"I am SO onto you!"
"You made me walk all day to start my labour!"
It was a Wednesday night. I had enjoyed a great day with my friend Sarah and our daughters Iris and Harriet. Poor Sarah was 9 months pregnant with a cold, stuck at home caring for an almost two year old with the same cold. She'd had a really rough week. On Tuesday I'd suggested she and Iris come stay at my place for a night, let me pamper her and parent her daughter, give her a real night off. But come Wednesday she was too tired, to come to my house. Instead I went to her place with a gift wrapped box of much needed chocolates.
I didn't intend to trigger her labour, I just wanted to get Sarah and Iris out of the house. They needed a change of scenery and some fun!
We went to our favourite bookstore, then I suggested we walk up to the library. Sarah was reluctant at first, with good cause, I never walked that much when I was that pregnant. But before we'd reached the end of the street she'd said "Ah what the hell, let's do it".
Earlier that day we had discovered we had the same taste in literature. Sarah had raided her bookshelves and loaded me up with new novels. She had loaned her favourite book to someone and not got it back yet so we decided to see if we could find it at the library.
Our daughters had a great time at the library, running around and inspecting the children's books. It was getting dark by this stage. We began walking home, and as we did it started to rain. We managed to get home without getting too wet. I said good-bye to Sarah and went home for a quiet night in front of the television. This is exactly what I was doing when Sarah rang.
"Ooooh! So has it started?" I asked her.
"I think so. But I was like this for a couple of days with Iris, so it will probably be Friday or Saturday"
"I'll keep you posted".
On Thursday morning I woke to a text message from Sarah. She let me know she was getting "twinges" every ten to twenty minutes, but they didn't last for long. I rang her and she told me she had managed to get a good sleep despite the twinges and she said Iris had slept a solid 12 hours for the first time in years. As she said it a little alarm went off in the back of my mind, telling me these were great birth-imminent omens.
She said that Iris was bored and a visit from my daughter and I could be just what was needed. After lunch we wandered down to Sarah's house. Sarah was keen to walk almost as soon as we got there. She told me that the baby either had to get out before Friday night or hold off until Sunday night to fit in with his or her Dad's work schedule. Jokingly I proposed; "let's see if we can get this baby to fall out of you today" and we set off for another day of walking.
I strapped my daughter to my back in our ergo carrier, Sarah popped Iris in the pram and we set off at a leisurely pace. I offered to push the pram for Sarah but she said she liked having it to lean on. There were quite a few stops along the way. Sarah would stop, lean forward, bracing herself on the pram and breathe for a second or two and then we'd be back on our way.
At our 37 week meet with Sarah's midwives and other doula I had asked Sarah what she saw as my primary role at her birth, her response was "to twitter the birth". We laughed, but I did what I was told. Throughout our days together I tweeted some updates.
We had come up with an informal plan in case she did "drop baby" in the shopping centre, though it was more a joke than anything else. At one point while our daughters were in the playground I needed to go to the toilet, Sarah was happy to watch the girls. As I left I called out "try not to have a baby while I'm gone!", and she called back "Oh yeah! Who's gonna catch while you're gone?!" She looked at the nearest mother at the playground and said to her "You! You'll have to catch". I giggled so much that I had to speed up my run to the loo.
After our girls had had a good run around, we'd chatted to some of the other mums there and Sarah had downed her weight in water we decided to grab a bite to eat before heading home.
When we got back to her house we put Iris's favourite show "Yo Gabba Gabba" on the TV for the girls and Sarah and I began sewing wheat bags. Sarah had beautiful green corduroy, she cut the pieces, I sewed them together, left a hole and filled them with wheat and sewed them close. Iris and Harri were very interested in the wheat bags so we made them one each too.
I asked Sarah if she wanted to circle her hips around while sitting on the birth ball I'd loaned her, but she explained that Iris had claimed the ball her own. Apparently when anyone touched it they got a serve from Iris for touching her treasure. Sarah had to wait until Iris had gone to bed before she could use the ball, but she told me it did provide some comfort then.
"Are you going to scare baby Louie out with the shark, Iris?" Sarah asked.
Steven (Sarah's husband) gave Iris a shower and got her ready for bed and then I had an honour I'll bet very few people have ever had. I watched a woman in labour breastfeed her toddler.
During this time my partner arrived. While Steven tucked Iris into bed, Sarah and I had a chat about what we thought the night might have in store for us. Sarah still felt it was early, so I went home with my partner and daughter to have dinner. Before leaving I gave Sarah and baby Louie a belly rub and said good-bye.
My partner made spaghetti bolognase for dinner (and a casserole for me to give to Sarah, Steven and Iris) and just as he was dishing up my phone rang. It was Steven. He was due at work in two hours and Sarah didn't want to be alone, she wanted back rubs. She said I should come over whenever was convenient. We agreed I'd call Steven to come and get me after I'd eaten.
A few minutes later Sarah called to tell me that her waters had "exploded" all over her bed and she didn't have a dry blanket. I began to hasten my eating and grabbed a blanket from the linen closet and stuffed it into my suitcase.
My birth bag was packed (with overnight gear just in case, toiletries, spare batteries for the camera etc.). I rang Steven to let him know I was ready to go. In the background I could hear Sarah singing her birth song. It was a loud call. I was amazed by what a huge leap had been made in her birth progress in such a short space of time. Minutes ago I had been talking to her on the phone about blankets and whatnot and now she was getting down to the business end.
Sarah later told me that she still didn't think she was that far along because she could still chat between contractions.
Steven told me that the other doula, Michelle was on her way and she would pick me up. This was a much better plan, Sarah did not sound like she should be left home alone with Iris asleep in the next room.
I told my partner to run to the convenience store down the road and grab me some snacks, just in case and to be quick because Michelle was on her way. Off he ran, literally, down our dark driveway in old slippers that were falling apart. He fell over, grazed his hands and knees, bruised one knee and twisted his ankle. The first birth related injury accrued that evening, (and might I add we have since discovered it was also the biggest injury anyone involved in the birth sustained LOL!)
It felt like days had passed as I waited for Michelle to arrive. In truth it wasn't long at all! It was probably about five or ten minutes. I nervously gave my daughter a kiss good-bye, not because I was nervous about the birth, but because this could be the first night she and I had spent apart in her life.
We tossed my suitcase into the doula car (like a bat mobile but less flashy and instead of electronic gadgets it's full of heat packs, blankets, towels, candles and a birth ball). As we drove the five minutes to Sarah's, Michelle said she thought we would get there to find Sarah already holding her baby.
When we arrived we saw that the midwives car was already in the driveway. We quietly made our way to the front door, I tapped lightly and Steven answered. If he could have been any more cool, calm and collected he'd have been asleep. He casually said "you missed it, everyone did". I thought he was pulling my leg. He was too calm to be serious. As Michelle asked; "seriously?" I walked into the lounge room to find Sarah naked by the fire, holding a newborn baby in her arms, umbilical cord still attached and pulsating, a healthy looking placenta in a bowl before her.
I felt my eyes fill with joyful tears as I looked at my friend and her newborn. Sarah looked up at me and said:
"Baby Louie is a girl!"
"Welcome Eloise" I greeted the new soul.
Michelle and I both pulled out our cameras and began taking photos. At the 37 week meet Sarah had said she hoped that anyone with a spare set of hands would photograph the birth.
Michelle and the midwives arranged some pillows, fresh towels and sheets so that Sarah could lay back with her baby comfortably. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and made my last twitter posting for the day, sharing the arrival of Ms Eloise Jane. When I finished I announced "My role here is done, birth twittered!" and we laughed. Midwives and doulas alike made sure Sarah had access to water, juice and icey poles and Steven began making phone calls to let friends and family know Eloise was here.
The worst of it seemed to be that she had a steady trickle of blood leaving her, and it could build up to become quite a significant amount of blood loss. Sarah decided she wanted the syntocinon injection to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Sarah's primary midwife talked all of us through what she was doing and why, we also had a discussion about alternative methods of preventing PPH. The continued blood loss was most likely on account of how fast Eloise's birth had been, Sarah's uterus had been left in a bit of shock, her body still sending blood to the baby who was no longer there.
Sarah was experiencing some nasty after pains and the syntocinon increased the intensity of these. At one point Sarah said it was more painful than the contractions during labour. I knelt behind her and began massaging her lower back and applying pressure, one of the midwives heated one of the wheat bags and then I held that firmly against Sarah.
From where I was I had a beautiful view of Baby Louie feeding away. We had a giggle about the fact that Sarah and Steven had bought themselves a birth pool for the occasion, which sat on the other side of the room, totally unused.
"You'll have to use the pool" Sarah said to me "I still haven't got my waterbirth!"
Slowly and carefully Sarah rolled over, to get more comfortable. Her nausea was increasing, she grabbed the ice-cream container in front of her and began gagging. I pulled her hair back from her face as she was sick. It was the most adolescent moment in our history. Once it was out she felt muuuuuch better.
Sarah wanted a shower, one of the midwives helped her up and escorted her to the shower with Steven. Michelle and the other midwife wrapped Eloise in fresh warm blankets and laid her by the warm fire. For a moment I found myself alone with baby Louie. I sat next to her and softly told her where her Mum and Dad were, and stroked her when she started to stir, soon enough her Dad was back and took her in his arms for a cuddle.
Once Sarah was set with fruit and water by her bed, we got ready to leave the family to get some much needed rest. I went into the bedroom to say good-bye to my friend. I wanted to give her a kiss and thank her for letting me be with her during such a special time in her life, instead I ended up saying congratulations again and to call if she wanted me to come over the next day. She thanked me, which is when I said "No need to thank me! Thank YOU!"
As Michelle and I tossed our suitcases of doula goodies back into the car she said "look at all this stuff we didn't need". I smiled, thinking that's just the way it should be.
I got home around 2am, but was too high on love for my friend and for birth and the new little baby in our lives to get to sleep straight away. I shared my joy with my partner, who was rocking our daughter in her sleep. She was just starting to get restless and search for my breast when I walked in the door. Baby Louie had everything timed out perfectly.
The following day I woke to find missed calls from Sarah, she wanted me and my daughter to come over. We had the pleasure of another day of hanging out with Sarah and Iris and my daughter met her newest friend; Eloise Jane.
The following afternoon I returned with my partner and we did some cleaning. My partner made everyone dinner and I helped get Iris washed and ready for bed. We spent a couple of hours with Sarah, chatting and half-heartedly watching Braveheart on foxtell while Steven was at work.
We talked about the birth, about everything that had happened in the last couple of days, and about food. It was agreed that I should make Eloise a birthday cake from the recipe my mother had always used to make my birthday cakes. This was exactly what I did the following day and on Monday afternoon the new family of four came over to eat Eloise's first birthday cake.
Sarah is now a tandem nursing wonder mother
Looking at her Dad
Me giving Sarah a much needed hands free toilet break