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KYLIE AURORA

Born December 29th, 2020  in a hospital in Amsterdam

When all is said and done, and we reflect on this incredible journey and roller coaster of emotions, we are so proud and grateful for the safe and natural arrival of our little girl. Armed with passion, knowledge and motive, and with a dose of good luck, we achieved the coveted Hypnobirthing experience we so desperately desired. And whilst it didn’t all go our own way, we are – with some conviction – calling this a positive birth story. This is our story of the arrival of our precious daughter, Kylie Aurora, born on the ‘Long Night Moon’ on 29 December 2020 in Amsterdam.

 “I’m going for two weeks early”. “I think on [big sister] Maya’s birthday”. “I bet 19th December”. “What if we have a Christmas baby?” These were some of the guesses and musings in the lead up to Kylie’s arrival. For no logical reason, we, and many of our friends and family, were convinced our second daughter would be born before her due date, or as “late” as Christmas (her expected due date). But two weeks early came and went; Maya’s birthday came and went; 19th December came and went; and so too did Christmas. Still, there were no signs our little girl was ready to face this big, scary COVID world.

We’d studied and prepared for Hypnobirthing with Kasia, and were calm and confident. We’d been to five face-to-face workshops, read a ton of literature, and had been practicing the techniques. This included deep relaxations, visualisations, affirmations, controlled breathing and light-touch massage, to name few. But for us, most of all it was a mindset. A mindset that this time we would have a safe, natural and calm birth. This would be – we were convinced – in contrast to Maya’s birth, which ended in an emergency c-section.

We must admit, though, that as the days rolled on, the excited anticipation morphed into impatience. A hint of anxiety began to creep in. And the confidence took a faint wobble. On top of this, Mumma had been battling a worsening, chronic and intense itching sensation all over her body – often resulting in near-sleepless nights and cold showers to ease the distress and discomfort.

But on Monday 28th December, as we made our way to a routine, scheduled check-up at the OLVG West Polikliniek, we tried to subdue a growing sense of excitement. In the preceding 24 hours, Kylie had given some signs she’d outgrown her warm cave, and was ready to meet us. We’d had a few false dawns, but this felt different. Mumma knew this was the start of labour. Our physician concurred, and – as we were nearly a week past the due date and were at 1cm dilation – agreed a “sweep” was appropriate. Anything to avoid an induction scheduled for a week later seemed a good idea.

We made our way back home with a smile. In anticipatory celebration, we treated ourselves to coffee and cake at a favourite haunt. The walk home was conveniently interrupted with gentle yet unmistakable surges. That evening, we settled Maya to bed, lined up our babysitter, and started watching Hachi (won’t win any awards) on Netflix. I applied light touch massage to Mumma as she gently swiveled on the Pilates ball, and we monitored the surges for duration and frequency. At around 2 in the morning, we agreed with the midwives it was time to make our way back to the Polikliniek.

First up – a quick dilation check. To our surprise and disappointment, it was still 1cm. But this temporary downer was offset by the confirmation that our favourite room on the labour ward – the New Zealand room – was available. It was the only one with a pool, and we were elated. Maya’s arrival via emergency c-section three years prior had effectively ruled out the possibility of a home birth or one in the birthing centre this time around.

After a brief and pleasant introduction with the doctor and midwife on shift, who took the time to digest and acknowledge our birth preferences, they left us to settle in. We reflect fondly on a basic yet pleasant setting. We did our bit to add to the ambience - setting up some comforting colour visuals, playing soft music from our pre-prepared Spotify playlist, and reclining on some cushions we brought from home.

We spent the next five to six hours in relative comfort, riding out gradually intensifying surges. We read affirmations, I applied light touch massage, and we talked excitedly about how we would soon meet our little girl. Mumma even managed a handful of five minute naps. But understandably, she was getting rather tired, so the 07:00 dilation check was a welcome status update. Drumroll… 1cm! We could barely believe it! How could the surges have been constant and increasing in intensity, yet dilation not follow suit?

This broke our spirits a bit, but we tried to stay positive. Our Hypnobirthing vision kept us in the game, as we continued to put the techniques into practice. This undoubtedly helped us to maintain focus. Notwithstanding, the next five to six hours followed a similar pattern, so we were less surprised (albeit more frustrated and despondent) when a check at 13:30 revealed only marginal progress. Whilst we were generally against intervention of any sort throughout the birthing process, we did agree with the new doctor on shift that it made sense at this point to break the waters. We were less enthusiastic about the precautionary insertion of an intravenous cannula in Mumma’s wrist, but reluctantly agreed when the supposed necessity was reiterated.

Again, we were given some space and privacy to continue at our own pace. It wasn’t long, however, before I had to call our caregivers back to New Zealand. The breaking of the waters had rather abruptly propelled Mumma into so-called “active” labour. We were at the business end, and we knew it.

Things escalated quickly, and the surges were becoming more intense and painful. Knowing we were getting close, we asked the midwife to prepare the pool. We had come this far, without medical complication, and were determined to make use of the option to give birth in the water. Whilst the pool was being filled, the doctor stressed that if we wanted to use it, we would need to add another monitoring device to the baby (in addition to the wireless ESG around Mumma’s waist). To attach this device, we were told, she needed to lie on her back. If there was one thing Mumma was more determined about than birthing in a pool, it was avoiding birthing on her back, so understandably she was apprehensive. Many long minutes and surges later, the doctor insisted she could still not get a clear signal of the baby via the intrusive device she was attempting to attach to Kylie’s head. By this stage, Mumma’s surges were so intense and painful that it was growing more and more unlikely she would have the strength to get into the pool. When this became apparent, we changed tactic. If we couldn’t get into the pool, Mumma wanted to birth in her favoured position – facing downwards on all fours.

A subsequent debrief with the doctor revealed that her reluctance to allow Mumma to turn around was because being on all fours was likely to put more pressure on the uterus. This presented a higher risk of tearing during labour. Maya’s arrival via c-section meant this risk of tearing was an ever-present consideration throughout the process. In the moment, however, we were not aware of this positional risk, and eventually it felt that the labour and dilation were so progressed we had to concede it was too late to move. All energy and focus was now on the safe delivery of Kylie in the old-fashioned, and somewhat humiliating position. Back on the mattress, and legs in the air.

Squeezing Mumma’s hand, repeating words of encouragement, and wiping her brow with a cool cloth, I watched on helplessly as she did her best to follow the doctor’s inconsistent (and at times confusing) breathing and pushing instructions. The pain proved too much on occasion, and her distress gave way to short screams, and even moments of self-doubt. I continued to encourage her, and before long, we could see Kylie’s head. I recall feeling very emotional at that point. I tried to focus on my role, but found myself overwhelmed with a sense of excitement, concern and impatience.

Our daughter was born at 15:06 – less than an hour after they broke the waters. I vividly recall Mumma’s brave final push, and the moment Kylie seemingly “popped out”. Within seconds, she was placed on Mumma’s chest, and I laid my hand gently on Kylie’s back. We instinctively knew at that moment our baby was OK, and we were overcome with joy. Mumma shrieked in delight as she welcomed her little girl in her native Slovene. I choked back tears, and savoured the moment for what it was – one of the best of our life. One of the best moments of anyone’s life, surely. There really is no way to describe the sense of relief. The sense of elation. The sense of happiness.

I cut the chord – albeit sooner than we would have liked. So caught up in the emotion of it all, we didn’t think to challenge why the cord needed to be cut so soon. But this paled in comparison to the joyous 45 minutes we were afforded to enjoy skin to skin with Kylie. To whisper sweet nothings in her tiny ears. And to exchange expressions of love and pride with each other."

Kevin (proud partner and papa).

Marina and Kevin joined the HypnoBirthing group course in Amsterdam October 2020. Marina also joined me regularly for prenatal yoga classes in Amsterdam from around the same time, and later via Zoom when studios were closed