My first birth was traumatic.
It took me months to wrap my head around it and I had a constant need to tell people about it, possibly in the hope that each time it would hurt a little less.
The whole time I was pregnant I was terrified of giving birth. I’d read some positive birth stories, read about the role of the breath, I trusted my husband but the truth is I wasn’t actually taking anything in. It wasn’t just the fear of the unknown , it was an irrational fear of the pain and the anxiety over being able to cope with it.
I met my midwife at 30 weeks, after moving to New Zealand (I’d been in the care of an obgyn in Romania before that) and our appointments were mostly about ‘ticking the boxes’. When I went into labor I did really well at home (to my surprise) but then once I got to the hospital it all went downhill. The number of people who ended up being a part of my birth space and the cascade of interventions were very overwhelming.
I thought that things happened the way they did because that was the best way for my baby and I and I accepted the loss of control as a consequence of my lack of education around birth. It wasn’t until I met the wonderful Carla from Voice for Parents and I did an amazing session with her, going through all of my birth notes that I really understood what happened and I quickly decided that the second time around I’d stay as far away from the hospital as possible.
I felt more prepared the second time around. I’d been reading some amazing books on pregnancy and birth, I’d been attending the Natural Birth Series ran by the WHBA (I wasn’t even pregnant at the time) and I’d met lots of women with incredible, empowering birth stories. The more the people around me trusted me, the more I trusted myself.
Some people expressed concern because they knew the details of my first birth, but this time I had knowledge, an amazing midwife, a husband excited to welcome our baby at home and the practice of yoga ( including becoming a certified prenatal yoga teacher during a most amazing and nurturing course).
I still had the occasional doubts and anxieties but I do believe these are a normal part of pregnancy. The whole process is such a huge leap of faith! Something else I did was organise a Mother Blessing with some of my closest friends (instead of a baby shower) which was an amazing way to celebrate my pregnancy, laugh,have my friends express their positive wishes for the upcoming birth and paint the belly. I truly felt loved, nurtured and positive about my body’s ability to know how to birth.
I was as ready as I was ever going to be….
The Birth Story of Waldo – A Healing Birth.
There’d been a week of false alarms and every time I’d felt anxious and unprepared. After a little freak-out at Punnet Café in the morning of May 4th (2018) and a nap, the evening came and I was watching ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ with my husband and parents in law.
My husband had bought me a pineapple and I decided to eat the whole thing. I even took a photo which would be the last one as a mother of one. Soon after (around 9:30 pm), I started to feel some niggles. I kept quiet because I didn’t want to give anyone false hopes. By the time we went to bed, I told my husband that we should delay our plans to get freaky because something could be happening. I decided to stay in bed and rest as much as I could. I tried to sleep, but the contractions were requiring my full attention.
At some stage Arnie (our 3 year old) wanted to cuddle ‘bebe burta’ (belly baby) and as I worked through meeting his need and breathing through the pressure, I realized that I had to get out of bed.
I had some red raspberry leaf tea, took my lavender oil scented bamboo face cloth, organized my clothes and birth mat in a pile, stopping from time to time to lean forward and breathe. Time really is distorted during birth. It seemed like the few hours I spent on my own were only minutes. I was so focused, so calm and so in control. I felt safe and connected with my baby.
I started writing down the contractions at 1:16am, something which proved to be quite difficult, so an hour later I woke Barney (my husband) up. He called our midwife to let her know that things were happening and we decided that she didn’t have to come just yet. We also called Cathy, our birth photographer, because she had a longer trip ahead to get to us. When she arrived, a little before 3am, I was really happy to have her around and she helped out whenever I wanted a drink but didn’t want Barney to leave my side.
Soon after, I started feeling really tired and sleepy so I decided to lie down on my side on the big couch cushions. In hindsight, I believe I was already in transition. It was such a different experience to when I gave birth to Arnie when I clearly remember saying ‘I can’t do this anymore’. This time, while I had thoughts of ‘Is this going to get more intense?’, ‘How will I cope if I’ve still got ages to go?’, I just stayed very aware of what was happening within my body, visualizing myself opening up and our baby moving down. I used my breathing constantly to stay centered, relaxed and to let go.
Every now and again I’d check in to make sure I wasn’t holding tension, just like we do in the pregnancy yoga classes. I noticed that the contractions were intense at the start and then they slowly faded so I told myself that I’d just have to stay focused for that little bit, get through it and then I’d have a little break.
I don’t quite remember when Barney called the midwife again, but at some stage (a little before 4 am) my waters broke and since I was fully dressed, we started making our way to the bathroom where the bath had also been filling. It took a while to get there as I’d have to stop and lean against furniture to focus on the new wave.
It was 4am when I was halfway there and I heard the door behind me opening: our midwife, Kelly, had arrived and once I heard her familiar voice I could fully let go. I got to the bathroom, took my clothes off and sat on the toilet, Barney on my right and Kelly on my left. Kelly told me that I could get in the bath but I quickly let her know that I couldn’t move. The idea of climbing into the bath, so open and vulnerable seemed like a huge task and plus, I felt quite comfortable on the toilet.
With the next pressure I could feel baby’s head which was amazing and surreal at the same time. A few more contractions later, I was on all fours and baby came out on the bathroom floor in one big gush, on whatever towels were there. No birth mat, no pads….It was 4:24am. I picked them up so quickly that the photo came out blurry.
I held our baby close, noticed their hair and the slimy feeling of the little body. Shortly after, I checked to see if baby was a boy or a girl and Barney said I looked happy upon the discovery: another boy. The backup midwife and my mum in law were there too and I could feel their joy! They told me that I was amazing and I believed it!
Our midwife gave me an awesome back rub and then we got in the bath, he latched on and big brother who had woken up, came in and joined us. I was on cloud nine. I’d done it! All the preparation and healing I had done had paid off!
Kelly and I had talked a lot about the ‘what ifs’ and she knew my birth history and the thoughts which could potentially hold me back. Arnie was delivered with a forceps, my placenta had to be manually removed under general anaesthetic and I’d lost 2.5 litres of blood. I had fears around these topics but I was open with our midwife about them, we had plans in place and I’d also written my husband a letter containing ways in which he could bring me back if I lost my focus.
When the time came to birth the placenta, I was having contractions but it was taking its time. At this stage I was alone in the bath and Kelly was in the room with me, encouraging me to thank the placenta for the amazing job it had done and to say ‘goodbye’ to the placenta, reassuring me that the blood loss was minimal and we could wait. Arnie went back to sleep with his grandparents and at 05:53 the cord was clamped and cut by Barney, using the beautiful cord tie with Aotea gemstone chosen by Arnie.
While I was enjoying being in the water, we were still waiting for the placenta so Kelly suggested I try the toilet again. It worked like magic and the placenta was born at 6:11 am, almost 2 hours after Waldo’s birth. In no other circumstances would I have not been pressured. Instead Kelly used positive words, encouragements, reassurance and never rushed me or doubted me because the signs weren’t pointing to any complications. I had so much trust in my team and my body! I never ‘pushed’, my body just took over and I let it! I didn’t fight it at all, I was focused and calm.
I am so incredibly proud of myself because my instinct is to panic and yet I didn’t. All the words, affirmations, visualizations and support I received helped me take control of my birth. My baby and I were indeed the perfect team.
I am so grateful for this empowering experience and I feel so proud and happy to have had the home birth I wished for. Every time I am in the bathroom I relive that glorious moment when I held my baby in my arms, surrounded by love and trust, at the end of an intense yet magical journey.
Thank you my beautiful friend for sharing your story. I knew Georgie all through this pregnancy, and I knew how scared she was – Seeing her actively seek help, support, advice and immerse herself in knowledge and positivity to give herself the best chance of a different outcome for her second birth was inspiring.
You can follow Georgies motherhood story (and love of pelvic health) on Facebook and Instagram.