When Fraser Joined Our Family

My pregnancy with baby number two was similar to the first in some ways, but varied greatly in other ways. This baby was very much planned and wanted and once we decided we were ready for another, we were very fortunate to fall pregnant quickly. We were thrilled but kept the news to ourselves for a few weeks, so that we could soak in it before telling our families. It felt lovely to have this little secret to ourselves for a while. Around 8 weeks we decided to share our news with big sister Lilah and then we let her tell both of our families by announcing “I’m going to be a big sister!” Both of our families were so excited by our news and couldn’t wait for November 30th – our due date. At 9 weeks I asked Lilah what we should call the baby and without even thinking about it for a second she replied “Minka”. From that moment we (and all of our friends and family) began referring to the baby as Minka – the name certainly stuck!

I felt much more relaxed during this pregnancy, the insecurities of being a first time mother were long in the past and a sense of knowing that everything was well ensued. For this reason I felt comfortable declining a number of the usual pregnancy tests, including a dating scan and antenatal screening bloods. We decided to have the nuchal translucency scan, which fortunately came back low risk. I was nauseas and exhausted which made the first trimester quite difficult, however Ryan stepped up like the amazing man that he is and helped me through that time. During the second trimester we decided to go travelling, so from week 14 to week 20 we were on a road trip along the Queensland coast, in a motorhome that we hired. The holiday was an absolute dream and we all had an amazing time, I was fortunate enough to access a number of massages and acupuncture treatments to help with various ailments such as migraines.

We returned home at week 20 and went for our morphology scan and the monographer informed us that she was unable to visualise the baby’s sacral ossification centres, which was unusual for this gestation. This was the beginning of a very anxious few weeks while I made 2 solo trips to Adelaide for consultations with Maternal Fetal Medicine at Women’s and Children’s Hospital. After a couple scans showing progressive development of the ossification centres, the doctor gave us the all clear and provided reassurance that this was just perhaps a variation of normal and not a sign of something significantly wrong. He suggested we could have another scan between 28-32 weeks to check, but stressed that he felt this wasn’t necessary unless to reassure us. We decided against the repeat scan and felt confident in this decision – this event had caused a huge amount of stress and worry for us and we wanted to avoid a repeat of that.

Weeks 23-33 entailed quite a lot of pain for me…pubic pain, varicose veins and sacral pain affected my ability to move freely and at 31 weeks I decided to stop exercising (a difficult decision for me) in the hopes of easing this pain. At the time I thought it was just attributed to the fact it was my second pregnancy, however in hindsight I think it was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and rest a bit more. I was working a lot and this coupled with raising a high energy toddler meant that my body struggled more than it did in my first pregnancy. I did manage to slow down and by 34 weeks all of my pelvic pain had gone! The varicose veins remained but became much more comfortable than they had been and all of this combined helped me get through the last few weeks of work.

During week 37 I had annual leave booked in so we made a quick trip to Mildura, as Ryan needed to have a medical appointment there and this meant we could also see our Midwife Leanne for the first time in the pregnancy. We had a long chat about everything and reconnected with her, which also gave Lilah a nice opportunity to feel comfortable with her too. I had another acupuncture session and we did a bit of shopping and swimming, then returned back home. It was a great little last-minute getaway, our last as a family of three.

At 38 weeks I finished work and really went into relax mode. I spent a lot of time laying down and watching Netflix while Lilah spent time with both of her grandmothers. I also enjoyed making preparations for the baby such as washing all the clothes and blankets, setting up the rocking chair and bassinet in my room, cooking and baking and preparing things for labour such as essential oil rollers and hanging my affirmation bunting flags from Lilah’s birth. We blew up the pool and had it ready in the spare room for when labour began. I had weekly massages for the last few weeks of my pregnancy which were amazing in relieving the minor discomforts and provided the ultimate relaxation for me. During week 39 I felt the need to switch off from the outside world and declined all invitations to catch up with friends, instead preferring to stay at home and rest.

Luckily for us this time, Leanne had a clear schedule and was able to travel to Broken Hill to support this birth. She arrived at 39+4 and we had a check in and enjoyed lunch together. It was so lovely this time knowing that I was going to be able to birth in my own home. I had been worried about the logistics of getting us all to Mildura, especially now that we had a toddler and wanted to have a support person for her.

At 39+6 it was a day like any other, I felt the same as all of the days before. I had hoped that Minka would arrive a little bit early and so had been slightly disappointed each day when it didn’t come. On this morning I woke up and decided that since it now hadn’t come early, I no longer cared at all when it arrived – in hindsight I think this mind shift was pivotal! That night I was laying in bed, Lilah was asleep and I was waiting for Ryan, as we had planned to watch a documentary together before bed. At around 9pm all of a sudden I felt a very strange popping sensation, which I briefly just thought was the baby moving very suddently, but I soon realised that my waters had broken, as I felt a warm rush of fluid. I called out to Ryan that my waters had broken and asked him to bring me a towel ASAP. There was a huge amount of fluid which went all over the bed, but luckily I had prepared for this by putting a bluey under my sheets a couple weeks earlier! I got up and hopped into the shower, with more fluid rushing out, then I got dressed and settled again. I had a big adrenaline rush and got the shakes, but managed to calm myself down again with some deep breathing and cuddling Ryan. Leanne had left her bags in our spare room so I listened to Minka’s heartbeat with her doppler which gave me reassurance. I text our team to let them know my waters had broken and that we would call each of them respectively when we needed them.

Ryan and I pottered around getting the birth space ready, he blew up the remainder of the pool and set up the hose so it was ready for when we needed it. I hung the fairy lights we had used during Lilah’s birth and set up the equipment and supplies in our living room. I wasn’t feeling any tightenings or contractions at this time however by 10pm I was beginning to feel some mild pains. I hopped back into bed with a heat pack and decided to watch the documentary anyway because I knew I was too excited to be able to sleep. Ryan applied the TENS machine pads for me, even though I didn’t need it yet, but I wanted him to go to bed and get some sleep before I needed him later on. Slowly the pains intensified and I began using the TENS machine to help me through them. I managed to watch the whole documentary and then around midnight I had to get up out of bed because I was too uncomfortable laying down (this was uncannily similar to my first labour).

After this time the specifics become a little blurry to me, I guess because I travelled so far inside myself I wasn’t taking notice of the things around me. The pains intensified more and I laboured calmly and peacefully in my bedroom. I remember thinking how nice it was to be labouring in my own home this time. I was upright and quite mobile and spent time on my knees, on the ball and standing. I made a number of trips to the bathroom and noted nice clear fluid on my pads each time. I experienced diarrhoea a couple of times, as I had in my labour with Lilah, but it was nowhere near as bad this time, which I was obviously quite pleased about. I also didn’t have any vomiting this time which was wonderful, as I had vomited my way through my entire labour with Lilah and it was incredibly unpleasant and hard to manage.

Around 2am the contractions really started to become very painful and I became quite vocal to get through them, taking big deeps inhalations and moaning through the exhale. I didn’t want to call everyone too early so I kept doing this in my bedroom for a while until it was no longer cutting it. I called Mum at 3.30am and asked her to come around and hop into bed with Lilah so that I could get Ryan up to help me. She arrived a short while later and I woke Ryan up and asked him to start filling the pool for me. The contractions intensified even more and I moaned my way through them in my bedroom, standing and leaning on Ryan’s dressing chair. Once the pool was ready Ryan came and got me and helped me into it, then added more warm water so I was comfortable. The contractions were so strong by this point that I felt I couldn’t cope with them for much longer. I had to take the TENS off so I could get into the pool and I didn’t feel as much relief from the warm water as I had hoped I would. Maybe my memory of this feeling during my labour with Lilah was exaggerated, however it was nice to move without gravity and even float on my tummy with my legs stretched out behind me for a little while.

I probably had about 5 contractions in the pool when I decided to check and see if I could feel my own cervix. This was a very bad idea! What I could feel felt like 6cm dilated and this worried me because I was beginning to feel like pushing. My midwife brain kicked into overdrive and I began panicking that the baby was posterior and giving my this early urge to push, even though my body wasn’t ready yet. In my head I planned my immediate transfer to hospital and epidural so that I could get through the last few hours! I voiced none of this to Ryan (perhaps because I knew deep down that it was irrational) and with the next contraction I felt such an overwhelming urge to push that there was nothing in the world that could have stopped me. I realise now that I was experiencing the Fetal Ejection Reflex (FER) which I definitely didn’t have with my first birth.

I asked Ryan to call Leanne immediately. Another contraction came with that overwhelming urge and pressure and I told Ryan to message Leanne to please hurry, as this baby was on the way whether they were here or not! I surrendered to these sensations and without even thinking about it my body was pushing. It was such a different feeling to my pushing stage with Lilah, which had been more of a conscious process as I pushed with my abdominal muscles into my bottom, as I knew it was ‘supposed’ to be done. This time I had absolutely no control over my body as it squeezed my baby out and the feeling was so overwhelming that I was roaring and screaming and hanging onto Ryan for dear life! My body completely took over and I was just along for the ride, trying to keep myself calm.

Leanne arrived at 5.30am and I could feel that there was a significant amount of head on view, which I voiced to her. With the next contraction my body took over once again and moved my baby’s head down so rapidly that I barely had time to catch up with what was happening. I think the head was born with the next contraction and then the body with the following, into Leanne’s hands at 5.36am. The cord was wrapped around the neck again, as it had been with Lilah, although not as tightly this time and apparently the baby also had a nuchal hand, which came out just under its chin. Leanne passed the baby to me, who was a bit floppy at first but cried within about 10 seconds. I thought as she held the baby up in the air that I might have seen a silhouette of testicles, but I thought it may have also been the umbilical cord. I had been convinced during my entire pregnancy that Minka was going to be a girl and we decided not to ‘find out’ the sex. Lilah had also been telling everyone that it was a girl and that she was getting a baby sister.

Ryan went and got Lilah quickly and she came out to meet her baby sibling. She was absolutely over the moon and tried to jump into the bath with her pyjamas on! We had originally planned for Lilah to be there for the birth and she had wanted to help ‘catch’ the baby, but when I was so distressed and screaming so loudly while pushing I had changed my mind, not wanting to frighten her. She stripped off her clothes and Ryan helped her into the pool, where she said hello to the new baby and gave me a cuddle. I asked her if she wanted to check and tell us whether the baby was a boy or girl and she did, so I turned the baby onto it’s back and Lilah announced that he had a penis! A BOY – I couldn’t believe it, I was thrilled but so shocked as I had been so certain that he was a girl. We cuddled in the pool for a while and I just could not stop staring at him. Mum was there taking some pictures and Ryan helped Lilah get out of the pool, then I had a separation bleed and Leanne asked me to also get out of the pool to birth the placenta.

I stood up with our little boy held firmly against my chest and stepped over the edge of the pool with Ryan and Leanne’s help. I sat down next to the edge of the pool where I had laid out a big bluey and an old towel earlier and prepared to birth my placenta. Leanne pulled on the cord gently and I gave a few pushes, then out it came with a big rush of relief shortly afterwards. We sat on the ground as a family of 4 for a while, then decided to move to the lounge so that Minka could have his first breastfeed. Leanne wrapped us in a towel and Ryan turned the heater on to keep us both warm and slowly he started to initiate his first breastfeed. I’m not sure of timing but I think he would have been attached by 20 minutes of age, he was so alert after the birth and displayed all the perfect reflexes to find his way to the breast.

He fed for over an hour on both sides whilst we all chatted and talked about the night’s events. Lilah was keen to have a look at the placenta, which we had talked about and Ryan tied the cord tie so that he and Lilah could cut the cord together. I started getting after birth pains almost immediately, which I had expected as I’d experienced them after Lilah’s birth also. I had a herbal tea ready to combat this so Mum made me a cup to sip on. Leanne weighed him with Lilah’s help and announced that he was 3480g or 7lb 11oz – smaller than Lilah! Although his head circumference was 2cm larger than hers at 36cm and he was 1cm longer at 50cm. After that I hopped up for a shower and Ryan and Lilah both had skin to skin cuddles with baby Minka. I felt pretty good standing up for the first time, just a bit unsupported in the core and slightly breathless, but nothing like how I’d felt after Lilah’s birth. My blood loss was minimal and I could feel that I didn’t have any tears again. Mum helped me get dried and dressed and I hopped into bed.

Ryan bought Minka into me in bed and we cuddled for a bit longer, then I wrapped him up and lay down so we could have a nap together. Lilah kept running into the room and waking me up as she was so excited, so Mum offered to take her back to her house for a while, which I was very grateful for. It allowed me to get some rest and Ryan began cleaning up, I think he did 4 loads of washing that day and also began emptying the pool.

We had 6 boy names on our list (and only 1 girl name – go figure) but Ryan and I laid down together that morning and cut it down to 3 names. By lunch time I had decided that I liked ‘Fraser’ the most and Ryan agreed that he liked it a lot too – so we decided to wait until dinner time and if we were still happy with it then we would name him Fraser Colby – Colby after Ryan’s older brother who had been born at 28 weeks and only lived for a few days. We told our immediate families the name we had chosen then I sent out a message to let our friends and family know too. We received lots of congratulations and well wishes.

I had quite bad after pains for about 48hrs. They were so severe in the first 24hrs that I asked Ryan to put the TENS machine on my back just to get through them! I drank copious amounts of my herbal tea and I’m not sure if it helped but it made me feel like I was doing something to help. My nipples became very sore with feeding, as they had with Lilah, but that resolved after about a week. My milk started coming in the morning after he was born and was well in by that night. The engorgement was painful but definitely not as bad as I had remembered it. On the second night after he was born I passed a very small piece of placenta, about the size of a 5 cent coin! I made a habit of showering every morning then having a salt/magnesium bath each night, just as an act of self care and to keep my vulva clean while it was healing. I was very relieved not to have any vulval swelling this time, it made movement much easier.

Ryan looked after me so well, bringing me drinks, making my coffee every morning, doing all the jobs that I asked him to do so that I could rest and recover. Mum had Lilah the day after Fraser was born, then Ryan’s Mum had her for the next 3 days, then Mum had her again for the 2 days after that. It was really nice for all of us to have that time. Lilah loves spending time with her grandmothers and it helped to keep the normal routine for her, whilst allowing Fraser and I time to bond and giving Ryan and I some time together with each other and Fraser too. Lilah was quite emotional and very clingy to Ryan in the week before and the week after Fraser was born. It was a big transition for her and took some getting used to.

Fraser is an absolute delight. My heart was so full when I had Lilah and I didn’t think it was possible but my heart doubled in size to accomodate Fraser. I sit and stare at him in wonder and still pinch myself that I have a little boy to love and cherish. Lilah is a beautiful big sister and loves Fraser so much! We just have to keep an eye on her to ensure that she is gentle, but I’m sure he’ll get used to her ‘rough affection’ in no time. I can’t wait to watch these two human beings, that we created, grow together and I feel so privileged to be their mother. Fraser’s birth has made us stronger together as a family and we are so in love with him – I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect experience.

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