Piper Valentina. Our Birth Story.

May 11, 2014

So it seems appropriate that on Mothers' Day I should share the story of how I went from just a girl with way too much extra weight around my middle to being somebody's mama.

Apologies in advance for any profane language I may have missed in my 'beep editing'.


8pm on Thursday night I started to feel those coveted lower 'grippy' cramps and I hoped they were what I wanted them to be.

My baby girl was due on April 20th. Easter Sunday. (also Pot Smoking Day and Hitlers birthday... so I was not particularly keen on a due date baby if I'm honest)  I waited and waited for 5 extra days hoping that something I was doing would work.  Walking, eating pineapple, even verbena from the midwives and evening primrose oil didn't seem to remotely touch sides.  I was convinced I was never having this baby.  I was pissed.

At night my feet would burn up like a fever from the ankles down and during the day I would struggle to breathe sitting in certain positions... My patience was more than wearing thin.. It was non existent.  From something like Saturday... I was getting the tightening... Braxton hicks... Whatever.  They kind of hurt but not really.  They were erratic but hard to ignore when I woke up to one jolting me into the realization that I, once again, would have to ice my awful hot feet.

So at night... I would think this was it.  I'll wake up and labour for the day and birth the following morning in the early hours.

As f(beep)ing if.

Nothing ever happened and I was tired. My mind and my heart were so tired of the waiting.  I was done being pregnant.  Nestlé had sent me their stupid effing 'congratulations your baby is here!' email ,obviously driving me to complain violently and with much profanity to all of my friends.  Screw nestle.  Stupid pregnancy.

So when Thursday night started to feel different I knew.  But even though I knew.  I was still so desperately afraid that it would all amount to nothing and I would end up being nowhere close to meeting my baby.

I wasn't terribly far off.

Friday morning I woke up to period cramps still there from last night.  I get those pretty bad.  My period is kind of an overachiever as far as periods go.  Probably makes for a cozy uterus and hence my daughters reluctance to vacate.

So when I felt the period cramps I was overjoyed.  Never in my life have I had this reaction to period cramps.   They hurt so good.  Semi regular at 10 mins apart... Like 30 seconds each.  Right on schedule.

Wednesday previous I was given a sweep at the midwives' office and measured in at 2-3 centimetres dilated.  Which I was super proud of.  Hell yes my cervix is awesome.  I'll have this baby in no time once things start.  I'm running from, like, the 20 yard line.  Or some such sport metaphor.  I have no idea.  I pay no attention during such things.

So in the back of my mind all day Friday I visualised my cervix opening up with each cramp.  I loved it.  The pain followed by non- pain in intervals made me feel powerful and strong.  Like the pain itself was doing something to me.  Something magic.

Reece took the day off work and we walked, chatted, bought a new coffee table, and spent this gorgeous sunny day together kind of quietly giddy that we were going to have a baby soon.  Even though my cramps had all but disappeared when I walked around and came back when I lie down... Interesting.

Back up again: I had been texting furiously with my doula for pretty much the entire week.   I had blown up he birthing pool on, like, Monday... I was asking her every possible new mom question about birth.  All laced with the all-encompassing question "could this be it?".

Renee, my doula, had another birth she was attending on Friday so I did kind if hope for things to stay quiet so I would at least be able to have her at my birth.  We had such a great connection and being comfortable with people in my space is really important to me.  So Renee said to call her when I needed her and she napped after her first all-nighter birth of the week.

Then by the time 1am rolls around I am breathing through the cramps now instead of just smiling inside to myself at how awesome I am just chilling out with greys anatomy and labouring with my first child at home.  What a (beep)ing champ I am.  This s(beep) is awesome.

Wrong again.

So Renee arrives after our call and we start using previously discussed techniques to get through the escalating contractions.  We time them.  They're still around the 45 seconds and 10 minutes apart kind of thing.  Things are getting intense.

This is good, right?  411 isn't far away.  (4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour)  Well probably call the midwife by 4 or 5  am and have this baby in time for breakfast!  Boom.  Again, I rock at birth.  Not.

Then stuff kicked up a notch and I had to really focus on Renee and her coaching to get through each pressure wave.  We had a code.  Tapping on the bed or the shower or wherever I was meant that I was contracting and she tried to time them.

By 4am it felt like the contractions were coming two at a time.  The shower was so good.  Sitting on the ball with the shower head aimed at my back and my tummy.  That was true relief.  I could get through lots and we were getting closer to that coveted 411.

Then, things got even more intense and I couldn't seem to cope.  By 7am I was done.  Everything in my body hurt, the contractions were overwhelming me and taking me to a place I had never been before.  That kind of pain and relentlessness wasn't in my arsenal of experience or expertise.  I don't experience much pain.  I'm not used to it... I don't like it.

So when I communicated this to Renee and Reece after my fun times two-for-the-price-of-one contractions, they sort of started taking me seriously... But when I started grunting and demanding that I not do this anymore... Suddenly it was call the midwife time.  Call her fast. Because I felt like pushing.  I felt like she was right there and I could just get her out in that bathroom.

So in walks Lyanne, our midwife.  Sweet Lyanne... patiently waiting to check up in my progress as I weakly and pathetically contract my way to the bed where I'm sure she will tell me I'm 6 centimetres dilated.  I totally thought I was 8 or even 10 but I didn't want to be greedy.

I have never seen anyone put anything so delicately as Lyanne composed this next statement.  As if chairman Mao himself was in the room and she were about to tell him she doesn't like msg.

"Great news- your cervix is amazing and thin and low and the baby is really coming down.  So you're three centimetres dilated..."

Never in my life have I felt so crushed.  So utterly cheated and hurt and devastated as I did when I heard that.  There centimetres.  You mean, just like I was THREE EFFING DAYS AGO?!?!  I had been labouring my little heart out for the last 24 hours for absolutely no centimetres?

I cried.  I wept.  Renee told me not to cry but it's ok that I want to.  It's just that crying causes our muscles to tighten.   I wanted none of that.  So I pulled my s(beep) together.

Then Lyanne left and we did it all over again.  The shower.  The ball.  The water.  The hip squeezes.  Over and over again.

Tap.  Contract.  Breathe. Listen intently to Renee's voice taking me through each wave.  Reece holding my hand and telling me I'm doing so well.  I could see in his eyes he hated seeing me like this, but he knew I could do it.  And if he knew I could do it, then dammit I could do it.  Tap.  







Reece and Renee and I tried to have some small talk... And I'm terribly easy to distract if you can get me talking.  Renee was a pro.  We would try to continue our conversation after each contraction.  That got me through for awhile. 

My mom came over to check and make sure we had what we needed.  She brought extra drinks and snacks.

Beef jerky.  Best advice I ever got.  The salty protein hit me and I was able to keep pushing through.  Just one more.  Keep going.  Just this one.  Get to the end of just this one.

Every few contractions would overwhelm me and I would begin to cry. Because it was all too much.  It was Saturday.  I thought I started labour on Thursday night.  I had no idea if I was even close.

At 1pm (or 10 to) I pretty much had enough.  I did not want to do it anymore.  My crying was angry.  It was desperate and my tears stung my face like hot pain because I knew I was at the end of myself.  No more.  I want it over.  Now.

We called the midwife once again.  Renee promised me that she would fight for me to get in the pool.  Even if my stupid cervix still said 3cm.

I measured a 6.  Which was apparently 'over half way' to some (beep)ing retarded sense of glass half full sense of logic.  To me, it was still 4 cm less than where I needed to be.  But I did 3 cm in 4 hours.  If I cut that in half, maybe I could get fully dilated in, let's say, 2 or 3.  I had been put through enough pain already.  Let's get this s(beep) done.

So Reece was given the go ahead to fill the pool.  I contracted on my bed with a birthing ball (fancy word for Reebok exercise ball) because I couldn't move.  They were coming so fast and so hard I had no time to move or walk or breathe.  Just one after the other.

Then, like a water balloon popping inside me, my waters broke.  It felt disgusting and I hated it.  The gush wasn't like I thought it would be.  I expected triumphant and relieving.  It just shot some extra tokens into the contraction machine I apparently was chained to.

The pool filled.  The bottom half was cold.  That basically ruined my entire existence for a good 15 minutes.  

Once the temp was ok.  Nothing really improved.  I was just contracting like a mother (quite literally) in the pool and it was so intense I am tearing up right now.  Every fibre of my being wanted to get up and run away.  Somehow escape from the pain I was in and the lack of rest that this relentless roller coaster of labour had me suffering from.

My mom had arrived for the birth, along with my bestie, Katrina who we have to thank for these images.

After a few contractions, my body took over.  It was like I was letting me think that I was in control for a time, you know, contractions and labour and whatnot... But then there were no guesses.  I either had to surrender to pushing this baby out, or I don't even know.  I was unaware of any other choices.  And I thought of what choices I could possibly have had when I was in that pool.

This was the part where I thought that mothers who had giant footlong needles in their back possessed quite the stroke of genius and those who chose a caesarean birth were definitely far more evolved that I with my pool and my severe lack of pharmaceuticals.  But again, my choices were now limited to none.  Again, I chose to relay my reluctance going forward with this whole task of birthing.  Over and over again, contrary to every hippie birthing book directive,  I said "I can't do this anymore" 

And after every "I can't do this."  Each time, my precious, brave husband would say "I'm so proud of you... You're doing it.  You're really doing so well my baby"

I'll never forget that.  As long as I live.

Renee, my doula, who is pretty much a birth goddess in my opinion.  She knows so much useful s(beep) it's actually unbelievable.  My birth story hinges on her help.  She continued her magic that is also known as the '"double hip squeeze" along with back massage. 

But nothing actually got me through that final, awful part more than seeing my husband's face and knowing that I was doing all this work for our baby.  That if he could sit there and let me squeeze the life out of his hands, knowing that he can do nothing to fix the pain, and tell me how amazing I was... Then I could not let him down.  He believed in me.  So I believed in me.  Except not really.  I also just knew that practically the only way out was down.  

So when my body said go, I pushed.  Nobody told me to do it.  But nobody told me to stop either.  So I just kept doing it.

The room was disturbingly silent but for me and my pushing noise.  And that was big.  I was told to quiet down... Only to save myself a sore throat later.  So I searched what else I had.  What lay in the corners of me that I could scrape away from the wall and pull together.  And I pushed.  I was terrified.  I knew that it could and would hurt me.  That maybe I would tear.  But it was time.  So I pushed again and again until the last push came with this PULL.

And she was there.  I knew she was and I managed to turn around and sink down to see what had happened out of me.   They unwrapped her neck from the cord and she was on my chest.  So purple and slimy and so perfect.  Her eyes were squinty and her skin was covered in vernix.  She was mine and it was all over.

It was profound.  It was enlightening.  It was nothing like what I had imagined.  There is a halo of light over that moment in my head right now, but at the time... I was just so glad it was all over and (its kind of a shame to say) my first words to my daughter were "I hope you don't mind being an only child, because I'm never doing that again".

Of course, even with only two weeks recovery under my belt, that isn't true.  I shall, God willing, have more babies.  But for now, this little piece of spitting, peeing, gurgling mush is my world.

Sorry for all the profanities.  But home birth isn't just like the scene from the movie "Wanderlust" where that weirdo hippie girl just pops out a baby on the porch in the light of the full moon.  Its raw, terrifying, but pure and precious.  Golden.  Its the best thing I've ever done and I wouldn't change a thing (except the 3cm thing... that sucked.)  Because half an hour after she was born... I was having a cold drink in my bed surrounded by loved ones breastfeeding my new baby.  She was weighed on my bed without a single sound of protest, she took no notice of her vitamin k shot because mama held her close and continued to feed her.  One by one everyone trickled away until it was just Reece and I and our daughter in our home that held no real evidence that someone was just born there.  Our living room was back together, there was no sound... just the three of us.  We softly discussed her name.  Which we had chosen long ago but wanted to be sure it fit.  Piper Valentina.  

Piper is musical, it sounds beautiful and it means 'one who plays flute or pipe'.  I always wanted to play the flute when I was a little girl.  

So my Peach has a name.  She has an incredible personality and she grows every single day.  I already miss how tiny she was.

Photos By Katrina Massey (Blue Bottle Photography)

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  1. My goodness, you are such a trooper! What a beautiful story <3


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