Intended home birth, hospital transfer – second baby.
When I had our first daughter, Pippi, I laboured at home and after a day of strong contractions the midwife found that I was 6cm dilated and the wrong part of Pippi’s head was presenting against my cervix. My body was doing fantastic (and painful!) work but I wasn’t dilating efficiently. Hearing this news I became disheartened and decided to transfer to hospital for an epidural. After two hours I felt an urge to push which I did with relish – such a powerful feeling, and so productive! Pippi was born quickly and naturally. Nine slippery, pink pounds of beautiful.
I had been talking about a home birth, but reflecting on the experience, I realise I hadn’t done all the necessary preparation. I had a birth mat and pool but I hadn’t fully acknowledged my anxieties around labour and becoming a mother. I spent the whole latent phase on my hands and knees immobilised by pain – but not just the pain per se, but the unexpectedness of the pain! Somewhere along the line I had taken onboard the pain = something is wrong equation, although I knew intellectually that the intense sensations were normal – and essentially okay.
If I had been able to listen to my intuition I could have worked with my body instead of feeling like it was working against me. I would have moved around more during the labour, and may well have worked Pippi into a better position.
Despite this, I know I took the tools I had available to me into my labour. I still feel like a bit of a goddess having produced this lovely creature and acknowledging the fears I held, and how the tension between my intellect and intuition affected my birth experience has been a powerful thing to explore since her birth.
Winter of 2003: I wanted Pippi, at 2½ to feel part of the birth of her sister. I worried that she would feel displaced by a new baby and really wanted her to be included if she chose to be… although I had a sneaking suspicion she would be more interested in going to the playground with her support person!
For a few days I had been feeling like I was wearing really tight jeans (hadn’t had that feeling since the late 80s – and certainly not in the previous few months). It took me a while to recognise that they were strong braxton hicks contractions – quite uncomfortable. I surprised a friend round for morning tea by wandering over to the couch and doing some lunges with one foot up on the arm – it felt like a good idea at the time. She was excited by the idea I was having any sort of contractions just before my due date!
The next morning I woke at five with a strange sense of anticipation – it was like waking up the morning after hearing good news. You wake up, for a split-second not remembering what the news was, then you remember – Ah! I had the lovely split-second of warm anticipation and then I felt a warm, wet pop and looking down at the floor I realised... good news indeed, a baby soon!
I took several deep breaths, releasing each breath with a big, soft WOW! Feeling immensely excited, but also that it was such a lovely peaceful time to be awake, I wanted to hold the experience close to me. I crept into the lounge and spent a couple of hours under a blanket on the couch drinking tea and rocking and wriggling through gentle contractions. Still breathing Wows!
By 7:30pm, I was well ready to share the news and as soon as I heard my partner Kath and Pippi stirring I went to tell them! Suddenly the labour became real – family property, in the here and now, in our house... I had to reconcile my lovely excited feelings with thoughts of getting our wee girl dressed and fed... I decided it was imperative to find the right position to be in during contractions and to find acupressure points that would provide relief. And suddenly the contractions were painful! We piled cushions onto the bed and I got onto all fours but each time I felt a contraction well up and scrambled into position, Pippi, who was utterly confused by the whole thing burrowed under me and grabbed my breasts! I shoved her aside and demanded that Kath simultaneously find the acupressure points and keep Pippi, who was crying now, off my body… we needed our support people immediately and it was only nine in the morning!
My mother was two hours away in Martinborough, and our other support person, Zoë also needed a couple of hours to get her kids organised and come to us.
We spent that couple of hours rushing around the house; me trying to get away from Pippi’s grasping little hands, Pippi chasing me wailing and unable to understand my violent aversion to being touched. Kath was chasing both of us trying to help. Between contractions I held Pippi close, tried to explain what was going on, appalled by the way I was treating her… then suddenly I’d fling her away from me and try to escape again!
At around 11am, Ady arrived from Martinborough and her granddaughter fell into her arms! By this stage casting aside the plan to have Pippi present at her sister’s birth was effortless – it took about two minutes to pack a bag and Ady took her away.
Peace descended. Zoë arrived. My contractions stopped hurting. I wanted a clear, tidy space to labour in and we cleared the ubiquitous washing frames from around the table. I mopped the floor!
From time to time I felt that the contractions were slowing down. When what I judged to be too much time had passed between them I walked around the house, pacing from the lounge to the front door and back. Before long a contraction would catch me in the hall, finally I was only pacing from the table to the fire guard and they were coming every five minutes.
I felt an urge to move during contractions. They came like waves, welling up gently, building up more power then breaking over me and gently easing again. When I felt them begin I started to sway and breathe heavily out, mmmmm, bigger breaths and louder MMmms as it became more intense, rocking my hips. I cried out and Kath was behind me immediately, pressing hard on acupressure points at the base of my back while I leaned on the fire guard.
After each contraction I was flooded with a feeling of wellbeing, relief and gratitude to Kath for helping so much. She knew the contraction had finished when I said mmmm – that was great, thank you! And we’d make our way back to the table.
Between contractions we read trashy magazines (a kind friend had left a pile of New Weeklys in my letterbox), listened to Goldenhorse and ate several large pizzas! But even then I didn’t want to sit down and leant against the table rocking gently. Zoë and Kath were mostly quiet the whole time – and completely silent during my contractions. Between contractions we shared only the most bizarre and fascinating gossip from the NWs!
At 2pm the contractions were coming every two minutes and lasting 60 seconds. They were intense but still manageable; I was hastily trying to get my share of pizza in decreasing amounts of time! My pacing was only getting me to the couch and back. The acupressure points were moving down the base of my back onto my bottom. As Kath went to where they had been previously I groaned no not there. She always found the new place remarkably quickly, with absolutely no guidance from me except to tell her where they weren’t! And the relief was immediate and profound.
The noises I was making were also changing, I was getting lower and lower with my MMMmms until they were groans. Then when the pain became intense – it felt like it was rising in me, my voice became higher too. I took a deep breath and directed my voice down, very low, kept rocking my hips.
Over the next half an hour, things became more difficult. I was only able to think about the small patch of floor I was walking over, the object I was leaning on, the incredible sensations in my body, Kath’s strong hands. I had a series of huge contractions where I burst into tears as they peaked. Although I was still keen to reassure the others that I was essentially fine, I had become lost in myself and couldn’t talk.
While pregnant I had seen my homoeopath about the fears I still held about giving birth. They were obscure and difficult to talk about with much clarity but I described to her feeling so vulnerable that I could explode into space – and a need for containment, to be ‘held’.
When I burst into tears and I could feel my moans getting thin and high I knew I needed something so we tried the homoeopathic remedy. I took a deep breath and as the next contraction broke over me groaned, very strong, very low…
It was about then that Zoë, a midwife – although not my midwife, noticed my sacrum expanding with contractions as the baby descended, recognised the grunting as an immediate precursor to actually pushing and firmly suggested we call the midwife – immediately!
Leann arrived at 2:45pm and suddenly the place came alive with activity. Zoë rushed about getting the birth mat out and hanging impossibly tiny garments on the fire-guard, towels in the dryer to get nice and hot. Leann and Kath gently lowered me onto my back for an internal examination. It was very uncomfortable, and then Leann put my knickers on backwards and I became incapacitated with laughter, yelling Ow OW! trying to get up into a decent position for a painful contraction but floundering, giggling on my back on the floor.
I was 9½ cm dilated, fantastic!
Leann had a look at my notes. She noted my platelet count at 28 weeks – low, took my blood pressure – high, and asked if I’d had a haemorrhage after giving birth to Pippi – well... only a small one. At this point she gave me a choice: transfer to hospital, or have my baby at home and transfer to hospital immediately afterwards in an ambulance.
We jumped in the car. Transferring to hospital when labouring with Pippi had been horrific so I was surprised to find myself during this short ride feeling fine. I even had a peek into the windows at Malo to see if there was anyone there I knew.
We arrived at the hospital at 3:30 and I made my slow way along a corridor stopping every few minutes for contractions which were sounding very grunty by now. Midwives were flapping about trying to put mats under me, and there was a rustling of many voices telling each other she’s pushing. Kath positioned herself between me and a small child who was watching open-mouthed. I kept grumping at all the flappers – I am not pushing – but I felt sure no one was listening to me. They weren’t – and actually I was pushing but didn’t realise it (the epidural during my last labour had masked this particular feeling so I didn’t recognise it).
We made it to the delivery room and I had my only really nasty time – probably true transition when I needed someone – anyone to tell me what to do next. I simply didn’t know where I wanted to be. (I wanted to be at home).
At 3:58 – 28 minutes after we arrived (that’s how long it took to get down that corridor!) – I was fully dilated and pushing hard. My waters broke in an enormous explosion which covered everyone in the room with meconium… (so the baby had been distressed, a paediatrician arrived).
After nine minutes of pushing Vita was born, eight slippery, pink pounds of beautiful.
I have read about a hormonal rush immediately after birthing which can manifest itself as aggression. This might explain why after a lovely, peaceful and relatively short labour I clutched Kath by the tee-shirt and hissed vehemently into her face – that was absolutely awful, I’m never doing that again. Then a rosy glow enveloped the world and I was overcome by an irrepressible joy which I still feel each time I take a moment to look deeply at either of my wee girls.
At the end of Pippi’s birth story I wrote “she is now the smiley, wriggly, precious centre of our family and our lives”. Pippi now shares that position with Vita and we have become a more grounded unit – a family.
I did have a small haemorrhage and stayed in hospital overnight.
Pippi spent two lovely days at her grandmother’s during which time she had a two-day-long Big Sister Party and was fêted by the entire extended family. That softened the blow of spending her first nights away from her mums. Upon her return she rushed straight to where her new sister was sleeping and said, ‘Oh my goodness! A baby!’
Oh my goodness indeed!