The thought of giving birth again has gradually the last few weeks gone from a fun and exciting idea, to becoming a reality I have realised I have to go through. I cannot escape it - not that I want to either! - but it dawned on me that preparing for the job ahead is due. I have to go through those contractions (rushes), I have to allow for cosmic forces to sweep through me, I have to jump on that storm again. Noone else will do it for me.
Having been a photographer at twelve births since I last did it myself has made me even more in awe of the job than before, and it has prepared me in a very positive way. The more births I was present at, the more excited I got about doing it again myself, especially after I got pregnant. And yes, I do remember what it feels like, very vividly actually - and both physically and emotionally.
I have had four previous birth experiences.
My first baby was lost to me, born too early only half way through the pregnancy. The birth was real, took a long time, and was tinged with sadness, disbelief and fear. A perfect little boy was born and imprinted on my heart, always.
Ronja's birth started out great; despite the sadness of the year before, I was positive and excited and happy going into labour, I wanted to do the job, I believed in myself. I wanted to do it all naturally, without pain relief except water and acupuncture. She came after about six hours of labour - a big beautiful girl weighing 4.7 kilos and measuring 55 cm, born three days after the due date. I was ecstatic and felt like superwoman. Unfortunately I lost a lot of blood because the placenta wouldn't come out, so I had to be operated and had a blood transfusion. This scared me, although I wasn't really aware of it at the time. I was too happy about becoming a mother, I didn't offer it much thought until the next time I got pregnant and had to face the reality of birth again.
After having talks with a midwife and going through what happened in Ronja's birth, I felt prepared and happy enough to go into another birth experience. Freja was born a week before the due date after a quick and intense birth that lasted about a an hour and fifteen minutes from the first real contraction. I was so proud and empowered, my body did everything "right", no abnormal blood loss and I felt so fresh afterwards. Freja was 4,1 kilos and 52 cm of pure bliss.
When Falk was in the belly, it was decided that I would be induced. Because I make big babies and the previous births had been quick, the local hospital were happy to start the birth two weeks before due date. I agreed and felt they took good care of me - but in retrospect and after having read a lot of literature about birth lately, I think we could have just as well waited. Being induced increases risks of interventions such as forceps, vacuum and c-sections, and it is said that the contractions with synthetic hormones are rougher and more intense to the body than if the natural oxytocin (the love hormone vital to birth) gets to flow naturally and unforced. Luckily, my body triggered easily, the birth was uncomplicated and quick and I had another empowering birth experience. Falk was born after one and a half hours of very intense contractions, weighing 4 kilos and measuring 52 cm two weeks before the due date. I felt strong and great and on top of it.
This time we have decided to birth this baby at home. We have a wonderful midwife (www.jordmor-jutta.no) who comes to us for the prenatal checkups. The whole family gather as she feels my belly and listens to the baby's heart, the kids get to know her and love it when she comes. They will all be home for the birth, so knowing the lady who will be here is such a wonderful thing. I feel like including them in this is so natural and right; having a baby is a family event and not something we need to stow away and keep away from them. My mum will also be here for the birth and be available for the kids if they don't want to be there or feel worried about what's going on. We talk a lot about what is going to happen and have watched some nice birth videos to prepare them for what they might see. So far, it feels good to do it like this.
After only having birth experiences in hospitals and with strangers as my caretakers, a home birth feels like an utter luxury. Not having to go anywhere when the birth starts, being able to snuggle up with my husband in the warmth of our own home, having my mother here (plus a close friend who will take photos) and most importantly, having a midwife who we now feel we know and who knows us - these things make me look forward to this birth. Yes, I know it's a job that will demand a lot, and that I have to do it, but coming past those thoughts I think it will be a wonderful experience. I have done it before and can do it again, and this time with the love of my closest ones around me.
My tips for birth preparation include:
reading books by Ina May Gaskin (whom I had the honour of photographing last year, look here) & Sheila Kitzinger - I especially recommend Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Spiritual Midwifery and Birth & Sex
practising birth focused self-hypnosis (HypnoBabies, for example)
and watching positive birth videos from other birth photographers.