I read a birth story about a month ago that scared the living daylights out of me, hence the purchasing of the mimulus. Thoughts of an epidural this time were becoming more of a reality. Frightened of having a baby in the English healthcare system, of not having a midwife I knew.

We went home last time especially so I could have Astrid there. And I wasn’t pregnant when we made the arrangements to come here. We still would have come. Well, we did, here we are. And I’m less scared now about the birth – thanks Adrienne – whose email today reminded me I really need to write this up before it’s too much of a distant memory. And that of course I don’t need an epidural.

So back to 2006 we now travel… back we go for Astrid’s birth story…

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astrid hana – 2 days old

I fought like mad to get a good midwife in New Zealand. Arriving back at 18 weeks there was no way I was in time for anything but a community midwife and a birth at Auckland Hospital, especially not with a due date so, well, smack bang in between Christmas and New Year. No midwife in their right mind wanted their Christmas holiday interrupted by a very determined aromatherapist, insisting on a water birth. An obstetrician was out of the question for me as well. In my mind obstetrician equals caesarian by default.

The midwife I really really really wanted was really kind and said to call back if I was utterly stuck – that was once she had already said impossible as she was on holiday – but maybe she could help. So I called back at 25 weeks as I really was truly and utterly stuck – and she’d found New Year’s cover and I had a midwife! My own midwife! The midwife I’d wanted right from the start!

I went along on September 14th 2006 for my first visit. An old bungalow just off Dominion Road – just like a house really – an old bed with an orange candlewick bedspread in her consultation room, an oak desk and chair. Each room was painted brightly, in different colours. There were five midwives making up the collective. I felt immediately at home. This was the New Zealand pregnancy I wanted. Luise would listen to the baby’s heart with a wooden thing. My bood pressure was taken the old fashioned way with her pumping the thing – no beeping monitors, no electric gadgets. She always had a jar of flowers on the table and a big pile of well loved wooden and cloth toys on the floor.

Luise would be on holiday for the birth, but I was handed over to Linda at the start of December and if the baby was born in January I’d be handed over again. By this stage, a few weeks before the due date Astrid flipped around and was sitting up, breech, requiring twice-weekly acupuncture, a lot of moxa (burning herbs by my little toe), some serious hips up on pillows time and a strict macrobiotic diet. Two weeks of that and three scans later, Astrid, much to our great relief turned back to the head down position and started to engage.

Astrid started making signs of appearing on Boxing Day. Just tiny niggles, ever so tiny. The following day around 7pm we decided to call Linda as I’d been having irregular contractions since 5pm. One every two to eight minutes – we just wanted to check what to do. At ten that night we decided to phone again as the contractions were getting harder so Linda popped over for a visit. The minute she arrived they, of course, stopped – although she did an exam and I was 1cm dilated. Time for panadol, a hottie and a sleep. Linda said we’d know when I was really in labour and off she went.

I spent the next day, the 28th, resting where I could, grazing here and there, standing up for contractions. Waiting. Yes, waiting. It was actually getting quite annoying– all day long having these little contractions every few minutes. I spent as much time in bed as I could to keep my strength in reserve. Linda phoned at 11am and we had nothing to report. Again she phoned at 5pm. Again nothing much happening. I took another two panadol, got a hottie and went to bed. Around 6pm the contractions started to decidedly pick up. I’d been shouting a bit already, but this time I noticed the shouting was less controllable and I really wanted to shout. I had to stand up and go into the living room and leaned against the wall, still definitely shouting. A few of these and we thought it might be time to phone Linda. So at 7pm we bundled ourselves and the very perfectly packed bag into the car. I stood by the back seat of the car and thought well there’s no way I’m sitting down, so in I climbed, kneeling, holding the headrest, shouting my way through each contraction. Amusingly the same car followed us all the way from Mt Albert shops up to Symonds Street. It must have been such a mad sight – I tried not to make eye contact. It was a gorgeous summer’s evening, the light orange and hazy it was as we drove as quickly and as safely as we could to Parnell – to Birthcare.

Now I’ll just interrupt the story here for a minute for a word on Birthcare – I had most definitely had my heart set on a water birth right from the start – and we thought hospital would be a good option just in case anything went wrong, or if I needed an epidural. However if you birth at Birthcare you get a private room with meals included. If you birth at the hospital you get transferred to Birthcare straight away, but you have to share a room, or pay $350 a night for the private room. So we opted out of any pain relief in order to get the nice room!

Back to the story at hand. We arrived at Birthcare at 8pm – a familiar place to us as we’d been to natural birthing classes every Tuesday night for eight weeks. I don’t think we actually learnt much, apart from the fact that caesarians are bad, breastfeeding is good and we met some people there who are now great friends, which made it all worth it really. Funnily enough she had a caesarian but breastfed successfully – I had the natural birth but a hopeless time breastfeeding.

Right, now, really back to the story. Up we went in the lift, me breathing all over the place and shouting my way through contractions. We were given a birthing room. Linda was there – she’d filled the birthing pool. Linda was right there by my side while I stood with my hands on the bed. She got me to slow my breathing right down and just breathe as normally as I could. Not easy, but with practice I slowed right down, collected myself together and just breathed. Like sailing. Just like sailing. A client had said I just needed to ride the waves of the contractions, so I remembered that too. Ride the waves. Sail with the breath. Ride the waves. Sail with the breath. It didn’t necessarily feel like that, but it gave me something to focus on just saying that to myself. By this time, just after 8pm I was 6cm.

At quarter to nine I still wasn’t ready for the pool – I was quite happy standing up, leaning on the bed, fully attired in tracksuit pants, my olive green top (still my pyjama top) and socks. For summer, it was not a warm evening. And I’m not much of a naked person at the best of times.

At 9pm I thought I’d give the pool a go. It was a bit shallow and cold and it was very difficult to get comfortable. I was on all fours, floating a bit but the contractions really, really got going and after half an hour I managed to get myself out – the contractions getting stronger now. Not so strong that I felt overwhelmed by them but they were certainly escalating. An hour later I was at 8cm, the show arrived and I think that’s when my waters broke. The contractions were getting a bit much at this stage and I asked Linda for some help. She said I had to get myself through it and that I didn’t need gas and air until I was pushing (ha, now I know that was a big lie, but I can also thank her for it).

This was when the contractions got bad. I think there about three or four where I really  just thought I was going to have to give up. So I did. I got onto the bed and lay down on my side. Kevin had the birth book on him so we looked up where I was up to and realised I was in the middle of transition – I was reaching my hands out to grab something but just grabbing the air. And, all of a sudden at 10:40pm things changed. I felt the urge to push and the hideous awfulness of the contractions disappeared. After that, pushing felt like the biggest relief in the world. Fully dilated now Linda encouraged me not to actively push, but she moved my position so I was kneeling on the bed, holding onto the back of it telling Linda, right Linda, now you gotta tell me exactly what to do. Exactly!

By eleven pushing was underway and against everything I’d learnt at natural birthing classes I was on my back, Linda and Kevin acting as stirrups, Astrid on her way down. Linda had the warm facecloth strategically positioned to avoid any tears or the suchlike. Each push was carefully choreographed, Linda totally guiding me now. The second to last push was painful and Linda really had to convince me to do the last one, because I just knew it would hurt, but I knew I had to do it, so up I mustered all the courage I had for the final push, and there was Astrid at the magical hour of 23:23, on her due date, December 28th 2006.

Little eyes all shut, crying. A little pink baby. Very tiny. Ready to be held. Such proud parents. A job well done. We wait for the placenta to follow after a quarter of an hour. Time to weigh Astrid. Mum hops up for the loo and a shower. Someone appears with toast and milo, which is heartily consumed and off we all head to our little room.

Time to begin our new life as a little family.

( 28 weeks today – and little babychops ii is really starting to make her presence felt )