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Birth Story: Ayla May

I wasn’t ready for my first pregnancy. I was busy being single and free, excelling in my profession and thinking only of myself.

I wasn’t married and I had not known the father more than a few months. We were great friends, social outing buddies and he had left his toothbrush at my house one day and then never left. We were an unaffirmed couple that thoroughly enjoyed each others company.

The day I found out I was pregnant, I was mortified. Terrified. Unmarried and in a small town that liked to talk a lot. I was embarrassed. At 29, the only person I felt comfortable telling was my father.

“I am sorry I didn’t do it the right way dad”.

“What is the right way these days bub”? He replied. “Congratulations if you decide to keep the baby”.

I was it throughout my pregnancy, but I lost my mind. I craved Nutella, a chocolate nut spread that would usually not go near my lips and I consumed a jar every night or two. I also found myself doing odd things like putting bbq chicken in the bath and then losing it until shower time later that evening.

I was ready. I had read all the books, downloaded all the apps. I was going to have a natural, drug-free, water birth. It was going to be perfect and like everything else, I figured I would pick it up easily.

This was not to be.

My first daughter was a forced-elective c-section. She had disengaged at 37 weeks and turned breech. We found out at a routine measurement with my midwife where after placing the tape on my belly she announced in surprise that my baby had shrunk and decided I better take an ultrasound because my baby was measuring 4cm less than she should have been.

We were taken to Alice Springs, in the central Australian Desert for an ECV (External Cephalic Version). I was afraid, sitting in the bright white room with a lot of people ready to whisk me out if anything went wrong. I knew it was going to hurt. Like most mums, I had read all of the horror stories on the net.

My focus was to keep my heartbeat below 55. I lay there with my belly out, the Dr explaining what he would do. He put both hands either side of my belly and felt around for where Ayla was, put one knee on the bed and then twisted. Holy Shit! I have since had labour pains and from memory, I think this is worse. I stayed calm, mentally spoke my affirmations and hoped.

With sweat dripping down his brow (it was hard work), He announced that the baby was in place. “Stay there baby”, my partner said. As the Dr let go, so did she. She whipped back around to her original position, all of my insides went with her. Like a whirlpool of filled with baby and organs. He tried twice more. It failed.

The professionals called an end to the ECV so as not to stress my bubba. I am not sure who was more upset, the DR or myself. He apologized and told me it was his first failed ECV.

Our Ob-Gyn originally supported our desire to give a natural birth a go. She stated that I was healthy and she had supported many successful footling breech births before, but she declined last minute. She stated firmly that we were remote, and she would not “entertain this fantasy any longer”. I guess the higher medical powers had intervened. I remember I had thought she was such a gentle and kind lady up until that point. I felt obligated to sign the stupid yellow form that signified my agreeance. I sobbed and sobbed as she told me if I tried to wait it out or came in in labour that I would not be supported by the medical staff.

My midwife Rosie was amazing. I saw the tears in her eyes form for me as she explained that I was in control of my body. But I was exhausted. I was a first-time mum and the fear of not being supported overweighted my desire. 

The next week was spent doing everything to turn my baby or induce labour. Moxibustion sticks, acupuncture, cold packs, hot packs, curry, pineapple, eggplant, fish oil, I even stood at the end of a pool in my bikini doing jump flip summersaults.

The night before our c-section was booked, my partner turned down my advances to have sexual intercourse because he didn’t want to have sex with me because of the outcome to bring about labour. That was in then.

Don’t get me wrong. Ayla’s birth was amazing, but at the same time, it was frightfully disappointing.

In we went at 7 am, starving because I wasn’t allowed to eat. Tired because I had spent all night questioning my ability and worth as a woman. I wondered if I had done something wrong playing sport for so long. Did I eat something? Past life karma? Searching for reasons and explanations. Feeling guilty because I couldn’t provide my partner with the birth experience that he deserved. Wondering if I would bond with my baby.

We were called in a few hours later. There had been some emergency surgeries and we had been pushed back.

They led Greg into a little room to wait for the epidural, the one thing I wanted him there for. I didn’t care about the scalpel, I cared about the needle. I had made the mistake of sneaking a peak during my foster daughters labour many years ago and I remembered what it looked like. In one word, it was Big, I remembered big.

I lay over a pillow, my amazing midwife Rosie chatting to me. She was amazing, I do not have words that can give enough thanks to that women. Are you sure Greg can’t come in? I pleaded, Hospital protocol, so no.

In it went, I focused on my breathing and heartbeat.

How does that feel? They asked. I announced that I could feel a sharp pain going down my hip and into my leg.

It humours me now to think of the startled look from my midwife, a quick glance at the anaesthetist and they removed it. Not long after the successful second attempt they pricked my legs and I confirmed numbness, I was laid out on the bed and the procedure had started. I asked to have the screens down and was denied.

Now, when Greg was lead into his little room he was told 5 minutes. A while after I smelt the burning skin I asked where Greg was. Someone hurried off and got him. I think with the (hidden) drama of the second epidural attempt they had forgotten to summons him. In he came, hiding his distress’. I asked him if they had started cutting and to check that the dodgy misspelt tattoo of my last name was unscathed. He nodded and said they had started and it was fine. He later let me know that when he walked in, the hadn’t only started cutting, but he got to see my insides falling out the sides of my belly. It is quite funny hearing his side of events being told around the dinner table amongst friends, swapping stories with other dads.

I did not realise the extent of a c-section surgery, it didn’t look that complex and gory on the infographics. And ladies, if you are reading this, don’t let my humour turn you off. I knew none the less and everything worked out fine. In fact, I even got the giggles because my body was being shoved from side to side and I had no control.

Suddenly, a faint cry.

“What is that”? I asked Greg?

“It is a baby!” He exclaimed through the cheers from my midwives. They were my biggest fans we had grown close throughout the journey. Rosie hugged me and cried and went to check Ayla. We had asked that she have direct skin on skin but we couldn’t fumble the hospital gown past my crazily large boobs to get her there, so they gave her to Greg.

Greg called out that we had a boy and the room erupted in laughter. He checked again, ”yep” he confirmed; it was a boy because he had (balls) testicles. “That is her Lady parts”, Rosie giggled, they get swollen.

There she was, this beautiful little thing that I didn’t really feel anything for. I was numb. I pretended to be so in love. I knew I loved her, but not like I was meant to. I couldn’t work it out. I was meant to have this gushing feeling of love and protection like nothing I have ever felt before. Was it the fact that I didn’t labour and the oxytocin didn’t do its job?

“Now I have to keep you alive little one, welcome to the world, Ayla”. That was it, my first words to my baby.

I still remember that moment, it was a month to the day that Ayla was first placed on me, her big black eyes and bird bobbing head pecking at me as she crawled up to my breast for her first feed. It hit me and it hit me hard. I picked her up from her bassinet, still a tiny little lady just out of 00000 clothes. She squeaked and smiled a gas smile and placed her hand on my neck… There it was. The love, the need to protect, this insane tribal instinct that was absent for the first month. It has been there ever since.

My kids own a piece of my heart and my mind. I am never without them even if it isn’t physically in my presence. My two babies have taught me more about myself than I cared to consider before they joined me earthside.