One Woman - Four Babies
"So what have I learned from giving birth four times? You never know what to expect."
I had an easy pregnancy when I was pregnant with my first baby and I was expecting to go past my due date as I had heard that it is quite common the first time around. But 10 days before my due date, I woke up at 6 am (to pee, as usual), but when I went back to bed I felt something similar to a menstrual cramp. As I knew that it can take days before it picks up, I didn't quite believe that the labor had begun. As I tried to go back to sleep, I was interrupted by soft contractions two to three times an hour at first, then they started to come more regularly. I remember calling my mum around noon and counting with her on the phone as this went on, and started to realize that this was actually the real thing.
I knew it could take days before I went into real labor and I was relaxed about the whole thing at this point, even though the contractions had started to come 5-10 minutes apart. By 3 pm I called the father of the baby to let him know that I was probably going to give birth within the next few hours (or days) and he arrived half an hour later. I decided to take a shower to ease the pain, but had a really painful contraction in the shower and realized that it was time to call the hospital (which was only a ten minute walk away from my house).
As we called the hospital they told us that we could come in for a check, and I said that we could just walk over there, because I was still doing fine. Thankfully my boyfriend convinced me to take a taxi, because on the way there the contractions started to get even stronger and more painful and I had to breath my way through them.
When we arrived at 5.30 pm we were sent to an examination room straight away, and the midwife who did the cervical check told me that I was 4 cm and in active labor! I was really happy to know that we were soon going to meet our baby girl. I was told to take a shower to ease the pain and we were then shown to a delivery room.
I tried to lay down in the bed but realized that it maid the pain much worse, and for the rest of opening phase I was leaning on a support walker, rocking my hips from side to side, both because I had heard that this could make it easier to “open up” and because it eased the pain. They also had gas, which I used every time I felt a contraction coming. I don't know if it really helped ease the pain, but it made me care a bit less. The contractions were quite painful at this point, but I still felt as if I could handle it.
At 8 pm the midwife checked my cervix again and told us that I was 7 cm dilated and that if I wanted an epidural I had to have it now. Because I was scared of what was coming next I decided to have the epidural. Getting the epidural was not painful, but it was hard to sit still when I had a contraction. I thought that my pain was now going to vanish, but even though it eased some of the pain at first, the pain soon came back with a vengeance. I asked them to turn up the dose, and they did, but I didn't feel any difference. At 10 am I was 8 cm and they broke my water, and by 11 am I was fully dilated and was told to get up into the bed to push. I begged if I cold please keep standing but was told that it was safer and better to push flat on the back in the bed with my legs on leg rests.
It felt counter intuitive that someone else told me how to give birth to my own baby, but as it was my first time I didn't feel entitled to argue with the midwife.
I found it really difficult to handle the pain and to push at the same time in this position and at first I didn't dare to push hard enough. But after 30 minutes without much progress I gave it my all, and at this point I begged for them to cut her out of me and told them that I was never going to make it. It still took another 30 minutes before she was born, but finally at two minutes to midnight, my beautiful Maja was born with a scream.
I had to be stitched up and when I went out of bed to go to the bathroom I realized that my legs were completely numbed and I had to be helped to the bathroom. In the bathroom I fainted, but luckily did not harm myself as I fell to the floor. The first few hours with her I was so scared to even lift her because she seemed so fragile, but luckily my boyfriend took charge.
We stayed at the hospital for 5 days (3 days was normal at that time) as I had trouble breastfeeding with really sore nipples and was worried that she was not getting enough milk. But after five days we went home and within three (excruciating) weeks the sore nipples got better and within no time I felt really secure and happy in my role as a mother. I decided that I would go for a natural birth if I had another child.
I regret not trusting my instincts with regards to the epidural, which I didn't really need and it didn't work well, it numbed my legs for hours afterwards. And for not demanding to chose the birthing position, which I know now that you can.
Amazing Natural Birth
Five years later I was happily pregnant with another baby girl and this time around I wanted a different birthing experience. I wanted more control and decided to give birth at a natural birthing center where I hoped to be able to give birth in a birthing tub. I had another easy pregnancy and I remember the midwife where I did my check-ups said that I was made for bearing children. Ha! I was expecting to give birth prior to the due date as my first came 10 days early, but the due date came and went and there was still no sign of any baby.
Two days past due, on Friday 13th, I woke up at 6 am and had to pee. On my way back to bed I had my first contraction. I tried to go back to sleep but the soft contractions came and went every 20 minutes or so and I was too excited as this was exactly the way my first birth started I was quite sure that we were going to meet our baby girl today. At 9 am I woke up the father and told him what was happening. The contractions slowly intensified during the next few hours but by noon they were still intermittent and variable, from 30 to 15 minutes apart. At 3 pm we went for a walk in the park with her big sister to try to speed things up and when we got back the contractions had gotten more painful and between 5-10 minutes apart. We called the birthing center and they told us to come in at 5 pm for a check up. We also talked with the babysitters who came to pick Maja up at the birthing center.
When we arrived I was disappointed to find out that I was only 3 cm dilated and not yet in active labor, but the midwife pulled my cervix and told us to go for a walk. After three blocks the contractions were heavy and very painful and I told my boyfriend that we had to go back. We tried to eat when we came back but my contractions were quite strong at this point and I could not bear to sit down. We were shown into our room, it looked like a beautiful hotel room with lit candles, a double bed, and a bathroom with a big birthing tub.
At 6.30 pm I had another cervical check and was happy to find out that I was 7 cm! I thought that it was going to go fast from there and jumped into the birthing tub where I stayed for the next two hours. My back was hurting really bad so the midwife put some acupuncture needles to help ease the pain. The warm water also helped and I still felt like I could control the pain and my breathing. At 10 pm I was only 8 cm and started to get a discouraged that it was taking so long. I was told to get out of the tub to try to speed things up as the warm water can slow the birth. I walked around the room and stopped every time a contraction came but still no progress for the next hour. By 11 pm the midwife decided to break my waters to see if this could speed things up and by 11.30 I was almost fully dilated but not fully effaced. I jumped back into the pool and the midwife pulled the last edge over the head (ouch!), but I still did not feel like I had to push.
After a while she asked me to stand up and as I got out of the pool and leaned against the edge of the pool I immediately felt a strong urge to push. I gave it one really hard push and felt that she was coming – really fast. The midwife hurried to get behind me and told me that the head had already come down and that I had to wait for the next contraction to push out the head. On the next contraction the head was born.
I remember looking at the clock and registered that it was 11.58 pm and still Friday 13th (which isn't the prefect date for a birth), but then I didn't get another contraction for four excruciating minutes.
I remember getting scared and the midwives seemed stressed and eventually told me to push without a contraction. I pushed for my life and they pulled really hard at her head and eventually, she came out with the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her body at 12.02, on the 14th. That was the reason why she was so hard to get out. They gave her straight to me and as I held her in my arms for the first time she just looked calmly around the room and did not make a sound. I carried her myself to our bed and lay there holding her for the next hour or so before they cleaned and weighed her.
My midwife told me that I didn't need any stitches. I remember that the room was filled with such peace and I felt overwhelmed with joy. This time around I was not anxious to hold her or feed her, everything just came completely natural, just like she did. We spent the night in our room and went home the next day with our two beautiful girls.
Six years later, my life had changed a lot. I had finally found the love of my life and was pregnant with my third child, our first - a baby boy. As I had had such an amazing experience when giving birth to my second baby I was sure to have another natural birth and booked the birth at a natural birthing center, but this time a birthing center that is connected to a hospital in case something should happen. I wanted to experience something similar to my other natural birth, but as I have learned, no birth is the same. Two days past my due date I was starting to get really impatient. A friend of mine had told me that she went to a Doula who performed acupressure when she was ten days past her due date and that it had started her birth. Well, as a very impatient pregnant woman I decided to give it a go.
The next morning at 10 am I went to the practitioner, and in addition to the acupressure she also performed other pro-birthing practices. Well, when I went to the bathroom to pee, I saw that my water had broken, but just slightly, and as I walked away from the Doula at 12 pm, I had my first contraction. I went home and immediately called the baby´s father because he worked one hour away from our home.
As we had moved out of the city it would take an hour to get to the hospital, if we escaped traffic, so I was a bit anxious that we wouldn't make it in time. I also thought that maybe, as it was my third child, it would go quick. Well, my body is obviously not made for fast deliveries. As the hours passed my contractions were still intermittent and far apart. Some were 10 minutes apart, some 30 minutes.
At 3 pm my boyfriend came home and as the girls came home from school we prepared them for what was going to happen and made arrangements for the babysitter. I decided to call the hospital and they wanted us to come in straight away because of the distance and because it was my third. In the car, my waters leaked every time I had a contraction, luckily I was sitting on a bunch of towels.
As we arrived at the hospital at 5 pm, me with very wet pants, we were disappointed to find out that I was only 1 cm! What, how could this be possible? It felt like it had with the other two at 3-4 cm! But I was happy to have arrived and we walked around the hospital as the contractions intensified. By the next check up an hour later I was 3-4 cm and happy to know that we were soon going to meet our baby boy. Again, we were given a really nice room with a beautiful view over the park, a double bed and a big birthing tub in the room.
Over the next hours my contractions got quite intense and I changed between the pool and standing, leaning over the walker support chair. When they checked again at 9 pm I was discouraged to find out that I was only 5 cm as the pain was already hard to handle. I tried rocking back and forth on a yoga ball and walked around the room as much as I could to help the cervix open. At 11 am my midwife’s shift was done so she checked me again – still 5 cm and no change!
I started to cry and said that I couldn't take it anymore. When the new midwife arrived she checked me and said that the baby had its head in the wrong position, that´s why there was no progress despite painful contractions. The birth could not progress unless he changed position. She tried a few relaxing techniques and made me lay on the bed in a certain position that was supposed to help the baby turn. I hate being in bed when I have contractions and found it unbearable, but I still did what she said. At 1 am she checked again and said that there was still no progress and she advised us to go to the regular birthing ward to get more help there.
I was sad that it was not going to be the natural birth I had hoped for but at the same time I was relieved that I could get help because I could not bear the pain anymore.
I was transported to the other ward in a wheelchair and went from a beautiful room with candles and a view to a cold and small institutional delivery room downstairs. At this point my contractions had slowed down substantially as we waited for another midwife to arrive. At 2 am the new midwife came and she confirmed that there was no progress and that the baby’s head was not in the right position. She decided that she needed to try to turn it manually and that I should be induced to help my contractions, and she recommended an epidural. Which at this point, I welcomed with open arms.
After the epidural she came to turn the head, and succeeded, it didn't hurt at all thanks to the epidural. For a wile I felt like I had come to heaven when all the pain went away. They then induced me and I had to lay in a particular position to make sure that the baby did not slip back in the wrong position. As I laid there I got three extremely painful contractions, during the last one I felt like pushing. I remember announcing that the epidural didn't work anymore. They checked me and I was fully dilated! Thank heaven!
I said that I preferred pushing while standing and they asked my to try to push standing on my knees in the bed leaning over the back of the bed. This was a great position for me and after six pushes our beautiful baby boy, Alvin was born at 5.08 am, no scratches this time either. I cried like a baby out of joy and relieve and we were now a family of five. We were totally blown away with how amazing this new addition to our family was and decided straight after he was born that we wanted to have one last baby.
Even though the birth did not go as I had planned, I was so happy to have been taken so well care of by both the natural birthing midwives and the one that managed to turn the head in the right position (and the anesthetic doctor – thank heaven for him!), it was a beautiful birth even though I had to get some help to make it this time around.
Helmer’s Quick Arrival
Before Alvin’s first birthday we were pregnant again. This time around I knew that I knew nothing about how this whole birthing thing would take place but we wanted to have a natural birth. We decided not to know the sex of the baby. Two weeks before my due date I started to have contractions in the middle of the day, this was a Thursday.
As I had always given birth within 18 hours of my first contraction I was sure that this would be the case this time as well. But this time the contractions did not intensify, they just kept coming one to three times an hour for the most part, and sometimes every ten minutes, for the next four days! And they were painful as hell, I thought I was going to go mad. Every time I thought that they were picking up they started to decrease again.
I took my daughter to a birthday on Saturday and I had to stop and breath through the contractions several times on the way back and forth and people asked me if I was okay. It was exhausting to have contractions for days.
After having this pain for four days, on Monday I called my midwife and said that I needed to come for a talk as I was having regrets about having a natural birth. I can deal with this kind of pain for 18 hours, but not more than 4 days.
Over the past three days I also had a lot of cervical fluid and was wondering whether it could be my waters that broke, just a tiny bit at time, but since it never picked up I tossed the thought out of my head. When I went to the birthing center and told my midwife about the fluid she did at test, and sure enough, she said that it probably was my waters.
Because of the risk of infection she did not want to check my cervix, but sent me downstairs to the regular birthing ward for a check of the fluid there. They confirmed that it was in fact my waters, and because it probably had broken gradually over three days they had to induce me today!
I was in shock, first of all, I was going to have a baby today, and second, it was not going to be a natural birth this time around either. It was 3 pm and I called my fiance with the news. I was then given a room to wait and was surprised when the midwife who checked me told me that I was already 4 cm! So all the pain had not been for nothing. She pulled my cervix and told me to walk around the hospital to try to start things naturally, if nothing happened they would induce me in the evening.
By 7 pm my fiance arrived with all our things, and the babysitter was in place at home. I still didn't have any regular contractions, and at 8 pm we got a delivery room, and the midwife put a tube in my hand and started the inducement.
I had heard that induced labors are more painful than normal ones and asked if she thought I should have an epidural. Both she and my fiance said that I could probably do without, so I decided to be brave. Big mistake.
As the inducement drugs started to work the contractions came regularly but I could handle them fine standing next to the bed rocking my hips. This went on for about two hours, with stronger and more painful contractions, but I was still just 5 cm at 11 pm.
The midwife decided to break my waters and as I got out of the bed I had the most painful contraction ever, and screamed that I needed an epidural. They assured me that I would get one, but the next contraction came straight after the first one and it felt like I was being ripped apart and I yelled that I needed to push! They helped me into the bed only to find out that I was fully dilated in two contractions, and I screamed that I wanted to stand on me knees in bed when pushing.
I´m normally not a screamer during birth, I only hum quietly when I have a contraction, well this time I was screaming my lungs out. The baby’s head was born on the first push immediately after, and the body on the next. I lifted our baby up and my amazing little baby was not influenced by the drama at all but looked quietly around the room. As I laid down on the bed with my baby I realized that I had forgotten to check for the sex - it was another little baby boy, what a joy!
After the other births I have felt calm, enjoying every moment of the first few minutes with a new life. This time I was in shock over the excruciating pain, nothing like I had ever felt before. Only 10 minutes earlier I was 5 cm and now I had a baby in my arms. I was shaking and feeling nauseated, but still held my little bundle of joy close to me and tried to breastfeed him.
The midwife told me that I had no scratches this time around either. Even though the active labor was by far the quickest, the pain I felt I would not wish upon my worst enemy. The pain you get when you are induced is nothing like normal contractions which build up over time and gives you time to adjust; it went from nothing to hell in a second, and I have never screamed as loud in my life. I would never get induced again without an epidural, that’s for sure.
So what have I learned from giving birth four times? You never know what to expect. Of course it is good to have a birthing plan and think about what you want, just be aware that it might not go as planned and be open to change your plan as you go along. Use gravity both when dilating and when pushing if it feels natural. Try to move your hips during active labor, it can ease the pain and relaxes the muscles. And there is no pride in not having an epidural, in some cases it is best for both mother and child.
If you can have a natural birth, good for you – it can be the most amazing experience. If you can’t, it doesn't really matter. Every birth is unique and special.
The only thing that counts is that you and your baby are safe, and my experience is that midwives go above and beyond to make sure we are well taken care of, no matter where you decide to give birth. Listen to your body and your intuition, don´t be scared to ask for what you want. Giving birth is probably going to be the most amazing and the most painful thing you will ever experience. And sometimes you are overwhelmed with love the second your baby is born, sometimes it takes time – both are equally okay. The love you will feel for your baby will probably be the most intense and wonderful thing you will ever experience.