My husband Ebbe says it was a non-birth. This birth lacked the element of struggle that characterised my two previous births – as did the pregnancy.The mountain was not so steep, the top not so high, no big fall afterwards….
In the days leading up to the birth, when I would get scared or nervous, I would come back to the same thought: get out of the way. Put my self to the side and let my body open up and let this sweet little girl slip out and into the world. No attempt to control the process, only deep acceptance of whatever happened along the way.
The start was slow and gradual. I could usually resist the temptation to time the contractions, though I wasn’t immune to the building excitement that my time was getting close. Most evenings I would enjoy regular contractions for a couple hours or so, nice and mellow. The Saturday before my due date, I couldn’t sleep through them anymore, got up to enjoy the silence of the sleeping house and relish the thought that this may be the day. It turned out not to be, but was a joyful day together with our family of four, knowing the birth was near. Conversations with Dorthe in the morning, and Ditte in the evening, were a great support.
My due date on Monday came and went, and on Wednesday morning I had bloody show. Big sister-to-be Ea was under the weather and Ebbe stayed home with us. Contractions came and went throughout the morning, stalling when Ebbe popped out and I was alone with Ea, picking up again when he got home… so he and Ea went to pick up big brother Halfdan, and I called Marta and asked for company, then walked around a bit in the backyard and just relaxed… the contractions slowed down a bit while I waited.
When Marta arrived, she checked me and I was two centimeters dialated, but she could easily stretch me to 5 – nice and soft, just needing some longer contractions close together, so the pressure of the baby’s head could open me up. She suggested we go for a walk, which was a great idea.
Ebbe and I had gone for walks during Halfdan’s and Ea’s births, and this time it was lovely to have my own midwife join me for the walk. We chatted about birth, Marta suggested I breath laterally (big help!), and she stood guard when I stopped during contractions, closing my eyes and doing tiny figure eights with my hips – and breathing laterally.
It was funny to say hi to people I knew as we walked home, it was around 4:30 and everyone was on their way home from school and work.
Back at home, Marta gave me a rebozo treatment. I rolled out my yoga mat on the warm kitchen floor and put on the playlist I’d heard during Ea’s birth… then a new song I’d added ruined the mood and Marta suggested I change the music, so I put on Natalie Merchant, and Marta continued until I was so relaxed I took a nap right on the kitchen floor.
My contractions had stalled, so Marta suggested that I have a bite to eat and lie down to rest. Dorthe lives closeby, so Marta went to her house for dinner, and told me she’d stay the night, and just to call whenever I needed her.
It was around 7 when Marta left. I said hi to my kids, Ebbe made me a smoothie, I drank it up, and went to bed — thankful to have more time to rest, maybe even a whole night’s worth, sure that contractions would start again whenever they were meant to.
A little before 9pm the contractions started coming regularly again, and soon I was adding sound to get through them. When I asked Ebbe to keep time, he’d just started doing so, as he could hear me from out in the living room (where he was just settling in for a movie). I called Marta at 9:11 and she suggested that I get in the shower and Ebbe start filling the bath tub… so much for that movie Marta was on her way.
The shower felt great, I made lots of noise and washed my hair but decided against the temptation of shaving my legs – probably would’ve scratched myself! When I went upstairs again, Marta had arrived. I said a quick hello as I looked around for what I would lean on when the next contraction hit. Marta settled in at the kitchen table and I sat on the steps talking to her for a bit. She suggested I get in the tub even though it wasn’t all the way full. I was worried about going in too early, like I’d done during Ea’s birth, but Marta said I could always just get out again.
I went in the bathroom to pee before getting into the tub. The contractions kept coming, they required all my attention. I was doing fine but couldn’t get back up on my own – I had no motivation to move – luckily Marta sent Ebbe in for me. We came back to the kitchen where I slid into the tub and it felt heavenly! The inflatable bottom and sides provided a nice cushioney surrounding, and the warm water eased the tension that I hadn’t been aware of in my lower back.
So I sat in the tub and contractions kept coming, I stayed with them fully when they were there (sometimes stretching my body out long, other times thrashing around against the soft sides of the tub) and indulged fully in the peace in between.
Marta suggested Ebbe take a picture of me in my ‘mermaid’ position, I remember thinking how I was smiling and must not look like someone in labor, but when looking at the photo it is not exactly a smile and I do indeed look to be in labor. Despite the concentrated state I was in, I did feel smiley and relaxed on the inside.
When the tub was all the way full, Ebbe came and sat by me, and Marta suggested that we kiss between contractions. I was prepared for this as it had been discussed several times at birth preparation, that kissing and opening the jaw can help open the cervix, and it was lovely to have that closeness with Ebbe at that time. Also so nice to have something that surprised him and brought some fun into the birth for both of us. My memories of labor are very pleasant. I managed not to fight against the contractions or have any anger that they were happening; I actually managed to get my self out of the way.
I heard Marta on the phone, calling Ditte to come be the second midwife. Knowing the second is usually there for the birth, I interpreted the one phrase I actually heard of the conversation, “stille og roligt”, to mean that I may still have a long ways to go. Which seemed kind of wild, the way the contractions were so intense through my whole body, but I could accept it.
When a feeling snuck in along the lines of maybe I can’t do this, maybe it’s all too much, I thought… wow maybe I’m already in transition. Marta suggested that I feel the baby’s head. When this was suggested during Ea’s birth my answer was a flat ‘no’ — but I’d signed up with Maia just the day before Ea’s due date and hadn’t been to any birth preparation, so it was a new idea for me at that time. This time it had been discussed several times, so I was open, and it was so amazing to feel the head inside me.
I remember saying, ‘she doesn’t have any hair!’, and then Marta reminded me that my water had not yet broke. Marta checked me and confirmed i was fully dialated. It is so cool to now know what that feels like since I actually felt it myself.
In my previous births, my favorite part was pushing full speed ahead at this point, excited for it all to be over and a little creeped out at the thought of my bones spreading apart to let baby through. This time, I had the intention of approaching the pushing more softly.
Marta suggested that I feel the baby’s head so that I could feel the pushing from both inside and out. I felt between contractions and could feel that the head had moved down a bit, and then she suggested that I feel during a contraction. It was wild to feel the head move inside me. I couldn’t keep my hand on for the full contraction, but could clearly feel the head move down, and then checking after the contraction, it was a little further back again.This contact with my baby’s head made the pushing such a fascinating and powerful experience.
Soon the head was pushing at the very outer limits, stretching me, I thought of the ring of fire and was a little fascinated that it could burn in the water.
Very intense, that feeling of the head nudging out and wanting to pop through the last tight barrier. During one big push I felt the water break, and actually spoke to report this had happened (as if they couldn’t tell?). Somewhere in here Marta’s voice cut through the fog and she told me to let the baby turn around, I held back with all my strength — probably the most difficult part of the birth!! – I felt like I didn’t manage to hold back much, but Marta said later I’d done great. After the head popped out, I reached down and felt her fuzzy hair and tiny face down between my legs. Absolutely amazing to have contact with her at this point in the birth, not waiting for the big moment when she was out but enjoying each little step along the way.
Those first touches are by far the most powerful memories of this birth, and touching her sweet baby head in the days and weeks after would often bring me back to those memories.
Baby’s head between my legs, Marta told me to move backward in the tub. Apparently I’d been resting all my weight on the inflatable side and she was worried we might flood the kitchen! I was oblivious… when I moved back, the rest of the baby gushed right out of me into the water. I took her up out of the water slowly, leaned back, and we had a little wave of water — I remember feeling so bad! — but she was fine, beautiful, perfect. Her eyes were open and we just looked at each other for a very long time.
Maya was born at 22:22, only 1 hour and 11 minutes after I called Marta. I’m still amazed that it went so fast! Just moments after Maya was born, Ebbe went to get Halfdan and Ea, and they came down and stood by the tub looking on. They were so sleepy! And very happy. I didn’t take my eyes off Maya, we were locked into each other… Marta suggested I let Maya float out in the water, she was so comfortable — in her element — and looking up at her adoring family. Her eyes were dark and liquid.Soon the kids went back to bed, happy and tired. Maya fussed a tiny bit and calmed immediately when I flicked my nipple into her mouth.
We stayed in the tub a good hour — the majority of my time in the tub being spent after the birth! Ditte arrived during that time and it was lovely to have her company as well. Marta and Ebbe would pour water over my chest and Maya, keeping us warm… it was a litte challenging to keep her tiny body under the water and her head above. When we were ready to get out, Marta helped me out to a nest closeby, and helped coax the placenta out. After it was delivered, Marta helped Ebbe cut her cord. Ebbe heated up some pumpkin soup and we all had some of that, as well as some champagne to celebrate!