Soon after Archie was born, I wrote up the story of his birth for posterity, before the details disappeared in the fog of nappies, milk and snuggles that descends in the weeks after giving birth. I’m so glad I did it, even though the boys are both likely to be horrified at reading about their mum’s ladyparts.
Here is Jed’s story…
So I had been having really uncomfortable contractions for almost two weeks before my due date. They were becoming pretty tiresome and annoying, and three times we had the car packed ready to go before the contractions fizzled out into nothing. I was waddling up and down the driveway and heaving myself up and down the stairs to try and get things moving, but no luck. I never thought I would actually be looking forward to childbirth, but I felt totally ready and was so sick of being pregnant. I was excited to actually get into the next stage of our life!
On Wednesday 28th I had a stretch and sweep, which is pretty much what it sounds like – my midwife gloved up and tickled the baby’s head to entice it out. Not exactly comfortable but I lost all my dignity somewhere around the time during Archie’s birth where I was screaming in the foyer of the Mercy hospital wearing a dressing gown and an eye mask. She thought that the baby would come that night, so I got excited and tried to rest as much as possible.
I woke up at about 5.30am on Thursday 29th – my due date - busting to pee, and as I got up I felt like the baby had dropped really low. My fake contractions had ramped up and by 6.30am I was pretty sure that things were happening. It was probably the best timing ever – Archie only goes to daycare one day a week, on a Thursday. Lee was installing a big job at Werribee Zoo and I had been freaking out that I would go into labour and he would be stuck at the zoo, but he obviously stayed home once we realised that the baby would arrive soon.
Going into labour during the day was a completely different feeling to labouring at night and I was a bit worried that I would give birth during peak hour on the side of Bell Street. We called Amy, my awesome midwife and told her that things were finally happening. The contractions weren’t that painful yet and I could still talk and walk around. I was leaning over the kitchen table breathing through a big one and Archie was just chatting to me, totally oblivious. Mum took him to daycare and I told him that he would be a big brother next time I saw him.
I got in the shower for a while but the hot water ran out which was pretty bloody distressing, as a hot shower is my number one form of pain relief. Since I figured the hospital had endless hot water, we decided to go. This was about 9.30am. The car trip was crap. I was fine in between contractions, but during them it felt like I could feel every single little pebble on the road. Lee managed to strike a balance between driving like an old man and driving like a maniac to get there as fast and as smoothly as possible.
Thankfully, the hospital was open this time and I didn’t have to bang on the door while screaming. We went into the birth centre just after 10am, just as the midwife was arriving and went straight into the birthing room. I was still talking and laughing in between contractions, but they were getting more and more painful and were about five minutes apart. Amy listened to the heartbeat and poked my tummy and said that the bub was in a great position and that I would spit it out soon (her words.) I stripped off and got straight into the shower, sitting on a plastic chair wearing nothing but a shower cap. The noise of the shower cap was a good distraction from the pain of the contractions.
I hung out in the shower for about an hour and a half. It was super hot and steamy and Amy’s glasses kept fogging up. Because it was daylight and I had only been in labour for a few hours, I was much more awake and lucid than last time. Judging by the pain level and by how long Archie’s birth was, I thought I had hours and hours to go so was trying to conserve energy between contractions by leaning on the towel rail. Lee’s mum and my mum had arrived and I could see them watching me.
The best bit about having a baby in a midwife-run birth centre rather than a normal birthing suite with doctors and medical staff is how hands-off everyone is. Obviously, if something was wrong they would spring into action, but I never had any internal examinations or monitoring or people fussing around and was totally left to just listen to my body and roll with it.
I felt a lot of downwards pressure and thought that I might be ready to push. Amy told me not to be afraid of the pushing feeling and to just go with it. She had told me earlier that the pushing stage in second labours can be as short as ten minutes, but I totally didn’t believe her as it took over an hour to push Archie’s giant head out.
Clearly she was right though, because I suddenly had a huge overwhelming feeling to poo and was sure that I was going to crap myself in front of my husband, mum and mother-in-law. Um, no, that would be the baby coming out.
Sitting down on a plastic chair is not conducive to pushing out a baby, so Amy told me to stand up. My legs were shaking and had turned to jelly, so I lurched myself at Lee in one movement. My waters broke in a huge gush, which freaked me out because they never broke with Archie, but it relieved a lot of pressure.
Lee had all 80 kilos of me and baby in an awkward headlock/wrestling move to avoid us all falling down, but managed to stay semi-upright and hold me while I let out a massive scream and the head started to appear.
If anyone is wondering what it actually feels like to push a baby out of you, well, it basically feels like you are pushing a baby out of you. It is that painful. I let out another scream and the baby’s head popped right out, then one more big push and Jethro Thomas Gratton plopped out onto the floor. Amy quickly picked him up and gave him to Lee for skin on skin time, and I lowered myself down on the ground. My first thought was that he was so tiny, much smaller than Archie, and was completely, totally perfect.
I had an injection to help the placenta come out – I held Lee’s hand because, hello, injections hurt, even if you have just pushed a human being out of your body – and managed to stand up and walk to the bed. I was a bit in shock at how easy it had been – three big pushes and he was out in less than five minutes.
The placenta came out, Lee handed me the little dude and he found the boob and fed like a trooper. He is 100g smaller than Archie at 4.4kg, and a couple of centimetres shorter at 55cm. Most importantly, his head is a whole 4cm smaller than Archie’s hefty dome. Thanks, Jed. He is still considered to be a big baby, although he seems super-small to me, because he is much more petite and delicate than his brother. He has his dad’s enormous feet and long fingers.
My brother picked Archie up from daycare at about 2pm and brought him in to meet his little brother. Archie glanced at Jed and then asked if he could eat some more grapes. Then he spotted my lunch tray and ate the bread roll and grilled chicken, before he spotted a crane out the window and watched that for a while. Not so interested in his brother!
Archie seemed so big and grown up compared to Jed – he was bouncing on the bed in his Chucks and hoodie and kind of freaked me out at how quickly time has gone. It seems like only yesterday that he was a teeny, roly-poly newborn.
We were going to go home that afternoon, but they had a private room on the ward so gave us the chance to stay as we still had to meet with the physio and mental health lady and have Jed’s hearing tested and glucose testing done. Seriously, our experience with the public hospital midwifery system has been so awesome. We had a big double room with a view of the Dandenongs, a midwife on call and now four follow-up midwife visits at home.
While I was pregnant, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to love this next baby as much as I love Archie. I couldn’t imagine feeling the same depth of emotion and fierce protectiveness for another person. But you know what? A mama’s love is elastic and infinite and ferocious. It stretches and expands with each baby, filling up the space in and around her family like a web.
Before Jed was born, there was a feeling that someone was still missing in our little trio. He has been patiently waiting in the wings to complete our family. And now we are whole.