Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve had lots of ideas and topics swirling around my head that I wanted to share with you and I realised that maybe I needed to give any readers an advance health warning.
I love detail, all the gory detail, and I don’t believe in too much information. So unfortunately you’re going to read about blood and pee and puke and poo. And about boobs and bums and perineums and tears and stitches and piles.
Because I want to be honest with you. Because I really appreciate when people are honest with me, particularly about topics that are considered embarrassing and nobody likes to talk about but really people are interested in because they want to learn and they want to be informed for when it happens to them. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe information is power and everything is so much easier when you’re prepared, not caught off guard or frightened and embarrassed because you didn’t know.
So I’ll tell you. If you’d like to share something that you’d like to get out there because its usually whispered behind closed doors and quite frequently misinformed, then I’d love to post it here for you. If you’ve a question, if I know the answer, I’ll tell you. I promise. Lay it on me!
Email me at mindthebaby at gmail dot com or follow me on Twitter @Mindthebabyblog
I love a good birth story! I’ve read hundreds online, in books and love to hear other mothers tell theirs and sometimes shed a tear at the loveliness of it all. So in the spirit of reciprocation, here’s mine. Hope you enjoy it…
When I went to see my GP to confirm my pregnancy at 5 weeks, she went through all my maternity options with me and fair play to her even mentioned I could have a homebirth if I wanted. She wouldn’t recommend it, but it was available if I fancied it. Oh God no, I said, not for me. I was actually already booked into the Domino Scheme in the National Maternity Hospital. Once I got the thumbs up from the pregnancy test, I was on the phone. You have to move quick in this town for community midwife-led care!
But half way through my pregnancy I was in deep with my Gentlebirth programme, my prenatal yoga with Lou and had hungrily devoured Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I wondered if I was going to labour at home for as long as possible to avoid any unnecessary interventions and then get discharged from the hospital as quick as possible as was the Domino ethos, why didn’t I just cut out the middle part of the delivery in the hospital and stay at home? I discussed it with my husband, he took a few days to mull it over – because really, he needed to be fully on board – and then decided it was a great idea. So we moved from the Domino Scheme to the Homebirth Programme. It was the same community midwives, just all care was in our house now.
(I’m putting this bit in brackets as an aside but it fits in here in the chronology of things. Once we made the decision to plan a homebirth, we told no one. Firstly, I knew of a few women who had planned a homebirth and it didn’t work out for them for various reasons and I really felt for them. Secondly, it’s considered a pretty radical concept and I didn’t want my head to be infected by the negativity of others who mightn’t approve. It was definitely the right decision for us.)
Fast forward a few months…I was eight days overdue and starting to get a little anxious as I was very conscious that once I reached the 14 days over mark, then my homebirth would be off the cards without negotiation as per hospital policy. It was a really warm day and I was looking forward to going to what would hopefully be my last prenatal aqua-aerobics class that evening. I spent the day pottering around the house and listened to the Gentlebirth gentle induction track for the first time (and then wondered afterwards why I hadn’t listened to it before!) and then listened to it once more before I headed out to the pool.
During the class I started to feel “different”. I couldn’t put my finger on the sensation but as I had nearly convinced myself that something was happening every night since my due date passed, I didn’t pay it too much attention. I also didn’t mention anything to my husband when I went to bed that night but when I woke at 2am with what felt like period pain, I rolled over and told him that maybe he should turn on the water for the birth pool just in case. I then promptly fell asleep and slept through my surges until 10am the next day!
That morning I had sensations of mild period pain – I’ve definitely definitely had worse period pain – from when I got up until around lunchtime. I did some dishes and caught up on some emails. Although the surges were comfortable they were coming consistently every 3-4 minutes and after a few hours, I decided to check in with the community midwives. One of the team was with us within the hour and when she examined me she said that I was definitely in labour but maybe I should go for a walk or a swim, eat something and try and get some rest because we could be here for quite a while. She also said I’d know when to call her back and that she was confident that we’d be having this baby at home!
Very excited but hungry, I ate some lunch and went to take a nap and listen to my gentlebirth tracks while my husband popped down to the shops to pick up a few groceries and some magazines (which I never got to read). I wasn’t ten minutes into my nap when the surges suddenly increased in intensity and lying on my side listening to my iPod wasn’t doing anything for me anymore. My husband arrived back just then and helped me back downstairs but by the time I got to end of the stairs, I couldn’t speak during my surges and needed to stop and lean heavily on him. They were still coming 3-4 minutes apart. It was time to get the midwife back and fill the pool!
We have an island in our kitchen and it proved to be invaluable as I walked around it and held on to it during each surge while my husband filled the pool. I tried sitting backwards on a chair – a position we had practiced at our active birth class – but I jumped up immediately once a surge began. My body only wanted to be standing and upright all the time. It was really comfortable to just stand, walk and sway during the surges.When the midwife arrived, she examined me and told me I was about 6 centimetres and helped me into the pool. Oh the bliss! I spent the next couple of hours kneeling forward in the pool, with the midwife pouring warm water on my lower back during each surge and my husband pressing his forehead against mine as he breathed me through each one. Both our foreheads were very tender for the next few days.
It was at this stage that I felt the baby moving downwards. I initially thought that I needed to poo and I remember thinking “well if I could just get this poo out of the way, then I could get on with the business of having this baby” because I thought I hadn’t been in labour long enough for it to be the baby causing this sensation. Each surge was exactly four long breathes with a huge inhale in at the start – like I was about to dive underwater – followed by really deep, concentrated breathes. At the same time, my voice was drawing a totally involuntary sound from deep down inside my body. It was a little frightening the first time it happened but the midwife reassured me and encouraged me to just go with it. Once I did, it really helped to move the baby down and I got into a lovely rhythm that helped me concentrate and channel my energy. It really didn’t feel like very long until the midwife told me she could see the top of the baby’s head and it was time to get out of the pool to push.
She had set up a lovely area beside the pool with blankets, cushions and my birthing ball. I knelt down on the cushions and leaned into the ball with my elbows. The midwife told me that if I reached down I could feel the top of the baby’s head. With one push, his head was out and the midwife promised me that with one more push he would be here. That was all I needed to hear! One big inhale and a big push later, my beautiful baby boy arrived on our kitchen floor! The midwife passed him straight up between my legs and into my arms. I sat down on my heels and held him to my chest while my husband and I showered him with kisses. The midwife wrapped us with towels to keep the baby warm. While we were just staring at each other, the placenta literally just fell out! Because my labour progressed so quickly – it was just under four hours between the start of active labour and delivery – my second midwife arrived just as the baby did. She took lots of beautiful photographs for us which we have to treasure. After a few minutes the midwives helped me up, still holding the baby in my arms, and brought me into the living room where the two of us cosied up with my husband on the couch under a warm blanket. They left our little family together to enjoy these special moments and baby S latched on straight away and began feeding. It was really wonderful.
Then we got down to business again! My husband took his shirt off and held the baby against his skin under the blanket, while the midwives examined me – no tear or stitches just a tiny graze – and brought me up to my shower for a lovely wash and a change into a new night dress. Then we weighed S. He was 8lbs on the button. One of the midwives stayed with us for a couple of hours and suddenly we were on our own – just the three of us. My husband made us some well deserved dinner, we talked to our families and texted our friends to tell them the great news and we all headed to bed. It was really lovely to be in our own bed cuddled up together…
In the days after S was born even though I was exhausted, I was on a complete high. I felt like superwoman and that I could do anything. In some ways, I still feel that high. His birth was easily the most incredible, intense experience of my life and it changed me forever.
Before I turned my mind to having a family, there were many, many simple things that I didn’t know about being pregnant and having a baby. Once I got that lovely double blue line on the pregnancy test, a whole new world that I never knew existed opened up. So I thought I might share some tidbits with the uninitiated and maybe spark a few fond memories for the mums (and sometimes dads) out there.
So here’s Things I Learned #1: Giant maternity pads
As a long time and regular lurker on forums and message boards, I signed up to them all when I got pregnant and browsed daily, dipping in only occasionally to comment. As the chats turned to hospital bags and their contents, there was much talk of maternity pads and all their giant oversized glory. Many posters recommended time and again using the big hospital grade green BV pads and talked about using two at a time. Yes, giant pads were required for the post partum bleed, I got that part but how would the two work? Surely, the sticky underside of one would stop the other one from working?
I bought my packs of pads as directed – did I really need this many?! (yes, is the answer 🙂 ) – and had flashbacks to my first period when my mother handed me a pack of her massive StayFree sanitary towels with the picture of the woman in a man’s flannel white shirt running on the beach. They made me feel like I was waddling…
The mystery was solved the day I went into labour. There’s no sticky underside. Simples.
Two it was! And so very very comfy. Giant maternity pads were my friend for a few days. Hail the giant maternity pad.
Do you remember having any “oh” moments about pregnancy and birth things?
It is a rare person who is unmoved by music or who doesn’t have a soundtrack to significant memories in their lives. Even if you’re unaware of it, suddenly a snatch of a tune on the radio or a song in the background of the general hum of a shopping centre can send you back to something wonderful in your past or even something sad.
Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz reminds me of dancing and peels of laughter in my parents kitchen in our first little house and all it’s gorgeous 70s burnt orange and brown decor. Sinead O’Connor’s You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart brings me back to my bedroom on the morning of my Dad’s funeral. I had it up full blast while putting my make up on as one by one my siblings were drawn in by the music to sit on my bed and just be together. Horse Outside by The Rubberbandits still makes my stomach lurch as I’m jolted back to the winter of 2010 when the country was crippled by snow for weeks and I spent most of that time on my hands and knees heaving into the nearest toilet bowl with morning sickness.
I did my masters thesis on exploring the effectiveness of the Mozart Effect on babies in utero and although the claims of the phenomenon are dubious indeed, the research is conclusive that babies can recognise music that they heard frequently in the womb, just like their mothers’ voices.
When I was pregnant, myself and my husband carefully chose a piece of music that was important to us that we would make “the baby’s song”. My husband has fond memories of his father playing The Sound of Silence on guitar and singing him to sleep and I love the gentle harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel so I played it every night to the bump and sang along so the baby could feel the vibration of my voice through my chest and rib cage and through the waters surrounding him. If nothing else, it was a few minutes of stillness together everyday.
As we came closer to the big day, my husband was very keen for us to put together a playlist for the labour and birth. I always thought that I would love this idea but for some reason I was hesitant. I think I was afraid of forcing a moment but more importantly, as I was heavily engaged in my hypnobirthing at the time, I thought I might be too “inside” myself and the music would serve no purpose.
It turns out I was totally wrong. I put off putting together some songs until I was overdue. At my husband’s gentle encouragement and as a project to occupy me, we put together 13 hours of carefully chosen songs. Many of our favourites were discarded due to their unsuitability for a relaxed, calm, gentle birth either because of the lyrical content, the tempo or the timbre. Eventually we had something we were proud of and could be described in just one word – “lovely”.
The morning my contractions started, my husband set up the stereo in the kitchen and just let the music gently trickle into the background. It’s presence set an invisible tone of warmth and calm. Then as my labour progressed, the midwife used the music as an anchor to steady me when she felt I was losing my focus and needed to be grounded. When the contractions were coming hard and fast, I distinctly remember hearing her voice say “deep breathes, listen to the beautiful music”. My mind immediately snapped onto the soaring voice of Glen Hansard from The Frames, which had suddenly appeared from nowhere to soothe and sing directly to me.
My husband tells me that our son was born to the velvety tones of Nick Cave which I was delighted to hear but blissfully unaware of as all of my focus was on those last special moments of birthing my baby.
He also tells me he was secretly delighted that S wasn’t born to Adele who had been playing just moments before! Although the joke is on him in the end…
…Adele was on heavy rotation on the radio during my pregnancy and I used to crow along to Someone Like You while I washed the dishes. A couple of months after S was born, we made a trip all together to IKEA. As Adele popped up on the shop soundtrack, I turned to my husband and said “oh, this song reminds me of being pregnant” and suddenly noticed the baby. He was looking straight at me and smiling with what I can only describe as a knowing look, like we were looking into each other’s souls. My chest welled up and I started to cry. It was a magical moment. I honestly believe he recognised it.
But it was also embarrassing…oh the emotion of a post partum woman 😉
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