So I haven't written a blog post since I fell pregnant with Beatrix. Life went crazy and I kept forgetting. But this seems to merit a proper story telling effort. I've tried to keep it as PG as possible. For everyone who has been asking, this is how Beatrix came into the world.
In some senses, it had been an easy pregnancy compared to Holly’s - while there had been a scare early on, there was certainly less of a constant fear of losing the baby. Overall, things had progressed smoothly. But in other ways, it was so much harder than Holly’s pregnancy. I was so much sicker. I had acid reflux constantly. I had low blood pressure for the majority of the pregnancy, except in third trimester - which was when my ferritin dropped, leaving me feeling wiped out. On top of this, I was working, teaching thirty students a week and putting a third of them through exams; and I had a busy toddler that I was staggering after. This, obviously, is the life I chose, and it’s a great life, so I shouldn’t really be complaining. But sometimes when you try to do all the things you want with your life, you feel pretty burnt out afterward.
By thirty-seven weeks, I felt more than done. I wanted the baby out. I had gone ten days early with Holly, so I was hoping for a similar outcome with Beatrix - whom we had named after the twenty week scan. To top everything off, we had some severe flooding around Chinchilla when I was thirty-six weeks. When the floodwaters went down but predictions of more flooding continued, I was concerned that I might go into labour at a time when the birthing centre closest to us (the maternity ward at Dalby Hospital) was inaccessible. I felt very real pressure from myself to go into labour once things looked drier. But I didn’t.
Then Queensland dropped many of its coronavirus restrictions. At first, this was a great cause for rejoicing. But as the numbers started to soar and people were still being contact traced and forced into isolation, I began to fear this might happen to Michael at the time I went into labour. I did not want to be labouring without my most dependable birthing partner. On top of this, I knew that there might even be covid patients in the hospital I birthed in. I’m not scared of covid for myself, but nobody likes to watch their newborn get sick with anything. I wanted to get this baby out and safely home before things got even more crazy.
From about thirty-seven weeks, the early labour pains started, and I thought that I was bound to go early just like I had with Holly. Several times, I thought my waters leaked like they did the night before I gave birth to Holly. I went to the hospital in Chinchilla twice to get them checked. When I rang the hospital about it the first time, I was told to book an appointment and go to Dalby Hospital, an hour away. I said I had no intention of doing such a thing until I knew for certain what was going on. I wanted to be assessed at my local hospital. Thankfully, this was arranged. As the early labour pains continued, I had days where I would have three hours, six hours, even nine hours of contractions on and off. These were not the same as Braxton Hicks, because many of them lasted thirty seconds to a minute long. At times, there were three every ten minutes for over an hour. It was exhausting. I made several calls to my midwife and had several more assessments. But after an assessment at thirty-nine weeks, I was done. I was so discouraged by how the contractions puttered out every time I went near the local hospital. I looked like I was crying wolf all the time. I chastised myself for being pathetic. If I couldn’t cope with these early labour pains, how was I going to cope with the real thing? Why was I so tired and emotional? When I was assessed by another midwife when my actual midwife was away, I burst into tears. I said that I wouldn’t come in for an assessment again, just for regular appointments and a stretch and sweep perhaps. I said I had no idea how to tell whether I was in actual labour or not, and therefore they would probably only see me again when “blood and guts” started to fall out, as I eloquently termed it.
At home, I burst into tears on Michael.
“I’m so tired of this. I just want to meet her. I hate having the labour pains and then them going nowhere. What’s it all for?”
When my midwife returned from her time away, she told me I was three centimetres dilated and my cervix was mostly effaced. This would have been good news if things could just progress to four centimetres. At least then, Dalby Hospital would give me something to keep me going, in all likelihood. Then I would return home with my baby. I didn’t want to drive to a town an hour away in the current environment unless I was coming home with my child. I also didn’t want to upend my toddler’s life until it was absolutely necessary. So I kept her in routine as much as possible, and declined the offers for me to stay in the hospital unit in Dalby. Chinchilla was my home, and I didn’t want to upset my family just to be the watch pot that never boiled.
My midwife could see I was getting exhausted, so she booked me an assessment on January 4th, Michael’s 29th birthday. She hoped to persuade the doctor in Dalby to induce me there and then, so that I would have the baby before I reached the point of extreme exhaustion. I set my mind and began counting down the days.
Monday, January 3rd started like any other day. I woke up at one thirty, two thirty, and so on with contractions a minute long. As usual, they went away fairly quickly. But from about four thirty, I started waking up more regularly - every half hour, every fifteen minutes, until I couldn’t get back to sleep because they were too close together.
It’s happening again! Aargh.
I was thoroughly peeved off. I went to the bathroom for the billionth time and then headed back to bed, only to be stopped by another one. I leaned against the bed and breathed through it, gently vocalising because it was quite intense. Michael rolled over, looked at me, and said:
“Do you need anything? Are you okay?”
“I’d love a heat pack. I’m stupidly hungry again too.”
I opened my bedside drawer and took out a nut bar to consume. These had been reserved for my labour pack, which had been ready for weeks. I was so demoralised that I had now resorted to eating food reserved for the actual labour. That’s how much I had given up on going naturally by this time.
Michael got up out of bed and went to heat up a wheatie for me. It was quarter to six. There was no way I was going back to sleep now. My toddler was getting up at ten past seven, and I was going to be so wiped out today because of a rubbish sleep in the last part of the night. I was already in a foul mood.
I went to take a shower to ease the pain, but had to stop by the toilet yet again. Great. I was loose this morning too. Yuck. I had an unusually long shower, during which time I had to breathe through several more contractions, vocalising gently again to help myself concentrate on getting through them.
“Do you need anything else?” Michael brought the heat pack in for after my shower.
“I can’t deal with Holly while I’m in this pain. I think we should phone a babysitter till it passes.”
“Our labour babysitter is working today, isn’t she?”
“Don’t bother her. This won’t go anywhere. Let’s phone D____.”
D____ was our close friend and our daughter’s surrogate grandmother. All grandparents were stuck in New Zealand during the pandemic. Michael got on the phone. Then he made another phone call I didn’t authorise but was later glad about - he phoned my midwife L____.
“The midwife says come into the hospital for an assessment.”
“I don’t like assessments.”
“You have an appointment anyway later today. She can just move the regular appointment forward.”
I finally got out of the shower, deciding I should probably eat more food before I got thoroughly tired. Another toilet stop. I dressed, grabbed my heat pack, shoved it against my back, and moved into the kitchen where I started consuming whatever I could find in the fridge - mango, chocolate, and so on. Contractions kept interrupting my eating.
This is getting ridiculous.
My phone went off. It was L_____.
“Hey,” I said.
“Can you get here in fifteen? I’ve got everything set up.”
“I can,” I said doubtfully. “Are you in a room with a toilet adjoined? I need a toilet.”
“They’ve moved us,” L____ said. The midwives in Chinchilla had a perfectly good birthing suite, which the powers that be had turned into a covid ward. They had evicted the midwives from a birthing suite with a shower and toilet attached and moved them into the child health office, which was a glorified broom cupboard with the nearest toilet way down the corridor. There was no way I was going to let people poke around my parts in a room far away from a toilet. Not today.
“We’re in the child health office. That’s what they’ve given me.”
“Tell them that if they’re happy with–” I gave some graphic details “--in their corridors this morning, that’s fine; I’ll go to the child health office.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” L____ said understandingly. “Don’t worry.”
“Thanks.” I hung up to focus on another contraction. Michael came in. “Can you put our bags in the car?” I said. I didn’t really think this was going anywhere, but if I was four centimetres, I wanted to go to Dalby to get the drip so that I could keep going. Surely they would do something about my state if I was four centimetres.
“Okay,” he said.
“We need the CD player added. Phone chargers. My headphones. Whew.” I started another contraction.
“I’ll get that sorted. You want your food packed as well?”
The delicious labour pack with all my chocolate and fruit packs in it.
“Yes,” I managed. “Thanks.”
I organised drink bottles when I was able to.
Michael packed the bags in between having what seemed to me to be a leisurely breakfast of ambrosia.
“I think we should get Holly up, so that she knows we’ve gone.”
Deviate from the schedule? My mind jammed. Holly had a sleep trainer clock that went off at seven ten precisely. I deliberately hadn’t deviated from my well planned schedule for any of these early labour pains. I didn’t want to stuff my toddler up before her new sister finally emerged.
“I dunno,” I said.
“I’m getting her up.”
Ugh. This better be going somewhere.
Michael got Holly up and I greeted her and kissed her affectionately. D____ arrived with her breakfast in a bowl.
“I’m just going to change Holly’s nappy, dress her, and get her bottle,” Michael said.
We were already five minutes late for L____. I nodded and leaned against the bench, rocking side to side as another contraction came along. Well, they were consistent today. For now anyway.
“And later today, you’re going to be a big sister,” D____ said with a grin to Holly.
She doesn’t know that, I thought grumpily.
Michael took his time with Holly, settling her in with D____. I got out Holly’s care list, gave D____ some spare keys, and pointed out anything I’d missed on the list. It was nearly seven o’clock.
“I think we should go,” I said to Michael, suddenly feeling the accuracy of this statement. “We’re late for Linda.”
“Okay, okay. You got everything you need?”
“Did you get the CD player?”
I wanted music playing while I was in the labour ward, and I still couldn’t work my new android phone that well.
“No. I’ll get that.”
I began crying when I said goodbye to Holly. I just felt so bad about leaving. Then I waited by the car, standing up for as long as possible. Michael scooted into the garage, popped the last thing in the car, and got in. We drove the five minutes to our local hospital.
“You’re doing great,” he said to me. “Your breathing is fantastic.”
“Heh,” I said.
I’ve had weeks to practise.
I texted L____ when we arrived, and she came out to greet us, masked up as per the Covid protocol. I had a legal mask exemption due to a longstanding medical condition. All the Covid protocols at the hospital made me feel extremely unsettled.
“How are you feeling?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said honestly.
We got inside and another contraction came along. I began breathing through it.
“We can pause,” L____ said kindly, so we stopped and I gently rocked through it. “We’re in the A and E,” she said. “There is a toilet attached. It’s communional, but it is better than the child health office.”
“Thanks,” I said gratefully.
We made our way there, and L____ let me use the bathroom before I got up on the bed to be examined. I hated this. I could feel myself being discouraged already. The contractions paused politely.
“I can’t find all of your cervix. No - there it is. I think you’re a nine,” L____ said. “But I do need to ask for a second opinion from the nurse on duty today.”
“Nine?” Michael and I echoed.
I couldn’t believe this. After at least a week at three, I had jumped to nine? That just didn’t seem possible. Certainly, the contractions were intense, but they weren’t terrible. I was beginning to feel emotional and hormonal but it didn’t feel like it had with Holly when I had hit approximately a nine. With Holly, my waters had broken first. I had been shunted from hospital to hospital until I reached Toowoomba, because medical staff had decided just from smell that my waters must be infected (they weren’t - I just smell bad when I’m hormonal). At Toowoomba, they had broken the rest of my waters and given me oxytocin so that I would deliver before the risk of infection became too high. I was on the drip for nearly twelve hours. The last two hours, the contractions were back to back, and I was in agony. I didn’t scream or swear or throw stuff, but I was definitely wailing through a lot of it. I had been sure I was going to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair; my pelvis had felt like it was being forced through a meat grinder. This was nothing like. I couldn’t possibly be a nine.
The nurse came in. The nurse on duty at our local hospital has more power than the midwives, who often travel from different towns to service women in our local community. I knew that her opinion and her advice was going to likely be what we were expected to accept. She checked me over too.
“Look, it’s probably a six, maybe a seven,” she said.
That sounded more likely to me. I didn’t feel like I was about to hit transition.
“So…” L____ said, looking very doubtful. I could see she had assembled some gear in the A and E. She seemed to think delivery was imminent.
“So you should go to Dalby hospital. Now though, don’t wait. If you leave now, you’ll make it,” the nurse told us.
I could see she wasn’t interested in having a delivery in a hospital that technically didn’t deliver babies. And if I was going to deliver here, it would be the A and E, where any child that had knocked out their tooth accidentally would be sent. The bathroom was communional as well, and there was no shower in it. It was a far cry from a private birthing suite with a shower, a toilet, and a birth pool.
“So you think we’ll make it,” I said, standing up. The moment I stood up, another contraction hit. I began rocking and breathing through it.
“Yes, you should. The head is still movable. I could still move it. But you do need to leave now.”
“Okay. What do you want to do?” Michael said to me.
“You could take an ambulance,” the nurse offered.
“Well, I guess we should go.” The idea of giving birth in A and E did not appeal. It simply wasn’t private enough. The nurse was convinced we would make it, and I didn’t feel like a nine. It should be all right, right? What could possibly happen, I told myself. I had been having early labour pains for ages, and they hadn’t gone anywhere. I wasn’t about to go off like a rocket. “Let’s pack our stuff and go.”
“You want to go,” L____ said, looking concerned. “Okay. Would you like an ambulance or private car?”
“Well, could I use the birthing suite here?” I said.
“That’s unavailable,” the nurse said. “It would have to be in here.”
A and E. Great. Clearly the better option was getting to hospital in Dalby.
“Private car then.” I didn’t even need to think. I didn’t want to be strapped to a stretcher for an entire hour, and I wanted our gear with us. I wanted to be able to use relaxing music in the car and have my husband with me. I also wanted a getaway vehicle so that we didn’t have to stay at hospital too long in Dalby. “Let’s go. Wait. Can we have something for the car ride? Heat packs? We don’t have our old towels in the car or the tarpaulin.”
“I’ll get you pads and towels,” L____ said.
I began rocking through another contraction.
“Isn’t she great?” L____ said to the nurse. “She’s amazing. You’re doing so well. We’ll just get those things for you.”
They left the room, and I started on a chocolate bar from my labour pack, finally feeling somewhat vindicated. The new raspberry mars bar really was as good as they advertised, I thought. I started up the tropical rainforest relaxation music on my phone and breathed through two more contractions, wondering where on earth the midwife and nurse were. How could I have two contractions in the time they were gone? Maybe they were just close together. I had given up timing them long ago, as I found it too depressing when they ceased.
Michael and I were packed up and out in the corridor when L____ and the nurse came back. They had activated one heat pack for me and put it in a pillowcase.
“There you go, darl,” the nurse said, handing me three towels and two large pink blanket pads. “Those pads are extra absorbent.”
She gave me two more heat packs to go with it. In retrospect, I should have asked for ten blanket pads and ten heat packs. But at the time, I was focused on one thing: driving. The contractions didn’t appear to be going away, and something felt different within me.
“Thank you. Let’s go.”
“I’m right behind you,” L____ said to me. “I’ll meet you at the hospital to help you deliver. What’s your car again?”
“Hyundai Tucson. It’s white,” Michael said.
“Got it. All the best. I’m right behind you. I’ll do my best to stick with you two,” Linda said.
I dealt with another contraction on the way out to the car, but I didn’t bother to pause for it. It was becoming increasingly clear to me that we had to get going.
“How are you going to sit?” Michael said. “I’m just wondering–”
“Don’t you worry about how I’ll sit, I’ll work it out,” I told him. “Just drive.”
I laid down a pink blanket pad on the floor beneath the glove box, and I rolled one of the towels for my knees. Then I placed the other towels, the two spare heat packs, and the other blanket pad within easy reach. I lined up two snack bars and a chocolate bar on the front passenger seat and popped my drink bottle in the holder in the console. Then I got in and knelt before the glove box, my back to it, wedging the pillowcase with the activated heat pack in it against my sacrum. Pulling the aux cord closer, I connected my phone with the tropical rainforest meditation music playing. Michael jumped in and started to drive.
I knew what I was doing was highly illegal, but I frankly didn’t give a damn. I could feel myself rocking a little uncertainly when Michael took the corners that would take us to the Warrego Way, the long straight highway that led to Dalby. I steadied myself by holding onto the chair in front of me, taking care not to clench my hands or jaw too tightly. It was crucial that I remained relaxed at this point. That was the best thing I could do for my baby.
Once we were on the straight of the highway, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was bumpy but there were no turns from here to Dalby for the next fifty minutes… or was it an hour? Surely we could do it in fifty. I broke open a snack bar and started to munch on it. Contraction. I swallowed hastily and focused on breathing through it. In on four, out on eight, keeping my tongue between my teeth for greater relaxation. The meditation music helped. The gentle raindrops in the background reminded me of walking in the Bunyas or the national park in Mt Tambourine.
“Just seventy kilometres to go,” Michael told me fifteen minutes into our journey.
Wow. I know that’s meant to be encouraging, but…
We got about twenty kilometres out of Chinchilla when I lost control of my bowels. That was perhaps the hardest moment for me to stay calm. I hate that sort of thing, and I remembered vividly that the one time it happened with Holly’s birth was enough to completely demoralise me and make me nearly want to give up. It was just not civilised. However, there was no one here to see it this time except Michael, and he and I live in each other’s pockets, so perhaps it wasn’t so bad, I reasoned, disrobing my lower half and trying to tidy myself up with the spare pad.
I went to open the window only to realise the button on my side was broken. So was our aircon.
“Darling, can you open my window from your side? Darling? The window?”
“The window, the window - it’s going to stink.”
Michael opened the window on my side, and the wind screaming past us hit me.
I don’t know how much I had eaten in the past twenty-four hours, but my body seemed to think it was a lot, because every contraction from there to Macalister seemed to produce something unpleasant. I began to be worried that I wouldn’t have enough things to catch it all in. I was working carefully through each pad and towel, using a square, folding it, and so on. The contractions were so strong now that I couldn’t hold anything in. I was still able to breathe through them, vocalising to help me. However, the back pain was becoming difficult to handle and my heat pack was getting cold. I grabbed the next one and tried to read the back to figure out how to get it going. Squeeze here - press together - random arrows - what did it mean - contraction - breath - ugh, just hit the thing, hit it. I pushed it against the chair and whacked it several times with my fist. Did that do anything? Maybe it’s just the sun coming through the windows that makes it feel hot. Maybe I should just take off my shirt and let the hot Western Downs sun fry my skin; perhaps that would help. Hang on - it was working. I shoved it into the pillowcase at my back and wedged it between me and the glove box.
All the while this was going on, Michael was saying things like:
“You’re doing fantastic. You’ve got this. You’re breathing is so on point. You know what you’ve doing. You’ve done it before and you can do it again. You’re so strong.”
His flow of affirmations helped me to stay peaceful.
“Thank you,” I told him, unsure he could hear me above the car engine.
My phone went off. What the..? Who was ringing me at this time - oh, L____. I answered with a breathy “hiii”. I don’t know what it is about labour, but it makes most women sound somewhat intoxicated.
“Hey, where are you? I can’t see you guys. You must be galloping.”
“Huh - where are we?” I asked Michael.
Michael gave me our location, which I passed onto L____.
“Oh, okay. I’m just coming through Boonarga. That’s all right, I’ll just step on it. Now when you get to the hospital, just park–” She began describing a location to me that really didn’t get in. “--and I’ll park right next to you, okay? You know where that is?”
“Yeah,” I said blankly.
“Great. Okay, darl. See you soon.”
She hung up.
I focused on the brilliant blue sky outside, the swaying gum trees, the cockatoos exploding from the leaves with screeches signalling the morning. This was the country we had chosen, we had immigrated to. And it was a beautiful thing to be able to labour with a clear view of the bright Australian sky, I told myself.
“Just let me know if you want to stop anywhere,” Michael told me.
“Uh-huh.” I focused on eating some more nut bar and taking a big swig of water.
The contractions continued to come every two minutes. By the time we got to Warra, the back pain was becoming so intense that I really thought I would need something more than one piddly heat pack at a time.
“Can we stop at the service station and see if they have a shower?” I asked.
From the highway, Warra was basically a few beaten-up Queenslanders, a swing set, and a service station - which flashed past me as I said this.
“Um, I think we should keep going. Sorry,” Michael said, glancing over at me.
What happened to stop wherever I want? I thought. But in retrospect, he was totally right. The guys at that service station would not have liked to deliver a baby, I’m sure.
I set my mind for one contraction at a time. Clean myself up. Have a drink. Have a bite to eat. Make sure my music was loud enough. Rearrange the heat pack. It was getting cold, so I tried punching the last one. Nothing happened, no matter how hard I tried. Was it defective? No matter; must focus. I began muttering to myself between contractions.
“We can do it, Beatrix. We can do it. You and me. We can do it. God, keep us safe on the roads today. God, keep us safe.”
“We’re coming up to Macalister,” Michael told me. “The last town before Dalby!”
Nearly there. Nearly there.
I could feel the contractions changing, driving down fiercely.
We’re going to make it, I tried telling myself.
I had to change how I was breathing, otherwise I wasn’t going to cope. I could hear Michael saying:
“When we get to Dalby, we’ll get you in the shower right away. Okay? Do you want a wheelchair to get inside the hospital?”
Another contraction began, and I started with my usual inhale on four and exhale on eight. Not working. Time to switch to blowing. I had been practising with an epi-no for several weeks, and I knew blowing greatly reduced the sense of pressure. I blew decisively, like I was blowing out candles. Ten candles. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven - something like an internal water balloon went pop.
Oh boy. I glanced down. “My waters broke,” I shouted to Michael.
“That’s fine,” Michael said calmly. “It’s just a car. It’s totally all right. Don’t you worry about that at all.”
But that wasn’t the main reason I had told Michael about the waters. Beatrix had been sitting low for weeks leading up to this. She had been a little less than the length of my hand up my vaginal canal. When I had had to do a swab at the hospital, I had poked her by mistake. With the breaking of my waters, I had felt a swift whoosh as her head rocketed down the remaining length of the vaginal canal. A bulge between my legs told me her head was literally sitting there waiting to be birthed.
We’re not making it to Dalby, I realised.
“You have to pull over now,” I told Michael. “She’s crowning. She’s crowning! In the next contraction.”
“You think you’re crowning?” Michael said, a small note of disbelief in his tone. “Okay, I’m going to find a safe place, all right? I just need to find a safe spot.”
Another contraction hit. I went back to inhale on four, exhale on eight, with some gentle blowing at the end. I didn’t want to birth my baby on a pile of my own mess in my car. Nor was it wise to birth while travelling at 100 km an hour.
“I’ve found a spot!” Michael said, pulling over into a spare lane.
Michael pulled up, and I opened my car door. He was already around my side.
“Help me, help me please,” I said.
“I’m helping you.” He assisted me to get out of the car.
“Get my clothes all the way down.”
He helped me with this too.
“We need to phone L____ now,” I said.
Michael glanced up. “She’s here. There she is!” He pointed at a car that had pulled up in the lane behind us. Linda was just grabbing her bag from a side door.
“Do you need a hand? Are you all right?” she said.
The next contraction was here. This was it. I had a hand between my legs as I started to blow out imaginary candles. One. A sliver of head. Two. The sliver widened. Three. The full circumference grew between legs. Four. Five. Something slick and round slid free. I had stopped worrying about my hands at two, because Linda had broken into a run and slipped her hands under Beatrix’s head.
I was dimly aware of Michael saying: “She’s in a lot of pain. Did you think we should call an ambulance?”
“No, it’s all right. I’ve got the head here. There’s no umbilical cord around the neck, so that’s good,” Linda told him.
“Did you hear that?” Michael burst out. “The head’s out!”
I nodded, a little breathless. It was strange - I hadn’t even felt the ring of fire this time, like I had with Holly.
“We’ll just wait for the shoul–” Linda started.
Another contraction started, and I blew twice. The rest of her body slid out of me, shoulders, slippery back, and the tiny feet, leaving me with a tiny flutter. Linda caught her deftly and pressed her into my arms. I enveloped her immediately, still feeling vernix and amniotic fluid on her soft skin.
“There’s your baby,” Linda said.
“Oh my baby, my baby,” I gabbled, holding her close. “Is she all right? Is she going to cry? Is she breathing?”
“Weeh,” Beatrix said, sounding a little phlegmy. Then she relaxed against me.
“She’s breathing, she’s moving,” Linda said. “She’s all right.”
“You did it! It’s done! Well done.” Michael grabbed my shoulder and squeezed it.
“Right, Dad, we need to wrap her, keep her warm,” Linda said.
Michael lunged over to the car and grabbed the one clean towel that had been under my legs. He pulled out the baby blanket from the back of the car too and helped me wrap Beatrix in both of them. I kept looking at her face, streaked with vernix, the eyes squeezed shut against the brilliant sunshine, and her lips puckered. Her arms were still flung out in the startle movement so common in infants.
I hadn’t had much of a chance to look around at our location. We were next to a field green from the recent El Nina rains, in a spare lane. Billboards that marked the fifteen minute entrance to Dalby were beginning to appear in the distance. A cotton field waved its many heads at us from across the road, which was mercifully quiet.
“Take a picture of us,” I told Michael.
He grabbed my phone and took a couple. Linda was making a brief call on her phone to Dalby Hospital. She finished and then said:
“Right, we need to work out what we’re doing with this placenta.”
“Good point,” I said, suddenly feeling shaky. “I don’t want it to fall out and go splat and pull her umbilical cord. That could really hurt her.”
I glanced down at the thick grey cord joining me to my child. It was so weird to see.
“It’s actually quite a short cord,” Linda said, putting her hands beneath me again. “I could clamp the cord here. I have the birthing kit in the car. But… you’re not bleeding too badly. I think we head to the hospital right now. Give you the shot at the hospital so it comes away in one piece and clamp it there.”
Michael nodded. “Do you want me to hold the baby while you get in the car?”
We’re still attached, I thought to myself. That won’t work.
“No, I have to hold her.” At the same time, there was no way I wanted to let her go. Her birth had been so fast and an irrational part of me had been so scared that one of us would have let her go splat on the road. I held onto her tightly, kissing her head.
“Right, let’s get you in the car.”
Linda laid down some more blanket pads and helped me in, keeping her hands beneath me the whole time. I carefully avoided the pile of dirty linen in one corner of the floor.
“I’ll need to drive her, so I can keep an eye on her and the baby,” Linda said. “You can drive my car right behind us.”
She and Michael exchanged keys. Once in the car, I explained to her how she had to put her foot on the clutch to get it going. She drove off cautiously, because she had told me not to put on my seat belt, just keep holding Beatrix close to me. I took several photos of Beatrix and I before remembering abruptly that I had wanted to do the whole “breast crawl” thing again to establish breastfeeding. That wasn’t going to work while I was upright, but I could give her skin to skin time and see if she decided to latch.
By this time, there wasn’t a shred of me that cared about my dignity. All I cared about was giving my child the best start in life. I ripped up my shirt and bra and let her have a nuzzle. Linda talked to me the whole time.
“How is she doing? Is she moving?”
“Yes, she’s moving. She’s safe; she’s with me. Sweet Beatrix,” I kept saying.
“We didn’t actually check if the sonographer got it right, if she’s a girl.”
I moved Beatrix marginally to check, and she began to scream lustily.
“That’s what we like to hear,” Linda said, relieved. “That’s a good girl.”
“And it is a girl,” I said, moving her back and letting her nuzzle me as she cried.
“This car is slow as a wet week,” Linda muttered about the vehicle in front of her. “Come on, move. Do you think you tore?”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t feel as bad as it did with Holly, and I had two stitches with her. It’ll be interesting to see.”
“How’s your bleeding?”
“Not bad.” My voice became shaky. “But it might get worse when I stand up, I don’t know.”
“And the placenta might flop out. But we will keep an eye on that. Yeah, I drove at one hundred and thirty to catch you up, and then I thought, my gosh they’re pulling over.”
“My waters broke at Macalister.”
“That’s often a sign delivery is imminent. I knew you weren’t a six. I knew you were further along.”
“My waters broke so early with Holly though.”
“Is she feeding?”
“No.” I kissed Beatrix and cooed to her. “She’s just nuzzling.”
“Oh, well that’s good! A very clever little girl. It was just meant to be, Yvette. Just meant to be. Beatrice, isn’t it? Beatrice?”
By the time we got to the hospital, Beatrix had latched herself and was having a good feed. I was so focused on her I didn’t notice about forty flies had followed us into the car, enjoying my substitute toilet paper and blood. Most of them were crawling up and down my legs. But I didn’t care. In many ways, I was in seventh heaven. I couldn’t stop cuddling and kissing my girl, feeling so relieved that I had given birth. Linda asked me about the time and I didn’t know when she had been born, only that it was 8:14 at the time she had asked. 8:14! We had left the hospital in Chinchilla at about quarter past seven. It had taken me a trip to Chinchilla Hospital to believe I was actually in proper labour. And I had only realised that I was further along than I had thought when we passed through Warra and I asked about the shower. This was because I had remembered that I had only started to struggle to cope once I was well over six centimetres with Holly.
I had given birth upright, with no needles stuck into me, nothing monitoring me constantly, no doctors or nurses flitting around trying to get me on a bed, no masked people and covid protocols during the labour, and no people coming in and out and doing useless blood tests and checking my blood pressure. I had given birth standing outside in the Queensland sunshine. While it hadn’t been my plan and it was certainly a shock to me, I hadn’t felt any fear. Just a sense of urgency as the time had drawn nearer. In many ways, it was the birth I had wanted, even though it wasn’t the birth I had planned.
We pulled up at the hospital, and there was a welcoming committee. A midwife opened the door, exclaiming:
“Look at the flies!”
They helped me into a wheelchair, holding pads under me as I moved in case the placenta came out as suddenly as my baby. I sat in the wheelchair gratefully, and they threw a towel over me to make me decent. Still breastfeeding, I was wheeled into the hospital with an array of midwives, a doctor, and Linda following.
I climbed onto the bed with a feeling of relief and let them wipe down my legs, ask questions, and move around the room. The syntocinon shot actually hurt this time. The midwife told me this was because I had given birth fifteen minutes ago, so I was no longer in so much pain that I wouldn’t notice it.
Michael came into the room a moment later with my bag, which had Beatrix’s and my clothes, and some toiletries that I couldn’t wait to get into. He started to feed me a little tub of mango, and someone else got me sandwiches and tea. The midwife who was helping Linda turned out to be the managing midwife at Dalby. She kept asking questions about our trip here, such as had we made it through Warra? Michael put on the CD I had recorded for Beatrix. I kept her close to me and kept asking if she was warm enough. Linda brought me a heated blanket for me. I realise in retrospect that I was physically in shock, which was why I wondered if she was warm. I was cold and shaking myself.
The placenta came out in one piece, and they clamped the cord, letting Michael cut it. I fed Beatrix for over two hours, just holding onto her and struggling to believe what had happened. Michael sent through our highway pictures to the family in New Zealand, who expressed general disbelief and shock amid their congratulations.
By ten thirty, I really wanted a shower. Michael gently took Beatrix and dressed her, while I showered with the door partially open so that I could hear them and see them. The special toiletries I had put into my bag made me feel like a queen. It was weird using the toilet and showering myself, knowing I had had a baby, but feeling my movements were smooth and easy. I was shaky and a little tired, but otherwise my body felt far less hammered than it had after my first child. The midwife and Linda had checked me to discover I hadn’t torn at all. Clearly spending $200 on an Epi-No and practising with it regularly had really helped.
Michael and I were moved to another room with Beatrix in case a labouring woman came in and needed the birthing suite we had occupied. I didn’t want someone else sent on because of me, so I was happy to do this. I requested a warm blanket in the end, because I couldn’t stop shaking. But I couldn’t stop smiling as well. It had been such a whirlwind day, but such a special one. My only qualm was that I couldn’t sleep. This was a problem I had for nearly three days after Beatrix’s birth, due to the swift and shocking nature of how it had come about. It kept running through my mind when I closed my eyes, and my trauma at having soiled myself so much and the fear of my baby dropping to the road kept me awake. Eventually, some counselling and the exhaustion of breastfeeding at night enabled me to get more sleep.
Linda hugged me and congratulated me warmly before I left. She kept telling me how amazing I was.
“We didn’t need the gas, we didn’t need the birthing pool, fentanyl, epidural, shower, nothing! You were so calm and relaxed. You did everything right.”
Her affirmations made me feel proud of myself. I told Michael that I really was badass. I had had to write myself a series of encouragements that I stuck to my bedside wall in the week before labour, because I had been so nervous about the whole thing. I had never needed to worry. I knew exactly what to do when the time came, and I was strong and able to birth my child wherever I found myself. God had protected us and given us a peaceful birth despite the circumstances.
Beatrix has been a very peaceful baby. She feeds well, sleeps well, and is putting on good weight. I love her deeply - suffice it to say, it was love at first sight. I would birth again butt naked on the highway if I had to. I would die for her if I had to. Because that’s motherhood - you do what you need to do at the time to take care of your children and give them your love, even if it means you’re bleeding and covered in flies. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My kids are my reward. I’m so blessed to have them.