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Having your children at your birth

Has your child ever toned interest in seeing your baby be born? Is it tough for you to find childcare for your other child(ren) while you give birth? Would you like to give your child(ren) the gift of seeing a sibling being born?

Whatever your reasons for considering having your child(ren) at the birth of their sibling I hope there are some tips and food for thought here that will help you decide if it is for you and your family and help you to make it happen in a memorable and peaceful way for you and your child(ren).

I wanted to share some of my experience with clients who had their older children at the birth of a sibling. All of these births happened to be home water births. Somehow a water birth is gentle and easier to watch. If you have ever seen a water birth then you will understand what I mean when I say it is the easiest kind of birth for a sibling to witness.

Tips on how to prepare a child to be present at the birth of a sibling.

  • Act like its the most normal natural thing in the world because for your child it is. The baby is in your belly and it needs to come out!! Your child, if it is older than about two, knows that needs to happen somehow so why wouldn’t you just say it how it is?
  • Watch a few carefully chosen you-tube birth films with your child. Preferably where children are involved too. Also ones that show the baby coming out. Children like to know how it happens and its not strange to them.

Here are some links to my favourite family centered birth films.

Home waterbirth

3rd child waterbirth

Family Home birth

Home water birth with siblings

Water birth

  • Purchase and read a child’s story book about sibling birth. Link to “Our water Baby” a book I lend to clients planning on having a child involved in the birth of thier sibling amd being read with the children in the photos above.
  • If you are planning a water birth then involve the children in the test run of setting up the pool and make it a memorable experience. This family above had the same pool for each child’s birth and they grew up knowing they were born in that pool so when the next sibling was due to be born it became a tradition to test run it.
  • Talk honestly about how you (the birthing mother) might respond during labour. Talk about how its normal that you may shout, breath deeply, cry, be very concentrated and focused and not be able to talk.
  • Talk openly about how the baby grows inside and what the baby’s house looks like inside the womb and how that needs to come out after the baby is born. Talk about blood and how it is normal and not scary.

  • Make a plan with your child about if it happens at night. Will you wake the child up and what will happen when you do? Do you want to wait and see if it feels right at the moment?

Out of the mouths of babes… priceless comments made by children at these births:

After bedtime stories one almost 3 year old girl said to her Mum “Just poop my little sister out tonight will you Mummy?” Later that night her Dad woke her up a few minutes after the baby was born to see her baby sister and the first thing she said with a big sleepy smile was “Mum, you did it, you pooped the baby out!”

After peeking over the edge of the pool and seeing the baby’s head crowning this 3 year old boy quickly said “I am going back to my cars now!”

 

 

A while after the baby had been born big sister said “Mama, when is the baby’s house coming out?”

 

 

 

 

Things to consider are:

  1. How will it affect you to have your child going in and out of the room while you are in labour? Will it relax you to have them around or will it stress you out? Of course if your answer is the later then seriously consider another option or having them only join the party after the baby is born.
  2. How does your child respond to you when you are visibly in pain?
  3. Don’t project your own fear on your child of how you think your child might respond to the process. Try to listen to what your child says it would like.
  4. Think of a plan for extra care for your child if you need to go to the hospital. You always need to have a back-up plan. Who will take care of the children? What do you want to happen to the children if there is an emergency? Will you discuss this possibility with them beforehand or see what happens on the day?
  5. You may consider having an extra person in the house to take care of the children if necessary. If you can miss your partner as your main support, or if you have no other option,  then maybe he can care for the children. In this case you may want to consider extra support for yourself such as a family member or a doula.
  6. Having older children at your birth is a little different. They understand a lot more and may have less need for a baby sitter to be present especially for them. You know your child and can best judge if they need extra support or not.
  7. Not everyone has the same ideas about the presence of children at birth. Think about how you will respond to reactions of friends and family. It is well possible that your child will naturally talk about their experience to others. If your child is school age, maybe it is a good idea to prepare the teacher at school so he/she can be prepared for any conversations with class mates. 
  8. There is a certain amount of flexibility you need to have as you never know when labour will start and how it will go. It may be stressful for you to hold on to planning to do it only one way. For instance what time of day you give birth has an influence. Some parents decided not to wake the child(ren) up, when the labour was at night, and just got them up when the baby was born.

My observation of the young children I have seen present at a birth is that they treat is as a very natural thing. They play and then have a look and maybe give a hug or a sweet caring gesture and then they go on to the next thing for a while. Maybe they see the moment the baby comes out maybe they don’t. It needs to be their choice at that moment. Maybe you just want to have them around you while you are in labour, maybe you only want to invite them in after the baby is born. The choice is yours.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful birthing experience however you choose to receive the new little baby into your family.

Handsome tiny litttle chappy

9-06-2017~ Handsome little boy born today to an amazingly brave Mum who fought and endured the terrible Hellp syndrome for 4 days before being well enough to birth him. Welcome little man.

Maria

8-06-2017~ Welcome Maria. Quite the birth journey. Much patience, 1 full hospital and the second one almost full, an epidural that never arrived and in the end born in water as your mama had originally hoped for.

Casper

27-05-2017~ Many years have you been longed for little man. Welcome to this world, I know you are going to have many fun adventures with your Mama <3

Austra

26-05-2017 Love and strength, lots of patience and a good sprinkling of tears of joy. 42 weeks in the making and Oh so welcome. Meet sweet Austra

Aubrey

19-05-2017 ~ Sweet Aubrey how long you have been in your mothers dreams and now here you are and already the apple of your Daddy’s eye!

 

 

Jara

12-05-2017 Welcome Jara. Your Mama was amazing birthing you and you Papa was a great support and so totally overcome with love and emotion from the very first moment you were born! And it has to be said that your umbilical chord was awesome!!

Helena

This little one decided she was going to surprise us all by staying breech and being born vaginally at 36 weeks and 4 days and in barely 2 hours. Dad got there just in time, 15 minutes before the baby was born. My last whats app message to him which he read in the hospital lift was “9cm, we are going vaginal!” A first vaginal breech birth for me and what an exciting one too. So proud of this Mama <3

2017-04-11 ~ Welcome Helena!

Zoe

2017-05-10 Welcome little Zoe Marie.

Little did I know that this would be the first of three births this week… and the longest. I am so proud of the patience and humour this mama had during her long labour. Its always so fun when a women keeps her sense of humour and can laugh and enjoy despite the discomfort and pain. Good for the oxytocin! I am also so grateful for her partner who lovingly cooked meals throughout the long process to keep us all nourished for the journey.

Speedy hospital birth without epidural!

13-04-2017 is the day this little man came into the world with a bit of a whirlwind. This little one is the fourth child. Giving birth for the fourth time you would think it be an easier delivery. At least you are experienced and you know what to expect… but this was her hardest birth, she said afterwards. “It never hurt this much before and was totally different!”

One difference was that she had used a light epidural with the other births and the labours were all much longer too. She hadn’t minded the longer labours and was quite looking forward to it even. This time she wanted to try a natural birth. “Its the fourth time so why not try something different?” she said. Little did she know that this little man was not into wasting any time and came fast and furiously and there would have been no time for an epidural had she even wanted it! “Speedy Gonzales” she jokingly named him after he was born! Welcome little man, you will be loved to bits and nurtured by many.

A birth photographer and a doula!

It doesn’t happen very often in The Netherlands that there is a doula and a birth photographer at the same birth. This is also a reason why there are not many photos of doula’s at work. A frustration of many doula’s when looking for image material.

A few weeks ago I got a call from a man that his wife was in labour and their birth photographer was sick. She had offered a back up photographer but their midwife had recommended me. So he asked if I was available to photograph a birth somewhere in the coming hours.

The advantage of always being on call is that you are always ready to put everything down for a birth. I had no clients about to give birth so I was really excited to be invited to an unplanned birth. So I made an agreement with the father-to-be and said I would wait for their call to join them so I could document the birth.

I knew the doula and the midwife and as it turned out I had met the mother once at a pregnant ladies tea party I organize. I quietly slipped into the delivery room and quickly became part of the furniture (as we say in English.) There is something so special about entering a space and energy that is focused and so intent to bring forth life.

I loved watching another doula at work and seeing just how hard she worked. I knew she was utterly exhausted but she never complained and tirelessly continued supporting and giving counter pressure through almost every single contraction!! Watching the sweet relationship she had with the woman and how she gently supported the man with a knowing look or the touch of a hand… who would not want that? I thought. Unconditional loving support from your partner AND your doula while going through the most intense experience of your life. Doula’s really do rock your birth with you!

Photographing this birth for me was extra special because I got to take a side seat and document another doula at work and on occasion I quietly got to doula the doula and give her a back rub too. It was a pleasure Justine <3

A special thanks to this family for allowing me to share these images. Such love and sweetness <3

That very first selfie!

That first selfie with your daughter♥ After you supported your love for hours as she laboured with courage and tireless patience, after you witnessed her entrance into the world and saw her take her first breath, after the laughter and tears of those first moments of relief that she was safe and finally here, after you saw her nourish herself at her mothers breast, after you cuddled her and felt her little warm body press against yours… and after you dressed her for the first time. Finally… that first proud papa selfie!

Tiny Toes!

Oh your toes are so scrumptious little one… all shriveled and wrinkly from being in the amniotic fluid inside of my belly. As they unfold and pink up with your first breath, I hold them tight and will cherish them now and for as long as they will fit in the palm of my hand.

One day later!

Tired doula selfie

Just missed April the 12th by a few hours but hey April the 13th is a great day to be born… just in time for Easter!

Welcome little man 💙 The 12th didn’t have much space on my birthday calendar anyway!! 😊

You 3 siblings, and especially your big brother, are going to be so happy to meet you.

Most popular birth-day!

12 of April has been a popular day for my clients to give birth! In 2014 sweet Violeta, 2015 darling Mahruyeh and in 2016 Dennis! Happy Birthday to these little and not so little ones… will there be a new name to add to the list today?

Bertine

10-03-2017 There is something beautifully symbolic when a man starts making bread while his wife is in labour. The rhythm of the kneading, the rising, the wonderful aroma while baking. The loaves were Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoorbaked and cooled by the time the baby was born. A beautiful healing home water birth with some exciting moments like when the baby decided she was suddenly in a hurry to be born and the midwife wasn’t there yet. But hey this doula trusted the process and had seen enough water birth to support these parents as they birthed their little one together. And just as she appeared the doorbell rang and the midwife arrived.

Welcome gorgeous little one. 42 weeks grown and still a lot of vernix on your little body when you born. You are perfect and your Mama was awesome A special thing to see when a second birth brings the healing so needed from the traumatic first experience. It makes being a doula all the sweeter.

Peter

4-03-2017 Little Peter was born. His big brother was born by c-section after trying for a vaginal breech birth. Peter decided to stay head down and his mama worked extremely hard to birth him naturally. She rocked it and promptly told me after that her respect for woman was now so much more than before this experience!! If you could measure Oxytocin after the birth this mama would have been off the chart. Welcome little man, may your first weeks on earth be peaceful.

 

 

My failed VBAC was still a success

What were the circumstances that led to your c-section with your first birth?

“With my first birth, I knew I wanted a natural birth and I never really thought I would be one of the unlucky ones to need a C-section! I was quite naive and thought if I just go with the flow, everything will be fine. Birth can’t be that bad, everyone does it and is fine!!

The troubles started when my son was breech. I was told I had to be in the care of a Gynecologist from week 36 on. I did not explore my options very thoroughly and the doctors told me that I could not have a natural birth if he remained breech. Even though my instincts said I shouldn’t I went ahead and tried a version (manually trying to turn the baby head down) at week 36. It went fine and he turned. However, had I known that a breech birth would have been an option with the right Gynecologist I would have chosen this option for sure. At the time, I didn’t do my own research but trusted my midwife when she told me there was no one in the area who would support a vaginal breech birth.

At 42 weeks there was no sign of my son wanting to come out, so I was told I had to be induced. Again, I felt I had no options and I went ahead and let them induce me! It was a terrible, painful labour and I did not dilate more than 4cm. Eventually it ended in a c-section due to my son not reacting well after the administration of synthetic oxytocin.”

Did the c-section affect your well-being?

“I was very upset that I had to have a c-section since all I wanted was a natural birth! Although happy that my son was healthy, I still felt a sense of emptiness for years after. I realized a while later that it sort of traumatized me. It took a long time until I could actually look at pictures of the c-section without bursting into tears! I felt a sense of failure. Why couldn’t I do what most women can? Why was I not allowed to experience a natural birth? Why did I make the choices I made? Why did I blindly trust what

I was told without asking for alternatives and options? I did not enjoy looking back at the birth and I hated that I had to have so many medical interventions. I also hated that I couldn’t be with my son after the birth while in the recovery room. The whole thing was so unnatural! It took me a couple of miscarriages before I finally stayed pregnant 6 years later and looking back I believe this was perhaps partly due to the trauma of my first birth. I felt i needed to talk about it and went to see a birth trauma therapist to process the birth, which was really good for me.”

Why did you not go for an elective c-section this time?

VBAC image

“An elective caesarean was out of the question for me! I did nothing but research the options and watch tons of videos about natural beautiful births! It was my mission, I was going to have such a birth!! A natural birth where I felt in control, was free to make informed choices along the way, and a birth that was beautiful!

What was your biggest fear going into your VBAC?

“My biggest fear was that I would again have that sense of being out of control and the same thing would repeat itself.”

 How did you prepare?

“I found a midwife that supported me in my VBAC. I had many discussions with the Gynecologist until we came to an agreement that I could give birth in the hospital with a midwife as long as there were no complications. We agreed that the midwife would discuss everything outside of the room with the Gynecologist. I did not just take no for an answer, I did my own research and ignored any scare tactics that in the past would have caused me to make my decision based on fear! I was set upon doing this differently and as natural as possible! I meditated (hypnobirthing) and did yoga and optimal fetal positioning exercises daily. I felt calm and fearless. My husband and I had felt completely alone the first time and felt that we needed more support this time! I got myself a doula and a like-minded midwife!”

What was your biggest battle during the labour?

“My labour started off perfectly! My waters broke, contractions started and I laboured at home for as long as possible. When the contractions became too painful we went to the hospital an

d I continued to labour in a room with just my husband, midwife and doula as planned.

What I found the most difficult was not knowing when things were going to shift beyond that 4cm dilation I had reached last time and progress to the end.  I was having the same intensity of contractions for so many hours.”

PicMonkey Collage Milan

What was the moment like for you when you realized your VBAC was not going to be successful?

“It was 34 hours after my waters broke and I was stuck at 6 cm for 6 hours. I was exhausted! We had tried different techniques and positions but things were not changing! In fact, at one point my contractions slowed way down! Then I knew that things were not looking good!

We  discussed the options with the Gynecologist and decided to try oxytocin to augment my labour as a last resort. Again, like the first time, the oxytocin did not agree with me and the baby and the baby’s heart rate started to react. The Gynecologist highly recommend that I have a c-section and at this point I decided (and everyone agreed) that taking into consideration that my waters had been broken for so long and how exhausted I was this was the best option. It was a hard and very emotional decision for both my husband and I.”

How different was the c-section the second time?

“The second c-section was very different. The Gynecologist agreed to do a gentle caesarean. (I had written this in my birth plan and had also written that I wanted a partial lotus birth to leave the umbilical chord intact until a while later!). The Gynecologist agreed and did a great job. He handed me my son with the placenta attached, right after the placenta came loose, and my son never left my side!!”

Was the process of labour healing for you in any way even though it ended in a caesarean?

“I did not feel traumatized by the birth. I was disappointed but I was able to accept the situation. I always felt like I was in control. I could actually remember everything that happened (which was not the case with my first, since the pain was too intense due to induction) and my son was not taken away to another room. I experienced the natural start of labour and natural contractions. So, even though it was not the vaginal birth I had hoped for, it was still a lot better than the first one and I know I tried everything that I could. Of course there are still some “what ifs” but I know now that there is no point in that. I prepared as best as I could, and I chose to do the c-section in the end.”

What have you learned about yourself through this process?

“I feel that I was a very different person this time around. During the past 6 years I worked on myself and my outlook on life. I was not the perfectionist that I once was. I learned from my first experience that I am in charge of my body and not anyone else. I learned that I was not going to let fear control me. In life, sometimes things happen for a reason beyond my understanding, and that is okay. What matters is to be well-informed, trust your own instincts and believe in yourself.”

Do you have any regrets?

“I do not have any regrets looking back. I got to experience quite a bit of a natural birth (even labouring in water) and I look back focusing on the positives rather than the negatives of the birth.”

What would you recommend to anyone preparing for a VBAC?

“I recommend that you go for what you believe in! It is your body, your birth and you can choose what to do with it! Do your research! Hear different opinions before deciding what interventions you want and where you want to give birth and then go with what you feel the most comfortable with! I highly recommend a doula! I was so blessed to have Doula Sophie support me!! It made a world of difference!!”

Hidde

11-02-2017 Welcome sweet boy.

Finally he was in her arms, that little surprise gift that had come into her life, and all she knew at that moment… she would hold him tight and never let him go!

And then soon after she got to give her parents the best gift ever <3

Hidde-hospital-birth-doula

VBAC after a breech caeserean ~ A personal interview

2016-02-16-florian-17

I met Vanessa and her husband when they took a private birth course with me for their first baby. She had complete faith that she could birth her baby naturally and really wanted to birth at home.

What were the circumstances that led to your c-section?

At around week 35 I found out that my baby was breech. I was heart broken, as I really wanted to try and have a home birth. I knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t try to give birth naturally, so I weighed out the options with the gynaecologist and my husband. I decided that I would let my baby decide his own birthdate and on September 7, 2013 at around 2am my waters broke. I wasn’t feeling any contractions and knew that for the best possible outcome I needed to stay calm and move around, so I went into work! I worked though the early hours of the morning and called my husband to pick me up after I had finished baking cupcakes (I had a cup cake business at the time). We were told to come to the hospital, where I was induced (something I did not want, but was told it was necessary to make sure that I would give birth in the next 24 hours). My contractions grew stronger throughout the day and around 9.30pm I was ready to push. I pushed for nearly 1 hour, but after suffering severe leg cramps, being completely depleted of energy and baby not moving we were taken in for a c-section.

Did the c-section have any effect on your well-being?

While I thought that the c-section would traumatize me, it did not. The delivery team explained everything very well and to be honest I was so ready to meet my baby. I was able to nurse him with the help of the nurses within an hour after he was born and we both then got some much needed rest.

I did however have thoughts of ‘what if’ after. There was something inside me that had a feeling I could have been successful giving natural birth if I was only given the chance and different treatment. This was something that stuck with me all through my second pregnancy.

How did you know you wanted to birth vaginally this time?

For me it wasn’t even a question, I just KNEW I needed to try. I have this deep, almost primal feeling that this is the way birth should be. It was something that I needed to prove to myself, that I was strong enough mentally and physically to give birth as so many millions of woman had done before me.

What was your greatest hope for this birth?

My greatest hope was that I would have a successful vaginal birth and heal some of the wounds I received mentally from my first birthing process.

What was your biggest fear going into this birth?

My biggest fear was that I wasn’t strong enough and that my body was somehow defective. To be honest I was never afraid of the risks, as from reading the numbers I felt confident they were not very important.

How did you prepare for your for this birth?

I prepared by practicing yoga, watching videos, visiting a chiropractor reading and talking out my plan with my husband and Sophie.

About 1 month before giving birth I would sit on the balance ball every evening, willing my hips to open.

What was your biggest battle during the labour?

Overcoming my fear of failure. My body felt strong, but about halfway through pushing, doubt was starting to creep into my mind. Thankfully with the help of Sophie talking me through it I was able to push those fears away and focus my mind.

What was the moment you realized your VBAC was successful?

The true moment I knew I was successful was when I felt my babies head push free. Yes, of course there was pain, but nothing mattered in that moment other than having my baby brought up onto my chest. It was such an emotional moment for me, I felt amazing and was so proud of my body and my baby. I was also a bit in shock that everything had gone so smoothly, I couldn’t even seem to opens my eyes for fear that it might have all been a dream. One of the best moments of my life!

Doula-florian-vbac

What have you learned about yourself through this process?

I’ve learned that I am strong, mentally and physically. That no matter what has happened in the past, we should focus on the here and now, because that’s what truly matters. But most importantly I learned to trust myself.

Name 5 things that contributed to you successfully birthing vaginally.

  • An amazing mother who always told me how special it was to give birth. She never once told me how painful or scary it was. For her birth was a beautiful process and I believe this is something more women need to hear! It was my goal to feel that same way about birth and now I do.
  • Preparing physically by practicing yoga, sitting on the balance ball, chiropractic care, constantly chasing a toddler around and listening to my body. Taking a 4-hour walk the day before I gave birth might have also helped. 😉
  • Mentally preparing by talking through my fears, writing out a birth plan and just believing in myself.
  • SUPPORT! I knew this time around I needed the best support to help me mentally during birth. I knew I wanted my husband and Sophie by my side. I also feel really lucky that the birth team in the hospital that night was fantastic, calm and really supportive of my birth plan. It helped me to feel empowered.
  • A baby that decided to be in the perfect position for birth!

Water ~ One of the most underestimated forms of pain relief

When you discovered you were pregnant and you started thinking about the birth of your baby did you think about water as an option for pain management? You would not be alone if your answer was no!

The benefits are huge.

2016-02-26 Wiktor-23Placing a pool of water in a birth room changes the atmosphere immediately. Voices get softer, the mother stays calmer and everyone becomes less stressed.

The effect of buoyancy, that immersion in water creates, allows easy movement of the mother. No one has to help the mother get into a new position. She moves as her body feels the need. Movement helps open the pelvis, allowing the baby to descend.
When a woman in labour relaxes in a warm deep bath she is free from gravity’s pull on her body and her body feels amazingly weightless. The sensitivity and irritation women can experience in their bodies when they are in labour is also reduced when in water as the sensory stimulation is dulled resulting in her body being less agitated by external ‘things.’

When a woman is relaxed in labour she is less likely to produce stress-related hormones and makes room for her body to produce the endorphins that are the bodies natural pain relief. A labouring woman who is able to relax physically, is able to relax mentally as well. Immersion in water also gives a sense of privacy and a personal space to feel safe in. A sense of safety is also very important for progress in the birth process.

Many women, midwives, and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water. The effect is very clear when you see a labouring woman immerse herself in water or stand under the shower. Many women who have laboured in water say they would never be able to consider labouring without water again.

 Research has verified many positive aspects of labouring and giving birth in water.

  • Water facilitates mobility and enables the mother to assume any position which is comfortable for labour and birth.
  • Can speed up labour
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Gives mother more of a feeling of autonomy
  • Provides significant pain relief
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Conserves mothers energy
  • Reduces the need for drugs and interventions
  • Gives mother a private protected space
  • Softens the perineum and can reduce tearing
  • A gentle beginning for baby

Dangerous?

2016-10-11 Santi-11

Although water birth is becoming more widely accepted, for a long time many medical professionals thought it was dangerous to give birth in water. There were many unfounded myths surrounding giving birth in water. As a result of this it was not an option that was widely available. Still today, in The Netherlands, many midwives are afraid of supporting a water birth. Fears of not being able to measure blood loss or having to be more hands off during the birth of the baby are a few of the reasons given for not supporting water birth.

For an evidence based article on water birth and the research that has been done on it follow the link here: evidencebasedbirth.com

Maybe you really do not see yourself birthing your baby in the water …but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!! You don’t necessarily have to give birth to your baby in the water, although that can be amazing, what about just using it for pain relief?

Over the last year or two the options for using water for labour and birth have grown, definitely in my working area, The Hague, Delft and Rotterdam. Midwives are being trained to support water birth and hospitals are seeing there is a demand for it. Even though it is becoming more popular, the options are still very limited. (My next blog will provide a list of hospitals in these cities above and the options they have for water birth)

The shower is often not considered and is also underestimated as a good form of pain relief. Women who use the shower though during labour can stay in there for hours sometimes. It really can help manage the pain. Almost all hospitals have showers in the en-suite bathrooms. A fantastic option for pain management.

2015-05-05 Jim-23

Is water really an effective form of pain relief?

I cannot tell you how many labouring women I have heard groaning with relief at the effect the warm water has on the pain when they first enter the water. That feeling of heaviness in her pregnant body is lightened and there is an ease to which she can move and find comfortable positions in the water. The warmth helps the body relax and the contractions are often experienced as less painful.

Rianne, a recent client of mine, said about her experience:

“I still remember the moment I got into the water. The warmth of the water made such a huge difference, I felt more relaxed, calm and focused. I was better able to get into my own “bubble.” Outside the water I needed help to cope with the contractions and as soon as I got inside the water I needed less help and didn’t feel ‘unsettled’ anymore. The water helped a lot to ease the pain. My score for the pain outside the water was 8/10 and inside the water it quickly became a 4/10.”

Rianne ended up not giving birth to her daughter in the water but had no regrets about having taken the trouble to rent a pool, take it to the birth centre and (have her partner) set it up. It was worth it all for the amazing relief it provided her.

So why not consider using water for pain management. Talk to your midwife about the options. One thing is for sure no woman who used this option ever said it was a waste of time and effort!

*Remember that if you have a medical indication, and are giving birth under the Gynecologist, your hospital of choice may have a pool but it is (in most cases) only available for women giving birth with an external (1st line) midwife practice. More about this in the next blog.

2014-04-12 Violeta-6

Where and with whom can I have a water birth?

The answer to that question is not as simple as it maybe should be.

There are different birthing facilities that facilitate a water birth.

You can rent a birthing pool and plan on a home birth, you can take a rented pool to a birthing centre or use an existing pool in a hospital facility.

Because of the lack of existing facilities for water birth, if you are counting on the last option, you run the risk of there being no pools available when you go into labour. If that happens, you have no choice but to forego your wishes for a water birth. 

More about managing your expectations for a water birth in the next blog post.

2016-09-18 Tula-1

All hospitals and birthing centres do however have the availability of showers. The shower is often forgotten but is  more widely used for women who don’t need constant monitoring with CTG. The shower is also a fantastic, very effective, form of pain relief. Women who use the shower during labour can stay in there for hours sometimes. It really can help manage the pain.

Unfortunately laboring in water and giving birth in water is only for women giving birth with a (1st line) midwife practice, with the exception of a few hospitals in the country. Having said that not all midwives are trained or comfortable with it so always ask your midwives about the options if you are interested in this option. If you have a negative response, you might want to consider seeing if there are other midwife practices in your area who have experience with water birth.

What happens when you have a medical indication?

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Wireless CTG for medical indication(VBAC)

When a woman is being followed by the Gynecologist during her pregnancy there is usually a medical reason. This usually means she needs to have continual monitoring of the baby with a CTG during her labour making it unusual for her to be allowed to use the shower for pain relief and even more unusual to give birth in water. There are a few hospitals in The Netherlands where this is possible but they are the exception and each case is judged on an individual basis.

There is also a possibility that a medical indication arises during your birth. In this case it is more than likely you will have to let go of your desire to use water for the birth.

Wireless CTG

Very few hospitals have wireless CTG’s and even fewer have wireless waterproof CTG’s. These do exist and would make the options for using warm water, even the shower, for pain management and birth a lot more accessible. These machines are expensive and unfortunately not seen as a priority when hospital budgets are made. If your hospital of choice has a pool ask about the options for wireless monitoring. The more people who ask, the more attention it will get that there is a demand for this option.

If you have a medical indication and are one of the lucky ones who lives close to a hospital that has the option to use a birthing pool with the 2nd line care, inquire about the options and protocols about your particular case.  Angela was one of the lucky ones. Read her VBAC water birth story here.

An overview of the options for laboring and giving birth in water in Rotterdam, Delft and The Hague area ~

waterbirth options infographic

*Remember that if you have a medical indication, and are giving birth under the Gynecologist, your hospital of choice may have a pool but it is (in most cases) only available for women giving birth with an external (1st line) midwife practice.

Where can I rent a birthing pool?

Many doula’s and midwife practices have birth pools to rent or you can hire one online. These companies have excellent services.

https://www.oerbron.nl/bevalbaden/huurbaden

http://www.aveta-shop.nl/Geboortebaden

https://www.bevallenzonderzorgen.nl/webshop/

https://www.bevalbaden.nl

How does a water birth work?

How to mentally prepare for a birth in water

Firstly, you need to prepare your mind. Examine your own motivations, incentives and expectations for wanting a water birth. Ask yourself what made you decide to have a water birth and why – is it something you are doing for yourself or are you doing it because someone else expects you to? Remain flexible and let go of the expectation that you must birth your baby in any certain way. Examine how you might feel if your baby is not born in water. We cannot plan birth and there is always a good chance it will go differently than planned. So hold on to your wishes lightly, inform yourself well of the options and alternative scenarios. The more you know and open yourself up for other possibilities, the less surprises you will have along the way and that will result in less stress and a better birthing experience, water birth or not!

What temperature should the water be?

2017-waterbirth-3The water temperature ought to be within 35C – 38C, depending on your preference. Adjust the temperature to your comfort. This can be done with a hose or by removing and then replacing some water with a bucket. If the water is too cold, you will use your energy trying to keep warm and become tense. If the water is too hot you’ll feel drowsy, overheated and may become dehydrated. Your blood pressure will drop which can make you feel faint and you’ll have a greater tendency to bleed after the birth. If you just want localized heat, for example on your back, wet hot wash cloths can be used. Cold wash cloths are great for cooling your face. It is normal for women during labour to one minute be too hot and the other too cold, your body is working very hard to birth your baby, so expect a little of that.

When should I get into the water?

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A woman should be encouraged to use the labor pool whenever she wants. However, if she chooses to get into the water in early labor, before her contractions are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labour altogether. It’s best to wait until you have a strong desire to be in the water or your contractions are strongly established and you are in active labour. Some recommend waiting until you’re at least 5 cms dilated, that way you save the pain relieving effect for the time you need it most. If labour slows down when you are outside the water, try getting into the tub as this might stimulate labour. If your progress slows down whilst you are in the tub, get out, empty your bladder and move around to stimulate labour. Often it is the CHANGE of environment that gets labour moving again. Women’s bodies are all different. The first hour of relaxation in the pool is usually the best and can often help a woman dilate quicker.

What can I drink and eat?

2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-4Drink to thirst. Ask your partner to remind you to drink to avoid dehydration, which can result in fatigue and a poorly functioning uterus. Eating and drinking during labour has been shown to reduce the total length of labour by as much as 90 minutes. Eat light, easily digested food.

Birth positions for a water birth

Experiment with a variety of different positions while in the tub. Try kneeling, squatting, leaning, sitting or lying outstretched (body facing up or down.) Your body will typically move til it finds a position that feels more comfortable. Some women prefer their partner to be in the pool with them to hold onto and act as an anchor, others prefer to be in the bath alone.

When does the baby take its first breath?

The baby doesn’t breathe until after its face leaves the water and its skin comes into contact with the air or it is stimulated when out of the water.
Until then, the baby receives oxygen through its umbilical cord, as it has done during the 9 months of pregnancy. Discuss the actual birth moment with your midwife ahead of time. Many midwives feel comfortable with the time that it takes the mother to reach down and pick the baby up h2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-5erself, others (often less experienced in water birth) feel the need to have the baby come straight out of the water.
Often a mother will have an automatic response and bring the baby straight out of the water to her chest. If she has thought about it before hand she may take the time to just pause for a moment while the baby is immersed under water and look at her little one before bringing it up out of the water. As long as no part of the baby has come out of the water this is fine and safe to do. Remember that the great benefits of water have already been achieved as soon as the infant is born into the warm water. Sometimes babies born in water are so calm at birth it can appear that they aren’t breathing. Gently rub their back or blow on their face and they will gasp. Being born from water into water is a gentle start for a baby and these water babies sometimes need a little more time to literally land on earth.

The placenta

2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-12Some women like to stay in the pool after the birth to enjoy the moment and bond with the baby. Many women want to get out quite soon after and get into a nice warm bed. Birthing the placenta in the water is usually fine. Some midwives prefer the placenta to be born out of the water due to the difficulty to judge accurate blood loss. When it is time for the placenta to come, your midwife may ask you to get out of the pool. Discuss what you both feel comfortable with beforehand and what the scenarios may be that would change this stage of the process.

Top tips for a successful water birth

Tips for water birth in general

  • 2017-01-28 Re-do Jim waterbirth-6Know that at any time the situation can change and you may need to let go of your dream water birth. Hold the dream lightly so you can let go of it at any moment yet at the same time prepare well so you know you have done all you can to achieve your goal of birthing your baby in water.
  • Stick a sticker on the bottom of the pool. This can help to indicate how much blood loss there is. If you can still see the sticker post birth then it is usually fine. Also if you can still see what colour your legs are then your blood loss is safe.
  • To prevent the baby’s breathing reflex from kicking in the baby needs to stay completely under water till its whole body is born. The water needs to be at least 65cm deep. The water should ideally come up to under your breasts if you are sitting.
  • The water should be refreshed after 24 hours to prevent bacteria forming.
  • It is wise to not stay longer than 2 hours in the bath without a break of 30 minutes or so. This gives optimal pain relief and the movement of getting out of the pool can help the baby move through the pelvis.
  • Have an anti-slip mat to lay beside the pool for when you want to get out, old (or cheap)towels that can get dirty, a warm dressing gown and slippers.
  • Think about using dark coloured towels as any stains do not show and it looks better in the photos (says the birth photographer in me☺)
  • Take two or so of your own large bath towels, the hospital towels are not so big (and that is an understatement!)
  • It is a good idea to have a good torch/flash light with extra batteries for when the lighting is low and you want to see better whats going on in the water.
  • Some pools have a place for the partner to sit. It is nice to have the option of having your partner in the water with you for support, especially during the pushing phase. Make sure he has swimming shorts with him, just in case.
  • It is also nice to have candles, fairy lights or lighting that is dimmer for a more cozy and intimate atmosphere.

Extra tips for an enjoyable home water birth

  • If you are planning a home water birth, or renting a pool to take to a birth centre, you should usually have the pool in the house by week 37. Some midwife practices and doula’s rent birth pools. Find some links to where you can rent a pool on this prior blog post.
  • If you have a wooden floor make sure your floor can handle the weight of the water filled pool. A large pool carries about 800 liters of water, which is 800 kilo in weight. With a good floor this should not be a problem but in some old houses it is worth checking this first.
  • The room should be large enough to allow access from all sides. The midwife needs space to access the pool well.

    tula-home-water-birth-doula-sophie

  • The temperature of the room you will be birthing in should be comfortable. It can be nice to have a blow fan close by in case you get too warm in the water.
  • Have a practice run setting up the pool before hand. Time how long it takes to adequately fill the pool.
  • The midwife may at any point need more light then it is handy to have a moveable spotlight.
  • Have a low stool or children’s chair for the midwife to sit on next to the pool so she can sit comfortably too.
  • If the pool will be set up in the living area or on a different floor than the bedroom, make a comfortable place in the same room as the pool for mother and baby to lie on. A good sofa or guest bed/mattress work fine. This way you can lie there and enjoy the baby after the birth instead of moving upstairs or to the bedroom. This can also be used if you need to birth the baby or the placenta outside of the water. Make sure it is protected well from bloodstains and covered well with an old sheet and plastic if needed. The box you get from the insurance should have special mats in for this.
  • Have a few warm blankets or a duvet close by to keep mama and baby warm and lots of dark coloured towels 🙂

A glimpse of 2016

So excited to share my 2016 video with some of my favourite photos of last year. Some are my favourite because they are amazing shots and some are my favourites because of their special birth story. There are many, these are the ones I have permission to share. There are many special stories not represented here, that does not make them any less special. Enjoy <3
 
I love to figure out my stats and fun facts for the year. Here are some fun ones:
38 births, 39 babies
First twin birth 🙂
15 boys
24 girls
7/10 Successful VBAC’s (vaginal birth after cesarean)
6 Cesareans (1 planned)
19 First time mothers
30 Hospital births
4 Home births
4 Birth Centre births
7 mothers used medical pain relief!
4 Water births
6 mothers used a birthing pool for pain relief but did not give birth in water
28 international clients
5 repeat clients 🙂
1 birth missed (mother gave birth too quickly)
1 time (and the first) I sent my back up to a birth, because I had two at once.
3 Birth photography only

Not one but two Daniels!

On the 24th and 25th of December my last two births of the year took place. Two Daniels born to two different families in the same hospital and the same delivery room. I still got to spend Christmas eve(ning) with my family and Christmas afternoon with extended family. Apart from being a little tired I had a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas. Blessed <3

Voetjes

A labour of love and letting go (trigger warning)

One day in the month of May, earlier this year, I received a request from a midwife to photograph a very special birth.

In the early hours of a morning in June I received a call that labour had started and asking if I could join. When I arrived at the house there was a peaceful atmosphere and Jorinde was labouring in the birth pool. The midwife, her sister and a friend were there too and her son was sleeping in the room next door.

What I was about to witness that morning was a very brave yet brokenhearted mother who had faced many tough decisions throughout her pregnancy. She had decided to carry her baby full term after finding out that he had a rare form of dwarfism and a heart defect and would not live long after birth. She had walked a lonely journey and met misunderstanding as she sought for a way to give birth as she felt she wanted to. She found a support team willing to support a quiet respectful labour at home and a hospital team as back up if needed.

Her labour was a labour of love and letting go. Letting go of the son she so loved. The son whom she hadn’t yet met but whom she knew so well. She knew his kicks and his movements better than the back of her hand and as he grew she knew his life inside her womb was life indeed. Knowing that that life would not be sustainable on the outside was something she wanted to postpone for as long as she could. Now he was very much alive and kicking.

The letting go was agonizing and the pain of labour mirrored the pain on the inside. She patiently went through the process and we with her. The journey took her to the hospital and finally to let go of her sweet Valentijn via a cesarean section. He came into the world and looked his mother in the face for a short while and then closed his eyes and passed away.

Sweet brave Valentijn you were so loved and so wanted, you couldn’t stay for long but will remain in the hearts of the family and the friends who met you.

And dear Jorinde,  your strength and determination is bold and beautiful and i hope it will carry you in your grief. Thank you for sharing your story.

Birth-valentijn

Lieve Sophie, ik ben je enorm dankbaar voor het feit dat jij bij de bevalling van mijn lieve Valentijn wilde zijn om hier prachtige beelden van te maken. De ontmoeting en het afscheid van mijn dappere mannetje! Ik kan uren naar de foto’s kijken en voel dan weer extra sterk mijn oneindig grote liefde voor hem ♥
Naast de prachtige beelden heb ik ook je support tijdens de bevalling als heel fijn en steunend ervaren, dankjewel daarvoor!
Liefs, Jorinde

Gaia

09-12-2016 ~ Welcome to this little bundle of joy who is Gaia! Glad her Dad made it back from his business trip just in time to welcome her into the world. So glad my paths crossed with this sweet family.

gaia-hospital induction-doula

Ska

3-12-2016 ~ And we have entered the last month of the year, the most festive time of the year. I welcomed the first December baby on Saturday evening. A very patient and brave mama laboured long and peacefully to birth her baby girl in the way she had hoped. #VBACbaby #rockinmama I was thrilled to receive this lovely testimonial from Laila.

“The birth of our first child via emergency c-section left me feeling “robbed” of the birth experience I had hoped for. After moving to the Netherlands, and falling pregnant, I consistently received positive feedback on doula support.
Sophie was recommended to me by a friend and after our initial meeting my husband and I decided to hire her. Turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Sophie’s wealth of knowledge was crucial in our decision making process regarding choice of hospital and birth plan. I really appreciate how she listed all available options but never tried to steer us in a certain direction.
As the big day came closer she frequently followed up and listened to my fears and concerns. Once I started having slight contractions a week before the due date she provided me with useful advice, made sure I got enough rest and most importantly spoilt me with a long massage, which I am convinced helped to speed up the whole early labour.
Throughout my long labour she was by my side and helped me focus on my breath, answered my husband’s questions, massaged some of the tougher contractions away and explained the steps along the way in a wonderfully calm manner. In a great team effort, together with my husband, she kept me going, resulting in the VBAC I was hoping for. A truly healing process which I will always be grateful for.” Laila Weinhardt

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Elin

30-11-2016 ~ Yay for girls! Another sweet baby girl? Welcome on this planet Elin. It was an honour to support your lovely parents and witness your birth-day

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