The story of the homebirth of Febe, second child for her mum and dad.
Kim and Jef’s first baby was born in the hospital. An induced birth with an episiotomy. Not unusual, but this could be nicer, they think when they are expecting their second baby. While their son Bent is asleep, his sister Febe is born at home.
Thursday morning 26 April I hear Bent whining through the baby monitor: time to get up! I get our son out of bed, put him on the changing pad in the bathroom and help him get out of his nappy. In the meantime, his eyes look bigger than watermelons and he excitedly shouts : “Look, Daddy! A baby!” Through the doorway he sees his mummy lying in bed with his newborn sister.
Midwives Elke and Febe are already out the door at the moment, after writing a fantastic page in the story of our family. Two and a half years ago it started with Ben’s birth at the UZ (University Hospital), today Febe is joining us at home – and how!
When Kim was pregnant with Bent we were already considering the option of giving birth at home, but we had too many doubts. Isn’t a hospital safer? Do we want to give birth in our rented apartment? We decided to just go for the UZ – and gain experience for the next children. There were very kind midwives, an induction, a painful episiotomy, little or no communication despite written delivery wishes, uncertainty about the convenience of a double room… All in all, an ordinary birth in Belgium.
The hospital is not a terrible place. The doctors know their trade. The midwives and nurses are friendly, the rooms are fine. The visitors find their way thanks to colourful lines. The plastic meals are prepared by a dietician. But still we feel: this should be nicer. More pleasant. More spontaneous. More natural. Quieter. More normal, actually.
In the meantime we know midwifery practice Zwanger in Brussel a little and would like to experience our second delivery with them at home. We don’t make a decision right away, which means that we’re fairly late in asking whether we can have a home birth. Fortunately, there is still room for us!
After a few preparatory conversations we feel completely ready: now all we have to do is wait for the baby to come and discover the world. However, she isn’t in a hurry, and eight days after the due date, we are shocked: will we end up back at the UZ again to hear that an introduction will be necessary?!
I decide to go to my indoor football practice. It will take my mind off things. (Free tip to all future parents: don’t clear your schedule to anticipate childbirth! Waiting with nothing on your hands is not good for your blood pressure!)
I return at 10 p.m. Kim is still reading a book in bed. At midnight I go to sleep myself… and Kim turns out to be having contractions! We keep track of the time between them: they follow each other very quickly, every four to five minutes. Is that right? We feel disbelief and amazement. We always keep an eye on the clock to decide whether we really need to call the midwife. Before we know it, it is already 1.00 a.m.
Kim calls, but doubts: the intensity of the contractions still seems to be quite bearable? Vroedvrouw Elke advises to take a bath or shower. She decides to take a bath and it’s a good call: the contractions are getting softer… but also slower. “This won’t be true”, Kim thinks, “soon the contractions will stop here and the delivery won’t just start anyway” and she jumps out of the bath. (Well, ‘jumps’).
The contractions are effectively getting stronger again and while Kim wonders whether we can really call Elke again, it’s time to pretend for a moment that as a man you have something to say during childbirth: Uh yes, we can call!
At 2.40 a.m. we call Elke again, at 3.10 a.m. she is at our doorstep, and immediately with good news. After all, Kim hopes ‘that she will have two centimetres of dilatation’. Well, it turns out there are already seven of them! Now everything is going fast: Elke rings the second midwife Febe, Kim is looking for postures to cope with the contractions, and I try not to get in the way and warm up cherry pit pillows professionally.
When Febe arrives, there is an extra pair of hands to get the birthing stool out of the car. I install myself on a chair behind this stool so that I can support Kim and whisper her some courageous words. I have full confidence in Kim. She can do this. I think she is a natural talent. A birth raises hundreds of questions: how do I do this, how do I do it best? But the answers come naturally to Kim. The contractions have now clearly turned into an urge to push. The water breaks. A couple of contractions seem to serve as a warm up, then it’s serious: once or three contractions and Febe is born!
And yes, midwife Febe has just helped baby Febe into this world.
Elke unwraps the umbilical cord from around the neck. In a warm towel, Febe comes straight to Kim. An indescribable mixture of unbelief, relief, bliss and satisfaction overwhelms us, just as it did at the birth of our son. But this time we crawl into our own bed, between our blankets, into our house, where Kim Febe keeps warm, before she starts drinking, and I cut the umbilical cord. The placenta comes quickly, the first papers are filled in, a first message is sent to the family.
A few hours later Bent wakes up. He has no idea what he missed last night…