We are settling in with our gorgeous new son, and loving our time as a family of four. Reuben is an absolute delight, and I already can’t imagine our family without him.
I’m struggling to believe that today he is a week old. In some ways, it feels like he’s been part of us forever, and yet this week has gone by in the blink of an eye.
It’s also very strange for me that he still isn’t technically ‘supposed’ to be here. This week was meant to be my first week of maternity leave. The first of two weeks of just me and my girl, before it all began. Apparently Reuben had other plans, and they haven’t turned out to be so bad at all.
I started writing my birth story while I was in labour. I had the need to do something with my brain apart from thinking about what was happening. So I stood up at my computer desk and between contractions I started writing about our morning. I’ve been adding to the story over the last week, and I was shocked when I looked at the page count and saw that I’m up to page five, and I still haven’t written everything down that I need to.
So I’ve decided to break the story down into parts, and share it with you in smaller pieces. In the interest of full disclosure, my birth recount is quite detailed, and is primarily written for me, so feel free to skip past parts (or all of it!) if you want to.
With that in mind, here is part one of my birth story… the part where Reuben was born:
On the evening of the 18th of April I had a few period pain type contractions. They were reasonably mild, but stronger than Braxton Hicks or the light cramping I had been having for a few days. They were very irregular, but definitely made their presence known. They eased by the time I went to bed.
Throughout the night I was vaguely aware of a few more of these types of contractions. I think it was around 4am or so (didn’t check the time) that I felt quite a strong one. I went to the toilet, back to bed and slept between waking up feeling the cramps. Just before 6am I decided to start timing them. They were very irregular, and not very strong. Mayana fell out of bed and came into our room, so Pete woke up properly and I told him. It wasn’t too long before they started to feel stronger. I went to the toilet, and found some bloody mucous. I called out to Pete and asked him to call the midwife, while I went for a shower. I had a few mild contractions in the shower. The midwife said just to start timing, and that the mucous is a good sign that things are really on the move.
She said I would know when it was time to come. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t.
I got very emotional while in the shower, and had a good cry. Pete called his work and my work, and my parents (because we had asked my youngest sister to be a birth support partner). We had to organise what to do with Mayana. I was so torn between wanting this not to be the real thing (it’s too early, I’m not ready – my bag isn’t packed, car seat isn’t ready etc etc), but also thinking that I couldn’t go through this if it was going to turn out to be a false alarm. I found out that the news I was in labour had made it into the staff notices for the day, and started to feel like I thought I would feel like SUCH a dork if this all was false, and nothing was going to end up happening.
After my freak out in the shower I got dressed, and we asked Mayana what she wanted for breakfast. She didn’t want cereal or eggs, she wanted to eat the pikelets I had made the night before to take to the ‘Farewell Zoey’ morning tea we were meant to be having at work. I figured that would be fine, I definitely wouldn’t taking them to work that day!
So we went out onto the deck and ate pikelets with cream and jam for breakfast. My mum rang me while we were out there, and I had another couple of contractions on the phone. They were getting stronger and longer, but still not at regular intervals. I cried again when I was talking to my mum, but felt a lot calmer when I got off the phone. I went to the toilet again and found more lumps of blood-tinged mucous. At this point I became fairly well convinced that this was indeed the real thing.
We got Mayana ready for Kindy, and I told Pete that before we took her I wanted the three of us to have a walk around the Rose Gardens across the road from us. We wandered over, and while we were there my contractions started to become more regular. When walked back home, I rang my sister and told her she had better start driving, it was definitely the real thing.
It was very strange indeed to take Mayana to Kindy and tell her teachers, “Someone else is going to be picking Mayana up today, I’m actually in labour at the moment!” They were all very excited and asked us to call with the news.
We dropped into the shopping centre on the way home to get a few last things for the hospital and nappy bags. While we were in the car, my contractions slowed off considerably, but I had a few fairly intense ones once I was walking around again at the shops.
We got home, and the contractions had settled to around 5 minutes apart. It’s funny, when we moved to this house, one of the first things I said was how wonderful the huge claw-foot bath would be for labouring in. However, I had absolutely no desire to go in the bath, which was strange because it was the only place I wanted to be with Mayana. This time, I need to be up. I had to walk each contraction out, and found great relief in leaning over the veranda rail and swaying my hips.
We went about finishing off packing the bags, and doing some general tidying up and getting ready. At one point I had a sudden wave of exhaustion, and hunched over a pile of pillows on the bed. I had a really massive contraction while I was there and suddenly my whole headspace changed, and I realised I needed to go to the hospital. The midwife was right after all, I would ‘just know’. I felt that if we didn’t go now, things would move with too much intensity for me to handle the car ride.
Contractions in the car sucked. There’s no other word for it. I had been up on my feet the whole time so far, and sitting down through contractions and not being able to move through them was almost unbearable. The whole 25-ish minute drive, I had contractions between 1.5-2 minutes apart. Pete put our Sons of Korah music on, and I tried my very best to sing through the contractions, but I think it came out more as groaning. I also discovered great satisfaction in squeezing Pete’s hand. Especially in the last third of our trip, the contractions started to come at a whole new intensity, and I would groan and squeeze Pete’s hand through the whole thing, and when it ended I would say, “Sorry Pete!!!”, and he would laugh and tell me not to say sorry.
We f i n a l l y got to the hospital; the next challenge was finding a park. There are a lot of perks to having a baby in the middle of the day instead of the middle of the night, but the lack of available car parks was probably the big downside. We ended up parked up some little street across the road from the hospital, which meant a bit of a walk to the hospital, and of course the maternity ward is right at the back of the hospital! A little while and about six contractions later (at least I could walk them out now) we made it. We got shown to a birthing suite and told a midwife would be with us shortly.
Our midwife’s name was Heather, and let me just tell you she was incredible. I had no birth plan in place, (another thing I was going to do this week), but it didn’t matter at all... Heather just let things happen the way they were going to. She checked the baby’s heartbeat with a monitor externally – didn’t strap me up to a CTG the way they had with Mayana, but just held it on my tummy for a contraction. She kept me very calm, and engaged me in small talk conversation between contractions to help keep my mind straight (I found this really great – it helped me keep a much clearer headspace). Heather didn’t require or even request to do an internal examination until I asked for one. I think I had been there for around half an hour (Alexie had arrived by then) when I asked if she could check how far along I was. I know that dilation isn’t necessarily a fool-proof way of gauging how far you have to with a labour, but I felt the need to know. It was a gamble in my own head, I knew that if the number was ‘good’ it would urge me on, but if the number happened to be low it would be very discouraging.
Heather told me that I was at 7cm, but that the baby’s head still wasn’t engaged at all – it was still moving about up in the pelvis. The membranes however were bulging during contractions, and she felt that once they broke, he would drop into place quite quickly. Let the labour continue...
I have to say, it really is true the whole thing about you forgetting how much it all hurts once you have your baby. This second time around, the pain of it was so shocking to me that I realised I had truly forgotten how bad it could be. With each contraction I would lean over the bed, groan, and sway or rock my hips. I would squeeze poor Alexie’s hand (really, really hard if my still-aching hands four days later are anything to go by!!) and demand that Pete massage my lower back. I got so much relief out of Pete massaging me, I kept asking him to press harder and harder, until he was worried I would be bruised later (I am a little!) but it was so worth it!
I spent a while in the shower, on my feet, leaning on the shower rail with my head pressed against the wall. I requested ice-chips, and Alexie would stuff handfuls of them into my mouth between contractions. I had the water in the shower so hot that after a while I felt like I was going to pass out from the steam, so Heather suggested coming back out into the room for a while. She knew I was getting tired, and encouraged me to rest my head on the bed and close my eyes between contractions. I was mostly still standing at this point, although I do recall spending a few contractions on my knees leaning over the back of the raised bed. I hated being on the bed though, and despite my exhausted jelly-legs, chose to get back onto my feet and into my hip-rocking position before too long. I can honestly and truly say that the thought of pain relief never entered my mind during this labour. The idea of gas was abhorrent to me, I had hated so much how weird it made my head feel when I had it during Mayana’s labour, and I just didn’t want to go there. And epidural... honestly I never even considered it for a split second this time. I’m pretty proud of that, I’m not gonna lie.
With one contraction in particular, I felt the baby drop, and a whole lot of pressure starting to accompany the pains. Heather said she really wanted the waters to rupture before I tried pushing, and I knew my body wasn’t quite ready to push anyway. I went back into the shower for a while, but I was starting to become very tired and losing my birthing mojo. The pressure was definitely increasing, but those waters weren’t going anywhere. (I have to mention at this point how relieved Pete was that my waters didn’t break at home or in the car. He had a deadly fear that this would happen – particularly the latter. He asked if I thought he should buy a shower curtain for the car - I was highly offended – and he wouldn’t let me sit in there until he had put a towel down... haha).
Anyway, so I asked Heather if she could check me again, and if she would be able to break my waters if she thought I was far enough. She agreed to have a feel of how far the baby had moved, and if things felt right she would break my waters. So back up on the bed I went. I was fully dilated now, and baby had definitely moved down. Heather warned me that if she broke my waters, it would move things along very quickly, and I needed to prepare myself for pushing. Um, no worries!! It felt such a relief when my waters first broke, but this was quickly replaced by the “moving along very quickly” that Heather had warned me of. We were at the pointy end of things now! Heather told me just to listen to my body. Relax through the contractions instead of tensing myself up, and let my body push when it needed to. I’m not sure how long this part of my labour lasted for. I remember that I was holding my breath at one stage and ended up somehow hyperventilating a little. I had the weirdest sensation of tingling pins and needles all over my body – literally from my teeth to my toes – and particularly bad in my hands. My hands seemed to get stuck in this weird claw-like position, and I kept saying that I couldn’t move them. I could move them, I could slightly bend my fingers, but for the life of me I could not straighten them, or even shake them to loosen them up. It was so weird, and I remember Pete, Alexie and Heather all saying that they could see me moving them, and I couldn’t explain to them what I meant!
It wasn’t too long before I realised my body was ready to push in earnest. Heather talked me through it and encouraged me. I remember this time feeling that ‘ring of fire’ sensation 100 times worse than I ever did with Mayana. Heather told Peter and Alexie to look at the baby’s head starting to crown. I was still squeezing their hands at this point, and Alexie asked me if it would be okay if she was down at the ‘business end’ of things. I said yes, and Heather said that if it was okay with me, Alexie could deliver the baby! Of course, it was okay with me. Alexie quickly went to get gloves on, as it was not going to be long now. A couple more pushes and that head was out. I psyched myself up, trying to get the idea into my head that another few contractions and my baby would be in my arms! Another contraction came, and along with it that incredible sensation that comes with your baby leaving your body. That combination of intensity and pain and relief and overwhelming joy that happens all at once. Our son was born into the hands of his aunty and godmother (the first of many babies to be born into those very capable hands), then placed on my chest straight away, I looked at my husband and saw tears of joy running down his cheeks. I remember crying out, “I love you little boy” and then quickly looking at the other three and asking, “Is it a boy???”
Pete and Alexie confirmed that yes, it indeed was, while Heather told us that she didn’t know, she always forgets to look! We all were immediately enamoured with this slippery, squirming, squeaking little being who was lying on my chest. We were all telling him that we loved him and we were so happy to meet him. I looked at Pete and asked him what our son’s name was. We had two names on our list, but the one we chose was always the forerunner. We had always wanted to use both of the middle names, but hadn’t settled for sure on which order we would put them. Peter looked at me and said, “Reuben. Rueben John Alexander.” And so it was.
Our gorgeous little Reuben John Alexander was born about two-and-a-half weeks early, on the 19th of April 2012 at 1pm, two hours after arriving at the hospital.
Reuben // Behold, a son
John // By the grace of God
Alexander// Defender and protector of men