Baby’s on the way

Natalie Pope writes, 'There was one night late in my pregnancy, in particular, which I remember with great fondness. I was 36.6 weeks pregnant and my mum and Nonna came over and cooked me chicken soup (the Italian cure for all ills). I heartily ate the soup. It was made with such love.'

As I recall the night now, I can reflect on how blessed I am to have such a wonderfully loving family that provided so much care and support.

I’m a fairly organised person and I figured I was about to run a marathon whether I liked it or not. So, twice a week for exercise I did ‘preggie bellies’ (muscle conditioning for pelvic floor and core) to prepare for our baby’s arrival. I knew my baby had to come out and I wanted to be fit enough to cope with whatever challenges came my way. I also sought out informative apps along the way to research the various stages of growth.

As I said I was organised, so much so, I had my bags packed a month in advance. There were the typical essentials, such as huge pads, spare clothes for me and baby clothes. I finished work five weeks before the due date to iron everything, and I mean everything – even the tiny booties for the new addition to the family.

And then there was the music that I needed to make my labour easier. My “labour playlist” was a little less conventional than the usual soothing and calming sounds that most women would probably want to hear. The songs consisted of mainly ‘thrash and metal’ which I believed would better psych me up during this difficult time.

The night my waters broke it was about 4am and being technically premature by one day (a baby born before the 37th week is considered premature), we called the hospital and were told to come in straight away. What did I feel? I felt excited, oddly calm, strange, apprehensive, and was very grateful that my husband was by my side.

The doctors assessed my condition and organised an immediate scan of the baby to work out its position. I didn’t feel any pelvic pressure so had suspicions my baby wasn’t properly engaged. Those suspicions were soon confirmed. Our baby was ‘frog breeched’, meaning the head and feet were facing up and the bottom was down.

I was asked if I had my heart set on a natural birth? I was but I asked about the probability of ending up in an emergency c-section? The answer was 99.7% so it was a no brainer to me. My baby was coming at 36.6 weeks, three weeks before the due date and major surgery was inevitable. The natural birth was set aside.

My view was simply to take the least path of resistance to ensure a healthy baby. I would start at the lower end of the scale on the pain relief front and if that didn’t work I would change tact. I was and still am so grateful for this trusting mindset and faith in the process.

I was really active in faith growing up. I was raised a Catholic and went to a Catholic school but after my formal education was over, I lost some connection to religion and sadly my spirituality. To be honest my ‘spiritual side’ took a backseat for some years.

Becoming pregnant really re-ignited my relationship with God and spirituality in general. The incredible experience of pregnancy and the phenomenon of growing a new life inside me forced presence and connection of mind, body and soul for me.

It’s funny what goes through your mind at such times. During my labour I remember thinking, “praise God” I didn’t waste time and energy over thinking a birth plan! I also thought of my pregnancy which was rough! I vomited day and night for the full term. Despite this, oddly I still enjoyed the pregnancy journey.

A second moment when I realised I had changed ‘profoundly’ and forever was during my c-section. I felt, for lack of a better word, violated through the process, although it was not painful it was very strange. I was really overwhelmed, then I prayed and a peaceful presence came over me. I sensed my angel, my sister Laura, who sadly died as a stillborn full term. I received clarity and strength from her.

Then all my attention and focus shifted from my body and my discomfort to my baby. Was my baby healthy, safe, okay? My pain numbed. All my focus was on my baby and praying that my baby would be fine.

When the doctors and nurses examined and confirmed my baby was safe it was overwhelming. Hearing her cry for the first time was life altering. My partner Mal said we had a baby girl, our Charli Laura Pope. The gender disclosure was the most incredible surprise ever.

Once Charli was born, I believed I would never be as selfish again. Why? Because I had someone else to live for and another person to love.

This article appears in the third issue of the Becoming Parents series titled The Home Stretch. The four booklets are available for just $20. More details at: www.becomingparents.org.au or www.majellan.media

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