I am going to start with the short version for anyone that does not want to trawl through the whole post. Writing a birth story is about sharing with others, but mostly it is a cathartic journey for the mother to play back, in words, the birth of her child. It is a time to reflect on the event and the emotions. Sometimes it is a time to heal or deal with dissapointment or hurt that the birth may have left.
We used hypnobirthing and the terms that are used are slightly different, to try and remove some of the negative association with the vocabulary surrounding birth, here is a short run down of the words I may use in the story that are different
Surges or pressure waves – contractions
Birthing time – labour
Membranes releasing – waters breaking
The short version
Titus’ birthing time started at about 5pm on Sunday afternoon, I was napping and had had a few BH ( braxton hicks) during the day but suddenly the surges were regular 3-5 mins apart and quite intense. We called Catherine, the photographer, Marcha, the midwife, and The Geeks mom who would watch the kids.
I spend time on our bed doing surge breathing and just focusing on relaxing
There was always about 3-5 mins between surges so I was worried it would be slow and got up on the birth ball a bit then
moved to the bed in an upright position and started to think about getting in the pool.
Asked midwife to check as I thought it might be too soon, was 7cm with bulging membranes, was encouraged by this and we moved to the pool
The Geek joined me in the pool and I spent most time just chatting to him, being together and lying on his shoulder through the surges
Did one very long surge leaning against side of the pool and felt the change to pushing/expulsion surges.
Turned around again, the Geek was sitting in front of me encouraging me all the way to breath
A few very intense surges later and the head was born. I think this was the only time I was vocal and then only just a low moan. ( so different from the other 2 births)
Marcha helped Yme feel for the cord and the next contraction the body was born into his hands. Yme lifted him out the water and onto my chest.
We had done it, a calm peaceful, loving birth.
The Long version
I have divided this into chapters – sorry I have a lot I want to say, but feel free to read the bits that interest you.
Impatient – he was not late why was I so desperate to have him
Take 1 – false start
The real deal
I have had 2 natural home water births. I know I can birth without help and without medication. They were huge accomplishments in my life but they were far from a walk in the park. I remember after Pinklet Girl’s birth understanding why people in hospital would ask for an epidural. This is the her birth story I tried very hard to write a positive story and can see how I even made my ex sound good. But if you read carefuly you will see he was aloof and unable to offer support. He is a person that battles to identify with other people’s emotions and thinks most time people are just making a fuss. He told me during labour not to be so loud as the neighbours would hear, he was not loving or caring but rather I sensed I was embarrassing him most of the time. He told me afterwards that I had really made a huge fuss for nothing.
I knew having a home waterbirth with your first and no pain meds is quite an achievment. The Midwife always told me I did well, but the feeling of failure I took from this birth stayed with me until Sunday night. I look back now and realize that I did the best I could with no emotional support. With better tools, like hypnobirthing and the constant love The Geek poured on me it can be better, but I coped as well as I could have then, I did not fail. I have forgiven myself and really closed the door on that birth wound now.
When I was pregnant the second time I was rather scared of birth. I knew it had to be different. I planned an unassisted birth. I thought maybe if I took on all the control I would be able to cope better. I needed to escape from something in my first birth. I just did not know what it was. The one thing I hated was that the 2nd midwife had been at a party come and help, I had not even started pushing so there was no rush and she got me up into a deep squat for the birth which I felt went too fast. I felt a bit rushed, it was not a position i would naturally have chosen. I got the feeling she wanted to get back to the party. I loved my midwife but felt at the time like the 2nd midwife took over.
I focused on this as a reason to reclaim control and do something differently the second time. In the back of my mind was the niggling feeling that I did not want my ex there, I kept saying how I did.What I wanted was to escape the feeling of being a failure. It really had nothing to do with having a midwife there or not, that was just my way of having control and dealing with one small aspect of the birth I had not liked. What I really wanted was a loving partner to support me through the birth. I had this romanitic notion about how birth could be. My ex worked on an oil rig and a day after he left at 38 weeks I went into labour. I think my body knew that I could not birth with his negative energy around again. Here is the birth story
You can see the mood and the birth was totally different, still I was noisy ( which is not a bad thing) and the end was a little overwhelming. But this experience helped me heal a lot and believe in my body. But the feeling of failure was not gone.
For those wanting to read more about my choice to do an unassisted childbirth UC ( without medical staff present in their role as midwife or Dr, I had a friend who was a nurse but she was there as a friend) I wrote an article for Parent 24 about it – I delivered my own baby
I decided not to do UC this time and here were my reasons – unassisted birth again?
Why did I include all of this history, well because it is important to understand the pressure I placed on myself to have a good birth. The feeling of being a failure from my first birth had never really gone away. Caleb’s birth was better but still I was noisy and this is what the ex had highlighted as me making a fuss for nothing. But more than it being about needing to get over his damaging words, it was about the knowledge deep inside me that I knew birth could be better. I knew that for centuries we had birthed well and that the Art of Birth had been lost. It could be a joyous, wonderful event. Yet I was terrified that I would fail.
(My ex is not a bad person, he just does not have any ability to deal with other people’s emotions or offer support.)
I mentioned over and over to Kim from Beautifully Born our hypnobirth instuctor that my fear was not about birth – I knew I could do that, it was not about anything gone wrong etc it was 100% about me not being able to be as calm and relaxed and controlled and achieve the birth I wanted. My fear releasing session this was my biggest fear that I am not sure I ever totally let go of. Yes I know this is a lot of pressure to place on yourself, but I longed to birth the way I knew, in my soul, it could be. I was so scared that the past and my experiences as a ,midwife and seeing many people birth in pain would not allow me get to past that.
I spoke to friends that had hypnobirthed, I practiced and practiced and worked really hard although many time I would get frustrated at not being able to get as deeply relaxed as I wanted to during practices. I think there was still a very big part of my rational thinking brain that would interfere when I practiced, but I never gave up trying.
Rachel was born at 40weeks + 1 day which is normal for first time, Caleb I did not expect much before that and he came at 38 weeks. My mom was progressively earlier with each of us 3 girls. So I had in mind that we might not make it all the way to mid March but was not really expecting any thing before the end of Febuary.
Then we had that incident of bleeding, wow that changes everything. Here is the story – where are my pants? after that I was always counting the weeks until he was viable – old enough to survive should be be born. 24weeks: a tiny chance of survival, 28 weeks: better chance, 32 weeks: most babies survive. We then had an evening at 33 weeks where I had regular 7 minute apart contraction all afternoon and most of the evening. I had just over done it and walked around way to much that day. But from then on I was always worried about him being early. Too early to birth at home. I started reading about how many weeks it would be safe to be at home.
Other factors that contributed were:
* I am sick from beginning to end of pregancy. I hate being pregnant and do not carry it silently and with no moaning. I hated the moody, complaining, uncomfortable person I had turned into. The Geek bless him was amazing he never said anything about how much I moaned and he was never annoyed by it ( well not that he ever showed me) he just constantly tried to make my life easier and more comfortable. Nothing was ever too much to ask him to do, he was and is a constant support. Near the end I had non stop heartburn and nausea where I would avoid eating just to avoid the pain. All my issues were minor and there are people that really really suffer in pregancy, but I was just tired of it all, I wanted it over.
* I was bigger this time from much earlier. I was about as big as I was with Rachel at the end at about 27 weeks! This feel also added to my mind thinking that it must just be closer to the time to have the baby because I felt so big.
* The Geeks sister is very unwell and still in ICU, there were times things were very critical and I was so worried she would never see the baby.
All these things meant that even though Titus was only 37 weeks + 5 days I felt like it could have been 42 weeks, a lot of the pressure to have him early was obviously my own, but all in all it seems like my body knew when was the right time. Titus was old enough to be born at home and at 3,41kg ( as big as his brother who cooked a week longer) he was definitely ready. The midwife reckons if he had gone to 40 weeks he would have been closer to 4kg. I am kind of glad he did not ;-)
We saw the back up Gynae on Tuesday 22 February to check all was good for the birth. The baby was low and head down which was great. Not all 2nd and subsequent babies descend into the pelvis early and some only do it in labour. I was glad that the baby was engaged already it meant some of the hard work was already done. Maybe this was the reason for my regular Braxton Hicks. I got them just about every hour for the last few weeks, more if I was walking and moving. The midwife and I chatted and thought that the baby might be early but we would wait and see.
Wednesday late afternoon things started picking up again. I got very regular, average intensity surge all evening. The Geek got some stuff ready just in case. We went to bed and in the morning I woke up with quite intense surges ( much like the way it would start on Sunday) The Geek stayed off work, he was so excited, he called him mom fetched her, started to fill the pool even though I tried to say lets see where this goes. Then they spaced out and finally stopped. Frustration does not begin to describe how I felt. I also felt silly for saying that it might be happening.
NOTHING not even much Braxton Hicks happened until Sunday. I remember saying to The Geek that the worst day for the baby to be born would be Sunday as then he would just have the 2 days he had left of family responsibility leave as his company has no paternity leave. I was hoping for Friday night, that would make a 3 out of 3 for my kids all being born on a Friday, it would also mean that The Geek had Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with his new baby. Haha well #koos decided to rather come on the day the day with the lowest statistical chance of being born – Sunday
We had spent a lovely family day, first at builders warehouse looking for some paint for the frames for our new photo feature wall, then The Geek said he felt like a beer lets go find somewhere near the beach the kids can play and we can relax. We landed up at Die DamHuis in Melkbos. We were not planning to have lunch, the budget is tight, but we rationalized that we would not be going out much at all for quite a long time after this, so we had a lovely lunch. I had a devine home made chicken and mushroom pot pie. I had a few Braxton Hicks again during lunch but was now so used to them meaning nothing I said nothing of them.
Once home we went for a nap. The kids were in the bath after getting totally filthy in the playground, soon The Geek was fast asleep and I has 2 wet giggle children playing with me on the bed. Rachel decided to massage my feet and rub cream all over me. It was a lovely bonding time. Caleb who is a very tactile boy and likes to be hugged and held, played on my tummy and I made sure I spend time making him feel special and loved. Knowing soon ( well I did not know it would be that soon) he would no longer be my small boy.
The kids went off to watch a dvd and suddely I was getting surges that were about 4-5 minutes apart. I actually need to concentrate and breath through them, they were not hectic but definatley a notch up from BH. I lay for a while thinking it would be another false start but I just knew it was not.
I got up did a few things in the kitchen ( murphy’s law every night for weeks I had made sure the house was neat and dishes washed and everything ready so if the birthing time started the house was clean, being Sunday afternoon the house was a mess!) I made coffee for The Geek and decided to wake him.
The Geek sleeps like the dead when he sleeps. He actually functions on very little sleep and often struggles to fall asleep but when he does he is dead to the world. It is like his body knows that it should make the most of what it gets. So I shake him rather vigorously and ask if he can help me get a few things ready. He says “give me 10 minutes and I will come”, this is a standard line, along with “I will be there in a minute” when you wake him from the couch to come to bed and usually results in him falling straight back into deep sleep for a few more hours. So I said “okay take 10 minutes if you need but I am going to start getting some things for the birth ready” He lept up trying to focus and get orientated. He was so excited and ready to help
He asked if I was sure, I said lets get a few things done and then decide. I think when he noticed that during surges i would stand and hold onto something and not answer him he knew it was the real deal. I sms’ed Catherine @Cazpi our photographer and official birth tweeter, the midwife Marcha and The Geeks mom to come watch the kids.
(The hashtag #koos was used during the birth and Koos tended in Cape Town that night on Twitter. You can read about it here )
I was useless at helping with anything and actually did not give a damn that the dishes were unwashed. I wanted to lie down where I could totally relax and go limp during the surges. Hypnobirthing teaches a technique called Surge Breathing. It is a technique where you breath in to a fast count of 20 while concentrating on making you stomach expand with the inhalation. It helps to work with the uterine muscles that are pulling the cervix up and out of the way. You then exhale for a fast count of 20 and repeat for as long as the surge lasts. I found that I had to have my hand on my tummy so that I could feel it expand as I took the breath in. It was quite easy to breath through them. I was listening to my birth affirmation track on my phone and tweeting and sms’ing family and friends during surges.
Catherine arrived we chatted and I explained if I closed my eyes and was quiet it was just my way of working through the surge. She would pop in and out during the time I was in the room, I could hear the soft click of her shutter and thought how glad I was she was capturing these moments. She was great, she was calm and quiet and her presents really helped. There had been a delay getting hold of The Geeks mom and Catherine stood in as the Pinklet sitter too, which I am very grateful for.
Caleb funny enough after cuddling him on the bedat nap time, I never saw him again, he never came into the room at all, he played and watched TV that we had set up in the guest room. Rachel seemed to need to check on me every so often but I had explained to her about the hypnosis and the need for it to be quiet and for me to focus on being relaxed. She drew me a card which she brought for me which said welcome Koos on the outside and Good Luck Mom on the inside it was very precious. She would quietly slip in and out during the night. Being quiet is not one of the things Rachel does well. I was so proud of her.
The midwife Marcha arrived while I was lying down and we chatted, she stayed in the room for a few surges and I think was happy I was coping okay. I asked The Geek to show her where everything was set up as we had not had the 38 week home visit where I could show where we had set up or how we planned things. She was happy we had everything. She listened to the baby’s heart beat during a surge and he was coping fine with the birthing time. I had said that I did not want to be checked how far along I was as for me it does not really tell you much, you can be 5cm and take hours or be 5cm and deliver 45mins later. She asked if I had felt yet myself, which I had not yet.
I made sure I drank often and also got up to go to the toilet often. I know a lot of mom like to sit on the toilet and find it a comfortable place for dealing with surges. I have always hated it and tried to go as soon as a surge ended before another came. I felt for the cervix when on the loo the next time, it is not that easy to feel on yourself but it was still high, about 4cm and thining.
I lay on the bed a while longer. The Geek came to lie with me. I even twitpic’ed a photo of us lying together after a surge. He was calm when he was with me and just helped me breath and stay relaxed, he was so loving and kind. Catherine says away from me he was far more visably nervous and jittery but I never felt that when he was near me.
The surges never got much closer than 3-4 mins, so I had time between them to relax or talk to people as they popped in and out offering support. I decided that maybe I should get up and do a few surges on the birth ball so as to let gravity aid the process and maybe shorten the time a bit. The Geek got my birth ball and I sat on that leaning on pillows on the end of the bed. The Geek often stood behind me and held me through the surges, these were very special close moments. When The Geek was not with me Marcha would come and sit quietly in the room.
The intesnity was increasing and I found I wanted to be upright but more able to relax totally, you can’t quite let go of all your muscles and be limp when needing to balance on a birth ball. The Geek bulit me a nest of pillows on the bed that I could be upright but lie on and totally relax. I was coping fine and did a few surges like this. I thought that the water might be nice but was worried that I was not far enough along as the breaks between surges was still long, up to 5 mins at times. I did not want to get into the water too soon and get tired, as the warm water can drain you if you are in too long. The Geek and I talked about it and decided to ask Marcha to check, I was a bit nervous as I was worried I would still be a long way off and dissapointed but I really wanted to use the pool so she checked and I was 7cm with buldging memebrane. Yay I was delight. Real progress and the warm realxing pool would probably make the last part go quite fast.
Between surges I walked down to the pool in the living area and soon after getting into the water I had a surge. The Geek was still on the outside.
He then got into the pool with me. He fed me jelly babies and we had a whole long conversation about a packet of jelly babies being the same energy as a loaf of bread. We were laughing and relaxed.
He sat in front of me and with each surge I would go limp on his shoulder while he helped me breath through them. I had to concentrate hard to be realxed. While I will not say it was without any discomfort I was coping and at no point thought it was unbearable or agony. At the same stage with the other 2 and probably earlier I was moaning and starting to be more noisy.
At one point I decided to lean kneeling against the side of pool, The Geek was behind me stroking my back. I had one very very long intense surge where I could feel the sensation change from the opening stage to the more expulsion type surge. I could feel he was moving down the birth canal. I won’t lie and say this part was comfortable but I was still able to breath through and only a few soft moans escaped now and again.
I turned around The Geek was in front of me. I felt and the head was about 4cm in. I told The Geek to feel.
We started to prepare for the birth stage, I checked someone had called Rachel as I know she wanted to watch. Marcha checked his heart to make sure he was still coping well with birth, he was fine and it was good to hear the sound of his heart.
In hypnobirthing you breath the baby down and do not activly push hard as it makes you more tense. I breathed and panted and tried not to push or hold my breath but there were a few moment when I did push rather involuntatily. The Geek was amazing he held and encouraged and help me so much to be focused. One big surge and yes the dreaded ring of fire and the head was out ( both previous births I was very loud during the head being born, this time I made a small moan, it was sore but totally managable I never felt out of control) Catherine said that Yme had his hand on my tummy just staying connected and loving and the other hand was under the water to support the head and ready to catch the baby she said his was toatlly calm talking to me but his hand under the water was shaking obviously with the nerves that he felt, but he worked so hard not to let any of that nervous energy affect me.
Marcha helped him check for the cord around the neck and moved it out the way. Even at the birth stage there was quite a long break between the surge when then head came out and the next one where the shoulders and body was born. Marcha told The Geek to let the whole body be born under the water and then to lift him out onto my chest.
11:45pm Sunday 27 February 2011, Titus was born into his dad’s hands and straight into our hearts. The whole birthing time was so full of love and support it was the most incredible experience. The bond between The Geek and I and his willingness to let go of any male aloofness and just totally be what I needed in the moment, have given us the gift of the perfect birth.
Rachel came straight over to meet her brother.
She watched Caleb being born when she was almost 3 and does not rememebr that much, only that I was loud and it was hard work. I am so glad that she got to experience this when she was older and see that birth can be amazing and not overwhelming and full of pain and screaming. She was suddenly tearful and I was worried about her, she sobbed saying she was just so happy, Marcha encouraged her to get into the water with us and come and be part of the moment. It was lovely to cuddle with her.
Annatjie fetched Caleb who had fallen asleep but he is not good at waking up and he just kept going back to sleep, he would meet the baby in the morning.
The placenta took longer than the other 2 but I had not torn at all except a slight skin graze. While I was getting sorted out The Geek got time with his new boy. We then weighed him 3.41kg just a little lighter than Caleb who was born a week later.
How do I feel now? Amazing! While i think that there are people who can master the total relaxation and being able to remove themselve and be totally painless during birth, this was not the goal for me. I did struggle with not twitching and wriggling during practices and being able to totally disengage from my body. What I wanted was the chance to birth calmly surrounded by love and never to feel overwhelmed. I got this. I managed through breathing and concentrating on realxing each group of muscles in my body to work with and not fight the surges. I also had the most amazing team to help.