Mind and body marathon


The day you were born was the brightest day of the year. I stepped into the street carrying your precious soul in my arms and couldn’t envision what lies ahead.

I was not expecting birth. The entire pregnancy I tried to go on with my life as usual, in the first two trimesters, I often forgot I was carrying a baby.

Then on a Sunday morning I woke up in the early hours to find out my waters had started to leak. To get the peace of mind, me and my husband Mohamed decided to pay a visit to Barkantine Birth Centre and they confirmed rupture of membranes.

Anyhow, it was easy to still act as nothing happened as I didn’t feel any contractions yet. As planned, me and Mohamed went to have a late Sunday lunch with our friends. We didn’t mention to them anything. And yes, we did have a spicy curry and some pineaple.

Monday brought another kind of sensations. I had to sit up in the bed as some mild and short tightenighs were coming and going. They were still quite far apart. A midwife came to our home to bring some equipment. She checked  me and the baby and witnessed some stronger contractions and some weaker and shorter ones. I lived a short walk from the Barkantine so midwifes kept comming and going throughout my labour, but that didn’t always help.

I was listening to my hypnobirthing tracks, but started to loose control… Soon I couldn’t stand my earplugs. I was hungry. Mohamed was feeding me a sandwich and taking care of my every wish. I asked him not to go to work that day as I didn’t want to be alone. I made a nest of pillows and blankets on the floor where I felt comfortable for a while.

Another midwife came along in the evening. Labour was getting harder for all of us. I had to pace the room while surges were coming. This time midwife tought me a low, rythimic sound to make during the build up of a surge. It helped, I could focus on something. I still think my baby is repeating this sound when he tries to get himself to sleep in the sling.

First day of labour

While midwife was asking questions, the contractions slowed down. This really upset me as I couldn’t ‘proove’ her how strong they were. I experienced myself that oxytocin is a ‘primitive’ hormone, it doesn’t work well at all when our intelectual brain is on.

At some point in the evening I took the longest and best shower I have ever had. I wanted to stay there forever as contractions faded away. They were gone. I was myself again. The time did not exist anymore.

Eventually, I had to get out of the shower as I had irrational fears of slowing down the labour and increasing the risk of infection. I didn’t manage to sleep much but I tried not to wake up Mohamed as he seemed more exhausted than me.

I can safely say it was the hardest night of my life. I was in a neverending struggle between my body and my mind. I didn’t know what was happening to my body or how long is the labour going to last. “What is this pain? Why is it coming in my thighs? Where is the oxytocin? Why I am not able to relax? Why haven’t I prepared well for this exam? Please help me someone and cut this baby out….” my mind was going in circles.

When contraction was coming, I was on the edge. But when it faded to give me  a couple of minues to rest, I was so thankful and happy. Oh those sweet moments when I forgot where I was.

Some midwives weren’t much of help, unfortunately. They were calling me and Mohamed at regular intervals and asking if I want to go to hospital to be induced or monitored. According to the guidelines, they were running out of time. I couldn’t imagine getting myself anywhere with the contractions. That was beyond my strength. My clock wasn’t ticking, I was sure me and the baby were fine, but the pressure from hospital was real. So we turned off all our phones.

Tuesday morning came with more excitement. We decided to go for a walk as this is supposed to help labour. So off we went to have a birthing stroll by the Canary Wharf Thames. I loved being outside.

I remember heat wave coming during the contraction peak and feeling the refreshing blow of wind. I walked faster trying to run away from the surge. Who’s going to win this marathon?

After a 40 minutes of walking and a relaxing shower, I felt refreshed. Then another midwife came unannounced as she was unsuccessful in reaching us over the phone. Although, I generally liked her during my pregnancy visits, her phrase: “You don’t look like a women in labour,” was a bit disheartening. I replied saying I had just taken a shower. I felt the need to justify.

After the midwife had left I managed to have a short nap. I believe that was the turning point as in the evening contractions finally were getting closer (4-5 minutes apart) and even stronger. There was another midwife’s visit around 8pm, but this time I let my husband speak to her. She stayed a bit and left. Around 1am we called her again. I felt a strong change. I wanted desperately to be in the pool.

The same midwife Cath and a student midwife Ruth came again at around 2am and stayed. I finally got into the pool and felt such a relief immediately! Riding surges in the pool was so much easier. I loved turning around and floating with my lower body. Ruth was fabulous with sacrum press and hip squeeze. They gave me some essential oils as well. I spent the best time of my labour in the pool, relaxed and focused, I even managed to get precious minutes of sleep between the contractions. Mohamed had been my strong support all the time. At some point he couldn’t help but doze off on the floor.

Around 6am there was a moment when surges slowed down a lot, almost 15 minutes apart. Cath mentioned that it could be full dilation and I allowed a quick examination. She could feel baby’s head, I felt it as well but couldn’t believe as it was so soft.

I was told to get out of the pool to encourage more contractions. I think I was in the ‘rest and be thankful’ phase when your body lets you have a break before pushing. I tried to lay down on the sofa and then the contraction came again, but still no urge to push. Cath suggested me all kinds of tricks, sitting on the toilet and pushing, bouncing on the ball, leaning on the sofa. Nothing helped. I desperately wanted to go back into pool. I had felt so good in there the entire night.

I refused to push, I was scared. I think that was my unconscious fear that held back the baby. Probably I was not ready to become a mum yet. My ego had to be crushed into pieces and reborn again.

Morning came and there was still no baby. As mundane as it sounds, at 8am my midwive’s shift was over. She called colleagues to replace her. I’m still not sure what would have happened had she stayed longer. But from now on the things took a different turn.

Two new midwives came around 8.30am. I was still on the toilet trying to push while I overheard them telling Mohamed  if there is still no baby in two hours, we might need to go to hospital. That really made me angry! How dare they tell that after all I have endured in these two days of labour!?

I was determined. Around 8.45am I swiftly left the toilet, went back to the pool, ignored the midwives, started to stimulate my nipples while standing in the pool and got down in the water to push during the contraction.  Two surges and head started to crown! With the next one – the head came and then – the whole baby was out at 9.02 am!

Mohamed tried to pass the baby through my legs, but I couldn’t find him! And then our little ‘Archimedes’ floated himself. Soon he was gazing at me with his dark blue eyes. It’s a boy! I did it! We did it! I felt such a relief and burst of energy at the same time. Everything I went through was worth it.

Midwife cut the cord after four minutes as baby needed some help and had to be laid on the floor. I was sure he will be fine but was a bit sad that I didn’t get out of the pool to follow him with the cord intact. Soon we were reunited on the sofa trying breast crawl. I birthed the placenta and midwife discovered a deep perineal tear that had to be repaired in hospital so our baby bliss was cut short. And then on the first sunny day of the year  I walked proudly with baby Naur* in my arms, the one who brought us light…

*Naur means light in Arabic.

esIn her previous life before becoming a mother, Ilona used to be a journalist and a semiotician. She is now passionate about spreading the knowledge about birth as natural and empowering event in women’s life. Her son Naur was born at home in March 2017. 

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