|Thank you so much for your wonderful workshop. We had a beautiful
birth at home. Our daughter was born on June 15, 2002.
Here is our story:
I went swimming on Friday, 40 laps, and felt really tired afterwards.
It was three days before my due date and, because my belly was very small,
we expected our baby to arrive late. That night I watched a romantic
movie: sleepless in Seattle, on TV, and went to bed at 11 pm. Feeling good
That night at 1:30 am I woke up because of wetness. I went to the
toilet and pink-red blood and lots of water came out. I was still very
sleepy and was relieved to see that the water was clear. I did not want to
wake up my partner, so went to bed again, but then lost so much water that
I had to tell him, as our bed did not have any plastic covers yet. So in
the middle of the night we put the plastic cover around the bed, and went
back in again. I used my maternity pads and went to the toilet several
times. I wondered when contractions would start, and 30 minutes later I
felt my first. I was a bit excited and told my partner: "My first
contraction, so this is how it feels!" It felt natural, like period pain
and like muscle cramps. I also felt a bit of back pain, and as I lay in
bed I massaged my back with my hands, which helped.
I remembered your course: "Be patient and conserve energy"! (You had
showed us a video of a woman that had stayed up all night with only mild
contractions.) Thank you so much for that advice.
The contractions became stronger and I was still leaking, so I was
going to and from the toilet and bed all the time, and started to make
noises. We decided that my partner would sleep somewhere else, so he would
get some rest, and I was fine. I was uncomfortable, but quite OK.
That night was lovely. It was cold, so I had to get into the warm bed
between contractions, which felt really cosy and comfortable, I managed to
sleep a few minutes at a time. The contractions were awful, but very
short. I made noises and told my partner at 8 am in the morning when he
showed up again: "I have nowhere to go! Where do I go with this pain?" It
seemed like there was no relief valve. I can't imagine how anyone could
sit still during a contraction: I jumped out of bed, sat on the toilet,
stood up again, hanging on the handles of the shower door, back on the
toilet again, frantically moving to find a good position, but there wasn't
one, until the contraction died down, and then I would flop into the warm
bed. That sequence was repeated all night long.
In the morning we called our midwife. "Are the contractions regular?"
she asked. I didn't think so, and my partner started counting: "No". "Then
have a shower and call me when they are regular". The good thing about my
contractions was that they weren't regular. So the big ones hit me by
surprise, and there were always a few easy ones to empower me, to tell me
that I could handle this, then unexpectedly a big one would hit me, but I
could get through them.
I believed it was a bit early for the shower, but tried it anyway, and
loved it. To help prevent me from getting drowsy, because it was so
relaxing and I was tired from the night, I turned the tap colder and
colder, and finally had to get out. By that time my partner had set up the
birth pool, and I jumped into the pool, and loved that even more. The pool
was a great relief, and I was happy in my little spot in the water. I
asked him to call the midwife again and ask her to come over. She was
going to bring her kids back home and would be at our place in an
I expected her to come in, check me, and then go again, as I believed I
was still in early labour as the contractions did not feel regular at all.
Little did I know…I remember that then I started to ask my partner at what
time exactly she would arrive, was it half an hour, was it in 15 minutes?
I asked him several times, I was very keen for her to see me, really keen.
At that point I also felt the 'melon' pressing into my bottom, and boy, I
hated that feeling. It felt like all the muscles in my bottom were pulled
apart, it felt wrong, it felt like something wasn't right, I needed my
midwife. She finally arrived (midday), and talked to me and checked me.
She told me I was almost fully dilated and should follow my feelings.
My feelings: I was afraid - this pain sensation in my bottom was so
different from what I felt the last 5 hours, it felt wrong and I did not
want to push, because that made the pain stronger, - no way !! I expressed
my concerns to her. She, in the mean time had her own concerns (because
the baby was not far from being born now): "Have you called the doctor
yet"? "No, was it time to call, hadn't she called him? Oops…." She started
to call everyone, and from that moment on things changed for me. There
were noises in the house, telephone calls, it was light and sunny outside,
I felt uncomfortable and couldn't concentrate. The next thing I knew I was
laying on my bed on my side, legs held apart, and trying to push, and two
midwives, a doctor, my partner and a friend are all staring at me. My legs
are open towards the door. It is not that I mind that, just the staring
eyes. I make a comment about it and there were immediate apologies (but,
after all, wasn't it I who had invited all these people?). My partner
later told me that I never got back into the concentration that I had
encountered during the night when I was all by myself. I heard everything
- footsteps, conversations between the midwives and the doctor. I was
distracted by poo in the pool and tried to clean it up. I was distracted
big time. The pushing went nowhere, and my partner became firmer with me:
"Concentrate, Annemarie, no loud noises, use your energy wisely." But I
never felt a real urge to push, and did not know how to push. I was so
well prepared by the classes for dealing with contractions, but not very
prepared for how to push and how to get back into a good pattern of
concentration again. I could not express my feelings, I could not think
clearly, I was in huge pain during contractions and wanted to scream as
loud as I could, but was told that was wrong.
I started to feel guilty and hours passed, in various positions,
without a great deal of progress. The midwife explained that my muscles
were very strong, making it harder for me. The baby was doing fine, I was
OK. I was throwing up all the food and fluid I tried to get in since that
night, but I did not feel exhausted. In between the contractions I felt
great actually - I was in a trance state. But I hated the contractions, I
feared them, and I had to push towards more pain - it did not feel logical
at all. At one point the doctor used his fingers - touching me during a
contraction and told me to push towards his fingers. That felt great. That
guidance made me believe I was going somewhere, that we were doing it
together, that something was right. The other midwife was also helping me.
But, in a way, there were too many voices for me to work with: the doctor,
two midwives and my partner. All trying to help me, but I could not get
into real pushing. There was progress but very little. I felt that I was
letting everyone down, and later my partner told me: "Everyone thought
that you were giving up, you weren't doing the right thing".
At some point in time (4.00 pm?) our doctor explained to me: "You are
doing well, there is progress, but I can also help you a little bit with
the vacuum if you want". There was no way I could resist - that opened a
door towards relief. I was in such pain during contractions and felt
guilty for my lack of progress and lack of concentration, so I said
We moved to the bed again (I had tried the pool, bed, toilet, pool,
standing, in that order), and this time I lay on my back, two people
holding my bent legs, our doctor holding my hands, and I was guided into
pushing. The pain became greater and greater, and there was still
resistance against the strong pain within me. The last 4 or 5 contractions
he used the vacuum, a plastic little thing, which did not look 'medical'
or scary to me. The pain was very intense, and at one point in time I
asked him to really help me. I lost track of the contractions, could not
tell when they started, I do not know why. So I just went on pushing hard,
all by myself. There I was, on my back on the bed, with a cheering squad
around me - not the ideal way! But I loved it, I believed I finally had
the end in sight and I was getting somewhere. The baby's head came out,
and the doctor removed the vacuum.
Everyone was surprised because the baby had her hand next to her head
when she was born : So that is why it had taken me so long to push her out
, (and maybe why there had been no urge to push) and why those pushing
contractions had felt so strange and so painful! It was 16:34 when she was
born - I was dilated just after 12:00 midday.
It took a long time for the next contraction. My pain faded away slowly
and I could look around at the team. With the next contraction I pushed
the shoulders out - that felt great. I did that by myself and it felt like
a big relief. It was painful, but much less painful than the other
The baby was put onto my flat belly, all sticky and wet, and her two
big, blue eyes looked up at me. I will never forget that feeling of her
body against mine, her eyes, her breathing. My partner was sitting next to
me and time just stopped - it was perfect.
I thanked everyone in the room for this beautiful day and I was very,
very happy that the baby was born at home. I still remember the feeling of
all the endorphins, and in the photos I am smiling the greatest smile.
Then I received an injection for the placenta, and delivered that.
Everything felt very sore down below. My partner and our doctor examined
my tear and he put in stitches. The baby also received a vitamin K
injection because of the use of the vacuum.
The hours after the birth: all happy, everyone had a glass of champagne
and slowly left. My friend cooked a pasta meal and we chatted and ate.
Then the last person left and we were all by ourselves. We had a very nice
night with our new baby. We watched her every breath, because we did not
know how strong a little baby is, and we were very protective.
The next morning the midwife visited and checked me, and our
pre-arranged doula (post natal support person) came in and helped us with
the first bath, dressing etc. I felt drowsy but OK. The first days were
great, my body recovered really well and our doula was fantastic.
I started to think about the birth a lot: was I weak to have accepted
the vacuum? Would it have done harm to my baby? Why did I need stitches?
Why did my pushing go so badly? I was happy with the homebirth, but should
I feel sorry for myself - for not having a completely natural birth? My
midwife explained to me that my muscles and the baby's hand beside its
head were the reasons for the long pushing and the stitches. I did not
want to think about what if the doctor hadn't been there, and I would have
needed to be transferred to the hospital? Or was that baby going to come
out any way but later? I did not want to know, I was just glad and very
happy that our doctor had been there!
Some observations and lessons I have learned:
- Privacy was
really important for me - I really wanted minimal distractions, and when
the midwife and others came in, the house became too busy for me. But how
to change things when you are so distracted in full-on labour? In labour
you do not always know what you want or need, you just have to go with the
- I should have prepared even more: I should have prepared
how to go from loud yelling into real pushing, how to direct my
- I never felt the need for any pain relief, as the
flopping between contractions was a great skill you had taught
- I was very surprised that the pushing was intensifying my
pain, and therefore I hesitated big time with pushing. I could not embrace
- The dilation phase was very easy for me, as you do
not have to actively do anything, just hang on. The pushing was weird
because you have to get active and I never felt an urge to
- You can never have enough preparation. You never know
what will happen.
- You have your first baby only once, and when
you are in labour it is difficult to change the course that you are
PS: Our baby weighed 3 kg, or 6.9 pounds. Her hand has been in various
positions next to her head, as it came out next to her ear, and she had a
big dent into her lips that faded within an hour or two. Her vacuum bulge
was gone the next day, the redness on that spot was gone within a few
days. The osteopath has declared her very healthy.
Annemarie returned to tell her birth story at the prenatal
relaxation class she had been attending during pregnancy. Another new
mother was there that evening, sharing a story of a natural vaginal breech
birth with an episiotomy.
Annemarie sent these afterthoughts in response:
It was good to be back one more time in the group.
It was also good for me to hear the other birth story. I suddenly
realised what I had missed out on when the other mother told us that "it
was great when she could push", and "that it was such a relief to push".
My mother in law told me about my partner's birth. She said, "I had to
wait until the midwife arrived before I could push, this was terrible and
almost impossible. I finally could push when she came, and this was such a
relief!" Only now I realise that I missed out on this pushing feeling. It
feels like I have missed something fundamental about the birth, a bit of a
I discussed this with some close friends who have had babies in the
last months and asked them if they too had had this pushing urge. Very
sadly they all told me: "NO, because with an epidural you do not feel
anything." (They all have epidurals in Australia! I am from Holland, where
epidurals are rare and at least 30% of babies are born at home). This
makes me so sad because if I missed out on that pushing feeling, those
women must have missed out on their whole birth. I am now convinced that
natural births are very important for a woman's feeling, and that
episiotomies and vacuum/forceps interfere much less with a birth than any
drug. It is probably the drug usage that takes birth experience away from
women. (You probably did know this already, but I only realise this
I used to think: "If epidurals do not harm the baby I would choose them
straight away", but now I have changed my mind about them. The powerful
feelings inside you during a birth are definitely very good, and you do
not need to be drugged and have those powerful feelings taken away. But
everyone called me crazy because I wanted to give birth without drugs.
Common comments like "you use drugs when your teeth are pulled out.... ",
and "you don't know what it is like, I have heard women scream in the
hospitals....", or simply raised eyebrows of even close friends etc. These
negative reactions make you initially think: "I am not strong, I cannot do
this". But you don't need to be strong, you just need to not be interfered
with, and to have a good, supportive partner.
On my birth video you can hear me yell when our doctor (probably the
most gentle doctor in Melbourne) checks the cord around the baby's neck: I
yell suddenly: "ouch, don't touch me there!!!" On the video we can see
that this checking probably hurt more than the head being born. Not that
it physically hurts more, but simply because it is an interference and is
somewhat unexpected, and it really upset me.
Your course prepared us for a drug free birth. I now know that it is
all the interference and intervention in hospitals which cause the women
to scream, not the pain itself.
Good luck with all the work you are doing, you are giving many women
such an empowerment, priceless.
Letter sent the following year:
Did I ever
tell you that while we celebrated our daughter's first birthday in
Holland, at that same moment, 5 meters from us (in the house built next
door to my sisters), a new baby was born at home. While our party guests
were leaving, those neighbours showed us their new little bundle of joy,
only a few hours old. It struck me at that moment that something which is
so normal in Holland - babies born at home while life goes on - is so
unusual here in Australia. I wanted to talk about it with the people that
day, but everybody looked at me with glazed eyes: what is so special about
this? Babies are born everywhere at home every day all the time.
Hope you are well, Annemarie