Story by Jessica Helou
Jess’s story is a beautiful example of communication and trusting and working with your body. And the importance of a well – prepared partner. And she birthed a “big baby” with no issue other than patience and support.
Our pregnancy was fairly smooth and uneventful and we were considered a low risk pregnancy. We were under the care of a private obstetrician and started talking about birth plans at around 38 weeks. Baby was head down and in a good position and had been for a while but was still not yet engaged.
I knew I wanted an unmedicated and minimal intervention birth. The Dr offered me a stretch and sweep at 39 weeks and suggested an induction at 40 + 3 weeks of baby had not yet made an appearance. Being a first time mum I knew I was likely to go past my due date and didn’t particularly want to be induced so asked the Dr for more time before the induction and managed to negotiate for 41 +3 which we both felt comfortable with.
My vaginal exam at 39 weeks showed my cervix to still be hard and closed and then at 40 weeks softer but still closed.
I had been keeping as active as possible, bouncing on an exercise ball, curbside walking, attending physio and chiropractor appointments to make sure my pelvis wasn’t tight, colostrum harvesting and nipple stimulation, eating dates and promoting as much oxytocin production as possible but it seemed that my cervix did not want to co-operate.
We got to our induction date and were told to go in the night before for cervadil (chemical cervical ripening) to be prepared for the induction to begin the next day. When I arrived at the hospital my vaginal exam showed I was already 2-3cm dialated and would not require the cervadil. The midwife offered me a stretch and sweep instead which I accepted in the hopes that it would assist in inducing labour. After discussion with the midwife about my birth plan she suggested we try and break my waters to bring on labour naturally given that I was already dialating, and then if that didn’t progress we could start the induction later the next day.
I had my waters broken by the midwife at 6am the next morning. By around 8am contractions had started. I was experiencing nausea and a frequent urge to go to the bathroom. At this point I was alternating between bouncing on the exercise ball and sitting on the toilet during contractions and Mark was doing his best to distract me in between. By 11am contractions were getting more painful and more frequent and the exercise ball was not helping anymore. The midwife came in to check me and I was 5cm dialated.
We went for walks around the ward until I couldn’t bear the pain anymore and mark suggested we try getting in the shower. The warm water from the shower offered some relief but even more helpful than that was Mark with a wet face towel alternating between sacral presses and and pelvic shifting during contractions while I slumped over the shower chair.
We were in the shower for probably close to an hour at which point Mark tells me that I was defeated and telling him I’d had enough. He recognised this as the transitional phase and encouraged me to get out of the shower and called the midwife back in.
The midwife did another vaginal exam and at 12pm I was fully dialated but had an anterior lip and baby was still quite high up the birthing canal. The midwife tried to push this back behind baby’s head between contractions. At this point I was labouring upright slumped over the head of the bed. 10 minutes after this I started to feel a strong urge to go to the toilet which I realised was the need to push. My obstetrician arrived at about 1230 and after an exam told me that baby was still too high and had turned posterior. At this stage he recommended I try not to push and give baby time to turn back around and that he’d be back in an hour to check on me and discuss an epidural to slow down the labour and help with dulling my urge to push.
As soon as he left the midwife acknowledged that I was not going to be able to stop pushing and suggested a different labouring position. Her and Mark had me like on my back and they each took a leg and for each contraction provided some resistance for my legs to push against. Within 20 minutes (although it felt to me like a lifetime) Mark yelled out to me that he could see the baby’s head.
The calm breathing helped keep me focussed and I was able to concentrate and put all my energy into pushing and concentrating on Marks voice and the obstetricians instructions. Within 15-20mins from Mark yelling out that he could see baby’s head, I had my baby in my arms. We did delayed cord clamping and had our hour of skin to skin and she had her first breastfeed before being taken away to be measured and weighed.
Our midwife was amazing really listened to me and paid attention to how I was feeling and what was going on.
Mark was amazing and really used the knowledge he had about the stages of labour to keep the midwife up to date about where I was at. He was able to play an active role in keeping me grounded and being present for whatever I needed. The sacral press and pelvic shifting were amazing tools for pain management in labour and Mark was able to use them perfectly. He made sure to advocate for me and really create a space where I could focus and not worry about anything else.
I was able to implement my calm breathing which definitely helped through my contractions and I was able to stay focussed and grounded.
I birthed my baby girl Sofia, a 4.385kg baby without pain medication and only 2 internal stitches for a minimal stage 2 tear. It truly was an amazing experience. I felt supported by the people in the room and empowered by my efforts and the end result.