Birth Story Seraphine
Date January 5, 2016
Place The Netherlands
Setting Home birth
Attending Father and 2 holistic midwives
Type of birth Land birth
Birth order First born
Birthing time 7,5 hours
We were already playing with the idea of moving to Spain when I became pregnant with Seraphine. I really wanted her to be born in the Netherlands and so we postponed the emigration until 3 months after the birth.
During my pregnancy, I read a Dutch book called ´Free Birth´. The author of the book, Anne Myrte Korteweg, talks about the natural process of pregnancy and birth, how to make use of what nature and your body have to offer in this process without being disturbed by unnecessary medical intervention. She also talks about your rights as a pregnant woman and what informed consent really is.
For those who don't know, this is the principle in health law that the patient has to give permission to carry out a medical treatment. This consent can only be given if the patient is fully informed. The doctor has an information duty in this respect. If one of the two is missing, there is no informed consent.
Partly thanks to this book, we decided to take a HypnoBirthing course. Thanks to the course, the importance of the right care provider becomes clear and that is why we choose a holistic midwife. She thinks beyond protocols and standards, she looks at the person and the situation. I wanted someone I could build a relationship of trust with and who was prepared to go along with what I was going to learn in the course. We chose Daniela from Vive Midwives. With her, we both felt at ease.
Maria Postma gave the HypnoBirthing course, at the time she gave us the course, she was also pregnant herself. The course was practical and there was a lot of theory that we could use. For the men it was very nice that they were told a lot about the actual, hormonal part and that they were clearly assigned a role. After the course, my husband was also completely convinced. He seemed even more fanatical than I was. We practised together from time to time, but mostly I practised by myself.
Thanks to the course, we were both very confidant and looked forward to the home birth. I wanted a land birth since I easily get stuffy in a bath, so I it was my wish to give birth on a birthing stool.
Especially in the last weeks there was intensive contact with Daniela. I experienced this intensive support as very pleasant. There was plenty of attention for the transformation you go through as a woman, physically and psychologically. There was also attention for the father and his process and of course the change that the relationship undergoes. I also participated in a 'mommy programme' through Vive Midwives.
In contrast to the first 18 weeks, during which I was mainly nauseated and exhausted. The last period of my pregnancy was very nice. I was busy preparing for the birth and enjoyed being pregnant and connecting with my daughter.
In the meantime, the estimated time of arrival or as they normally call it due date (19 December) passed, it was Christmas, New Year's Eve and then it was the start of the new year... It was more than two weeks after the ETA and people around us were getting increasingly nervous.
I still felt good, energetic and happy about the imminent birth of my daughter. Seraphine was still moving well. We were both not worried.
Since it was now taking longer than the period in which babies are normally born, the midwife suggested that we would have some tests done. We therefore agreed to do a stress test on Monday the 4th January. This was to see how Seraphine was doing when nothing else was happening. They looked at her heartbeat, the amount of amniotic fluid and the blood supply and drainage of the placenta. Everything was fine. The most convincing for us was that our daughter was still moving around a lot.
However, the midwife insisted that she would also strip me before waiting at home. Stripping is using one or two fingers to loosen the amniotic membranes from the uterine wall. We agreed on the condition that she would do her best not to open any membranes in the process. It did not work because the midwife could not reach the cervix. So we had better go home! The next morning, she wanted to see us again.
I agreed, not because I found it necessary, but because the midwife wanted this and since it is seen as a non-intrusive intervention I didn't really mind and wanted to accommodate her. Which I now find a weird motivation, but at the time that was okay for me.
That afternoon, I went for acupuncture again. I was there every few days now to help the cervix to expire. It also had an effect as the uterus had indeed already dilated by 1/3 and I was 1 cm dilated, so the midwife had told me that morning. That afternoon during the acupuncture treatment I felt some light contractions for the first time. We were very happy about that and we returned home full of expectations. During dinner it started to get a bit more and so we waited eagerly. It didn't get much more until about 10 in the evening. The waves kept coming but very irregularly, sometimes with 7 minutes in between, sometimes with 5 or 15.
I was in a great mood and completely ready for it: yoga mat rolled out, heating on everywhere, HypnoBirthing handout... The waves were easy to breathe away and I decided to do some yoga exercises to give Seraphine more space to get into the optimal position. After a couple of hours, full of expectations, the waves stopped. I it would continue like this it was going to take a long time and it was already so late.
Jeroen decided it would be better if we tried to sleep rather than wait. We could make good use of the energy. That proved to be a good decision as we fell asleep quite easily. That night was a bit restless for me as there was still something happening, but not enough to stay up for. So I dozed off and on until about nine o'clock. Daniela was at the door to hear how things were going. We had let her know that there was contraction activity, but not much yet. That morning, we were supposed to have another appointment at the hospital at 10.30, but we cancelled it in consultation with Daniela because of the movement that seemed to be taking place.
Until then, we had kept everything dark to give the hormones as much of a chance as possible to flow freely. On Daniela's advice we stopped doing that. As there was no further progress. She advised us to get away from it all. So we went for a walk in the park around the district and went to the supermarket for some shopping. When we got home we were both pretty tired, so we took a shower and went to bed. By that moment we had decided that if Seraphine wouldn´t come before the next morning we would be okay with a hospital induction. For that to be okay I had to let go of my fear of what could happen in a hospital birth and be okay with whatever outcome: home/hospital, induced/natural flow, vaginal birth/caesarean, pain medication/only acupressure, and so on. Until then only thinking of having to give birth in the hospital got me upset and stressed. What I had learned in the HypnoBirthing course is that the body cannot tell the difference of being in an unsafe situation or thinking of an unsafe situation. So the hormonal reaction of the body is the same. My body reacted to the thought of giving birth in a hospital as if I was in an unsafe situation. Once I let go of my fear of giving birth in the hospital my body could relax again.
I was lying in bed for about 5 minutes when I felt something warm running... My membranes had opened! The amniotic fluid was clear at that point and smelled sweet, so that was okay. We would wait and see what would happen. Within 15 minutes I understood what was meant by practice waves. These waves were of a completely different calibre! You can't just breathe them away while still have a conversation. This was a lot more intense and somehow unexpected. Jeroen phoned Daniela and she realised immediately that it was serious. She got there as soon as she could, but there was an abnormally long traffic jam so it took her 1.5 hours to get there.
In the meantime, Jeroen and I sought our way between the theory and practice of HypnoBirthing. It took a while before we both found peace in this new situation and knew which exercises were good, but it worked. After each wave I seemed to find my peace more easily again with my husband guiding me with the relaxation exercises, hypnosis suggestions and key words. We had tried some positions on Jeroen's initiative, but I just wanted to lie on my side, with all the lights off and no sound.
In the meantime, Daniela had arrived. The waves became more intense and back and leg waves were added. Jeroen and Daniela massaged the waves away and that helped. I was completely lost in my own world, but accessible if necessary. However, speaking cost me too much energy, so we agreed that I would indicate with my hand that there was another wave comimg. That way, Jeroen knew how and with what exercise he could help me.
After a while, Daniela suggested to take a bath to catch some waves. The warm water of the bath felt good to catch some waves, but I did not feel at ease in the bathroom. I was afraid of making too much noise and thus disturbing the neighbours. I didn't feel free and wanted to go back to the bedroom. On the way back to the bedroom, I caught some waves while standing and that was nice too. It sounds as if we had a very long corridor, but that was not the case. Each step takes a moment in this state.
Back in the bedroom, I suddenly got a very hard sting it seemed. For the first time I felt something like pain and I panicked slightly. What was happening? When I told Daniela, she immediately knew what to do: change my position. I got down on my knees and leaned forward over a cushion. Indeed, in this position it was much more manageable. Two more waves and the sharp sensation was gone. In retrospect, this was the only moment I experienced pain during birthing.
I had no idea how far I was or how many hours had gone by, any sense of time had completely disappeared. I thought it was all going fine and had no illusions about how much time it should take and no hurry either. I saw each wave as my body doing its work for me; each one would bring me closer to my daughter. I did not care how many waves were needed.
In the meantime, the second midwife had joined us. I didn't get much out of it. She waited in the baby's room with her crochet work until it was necessary for her to join us.
Suddenly, I had to go to the toilet. I struggled up and waddled across the landing towards the bathroom. I didn't get very far. ¨I really have to pee now," I cried out. ¨Just let it go," said Daniela. I looked at her, dazed, "Here? ¨ I could see from her face that she meant it. I didn't need any more encouragement. I let everything go and it didn't bother me a bit. Who would ever have thought that, haha!?
I still wanted to go to the toilet because I had the feeling I had to poo too. However, I did not get much further. My waves started to change and more pressure came down. During the next waves, my body took over completely. I stood on my toes and a downward movement came from my belly. I wanted to go back to the bedroom and lie down. ¨If I have to endure this for a long time, I don't know if I will be able to. This is very intense," I thought. Immediately I remembered that when you think or say something like that, you are almost there. That thought gave me renewed courage. On the way to the bed, Daniela said it was time to sit on the birthing stool. Despite all the changes I had noticed myself I was still surprised.
In the meantime, Bea had joined me. There was more movement around me as I sat down on the birthing stool with Jeroen behind me. I felt very supported, literally and figuratively and I was so grateful that we could experience this together. With every wave that came after that I automatically stood on my toes, between the waves I slid back on the birthing stool and rested. Now I understood what was meant by 'the ring of fire'. I felt the ring clearly, another sign that I was almost there!
I was still wearing my shirt. After what seemed to me just a few waves, Daniela asked me to take off my shirt, but I refused. At this point every movement, every change seemed too much. She reminded me that I had put this in my birth plan and that I wanted Seraphine on my bare belly straight away. ¨Oh yes, true. " I thought and quickly took off my shirt. Then she asked Jeroen to sit with her before the birthing stool to take Seraphine when she would come out. ¨Oh no!" I exclaimed, "I can't do this alone, I need him now!" So he stayed put to support me. Two waves later Seraphine was born with a giant splash of water, she shot out! The only thing I could utter was: "Ohh, ohh!" I was moved and amazed and excited, and overwhelmed, all at the same time. She was here, she was born and she was wonderful! Such a beautiful, small, sweet, perfect baby. I was in ecstasy and could not believe it. We did it!
After about 15 minutes I suddenly felt waves again. It was time for the placenta to be born. A little push and a warm blob came out. It felt quite nice, like a great warm, soft relief.
I only had one tear, but a nasty one because I kept bleeding. The midwives were slightly worried and decided to stitch me up anyway. I found that the most unpleasant part of the whole birth. A small catheter was also inserted. They did not want me to get up to go to the bathroom because of the blood loss.
I wanted to give my daughter the opportunity to find the breast herself. She was very wobbly, which I had not expected. It made me nervous. She reminded me of a little dashboard doll with a wobbly head. Seraphine got angry that she couldn't drink right away. I was amazed that, at only a few hours old, she was already showing so much emotion and clearly had a will. After much practice during the first few days, it finally worked out with the breastfeeding. My milk production got off to a good start. So good in fact that on the fourth day I had developed a blocked milk duct. With the help of our dear maternity nurse (in The Netherlands the first 7-10 days you get a maternity nurse at home), the congestion disappeared after more than a day of fever and pain. Seraphine did not seem to be suffering much and was able to keep drinking which helped in solving the blockage.
Before the birth we had attended a breastfeeding information meeting, received information from the midwife, read a book about breastfeeding and watched videos. I thought I was pretty well prepared, but it was much less intuitive than I expected. In the end we found our way, but it took some time. In the first four months I had 6 times a blocked milk duct with high fever and even as many times I seriously considered quitting the breastfeeding. Fortunately, I did not do so. All in all I breastfed Seraphine for over 3 years. In the end, we were both able to enjoy these intimate moments of rest and she grew strong and healthy on my milk, for which I am still very grateful.