Meet Elijah and his mummy Hayley and daddy Peter. These cute images from his birth make my heart melt as I remember the day I had Aston. Hayley is so brave and strong. And seriously, who gets this excited to go into labour? Hahaha.
Most women dread the thought of labour. The ‘finding out your pregnant’ part and the ‘holding your baby for the first time’ part are usually on the top of our CAN’T WAIT list, but the actual delivering of the baby.. not so much. Unless you’re me, haha. Weird I know, but I was actually kinda looking forward to it. Maybe not in the same way you look forward to a trip overseas, or Christmas Day, but part of me was excited and ready to see what it was all about, and how much my mind and body could actually take.
I attribute those feelings mostly to my Mum, and my midwife. I have 3 siblings, so Mum gave birth four times, naturally, and throughout my childhood and growing years I remember often hearing her talk about how ‘it wasn’t that bad’, and ‘people are so dramatic’ and that ‘she knew we could all do it’. So, automatically, the confidence was instilled in me. Then I met my midwife, Stacey, who by the way was amazing for me, mostly because she has such a calm, positive and naturalistic approach to pregnancy, but also because she empowered me every single time I met with her. So, I was nervous, but confident. I got my birthing plan ready, I went and checked out the facility and saved my playlist to my phone (that one was probably most important to me). And I prepared and waited.
Then, two weeks before I was due, all my imagery, and planning went soaring out the window. I found out I had a urinary tract infection due to a bacteria called Strep B. No, it’s not like strep throat. Well, maybe a similar bacteria, but it’s something that can live in both the male and female reproductive systems with no symptoms or signs whatsoever, but if a baby catches it during delivery, it can be life threatening. This meant that my relaxing water birth wouldn’t be allowed and would now be replaced by a hospital birth with a constant IV for antibiotics and none of the things I had hoped for. I was shattered. I actually got off the phone and cried for a good 5 mins before being able to call my husband and let him know. And then, from that point I created a new birthing plan. But to be honest, mentally, I feel like my all natural, ultra-empowered labour and delivery all started going downhill from that moment.
Fast forward 3 and half weeks, about 7 days over my due date and I was starting to get more and more anxious. I was still really excited to meet our boy, and was doing my best to just enjoy the last moments of rest, but the constant texts, and calls, and funny feelings in my tummy were all having an impact on me. Finally, on Sunday night I started to feel something, pressure in my tummy, sorta like cramping but a little different. And I got excited again! But then, that pressure came and went, and then came and went again. Just enough to wake me up all throughout the night, every 10-20 mins or so, but nothing leading into actual contractions. But honestly, after three nights of this (and it was always at night, not during the day zzz), I was so exhausted. Physically and mentally. And I just wanted it to hurry up and get real already!
So, on Wednesday, after three nights of pre-labour contractions, and a big walk the day before to see if that would help, I was lying on my bed with my husband and I heard, or more felt, but almost heard it too, a ‘POP’ like a balloon in my stomach, and suddenly I was wetting the bed uncontrollably and no matter how much I squeezed my legs shut it just kept coming. Seriously, the weirdest feeling ever, but for me, one of the happiest moments as I realised, “My waters have broken!!! Yuuussss!!” And then it was all on. In the shower, cleaning myself up, grab my bags, in the car, on the way to Middlemore, really decent contractions coming now (yay!) every 5-10 mins.
I was so happy! Like literally, smiling and laughing even when I had to stop, stand still and take a few deep breaths as I waddled from the car park, through the hospital and up to the birthing suite. People must’ve thought I was handling it really well, but mostly, I was just relieved it was happening!! It was around midday when we arrived at the hospital and for the next 3-4 hours I continued on this way, happily talking and wandering around and then breathing through the pain for 30 secs and then back to my normal bubbly self. Mentally, I felt so strong. What I actually dreaded (or more like hated) the most was the internal checks. I can’t think of anything more uncomfortable than someone poking and prodding around down there.
Anyway, I progressed to 6 cm dilation quite smoothly and quickly and then they moved me into a bigger room to get ready for delivery. This is where my playlist came in handy big time. It was getting closer to crunch time. The lights were dim, only the people that needed to be there were in the room, and my music was playing softly and constantly in the background, thank goodness! Singing along to those songs calmed me soooo much. So, if music is your thing, start making that playlist now. The pain got more severe and the rest time became shorter and shorter, and I started to quiet down a bit to retain my energy. After another hour or so (time is a huge blur during these moments) I decided this was the time to get that Priesthood blessing from my husband we had been talking about. I managed to sit down on the bed for a few minutes with tears streaming down my face as my husband placed his hands on my head and gave me one of the most beautiful, moving and heartfelt blessings from God I have ever experienced. I get teary even now just remembering it. Truly I felt my Heavenly Fathers unconditional love in that moment, and it lingered on for the rest of the night to get me through what was required.
8pm, and things were definitely “real”. I had asked for it, and now it was here. The pain was unlike anything I’ve felt before and very hard to describe, but for me it was like immense pressure in my lower back and around my abdomen. I was relying on my husband’s strength so much by this point, and he was letting me put everything and anything I needed to on him. Over time he was becoming exhausted as well from holding me up (there was no way I could stay lying down through this) and I could feel his muscles shaking as I leaned forward pushing on his shoulders. Eventually we found a good little routine, I rocked on the swiss ball in between each set, and he sat down opposite me. Then when the contraction started, he stood behind me and with our hands on a shelf attached to the wall we both squatted up and down for gravity to help me ease through the pain. Reading that back, I realise that sounds kinda odd, but hey, whatever works right!? And it was working, for a while. Then, getting closer to 10pm (I think) I had another horrifying internal exam and found out to my dismay and the dismay of everyone in the room that I hadn’t progressed past 8 cm in the last two hours!! Mentally, I was still pretty strong, with the hope that I was nearly there and this exam would give me that extra boost of hope. But, hearing this news just wrecked me. I had to go through another two hours of this and still possibly not get any closer to meeting my baby!!!??
It was getting more and more intense by the second, so Stacey suggested I try going in the shower. OK, I’ll try that. And it was nice, I have to admit. The hot water on my back was heavenly, and having the swiss ball in with me to rest on made a huge difference too. However, feeling that trickle of water was a major mental tease for me, knowing that I could’ve been sitting in a pool of that gloriousness, not just having it streaming down my back. So, it helped physically, but mentally I was slowly losing it. And that’s when the groaning began. I had vowed from the beginning not to be a screamer, I just didn’t see the point, and couldn’t imagine myself doing it, but this groaning was unexpected. It wasn’t terribly loud, or dramatic, but at the deepest most pressing parts of each contraction and as I felt the head bearing down on my back I just couldn’t keep this low moaning sound in my mouth. And it sorta felt like it was helping, so I went with it, as unattractive as it may have been. I do recall not seeing Peter popping his head in while I was in the shower, but I later found out that wasn’t because he was put off, but because he literally couldn’t handle seeing me in that amount of pain knowing that he couldn’t help me at all.
Now, what happened next I want to share for every first time, or second, or third or whatever number Mum for that matter. If you get to a point where you feel mentally, physically, and even spiritually beyond self-help, where you are just so shattered that you are almost to the point of despair, where your baby is becoming distressed due to the way your body is coping, and the people around you ask if you want their help, or some type of intervention, DO NOT BE ASHAMED TO SAY YES. I was soooo determined, from the very beginning of it all, before even becoming pregnant, that I could do this. If Mum can, I can. Of course! But guess what? Every women’s body is different, and after 3 nights of almost zero sleep, and with so many mental ups and downs, my mind was ready to let go. To allow myself to be human, to be helped, to admit weakness. And with a reassuring word from my loving midwife, who had been on the “you can do it” track with me the whole time, I decided it was time to change my mind. To put my son first. To find that hope again before my body totally caved in.
So, an epidural was given, which I then vomited because of, and for a few brief moments, my body was able to rest and my mind sailed away into a place of temporary peace. I had help from an awesome team of nurses and doctors, shot some tearful glances at my Mum and husband, did a lot of strange pushing in an area I could only just feel, and had an episiotomy. With the help of some forceps and stirrups (not pretty at all!), a healthy, breathing, wriggling baby was placed on my chest and everything that had just happened in the last 9-10 months and 24 hours was forgotten in an instant. I could hardly believe it. He was here. He was perfect. He was all ours. And, I had done it. Even in a completely different way to what was planned and pictured, I had done it.
2.37am on 11th December 2014, Elijah Jeffrey Kavatonu Mata was born, weighing 3.78kgs (8lbs5oz), measuring 55cm long.
I prayed for a first name and within a week I had received the answer Elijah multiple times.
Jeffrey is in memory of my sweet nephew who passed away from leukaemia when he was 8 years old.
Kavatonu was chosen by my husband, Peter’s Niuean Nana before she passed away a few months before I gave birth. It is a place of prayer in Niue.
It is an inspirational name for a strong little boy.