Machteld narrowly escaped a trauma from her first delivery. As soon as she is pregnant for the second time she resolutely decides on consulting a different gynaecologist and on having a delivery at the polyclinic with her personal midwife. “It felt as if I was in control of this pregnancy by myself”.
Actually, my second pregnancy has run very smoothly. During the first fortnight I was very nauseous again, but after that I had a much calmer pregnancy than the first time.
Throughout my first pregnancy I didn’t feel at ease with my gynaecologist but I lacked the courage to change doctors. Fortunately I also sought to be counselled by a midwife who would assist me during labour at home and the delivery at the hospital. Just as well, as the delivery turned out to be very tough which – after an exhausting urge to push – ended up in a vacuum extraction without an epidural anaesthetic. If it had been the gynaecologist’s choice the delivery would have ended up in a caesarian, but my midwife disgreed as that would be too traumatic for me. In spite of being physically exhausted, the delivery became – thanks to the intervention of the midwife – a positive and powerful experience which we talked about extensively afterwards.
Big and heavy
Already at 12 weeks the head of my second child – a boy – was facing downwards, a position which didn’t alter until his birth. His length and weight worried us, though, because he would probably be very big and heavy, just like his sister.
‘At 37 weeks, my gynaecologist estimated a weight of 4 kg, which made me wonder if I would be able to give birth in a natural way guided by my midwife, as I had wished from the start. Would the delivery have to be induced? Would he also get stuck during the delivery, just like his sister?’
The midwives tried to soothe me, however, reassuring me that a second birth always went more smoothly and I had already given birth in a natural way.
As the date I was due approached, my belly became bigger and bigger. I slept badly, had to go to the toilet continuously and taking care of my little daughter became harder. And yet I was still adamant to let everything run its natural course. That’s why I was also prepared to try all kinds of tricks to get the delivery started. I took acupuncture sessions with a midwife. During the second session, a week preceding the birth, I experienced a lot of hard bellies and movement. These cramps lasted for 24 hours but then stopped again. Preliminary contractions thus. But nothing happened for the rest of the week, which increased my apprehension.
On Monday I had an appointment with my gynaecologist. This would be exciting since she was going to decide whether it was feasible to await a spontaneous start of the delivery. I really didn’t want to be induced and was determined to ask her if I could wait until the 41st week. When examining me, I seemed to have a three-centimetre dilation and also the cervix was almost fully effaced. What a relief! She performed a membrane sweep and prescribed castor oil. She was convinced it wouldn’t take long any more.
Luckily the gynaecologist didn’t tell me at that moment how much our son seemed to weigh on the ultrasound, because I would have been panic-stricken. She was convinced that it would be a quick and spontaneous start and that worrying didn’t make any sense. A golden move… I was calm and glad that I could wait at least another week or that the baby would come spontaneously.
That afternoon I took a nap and my husband and I played with our daughter, who was acting strangely the whole time. She seemed to be angry with me, defying us all the time as if she felt the baby coming.
Around 4.30 p.m. I drank the castor oil and put the last stuff into my suitcase because I somehow anticipated that things would speed up now. My best friend sent me a message, advising me to feel confident. Right after that, around 10 p.m. I got cramps which resembled contractions, but, as they appeared so irregularly, I decided to go to bed after two hours. Maybe these were just intestinal spasms.
Waking up at 4 a.m. I felt the contractions coming. Very soon they appeared every three minutes. I installed myself on the sitting ball and tried to deal with every contraction by means of my breathing. My husband called my parents to fetch our daughter. She was very calm and alert when we woke her and she wanted to stroke my belly just one more time.
When the midwife arrived at 6 a.m. the contractions came every minute and a half and I was already six centimetres dilated, upon which we decided to leave for the hospital straight away.
‘I could still cope with the contractions very well and, just like the previous time, I could walk by myself into the delivery room. In the corridor I took hold of my husband to deal with another contraction.’
The bath had already been filled in the delivery room so I could lie down straight away. This was an enormous help to soften the sharp edges of the contractions. My husband stayed by my side, holding my hand. The midwife kept on repeating that everything was alright and I that I was doing a great job, which was very soothing. No one else entered the room so there was only the three of us, thus creating a quiet and serene atmosphere.
After some time, the contractions followed one another faster and they also hurt much more, which made me fully aware that the heaviest part of the delivery was due. The midwife established an eight-centrimetre dilation but the cervix wasn’t fully effaced yet and I remained stuck at nine centimetres. I could already push a little, however to no effect. In the mean time all my energy was really needed to cope with the contractions. I closed my eyes as much as possible as I wanted to isolate myself from the world. In between the contractions I felt sleepy and groggy, the hormones were doing their job.
First I considered staying in the bath to give birth, but the dilation progressed too slowly. Together we decided I should step out of the bath and sit down on the birthing stool. Very soon I became dizzy upon which my midwife led me to my bed to lie on my side. That position and some fructose helped me recover.
‘And then it was time for the real work. Each time I had to push my right leg landed on my husband’s shoulder.’
Meanwhile the midwife let me take her finger to show me in which direction I had to push. I really needed that finger, because I was feeling uncertain: was I doing it as it should be? It was only when I could push along with full power that I noticed some progress.
However, at some point it all took much too long for me. I was so tired and the pain was huge. The fear also intensified as this situation reminded me of my first delivery during which my daughter got stuck, which made everyone highly strung. But the midwife put me at ease saying the baby’s position was perfect, the heart beat was regular all the time and there was progress. In spite of this battle with my negative thoughts I held on, especially because my husband and the midwife were so calm and collected.
‘Actually, it was only at a dilation of 10 centimetres that my waters broke. Every contraction made me catch my breath, but I succeeded in feeling much better which pushing effort was needed to make my baby move. On and on I asked how much longer it would take as I felt running out of power.‘
Finally I lay on my back. At every contraction I had to pull up my legs and push as hard as I could. It required all my mental strength to pull through. The head started to show but then drew back all of a sudden, which was hard to take. But I persevered knowing that it really was necessary to give everything I got. I also felt my baby move through my pelvis which was a completely different feeling than last time.
My midwife called another colleague. In fact she was the midwife of the acupunture who happened to be on duty. Another familiar face! My husband took hold of one leg, the other midwife of the other and my own midwife checked the head and encouraged me. Each time my husband told me he could see some hair already, which was really encouraging.
After a terrible burning feeling and a lot of contractions I finally managed to get the head out. As his shoulders were so broad I had to push a couple of times more to get them out. Aware that this was the final stretch I gave all I had left. After an hour and five minutes of pushing, pulling and tugging by my midwife my son finally came out amidst an enormous gulp of amniotic fluid.
‘It was 10.45 a.m. on the exact day I was due and – at the same time – it was also the warmest day of the summer holidays.’
My son was put on my belly and proved to be in good condition. At that moment I broke out in tears of relief, I was really totally exhausted and could hardly believe I had managed to do it completely by my own strength.
Immediately the midwives noticed how big our son was, but they postponed the weighing until later. The assistant gynaecologist was called in to stitch me up, but fortunately I was not so badly torn as last time. What a wonder with a head of 37.5 centimeters! Only the shoulders had made a small rupture. Not nice, but already during the stitching my son was eagerly looking for my breast, and, before I even knew it, he was drinking smoothly, as if he had never done anything else before!
‘Then he was measured and weighed. What a shock for everyone: 5.150 kg and 56.5 cm!!! My midwife had never delivered such a heavy baby before, let alone without a gynaecologist and interventions. I felt so proud.’
Even my gynaecologist stopped by, although she hadn’t led the delivery herself. She was also impressed. I am so grateful to her that she did not worry me the day before and respected my wishes.
After spending a night at the maternity ward, we felt completely ready to go home. In fact, in case of an outpatient birth you can only stay for 24 hours and I really wanted to go home anyway. At home, the midwife and the maternity assistant guided us further and we had all the rest we needed. I felt like I could take on the world!
When my daughter went to school for the first time on 1 September – three days after giving birth – the four of us stood at the school gate. How proud I was of myself, of my son, of my daughter and of my husband. How blessed we were that all had gone so smoothly, it seemed like a miracle…