I first wrote down my birth story so I wouldn’t forget too much of it. It has now been 10 weeks and I’m ready to (over) share it with the rest of the world.
This (very long) story is not intended to turn anyone off natural birth or having kids.
Rather, I would love for it to serve as a prompt to women in the bush and urban areas too I guess, nuture your body during pregnancy and listen to what it is telling you. If something doesn’t feel quite right, get a second opinion. And kiss your partner long and hard before labour really kicks in because where you’re going, there won’t be any loving towards him.
My pregnancy was a very welcome addition to our lives in August 2017. Exactly a year earlier I had fallen pregnant and then 6 weeks later I wasn’t pregnant anymore. So, after a year of trying, all that heartbreak was put behind us and we moved on to our next chapter, growing up as quickly as we can and trying to fit the parent hats on our heads.
My pregnancy was frought with panic attacks, digestive distress, blood noses, sleepless nights and towards the end of it, I swelled up to a huge 95kg. A weight and fluid gain of 30kg. I was uncomfortable and didn’t feel quite right, my fluid retention was through the roof and I could feel my body giving in. I was wishing my pregnancy away and busting to give birth. Three weeks before the due date, I got my wish and I got it good.
(Photo Credit: http://www.therealdealphotography.com.au)
It’s early on a Sunday morning, around 1am and rolling my belly out of bed for the hundredth time to waddle to the bathroom was just the same ol same ol. This time was a little more same same but different though. My waters broke. Now, I was told that it’s not like the movies where it just gushes out of you and then labour starts. Ah, yeah it is. It’s exactly like that.
There I was, shuffling down the side of the bed when the body pillow that had fallen on the ground got a big soaking. Jas, who was madly cutting wood on the other side of the bed was woken with the news.
Me: Babe, my waters just broke
Jas: No they didn’t
Me: I’m serious. Look! (Just use your imagination here what he was shown)
Jas: *insert panicked profanities here* What do you mean, it can’t be.
Me: It’s everywhere babe, I know when my waters have broken.
(Photo Credit: http://www.therealdealphotography.com.au)
Jas’s eyes popped to the size of dinner plates, he flew out of out of bed, running in circles around the van looking busy but not really achieving anything. I should add here that being three weeks out from my due date, keeping Jas sober just in case baby came during the night wasn’t something that had crossed our minds yet. So, add together panic and disbelief with a splash of drunkenness and you can picture the mess he had got himself into.
Myself, I had a total sense of calm falling over me. I honestly thought that I had my shit together. I walked around gathering things for my hospital bag (are you getting the sense of how much this early arrival was sprung on us). At the time I thought I had packed essentials and was well prepared for the next couple of days in hospital. But, in reality all I packed was one pair of pyjamas for me, Nutella, make up and two shirts for Jas.
The drive from the sheep property at Weemelah where my waters broke (were you expecting them to break any place else?) to Mungindi was bumpy. I felt every single corrugation in the dirt road. My contractions had started just as we hit the outskirts of Mungindi (I was driving because old piss pot was in such a state) and looking down at the speedo as we flew out the other side of town, I was pushing 100km/hr.
We had arrived at the first hospital of three for this big event. A small town hospital, we were met by two nurses at the front door. With contractions still well apart, we shared jokes while I paced the room. Panic was nowhere to be seen. The live in doctor arrived and so did stronger, shorter spaced contractions, 6cm dilation and more intense pain.
Mungindi hospital wasn’t equipped for what was about to happen so a trip to Moree District Hospital in an ambulance sucking on green whistles was arranged. Now, this was actually an enjoyable part of my labour, sounds impossible but my pain was managed well. I went through two whistles in an hour constantly vocalizing to the ambulance officer and midwife riding with me that I’m not a drug addict but was having a good time. Blink 182 was blasting through the speakers at my request and the ride felt like it was just a trip down the road.
(Rocking out in the Ambulance)
Here’s where things get hazy. I don’t remember leaving the ambulance. I did hug my ride along midwife when I was in the birthing suite. Then, I was offered a shower. The warm water soothed my aching back. There is a flash of memory of my hands gripped around the metal bar in the shower, my knuckles had turned white. Then nothing. I am back at my hospital bed, bent over it and a shy young nurse is attempting to hear my babys heartbeat. I’m mean to her.
Back in the shower I call my mum but the pain is so intense the words don’t come out.
I’m bent over the headrest of the bed. I stand up and vomit, missing the bag Jas was holding for me.
I’m holding onto Jas’s shoulders, ‘please just let me go, I want to die’.
Pushing and yelling at the birthing staff ‘why can’t I have an epidural. Please just give me something. I can’t do this. I’m not going to do this.’
Hearing screams of horror escaping my throat.
Then, my last birthing memory. In walks the doctor. Checks needs to be made and there I am laying on my back in bed. The pain had completely taken over my body, my spirit was broken. I was hoping that death wasn’t far away. An internal check was a form of torture and the sounds that I heard coming out of me were primal.
I’m not sure what the doctor said to me as he stood next to the right side of my bed. I heard my name and then I lost control of my head. It flipped sharply to the left side and I lost focus. ‘Why won’t you look at the doctor when he’s talking to you?’ I heard Jas’s voice but couldn’t see him. It took one last almighty effort to move my head back to neutral. My vision was there but the room was violently shaking. Then this is where my memories leave me. My mind went to it’s happy place and won’t share anything more with me.
I had a grand mal seizure brought on by undiagnosed eclampsia. The chances of developing eclampsia is around 5%. The chances of having a seizure is less than 1% of those 5% of eclamptic cases. Almost a medical phenomenon in Australia.
Among other things, Eclampsia forces your placenta off your uterus wall, cutting off oxygen and nutrients to your unborn child. So, your body rushes through labour as fast as it can, dragging you through the pits of hell with increased labour pains and sky rocketing blood pressure.
My wish to die had been answered and without immediate action it could be so for myself and my son.
The next part of my birth story I have pieced together from Jas. As horrifying as my experience was, my black outs have served me well and as time passes my memories are fading. Jas on the other hand remembers it all. The seizure, the feeling of helplessness, my pleadings for death.
As the seizure took over, the room filled with medical staff. I was sedated enough to stop seizing, but too weak to keep going. All that pushing had done something, although I can tell you pushing a baby out feels like nothing. The constant reassurance from the midwife that I was making progress fell on deaf ears, I couldn’t feel a single thing progressing.
Trav had started to make his way out and was now stuck between womb and this world. I was whisked away into another room where a single attempt to pull bub out failed, so he was cut out instead.
(Jas and Travis before being flown to Tamworth with RFDS)
Travis Bryant Murray was born at 12.47pm on 25th March 2018. As he was cleaned and taken to meet his father, I was induced into a coma and choppered to Tamworth Hospital.
I woke in ICU on 26th March at 5.30am to the words floating above me, ‘We were wondering when you were going to wake up.’ I couldn’t speak, I fumbled at something stuck down my throat. I passed out.
The next days were painful, confusing and fuelled by drugs. I made phone calls to friends I have no recollection of other than the words, ‘I had a baby’. I cried at the sight of my family all making the trip from Brisbane to Tamworth. I had a strange sensation that I had met everyone in the ward before, their faces and voices were all familiar to me and I couldn’t figure out where I had met them all.
Travis was kept in Special Care for four days with temp, blood sugar issues and jaundice. I knew I had had a baby, but something in my brain didn’t switch on for a very long time that I had become a mum. When first shown a picture of Trav I had a deep sense of sadness that he didn’t look like anyone. I wasn’t able to move and go and meet him for over 24 hours, so that one picture of him on my mum’s phone was all I had and it was deeply disappointing.
That moment when I did first see my son I was heavily medicated. I was slipping in and out of sleep on the wheelchair ride to his ward. I wasn’t nervous, I felt nothing. I had nearly lost him and now here he is. His nose crooked, a full head of hair. He looks like his dad. He looks like me. This is my son.
(The first time I met my son)
I am still yet to be fully debriefed on all of the events and still find myself indulging the flashbacks, as painful as they are, trying to piece it all together. I guess I am not suppose to know some things and my brain is protecting me the way it is programmed to.
I am left with a sense that I have been robbed. For months I fell in love with all of the birthing images on Instagram, reading stories of mums who hold their babies freshly born and have that rush of oxytocin and pure love for their child. I wanted that to be me so bad, but instead I didn’t get that. I had a baby but there was no rush of love, in fact while I was in my ward high on pain killers it never crossed my mind to visit my baby most of the time. While I was totally dependent on Jas to even function, my sons needs never even registered with me.
(Our first family photo)
Leaving the hospital eight days later, we took Travis back to our little home and with the help of my parents we got through the first day. Then the next and the next. Eventually my physical pain healed and I became more and more independent.
I eventually felt that all consuming rush of love for my son. He is my everything.
(Our first morning after leaving hospital)
I am thankful for the medical staff who saved mine and Travis’s life. I feel ashamed for the way that I treated them during labour. If I could take back Jas’s memories I would in a heartbeat. I still remember the pain as if it was yesterday, I am told it fades but I’m not totally convinced about that. I wish I had listened to my body. My birth story is single handedly the most horrific experience of my life. It is also the best means to an end I have ever had.
If you are wondering if I plan to have any more kids in the future. You have got to be fucking kidding me.