The Birth of Penelope Judith May
An open and detailed recount of the birth of our second baby. Here's the story of the moment I became a mother to two under 2...
Note: names of midwives have been kept to their first initial, just in case, for privacy reasons.
All through my second pregnancy I had been prepared to go overdue again.
With Aubrey I was induced at 42 weeks and had her at 42+1. As I got to my due date I knew I still had a few weeks left in me. I bake them a little longer than most.
Coming up to 42 weeks pregnant, we must have known that our baby was coming soon… on Tuesday (26/11/19) I complained to Aaron that things were getting too hard. It was really hard to look after our 20 month old, Aubrey, while Aaron was at work. I was physically exhausted. Mentally I was actually coping pretty well but even just picking Aubrey up for cuddles was hard work. So Aaron got Wednesday and Thursday off from work to give me a bit of a break.
Well, Wednesday morning (27/11/19) I had had an appointment with my midwife, M, at 9am. She had checked my cervix (I had already had 3 stretch and sweeps over the week) and found it to be favourable - nearly 3cm dilated, pretty short and soft. She had a feeling that labour wasn't far away but I kind of took it with a grain of salt. I didn't want to get too excited.
At around 10:30 I was at my friend Emma’s house with another friend Hannah. I mentioned to them I think something might be starting, but again I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. Being so overdue with Aubrey and induced - I just couldn’t imagine my body going into labour on it’s own. A spontaneous labour was all I could ever ask for but I just didn’t think it was going to happen to me. I was asking Hannah what did it feel like when she was in very early labour and it sounded like what was happening with me. Light period pain cramping, fairly irregular but coming and going every 20 minutes or so. I messaged Aaron “I think I’m having contractions”
“Oh good. Just let me finish the shipping stuff first.” He replied (we were opening Milk & Poppy that weekend). I shrugged it off though, I really didn’t want to get excited over nothing if things weren’t going to progress.
But things did progress.
Contractions got closer together and more noticeable throughout the afternoon. I was also getting pretty constant back pain. Things were looking promising! So I straightened my hair and did my eyebrows in the afternoon because I wanted to look nice for the birth photos!
By 8:30pm the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. I messaged M, my midwife, to ask her when should I call her - I couldn’t remember how far apart contractions should be to call up. She rang me, asked me what was going on, and said I should start thinking about coming in. She said that contractions 5 minutes apart for a second baby could mean that I was progressing fairly quickly. We decided that I would just keep going for a while and I’d call her in half an hour and decide what to do. Things were made a little complicated because from midnight I was going to have to birth at Gosford Hospital instead of Wyong due to being 42 weeks pregnant and classed as “high risk.”
I called M back just before 10pm and we decided to just call it and go into Gosford Hospital because it was pretty unlikely I was going to have a baby within the next 2 hours. We agreed that I’d give her another call when we were ready to head on in. So we called mum and dad over to look after Aubrey (who was fast asleep) and got ready to go.
I rang M at 11:06pm to tell her we were heading in to the hospital. We met her at around midnight (officially Thursday 28/11/19) because we picked up some snacks from 7Eleven on the way, and then we parked the car on the street for the free parking (tight-ass husband haha) and it took like 10 minutes to walk up to the hospital. M checked me out. For some reason the contractions seemed to have fizzled out a bit during the car trip and the walk up from the car. They weren’t very intense anymore and they were much further apart. M said that that wasn’t actually uncommon. Sometimes the change of scenery can slow things down, it’s like a physiological thing - the body and mind likes to feel comfortable and safe during labour. So M checked my cervix and I was 4cm dilated at that stage. So things were happening… definitely in labour, but still early days yet. She gave me the choice of going back home to labour for a bit longer and try to get some rest, or to stick around for a couple of hours to see if things amped up a bit. We decided to go home and try to get some rest before the big event. I didn’t want to waste M’s time and keep her up in the middle of the night. I already felt bad enough for calling her in.
Well, of course, as soon as we got home and I climbed into bed things started to get pretty intense. Contractions were kind of far apart… like 10 minutes? But they were INTENSE. Still I managed to get little 5 minute sleeps in in-between! Until about 3:30/4am - then it just got painful. I tried to let Aaron sleep a bit longer, and M as well. I just kept thinking I’ll get to 6:30am before I start to annoy anyone - that’s a more pleasant time to be woken up. So for the time being I got in and out of bed, going to the toilet heaps, timing the contractions when I could think to do it, squeezing Aaron’s hand in bed with every really intense contraction.
Aubrey woke up around 5:30am/6am and I went in to get her, I wanted to be there with her for these last few moments before going into hospital and making her a big sister. But the pain got really bad so I had to get mum to look after her. Aubrey was getting a bit worried every time I had a contraction. Nothing too serious but she is such an empathetic little love - I could see some little tears in her eyes when I was moaning with each contraction.
I jumped into the shower at one stage maybe just after 6am to try and relieve some of the pain. It did help a bit. But I also got to have a good shower cry - for the pain and to let go of some of the emotion too. Aubrey was about to become a big sister and we were about to become a family of four. Big changes were coming and I had to cry it out.
So I got Aaron to ring M at 6:30am. He put the call on loudspeaker - I couldn't talk during the contractions. They were lasting a minute each time. She said my contractions were sounding pretty far along, starting to sound kind of pushy actually, and that I should head into hospital. I think images of me birthing in the car started flashing before Aaron's eyes! I still didn’t want to waste peoples time if I wasn’t very far along. So we gave ourselves a little bit of time to make sure we were ready to go - we all agreed to aim to get to the hospital at 8am.
Everything was already in the car from our midnight visit so off we went to the hospital, we left home around 7am to get there at around 8am. The morning traffic wasn’t great.
I messaged our birth photographer, Bryony - Barefoot + Soul, on our way to tell her what was going on. I let her know that I’d pass on all the info once the midwife checked me out. We also rang Cell Care - cord blood storage company - to let them know what was going on.
We got to the hospital at 8am and Aaron helped me up to the birthing suite. Once I was settled in there he went to go park the car - because as you know, he’s a tight ass, and didn’t want to pay for parking. It took him AAAAAAAAGES. During the time he was gone the midwife already at Gosford, R, came in to check me. Unfortunately M had the day off, I was devastated but had to just let it go. I really wanted her there, she had cared for me through both of my pregnancies but had also missed Aubrey’s birth. I really was sad, because over the years I had formed a really lovely bond with M, I consider her a friend of mine now. But I couldn’t change the fact that she wasn’t going to make it.
So at just after 8am I was 6cm dilated. R kept saying “where is your partner?” “how long does it take to find a bloody carpark!?”
Yeah, you don’t know my husband… he’s gotta find the free parking it’s probably like 5km away… Anyways, I messaged Aaron “I’m 6cm”
“I’ll be 4 minutes.” he replied. Seriously dude, I’m in labour. Even the midwife here thinks your crazy for not being here right now!
So Aaron finally gets back from parking the car. He’s brought the snacks with him… good. I enjoy some caramel popcorn throughout the whole event actually! I ask for the gas and air once Aaron comes back and am soon enjoying a nice high. Aaron calls Bryony (photographer) and the Cell Care collector in because things are looking like they’re progressing fairly fast.
R the midwife calls E the midwife in to look after my birth. M, R and E are all midwives from the Wyong Midwife Group Practice. Even if you birth at Gosford Hospital, they get a Wyong midwife to come to the birth if you go through the WMGP. So that was awesome that E was coming because I had actually met her a few times before and I knew she was lovely. She was actually amazing throughout the whole birth. In hindsight, as much as I wanted M to be there, I wouldn’t have changed it now because E helped me through the labour so perfectly.
E arrives and I fill her in about what’s going on. She asks all about what my wishes are for the birth. Minimal monitoring, water birth, as natural as possible - and she’s super keen to fulfil those wishes. I think M must have filled her in overnight about what I wanted because it’s like she already knew.
The Cell Care collector soon arrived and we go through that whole process including a sample of my blood being taken.
Bryony soon arrived and starts taking photos and then it’s on pretty much!
Throughout the whole birth I uploaded labour updates via my Instagram story. Which I’m sure many people with think is strange but it’s just an experience that I wanted to document and I was more than happy to share with others. I myself find birth super interesting and love it when other people share their labour stories so it’s just something I wanted to do. For myself and others.
Overall the whole labour experience was almost pleasant. The gas and air gave me a really good high to be honest. The contractions were intense, and yes, they were painful - but in-between contractions I was happily joking around, chatting to people on my phone, ringing mum and dad… it was nice. I think having the knowledge from my first birth (which was also not too bad in the scheme of things - click here to read that birth story) was really helpful. I knew that each contraction was helping me to progress so I was kind of just embracing them.
I was saying at one stage “Contractions are really weird. It’s like you’re waiting for each one to come because you want to progress through the labour, but once it’s happening you’re wishing it never came and just wanting it to be over. Then it is over and you’re like, okay, that wasn’t so bad… and that’s labour pretty much - just waiting for it, then wishing it never came on repeat.”
To get things really going E suggested we do some spinning babies moves which I was all for. She said it would stretch out the uterus and help bring the baby down. So she got me up on the bed on my side, and got me to kind of dangle my top leg off the bed. Three times each side. If nothing else was a nice distraction through 6 contractions! Pretty sure they did help to get things moving though.
Once those little exercises were done I was pretty keen to get into the bath which had been run a little while ago so it was ready to go. I probably got into the bath at around 10:30am… maybe a little before. It was so nice in the water. I’m not sure if it took away much of the pain of the contractions, but in-between contractions I felt very relaxed and it was nice to have all my body weight taken off me while floating in the deep bath.
Things happened pretty quickly once I was in the water.
“I think this baby is coming soon.” I said to Aaron.
“Yep.” said E. “I think you’re right! Those contractions are starting to sound really pushy!”
“I think I pushed a bit on the last one..” I said.
E laughed, “Yeah, I thought so. Aaron, just get ready with that call button so we can get another midwife in to help catch this baby…”
And then with the next contraction I pushed. I pushed preeeeetty hard!
“Okay, yep Aaron, go ahead and press that button.” said E.
It just came naturally to me. With each contraction my body just did what it had to do, I had no control over the pushes. I was even saying in between each contraction “no, please, I’m not ready to push, just a little longer… I want a rest first! Please body, just let me have a bit more of a rest.”
You'd think after 42 weeks of being pregnant I'd be pretty keen to get that thing outta me! Haha, apparently I needed another couple of minutes to prepare myself to be the mum of a newborn again.
But my body didn’t listen, it just did what it was made to do. It pushed out my baby!
Within about three or four pushes (I would actually say three and a half because my first push was kind of half assed) my baby was born.
First push was like half a push and I could feel my waters bulging.
Second push I could just feel the head, my waters popped and we could all see a thick head of dark hair.
Third push the babies whole head was out and just chilling there for like a minute while we all waited for the next contraction.
Fourth push I said "GET THE FUCK OUUUUUT!" then reached down and pulled my beautiful baby onto my chest.
At 11:10am my baby was born.
Couldn't I have just held on one minute more and made it 11:11am? Ha!
I couldn’t believe how much the baby looked like Aubrey. I was just amazed. I was amazed by the whole process and how relaxed it was actually. How quickly I pushed the baby out. Honestly, it really didn’t hurt as much as it was just really intense. I definitely think the bath helped with that part. Like “the ring of fire” was no where near as bad as I remember it the first time. And yeah, I made noise when pushing, but it wasn’t like screaming in pain, it was more just the effort of pushing so incredibly hard. I can’t recommend a water birth enough now.
Sitting in the bath looking at my baby and soon I was asked “what have we got!?” I looked down and said “it’s a girl!” To be honest I was expecting a girl the whole way through the pregnancy so it didn’t really feel like a huge surprise - more just like a confirmation of what I felt like I kind of already knew. I looked at Aaron in that moment and knew that he felt the exact same way. We were always meant to have two girls.
Soon I noticed the bath filling with blood, which didn’t bother me but I was just like “is that amount okay?”
“Yeah, it looks alright so far.” replied E. “but we should get you out of the bath now to deliver the placenta and check you all out."
As I stood to get out of the bath our baby girl pooed all over me. Lovely. It just didn’t stop either! As we got on the bed and changed the towels and blankets she was wrapped in she pooped everywhere again! What a mess, honestly! That meconium stuff is seriously sticky.
Our baby girl seemed to cry a lot. When Aubrey was born she honestly didn’t cry heaps - just when she was first out but then she was pretty quiet. This baby was different and I remember thinking oh shit, they say the second baby is a little devil… it’s happened! It was a lot harder to get her to latch for a feed than it was with Aubrey too. So all this made me pretty nervous.
First thing that happened when I was laying down was the cord blood being collected. The collection was best taken when the placenta hadn’t been delivered yet. Then it was time to deliver the placenta. I wanted to try and do this myself without anyone pulling on it. I did a couple of pushes but they wanted to get that placenta out. So I said to E I don’t mind if you help out with a little pull. It didn’t take much for her to pull just a little and then it was all out. E went through the placenta with me and Bryony took some photos of it. It was a pretty normal looking placenta.
Then E checked to see if I had torn. She said there was a bit of a tear there and asked “has anyone ever told you that you have a short perineum?”
“Ahhh, nope, haven’t heard that one before.”
“Okay, well you do, so I’m going to get the doctor to check this tear out and they’ll probably do the stitching up.”
So while we waited for the doctors to put me back together again my mum, dad and Aubrey were let into the birthing suite. Aubrey got to meet her little sister. Bryony headed off. Aaron went to hang out with Aubrey and my dad while my mum stayed with me while the doctors were there to stitch me up - I was SO grateful that my mum was there for this part because it was actually the worst part of the whole birth experience.
The doctors were nice enough and they did explain to me things as they went, but the process was very quick and I think it all just happened in a really strange way for me. Like the whole birth had just been so natural and undisturbed, I was left to do whatever I felt like I needed to do. It was intervention free and really kind of peaceful. Then all of a sudden there was a doctor and a student doctor down there poking their fingers up my freshly torn vagina and asshole. One, it hurt like hell. Two, I kind of felt a bit violated. Three, I probably hadn’t had enough time to go through the emotions of just having a baby yet. And four, I was tripping on gas man! One bad trip...
So I just burst into tears and started sucking on the gas big time. Asking my mum and E to take care of the baby for me by helping her to latch as I just cried and cried. I couldn’t even see for all the hysterical tears. Thank god mum was there talking me through it. I could hear E saying to me that I could tell them to stop if I wanted and I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do… but it wasn’t that I didn’t want it done - I definitely wanted my vagina/ass hole to be stitched back to normal - it was more that this calm, relaxing, intervention free birth had changed suddenly. And it hurt. But soon it was done.
Anyways, I ended up with a HUGE high after that because I was sucking the gas on a whole new level. So that was fun! Aaron actually said that he was embarrassed by how high I was - I was carrying on about all kinds of things. Telling mum and dad that I had figured out the meaning of the universe. Saying "ohhhhh, I get it now!" every couple of minutes. Someone should have filmed that shit. It was like one of those videos after people have their wisdom teeth out! Poor Aaron, so embarrassed by my behaviour haha. I had fun though! It made up for the bad trip. Haha.
Mum, dad and Aubrey left and I got to have a shower. Post-labour showers are seriously amazing. I took our baby in with me to give her a bit of a wash because she was literally covered in poop. Then once she was clean E and Aaron took her to weigh, measure and check her over while I finished my shower.
When I came out of the shower I asked “How much does she weigh?”
“4.41kg!” said E.
“What!? No way! I did that in like four pushes!?”
Aaron and E laughed. She was a porka though!
9lb 7oz. 37cm diameter head. 52 cm long.
So then we just hung out in the birthing suite for a while. Feeding the baby. Aaron and I went over the events of the labour while it was all still fresh. Immunisations were given. I wanted to stay the night because I felt like we weren’t getting the hang of latching/feeding but we were told that the maternity ward was crazy busy. It was going to be really helpful for them if we could go home because we were all healthy and had an uncomplicated birth. So we decided to go home, which in hindsight was probably way better anyways. We wouldn’t have gotten any rest in the ward if it was that busy.
We left the hospital at around 7pm. Thanking E for everything she had done for us with a hug. When we got home Aubrey was getting into bed and Aaron finished putting her to sleep. Mum and dad helped me settle in. Then we had our first night as a family of four all home together. It was nice.
That first night not much sleep was had, we were still getting the hang of feeding and everything. Such a weird feeling that we had left home not 12 hours earlier. That that morning I was still pregnant and heading into hospital not knowing what was about to unfold. It was a great night though, and really nice to be in the comfort of our own home again.
Our baby girl remained un-named for a few days until we decided on Penelope Judith May. She suits the name very much. Our precious little Penny.
This birth was all that I could ever ask for. I feel so content and proud that I achieved it. More relieved than I can explain that I didn’t get induced. So happy that I got to experience a magical water birth. So glad that I made the decision to have a birth photographer - the photos are amazing!
I thought I was amazed at my body after I had Aubrey. Now I’m just completely in awe! Of myself and all women really. This is an experience that will never ever leave me. An achievement that I’ll never stop feeling proud of. Tears are streaming down my face right now thinking about it. Happy tears. I can’t thank every person who has supported me through this journey enough - M and E in particular, they really helped me have the perfect birth and there’s honestly nothing more empowering.
One week on, as I’m writing this, things are going well. Aubrey is figuring out the whole big sister gig - she has her moments but is mostly amazing. We are still getting the hang of feeding and latching - Penny is a little bit lazy and doesn’t always open her mouth very wide to feed, it’s getting better every day though. Penny can be a bit unsettled, more than I remember Aubrey being. I’m not sure though if that’s just because I only had Aubrey to worry about the first time so she never really had the chance to cry. Second time round there’s a whole lot more going on.
Overall, we are so in love with our little family of four. So content that this is most likely our last little bub (never say never though, right?) and I think my dream labour has really helped me feel complete. I spend every day just soaking in every single moment and taking as many photos and videos as I possibly can.
Time is already flying.