"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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Back in Time to Madeline's Birth Story

posted by Susan Dominikovich on ,

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I enjoyed a bit of a trip down memory lane last week during our visit with friends from Auckland.  Vania is an advocate for natural birth and manages a fantastic community and resource for mums called pure mama.  I remember the days of being in coffee groups/antenatal groups/multiple birth groups and sharing birth stories with other mums, each one unique in its own joy and trauma.  I must admit, it's been awhile since someone has asked me about my births and I had to search deep into the memory banks for Madeline's story, my homebirth.  But the memories are definitely all there.  And very special.  There is nothing quite so bonding, so amazing, so inspiring, as giving birth naturally your newborn at home.

Anyway, I was asked by my midwife at the time to write Madeline's story for Tummy Talk (Active Birth Taranaki), so I found the magazine, dusted it off and here it is.  (Actually, I went into the archives of My Documents, but same result.)

My husband Paul and I first considered a homebirth after a miscarriage experience which turned traumatic at the hospital.  I became pregnant again almost immediately and I knew that I didn’t want to associate the birth of this baby with the trauma of my miscarriage.  Thankfully, Paul felt the same way and was very supportive of a homebirth after discussing it fully with our midwife Belinda Chapman.  Giving birth is so much about letting go of control over yourself and your body, but at least with a homebirth, I could control the environment and the people around me.  Thus began a wonderful and incredible journey into natural birth, the way it was designed to be.

My firstborn was nearly 9 lbs and delivered by forceps in the hospital.  I had had pethidine for pain relief, and although I was assured by the hospital staff that Sam was feeding well, he ended up dehydrated and in the neonatal unit for 48 hours.  Aware of my anxieties on this front, Belinda assured me that with a homebirth, this wouldn’t happen.  The relaxed atmosphere of home, lack of intervention, and attention to feeding after the birth would all contribute to a perfectly healthy baby.

Still feeling awesome in myself as 9 months drew to a close, I looked forward to my homebirth with excitement and anticipation.  I pictured myself labouring with my husband in the lounge with soft music playing, candles, low-lighting, and my little boy nearby so that he could be a part of things too.  I had prepared a Moses basket for the baby with two sets of clothing to choose from and plenty of blankets and towels to keep warm.  I had meals and baking in the freezer, with plenty of snacks and juices in the pantry.  I looked forward to a hot cup of sugary tea when all was finished.

And wouldn’t you know it, my due date, 19th of November, came and went. I realised that if I were induced, my dream birth would be shattered and I would be in the hospital.  That was always something I was prepared for, and I tried to be strong about it.  However, when Belinda examined me at 11 days overdue, she said I was 4 cms dilated with a very stretchy cervix.  Good news, and we were encouraged to wait, although I would have to be induced in two days if nothing happened.

Thankfully, my body did a lot of the work of labour without me even knowing it.  November came and went and I had to get my head around the realisation that my November baby would now be a December baby.  I woke up at 6:00 am on December 1st with minor contractions.  At 8:00 am I decided to get up for breakfast and see if the contractions would go away or get stronger.  They got stronger so I phoned Belinda at 8:20 with a warning call.  She asked if I needed her straight away and in my naivety, said, “no no not nearly there yet.  I arranged for my friend Sarah to Take Sam to mainly music that morning, and then hit the shower while Paul got him dressed and ready to go.  I tried to time the contractions but it was very difficult as they came a lot more frequently than I expected, but only lasted about 30 seconds.

By the time I got out of the shower, however, I’m pretty sure I was at or near transition.  I put on my labouring top and collapsed on the bed, but I still thought we had plenty of time as it was nothing I couldn’t handle.  I could hear Paul still getting Sam ready and rushing about in the house, until finally Sarah came to pick Sam up.  As soon as Paul came in to check on me, I said, “phone Belinda!”  That was 9:20.  Paul got a few things ready in the lounge and then took me out there.  I collapsed over two pillows, leaning against the edge of the chaise and knew then that I was close.  There was certainly no time for candles but I do remember hearing Norah Jones playing on the stereo.  The pushing urges came upon me, and I felt a mixture of fear and excitement.  I was excited because my body was doing what it was supposed to in a predictable way and we were that much closer to having our baby.  Fear because my midwife hadn’t arrived yet!

“Five more minutes Honey, and she’ll be here.  Just hold on.”  Thankfully, Paul wasn’t exaggerating in his timing and Belinda arrived in time to help me through the pushes.  I remember feeling like I was outside of myself looking down, and I could no longer feel the contractions.  That made it difficult as I didn’t know when to push anymore, but my body must have worked it out for me with Belinda’s coaching.  I had one moment of thinking that there was no forceps option this time, and I had to be able to do it myself.  That was a little frightening.  But then Belinda got Paul to help me turn around into a crouching position with him supporting me from behind.  One more push and I felt the burning sensation of her head coming out, and then she was there at 10:02 am and I could see her and hold her, my wee baby Madeline Grace (3401 grams).

The placenta was delivered naturally soon after and then I only had a couple of small stitches to endure.  Belinda stayed to watch my first feed with Madeline which went well and then she helped me into the shower and put the laundry on to soak for me.  Sam came home from mainly music and got to see his baby sister, and both he and his daddy had lots of cuddles with her.  After the shower I came back to the lounge and reclined on the couch with a peanut butter sandwich and my cup of sugary tea.  I was sore and I was physically tired, but I was jubilant at the same time and there was no way I was going to go to sleep.  More importantly, my family was nearby and I didn’t have to face any of the isolation and loneliness that sometimes faces new mothers at the hospital.

The best thing of all was being able to enjoy Madeline as a family in our own home.  We had a birthday party for her that night and a glass of champagne to celebrate.  We were so confident in her well-being that we were able to put her down in her own bed, and we eventually turned the monitor off in our room, knowing that we would hear her when she cried, and that was all that was necessary.  I was able to sleep in my own bed that night beside my husband, and I felt physically strong enough to get up to Madeline when I needed to.  Instead of associating her birth with trauma or exhaustion, I am able to remember it fondly, and feel a huge sense of achievement in myself and my family, as well as thankfulness for things going so well and according to plan.  I will always consider a homebirth as a first option in the future.

21 December, 2004

Ha ha...famous last words eh?!  The twins could not be born at home and because Abigail was born by caesarian (another story, for another time), I was told that I could not have a homebirth in the future.  So my special birthing experience belongs to Madeline and to her alone.  

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