When I got the first phone call from Jessica she had found out she was pregnant a few weeks earlier. She was incredibly sick and her body felt so out of control that she just needed to talk to someone about it. I remember I had arrived at a postnatal appointment a little early and was sitting in the car when she called. I sat and listened as she talked and poured out her fears and experiences and just how weird she thought this pregnancy thing was. I assured her it was normal what she was going through, blamed the (wonderful) hormones and empathized with just how much it sucked to feel so crappy because your body is growing a baby. Being American she knew it was normal to wait a few weeks before going to the midwife but felt a strong need to talk to a professional about what she was experiencing. All she wanted was to hear some advice on how she could take care of herself and hear that what she was going through was normal.
I met her and her dutch partner, Emiel, a week or so later and they hired me to be their doula. Jessica had no idea what kind of birth she wanted, she just knew that she DID NOT want it to be at home and she was really strict about that from the beginning. Home births just aren’t part of how things go in the US where most people are convinced a room full of doctors is the safest way to birth. Emiel shared how he was only four when his brother was born at home and he remembered crying the entire time. It was not exactly a pleasant memory for him but he was open to whatever Jess wanted.
Jess had no plans either way in terms of pain relief, she was pretty much open to everything but more than anything she wanted to have options. I recommended a midwife practice and the midwife recommended a kraamzorg and after discovering it was a baby girl Jessica and Emiel gave her a name and ‘Team Tula’ was born. Jessica joked about getting t-shirts for everyone with ‘Team Tula’ on it.
As time went on they started discovering more about the birth process (at the Confident Birth Course) Learning there were limitations that came with medical interventions, like no longer having their midwife taking care of them and the use of water in any form being out of the question, caused them to reconsider their birth plan. Jess loves water and doesn’t love being hooked to machines and so this news started to change things for her. Sure, she still wanted the option for medical pain relief but was much more aware of the trade-offs that would be made if she opted for it.
So they came to the conclusion that a home water birth would provide a relaxed atmosphere and help Jess stay calm and feel safe during labour. This ended up being the birth plan, unless, during the process she decided otherwise. She was not closed to having an epidural if needed, she was just now open to trying warm water as a pain relief option instead of immediately jumping to a medical form of relief.
I went on vacation and had my back up cover for me in case labour started before 39 weeks. Two days after my return Jess was awoken at 3 in the morning with light contractions that were enough to keep her awake. They were uncomfortable but not painful and they continued for a few hours. In the morning they subsided and she was able to catch up on some sleep. She continued with her day aware this pattern could continue for some days still.
That evening they indeed started up again and she didn’t really dare to believe she was really in labour. She knew that early labour could stop and start before really kicking in and she kept thinking the contractions were probably temporary. However her husband saw they were progressing and coming quite often and decided it would be good to let me know. I encouraged her to get into the shower to see if that would make the contractions intensify or slow down and agreed we would have contact in 30 minutes or so again. The next time I talked to her she was very chatty but when the contraction came I could hear her breathing to get through it. I timed a few at every 2 minutes. This seemed to be going fast, so I said i would make my way to them and be there in an hour and that they should definitely call the midwife.
I arrived at the same time as the midwife and we went upstairs. It was 11:10 at this point and clear that Jess was in deep labour. Her favourite 80’s music was playing and Emiel said that 30 minutes earlier they had been dancing to the music. This was going fast. She was emotional and struggling to cope. I suggested the shower again while the midwife got the birthing pool set up.
The shower was a dark place, she said later, where she later came to realize she had been in transition (the phase just before being fully open and ready to push the baby out.) It felt so intense and the contractions just kept coming with little break in between. She started to feel the urge to push and I encouraged her not to be afraid but to be mindful of what her body was doing and let it happen. We took turns to stay with her and help with the pool. When Emiel was with her he held the shower on her back and when I was with her I applied some counter pressure on her back. Meanwhile the midwife was working hard to get some water in the pool. I took over so she could go and check the heartbeat of the baby. The baby was doing fine. The midwife suggested Jess get into the pool.
As soon as she got it in, the water soothed the pain in her body a bit. It felt good and she relaxed but then a contraction would come and she wouldn’t know where to grab or what to do! I brought to her attention that the space between the contractions had gotten longer again (this is common for the pushing phase so mother and baby can recover from the intensity of the contraction.) As soon as she realized that, she could relax better in the breaks because she had more time to. We talked about how if she pushed with the contraction the pain would likely be less and it was as if that suddenly clicked for her and during the next contraction she got more focused and in control. I could see she was mindfully feeling what was going on in her body, listening to it and gently pushing the baby down. The warm water was all used up so the sweet midwife continued to warm the water every way possible wanting to have enough warm water in the pool before the baby came and wanting to allow the father to be in the moment with his wife!!
Jess moved onto her knees in the pool and after the next contraction all of a sudden said “I think something just came out” The midwife grabbed the mirror from her bag but as I looked down I saw a little tiny hand peeping out from underneath Jessica. The baby was already half born. Jessica and Emiel looked down together and there she was, sweet Tula, staring up at them from under the water. Jess wasn’t sure what to do but the midwife assured her she could just bring her out of the water herself. She did and pulled her baby’s wet little body up to her chest while sitting back in the pool. “There you are my little nugget” she said and as we all laughed with slight disbelief at what had just happened. The midwife said “Team Tula, Yay!” and we all cheered! It was just past midnight 🙂
Tula let out a loud cry and then quietened down and enjoyed being in her mama’s arms in the water… which wasn’t quite full enough but was plenty warm enough. Playing in the background as she was born was “I want it that way” by the Back Street Boys! We laughed again and all put on our team Tula t-shirts as we had not yet had time to do.
The kraamzorg arrived, put on her t-shirt and joined the team Tula selfie. The dogs were introduced to the new addition and were very relaxed about the whole thing.
After a few hours I went home with an Oxytocin high, a bit of jet-lag, a bit of doula-lag and needing to get up the next day to teach a new Confident Birth Course! Doula life can be crazy but I love it!
Welcome sweet Tula, you are already very loved… even by your furry friends who are starting to get used to you now too. Emiel and Jessica thank you for letting me share your story.
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