Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lucian's Birth Story

A letter to my boy...

Dear Lucian,

Here I am on the eve of your 1st birthday writing your birth story.

Firstly I must say the last 12 months have been the quickest moving of my life, as the cliché goes, I feel I have blinked and the most incredible time has passed.

I managed to write your sister’s birth story only a matter of weeks after her birth but I guess 2 children can sideline such tasks, so here I am.

I must start this story on your sister’s 2nd birthday. I knew that this was the day you reached ‘37 weeks.’ My estimated due date was still another 3 weeks away yet and it played heavily on my mind that you could come ‘early.’ I knew that from 37 weeks I could have a fully supported home birth with the team from Royal Surrey County Hospital.

 I’d had several friends who had recently given birth at home, with labour being extremely quick, so I was nervous travelling too far from home. Despite that logic, we decided a day at Marwell Zoo for your sister’s birthday was a fabulous idea; a drive that took us an hour from home.

We had literally just purchased our tickets at the zoo front gate when I started to feel achy and uncomfortable. I had a somewhat embarrassing moment when I thought my waters had broken (I never felt that with your sister so it was all new to me.) My mind was somewhat put to rest after a call to my doula, and your and my friend, Rhiannon, who assured me I was mistaken.

Despite this, I was very apprehensive throughout the day at the zoo so I’ve promised your sister and you that we will return again. I intend to be ‘fully present’ and enjoy the day more than I did on that April 4th.

The next couple of weeks past us with very little action to report, In 2010, your sister arrived at 41 weeks and being that I felt the dates the hospital had from my scans were all wrong, my mind made up that you would be coming ‘late.’ Possibly 42 weeks plus.

On Thursday the 19th I was very achy and experiencing sharp, but inconsistent cramping. I can remember calling Rhiannon again for advice. I didn’t know if this was it, if I should call your dad at work to come home as he had a 2 hour commute from London. I clutched the phone in my hand in our basement, watching the car at our backdoor as Avalon napped inside. What should I do? What should I do? Thankfully the pain subsided after about an hour. Rhiannon had been in contact with our lovely and dedicated midwifery team. As I was driving with Avalon to buy lunch, Laura, one of the midwives called (the only midwife I hadn’t met) to check how I was feeling. I felt like the pains were a false alarm and I could relax again. In hindsight, I realize this was prodromal labour, somewhat annoying to experience, yet, when you were ready to arrive Earthside, I was happy for the days of discomfort.

Over the weekend, I had further twinges on and off. I had also started to lose my plug but I was still in a strange land of denial of what was happening. We stayed close to home, my comfort place, and ensured we had what we needed for your arrival.

On Monday, I had light rushes/waves  throughout the day. I called your Dad home from work as I felt it was time. I didn’t know how long you would take to arrive (your sister was a 12 hour labour) but I knew I needed his support more than anything else.

The waves were coming steadily. Sometimes 6 minutes apart, sometimes 10 minutes apart. Some lasted no more than 5 seconds. All were manageable. I breathed through them easily and your sister was with me. We let our midwife Jane know (she was on call that day) that we thought you might be arriving later that night. She said to rest up and she would talk to us later. I knew I needed my energy and rest, I hadn’t gotten as much exercise in this pregnancy as I had with your sister and knew how exhausting labour could be. That night I went to bed and awoke in the middle of the night. I had slept! A good 4 or 5 hours. The waves had ceased.

In the morning I had a text from Jane. She asked why we hadn’t called overnight and joked as to why she managed a full night’s sleep. Labour had slowed right down. On Jane’s advice, we took a walk along the North Downs Way behind our house, I knew I had to exert myself to get things moving. It was somewhat drizzly weather, with rain the previous night. I will always remember that last day before you arrived, watching your sister excitedly jump through puddles in wellington boots and blue raincoat.

Our last day as a family of three.

Bittersweet and yet beautiful and exciting.

By the afternoon, the waves started again slowly. They were steady and strong; roughly 6 minutes apart, sometimes less, sometimes more.

I made sure I had all I needed. My iPod with the music I wanted (Nirvana Unplugged, REM, Mazzy Star, Portishead) I had my candles, my blessings, and my treasured blessingway beads from my friends that had kindly thrown a surprise  blessingway months earlier. I lined them up on the bookshelf, necklace ready to wear.

I pulled a dining room chair into the middle of the room to lean on, or sit on ‘cowboy style’ when the waves became more intense. Your Dad made sure the pool was ready, filling it ever so slowly with water. Your big sister donned her bathers and had a paddle in our living room! What a treat for her. I am so glad, as always, we have precious moments captured of these days. Photographs to look back upon and remember these moments.

I am unsure when, but I let Rhiannon know that we would need her later than night. She was 6 months pregnant herself, so we wanted to give her time to prepare to be away from her family too. She was also going to photograph your birth.

I wanted Jane to be my midwife for your birth. I loved all in the team and had absolute faith and trust in their support and care, but Jane had seen me through all my appointments with this pregnancy, I had been cared for by her following your sister’s birth and felt very connected to her. I missed her being on-call by one day. Today was Laura’s shift and she would be joined by Deana, who I’d met on more than one occasion.

Around 6pm we ate dinner, I of course, wasn’t very hungry at this point and we prepared Avalon for bed. I remember kissing her goodnight, knowing that when she woke, her world would be changed. I felt the tears well (hormones, eh?) and again felt a sense of melancholy. Things were changing.

It didn’t take long for your sister to fall asleep and then your Dad and I got down to business.
I changed into my ‘labour clothes’ (the same I wore two years previous.) I lit my candles, we dimmed the lights. We put a music channel on the TV and I strung my blessingway necklace around my neck. The pool was full, it was just a matter of maintaining its heat. Grant helped put the TENS machine on my back and I started swaying, eyes closed, through the rushes in our small living room. At some point I switched over to using my iPod, to focus and zone out.

The waves were getting stronger, longer and more intense, but still very manageable. Around this time (7pm) I felt it was time for Rhiannon to join us. Your Dad called her and she arrived within 10 minutes. I love hearing her say to this day, she called her husband after greeting me, somewhat annoyed that she was going to ‘be here all night’ due to my calm demeanor. She didn’t think I was ‘ready’ in the nicest possible way.

As the waves intensified, I swayed further and breathed deeper. Rhiannon reminded me to relax my shoulders and Daddy supported me with his arms around me. I was comforted by his bear hug. Just the knowledge that he was there also made the rushes more manageable.

I kept moving; from the couch on my knees, to sitting astride the chair, to holding tightly to your Dad. I will always remember one strong rush where I had him hugging me from behind and Rhiannon hugging me from the front. I was ‘sandwiched’ with love. Ina May Gaskin would undoubtedly be proud.

After much back and forth discussion between the three of us, I decided it wise to call Laura and let her know she could come. I knew she had to travel over the Hogs Back road and was concerned about traffic.  Even though it was about 8.30pm at night, I suspected Murphy’s Law may come into play and she would not make it to me. I didn’t want to call too early  either as the unpredictability of these things meant they could all be sitting around our living room drinking tea all night.

I trusted my body, I knew that the pain was manageable and I could only experience what I could manage. Any pain was good pain. I was closer to meeting you.

Laura arrived about 20 minutes later, quietly into the dark and calm space we had created. She said a quick hello and asked me how I was. I assume she checked how baby was doing (fetal monitor) and discussed with Rhiannon my birth plan. The fact Rhiannon and Laura knew of each other (I cannot remember if they had met?) put me at total ease.

It was at this point I decided to get in the pool. I hadn’t had any sort of examinations for dilation this labour. I knew I was ok. I didn’t want to ‘clock watch.’ I didn’t want to become disheartened by numbers. Again, I love the respect and trust shown by this midwifery team.

Sinking into that warm pool was, no word of a lie, one of the best feelings in the world. The relief as that water enveloped me is almost indescribable. Leaving on my tank top and beads, I sunk to my knees and let the water therapy do its work. Your dad kneeling in front of me; I held firmly onto his arms, or leaned on the pool side for rest.

Now, it all gets very hazy in details.

Your Dad supported me throughout the contractions; he briefly left my side as Avalon woke up and she needed him. When this happened, I had Rhiannon to help me, although my timeframe is sketchy, I estimate he was gone no more than 10 minutes.

The waves became stronger and stronger. At their peak I could feel a sense of panic start to rise. Your poor dad must have had bruises on his arms as I squeezed his biceps and buried my head in his chest. I remember feeling claustrophobic, and like I could not breathe, yet I did not want to let go of him or lift my head. I know now, at that point, I was in transition. As I felt my breath quicken, Deana, who had arrived sometime in the last hour, reminded me to ‘be calm.’ I also remember feeling angry with her in that heightened moment, not that I could do anything about it.

It was soon after, the feeling of pressure began and the urge to push.

My body did all the work this time- totally out of my control.

It was a new sensation, so different from your sister’s birth, and completely eye opening. I trusted birth and I knew you would be in my arms soon.

I changed positions in the pool. Onto my back, that wasn’t right, back around onto my knees.

 Rhiannon asked if I could feel your head, I couldn’t, but I knew you were close.

Suddenly I felt you crowning. I don’t remember pain at this stage at all. Intensity yes, but not pain. I kept my hips under the water as you made your way out. Your head appeared quickly, sweet relief until the next push, and then your body came, in a flash.!

April 24th, 11.29pm, on your estimated due date!

 Laura didn’t even get a chance to get her gloves on and you were here! I was on my knees facing your Dad and she guided you back through my legs into his hands. I remember crying, ‘where’s my baby?’ and your Dad saying, ‘I’ve got him, I’ve got him.’ Someone helped me sit back in the pool, Rhiannon took my tank top off for precious skin to skin ,and you were in my arms.

My big boy.

All 8lb 14oz of you.

You had more hair than your sister had at birth and just by looking at you I could tell a decent weight.

I quickly dissolved into tears, the ‘ugly cry’ as I say. I felt an immense rush of emotions with your birth; relief and love. I was completely besotted with you and utterly overwhelmed.

It had been a challenging time for me over the past 9 months; unexpected life changes, job changes, a sudden move, relationship breakdown, the rush of this ‘final piece of the puzzle ’ overwhelmed me at once. I don’t think much sense was got from me for quite some time. I think I said thank you to those around me. A lot. I apologized. A lot.

The midwives asked your name. Lucian Grant Francis.  Lucian with an ‘a’ not an ‘e.’ Like Lucian Freud. Grant after Daddy, Francis after your Great-Grandfather, Grandfather and Uncle.

Your Daddy held you, skin to skin, whilst Rhiannon and Laura helped me birth the placenta. It was important to me to have a natural 3rd stage. I was elated, I’d given birth to you with no more than water, visualization and a little help from the TENS for pain relief. I had a managed 3rd stage with your sister and I did not want that this time.


Soon, Rhiannon took the placenta away and helped me onto the couch, wrapped in towels, a quick check by the midwives and you back in my arms. 

The moment you began to nurse is a memory that will stay my lifetime. I wish I knew what your Dad was doing at this point, but I have no idea of my surroundings, I was enthralled with the soft and pink baby in my arms.

I am sure I was brought honey on toast at some point; my comfort food after having Avalon. There was so much I wanted to keep the same between your two births; both life-changing and equally beautiful experiences. Your birth also brought back memories of Avalon’s arrival.

Rhiannon prepared me some ‘magic juice.’ – a mango, strawberry and banana smoothie, with a very special added ingredient. She also prepared more for me to freeze and drink over the coming week to help maintain energy levels and appease those post-partum blues.

At that moment, I couldn’t believe how good I felt; I was on a complete high.

The midwives must have stayed no more than an hour later, as did Rhiannon. I am forever grateful for all three of them. I do feel that the support of all was invaluable. I was in the safest and gentlest of hands and it’s a testament to how wonderful these women are, that I was left to labour as I wanted; no one touched me unless I needed it. In fact, the first time I felt Laura’s hand was when she helped me out of the birthing pool.

It wasn’t long after everyone left that your sister awoke. I remained on the couch with you as your dad went to see her upstairs in her bedroom. It must have been about 1am. He said she knew something was going on and she asked, very bright eyed and excitedly, to go down stairs.

Her eyes lit up as she saw you.

Baby brother.

Her Lucian. Her Loosh.

Or Loosh Magoosh as she has nicknamed you.

You were already so loved.

We took some photographs, a very proud Daddy with his two children. His daughter and his son, and we sent them to your Grandparents to let them know you were here.

I can tell you I did not sleep a peep that night.
I laid in bed with you swaddled in the crook of my arm, basking in the high of what we had been through together. By about 5am I couldn’t take the excitement anymore and had to call your Nannie in Australia and tell her all about your arrival. I wish she could have seen you be born.

We spent the next couple of weeks in babymoon. We didn’t have any visitors, it was just the four of us. Our little family complete. You spent your hours nursing or in the sling sleeping sweetly. I remember holding you so tightly in my arms and dancing to Bob Marley in our living room, in the very spot you were born only a few days before.

You are our treasure.

That is your story, my love.

 A very Happy 1st Birthday my sweet boy.

We cannot imagine our family without you in it.