Monique's Birth Story
A BIRTH THAT TAUGHT ME THE PATIENCE AND DETERMINATION OF MAMAS.
I believe strongly that birth has the ability to always teach us something. For Monique, it was patience.
It is well known that the last few weeks of pregnancy feel never ending. For most new mothers, because they have never physically or mentally experienced something like birth yet, it is hard to explain to them just how long those last weeks of pregnancy will feel, and just how much it will test their patience.
By week 38 of pregnancy, you find yourself pondering when your little one will arrive. We are told our due dates (that apparently optimal 40 week mark), and our whole pregnancy is focused around this date. But we often forget that babies don’t look at calendars. They don’t follow schedules, nor do they own diaries or an event countdown app. Babies, like mothers, are unique. They follow their own set of rules. Their own set of guidelines. Their own timeline. Their own “due date”. But unfortunately our society forgets this, and mothers find themselves constantly bombarded by the concept of being “due”.
For Monique, this was a true and strong display of patience. I remember at one of her midwife appointments, Monique stating that she felt in her gut that this baby would arrive early. But her little girl had her own cheeky plans.
38 weeks passed, then 39. 40 weeks came around, and Monique continued to be pregnant. Choosing to have a home birth with a community midwife, Monique trusted in the physiology of pregnancy and birth. She understood her body and baby knew what to do, and tried not to focus on the ‘when’ of birth, and instead focus on preparing her mind and body for whenever her baby decided it was ready to enter the world.
By 41 weeks, I suggested one of my natural induction sessions, to help release any physical and mental blocks that may be hiding. Often when a mum’s patience is tested in those last days of pregnancy, their body becomes tight and tense and their mind becomes busy and cluttered. Using a mixture of massage, meditation, acupressure points, fear release journal writing and some Rebozo body work, Monique was able to relax her body and find the strength and courage to open herself up and let go of her fears and worries (some she didn’t even realise she had). With a new found weight lifted from her shoulders, Monique was able to go deep within and solely trust in her body and allow her baby to call the shots in when she would arrive.
Making the informed decision to also have a stretch and sweep and book in an induction at the hospital on her 42nd week, Monique continued to wait for signs of labour. Although Monique was determined to have a physiological birth, sometimes in takes the act of booking the induction in, for women’s bodies to fully relax and allow things to happen. Sensing her mum’s calm and readiness to meet her, Monique’s cheeky baby girl decided her birth date was going to be a day before 42 weeks.
In the early hours of the morning, I arrived at Monique’s house ready to support her as her doula. Meeting her partner at the door, I could see already in his face a hint of excitement. Finally the day has arrived, his face subtly read. Although tired, Monique’s partner calmly and patiently lead me to their quiet, dark bedroom. Under the warm soft glow of her salt lamp, Monique lay on her side peacefully labouring. She may not have felt it, but as a doula I always watch closely at my surroundings during birth, and saw Monique as calm and confident.
Her eyes softly closed and wearing an oversized T-shirt, Monique allowed her body to go through the contractions one at a time. Each one stronger than the last, and bringing her closer to her baby. Using light touch massage and an essential oil spray, I quietly encouraged her in between contractions. “Let it all go” and “This is all for a purpose" I reminded her. We had previously discussed what Monique wanted me to focus on when she was in labour, and she resonated with the concept that labour pain has a purpose - that purpose being her baby.
As each contraction got stronger, Monique searched for different things to help support her. Squeezing her partner's hand, stretching out and stiffening her legs, shaking her hands out in front of her, holding a hot water bottle to her belly and letting out deep animalistic moans, was Monique’s labour dance. It always fascinates me what each woman will find herself doing to support her in labour. Sometimes you can predict how you might cope, other times you will do something out of pure instinct. The main thing is to let it happen. Don’t hold back, or see it as weird. This is labour and birth.
Needing to relieve herself on the toilet, I suggested using the shower. Monique wanted to labour in the birth pool, but at the advice of her midwife, she needed to be patient and wait till labour had progressed further. So the shower was the next best thing - warmth, water and the chance to be upright. But although the water was soothing for Monique the shower was small and uncomfortable and she found herself instinctively wanting to lie on her side instead.
By 8am Monique’s midwife arrived and you could feel Monique relax further. Her whole birth team had now arrived. It was time to let things ramp up further. Doing all the necessary checks, baby and mum were found to be happy and healthy, and encouraged to go back into the shower or sit on the toilet. Monique’s waters had released by this stage and signs of transition were emerging. For those of you who don’t know what transition is like, it often displays itself in birthing women as a sudden change in behaviour or mood. For Monique she started showing signs of frustration, questioning when her baby would arrive, and rightly so. Monique had patiently been waiting 294 days to meet her baby in the flesh. Any mum would start to waiver in patience by this stage.
Forever by her side, Monique’s partner reassured her everything was going smoothly and she will meet her baby soon. We often forget about the partner in birth, and how much strength they need to witness birth. Taking her frustration out by hitting and squeezing her partner’s hands and arms, Monique started to make different sounds. Grunting with the urge to suddenly push, her midwife asked if she could check her cervix again. With relief Monique was fully dilated and her midwife hurriedly called her second (back up midwife) to join.
Finally in the warmth of the birth pool, Monique leant forward with her head resting on her partner. Feeling the urge to push further, she was encouraged to go with her body. But forever cheeky, Monique’s baby didn’t like the water and her heart rate slowed, telling her mum to get back onto her side on the couch.
With the baby’s heart rate back to normal again, and both midwives there, everyone laughed about how cheeky this little girl was. The atmosphere in the room changed from quiet and calm, to fun and energetic. Let’s meet our baby, was what I witnessed in both parents eyes. Their patience was on the edge of the cliff, but still Monique had some work to do.
Often, we focus on the labour and forget about the actual birth. That final stage where the baby is pushed through the pelvis, out the birth canal and into mums (or dads) arms. Sometimes this comes easy and quick, and sometimes it requires long hard focus. For those who have experienced the feeling of pushing out a baby, it is quite hard to explain to those who haven’t felt it. Pushing out a poo, is the best description most people come up with. But how do we actually do that? How do you push something that your body does naturally? And most of the time we are busy doing something else on the toilet (like scrolling on our phones) to focus on what parts are doing the pushing and how. So, like many women before her, Monique took a while to figure out how to push properly. Which is okay. But by this stage, most women are exhausted and find it hard to muster that last bit of energy to push. But with careful guidance from her midwife, Monique finally was pushing ‘into her bum’ instead of into her tummy. But again this cheeky baby, wanted her parents to wait patiently.
In order to stretch the perineum, birth is well designed to allow baby’s head to pop in and out slightly. As more head slowly emerges, more stretch is created to allow more room. Monique’s baby was doing this oh so slightly. A little bit of hair kept emerging and then disappearing. You could sense that the midwives were getting nervous about the time, and eventually discovered that Monique’s pelvic floor was holding baby back. With the threat of having to transfer to hospital (something no one wanted to have to do), Monique mustered every last bit of strength to relax her pelvic floor and push her baby out. And like that, Monique’s beautiful baby girl's head popped out, followed by her slippery body.
Obviously, as exhausted as her mum, baby was slightly purple and finding it hard to breathe. I am always in awe of the work of midwives, of how quickly the midwives worked to rub her body and suction mucus from her nose. Watching the parents, I know that it must’ve felt like hours waiting to hear their baby’s cries. But to me, not once did the situation feel out of the skilled home birth midwives control. And within seconds, baby was crying out for mum. And what a cry it was! Finally, after months and months of patiently waiting, Monique and her partner were able to welcome their baby girl to the world.
So another day, another birth, another baby born. Another mother who has taught me something about birth - that your patience will be tested, but by god what a good reward that patience will bring.