By Oscar, Jade and introducing Maeve
Let me start by mansplaining – I am a male, therefore everything I do is an EXTREME sport. If I am making dinner I use every pot I can find, and there is some collateral damage usually from pasta sauce, but that’s the price for culinary perfection. If I have a cold, I am the sickest, the most run down, and the most extreme it is possible to be (I think that extreme sport is called man flu). Because everything I do is extreme.
So when I found out we were having a baby I was ecstatic… but I had a problem. How can I make my role as support person ‘extreme’?
I do have some knowledge which I thought I could transfer to the delivery room. I studied sports psychology and worked as a coach in rowing from school boys to an international level for 10 years. I am now a farmer and have helped thousands of sheep deliver lambs. So ‘surely something there will be useful’, I reasoned.
But the more I read and thought about it the more I realised that every extreme sports person need instructions on how to be the most extreme. Jamie Oliver definitely got me started in the kitchen for example. Even though I use way more pots than him now…. just saying. However, being a man I don’t really like to be told what to do, mostly I just YouTube and google the ‘shit out of it’ until I get the idea (defiantly don’t YouTube or google it until after birth you might get lost down the rabbit hole).
My wife, however, is not the YouTube learning type so she booked us into Calmbirth. Due to my general pursuit of extreme I have the habit of extremely doing whatever my wife says, so off we went, and it was great!
We both walked away with so much knowledge and knowledge that we had gained together. This meant we could really talk about it and plan what we wanted together. This made me feel like I understood her wishes and priority’s. So that’s what we did. We talked and planned and wrote down what we wanted. Our wishes outlined a pre-birth plan as well, which starting about 3 weeks before your due date and included visualisation, exercises, acupressure etc.
So sure enough at 35 weeks’ baby decided that they wanted out. I suppose I should have known, because my in laws arrived 3 hours early to Christmas lunch last year. On the Thursday when we got “the bloody show” and went in to see maternity, we realised that our plan was probably going out the window. They gave mum and bub some steroids and some smooth muscle relaxants and sent us home. We were a little worried; however, it did increase the extremeness so we embraced it.
With continual small contractions each night, as well as visits into maternity (a 20km drive into town) on Friday at 4am, Saturday at 3 am and Sunday at 2am we were quite unsure and very sleepy. Then, on Monday, at 1am having just made 36 weeks, the waters broke, but only a little. Our plan was still good; we could stay at home as long as possible and use the techniques we had learnt. We slept as much as we could then called maternity at about 8am to let them know we were starting and might be in later. And sure enough they said “you better come in”. Bugger not to plan but a little more extreme so we packed the car and drove into town.
The doctor wanted mum and bub on antibiotics every 4 hours so we couldn’t leave, but contractions were still 9mins apart lasting 30sec, so we sat around and waited. I did a bit of acupressure and massage and helped time contractions but my wife could talk through them and was just trying to get rest.
At about 4pm the waters gushed out, apparently the initial break was high on the membrane so only a little came earlier. Go time.
I won’t give you a blow by blow but as you can imagine it was extreme. There was no holding my wife’s hand like Hollywood said, we were active. I was working the rebozo around her tummy and squeezing her hips with all my might. We tried a few other things like the back pressure but those two were the best. I called upon a bit of coaching knowledge by giving encouragement, benchmarking and contraction by contraction focusing. But to be honest, without Calmbirth, I would have been lost. Rather than treating it like a race or a competition, I was able to help focus my wife’s mental space on being relaxed and on the process. Calmbirth had given me an idea of what to expect, and a tool box full of things we could do. I got slapped away and pushed once but I just moved to the next technique I had available.
Having those physical things that I could do, which gave my wife obvious relief, were amazing. But obviously my input was about 1% of the total physical output in the room. Still it was a 1% of extreme maximum effort.
At about 7:30 my wife was 7cm dilated and doing well. She had had some back pain (pain level 8) at about 5pm and, as to her plan, she requested the sterile water injections which worked a treat (pain level 0 after 1 contraction). Then at about 9:30pm she felt the need to push, the Midwife did a quick check and unfortunately her cervix was slightly blocking the passage on one side. Our guardian angel (or midwife) Bev, explained to me that my wife needed to ‘not push’ for about 30mins while the passage was cleared and said it would be tough. This period was one of the hardest I think; my wife was tired, both physically and mentally. And this fighting her natural urge was extremely taxing on her remaining mental and physical strength.
However, with some real focus on her breathing she got through nearly 2 hours. The gas was really useful here as it helped her relax and also aided in her breathing. Then with a nod from Bev to let us know it was time, the pushing began (I found out later that the baby’s heart rate dropped which indicated to Bev that the head was in position but at the time I just figured it was magical midwife intuition).
I’m not sure how to explain this part of labour from my point of view, it’s like my wife was at the top of the roller coaster. Once she started pushing she was on the downhill run and it was happening no matter what. It was tough but my warrior woman grabbed my hands in hers and brought life into the world (on a side note she re-broke my injured hand and I believe it was on purpose so I can’t go rock climbing for another 6 weeks).
At 12:35am, on the Tuesday, we meet our daughter together. I have done many things I’m proud of, even been a world champion. But I can honestly say I don’t think I truly understood the meaning of pride until I watch my wife bring our daughter into the world. She was calm when she could be and strong when she needed to be. She was a warrior and a Zen master all rolled into one.
I also have to say a word for midwives, and all I will say is I think that we should re name them goddesses. They are amazing people.
I am now sitting in the maternity ward watching my girls bond and feed. So thank you Calmbirth, for the knowledge which helped us to make the birth we got, be the best birth we could have. Every step of the way we felt we had tools in our tool box that we could use, and at the end of the day, it was definitely the most ‘extreme’ thing I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.
An Extremely Female Perspective
This is a response to my husband’s testimony; ‘An Extremely Male Perspective’.
Yes, my husband is a very extreme person and enjoys a range of risky activities like rock climbing, canyoning, sailing, snowboarding, diving, tree surgery, brewing etc. Whereas, I like to play it safe. Extremely safe. So this is how our birth story unfolds….EXTREMELY differently!
When we discussed our birth wishes, we hoped we could have a natural birth with minimal interventions, as long as mum and bub were safe. If it did not go to ‘plan’ we knew that we would be guided by the professionals, midwives (aka goddesses) to ensure safety was number one.
Not only do I like to be safe, I also like to be organised! I was beginning to seriously nest and had the house half pulled apart, (thinking I still had 4 weeks before baby was due to arrive), and that’s of course when things started to happen… The show… more show…more show…contractions… closer contractions… water… further water… then right into the established stage of labour. I then knew this baby had other plans and needed me to be in the right headspace for their arrival. Into the office I jostled all of my nesting mess (I hope I get to it during the next 12 months of mat leave)!
Calmbirth equipped us with knowledge and empowered us to make decisions about our family from the moment labour started. Although it didn’t go exactly to ‘plan’, we rolled with the obstacles we encountered – something Calmbirth also taught us.The mind is powerful in birth.We embraced the sudden modifications to our birth wishes and became really excited to meet our baby. It was happening and it was happening now!
I cannot express how beneficial Calmbirth was for myself and definitely for my husband who wanted to be the most ‘extreme’ and supportive birth partner ever! It gave him the skills and assurance to:
- Physically support my body by applying pressure to my hips, performing acupressure and using the robozo to ease contractions.
- Communicate and remind me of breathing techniques, particularly during the most intense contractions and having to do short sharp breaths when I couldn’t push for nearly two hours! and
- Advocate for the three of us during the entire experience.
At times, I felt as though his extremeness was a little too much. There was a great deal of doting and concern for my wellbeing. But then I had to pinch myself and realise how damn lucky I was to have such an extremely special person in my life who wanted to do all that for me, our baby, our family.
The extremities have continued postpartum. Having a baby is one thing but trying to manage all of this, daily, is another:
- Feed your baby every three hours (8 times a day for 40 minutes)
- Express in-between some feeds; sterilise equipment afterwards and store milk
- Drink at least 3 litres of water
- Eat regularly and nutritiously
- Kiss and cuddle your baby
- Bath your baby
- Enjoy tummy time and sing to your baby
- Wash baby clothes, burp cloths, bedding, fold and put away
- Dispose of the hefty quantity of nappies, wipes and other waste
- Shower yourself multiple times for recovery
- Complete pelvic floor exercises as often as possible
- Keep the house warm (wood heater)
- Book in appointments with health care professionals
- Interact with family visitors
- Acquire sunlight and fresh air
- Commence baby administration and paper work – register your baby online, complete surveys, questionnaires, phone calls – all regarding your baby
- Sleep! Whenever you can? Perhaps for 1-1.5 hours between each feed… if you’re lucky!
- Cleaning the house
- Washing your own clothes, towels, bedding etc.
- Other visitors
- Quality time with your partner
- Drinking a cup of tea
Calmbirth also prepared us for this. Teamwork and asking for help is absolutely necessary. Some days are harder than others, but having a supportive partner is invaluable. Calmbirth assisted us to become the best possible team from pregnancy to birth, carrying through to postpartum.
The truth is – giving birth is absolutely an extreme sport.
Life after birth is also, if not more, extreme.
Without my extremely supportive husband I don’t know how I could have coped.
I am so grateful.
P.S. No one ever tells you when you’re pregnant you actually give birth THREE (3)times…
- Your next poo
Now, that’s EXTREME!
Enjoy and good luck!
By Jade, 10 days Postpartum…