Monday, July 14

Birth Story

As promised many posts ago, Jaspers' birth story. My story followed by Simons'.
I love how right from the start our stories are different! LOL

I woke up Saturday morning knowing that I was about to start labour. I had been having intermittent contractions for the last 3 days and had been hoping something would begin soon. Something felt different; I really did feel ripe deep down below. I went to the toilet and found a very faint pink smear of show and thought to myself, “Yup, today’s the day”. I went back into the bedroom and suggested we have coffee downstairs this morning not in bed as I was going into labour”. My last 2 births had started just after I woke as well, both times with a rush of my waters as I had stepped out of bed and I was expecting my waters to break soon and figured that the kitchen floorboards were a better bet than the bedroom carpet. So we went down stairs for coffee and to get the house ready for the arrival of this baby. I made coffee while Simon organised my chosen birth space in the lounge room and fetched the birth pool. We’d had the pool pretty well fully inflated in anticipation of a speedy labour and didn’t want to be caught out inflating the pool while baby was crowning! While he was doing this, my eldest daughter Maia came down the stairs and asked what was going on and I said that I was going into labour and today was the day. I got a pretty good contraction then and another one in a pretty short space of time so, knowing my history (OP baby born in 6 hours at home and OA baby born in 40 minutes at home), I called our midwife Lisa to let her know I was having a baby this day. Lisa asked if she should come over and I said not yet as they were pretty mild. I called my other support people to let them know to get organised and make their way over sometime this morning. After this phone call my contractions had begun to get heavier and I needed to concentrate so I called Lisa back to say that maybe she should come over after all, to which she replied that she already was! About now, my memories become patchy and temporal sequences uncertain.
Simon began filling the pool. I recall wandering around the lounge/dining/kitchen area managing mild contractions and when the pool was ready I hopped in. I had been anticipating this moment for months, knowing the really deep pleasure of that warm pool water from my previous birth experience. My recollection is spending hours in the pool, the kids were playing cards with my friend Bruce or just sitting on the couch watching my labour progress, Rosie (our other support person) was taking pictures, Simon was supporting me either by assisting me to the toilet or giving me a hand to squeeze. He stayed by my side the whole time, loving me. At some point Lisa organised steaming hot towels for my lower back, which was not quite covered by the water in the pool. The relief and pleasure they brought were something to be experienced, who would have thought something so simple would bring such immense relief? They were heavenly and I remember getting cranky and grumpy when the usually seamless replacement of a cooling one with a fresh hot one wasn’t quite seamless enough. At some point in the pool my waters broke. The rush of water around my inner thighs was such a surprise, like someone had turned on a spa jet between my legs and I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t think you’d feel your waters breaking when you’re already in the water. I began to get hungry and asked one of the girls to bring some chocolate covered ‘squashed fly biscuits’ and ate quite a few in between contractions and laughing with everyone. It was pretty normal labour; me enjoying myself, chatting and laughing in between moments of incredible intensity. After about 3 hours (I think it was about 3 hours, I lost all concept of any time) I began whimpering and moaning for someone to please save me and thinking to myself that I must be in transition. Finally. I began to feel a bit pushy, and began pushing for a while and Lisa asking me if I could feel anything if I reached my hand in. Nope, nothing. Lisa said it was ok to keep on pushing and maybe I needed to change positions. Sequence and timing is blurry here. I remember Lisa asking me to go the toilet, climbing out of the pool and waddling to the loo. I think I said ‘I know what you’re trying to do you know’, thinking how clever I was to be wise to her sneaky midwife techniques for changing positions, emptying the bladder to encourage progress when I just wanted to stay put in the safety of the pool. I had a big contraction just after I had a wee in the bathroom and clutching simon, hanging from him and moaning very loudly. I wandered back and climbed back into the pool. Taking up a new position in the pool, I leant back into the birth pool, hanging my arms over the side with simon supporting my underarms and kept with the pushing. Lisa could see his head emerging and I began to feel a sense of relief and joy, knowing that soon he would be born. I had been in second stage for hours. The kids were up one end of the pool together with the support team, it was like swimming an Olympic final! I began to feel deep pain in my lower abdomen, which was making concentrating on managing contractions really difficult. The pain kept with me and I began feeling unnerved and telling Lisa that I was feeling this pain and it was different to contractions. I was still pushy and after lots of effort I managed to birth Jaspers head. Once his head was born, I felt my contractions suddenly stop; it was like an empty feeling, it felt very strange. Lisa kept encouraging me to push and I remember saying that I was trying, but I had no contractions to work with. I remember crying out when I felt the baby kicking vigorously inside me; I had never felt anything so surreal, head out, legs and feet squirming inside. I could really feel him pushing around in there. Things were appearing, in my haze, to get a little stressful, something wasn’t right. Lisa asked someone to call an ambulance NOW and told me to change positions again to see if that would encourage Jaspers' body to be born. Nope. I remember the edge in her voice as she was telling me to keep my body low in the water as I tried some more pushes. After a short while she told me very firmly to get out of the pool and to lie on my back on the floor and I think she said something like “your babies shoulders are stuck and im going to have to try and get him out” (I learnt afterwards that it was a prolapsed cord as well). My last memory of labour was saying “oh no, I hit his head on the side of the pool” (climbing out of a pool unassisted (I was doing it FAST) with a babys head between your legs is not easy), Lisa telling me not to matter about it and feeling a sinking of fear in my stomach. I cannot remember actually getting out of the pool, lying on the floor or Lisa putting her hand inside my vagina to grip Jaspers armpit to pull him out. I cannot remember him being born. My next memory is lying exhausted on the floor thinking I had done everything I could do and hearing Lisa and Rosie saying “c’mon baby, c’mon baby” and asking me to come over and talk to my baby. The cord was quite long so I was laying quite a way away from where the action was, and I recall slowly crawling over thinking just how weak and exhausted I felt and that I had nothing more to give, there was nothing more I could do and just have to let the professionals do what hey knw to do. Lisa and Rosie were crouched over him, Lisa was giving him mouth to mouth interspersed with bagging and Rosie was using 2 fingers to do CPR on his chest. Jasper was white, floppy and unresponsive and I remember thinking "oh no, 9 months and hard labour and its come to this terrible end" and thinking I couldn’t feel anything in case he didn’t make, it as I crawled over. I remember seeing Lisa’s hands shaking while she was attaching the mouthpiece onto the oxygen tube and at that point the real enormity of the situation really hit me. I remember Lisa asking Rosie if she could feel a heart beat and Rosie saying 'yes' and feeling relieved that we had at the least that; he had an Apgar of just 1. There was vigorous rubbing of his floppy body with a towel, mouth to mouth, oxygen, CPR, everyone saying “c’mon baby”, c’mon baby”, it was a very busy, intense and stressful couple of minutes. It was a glorious moment when he took that first little breath, everyone cheered and waited anxiously for another one that seemed to take forever, then after that second breath everyone cheered again and then he appeared to dubiously open just one eye. At that moment I felt like I could finally take a breath myself and let my love and anticipation for this new little being flow. As soon as Lisa was confident that Jasper had a firm grip on the world, she turned her attention to me to check my blood loss, which was fine and the placenta was born soon thereafter. We sort of looked down and there it was half out. They are so soft and EASY after labour. The ambos arrived, and the kids emerged too, having left the situation when I got out of the pool, and said that everyone was managing the situation well, keep doing what we were doing. When the situation had stabilised; his Apgar was up to 7, they checked Jasper and myself to see if anyone needed to go to hospital for monitoring, another ambo crew arrived, saw everything was fine and left. The two ambulance officers chatted, stayed an hour and left, confident that everything was well. They really were a fabulous crew (the female officer was gorgeous, left saying what a wonderful way to birth a baby and that her sister was training to be a midwife and wanted to be a HB midwife!) After Jasper and I were cleaned up and settled on the couch, everyone flopped on the couches, downed about a bottle of champagne each in about half an hour and recovered from such an intense birth. Lisa stayed for about 7 hours after wards to make sure everything was fine and to help ensure Jasper was feeding. The girls decided to go out to a friend’s party for a few hours with Bruce so Simon and I were able to spend some time alone with our new boy.

It took me 3 weeks to get enough courage to Google ‘severe shoulder dystocia’ and from what I had read, I realised even more just how fortunate we were to have had Lisa attending our birth and how lucky we were to have Jasper; hospital born babies with shoulder dystocia have a mortality rate of 50%. The pain I had felt just before his head was born and just after were his shoulders stuck in my pelvis. Her quick responses and appropriate management of such a rare, difficult and unforeseeable presentation are truly appreciated and meant a wonderful outcome. Dare I say ‘ its good thing we had a home birth with Lisa in attendance, because we had some difficulties in labour and he needed every moment possible attached to his placenta while he took his time to take a breath. If we’d been in hospital they most likely would have cut that cord immediately, taken him away from me to do the resus and he may not have made it. I cried intermittently for a week after his birth, the shock of looking at the moment of life and death in front of you and waiting to see, after having done everything humanly possible, what pathway a new soul is going to take is powerful. Jasper is now 10 weeks old, thriving, happy and one content little boy. His birth was not ideal in many ways but it was the birth we had, it was wonderful in its own way and I can now look back on the day with pleasure and know we all made good decisions.

Simons story
I was expecting something amazing, I wasn't disappointed, but it was in every way different from what I had thought it might be.
The morning started bright and sunny with no sign of the day to come until we drank our morning coffee in bed and Kel started to feel the first signs of "something different", we had done a few false starts so we carried on to breakfast before she told me "this is it!"..... what a moment! an incredible sense of the present stripping away my mind and bringing me into focus, quickly followed by it's reengagement with a list of "what to do next's" as long as my arm, not being that wonderful at multitasking ( yes I am after all only a man ) I charged off on my single mission to get that birthing pool filled asap ( Kel had previously had a 40 minute birth with her second baby, Lily ). I had left it semi inflated for quick deployment and with the help of Lily and Maia soon had it up to pressure and filling from a hose off the washing machine tap. Kel was going into light 5 minute contractions which seemed steady and she looked supremely calm and focussed which gave me a lot of reassurance. Our 2 doulas, Bruce and Rosie, had turned up by now and Lisa was relaxed and attentive with Kel. At this point I ran out of hot water from the tank ( we had a few showers that morning ) so it was pots, pans and kettles to the rescue to get the pool that last third filled and Kel into the soothing waters. Rosie, Bruce and I rotated with hot towels on her lower back ( very effective ) while she crouched kneeling supported with her arms on the pool wall. Kel looked so beautiful to me then, sun shining in the water and down her back, totally involved in that ultimate expression of womanhood, birthing.
The mood moved from soft relaxed laughter to intense focus and back as the waves of contraction came and went. The morning passed this way with no sudden changes as labour progressed into it's full expression. At times l felt meaningless and insufficient, at others empowered and connected. To be there holding the woman I love as she was drawn into this incredible process was awe inspiring, I was totally disconnected from "reality" and yet this was the ultimate reality, one we all experience in some way, one that opens our eyes to the wonderful raw beauty of life. The woman I loved before was now the woman I worshipped, respected, admired for her humanity and fertility, her trust and her courage, her strength and focus.
As the birth approached it became more and more obvious that he was a very big boy and things were going to be tough, as his head crowned I began to relax, thinking that the "worst" was over, but there he stopped and there we all started. Kel had run out of contractions and could not push him out, Lisa climbed in the pool fully clothed and I knew we were in "emergency" mode, Bruce called the Ambos as Lisa ordered Kel out of the pool and onto the floor on her back ( all with his little head between her legs ), and her years of experience as a midwife came into full use as she physically reached into Kel to free his stuck shoulders.
As he came across the floor onto a towel it was obvious he was spent, coloured between mauve and cream, completely limp and not breathing. It was the moment I came closest to despair as Lisa gave him mouth to mouth and Rosie kept a steady 2 finger tap on his little chest, we waited and called to him, we encouraged him on, pleaded for him to make it, to breathe that first breath before his umbilical cord gave up its final bit of oxygenated blood.
It seemed like hours but as 2 minutes passed he gave that first tiny gasp and groan, 20 seconds and another, 10 and another, he was here ! he was coming to stay ! our little boy had made it !
With much massaging and a few peeks from one eye he pinked up and almost looked the picture of health by the time the Ambos arrived just 7 minutes after our call. They were great, accepted we had things back in control and after a few minutes left us to, finally, enjoy the successful birth of Jasper William Gregory, 11 lbs 5 oz ( 5.5 kgs ).
Kel, amazingly, needed no stitches, we took prints from the placenta and buried it under the lemon tree, Jasper slept solid for the first week and is now a robust picture of health and alertness mixed with a healthy appetite and love of fun.
Mother and child are now doing very well, Dad however has been transported to another realm that could be mistaken for madness ( he is my first baby ), I love nappy changing and pulling stupid faces while making idiot noises, use language l last used below the age of 5 and proudly feast on his beautifulness with my eyes and hands at every opportunity.
I could fully expect Kel to be very jealous, except she is just as bad as I am.


Jo said...

amazing post, I'm a little lost for words ~ that moment when your baby hovers between [life & death] is so surreal, yet so so real (my little Angus was born at 31 weeks, so we had a few of those moments too).

I just wanted to say that your recount of Jaspers birth is beautiful, scary, and powerful. I love that Simon gave his version also, and I am so sure that Jasper will love to hear his story when he is a little older. Thank-you for sharing.

Kel said...

ohh yeah, nothing like a baby to get the emotions flowing. Thanks, it took me all this time to venture into reliving it by putting it down in words. Its an amazing moment and i am so thankful. My girls never tire of hearing their birth stories and Im sure he will be the same. Thanks again for your lovey words Jo.

catmandu said...

So intense and beautiful. I've been a support person at a few births now and heard lots of birth stories, but this is such an amazing story - an amazing birth.
My "congratulations, well done!" on your Flickr photos at the time, not knowing the story, seem woefully inadequate now! Lisa sounds like an amazing midwife - your whole team sounded just amazing, actually, not to mention you and Jasper! And it's not often you get to hear the man's experience of homebirth, so thank you to Simon and thank you, for putting it into words, for making the moment seem so real that I could almost imagine being there. Cxx

Jen said...

Ive still got tears streaming down my face. Where's a tissue...
Catmandu asked me if id ever read your post on Jasper's birth, Kel and I said no, as i'd heard the verbal version. Im glad i did read this, its raw and real and Simon's perspective is just beautiful.
Thank you Kel and Simon for sharing your stories.

Kel said...

cat and Jen. thanks for reading and commenting. i love birth stories...must have read hundreds over the time of being pregnant with all 3. jaspie birth was pretty full on and re-reading always makes me a little breathless, a tad teary too.

Michele at A House Called Nut said...

Kel, this brought tears to my eyes (and I haven't even made it to Simon's story yet--just had to comment now!). I'm so glad I started reading with the knowledge that everything was fine in the end--I can't even imagine how scary those few minutes must have been.

My sister also had a wonderful home birth with the added complication of shoulder dystocia. In her case, it wasn't as severe (the midwife used some Ina May Gaskin trick to pop her baby right out), but you're right that the situation is treated very differently in hospital! My sister is also very glad that she was in a home setting for the birth.

Looking forward to reading more. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story.