It is now six months since James was born, and it has been a challenging time. We have had to deal with major illnesses in our family, moving country and home, being in insecure countries, and being apart for much of the time … all in addition to having a newborn and a 2-year old. And every time I have felt like I am at the edge of that tipping point, the one thing that I grasped on to for reassurance and calm was the thought of his birth. So I thought I would share it, in the hope that it will inspire other women to choose the birth they want. It has made it so much easier to deal with the many difficulties of life later on.
At exactly 39 weeks, at 10pm on a Sunday evening, after a lovely chilly day with little Laila and Rich in the park, and a take-away curry evening, I went to bed with period-like cramps. I actually slept through most of them until 2am, thinking they were 'false' labour like I had had a few times before that. But then they got stronger, and I had to get up to breathe and move through them. I wiggled my hips round (the camel wobble), and swayed my hips in Arabic belly-dancing style. Throughout the movements, I visualised the baby going lower down and getting into the right position. The contractions went in waves when the feeling was intense, I moved to a rhythm. When they abated, I pooed lots (the body's natural enema!), and pottered around. I cooked Laila's food for the next day, I prepared her bag, and I tidied up. At around 4am, I was getting tired, so I put on the visualisation CD that the midwives had lent me, and I actually slept for a full hour to the soothing and familiar voice. I don't know what happened to the contractions during that hour.
At 5.30am, the surges were stronger, and so I woke Richard up and told him the baby was on its way out. I know a lot of women need their partners during labour. I have always felt that in the beginning, when emotions can come in the way of labour so much, I need to be on my own. I need to immerse myself in my own little balloon of privacy, just me and the little being inside me working together. My husband thinks he is very lucky to get off so lightly! He got in the shower, as I phoned the midwives. He also joked about my breathing huffing and puffing away, breathing out the intensity of the uterus muscles working.
At 6.15am, the contractions were fairly intense. I was using a soft, stretchy piece of material pulled against the lower portion of my back to help apply counter-pressure as I moved constantly through the surges. I breathed a sigh of relief as Tina and Annie arrived because at that stage I was tired and needed some support. Rich sped away in the car with Laila. They set things up, mostly in my bathroom and bedroom. They knew exactly what to do -they dimmed the lights, massaged my back lightly, and told me I looked beautiful - what a lovely thing to hear when you are in labour! In the short periods of time between contractions, they took the baby's heart rate, and it was wonderful to hear that strong beat, knowing that there was another person involved in this with me, working through it with me. I was never examined internally as I didn't want to know how dilated I was. The birth would take as long as it would take, and I didn't need the pressure of wondering how long that would be and judging it according to pre-conceived notions of success.
At around 7.40am, I got the urge to push, and got down on my knees leaning on the yoga ball. We were in the bathroom, with dimmed lights. Rich had just come back, and was ordered to sit on the loo, so I could replace the yoga ball with him. It must have looked quite farcical - me leaning in between his knees holding on to him, as he sat on our loo! But it was just so comforting to be in our surroundings, with two wonderful women we trusted and who had been through it all before with our first child. And the smells … I just smelt home. The reassurance of Richard's scent, to the cleaning liquid I used in the bathroom, to the smells of Rich's clothes, to the smell of the candle burning in the background.
The second stage was very gentle, in that I had lots of respite and calm in between, and it wasn't as fast as Laila's. But God I had forgotten the burning low pain of the crowning! As soon as the waters broke, I knew the baby was almost there. I lost it for part of one push, and it really did hurt . I needed Tina to remind me to breathe the baby out, to gently allow it to emerge. Two more contractions, and he slithered out. Tina passed him to me in between my legs, and nestled straight away skin to skin amidst his loud cries. That was 8.30am. He weighed 8 pounds, and had APGAR scores of 9 and 10. About 40 minutes later I lay in a hot bath. Richard brought me tea, and Tina brought me porridge. Little James was marvelled at by his dad and weighed. The three of us cuddled in our own bed soon after, and spent the day doing that mostly, until Laila arrived back home to see the new addition to the family. I still remember her surprised, somewhat disapproving face. We quickly changed the subject to the wonderful present the baby had brought her, and then she smiled plenty! Now, she can't imagine life without him. And seeing them together is so special.
Tina and Annie have become part of our extended family. They have been involved with us for the past 3 years, through the ups and downs, and have birthed both our children. They have seen us change from being a young couple to being parents of two children. I looked forward to their every visit, pre and post-natally, and will miss them so much if we choose not to have another baby.
I am no longer high on the initial euphoric hormones, but I still marvel at how strong the female body is, at how instinctive the birth process is, and how incredibly lucky we are to go through such a challenge and joy of birth. And also what an apt preparation for the strength and patience needed to raise a child. I feel so lucky to have had two wonderful births, especially the second one at home. And I really have to thank the midwives, for helping me believe in myself, in the process, and to give me the confidence to do it when most people around me told me I was crazy and irresponsible. Research has shown that home births in the majority of cases are safer; I also feel they provide a woman with strength and confidence, which makes for being a better mother. There are so many theories about raising children, and what is the 'best' way. In the end, just like birth, if you follow your instinct and do what your heart and body are telling you, you can't go wrong. But you do need to be strong enough to believe in what you are doing, and that is where Tina and Annie came in.
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