I have become passionate about pregnancy and birth since becoming a mother. So I wanted to share Zander & Gaia's birth stories with you. Both were quite different, both taught me much. In a way I wish I could do it all again and again so as to use all the knowledge I've aquired.
Here's how we met Zander....
We’d planned a couple of kids into our loose ten year plan. Cliff, though excited on finding out I was pregnant, knew well, having had another son 13 years previously, the extent to the hard work & sleepless nights that babies bring. I on the other hand was young and extremely excited and naïve with inexperience. Through pregnancy our lives did not change much though when we went out with friends I only drank a little and went home earlier. I stopped my running which I used to do religiously, 10 k every weekend. Instead I dug the allotment, swam and cycled everywhere. I read pregnancy books a plenty, checking my progress reading what to expect next, dreaming of the day I would meet my little person. It seemed like waiting for Christmas used to when I was a child – the longest of waits! Only this time I knew what my present was and having to wait 9 months for it was excrutiating!
I am blessed as both my pregnancies have been easy. I loved the temple my body had become and I loved having womanly curves for the first time in my life! I scurried about preparing clothes and cloth nappies whilst Cliff did what men do and built the nursery furniture.
When it came to formulating a birth plan, in my naivety I decided I only wanted something very loose. I thought I knew that I wanted Cliff there. We spoke and it turned out he didn’t want to be at the birth really, having been present at his first son's birth and had not enjoyed it. I was upset and angered at first, feeling like I was second rate, like my baby was less important than his first. And then I read A History Of Birth by Tina Cassidy. This, and some thinking through things myself, lead me to quite different views. For me personally I began to feel that birth more a matriarchal thing. The knowledge, wisdom and skills of which were passed from generation of women to generation – through grandmothers, aunties, sisters, mothers to their daughters, nieces, granddaughters and sisters. I began to think that if Cliff generally had difficulty finding the right moment to offer me a cup of tea or to give me a hand with this and that then how would he manage if I was in labour? Would his stress and fear stress me out? Could I rely on him to do/say the right thing or not to do/say the wrong thing? How could he, he’s never experienced birth before. So I decided that I wanted my sister, mother of two, to be my birth partner. She accepted with honour, twice, so has helped me birth both my babes!
I knew I wanted a homebirth. I wanted to manage on just gas and air and figured my meditation practice would come in useful. I thought mind over matter should see me through the worst of it. At first I wanted a waterbirth, then the idea (don’t ask me why) fell out of favour for me. I planned essential oils I would use, movies I’d like to watch and CD’s to play but that was it for my first birth plan.
My due date came but the baby did not. The next few days dragged. I’d heard about ‘sweeps’ and inexperienced as I was didn’t appreciate that this is actually a form of induction. So booked myself in for a sweep at 40 weeks 5 days. I felt twinges all night. We went bowling with some friends and excitedly we chatted about me potentially giving birth that weekend, though there was a plethora of birthdays & leaving parties I could have attended had I not!
I didn’t sleep a wink that night and after the reading I’ve done since I understand why. My body thought first stages of labour were happening, but because it had been artificially started my body was also confused.
In my wisdom (?!) the next morning, as nothing had happened, I decided to walk the 4 miles into town to get some shopping. I was going stir crazy, was frustrated beyond belief and not wanting to rest at all! I had done all my nesting cleaning already so a walk seemed a good idea. I passed neighbours on the way who looked disapproving saying ‘a walk to the Daily Bread warehouse might be gentler’. I didn’t want gentle, I was pregnant not a cripple and as yet I didn’t feel like I was in labour....
... I changed my mind once I’d got to town. Cliff picked me up in the car as I was having contractions similar to bad period pains but regular. I called my sister on getting home at about 2p.m, who eager not to miss anything came straight over with bags of food and gastronomic goodies. The midwife on call couldn’t come and see me for a while so we went for a little walk as I couldn’t sit down, couldn’t get comfy in any way really. Lavender oil massages from my sister were delicious though and whilst on my knees I found undulating in a yogic way with the contractions felt good. The midwife arrived at about 5.30p.m, she checked me and I was only 3 cm dilated. I’d expected more, so we put one of our favourite childhood movies on – Cool Runnings. The midwife was very matronesque, quite abrupt and not very nurturing like I'd imagined she might be. She sat and took some notes, then she left to get dinner, then she returned and bought gas and air. I thought why not give it a go as the contractions were growing less comfortable, but being ‘high’ whilst preparing to birth my baby didn’t sit right with me at that point and it made me feel a bit sick so I gave it up.
I laboured on. I actually fell asleep after a second try on the gas and air, not sure how long for but it felt like quite a while. I awoke to my body urging me to bear down, an uncontrollable urge. My midwife saw this and seemed to get excited, her adrenalin started rushing and she jumped into action. I now know adrenalin is the wrong thing to be generating during labour and in hindsight it clearly didn’t have a positive efffect on me. She had her boxes to tick but I just wanted to take things as they came. She wanted to examine me but I felt so tender and like my body should now be more private, but between strong contractions she did and I was 8 cm dilated. Nice news but now I was more sore. I think she called for a second midwife at that point.
The contractions hurt a lot more by now. My poor sister – I clenched my hands in hers each time a contraction came – so hard that the next day she woke up thinking she had flu as her joints ached from my vicious squeezing! I listened for her voice. It spoke clearer to me than the unfamiliar midwifes voice.I got a bit pathetic at times shouting that I couldn’t do it, it hurt to much. My sister knew I was just saying these things and she knew I knew I had to do it and would see it through, obviously. The contractions rocked my body to the core. I trembled, I screamed and I swore. I felt like I was loosing all dignity, my back ached like never before.
I do not remember knowing the point at which the baby started to descend, I remember pain intensifying with every second, one contraction after another, after another, now one was starting before the last had finished! The baby must be near but I felt like it was going to keep going forever. Your having your baby! Fiona kept saying. Your baby is coming. Her voice always calm, full of equanimity and love. The midwife told me we had to get the baby out otherwise it would be distressed and complications could arise. I don't believe this was the case. I am no midwife yet but she never mentioned a reason why. Who knows but I started to feel hurried. I stood up supported on both sides, my sister so calmly talking to me through all of this, reassuring me, believing in me, ignoring my awful language and undignified screams. I remember hearing Cliff pacing up and down, up and down on the floorboards upstairs. I nearly told him he should go out to the pub instead! I remember him suddenly appearing in the door way, I couldn’t have looked any worse so I told him to go back upstairs I didn’t want him to see me this way. That last hour must have been awful for him.
After what seemed like forever but wasn’t really, the baby crowned and I felt as if my body might break. Then I felt warmth and my sister told me my baby was being born, I could have felt his head with my hand but I was a bit upset so declined. Then with one more push he was born, I can’t remember who caught him but I remember holding this squirming warm pink baby, who was mine. Mine. In the throws of it all I’d quite forgotten I didn’t even know what sex the baby was. ‘It’s a boy, you’ve got a son’ I heard my sister chirrup. I yelled upstairs to Cliff ‘it’s a boy it’s a boy!’ I held him as close as I could in a towel. I noticed his fingers and toes, his beautiful little face. How the hell did all that fit in there I remember thinking!
The afterbirth didn’t happen as I believe it should so I am not going to dwell on it here. I bled a lot due to the way the afterbirth happened and an ambulance was called whilst my sister and Cliff dressed and showed Zander around his new home. Most importantly I had achieved what I set out to – I gave birth to my baby, my boy, my Son, Zander River, at home.
My darling sister stayed in our flat that night whilst I went to hospital and cleaned up, putting washing on, washed up…. and finally crashed out on the couch, waking at 5 a.m to a cold cup of tea she’d made herself hours before. I felt like our bond strengthened and my love for her swelled with the experience and our closeness was sealed. She’d been with me at the most important time of my life thus far. She’d seen me at my undignified worst and cradled my baby boy minutes after he was born. I hoped then, we’d be doing this again some day ….. She visited me in hospital later that day and bought me all my favourite treats - peanut crackers, sesame snaps, divine chocolate, mrs crimbles and when I got home from hospital 24 hours later I found the bag of treats she'd bought over the day it all began.
I've never written Zander's story down before so I enjoyed reading that back just now.
Sleep tight X