Ray-Ray's Birth Story
This will be my third and final birth story. Rayansh (Ray-Ray) was much hoped and longed for. Conceived naturally after a miscarriage and at the beginning stages of another fertility journey. I want to preserve the memory of his arrival forever. I also believe that when women share their birth stories it serves as a bank of experience and perspective for others.
Being my third baby, I did not have a birth plan. I had full trust in my midwife to ensure our baby was delivered in the safest way possible. The only desire I had was to ideally give birth in a hospital. Our home life is full and busy and the thought of giving birth with our older boys bouncing around, a cat, a dog, home office and all the other craziness was far from my idea of serene. I also wanted the presence of the hospital staff, doctors, theatre rooms and the sterile environment. Everyone is different and I know some want a home birth for the total opposite reasons. At the time of publishing this blog, now nearly nine months after his birth we are in the middle of a global pandemic, COVID-19. I do not know if I would feel differently about this if he was due now – quite possibly – but I do know with certainty this was how I felt at the time.
While I say I had no set birth plan, Ray-Ray’s birth went completely different to what I was expecting. Both of my older sons were born earlier than their due date. With Arjun I woke up at midnight having contractions 10 days before his due date. I was also induced early with Sahan (you can read his birth story here). Despite a realistic possibility that I would give birth early I thought I would get to at least 39 weeks. Ideally, I hoping to make my due date or even later – there was a lot for me to still organise! I had my last tour event at 35 weeks and last public appearance at 36 weeks. The day I did go into labour at 37 weeks I still had a full work week scheduled, only having planned to drop this down the following week. On this particular day, I had a consultation, a newspaper interview and a private LIVE scheduled in my VIP Group for the evening. Sorting the baby’s room and hospital bag was also not done…but our littlest man was not waiting!
My labour started on the 30th of October with my waters breaking in Kmart at midday. I had not anticipated this at all. This had not happened in my previous labours. I had gone to the mall during a lunch break with a big list of baby things to get. I was standing at the checkout with a trolley packed to the brim when, suddenly, I had a sensation of wetting myself. It was not like in the movies with a huge gush all over the floor…thank goodness. As it happened quickly and in a rather public place, I did not want to make a big song and dance about it. I was also not completely certain it was my waters breaking, as it could simply have been my pelvic floor giving way this late in the pregnancy. I quickly registered that I had not got the feeling of needing to go, so thought there was a high possibility that in fact I was going into labour. I did check the floor and there was not any water there. I quickly messaged my husband and seeing as I was halfway through buying everything, I decided to finish my shopping first.
This might have been different if it was my first baby. I knew that even if my waters had broken, as no contractions had started, I could be looking at a labour spanning over a day or two. When I got out of Kmart, I contemplated going to the bathroom to check what was happening but had an overwhelming pull just to get to the car and get home, which was what I did. My poor husband had called about five times at this point. I got home and rang my midwife who suggested I lie down for an hour and see if the waters pooled, which is more of a sign of them having broken. Slight problem that I still had some work scheduled. I did not really want to cancel things right at the last minute and given these were virtual, I just went ahead with both appointments. It was when I was on the phone to the reporter that my waters breaking really speed up. Here they indeed gushed more like the movies. I had a towel underneath just in case. I knew then without any doubt that the beginning of labour had started.
There was a part of me that was like “no, not yet!” I had a lot planned for my ‘down’ time before my due date. I had not done any nesting, the nursery was far from sorted and I didn’t even have many baby clothes except a couple of onsies! I had wanted to spend some one-on-one time with both of my older boys which was now never going to happen. While I never intended to stop work completely there were a lot of things I had scheduled in for when I was not touring. The feeling of not being ready and prepared was very present. I had to shelve all of this in the moment, along with all emotions tied into the reality of my mother not being present, but it was something I needed to process after he arrived.
As my contractions had not started, I packed my hospital bag properly, so it was ready. A rather stark difference to my first baby where I had a fully packed bag ready to go from 24 weeks (!!). I lay some towels on the bed and continued working from my laptop trying to tidy up what I could in a small amount of time. The entire time my waters slowly leaked, and I needed to keep an eye on the discharge in case anything changed. Work provided a welcome distraction and I am grateful to my consultant Brianna who stepped in for our LIVE with little notice.
The boys came home from daycare and school and we had dinner together. It was nice to do this even though it also felt a bit strange at the same time. I know they felt it too as they knew I was in labour and having a baby….and yet I was here at the table. Keeping things relatively normal was important. I read them a story and tucked them into bed. I had to tell them that I might be gone in the middle of the night or I might still be here in the morning and hugged them both tightly.
A Long Night
After putting the older boys to bed, I had a shower and then also went to bed myself at about 7pm. I knew that I could be in for a long night and preserving my energy for what lay ahead was essential. I did not fully sleep but had my eyes shut trying to rest as deeply as possible. I started getting contractions at 10pm and quickly found an app to start tracking them. They were about a minute long and 10 minutes apart. This was to last the entire night. I was still desperately trying to sleep but this proved challenging with a contraction every 10-minutes and my brain engaged in what was to come. In the end I got out of bed, slouched over the swiss ball and plugged in some music to occupy my mind. I kept rotating between this position and back in bed to help ease the contractions and still trying to rest. Our dog, Chase, never left my side. It was around 2am that I began to feel frustrated because nothing had changed in the timing or intensity of my contractions. Technically, I was also around 14 hours into labour. I kept repeating to myself though some positive thoughts:
“I have done long nights before; I can do another long night. Eventually the hours will tick over, and the sun will come up”.
I also gave up timing contractions. Seeing every 10-minute block with no change was getting me down, adding to my growing fatigue. I was trying to surrender to the process and ride the uncertainty. My husband just left me to it, which was my wish. He dozed on the couch downstairs also needing to preserve his own energy for being able to support me and look after our older boys in the coming days.
My youngest son came into bed around 5am and shortly after Arjun did too. We were all cuddled up together. I had to tell them that they would see me get a little bit uncomfortable and then it would go. It was quite a unique moment in time to have them both beside me, tucked into my arms and having waves of contractions. They were ok though with this and I suspect at some deep level they knew I needed them as much as they needed me. Due to the intensity of the contractions I could not join them downstairs for the normal morning routine, but they did say goodbye as they went off to school and daycare. My husband cooked me breakfast which I forced myself to eat knowing I needed to keep my energy up. I had kept in text communication with my midwife and the plan was to go to the hospital at around 11am provided nothing else changed – there is an increased risk of infection if your waters have broken for over 24 hours, so we would need to look at an induction.
Working in Labour
It was only 8am and I knew I could not do another three hours in bed contracting every 10 minutes. As crazy as it sounds, I got up, had a shower and did some light work at my home office desk and packed some orders. I would have to stop and lean over the desk with each contraction, but this helped to distract me and made the eight-nine minutes in between go by fast.
Some mediate. Some take a bath. I did work. It gave me a sense of control and being organised – my husband said trust you to do work while in labour!
We are only 15 minutes or so from the hospital so just after 10.30 myself, my husband and his mum who had joined us, drove to the hospital. I was contracting about one in every eight minutes at this point and while far from comfortable, I felt reasonably relaxed. I had an induction previously with Sahan so knew the rough process and after about 23 hours of labour was glad to just be moving things along.
No Time For An Induction
We got to the hospital, meet my midwife and monitored the baby while preparations for being induced were being made. Initially I was chatting away but very quickly, without even realising it, my contractions started to speed up and increase in intensity. I likewise had started to turn inwards needing to focus on breathing through each wave. We had called our birth photographer when we got to the hospital which was just as well because from here my active labour kick started and he was to arrive soon after.
At this point I was laboring on the hospital bed backwards leaving room to keep swaying my hips and able to rest my arms and upper body. I was feeling nauseous which is typical of the transition phase, but I was still thinking I had hours ahead of me. I had not registered that I had not been induced. Any thoughts about pain relief also did not even enter my mind. While it would turn out that I did not need pain relief or intervention at all, I have done previously. It is simply what happened with this birth – it is not a badge to carry (or not carry).
From here things happened very quickly and if I am honest this part is a little hazy as I had blocked out most of what was going on around me. I did have some thoughts of ‘I can’t do this’ as the contractions really intensified and the fatigue of the previous 25 hours of labour that I was up to was weighing on me. But listening to the positive words of those in the room and channeling my own thoughts to our older boys and everything we had been through as a family to get to this point kept me focused. I recall feeling extremely hot. I do not remember this from my previous births. I used a cool flannel to relieve this. You will see from some photos even after he arrived, I was still trying to cool myself down – an indication of how hard and fast this final hour was.
Suddenly, I wanted to change positions. I was trying to get more comfortable as the contractions were very deep and close together. Our baby was coming, even though I was not consciously aware this was happening. I got off the bed and instead was standing with my arms rested on the bed holding my husbands hands on the opposite side – which is how I ended up delivering him. The feeling of him starting to come was quite intense and different to what I had experienced with my other two births. I started to worry that something was wrong. Everything was in fact ok; mentally I was still thinking of the hours of labour ahead rather than recognising that I was close. Almost as if my brain had not caught up to where my body was at because everything was so fast.
As my midwife started checking the monitors around me, I had the overwhelming urge to push, which on instinct is exactly what I did. I remember her saying ‘we need to get a birth kit in here!’ and then she placed a pillow underneath me. I did two more pushes (I think…if that?!) and then he was here. My midwife literally caught our baby in the air! I could not believe it. In exhaustion from the mammoth 26-hour effort I had gone through, I just slumped over the bed with my head in my hands in disbelief that our baby was here, having arrived three weeks early and how fast this last hour at been.
My midwife held him to me still in this position with a towel wrapped around him. This remains my most treasured photo of the birth. The first time I held him in my arms. Nothing in the whole world can compare to this feeling. There are simply no words that can do this justice.
Our amazing birth photographer captured the exact moment our midwife caught our baby, water gushing and everything. I have shared this one in my ‘stories’ because it is so incredible but we will keep that one for our memories. We did not know at this point that he was our Ray-Ray! My midwife and hospital midwives who had rushed in to assist, helped me back on the bed while still holding him. It was only after a while we stopped to check what we had….so this is that moment I found out that I was the proud mother of three sons!
I got to hold him to my chest for some precious moments in a state of both euphoria, adrenaline and a bit of shock too. The day before I had been doing a full work day thinking I would have at least 2-3 more weeks ahead and suddenly I was here with our son on my chest – also after expecting a much more drawn out labour.
Ray-Ray was just having a bit of trouble breathing so my midwife took him and popped a breathing mask on him. During the time he was getting checked and looked after I then had the final task of delivering my placenta.
I was so exhausted at this point it took my last remaining strength to gather myself to do this. They did then want to take him to the SCBU in an incubator. He was ok but just with an earlier than expected delivery date and fast last hour he may have got some water in his lungs. As my waters had also been broken for over 24 hours too there was a slight risk of infection. I could have gone with him but with the encouragement of my husband chose to stay and my husband also wanted to stay with me to support me. My husband’s mum went with Ray-Ray and we knew that he would be ok. I do not know if I would have had the confidence to do this the first time around but the hour we spent making sure I was looked after was invaluable. I needed a few stitches, had a shower (that first post-birth shower), breathed and just gathered myself.
They say when a baby is born, a mother is also born. While this is most profound the first time you give birth having now delivered three sons and all different experiences, I know it is a similar metamorphosis with each birth. After years of hoping, trying and dreaming on the 31st of October our Ray-Ray arrived and I became a mother of three. Three absolutely perfect, beautiful, healthy sons. I am eternally grateful for this.
While Ray-Ray’s birth was long and eventful it was a birth where I felt empowered. I knew what would work for me and was able to talk positively through the hard parts. I also had an incredible midwife that understood what I was capable of and guiding me where she needed to. Nikita was a student midwife who was there when Sahan was born and is now a fully fledged midwife (who has also been on the frontline of this global pandemic) and I cannot thank her enough for her help through this special point in time. I feel even more lucky now that my husband was there too, having held my hand through all three births and that he got to be an active part of the delivery of all his sons. In addition, having his mother there as well was very special – it takes a village even if that village is different to how you may have imagined.
The best way to describe how I felt when I did get to have my first long cuddle with Ray-Ray on my chest in the special care baby unit is ‘complete’. I had seen previous dialogue from other women also having their last baby and it rang true for me. While the future is always uncertain, it is our plan that Ray-Ray is our last baby. I felt it in pregnancy and labour, knowing this was my last time. I did not feel anything else holding him just deep seated contentment. I also know that I am meant to be a ‘boy-mum’ and feel the great responsibility bestowed on me to guide these three sons into great adults is simply what I am meant to do.
Rayansh means ‘ray of light’ and we purposely chose this name for this exact meaning. He has very much completed our tribe. The week I am publishing this he is now nine months old and while there is so much that has happened already in this time, and so much to still share, right now I am just reflecting on the power and beauty that new life can bring and how much he has healed me in so many different ways.
Beautiful photography all thanks to Keri from First Light Birth Photography