Now, when my son is almost 10 days old peacefully sleeping next to his grandmother, I feel that I am ready to tell the story of his birth. I feel that I need to share because nothing more beautiful and powerful has ever happened to me.
Both I and my husband wanted to make sure we give natural birth to the baby. Being vegan I didn’t take any pills or supplements during the pregnancy, although most of the doctors would look at me and shake their heads. The only thing I took was some extra iron vitamins in the last week before birth.
I was never afraid of the birth itself. Thanks to the independent midwives from “Zwanger in Brussel” and my dear doula Yana Ardittis, I got the positive message very well: “Your body is capable and strong enough to give birth to a healthy and happy baby”.
I and my husband did a prenatal course with the Brussels Childbirth Trust. Very nice group of young parents probably saw us as a “freak hippie couple” when we spoke about our plans for giving birth at home in a swimming pool and performing “the lotus birth” (not cutting the umbilical cord). At the same time, their plans for hospital birth sounded so scary to me, because in my head I created such an evil image of doctors who want to force their medicine on the birthing mother and baby.
Our due date was 30 July, although I so much dislike the idea of having a “due date” – something that doctors planned for you according to their check-ups. For me, Leo had a month in which I would expect him to come – between 15 July and 15 August. So, no wonder that from 15 July I saw each day as a day when my son will be coming.
My nesting period was full of washing, ironing and folding the baby’s clothes, all the little towels, etc. At the same time, I had no idea how am I going to use all this baby stuff. I was buying things that were advised to buy.
Leo decided to land on this Planet the night of July 23d. We knew he would be a Lion on Zodiac. And he came in the hours when Lion sign was just coming into power.
On Monday evening 22 July, we had a very nice dinner at the Indian restaurant with our friends. They were bombing us with questions: “what if you give birth tonight?”, “will you post Leo’s face on Instagram”, “will your parents come?”. Thomas and I were answering without any idea that Leo WILL come in a few hours.
I remember well that I was driving home from the restaurant. I had to put the seat belt under my knees, cause at this stage of pregnancy it was pushing the belly too hard.
Before falling asleep Thomas asked me:
– What breathing techniques for the birth you know? I need to learn so I can remind you.
– Just tell me to remember to exhale and to relax my face, cause it is directly connected to my perineum.
That night we went to bed just two of us and woke up three of us ☺
At 01:38 I woke up to get myself to the bathroom – usual thing for a 9-months-pregnant woman. Once I stood up, a tiny stream of water went down my leg. Coming back to bed I saw a wet spot under me on the mattress. Thomas woke up and we had a small discussion if it could be a sign that the waters broke.
-Do you feel contractions?
-Let’s sleep then.
-I hope, contractions will come if my waters broke. Cause if they don’t come…
-Wait. I feel something…
Right at this moment, I felt a strong period-like-pain sensation. Like if someone would pull down from under my belly.
Without realising that IT started, Thomas and I put on the night light. He started massaging me as I was moving my hips, changing my position. My body was preparing for the premiere performance – Something we have been looking forward to for 9 months!
I remember grabbing a bunch of papers with the description of labour stages and giving it to Thomas. Then he suggested I take a warm bath. That was the best decision ever! In a warm bath, sensations became softer and I relaxed. We opened a contraction timer on the phone to check how many minutes we have between the contractions. At that moment I still didn’t think that this is actual labour. I thought we are just rehearsing. But according to the app, contractions were every 3,5 minutes! We looked up the papers – this was one of the last stages! And we both remembered that midwives asked us to call when contractions would come each 5 minutes.
We called the midwife. She was, of course, sleepy (it was 2 am) and asked me if I want her to come. I was a bit confused with this question and said: “Let us call you back in 10 min. Get some tea and wait for our call”. At that stage, I was still very rational and was able to communicate and plan things.
When we hanged up the phone – the “real deal” had started. All of a sudden I felt the need to make sounds on each wave. The feeling of something pulling down from my pelvis, lower back and in the area of ovaries was getting stronger and stronger.
One more contraction and I started screaming. I started losing connection with the reality, with what Thomas was saying, with what colours our bathroom had, with what smells our house had. All started to get in one big sensation down my belly. It was coming like the waves: at the peak, I would shout as loud as I’ve never done before and then at the deep relaxation I would descend in the bath. The relaxation part was a true moment of pleasure. I would close my eyes and rest with no thoughts, nothing. With a completely relaxed face and maybe even smile.
A couple of times I would notice that my mind creates fear:
- What if the next contraction is much stronger and I cannot bear the pain?
- What if I lose my sight from pushing?
- What if… what if…
With a powerful effort, I just observed these thoughts and explained myself: it’s normal that the fear comes, but I and Leo are stronger than that, we are doing our own business here.
Thanks to the way nature created them, contractions are like a tsunami, they come and wash out all your thoughts and everything else on their way. They come and smash you. And the only thing you can do – is to give in, to surrender this stroooong sensation. And breath. And scream.
In one of the relaxations, I quickly said, “call the midwife and ask her to come”. I think after that moment, I departed in the vortex of birth (as our doula Yana calls it). I didn’t answer any questions, I could only shake my head as a “no” or “yes”. Each contraction I was screaming louder and louder. With fully opened mouth and with maximum volume. Each contraction I would jump up from the bath and move, move, move. In a weird direction. Sometimes like if I want to pick an apple from a tree, sometimes just turning around to stand on all fours. When a contraction would finish, I would descent down, close my eyes and do nothing.
With the next contraction, I started feeling the urge to push. Thomas said: “Maybe we can try a warm shower”. Without giving it a second thought I started crawling out of the bath like a lizard. Somehow I ended up on our bath rug and some towels. My white bathrobe (thanks a bought two of them during my nesting) was also on the floor and eventually became a landing point for Leo.
In the papers about the stages of birth, I remember to read about one stage when it feels TOO much. It feels like you want to quit. You want to stop it. The pain is too strong and you can’t bear it. Usually, this is the stage when most women ask for drugs and hard painkillers. BUT! I knew – if it feels too much – the end is close. This is the stage just before the baby is out.
I remember myself on that stage. In one of the contraction peaks, I smashed a glass door of our shower. God bless it for being strong enough and not breaking all over me in small pieces! This smashing shows how far I was from the rational mind at that moment. I became an animal with wild and primal force. I was on all fours or squatting, screaming like hell and pushing.
And. The doorbell rings. Thomas exhales loudly and runs down to open to our midwife. Later he said that he was very afraid I would give birth without a midwife being there. Well, if you ask me, I didn’t care if there would be midwife or not. Leo and I were busy doing our business 🙂
Hanne (our midwife) comes up and repeats “Good”, “Perfect”, sitting on her knees at the doorstep to our bathroom. After a while she asks:
- Do you feel like pushing?
- I’ve been pushing for the last 10 minutes!!!
I screamed. But I lied, I’ve been pushing for more than 15 minutes then.
- Ah! Okay, okay! Good.
And Hanne quickly moved behind me to see what is going on. I think she already saw Leo’s head at that point but I didn’t hear what she said.
On the next contraction, I was squatted and I reached my right arm to the perineum and I felt it! I FELT HIS HEAD!
- I FEEL HIS HEAD!
I shouted and understood: we are close! All these efforts are bringing him down. And so soon we will be at the end of super fast childbirth. At home. Exactly as I wanted.
Probably all these positive and inspiring thoughts rushing through my head brought a huge wave of oxytocin. Two-three more pushes and all of a sudden I feel that the entire Leo’s body passed through me and he is out – in hands of Hanne.
Now. I have to tell about the moment when his head was passing through. I knew it will be intense. But. My God, they say that this is the moment when women get to see the death in close-up. And they know what they are talking about. This sensation of you being ripped apart in between your legs is close to death experience. But, ladies and gentleman. It lasts for no more than 3 seconds. So, yes, it’s intense. And yes, I am ready to do it again.
When Leo was out, tears rushed from my eyes and the only thing I could repeat: “He is here”, “He is here”… I took him in my arms and hugged him towards my chest. Thomas was right behind us. And there we were – a newborn family on their bathroom’s floor.
I don’t know how much time passed but suddenly I hear the voice of the second midwife saying:
- We need the placenta to come out, otherwise, we will have to give you a shot of Pitocin.
What? Pitocin? Some kind of a drug? Why? I gave such a brilliant birth at home and now they are talking about drugs. This was quite a shock for me. I looked around: there were two midwives and Yana, our doula, who also arrived while we were in a bubble of love.
We all slowly moved onto the bed. The midwives continued talking about placenta and Pitocin and I could not understand why do I need a “fake love hormone” (that is what Pitocin is) while I am so full of the real love right now. But placenta was indeed not coming and midwives, afraid of bleeding it might bring, decided to give a tiny little shot of Pitocin into my leg.
Fifteen minutes later nothing changed. I, Leo and Thomas were in our happy bubble, while placenta preferred to stay warm inside me. The midwives called an ambulance to bring us all to the hospital. This was the last thing I wished for. But now, holding Leo in my arms I easily let go of my expectations and surrendered to the “hospital plan”.
I walked down holding Leo who was still connected to me through the umbilical cord and entered the car. Laying down on the ambulance bed the only thing I cared for was my little son whom I yet didn’t know how to hold.
In the car I’ve asked the midwife what will they do at the hospital to stimulate placenta.
- They will probably put you on Pitocin (fake oxytocin coming in the veins) and might do epidural.
That wasn’t something I wanted.
At the hospital (St. Elisabeth) we were welcomed by the midwife Sarah Maes. She was great and said nothing about epidural or Pitocin. She just hugged me and brought us in the warm room with the birthing bed in the middle. I did have time to notice loads of machines and gadgets around this bed. “How can it be that so many machines are necessary for the simple birth of a new human?” – I thought then. And I still don’t have an answer to this.
Getting back to Sarah. She told me to take any pose I want and she was happy to get to know that I am a yoga teacher. “That will be easy then” – she said and smiled at me like if I was her daughter. I felt well taken care of, looking at my husband holding my newborn son, while I still had placenta inside me.
“Maybe you want to pee, this sometimes helps” – said Sarah and put a metal ball under me while I was squatting on the bed. Peeing was not coming and suddenly Sarah asks a question which I would remember all my life.
- Did you thank your placenta?
- Did you say “thank you” to the placenta for everything she has done for your baby?
- No. But we have to!
I was shocked to hear something deep and conscious at the hospital! I and Thomas started speaking to placenta saying “thank you so much for taking care of our son”, “you’ve done such a great job”, “now it’s time to let go and follow him”. The same minute we were saying this, I felt movement inside and placenta gently flowed from my inside right into the metal boll which was under me.
I was crying. We all were crying. This was a natural birth from the start until the end. Sarah hugged and kissed me saying: “You should write about it”.
And that is what I did now. I finish writing this story now when my son is 2 months old laying in his nest next to me. He is the best present that I’ve ever received. And he came into this world confident and strong. Like a true Lion. Thank you.
Thank you to Thomas Pickelner for all the amazing photos 🙂
One thought on “The Birth of Lion (Our birthing story)”
This is such a strong story! Thank you for sharing it. I think it can give understanding and confidence to me in the future.