Zwanger in Brussels midwives do not currently offer home birth accompaniment.
Wednesday, 7 January, I’m six days late, and I’m climbing the walls with impatience. Another eight days before I have to be induced; I’m so afraid of that. I just don’t like hospitals.
Before I got pregnant, I already knew that I wanted to give birth at home. As a midwife, I’ve attended many deliveries, both at home and in the hospital. I’ve also seen many beautiful hospital deliveries, but home birth seemed a bit more magical to me. And I wanted to give birth as naturally as possible, without medication, without epidural.
I put that pressure on myself, maybe too much. Because the stress I was feeling, it wasn’t about the pain, it was that things wouldn’t go the way I wanted.
But this Wednesday, after a pep talk from friends and my fellow midwives, I’m able to let it all go.
The music is turned up loud and I’m cleaning my bathroom! And I mean really clean, going into every nook and cranny. After, I have a last go at my violin (sorry, neighbours) and then I go out on foot to my yoga class.
“…in my thoughts, I talk to my baby. I tell him/her that I am ready.”
I really enjoy the yoga class and I meet another lovely mom – all moms are of course very sweet at Zwanger in Brussels, but without her even realising it, this mom gives me so much strength! When I had just found out I was pregnant, I accompanied her home birth, and she did so well! She really radiated primal power. I admired her then and hoped that I would be able to do as well as her.
After the yoga class I decided to go back home, a nice 7km walk away! Music in my ears, and in my thoughts, I talk to my baby. I tell him/her that I am ready, but at the same time that this is all very, very exciting.
After a nice evening with my partner, we go to bed early.
And yes, the next morning I wake up at 7am with contractions! They are still very light, but they are there and they keep coming. Yes!
“But [talking about induction dates] doesn’t matter …I’m having my baby tonight, I tell the midwife at the hospital.”
My partner and I decide to go to the hospital for the monitoring that was already scheduled, and to check my blood pressure, as it had been too high in recent weeks. The monitoring is perfect except for the fact that the baby’s heart rate dropped in the last 5 minutes. I am a little worried, but then everything’s fine when I quickly feel movement again.
The gynaecologist recommends bringing my induction forward to Monday instead of Wednesday. I think this is nonsense. If it can wait until Monday it is not acute, and it can also wait until Wednesday.
But it doesn’t matter, because I have contractions and I’m having my baby tonight, I tell the midwife at the hospital.
Back at home, my boyfriend and I take a nap. Afterwards, we do some spinning babies exercises and I listen to my hypnobirthing tracks. However, the contractions are not getting stronger. And by 23:00 they stop completely. Disappointed, we crawl into bed.
But around midnight, I feel a contraction again, and what a contraction! That was a big one! Keep them coming! With every contraction comes a sigh of relief! Phew, they’re not stopping! They come in quick succession, tough … but I’ve been waiting for this, so they give me a lot of courage!
“With every contraction comes a sigh of relief! Phew, they’re not stopping!”
My body is giving birth, my body can do this!
Around 02:00, [my boyfriend] Jeroen calls my colleague Elke from her bed. She arrives around 02:30. I am in labour, with contractions coming every 2 minutes.
I shake and rock my pelvis, both standing and then sitting on the ball. I work through several contractions on my hands and knees while Jeroen massages my back.
I try to breathe as calmly as possible, as I learned in the hypnobirthing classes.
At 03:45, I’m 3cm dilated and my cervix is fully effaced/thinned. I am disappointed, because I was already at 2cm three days ago … Elke recommends taking a bath. So I take a bath around 04:00.
Elke and Jeroen leave me alone for a moment. During my pregnancy, I had already told Jeroen and Elke that it would probably do me good to be alone sometimes during labour. I’m able to completely shut myself off from the world around me, go completely into my cocoon. I have no sense of time at all, but it is still dark outside.
“I wondered how much more painful than this was going to be. I totally understand that some women want an epidural.”
In the bath, the contractions get super intense and my positive vibe starts to disappear. “I can’t do this, how do other women do this, I can’t, maybe I’m not ready to be a mom yet ….”
I wondered how much more painful than this was going to be. I totally understand that some women want an epidural. But I can’t even imagine a car journey to the hospital and needles in my back, so I’ll just keep on giving birth at home.
Meanwhile, Elke has come to sit next to the bath and encourages me. I felt a little pressure now and then, but don’t dare to say anything yet.
I was afraid this was a sign that my baby was sunny-side up [with its face pointing towards the abdomen, rather than the back of its head as is ideal], so I tried to ignore it.
Elke advises me to get out of the bath around 06:00 to see how my cervix has dilated. She examines me, and her face seems serious. “Oh, nothing will have changed at all,” my mind flashes. “It’s not good, is it?”, I ask desperately. “Ssshh, I’m checking,” she says. Followed by “you’re at 8cm”.
I answer something like “okay, because I feel like I’m pushing!” And shortly after, my waters break.
After this, I notice the adrenalin rises, Elke gets everything ready and Jeroen sets up the birthing pool.
My colleagues Arlind and Eva, and the birth photographer are called. In the meantime I have a real urge to push and occasionally push a little.
“Baby come out,” I beg. In between contractions, I hear Jeroen swearing at the birth bath. “Leave it, come here” I shout.
Around 06:40, the baby is crowning. I try to imagine that the head is the size of a ping pong ball. I think I can get it out. “Come on baby, I’m ready for you!” I encourage myself.
Arlind and the photographer arrive around 07:00. Arlind reassures me, I’m glad she’s here.
A little later Eva also arrives. My delivery team is complete.
The crowing is actually going quite well! I hear Elke say to Arlind “how is this a first child?” They reassured me and said that the head was already visible! A lot of hair! Now I can no longer deny that the head is indeed larger than a ping pong ball. It burns, it feels like I’m about to tear open completely.
The head is now almost out! As much as I want to push with all my force, I try to do it gently to avoid tearing. The head is out and with the next contraction comes the rest of the body.
What a magical moment, Jeroen bursts into tears and I stare in disbelief at that little person on my stomach. It was 07:20. Friday 10 January 07:20.
We did this, my body did it! So proud and so in love. Then came the surprise that it is a girl! Cécile is here!
In the meantime, I feel that I am losing a fair amount of blood and clots. I hear Elke and Arlind discuss whether they should give me syntocinon to help my uterus contract. “Yes, give synto,” I say.
I could still take an injection in my leg. The placenta comes out and blood loss normalises. I had two small tears, but they didn’t need to be stitched.
When I was completely ‘finished’, Cécile was able to go to Jeroen, skin on skin. He didn’t need to be asked twice. Even before Elke could finish her sentence, his t-shirt flew off. Meanwhile I tried to pee.
Afterwards, we try to get Cécile to breastfeed. It takes a bit of patience, but eventually we succeed!
When we finished, she was weighed and measured. A babe of almost 4 kilos and 51cm.
Elke and Eva clean up everything, Arlind leaves to make house calls. By the time Elke leaves, our apartment looks like nothing has happened. The seat I gave birth in looks the same as before. Truly magical.
Eva stays for a while to keep an eye on my blood loss and is busy with the laundry while the three of us take a nap.
What an experience! Giving birth is really the craziest thing I’ve ever done.
“Even weeks later, it gives me so much strength, so much confidence in myself. And so much confidence in all women. That I’m no longer the same midwife as before, that’s for sure.”
Midwife team: Zwanger in Brussel
Photographer: Marine Hardy