Sam’s story is full of ups and downs. She is a determined mom. She wants the birth circumstances to be how she likes them. Some people with medical background make that very hard for her; others are helpful. And, of course, the birth system also plays a role in there, forbidding the midwife to do a home-birth.
Luckily, Sam, her midwife and her partner are all determined to make baby’s birth happen with as little intervention as possible. And, as Sam concludes: It did not go like she wanted, but it was still perfect.
Read a story of multiple car rides and a crowning with an intact water sac!
SPOILER: Sam shows us pictures some of you might find disturbing, as they show the process of birthing in a very detailed way. For a „censored“ version of the story, pleace click here.
The labour and birth story of Mowgli Gwyn
I have been contemplating whether or not to include my pre labour in this birth story, as there were so many powerful emotions going through me as I had to face realities that I did not foresee and at times it can get a little bit depressing, but this is the nature of birth, is it not?
And my birth story would not be complete without the lows as well as the highs so here it is, don’t worry – there’s a happy ending!
Actively inducing labour naturally
The story of my birth starts on Monday the 17th of July; I am 9 days past my estimated ‚due‘ date, my baby is still not engaged and is happily sitting high in my pelvis. I have an appointment at the hospital in the morning where a doctor will want to discuss induction and baby will be monitored to ensure everything is fine and my placenta is still functioning as it should be.
I am trusting that my body and my baby will initiate labour when the time is right but I have been feeling pressured to get things moving so I am doing everything I can to encourage my baby to come earthside before my 42 week deadline to have a home birth.
Today I am pulling out all the stocks, I have an induction massage at 11:30am and then an induction acupuncture session at 2pm. After the acupuncture session, my partner and I go for a walk together through Jingili water gardens. We climb some hills, scale some stairs and I do squats to try and bring my baby into the pelvis. It is during this walk that I start to feel the early tightenings that I know will soon bring my baby into the world.
I try not to get too excited as I know this is just the beginning and I could be in for a long ride, but of course being anxious first time parents we start timing them! I lose my mucus plug when we get home and continue to have mild contractions through the night. At this point I probably should have tried to get some sleep but I was under pressure and determined to bring this baby into the pelvis so I continued to squat and bounce on my birth ball for most of the night before finally getting a few hours sleep before our appointment at the hospital.
I am excited to find that my mild contractions have not subsided by the morning and they continue to come every 6-8 minutes, slowly increasing in intensity. This could be it! I truly hope so.
We get to the hospital at 11am and start the machine that monitors mine and my baby’s heart rates; Monika (my wonderful midwife) has a feel of my belly and tells me that from what she can feel, baby is in the pelvis! Yes! I am so happy, everything is finally starting to come together like it should be; I feel excited for what is to come: Soon we will finally meet our baby.
My excitement vanishes a few minutes later when the doctor performs an ultrasound: She tells me that the amniotic fluid levels look low and because of this Monika won’t be allowed to attend me at home and I will be birthing in hospital.
I am crushed, I don’t know how to respond, so my partner does the talking. He asks if there is anything we can do to change her mind, if we can get a second opinion and if we can’t birth at home, can we at least birth in the birth centre? We are told that we can come in for another ultrasound the next day to have another look and see if anything has improved but it will most likely be the same and we would have to birth in hospital.
I feel completely out of my depth and like I have lost control over my body and my birth.
Monika and the doctor leave us to have some time to talk, but I am unable to bring myself to say anything to my partner. We sit in silence for a few minutes before Monika and the doctor come back. The doctor has decided that if I go into active labour tonight and give birth before the appointment we made for the next day at 12:30, then Monika can attend me at home. Yes!
I have hope again for my home birth! I want to go home so I can get my birthy vibes going, but the hospital want to continue to monitor me, as my baby’s heart rate has not yet met the needed ‚criteria‘ to leave, even though everything looks fine.
By this time it is 1pm and my partner has to leave for an appointment of his own so he sends for my sister and his sister to keep me company while we wait for the monitoring. We don’t talk much as I am stressed; I don’t enjoy being in hospital and am anxious to leave.
Another two hours pass with me stuck uncomfortably in the chair and they still don’t have what they need so they decide to send me to have some lunch as I have not eaten all day and this is most likely effecting the results.
By this time it is 3pm and my partner is back, so the sisters leave us and we go to a local cafe by the beach and eat our last lunch out together as a family of two, I am still having contractions every 6-8 minutes. We return to hospital and I get hooked back up on the machine, 1 hour later a kind male doctor checks the monitor and tells us everything looks great and we are finally free to leave. (At last!)
At home again
By this time is it 5:30pm and I feel like I have spent the entire day at hospital. We get home and I am determined to birth this baby before our appointment in the morning: I bounce on my yoga ball, squat and do spinning babies exercises to help baby engage deeper in the pelvis.
The 40-60 second surges come all afternoon every 4-6 minutes. I now have to concentrate and breath through them. My partner Gaj is amazingly supportive, keeping me hydrated, feeding me snacks, rubbing my back and applying counter pressure as well as filling the birth pool.
I start to make some noise through my contractions as they take up all of my concentration; I no longer feel comfortable on my birth ball during a contraction and instead stand or walk through them. Hours pass by and the birth pool is finally full enough for me to get in; Gaj pours in more hot water and the warmth is amazing. However, surprisingly the pain from the contractions become heightened in the water: I need to stand and I get out after only 15 minutes.
The hours drag by and at 3am, when I realise that this baby is not coming tonight, I find I have to call Monika for some reassurance. My stress is causing me to lose control of my breathing and she helps me breath through a contraction and her words calm me down. She tells me that I am probably still in early labour and to just keep riding it out and to call her back if I want her to come and check how things are progressing.
After my phone call with Monika my contractions slow down slightly; I believe this is my body telling me to finally try get some rest. I manage to get a couple of hours of broken sleep in a chair my grandfather made and my partner gets some sleep too.
At 8:30am my partner is still asleep and I have been labouring in our living room for a few hours on my own. I finally text Monika: I want her to come and check if anything has progressed.
Monika arrives and I immediately break down crying. I am exhausted but I feel in my heart that my body is birthing my baby today, I want nothing less than another trip to the hospital for monitoring and I am still trying to come to terms with possibly not birthing in the comfort and safety of my home. I feel like my labour is progressing exactly how it should be and I don’t understand why we have to interfere with it.
I know that Monika’s hands are tied and she has to follow the hospitals guidelines but I just need to get everything off my chest. She listens to me and suggests we do a vaginal check to see how I am progressing. I didn’t plan to get any vaginal checks but I feel like I need SOMETHING to happen as my time was quickly running out to have a home birth.
So I agree. She checks me, I am happy to find I am about 5cm dilated, progressing perfectly just like I thought. She suggests we go into the hospital for monitoring sooner rather than later so I am not left wondering all morning what the results will be, I agree that this is a good idea.
Back at hospital
I have some breakfast, wake Gaj and we arrive at the hospital at 10am for monitoring. We get what we need from the heart rate monitoring machine within 30 minutes (phew!) and now my contractions are showing up on the monitor every 5 minutes. We then have a doctor come in to do another ultrasound, I am hoping so badly for good news. It is not the news I was hoping to hear: he tells me that the amniotic fluid levels are even less than yesterday and that I will not be having my home birth unless I do it alone (which I was not at all mentally prepared for).
He tells me that the baby is barely in the pelvis, that he could probably push the head out with his hand if he wanted to and he suspects that my labour will be very long and that, as a first time mother, he thinks I won’t be able to do it alone without some form of medical assistance. I ask again about the birth centre but he says that they will want to do continuous monitoring throughout my labour and they don’t have those kinds of facilities in the birthing centre, he also told me that he suspects I will want the epidural (even though I planned for a completely natural birth) and they cannot administer that in the birth centre either.
I am in tears at this point, I feel like I have failed my baby and my partner, and I cannot come to terms with birthing in the hospital. The doctor is really getting on my nerves as he keeps trying to ask me questions through contractions and his words were the opposite of encouraging. The doctor leaves and Monika let’s us have some privacy. I look around the room, possibly one that I will now be birthing in and sink into a chair in the corner crying. I am still having contractions every 5 minutes and at this point they are incredible painful. I breath through them between sobs as my partner comforts me. He tells me that he will be here for me no matter what and that we can make it work. He is such a great support.
Going to the birth centre
I still have not accepted what is happening and cannot bring myself to think about it. At this point I just want to sink into the chair and disappear. Monika comes back into the room 15 minutes later and there is a female doctor behind her. What comes next is the best news I had heard all week! The doctor tells me that they have looked hard at my situation and would I be open to possibility of birthing in the birth centre if I agree to let them listen to baby’s heart every 15 minutes.
A new wave of tears rushes out of me but this time they are happy tears, all I can say is ‚thank you‘. 10 minutes later we are settling into our room at the birth centre. It is not home but we will make it our own. There is a queen-size bed at one side, a large spa bath at the other; there is a lounge, birth ball, oil burner and kitchen facilities. It has a bathroom with endless hot water and an outdoor courtyard so I can escape the cold air conditioning.
I almost immediately undress and get in the shower to stand under the hot water. When we left this morning we were not expecting to be staying so we did not bring anything with us and the baby seat isn’t even in the car yet! I am busy zoning out to labour so Gaj organises everything while I stand in the shower.
He goes home and collects clothes, nappies, snacks, camera, cord tie and everything else we could need. Monika goes home to get some sleep before things really pick up and we are left in the care of a gorgeous birth centre midwife named Emily.
I spend the next 9 hours mostly in the shower with my leg up on a chair squatting and every now and then walking around the outside courtyard squatting, in other words, getting down to business. Emily comes in every 15 minutes or so to listen to baby’s heart (which is incredibly uncomfortable) and rub my back (which is incredibly comfortable).
As the hours drag on I become more and more exhausted from lack of sleep and constant standing but I know I can’t rest, I know I have to keep upright to let gravity help bring the baby down. As a first time mum with a baby who is not engaged and a doctor who doubts my ability, I am working to my absolute limits to make this happen.
Finally, I have to lay down, I get on my side in bed and Gaj brings me water and sits next to me. I have a powerful contraction and suddenly I feel extremely nauseous and vomit all over the bed, Gaj is a bit shocked but the midwife is happy because she knows that this is a good sign that I am getting closer.
As soon as I finish vomiting I need to get back off the bed and into the shower; at this point I start feeling a lot more pressure and a slight pushing urge during my contractions. I reach down and feel the sack of unbroken waters about a finger deep. My contractions are very strong and I feel like I am involuntarily pushing during them. At this point I believe it is around about 10pm and Monika arrives to swap with Emily.
Monika gets me back onto the bed because we need to do more monitoring — much to my dismay. I am extremely uncomfortable in the bed and need to be on my side. She straps the bands around my belly and leaves the room, Gaj sits next to me with water and supports me through the next contraction. My body is now pushing during every contraction and I feel like I need to poo so badly. I reach down and feel my sac of waters bulging out like a balloon. I get Gaj to take a photo so I can see, there it is!
Another trip to hospital?
I can’t believe our baby is so close to being here! After all the labour, it feels so sudden. Monika comes back in and looks at the monitor, baby’s heart rate goes right down during the next contraction and she can see there is meconium in the sac of waters, she tells Gaj that this stage of birth can take some time and we need to transfer up to the hospital and get medical assistance because baby needs to come out NOW.
Monika calls the hospital to let them know that we would be transferring up. As I listen to this I freak out internally; I know that I would not be moving anywhere and I am making sure of that. With the next contraction, I voluntarily push and baby’s head starts crowning. Monika quickly calls the hospital back to let them know that actually, they will need to come to us because this baby is coming NOW.
Although I am so close to birthing my baby, I am still aware as to what is happening around me, my pillow and my hair is soaked with sweat, I am on my left side with my right foot pushing against my partners hip and my left foot pushing against Monika. The monitor on my belly is extremely uncomfortable and I want to take it off. The cold air from the air conditioner doesn’t feel nice on my perineum, I remember reading about hot compresses and ask Monika if she has them — she does! The hot compress on my perineum is heavenly.
I ask Gaj if there is hair, „yes, there’s black hair!“ As my next contraction comes, a few people enter the room and start moving around me getting ready in case me or my baby need assistance after the birth. Suddenly my calm birth space is filled with people! But I take no notice as I focus on birthing my baby. With the next contraction and a hard push from me, my baby’s head is born. I reach down eagerly to grab my baby. „Not yet! The body isn’t born yet!“
A minute passes and with my next contraction, at 10:23pm, my baby is born into my arms. Monika lifts him up slightly to my hands, I catch him and bring him straight to my chest. I lift a leg and look to Gaj „we have a beautiful baby boy!“. I notice his face looks funny, like he is an old-school bank robber with a stocking in his head, or a condom… He was born en caul, with the amniotic sac covering his head.
As Monika peels it off his face he lets out a big cry and looks me right in the eye. I am rubbing his back and laughing and crying, what a relief! It is the best feeling in the world. I can see Gaj smiling over us and crying happy tears. I look at our baby boy, he has an ear folded in half, he looks like a little elf!
I know immediately what his name is. I look down at his beautiful pulsing umbilical cord already turning white. At his 10 little fingers and his 10 little toes. His sweet round face and his button nose. I am trying to take everything about him in, he is so perfect.
After his first loud cry he seems to be having some trouble breathing as fast as the medical team would like, Monika tells me to blow on his face and rubs the back of his neck with a towel. He continues gurgling, this continues for a few minutes and although I believe he would have worked it out on his own, I think the medical team was a bit on edge due to the meconium stained waters.
A kind doctor asks for permission to put a breathing mask on him to give him a hand. He took great consideration in getting my consent to hold my baby. I agree to it and he wears the mask for a couple of minutes before we take it off to see how he goes. At this point I feel a huge warm gush like I would imagine it would have felt to have my water break, a haemorrhage.
Monika springs into action, I hardly notice what is happening down below as I swoon over my beautiful baby. My original plan was to birth my placenta physiologically but Monika tells me that in the current situation she would recommend a shot of pitocin and to have an actively managed placenta birth. I try to consider the circumstances but at this point I don’t have the capacity to think about anything other than my baby and agree to it. Another midwife gives me the shot in my leg. Monika tells me that this means we unfortunately have to clamp and cut the cord, I check that it has turned white and floppy and has finished its job. Although I originally planned to wait until after the placenta was born to cut the cord I can see it has finished transferring the rest of his blood back into his body so I agree to cut it now in order to keep me safe. I am just happy that my baby is finally here.
While Monika attends to the birth of my placenta, my baby boy is still having some trouble breathing so I agree to let the doctor give him some extra help on a table next to me and he consequently pees over all of their new equipment! Gaj keeps close to him and talks to him while the midwives attend to my bleeding. Monika pushes hard on my stomach, it is extremely uncomfortable but the haemorrhage has stopped quickly and is under control. My baby is handed back to me and Gaj joins me on the bed, we look at each other and then back to him. Our little Mowgli. I knew he was Mowgli as soon as I saw his face. He is perfect in every way.
Now that the bleeding is under control, Monika has a look down below and recommends I get a couple of stitches for a small graze that was continuing to bleed and a tear in my labia. After some careful consideration I agree. Getting stitches next to my clitoris is by far the most uncomfortable experience I have gone through and in future births I have decided to let any tears heal naturally. Mowgli attaches and breastfeeds perfectly and has a big feed.
We wipe his legs down with a cloth as he has meconium all through his toes and all over me. Gaj gets the handmade crochet cord tie and we tie off his umbilical cord and remove the metal clamp. One of the midwives who entered the room during my birth comes over to congratulate me before she leaves. She tells me I probably don’t recognise her but she regularly buys sorbets off me at the markets and remembers me being heavily pregnant the last time she saw me there! What a lovely coincidence, we live in such a small city I don’t know why I was surprised that someone in my birth team recognised me from the local markets I work at. It doesn’t stop there, the next midwife to say good bye happened to go to the same boxing gym as Gaj! Finally the doctor who helped Mowgli’s breathing comes over and tells me that Mowgli is doing perfectly and would not need any more help; he too leaves.
We sit together as a new family for a few hours just cuddling and taking in our baby. Monika shows me my beautiful placenta and does some gorgeous placenta prints for me before putting it in the fridge so that I can encapsulate it later. Now it is time to weigh and measure Mowgli! We all have a hold and put our guesses in, Monika guesses 3.5kg, I guess 3.6kg and Gaj guesses 3.7kg…he’s 3.7kg! Gaj is right on the mark. His head circumference is 35cm and he is 50cm long. Everything else about his newborn exam is perfect. Me and Gaj put him in his first cloth nappy. A red one. Monika leaves us alone to do some paper work and I call my mum, dad, sister and my grandma. Gaj calls his parents and his sister as well. Everyone has been on edge waiting for the news for the last few days and it feels so good to finally be telling them about Mowgli’s arrival.
Due to my haemorrhage we are advised to transfer to the hospital for observation overnight, so finally, after nearly 5 hours snuggling together, I get out of bed and pass Mowgli to Gaj. He puts him skin to skin and cuddles him while I have an amazing warm shower. I did it. I DID IT! During my shower I sing ‚feeling good‘ by Nina Simone; I am so high on love hormones, I am the happiest woman alive.
Everything that happened during my birth happened with my fully informed consent and permission. My birth was nothing like I had planned, but it was perfect in it’s own way and it taught me a lot, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Mowgli Gwyn. You are loved.