Birth: part three

NS October 3rd, 2008

If you haven’t already, you may want to read part one and part two

For nine months I planned a homebirth. I read books that advocate natural childbirth and informed myself about the risks, possible complications and in what instances I would be better off in the hospital. Being aware that a majority of births are successful when not complicated by unnecessary monitoring, synthetic hormones, narcotic drugs, unfamiliar environments and lawsuit-fearing medical staff, I knew that the chance of me needing to transfer was slim. I was confident in my choice and so excited to welcome my second child in such a peaceful and intimate way.
I had a straightforward and relatively easy pregnancy compared with what I’d experienced with The Noble Child. I didn’t have severe back, hip and pelvic pain (a condition called SPD) like I’d had with her and this baby wasn’t turned the wrong way around like she had been (with her back to mine instead of facing it, known as the ‘posterior’ position). I had more energy, I didn’t gain as much weight and I didn’t have any swelling. My blood pressure was perfect, I never had any sugar or protein in my urine and the baby’s heart rate was steady and strong each time the midwife listened in with her Doppler. I had a feeling from the very beginning that it was a boy and that feeling just got stronger as the pregnancy progressed. I spent much longer agonising over boy names than I did girls because I was so sure that I would be having a son.

Onto the big day…

On Wednesday September 17th, three days before my due date, I spent the morning clearing up the house and hoping I wouldn’t catch my husband’s cold as he lie upstairs coughing and spluttering in the spare room, having called in sick to work. I walked my daughter to nursery at lunchtime even though I felt exhausted. My lower back ached and my belly felt incredibly heavy. I had a few very strong Braxton Hicks contractions that stopped me in my tracks and made me pause for breath. It took much longer than usual to make the half hour return journey and I collapsed into bed when I got home. I took a nap and sent TNH to collect our daughter at three. As I lie there trying to fall asleep I had a couple of mild contractions and my lower back continued to ache. I suspected that it might be the first twinges of labour but didn’t want to get my hopes up so ignored it and rested for awhile before getting up — my aunt was in London for a work conference that week and was coming over for dinner so I had some last-minute tidying and food preparation to do. The contractions had stopped so I went about my evening and we had dinner as planned. It was great to see my aunt and it took my mind off of the anxiousness of waiting to go into labour. I went to bed at about 10.30 and TNH slept next door again. We didn’t want to take any chances of me catching his cold and being ill while in labour. I think I would’ve murdered him if I couldn’t breathe at the time in my life when I most needed to!

I slept like a rock until I was awoken at 3am on Thursday morning by TNC crying and calling out ‘Mummy!’ from her room. I suspect a loud noise woke her so I went to calm her down. When I picked her up from her cot she wrapped her arms around my neck and her legs around my hips, shaking with fear or cold, or both. She whimpered and pressed a tear-sodden cheek against my shoulder. I laid her down in bed with me and she snuggled up into my arms. I think I must’ve known that things were getting ready to happen because my normal sleepy self would’ve been eager for her to fall back asleep so I could have my bed back. This time, however, I felt my heartstrings ping as I looked at her in the moonlight coming through the window, feeling in my bones that this would be the last time we lay together as a twosome, as one mother with one child. I stroked her hair and cheek and marvelled at her perfection and loveliness. After thirty minutes I put her back in her room, fast asleep, and drifted back into slumber.

I woke up again at 4.15am to a mild contraction but disregarded it. Ten minutes later another came so I grabbed my phone to time them. I lay there for an hour timing them and very soon they were five minutes apart. I allowed some excitement to build and went downstairs where I sat on my birth ball and had tea and toast with jam while watching the news. I thought they might slow down at that point but they were still coming every 5-7 minutes so after two hours, at 6.15, I woke TNH to let him know I thought I was in early labour. I also phoned my friend, L, who was acting as my doula so she could organise childcare for her daughter and come over later in the morning. Hubby brought TNC downstairs just before 7am and they had breakfast. Suddenly, the contractions went back down to only every 15 minutes and they weren’t really getting stronger. I was afraid they were petering out and it was a false alarm. I told L to hold off but still be on standby and arranged for my mother-in-law to come pick up TNC just in case things did kick off.

While TNH was getting the kiddo ready to leave I pulled open the curtains and saw the glorious sunshine outside. After weeks of grey skies and rain, the sun was out in full force with not a cloud in the sky. It was warm but not hot and with a slight breeze, an absolutely perfect September day. I grabbed my cd case (which I rarely use anymore – I mostly listen to music digitally now) and looked for something to match my mood. I chose the Indigo Girls’ Rites of Passage album (a favourite in college but not often listened to now) and sat on my birth ball, swaying my hips in circles and singing along to songs that I still knew all the words to. The chorus of one song in particular resonated with me – “Love Will Come To You.”

I say love will come to you
Hoping just because I spoke the words that they’re true
As if I offered up a crystal ball to look through
Where there is now one there will be two

Tears of anticipation and happiness pricked my eyes and I felt a calm settle over me like the wind before a storm, sure I was going to meet my baby that day.

The contractions picked back up to a consistent eight minutes apart and were getting stronger so I told L to go ahead and come over. TNC left with her grandma and The Noble Husband had his shower and started getting things ready. I wanted to be sure that the birthing pool got set up in time so had him go ahead and start on that. I closed the curtains and lay down in the dark listening to some instrumental music to conserve my energy and, again, they slowed way down. I had only had four in an hour at 11am when L arrived. I was sure things were stopping again. I mentioned that they would pick back up quite strongly when I stood up so she encouraged me to go walk around the garden with TNH after I had some more food.

At this point it was nearly noon and I was anxious to know if this was really labour or not so I didn’t get too disappointed if it wasn’t. I had another cup of tea, a pain au chocolat and a banana (yum!) and put on my birthing necklace, made from beads sent to me from other women in my due date club, on a parenting message board I’m a member of. We joked that it was my goddess/warrior necklace and I struck a few funny muscle flexing poses. TNH and I went out to the garden and did laps around it, arm in arm, making jokes and talking excitedly about meeting our baby. I turned my face towards the sun and smiled as it warmed me. I kicked off my shoes and enjoyed the sensation of cool grass on my feet, allowing it to ground me. Within minutes the contractions were much stronger and only four minutes apart. We decided to call the midwife at about 12.45 and she arrived at 1.30. Incredibly, it was the midwife I’d seen for the majority of my pregnancy! Considering there are 30-odd midwives on the home birth team and you just get whoever is on call at that time, I felt very lucky because it meant that I already knew her and was comfortable with her. She checked me and found that I was dilated to 5cm. I was elated at the progress I’d made as I was still handling the contractions very well and feeling pretty normal and cheerful between them. She said I could get in the pool if I wanted but since things were progressing so well with me staying on my feet I decided to wait a bit longer.

It was nearly 2pm by this point and the birth team was hungry for lunch so since it was such a gorgeous day we went outside again. TNH, L and the midwife all sat at the table eating soup and sandwiches while I paced around the garden squeezing a stress ball and swaying and breathing through the contractions. We were having a good ol’ time, incredibly, laughing and listening to music and chatting. They all kept commenting on how calm I seemed and how well I was handling labour. Suddenly, a couple of really strong ones washed over me and I knew that I was nearing transition. I said I was ready to get in the pool. The midwife checked me again and found me to be 7cm. I almost couldn’t believe that I’d gotten that far without even being uncomfortable or in too much pain. The midwife asked if I wanted the entonox (gas and air) from her car but I still felt I was coping well without pain relief so I declined.

Finally, I sank into the welcoming warmth of the birthing pool in the dining room and tried to relax. Within minutes things intensified tenfold and I had to really concentrate and breathe through the contractions. I requested cool washcloths on my forehead and had TNH giving me sips of Lucozade and water between each one. Just over an hour after getting into the pool I was nearly at 10cm but a small lip of the cervix remained stuck on baby’s head. The midwife told me not to push quite yet but I was in serious pain at this point and it required all of my strength and energy not to. I was getting very loud by then with my vocalising, saying ‘Aahh’ very loudly, half singing and half yelling it, and squeezing my husband’s and friend’s hands like crazy. My water finally broke and that got the last bit of cervix out of the way so I could push freely. Man, did it hurt! I couldn’t remember pushing with my daughter and remembered the contractions as much worse than that stage. This time it was the opposite – contractions I could handle but this pushing business was the worst!

Thankfully, after less than an hour of it, our baby was born into the water at 4.32pm, caught by TNH and placed in my arms straight away. He shouted “You did it!” He was ecstatic, L was in awe and I was exhausted yet exhilarated. Giving birth without any pain relief releases strong endorphins and I was on a natural high. It truly is an amazing feeling. When TNH announced: “It’s a boy!” I nodded and laughed. I had known I was having a son and now I finally got to meet him. I kissed his head and talked to him softly while I rubbed his chest and wrapped him in a towel. After just a few moments he let out a mewling cry and we could relax a bit. The midwife looked him over and said he was fine so after a few pictures and a couple more checks, TNH cut the cord and we got out of the pool. I delivered the placenta and then we snuggled up together on the futon we’d laid out on the floor in the living room. I had to have a few stitches which hurt like hell (still no pain relief!) but other than that I was absolutely fine and so was The Noble Baby. He weighed 8lbs 7oz and was 22.5″ long.

We got everything cleaned up, the midwives and L left and then TNH ran to the shops to buy the dinner I requested – steak, chips (fries) and spinach with a small glass of red wine, followed by a cup of tea and a delicious Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bar. I made phone calls to my parents and sister and finally ate at 9pm. I was strangely wired even though I was exhausted and kept grinning in an almost drunken way at my newborn son, watching his tiny fingers curl around mine as he sleepily nursed at my breast. I finally went to bed at 11.30 and TNH stayed up with the baby until 1.30am so I could get a couple hours of sleep before feeding time came around again.

He is now two weeks old and TNB is such a laid-back little guy. He sleeps a ton, only waking twice at night to nurse. He goes back to sleep fairly quickly afterwards, too. I’m totally, utterly in love with him and feel so blessed that he’s here and healthy, and that the birth went even better than I had anticipated. Believing in birth and making it happen has given me a renewed sense of faith in myself, something I think was desperately needed. I now know that I have the power within me to do things I previously thought impossible or too painful. I can face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and with enough determination, organisation and knowledge, clear them easily. This was more than just my child’s birth – it was my rebirth. I’m not a religious person and I don’t even consider myself spiritual, but I do know that I’ve never felt more alive, more connected to humanity or more powerful, yet so humble. If that’s not a sacred experience, I don’t know what is.

I came across a quote recently that sums up how I will remember my son’s homebirth:

“The memory of pain always recedes. The memory of triumph does not.”
– Ani Di Franco

12 Responses to “Birth: part three”

  1. andrea says:

    This was beautiful. Ani was right ten years ago, and she’s right now.

  2. Lizzy says:

    Congratulations! Your birth experience sounds beautiful.

  3. LindsayM says:

    Congratulations! And what a beautiful, I mean just beautiful, birth story.

  4. Charlotte says:

    What an amazing, beautiful birth story, and a wonderful part three. So well-written too. I think you should package the three together and find someone to publish it, because it’s such a great story.

    Also, a warm welcome to your little darling. I hope he continues to be so chilled, healthy and happy.

  5. Karin says:

    Love love love this! I am in tears! Congratulations to you and your family!

  6. Abby says:

    This was just beautiful. Congratulations again, I am so pleased for you and your lovely family!

  7. jen says:

    so glad you had the experience you wanted.

  8. NS says:

    Thank you for all the lovely comments. :)

  9. Chloe says:

    Wow! I am so glad that your birth experience exceeded your expectations. Such a powerful thing, birth. Women rock!

    Love the quote… so very true.

  10. gigi says:

    Found you through Jen’s lovely blog. Your story has brought tears to my eyes. I am re-reading “Crossing To Avalon” by Jean Shinoda-Bolen and am, synchronistically, just now on a chapter in which she writes so beautifully, archetypally about pregnancy, labor, delivery and beyond. I recommend it if you haven’t read it. Congratulations on the birth of your son! Thank you for sharing your story. It is inspiring to me – who has long been afraid of anything having to do with childbirth at all. Slowly, that’s changing.

  11. andrea says:

    you kick ass! i don’t think i could ever be that strong when it comes to painful things like birth. that said, i’m so glad you were able to stick to your original birth plan and have TNB at home. it was obviously a great experience for you guys and i’m so happy to be an aunt again!!!

  12. siobhan says:

    Congratulations again on the birth of your son. I have so much enjoyed reading all parts of your birth story. I’m so glad that you got the birth you wanted this time round. Inspriational