I honestly don’t know exactly when this birth story begins, because it seemed like I was potentially in labour for weeks with all the Braxton-Hicks contractions I was having. The due date was for roughly 30th July, but from very early that month I was having contractions, sometimes regular and uncomfortable enough that I was sure ‘it’ must be happening, but then… nothing. But it was a good thing labour didn’t kick off early because first our doctor was away on holiday in mid-July, and then our doula was away for a number of days for a work thing the last week of July, so it was best that the baby stayed put until our ‘birth team’ was all back in Istanbul!
Anyway, I suppose Saturday, 3 August, is a reasonable place to start. I’d been having particularly strong contractions for the previous few days, and had a doctor’s appointment that day. I was sure she was going to tell me I was a few centimetres dilated and was going to go into labour any second! However, I was only 1 cm dilated and it seemed that nothing much was happening. I was a bit deflated. She told me to just relax and that maybe I was just a bit too anxious about when the baby would come, which was true. Not in a fearful way, but in a ‘hurry up!’ kind of way, I was anxious. I felt ready to get things underway, ready for the whole labour experience, and feeling all the contractions every day, I was thinking to myself, ‘is it happening now?! what about now? okay, what about NOW!?’ and yet, another day would pass and still no baby! The doctor also gave me some special herbal tea that is meant to help get labour started and told me that usually it has an effect in a few days at most. I also mentioned that I was a bit anxious about waiting because three out of our four babysitters would have left Istanbul for holidays by the coming Wednesday (the 7th), and I was worried what we’d do and how things would work out with just one friend left available to babysit. We briefly discussed the option of me having labour induced after the weekend if nothing happened in the meantime, and I said I’d discuss it with Richie. So me, my little bag of magical midwife tea and my disappointment went home and I rang our doula Saylan to give her the update.
That afternoon Şaylan came over to try some natural ways to help labour start and we discussed the idea of having labour induced at the hospital, and then decided it was better to just relax and let the baby decide when to come to avoid the possible problems of artificially inducing labour. A big thing for me was just dealing with my anxiety about the timing of things with babysitters and what exactly was going to happen if most of our babysitters were out of Istanbul when labour started. We discussed the option of Richie staying home with Liam if we had no other option and no one was available to babysit. Şaylan would be with me at the hospital, so it wouldn’t be like I’d be alone if Richie had to be with Liam. At first I was a bit sad about the idea of Richie not being in the hospital with me for the whole experience, but at the same time, I felt better just accepting that possibility and knowing that everything would work out fine, and even if Richie wasn’t at the hospital for the birth, we’d have the rest of forever to all be together as a family and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
After discussing all this, Şaylan did some massage, acupressure and aromatherapy stuff and, whether or not it actually had any effect on when labour started, it completely relaxed me and helped me really change my perspective on things. I started thinking of a line from a song by the Books- ‘you’re something that the whole world is doing’- which for me meant that I am just one person going through this experience that so many others have gone through, are going through, or will be going through. This moment in time is important for us and our small circle of family and friends, but in the grand scheme of things, me, my baby, whether I went into labour today, tomorrow, a few days from now… it somehow felt insignificant, but in a comforting and liberating way. I just felt relaxed and a part of the whole amazing living process, and knew that things would take care of themselves and the baby would come whenever he was ready.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning… Richie, Liam and I had a lovely breakfast in Besiktaş with our friend Marijke. After parting ways with Marijke, the three of us headed for home and Liam’s nap. On the walk back to our apartment, I got a text from the doctor asking me to come in that afternoon for a regular check-up. So, after a sweaty walk up our hill, a cold shower and a very brief rest, I headed out for the Asian side of the city to her office. As we talked, she said she could tell that I was more relaxed this time, and I told her I had decided to just let things be and not worry so much. When she examined me, I was 2 cm dilated and she said she thought things would begin sometime in the next 24 hours, but also reminded me not to think too much about it! I took the ferry back to Besiktaş , and walked part of the way home because I needed to get some chicken for our dinner that night. I was feeling contractions all during the walk home and a cramp-type feeling that was pretty uncomfortable. I’d been having so many contractions FOREVER that I didn’t want to think too much about it, but these contractions felt a bit different and reminded me a bit of the feeling I had just before going into labour with Liam.
I took a taxi up our hill and then hung out with Liam a bit, and as I was growing increasingly uncomfortable, Richie volunteered to make dinner while I gave him instructions. Contractions were continuing, and they were strong enough that I had to stop what I was doing while they were happening, but in between I felt pretty normal. I was getting a bit suspicious that this was the real thing, but still didn’t want to get my hopes up. We sat down to dinner, Richie gave Liam his evening bath and put him to bed and I took a long shower. We decided to ring Amanda, our last remaining babysitter, and Şaylan, to warn them both that I might actually be in labour. We both pottered around the flat a bit, making sure everything was packed, organizing Liam’s food for the next day and instructions, tidying the kitchen, getting all the last-minute stuff ready. Then Richie and I rang our parents to tell them things were starting and then rang Amanda to ask her to come over.
Richie and I left the flat at about 11:30pm to go to Şaylan’s apartment, which was on the Asian side of the city, not far from the hospital. I tried to stay comfortable in the back seat, reaching around the front seat to hold onto Richie and squeeze his arm during contractions. I actually enjoyed the drive over the bridge across the Bosphorus and the amazing night-time view of Istanbul, which was a bit unusual because I have quite a fear of bridges!
Şaylan’s apartment was so lovely and relaxing. We all chatted a bit and ate some cookies. Then I took a shower, Richie decided to get some sleep in the guest room to save up his energy for later on, and then I rested on the couch, sleeping in between contractions while Şaylan massaged my back. Şaylan talked to Dr Gülnihal to tell her how things were going, and then timed my contractions for a while so she could report back to the doctor. They were feeling pretty strong by now, were about 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart. The doctor then wanted me to go to the hospital to check how dilated I was and to have an NST test. We were going to head back to Şaylan’s if things hadn’t progressed very far.
Basically, as soon as I stood up to head out the door to the hospital, the contractions felt like they were right on top of each other. I had about five just getting off the couch and going to the bathroom and putting my sandals on! We took a short taxi ride to the hospital and the taxi driver was very considerate and drove slowly so the journey wouldn’t be too bumpy and uncomfortable. Şaylan and I walked into the hospital and headed for the maternity floor and I was seriously having almost constant contractions. I was still able to make some jokes in between at this point. I remember saying something about how I was ‘running’ down the hall (in reference to how nurses always seem in a hurry and when you’re having constant contractions, hurrying isn’t really an option and I was actually walking at a snails pace and stopping every few steps to have more contraction!) Well, I had my examination, which I hated, my water broke, and I was 6 cm dilated. I had a big sobbing cry at this point, due to the discomfort of the examination, the intensity of everything, and I’m sure a few wily hormones contributed as well, but I recovered! So, Şaylan called Richie to tell him he better head over to the hospital and bring our stuff, and then she rang Dr Gülnihal to let her know our status.
Really, it gets a bit hazy for me at this point, because obviously things got pretty intense and also because everything happened so freaking fast! Richie says that by the time he got to the hospital, at about 3:45am, it was only about an hour and fifteen minutes until the baby was born! After my examination, I had to lay down for an NST test. I absolutely hated laying on my back when I was pregnant and I REALLY HATED IT when I was in labour! I honestly don’t know how so many women have gone through labour in this position. I think I would absolutely have died! Then, back in our labouring room, Şaylan helped me take a warm shower, which was so refreshing and relaxing. Richie arrived at this point and went to fill out some paperwork. I put on an ugly hospital gown and I think at this point I settled into position kneeling on the floor while resting my upper body on the couch in our room. Şaylan told me at some point that Dr Gülnihal had arrived although I don’t think I responded and only a small portion of my brain registered the information. Dr Gülnihal examined me again and told me that the baby would be coming soon, although I decided not to think too much about that because I didn’t know if that meant in 15 minutes or an hour or 2 hours, etc. After a little while I got a bit of the urge to push and the doctor decided it was time for us to move to the delivery room. I absolutely could not get up though. I was kneeling on all fours and contractions felt almost constant, so moving from that relatively comfortable position to standing up was more than I was physically able for. I think Şaylan actually asked Dr. Gülnihal if it was possible to jut stay there, but the answer was a definite ‘no’, so we had to go. I gave it a shot but just could not get myself up off the floor, so eventually, Şaylan and Richie each took me under the arms and hoisted me up and into a wheelchair to get me to the delivery room.
A birthing stool was set up for me and, again with a bit of help, I settled in, leaning back on Richie who was sitting behind me for support. I won’t lie; it was painful and intense, but it was also fast! There was lots of squeezing of Şaylan and Richie’s hands, there was definitely some roaring and cursing, and out came little Fred! I was so much more aware of everything during this phase of Fred’s birth, whereas with Liam, I was so out of it by that point, I barely knew he was out until Richie told me and they put him on my chest! I must have been pushing for less than an hour with Fred and because of my position, I could actually see him right away. The doctor put him right on my chest and Şaylan tried to help me get him to nurse right away, but he was too busy shouting to latch on. But it was amazing to hold him right away, all noisy and tiny and wiggly. I really couldn’t believe the entire labour and delivery was already over and he was there in my arms! It was just so so different from my first experience.
I think this labour felt harder in a way because it was so much faster near the end, and it was just so intense. And maybe because I actually had energy and wasn’t so exhausted and out of it, I really felt everything more, was aware of what I was experiencing, and will remember it all a bit clearer. I am really happy about the preparation we did before the birth, such as practising the massage techniques, and I had a much better idea this time of things to try to cope with contractions – different positions and movements, etc. It was also fantastic not to be at the hospital so long, because I think being at home and then at Şaylan’s helped me stay much more relaxed so that things could flow along at their own pace without all the annoying poking and prodding and interrupting that seems to go on the entire time you’re at the hospital. I’m happy I ate a real meal early in labour, that I got extra rest/sleep at Şaylan’s before we headed to the hospital, and that I took those few showers to help me stay relaxed and refreshed. I’m thrilled I had the same great doctor and such a fantastic doula, and extra especially, my amazing husband there to support me so much before the birth and, of course, at the birth! And last, but not least, I’m so glad we got to welcome our strong, healthy, wonderful little Frederick into the world!