Here at Love Mamas we share a lot as a community. With these birth stories we want to share our labour experiences, to share in the joy, awe and amazement of what women do to bring life into this world. Everyone's story is different and special.
In the fifth instalment of our Birth Story series Vic Parsons shares her 36 hour journey from home birth comfort to hospital theatre to welcome her son Kiva into the world.
I was working for a catering company when suddenly the smell of basil became absolutely intolerable. I had been quite tired and stressed, we’d just moved house and I’d changed my part time job, as well as taking on several film projects in my spare time. Life was pretty hectic.
My workmate suggested I take a pregnancy test and I laughed in her face! A couple of hours went by and I was literally gagging at the basil…. I decided to get a test just to rule it out. So, you can imagine, discovering I was pregnant with Kiva was a big surprise. I was already nine weeks at the taking of the test !
It was difficult telling his Dad - he was initially elated and excited, then anxious and nervous about the way things would change and how we were going to cope. His income was sporadic yet potentially lucrative, mine was humble but regular. It was a stable combination if kept ticking over. Talking about finances wasn’t a strong point of our relationship, so we entered into the pregnancy and awareness of it in a state of reactivity and tension. His six year old daughter, soon to be sister, was over the moon and we immediately made plans to include her as much as possible in the pregnancy process and birth.
The pregnancy was peppered with moments of beauty and moments of darkness. All I knew, was that I was determined to commit to this little life - I felt so bonded with him right from the moment I discovered his presence, he filled me with joy and became the most precious person to me even at the size of a Lychee. He was my constant companion and small passenger. I bought some crystals for his protection and wore them around my neck every day.
The year before I’d had a traumatic experience having an invasive LLETZ procedure on my cervix with malfunctioning equipment - the experience was one of ultimate and intimate vulnerability that had been traumatic, humiliating and had instilled a deep mistrust in hospital systems within me. To be fair to the Dr who had given the treatment, she had turned white, tried to keep me calm, and when finally the procedure was complete she stood up, apologised to me with tears in her eyes and left the room at a run. I could hear her yelling up the hallway for the person who was in charge of the equipment. She was furious! After this, there was no way I would have considered a hospital birth, my safe space was at home. My Mum visited me from Auckland and one sunny afternoon while we were hanging out the washing, got down on her knees and begged me to reconsider. It was her fear of anything not white, sterile and with an ‘expert’ in charge that had brought her to her knees. I was pretty shaken by this. I know it was her love for me and her fear for me speaking but I felt very strong in my own path and remained resolute to birth in the comfort of my own home.
I was 25, and used to ‘fluking’ things. Used to turning up and pulling things off, even with little preparation. This was exactly how I approached my birth. I was supremely confident that as it was a natural process, my body would take over and everything would be fine. I didn’t communicate overly much with my partner about it, I didn’t write a birth plan. I didn’t read any birthing books, but I did read and love birth stories. I knew I was going to ace it, despite the contradictory messages whirling around and unresolved emotional issues that remained unaddressed.
We went to three Birthwise classes, missing the Home Birth preparation session, and all the ‘Life with a newborn’ sessions. I listened incredulously to the class focussed on chain of intervention, and felt quite smug with my home birth choice.
As the days leading up to the birth drew nearer, one thing we did discuss was how to set up the lounge as a birthing room. I was surprised and delighted with my partner’s care and enthusiasm for this process, and as we compiled buckets and made a birth mat and figured out where to store the birth pool things started to get really exciting and took a positive turn.
It was a Saturday night around 10 pm, we’d just clocked S8E8 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, (we joked that we would use the theme tune as a lullaby) when I went to the loo and had a ‘show’ - the bloody mucous plug. I was so excited that I immediately paged Domino Midwives (even though I knew it was too early) and contacted two midwife friends who confirmed that yes, this was a show. I got sent to bed, and tried to get some sleep while the niggles in my tummy grew into full blown cramps, and I could hear furniture being moved around in the lounge. When I emerged from the bedroom, unable to sleep for excitement and irregular contractions, the lounge had been transformed into an amazing haven of birthing. Everything was set up and ready to go, and looked beautiful. We went for a walk through MacAlistar park, stopping every now and then while I doubled over with the next wave. People started coming to the park with their kids and we got the occasional applause from a few families, and it felt like some kind of welcome, some kind of initiation walk into the world of parenthood.
We arrived home and it wasn’t too long before we decided to call our birth support team - my stepdaughter who was with her mama, our neighbor and her daughter, and a close friend. They all arrived and soon enough I had two little girls rubbing my back with each contraction, handing me drinks with straws and making sure the hot water bottles I was using on my back were really hot and well topped up, with adults in the background making food, cleaning up and keeping us all hydrated (my partner included). By the afternoon I could no longer speak and the midwife came to visit us and see how we were doing. I understood from her that it was going to be a long time before this baby arrived.
Towards the evening I had stripped off all my clothes and was leaning up butt naked against the wall. I had no shame or regard for anyone else at this point! Only a great desire to be free of all impediments. My incredible neighbor Amiria had pink rubber gloves on and was wringing out hand towels in boiling water while I warned her “Now” when I could feel the next wave coming on. At that point she’d slap the boiling hot towel on my lower back and it felt AMAZING. We did this for what felt like a couple of hours until the midwife returned. We filled up the pool and I hopped in.
While in the pool I did some pretty outlandish moaning and chanting. I remember feeling like the noises came from somewhere else, and tried to keep them really low instead of high, singing my baby into the world. It looked like our baby was coming and there was a hushed excitement in the room.
Then, everything slowed down. The waves became further and further apart. I fell asleep on the side of the pool between them. I was feeling a great pressure in my abdomen and was afraid my bladder was going to burst. I was told to pee as much as I could but the pressure was still there. I was peeing into the birth pool until I could pee no more, and still the pressure didn’t subside. The midwife gently came to the side of the pool and said we had two options: go back to bed for a rest, or go into hospital for some help. I chose bed.
As soon as I lay down the pressure became unbearable, and I marched into the lounge and announced we were off to hospital!! I had never felt so sure about anything in my entire life. I put fluffy socks on my feet because that was the one thing I remembered about what you need for a hospital bag, and off we went.
After a short car ride we arrived at the hospital where the lights were bright, the people brisk. I immediately regretted my decision and felt powerless to change it. A registrar came in and broke my waters, which immediately relieved the mysterious pressure I had been feeling on my bladder (in hindsight “d’oh! Of course it was that!” but at the time I really had no idea). I was hooked up to syntocinon to get the contraction waves happening more regularly again. I remember feeling so afraid, and so small, and exposed in the bright lights and the sterile environment after all the power and beauty of singing in that otherworldly voice to my baby in the birth pool.
The one thing my partner and I had discussed in detail was that if worst came to worst, we would try to crack jokes, smile, make it light. So we went and had some time together in the bathroom and did exactly that. We ended up giggling and we came out feeling a bit better. The midwife realised we were on the clock and asked me to put my feet on her shoulders and push, while I pulled on a rolled up towel she was holding to help the baby get traction and come down the birth canal a bit further. They were prepping me for a C-Section and she determinedly kept going with me, using her body as a tool to help my baby arrive, to help him descend so that he could continue his journey through the birth canal.
Pushing, against her shoulders, pulling on the towel.
All the way up the hallway, to the anaesthetist room, and continuously while the anaesthetist bumbled around with my spine, drawing the dot in the right spot to put the needle in to numb my back.
At last, it was time for the epidural tube to go in. I had to sit still, with my back arched like a cat. The most unnatural feeling position for a labouring woman!
All of a sudden, I couldn’t feel my belly. I couldn’t feel myself pushing my baby, I lost my sacred connection with him. I was afraid for him and for me. They laid me on a table, on my back, asking me to push when they could see the muscles moving to indicate a contraction. I tried to remember the way my face had been as I pushed, making the same face and hoping the rest of my body would follow. The Obstetrician looked at me, and said “let’s give her 15 minutes”. 15 minutes! So casual.
My partner could sense I had lost my autonomy over my birth, and as he looked around he spotted a very morose looking man in scrubs. Pointing him out to me he said “he’s having a good night” in the style of David Brent from The Office which made me crack up a bit and made the energy in the room a bit less intense. Poor guy. He’d probably been at work for 12 hours and was over it and here we were taking the mickey out of him! But it did help!
Time took on a life of its own as the minutes trickled. I was so aware of the 15 minute deadline, poised and waiting like a floppy fish on the table, willing my body to magically obey my mind when I had to push without feeling anything. At this point, they had performed an episiotomy and my vulva was being prized open with forceps. There is this giant light above you so they can see what they are doing, pointed right at your vulva. I looked at the light. Oh Dear God. My poor, stretched, gaping wide vulva, in all its glory. Promise me, expectant Mama, if you ignored my warning and are reading this, if you are ever in my situation DO NOT LOOK AT THE LIGHT!!! It was so bizarre, seeing the full spread and yet not feeling anything. I have to say I got quite distracted from my purpose!
Thank goodness that out of nowhere, a fresh new, just-started-her-shift midwife arrived (it was 7 am Monday by now, making it about 36 hours since the show). She was encouraging and full of energy. She told me how well I was doing, she spoke to me and looked in my eyes. She told me she could see the top of his head, told me I was doing a great job and that I could keep going. She called me ‘sister’ and ‘mama’, she said ‘you can do this girl!’. I can’t describe how much these simple terms of address helped me to identify back with myself again. Once more I felt important. I found my focus, honed it right in on her and together, with the episiotomy, the forceps, the fourth degree tear, and the nine other people in the room, we delivered Kiva.
In that moment, seeing my boy for the first time, having him placed on my body and seeing how strong he was, arching his back and lifting his head up, I felt for the first time, a fierceness in the love I bore him, that was entirely new and the strongest type of love I’d ever experienced. I also realised that I was now part of a secret club of women, all of whom have been through this transformative, and primal, experience. I felt very connected to all of woman kind, and as if a whole new understanding of the world had been born in me that day.
As my beautiful child was whisked away from me, my placenta was hauled from my body and they began to stitch me up, it didn’t really matter any more about being in the place I didn’t want to be, feeling poked and prodded and invaded… The brand new insight into the birth of the mother, as well as the child, gave me a richness of contemplation and the beginnings of an inner peace that I have now dedicated my working life to nurturing in others.
Mother has become my most important name, my most important job. It is wider and larger than any other role I have had, and by far the most meaningful. It is also the hardest, the most frustrating, the most monotonous. Lucky for Kiva and I breastfeeding was smooth, but there was a long road to recovery as the fourth degree tear caused me to became fecally incontinent, and I developed anxiety. Despite the physical, emotional and psychological setbacks, a relationship break up, the ‘at least the baby’s healthy’ comments, and the frightening drop in income; and with the help of an incredible physio and community of health professionals, alternative health practitioners, other mothers, wise women, friends, and my own inner strength, wisdom and knowledge that had truly always been there just hidden beneath the surface, I began the slow climb in physical and psychological restoration. I am so much the better for having found my way through this.
Looking back after 4 ¾ years since giving birth to my son, I celebrate the journey in all its empowerment and disempowerment. Giving birth isn’t easy, it’s hard, it takes time, it’s physically demanding and there is no respite afterwards… but women everywhere, all over our planet welcome new life every single day. They are strong, they go beyond their own needs and desires to nurture their babies through long repetitive days and nights, in war zones, in suburbia, in rural villages and high rise apartments. Birthing in any form is reaching out to all women, outside of time and space, sharing in the transition from Sacred Vessel to Giver and Keeper of Life. I acknowledge, embrace and celebrate all women who have birthed before me, and all who are to come.
P.S. The body’s ability to heal is so freakin’ amazing. If you’re worried about my vulva, don’t. It has fully recovered, returned to usual size (with the addition of a badass scar) and provides joy and fulfillment for me and my other half without pain or diminished sensation.
I am now looking forward to my second birth and planning for it to be at home. And now with my knowledge about the hospital environment and processes I am prepared for different possible outcomes. I’m looking forward to it without fear. I’m working on birth art and having regular, honest conversations with my partner. This has helped me instrumentally. Plus knowing and trusting my midwife, having extensive examinations of my body’s birthing territory and how I’ve healed prior to planning our baby. We’re preparing a community of support around us and
I plan on being in full, conscious attendance at our Birth Wise course for second time parents!
— Vic Parsons