14 October 2008

The unassisted birth (freebirth) of Little V - not for the faint-hearted

I've posted this on a couple of fora and even in a real life hold-in-your-hand magazine in various states of editedness but for some reason never on here, so here goes... 

The Prologue

Throughout my pregnancy with Little V I felt torn between giving birth at our local birth centre where Little C had been born (thus risking unwanted intervention) and freebirthing: having the baby at home in my own space without medical assistance with the small risk of something going wrong. The uncomplicated births of both my big boys (Mr T at a private hospital and Little C at the public birth centre) had been marred by some unnecessary interference by medical people and I did not want the same to happen this time.

I booked into our local birth centre again and received one-on-one antenatal care from a very caring midwife there, much nicer than the one I'd had for Little C. We hired a doula and I saturated myself in information about birth, concentrating on positive rather than negative stories, but also informing myself about things that could go wrong and what I could do to fix them if possible.

I was reasonably confident in my ability to safely birth my baby, or at least know if something was not right, and I knew that even if something did go wrong at home we were fortunate enough to live only 5 minutes from an ambulance depot, 10 minutes from the closest maternity hospital and 20 minutes from the birth centre. Towards the final stages of my pregnancy I decided to not make any decisions about where the baby would be born until I was actually in labour. In the end Little V made the decision for me.

The Arrival (written a couple of weeks after Little V's birth but tidied up later for clarity)

It was 2 days past my due date  and I was feeling a little crampy at bedtime but no more so than most evenings for the previous 2 or 3 weeks. I’d had a bad day and felt like I was getting a migraine. I went to bed at about 11:30pm after scoffing some chocolate. Chocolate usually gives me a migraine but I figured I was getting one anyway, so what the hey…

I woke up at about 1:30am with a full-blown migraine and still feeling crampy in my belly. I lay in bed for a while but knew I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep. I’d had bad insomnia most nights for a few weeks and my head was hurting too much to sleep anyway. I got up and had to go to the loo for a poop, which was weird... I never poop at night. I had some Panadol and a drink. I was annoyed that we’d run out of Panadeine.

I decided to watch another episode of The West Wing on the downstairs DVD player. I went and found the disc in the upstairs DVD player and went back downstairs to put it on. No batteries in the remote, grrr, so back upstairs to get the other remote. (We have 2 DVD players the same). Back downstairs again and the remote still didn’t work. Double grrr. Remembered that we actually have two different DVD players now. Found the right DVD player remote and it still didn’t work. Broke the battery cover trying to open it. No batteries inside and the thing took AAAs not AAs like all our other ones so couldn’t swap them. By this time I was feeling like I was in some bizarre comedy skit so I gave up on the remote and used the buttons on the front of the DVD player. 

I was feeling more crampy as this was going on so heated myself a wheat bag for my belly (not the first time I’d done this over the previous few weeks) and finally sat down to watch The West Wing. I had trouble concentrating because my head was throbbing and my belly was aching. I persevered with The West Wing for maybe 15 mins then got up and paced around. My head hurt so much.

At 2:30am I decided to wake ANM to give me a back/shoulder/neck massage which sometimes helps when I have a migraine. I told him I was having contractions but they weren’t very strong and they’d probably fizzle out again. He gave me a massage then came downstairs with me. I was having regular surges, rather than just an achey, crampy feeling but still wasn’t convinced it was the real thing. I paced around the house. I ended up upstairs again at some stage and asked ANM to rub my neck again. He started and I told him to stop because I couldn’t concentrate on making the contractions not painful. Up until then I’d been forcing each contraction to feel orgasmic rather than painful. Chrissy Amphlett was singing “It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain…”  in my head. 

Around then I asked ANM to remind me why I was doing this again. I then thought “These are transition thoughts. I can’t be in transition. It hasn't been long enough and it hasn't hurt enough yet.” I was really hot and took my top off. For the next contraction I felt the need to kneel down on the floor next to the bed and my waters went pop. ANM wasn't in the room at the time so when he came back in I asked him to get the plastic-backed picnic rug out of the car so I didn’t make a mess of the carpet. He rushed out to get the rug (maybe 10 steps from our bedroom) and brought it back in and I knelt down on it after we got my wet jarmies off. Around this time I realised I was probably in real labour rather than prelabour and we should work out whether we were going to wake the kids and make the trek to the birth centre.

ANM went back out to close the boot of the car and heard me roaring. He rushed back in to find the baby’s head was out. I’d had a very sudden urge to push. I was supporting the baby’s head with my hand and panting to catch my breath, waiting for the next burst of energy. ANM and I both supported him as his shoulders made their way out, the rest of his body slithering out behind them.

Little V was on the floor between my legs, looking very pink and healthy but not crying. I realised he had the cord around his neck twice, so I untangled it and he had a big cry. His cry was gurgly so I faced him slightly downwards to help drain the gloop out of him. I asked ANM to get a blanket to keep him warm, although it was a hot summer night, and we wrapped it partly around him, but still with his skin against mine. After a couple of minutes I remembered to look at the clock. It was just after 3:30am.

ANM and I were both shocked that Little V was born so suddenly, and so happy and relieved that he was fine. ANM took some video and a few photos and I asked him to go and wake Mr T, who then came in to meet his little bro.

I was paying close attention to on my blood loss because I’d come close to haemorrhaging after the birth of Little C so was a little concerned about it happening again. I was still kneeling on the rug and I was feeling big gushes of blood. I knew that if I could get the placenta to come out I could eat a bit of it and the bleeding would most probably subside fairly quickly. I tried encouraging Little V onto my breast but he was still wild from his birth journey and not yet ready for a feed. I hadn’t felt any placenta-expelling contractions but tried pushing gently a few times to see if it would come. It didn’t. 

I was concerned, but not at all panicky, about the blood loss. I said to ANM that he should probably call an ambulance because I felt I was losing too much. He called 000 and they were quick to arrive. I was feeling okay when they came in. My blood pressure was good but I was still kneeling on the picnic rug and my legs had gone numb. They had a quick look at Little V and confirmed that he was fine. They asked ANM to call my birth centre midwife to let her know what had happened and then they talked to her and she talked to me, saying that I really should transfer in to the birth centre as I was bleeding and the placenta wasn’t coming away. It must have been about 4:00 by then because they were talking half hour placenta deadlines (birth centre policy is to give syntocinon if the placenta has not emerged within 30 mins but the ambos don't carry synto). I wasn’t too keen on transferring if I didn’t need to but I was starting to feel very weak so I didn’t take too much convincing. 

I’m not really sure what happened next so some of this might be in the wrong order. I think the ambos helped me get my very numb legs out from under me and as soon as they did I started to feel sick and dizzy and revolting. They lay me down on the floor and asked me if ANM could hold Little V. They took my BP again and it had dropped enough for them to start looking stressed and moving quickly. ANM took Little V and sat on the bed next to where I was lying. At some stage they asked if they could cut our cord, and that they would leave it long and I agreed. I vaguely remember ANM cutting it. They inserted a cannula in my hand (the most painful part of the night) hooked me up to an IV and pumped fluids into me for a while. After I started to feel better they helped me onto the trolley. I tried pushing the placenta out one more time before getting on the trolley but it didn’t want to budge. ANM passed Little V back to me and we headed out to the ambulance. I was so relieved they let Little V come with me. I know some ambos here insist the baby travels separately. ANM stayed home, woke Little C and he and the boys drove over to meet me at the birth centre.

It was 4:30 by the time I made it into the ambulance, about an hour since the baby had been born. In the ambulance one of the guys suggested I gently palpate my belly to see where the placenta was. They didn’t want to interfere with it, which was good. It was still highish up and to the right. They got me to try giving another gentle push, which I did but it still wouldn’t budge.

When we arrived at the birth centre, my midwife was there to meet us. The ambos helped me to the bed, had a chat with the midwife, said goodbye, and disappeared out of the room. The midwife checked me out and asked if I’d had any more contractions just as I started to have one, and out popped the placenta. I hadn’t had any syntocinon. She checked me for tears and said I just had a bit of a graze, so nothing worth worrying about. She hooked up another bag of fluid and let that do its thing. I had 2L in total. The midwife cut up some placenta for me to eat. It tasted like blood.

ANM and the boys had arrived and we took photos. Little C was a freaked out by all the drama but calmed down after a while and started singing lullabies to his new little bro. 

We phoned our parents to tell them our news and I SMSed my doula to tell her what she’d missed. I had some toast and a shower and at about 8:00am our family of 5 headed home with the placenta.

The Epilogue

I am really happy with Little V's birth including the transfer, which was in no way traumatic. The ambulance guys and midwife were incredibly respectful towards us. 

ANM was awesome through the whole thing, with not a hint of panic. He has made a point of correcting all the rellies when they call him a hero for delivering the baby.  I love him so much.  *mwah*

As for my new little creature… well, he’s just so perfectly wonderfully perfect. 

The Post-Epilogue 

Having now had 9 months to digest Little V's birth I am still really happy with it, and glad he was born at home.

I was so surprised that the labour and birth had been almost painless and so very, very different to the births of Mr T and Little C. I’d heard of painless birth but thought it was one of those things that happened to other people, not me. Perhaps it was because I was so mentally prepared for it this time after all my reading and talking to my doula and midwife, or because I was at home in my own space with no strangers peering at me. I don’t know, but Little V's freebirth was an awesome, liberating, empowering experience, transfer and all.

In hindsight there are a couple of things I could have done differently to possibly avoid the transfer. Firstly, I could have organised myself some herbs and homeopathic stuff to take in the event of haemorrhage, especially as it had been one of my concerns. Secondly, I could have used visualisation/meditation/self-hypnosis or whatever you want to call it to encourage my uterus to clamp down and release the placenta after Little V was born. After my super-quick and almost painless labour I am totally sold on the power of the mind and its ability to positively (and negatively) affect the physical body. No idea if it would have worked for a haemorrhage of course, but it would have been worth a try.

Oh, and remember how I said they let Little V come with me in the ambulance. Well, they also billed both of us for the ride. Very glad I had insurance.


Laura Shanley said...

Wonderful story! Thanks so much for sharing it. Jeannine Parvati Baker, who coined the term "freebirth" years ago, used visualization and affirmations to stop herself from hemmorhaging and it worked! The mind is more powerful than most of us realize.

Mary said...

Laura, thanks for your comment. Your website was one on of the many amazing places I visited along my journey. The internet can be quite wonderful!

Very interesting about JPB's use of visualisations and affirmations to prevent haemmorrhage... I never thought of it until months after V was born but it makes so much sense.

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