The Test of Endurance: Margo’s Birth Story

From the ever so wonderful Kate from Katesurfs, who I met at an attachment parenting playgroup..and am so darn thankful I did.

Today Margo is two days old.  One of the midwives told me to write down everything about the birth while I’m still in the hospital and all the memories are fresh in my mind. To start, Margo is THE cutest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mother, all the midwives and doctors think she’s a good looking baby too!

I was 7 days past my due date, but that was ok.  There wasn’t much for me to do, I worked up until the 4th of March, and she was due on the 8th…  Everyone thought I was crazy to be working right up until my due date, but we really needed the money, and I was feeling fine. I was teaching in a school, which had air conditioning, where the kids were really well behaved, so it was okay.

Work was finished, my due date had come and gone,,, but no baby Baltrotsky!  Being late was a very good thing, though.  It gave me time to scrub the house and rest!  After the whole house was scrubbed (as much as you can clean when you have a belly the size of a watermelon and the occasional gumby legs from someone’s cute little head cutting of the circulation to the lower half of your body), there wasn’t much to do except sit around and wait.  So, we listened to music, we meditated, we did yoga, we slept and I just waited for her to come.  Even after nine months of carrying her around, it was hard to grasp just exactly what was waiting for me when she came out…  I couldn’t imagine what she would look like, or even that I would ever even go into labor.  I just had this feeling like I would be pregnant forever!!!

I wasn’t even really desperate to get her out, even at a week late. I was really enjoying the pregnancy and I knew that she would come out when she was ready.  I didn’t want to be induced, although the obstetrician said it was available.  And then finally… the inevitable started to happen…

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I was up all night with mild contractions, no sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time.  I thought for sure I would be in the hospital the next morning and she would be born on the 15th of March, the Ides of March!  But, morning came and the contractions subsided a little, I called the maternity ward and they said that was normal and that it could be up to a few days before I went into labor…  Art had off that day so we went around town, did some food shopping, and I only had irregular contractions.  They were only bad enough that I had to just stop walking and breath a little.

We got home around noon and I made a huge pot of yummy tofu, tomato, bok choy and noodle soup… which we’ll get back to a little later.  Took a short nap (I could finally get some sleep!) Then woke up around two I noticed the contractions were getting more regular and more uncomfortable, but I was still suspecting it would be a while before anything happened.  The contractions did not subside and got stronger and stronger.  I could still walk around in between, but when they came, I had start rocking and completely stop what I was doing.  Right around 5pm I thought I would finish off the rest of the soup… big mistake…  The contractions kept coming and I went to go meditate to sooth the pain, but the contractions were coming really strong, so it wasn’t really what you would call a deep meditation.

Art was doing his best to make sure I was comfortable, but by around 7pm, I knew things were heating up.  I called the midwives and told her what was happening and she said she wouldn’t be surprised if she saw us before the morning.  So, I told Art to get in the shower, brush his teeth and pack the car.  We didn’t even make until 8pm and the contractions were getting really strong.  So, we jumped in the car,,, and Art did his best to hit ever single bump on the five minute journey to the hospital!  It was also dark and rainy and a little chilly (end of summer in Australia). There was so much pressure on my abdomen, even when we hit a crack in the road, it felt like we had hit a crater!  We got to the maternity ward and I could barely make it out of the elevator or even tell the midwife what was happening.  She walked me down the hallway to the birthing room and told me to wait.  The room was so big and it was dark out and the maternity ward was quiet and peaceful.  Except for the intense contractions, it seemed like I was checking into a high quality vacation… mmm…. sort of….

I’m sure Art hit every pot hole he could manage to find!
The first mid-wife was so cool.  Art put a picture of our guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, out on the windowsill and she instantly asked us if that was our guru and how good it was that we meditated, etc.  She did a quick check and told me that I was 4-5 cm dilated!  She was so proud that I had done so much hard work at home!  She said most women come in and are barely 1cm.  That made me feel good, like maybe this won’t be so bad after all.  We all chatted happily in between contractions and she made us feel really comfortable with our request to have a natural water birth, etc.  She filled the tub up, but her shift was about to end.

courtesy of katesurfs.com
courtesy of katesurfs.com

The contractions were getting really strong now, I had to start doing some breathing to get through them.  I had really bad heart burn too,,, that darn tofu, tomato soup!  The midwife suggested I get in the shower while the pool filled up so that my muscles could warm up…  Art  helped me  into the bathroom and the second I turned that water on, I barfed up the tofu soup!  Not even like I little bit, I mean, like every last drop!  It was full on exorcist barfing.  Just spewing till there was nothing left!  But, oh, did it feel so good to get that out.  Art and I laughed in between contractions, and I helped him spray the vomit chunks down the drain.  And, oh, the relief!  Without the heartburn, now I could really concentrate.

The shower was going okay, but it was getting hard for me to stand up.  So, I went to the pool.  But, the pool temperature was too hot, so after about 45 min in there, I had to get out because I was overheating and the the baby’s heart rate had jumped.  I felt her squirming around in there like crazy!  So, the midwife on duty, put me on this stupid monitoring machine.  By now it was about midnight and I was exhausted, hardly any sleep in two nights.  She then monitored me for something like 5 hours!

This part of the labor was the most intense.  I went between the bed and ball for hours, strapped to this stupid machine.  It told me the baby’s heart rate and it also showed the intensity of my contractions.  It seemed like I was there for an eternity.  Eventually, the baby’s heart rate returned to normal and so did my temperature.  Art and I were so exhausted, we were both actually falling asleep between contractions! I didn’t want to fall asleep because the sleep was so peaceful and then a huge contraction would come and snap me out of my dozing.

Even the midwife was falling asleep.  She was yawning and every once in a while would leave the room for up to an hour and come back smelling like she just had a cup of coffee. They checked my dilation sometime during these 5 hours of hell and said I was 7-8 cm and that they should break my waters to help the birth along.  I didn’t want any intervention at all, but I was also exhausted, after 30 or so hours of pre-labor and labor combined, I agreed.  After they broke my waters, the contractions changed, they were still as intense, but somehow seemed like they were doing more.

I was still strapped to that stupid machine and would rip off the heart monitor that was strapped to my finger, every time I had a contraction.  They also said I was dehydrated and would need an IV!  As soon as I heard that, I started drinking like a camel.  After each contraction I needed a huge gulp of water.  Art’s almost sole job for 5 hours was just to keep filling up my water bottle.  With each contraction, I was breathing so heavily, and that’s why I was getting so dehydrated!  Anyway, it was one way of keeping Art awake, he was the water boy!

Finally, around 5am, the midwife checked my dilation again, 10cm!  Now I could push if I felt the urge, although the midwife seemed reluctant to really let me give it a go.  I felt like she would be cheering me on or something.. but no.. she just sat there and did nothing… It seemed like she wasn’t sure if I was fully dilated and the doctor wouldn’t be around for several hours.  For some reason, I felt really pissed off at her because I felt like she was holding up my labor because she seemed uncertain.  I was probably feeling very unsure of what to do at this point and very very exhausted.  She was okay, but I didn’t really feel so comfortable with her, the whole night… (I’ve always heard that babies will not be born if certain unwanted people are in the room).

The pool was still warm from when they first filled it up.  After the initial over-heating, I had lost all interest in the pool.  To be honest, I couldn’t even imagine that this baby would ever be born!  I just thought I might sit there for the rest of my life in labor!  The whole experience was surreal.  I felt like I wasn’t even there.  I could feel the sensations, and I was coherent, but I was in this zone.  Who am I?  Am I even experience this pain?  What is happening?  Where am I?  It went on like this for hours.  Anyways, after they broke my waters, that feeling subsided slighty and I asked if I could go back in the pool because my legs were killing me.  My whole body ached.  Each contraction required 100% attention and strength from my entire body.

So, into the pool I went.  It felt much better and because of the reduced pressure from them breaking my water I felt like it might be over soon.  The idea of ‘over soon’ was so vague to me.  Would over soon mean that I would have a little baby soon?  They kept saying, ‘oh, just wait to you get to see your little treasure’.  I still couldn’t imagine holding a baby in my arms, or even picture what she would look like or that an actual baby was going to come out of me!  All I wanted to do was to go to sleep!  I kept having this thought, ‘I can’t wait till this is over and I can sleep’…. and then I realized what a stupid thought that was… I was going to have a newborn… how was I ever going to sleep?

I spent nearly another 3 hours in the pool doing this wimpy pushing.  The midwife told me, when you feel an overwhelming urge to push, do it hard…  Well, that didn’t really mean any thing to me, I had no idea what she meant!  I really didn’t like her that much, especially now.  The sun had come up and and at this point I hadn’t slept much in over 36 hours.  I was exhausted and so was Art.  In fact, second to dealing with the contractions, my second most strong thought was how bad I felt for Art!  He sat there through the whole thing, there for me ever second, whatever I needed.  One second he would help me to stand up, the next, I would swat him away when he tried to rub my shoulders…  poor thing… he was exhausted too and had to sit through me going through this insane experience!  He was really amazing, I can’t imagine having to go through that with anyone else.  He was just incredible… what a lucky baby to have a father like that

Anyways, 8am rolls around and we have a new midwife.  Thank GOD!  Her name was Margaret Mary, in her fifties, very stern, but really sweet looking and all business.  I liked her right away.  She seemed so in charge and I could tell she really knew what she was doing and someone-to-trust(as almost all woman in labor for the first time feel!)!  Well, I didn’t have my glasses on, so I couldn’t really see her too well, but I could tell that she was my savior!  Seriously!  I am so lucky that she came.  (In hindsight, now I know how incredibly important it is to have a midwife or duola present at your birth, one whom you can trust and whom you know!  I often wonder how much faster my labor would have gone if I had had someone there that I trusted).

Olympic sized birthing pool!
She watched me have one contraction and saw that I was not pushing hard enough.  I specifically told her that I needed her help and that I didn’t know what to do.  So, she told me that the baby was posterior and that I literally had to push you so hard that I turned you around to get you out!  She said, ‘Right, here’s what we’re going to do, you’re not going to like it, but it’s what you HAVE to do’.  You’re going to get out of that pool and go to the toilet.  You’re going to push like hell and on the toilet you don’t have to worry about anything coming out and you’ll be in a better position.  Get up now, take big steps and let’s get to the toilet.  So, drill sergeant Margaret gets me up and walks me to the toilet.

We get to the toilet and she sits down right next to me and starts bossing me around (and, I liked it).  Take a deep breath, hold it and you’re going to bear down like you have to take the biggest poo of your life.  You’re pushing your baby out literally with the muscles in your diaphragm.  As soon as she told what I had to do, I immediate got pissed off at the last midwife who might have been able to tell me that information a few hours ago!  Then, I thanked Margaret for telling me what to do, I pushed, and my God, I finally felt your head start to make it’s way down!  I was like ‘YEAH! This is it!  This is how I get my baby out!’  So, she kept talking me through each contraction. ‘Wait for it to build, now push, hold your breath, and push, like this, for ten minutes.’  Finally, I felt some progress.  It burned so bad, but I knew it was finally happening!  I reached and could just feel the top of your head.

Oh, and a little comic relief walked in at this point… here I was sitting on the toilet, naked as the day I was born, and in walks the OB, Dr. Doolabh, who was going to deliver the baby.  He was doing his morning rounds, all dressed nicely.  ‘Oh… hello’, I said, all smiley, in between bearing down with a contraction.  Margaret Mary said, ‘she’s doing awesome, she’s had no drugs and don’t go far because this baby is about to come out.’

Then, drill-seargent Margaret Mary said, ‘Right, you’re not going to have this baby on the toilet, you’re going back to the pool!!!!!  The pool felt like it was three miles away.  How could I WALK to the toilet with a baby’s head practically hanging out of me!?  ‘I can’t do it!’. I said. ‘Oh yes you can,’ says Margaret Mary.  And, you’re going to take BIG steps to get there!  She was awesome.  She we walked to the pool and I got in and laid back.  Did I forget to mention how much it burns to have a baby’s head coming out of your vagina?!  She told another midwife to call back the OB because this baby was coming out!

I laid back in the pool so content, yet, in so much burning pain.  Then, Margaret Mary gets out this big flashlight and Art gets his camera out to take some illegal video.  She talked me through a few more contractions, telling me to listen to her, and not push all at once.  I could really feel her head now.  I just wanted to push her out, but I was listening to Margaret Mary.  One more gigantic push and her head came out and oh what a relief!  I could see the back of the little head with all of this goopy stuff floating on it.  She was submerged under water.  I was in bliss,,, don’t ask me how you can be in bliss with something the size of a melon hanging out of you,,, but I was.  The rest of the body had to come out though.

They said to wait for the next contraction.  It felt like 5 minutes went by, although, it was probably only 30 sec.  I really really wanted to push her out!  But, there was no contraction coming!  I kept asking, can I just push her out?  They said, to try and wait for one.  But, nothing was happening!  Finally, Dr. Doolabh, in his friendly Indian accent said, ‘just give a small push and see what happens….’  I gave a little push and she came flying out!

Dr. Doolabh just helped me a little to catch her and bring her above the water and there she was!  Right in my arms!  The cord was a little short and I wanted to bring her right up to my chest, but she was a little stuck at the water line.  And, she was soooooo beautiful.  Her eyes were wide open and she was looking all around, so alert!  I wanted to wait to delay the cord cutting, but it was so short, and I think they were a little concerned… so they clamped it and Art cut it. Then, we could really see her and I brought her up to my chest.  I couldn’t believe how perfect she looked!  I took a quick look at all her little body parts, and all I saw was this beautiful baby!  It was incredible.  I was just crying and laughing, the past 36 hours didn’t mean a thing!

I had so much energy right after.  I climbed out of the pool, not even using the stairs with the cord still hanging out and the placenta needed to come next.  I hoped on the bed where they put her on my chest, all covered in mucusy bloody stuff and she was just divine.  I did consent to getting a shot, which helps to deliver the placenta faster, and helps to stop bleeding… I was so over being all natural at this point!  She was so alert and so content.  We sat there for about an hour just staring at her… infact, at the time of writing this, she’s about 4 days old and we are still sitting around and staring at her… She did the whole breast crawl thing, that was amazing!  We took a good look at the placenta, that was really cool.  I was just smiling and crying, we were all doing great.  Even her little head, that had been squashed for hours to get through, was in perfect shape.  All the midwives later that day kept asking if you were a caesar, and proud me, said, ‘Nope, waterbirth’!

After all that, we had our little Margo and we were in love!  She was gorgeous and healthy.  My whole body was aching from hours and hours of labor and I had a little bit of grazing (think gravel rash… eww…), but no tearing.  But, no matter how long and crazy the labor had been, I would do all again if I had to.

 

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Books for welcoming a baby

Books, Books wonderful glorious BOOKS! It may have taken almost three years but I am finally getting the picture that if we want Boz to focus on, learn about, sing about and love something…anything…all we need to do is find some great books.

Sometime in the next few weeks the newest member of our family with be travelling from my belly to earth side. For the past month we have been exploring books that celebrate pregnancy and new babies. Here are three that have captured Boz.


Mummy Mummy What’s in your Tummy? by Sarah Simpson- Enock illustrated by Linzi West

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A gorgeous little book that is full of simple rhythm and rhyme. Each page you lift a flap to discover silly outrageous things that could be making mummy’s tummy grow. A balloon? a boat? a birthday cake? The end result of course being a BABY.

IMG_3059_fotorThe illustrations are so colouring and burst off the page. About four of Bozzies favourite things turn up in the mummy’s tummy so it got his attention straight away. I also made a point of doing a big exaggerated NOoooooo and shaking my head after each page of silliness. Then a big YESSSSSS when they finally came to the baby.


There’s a HOUSE inside my Mummy by Giles Andreae illustrated by Vanessa Cabban

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To be honest this one didn’t resonate with Boz much but I quite like it. Giles Andreae writes great childrens books and this has that similar flow and rhyme you may already know. I love all the familiar homey scenes that are portrayed through out the book and how the little boy uses his imagination to explain how on earth a baby would be living in his mum’s tummy. Much of what he supposes is not too far from the truth 😉

IMG_3064_fotorI like that it normalises some of those traits mum’s go through during pregnancy like eating lots of different things and falling asleep/being super tired. There is lots of care, love and curiosity sprinkled throughout so it almost feels like a book that gives you a warm hug.


One Special Day by Lola M. Schaefer illustrated by Jessica Meserve

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Alrighty this is OUR favourite one, I have fallen in love with it and so has Boz. It is the gorgeous story of a little boy who is lots of things; strong, wild, messy, free! It takes you into his magical world that is full of animals and adventures. One Special Day this boy that is full of spirit becomes a brother!

IMG_3067_fotorThe illustrations in this book are pretty darn delicious, I sort of want to rip it up and frame them. The story feels so full and yet there are very few words. You find yourself being drawn into each page, pausing to take in the beauty of the moment. Its one of those ones that gets me choked up, “because for the first time ever – Spencer was a brother”.

IMG_3069_fotorWe borrowed all of these, and a few more, from the Gold Coast Libraries. Although I think I may just purchase One Special Day 🙂

 

Birth Preparation

I am attending a pretty wonderful pregnancy yoga class at the moment that combines lots of delicious yoga moves with lots of birth information. Last week we all shared what we were enjoying about class, the overwhelming response was along the lines of “before I came here I knew nothing about birth, now I have so many tools that I can use”.

Personally it has been a great refresher of all the information I learnt when we completed a hypnobirthing course. Before the course, although I ideally did want to have a natural birth, I had little knowledge of the best way to achieve that, or even about exactly how our bodies function during birth.

From what I have witnessed and discussions I have had it seems that many women go into birth with very little helpful information. In fact in our culture, modern Australia, we are subjected to an overwhelming amount of unhelpful information. What we are shown repeatedly through television and movies is a very traumatic hospitalised version of birth. Women in serious pain, screaming, swearing at husbands, machines hooked up everywhere, lying on their back (did you know your pelvis opening is approximately 25% smaller when you are on your back?). I mean… seriously… how many births have you been exposed to where the woman is breathing calmly and deeply while moving around in upright positions surrounded by calm supportive caregivers?

Which brings me to this post and three avenues where you can find positive tools for birth. The links I have included to specific practitioners have been compiled solely from the experiences of people I know, they are recommended by some pretty amazing women, so definitely a good starting point.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPrenatal Yoga

Yoga has so many benefits it is sort of ridiculous! At any point in your life it will bring you greater awareness of both body and mind, coupled with increased strength and control (like a ninja…or even a yogi 😉 ). A good prenatal yoga class will work with you as your body rapidly morphs throughout each trimester. You will learn how to keep strong while staying safe, how to ease those aching muscles and joints that are being pushed in all new directions to accommodate another human, you will learn about good open positions for birth and have the benefit of trying and perfecting a few of these.

One of the beautiful skills yoga gives is an awareness of breath. Breathing is something we all do unconsciously, but when we start to pay attention it becomes a SU-PER POWER . Being aware of how breath moves through your body and how you can manipulate it to relax your muscles and your mind will put you at a huge advantage when birth day comes.

Prenatal yoga also connects you with other mum’s-to-be and gives you time to really tune into and honour the mini human who is busily growing inside. Before choosing a class have a chat to the instructor about what the it involves, what the main focus is and what you will gain from attending. Remember that if you start a class that doesn’t seem the right fit there are usually lots more options around.

My gorgeous friend Josie
My gorgeous friend Josie…HEART HER… photo by Karina Bell

Hypnobirthing and Calmbirthing Courses

Want an antennal class with a difference? Both methods view pregnancy and birth as a natural normal event, something that women have biologically evolved to do, and with more capability then what we give ourselves. The courses involve education about the body and birthing process. Sequences of events that lead up to labour and natural methods for induction, pain management and relaxation. They acknowledge the fear and anxiety that often surrounds birth and give parents tools to work through these feelings, in turn breaking down some of the psychological and physiological barriers to having a positive birth experience. Both include relaxations, meditations and affirmations…looked at in a slightly different light.

One of my favourite elements these courses provide is empowering your birth companion (hubby, friend, mother..whoever) by giving them a role in the birth. They will learn different techniques to help mum through whatever circumstance arrives, no more companions lurking in corners looking helplessly freaked out.

So what is the difference? Hypnobirthing was founded by american Marie Mongan and is based around hypnotherapy principles. Calmbirth was founded by Australian Peter Jackson, though similar in philosophy there is a slightly different method and Calmbirth practitioners must have midwifery, obstetric, general practitioner or doula training.

We completed a Hypnobirthing course and many of our friends have completed Calmbirthing courses, all of us have been really happy we made the investment because not only were we no longer clueless…we actually felt positive about our births!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMidwives, Student Midwives and Doula’s

Midwife and doula care brings you all the support and expertise you will need for a normal pregnancy and birth. They are the experts!

What is the difference between a midwife and a doula? A midwife is a trained medical professional who is responsible for monitoring pregnancy and labour, assessing the medical condition of mother and baby, and treating complications should they arise. The word doula also means “mothering the mother” or “woman’s personal servant”. They have intimate knowledge and experience with birth but their primary role is to support the mother in a more emotional and spiritual sense. That is putting things in a very black and white view.

Student midwives need to attend a certain number of births before they can complete their midwifery training. Most avenues available for birthing will have the option of a student midwife connection. It is important to remember that although student midwives have completed medical training and have extensive knowledge about the medical side of birth they will not be allowed to make any decisions relating to your medical care. They can however act as more of a doula.

One of the huge benefits of birthing through a midwife centre, having a private midwife for a home birth or with affiliations to a hospital, a student midwife or hiring a doula is continuity of care. Simply put you have one person who will follow you through pregnancy, be with you during birth and provide care for at least 6 weeks after birth. This person will KNOW you. They will be aware of your history, your wants and desires, the type of birth you are aiming for and the steps you want to take when if complications arise. They will be aware of certain fears and triggers, they will know the things that keep you calm. They will also have lots of tools up their sleeve to help your birth keep progressing, be as comfortable as possible, and keep both you and baby safe.

Why is this so very very valuable? Because during birth… us mum’s… we go into a different headspace completely. You won’t know what it will be like till you get there yourself, but it will be a mix of emotions and hormones and you won’t feel like answering questions or contemplating options, you will just want to birth! Having a familiar face standing next to you who has seen it all before, who knows you, who you trust and feel safe with…that is pure gold.

Hopefully these will options will give you some inspiration to get out there and delve deeper into the birthing journey. Of course nothing and no one can guarantee a complication free birth, but do not let that deter you from seeking the experience you dream of xox