My Euphoric Homebirth

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It all started in the middle of the night. I slept very uncomfortably and thought it to be just a bad backache. But in the morning around 6 am I couldn’t sleep through the pain anymore, so I sat up. It was then, I realised that perhaps these are contractions. I could smell the waft of hot parathas being prepared downstairs by my mum for breaskfast. I ran straight to her and asked if this could be contractions? We mutually agreed to wait before waking up my husband (although full term, we didn’t expect it to all happen so early).

I decided to do exactly what I had planned to do when I go into labour, just in case this was the real deal. I sat on my birthing ball every time the contractions were felt.I also listened to my hypno birthing CD and tried to practice some relaxation. I also lit the candle my friends decorated and blessed for my birth on my blessingway. I told my baby how much I wanted to meet him/her and that I am prepared to take good care of him/her and that I am ready! At this point my contractions were very mild, I was breaming with excitement. I couldn’t wait to meet our little wild bump. It was all going to happen soon I thought, and it felt surreal yet real.

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I had a little breakfast to eat, realising that I must eat as much as possible now for strength later as I might not want to eat when the contractions become very painful. I also kept sipping on water throughout. After breakfast, I went into the bathroom to have a wash and that’s when I had a show. It was very tiny bit of dark red/almost brownish mucus. I popped a pad on and woke up my husband; it was around 8.30 am in the morning. At this point my contractions were coming every 3 to 5 minutes. My husband got out of bed, had his first cuppa. Fuelled with caffeine, he decided it was time to call the midwives as the contractions were very close apart and were starting to get stronger but nothing unmanageable. We thought it might be a super quick birth and that we might be all done well before lunch time. I kept listening to my hypnobirthing CD and I lit the candle that was blessed by all my friends at my blessingway. The candle immediately made me feel that I was being supported by my friends spiritually.

Around 9.15am in the morning, the first midwife knocked on the door. She walked in through the door, with no charm or smile and walked straight upstairs where I was in my bedroom.  She plonked her heavy self down on the floor resting her elbows on the edge of my bed to go through my documents. In the meantime, I kept going through my contractions. She touched my belly. ‘without asking’ , to feel the contractions. She pointed out when the contractions had stopped by the sense of touch and almost disregarded the fact that I still felt the lingering sensations from the rushes. I felt very offended at this point because I was made to feel that she will be difficult and that she believes in herself more than she was going to listen to me/myneeds. Anyway, next she took out a measuring tape and measured my belly. Her face didn’t look positive. She informed us that our baby was measuring small. We were totally taken aback because throughout our pregnancy, we were never told that our baby was measuring alarmingly small. Taken into account that I am from an Indian background and we tend to make smaller babies, I was told that my baby measured 2 cm smaller than the NHS average and that, that was acceptable. But this midwife was measuring my baby 4 cm smaller than a full term baby. We were suddenly announced high risk from being totally low risk.

My world came crumbling down. My desire for a calm home birth was going to go down the drain. My contractions stopped completely. I had visited the MLU (Midwife Led Unit) and the labour ward just the day before giving birth, and I distinctly remember telling my husband how that visit re-affirmed my desire for a home birth. Don’t get me wrong, our NHS hospital is absolutely fine but the sterile environment is just not for me. Having said that, I was ready to go to the hospital if there was any complication. But we found it rather hard to believe that our baby who measured fine until just 4 days ago had suddenly shrunk? We asked the rude lady to leave the premises immediately and asked for a second opinion.

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As soon as the midwife left, my husband asked me to take a stroll down the road for some fresh air and a change of scenario. We could barely manage 10 feet, and my contractions started all over again. This time they felt slightly stronger and more obvious that I had to kneel down or sway side to side to manage them. We went back home and my doula (who happens to be my friend too) arrived. Within 20 mins, we had another midwife who visited us, who was much calmer, and obviously been warned of our “bad” behaviour towards the first midwife. She and two other midwives, who visited us in the next couple of hours, reiterated the same thing about the baby being too small for home birthing. But by this point, with the support of our doula and my husband, I decided to go ahead with home birth, unless ofcourse, medical intervention was absolutely necessary.

My mum offered me lunch, and soon after having lunch, my contractions started getting more and more intense and I was trying to kneel down and manage them without being aware of where I was.”At one point, I thought she was going to give birth on the dog’s basket.”, my husband recounted. The contractions were also getting more regular, 3 minutes apart. My husband tried to call the hospital but no one answered for almost an hour. We thought we might have to do it on our own. I remember saying, “Yes! That would be great.”

At around 4pm, my doula suggested me to get some rest and settle in a room I feel most comfortable. I chose to go upstairs into my bedroom. I lay down on my bed and and went through more contractions. At this point, my poor husband was very busy sorting out our other two kids. My brother-in-law was called to pick up the kids and take them away for the evening. My husband rushed to the supermarket, to get some extra towels, food and other necessary bits (we really were not prepared for the baby to come so early). My mum and doula helped me a lot while my husband kept busy. My doula kept whispering positive affirmations. She whispered, “You are powerful.” I know it sounds very silly on a mundane day but when in labour, they meant so much. I was on all fours with every contractions, bed stained in blood (it wasn’t in alarming volumes). I never knew you bled through contractions. I would have never worn a white dress (just kidding).

Around 4.30pm, arrived another midwife along with my husband who brought a hell of a lot of dates for me (most of which was eaten by him and why not!). She was at the end of her shift and looked very tired yet warm and calm. She had a very peaceful and confident presence. She was aware of our risks, yet never measured me or expressed a desire to examine me. She simply asked me if I had made up my mind on homebirth; and when I confirmed, she responded, “That’s sorted then, let’s have this baby now.” My contractions were coming thick and strong. I was “groaning and moaning but in a controlled manner” as my husband puts it. In about another 20 minutes, my second midwife arrived. She was young and pretty. I loved the presence of both my midwives. They seemed so comfortable on my bedroom floor, I requested them to examine me and reassure me that I had progressed in the past few hours. Lo and behold, I had. I was 5 cms dialated and I was finally in an established labour.

At 5.30pm, I remember saying to my husband, ” When will you stop making coffee for others, stay with me now.” I had a funny feeling that I won’t progress without him. I don’t want to go through labour on my own. If I was on my own, I would have spent hours in labour. In retrospect, if my husband was not running around so much sorting out the dogs, kids and running to the shops etc, perhaps I would have laboured much quicker. And I say that with such confidence because once my husband stayed with me, I progress from 5 cms to 10 cms within 90 minutes or less.

Around 6pm, I was in a trance. My contractions were very painful and strong. I was not fully aware of what was going on around me physically. I vaguely remember my midwifes shoving a torch light into my vagina to see my progress as I didn’t want to be examined. I remember saying to my husband, “man it is painful” and I also remember my husband making me open and look into his eyes. He said, “You can do it. You can squeeze me, bite me, swear at me. I am with you. You are doing great and you can do this.” I remember those words were so strong that I kept progressing quite rapidly.

I distinctly remember having conversations with my baby. Whilst I seem to be moaning with every contractions, swaying, tossing and turning in my bed, squeezing my doula’s hands; I was also having an inner experience with my unborn child. I had a distinct feeling that my baby was working very hard. I had a feeling that everyone’s concern of my baby being small was possibly true but I knew that my baby was strong. I kept telling my baby, “We can do this. You stay with me. I am here to protect you and nourish you. Daddy is looking forward to meeting you. Just stay with us. We can do this together.” My inner conversation, my doula’s words of affirmation, my mothers warm reassurance and my husbands presence all took my experience to another level in my head.

Around 7.15 pm my midwives suggested I should walk around more and not sit down (I was doing that a lot by sitting down on my husband lap, arms wrapped around him, faced nestled in his neck). We walked downstairs in to the living room and things took a turn for the best. I started to get the urge to push. This is when everybody started to have a great laugh at my expense. Apparently, I was being hilarious when I said, “Poo is coming, not baby” I was secretly mortified of pooing in front of my husband. I think, I lost being, “sexy” to him just then. I can now never complaint of his farts.

Jokes aside, my contractions were getting stronger and stronger and very close together. I could not tell when they started and when did they finish. It felt like one long contraction to me to be honest. Everytime, they said, “Push whenever you feel like” I had no idea when to. To be honest, at this stage I had no urge to push but I kept pushing because my midwife did a final examination and said she could feel the baby’s head. Oh, my waters hadn’t broken until my final examination. It did as my midwive examined me (I was aware of the possibility of it happening if I allowed an examination at this stage).Anyhow, I pushed and pushed and poo’d and poo’d (I blame the dates I was fed). I remember my midwives had strictly requested me to listen to them when they ask me to stop pushing. This was going to prevent me from tearing. I take instructions well even in dire situations. Anyhow after having cleared all my bowels, I finally had an urge to push.

With my first real urge to push, I knew this time, it was not poo but baby. I remember saying, “baby is coming”. And with one big push came out the head. This sensation was unbelievable. I suddenly forgot about all the pain. I very vividly remember feeling the baby’s head lower down towards my birth canal. I remember my vagina opening and the slow motion of the head popping out. Everyone screamed in joy, “oh we can see the head, oh one of his hands is out too.” I quickly felt his head, it was more of a face. He came face down first. I felt his little nose very clearly, a gush of excitement ran through me. We then waited for my next contraction. I stopped pushing as instructed by my midwives until the next contraction. We waited and waited for what seemed like ages but it was only seconds apparently before the baby plonked out. I don’t remember pushing at all after I pushed the head out. I remember the midwives saying that the head was turning slowly and before I could realise my next contraction he was out. PAIN-FREE!

He was small as anticipated at 2.5kgs but not worryingly so. He was healthy and safe to be at home.

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The sensation of him slithering out was sensational. It was not only painfree, it was slightly tingly. It felt funny! I was estatic.

Was it orgasmic? I don’t want to get lost in connotations. But (in retrospect) it was not traumatic but euphoric. It left me with, what I can best describe as a post-orgasmic vaginal sensation for a couple of weeks.

My birth left me feeling very empowered. I gave birth just the way I wanted – at home with least medical intervention and without any pain relief.

Whether you have a home birth, hospital birth, natural or ceasarean, hypnobirth or orgasmic birth or a combination of some of them; it is still a powerful thing to give birth. From the day you choose to become a mother, you become the most powerful woman you have ever been!

What kind of birth did you have? I would like to hear your stories too.

 

 

 

My Blessingway – An Alternative To Baby Showers

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My husband, who makes all (almost) my wishes come true (sometimes with a fight)

I suffered from severe hypemesis for the first 6 months of my pregnancy. I lost 5 kgs in two months time and it was probably one of the hardest time of my life and unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the bliss of having become pregnant. Hey-ho! Despite such a difficult pregnancy, my bubba was thriving. I have to say I am very lucky that I had such a great support system around me. My husband worked from home and my friends were there to help me with the kids if need be. It almost felt like a miracle that I was feeling better after the first six months and that I could function normally. I felt I was truly blessed. But those six months of sickness also brought me closer to reality of how things can sometimes not go according to our wishes. I knew then, that I really wanted myself and the baby to be blessed by my closest friends, for the labour day. This was my first pregnancy and first home-birth. I needed all the strength and blessings I could gather for the day.

I am a spiritual person and I wanted to have something holistic to celebrate my pregnancy. I didn’t desire a baby shower. I wanted it to be more special than some dirty jokes, silly games and lots of presents (no offence to people who enjoy that kind of stuff, just not what I desired). I wanted it to be less of a party but more of a spiritual and holistic experience. I wanted to bless the baby and myself. In India, we celebrate pregnancy between 7-9 months. The celebration is called, “Godh Bharai” meaning filling the lap (in this case of a mother t0-be). Mothers are jewelled with flowers, fed her favourite food, blessed and presented with fruits, sweets or a saree. It is considered ominous to bring presents for the unborn baby. And so the day is all about celebrating and pampering the mother and praying for the little ones good health.

I am far away from home, I don’t have enough resources to carry out the same rituals as they would in India. Then I heard about my sister-in-laws blessingway. And I decided to incorporate parts from her blessingway and the Indian ritual together and have a day of fun, bonding and pampering with my friends.

I invited my friends over and had asked them to bring a fruit, a flower and some food to share.

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My gorgeous mum, my strength and my biggest fan.

We all gathered around my living room and my mum started making me a tiara with the flowers my friends brought (some other flowers were later pressed in a book, once dry I might stick them on a canvas for our memory box). We had a henna artists who was doing a henna mandala on my belly. Friends were requested to have a small mandala on their hands. In a traditional blessingway, you give your friends a return gift – a common one being a candle that they light when they hear that you have gone into labour. They keep it alight until the baby has arrived representing their spiritual presence on the day sending love and prayers full of strength. But because in my culture, we do not let people know about the crucial moment, it is to be savoured in your own privacy; I thought my friends could have a henna tattoo in solidarity which will last for 2 to 3 weeks within which time I should have had my baby. Everytime they admire the henna, they could say a little prayer for us.

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Circle time with friends reading out affirmations and poems.

We had a little circle time, in which my husband read aloud a few poems and words of affirmations sent to me by my friends and family members who couldn’t make it. That was followed by a few inspirational stories, birthing experiences and suggestions by my friends. One of the suggestions I got from my friends was to, ‘let go and shout’ and ‘bring out the warrior in you and go raaaaaaaaaaaaa’. That stayed with me and I have to say, ‘letting go and roaring like a tigress’ (as my husband describes it) was the most powerful feeling I had experienced while giving birth. It did help with pain management. It was so lovely to hear such positive and powerful words from my friends that it brought tears in the room. There was so much love in our small circle nest we built that day.

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Candle decorated with colourful strings by my friends.

While the readings were taking place, we passed around a big candle that my friends decorated with colourful threads. It was another way of offering their blessings. I was supposed to light that candle when I went into labour and feel the warmth, love and solidarity of my friends.

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Godh Bharai – It’s called a ‘thali’, meaning a plate (in this case it holds holy fire, flowers and some sweet)

These rituals were then followed by the Indian ‘Godh Bharai’. This one was interesting for all my foreign friends. This is when they placed a fruit on my lap, fed me some sweets and blessed me with the holy fire and a few kind words. My heart was bursting with warmth.

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Godh Bharai – getting blessed by my friend.

Lastly, we had food that all my friends brought with them to share. Traditionally in a blessingway, friends bring food that can be frozen. The idea being that the new mother will not have to worry about keeping herself and her family fed. The cooking part of the chore is well taken care of. But I had my mum over, and she had plans to cook and feed me post-delivery of my baby. So I requested my friends to bring something for the blessingway, that way I didn’t have to worry about laying out food for all. It was so delicious and yummy.

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Me with my lovely daughter Irene

Before my friends left, I gave them all a small candle to light at home anytime in the next two weeks with a little prayer for us.

Self timer was never going to work for us! Bad Selfie but a good memory.

Self timer was never going to work for us! Bad Selfie but a good memory.

The whole day went so well. It was so important for me to have a blessingway. The day left me with deeper sense of positivity and strength. I felt that I was ready for birthing and lo behold, I went into labour the day after and had a very successful homebirth.