24/11/2015 ~ The patience and strength of this mama kept going throughout her long labour. Her partner was there throughout with an encouraging word, many a hip squeeze and an occasional kiss… labouring to birth their baby together! The minute her little man was born she had a huge smile on her face and she was totally smitten and in love. You are loved Jan!
17/11/2015 ~ Oh baby boy, your parents were so thrilled with you entering their lives. Your grandparents lingered in the hall ways of the hospital waiting patiently. Not much patience was involved as you came in super time. Your Mama thought she could never give birth without pain relief and she did it!!! She still can’t believe it. Welcome sweet boy!
William was another really quick birth ~ 12/11/2015. Thinking she was having indigestion most of the day this Mama kept on working. When she had the first painful contraction she called the midwife and 15 minutes later she was already 7 cm dilated. We met at the hospital soon after and the baby was born no more than half an hour later. Sometimes birth is too fast and it really is a shock for the mother and a lot to process, especially if it is the first baby. She still had a huge smile as soon as the baby was placed on her chest.
Remember, remember the 5th of November… when Homayoun was born! His Papa could not stop smiling with his son in his arms.
He was not quite as speedy as his sister but Thomas was born in water and guided into the world by his Dad just like his big sister Amy was in June of 2014. Don’t you just love that Dad is pouring water over him to keep him warm in the birth pool minutes after his birth.
Thomas (see last post) and Sofia’s parents took the Confident Birth Course together and both hired me afterwards as their doula. Born a week after Thomas, little Sofia.
The love this couple have for each other instantly spilled over into an intense love for their daughter… made me melt just a little bit inside.
Oh sweet joy, Thomas Jason!
Born and loved from minute one… by his smiling Mama and emotional Papa, and within an hour, by his four doting Grandparents.
Your parents waited a long time for you. You kept us all thinking you were going to be born by c-section until week 36 when you decided to flip from a breech to head down. And your Mum beat the odds, and a lot more besides, to birth you vaginally. And she rocked it!!
! What a journey into this world. After coming into the world via c-section Jippe needed some extra help with breathing when he was born. He was given to his mama for skin on skin cuddles as soon as possible and now he is doing well. Welcome little guy.
This week I was thrilled to spend a day listening to Ina May Gaskin tell stories. What a gentle and fierce woman. What a storyteller and what humour!!
There were many, many gems and nuggets of wisdom in her stories and I have been pondering a few things particularly.
First the idea of helping a woman feel grateful during labour. I quote Ina May: “A whining woman does not give birth easily, we need to help women feel gratefulness in labour. Gratefulness produces oxytocin”
Going into labour with an attitude of gratitude will help a woman to labour well. Wow I love that concept!! I have been thinking about gratitude a lot this summer. I get that and it makes so much sense to me. A woman’s mindset is different when she is in thankful mode, she stays positive and emotionally open and her body opens. “A woman who lives in a state of ‘poor old me’ struggles and does not labour well” said Ina May. This is usually something that someone is pre-disposed to right? This kind of woman typically goes through life whining and feeling sorry for herself, it is not usually something that just started during pregnancy. Can we help change that negativity by simple gratefulness? Even positive women struggle when they go into labour and find it hard to stay positive and grateful.
So I have been thinking about how we as birth workers can help women move into a space that is more positive for labour and birth? Gratitude is a great life skill after all.
I discovered Brené Brown this summer and she talks about how practicing gratitude in moments of vulnerability can help to shift your perspective. If ever there was a moment in your life that is vulnerable and when you feel emotionally wide open it is when you are in labour. Brown talks about the practice of naming what you are thankful for when you feel depression or anxiety creep in and when you feel you are going to your dark space. The darkness seems to dissipate in the light of the gratitude. It works! Before we go to sleep my husband and I have started naming 5 things we are thankful for that happened that day. What starts to happen, when you know that exercise is coming, is that during the day you start to see things you are grateful for. It starts to change how you look at life.
Maybe we can encourage our pregnant mama’s to keep a gratitude journal through pregnancy. Name 5 things every day you are thankful for. I am pretty sure it will revolutionize how they experience their pregnancy and how they go into labour and birth. If we can help women focus on being grateful during labour it will increase the production of oxytocin and dissipate adrenaline helping the labour process. I don’t know about you but I am going to start a little experiment with my present clients to see how this works in practice.
Another theme that came out in Ina May’s story telling was how we need to help woman laugh during labour. “Laughing produces oxytocin and also helps the process” she said. Ina May told many stories of how she as a midwife observed that when the birthing process would stall or women were stressed she would somehow make them laugh and the process would continue. I so recognize this.
I have been noticing in my doula work just how powerful laughter is. It relaxes and opens you up. Knowing my client a little bit more personally (than the other care providers) somehow gives me a unique way to speak into the situation with humour. Laughter is the best medicine and lifts the anxiety, lifts the stress and makes way for oxytocin to do its work for a better birthing experience. As a doula I have a unique role because I stand outside the medical responsibility for the birth. I stand outside of the relationship the couple have and am not part of the dance they may have in how they communicate around stress. Those two things are invaluable. That sometimes allows me to reach the birthing woman when the partner can’t or to bring the couple together in laughter so they instantly relax and feel a connection with each other again.
This all sounds a bit pre-determined and makes me sound as if I am a very funny person. I can assure you it isn’t and I am not! It is a natural and gentle process that happens because you have gotten to know your clients a little. It is something I have been observing recently. The more births I support the more themes I see during birth that are similar. Ina May talked about laughter as if it was some kind of wonder drug. I like that. It really often is like the oil that keeps the whole process working well.
This reminds me of a quote by Anna Verwaal “A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth.” What a difference it would make if gratitude and laughter were an integral part of labour.
If we get to know our clients better, their fears, their hopes and dreams we can be more relevant to them during labour. We can’t speak to a fear we don’t know about and we can’t counter act negativity if we don’t know where it comes from. We are less likely to be able to make a meaningful joke with someone if we don’t know a little bit about what makes them tick.
So yes, lets get to know our clients, lets make them laugh, lets help women birth with gratitude and see what a difference it makes. Thank you Ina May, I love it!
At the end of the day we all brought a bead to share to make Ina May a necklace to remember us by (seen in the photo.) One woman had a blue and white bead and Ina May said quietly and kind of under her breath “Oh I love blue and white, food always looks so good on blue and white” And my heart did a little skip and I smiled with delight. My Grandma and my Mum always said that. I felt a little bit of nostalgia and was deeply grateful for a wonderful day with this wonderful wise and honest woman.
Albertina was hoping for a nice quiet home birth for her second child but for medical reasons everything changed at the last minute and the labour was to be induced. She knew that in a medical setting she wanted extra support. Her midwife had promised to come if she could but could give no guarantee. So she contacted me to be her doula. The midwife did join us, as she had a quiet shift, and stayed till the baby was born. Here an emotional moment shared between women. The continual presence and support of her partner, doula and midwife made a huge difference to Albertina’s birthing experience. Photo taken by Papa of course!! Little Tim was born a few hours later. Albertina was very excited to tell her oldest son Sven on the telephone that his baby brother was born and that they chose the name he had thought up for him. Such a sweet moment.
“Steffen, Sophie en Marsha hebben voor mij het verschil gemaakt, bedankt! Net als de geboorte van Sven was die van Tim een prachtige ervaring!”
“Steffen, Sophie and Marsha really made the difference, thank-you! Tims birth was, just like the birth of my first son Sven, a beautiful ezperience!” A Dirkx
As co-founder of Birth in Holland I am excited and thrilled to announce our new birthing positions hand out for our birth preparation classes.
We are constantly telling our Confident Birth Course couples how important it is to keep moving and active during labour. Mother and baby work as a team to help make the process as optimal and easy as possible for each other. The partner then supports the mother and baby by making sure the mother is as comfortable as she can be. I love how this comes out in the drawings.
My sister, Abigail Lower, illustrated them for us. Many are taken from real birth photo’s I have taken throughout the years. You may even recognize yourself 🙂
Defne 16-09-2015. Labour pushed this Mama to her limits but she was stronger than she knew and was so thrilled she pushed through the pain and birthed little Defne naturally. The joy <3
Oh what a beauty, those bright fresh eyes, little Estela born 10-09-2014.
Quentin 06-09-2015 Surprising his parents and me “the last minute (almost) hired birth photographer” by deciding to come at 37 weeks. Fortunately it all worked out and I was able to photograph his water birth. Welcome little man.
On the 31st of July Artyom came into this world making his parents, and the doula, extremely happy after a long and slow labour. Mama bounced back very quickly and we were all leaving the hospital for home three hours after the birth.
On the 28th of July Jonas arrived even quicker than Daithi. No time for the hospital, helped into this world by the ambulance brothers.
Welcome Daithi. You were given a beautiful irish name by your irish parents. Daithi means swift. You surprised us all by coming early and quickly, true to name. 06/07/2015 is a great birth date.
Here is little Selin who’s (American) mama really did not want her to come on the 4th of July. Labour started on the 2nd, really kicked in on the 3rd and she waited till 2 hours into the 4th of July (American Independance day) to be born. Already an independant young lady! Now forever more she will have fireworks on her birthday.
Welcome Rodos. Born 18th of June. He made his parents wait a while and did not make it easy for his mama but she was so strong and determined that he was born just as she wished in a beautiful home water birth. What a team, what power, what an amazing mama!
What a sweetie, little Josie. She was born on the 8th of June. Her mama was strong and quiet as she breathed through the pain and birthed her baby into her Partners hands. He caught the baby like a pro. So beautiful!
After a long wait to get pregnant little Zita’s parents were thrilled to welcome her into their arms ~ 03-06-2015
02-06-2015 Welcome sweet Eva. She had a difficult start in the first hour after birth but recovered quickly and was soon looking deep into her Daddy’s eyes.
Welcome little Jim Deaver, such a cool name! Born on “Freedom Day” (5/5/2015) A beautiful family friendly home water birth.
Welcome to my little niece Carlijn who was born May the 12th. A super fast birth that her Papa and I almost both missed. Too fast to set up the birthing pool which was the plan. My amazing sister in law rocked and was as cool and relaxed as could be. What an honour to witness a new family member enter the world.
Welcome little girl! Lina was born in tempo time on the last day of April. Just after her Dad’s birthday and just before her Mama’s birthday.
Perfect little Mahruyeh entered the world two weeks after her due date on the 12th of April. Her Mama birthed her beautifully and her Papa caught her like a hero and handed her to her Mama after pausing for a minute not sure what to do next. Mahruyeh means pretty face in Persian. And she is so pretty and was very alert charming us all with her beautiful dark eyes.
Since the moment we found out that we would be having our first child, we thought that the best path would be to give birth in the hospital with an epidural. My dad is a doctor and I would say to anyone who asked “why should I feel any pain if pain relief is possible?” My husband and I also insisted on seeing the gynecologist for every visit/check-up and we were not interested in having a midwife. However, at 36 weeks pregnant we had a complete change of heart, leaving the Gynecologist and hiring Doula Sophie and the midwives at MCH Westeinde hospital.
My husband and I attended a six-week long Confident Birth Course where we learned about different birthing possibilities and pain relief options. Hearing about Doula support intrigued us as neither one of us has family here and we had not felt very supported by our Dutch gynecologists. We felt that we had been pushed around almost to the point of being bullied and we really wanted to have someone who would be on our side during the birth of our child. Hiring a Doula just made sense to our minds. But once we met Sophie, we knew in our hearts that we had made the right decision.
Our baby decided that it was time to meet us after he had been in my belly for 41 weeks. On a cold and rainy November day we drove to our regularly scheduled midwife appointment. The midwife confirmed that I was 2 cm dilated and would be having the baby that day. Sophie was already on her way to meet us at the hospital.
The next sequence of events seems like a plot for a movie but I assure you – we lived through it, in great part thanks to Sophie’s support:
At 2 cm dilated, the midwife instructed us to go walk around the hospital for a bit as it would help with the dilation progression. We also had to wait for the birthing midwife to arrive to the hospital. By the time the birthing midwife (and Sophie) had arrived, which was less than an hour, I was 4 cm dilated. The midwife tried at that point to arrange for a delivery room but they were all occupied. Sophie, my husband and I were all stunned to hear that we would have to change hospitals mid-labor. When told that we had to drive ourselves to the new hospital (and not be transferred by ambulance) we really didn’t know what to do. At this moment, Sophie reassured us and said that she would lead the way in her car so my husband didn’t have to worry or think as he drove with me laboring in the backseat – this was a huge relief.
By the time we arrived to Bronovo and I was settled in my room, I was 6 cm dilated – this baby was coming and he was coming fast! Sophie knew that we wanted to have a water birth so she suggested that I get in the shower since it was the only water option available. It felt so good to be in there!
It was worrying to everyone that I felt the urge to push too early and with every contraction. Sophie helped me focus on my breathing and to stay as calm as possible. When I felt excruciating pain in my lower back, Sophie got behind me and would massage/provide counter-pressure during each contraction. She did this massage tirelessly for hours.
Sophie knew that we had brought music to play during the birth and she reminded us of it. In those moments, neither my husband nor I were thinking clearly but Sophie, having discussed these things with us beforehand, was there to remind us. She also reminded my husband to eat something.
At 8 cm, dilation stalled and an ultrasound was performed. Our baby was turned the wrong way – his head was not putting enough pressure on my cervix for dilation to continue, and I was given synthetic hormones to help. Sophie suggested various labor positions to try to encourage the baby to move into the appropriate position.
Despite our best efforts, and 18 hours of contractions, we found out that our baby needed to be born via C-Section. Sophie waited while my husband and I were taken into the operating room and was with my husband and baby while waiting for me to return from surgery. Sophie was there when we grew from a family of two, to a family of three.
Having a baby in a foreign country is stressful but with Sophie by our side we felt empowered. Her calming presence and thoughtfulness provided support in the most intense moments of our lives. When everything seemed to be going wrong, Sophie was there, thinking of how we could make the best out of the situation and make the birth as close as possible to our original birth plan.
Not only did she provide amazing Doula support, but Sophie also took the most beautiful photographs of labor and our first moments with our son. She visited again the following day and took more photos. Thanks to her, we now have a stunning album with our birth story, a gift that we will treasure forever.
Sophie’s support gave was priceless, and we look forward to having her present at all of our future births!
[Note from my husband]: Sophie was the angel I needed to help my wife through this most joyous and yet frightening day of my life. As a foreign couple, with no family to rely upon in Holland, Sophie was my shoulder to lean on; the one I felt I could truly trust. Thank you, Sophie.
The hands that hold this beautiful belly are, exactly two weeks later,
the hands that hold these beautiful little feet, the feet of little Berke.
Born at home on 20-03-2015.