This pregnancy had significantly been a different from the trouble-free, care-free, smooth-sailing first pregnancy. This time around I’ve had a toddler to run after (and with the first trimester’s sleepiness it was… ahhh so tiring) plus this little guy felt different in my belly. I had more food aversions than before and some spotting in the first months. When I became 5 months pregnant I started having some difficulty breathing when lying down and I thought to myself… “wow, how can this be? It’s too soon”. He did seem like a tall baby, maybe that explains the push on my diaphragm when resting. Plus his little knee kept giving me, well, bruises, or at least that’s what it felt like, on the inside “lining” of my belly.
Overall it was a different pregnancy, not a difficult one still. Plus this one lasted a month longer. This little guy spent more than a full term in me. He just didn’t want to come out.
In my previous pregnancy I had Dr. B, an experienced, gifted OB/GYN and insemination specialist. I tried giving him a birth plan which he tried to follow but I ended up strapped on the bed with an IV and baby monitor, then having my legs tied up in stirrups, in the supine position being asked to push when clearly I wasn’t feeling like it…So, this time around I thought I might change doctors and switch to a more “participative” one, that is someone who would appreciate my active participation and not expect me to remain passive and follow instructions. Since Dr. B was my father’s friend and colleague, I didn’t want to cause any “diplomatic incident” so I switched to Dr. B’s son, Dr G, a young, updated, very knowledgeable doctor and excellent person.
Being a veteran already I didn’t want to have too many interventions performed like too many unnecessary ultrasounds or amnios. Dr. G was certainly more down to earth, soft-spoken, calm than his father. They were opposites. But he still wanted to scan me every time I went for a visit in his office, so I decided to “forget” some monthly visits to avoid ultrasounds. By the time I was 7 months old he had only seen me 4 times and thank God my little one was growing well and we were both healthy. It was around that time when Dr.G announced to me that he would need to take some time abroad for a certification exam and that he would be gone for like a week around the time when I would be 8 1/2 months… so this was risky business, I could end up once again under his father’s care to “birth me” (as he would like to put it) and we would both be in a difficult position: me, to stay sober at all times and try to have my way, and him, to try to stick to what I would want as opposed to what would seem right for him and that would be an unfair struggle for him too. struggling usually ends up in the OR for a cesarean which comes so easy in such situations. So, I really didn’t want to go there.
Elda, my super midwife – for this second pregnancy – being in synch with my boldest brain vibrations, threw an idea that seemed crazy at the time but also dreamy “Since you’ve heard so many good things about Dr. L, why don’t you switch doctors and go to him instead?”. So I did, without telling anyone in my family I sneaked an appointment which lasted a whole hour discussing with Dr. L. and his wonderful midwife, about my situation. I was in awe. Two people of the medical world, standing before me, telling me for the first time ever that I’m not a demanding control freak but a well informed woman who knew what she wanted for her birth and was flexible and wise enough to foresee and to accept any shortcomings along the way. It certainly was dreamy. At some point they had trouble understanding what the whole fuss was about: why I was considered a “weirdo” by my family and social environment (my own mother would say “why are you digging into this so much, the doctors know what’s best for you, that’s a fact, you are not a doctor therefore you have no idea what is to be done” which kind of reminds me of the Monty Python scene in the perfectly equipped delivery room – even with a “machine that goes “Ping”- whereby the woman in labour asks: “Please tell me doctor, what do I do” only to receive the answer: “Oh nothing dear, you’re not qualified”).
So Dr. L agreed to fill in for Dr. G during his absence. I secretly wished my delivery would take place in this replacement week span so I could have Dr. L in the delivery room and no stress in my mind. Dr. G and Dr. L talked to each other, they agreed it would be no problem for the one to be replaced by the other.
A few weeks later Dr. G informed me that he would need a whole month abroad instead of just a week. That was so cool, that gave me a bigger replacement span to hope for a delivery, yet it was TOO soon for my baby boy to come out (8 mos) so I had to be careful what I wished for. Oddly so, the day Dr. G left the country, I was faced with a rather serious implication (bloody show) and was taken to hospital under Dr. L’s care. Dr. L, being the person he is, a true professional very respectful to his colleagues, kept updating Dr. G by email during his absence abroad about my case. In the meantime in the hospital I was still filed as being under the care of Dr. G for reasons of deontology. But deontology had a few people confused: one of the nurses who scanned me during my stay in the hospital, took the hasty decision of notifying Dr. B (Dr. G’s appointed replacement on all clients) about my situation, who obviously didn’t even know I was admitted with an implication. Dr. B called his son abroad, was for the first time notified about my replacement plan and called my father to complain that he was clearly sidelined. And there the “diplomatic incident” unravelled. Four OB/GYNs were on my case, only one of which was my clear choice and streamlined with the standards of care of my preference. The more I stressed about this, the more my implication was not healing, the more I was confined in my hospital room, the more I had my folks coming in and out of my room telling me off on how badly I had handled the situation (as if it were my fault) and the more I was kept away from my little girl who was not allowed to visit me. And lastly the more I felt bad for having trapped an excellent doctor, who was just filling in, in the middle someone else’s ego trip. Such a crappy situation. Eventually I healed and went back home but it seemed long and psychologically painful.
Because of this whole mess I decided to talk to my “official” doctor, once he was back from abroad. I explained to him that I couldn’t continue to be under his care, although I appreciated him fully, because of a “gap” of communication with his father, seeing that the two collaborated too closely on a permanent basis. He respected my decision and I’m pretty sure he understood my reasoning. I had to talk Dr. L into accepting me as a full client, he was quite reluctant as his policy is to never take up the case of another colleague. He only agreed after talking to Dr. G and having taken his consent.
Rocky situations at times when I needed to be calm. So unfair! But I was so happy that I didn’t need to stress anymore. Whatever happened I knew Dr. L would give me the care that I deserved and hoped for.
And in any case I had Elda, my extraordinary midwife by my side, at least she would be my midwife for sure… or not? That was another risk I was faced with: Elda and I were just 10 days apart in due dates. But as we all know, babies don’t comply with due dates. So I had to really wish that my son would come out FIRST than Elda’s daughter… that was another tricky situation but I kept my fingers crossed.
Lesson learnt: Make sure your birth attendant, be it doctor/midwife/doula or all of the above, have a full understanding of where you’re coming from and that there is a strong bond of trust between you and your “crew”. This is the only way for you to ensure a joyous birth without any remorse. Even when you end up having interventions preformed, at least you know they were done for a good reason and most probably you’ll be thankful and not depressed.
I was due somewhere between 20-23 November (different professionals have different methods of calculating the due date). Still it was up to my baby to decide when he wanted to come out. From the 19th I started having contractions, mild ones but frequent. Every evening up to the 24th contractions would start in late afternoon and keep going till I went to bed in the evening. Then both me and my uterus would fall asleep… I knew this baby would be a good sleeper…
On the 24th I knew something was going on, I sensed it in the air. My parents called me up to ask me what was my doctor’s opinion on me being overdue. Of course I didn’t pay much attention to their concerns but I knew that this meant my doctor getting pressure to induce me. I never found out whether this actually happened, no one ever admited to it, but although my midwives kept me calm and instructed me to stay at home and enjoy my time with my daughter for as long as I could still give her undivided attention, my doctor called me up and asked me to go over the maternity to have a talk and scan the baby.
Contractions started spontaneously. Still not strong enough to indicate delivery soon. Dr. L instructed me to go for a walk, so as soon as my sister was out of work for the day she came with me for a vivid stroll. Contractions became more frequent and stronger. I kept on walking, my sister complained she was exhausted… I eyeballed her: “you’re not serious here are you? I’m in labour and YOU are exhausted?”. Little did I know she was coming down with the flu. I returned to the maternity, I got monitored, everything was going smoothly but contractions were still not strong enough. Dr. L told me that he would go to his private practice for a few hours for his appointments and asked me to stay in the maternity for observation until the time he would return to check me again.
I called hubby up to ask him to come over, everything was so vague that I needed support. He didn’t think the baby would come today so he wasn’t in a hurry and decided to ride his bike to get to the maternity (a good 40min drive by bike). I was being monitored once again. Everything was smooth until … *drums*… my father walked tall in the room along with the Chief of the maternity, an OB/GYN himself and good pal of my dad’s. I instantly knew what they came for: to persuade me to be induced. They were standing above my head explaining that I should trust they knew better what I needed to do. Although I could see they wanted what was best for me, according to their beliefs, it all didn’t seem right. I felt trapped, nauseated, stressed, my heartbeat was rising rapidly and I felt my cheeks flushing red… It was right then that hubby had just stepped in the room, an instant relief. So, they turned to him to convince me to induce because “the more the baby stays in the womb overdue, the greater the danger of something going wrong”. Thankfully he was more determined: nothing will happen till our doctor is here.
Suddenly the baby’s heartbeat dropped for a few seconds… 66, 67,66 … I wanted to die. Could they be right? Why did it have to happen now? What if these two were not present? Would it still happen? Was it real? The Chief exclaimed to the nurses “Take her to the delivery room NOW, she’s having the baby NOW”. They both went out of the room so I could change into my “delivery clothes”. I was trapped, that was it, I was in great confusion, doubting myself, accusing myself of causing this to my baby, while accusing them for having caused it by their absorbing presence, accusing the natural forces and Merfy for his stupid laws who have been following me ever since childhood. My wedding ring and bracelets couldn’t come off, I was struggling to remove them. The nurse was more stressed “Will you get on with it?? The Chief said to take you to the delivery room instantly”, hubby gave her the “look”. I was shoved in a wheelchair and rushed to the delivery room. I had my arms crossed tightly on my chest, my face was angry, if anyone would see me I looked like a spoiled brat who is told she should stop playing in the yard and do her homework. Strangers came to strip me out of my robe, a midwife checked dilation, a cardiologist monitored my heart… Who are these people, I felt ashamed and defenseless. I called my midwives (Elda, my pregnant midwife and Fi, my doctor’s midwife) and hubby called my doctor. Hospital nurses were discussing whether I needed a shave (or as they put it “a trim”) and an enema. I heard the head nurse say: “Her doctor doesn’t require that”. Yep, that’s my doc!! But I went to the toiled anyway cause nature was calling.
By the time everyone of my “crew” was there I was calmed down. Everything was back to normal with the baby. Knowing that my “crew” was on their way I was back in my good mood and prepared for anything with positive thinking. My dad was pacing the floor a few meters away. Luckily I couldn’t feel his anxiety or at least I tried to block it out. I did feel sorry for him though cause I knew that this situation of knowing (the possible dangers from a medical point of view) and not knowing (the reasons why I trusted my baby) was killing him. I was sure he felt restless.
Elda and Fi met each other again after some long time and started having a very enthusiastic chat in the delivery room. They were both so eager to catch up… “Oh, Sophia, just go on with your birth, we’ll be chatting away, by no means don’t be bothered by us…” *giggles*. What a comforting environment after the tempest!
I got in another delivery room, it was late evening and I chose to be away from any other occupied delivery room so I could have the ease of chanting without feeling I was disturbing anyone who was enjoying (?) their painless, epiduralised birth. Elda, Fi and my doctor were there and I knew I was in excellent hands. Hubby was there to do what he knew best, whisper sweet supporting words in my ear to help me feel courageous and appeased. “What’s the date today?” Fi asked theatrically with a broad smile on her face, only to answer herself “Hmmm, I think this is a very good day to give birth”. Such a sweet thought! Yep, I guess it was a good day
My doc told me that although he wasn’t too alarmed by the baby’s earlier heartbeat drop, it remained an indication that would have to be considered. For one that meant no waterbirth for me. At this point this was something I could live with. Then he offered to check my waters by breaking them: this way he could make certain the baby didn’t go through stress and he could speed up the delivery – since the labour was already there to stay. I didn’t resist at all, on the contrary I welcomed the idea, at this point I was eager myself to know the outcome. Elda took my hand in her hand and proposed that I talk to my baby through it. I did, somehow this kept me focused on my baby’s reaction to all of this and while keeping him calm I would keep myself calm. I didn’t feel a thing, warm water sprinkled, a warm feeling of relief too as they came out crystal clear. My baby was doing fine, thank God! Now all I had to expect was a beautiful birth experience…
But, not so fast, buster… My mom walked in the delivery room obviously worried sick (she had only been talking to my dad, that’s why) but trying -very unsuccessfully to look cool. I could feel a worrisome energy in the room. Ahhh, not again!!! I tried to pull myself together and I lovingly asked her to go stay with my little girl at home, she needed her more. She left reluctantly, a bit let down to be singled out. I blocked out her disappointment too, that wasn’t easy but I did it.
A few minutes after her departure I looked around. Lights were dimmed, my hypnotherapy music was playing, I am pretty sure a candle was lit but I can’t remember clearly. I looked at my “crew”. I was emotional, I thanked them dearly for being there for me, besides the “political issues” happening outside our little circle. I felt love, warmth and care. I felt nested and protected and very grateful for that. I was ready to “open like a beautiful rose in full bloom“.
Soon after that, I did. Contractions came strong, very strong, very close to each other, fast and furious. I was ready for it though. I knew this wouldn’t take long so I felt very present, here and now. I was on the birthing ball, Elda was massaging whatever was available to her, arm, leg, neck, trying to accommodate her 9 month belly at any position, that was comforting, although I can’t say I wasn’t worried about her too. Labouring could be contagious! She’s the kind of person to go into labour and not make a peep just to keep me on track…
I started chanting, or should I say, aaaaaah-ing. At some point I didn’t want to bother the others around me but then I thought, hey that’s my birth let me stop thinking about the others and focus on this baby coming out. So I kept aaaaaah-ing loud. Fi was sitting by my side on the floor trying to stay unnoticed, holding the cord of the monitor on my belly so they could have a full picture of his heartbeat, just in case it dropped again, thankfully it didn’t. Hubby offered his arms for me to pull on. I tried to visualise my contractions like I had done with my first birth and it had helped me a lot. “How about climbing a mountain?” I heard someone say. Nah, the good-old riding the wave on the surf-board seemed more helpful. Still this birth was much more intense so keeping a tranquil picture in my mind was harder than before.
My midwives, God bless them both, were graciously taking turns at cheering me. Elda would prepare me for breathing out the contractions “Come on Sofoula mou, aaahhh, that’s the way to do it, bravo” she would say. And Fi would help me change positions and encourage me through. I could still remember her words: “Sophia, you can do it, you were designed to do it. You’re a birthing machine”. A part of me laughed while the rest of me remained focused, I was a birthing machine, I was going through this happily. Between contractions I tried to rest my body, my voice. I had a warm water bottle on my belly and that made me feel better. When I was “riding the wave”, my temperature would rise to wuthering heights and I would sweat. Between contractions I could feel the sweat drops slipping down my skin coooooold! I asked to have a cover on my back between contractions.
At this point I needed to stay fully focused. Any irrelevant discussion that would go around me would disrupt my flow. “So, Fi, where are you from?”… hubby asked… I waved at him while still keeping my eyes shut and my body curved like saying “not a good time, save it for later…”. The head nurse was coming in and out of the room at frequent intervals to update my father on my progress. She would just stand on the doorstep for a few moments and then she would tiptoe out but could still feel her stare heavy on me.
I needed to change positions but felt frozen. I had two choices: either to change positions and miss out my small window of relief to rest or … just rest; clearly not an easy call. It felt like if I changed positions it would hurt more but logically thinking I knew this wouldn’t be the case. I got on the bed in between numerous contractions. I wrapped my arms around the inclined bed back while I positioned myself on my knees. By that time contractions were so frequent there was no room for breathing out of a contraction. The doctor had come in to check dilation. I had to keep calm, if I thought of how long this rest-less period of constant contractions would last I would certainly panick! I tried to block this out of my mind but I failed. “Mother of God, when will this end?” I lost my faith for a moment. “Virgin Mary, please help me”… I heard Elda saying softly “tran-si-tion”. Dr. L confirmed it. That gave me a whole lot of power and courage to keep up the good work. “Come on Sophia, bring this wee boy out, hang in there a wee bit more”… Fi was cheering.
And then I felt it, the feeling I had been deprived of in my previous birth because I wasn’t allowed to go with my flow: I felt the urge to push, the “ring of fire”, everyone had written about but was an unknown place for me. Yes! Such a painful relief. I tried to immerse myself in the sensation. “Should I push?” I yelled. I heard a triple “NOOO”. The head was not out yet, it was just going through my cervix. I tried to gather strength from the burning sensation while I struggled not to push (completely contrary to my previous birth where I was instructed to push while I wasn’t ready at all). I shivered from the effort to control my urge. Everything was blurry, I was in a different place, like I was drugged but also very present. I found myself biting on the bed mattress while pulling on my hubby’s arm, like lifting weights from the floor. I had to protect myself and not tear.
Just moments later I heard “it is now okay to push whenever you feel like it”. Ah, yes… I could feel the baby’s head, a big bulk coming out of me. While still on one knee I stepped the other foot on the bed, with Elda’s help, to make room in my birth canal. One push, out and in again. With the second push his head was out, ahhhh what a relief (some big head it was, my little big boy). I felt the doctor very very gently slide his little shoulder out. I heard a baby, a real baby cry… Another push and he was all out.. Or was it the other way around? Or was it simultaneously? I can’t remember really. All I know is that I instantly cried: “My LOVE, come here my LOVE”. I hadn’t even seen this baby yet, I had no picture of him, but I loved him instantly, I amazed myself by this flood of love that hit me. Somebody (I was facing away, remember?) handed me the baby. He was tiny but relatively tall. A protesting cry overpowered his little face. I took him in my arms very very very eagerly. “MY LOVE!” Who was this little person I was so in love with? Gosh, what a feeling! The minute I talked to him, he calmed down. I had to lie down to be able to hold him while relaxing from the “wave riding”. Someone helped me hold him while turning on my back, he was quite slippery I was afraid I would drop him. I had forgotten how tiny and vulnerable newborns are… how could I forget. When I was safely sitting up I held him tenderly. We kept looking at each other. “Happy Birthday!” I said. Elda tried to massage his back with a butter she had prepared especially for him, as she has been doing while he was still in my belly all these months, but surprisingly he turned to her, gave her a short cry and that was his cue meaning “don’t… I’m busy here”. Deep gazing, it felt like hours, centuries of gazing deeply. I woke up from my dream moments and longed for hubby. He was staring from a small distance. “Come” I said. He responded “no… these are your private moments, enjoy it”.
All the rest is history… Bits and pieces of whatever I remember whenever I was coming out of my little cloud. The doctor and Fi helped me push out the placenta when the umbilical cord had stopped pulsating. Hubby did the honours of cutting the cord… some hard rope it was! My little one was already breastfeeding by that time. Elda had him crawl on my belly to find his way by himself. He wasn’t too eager as he still wanted to gaze but eventually he did crawl. Oh, and was he happy to find his comforting place.
At some point I realised hubby was recording the last moments of birth on a little tape recorder. A year passed and I have still not listened to it… I want to but for some reason I keep it for later…
My father walked in the room filled with joy but too discretely. He was relieved but didn’t want to spoil my privacy. Fortunately this only took like 2 hours of anxiety for him. And now it was over. He walked out again asap. He could go home now and rest and would enjoy his grandson in the days to follow.
I was in bliss. Pure bliss. He was BEAUTIFUL. A baby boy, how odd for me! Hubby couldn’t understand who he looked like… “It’s too soon to know” I brought him back to reality. Our boy came out with very dark hair… and that was weird… now he’s a true blond so now we know, haha! He had the most perfect tiny feet. I still can’t get enough of them, I rub them all the time when I get the chance… now… before they turn into big stinky adolescent feet… ha!
We went up to my room and spent the most precious 5 days together in the maternity. And we loved each other happily ever after.
While still holding him in my arms for the first time ever in the delivery room, a childhood memory hit me: a dream I had seen of a man telling me in my face that my nameday is on the 24th of November. At the time I was 10 years old and it made no sense to me. A few moments after having given birth to my son, it all made sense. How could I have known back then? Amazing! It never occurred to me before, all those days of trying to foresee when he would come into this world I was looking for significant dates in November, and they were plenty: my mother’s birthday, my grandmother’s birthday and his prospect nameday, my sister’s birthday, my sister-in-law’s nameday… None of the above. It was on my dream date that he came to this earthy being, literally!
And last but certainly not least: When I first laid eyes on him the first thought that came to my mind was:
“This, I will do again!!!”
… to be continued… sometime in the future I guess…