Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Birth of Marlene: A Father's Eye View

If you have already read my version of Marlene's birth (if not you can read it here) then you will know that there were a lot of people present to welcome her into the world a few weeks ago. It always fascinates me to hear other peoples experiences of the same event. I asked my husband, Ingo and my friend Sam, both present at Marlene's birth, to write about it from the perspectives. None of us read each other's accounts before writing our own and it has been interesting to see the differences in perception of time and sequence of events. It is also incredibly moving for me to read their stories and to understand how witnessing something as powerful as birth impacts our relationships. 

First up is Ingo - he wrote this a couple of weeks ago and me laugh and cry in equal measure. Thank you my love:

"Week 4 after birth. My body hurts, my brain is fried, I am confused, highly irritable and I am fucking knackered. I invented a new word for this: 'fackered'. I am also at times ecstatic and happy. So, this is probably not the ideal starting point to finally write down my 'birth story' but hey... let's go!

Right.. a confession right from the start: I can't remember much. Well, I can remember a lot of snapshots.. flashes.. like a long paparazzi attack - but I find it hard to remember the whole thing as one chronological process. We had a full house this time. Sharmila's parents, Little Leelah, our good friend Sam [a female Sam @misssamlacey], two midwifes and myself. There should have also been two 'One Born Every Minute' producer/camera people but they thank god ballsed it all up and we told them at the last minute not to bother. I don't think there would have been enough room in our 'birth lounge' anyway. So, there we were, well prepared, birth pool fully blown up, sitting there like a midget bouncy castle, ready for attack, with all of the experience of a previous successful home birth, and I was still very nervous and but also excited and relieved that this whole waiting game period was finally about to come to it's natural end. It was the eve of the battle, die Ruhe vor dem Sturm.

Here's what I remember, not what really happened, just what I can now recall:

Me thinking "I can smell it - just like the first time - I can feel that it's just about to happen".

Sharmila calling me upstairs, telling me that 'there is definitely something going on'.

Filling the pool with water, trying to get that water temperature just right but that's not easy because we don't have a mixer tap that is small enough to fit on the connector that came with the hire pool, so the hose is now connected to the hot tap and I need to do that whole pool-filling in a clever way, meaning that I need to think about how much hot water I need to put in now and how much space I need to leave for a cold water top up so the pool is just filled up to the correct height while taking into account the time that will now pass until Sharmila will actually go into the pool, then realising that that's actually totally out of my control, so I desperately try to keep that bloody pool at the right temperature. At some point I just run up and down the stairs, numerous times, down to the kitchen tap and upstairs again, with a massive white plastic bucket, trying to get too cold water out of the pool and new, hotter water back in, always trying to keep that temperature right. Now here's a great tip for you: Put that birth pool hose on a mixer tap.

Sharmila kneeling over a bouncing ball, me massaging/rubbing her lower back, telling her that she's doing great and everything is just fine.

Icelandic music that I've never heard before on repeat. Candles. Water bottle. Lower back rubbing.

Sam doing the same while I run down with another bucket of water.

Midwifes arriving, the main one IS GERMAN [lol], me offering tea but they don't want any.

Sharmila doing some new style brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr noises, riding the waves. More back rubbing.

Midwife suggesting to enter the pool, me worrying that the temperature now might not be right.

Hectic adding of hot water to bring up the pool temperature.

Sharmila in the pool, the in-laws in and out of the lounge, Sharmila's mum with a camera, like a miniature war reporter. Looking back now, I can't really remember what they did. I think they mostly looked after Little Leelah. And Sharmila's dad helped me with the pool saga.

Sharmila still in the pool, then suddenly, MUCH quicker than I suspected.. OOOOOOOH something is happening now... I CAN SEE THE HEAD OF A BABY COMING UP UNDER THE WATER


..and there she is, Marlene. All the Anspannung is suddenly falling off me, it's a total rush now, looking at her little face, looking at Sharmila, this massive wave of relieve and happiness washing over me, people around me, all these people suddenly, Little Leelah shouting "THE BABY THE BABY", Sharmila's mum shooting pics, Sharmila still in the pool, now holding Marlene who is already aiming for a boob. There is an electric atmosphere in this room.. ecstatic, happy faces.

Then slowly back to business.. me cutting the cord, joking that it will feel again like cutting off a pinky finger.. Marlene getting cleaned and weighed, Sharmila moving to the sofa, all the after birth business, placenta, getting stiched up, finally nicking some gas&air.. it really gets very foggy now.. me obviously holding Marlene.. just happy."

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Birth of Marlene: A Mother's Eye View

The night before my due date I wrote two blog posts, one celebrating my pregnancies and one saying goodbye to a miraculous body that I would never see or feel again.

I don't know if it was just that the due date was the next day, or my motherly instinct screaming out to me that things were ripening up nicely, but the night before we also decided that it would be a wise move to ready the lounge for the birth so that Ingo wasn't inflating the pool or moving sofas while I was trying to focus on breathing through contractions.

My due date, Saturday 11th January, came and although I was experiencing some pretty intense Braxton Hicks there was no sign of an imminent labour. We spent the day playing with Leelah, headed out to the park in the sunshine and generally enjoyed each other's company.

On Sunday morning I woke up at 6am and stumbled, bleary eyed, to the toilet for a wee, all pretty normal in the latter stages of this pregnancy. I snuggled back into bed and started to drift off, vaguely aware of my stomach hardening and tightening through an intense wave of Braxton Hicks contractions. Through the early morning doziness I started to become more conscious that the tightening was changing, like a band round my pelvis and under my bump, not just the indiscriminate hardening of Braxton Hicks. I lay still and quiet in the dark and focused my attention on my body and my baby girl, who was moving gently inside my uterus.

Then the intense tightening came again and this time I knew that my body was readying itself for labour.

I checked the time. Two short, painless contractions in 30 minutes, not much to go on but enough for me to get excited. Ingo was already half awake so I let him know that I thought I was starting to go into labour but I wasn't totally sure. I put on some relaxing music, snuggled back into bed and I sent a text saying STAND BY to my dear friend Sam, who I wanted to be at the birth as she had been an incredible support physically and emotionally through both pregnancies and the first years of Leelah's life.

Then another wave of sensation hit and this time it was stronger again. It was 6.40am and I decided to call Sam and told her to get on her way round just in case, even if I wasn't in labour I said we could have a cuppa and some breakfast together.

We headed downstairs and I let my parents, who were staying with us, know that I was about to call the midwife even though I wasn't in the three contractions within 10 minutes zone. I had been roughly timing contractions and by 6.50am they were lasting one minute and coming every six minutes. Definitely regular and getting closer together with each contraction, things were progressing fast.

I called the midwife at 7am as we really wanted them with us this time. I had a brief chat and filled them in on my previous birth with Leelah and the fact that things where moving quickly this time and that I (and Ingo!) would appreciate someone coming out as soon as possible. The midwife on call phoned back quickly and reassured me

that she and her colleague woud be with us within 40 minutes. At this point Ingo had a brief panic as he thought it might be too late. I reassured him that the contractions were too far apart and not at all painful so I was sure they would be here on time.

At this point I was on top of the contractions, using my ball on all fours and doing farty horse lips to the crescendo of the contractions (thanks Mitch at Birthology for this tip), and singing and sighing as the waves subsided. Ingo stayed with me and massaged my lower back and spine each time while my Dad sorted out the pool and my Mum wandered about purposefully with her camera.

Sam arrived at 7.15am and by then contractions had increased in intensity and were coming every five minutes. I was heading rapidly into established labour and I was still happy and relaxed between contractions, laughing and joking with Sam and Ingo. As each contraction began I knelt down, hugged the ball and swayed my hips while they massaged my back, I focused right into the sensations allowing myself to completely acknowledge and understand what was happening to my body and my baby. I remember my Mum walking in mid contraction and complaining that her camera flash wasn't working! Not really the most important thing on my mind at that moment and I chose a couple of colourful words to let her know. Sorry Mum.

At 7.45am the first midwife arrived followed closely by the second midwife at 7.55am. They took my blood pressure and listened to baby, all wonderful.

Then everything accelerated, and slowed down all at the same time...

I became less aware of what was going on around me and more focused on the contractions and my breathing. Flashes of what was happening seeped into my awareness:

Hearing my Mum take Leelah, my two year old daughter, downstairs into the kitchen for breakfast.
Hearing Leelah's sweet voice saying "Mummy is busy and she's singing" and "Mummy is letting the baby out in the pool".
Ingo running up and down the stairs with my Dad, bringing boiled water up from the kitchen for the pool.
Hearing Ingo ordering my Dad not to take away the big saucepan with handles as that was my sick bucket.
Seeing Ingo standing by the pool dripping with sweat.
On all fours hugging my ball.
Being massaged by Ingo and Sam, soothing hands helping me ride through the contractions.
Hugging Ingo through a contraction.

By 8.15am I couldn't stand up at all as the contractions were continuous, so I crawled about on the floor making horse noises and loud ahhhhhhhh singing sounds. Ah hello transition.

Suddenly the sensations changed and I told the midwives I could feel Marlene bearing down and I wanted to get in the pool quickly, the tell tale pressure in my lower back and bum told me everything I needed to know. I was ready, she was ready. But the midwife wanted me to quickly lie on my back so she could check I was fully dilated. I looked at her incredulously and declared I CANNOT LIE ON MY BACK I WANT TO PUSH. I was calm but the thought of lying down was pretty abhorrent. In a brief pause in contractions I reluctantly rolled over and a swift examination confirmed that I was fully dilated after only an hour and 10 minutes of active labour.

It was time to enter the water.

I swiftly stripped off and clambered into the pool and almost immediately was swept up in a powerful pushing sensation. I fell silent and leant against the side of the pool, my arms around Ingo's neck as he washed water over my back.

I focused right into the sensation, all my concentration flowing down to my baby imagining her travelling down and out. It was such a powerful feeling. I heard the midwives and Ingo gently encouraging me. No need to push as I felt her move down. I just breathed deeply down, down into my body. Then the sensation subsided and I came back to the room, a few minutes later and after two more powerful pushing contractions I felt Marlene crown, a burning sensation which receded as the contraction slowed and she gently retreated.

As I came up out of the contraction I realised my parents and daughter were by the pool alongside my husband and Sam. Leelah my beautiful, perfect first daughter was right in front of me watching as with one final powerful contraction Marlene, her baby sister, floated out into the pool and I scooped her gently to the surface.

Her tiny face up turned, so peaceful and calm.

I gently drew her head to my chest, both of us buoyed by the water. Slowly she opened her eyes and mouth and drew her first deep breath. I looked up at the faces around me full of tears, smiles and joy.

Welcome to the world tiny girl.