Can I have a Natural Birth after a Traumatic first Experience?
written by Harriëtte Roerink
Around 2:30, I wake up from a very busy tramping in my belly. The baby is moving around a lot. I decide to get a bowl of yoghurt downstairs and install myself in bed with music and a book.
I just snuggle into bed when a slight cramp pulls through my stomach at 3:15. I don’t pay too much attention to it and try to find beautiful soothing music on Spotify. At that time, however, a playlist with mostly Spice Girls music is on. Although I hardly ever listen to this music, I like it now. I close my eyes and immerse myself in the music. After 6 light cramps with a few minutes in between, I say to Richard: “I think it started”. In the meantime, he has woken up.
4:45 : I decide to go for a walk outside. I walk the way Richard and I did the last weeks before we went to bed. With one leg on the sidewalk and the other on the street, I hope it will help to get the baby in an optimal position in the womb. Along the way I had about 4 contractions that were easy to do. I feel relaxed and strong, I am ready!
5:30: I go to sit with Richard in the bedroom on the gym ball. I am comfortable in my rhythm and cradle on the songs of the Spice Girls. Never expected that this could help me during labour! At that moment “Viva Forever” comes up and every word falls into place.
“Yes, I still remember every whispered word
The touch of your skin, giving life from within
Never heard a love song
Slippin ‘through our fingers, like the sands of time
Promises made, every memory saved
As reflections in my mind
Hasta mañana, always be mine”
Those 41 weeks and 4 days flew by. I enjoyed the last weeks of rest in which we were able to prepare for the birth together. Every day we listened to the Relaxation exercises together, and I caressed you in my belly, knowing that our time of being so closely connected would soon end.
I had a hard time with it; I wanted to meet you so badly, but I was not done with this beautiful process of being pregnant and turning into myself. It cannot be otherwise that you have felt it. You have given me ample time, but you came early enough to “escape” from the hospital. As these thoughts spin through my mind, I hear Noah waking up around 5:45 am, and I burst into tears. The period of the three of us is almost over. I hug Richard and regain my focus.
Not long after, I notice that Noah’s sounds make me lose focus. I lock myself in his room with music. I sit on the ball, a chair or hangover Noah’s bed. I soon discover that I should not change posture during a contraction. Although every position feels so miserable, shifting feels even more miserable, and I lose my focus. It helps to distract myself by quietly reciting the alphabet in my head, or counting from 31 up to when the peak of the contraction decreases.
In the meantime, I inform Sandra that labour started, but I assume that it may take a long time. She gives me some courage, and then I turn off the notifications on Whatsapp so that I can get into my bubble. I ask Richard to do the rest of the communication.
At 7.30 I eat two sandwiches. In between I had contractions, when the peak is over, I open my eyes again and talk a lot. And there it goes wrong. Richard has just called the Midwife, and she asks him to call back if the contractions last for a minute. “That is not yet the case, I can see it.” I feel indignant, these contractions do last for a minute. Again I am disappointed by my tendency to function normally during the pauses of the contractions as if nothing is wrong. I get angry and want him to call the Midwife back and ask her if you really have to experience contractions of a minute. He thinks that is strange.
I am so confused and can’t think logically, and yepp, there will be another damn contraction. Immediately I am out of relaxation and notice that I am going high in my breath. With the realization that this does not actually increase oxytocin, I decided to let it go. From that moment almost nothing works for the contractions. All positions feel bad. I squeak and breathe high. I don’t want that at all!
Richard and I clear up the misunderstanding when the Midwife is on the phone, she tells that a contraction indeed takes a minute to complete. Richard offers to set up the pool a few times, but I say no. I think it will take a long time and I don’t want to go into the bath too early because that can weaken the contractions. The Midwife comes around 10.00, and that will be early enough to discuss if I can go in the bath, I think.
The contractions change around 9 am. They feel lower in my belly and more painful, I sink entirely into the gym ball, which feels very painful. I think I recognize something from the back pains of Noah and make myself believe that you are in a posterior position just like your brother. I have to poop all the time, and I know that with this position, you can already feel the urge to push very early. I know for sure: we are going to the hospital, and I want an epidural. But first I ask Richard to get some fruit at the AH because there is no fruit in the house. In the meantime, I try to shower on the shower stool, but that also feels terrible. I stumble back to Noah’s room and call Richard. No answer. He calls back quickly, and I ask him to come home as soon as possible. I feel panic and then think for a moment: would this be the 8-9 cm panic moment? I had read a lot about that in the weeks before. I waved it away quickly, probably wishful thinking.
Richard comes in again at 9.45 and calls the Midwife if she is already on the way. I have the urge to push but do not dare to push, and Richard advises me to breathe as we have learned. “You don’t get it, I’ll push the baby out” I hiss to him. “Maybe that is true,” says Richard. Still, I don’t dare to push if I don’t know how much dilation I have.
At 10.05, the Midwife walks in and asks how I am doing. “I just want to poop,” I say. I know enough” she says. She gives Richard instructions to take her doctor’s suitcase out of her car, and I see a little bit panic in Richards’ eyes, I almost tend to take that suitcase myself. I find it very embarrassing, somehow. The Midwife apparently thinks I’m already fully dilated, while I think that is not the case at all.
The Midwife asks if I want a vaginal check. I stumble into the bedroom and yess you can’t believe it “I still think about closing the window. Not everyone has to enjoy this”. There comes another contraction. I have no idea what position to take so that the Midwife can check me, I don’t know what to do. She decides to do the vaginal check standing and says “You have are almost fully dilated, you can press along”. And to Richard: “Have you already called Sandra?” I don’t know what I’m hearing. On one side, I am enthusiastic, on the other hand, it feels very unreal.
Already? I am relieved that I can just trust my body, the urge of pushing that I felt was not a false alarm. And now … now I can push. The phase that was so traumatic during the previous birth and which I was very scared of during this pregnancy. I could not totally let go that it is possible to give birth without a vacuum extraction or episiotomy.
Richard asks again if he should set up the bath, but I no longer want him to leave my side. And the Midwife indicates that you are almost there. I’m afraid. Afraid of doing what my body tells me. The whole labour I consciously relax for quite a long time during the contractions and get distracted by repeating the alphabet, there is now only one thing to do: do what my body wants. Without thinking. While I carefully try to push with what the forces give me, some amniotic fluid and blood fall to the ground. Oh, the membranes were not broken yet. I’m pushing on all fours on the bed. It feels horrible, like a much too large and hard piece of faeces in a suboptimal shape that has to go out of the bowel. I can’t resist letting all statements like “I don’t want to do this any more”, “I don’t like it” and “I quit”. Completely against all relax birthing principles, I shoot into the resistance and work against my own body unknowingly. Soft and squeaky, those statements come out, like I’m a helpless little girl. I am annoyed by my voice and statements, and at the same time, I am proud that I at least do not waste energy on yelling and cursing.
The Midwife responds calmly and comprehensively to any form of resistance. That she understands and telling me that I am almost there. Where I judge myself about my behaviour, she doesn’t at all. I really respect that. Because of her calmness and understanding, I am increasingly able to turn inside myself and do what she says: breathe calmly to the place where I have the feeling that I need to do a giant poop. I am surprised at the forces and sound that are released.
I told during the course that making a sound is very common during pushing. At that time, it seemed so embarrassing to me, but that didn’t interest me anymore. No matter how uncomfortable, I feel something sinking in me. Although not as smooth as the course material had sometimes made it seem, it did happen. That which I had missed so much during the birth of Noah because he had the wrong position.
My head is spinning around, as is usually the case. As a sort of intrusive, compulsive thought, because I cannot, and I don’t have to do anything with these thoughts. I let them go and decide to put my mind in rest. You are almost there, and I am almost relieved of this uncomfortable feeling. The Midwife is holding a warm washcloth against my perineum. At a particular moment, I decide intuitively to feel if your head was already there. Although it was only a small part, it almost discourages me, on the other hand, I suspect that it is probably going fast now. It does not take me much effort to sigh neatly away as he Midwife indicates. Sandra also arrives at that moment. Moment Supreme!
I expected that when the head was born, the body would follow fluently, but that was not the case. I even found the part after the head – the birth of the shoulder – more painful. I feel that the Midwife is turning the baby, and then I hear a big splash of amniotic fluid. It is then 11:06. I look into Richard’s eyes and see him in tears. You were born!
Our dear Liam. On hands and knees, with my arms around the Richards’ neck. We did this together!
The Midwife wants to indicate you. That is quite a chore since I am on hands and knees, and it hurts to move. I turned, and the Midwife moved the baby between my legs and then you were on my chest. I install myself against the cushions on the bed. “You are here!” I almost can’t believe it, said it like twenty times. I didn’t cry, I am especially very relieved that you are here. Also, I feel pretty betrayed by the after-pain that gives birth. When the Midwife indicates that I still have to push for the birth of the placenta, I have to find the strength to do it. Immediately when the placenta is removed, the bottom feels better. Richard and I take the time to admire you and let you crawl to my chest.
In the meantime, we talk to Sandra and the Midwife about the labour, and we hear that you had a very short umbilical cord that was also around your neck. As if it was meant to be that I liked pushing on hands and knees. Because of that, Richard did not see you being born, which he thought was a shame at first. But then he would probably have been in a panic, which had also caused panic in me. Because I was able to push you outside, luckily the entanglement had no consequences for you.
Unfortunately, I seem to have had a subtotal rupture, and the Midwife wants the gynaecologist to stitch it in the hospital. Although I am extremely upset about it, in the end, it is not so bad. The Midwife goes to the hospital and explains to the staff that was traumatic for me the last time I was stitched. The team explains step by step what they are going to do and also during the stitching, the breathing exercises are very handy. Luckily, I don’t feel much of it. All this time you lie quietly in the arms of dad who is sitting next to the bed.
Although giving birth is not a party, I found it a wonderful and powerful experience. It still feels unreal that everything could go so smoothly and quickly. Even though it wasn’t a water birth and I still had to go to the hospital, the experience of home birth was amazing. Afterwards, everything went as it should have been, and I am very grateful for the support of Richard, the Midwife and Sandra. And of course you, my dear Liam, because birth is a combination of our bodies.