Pregnancy journey, birth story and postpartum life - written by a mom for other moms..
Updated: May 19, 2021
A story shared by one of the HypnoBirthing moms in Amsterdam, full of guidance, tips for pregnancy, birth and postpartum recovery, and most of all: inspiration..
Thank you dear for sharing it with us, and thank you for letting me join you on this beautiful journey <3
The first trimester
We found out I was pregnant with Lucas on Thursday 13 February 2020. We were so excited after a missed miscarriage in September 2019. The last day of my cycle was the same date as my mum’s, when she found out she was pregnant with me in 1984. It felt meant to be.
The first trimester was okay. Given my prior miscarriage, I was surprisingly calm and less anxious than expected – I wanted to enjoy the promise of the present rather than stress about the unknown future. Physically I had mild nausea, craved potatoes and was very tired, both of which subsided around week 10. I managed with snacks and going to bed early. We went skiing in France when I was 7/8 weeks pregnant; I skied in the morning and napped all afternoon. We got back on Sunday 8 March just as the first COVID-19 restrictions were implemented in the Netherlands. For me the restrictions helped me to slow down: I no longer needed to commute or travel overseas for work; I could and would take a short siesta when needed. The only drawbacks were that my intake appointment at the midwifery practice was done via phone and my wife was unable to attend our 12-week ultrasound in person, attending via facetime instead.
The second trimester
At the 20-week ultrasound in June we found out we were expecting a little boy. I was initially disappointed because I kept drawing parallels between my pregnancy and that of my mum’s, with whom I am very close. However, it didn’t take me long to get super excited about the prospect of having a son and raising a man.
At this time I experienced some round ligament pain, which would be severe at night and then continue to ache during the day. It quickly subsided when I started to sleep with a cushion under my belly and another between my legs (I purchased a pregnancy pillow but found it less helpful!) I sought the advice of my friends back home in Australia who recommended prenatal pilates and swimming, which I commenced shortly thereafter and thoroughly enjoyed right up until Lucas was born. To this point I kept active, enjoying long brisk walks with the dog and yoga self-practice. I’d continued to run and do HIT workouts during the first trimester (at a reduced intensity) but at some point they didn’t feel right / enjoyable so I stopped!
At approximately 22-weeks I decisively felt Lucas kick. I made my wife feel and she confirmed it wasn’t in my head. From this point on, I genuinely loved pregnancy. Compared to pre-pregnancy, I felt calmer, more grounded and appreciated my body more. I loved my pregnancy belly and feeling him move. Plus, the hormones helped both my skin and hair.
Around this time, we commenced hypnobirthing classes. Growing up a friend’s mum was a midwife undergoing her hypnobirthing certification. She would recount learnings and I always knew that when I was pregnant, I wanted to do hypnobirthing classes to help me stay calm and not dread “childbirth”, as I was nervous about the unknown and possible pain, first hospital admission, first anesthetic, first intravenous line, first intravenous medication, tearing, etc. The other participants were much further along than me and all well into their third trimester. When you’re pregnant, those a trimester ahead feel so much further ahead! The first class was the most powerful for both of us. We learned how the woman’s body is created to birth, the different stages of labor, the role of the hormones and factors which increase or decrease the hormonal response, the purpose of the contractions or surges, how the baby’s skull is adapted to reduce in size when it goes through the birth canal and more. We watched a positive birth story and it was so different to any childbirth footage I’d ever seen. For the first time, I felt excited about childbirth. We were told to stop listening to negative birth experiences and replace these anecdotes with positive ones and so began my love of positive birth stories via podcasts. I listened to: Australian Birth Stories, Deliciously Ella “Changing the Birth Narrative” and The Positive Birth Story Podcast.
When we were 26-weeks we opted for a fun ultrasound and at 27 weeks we did a road trip to France. During this trip, I developed reflux which would wake me up suddenly in the night with the sensation of choking or the urge to vomit. I managed it with acupuncture, smaller meals, not eating too close to bedtime and with (another) extra pillow under my head overnight.
The third trimester
When we decided to start a family in the Netherlands, I developed an interest in the Dutch maternity system. For me it was important to understand it, including its differences to the Australian system with which I’d grown up, in order to trust my care providers. Homebirth was supported by the Dutch system. While it had never been something I had desired, during the second trimester I started to like the idea – I felt it would best enable me to stay calm, avoiding an uber transfer and enabling us to know a birth pool would be available. At this time my wife wasn’t comfortable with the idea and because my biggest wish for childbirth was “For my wife, baby and I to feel safe, secure and have a positive experience”, our preference was to give birth at the birth center at OLVG West as we could hopefully transfer to OLVG West Medical if need be. Then in September when I was around 34 weeks we attended an information session in English, and we learnt that the birth center offered little over home birth. On the way home from that session my wife said she was comfortable for us to give birth at home if it was possible on the day – she liked the idea of being at home when our baby arrived and we also realized that OLVG West was literally around the corner should we require a medical admission.
Just prior to commencing maternity leave I did a 4-week prenatal yoga course through Tula and continued Pilates through The Movement Practice. I really enjoyed these classes as their movements are tailored to pregnancy plus I got to meet other expecting mums.
I started my maternity leave when I was almost 36 weeks. At this time I provided our birth preferences to the clinic which detailed choices depending on the setting: home (if possible), hospital (If feeling unsure or unsafe at home), C-Section (if recommended at any time by the midwife / medical doctor). Our birth pool was delivered and my wife practiced blowing it up and attaching the hose to our taps. We rented a small birth pool through bevallingsbaden.
I missed my family and friends back in Australia, particularly my mum. These weeks just prior to having a baby are so special and transitional. Mum still managed to spoil us from afar, organizing catering from Sophie Eats for several COVID-19 friendly gatherings to celebrate the baby on the way.
During my maternity leave I felt the need to nest and prepare, doing laundry, cleaning, organizing and cooking. I did acupuncture. I ramped up my reading. My favorites included: HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method, The positive birth book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Nurturing your new life and the Fourth trimester. I listened to birthing affirmations and podcasts whilst walking the dog. Retrospectively I feel I could have rested and slept more in preparation for the newborn weeks to come. To prepare our family for this fourth trimester, my wife bought me a postpartum pamper package for my birthday from Postpartum Massage Nederland and my colleagues from work organised for us to have meals delivered to us from Oh My Guts – both of which I highly recommend for the incredibly tough and magical postpartum period.
My due date was Tuesday 20 October and overnight I experienced mild period like cramps which I’d had irregularly overnight the last couple of weeks. On Wednesday the mild cramps continued into the day. I went about my day as normal, walking the dog and swimming at the pool. I made sure to collect the dry cleaning and fold the laundry, as I had a feeling this would be my last opportunity. At 1400 I had booked into foot reflexology to help induce labor. I was so relaxed but during the session could feel more regular period-like cramps. When it concluded I timed the cramps and they lasted for 30-45 seconds and were 3-minutes apart.
Wednesday 21 October, 1600
I called the midwife (Diana) who advised that she was finishing up her shift but to call back in an hour if they continued or increased in intensity. I prepared baked banana oatmeal (I should have made banana cake / bread as I will always think of oatmeal as his birthday cake as it was he first meal I ate after he was born!) and told my wife to finish work and that it was unlikely she would be in until next week. At 1800 we took the dog for a walk and I could no longer walk or talk through the contractions. They were now more intense and lasting up to 1-minute. We called the midwife (Fleur) and she said she would be over in 30-minutes to check on me. My wife quickly put the bed raisers on our king size box spring bed – not an easy feat.
Wednesday 21 October, 1900
I had never met Fleur, and she was masked due to COVID-19, but she had the most lovely credible calmness about her and immediately put my wife and me at ease. She took time to observe. At this time I preferred to sit on the birth ball and focus on my breath. After some time she offered to check me on the bed; baby’s heart rate was good and I was 2cm dilated, no mucus plug (I hadn’t noticed losing it but apparently it can just dissolve) and almost fully effaced. She advised us to: blow up the birth pool, eat some dinner and continue to breathe through the contractions which she warned would get more intense but not more frequent. We were to call her back when we needed her. She also checked that our Kraamzorg was informed that we were in labor given she needed to be present for the homebirth. Just prior to 34 weeks, we met our wonderful Kraamzorg Denise and her student Chantay (also her daughter); at this time we were not contemplating a home birth.
My wife texted Denise. She would be there. She asked if we were happy for her student Chantay to be present which we were because we had met her. My wife then blew the birth pool up. Unfortunately the tap extension wouldn’t fit so she calmly started to bring bucket after bucket of water from the bathroom into the pool. We ordered a rotisserie chicken to go from Van 't Spit and ate it with some leftover roast vegetables and salad. I continued to manage the contractions on the ball or in a seated kneeling position. We called Fleur back at 2230 when I was starting to get exhausted.
Wednesday 21 October, 2300
Fleur checked baby’s heart rate, which was good. I was 3cm and fully effaced. I had heard so many stories of people feeling disheartened with their dilatation measurement but it never phased me... I guess I knew, dilatation was often slow in a first pregnancy (and therefore expected this to be the case for me), that it could change quickly and, that we were getting closer and closer to meeting our baby boy. Fleur also checked the efficacy of the contractions: the position of the baby’s head meant that each contraction wasn’t that efficient. She advised me to keep going, try a warm shower or the birth pool as this may give me longer between contractions and help with the fatigue. We watched Friends and my wife would use all her strength to press the base of my spine during each contraction. I used the pool which felt amazing: it reduced the intensity of the contractions and really relaxed me in between contractions without slowing them down. I also started to use the shower and toilet sitting to manage contractions. I sipped water, coconut water and lemonade. Around 0230 we called again.
Thursday 22 October, 0300
Baby’s heart rate was good. I was now 5cm and Fleur advised breaking my waters as she felt this would aid the contractions to be more efficient (and intense). I said I was incapable of making decisions and trusted her. She broke my waters; this was painless. The liquid was clear and slightly sweet smelling. Fleur advised my wife to take a nap whilst she cared for me. She stayed with me through almost an hour of contractions using acupressure on the base of my spine through every contraction.
Thursday 22 October, 0600
Baby’s heart rate was good and I was 6.5cm and given my fatigue and the fact that the baby was posterior (with its head facing forward), Fleur thought it would be best to transfer to OLVG West. There I could have some medication to increase the intensity of the contractions. We were happy with this plan. She called ahead to request a birthing pool at OLVG West. Unfortunately her shift was finishing soon so another midwife (Charlotte) would be coming to accompany us to OLVG West. My wife took the dog to our neighbor.
Thursday 22 October, 0700
Charlotte arrived and luckily I knew her from my clinic visits. She also had a lovely calm, caring and confident manner about her and was super kind. I called her Claire throughout labor and not once did she correct me. This is when I think I went through transition as I started to doubt my ability… The contractions were now super intense, I was making animalistic noises, had the urge to push and I couldn’t manage to get dressed to get out the door! Charlotte thought we should re-check me and baby. Baby’s heart rate was good and his head had turned; I was now 9cm. She advised that she thought we should stay at home and I immediately asked if I could get back in the pool. My wife texted the kraamzorgs to inform them it was time to come and support the delivery. Charlotte was not only supporting me but also other women in early labor over the phone (with me making wild noises in the background).
Thursday 22 October, 0800
In the pool, Charlotte checked me: baby’s heart rate was good and I was now 10cm. She informed me to not hold back and that whilst my mind was tired, my body was more than capable of birthing this baby. I was still in my preferred kneeling position. She advised me to put at least one leg up into a squat to give the baby’s head room, so I did. The kraamzorgs arrived. Charlotte said to let her know when I felt the head. I felt incredibly focused and determined. Each set of contractions or surges I breathed down with all my energy and no fear of tearing. Soon after I felt the head and Charlotte confirmed. She advised me that with the next set we would breath the head out. We did. The next set she advised would be for the shoulders. The next set arrived, I breathed the shoulders and his whole body wriggled out and I instinctively caught him.
Thursday 22 October, 0858
Lucas emerged from the water, perfectly pink and calm with a full head of dark brown hair. I had no doubt he was our baby. I told my wife to get in the pool and cuddle our son. And just like that I suddenly had the feeling I could do it all again! Throughout the whole labor I kept thinking ‘how do so many women do this multiple times?’, but once it was done I understood. I felt so proud and so strong. Later my wife cut the umbilical cord and it was time to transfer to the bedroom. Charlotte and Denise supported me to transfer to the bedroom where the placenta was delivered and baby and I were checked. He was 3.88kg and perfectly healthy. I had a 2nd degree tear which Charlotte expertly stitched up on the spot. Baby was put on my belly and did the breast crawl where he latched and fed. I was given breakfast in bed – baked banana oatmeal (Lucas’s birthday cake!) and chocolate oat milk with a straw.
Our kraamzorgs cleaned the house, helped me to shower and helped me to breastfeed. They told us this first night was our (last) opportunity to sleep: Lucas was exhausted from birth and would sleep most of the first 24-hours. Wise words that are impossible to follow when you’re high on adrenaline with your amazing brand new baby next to you. We spent most of the first night staring at him in awe.
The first days…
These first days and weeks are a beautiful blur - incredibly magical and tough. When we were under the kraamzorgs’ care, each day Lucas and I would have our “checks”. Mine consisted of: temperature, stitches, uterus and breasts. His: temperature, daily output (nappies) and intake (feeds). I was sore the first few days after birth. I remember it wasn’t particularly comfortable to sit on the toilet, that I had to really relax to pee or poop and that I insisted on showering after pooping in order to keep my stitches / wound as clean as possible. The bleeding was okay and subsided after about 4 weeks. My supply came in on day 2.
Breastfeeding during the newborn weeks is a fulltime job, taking most of my time, requiring props and nourishment (before bed, I would set up a small table next to where I would feed with everything I would need: water, chocolate oat milk, bliss balls, nipple cream, entertainment – luckily the time difference with Australia meant that I could chat with family and friends during the night!). Around day 4 I had a cracked nipple which we discovered when Lucas had a small vomit containing blood. We sent a photo to Denise and she quickly advised what to do (fresh air for nipples and continue to feed if possible; it healed quickly). Denise was incredible at supporting breastfeeding in these early days, teaching us how to massage the breast when milk came in and was “stewing”, the different positions to feed, how to adjust Lucas’ lips to optimize his latch and how to express (we got the Medal dual swing and it is expensive but very efficient). We were lucky to have the support of Denise and Chantay until day 10 when he was back to his birth weight and we were ready to go it alone.
From day 10 I was back to gentle walks, gentle stretching and pelvic floor exercises; I recommend pelvic floor physiotherapist Joan Smith for a pelvic floor assessment and rehabilitation program. I listened to Charlotte’s advice and resumed swimming when the bleeding stopped and gentle exercise at 6-weeks (I enjoyed postnatal pilates with The Movement Practice - both a mums and bubs class and private sessions). Physically my goal for the fourth trimester was to really look after myself for my baby, and with time I got back to what I was doing in the third trimester. To help prevent mastitis I continue to take a probiotic with multiple lactobacilli strains.
Whilst the first weeks are not so vivid, I remember:
In the early days, having amazing women caring for me – Fleur and Charlotte the midwives, Denise and Chantay (the mother daughter Kraamzorg duo), Adisti from Postpartum Massage and the of course my wife. I felt very special and powerful (even though I was missing my mum, sister and girlfriends very much).
Feeling so overwhelmed with love for my son and my wife. We listened to the song Lucky by Jason Mraz on repeat.
Lucas’ colic (discomfort when learning to digest and processing all the new stimuli) - this peaked during the witching hours of 1800 – 2200 and his 6th week of life.
During his first weeks, Lucas found it hard to settle on his back and preferred supervised stomach napping.
When his colic was peaking he felt best napping in our arms. This passed after a week or two and he was back to independently napping. Retrospectively I wish I’d enjoyed this rather than worrying about whether or not I was creating bad habits.
The Swiss ball …which became the birth ball and then the colic ball… works wonders for settling Lucas.
From his fourth week of life we co-slept. He would feed for 10-15 minutes one side only and settle straight back to sleep with no settling and no nappy change. This was a game changer for our family but every family is different. I read Safe Infant Sleep: Expert Answers to Your Cosleeping Questions to support this practice.
He was a happy spitter (we called him “vomito”). Small vomits after most feeds but always smiling and never in distress. When he caught his first cold at 9.5 weeks, the vomits increased with mucus too. This never worried me as I am a pediatric dietitian and I knew that he was happy, developing and growing well (his other nickname was Mr. Patate (potato in French) because of his gorgeous chubby cheeks and double chin).
From his 11th week of life he was so much more settled. It felt like he transitioned from a newborn to a baby - he was calmer, chattier, smiled lots, was easier to read (turning his head, mouth open when hungry), started to put himself in a routine (wake, feed, play, +/- another feed, sleep), was alert on walks (taking in the world) and became more coordinated with playtime (hitting toys).
While my body has recovered really well, the hormonal changes in the fourth trimester led my skin to break out, hair to shed and increased body odor – charming.
Finally my greatest learnings from this beautiful time are:
When people offer to help (walk the dog etc.) say yes.
What works for you, won’t work for others (and vice versa) – don’t judge but listen and share with those who make you feel good.
Listen to your gut and try to trust your intuition for what you and your baby need – not dr. google.