Introducing my new daughter, Eva

May 20, 2010

You may have noticed it’s been a bit quiet on the Sewbox front this May, and the reason is… I am now the proud mummy of a beautiful baby girl, Eva Taylor!

Eva Taylor

Eva Taylor, born early May 2010, weighing 8lb

Eva was born in early May at Kings College Hospital, London. She was a bit reluctant about making an appearance, seeming to change her mind early on — my waters broke and contractions started but the contractions then faded 36 hours later so I think she’d decided she wanted to stay inside a bit longer! Because of the risk of infection, and the appearance of a small amount of meconium, the docs recommended induction, and I was put on a syntocin drip. 12 hours later, little Eva was born!

Those who know me know I am a huge advocate of natural birthing and I had been planning to have a water birth, which now wasn’t going to be possible.  I was hooked up to the syntocin drip, a penicillin drip, a foetal monitor and a clip on her head, and for a while I began to fear the dreaded “cycle of intervention” had taken grip and I was going to end up drugged up and with a C-section.

Luckily, everything went really smoothly after the induction started, and I managed to give birth naturally, without any pain relief drugs and without any stitches required. Don’t get me wrong, it was very hard work and incredibly uncomfortable at times, but with focus and concentration, it IS possible to reduce the pain of an induction to manageable levels and avoid the need for an epidural, regardless of what the doctors say (when I was put on the drip, the doctor pretty much told me I’d end up having an epidural – not exactly encouraging or supportive!!).

People are so willing to share horror stories of inductions and how painful it is, but I truly believe that if you expect and anticipate pain it is going to be a whole lot worse than if you start off calm and relaxed, and see where the journey takes you (see my suggested reading below). For those that are interested in natural birth using deep breathing and relaxation techniques, I’ve outlined some tips below that I hope will be useful.

As for motherhood, well what can I say. Eva fills me with so much joy each and every day! I don’t think until you have a baby you can truly appreciate just HOW MUCH time is taken up by feeding, nappy changing, feeding, nappy changing, … when women talk about losing their independence I’d always assumed it meant you couldn’t leave the house when you want, or go to the cinema or out for a meal when you want; but actually, it means not being able to have a shower when you want, or even just go to the toilet when you need to!!

But it is just so rewarding and I cannot believe that my husband and I made such a beautiful, perfect little baby. She really is our little miracle, and I am in complete awe of her. Since my husband and I met, we’ve talked openly about our shared desire for a large and happy family, and it feels so wonderful that we’re finally on our way there.  I don’t think there are many things in life that can be more fulfilling than motherhood.

Tips for a natural birth

1. Don’t lay down!! Stay active. This one was absolutely crucial for me. The first midwife I had insisted I lay down for my internal examinations and I experienced a few contractions while lying on the bed. They are INFINITELY more painful laying down than in other positions – I found them almost unbearable when I was laying on the bed. I wouldn’t have been able to go without the drugs for very long at all if I’d had to stay laying down!! I found the best positions were those where I was upright but my uterus was leaning forward slightly – e.g. kneeling against a birthing ball, or leaning against the bed. Janet Balaskas’ Active Birth book (see Reading below) is a great resource for various birth positions, though she doesn’t use a swiss ball – try a pregnancy Pilates class for ideas with a swiss ball.

2.Slow, controlled breathing with the help of a birth partner. Slow controlled breathing was crucial in keeping the pain at bay. As soon as I felt the first twinges of a contraction, I would start to breathe in in a controlled way, and then breath out more slowly than I breathed in, staying very controlled, very slow. I counted out slowly to 5 as I breathed out – so I’d breathe in and then go “1,2,3,4,5″ as I exhaled. It really helped to say the numbers out loud. The breathing will only work if you keep it CONTROLLED and RYTHMIC – and I found it impossible to do without the help of my husband!! The few times he didn’t join is as “pacemaker”, I lost the rythmn completely and the contraction would be a lot more painful. So you both need to sit together and breathe in, then out “1,2,3,4,5″ nice and slow. Over and over and over. It is very trance-like and I guess it’s almost a form of self-hypnosis; and it also makes for a very calm birth environment. The breathing was crucial in helping to relax the pelvic muscles – see next point.

3. Relax your pelvic floor through the contraction. This was the one exercise that made the biggest difference to the pain: when done properly, you can virtually eliminate the pain of a contraction. Saying that, it takes an awful lot of concentration and focus to get it right and it is very exhausting concentrating so hard for so long, especially when the contractions are coming close together. As you feel your contraction coming on, make a really conscious effort to relax your pelvic floor muscles, and do this at the same time as your counting / deep breathing (tip 2). The slow, controlled breathing will help you maintain the relaxation of the muscles. Relaxing your pelvic floor will help speed up your labour as well, because there is less muscular ‘resistance’ to your contractions (which is also what causes the pain).

4. Perineal Massage. I don’t know how much perineal massage helped or not, but I did it for a week before the birth and I didn’t need any stitches, so I can only recommend it! If nothing else, it definitely helps prepare you for the feeling of the baby crowing, which is a very strange sensation. And again, if you can practice relaxing through that feeling, it follows that you are less likely to experience a tear.

Suggested Reading

I found the following two books really helpful:

I hope these tips will be of use to some women and perhaps they will help someone else have a natural birth too. Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? If so please add them as a comment!

Right, back to Eva- she managed to sleep for a good hour while I wrote this but she’s now awake and hungry! Mummy’s magic milk is on its way…

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Gwen Murray May 25, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Leah she is absolutely gorgeous .. congrats .. she must be keeping you busy .. hope the shop is going well for you – looks great – Gwen

Reply

Fiona McEwen May 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Hi Leah, congratulations on the birth of such a beautiful baby! It sounds like everything went (sort of) to plan with your birth: obviously your preparation and calm birth partner stood you in good stead! I want to share a few comments about my experiences because reading your account has made me realise how different and individual the experience of birth is.

I also wasn’t keen to have an epidural or pethidine and ended up managing just with gas and air. I thought in advance I might manage without the gas and air but it didn’t pan out like that! I had the weird experience of not really feeling the early contractions (I was 3-4 cm dilated for over a week with no obvious contractions, though when they monitored me it showed that my uterus was contracting). When labour proper started the contractions were almost immediately only a minute or two apart with only a few seconds between them. Rather than feeling distinct contractions I just felt like I was going to lose consciousness… (apparently my eyes were rolling back in my head at that point). I tried to keep moving during this but I was close to fainting!

By the time the midwives realised that I should be on the labour ward I was too painful even to be moved into a wheelchair and they had to give me gas and air just to get me moved. Once I had the gas and air I felt so much better – actually less wasted than I had felt just from the pain!

The whole labour was only about 4 hours and I’ve been told that sometimes short labours are almost more painful because there isn’t a gradual build up of contractions – it’s like going from nothing to the final stages with nothing in between. I also had a large baby (4.1kg / 9lbs) and, as a result, lots of stitches. I don’t think anything can really prepare your body for that!

I wonder if there is a genetic component to labour because my Mum had two labours that were also really short (4 hours then only about 2 hours the second time – they sent my Dad home, then had to call him straight back because my brother was on the way out!) and my aunt had similar experiences. When women are working out a birth plan it’s probably a good idea to have a chat with their Mum about her experiences.

It’s also a good idea to keep an open mind about birth plans because you can never tell in advance how things are going to work out and how you are going to experience the pain. The pain is undoubtedly completely different for different women, for all sorts of reasons (ideas about birth, preparation, genetics, luck, etc etc). I have friends who have been determined to have a natural birth and then almost beat themselves up about it when it didn’t work like that because they’ve felt like failures compared to other women. It would probably have helped if they’d been encouraged to see their birth plan as a rough set of notes rather than a “plan” as such! And also to know that there’s no right or wrong way to give birth, and that sometimes there’s not much you can do to control it. Your body’s going to take over and you just have to go with it in a lot of ways!

Anyway, enough rambling! I’m really glad it all worked out well for you and that you’re getting on well now. Here’s to a summer of baby socialising! Fi xx

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