How Henry Got Here

My pregnancy with our first baby, Henry, was textbook normal. ‘Boringly’ normal was the name one midwife coined for me, which I loved, because normal meant healthy. It took us two cycles to fall pregnant with him, and it was our first ever pregnancy experience. I had awful morning sickness from weeks 6 to around 22, and one hospitalisation during that time at around 13 weeks when it peaked where I was officially diagnosed with hyperemesis. Once I got onto some good medication, I found I was feeling better. By the third trimester, I felt so happy. I had a basketball bump, my hair was luscious, and I had no pimples in sight. Henry was very kind to my body, even my stretch marks only appearing at 38 weeks but then faded a few weeks post partum. It was natural but slightly naïve to think the birth was going to be a breeze. I felt like I had a high pain threshold, as the ten years of painful ballet lessons primed my body to know, tolerate and work through pain.

I hit 40 weeks exactly expecting labour to just start. It was a Wednesday, and I waited around watching each hour go by not understanding why I wasn’t feeling contractions yet. I had had around 4 weeks of nightly Braxton Hicks contractions that lasted hours, only to find in the morning they had totally dissipated, and I felt annoyingly normal and in no pain. I remember crying to Josh at 40 weeks and 3 days because I was frustrated that my body wasn’t starting the process (in hindsight this sounds completely ridiculous!), so we walked for the whole afternoon to try and invite the baby out. On Sunday, we had dinner next door at Josh’s parents and came home, where I had a shower, and went to bed. By 11pm that night, I felt the first real contraction. It lasted for 30 seconds and took my breath away. I told Josh, so naturally we couldn’t sleep out of excitement but also because I was in a lot of pain.

The morning rolled around and by 6am I gave up on a sleep. It wasn’t a great launch pad as I knew in my heart the worst was yet to come and I needed to conserve energy somehow. In the rental we were in at the time, we had the most gorgeous bathroom, and it was my favourite room in the house. I decided to take a bath to help relax which really helped. I threw up, missing the bath water luckily (it was not my first rodeo in the spew realm) but by around 10am I felt I couldn’t take the pain anymore and I was contracting every 6 minutes. I asked Josh to ring the birth unit at our local hospital to let them know we were coming, even though they said to hold off. I wasn’t meeting the 4 contractions in 10-minute requirement, but I needed something to help with the pain.

I got checked into the maternity ward and was examined. By 11 am, and twelve hours into labour which hadn’t paused or lulled, I was a mere 2cm dilated. They sent me home with Panadeine Forte and the order to sleep. I felt quite deflated on our way home as I felt as if I had already failed and was being melodramatic. I had another lie down, by which time my sister and mum had arrived at our place to help Josh and be a support. I put in another 4 hours labouring at home, by which time by contractions were more 3-4 minutes apart. I told Josh to ring the birthing unit again and to tell them I am not coming home this time and to prepare a room. I felt done and beyond exhausted, especially as I had barely any sleep the night before.

We got to the hospital, my pregnant sister basically carrying me through to the foyer, where we found a wheelchair to wheel me up to maternity. The baby felt so low and walking through the contractions was horrendous. I got checked into the ‘Hilton’ birthing suite with a huge birthing bath, which was perfect for our water birth plans. The midwife I was assigned to wasn’t my caseload midwife, as she was on her way, but she ran me a bath and told me to hop in and continue the deep breathing I had been doing all day. The bath really helped again, and I stayed in for a few hours. By around 6/7pm the midwife burst my waters to see if that would speed things along. After she did this, I hopped back into the bath which felt safe for me. 

Soon after, my caseload midwife, E for confidentiality, arrived and she was such a sweet sight to see. I think I cried when she greeted me with her no fuss, down to business attitude which I desperately needed. She wanted to see how dilated I was and check the progress, so I hopped back out, and she told me I was 5/6 cm dilated. We were nearing the 24-hour mark, and I was feeling so tired, which I think was worse than the pain as I felt weak to the core. In the next hours I tried labouring in the shower, on the toilet but by 2am on Tuesday I opted for an epidural. E suggested that I consider it, merely to give me some rest as I had been labouring for over a day now with contractions which had not let up at all. The beautiful, lovely, anesthetist gave me an epidural, where I also had 3 contractions in the space of him preparing me and inserting the needle into my spine which was probably the scariest moment of my life. I felt instant relief and no pain, and finally I could rest with Josh by my side.

Fast forward to 4:30 am on Tuesday (2.5 hours later) and E was waking me up wanting to do an examination. I heard the heart monitor for the baby making some funny noises, but she wasn’t too worried. She told me I was 10 cm dilated which was a huge relief. She said I could start doing some practice pushes and my body would likely be ready to start pushing soon. She left the room, and then a doctor came in, and immediately I knew something wasn’t right. The heart monitor was still being a bit weird, and my doctor wanted to do an internal check of my cervix and the baby’s head. He did his examination taking a blood sample from my baby’s scalp. He gave it to my midwife to read and he asked her to repeat the reading as if he misheard. They both rushed out, and he came back with a form asking my consent to do an emergency c-section. He told me that the baby is in a lot of distress, and my cervix had hardened around my baby’s head, forcing him to be stuck. This happened around 5am.

I signed, and next minute, Josh and I were being prepped for theatre. I had 13+ medical staff in the theatre around me – nurses, a few doctors, and that lovely anaesthetist again, who gave me a second spinal block, but not enough to knock me out. I wanted to be awake to see my baby. At 5:23 am, I saw Henry for the first time. He cried bloody murder for about 20 seconds, and then was content as soon as he was placed near my shoulder. The paediatrician came to me when he was getting weighted and measured, and she said that he was a very healthy baby boy, weighing 3.48 kg which was a very good weight apparently. She said he will be fine, and this was music to my ears, and everything I needed to hear in that moment.

The surgery went beautifully, the doctor saying it was one of the best Caesars he had done, and a nurse saying it was one of the most beautiful c-section births she had ever seen (do they say that to everyone? Lol). Our Henry boy was here, he was perfect, and we both were safe.

Caitlin x