Welcome to the light Tommaso
I’ve always secretly believed I had a lot of beginner’s luck; that anytime I would do something for the second time, it would be a little bit more challenging, if not a disaster. Be it teaching a new class, baking something, going back to a place I had travelled to. First time, great – second not so great. I’m not an optimist by nature so I have had to work a lot on visualising and manifesting positive outcomes.
When I found out we were expecting the 2nd time, it was no different. I kept thinking it would be more challenging or harder and in some ways it was. We were in the middle of a pandemic, most of my family and friends would have not even seen me pregnant, I was out of touch with the outside world, we moved to the online everything: teaching, moving, meeting, celebrating. So when we considered going for a home birth, I tried my best to use my visualisations practice to allow my mind to remain calm and at peace.
I almost never had a doubt or fear about birthing at home. Even when I imagined it happening really quickly, just the two of us with no midwife. Maybe I was being naive, but I never felt scared. Luca was doubtful, we had a very good experience at the birth centre, why change? And maybe my fear of repeating something for the 2nd time kept stirring me towards having a home birth for the first time.
We started looking into it. I told Luca that this was really important for me and it would mean a lot if he would consider it too. We reached out to Natalie Meddings after having heard her interview on the Birth-Ed podcast. She sparked something in me when she described the beautiful power she witnessed between a couple whilst they were having their home birth. Our Zoom call was enough to know she would be our doula. Luca was feeling a little more reassured by the simple thought Natalie shared with us: going for a home birth is not binding or restricting you to just giving birth at home; it’s actually giving you all the other options too i.e. birth centre or hospital should you wish to.
Another reason why this choice made sense for us, was that all antenatal visits would be happening at home with the same midwife who most likely would be attending our birth. She got to know us and Leonardo, she provided continuity of care and built that sense of trust and feeling comfortable in her presence that is so often underrated when creating the right “habitat” for birth to unfold.
We also really wanted Leonardo not to feel that something unusual was happening, like him having to sleep over somewhere else and not see us. We didn’t have family over to help so we thought that logistically it would make more sense for us to be at home; whether I would end up giving birth in the middle of the night whilst he was sleeping or during the day, whilst he was at nursery. What most people told me, is that the body tends to know when it’s the right time and in our case it definitely happened that way.
We had hired a birthing pool but keep that 2nd time unlucky thought in your mind for a moment. I passed my 40 weeks which happened around Easter time. Even with my first pregnancy, I never paid too much attention to that date to avoid feeling the pressure. I started experiencing some very mild period like cramps a handful of nights in a row. During the day everything went quiet again. I was attempting longer walks despite having pelvic girdle pain, to try and encourage things to move along. My yoga and breathing practice were very much geared to promote openness and relaxation.
The truth is, we had a lot going on and I often found myself in that vicious cycle of realising that I was not really relaxed and fully encouraging the slow paced, quiet birthing mode I was in when expecting Leonardo to arrive, and that realisation was stressing me out more!
When I hit 41 weeks and I was trying not to let every message I was receiving asking: “How are you?” sound in my head as: “Has he arrived yet?”. I started wondering whether I should book a reflexologist or an acupuncturist. I could feel a lot of weight down my pelvis and the need to retreat and have naps in the afternoon. You might have heard the tip of watching things that make you laugh or doing things that put you in a good mood to promote oxytocin. So I did – I went for a walk with a friend, I watched Dirty Dancing, The Notebook and laughed watching Russell Brand’s Reborn. I also spoke to a close friend of mine I had recently lost touch with and found myself crying with laughter as we shared things about our lives.
At 41 weeks and 2 days I woke up to some more noteworthy cramps. I woke up Luca at 5:30am to tell him and had a show around 8am. Luca dropped Leonardo at nursery just like any other day, whilst I started preparing my space so I could feel relaxed and focused. I kept the blinds half closed, put on my hypnobirthing playlist and lit my Birth Candle. I also felt like watching some of our honeymoon videos, particularly the Iguazu Falls ones. I remember how amazing standing in front of that explosion of water made me feel but I also drew a parallel in my head between the force of nature in those images and in the moment of giving birth. The surges were starting to grow in intensity so I got on my mat and started exploring some positions and stretches which could help me ride the surge.
I texted my midwife, who was supposed to come visit us that same day at 2pm for my 41 weeks check-up, to let her know and she said she would wait for me to call if things felt like they were progressing rather than coming to see us as planned. This was her way to stand back and let me get on with things which was really helpful. Sometimes the simple shift of having someone else enter your space could slow things down.
By 2:30-3pm Luca had been quietly keeping track of my surges and lengths of them. They came in irregularly but they were intense. He offered me the Tens machine but for some reason I declined it every time he asked. At that moment, I felt like it was going to be a distraction. I found using visualisations really worked this time around. Every time I had a surge, I visualised water washing that sensation down and away from my body.
I cannot tell you at what time my midwife arrived as I was already in that zone where I needed to concentrate and breathe deeply through each surge. Luca started preparing the pool. Voices were kept low and the loudest sound I remember was the door when Natalie and then my friend Fanny who was doing our birth video arrived. I loved being able to tune into my music softly playing in the background in between surges.
The urge to push started to become more and more intense. I was sitting upright on my side of the bed with a bolster propped up under my knees. Every time I was having a surge, I felt the need to dig my fists into the bed and my heels almost to lift myself off the mattress. Natalie sat down by my side and I had her hand to squeeze every time I needed to. She offered me oils on a muslin to help me focus on my breathing, she would gently stroke my hand or dab my face with a cold flannel. I was wearing my dad’s shirt I had given him from Liberty, which I now sleep in and had my mom’s old flowery fan which Natalie was using to keep me cool. Those were my ways to feel my parents close.
I was taken aback by the amount of water gushing out of me with every surge which came with the urge of bearing down. Not all of them were like that. Natalie noticed that too and she later on told me, she had never seen a belly waving the way mine did and the sound of my waters gushing out was so powerful. Maybe watching Iguazu Falls made me channel them!
I missed having Luca by my side but he was busily getting the pool ready which unfortunately took a lot longer than what we expected. Things were moving along pretty fast and intensely to a point that I gave up on the idea of the pool. When they suggested to me a change of position, I just couldn’t bring myself to move away from the position I was in. When the pool was finally ready and my midwife told me “Grace, if you want to give birth in the pool your chance is now, because baby is coming!”, I said there was no way I could possibly move and get myself in the pool. Told you 2nd times are not as lucky as my first!
In between some of the strongest surges I have breathed through, Natalie suggested I turn to my left side and prop my top leg on her shoulder to allow the pelvis to open up. 2 or 3 surges later I could really feel there was more space and baby was crowning. There were some moments of rawness and intensity in this birth which I felt in the grip of my hands against the headboard, in the sounds that my surges were “pushing” out of me. I was a lot more vocal and loud than I had been at the birth centre giving birth to Leonardo.
There is something about giving birth that makes you feel so vulnerable yet so powerful. The women surrounding me were bystanders yet their presence made me feel safe and confident through it all.
Luca was there on the bed by my side when with the last surge and a gentle little nudge from the midwife, Tommaso was born. An explosion of tears in both our eyes welcomed his body on my chest. We wrapped him up in one of the last towels we had left. In a matter of seconds all the roaring and pushing that was happening just a couple of minutes ago, felt like miles away from us. It’s almost like when you are watching a play and it takes less than a minute for the lights to go off and the backdrop on the stage to change. You literally just snap back into reality, as if the child bearing state were a parallel universe.
Tommaso was born at 17:01 and my next thought went straight to Leonardo. He was on his way back from nursery. A couple of friends offered to pick him up and drive him home for us which was so sweet and helpful. When he walked in through the door, he heard Tommaso crying and I heard him from our bedroom asking “what is that noise?” in Italian. He came into the room with the biggest smile and that’s how they met. In the comfort of our home, without disruptions and with perfect timing.
Leonardo had dinner and his usual bath and bedtime. By 7:30 we were back to being just us 4 in the flat. We ordered pizza and had it in bed. I wasn’t feeling back to my normal self even after having food and both Luca and I were wondering whether I was bleeding a little too much. I didn’t remember bleeding that much after giving birth to Leonardo so I called my midwife. She asked me to go to the toilet and let her know if the blood was trickling down and if the pads were full. Whilst on the phone to her, I passed two clots and since she lived just down the road from us she offered to come back to check on me.
When she arrived I was feeling quite faint, she checked if the uterus was contracting and feeling stiff and it wasn’t. The clots did not allow the uterus to contract as expected. At that point she offered me the syntocinon injection to allow the uterus to start contracting and it had an immediate effect. As I was laying in bed a little bit jittery and shaky, I could tell I wasn’t feeling 100%. We calmly discussed the options, feelings supported either way. Stay home or go to hospital to be monitored. We felt the latter was more sensible. We were both really tired and the idea of us having to worry about further blood loss during the night and then having to run to the hospital instead of slowly making our way there made us decide to go. Luca would have stayed home with Leonardo as he wouldn’t have been able to stay with me overnight anyway and Tommaso and I went together with our midwife to Queen Charlotte.
The ride on the ambulance was nothing like you would imagine, there were no sirens, no rush, I was sitting inside, just like in a taxi, with my midwife holding Tommaso. I was a little sad not to be with Leonardo and Luca on our first night. I had imagined a very quiet environment with dimmed lights for his first days of life but it was the right thing to do. I spent the night and most of the following day at the maternity ward. My vitals were regularly checked, I had a scan to make sure nothing was left in the womb and I was discharged later that evening with an iron tablet prescription and rest. Luca came during visiting hours whilst Leonardo was at nursery and then came back at around 9pm to pick me up. Leonardo was so excited; the look on his face when we walked through the hospital doors was priceless.
So we were finally all home, starting our new life as a family of 4, feeling a little bit depleted and weak but at the same time so complete and ready for it. I’ve been saying this to anyone who asked: your second baby just fits into what life has been till then and it feels like he was always there. Your heart expands in size to make room for your addition just like the body does to welcome new life.
I’m so grateful for having had the women I had supporting me in this path. A lot of a woman’s birth experience is dependent on their environment, who and what they are exposed to and how they are primed and prepared. This birth was fast and furious but just as beautiful as our first. We were not brave nor lucky to be able to have a homebirth, we just allowed what is natural to unfold without fear nor rush but with trust and patience.