A birth with an unexpected ending!
* This session is shared with permission from the midwife. Thank you midwifery Verloskundig Wonder! *
Over 3 years ago I was at the birth of my niece. You can read that story here. It wasn’t an easy birth, with premature urge to push, and we very nearly had to head to the hospital. In the end she was born at home, and it was a lovely birth! Jazlyn, my niece came out the ‘right way’ in the end, so we could only guess at what had caused the difficulties. I think that she was in the incorrect position, but that she turned due to her mother changing positions a lot. At any rate, we though the second baby would just ‘pop out’, in a manner of speaking. 😉
It’s wonderful when Floran and Sarina (my brother and sister-in-law) tell us in March that they are expecting, and also when a little later they tell us they’re having a boy! Sarina’s due date is 4 November, her birthday is 5 November, and Floran’s birthday is 6 November! That’s a lot of birthdays very close together, or even on the same day.
To my horror I realise a couple of weeks later that I have a Birth Photography workshop planned in the weekend of 3, 4 and 5 November. Sarina had her first baby close tot he due date, so there’s a good chance that she will also give birth around the due date this time. At first I try to just let it go, and let fate decide (hopefully to my advantage), but what if I miss the birth? I talk to a friend about the dilemma, and she asks, ‘can’t you just move the workshop?’ At first I think it just won’t be possible. So much would have to be rescheduled: the actress the location, the midwife, all the participants etc etc etc. But, no harm in asking… I ask everyone involved what the possibilities are and to my astonishment we’re able to move it all to the last week of November. Yippee!!
The pregnancy goes well, and this time Sarina ‘makes it’ to the due date. She thought she would have an October baby, so she does have to adjust a little. But she doesn’t have to wait long: on 5 November at 4:15am my brother phones me. I’m immediately wide awake. Sarina has been having contractions for about an hour. She’s had some prodromal labour, so it takes some time before she is sure that this is the real thing. I tell Floran to phone me when the midwife has been. That’s quicker than I expected, because he calls again before I’ve gone back to sleep. Sarina is dilated 2 – 3cm. It’s 4:45am.
I don’t hesitate for a second. I tell him I’m just going to grab something to eat, and then head over to their house. The midwife is also staying, which says a lot. At 5:45am I get there, and Jazlyn has just woken up. She was determined to wear a dress today because it’s her mommy’s birthday. Oh yes! Of course! Sarina is going to get a baby for her birthday! She is very calm and dealing with contractions well. Jazlyn is playing around on the bed, and Floran is doing pretty much the same (although in his case he’s playing on his phone :-P).
At 6am the midwife suggests having another look to see how far Sarina is, and if possible, rupture the membranes. Sarina agrees, but the baby is still too high to be able to rupture the membranes. She’s dilated to 4cm, and we listen to baby’s heartbeat. Jazlyn helps out! And she has an encouraging word for her brother: “Come on, baby, don’t be scared.” So cute!
At 7:15am the baby has descended enough to allow the membranes to be broken. The contractions immediately intensify, and we decide to fill the tub, so that Sarina can get in the water. I feel like it’s deja vu, because her last labour started at around the same time, and she laboured in the same tub. They have a huge corner tub, with an amazing skylight above it – you couldn’t wish for more as a photographer! It takes a while for the tub to fill up, but at 7:40am Sarina can get in.
Jazlyn comes to have a look every now and then, but Sarina can no longer stand to be touched. Luckily Jazlyn’s dad is around to offer cuddles. If she wants to, the Jazlyn is welcome to be at the birth. I can see it in my mind already. It’s slowly getting lighter, the tub is beautiful. Floran is sitting with Jazlyn behind the tub, on the toilet lid, and the midwife has no issues with Sarina giving birth in the tub. Sarina also likes the idea, because she does not want to get out of the tub. 🙂 I do a little happy dance, and have to hold myself back from throwing pretty petals into the water. 😉 I am actually very impatiently waiting for Sarina to start pushing. I thought: ‘this is going to be a questions of rupturing membranes, and then that baby will practically fall out!’ But of course it almost never goes the way you think it will.
At 8:05 Sarina’s mother arrives to help with Jazlyn. If Jazlyn doesn’t want to be at the birth, she can stay with her Oma. Jazlyn is wandering around in pink sneakers which someone gave her, but which are far too big for her. It looks ridiculous, but she refuses point blank to take them off. We christen them the ‘birth sneakers’. Sarin is finding the contractions tougher now, but is coping well. Everyone is in the bathroom, really all just waiting for the first signs of pushing. Jolanda, from Embrasse Kraamzorg (postpartum care) has arrived. At 8:45am Sarina is dilated to 8cm. Floran decides to go downstairs to make something to eat. Sarina is completely in her own world. He has just gone downstairs when it looks like the urge to push has arrived! I call him, before he’s managed to eat a single bite. It’s 9:05am. From the moment he is back upstairs, Sarina has a few contractions without the urge to push. I can see the ‘why did you call me’ look on his face, hahaha. The midwife checks again, and finds that there is a little cervical lip, but Sarina can start pushing passively with the contractions, which means gently pushing with the contraction when it peaks. It takes some getting used to, but at 10:00 Sarina has found a good position in which to push. Contrary to what we expected, the baby is not just ‘popping out’. In fact, we can’t see baby at all.
After 20 minutes, the midwife asks Sarina to get out of the tub. We’ve tried various positions in the tub, but baby just isn’t coming around the corner. She tries more pushing on the bed, but there is just no progress. The midwife thinks that baby is in the wrong position, and even though it’s very disappointing, she suggests heading for the hospital. Floran and Sarina hadn’t even considered this, and Sarina absolutely does not want to go. ‘I am NOT going to Goes.’ Unfortunately the baby’s position, the strong pushing contractions, and lack of progress means that there is no choice. Sarina pushes a few more times standing next to the bed, and an ambulance is called. Then everything seems to speed up. I hope that this will be the trigger, as it was with Jazlyn’s birth, which allows the baby to suddenly be born, but the ambulance must have been just around the corner, because it arrives immediately. It’s 10:35am.
Sarina hasn’t packed a hospital bag, because she didn’t think this would happen. We’re all running around the house like headless chickens. The baby’s car seat is pulled out of the cupboard under the stairs, covered in sawdust since Floran recently replaced the stair treads himself. We grab some clothes from her cupboard. The only person thinking clearly (we realise when we get to the hospital) is Jolanda, who packed the baby’s clothes, neatly wrapped around a hot water bottle in the bag.
Three men pile out of the ambulance. None of them shows any empathy or has any experience with women in labour. They tell us this immediately, so Sarina tells her midwife ‘I want you to come with me’. I do understand completely, but only one person can join her in the ambulance, so Floran and I will have to follow in my little Ford Ka. I’ve driven to the hospital behind an ambulance before, and that time there was a little too much distance between myself and the ambulance, and it created very dangerous situations at intersections with traffic lights. This is still fresh in my memory.
I drive behind the ambulance, but at the first traffic light we come to I get confused because the ambulance driver picks a lane I wasn’t expecting. I hesitate for too long, and don’t dare drive through a red light. What a crap choice, because it takes FOREVER before the light turns green again. Floran is stressing, but stays incredibly calm. I thought he would start swearing at me at some point. I pray that the baby won’t be born in the ambulance. My Ka proved to go faster than I thought, but I really don’t dare drive faster than 160km per hour.
At the hospital I stop the car in front of the door, with the hazard lights on (where there are no parking places). I tell Foran which direction we have to take, and we quickly find the correct room. Whew – no baby yet. But a room full of people and equipment. An IV has been started, and someone is wrestling with the CTG machine. Someone has already attached a skull electrode to baby, but it’s not working, so the CTG is also needed.
Soon an obstetric gynecologist comes in, a familiar and friendly face. He does an internal exam, and says, ‘I’ll be back in a minute.” My brother looks at me questioningly, and I whisper, “he’s going to discuss with a colleague about using a vacuum pump’ (which I’m not really convinced of, since it’s Sunday and I’m pretty sure he’s the only doctor on duty) ‘or about doing a caesarian section’ (which I also find hard to believe, because this is not the first baby to have to pass through Sarina’s pelvis).
During all of this, Sarina is still having intense contractions, and that urge to push. I’m now having deja vu of my own labour and birth, and can’t believe she could also be having a c-section. I find it difficult to support her, because I am almost in tears myself.
The verdict of the gynecologist
Then the obgyn comes back in, and his verdict is final: it’s a c-section. The baby is still far too high, and is facing upwards, with the crown of the head being the presenting part. In addition to that, all the pressure on baby’s head has caused fluid to build up there (known as caput succedaneum). This causes the baby’s head to be a little misshaped, and therefore the obgyn is not willing to risk a vacuum extraction. It’s Sunday, so the OR team have to be called in, and we have to wait. Sarina is not given medication to stop the contractions (I have no idea why not), so her contractions just keep going… it’s 11:15am.
Floran still hasn’t eaten anything, so I ask the midwife if she can give him some food. She has ‘ontbijtkoek’ (a spicy type of cake). I demand that he eat it, even though he doesn’t want to. I know him – he’ll faint later if he doesn’t eat. Sarina is put in another bed, and given an OR robe.
And so we wait. Wait, while Sarina resists the urge to push. It’s so hard. It seems to take forever. Sarina calls, ‘is this going to happen today, or what?!’ The midwife who came with us has my car key, and pops out to move my car. I realise that all the hospital staff have left the room, and Sarina says she needs to poop. That’s a little odd, since I’m pretty sure she has already emptied her bowels. I look at the midwife, and ask, “can he really, really not be born vaginally?” She looks at me and says, “no, he really can’t,” but she does check under the blankets.
AND THERE HE IS!!! We see hair!!!
I’m blown away!! I can see the midwife doubting, but she pulls open the cupboard to put some gloves on really quickly. I just shout: “YOU’RE A HERO!!! PUSH!! PUSH!!!” Floran is also shouting, “push, baby! Push!!”
Oh shit. I have to take photos too.
I take photos. And here he comes. HERE HE COMES!!! WHAT C-SECTION?!?!
The adrenaline is shooting through my body and I just keep taking more and more photos. They’re probably all terrible, but I don’t even care any more. He’s here!! At 11:35am he’s born! UNBELIEVABLE!!!
So intimately, with just the midwife from home there with us. Bizarre! I think nobody can believe it. The hospital stuff come to the sound of our yelling, and the room slowly fills up again.
After that it all seems to go on autopilot. He’s named Zion, and his second name is George (after Sarina’s father, who passed away recently). He is gorgeous!! Floran cuts the cord. Initially Zion looks a lot like his sister, but that changes quickly. Right now we just enjoy Zion lying on Sarina’s chest, and try to process everything that just happened. He is weighed (3545g, and Floran is sad that it’s not a hanging scale as it would be at home), and then Zion goes to Floran from some skin-to-skin time. After some cuddling, he goes back to his mother. Time flies, and before we know it the big sister is at the door with Oma and Opa. She has a big balloon with her, and is so sweet with her brother, although the ‘beschuit met muisjes’ (a sweet treat) is quickly more interesting. 🙂 Opa and Oma also cuddle Zion briefly, and then he gets his newborn checks. Everything is perfect, but they feel that his temperature is a little low. It’s 36.8 Celsius. 36.5 is the lower limit, so I say (as aunt) that I disagree, 36.8 is just fine.
Sarina goes to shower, and Zion is put in bed with a hot water bottle. When Sarina is done, we have to wait for paperwork from the midwife before being allowed to leave the hospital. The nurse says could take another hour. Floran does not agree. “We’re not going to wait an hour for paperwork.” He goes to the nurse, tells her that it’s a hospital, not a prison, and that we’re going home… (we’re pretty similar, hahaha). They check Zion’s temperature one more time and it’s 36.5. The hospital feels this is too cold, but we can warm him up at home too! They have to sign a form saying that they’re taking him home ‘at their own risk’, and off we go.
At home, Jolanda has cleaned the bed, and Sarina can get right in. She wants to sit on the couch downstairs, but I tell her she needs to be in bed. 😉
It’s so great to be home, and Jazlyn is in love with her little brother. Opa comes by for a visit, as do the proud aunt and uncle. Zion has a lot of fans.
Dear Floran and Sarina: it wasn’t anything like what we expected, but it was so beautiful, and you are my hero forever, Sarina! Enjoy your gorgeous son, and your complete family.
Transfer to the hospital.
Arrival at the hospital.
Home sweet home!