When I first tried to pour my thoughts about my baby’s birth into words, I had to realize, I can’t tell you the story without telling anything about the nine months before. My pregnancy was not a “usual” one: I made it through as a single mom. It was the first time that I gave birth and although I never knew what it could be like to be pregnant in a loving marriage, I’m sure the way I had to experience it, was different. On the one hand, I was forced by life to be strong and go on, no matter what happened, and I did, working until my due date and climbing the ladder with my big belly whenever a curtain had to be fixed. On the other hand, it felt extremely lonely sometimes.
I was about 2 months pregnant when my boyfriend, Z. told me he was not going to stay with us. We have been together for 3 years and loved each other a lot – we still do – but there was a reason for his decision which neither of us could fight (it‘s another story, so I‘m not going to tell about it now). Anyway, we saw each other every other week (he works in Austria, I’m in Hungary) and spent a little time together, when his full schedule allowed us an hour or two. He promised to be present at the birth and officially acknowledged the baby as his child so that we could name it after him. Why I’m telling all this, is because this situation caused a strange mix of existence: I was left alone most of the time, but got all his support and love in those few moments we had together. It‘s hard to imagine or understand this, but this was how I lived during my whole pregnancy. Not that I agreed with this lifestyle, but I had no other choice.
To my surprise, my BF welcomed the idea of home birth, although it‘s something considered to be very strange, dangerous etc. in my area. He just asked some questions and didn‘t worry too much, saying, he trusted my decision, because he knew me and supposed that I had thought it over thoroughly. Since it was my first baby and I didn’t know what to expect from myself and my body, we decided to have a midwife present “just in case,” but ask her to let us labor alone as far as possible. It was not easy to find someone to attend a home birth at all: there is only one female ob/gyn in the whole country who practices it. She was very supportive from the beginning and accepted our birth plan.
From the sixth month on, I very often had the feeling that this baby was going to come early. I even spent a week in hospital around the 25th week, because of some cramps and bleeding. However, as my due date (Monday, the 9th of November) came closer, this feeling disappeared and during the last week, I felt everything but being close to labor. Z. was in Hungary since Friday and planned to go back to Vienna on Tuesday, so I was pretty disappointed by the thought I have to let him go and call him back during the week. I had been taking a labor encouraging tincture for days, but it seemed to have no effect.
On Monday evening, we’d been intimate (we always kiss each other good-bye pretty thoroughly :o)), partly with the back thought that it may start labor. He left at 8 p.m. At 9 I called my midwife to tell her that I‘m ok and not in labor yet (she had asked me to call her every other day around my due date). She said she was glad, because she just came back from another birth and wanted to have some rest.
At 9.15 I called my mom while boiling some milk for dinner, to ask her for a recipe. I was just telling her that I didn’t think I would have the baby soon, when my water broke. It was funny: there I was, standing with the phone in my hand, having told “no baby today” to everyone, water gushing out of me and the milk boiling over. I didn’t know if the breaking water meant that contractions would come right away, but I thought so. I called my BF and we decided to talk in an hour again to see if contractions came. At 9.30 I called the midwife and told her she should better go to sleep immediately, because I was possibly going to wake her in a few hours. I wanted to labor only with Z. as long as possible, so we made up with the midwife that I only call her when I think I need her help.
Meanwhile, the first contractions came, so I was sure it was labor. I called Z. and told him to come, but not to break the car in hurry :o), because I felt there was still a lot of time. Contractions came every 10 minutes when he arrived. He prepared the bed, the camera and everything necessary. I had written some notes for him from the books I’ve read about home birth, so he knew what to do. I felt so safe and thankful when I saw him do everything like I wished and I knew he was going to stand by me with all his might during the following hours (so as to understand how good this felt at that moment, you have to know how much I missed this feeling during the months before).
Silence was almost touchable in the room. We instinctively lowered our voices and hugged sometimes. Knowing myself, I expected I would hug him all the time during labor, but it didn‘t happen. During the last three hours, as contractions got stronger, I became extremely sensitive to touch and didn‘t let anyone come close. It was also surprising for me that I didn’t make any noise until the pushing stage of labor, I just sighed every now and then. At 1.30 a.m. I asked him to check my dilatation (I showed him months before how to do this). He said he couldn‘t feel the opening of the cervix, but a little wet bump which might be the top of the head, covered with something that felt like skin. He was uncertain, because there was a lot of mucus all over that “bump.” I wasn’t sure if he felt the rest of cervix or the membranes, so we didn‘t get wiser from this examination.
By the feeling, I was sure I couldn‘t be very far along yet. Soon I decided to get into the bath tub, because contractions became tiring and I thought the warm water would feel like having some rest. We didn’t time the contractions, but according to Z.‘s estimation, they came every 3-4 minutes by then. The warm bath was great between contractions and I think it also slowed labor down a bit, but the tub was too little to find a comfortable position when a contraction hit and it made the whole thing very painful. Thus, I got out and went into the living room to look for better positions. I labored there until the end.
At 3 a.m. I felt I needed the midwife‘s presence, because that was the point I couldn‘t imagine how I was going to make it through the rest of labor. Contractions were harder and harder to handle, and I felt it would be nice to hear from someone experienced that everything was alright. The midwife came at 3.45, accompanied by a nice doula whom I knew from the childbirth class. They immediately took up the atmosphere of the room: they silently worked on my well-being in the background: boiled some water for warm compresses, brought me something to drink etc.
The midwife checked me for dilatation: I was 5 cm. The FHT was normal, too. By this time I was either kneeling in front of the sofa, leaned on my BF’s lap or standing in a kind of ballet-pose on my toes with my knees spread out. The midwife and the doula didn‘t come close or touch me, unless I asked. I liked this non-intervening attitude a lot, because by this time my body was so sensitive, I would even yell at Z. if he accidentally touched my belly while I was leaning on his arm.
At 6.30 the midwife asked me to let her leave for an hour and get her children to nursery school, because the kids were left alone at her home. She said I had plenty of time and she would be back soon. This was alright with me, since I didn’t let her do anything for me anyway. So she left and came back at 7.45. Meanwhile the doula stayed with us and called the midwife on her handy every 15 minutes to tell her how I was doing. During the last 15 minutes my contractions became “pushy,” but I felt I was not dilated enough and there was an enormous pressure on my cervix. I had to moan loud with every push. It sounded like a baby‘s cry. Poor doula had a hard time, because it was the first birth she attended, but she knew from her own birthing experience that things could get fast very soon.
I was totally at peace, because I didn’t know it was *that* pushy feeling and they didn‘t tell me a thing, so I just trusted the midwife and thought there was still plenty of time. I just couldn’t imagine how on earth could contractions be any stronger! The midwife came using the siren in Her car and shooting into the room where I labored. By this time I was already on my hands and knees on the sofa, because I felt I had to resist the pushing urge to protect my cervix from tearing. The midwife checked me and told I was 9 cm and there was only a small lip of the cervix in the way, which had made me feel I was tearing apart. This was the time then I realized that birth was imminent. I didn’t push consciously: my body did it automatically, with an enormous power, so the next thing I was feeling was that my perineum hurt. It hurt so much that I was begging the midwife to do something to protect me from tearing. She put a warm compress on my perineum and gave me some massage which felt really good.
Meanwhile I told my BF to be there in case he gets a chance to catch the baby. Two more contractions and the head was crowning. It happened a bit slowly, so the midwife suspected that the cord was around the baby‘s neck. She was right. The head was blue as it came out and the midwife started to maneuver him out. She loosened the cord a bit, but the head was still blue. By this time I was at the edge of my consciousness and I heard Z.’s voice, like from far away: he was encouraging me to push. I pushed with all my might, screamed out loud and the shoulders came out, while I was feeling I had exploded. The rest of the body just fell out, I didn‘t even feel I was pushing.
Unfortunately, there was no chance for Z. to do the catching, because the cord maneuvers forced the midwife to act quickly, but at that point I didn‘t mind. It took some time until I gathered my thoughts back into my body. For a while, I was just shaking and panting and crying like a child. The first time I felt relief was when I heard a little cry, turned back and looked at his little face. He was not crying too much, but opened his eyes and looked at me. His head was not blue anymore, so I didn‘t know about the cord maneuvers at all, until they told me afterwards.
I asked my BF to look if it was really a boy, like we supposed, according to the ultrasound. He announced that yes, he was a boy, my first born son. I was crying and laughing at the same time, feeling all the pain and pleasure of the last months and the last hours focused in one great moment. The minutes that went by seemed like hours. Finally I asked them to help me turn back to hold my baby. They helped me sit on a chair and gave him to me. He was big! I couldn‘t imagine how he could fit into my belly at all. We weighed him later: he was 8.2 pounds and 21 inches. There are bigger babies, I know, but for the first time, it was enough for me to give birth to such a healthy-sized baby boy.
I even had a small tear, but we decided not to do anything with it, because it didn‘t affect muscles, just the skin. He nursed a bit, then the midwife clamped and Z. cut the cord. I handed him to his father, because it was time to deliver the placenta. I was so tired of pain that I took the idea of more contractions and pushing very reluctantly. Everyone was encouraging me to push it out, but I just felt sooo comfortable sitting there doing nothing. Finally I stood up. After some weak and ineffective pushes a real contraction came and the placenta fell out. Meanwhile, Z. was holding the baby on his chest, wrapped in a receiving blanket from the outside, but still having a lot of skin-to skin contact with him. He was glowing of joy and I felt, the love in me just doubled as I saw the loved one with that precious little new being in his arms. It was so unbelievable…
Z. stayed with us for three more days and I think this was the happiest time in my life. The three of us were so close to each other… It was like heaven after and before such a long time of separation and loneliness. We named our son Levente (it is pronounced like “lavente”). It‘s an ancient Hungarian name that means “living” or “lively.” He is a strong, healthy and well-balanced little boy, so I think he will earn his name.