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Parenting

The birth of Juno Atawhai – Part Two

17 April, 2014

This is the second instalment in the story of Juno’s birth – read the first here!

It was 8am in the morning, I had been experiencing contractions for almost twelve hours. My wonderful friend and midwife, Nikki, had arrived and we were all excited about the journey towards meeting our new baby.

Shortly after Ramona and Mum left, in response to me feeling a bit “Eeep, I can’t do this!” (mostly due to back pain) Tim and I hunkered down in the front room. We put on some classical (I don’t usually listen to classical but in late pregnancy had really been getting down to some Mozart) and I kind of snoozed. I just blissed on out.

A second midwife appeared and after this nap on the sofa – which possibly lasted about an hour but time goes a bit quantum during labour, eh?- I went into the kitchen to say hi, to sip at a cuppa and bounce on the ball. As we chatted I had a few surprise big surges and things shifted into another gear.

The birth pool was full and I was ready to jump in. I hadn’t gone in earlier as I had wanted to sort of save it up for when I really needed relief. When I finally tumbled my behemothic body into the pool it was with the ecstasy of an Oompa Loompa diving into a chocolate lake.

I was so happy. The hot water and buoyancy eased my back pain. The contractions were really hitting me up with their bad selves and they were so welcome. The baby was coming. I reached up, I felt her head. I would meet her soon.

I had one or two big, beautiful squeezing surges and then WOAH she hit the ejection button! My whole body was pushing in the most magnificent way! The contractions were quite far apart but they were extremely purposeful!

Tim was leaning on the edge of the pool and I leant my head on his arms in one of those breaks between contractions – those breaks that are sheer NOTHINGNESS. Your body empties, your mind empties. I caught his eyes and smiled “This is EXACTLY what birth is meant to be like, Tim!”

The midwives had laid out the tools of their trade and had the mirror in position.

And then….

With the next push I got a cramp in my leg. It was the most excruciating pain! How bizarre that something as rubbish as a cramp could outdo the feeling of a contraction?! I think there was something about being mentally able to deal labour pains. I was fully prepared. My whole body and mind was involved in meeting each wave, in anticipating and greeting and getting through it. And then this sneaky cramp jumped in and threw everything out of kilter.

That cramp heralded another stage in labour, it changed the course of Juno’s birth and after much analyzing I still don’t know why.

Since getting the push reflex my midwife had been monitoring me, just the occasional blood pressure and baby’s heart rate. After the cramp, she upped her monitoring and got quite anxious.

My temperature was up, my blood pressure was up and the baby’s heart rate was up. It was decided it would be better for me to get out of the pool, to get my temperature down, have a drink and to see how things progress.

Within moments the pushing reflex faded and the contractions continued to be quite far apart.

My vitals were all screaming, just as they had with Ramona’s birth. The homebirth that ended up in hospital.

Unbeknown to me the midwives were a bit worried, they called their supervisor and consulted her. This was a dedicated home birth team, committed to supporting safe home births but even so it was decided that if my temperature, pressure and baby’s heart rate didn’t decrease within half an hour I should get transferred to hospital. They were worried about an infection and a posterior position amongst other things. A back to back labour can imitate some of the stages of real labour without other parts of the system being qute ready. A sort of “false” transition and ejection reflex can happen, without the the passage being open.

I allowed my midwife to do the first vaginal examination of the labour. I was only at 4cm. (Which, in a way suggests something… and in another way says nothing at all.)

Was my body acting like it was all systems go, when it actually wasn’t, because of a back to back position? Nikki could only feel the part of the baby’s head that would suggest a posterior position. It would explain the extreme back pain. But, maybe I was only at 4cm because I was being examined? Maybe I had been more ready but closed up? Legendary midwife Ina May Gaskin does recall births where mothers have closed back from 9cm dilated due to fear. She also recalls a mother opening from 5cm to fully dilated in the course of 3 surges. The question I still wonder about today, is whether if I had just stayed in the pool and left my body alone, would this have happened to me?

Tim and I went up to the bedroom to have some time alone, to try and get contractions firming up again and to try and lower my temperature etc.

Of course, I was really out of the zone now and fighting a fug of disappointment. I downed water and twiddled nipples and marched and spoke to my baby.

Come on out! It is safe here for you.

Half an hour later, at about 12pm my midwife came in for a check and things were still in warning mode.

They called an ambulance.

Within moments I was buckled into the back, siren blazing, heading for the hospital. The ambulance people were trying to be kind but I was pretty mad. Just absolutely gutted that things had changed so dramatically within half an hour.

During the hospital transfer with Ramona’s birth I was stoic and still in the zone. This time I was just deflated.

We arrived at the hospital and got into a quiet room. They put me on a IV to hydrate me and after some discussion I let them put in a drip of antibiotics to ward off any possible infection, as my signs were indicating this was the case.

My midwife sat down with me and gave me a pep talk.

I was so close! The baby could be out in just an hour or two! I perked up – really?! Shall I go for a walk to try and make that happen?! She bought me back down to earth by suggesting a tiny bit of Syntocin (fake oxytocin) would help. Oh man, really? Not that crap again? On one hand I was grateful for the Syntocin I had during Ramona’s birth as after three days I was completely wrecked and I fully believe that things might have ended up on a surgeons table without it. On the other hand I knew all about Michel Odent’s work on naturally produced oxytocin, on how vital it is for mother, baby and world peace!!!

In the end I considered my baby’s head… She had been tucked in quite a tight spot for many hours now, I knew she was ready to make an appearance. I also felt that I didn’t have the emotional resource left to get out of my fug and get in the zone by myself.

I asked for the smallest dose of oxytocin and the assurance that despite being hooked up I could still have an active birth.

My community midwife had to leave now so I was introduced to the hospital midwife. Julia was quiet and respectful and was everything a midwife should be. We barely knew she was there.

I knelt down, my head on Tim’s lap. My hips wide open. The syntocin was kicking in. The surges were back and I was able to greet them. My bad mood ebbed away as the surges took all my concentration. I breathed them towards me and breathed them away again.

The room was dark, the midwife was the ideal part of the furniture, there were no interruptions. I could squat, rock, spiral and kneel. Again I was cocooned in the task of giving birth to a new soul.

Surges built, turning from squeezes to downward flexes. I could feel myself opening, opening, opening.

7 hours after I originally thought we were going to meet our baby, we were going to meet her!

She arrived sooner than I thought she would, just a few big pushy surges and here was her head! Oh! Her head only managed to get half out!!!

A few minutes passed with my vagina grasping my baby’s massive skull, awaiting the final surge. I was aware of all the sensation that involved, but I was mostly just filled with the excitement and anticipation of meeting my baby!

And one final surge…. Here she is! She slithers out, I clutch at her through my legs, sit back on my heels and welcome our new baby.

She squawks and immediately begins nuzzling in, her mouth opening and head pushing to find a nipple. Within 30 seconds she has latched herself on and is guzzling colostrum. She is 9lb 3 but hungry after her travels… Birth Story - Juno

We leave the cord for a few minutes and then it is cut. I was considering a lotus birth but due to the syntocin the hospital is worried about haemorrhaging. I get an extra shot to get the placenta out quickly for the same reason.

I am gazing at my baby in too much awe to feel any disappointment about not having a lotus birth, or even eating the placenta as I had considered- slightly to my husband’s disgust!

It is 7:30 pm and we call my mum and 20 minutes later Ramona tiptoes into the room, climbs on my lap and meets her new sister, Juno Atawhai.

Hello Juno!birth story

There is just one more little instalment to come… Hospital: The Great Escape and also some of the feelings and left over emotions I have about this second birth.

Parenting

The Birth of Juno Atawhai

14 April, 2014

This time last year it was my blessingway. What a beautiful day it was. I was convinced, because I felt so ready, supported and loved up on the good vibes of friends, that the baby would arrive that night, blessed into arrival!

She didn’t, and didn’t, and didn’t, for nearly a whole two weeks!

With Ramona, my first daughter, I had anticipated she would be late so was nicely surprised when my waters broke on her due date. (Read her birth story here.) Home/ Hospital Birth Story

I imagined there would be a similar situation with Juno… so going “overdue” (I don’t really believe in that term, or a “due date” – the only reason I knew any date at all was because I had an early, early scan to see if I was one week or six months preggo- had no idea. I chose not to have other scans) really knocked me for six.

I felt really bad about the baby not arriving yet. It was so strange and so ridiculous for me to be so bothered. But bothered I was – I spent a whole day crying into my pillow, willing her out with my snotty tears.

(It is crazy, I know. I take heart that every person who has gone way beyond their due date will understand the misery of this beached whale period of waiting!)

On the 25th of April, after yet another day walking purposefully about London attempting to have fun whilst mostly keeping our heads down to avoid bumping into anyone who might say something glorious like “Oh!! Still pregnant?!!”

No shit, Sherlock.

I should have thought up a fun, yes-I’m-taking-this-ten-month-pregnancy-splendidly-with-full-humour-in-tact approach “Oh no, we had that baby already- this is the third! Just joshing! Harhaha!”

My answer mostly involved a psychopathic stare and a deeply convicted “I will be the only woman to be pregnant forever” which is something I thought might be true, in those final days of pregnancy.

Back to the 25th of April 2013. That night we settled Ramona into bed and turned on a film that we had downloaded from Netflix ‘cos we joined up in that last week to get an offer of three months of free movies… oh…. Wait… *checks* Ah, crap, we are still paying out for that Netflix account. Argh, they got my disorganised self…

I leant over my birth ball (6 months of rocking on that rubber number had given me calloused knees) and WHOOOOOSH – BROKEN WATERS, YEAH BABY, ROCK ON, BEST MOMENT IN HISTORY! WHOOOOT WHOOOOT!

Just remembering the exhilaration of that second gets my heart pumping. I wasn’t going to be pregnant forever!

Ten minutes later I felt a squeeze across my middle – the certain tightening of Things Beginning.

We thought back to Ramona’s birth and considered what we should do. Continue watching the film and pretend nothing was happening? (I call this The Nonchalant Birther “I carried on cooking dinner through contractions and the baby arrived just in time for desert!” Or go straight to sleep in order to be wide awake for the action? (The Barely Believable Wisely Rested Birther “I just breathed through contractions, snatching sleep in between”) Or begin marching up and down stairs chanting BRING IT ON (the determined methods of The Prowling Wolf Active Birther? “I willed that baby out by purposeful yogic moves alone!”)

We decided to a bit of everything – Tim should be Wisely Rested and I would be Nonchalant Prowling Wolf.

I did a couple of hours of casually setting up the house for the birth pool to the sounds of my hypno birthing track, whilst spiralling my hips in active manner. I found my contractions were gaining in strength and rhythm. We called my mum and got her to come over to sleep so that in the morning, if the baby hadn’t arrived (HIGHLY unlikely, I thought… ever hopeful) she could take Ramona somewhere fun.

At about 10:30pm I had feeling that I should switch tactics so I curled into bed beside Tim and Ramona to try and get some rest. The contractions continued and I couldn’t sleep – I was also high as a kite on sheer excitement of meeting this new soul.

I got up at about 3am, unable to lie down, contractions feeling quite, quite strong. The hardest thing was the back pain. It was unrelenting and hard to breathe through. Tim pressed on my back, and a hot wheat bag helped a little.

We called our midwife Nikki at about 5am who arrived pretty promptly. I didn’t want checks done if things were seeming straightforward, so I continued to zone right on out into the surges. Home/ Hospital Birth Story

At about 6am Tim bean filling the birth pool and Ramona woke and my Mum began hanging out with her. A bit after 7am I had sort of got stuck in the spare room – I couldn’t move, was distracted by everything, was feeling quite overwhelmed and nauseous… it was exactly like a transition stage…

At about 8 am mum and Ramona set out on an adventure- I anticipated that they would be back in an hour or two to meet the New Kid On The Block….

In fact, they were going to have a marvellously long outing and Juno wouldn’t make an appearance for another TWELVE HOURS ….

*dramatic sound effect* Ba, ba, Baaaa…

READ PART TWO HERE!

Parenting

Birth Story of Ramona Lily

15 November, 2012

Two years ago this very day my darling, precious daughter was born. And now here is the story of her birth , for what other thing could I post today?!

I share it because I love to read birth stories. When I was pregnant, I would read story after story on HomebirthUk every lunchbreak, weeping hot, happy tears on my desk.

And I share it because it is a chance for me to reflect on it, and imagine what this coming baby’s entry to the world will be like.

So here it is. Be warned though, it is more mucous plug than modge podge recipe. So walk away now if you are in search of thrifty craft, walk away.

12th November 2010

It was my due date, hurrah! What better way to spend it then on a two hour bus journey  through south London to eat lunch at Ikea with my nephews (my sister had to pick up a Swedish trinket) and then with my best friends and their kids for a big party for a small two year old. At the party my mucus plug began falling out and I was able to share this gross but fabulous detail with my lovely chums.

On the way home I approached the train station just before mine, and one part of my brain said “Get off the train early and march home, EVERYONE says you need to get moving to get Wrigglewriggle (our nephew name the womb-baby) wriggling on down.” My heart, a deep down instinct, though, said “STOP! Stay on the train, and then catch the bus straight to your door, you need to relax.” It was a 3 second dilemma and I opted for what seemed most rational and hot stepped it 3 miles home.

In hindsight, I will always question if choosing logic over intuition in that moment led to me having the labour and birth that didn’t match up to my home waterbirth ideal.

That evening I was so excited that even 3 hours of googling “mucous plug fall out” and “signs of labour” and the information that mucous plugs could loosen weeks before birth, could not quell my surety that babe was on the way.

Early the next morning, at 6am, I went to the loo and felt very wet in my pyjamas, I knew this was my waters breaking but tried to tell myself that I just wet my pants a little bit (as you do). I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I woke up at 8, read the Guardian and had a cuppa then got up to, well, go to the loo again. As I stood up an almighty gush of water poured out and just kept pouring, I felt like Mary Poppin’s hanbag – how could this much water possibly fit inside of me???!!! I delved into Wrigglewriggle’s awaiting pile of washable nappies and stuffed the liners into my undies and awaited our midwife and friend, Nikki.

Nikki had a coffee with us, heard that my waters were clear and not pink (or another colour which would be bad) and left us to it.  She talked us through the NHS guidelines on waters breaking- you should go in to the hospital after 12 hours. However the “doubled risk” of infection only goes from 0.5% to 1% so we wanted to stay at home as long as possible. She was fully supportive. We were told to call when contractions begin.

The day passed by, cake with friends and a takeaway curry in the evening, delivered by a man who was the spitting image of Lionel Ritchie.  It was that evening that my twinges turned into surges (hypnospeak for contractions) we had turned our lounge into a love cave with saris hung all over it, candles and my American hypnobirthing lady on the ipod. “Totally loooose and totalllly limp”. I will never again be able to hear the words totally, loose or limp again without her voice bursting in to my mind! I rocked on the birth ball, did some yoga moves, and thought about welcoming a baby in to the world – we reckoned on being parents by dawn.

My surges grew in their intensity but didn’t get closer together for some time.  I was torn between doing a lot of physical activity to keep them coming and resting in order to conserve my energy for the real deal. It was probably the hardest part of labour- not knowing which to do. When I put the effort in the surges got faster and stronger, so much so that we even blew up the pool. However at 5am I went for a sleep at which point they slowed down from three every ten minutes to one every ten minutes.  They then didn’t pick up again for some time.

At 10:00am on Sunday Nikki popped over again and had a feel.  My waters were pink now, meaning my cervix was on the move a little but we were gutted to hear that I was only 1cm dilated. I was not even going to have vaginal examinations but curiosity just got the better of me. I thought the baby would be out in my arms by now, not still snuggled happily up there! Nikki was calm though and told us to keep doing what we were doing.

All of  Sunday  I had the Black Eyed Peas song going through my mind “tonight’s gonna be a good night!” We were once again certain that we’d be parents by dawn. We walked, slept, rocked, ate ice cream, wrote a letter to Wrigglewriggle inviting her out, and one to each other- to make sure there was no hidden anxiety keeping me all closed up. Those were special, if frustrating moments. We had chance to reflect on life and each other, but we were impatient to meet our new family member!

At about 1am on Monday morning I went to bed to try and rest. I was missing a whole night of sleep. But I couldn’t sleep- the surges were strong enough for me to have to leap out of bed and spiral my hips (!) – a brilliant move that we nicknamed the Circle of Life.  At about 3am I got out of bed on all fours, these surges were serious now. About an hour later I woke Tim up- I needed some light touch massage, thank you darling.  I was really using my hypno breathing techniques now, I had to preempt each surge, prepare for it. They got closer and closer,  every two minutes, eeep!  We called Nikki at about 6am.

Nikki arrived and had an exploration- 4cms dilated: woopie!  Nikki reckoned babe’d be here by lunchtime. Tim filled the pool. I got shouty. I was so in the zone. Making growly OOHs really helped my focus and breathing. The love cave we had set up downstairs was neglected, it was here in the bedroom, leaning on the end of the bed, that I wanted to be. I was finished with the American too, her and her rainbow relaxation. I was working with something innate now.

At 10 am I jumped in the pool, so delicious. Sadly it was so relaxing that my surges really settled down, from one a minute to one every 2-3. I got out and Nikki had a check. I was only 5 cm dilated and what was more she could feel Wriggles head and it was at a funny angle. Nikki wondered if my babe was a bit back to back, and my surges not strong enough to push head through my cervix. The word “Hospital” came up for the first time. We thought we’d give it a couple more hours.

However the next three monitors of the babes heart rate showed it was rising. With me being three days past my broken waters, Nikki felt this was a worrying sign of infection. Nikki called the ambulance, I put on a ridiculous purple beret – it was a freezing, snowy day and it was all Tim could find. We flung together a hospital bag (so certain of my homebirth were we that we flouted the advice to prepare one just in case) and we left. Tim was feeling sad at this stage, I was just still so focused on the job.

It was 1pm when we arrived. They immediately hooked me up to a monitor for the surges and the baby’s heart rate. They felt that I should get some antibiotics and also some fake oxytocin to give my surges that extra boost.  It was 4pm when this started coming through the drip.  Because my surges had been so strong before there wasn’t a clear change, I was still able to totally get on top of them still and breath through each one.  I was really drawing on visualisation at this stage, with every breath in I imagined my cervix opening up like a flower and with every breath out I imagined Wrigglewriggle moving down and turning into the right position.  I was very purpose filled so the pain wasn’t overwhelming at all but at one stage I did have to ask for paracetamol.

In between contractions I tried to take control of the environment a bit more, the hospital responded with strange looks perhaps at requests of lights being dimmed and staff coming in small numbers and with low voices.  It was as if it was preposterous that I might try an establish a cosy, intimate environment at a hospital. I had to really assert myself at times, but I was like a bold, purposeful lioness at this stage and felt confident making sure my voice was heard.

I refused to wear their hospital gown, but the midwife responded with “Well, you may need a C section so we need you in the gown”. Manipulated, I gave in. But then my next emboldening surge came and with it I cast off the gown and did the whole thing Butt Naked. HA!

Someone came into discuss epidurals. I tried to be clear that I would like to avoid one, that I’d use the gas and air if I needed pain relief. As she left the room she rolled her eyes at my midwife and said “If it gets too much she is going for the big guns.”

I was leaning on the side of the bed on my knees.  At 6pm they checked me and Hurrah! The baby had changed into the right position and I was 7cm dilated.

By now the growly oooh’s I was making before had turned into full blown primal roars.  They came from the depths and really helped me feel in touch with my body.  I didn’t feel any urge to scream or swear out of pain, these vocals were something else altogether, as natural as a cat purring!

At about 7pm my body flipped a switch, the ejection button, and my contractions were suddenly pushing this baby out.  It was incredible. Shortly after this an obstetrician came in and told me that they would check me again at 10pm, and I exclaimed “Not on your nelly, this baby is going to be out well before then.”

This was where it got hard- my body was totally pushing this baby but the midwife wanted me to restrain myself as she could see that I hadn’t fully “blossomed”.  My hypnobreathing came in so useful here as I just really kept in control of it and tried to imagine blossoming.  This stage is really compressed in my mind, it just feels like moments.  Before I knew it my midwife just said “Let go to the feeling now”.  It was brilliant just being able to let my body do its thing.

Within moments Tim was looking at the top of Wrigglewriggle’s head, a hairy little thing, and with 5 or 6 long pushes Ramona Lily unfurled out of me and gave a yell to rival her mothers.  I grabbed her through my legs and at the sound of my voice she stopped crying and nuzzled in for a bit of nipple.

Welcome, Ramona Lily!

She nestled into my arms, born to be right there.

Gosh. Birth eh? What an experience. There was some pain, and I was surprised by it so convinced was I by all the orgasmic births I had been reading about. But dished out in equal measure was purpose and exhilaration. It isn’t my perfect birth story-  I was gutted not to have a home waterbirth, gutted to have oxytocin and antibiotics, but throughout the time I was completely confident of my body’s ability to do this.  Of me being designed perfectly to give birth to Ramona.  It was a long and tiring three days, but I would do it 10 times over to have this beautiful little girl in our life.

At the end, as I held Ramona, my midwife called me a superwoman.  In 7 years of midwifery at Kings College Hospital I was the only woman she had seen have synthetic oxytocin without an epidural, let alone no gas or air or other pain relief. I don’t think that speaks of me being tough and brave, but more of us being quite out of touch, as a society, of how birth should be. Women are designed to have babies but we have got into a crippling cycle of fear, that is perpetuated constantly.

I can not WAIT to go through it all again for this little treasure inside me now. Despite Ramona’s pleas for it to “wake up! Come soon baby!”, I have 5 months to spend listening to the American and her limpy, loose Rainbows….

Happy 2nd BirthDay Ramona!


PS Read all about The Mule’s Positive Birth Movement…