Our baby's arrival had one false start. You might say that's not uncommon, but the turn of events in our case was a little unusual. At my 39 week check up the obstetrician decided that the fluid levels around the baby were a little low, and it would be best to induce labour and speed up her arrival. I had hoped to avoid an induction, but for the baby's health I wasn't about to argue. The labour ward was busy however, and couldn't fit me in for two days.. that gave me 48 hours to get my head around the arrival of our little one, prepare myself emotionally and pack, repack and repack again our luggage (one advantage of an induction!). We got used to the idea of 17th October being her birth date - and with it being my maternal grandfather's birthday too, that date had a lovely poignancy about it. We had a nervous night's sleep preceding THE BIG DAY and awoke at 5am for our ridiculously early call time.
Chatter in the car was a little on the light side but we soon got to the hospital for our 6.30am 'booking'. Then we waited. And waited. More waiting. Then we were told that the birth suite was busy with no available rooms for me to be induced. We were shown to a post-natal room to wait for availability, but it soon became apparent that was not going to happen any time soon. Then we were sent home. I was crushed - having prepared myself emotionally for something as major as labour, I was so disappointed that I wasn't going to get to meet my baby that day. We had a scan to check on the baby, and luckily it was considered safe to wait another week. I was rebooked for the next available induction slot.... 8 days away. Cue more frustration. In what scenario does a provider cancel on a customer and the customer then gets put to the back of the list?
Well, they say that everything happens for a reason and this story is certainly an example of that.
We commenced a routine of daily CTG scans to check on the baby's progress, and after 24 hours of attempts to bring on labour (curry, walking, curry, walking.. you know the drill), I gave up and decided what will be will be. Well, that was a damn good thing because sure enough, three days later on Sunday 20th October, I woke at 5.30am with a contraction that felt just a little bit different to the braxton hicks I'd been experiencing to date.
Unwilling to get too excited, I paced around the flat for a while, but by 6.30am I'd woken up Tom and asked him to put the TENS machine on me! We spent five hours at home as I moved through early labour, but it felt like 5 minutes. I'd been practising hypnobirthing for months, which helped me welcome each contraction as taking me one step closer to meeting our baby, and also made the time fly past. I took two paracetamol, used the TENS machine for distraction, and also had a shower to help with the surges.
(L-R) - Me at home in early labour, One of the many CTGs that I had in the run up to our baby's arrival
By 10.30am we felt we needed to go to the hospital, even though the midwives were keen to discourage me as a first time mother from arriving too soon. As fate would have it, a major sporting event was taking place that very morning, threatening traffic on our route to the hospital. So, with me hanging out in the back seat, Tom diligently navigated us on an untried route through the city to the hospital, avoiding pot holes and speed bumps as best he could. I swear we hit every red light. He swears it doesn't matter, and he's right :-)
A few memories from my arrival at the hospital give rise to some life lessons which you may wish to take note of..
- if you are ever waiting for a lift with a labouring woman, do NOT get in the lift with her! A guy and his coffee got in the very small lift with us and it was not a comfortable ride for any of us!
- if you ever find yourself as the receptionist on a labour ward, don't ask a labouring woman to confirm her address and telephone number during a contraction.. just get me checked in!!
These minor annoyances were soon forgotten when I was greeted by our allocated midwife. Our hospital allocates a midwife on the day - so it's luck of the draw who you get - and by amazing luck I was allocated the wonderful Sarah who had taken our ante-natal classes. I was euphoric, and that was before I'd started on the gas!
Once settled into delivery suite 9 at about 11am, I started on the gas and air to help with the contractions. I quickly became quite high and Tom tells many a funny tale of my expressions of love for both him and our midwife, as well as me exclaiming 'I know why you are laughing at me!' as they were entertained by my enthusiastic yet 'under-the-influence' chatter! The next two hours are a blur and I won't go into the details. There were some wonderful medical professionals, some tense moments, some laughter (as a repeatedly requested an epidural with really only one push to go!), and at the end of it all the arrival of our darling daughter. After such a speedy labour she needed a bit of help to get out without distress, but I was lucky to avoid a c-section thanks to our obstetrician and a pair of forceps!
And so, Sienna May Lister was born at 1.01pm Melbourne time (3.01am UK time), on Sunday 20th October. Daddy wiped away a tear, mummy was stunned by the enormity of the whole experience, and baby let out two little immediate cries to let us know that she was just fine. It was incredible.
She weighed in at 3005g (6lb 10oz), was 47cm long and had a head circumference of 34cm.
We spent a number of hours in the birth suite recovering whilst our post-natal room was prepared, and during this time we made some emotional calls home to let the grandparents know the news. Granny Pam and Auntie Anna were in on the fact that I was in labour, so had hardly slept throughout the UK night time and welcomed the news of her arrival. The grandparents on Tom's side were equally pleased, and we promised to FaceTime as soon as we could.
(L-R, Top-Bottom) Daddy's first cuddle, cuddling with Mummy (first cuddle with Mummy not fit for public display!), weighing in, 3005g, early photo showing forceps mark on face, early photo wearing outfit from Auntie Anna, first check up with paediatrician Dr Downing, more cuddles with Daddy, 1.01pm.
What followed was four nights in the hospital, where we were afforded a fantastic level of care to ease us into the world of parenting a newborn. We had a hotel-style room with double bed and en suite, but with a team of experienced midwives on hand to guide us through nappy changes, bathing and most importantly, breastfeeding. They were on hand night and day when we need them - including the panic that most new parents probably feel the first time their newborn coughs and spits up! I was terrified she would choke!
(L-R, Top-Bottom) Our hospital 'hotel' room, my care board, Sienna's poop chart!, Sienna asleep in the hospital bassinet, Sienna exercising her lungs
Sienna's first bathtime
I attended a physio class on getting my body back (one session was not enough!) and Tom and I learnt about settling a restless baby. We had welcome daily visits from the obstetrician and paediatrician, and also some less welcome visits from the plethora of hospital 'hangers on' - trying to sell magazines, massages, make overs and yes, baby photography portraits.. erm.. not for us thanks ;-)
(L-R, Top-Bottom) Hearing test, check out the baby headphones, day three weigh in, another visit from the paediatrician, 2.84kg on day three, having her belly button clamp removed.
We had two visitors in the hospital - firstly our close friends the Lobley family, and secondly the partner from my work who was instrumental in bringing us to Australia and has guided my career here - Lisa. We also had a lot of Facetime calls with family back home - thank goodness for hospital wi-fi!
(Top Row) Lou, Ben and Anna meet Baby Sienna, (Bottom Row) Flowers from my work
A few more memories from our stay that I want to record are...
- me crying more than Sienna when she was given her Hep B vaccination on day 3
- Tom's excellent job doing her first bath and first bottle of expressed milk (she wouldn't latch)
- our shock at entering the hospital nursery at 2am to get Sienna weighed before discharge, to find upwards of 25 babies sleeping in there under the care of 2 'mothercraft' ladies!
(Top Row) Chilling Out, (Bottom Row) Meeting Auntie Anna and cousins Jamie, Millie and Rosie on FaceTime
It soon came time to leave the safety of our hospital room bubble, and return home with one extra family member than we left with. I rode in the back seat watching Sienna for the whole journey, and Tom drove extra carefully as a result of us carrying our most precious cargo yet (plus two lilies on the passenger seat threatening to drop pollen everywhere).
(L-R, Top-Bottom) Sienna's going home outfit including 'Prince George' blanket from Granny Pam & Grandad, Tom portering our belongings to the car, official 'going home' family photo, Sienna dwarfed by her carseat, Tom leaving the hospital with Sienna, Sienna in the back of the car.
It was wonderful to be home, even if the first 24 hours were a challenge - she was awake for a large portion of the night time, and our apartment wasn't configured in a very baby friendly way. We'd done our best to set things up in advance, but the thing I've learnt about newborns is that you just don't know what to expect until you've been through it yourself. Tom was quick to make the changes we needed though, and each day has got easier as we've got accustomed to our new roles as mummy and daddy.
Welcoming our first child has been a truly unique experience that is the most challenging but also the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I'm not afraid to say that it's harder than I ever thought it would be, but Sienna you are a longed for addition to our family who we love with all our hearts. Every day is a pleasure and every cuddle is cherished. Cheesy? Yes. I blame the post-partum hormones. And the fact that she's just damn awesome.
Thanks for reading ;-)
Sienna and Daddy
Sienna and Mummy, Hospital labels