and after half an hour the urge to push presented itself – holy crap that urge to push thing isn’t a joke is it? I pushed for a long time. I had oxygen. I pushed and I cried again. I talked to my baby. I breathed with her. I tried to relax. I was on another planet. It was just me, Bo and a world of pain. My husband cried. He held my hands. He whispered into the shell of my ear.
At three hours they told me that a doctor would come in to check – he did at around 3.5 hours and told me that I could keep pushing as long as I wanted but the baby wasn’t going to come out… or he could use the vacuum to help her out. I looked at him like he was mental… “I’m determined but not stupid,” I thought, “why would i keep doing this if its not going to work?” All of a sudden the room was full of people – the baby resuscitation cart was wheeled in. I felt her turn, my darling daughter had finally decided to be present at her birth and wake up. I felt her head be born and within moments she was on my chest, her soft body against my skin. We welcomed her into the world 42 hours after our labour had begun. Our valentines babe.
The staff were worried about us. They checked Bo and checked me. Bo was fine. I was losing a lot of blood but was also fine. My daughter was blessed by her dad as she lay on my chest. He whispered into her ear as he had into mine hours before. She was quiet, holding onto my finger. People rushed around us attaching me to drips and trying to put us back together but we were in our own world, the three of us. We looked at her and everything else just disappeared.
It had been the most incredible test of endurance, but at the end there was the most amazing reward. Bo was beautiful, big dark eyes, red lips and an amazing amount of black hair. She had a long elongated head from such a long labour – I remember saying to everyone “it’s a good thing she has lots of hats…”
I have a few close friends who are pregnant now, I am so unbelievably excited for them. No one can explain the joy, the fear, the pain and the unbelievable love that comes from the very core of your being… We did everything we could to bring Bo into the world with love and compassion with gentle hands and soft voices. We welcomed her with loving arms and blessings and tears.
I love you Bo. This is your story.
The spectacular photographs in this post are a very small selection of the amazing photographs that were taken of my labour, Bo’s birth and the first moments of Bo’s life. We were very blessed to have my mother, Kate Heaslip from Kate Heaslip Photography present during the entire event, documenting it for us. We are eternally grateful to both my mother and our doula (from Birth Rhythms) and friend Joelle, for their support, love and generosity of spirit. Without them I don’t know if my husband and I would be the people (and parents) that we are today.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.