After an active labour, Theodora shares the story of how she breathed her baby into the world. Read on for a magical, inspiring and heartfelt account of birth.
The Day Before
The week before my due date I’ve been busy getting things ready, I wasn’t feeling the urge to clean but I wanted to iron baby’s items therefore I ironed then on Monday. The same day I went to get a professional manicure and pedicure. The following day I went to see the chiropractor and the massage therapist. It felt good having all that pampering. I wrote in my journal that “I am presentable to meet my baby…”
In the afternoon of 17th November I sat at my desk, opened my journal and wrote down my birthing vision. I imagined labour starting in the early morning. Outside it will be snowing. We will have the water ready in the pool. Once I’ve done the nursery I will go have a shower for half an hour or more. I will oil my body and put myself in the grey vest dress with a scarf around my neck. I will be squatting and then go in the pool when I felt the need relax my contractions. We will be listening to Playlist Love on loop from the moment I wake up. Andrew, my husband, will be supporting me throughout and the doula will be taking notes of my progress and pictures. After four hours of active labour I will start breathing my baby out and by nine o’clock she will be making her debut into the word. Everything sounded easy, but being an optimist I was wishing, praying for and envisaging no problems.
That evening when Andrew came home from work we went to the library to return some books. We came home just in time to see Debbie, our midwife, with the birthing pool in preparation for the due date, 21st November. Once in the house Andrew decided to blow up two levels of the three levels pool.
After he finished I whispered to our baby “You can come now. We are ready for the delivery.” We went to bed around eleven without suspecting anything. Outside was snowing as I envisaged it would happen on my birthing day, I was so happy.
Journey To Pregnancy
When I started contemplating about pregnancy I read a book, The Famished Road, in the opening pages a sentence caught eye:
“There are many reasons why babies cry when they are born, and one of them is the sudden separation from the world of pure dreams, where all things are made of enchantment, and where there is no suffering.”
These lines stayed with me until I got pregnant. Thus my main wish during the birth was to try to create a dreamlike world around me when it was time to welcome our baby. I wanted to ease the impact from the separation from the womb into our world. Water-birth seemed the only option to ease that impact. I was also lucky to buy the birth issue of The Green Parent February/March 2010. The blissful dossier inspired me and I carried that issue with me wherever I went.
Once I got pregnant, with all that information at hand, I did more research. I was lucky to get a place on the midwifery services in my city. Here in Saskatchewan if you have a midwife you have the option of home or hospital birth. I first meet Debbie late July. Initially my plan was to have a hospital birth, but the hospital in my city doesn’t offer pool birthing therefore I had to do home water-birthing. Andrew was sceptical; he wasn’t sure homebirth was safe as opposed to hospital. I was not concerned because I didn’t think about complications. Unless the baby was breeched or I went into labour prematurely, I wanted a natural birth. I wanted to focus on the positive side of birthing and not the negative, which was media propaganda.
I had a conscious pregnancy, eating healthy food and doing moderate excises. I felt energetic and confident throughout my pregnancy. In the end Andrew came around the idea because some of our friends had had positive homebirths. He also saw my positive disposition to the whole idea of birthing. Another thing that helped him change his mind was the natural birthing prenatal classes we attended. During this class he came to know the popular notion of medicated birthing and how it is ruining the real beauty of natural birthing. After hearing about some gruesome experiences of medicated/surgery birthing he started to support me hundred percent for my decision to have a natural birth, at home in the birthing pool.
For months I’ve been having Braxton Hicks, which sometimes I thought were the baby’s kicks. At week 36, on the suggestion of my midwife, I started drinking a cup of raspberry leaf tea to help the muscle of the uterus tone up for labour.
On 18th November, at 1:45am, a sharp contraction pulls me out of bed – Hollywood style. I throw my cover off and, I bounce out of bed and run into the bathroom. After cleaning myself I see a very faint blood. I was convinced that my mind was playing tricks on me I called Andrew to come double check. He confirmed that that was light blood, the showing. From that moment onward I made numerous trips to the bathroom. Contractions were coming every five to ten minutes apart lasting one minute. However, at this point they were not uncomfortable therefore both Andrew and I thought they were preparatory contractions. I tried various positions on the bed, such as open knee-chest to help me relax and to help me sleep. But I couldn’t sleep so I snoozed. One thing that bothered me was getting contractions while lying on my side. I made another trip to the bathroom, when I got back I went to lie on my left side, while in that position I felt some liquid gushing out of me. The sensation was like jumping in the pool and the gravity pulling you below. All the sensation felt as if my menstrual circle was imminent.
Andrew kept timing each contraction. I couldn’t sleep so I brought my exercise ball onto the bed. I embraced it while kneeling on the bed. It felt great; suddenly the pressure on my back was relieved. I managed to relax and fell into a comfortable position. I was about to sleep but decided to check the time. It was 6am so I opted to get out of bed.
Once up I called Avril, my doula, to inform her of the events. I was talking to her when a contraction hit me. I passed the phone to Andrew who finished the conversation. I believe Avril said to keep doing what I had been doing the whole morning, focusing on my breathing. I concentrated on my breathing whilst letting all the jabs wrap me without fighting them.
After the telephone call we decided to start our day. I still felt sleepy so I made Andrew bring out of the studio the desk chair, a sleeping bag and my exercise ball. I sat on the chair wrapped myself warm and lifted my feet up. I slept for nearly one hour. The contractions kept coming but they were not uncomfortable, just annoying. I got up at seven and went for a shower, I let the hot water run on my shoulders and my lower back to relieve the pressure.
After the shower I ate fried eggs, then played on the Wii Fit alternating between Rhythm Parade and Obstacle Course.
We phoned Debbie at eight o’clock to let her know that labour have started. She told us she was coming around eleven o’clock to check my progression. We were still convinced that it was pre-labour contractions, because we read that during active labour contractions are intense but short.
Andrew had a meeting that morning so I told him he could go because this stage could last six to twelve hours. But he called it off because he wanted to help me all the way. I loved having him fussing about me, making sure that I was comfortable, eating and drinking water. He became my focal point at each contraction; he would breathe with me while looking in my eyes, it was good to see his relaxed face. It made me feel secured and strong.
I phoned my mother as soon as Debbie came because knowing that a specialist was with me would have cut down her guilt for not being near me during this miraculous moment. My mother sent me her best wishes and prayers. She thanked Debbie and asked her to take good care of me and pray for me. She said she was sorry she couldn’t be near me. I was not sad because the thought that we were in her prayers set me at peace. After some contractions Debbie decided to check how much I was dilated. I was 7cm dilated. We were in disbelief but every excited. After the examination Debbie asked if we needed something for the house because we might not be able to get anything after today. Both Andrew and I agreed that we needed milk and bread. We phoned Avril to tell her the news and ask her if she could get us milk and bread. She said she would come home first.
Debbie started to take minutes of my progression. She went by her business, writing and just being a passive observer, letting Andrew be the main helper.
Avril arrived around 1:30pm, she told us it was funny request from a husband whose wife’s cervix was dilated 7cm to want milk and bread. That shows how relaxed we were about the whole process. Before Avril arrived I told Debbie about my birthing vision. “It would be nice to have some pictures in the snow.”
At 1:45pm we went outside to take some pictures as the snow picked up falling down. The cold air eased some contractions whilst posing like a super-diva pregnant woman. When we got back indoors twenty minutes later, Debbie pointed out to Avril “She doesn’t look like she’s about to give birth.” We all smiled pleased. I was jolly and chatty. Contractions were like special drugs to me, I was in this peaceful place. Meanwhile Andrew, Avril and Debbie were covering the living from floor with plastic shower curtains, old towels and blankets ready for the birthing pool.
I went into the water around 3pm when the stronger contractions began. I believe that was the beginning of the second stage of labour. This time I started to believe that maybe, just maybe I would see my baby tonight. It felt good to be in the warm water (37ᵒC), because each strong contraction was less felt. Throughout the day I had one of the birth-playlists I prepared in the previous months playing. I came out of the water one hour later; I was getting cold. I went to change into a different outfit.
The rest felt like in a dream. The lights in the living and dining room were turned off. They left the kitchen and hallway lights on. Avril put on the birth-playlist Soothing. Bella’s Lullaby began to fill the room and my body calmed. At each contraction I let my body relax further. Debbie was wiping my face with cold wipes because I was sweating so much. At intervals Avril brought cold water for me to drink and pieces of banana to eat to boost my energy.
At one point I had to get out of the pool desperately. I needed to pee. Someone told me to do it in the pool but the idea of accidently having a bowel movement forced me to get out and go to the bathroom. I think that was the third stage of contractions. I went in the bathroom and sat on the toilet. Debbie came to count some contractions with me. Meanwhile Andrew and Avril were changing the water of the pool.
When I got out of the bathroom Debbie examined me on our bed. I was not making progress therefore she suggested I walk up and down the stairs. The following contractions were stronger after each walk and I felt fluid dripping down my legs. Both Avril and Debbie tranquillised me saying that it was amniotic fluid which meant that the baby was coming down. Their words gave me renewed energy and power. I walked for about two minutes then decided to stop because the contractions were too strong to bear. Debbie asked if I wanted the pitocin. I turned down the offer because I could still go through the contractions, plus I didn’t want medicated pain reliefs. Though I didn’t need anything I asked which other non medicated pain relief was on offer. There must be something else apart from the water I thought. But there was nothing apart from my mind, my labour partners and the water. I went on my knees near the pool to give more room for baby to descend.
When Debbie checked again I was dilated enough because she began the preparation for delivery. She was very discreet and quiet but I could tell what she was doing because I was still alert of my surroundings. She checked the water to make sure that it was at the right temperature 38ᵒC-39ᵒC (that’s how I liked it). I needed to pee, after that she asked me to go kneel on the bed for some contractions. “I can see the baby coming.” She called Andrew and Avril up to the room.
After those contractions I wanted to lie on the bed but Avril encouraged me to stand up because she told me that, though lying on the side made labour contractions comfortable, it slows down labour. There was no way that I wanted to slow down labour so I got off the bed.
Downstairs Debbie was ready; she was waiting for me to decide what I wanted to do next. She asked if I wanted to give birth in the pool or not.
“In the pool.” That was all I wanted.
Breathing Baby into the World
I changed outfit again, this time I wore my swimming top. At half seven I was in the tub, when I overheard Debbie telling Avril to get ready to help her in case the baby arrives before the second midwife reaches our house. Luckily the second midwife, Rose, arrived just before eight o’clock. Things started to move fast from there on.
Debbie told me that from that moment on I could push if I felt the urge to do so. I didn’t know if I was doing it right. I was worried that I was never going to know that urge or that due to the strong desire to see my baby I was going to push without that urge. These thoughts made me ask “Am I doing it?” to which Avril answered “You are doing it.”
“Am I fully dilated? Can the baby come?”
“Of course, you’ve been ready for the baby hours ago.” Debbie confirmed.
I was happy, relaxed and ready to receive my baby. I breathed to the music, letting my body sway to it during the following contractions. Teardrop by Massive Attack began, I felt my baby coming further down. I could imagine my baby descending. It encouraged me to be strong. I wanted to welcome her to such beautiful song. I let myself go. The music put me into a trance, it was surreal. Debbie asked if I wanted to touch the head, but I declined because I was scared that I might not do the pushing right. I was breathing with each push so I like to think that I breathed my baby into the world.
At that point I chanted “I can do it.” My doula encouraged me too.
Andrew was sitting behind me in the water on a blue bucket. I started calling to our baby in Ghanaian and he joined me too. It felt magical, enchanted and bonded us as a family as I wanted it to be that moment to be.
But I was worried that I was going to lose the energy when her head was in my perineum. It burned as if someone had put chilly down there. When they told me that it was the head of my baby giving pressure in that area, I didn’t mind the burning anymore, because I knew that in few seconds I was going to see my baby.
I held tightly to the tub handles. Avril held my other hand and Andrew supported my back. Debbie told me that during the last stages she wanted me to breathe more so that she can catch our baby for me. I did my best. She caught our baby at 8:30pm and brought her to me. I proudly received my baby girl. I closed my eyes to savour my baby girl, my beauty, my dear daughter Aaliyah Obaahima. Andrew and I were so happy for such miracle.
Read more of Theodora’s adventures at www.taailifejourney.com.