This is doubtlessly the first reason why I had this 3rd child: I had not yet succeeded in living a birth serenely and without fear.
(A second reason behind the arrival of this baby being the discovery that there is a fine line between leaving your baby crying and letting yourself be submerged by him or her. It is a question of respect for baby’s needs and rhythms (again!) and decoding its language. I shall talk about this in a future article.)
There is no denying that my other deliveries went exactly as I wanted, in the privacy of my house, surrounded by people I love and in water. And without complications. But not that serenely.
Flash-back to my first two childbirths
During my first pregnancy, I prepared myself diligently with my midwife or rather “mid-husband”, Jo, who visited me regularly during the pregnancy to talk about the chain of events on D-day. Also, I had taken a series of pre-natal yoga classes where we were prepared in how to accept and deal with the “usual” pains associated with giving birth.
“Usual” in inverted commas because these pains vary a lot from one woman to another according to each one’s level of tolerance, the length of time taken to give birth, her mental preparedness and all the circumstances of the birth.
But my first delivery was long, very long and difficult. More than 36 hours with contractions very close together for the final 20 hours. After 24 hours I was so exhausted that I asked to be taken to hospital.
Rather than that, though, Jo called another midwife who came in support complete with plants to be drunk as a herbal remedy which provoked the breaking of my waters. Then, when finally the urge to push came upon me, more than 2 hours went by with baby’s head on the point of coming out. This gave rise to strong feelings of being burnt.
From the outset, I was full of fear of not succeeding, fear provoked by these pains which were nothing like any pains I had suffered before, and a blind panic that by pushing, I was going to rip my insides up.
Finally, 37 hours after the 1st contraction, baby (Maxou) came out to the great joy of all present (including my friend Yasmin who was pregnant with twins and subject to the nausea and vomiting typical of the first three months).
I swore that never would I go through that again. And Maxi, my partner, who certainly came out of it more traumatized than me by this experience, took me at my word.
Two years later, and I fell pregnant again. The same month that I stopped breast-feeding during the night.
This time the birth was over in 2 hours, quicker than that, impossible. Well, that is what I thought.
We were getting ready to go out for breakfast like every Sunday when I had a sudden urge to go to the toilet, several times in a row. I first thought that I had eaten something I shouldn’t have the previous night. Then, suddenly, a first strong contraction. Followed closely afterwards by a second. I waited a while before phoning Jo, the midwife, reasoning that it surely couldn’t be for straight away.
However, the contractions started coming one after the other. I called Jo and I asked Maxi to fill the birthing pool, the same that I had used before but this time in the garden (not enough room in the present house and being June the weather was very warm).
I got in the bath, the contractions becoming stronger and stronger and closer together. I didn’t for the life of me want to give birth before Jo got there. I was too afraid of doing it alone (without professional help) after the first experience nearly three years earlier. I wanted to push but I held myself back and I asked Maxi to call the neighbour.
Martine arrived quickly and looked after Maxou while Maxi lent me his arm which I held on to fiercely at each contraction.
At last Jo arrived and the urge to push became suddenly irrepressible. Twenty minutes later baby (Ulysses) came out. Several pushes were needed, again the feeling of burning when the head came out but finally it was very much easier than what I remembered from the first time. Phew!
Now, that is it, two children is perfect. We won’t start that again: I promise, I swear, I spit on it!!
Two years later, I became pregnant again.
Two years to the day, again, just when I stopped breastfeeding at night, like last time!!
It was a surprise. A surprise that made me euphoric: it was incredible to be so happy to start again! I was so overexcited that as soon as the test confirmed it, I told the whole world! Two weeks later – a miscarriage. Oh well and there you are, life continues on its path.
Except that now it was no longer possible to empty my head, or rather my body, of this yearning to have a 3rd. It is mad, human biology, this need to reproduce in spite of everything. For with two we already had quite enough work. Far from our families, far from big towns, crèches, and other infrastructures for children, and with a fluctuating economy, we both agree: it is not reasonable.
But this desire is so strong that biology wins the fight with reason and six months later, here we go again. This time the 3rd held tight.
To begin with, I considered giving birth in “public”, I invited several interested people to come and watch. Not to help me, just to see “a live” birth.
Then, as the date approached, completely different images invaded my mind. I saw myself giving birth at night, so quickly that I was alone with Maxi, our two other children asleep. I saw the birth taking place in the bath (we no longer had a birthing pool and besides, I didn’t see my having the time to fill it).
This time I know that I can do it without Jo; he wrote me a list of all the different risks and what to do and I am full of confidence. This time I am not afraid.
As the date approaches, this vision becomes clearer and clearer. The final week, I feel a strong pressure on the perineum. The slightest effort is a struggle. I climb the slope which separates the car from our front door with difficulty. I cannot wait for baby to be born!
Then one evening, I conclude the launch of my blog, the house is straight, baby’s things are ready and waiting and I feel ready. I go to sleep at midnight with a strange mixed feeling of excitement and worry. It is for tonight, I am sure.
I fall asleep while talking to baby: “you are about to come out, aren’t you?” “you will see, your birth will be fine”, “in a short while we shall see your little kisser”.
Two hours later, I wake up, my heart beating hard, with a feeling of urgency: I have to get ready, I go into the bathroom and get the bath towels out, I spread a waterproof sheet on the sofa, I clean the bath tub. Then, with no more signs, I go back to sleep.
At 3:50 a strong pain wakes me, here we are, the first contraction! And the urge to go to the toilet, once, twice, thrice, I lose count. I send a message to Jo so he can prepare himself at his leisure. He lives an hour away, but surely I have the time. Maxi wakes up and sees the living room ready for the arrival of our little one. I tell him that everything is ok, that he can go back to bed, I will call him.
Five minutes later, the contractions are suddenly so strong that I start the breathing exercises learnt at pre-natal classes. Breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly, during several seconds while making a deep sound (to avoid blocking one’s breathing). Keep repeating until the end of the contraction. Some women do the exercise counting seconds. In our class we pronounced the five vowels of the alphabet. These five breaths are generally sufficient to cover a contraction.
Maxi hears me, gets up and dresses. Finally, the wait is over! I make several return trips between the toilet and the bathroom. I make sure that the water is at the right temperature to be able to enter without notice.
The contractions become too close together. I ask Maxi to bring me a bucket so I can empty my bowels for I can no longer go to the WC, too taken up with my five vowels.
Then, suddenly, a contraction stronger than all the others, together with a huge husky cry that I just can’t hold back (wow, the children didn’t wake up!!) and an irrepressible urge to push.
I then step over into the bath, still dressed in my pyjama top.
At that moment I hear a “plop”: my waters have probably just broken.
A new violent urge to push, a new loud cry; I feel around with my fingers: it feels like the head! Another superhuman push and yes, the head is out!
“Maxi, the head is out!”
“Yes!! Hold it!!”
I push a last time and there is baby, this miracle of life, this tiny being unreal up to now, coming out in the flesh.
It might be the 3rd time; this moment is always just as moving and incredible. Unthinkable. How can nature do things so well? We remain speechless in amazement in front of this little creature the most perfect and the most wonderful in the world.
So it is finished? Already? Maxi looks at the time: 4:20. The whole process has taken half an hour.
He phones Jo: “the baby is out! what do we do?”
Jo asks us to judge the amount of bleeding, which isn’t easy as I am in the bath. The water is quite red but not opaque, and I feel fine. So, nothing to worry about. The umbilical cord can wait. The expulsion of the placenta as well.
Fine, I climb out of the bath, baby in my arms, still attached to me, while leaning on Maxi. He helps me walk to the lounge where I install myself in the sofa while waiting for Jo.
He knocks on the door 40 minutes later. We turn the lights on and say hello, which wakes the children up! First Maxou, quite astonished by the voices and bright lights. He greets Thibault, his face lit up with a huge smile.
Then it is Ulysses’ turn to appear and to be surprised: not a word but his face and his smile speak louder than words. Magical! As soon as the umbilical cord is cut and the baby examined by Jo, Ulysses cannot wait to take his little brother in his arms.
In the meantime, I place myself in the position to expel the placenta, squatting on a bath towel. The contractions which accompany the expulsion don’t make me wait. And there! The last stage of the birth is completed.
All of us tired by the event and the nocturnal waking, we give thanks to Jo and return to bed.
I thank god that I had three pregnancies “without risk” and three childbirths without problems. Each time, baby placed himself head down several weeks before the due date. Also, I didn’t need stitches or other surgical intervention before, during or after the babies’ arrivals.
But I think that it isn’t just luck. I am surrounded by wonderful people, from the beginning I have enjoyed the confident and unconditional support of my partner in spite of any doubts that he or those close to us could have. I live in an environment that I love, in the middle of nature, in the calm, and I was able to stop working during these periods.
All that, as well as my state of mind, my absolute certainty that everything had to and would turn out well, my conviction that I would be better off at home than in hospital, the fact that I manage to visualise my births (especially the 3rd), not forgetting without any doubt that my healthy eating and my daily physical exercise (because of where we live) all made a big contribution, I think, to the smooth running of my pregnancies and births.
[Translated from French by Arthur F. Hayden]
I’d love to read other people’s experiences, so feel free to leave me a message below!