Our birth story of Loumi Saya Joy
Already before Loumi's birth I was intending to share our story eventually. But really I thought I would be sharing a different kind of story. Shortly after my birth though, I knew that I would also want to share this story with you and that it was worth sharing even though or exactly because it came so different.
Even if this is not the story I was hoping to be telling you today - the one of a perfect, peaceful home birth - it is still my story and looking back at it it is a really beautiful and wonderful story. A very important aspect to be able to look at it this way is to have felt the pain that the way this story unfolded gifted me with, besides all the love and joy for birthing my baby into this world.
pressure & insecurities
The more days had passed since due date, the more I started feeling a little pressure. Not the kind of pressure we hope for - that from my womb out - but mental pressure. I wanted to trust but every day made me doubt a little more - when you know you are now closer towards the expiration date for having a home-birth than you are to due date, time does play a role.
My midwife would wait 14 days past due date with me to guide me with my home-birth, but after that I would have to go to the hospital - unassisted birth is not "allowed" in Austria, also I wouldn't have felt confident enough to do so anyways.
Nonetheless due date is crazy, because it creates a lot of pressure and really what does it even mean. Isn't it that babies come out eventually and that they choose when they are due?
However, I start with my birth story a couple of days before birth...
Tuesday, 15th of September 2020 - 40 weeks + 9 days
We had another appointment with our midwife that day. She checked on me, checked on the baby and we finally started implementing some gentle natural birth inducing actions. From drinking Masala Chai, to massaging my belly with clove and cinnamon oil, to inserting a clove oil tampon, to taking foot baths with mustard seed powder to of course having sex.
Apart from instructing me with all these things, she also mentioned that I should make an appointment at the hospital for Thursday or Friday, just so that they have met me before in case we do have to come in on Monday.
That was the first time out of many times I cried in these following days. To actually think about giving up my so longed for home-birth to go to birth in hospital made me sad and a little desperate.
Wednesday, 16th of September 2020 - 40 weeks + 10 days
Even though the thought of giving birth in hospital made me sad, I knew it was time to introduce myself, just in case. I called early that morning to ask for an appointment and they told me to come in that same day at 11.45. I was surprised but thought, well lets do it to get it over with (yes, that were my thoughts).
So 11.45 came and I went in for my appointment, by myself of course - given the current global situation Markus wasn't allowed to join me. When the midwife called me in, introduced herself and then asked me what my story was, well guess what I had tears in my eyes that very moment I told her that actually I am having a home-birth, but I am 10 days past due date so my midwife told me to come here.
She was touched that moment and very empathetically responded that she feels sorry and understands that this is hard if you had something else planned.
I was surprised by her kindness, because really I went into hospital with the fear that people might be "against" me and my idea of home birthing and that in general there won't be much understanding for me. This midwife was so kind and caring, she already changed my perspective on hospital a little just in this first half hour.
After finishing up the CTG check up - which by the way was perfectly fine and baby's heart tones were just perfect - I went back outside to wait until the doctor called me in.
A little later I did get to meet with the doctor, a woman. She talked to me, checked on me, did an ultrasound and again was so nice I couldn't believe it. I cried again talking to her and facing this potential new reality that I might have to accept.
After the ultrasound and measurements she told me that she wants her experienced colleague to have a look as well, because she wasn't sure if she did the measurements right. I agreed, because really why not.
So a male doctor came in, who as well was so nice and caring and empathetic. He did another ultrasound and then they both agreed that our little girl wasn't going to be the heaviest. Their measurements estimated a birth weight of 2800g.
In Austrian hospitals it is common to induce latest at 10 days past due date, in some hospitals even at 7 days past. They both encouraged me to stay and get induced that very same day especially because it looked like Loumi was going to be a little light weight and they were concerned that she wouldn't be strong enough to go through birth. The doctor also told me that usually they induce "lightweight" babies even a couple weeks before due date, to make it easier for them.
My feeling was different though, very different. My whole pregnancy was so good, I felt so healthy and well, all my babies check ups and measurements were so perfect every single time. I felt confident to tell them that I will wait at least another couple days, at least until the weekend and then go from there. I told them how much I appreciated their kindness and openness. My midwife was positive to wait with me until Sunday, so was I and all their tests showed no immediate reason or danger for my baby. They showed me a lot of respect and accepted my choice - there was no negativity, nor disrespectful behaviou whatsoever, just very kind acting and understanding for another humans choice. We agreed that I would come back for another CTG check up on Friday, which was totally fine with me.
That day at the hospital totally changed my look at hospitals and giving birth in a hospital. For some reason, it's probably because of movies, I had this awful picture of birthing in hospital in my mind. Stress, unease, lots of hurried people that have no time for you and just want to get it done with. That day, that appointment, that time talking to a lovely midwife and two very caring doctors made me feel way more at ease with the thought that maybe I will have to come back here and birth my baby in hospital. It was a great and beautiful lesson, that I was so thankful for.
Markus was waiting outside the hospital the entire time and on our way back home we stopped by a shop to get some groceries. While in there I suddenly felt very wet "down there". I've been feeling like I had more discharge that day since the morning, but when we were in that grocery shop I suddenly felt wet. I took the keys from Markus to go back to the car while he finished the shopping and to put a tissue in my panties, since that was all I had.
When we got home about 30 minutes later I texted my midwife and told her that I'd been having heavier discharge all day, but that in the last half hour it became a lot. We suspected what that was. She told me to keep an eye on it and that she will probably have to come for a visit to make sure what it really was.
At 9.30pm our midwife arrived at our home and after a quick test that indicates whether it was amniotic fluid or not it was clear that it was. Which made me sad. Why? Because my waters broke at some point during this day, maybe already in the night or the morning when I first noticed heavier discharge, but I did not have an sign of contractions whatsoever.
My midwife told me that she will only wait 24hours after my waters broke before she has to send me to the hospital. There was a higher risk of baby getting an infection after 24 hours and she couldn't take the responsibility and therefore would not wait longer than that. We agreed to an estimated time that my waters broke, added 24hours and agreed that if I don't at least have any strong birth inducing contractions by Thursday 11.30am, that I will have to go to hospital to get induced. Honestly, that was the first time I felt like a failure. I cried, felt desperate and hopeless.
Around 11.30pm that night we went to sleep, in high hopes that I will start having contractions during the night.
Thursday, 17th of September 2020 - 40 weeks + 11 days
I had a very light sleep that night and woke up at around 3am to some stronger contractions and started measuring with my contraction app for about an hour. I was so happy to read that my contractions were between 30-40 seconds long and came every 5-6 minutes or so. I texted me midwife to let her know and she told me to get some more rest. I was suddenly feeling so positive and confident that we will make it, that we will have our desired home birth, that contractions will only get stronger and heavier now.
Shortly after that I feel asleep again only to wake up at around 8.30 am with basically no feelings of contractions. I counted the hours and faced the most probable reality that I won't be having birth inducing contractions within the next three hours.
I was sad, but I was accepting. I had no other choice but to quickly adapt to a new and unexpected reality that apparently wants to unfold.
We cleaned the house, put new sheets on the bed, put away the birthing pool that we had already put up and filled with a little water - we prepared everything nicely at home so that when we come back with our baby we will feel good. We were thinking that we would come back the next day all together.
Thursday, 17/09, 12.30pm
At around 12.30pm we got the hospital. Markus had to wait outside, they told me they will let him in once my cervix starts to open and birth is foreseeable.
My home birth midwife had called the hospital prior to let them know I am coming in and had already told them my story of having to relocate my home birth into hospital and why. I arrived and immediately got sent to the labor room where a very friendly midwife greeted me.
First thing of course they connected me to the CTG to check on babies heart tones and also started giving me intravenous antibiotics immediately due to the long time since my waters broke and the increased infection risk for my baby.
At that point I did have very, very light contractions, barely able to feel them, but the CTG was able to measure them. After a little while of me hanging on the CTG the midwife came in with a doctor - a woman. The reason I am mentioning it is because somehow I was happy it was a woman.
But the reason they came in was to tell me that they weren't so happy with the CTG measurements. They had noticed that with every ever so light contraction our daughter's heartbeat was falling from 120/130 to 80/90. The reason they saw a potential problem in this was, that if we were going to induce, which we hadn't at this point, they were worried she might not be able to deal with stronger contractions since the very light ones were already stressing her. The potential outcome could then be a c-section. Oh dear, guess what happened with me in that moment - facing a not very likely but still potential outcome that I had absolutely not ever, not once imagined for myself to come true. At that point they allowed me to call Markus and tell him to come in. As I mentioned earlier usually they let the partners in later, but due to my situation he could already come in now. This was a big relief and a little happy moment for me right there.
We kept watching the CTG for a while longer. Eventually they came in and said that it looks like her heart beat is stable now and we can start inducing. They suggested we choose oxytocin intravenously which we can start at a low rate and increase every hour, that way we can watch baby's heartbeat and slowly progress.
Only shortly after connecting me to the oxytocin infusion at level 2 out of 10 I started feeling slightly stronger contractions. I was so happy - my body worked. It worked. The doctor came in every hour to turn up the infusion two more levels. After the first hour she checked on my cervix and noticed that it hadn't opened even the slightest bit. It was less than the tip of her finger wide. Nonetheless we levelled up, contractions got stronger. I was just sitting there on the bed the entire time. After two hours again another check, cervix still not open, still in the same position. We levelled up the oxytocin. They told me that obviously there wasn't enough pressure on my cervix from above so we were positive that if contractions got stronger my cervix will open. We were at level 6 out of 10 now when I had a shift in my mind. I felt like before I was "lazy", that I was just laying there waiting for something to happen, so I got up, put my AirPods in my ears and turned on my "birth happy" playlist, which really when preparing it I wasn't sure if I was even going to listen to this one. But something inside me told me that it is time to move now, I had relaxed enough, it was time to get into labor - literally.
I started dancing and circling my hips as I had learned in the many hours of preparation with my midwife and doula the months prior. My whole attitude shifted and I was determined to make this happen. The contractions got so strong that I couldn't talk anymore and had to breath through them. The music made it so much easier though, I was able to fully go with every single one of them. Even though they were much stronger than the ones before I felt so good flowing through them with my body moving and the sound in my ears. For the first time in a while here I felt confident and strong and I started to see my vision again of birthing how nature intended my body to birth.
Contractions were so intense I couldn't really turn on the music anymore although I still had one of the pods in my ears. I focused on breathing through it and making sounds that helped. I moved from standing onto the mattress they had provided on the floor. Markus was right next to me. I think sometimes he touched me, but really I don't remember anymore.
The midwife encouraged me that these were beautiful strong birth inducing contractions. I felt so happy and proud. So proud of my body and so happy that I was able to experience this intensity. This was what I was dreaming of all these months in preparation, to feel the intensity of a birth, to really dive into what it means to birth a human. And there I was having these beautiful intense contractions that where the way markers to birthing my child.
Thursday, 17/09, around 5.30pm
The doctor came in again to check on my cervix. I took a seat back up on the bed for her to check. But what she told me then was not what I wanted to hear. My cervix was still closed. It hadn't opened the slightest bit. She looked me in the eyes and let me know that time wasn't our friend due to the long time now that my waters broke and that we had tried absolutely everything, but it just didn't want to happen. I knew what this meant. It made me sad but I trusted her, I trusted her from the very first moment we met in this labor room.
What she said then though was what really brought something up. She described my cervix like a thick rubber band that is very tight and asked me next if I ever had surgery on my uterus or cervix.
That moment I burst into tears and started crying so heavily I couldn't hold anything back. I looked at her and said "I had an abortion over 10 years ago in Thailand and the way it was done was so cruel and brutal" - that moment I believed I was broken. I was broken emotionally already and I believed my body, my cervix were broken from what happened 10 years ago.
The doctor looked at me with tears in her eyes, so touched by my openness and said: "Maybe this is your chance to heal now. You are not broken, but maybe it's time to heal".
They told me they will prepare the surgery room now and a little while later came back in, moved me onto a bed and injected a contraction blocker into my veins. The contraction blocker made my heart race like crazy.
They pushed the bed into entrance room before the surgery room and told me to get up and walk inside. Markus wasn't there yet, they gave him clothes to change and would let him come in later once I was all ready and set for the c-section.
The same midwife was still by my side. I would only learn a few days after this whole experience, that she actually stayed past her shift because she wanted to go with me until the end.
When I walked into the surgery room all that intensity from the contractions and oxytocin before, paired with my emotions and my rushing heart from the blocker, in combination with the ice cold air of this room, the bright light, the stainless steel and the many many people in green rushing around the room catapulted me into what felt like a different world.
The moment I sat down on the surgery bed and people came up to me from all sides to connect me to all kinds of things and cables and machines I felt like I wasn't there anymore, I wasn't in this body. I could hear and perceive everything, but I felt distanced from "me" experiencing it. I was shivering and shaking so hard. It was so cold.
And as I was sitting upright, the midwife holding my hands, talking to me softly, while I was following the instructions of the anaesthetist who was preparing me for the epidural - I was out of it. I could hear and do everything they wanted me to do, but all that was going on in my mind was "how crazy is this life, how crazy what a human being is capable of experiencing, what a crazy experience I am having right now".
I felt no judgement anymore, I felt no good or bad, in some way I was in awe of what life is capable of choosing for you - the experiences we can make.
And also, looking back at it I feel like I numbed myself a little as a coping mechanism, because all of this was so very unexpected and different from what I had dreamt about for months.
Finally I was ready for surgery. They let Markus come in and sit next to me. My arms were tied down to the surgery bed, I had an oxygen mask on my face and my vision and perception was blurred. It took me a second to recognise Markus, also because he was wearing a medical cap and a mask and an all green suit.
Now it began. I felt no pain of course, yet I could feel something was happening. Especially when they started "tearing" me up which required some heavy work on my lower body. As crazy as that may sound, the do that because a tear heals more easily than a cut.
Thursday, 17/09, 6.23pm
Everything went really fast and only a few minutes later we hear a short baby squeak, no crying or anything. I look at Markus, he looks at me. Somebody says "there she is" and for a split second I see a tiny little baby face with big eyes showing up from behind the visual cover that they put between us and my lower body. Next thing I know they carry Loumi outside where she gets cleaned, Markus gets up to join them and I watch them standing in the room next door. Watching them out there felt like hours and I still couldn't really grasp that she was here now, that this was it. That our baby was born.
Then Markus and Loumi came back in, they release the ties from my arms and put Loumi on my chest. I looked in her eyes, I felt her little body, I looked at Markus - it was so unreal. There she was. This little being grew in my body over the last 9 months and suddenly she was out here. I honestly felt like it was too quick for me. The c-section made everything so fast, my mind hadn't caught up with it. There weren't any thoughts in my mind, just looking at her feeling the unrealness of it... and love. I don't know how long she was on my chest for, but eventually Markus and Loumi left the room to go cuddle and bond skind to skin in another warm room while I was put back together and finished up in the surgery room.
Thursday, 17/09, around 7.30pm
It is done. They put me on a bed. My entire lower body is still numb. As they push me into a small, warm and cozy resting room I see Markus sitting in the room across with his shirt off and Loumi on his chest. Seeing this made me so happy. Because I really wanted Loumi to be connecting and bonding with her parents right after birth and since I couldn't bond with her for that long it filled me with so much joy that Markus could.
They joined me in the resting room and for the next three or four hours it was just us, bonding and connecting as a family of three. I was back in my body, back feeling myself and now finally feeling the beautifully overwhelming joy of having become a mother to Loumi Saya Joy.
17/09/2020 - 6.23pm - 50cm - 2980g
One more thing...
Now that you have read until here you see that this birth story was anything but what I had envisioned my birth to look like. Nonetheless it was a magical and beautiful experience.
I just want to say, that I feel incredibly grateful for the surroundings that this hospital provided, for the incredible staff, especially the midwife and doctor that guided me on this journey with so much respect and empathy.
In my birth preparations during pregnancy I formulated a "birth plan B" together with my Doula. This "plan B" was a two page letter that I was going to give to the hospital staff in case of having to relocate our home birth. I had that letter in my bag, but from the very first moment of arrival in this hospital I hadn't felt like it was necessary to show them my wishes stated in that plan.
Literally everything (expect the vaginal seeding after c-section, which we just forgot about) was fulfilled without me having to say a word. Markus was able to cut the umbilical cord and we even were able to take the placenta home - I asked them if I could and they quickly rushed back to get it, because they had already disposed of it but made an effort to get it for me.
This hospital was such a blessing, because I now know that giving birth in hospital can be just as respectful and beautiful and doesn't necessarily need to be a bad experience. And even though I also felt hurt and sad and all the emotions, and also felt like a failure at first, felt like it wasn't a real birth at first - I am more than grateful that our baby is here now and healthy - and I want to believe that it was also her choice to have her birth story unfold like this.