Daniel’s Birth as told by his Dad, James
I was on the way to the London Olympics. I had arrived at a car park near Lakeside, where I was planning to take the train to the Olympic Stadium, when I received a call, it was Caroline, my wife, who told me that her waters had broken. She had already had a couple of light contractions that she ignored whilst asleep, but at 7.30am she jumped out of bed and ran to the toilet as her waters broke. Today was 3 days before her due date, the 4th August.
We had been planning a home birth. We had already turned our living room into a ‘Birthing Space’ – with dimmed lights, lots of charity shop towels and old sheets on the floor and a brand new birthing pool inflated by the double windows overlooking the garden. I was going to be Caroline’s birth partner and her mother, Anne, was going to support us in the background.
Caroline told me that the colour of her waters were slightly off. She said she would speak to the midwife at Crowborough Birthing Centre as she might have meconium staining. The midwife told her to come to the centre to check.
I meet Caroline’s brother to pass on the tickets, then drove to Crowborough Birthing Centre, an hour drive away. Caroline caught a taxi with her “hospital” bag in hand, that we had pre-packed just in case we couldn’t have the birth at home.
When I arrived at the Birthing Centre Caroline was already having contractions varying from three to five minutes apart. She was in high spirits and was already in a concentrated inward frame of mind. The midwife confirmed that she did indeed have meconium staining in her waters and as Crowborough was ill-equiped to support our labour now, they admitted us to the Birthing Unit at Eastbourne District Hospital. Within 10 minutes I was driving Caroline, who was in the back seat of the car sitting on a towel and having regular contractions, to Eastbourne Hospital. I was driving as smoothly as possible and we were chatting about how she was doing whilst timing the length of the contractions.
Having planned a natural birth at home, I was apprehensive about being in a hospital and needing medical support during the birth. My philosophy with allopathic medicine is to use it only when absolutely necessary. My concern with medical intervention is that is becomes self-fullfilling; initial interventions of medicine require further interventions as the natural birth process is interrupted. Not understanding the medical process and this being my first experience of labour, I knew it was going to be difficult to know what to do.
One of my roles as a birth partner was to be a protector, a person who enables Caroline to feel safe to give birth and to fully let go. I want to create a space for her to be as relaxed as possible and to let her feel cared for, for all her needs to be met. If Caroline became stressed during the birth process then I knew this would be counter-inducing. I wanted Caroline be able to move into any position physically also to help the process not taken any longer than natural.
We arrived at Eastbourne around 10.30am. We were given our own room, a small room with a bed. One of the midwifes introduced herself to us and she took a urine sample, some blood tests and took Caroline’s blood pressure. At their first check Caroline was 3 cm’s dilated. Due to meconium being in the waters two pads were strapped to Caroline’s abdomen to monitor her contractions and the baby’s heart rate – to check the baby was not in distress. These pads stopped Caroline having free range of movement and she was also not allowed to use the birthing pool.
I knew as soon as the Senior Midwife walked in turning the main lights on, before asking us whether we wanted them on, then didn’t introduce herself to us, that my protecting role was going to be needed. She commenced to tell us that Caroline had pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure. That Caroline and our baby were at high risk and that Caroline needed to go onto medication and constant monitoring. The way she communicated wasn’t helpful – instead of brief, “You’re high risk, we need to x, do I have your permission?”, we had a long monologue about exactly what was going on inside Caroline’s body, which I didn’t want Caroline to hear, as I could see it was pulling her into her thinking mind rather than the primal state she needed to be in to give birth. When I resisted her and told her what I wanted, she assumed I needed convincing through negative stories and told me about the worst case scenarios she’d experienced in her 30 years including stories of people dying in labour. She was doing exactly what I didn’t want her to do – talk more. I told her, that the environment around Caroline was important to me. Unfortunately she didn’t understand where I was coming from – which was in part, not liking what she was saying also. I found it hard to accept that Caroline now needed to have a highly controlled medical birth.
We called Anne, Caroline’s mum, who lives near to Eastbourne and she came round with some food. She stayed with us for an hour before leaving. It was good to speak to her, to vent some of my fears & anger outside of Caroline’s earshot.
Caroline was moved to a larger room with natural light, both of which I was grateful for. She was put on a contraction inducing drip – to speed the labour up (NB. the cure for pre-eclampsia is to give birth as soon as possible), a magnesium sulphate drip, which she found painful to reduce her blood pressure, and a urinary cathetar, so they could measure her fluid balance to prevent water retention. Caroline now had to stay upright on a bed, so the monitoring pads would not lift off her skin.
For the next 3 hours we had continual checks with at times 3 people in the room making notes and organising the medical support. During this period I noticed that Caroline’s contractions had almost stopped. This was my worst case scenario playing out; the environment around her was not supporting her. There was too much busy-ness. I found it hard to hold back my anger. When they rechecked her at 6pm, it was no surprise that Caroline was still at 3cm’s dilation, technically still not in labour. I called Anne and asked her to visit us again. I wanted to give Anne a list of everything we needed from home – which included the baby car seat (which I didn’t have in the car when I driving to the Olympics), to feed the cats and bring some extra clothes for all of us. We knew by then we were going to be in hospital post birth for a few days as Caroline would be gradually taken off the medicine. When Anne arrived, I realised that I wanted to leave – I wanted to go home – that I needed to clear my head – that all the anger I was feeling about all the intervention Caroline was receiving was not helping me or Caroline. I asked Caroline and she was just as happy for her mother to stay with her. It was a massive relief! Anne was going to provide Caroline the emotional support that I could no longer give and I could come back in 3 hours time (50 minute drive home each way) refreshed and with a new positive mindset.
On my way out of the hospital I called a couple of practitioners of a therapy called Bodytalk and asked them for a distant session to support the three of us – Caroline, myself and our baby *. When I got home I had a shower and sorted my long list of cores and clothes to bring back. I spoke to one of the Bodytalk practitioners who had just run the session. He told me that in some of the links I had come up as “grieving”. This was a turning point for me. I realised that I was feeling the loss of not having the birth I wanted. It helped me get back in touch myself and feel the joy and excitement of the birth. I realised that I was expecting the midwives to give emotional & practical birthing support to Caroline, and I was being resentful that they were not offering this, advice on breathing or positions etc. I recognised that as soon as Caroline became a high risk patient, all their time was now taken up with offering the medical support, making notes and they didn’t have time for anything else. Changing my expectations of our carers helped.
On the drive back to the hospital, I decided to do a laughter therapy practice I’d heard about where you fake laugh until actually it makes you laugh for real. I wanted to walk back into Caroline’s room with an outrageous positivity. It worked! It really cheered me up and I lost my fears. I also did this in surrogation for Caroline and at 9.20pm, as I was driving, I had a felt-knowing Caroline had gone into labour.
When I arrived back, it was an amazing experience to walk back into her birthing room. The lights were dimmed, Caroline was lying to her side upright on the bed having a contraction, making a low loud grunting noise. Anne was rubbing Caroline’s sacrum and talking to her. We had a new midwife, who I instantly understood where I was coming from, and there was a stillness to the atmosphere. It was perfect.
Caroline had recently had another examination, at 9pm she was still 3cm’s dilated. She said that in the last quarter of an hour her contractions had really increased in intensity. I realised that Anne was doing such a good job in offering back rubbing and emotional support that I just needed to allow that to continue. I continued with my surrogating energy therapy work in the background and let Caroline know I was with her. She was offered an epidural, which she agreed to as the pain she was experiencing was intense, to be taken at midnight after they’d checked her latest blood tests. I had only been back in the room for 20 minutes until Caroline said she felt the urge to push. The midwife checked and agreed. Caroline started to push, to push as if going to the loo. Anne was holding her hand and the midwife was very active in helping Caroline into a good position and offering advice. Gradually the baby’s head started to appear. I was transfixed. This is amazing. To see a women give birth is incredible. I don’t have words to describe this adequately. The pushing part of the labour lasted for about half an hour, though it felt like 5 minutes. The baby was delivered. Caroline was in state of wonder cuddling our baby boy on her chest. Her labour had lasted 90 minutes.
Due to the medication Caroline was receiving the cord needed to be cut very quickly, which I did. The placenta was induced also, to stop excessive bleeding as her blood has been thinned from the blood pressure medication.
We spent the next 5 hours cuddling the baby. Caroline and Daniel were learning to breast feed together and we were chatting about how the day went, relaxing with our midwife doing various checks on the baby and Caroline. I eventually left at 3.30am to drive back to Anne’s house, to stay the night there.
Caroline and Daniel stayed in the hospital for four more days following the birth, with Caroline receiving blood pressure checks every few hours. The midwives gave us invaluable advice on breast feeding in particular. They also supported Caroline over night with nappy changes to enable her to sleep more. When we finally all got home, it was a great relief. Anne stayed with us for four days, cooking and house sorting, helping us to adapt to our new life.
In retrospect it was a great blessing that we got to the hospital early in the birthing process, rather than half way through. Caroline had no indications throughout the pregnancy that she was going to have high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia during her birth, and the medical support she received for this was essential. I found out that Caroline was much more accepting of the medical intervention and the change of plan than I was. She was much more present throughout the whole experience.
Amanda met with us a month before our birth at our home. We had a session with her – giving us advice on birthing, practical positions. She gave us the space to speak about our expectations around birth. I also gave her a call during the afternoon of Daniel’s birth day, to get a second opinion on the medical intervention we were receiving. It was helpful for me to be able to speak to an experienced practitioner outside of the medical field.
* This was the second Bodytalk session we received. It was done around 9.30pm and sent via text message, hence the short form style of writing. I wanted to include and share as I find this inspiring and insightful.
- Linking baby to mum and dad in “outside world”.
- Linking mum to baby “as a reality” – linked to dad for support.
- All 3 linked to “heart to heart”
- Caroline Pituitary linked to natural Oxytocin ‘knowing where to go’ and use of the stress reducing and feel good factors of Oxytocin – linked to Kidneys resolving fears.
- Brain Corticies tapped out for all 3 of you together.
- Placenta “waking up to be ready to go”
- Baby linked to feeling wanted and welcome.
- Release tension held in muscles around cervix linked to mums emotional brain releasing a memory of her own mother’s fear felt during her own birth.
- Mum and baby “syncronicity”
- Helping Caroline’s body release internal tension and letting go, trusting that the body is fine in doing it’s job. Relax and smile to release tension in whatever way possible.