Three Births, Three Children, My Path to Wholeness

As I waited for my first child’s birth, I expected to breeze through in the Birthing Centre, and was not prepared for what happened, and how disappointed I felt after the birth. I had such high expectations of myself that I never allowed myself to feel like a “real” or fully fledged mother (one who gave birth naturally).
My first child, Ciaron, was born in a delivery suite in hospital after a 28 hour labour with an epidural, and an emergency forceps delivery resulting in a third degree tear to the sphincter. Fortunately I bonded immediately to my baby and enjoyed breastfeeding Ciaron until he was 19 months old. The breastfeeding relationship I had with him became a source of great emotional healing for me as I slowly recovered from the birth.

I waited three and a half years before I had enough courage to go through childbirth again. I desperately wanted another child, and time was running out as I was almost 40. I decided that I really wanted to try for a more natural birth the second time round. I was very frightened of the birth and as it loomed closer I tried to prepare myself psychologically by debriefing about my first birth experience. A midwife recommended the services of a doula for my second birth, and it was just what I needed. Another woman who would be there for me from the beginning of the labor, someone who had been through birthing herself, who knew various ways of encouraging me to keep focussed so I could try for a drug-free birth. I wanted to have another chance at experiencing birth as a rite of passage, and as a positive experience for me as well as the baby.

So I rang Margie, one of the doulas who was recommended, and felt at home with her right away. She visited me several times before the birth, lent me books and chatted about my fears and expectations as I prepared my next birth plan, and a poster which I decided to do as a psychological preparation.

My second birthing experience was 8 hours, and I did it completely drug-free except for a local anaesthetic for suturing a second degree tear afterwards. Margie stayed right beside me the whole time, encouraging me and supporting me in ways that my partner and even my mother was not trained or able to do. The birth was very painful, and the hardest thing I have ever done. (I did not experience the same pain with the first birth as I had had an epidural and was pretty out of it, and I was not able to feel connected to the pushing out of my first child.) However, even with the birth of my second child, Breandan, I was exhausted and the sense of triumph did not happen in the way I had hoped.

The final twenty minutes of the birth were very stressful as the registrar was called in as the baby’s heartbeat could not be found. I had been labouring in the bath for some time but contractions had slowed, and I was told to move back to the delivery suite – so I had to walk down the corridor to a poky ugly delivery room and tried to find a comfortable position on the floor so I could squat or kneel for the birth, but I was so tired, and the midwife wanted me to lie on my back so she could find the baby’s heartbeat. I could hardly speak, but Margie was able to back me up and explain how I wanted to give birth. Even so, I felt I had to relinquish control for the sake of the baby, and the birthing position was not optimal for me. Things slowed down until the registrar came in and was going to do an episiotomy without asking me. Margie intercepted and gave me the choice, asking me if that was what I wanted. In the moments when I was contemplating “cut or tear?” my body took over and Breandan was born in one humungus contraction which took everyone by surprise, even me.

I did not have the same instant bonding experience with my second baby, Breandan. The delivery was marred by this very rough and insensitive registrar who stitched up my tear without waiting for the anaesthetic to work on me. I had not slept for more than an hour each night for two weeks leading up to the birth as I had an extreme case of Pruritic and Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy and I was so itchy all over I had to sit with icepacks all over me and my feet in a bucket of cold water, even though I was cold! This rash was supposed to go away a few days after the birth, but I ended up having it all over my body for two months after, and it required cortisone treatment.

I had also to deal with immense disappointment and disbelief that the baby wasn’t a girl. I had collected and made baby clothes for her since I was 16. My heart was sad for the loss of a daughter I thought I would never have, being then aged 41.

It was especially helpful to be able to talk to Margie and the midwife after the birth, and I found that I recovered physically much more quickly from the birth this time. One of the lessons I remember most was how our bodies work when stress or fear impinges on us. Margie pointed out how in the early stages of birthing, stage one, if we are frightened or stressed the labor stops or slows – like the gazelle who has to escape a lion during birth – if it was in the early stages the birth would be stopped so the gazelle could flee, but if the birth was sufficiently progressed, the birth would be rushed so the gazelle could somehow escape. I could see how this had happened with Ciaron’s birth, how my fears slowed the labor down, and I had no support at the time to get over this. Then in Breandan’s birth, the stress happened near the end and my body took over and he was born quickly. Margie helped me see how my body was looking after me, not failing me as I had interpreted with Ciaron’s birth.

Breastfeeding was a healing balm for me again. Feeding Breandan was a wonderful experience of joy, relaxation and gradual deep bonding with my baby. (After the initial oversupply settled down!). Despite the continued lack of sleep and discomfort for me due to the rash, during the feeds I felt like I was sitting on top of a mountain, watching the rest of the world from afar as I became immersed in my baby’s eyes and the gentle but powerful tug of him suckling at the breast, feeling his little hand exploring my skin and clothes. Gradually over the first few days I fell in love with him and became as besotted with him as I am over my first child.

It was wonderful to have a supportive friend in Margie, who came to visit several times after the birth, and it’s been lovely to catch up with her in the years after as well.

When I found myself pregnant again I immediately turned to Margie for the birth. I was sad when she was unable to be at my next birth due to being overseas, but she introduced me to Ingrid, who I got on well with straight away. I even found her to be a similar calm spirit to Margie, and it was easy to get to know her and feel comfortable with her. The thought of having emotional support at the birth was comforting.

It was so exciting when I found out that the baby was probably a girl. I hardly dared to believe it! I worked so hard preparing myself for the birth. This time I wanted that elusive positive birthing experience that would empower me as a woman. I still had those high expectations!

Well, third time lucky, or maybe I was a slow learner! My labor pains with Roisin started gently but definitely, and I was very excited to at last meet my baby. I called Ingrid and we agreed it was early yet and that she didn’t need to come over yet. My Mum was here, the kids were in bed and it was early evening after a good dinner. I decided to go for a walk with Mum around the block to speed things up – well, I only got about 10 houses away when the contractions started coming thick and fast and I couldn’t walk easily, so we headed home, me stopping to lean on cars and posts as the contractions came. I called Ingrid and she said she’d come on over. Things really hotted up quickly, but I felt calm and relaxed. Then as the pain became more intense I decided to have a hot shower – but I felt a sense of urgency after only a few minutes, and knew we HAD to go to the hospital.

By the time we arrived at the hospital with me labouring hard in the back seat, I felt like the baby was coming as I got out of the car and could hardly walk. By the time we went upstairs in the lift to the delivery room I was ready to have the baby. The midwife was quiet and at ease, read my birth plan and let me go to it. I just climbed up on the bed on all fours and ignored everybody, and within about twenty minutes I changed to a position where I could see in a mirror, then Roisin was born, the most amazing experience of my life. No drugs, no intervention. Peace and quiet, except for my own noises. I felt in control as her head crowned and I managed to gently control the push as I watched in a mirror. It was magic as I felt and saw her warm heavy body slip out and there was my baby. I was so stunned I even forgot to look to see if it was a girl or a boy. She didn’t even cry, just made a tiny little sound and looked around. What a joy when I saw she was a girl, my long awaited daughter. I felt complete at last, as if this was what I was meant to be here for. The midwife left us to bond, just as I had wanted, and didn’t cut the cord immediately, as I had asked.

My Mother and my partner, Terry, were there, so happy for me. Ingrid was there, quietly and hugely supportive, letting me be in control, just radiating a positive presence. It’s funny that Ingrid didn’t have to do much –just having her there made such a difference to how much I felt in control of the situation. I felt so empowered that I did it! I let my body do its thing! It worked its own miracle without me stopping it or holding it up.

I felt elated, absolutely high. This feeling lasted for about two months, I was just so intensely uplifted that at last I had passed through this rite of passage and I had had the birth experience I dreamed about. At last I felt like I had grown into full motherhood, full womanhood.

Roisin is now 22 months old, still breastfeeding, and a joy. I feel a sense of completeness about our family now, and I feel so lucky to have three beautiful and different children – even three different eye colours!

Jesse Rowan
16 November 2006

Three Births, Three Children, My Path to Wholeness

As I waited for my first child’s birth, I expected to breeze through in the Birthing Centre, and was not prepared for what happened, and how disappointed I felt after the birth. I had such high expectations of myself that I never allowed myself to feel like a “real” or fully fledged mother (one who gave birth naturally).
My first child, Ciaron, was born in a delivery suite in hospital after a 28 hour labour with an epidural, and an emergency forceps delivery resulting in a third degree tear to the sphincter. Fortunately I bonded immediately to my baby and enjoyed breastfeeding Ciaron until he was 19 months old. The breastfeeding relationship I had with him became a source of great emotional healing for me as I slowly recovered from the birth.

I waited three and a half years before I had enough courage to go through childbirth again. I desperately wanted another child, and time was running out as I was almost 40. I decided that I really wanted to try for a more natural birth the second time round. I was very frightened of the birth and as it loomed closer I tried to prepare myself psychologically by debriefing about my first birth experience. A midwife recommended the services of a doula for my second birth, and it was just what I needed. Another woman who would be there for me from the beginning of the labor, someone who had been through birthing herself, who knew various ways of encouraging me to keep focussed so I could try for a drug-free birth. I wanted to have another chance at experiencing birth as a rite of passage, and as a positive experience for me as well as the baby.

So I rang Margie, one of the doulas who was recommended, and felt at home with her right away. She visited me several times before the birth, lent me books and chatted about my fears and expectations as I prepared my next birth plan, and a poster which I decided to do as a psychological preparation.

My second birthing experience was 8 hours, and I did it completely drug-free except for a local anaesthetic for suturing a second degree tear afterwards. Margie stayed right beside me the whole time, encouraging me and supporting me in ways that my partner and even my mother was not trained or able to do. The birth was very painful, and the hardest thing I have ever done. (I did not experience the same pain with the first birth as I had had an epidural and was pretty out of it, and I was not able to feel connected to the pushing out of my first child.) However, even with the birth of my second child, Breandan, I was exhausted and the sense of triumph did not happen in the way I had hoped.

The final twenty minutes of the birth were very stressful as the registrar was called in as the baby’s heartbeat could not be found. I had been labouring in the bath for some time but contractions had slowed, and I was told to move back to the delivery suite – so I had to walk down the corridor to a poky ugly delivery room and tried to find a comfortable position on the floor so I could squat or kneel for the birth, but I was so tired, and the midwife wanted me to lie on my back so she could find the baby’s heartbeat. I could hardly speak, but Margie was able to back me up and explain how I wanted to give birth. Even so, I felt I had to relinquish control for the sake of the baby, and the birthing position was not optimal for me. Things slowed down until the registrar came in and was going to do an episiotomy without asking me. Margie intercepted and gave me the choice, asking me if that was what I wanted. In the moments when I was contemplating “cut or tear?” my body took over and Breandan was born in one humungus contraction which took everyone by surprise, even me.

I did not have the same instant bonding experience with my second baby, Breandan. The delivery was marred by this very rough and insensitive registrar who stitched up my tear without waiting for the anaesthetic to work on me. I had not slept for more than an hour each night for two weeks leading up to the birth as I had an extreme case of Pruritic and Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy and I was so itchy all over I had to sit with icepacks all over me and my feet in a bucket of cold water, even though I was cold! This rash was supposed to go away a few days after the birth, but I ended up having it all over my body for two months after, and it required cortisone treatment.

I had also to deal with immense disappointment and disbelief that the baby wasn’t a girl. I had collected and made baby clothes for her since I was 16. My heart was sad for the loss of a daughter I thought I would never have, being then aged 41.

It was especially helpful to be able to talk to Margie and the midwife after the birth, and I found that I recovered physically much more quickly from the birth this time. One of the lessons I remember most was how our bodies work when stress or fear impinges on us. Margie pointed out how in the early stages of birthing, stage one, if we are frightened or stressed the labor stops or slows – like the gazelle who has to escape a lion during birth – if it was in the early stages the birth would be stopped so the gazelle could flee, but if the birth was sufficiently progressed, the birth would be rushed so the gazelle could somehow escape. I could see how this had happened with Ciaron’s birth, how my fears slowed the labor down, and I had no support at the time to get over this. Then in Breandan’s birth, the stress happened near the end and my body took over and he was born quickly. Margie helped me see how my body was looking after me, not failing me as I had interpreted with Ciaron’s birth.

Breastfeeding was a healing balm for me again. Feeding Breandan was a wonderful experience of joy, relaxation and gradual deep bonding with my baby. (After the initial oversupply settled down!). Despite the continued lack of sleep and discomfort for me due to the rash, during the feeds I felt like I was sitting on top of a mountain, watching the rest of the world from afar as I became immersed in my baby’s eyes and the gentle but powerful tug of him suckling at the breast, feeling his little hand exploring my skin and clothes. Gradually over the first few days I fell in love with him and became as besotted with him as I am over my first child.

It was wonderful to have a supportive friend in Margie, who came to visit several times after the birth, and it’s been lovely to catch up with her in the years after as well.

When I found myself pregnant again I immediately turned to Margie for the birth. I was sad when she was unable to be at my next birth due to being overseas, but she introduced me to Ingrid, who I got on well with straight away. I even found her to be a similar calm spirit to Margie, and it was easy to get to know her and feel comfortable with her. The thought of having emotional support at the birth was comforting.

It was so exciting when I found out that the baby was probably a girl. I hardly dared to believe it! I worked so hard preparing myself for the birth. This time I wanted that elusive positive birthing experience that would empower me as a woman. I still had those high expectations!

Well, third time lucky, or maybe I was a slow learner! My labor pains with Roisin started gently but definitely, and I was very excited to at last meet my baby. I called Ingrid and we agreed it was early yet and that she didn’t need to come over yet. My Mum was here, the kids were in bed and it was early evening after a good dinner. I decided to go for a walk with Mum around the block to speed things up – well, I only got about 10 houses away when the contractions started coming thick and fast and I couldn’t walk easily, so we headed home, me stopping to lean on cars and posts as the contractions came. I called Ingrid and she said she’d come on over. Things really hotted up quickly, but I felt calm and relaxed. Then as the pain became more intense I decided to have a hot shower – but I felt a sense of urgency after only a few minutes, and knew we HAD to go to the hospital.

By the time we arrived at the hospital with me labouring hard in the back seat, I felt like the baby was coming as I got out of the car and could hardly walk. By the time we went upstairs in the lift to the delivery room I was ready to have the baby. The midwife was quiet and at ease, read my birth plan and let me go to it. I just climbed up on the bed on all fours and ignored everybody, and within about twenty minutes I changed to a position where I could see in a mirror, then Roisin was born, the most amazing experience of my life. No drugs, no intervention. Peace and quiet, except for my own noises. I felt in control as her head crowned and I managed to gently control the push as I watched in a mirror. It was magic as I felt and saw her warm heavy body slip out and there was my baby. I was so stunned I even forgot to look to see if it was a girl or a boy. She didn’t even cry, just made a tiny little sound and looked around. What a joy when I saw she was a girl, my long awaited daughter. I felt complete at last, as if this was what I was meant to be here for. The midwife left us to bond, just as I had wanted, and didn’t cut the cord immediately, as I had asked.

My Mother and my partner, Terry, were there, so happy for me. Ingrid was there, quietly and hugely supportive, letting me be in control, just radiating a positive presence. It’s funny that Ingrid didn’t have to do much –just having her there made such a difference to how much I felt in control of the situation. I felt so empowered that I did it! I let my body do its thing! It worked its own miracle without me stopping it or holding it up.

I felt elated, absolutely high. This feeling lasted for about two months, I was just so intensely uplifted that at last I had passed through this rite of passage and I had had the birth experience I dreamed about. At last I felt like I had grown into full motherhood, full womanhood.

Roisin is now 22 months old, still breastfeeding, and a joy. I feel a sense of completeness about our family now, and I feel so lucky to have three beautiful and different children – even three different eye colours!

Jesse Rowan
16 November 2006