Monday, January 23, 2017

An unplanned home birth, catching our baby in the bathroom...

This is my story...

 From a traumatic first birth to an empowering second birth,

the EPIC arrival of baby number 2! 

Catching bubs myself in our ensuite bathroom...

8 months pregnant, date night, pre baby number 2

So what are your plans for the birth?......a home birth?”.... the woman suggested.
I was awkwardly perched on a couch experiencing the typical discomforts of a woman at 37 weeks gestation. The familiar “oh so delightful” ailments ranging from burning reflux in my throat, bulging haemorrhoids out my backside and the constant urge to pee had me nearing the end of my tolerance tether.

My 2.5yr old toddler and I were attending his weekly music class in the hilly suburb of Ferntree Gully on the outskirts of Melbourne. I was surrounded by a group of earthy mums, many of whom had birthed at home themselves. They listened on in eager anticipation for my response.

Id love to be one of “those” people who have a home birth... but I don't think I have the confidence” I responded sheepishly. “I have a doula planned to attend the birth and have done lots of reading and preparing to get myself into a calm birth zone” I hurriedly added (hoping to earn myself some “earthy” street cred).

Little did I know that exactly 7 days later I would deliver and catch my own son at home kneeling on our ensuite bathroom floor!

It had been 2.5 years since my first eventful and rather harrowing birth experience. (Link to my first birth story). During that time my attitude towards birth swung across a full spectrum of thoughts and emotions. Beginning with....

NEVER! Again.... unless it is a caesarean” which I recall shouting loudly shortly after the birth of our first child.
To “As long as I get an epidural as early as possible”
To questioning “How is it possible that some woman claim to have a calm and pain free labour?”
To finally... “What could I do to prepare for the best possible “calm” birth experience of my own?”

During my second pregnancy I did a lot of reading, soul searching and research. I wanted to arm myself with as many different tools to prepare for the best birth possible.

I started with a birth plan.

The first time around I turned up my nose at birth plans. I thought it was silly. How could you plan for something which essentially in the end is outside your control. Second time around however I found it very helpful. Regardless of whether I ended up birthing in any way like the “plan”, it made me sit down and consider “what would I do if?”. I allowed myself time to envision my best birth possible, what would it look like? Where would it be? Who would be there?. I gave my mind the space to consider multiple possibilities and outcomes. I began to feel excited... what was once a dreaded awful, traumatic experience was suddenly now an event I was anticipating.

In preparation I organised a doula, had an elaborate birthing set up (which included a vaporiser with essential oils), a night light, massage oil, music, a tens machine, birthing ball, raspberry leaf tea, clary sage oil... the whole kit and dam kaboodle!. In the weeks leading up to the birth I practiced a variety of mindfulness and breathing techniques with my husband at home. Guided by an absolutely brilliant book called “Birthing from Within” (by Pam England and Rob Horowitz). Together hubby and I followed various techniques with the use of ice clasped tightly in our hands as a “pain” prop. Despite the “pain” of the ice being absolutely nothing in terms of what I knew to be even the slightest contraction. I was able to practice and learn some techniques which later became invaluable.

These two tools helped me to transform my birth experience. I cannot recommend enough the book "Birthing from Within" by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, as well as the use of a tens machine during labour. 

Although I had prepared an elaborate set up and birth plan I wasn't precious about throwing the whole thing out the window when it came down to the actual event. Because at the end of the day I was an active passenger on the birth ride. But I felt prepared like a warrior heading into battle, with many tools, weapons and tricks up my sleeve.

The Event...

After finishing playing a board game with my husband on Sunday evening (30th of October 2016) I headed to bed around 10pm. I was joined by our toddler who had decided tonight his room was scary and I didn't have the energy to fight him. My husband had spent the previous few weeks sleeping in the babies nursery as I was constantly up and down during the night.

Despite the constant need to pee I did manage a few hours sleep and awoke around 2am to cramping pains. The type you might experience with uncomfortable period pain. I wasn't overly concerned as this had happened a few times over the previous week or two and had never progressed further. After half an hour the cramping started to come in pulses, like waves (aka early contractions). I attached the tens machine and lay back down in bed next to our toddler who was blissfully unaware of the epic metamorphosis that our family of three was about to experience. I decided to wake my husband and ask him to transfer our toddler back into his bed. As I glanced over at our son I was hit by a wave of emotion... I suspected the next time I saw him he would no longer be an only child. I grieved for a moment for that special time as a family of 3 had almost past.

I woke my husband around 3am. Despite my husband being a night owl by nature he was absolutely ratshit after going to sleep first and then being awoken. He squinted up at me from the mattress on the floor accusingly... slowly he stumbled down to move our toddler back into his room. I had mentioned that I thought I was experiencing early labour and was waiting for him to come back into our room after transferring our son... when I heard the door close behind him. He had gone straight back to bed! I rolled my eyes... I figured the pain was still very manageable so I would continue on alone. After another ten minutes I started to feel slightly more concerned... the pain was slowly increasing and the contractions were regularly spanning 2 minutes apart. I woke my husband again.

Me: “Babe, contractions are two minutes apart”
Hubby: “What does that mean?”
Me: “I don't know”
Hubby: “Okay...”(shuts his eyes again)
Me: (shut door...ughhhh, stomp back to bed alone)

I felt angry, unsupported... I started to get upset. I felt like this was a repeat of last time. I thought we had talked this thru, I thought that I had expressed that I wanted him to be more of an active partner during this birth. I stomped back up to the nursery.

Me: “I think you should get up”
Hubby(Squinting at me in a dazed sleep state) “What am I going to do? its probably going to take hours... do you think its actually the real thing??”
Me: I don't know...(starting to cry) Get up! Get the f*$k up! Make a coffee! Wake up! I am scared and I feel alone. I feel like this is a repeat of last time!

Hubby slowly crawled out of bed and sheepishly followed me down to our room. He started to dress and pull himself together. I know he wanted to try harder this birth to be more helpful... bless him... (to his credit he is an amazing husband and dad...just don't wake him in the night... ha ha).

We lay in bed for the next hour, chatting between contractions. The pain was still manageable with the help of the tens machine. At 4am the pain started to increase. I managed it by alternating between the tens machine and standing or kneeling beneath a super hot shower. My husband did his best to assist me and my demands, taking off and reattaching the tens machine between shower breaks. He also attempted to rub or stroke me, to which I brushed away every time. For me I realised I needed to be in my own head as much as possible. I was the only one who could get me thru this and I needed to focus.

I was using one of the visualisation techniques we had practiced called “Spiralling”. I imagined myself hovering above a favourite beach of mine from my childhood and dragging a giant stick thru the sand. Spiralling the stick outwards until I reached the edges of the shoreline and tree line. Taking a giant breath and then spiralling back into the centre of the small beach cove.

As the intensity of the pain increased sometimes I would sway my head in the direction I was spiralling, sometimes swaying my whole body. Somewhere around here I started to vocalise to cope with the pain also. Deep moans or chanted howls. Occasionally I would feel self conscious about the sounds I was making. Despite my husband being the only one present, I kept thinking maybe he would think I was “putting it on” or “overdoing it a bit”.

At 5am I asked hubby to call his mum and organise her to drive over to look after our toddler. I was concerned it was going to take her an hour to arrive and I knew our son would be getting out of bed at around 6.30am. The last thing I wanted was to be dealing with a needy toddler demanding breakfast in the throws of active labour! My husband was reluctant to call his mum yet.

Hubby: “She doesn't get up until 6am... ill be waking her”
Me: “We need her to come now!”
Hubby: “Are you sure?”
Me: “Yes I am sure!” I shouted

I could hear my husband discussing details with his mum over the phone in the adjoining room. They were fussing about which car to take and whether she would still be going to work. All the while each contraction was rapidly increasing in intensity. Next hubby called the hospital to inform them we would soon be on our way. The first light of dawn started to stream thru the windows and as with my first labour my body began to shake and vomiting commenced. I wasn't overly concerned as the same symptoms had occurred at dawn during my first labour and our son wasn't born until the following evening. Over the phone the midwife from the hospital suggested I try taking some Panadol and head up once hubby's mum had arrived.

Hubby sheepishly suggested taking panadol. “Is there really any point taking it at this stage? Do you think it will help at all?” he added. “I guess so?... it cant hurt” I replied between contractions.

Not that I was convinced it would be of much use... but surely something was better than nothing. That is when the first of the last three contractions hit! And they hit with epic force! I kneeled on all fours under the shower as hot as I could bare. Moaning and whaling, swaying in the same circular motion as my spiralling visualisation. I started to wale hubby's name, “Annnndddddeeeeee..... oh gawdddd! Andeeeeee! Call one of the neighbours quick! Call Emma, call Jill! QUIIIIIICCCCKKKKKK!”.
As the contraction ended I crawled out of the shower as fast as I could, naked I hopped onto the bed as the next contraction hit in an overwhelming wave. I could hear Hubby talking on the phone with our neighbour Jill. Urging her to come as fast as she could. The force of this second contraction had my body contorted in pain. I experienced for the first time what I thought was the urge to “bare down”. Half of my brain knew our baby was about to be born... but the other half was still in disbelief... Was this really it?

As the second contraction ended I knew I need to get off the bed and back into the bathroom.

Instinctively I began to build a nest of towels beneath me. I crouched down on my knees and bravely reached down below. “I can feel the head!” I yelled out to my husband in the other room. I was still in denial of the words coming from my mouth. I recall hearing Jill (our neighbour's) voice “I am here... where is she? How far apart are contractions?” as she raced in our back door and thru the house towards me. With urgency and great force the final contraction hit. I wreathed in pain... Jill and hubby raced to my side. I called out a disclaimer “I think I might shit myself really bad”.... Deep down I knew the baby was coming... but I didn't want to announce it with bold confidence to my audience of two, only to give birth to an explosive brown stink baby instead. In a split second my waters popped with explosive force, I kneeled in utter silence waiting for the “ring of fire” I had read about from so many other birth stories...waiting... nothing...waiting... and then in one almighty gush he was out!

I lifted him up onto my chest as Jill raised a towel up to cover us both. “Oh my God! Oh my God!....Oh my God! You just had a baby!” Jill repeated in shock... “Oh my God! In your own bathroom! You clever thing!!”. Tears welled up in Jill's eyes, shaking as she leaned over to kiss me on my face. I leaned back against the toilet behind me in wave of pride and absolute relief! It was over, it was over! It was perfect. Just as I had dreamt and envisioned. Strong, fast, safe (and the added bonus at HOME!). Jill fussed around me, attempting to get me a pillow and searching for more towels to get us comfortable. I was completely unfazed. She was worried about how my legs were tucked awkwardly underneath me. I couldn't have cared less. I was in a post birth bubble... I couldn't even speak. I just wanted to sit, in silence, in this moment of utter relief and exhaustion. I became aware that hubby was on the phone to the paramedics. I kept thinking, I don't want them to come... do they have to come? Can't I just be left in peace, in this bubble?...

The ambulance arrived 15 minutes later. I was completely unaware of time passing. I glanced down realising for the first time that we hadn't even check the gender. I brushed the cord aside revealing a perfect tiny willy. I glanced up at my husband who had seen the gender at the exact same time it was a boy, another boy. A split second of disappointed washed over me... as we had both hoped to have a little girl. I knew my husband didn't want to have another child and I longed to have a daughter. The relief and pride outshone the momentary disappointment. He was here, he was breathing and wriggling and beautiful and pink. He was ours... 

....The story doesn't end here....

I'd like to say that was the end of the story, as perfect a birth as I could imagine. The pain ending there and then... but unfortunately that isn't the truth. I think it is important to share this next bit, as often these are the things women forget about after the fact (black out perhaps). What followed in the ambulance and at the hospital was another 3 hours of torturous pain. Afterbirth pains, the placenta being born and stitches all had me sucking on the gas, eventually screaming for morphine and continuing to use the tens machine. I didn't feel prepared for this last bit of pain. I felt like I had done my job, the baby was here,,, I lost my control and focus. I remember absolutely tripping "off my tits" as I sucked on the gas in the delivery room, I noticed a bright green M&M lolly under the couch across the room and it became my focus point with each afterbirth contraction. I would look at that M&M, like it was just me and the M&M in a warped vortex of pain, my mind would say "faarrrrrrkkkkk you MR GREEEENNNNN M&M FAAARRRRRRKKKKK YOU!....THAT'S RIGHT....I CAN SEEEEEE YOUUUUU!!!!". Later after the morphine had kicked in, the stitches were complete and the pains had subsided I whispered to my husband... "Hun, can you just check if there is actually a green M&M under the couch over there". My husband looked at my slightly oddly and then proceeded to check under the couch behind him... "Yes, your right...whhyyyy? what were you doing looking at that?"
I smiled and leaned back... "I'll tell you another time......another time babe".

Welcome to the world little one, we promise to keep you safe, thank-you for choosing us to journey thru life together.

Moments after young Valentine Yves Napiorkowski entered the world.

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