Rachel Zurich’s Birth
Birth story of Rachel Zurich, born on 17 September at 22:23 (according to DH who said that his watch is set to satellite time) at home in a fishy pool.
I think writing this is a coherent fashion may be harder than I first thought and I take my hat off to all of you who have done this before and managed to make your stories flow so well. I have so many thoughts and emotions that I want to get down and I just hope that in the end I am able to convey what is in my head.
Labour eventually started on Thursday 16 at about 21:30. Which was only one day over my due date? I know I should not complain, as there are those of you who have had to wait a lot longer than that. But we all thought that the baby would be early as it (I have decided not to use her gender in the story yet as at this point we did not know what she was and it does not seem congruent to say ‘she’ when thinking back to how I felt then.) was very low down in the pelvis and had engaged early. Just goes to show again and again that babies come then they are ready.
The contractions that I got on Thursday night were just enough to keep me awake but they were very manageable. As this was my first labour I did not really know what to expect and was not sure when I should start timing the contractions. I did try and they seemed to vary from 5-10 minutes apart, but I did not want to become obsessed with timing I just wanted to let my body do what it had to do. I was not comfortable in bed and spent most of the night on my birthing ball and on the couch. At about 4am I felt that I needed some support and went to wake DH, he was not enthusiastic about being awake and kept falling asleep instead of timing contractions, which were still about the same.
At about 7:30am I let the midwife Heather know that things had started but that they were not progressing too fast. She said she would pop in later that morning and see how things were going. The contraction had started to slow down so I dragged DH for a walk. He was rather embarrassed each time I got a contraction and would have to lean on him. Heather arrived soon after we got back from our walk at about 9 am and I agreed to a PV and was only 3cm dilated and 70% effaced, which was not a great surprise. The contractions had slowed right down now and she said that things could go either way. She left and said that she would be in touch during the day. Contractions were now only every 30-45mins and they stayed this way for most of the day. I did get to snooze a little as I had not really slept the night before.
Heather phoned in the afternoon to find out how things were going and I said that not much was happening; she asked if I wanted her to come and check again but I did not really see any point as I knew things were going very slow and did not expect much progress to have happened. She said that she could do a stretch and sweep as this sometimes helps things along. I agreed and she come around at 5pm and did a stretch and sweep and I had a show then and had progressed to 4cm. Heather left telling me to call her if anything started happening or otherwise she would speak to me the next morning.
Well things started happening alright. The contractions picked up and the intensity increased a lot. I found it hard to get comfortable. I was sitting on my birthing ball and needed DH there to lean on during the contractions. Things started to get noisy then, I just could not help moaning through the contractions, I tried hard to keep them low guttural noises and focus on breathing between moaning. By 7:30 I felt that I was not coping all that well and just needed to lie down, I lay on the couch and continued to moan. I realize now how being worried about being naked just goes out the window ( not that I am very shy anyway) but I had the overwhelming need take my tracksuit bottoms and knickers off as it felt like they were pressing on my abdomen, I just did not want anything on my abdomen during the contractions.
I made DH phone the midwife even though he thought that it was too soon and was worried that we would bring her out again for nothing. Heather arrived at about 8:30 (I think, time is a little blurred) and I agreed to be checked again and I was a disappointing 5 cm but 100% effaced. I was a bit worried at this point that if all that effort of the last 3 hours had only dilated me a centimetre that there was no way that I would cope at that pace until 10cm. I then became very nauseous and threw up all the energy drink that I had been sipping on. It was a mixture of fruit juice and tonic and RRL tea. After that all I wanted was water, everything else was just too sweet. All the energy snacks that I bought to keep me going stayed in the packet.
Heather told DH to start filling the pool and although Heather said she usually encourages women to wait until about 7cm before using the pool she thought that it might help me to try it as the contractions were about 2 mins apart and quite intense. I thought in my mind that I know why women opt for pain control in hospital, but I knew I could get through it and never actually entertained the thought of going to hospital, I could just understand how easy it would be to accept pain control if it was offered in the hospital environment.
I got into the pool at about 9pm and the first few contractions were so much better in the water, but they soon became really intense again. Heather said to tell her if I felt the pressure of the contractions change from my lower abdomen to my back or bum. After just a few contractions in the water I was sure I could feel more pressure in my bum but thought to myself that it could not be the right sensations that I was feeling yet as I had only been 5cm dilated not very long before so I did not say anything I just continued to moan loudly through the contractions. Heather told me later that they had spaced out to about 5 mins apart and this was really good as I got to rest/nap against the side of the pool in between. I think this helped me save my energy
The pool was in the middle on the TV room and there was a couch on either side. DH sat on the one couch and Heather on the other. DH did offer me his hand during contractions but I found it distracting I just needed to moan and wriggle around in the pool in my own little world. It was enough knowing that he and Heather were there. Heather would occasionally offer a word of encouragement and this really helped.
Most of the time I was in the pool DH and Heather were chatting to each other. I could sense that as the contractions started and I would moan that Heather was not sure if they should stop talking as I know a lot of women don’t like people talking during contractions, however DH seemed to need to talk and merrily chatted to her through out. To me actually it gave the whole thing a wonderful sense of normality that they were chatting. After all no one can do it for you, you just have to get on with it. I just needed to know that they were there. Heather was wonderful and dimmed the lights and lit some candles I had set out and generally created a wonderful atmosphere.
Denial is a wonderful thing, and I am not sure if anyone else ever felt this during labour, but although I knew that the inevitable conclusions was that I was actually going to push this baby out of my body part of me felt that it was not really happening and could not think of it actually happening. I have not explained that very well but it was a strange feeling because even as I was thinking/ denying the reality of what was happening I knew that the inevitable would happen.
After a few more contractions in the water I told Heather that I could feel the contractions in my back and bum she check me again and low and behold I was fully dilated. This was only about an hour and half after I had been only 5cm. Heather recons that the water helped me relax enough and that things progressed very quickly once I was in the water.
She told me to try and breathe through the contractions and not to push until I just could not hold back any more. So the moaning moved up a notch as I tried hard to breathe and not to push. Heather phoned the 2nd midwife and started getting everything ready for the birth. At one point they did not think that the 2nd midwife would arrive in time but she just did.
I started pushing at about 10:20, I was on all fours to begin with leaning on the pool but it did not seem to be very effective so Margo (the 2nd midwife) helped me into a squat supporting me under my arms. DH then took her place with the next contractions. Pushing was a very noise affair and DH said afterwards that he was surprised that the neighbours did not come and see if he was killing me. After one contraction of holding me under my arm DH thought that it would help more to hold me lower and changed his grip to a hand under each butt cheek, this really helped and as soon as I was in this position and pushed the head shot out. Heather was waiting for her to crown and then she was going to tell me to pant and control the head coming out but it all happened so quickly. One more noisy push and her shoulders and body was born. Heather helped me lift the baby straight onto me chest. It was the most amazing feeling to hold this tiny little bundle in my arms.
We still did not know what she was and Heather helped me to look. A little girl, a perfect precious little girl. I knew that DH had hoped for a boy as he grew up with only a dad and felt that he would not know what to do with a girl. But from the moment she was in my arms and we knew she was a girl we did not want anything else, she was there and in our lives and we loved her. I am so glad that we waited and did not find out before. The surprise was worth it and I think DH may have be disappointed if he had found out at a scan ( one of the reasons I did not have any) as I think that pregnancy can be quite abstract for a guy. It would have been hard for him to bond with the idea of a girl while she was in utero, but as soon as our little girl was here he bonded with her straight away and is besotted. One of the first things he said was that he would now have to get baseball bat to keep unwanted boyfriends away, let’s hope he mellows out by the time she is at that age!
She was so calm and hardly made any noise at all, she was so relaxed that the midwife was a bit worried about her at one point but she was fine, just very calm. And so far she has stayed this way, she hardly ever cries and feeds really well.
The water was starting to get a bit cold so Margo took the baby to weigh and measure her while Heather and I waited for the placenta. She weighed 2.9kg (6.4pounds) and was 52 cm in length. She was well cooked at 40+2, she had very little vernix on her and quite long finger nails, I marvelled at how perfect her little head was, she did not have any moulding, bruising or anything. A lot of people commented that she did not look like a baby born vaginally as their heads are usually more squashed. I am sure that the fact that the second stage was so short helped. I had a physiological third stage and her cord was cut once it stopped pulsating. I did not want to use one of those big plastic clips for her cord so I got some thin shoe laces and this worked very well. After a few minutes I got an uncomfortable cramp and as soon as I stood up the placenta plopped out.
The most wonderful thing was getting out the water and going straight up to bed. I had a small, but deepish first degree tear which Heather put a few stitches in. I then had a bath while DH sat on the toilet (closed) with our daughter, it was the first time he had ever held a baby and was a pro from the beginning. He even changed her first nappy. We chatted about the birth and just had some quality time as a new family. It was then straight into bed for us. I agree with all who said that one of the nicest things about a home birth was getting into your own bed afterwards. Waking up the next morning and looking across and seeing my new daughter and husband was wonderful.
I had a wonderful natural birth at home with no pain control ( You don’t get gas and air at home here in South Africa) everything went really well but I would be lying if I said that all my feelings were positive. I wonder if there are others who had a really positive birth experience and still felt a bit overwhelmed by it afterwards. I know that I did it and I followed my body and my instincts but there is a part of me that thinks I did not cope as well as I had thought I would. I remember as a child watching TV with my mom and seeing a typical hospital birth and the woman was making a lot of noise and screaming. My mom commented that there was no need for anyone to make such a noise and I wonder if this is why I think I did not cope well. I was VERY noisy and shouted as her head was born (damn that ring of fire is painful). My overwhelming thought afterwards was that I was so glad that I had done it and given my daughter the gift of a natural drug free birth, but that there was no way that I could ever do that again. I know that a lot of people say that afterwards but I think I would be quite apprehensive to do it over. I know I will as we want more kids but I never thought that I would feel this way afterwards. Maybe I just never knew how intense it would be. Although I tried to go into it with a pretty open mind. Having done midwifery as a student nurse and seen many women deliver, I knew that it was not a walk in the park, but I just thought I would manage better. Maybe I am just being harsh on myself I am not sure.
I hope these feelings I have written now at the end have not ruined the story, it was truly the hardest but get most amazing thing that I have ever done. I am so in love with my daughter. I never knew you could spend so much time staring at a baby.