Friday, 18 May 2018

Eloise's Birth Story - My Second Child's Home Water Birth

The Durban Doula's very own birth story!
The almost unassisted home water-birth of our second daughter.

(Lots of pics at the end!)

A quick home water birth after a week of prodromal labour - mom meets her baby

After a week of erratic prodromal labour, I woke up just after midnight on a Friday evening. This was nothing unusual. For the last month or so I had been waking sometime in the middle of the night, wide awake that is, only to fall sleep about 2 hours later.

The contractions were also not unusual; I had been having prodromal labour consisting of rather painful, somewhat regular contractions on and off for a week. This time the contractions carried on for another 12 hours which was admittedly a bit unusual, but after the week I'd had, I wasn't getting my hopes up! So I tried sleeping between surges, and managed to get a couple more hours in.
We took a leisurely stroll...
We took a leisurely stroll to the Farmer's Market nearby at about 8am, and oddly the contractions actually calmed down quite substantially while I was walking. Side note: The fact that I could get them to go away by moving apparently indicates 'false' labour. Whatever!
I was over it!
I didn't keep track, because I had been timing contractions all week and I was over it! But they were pretty irregular, some 3 minutes apart, some 15 minutes apart - no pattern I could discern.
'Another false alarm,' I thought.
We got back and Hans looked after the toddler while I tried to nap between contractions, thinking they would go away like they had been doing the whole week. They did. At about lunchtime they stopped. 'Another false alarm,' I thought.
I didn't want to try and get things moving before my body was ready...
The previous week I experienced various odd sensations, from mild backache to serious contractions. I rested as much as I could rather than trying to get things moving before my body was ready as that might only exhaust me, without having made any ‘progress’. 6:45pm I had 2 very strong contractions quite close together...
Warm baths had helped me to relax so at about 6:30pm that evening I went to bathe and at 6:45pm, after about 6 hours of no contractions at all - nil, niks, nada - I had 2 very strong contractions in the bath, quite close together, probably the strongest I'd had. The next one followed just as I got out and I could feel my legs trembling. In my previous labour, that had been a sign that I was already in transition.
My mom wanted a time estimate; I think I said, 'Soon!'
I yelled for Hans, things were finally happening, and happening fast. We phoned Arlen our midwife first, and then my folks, who had just arrived at a formal dinner 45 minutes away. My mom wanted a time estimate; I think I said, 'Soon!' We called Hans's folks to come and help with the toddler just as they were finishing their dinner at a restaurant - impeccable timing this baby has! We also texted those who wanted to know, and those whom I had invited to join us for the occasion.
Most of everything had already been set up since Monday...
Classics for meditation - music for labouring to
With all systems go, Hans did some last minute prep clearing my sewing gear out the lounge with cranky toddler in tow while I went upstairs and put on 'Classical Music for Meditation' CD while I breathed and huffed and snorted through contractions. Most of everything had been set up since Monday, so it was only some last minute clearing to do.
That time alone to gather my wits and breathe and focus was precious.
I was most comfortable on my hands and knees, or bent forward with my hands on the bed and my knees slightly bent - as comfortable as you can get in transition that is. That time alone to gather my wits and breathe and focus was precious. Between contractions I sat cross legged on the bed and relaxed as best I could but as I felt each new wave coming, there was absolutely no way I could stay still! I tried, and felt I was going to crawl out of my skin!
...instead of fighting each contraction and tensing against it, I surrendered to it...
On my hands and knees, rocking forwards and backwards, and side to side, I felt power surging through my body with each contraction and instead of fighting it and tensing against it, I surrendered to it, understanding that this was all working to get my baby out. At the end of each one, I experienced a warm glow through my entire body – like that feeling when you stand under a hot shower or lower yourself into a warm bath – an afterglow of sorts.

While I was upstairs, the midwife, hubby's folks and two of my friends who had been constant companions throughout all our ups and downs that week arrived. I don't remember the order!
...thank the Lord for laminate flooring!
Arlen the midwife checked my blood pressure and baby's heartbeat between surges which were coming thick and fast by that stage. Hubby's mom took over with the toddler who promptly threw up on the floor in our bedroom. I'm not sure if it was all the excitement or overdosing on milkshake earlier that day, or a combination of the two, but thank the Lord for laminate flooring! We had all the supplies for mopping up on hand in any case, so no stress there. What it did mean though, was that the in-laws waited downstairs for a while, loathe to put the potential vomiter in their car, and so they fortunately ended up sticking around until the baby was born. But I'm getting ahead of things now.

I do think the kettle was enlisted at some stage...
We hadn't checked for pipe-tap compatibility concerning the birth pool, but hubby made a plan and our two friends, Janine and Kate, worked on getting the pool filled. To be honest, I didn't think we were going to make it, and I don't think the midwife did either! Even though our hot water pressure is dismal, the geyser is set quite hot so it doesn't take much to warm things up. I do think the kettle was enlisted at some stage, but I wasn't noticing much of that.
I swear the smell of his hair was better than any drug!
Once the pool was well on its way to being filled, Hans joined me and things turned a corner. I could let go, and I swear the smell of his hair was better than any drug! One or two contractions later I felt the fronts of my thighs burning and aching - somehow in that moment I remembered reading that this was a sign of full dilation. Transition had been much longer with my first, and to be honest, when I first started getting those intense contractions in the bath, I was fully expecting a few more hours! Relief!

People often think that pushing is the most intense stage, but for me transition was the hardest with the pushing stage like a downhill run by comparison. I found pushing much more satisfying than transition as it finally felt like I was getting somewhere!
...I could feel the baby's head...
I was most comfortable in a wide kneeling position on a little mattress we had next to the bed, leaning forward on Hans sitting on the bed. My waters broke, and I felt baby moving down. What an incredible feeling! I did an internal check myself (the only internal check for this birth) and I could feel her head! I loved being the first person to touch my baby. As contractions happened, I worked with them and waited and rested quietly between.

Mom in the birth pool - dad supporting her - far away in labour land
Far away in labour land in the birth pool!
The midwife knew I wanted to catch the baby myself, and so right then she mentioned to me that I might struggle in the position I was in, and that the pool was ready. I was already in 'the zone' and not keen to do anything other than stay put, but fortunately I listened!
So I got into the water...
So I got into the water and it was heavenly. I wasn't resting on my sacrum, but rather supporting myself on my knees or in a squat as I felt comfortable. Soon after I got into the water the midwife checked the heartbeat and all seemed fine.
...I grunted, groaned and growled that baby out!
I thought I made a lot of strange noises, although my in-laws said they barely heard a thing from downstairs! Some women breathe their babies out, and I was kind of hoping I might do the same, but when it came to it I grunted, groaned and growled that baby out! Making a noise helped keep my jaw soft while working with the contractions. Soft up top means soft at the bottom! Again I checked for baby's head, and it was right there, just out of sight.

My folks arrived while I was in the water and my mom rushed upstairs. With a fuel stop along the way, they had apparently engaged in some low flying to get there. Even then, they made it only about 5 or 10 minutes before she was born!

With each surge, Hans supported me in the water. I could hear encouraging murmurs from around me, but it was his voice that pierced through everything and his words that wrapped around me and kept me going. I was truly an intimate experience for us. I wouldn't change that for anything! pulling a door with one hand and pushing with the other...
I realized I had been working too hard with the contractions, like pulling a door with one hand and pushing with the other. I consciously ‘let go’ and felt her head start crowning on the next contraction! One more contraction after that and her head was out.
'Is there anything I'm supposed to do now?'
 'Is there anything I'm supposed to do now?' I asked. "No, just wait." So we waited patiently for the next surge. We were still in the water all this time, which is safe as the baby hadn't yet started to breathe, with her body being so compressed in the birth canal, and wouldn't try to take a breath until she felt the cold, which she would only feel when I took her out the water.

Also, the baby would only try to breathe if she was in distress, which we knew she wasn't. Tickling her head and waiting for the surge that would push the rest of her body out was another moment I will never forget!

Her body rotated and emerged with relative ease and I lifted her up out of the water myself at 8:24pm, just under 2 hours after those first contractions in the bath. What a flood of emotions and sensations! The pictures say it all...

Water Birth - Out of the water into mom's arms - Baby's first hug
Straight into mom's arms...

Newborn baby - first cry
That first sqauwk!

Mom and newly born baby in the birth pool - We did it!
We did it!
The midwife dabbed her face with a cloth and she let out a squawk but was otherwise very calm. She was covered in vernix, millimeters thick in some places, probably because she was 2 weeks early. I held her close and kept her body under the water to stay warm and we rested like that for a while. I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but I do remember confirming that she was a girl, and we announced her name - Eloise: Famous Warrior!

Her name is Eloise - Famous Warrior

The toddler Amelia came up to say hello and her first remark was, 'Lotsa tweam!' (Lots of cream!) She was utterly fascinated! In retrospect I would have liked her there a little earlier so she could see the baby coming out, but I just didn't think of it. She had watched birth videos with me before and was completely enthralled! Maybe next time...

Siblings - the toddler meets her baby sister for the first time
Lotsa tweam!

After some quick hello's, we were left alone with our little one, resting in the pool. When she looked ready to feed I let her do her thing and she latched like a pro first time! We had been in the water about half an hour, enough time for the cord to stop pulsing, when Hans cut the cord and I got out as I was starting to feel uncomfortable.

Newborn baby being weighed in the sling
A comfy sling scale...
much nicer than cold metal or plastic!
See how beautifully pink she is!
We delivered the placenta, and later the midwife weighed and measured her and checked her hips and her reflexes. I dressed myself and our newest little human, Eloise, and we drank tea downstairs with the grandparents in the wee hours of the morning. There is nothing quite like that first cup of tea after baby is born!
...all so intensely sacred but so terrifically normal!
So that was that! No internal checks other than my own, no needles for me or for baby, no suctioning, no chemicals, no plastic box and no loud noises other than squeals of delight! - all so intensely sacred but so terrifically normal!

Home birth - Family of Four

In retrospect, recovery has been so much easier this time! I had a drug-free birth with my first, and I know that the second one is usually easier, but this was way better! Another big difference is that my first labour was 12 hours start to finish – not this on-again-off-again for a whole week business! But, of course, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

So, in summary, our home water-birth included a week of prodromal labour, or pre-labour, or early labour - whatever you want to call it - then a solid 12 hours of totally irregular contractions - then nothing for 6 hours - then straight into transition and baby born less than 2 hours later!

I think if I hadn't been with a midwife I would have had induction recommended at least three times that week, and would probably have ended up with a c-section because my body wasn't ready yet. I would have been diagnosed with 'failure to progress' when the problem was simply a case of 'failure to wait'.

Fortunately, we waited, and the experience far surpassed my expectations! I tell people I had an unassisted birth with the midwife in the room because that's how it felt. Honestly it was one of the highlights of my life and that experience played a huge part in my wanting to be a doula.

For the record, Eloise is now already almost 7 years old, but I felt this incredible story deserved sharing! She is a delight to everyone she meets and she loves it when I tell her the story of how she was born.

Find more birth stories here.

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