Natasha’s Second Baby

I didn’t always want children. During my younger years, despite my curiosity about what it might be like to be pregnant, the whole concept seemed rather alien to me. To have a living being grow inside my body, be birthed in a mess of liquids and blood, to then become my ultimate responsibility, was quite honestly too strange a concept to comprehend. Even witnessing the birth of my brother, at age sixteen, did nothing to change my mind or to demystify human reproduction.

When I met my partner Manu, my curiosity developed into a want. I wanted his child, and I wanted to be a mother. It took many years before we decided to start trying for a baby. I checked my vaccinations were up-to-date and I stopped taking my pill. My periods had always been erratic and now after years of taking those synthetic hormones they were even more irregular. “Trying for a baby” seemed to be a silly phrase. We were flying blind. We had no dates to go by. Eighteen months ticked by, with no sign that I would conceive. I started reading books. I stopped drinking green tea. I modified my workout regime. I tried to make my body as healthy as I could. Still nothing. My doctor started discussing hormone therapy. I had always been sure that if we could not conceive naturally then I would prefer not to have children. I had witnessed the stress and heartache which can arise from other methods of conception, so I geared my mind towards the life we could have without kids. Still, the questions would creep into the back of my mind. What if something is wrong with me? What if I cannot grow a healthy baby? What if, what if, what if?

Not long after I started to focus on a life without children, and after almost two years of trying, I took a pregnancy test. It was day ninety-five without a period. When the test read positive, there was no-one more shocked than myself. I took another test. Positive. Shock. Smiles. What comes next?

My first child, Hugo, was born in a Parisian Hospital. I had wanted a water birth; however the private clinics where this is possible in Paris were not covered by our health insurance. The cost of paying outright for the privilege was a luxury we could not afford at the time. So I put the idea out of my mind, and we selected a well-known hospital from the list provided by my ob-gyn. We had nothing but positive experiences with the staff and midwives we met along the way and this made us more than happy with our choice.

I intended to birth as naturally as possible. I laboured mostly at home and arrived at the hospital six centimetres dilated. After I had laboured long and hard, the reality of being hooked up to a drip and wearing foetal monitoring as per hospital protocol, took its toll. My resistance had worn thin. I gave in to the epidural which had been dangled in front of me from the moment we stepped onto the ward. Hugo was born not fifteen minutes after my epidural was administered, which left me feeling disappointed in myself. Of course, his birth was powerful and beautiful. I became a mother.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. In this instance we were in the right place. A complication arose for my little boy and having birthed on the maternity ward of one of the top Paediatric Hospitals in the world, meant Hugo received excellent care. For that I am immensely grateful. I am also thankful for the beautiful midwives who attended me. I could have only wished to have been with my son while his tests and operation were carried out. Being away from Hugo left me feeling disconnected and more helpless than I needed to feel at this moment.

I felt a real loss of control. Of my body. Of my baby. Of my surroundings. During Hugo’s birth I was given oxygen, flipped onto my back from my preferred birthing position (on my side). I was given an episiotomy with no communication of this until after the fact. I was unable to have my mother and grandmother (both of whom had flown from Perth to Paris) with me during the birth, or during the ten or so hours which followed (while I waited for a room to be made available). All these things made me determined to turn this experience around, should I be lucky enough to fall pregnant once more.

And I did.

My Labour and Birth

Natasha and Cleo

My last appointment with my midwife, Sara, was on the Monday. She came to my home and we discussed some of the finer details of home birth preparation. We also talked about the chance she might not be able to be at the birth due to scheduling. With my due date so close and Sara’s weekend off coming up, we joked that a birth that Wednesday would be convenient for all concerned. I finally felt ready having just finished a freelance job and was eager for labour to start. I was determined to have Sara with me

Things started happening the next day, Tuesday, even though I did not realise I was in labour. It did not feel at all like it had last time. Just occasional twinges and a feeling of heavy, tightness in my lower abdomen. I thought it was just the growing weight of my baby and did not give it another thought. It was a rather busy day with many errands to run and my two year old son, Hugo, to look after. I had my final bloods taken, did a big grocery shop and booked in with the beautician. In the afternoon, I had a visit from my Aunt, a trained midwife, and I told her how I had been feeling. She told me I was most likely right as I was already so close to my due date. It was not until after she left that I realised what I had been feeling were contractions. They never became quite regular, and as they became increasingly intense, I notified Sara and my partner, Manu, via text, a kind of “Hey heads up… this could be game on.” By now it was the early evening.

I was able to get through the evening without too much change to our routine. I made dinner and put Hugo to bed, while simultaneously blowing up my birthing ball and making a few calls. One, to my mother to let her know what was going on, and another to my Dad and his wife who had agreed to look after Hugo. We decided it was best Hugo stay with us and be collected in the morning.

After Hugo was asleep, we inflated the birth pool. We made sure everything else we needed was close by. It was strange to see the pool there, waiting, knowing it was soon to be used.

The evening passed fairly quietly with the contractions growing stronger. The baby moved a lot during the contractions which only seemed to make them more intense. Occasionally, I looked at the time to see how far apart they were. Sara had told me to call her when I had three contractions in ten minutes, but that had already happened early in the evening. They just never felt strong enough to warrant calling her. Having birthed once before I knew just how intense contractions could become, so I just went with the flow. I welcomed each contraction, excited that we were not far from meeting our baby. I noticed that the contractions picked up the more active I was, and would almost stop if I relaxed. Continuing the same activity also seemed to slow them.

Manu, who was trying to be a trooper passed out on the couch at some point, so I sent him off to bed to conserve some energy. I dimmed the lights, lit some candles and left late night TV on for distraction. By 2am I was feeling weary and nothing much seemed to be happening. I decided things were a long way off and to try to rest. When I lay down my contractions almost disappeared but were extremely painful when they hit. So I climbed onto the couch and piled up the cushions. I kneeled semi-upright and rested my head and eyes. The contractions slowed to one every ten minutes and I really started to believe it was false labour. It was not until I got up to use the toilet, that I felt dampness between my legs and saw blood. Not having experienced this with my first birth, I became very uncertain of what was going on. The contractions also returned at this point with force. Four in ten minutes. I woke Manu and said I thought it was time to call Sara.

As Manu related to Sara what was happening, I realised my contractions had stopped again and got him to pass me the phone. I had only one small contraction while Sara asked me about the blood and I was sure she would think it was a false alarm (since I had managed to talk with hardly a pause). She said she was on her way and to wait for her before filling the pool. When we ended the call it was about 3:40am. As soon as I put the phone down, the contractions returned. This time they did not let up. They were regular and intense at least every minute and a half to two minutes apart. At this point I wondered if we had left it too long to phone.

While we waited Manu stayed with me and kept busy warming a heat-pack for my lower back. He also replaced the bad, late night TV with some of my favourite music. Sara arrived at around 4:10am. I heard her car pull-up and her wheeled bag on our drive-way. It was a huge relief to see her face. She came over to me to see where we were at. At this point I was kneeling on the floor, rocking my hips from side to side while resting my head and arms on the sofa. I had the heat-pack balancing on my lower back. Sara lifted it (the heat-pack) and with just that quick look, told me the baby was not far away.

Sara helped Manu to fill the pool and then sat beside me to make a few notes. After each contraction had passed she would tell me how well I was doing and how some of the shorter contractions were a “big surge” to help the baby along. It was comforting. She did not interfere. She just left me to get through the contractions. This was all I needed from her, as by this stage I was in “The Zone.” Sara told me she was going to call for a backup midwife. The fact that she told me she was going to call Sue from The North Team, as she was the closest should have clued me in as to how quickly things were moving.

Sara made her call to Sue, and I heard her say “This one is going to come like a bullet train.” This really spurred me on as I knew I was not far away from delivering. At the same time, Manu had been calling the others who wished to be at the birth. My mother (who was already on her way), my aunt and Kerryn, my student midwife.

By now the pool was filled and at the right temperature. Sara told me I could get in when I was ready. My Mum arrived at about this point. I think I had about two or three contractions after that, and then Sara very casually asked me if I was going to get into the pool. I said I would wait for the next contraction because I could feel myself becoming unsteady. Once it had passed, I stood and I realised I was damp between my legs again. Sara said it was probably my waters. As I sank down into the water the sense of relief was amazing. It really helped with the pain I had been feeling in my tailbone and it soothed my lower belly. The other thing I felt at that moment was my waters breaking. I could feel the gush, even though I was in the water and I remember looking down and seeing the water ripple.

The contractions I had while in the water were still intense and with each one I had a real urge to rise onto my feet. Each time Sara reminded me to keep my bottom well under the water. I experienced only one or two contractions in the water before I said something was pushing and we hastily removed my bikini bottoms. Sara asked for a mirror and a torch and said she could see the baby’s head. I had at this stage felt more pressure between my legs and had reached a hand down to ease it. I could feel the baby’s hair.

“If you feel like you want to push, then you should,” Sara guided me. I am not sure that I felt the urge to push, but more that the baby was coming anyway. I do not think I even waited for the contractions. I just pushed. With the first push the baby’s head was born. I felt a hand reach down to touch it. (I thought it had been Sara’s, but it was actually my Mum’s). I pushed again almost immediately and the body was born. I had been kneeling, resting over the side of the pool and the baby came in to the water behind me. I never expected that it would happen quite that fast, so I am very glad that Sara did. She gently guided the baby back between my legs and I brought it to the surface of the water. I could not believe it was already over. The baby gave a small cry and then was calm.

After a few minutes I was curious about the baby’s gender and I tried to look. The umbilical cord was short and was passed through the baby’s legs. It made it very hard to see. Soon Sara asked about the baby’s gender and so we all started to look. Manu called out, “He’s a girl!” To which I responded, “Well, which is it then?” From my angle, with the baby in my arms, it was difficult to see. I thought I had spotted boy bits. Finally, I was able to see for myself and, “He” was indeed a girl! It was not long before we were asked if she had a name. I looked at Manu and he knew I was not going to budge. So Cleo Rose Jay was born.

Cleo came in to the world on Wednesday the 8th of January 2014 at 5:10am, about an hour after Sara arrived at our door. Cleo’s speedy arrival meant that only Manu, my Mum, Sara and I were present at her birth, while her big brother slept in his room. Despite the speed with which she arrived, it was a very peaceful, beautiful and intimate birth. Everything I had wished for. Cleo weighed 3.43kg and measured 54cm. I am very grateful to have had Sara as my midwife. I feel like we were on the same page. She understood my wants and needs, and made me feel completely supported and respected. With every appointment I became more and more confident in her expertise. Along with her experience, she has great instincts which she listens to. This allowed Cleo’s birth to be completely non-invasive. Add to that, her sunny smile and happy giggle, I could not imagine a better person to have helped me live such a dreamy experience.