Birth Story of the Week – Helen and Soren

This is Helen’s second appearance on the blog she also wrote her first birth story which is featured in my book ‘How To Grow A Baby And Push It Out’. Helen writes and publishes the magazine Lionheart, lives with her partner and 2 children in Bristol.

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I’m sitting here now with baby Soren right next to me, my rounded tummy still making for a good laptop perch, a yearning for chocolate digestives and a cup of Yorkshire tea. I’ll get up soon. I’m drinking in the various newborn faces and positions; milk drunk, yoga baby, pout squash cheeks, waving when asleep and dreaming arms.

There’s so much that’s the same as with my daughter, but he’s very much his own person with his own manner, energy and blossoming self. He frowns when he feeds, is utterly obsessed with the trees and the birds and is mesmerised by what’s happening around him – watching, learning. It’s amazing to see the difference in our home since he has arrived. Quite subtle I thought, but now I realise not at all. He has bought with him something that feels very centred, grounding and calming. A big wallop of spirit, that has floored me like his sister did before him. A boy of the earth and sweet like the kindness found in a homemade cherry pie (hungry), freshly delivered to tired newborn parents. He’s of that ilk – good folk.

This birth story was one that was highly anticipated. Giving birth once before did not make me feel more relaxed. The unknown had been a benefit to me in summer 2013. Lolling about in the park by my house with ice lollies, I said I didn’t have a plan, but of course, I did. And more importantly, so did my daughter. I very quickly realised that my labour and birth experience was more about remaining zen and the care of health professionals, who are all amazing, than having the right scented candles. Anyway, after having a tiny bit of a dramatic time, I found myself pacing the birth centre waiting room five days overdue with my second baby, palms clammy, feeling hot like a kettle left on a stove too long, whistling. And about to bubble over.

Having had a bit of a miserable first trimester, where I felt that I had no control and I couldn’t rationalise, or go without a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, I had a more jolly second and third trimester filled with yoga and contentedness. However, as the thought of induction put on its white jacket, I clammed up. And clamming up is probably not a good idea for birth, right? I felt reduced movements at 40+5. Nothing to worry about, nothing to worry about. “Go to the hospital,” said the midwife. Waiting for hours, enormous chocolate bar, hooked up and soon the baby was galloping about in there. That tug and pull of a baby having a party inside of you, so utterly not bizarre. But wild all the same.

The midwife had us in the following day and we had a scan that showed (the baby!!!) the baby’s stomach was a very tiny amount not as big as it perhaps should be. My partner questioned the graphs, the curve of the line, but this was no spreadsheet – this was our kid. I had a little anxiety creep up through me as I lay with jelly on my tummy, right from the tips of my toes, to the top of my head. Gahhhh. My heart beat hard, I could see it pounding under my top. The baby was snoozing. The news was induction. I had a wave of relief. The end was in sight.

Then that evening, in a complete turnaround filled with some unknown source of energy, I had an enormous surge of motivation and determination. NO! I wanted to try everything I could to flow (?) this baby right out. Stop clamming up, open up, think positive and calm thoughts, do some yoga, focus, eat some more chocolate. C’mon baby! I was like a wilde woman that night. And it felt great. I was given about 18 hours by the midwife that evening and I was going to do this. I WAS!

I have no idea if what I did caused the baby to start their great descent, or it was just time, OR the moon, but in the morning at around 9am, I had twinges. Then a show, then more twinges and more show. I called the induction ward who said they didn’t have any room for me anyway and were very happy for me that I was on the way to baby land. They were less happy about the show, which I thought may have some meconium in. So at 11am, we trotted off to the hospital. The twinges were much stronger, but nothing too crazy. I was dropped off at the hospital, while our daughter was delivered to friends. My partner found some parking he deemed acceptable, purchased a hefty amount of snacks and at length… he arrived.

By then my contractions were pretty regular and getting more intense. I was on the checking ward with the same midwife as I’d had the previous couple of days. Determined to create a spa (ahem) like zone for labour, I filled the curtained space with a large and very soft, deep blue blanket, excessively spritzed the air with Lush Breath of Fresh Air spray, breathed into a muslin with Bohobo aromatherapy oils soaked in (including clary sage) and opened a large bag – or two – of Maltesers. As I sat on the bed, the tightenings pushing harder and harder, I was in a mini trance. I was going places, ya know? Deeeep careeeervous plaaaaces. I was. I WAS. Please. However, I was still not quite moving anywhere fast enough according to the hospital, who told me I had until 2pm before I would have to really think about the drip.

“Can we go for a walk? To the hospital Costa?” I said.

“To Costa… well, OK. But you must NOT spend too long over there. Second babies do come quickly, you know. Hmmm. OK. Go now, then.”

Loved her.

My mantra, my mantra, my mantra: “I’m not having the drip, I’m not having the drip, I’m not having the drip.” Repeated continuously, all around the car park, in the Costa queue, looking at even more sandwiches for Charlie, chicken, chicken, not chicken, up the little hill. round the roundabout, in the little garden. I knew something was happening, it definitely was, but I wasn’t sure if this was it. Was it enough? Everything felt different to my daughter’s labour. The contractions were like surges, the pain more of a pull, the pressure felt like it was in a different place. Strange!

2pm. “Come on then! Ooh, I love that spray. What was that again? Lush, ooh I’ll have to get some.” We were on our way to the delivery suite. Noted to myself to get the midwife some spray. Loved her and how she got us a salad lunch when we’d been waiting ages the other day, and how she let us go to Costa and how she is excited for us, and – ahhhh, there it was again. Kind midwife: “Are you scared? Don’t be. It’s OK.” I wasn’t scared, but it was a really big contraction that stopped me. Head in the big blue blanket. OOOPH. We walked on and met our new midwife, while lovely midwife told us that her shift finished at 8pm, so hopefully she will get to meet our baby.

Our baby.

Lots of discussion over the drip. Pacing, wondering, powering, singing, humming. I asked the midwife to examine me, as I felt like I needed to know if I was moving at all. She is surprised and in a good way. YES! I was at 6cm. MASSIVE jubilation! But not too much. Breathe, breathe, breathe. She said they wouldn’t put me on the drip now anyway, as I was really contracting. Things were moving and though pretty catchy, my million repetitions of “not having the drip” were able to be replaced with something else now. Hooray!

The midwife left us to it and I took out YesMum Hollie De Cruz’s relaxation MP3. I had listened to this quite a few times in the last couple of months and it helped me to focus. I went into myself. I can still smell the clay sage and I think I heard: “Hello, my name is Hollie de Cruz,” about ten times. I kept hearing it again and again. My mind and body doing something together. I saw Charlie sitting on a chair, faffing around, eating a sandwich, reading the news. Eating another sandwich. Spinning, spinning, focus, focus – I was in this one place and it was cushioned and cosy and powerful. A central, nourishing and vibrant home, a heart beating and echoing out, my head in a pillow, my body some kind of buttttttttterflyyyyyyy.

“Toilet!” I went to the toilet aided by Charlie and then everything stepped up. It sped up, quicker and quicker. “Hello, my name is Hollie de Cruz,” breathe the air, iiiin and out. Gas. Gas. Gas. On all fours. Breathe. “The baby’s coming!” It was coming. How long had it been? A moment, a breath, the clock. An hour. An hour! An hour?

“Ahh, lovely,” she said. “I’ll get what we need, one minute!’

No time for minutes, or seconds, or “PRESS THE ALARRRRM!” I could feel the pressure really strongly, this baby was coming now, now, now! Suddenly she was there and with someone else and the pressure was so immense. I could feel the baby move down in a really big motion. And it was amazing – so low, so low, so lowwwww.

On the bed. I was. Gas. No more Hollie. Just me and – I remember shouting, “Make it stop!” Then some howls, the intensity of the WHOLE SITUATION.

A BABY WAS COMING OUT OF ME!

No more gas. Stop.

Breathe

My baby was coming.

I was instructed to push with all my might. I did this and then again, and again. Then I was asked to stop when I was told: “Keep going, keep going, keep going and stop, pause,” the midwife said slowly. The pause, the moment, the moment when birth and life become so intertwined, it’s at once incredible and humbling and for me, a point of utter clarity. Maybe that’s what it was, but. For that moment the room became bright white, clear and still. Time stopped and there was nothing but the brightest white, soft light and total and complete peace.

Then in an instant, one massive push and before I could even take a second breath he was on my chest screaming, red, plump and beautiful. I couldn’t believe it. So fast, so startling, so gentle, such an avalanche, a flurry of emotions, a numbness, a shock. I stared at him, I looked into his eyes, he fed, he screamed, he slept.

I think I had expected him to be exactly like my daughter. She was all I had known afterall, but of course he was him. Calm and wanted to be close, to be able to look into the eyes of another, to hear my voice. That night on the ward, I stared at him, picked him up, popped him down, fell in and out of sleep, watched him, fed him, fretted over his lack of needing to feed, changed him, cuddled him. Then just stopped. I lay with him beside me and slowly the feeling I had expected to immediately arrive as it had with Alba, trickled and then flooded over me. It breathed life into my weary body and doubled my heart. A bag of Maltesers lay melting underneath me.

He came on a full moon in spring and his smile is a balm, a pure joy. Soren is a rocketful of energy, calm and love and we are honoured to have him in our family.

How to juggle second babies with energetic older siblings

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Ah the joys of having your second baby; your body and boobs knows what to do this time (hopefully), you’ve got the confidence and knowledge from the first baby (probably) and you’re word perfect on most nursery rhymes sung at the weekly music class. But alas! You now have an energetic toddler who demands to only eat his snacks out of the green bowl, will only wear shoes if he puts them on and regularly has full blown meltdowns in the park when he can’t walk any further. Only kidding it’s not that awful but the skills required to calm a fractious baby and entertain a 3 year old with the attention span of a gnat would make most SAS trained soldiers buckle at the first hurdle.

Just before my second daughter was born, we prepared my first born in every way possible to help soften the blow when she would discover she was no longer the centre of our universe. We bought her a doll and push chair in the hope that she would love this plastic baby as much as her own sister. Baby Annabelle made realistic crying sounds, which my daughter declared ‘really annoying’ and asked us to take the batteries out when she couldn’t handle the incessant noise anymore. So we decided to  take the approach to be as brutally honest as possible without scaring her for life. We told her that although new born babies are very small and cute, they were also very boring and did a lot of sleeping, feeding and crying. Her new baby sister wouldn’t be able to play with her for quite some time so whenever the baby was asleep I simply ignored her and focussed my time and attention on a more fun and big girls activity (I would have preferred a child free lunch with friends but settled for sticker activity books and play dough). This allowed my older daughter to still have some very precious 1 to 1 time with me without having to wait whilst I tend to her baby sister first.

If you’ve previously been using some sort of childcare for your first born my number one tip to all mums is KEEP IT. It may feel wrong to send your child to nursery or off to the childminders as you’re not at work but I guarantee you will need a few days a week where you can just be with your new born baby and not have to watch Peppa Pig for the millionth time. Children love structure and routine and by keeping these things in place when their entire world has been turned upside down by this new baby will make things easier for you at home.

If finances mean that this isn’t always possible perhaps call upon grandparents or a good mum mate who can take your older child to the park or their house for a few hours to give you a bit of rest. Going back to bed with a new born when you’ve been up lots in the night can feel like a trip to the spa. My message is if people offer to help TAKE IT.

Remembering that small babies don’t need much if any stimulation (a jaunt around Sainsburys definitely counts) so save any form of entertainment for the older sibling. Local playgroups were my holy grail in those early days; I found that if I filled a morning with activities like drinking a 50p cup of tea in a church hall whilst my daughter played with toys the day went much quicker. Mum win right there. Plus to have other mums around meant I could vent about how tough I was finding it without feeling judged, after all everyone needs support from other women who just get it.

There were times when I definitely was not winning at motherhood at all and felt terrible for repeatedly saying ‘wait a minute, just hang on, your sister needs feeding and shall we put on the tv again.’ And there were times when my older daughter would say ‘I hate my baby sister she gets all your cuddles’ but I figured (after sobbing down the phone to my mum) that this is life and there isn’t always a right and wrong way of doing things. All children react differently when a new sibling comes into their family and will in some form show jealously and anger. But the love between my older daughters now is so special to witness, my younger daughter adores her big sister and will do anything to please her. And just like any stage of motherhood, it can feel really hard at that moment in time but you’ll look back in years to come and hardly remember it and say to yourself ‘did that really happen at all?’. You’ve got this Mama.

*This a taken from a piece I wrote for Tracey Blake Small Talk blog which can be found here*