Before I start, I want to say, my labour experience was beautiful, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I hope this story inspires you + reassures you how natural, beautiful + unique birth is.
Just to give a little background and the lead up to welcoming our darling Hunter.
The lead up
My pregnancy was pretty good, other than daily vomiting for the 9 months, a blood clot scare + dealing with the loss of Mum, and the 'normal' pregnancy symptoms, I think all in all my pregnancy wasn't too bad with H.
So the blood clot scare happened around 35 weeks. I was having major chest pain and shortness of breath. Because Mum had just died a few months before of a blood clot going to her heart causing a heart attack - pulmonary embolism (she was only 62), the doctors were concerned when my blood tests came back indicating that my D-dimer results where present of lots of inappropriate clots. I had to have a CT scan which is not recommended in pregnancy mainly for me but also for baby. But they said I could be just like Mum and at any moment drop dead if it was a clot. The radiographer said you can have up to 4 of these particular scans in your life without affecting you (basically it is the amount of radiation it causes). But because of my chronic illness over the years, I've already had 4. Risk to baby down the track was it MAY cause leukaemia but highly unlikely but there is a tiny risk. But if I did have this clot, neither of us would survive. Crash cause in motherhood right there. We had to make a gut wrenching decision, and all I wanted to do was ask Mum what she thought. I laid there on the cold CT scan table, closed my eyes and asked her. A sense of calmness rushed over me, like she was saying you will be ok, but also I felt like she was telling me, now you know Jo Jo, what I went through all those years of worry about you when you were sick now you are facing it with your own child. I didn't care about me, I only cared about the health of my baby. We did the scan. They only have a milli second to capture the iodine solution going through the heart valves. They missed it. My heart sank. My blood was pumping so quickly, they missed it. Then we had to make the awful decision, do we do it again? We had already tried, I was up to my 5th CT scan now but if we didn't we would be back at square one + wasted the scan. We did it the second time and we found out there was no clot after all. I think they were only really concerned because Mum had just passed away from it. The pain started to ease around 38 weeks when H started to drop.
Up until then I hadn't thought too much about the labour, a good friend of mine told me, the less you know, the less you have to worry about in terms of labour. Plus I knew that so many people had birth plans and it never went to plan. I thought surely with my medical past, something wasn't going to go to plan, so I wanted to be flexible and follow the lead of my obstetrician. Around 35 weeks we had just finished all our birthing classes and we had learnt all about the different pain relief. I think I am the only person who has never YouTube giving birth or watched 'one born every minute'. I was completely clueless. But my friend showed me her video of giving birth around this time. So with my research on pain relief, the classes and watching my friend's video I started to think about my plan. I said to my obstetrician I wanted to have an epidural. I've had a few spinal blocks in the past so it didn't worry me. My only other request was I wanted to have a vaginal birth as long as it was healthy for myself + baby and that baby was put on me straight away so I could breastfeed.
Leading up to the birth I wasn't concerned about the pain or contractions - I was just so scared about tearing. My friend had a grade 3 tear (from front to back) I nearly passed out when I heard this. That was my only worry and obviously baby being ok.
So a week before H came, around 38 weeks, I got 'the show'. I never really experienced braxton hicks the whole pregnancy and other than 'the show', nothing else other than him dropping. He decided to get the party started at 4.10am Monday 18 April 2016, I was 39weeks + 2 days. So I had 'the show' for a week before and no other symptoms.
Hubby leaves for work at 4am. Around 4.10am I woke up, with really bad lower back pain that moved to the front. Prior to this I had never experienced back pain (jeez, after giving birth vaginally I can't seem to get rid of it!) I got up, and went to the toilet + had diarrhoea. Pretty much straight after this, I had really strong period-like pain. It lasted a few seconds. Pretty much then I thought, yep, it is starting. I rang hubby and said I am having a shower, not to stress, but I think I am having contractions. A red light camera and speeding fine later, hubby was home within 5mins (his work is 20 mins away 😳). He was so excited. My Dad was staying with us, he heard me scream in pain whilst I was in the shower. I said just get your phone and start timing. The contractions started 15 minutes apart for the first hour. No pain then all of a sudden a very strong + intense period-like pain. It feels like someone is doing a Chinese burn on your abdominals, just twisting tighter + tighter. Dad was getting all confused, he was writing down the length of the contraction and the time between them but got all his numbers confused (FYI Dad is a Financial Planner so I thought we would have had numbers covered with him 😳). After my shower, I did my hair + makeup, made the bed and paced the house. At this stage it was only 5:10am so only an hour had passed. We called the birthing suite + said I was 15 minutes apart + they said to call back when I was 5 minutes apart (my advice, don't wait, just go). Then it started to get INTENSE. I went from 15 minutes pretty much to 5 minutes - straight.away! We got in the car. It was really intense, I felt like I only had a few seconds to catch my breath. It took us 8 minutes to get to the hospital. When we arrived, the contractions had dropped to 3 minutes apart. The midwife checked me and I was already 6cm dilated. Shitttttt!!! I wanted that epidural. My friend, 3months before me, had her second son + didn't get the epidural in time, so I was thinking that is going to happen to me!!! Nooooo!!!!
On a little side note - I just couldn't believe how the midwives were just so slow, they weren't slow, but it felt like it to me, they were just so 'business as usual'. Looking back, they deal with this every day, all day, but I was like hurrrrrry the eff up, this kid is coming!!!! Straight away I said I want an epidural, I wasn't taking any chances. She got me into the bed, took my blood pressure and then she got the other midwife in - never a good sign. She turns to me and says we have to do blood tests, so you won't be able to have the epidural until we get the results as your blood pressure is too low! What???!!!! I had never heard of this before. The midwife kept saying prepare yourself to not get one, because if the results indicate that you have low platelet counts then you can't have it. Fuckkkkkkkkkkkkk! The 30 minutes was let's say INTENSE! (But....saying that, I am writing this 14 months after the event, + I honestly can not even remember the pain, my Mum always said this to me, you forget the pain + I really did. I know it was there but I can't really remember it. You remember it being intense + painful but that is it, the memory leaves you, which is good thing).
So that 30 minutes honestly felt like 10 hours. My obstetrician came in to say hi, and said he would be back soon, he reassured me I was doing great, he has such a calm presence. But I remember saying to hubby, if I can't get the epidural they have to give me a caesarean, I can't cope with the pain. Midwife walks in, checks me, I am 8cm dilated + contractions are 30 SECONDS apart. At this stage I had only been labouring for about 2.5 hours. The results are in - you can have the epidural!!! You bloody beauty!!! I screamed - yasssssssssssssss!!!! I literally was so excited!!!! Haha. It didn't take long and the anaesthetist was in. I wanted to jump out of that bed and tackle her with a huge hug. She said it would take about 15 minutes to administer and when I got a contraction to tell her as she would have to stop. You have to stay really still and because my contractions were already 30 seconds apart and so intense, she said it could take a bit longer. I turned on the side of the bed, my hubby stood in front of me, I bent over + put my head into his chest, and he put his arms around me. I closed my eyes and just counted + repetitively said Mum in my mind. I don't think I felt one contraction as I was so in the zone, that epidural was going in.
I reckon I felt the affects of the epidural pretty much straight away. I was on cloud 9. I was so happy + excited to meet our baby boy. It was about 7.30am. The epidural slowed my labour right down. I remember texting my friends + snap chatting them whilst I was in labour. I was sending them videos of this little boy called Balang dancing on Ellen (see video below). I was loving life! Haha I read over all my friends + families predictions on the baby's weight, length etc (I loved doing this).
My obstetrician popped in here and there just to reassure me everything was going good. The midwives only came in a few times to check my blood pressure + to check how far along I was. I couldn't feel a thing. I was just laying in bed watching TV (like you would at home). At about midday I was 9cm (so I had only progressed 1cm in 4.5hrs), my obstetrician came in + said start practising pushing, it is her first pregnancy so she will be awhile. He works at 2 hospitals (about a 15 minute drive between them), he said he would see me soon, off to deliver another baby at the other hospital. I was thinking, what does he think about in the car ride between them? Haha.
So I practised my first push + the midwife said 'your baby has a lot of hair'. Ummmm what? How do you know that? Your baby's head is crowning. One push? Already? She said no more pushing, we have to wait for your obstetrician. So I waited till 2:15pm when he came back (still hadn't felt a thing). Just before he came in, hubby and I took a selfie, our last photo of just the two of us. Then we put our heads together + did a prayer to God, that our baby would be safe + healthy. It was possibly one of the most beautiful moments in my entire life.
In comes our jolly obstetrician. 'Hey gorgeous, wow bub has a lot of hair, you are doing perfectly'. He comes in, lifts my leg up to his shoulder and I go 'are you sure?' Haha he goes 'Yes gorgeous, this is how it is done'. The midwives said push when you have a contraction. I said I can't feel anything, so they had to check manually and told me when to push. They offered me a mirror to look + if hubby wanted to look but we both declined (this time, I think I want to pull bubba out Kourtney Kardashian style 😉). First push and he was half out, one more + he was out. Possibly the most magical part of my whole labour was this very moment. As I pushed, and closed my eyes, I just saw the image of a figure 8 (infinity symbol) and then my beautiful Mum's face. She was right there in front of me. Throughout my whole pregnancy, I never felt her presence. Everyone kept saying you will feel her when she is around, but I never could + I was getting so frustrated. But that moment Hunter came Earthside, I felt my mum, I felt like she came with him. I could see her again as my eyes were closed. I could feel her presence. Words can't describe the feeling of complete happiness in that moment. Then my OB, pressed on my stomach + said now the placenta is coming out. He made no sound, I started to panic but remembered my friend saying her first, made no sound either, I said what's happening, then my baby boy used his lungs for the very first time, that cry made me feel so happy.
We collected Hunter's core blood, so that nurse stepped in quickly + took the sample she needed whilst the doctor placed my beautifully perfect little boy on me.
On Monday 18 April 2016 at 2:40pm my perfectly perfect baby boy Hunter Francis John Zammit was born. A tiny 2.9kg + 48cm. My piece of Heaven.
I laboured for 10.5 hours and only had one tiny tear.
For the next 2hours, Hunter was on my chest feeding. He fed like a champion. I remember changing breasts as the midwife came in and she said this must be your second baby, and I said no it's my first, she said you are a natural. I think that gave me the confidence in the beginning that we would be ok. All I had to do was follow my instincts and we would be ok. I fell instantly in love with my darling boy.
Hubby + I chose the name Hunter Francis John. Hunter - a name symbolising strength which is what his grandmother Suzanne was. Francis and John after his two grandfathers. I felt like Mum had passed Hunter over to me, she had carried + cradled him for 9 months, now it was my turn. I felt like I knew Hunter my whole life. I will forever be grateful to this little boy for everything he is + for brining me a piece of my Mama back. Even now, when I hold him really close, I feel her.
The other anxiety I had before going into labour was introducing Hunter to people. I was extremely anxious about having close family in the hospital because I would feel Mum's absence. She would of been in the delivery room with us, so to not have her holding him when others were, I really feared that moment. I took my time. Hubby showered me (still in the birthing suite - I couldn't feel my legs for about 2hours due to the epidural). I put my makeup on and we left the birthing suite as a family of 3. Surprisingly I was fine when our family visited Hunter. Because the whole time, I felt Mum was in the room. I just had to hold my little boy + she was with us.
I stayed in hospital for 4 days. Hunter was thriving and I was recovering really well. Expect the vomiting got worst. I ended up having major stomach surgery 6 days postpartum. I will do a seperate blog post on this because it had nothing to do with my labour it was something completely different. My labour experience was beautiful, peaceful, happy + euphoric. A few hours after giving birth to Hunter, I said to Hubby, let's go again! I loved it. So praying my birth story with bubba number 2 is just as magical.