When you are in two opposite worlds at the same time - Birth of Norna
Giving birth is that moment in our lives when we cannot control everything, hence it may feel scary for some. What we can do, however, is to prepare for anything that comes our way. Anna and her husband prepared for a home birth, but they had to change their plans to keep their baby safe. It was tough, sometimes very tough, yet it didn't change a bit the way she experienced meeting her daughter for the very first time..
"The birth of my daughter was the opposite of all I had wished for. And still, I felt that it was a wonderful birth experience. Knowing that I could always re-connect with my breath, with my body and my baby, helped me to feel in control throughout the entire time."
Thank you Anna for sharing your story with us <3
I had prepared for a peaceful and calm home birth. I practiced to go into a state of deep relaxation with the help of Kasia’s great hypnobirthing course, the hypnobirthing tracks and a German app (Die Friedliche Geburt) and had imagined my calm home delivery over and over again. My birth wishes read as follows: rather not receive an intravenous access, not receive synthetic oxytocin to induce or speed up labor, not be connected to a stationary CTG, not have the water broken, not receive any drugs for pain relief and rather tear than have a routine episiotomy/perineum cut.
When things took a different turn..
During a regular check-up around week 33 the midwife suddenly sounded uneasy. She was not sure whether the baby was in the right position and asked us to do an additional ultrasound. Knowing that some babies turn late, techniques for versions existed and birthing from a breech position was possible, we did not worry too much about the outcome of the ultrasound. The nurse performing the ultrasound quickly confirmed that the baby was in breech position but she too sounded alarmed: even after several measurements the baby’s weight estimate was more than two standard deviations below the mean.
We were transferred from midwife to medical care. A series of appointments at OLVG Oost followed. A wonderful female doctor performed a quick external cephalic version – merely the contraction inhibiting drug made my heart race and me almost drop to the floor – and the weight development of the baby was closely monitored. Every appointment threatened to be the last, as the doctors announced that they would not hesitate to induce if they saw cause for concern.
With passing a last work deadline one Thursday noon, I just wanted to start enjoying the first hour of my leave, when the doctor rang and announced that they strongly recommended to induce in the next days, the pregnancy was full term and the baby was not growing anymore. After some tears about the sudden end of pregnancy and the unwanted medical induction, I collected myself, we prepared the last things and arrived – packed with snacks, socks, music, yoga mat, coconut water, you name it – at OLVG Oost on Sunday morning.
When the labor was initiated..
The induction began in the early afternoon with the insertion of a balloon catheter. Around 7 or 8 in the evening the contractions were clearly discernable from practice contractions but still allowed me to have dinner and watch a movie. When my husband fell asleep around 10, they started to rise in intensity. Using instructions on audio files, I had practiced to go into a state of deep relaxation throughout the pregnancy a lot. A lot, being several times a week, sometimes 1-2 each day, especially in the end. Also now, excited about meeting our baby soon, I relaxed with the techniques I practiced and was breathing through wave after wave. Each wave was stronger than the previous but I felt happy and confident. Until they stopped. At 1.00. My frustration was gigantic. I could not believe it. I had worked hard for hours and suddenly nothing happened anymore. Nothing. I was fuming in disbelief before I could finally fall asleep.
The check up the next morning revealed that the tape that should have pulled the balloon catheter outwards had come off. Reattaching the tape and reinstalling the pull brought back the contractions. First weak, then strong, and then really strong. After six, seven hours of strong contractions, of practicing to breathe and relax through the waves, now together with my husband, the balloon fell out at 15.00 and we were transferred to the delivery room. I received an intravenous access and was connected to a stationary CTG.
As the contractions had ceased again, a doctor ruptured the membrane at 16.30. Before they would start administering synthetic oxytocin, we were given some time for the contractions to return. Nothing happened. I thought back then, and still think now, that my body and the baby were simply not ready for birth yet. The oxytocin delivery was started. At 8 the contractions were intense. Having practiced all day, I was breathing and relaxing like a pro, but each wave was really challenging.
When you face the toughest period..
My husband somehow managed to organize a bathing pool and around half past 9, I was breathing and relaxing in water. A welcome change but no relief, the contractions were relentless. All while the dilation was exactly the same as in the moment the balloon had fallen out: 4 cm. The oxytocin certainly elicited contractions, but I suspect that the baby’s head was simply not in the right position yet, so the pressure necessary to widen the cervix was lacking. The contractions went on and on, stronger and stronger. I left the pool.
What followed was certainly the toughest period. The waves now came in an incredibly high pace with incredibly strong intensity, I only had seconds in between. I used and cherished each second without contraction to breathe and relax. My husband helped me breathe too, the contractions were so strong, I regularly forgot everything, also to breathe. I vomited a lot and around midnight my body started shaking uncontrollably. Still, I was breathing and in control.
When they announced around 2.30 that despite my (and our) extreme (!) efforts and the really high paced contractions the dilation did not proceed and they needed to increase the dose of oxytocin a lot further, I refused. There was no way I could take stronger contractions. I requested a cesarean. Unfortunately, that was not an option. I felt strongly that my body was not ready and this could take many more hours, so I decided for an epidural. The epidural was done around 3 in the morning and finally gave my body the break it needed.
The two worlds..
I was connected to a CTG, had a bladder catheter, an intravenous access, and an electrode on the top of my child’s head, but I could lie down and relax in the warm bed. The synthetic oxytocin was increased step-wise again but I returned to the audio tracks, to music and a state of deep, deep relaxation. I could still feel all contractions on one spot on my back. I was awaiting the waves, was breathing and relaxing and floating. I felt connected with my baby and was surreally happy. It felt like I was incredibly high.
My husband, in turn, was exhausted. He fell asleep on the couch. Around 7 or 8 in the morning, the heart tones of my daughter suddenly dropped. Staff came running in and dialed down the oxytocin. My own blood pressure had dropped drastically too, so I received ephedrine. Her heart tones returned and the oxytocin was increased again. I returned to my blissful state of highness.
The hours passed by. I could have continued for a lot longer but during a checkup around (now Tuesday) noon the doctors realized that the cervix was fully dilated and I could start pressing. I was almost a bit shocked about how sudden the birth should now happen! Two doctors helped me practice pressing (I could not feel anything due to the epidural) and our beautiful little baby was born – bright awake - 15 minutes later.
What helped me through..
The birth of my daughter was the opposite of all I had wished for (by pressing like a mad woman, I just so managed to avoid the perineum cut!). And still, I felt that it was a wonderful birth experience. Knowing that I could always re-connect with my breath, with my body and my baby, helped me to feel in control throughout the entire time. Even in the worst moments. Thinking back, I think it there were a couple of things that helped me:
Practice. Throughout the pregnancy, I had practiced many, many, many times to be in and return to a state of deep relaxation – on happy days, on sad days, on relaxed days, on stressful days. I believe that hypnobirthing can work without much practice when all goes well, but for the journey of this birth, a birth with many changes in location, interruptions, and interventions, a birth that lasted several days, having practiced helped me to have the confidence to always being able to reconnect and return to a place of calm, even if it was just for seconds.
One of the affirmations I practiced: “When hospital staff appears rude, it is only because they concentrate and work hard to do the best for you and your baby.” The staff at OLVG Oost was lovely! But this affirmation had helped me in advance to let go of all the worries I had about patronizing interactions with doctors and the medical interventions they would deem necessary.
And a small but powerful sentence a friend said to me when we said goodbye two days before the delivery: “Have no fear!”