Hunter Francis Boyle
So it has been just over a month since I last wrote anything on the blog or otherwise. Safe to say though, I have had a pretty good excuse for my absence. Pete and I welcomed our son Hunter Francis Boyle into this world at 12.40pm on the 7th of February, 2019.
I have been completely consumed with our tiny bundle of joy, drowned in breast milk and overwhelmed with love. Hunter is almost five weeks old now and it feels like the right time to jump back on the blogging wagon and continue on this journey as your Oblivious New Mama.
Pete and I both thought – no, we were certain – that Hunter was going to come early. We expected to welcome him into our lives at the thirty-five, maybe thirty-six week mark. Those weeks came and went. Then we thought, thirty-eight weeks SURELY. Then thirty-nine. I would waddle into the cafe to visit mum and the phrase, “Yep, still pregnant” became my greeting. To put it lightly, by that stage I was completely and utterly over it. Over. It. People often talk about how hard labour is but no one talks about how hard that last month is. The yearning and pining and sheer WANT to hold your baby in your arms is completely consuming. It is all you will think about. And then you will have moments where you think to yourself, “Soon enough, he/she will be here,” and that lasts for about ten minutes and then you are back to convincing yourself and others around you that you are actually going to be pregnant forever.
I had my last appointment at hospital on the sixth of February. That morning I actually called my midwife and requested that I have the earliest appointment available. Because Pete and I had been so certain that Hunter should have been with us already, I was worried that something was wrong. I went to the cafe before my appointment and Mum started talking to me about some research (aka watching youtube videos) she had done the night before about women who had used castor oil to induce labour. She suggested that I try it. I was tempted, I will admit, but I also sceptical as I am sure you can imagine. I said to her that after the appointment, if nothing had happened or come of it, or if I was still feeling that I was going to go beyond my due date that I would try it.
When I got to my appointment, my midwife assured me that all of these thoughts and feelings were normal at this stage of the pregnancy. She confirmed that Hunter had engaged and dropped a further two centimetres into my pelvis and that everything was on track for a natural birth. Having said that, we did discuss the possibility of me having to be induced if I went over as well as the process that would be involved if that eventuated. As soon as I stepped out of her office I was convinced (once again) that I was going to go two weeks over and then have to be induced. I just felt so pregnant in those moments following that appointment. I was exhausted and done, done with it all. As I was walking back to my car, I ran into one of the other midwives that I had had a few appointments with.
“You look ready to pop – are you overdue?” she asked me. I corrected her that no, unfortunately, I was still a few days away from my due date but assured her that I felt ready. She then proceeded to ask me whether I had tried any natural remedies to induce labour. Aside from a few foot massages that mum had given me as she watched youtube tutorials on pressure points that apparently cause labour, I had not tried anything.
“Why not?!” she asked me, “you haven’t been taking any raspberry leaf tea tablets? Nothing?” She told me to go to a pharmacy as soon as I could to get myself some tablets. “What about castor oil?” I asked her, “is it safe to try?” She told me that yes, it was safe to try and that she had actually tried it with her first pregnancy but it hadn’t had any affect on her. Excitedly, I called mum and with my midwife’s blessing asked mum to go next door to the chemist and buy some raspberry leaf tea tablets and some castor oil and to have it ready for when I got back to the cafe.
When I arrived at the cafe my grandparents were there, my godmother, my godsister, and a few other family friends. In the middle of our big table sat the brown bottle of castor oil and the bottle of tablets.
“Well?” mum asked eagerly, “what are you waiting for?!”
I swallowed two of the tablets before retrieving a tablespoon to take the castor oil with. I was hopeful that it would work, but also doubtful because surely something as simple as drinking two tablespoons of oil wouldn’t give me my son. Surely. I drank the oil (so feral), had some lunch, drove home and waited. So the way that castor oil works to induce labour is because it is a pure laxative and stimulates the same muscles that women use during contractions. Basically, castor oil is like jump-starting labour.
When I got home, I lay on the lounge for about half an hour before I started to cramp. I didn’t think much of it because I could have just been feeling the laxative effects of the oil. The pain and cramps remained constant and I went to the bathroom once, still unsure whether it would progress into contractions or whether I would just need to keep visiting the bathroom. I lay back down and after another hour or so I experienced a cramp that felt just that little bit different from anything my body has ever experienced. I still didn’t contact Pete or think much of it because I didn’t want to get ahead of myself if I was just going to end up on the toilet. Five minutes later, I experienced that same pain again. Five minutes after that, again.
Two hours later, at 4pm, I had taken the castor oil I was in early labour.
Pete arrived home and sat down next to me. “I think I’m in labour,” I said to him simply. I called mum and described what had been happening and she suggested that I start writing down the time and duration of each of the ‘cramps’ I was feeling as well as how intense they were. We went about our afternoon as normal. I carried my notebook around the house and noted down each time I felt the pain and reading down the list I had written, it became clear that I was in labour with my contractions five minutes apart. They weren’t debilitating at that stage and I was able to make dinner and put a movie on with Pete, but they kept coming and they started to last longer. I called the hospital and told them what was happening and they confirmed that with the information that I was giving them that I was in labour. I was to call them back when the contractions were lasting fifty seconds or more, consistently. We put on one movie after the other in an attempt to distract me from the pain as we waited for the contractions to intensify.
We eventually got into bed at about 10pm in the hopes that we would both be able to get some sleep before labour really kicked in and we had to go to hospital. No such luck. As soon as I was horizontal, the pain was excruciating. I lasted close to an hour, writhing around in bed, gripping Pete for pain relief before we called my mum to come over. She arrived not long after and none of us could believe that we had actually induced labour and that Hunter was on his way. I spent two more hours in bed with Pete and Mum talking me through my contractions that had become so strong and so painful that I was also throwing up in between them.
Just before 1am, I called the hospital and told them that we were coming in. Mum had been timing the contractions and labour had well and truly settled in. Pete and I had done two or three trips to the hospital in the last month or so before that night so we were well versed in where to go and how to get there. But of course, as I was in the throws of increasingly painful contractions, we made not one but two wrong turns on our way to the hospital, mum following close behind.
When we got up to the birth unit at RNSH, we were seen to straight away. The midwife said that we had come at a good time because just an hour earlier they were that busy that they were examining women in the waiting room. Just after 1am at the hospital and we were the only ones there. We were shown into an examination room and a monitor was put around my belly, the contractions still coming every couple of minutes and the midwife confirmed that I was 2cm dilated. Because of how close and strong my contractions were she told us that she wanted to get us into a delivery suite.
Because Pete and I didn’t do any of the birth classes or take a hospital tour, we had no idea what the delivery suites were like. It was like a hotel room with a hospital bed in it! The delivery suites are HUGE! We got ourselves set up and the midwife said that she was going to leave us and would come and check on us in a short while. The pain and contractions really ramped up at that stage. I spent about an hour leaning on the edge of the bath swaying my hips from side to side as that was the only way I was even remotely able to deal with the pain. I remember saying to Mum and Pete, “I bet you that in birth classes they wouldn’t have suggested this, leaning on the edge of the bath just swinging.” In that moment it really hit home that for me, I had made the right decision in not doing any of the classes, and I stand by that decision to this day. My body moved around the room and did whatever it needed to do to cope with the pain without me having to make any conscious decisions about it. At different points in time over the next four hours I went from standing and leaning on the bath to crouching on all fours on the bed, to then leaning into a bean bag, to sitting on an exercise ball, to getting back on the bed and lying on my side. Ladies, I am telling you now, your body will do whatever it is going to do and you won’t even realise what you are doing. You don’t need the classes.
I cannot express how painful the contractions were. Because Hunter had gone prosterior in the lead up to labour, I was experiencing contractions in my front and in my back. Excrutiating. I continued to throw up in between the more painful contractions and became more and more exhausted. After those four or so hours, we were all convinced – including my midwife – that I would be at least 7cm dilated.
In all of those hours and through all of that pain I had dilated just a single centimetre further. None of us could believe it. I am pretty sure I burst into tears when she confirmed that. She did an internal examination to see what was going on and it turned out that the membrane of my waters was too thick for our little man to break through. I could either keep pushing and hope that they would break or I could have her rupture my waters which would speed up the labour but also intensify it.
She ruptured my waters – which didn’t hurt for all of those wondering – but fuck me the contractions that followed immediately after were the most horrendous, offensive, awful, hideous pain that I could ever imagine. I screamed and breathed and screamed and vomited and breathed. I lasted an hour before I ran out of energy and started considering pain relief. She checked my dilation and in that hour following my waters breaking, I had dilated to 7cm. I knew that if I kept pushing and continued with labour as it was, Hunter would have more than likely been born within the hour but considering the fact that I hadn’t slept, hadn’t eaten, was having contractions in my front and my back and had been vomiting all through labour, I could barely get through another ten minutes of pain at that level let alone another hour or so.
Looking back, the hardest part was knowing that after every contraction there was another one just around the corner. My advice, as simple as it may sound, is to just focus on getting through each and every contraction and do your best make peace with the knowledge that they are going to just keep coming. For me, having Pete and mum talking to me through each one helped me. Even if they were just saying, “breathe,” it made all the difference. I remember being on all fours on the bed, my head in Pete’s lap while a contraction overwhelmed me and neither of them said anything. As I exhaled violently I said, “SAY THINGS.”
Just before the sun came up on the 7th of February, I requested an epidural. Though I have said from the get go that I endeavoured to have a natural birth without any pain relief, I have also always said that if I started to stress or if I needed it that I would have an epidural. I was tired and started to feel stressed. Pete and mum, both knowing me incredibly well, started to notice my signs of anxiety. I became agitated and we all agreed that an epidural was the best option to ensure that I remained calm and that the birth of Hunter was as stress-free as possible. They called for the anaesthetist immediately.
Pete was an absolute wreck at this point having not slept and seeing me in pain for almost a full day. The midwife said that one the epidural was administered that he and I could have a sleep. SLEEP? I had no idea that having a sleep while in labour was even a thing. The anaesthetist came and I had to sit on the edge of the bed – which is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. I slowly moved to a sitting position and gripped mum’s neck. As he was setting up for the epidural he told me that I had to remain completely still. Of course, as soon as he was about to commence the procedure I had the most disgustingly strong contraction. I squeezed mum around the neck so hard that I thought I was going to either choke her out or drag her down to the floor. To this day mum still says to me, “I have no idea how you managed to stay still through that.”
As soon as the effects of the epidural started to take I had instant, glorious relief. I have never done drugs in my life so whenever I have had to have strong pain relief (morphine, endone, gas), I go a tad loopy. Pete still regrets that he didn’t video me throughout the epidural. When my toes became tingly and numb apparently I said to everyone, “My toes are drunk.” And when you have an epidural, you feel cool liquid coursing down the veins in your back to which I said, “Pete, there is a waterfall in my back.” I was in heaven. Pete then slept for two hours on the bed in the delivery suite an mum sat next to me and napped intermittently while I slept for an hour. I fell asleep holding mum’s hand and when I woke up, I was still gripping it the very same way. I don’t know why, but that small detail has stayed with me and meant so much to me. The contractions had dulled right down to feeling like period pain cramps. After four hours of the epidural they checked my dilation and I had fully dilated. Pete was awake and marginally refreshed and the midwife told us that they were going to wait another hour before I was to start pushing to see if he would passively descend. Basically for that hour, Hunter wriggled himself further down to the point where mum and Pete’s mum (who had arrived just after I had the epidural) could see the top of his head.
Oh, also, a medical student wanted to stand in on the birth and I was totally okay with that. The more the merrier, I said.
At midday, my bed was put in an upright position and I leaned over it and started to push. The effects of the epidural had started to wear off but even still, the pushing part of the labour didn’t hurt at all – I actually really enjoyed it. When we first got into the delivery suite I asked mum to make sure that a sheet was covering my bottom half because I didn’t feel comfortable being so exposed. HA. Fast forward a few hours and I was walking around the room naked and crying and contorting myself into whatever position necessary to counteract the pain. And so there I was, up on my knees with absolutely everything on show.
Forty minutes of pushing later and our beautiful baby boy, Hunter Francis Boyle, was born.
Hunter Francis Boyle
Born 7th of February, 2019 at 12.40pm
Mum, Dad and baby boy doing extremely well and are all madly in love with one another.
Sitting here on the lounge with Hunter sleeping soundly next to me five and a half weeks since his birth, what has stuck with me most is how incredible both mum and Pete were during labour. The two midwives that I had assist me with the birth of Hunter – Kate and Katie, go figure (they were two of the sweetest, most incredible women I have ever met and SO insanely good at their job, so much so it made me want to go and stay to be a midwife) – thought that mum was a midwife simply from watching how she was with me during the twenty hours I was in labour for. I listened to everything mum told me to do. I did fifteen hours of my labour natural without pain relief and let me tell you, that is a long time to be in that amount of pain. What got me through was my ability to zone into the pain, focus on it and breathe through it. It sounds meagre and oh so simple, but it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Pete held my hand and reassured me but to be honest, even him being in the room calms me. He is the most peaceful, supportive soul and I am honoured to have brought his son into this world. I am really proud of how I handled labour and can still feel that pride coursing through me every time I look at Hunter. Both midwives said to the three of us over and over again that that was the least amount of work that they had ever had to do for a birth. The three of us formed such a strong team during labour that each midwife was able to complete all of mine and Hunter’s paperwork during the process instead of after his birth. I had a truly incredible birthing experience at Royal North Shore and I feel such gratitude to everyone that was involved, especially Hunter. He’s a keeper.