Meeting Mowgli Gwyn
I was contemplating whether or not to include my pre-labour experience - however, my birth story would not be complete without the lows and highs. So, here it is. But don't worry - there's a happy ending!
The story of my birth starts on Monday the 17th of July, and I was nine days past my estimated due date. My baby was still not engaged and was happily sitting high in my pelvis. I had a doctor's appointment at the hospital that morning - where I knew we would monitor bub, my placenta and discuss induction. I was placing all of my trust in my body and my baby - I wanted them to initiate labour when the time felt right. I remember feeling pressured to get things moving, so I tried everything to encourage my baby to come earthside before the 42-week deadline. I wanted a home birth.
That same day, I was pulling out all of the stocks. I had booked an induction massage and an induction acupuncture session. I went for a walk with my partner through the Jingli water gardens where we climbed hills and scaled stairs. I also did some squats in the hope that bub would move into my pelvis. And it was during this walk that I started to feel the early tightenings. I remember trying not to get too excited as I knew it was just the beginning, and we were likely in for a long ride - but being first-time parents, we started timing straight away.
When I arrived home, I lost my mucus plug and continued to have mild contractions throughout the night. Looking back, I probably should've tried to get some sleep, but I felt under pressure and determined to bring this baby into the pelvis - so I continued to squat and bounce on my birth ball for most of the night. I got a few hours of sleep before we headed into the hospital for our appointment.
My mild contractions were still active at this point, and they continued to come every 6-8 minutes. They were slowly increasing in intensity, and all I could think was "this could be it!" We arrived at the hospital at 11 am, and they monitored mine and bub's heart rate. My wonderful midwife, Monika, felt my belly and told me that from what she could feel, the baby was engaged and was in the pelvis. I was so happy at this point and felt like everything was finally coming together as it should be. I was so excited about the next stages. But that excitement quickly vanished.
The doctor performed an ultrasound and said that the amniotic fluid levels looked low, and because of this, Monika won't be allowed to attend me at home. I was going to have my baby in the hospital. I was crushed. I didn't know how to respond - so my partner does the talking. He asked if there was anything we could do to change her mind, if we could get a second opinion and if we could at least birth in the birth centre attached to the hospital. They told us to come in for another ultrasound the next day, and they would check to see if anything had improved. But I would be most likely giving birth in the hospital. I remember feeling totally out of my depth and like I had lost control over my body and my birth. The doctor and Monika left the room so we could talk, but I couldn't bring myself to say anything to my partner, we just sat in silence.
They both came back in, and the doctor decided that if I was to go into active labour tonight and give birth before the scheduled appointment tomorrow, I could have a home birth and Monika could attend. I was thrilled! I wanted to get home as soon as possible to get my birthy vibes going, but the hospital wanted to continue to monitor me as our baby's heart rate hadn't met the needed criteria to leave.
At this stage, it was 1 pm, and my partner had to leave for an appointment of his own. His sister and my sister took over to keep me company while we waited for the monitoring. We didn't talk too much because I was so stressed. I didn't enjoy being in the hospital, and I was anxious to leave. Another two hours passed and they still didn't have what they needed, so they decided to send me to have some lunch as I hadn't eaten all day and this was the likely cause affecting the results.
3 pm came around, and my partner returned to the hospital. We left for a little bit to have our last lunch out together as a family of two. At this stage, my contractions were still 6-8 minutes apart. We returned to the hospital for more monitoring, and an hour later, the doctor said everything looked great, and we were finally free to leave. By this time, it was 5:30 pm, and I felt like I had spent the entire day at the hospital.
When we arrived home, I was determined as ever to birth our baby before our appointment the next morning. I bounced on my yoga ball, I squatted, and I did spinning baby exercises to help baby delve deeper into the pelvis. I had 40-60 second contractions coming every 4-6 minutes throughout the afternoon. I concentrated and breathed through them all. My partner Gaj was amazingly supportive. He kept me hydrated, fed me snacks, rubbed my back, applied counter pressure and filled the birth pool. I began making noises during contractions and no longer felt comfortable on the birth ball, so I decided to stand or walk through them. Hours passed by, and the birth pool was finally full enough for me to get in. Gaj poured more hot water, and the warmth was amazing. My contractions, however, became surprisingly more painful and heightened in the water. I had to stand and get out after 15 minutes.
Hours passed and at 3 am I realised that my baby wasn't coming - so I called Monika for some reassurance. My stress was out of control and in turn, I lost control of my breathing. Monika was amazing - her words helped me calm down, and she helped me to breathe through a contraction. Monika said that I was probably still in early labour and that I just had to keep riding it out. After I hung up, my contractions began to slow down - it was my body telling me to get some rest. So, I settled in a chair made by my grandfather and got a couple of hours of broken sleep.
It was 8:30 am, and my Gaj was still asleep. I had been labouring in the living room for a few hours, and I finally decided to text Monika. Monika arrived immediately, and I broke down crying. I was exhausted, but I felt in my heart that my body was going to birthing my baby that day. The last thing I wanted was another trip to the hospital, and I was still trying to come to terms with not birthing in the comfort of my own home. I felt like my labour was progressing exactly how it should be, and I didn't understand why we had to interfere with it. But I knew that Monika's hands were tied and that she had to follow the hospital's guidelines.
Monika suggested that we do a vaginal check to see how I was progressing. I didn't plan on getting any vaginal checks - but it felt like SOMETHING needed to happen as my time was quickly running out to have a home birth. So, I agreed. She checked me, and I was 5cm dilated - progressing perfectly, just as I had suspected. She suggested that we return to the hospital for monitoring sooner rather than later, and I agreed that it was a good idea.
We arrived at the hospital at 10 am and got what we needed from the monitoring machine within 30 minutes - phew! My contractions were now on the monitor every 5 minutes. The doctor came in for another ultrasound; I was hoping so badly for good news. It wasn't the news I was hoping for. The amniotic fluid levels were even less than the day before. I wasn't having a home birth unless I was going to go it alone - and I was not mentally prepared for that. He said that the baby was barely in my pelvis and that he could probably push the head out with his hand if we wanted to. He said that my labour was going to be very long and that as a first-time mother, he doesn't think I will be able to do it alone without some form of medical assistance. He said that they would want to do continuous monitoring throughout my labour and they don't have those kinds of facilities in the birthing centre. He also said that he suspected I would want an epidural (even though I planned for a completely natural birth) and they couldn't administer that in the birth centre either.
At this point, I was in tears. I felt completely unsupported by the hospital staff. I felt like I had failed my baby and my partner, and I couldn't come to terms with birthing in the hospital. The doctor was getting on my nerves as he continued trying to ask questions through contractions and his words were the opposite of encouraging. I looked around the room, possibly one that I would now be birthing in and I sink into the chair in the corner crying.
I was still having contractions every 4 minutes, and at this point, they were incredibly painful. I breathed through them between sobs as my partner comforted me. He told me that he would be there for me no matter what and that we could make it work. He was and is such great support.
Monika came back into the room 15 minutes later, and there is a female doctor behind her. What happened next was the best news I had heard all week! The doctor tells me that they had looked hard at my situation and asked if I would be open to the possibility of birthing in the birth centre if I agreed to let them listen to baby's heart every 15 minutes. A new wave of tears rushed out of me, but this time they were happy tears, all I could say was "thank you."
Ten minutes later and we were settled into our room at the birthing centre. It wasn't home, but we made it our own. There was a queen-size bed, a large spa bath, a lounge, a birth ball, an oil burner and kitchen facilities. They had a bathroom with endless hot water and an outdoor courtyard so I could escape the cold air conditioning. I undressed almost immediately and got in the shower to stand under the hot water.
When we had left earlier that morning, we didn't expect to stay so we hadn't brought anything with us. The baby seat wasn't even in the car out! So, while I was busy zoning out labour, Gaj organised everything. He went home and collected clothes, nappies, snacks, our camera, a cord tie and everything else we could need. Monika also went home to get some sleep before things picked up and we were left in the care of a gorgeous birth centre midwife named Emily.
I spent the next nine hours, mostly in the shower with my leg up on a chair squatting. Every now and then I would walk around the outside courtyard squatting. I was getting down to business. Emily came in every 15 minutes or so to listen to the baby's heartbeat. It was incredibly uncomfortable, but she rubbed my back each time which was comfortable.
As the hours dragged on, I became more and more exhausted from lack of sleep and constant standing, but I knew I couldn't rest. I knew I have to keep upright to let gravity help to bring the baby down. As a first time mum who had a baby that was not engaged, in a foreign environment and with a doctor who doubts my ability, I was working to my absolute limits to make this happen. Finally, I had to lay down.
I got onto my side in bed, and Gaj brought me water and sat next to me. I had a powerful contraction, and suddenly felt extremely nauseous, and I vomited all over the bed. Gaj was a bit shocked, but the midwife was happy because she knows that it was a good sign that I was getting closer. As soon as I finish vomiting, I needed to get back off the bed and into the shower. At this point, I started feeling a lot more pressure and a slight pushing urge during my contractions. I reached down and felt the sack of unbroken waters - it was about a finger deep. My contractions were very strong, and I felt like I was involuntarily pushing during them.
At this point, I believe it was around 10 pm, and Monika arrived to swap with Emily. Monika got me back onto the bed because we needed to do more monitoring much to my dismay. I was extremely uncomfortable in the bed and needed to be on my side - she strapped the bands around my belly and left the room. Gaj sat next to me with water and supported me through the next contraction. My body was now pushing during every contraction, and I felt like I needed to poo so badly. I reached down to touch my sac of waters bulging out like a balloon, and I got Gaj to take a photo so I can see, there it is!
I couldn't believe our baby was so close to being here! After all the labour, it felt so sudden. Monika came back in and looked at the monitor. My baby's heart rate went down during the next contraction, and she could see that there was a small amount of meconium in the sac of waters. She told Gaj that this stage of birth could take some time and that we needed to transfer up to the hospital to get medical assistance because the baby needed to come out NOW.
Monika called the hospital to let them know that we would be transferring. As I listened, I freaked out internally; I knew that I would not be moving anywhere, and I was making sure of that. With the next contraction, I voluntarily pushed, and the baby's head started crowning. Monika quickly called the hospital back to let them know that actually, they will need to come to us because the baby is coming HERE and NOW.
I am on my left side with my right foot pushing against my partner's hip, and my left foot was pushing against Monika. The monitor on my belly was extremely uncomfortable, and I wanted to take it off. The cold air from the air conditioner didn't feel nice on my perineum; I remember reading about hot compresses and asked Monika if she had one, she did! The hot compress on my perineum was heavenly. I asked Gaj if there was hair, "yes, there's black hair!"
As my next contraction came, a few people entered the room and started moving around me, getting ready in case me or my baby needed assistance after birth. Suddenly my calm birth space was filled with people! But I tried to take no notice as I focused on birthing my baby. With the next contraction and a hard push from me, my baby's head was born, I reached down eagerly to grab my baby, but they said"not yet! The body isn't born yet!" A minute passed, and with my next contraction, at 10:23 pm, my baby was born into my arms. Monika lifted the head slightly to my hands. I caught my baby and brought him straight to my chest. I raised a leg and looked to Gaj said: "we have a beautiful baby boy!"
I noticed his face looked funny like he was an old-school bank robber with a stocking on his head or a condom. He was born en caul, with the amniotic sac covering his head. As Monika peeled it off his face, he let out a big cry and looked me right in the eye. I was rubbing his back and laughing and crying, what a relief! It was the best feeling in the world. Gaj was smiling over us and crying happy tears. I looked at our baby boy, and he has an ear folded in half. He looked like a little elf!
I knew immediately what his name is. I looked down at his beautiful pulsing umbilical cord already turning white. At his ten little fingers and his ten little toes. His sweet round face and his button nose. I was trying to take everything about him in; he was so perfect. After his first loud cry, he seemed to be having some trouble breathing as fast as the medical team would like. Monika told me to blow on his face and rub the back of his neck with a towel. He continued gurgling, and this continued for a few minutes, and although I believe he would have worked it out on his own, I think the medical team was a bit on edge due to the meconium-stained waters.
A kind doctor asked for permission to put a breathing mask on him to give him a hand. He took significant consideration in getting my consent to hold my baby. I agreed to it, and he wore the mask for a couple of minutes before we took it off to see how he went. At this point, I felt a huge warm gush like how I would imagine it have felt to have my water break. But it was a haemorrhage. Monika sprung into action; I hardly noticed what was happening down below as I swooned over my beautiful baby. My original plan was to birth my placenta physiologically, but Monika told me that in the current situation, she would recommend a shot of Pitocin and to have an actively managed placenta birth. I tried to consider the circumstances, but at this point, I couldn't think about anything other than my baby, and I agreed to it. Another midwife gave me the shot in my leg. Monika told me that this means we, unfortunately, had to clamp and cut the cord.
While Monika attended to the birth of my placenta, my baby boy was still not crying as vigorously as the doctors would prefer, so I agreed to let them give him some extra help on a table next to me, and he consequently peed over all of their new equipment! Gaj kept close to him and talked to him while the midwives attend to my bleeding. Monika pushed hard on my stomach, it was extremely uncomfortable, but the haemorrhage had stopped quickly and was under control. My baby was handed back to me moments later when all was found to be well - he was just a very calm boy! Gaj joined me on the bed, we looked at each other and then back to him. Our little Mowgli. I knew he was Mowgli as soon as I saw his face. He is perfect in every way.
Monika looked down and recommended I get a couple of stitches for a small graze that was continuing to bleed and a tear in my labia. After some careful consideration, I agreed. Getting stitches next to my clitoris was by far the most uncomfortable experience I have gone through, and in future births, I have decided to let any tears heal naturally.
Mowgli attached and breastfed perfectly and has a big first feed. We wiped his legs down with a cloth as he had meconium all through his toes and all over me. Gaj got the handmade crochet cord tie, and we tie off his umbilical cord and remove the metal clamp. One of the midwives who entered the room during my birth came over to congratulate me before she leaves. She told me I probably don't recognise her, but she regularly buys sorbets off me at the market and remembers me being heavily pregnant the last time she saw me there! What a lovely coincidence. We live in such a small city. I don't know why I was surprised that someone in my birth team recognised me from the local markets. It didn't stop there, the next midwife to say goodbye happened to go to the same boxing gym as Gaj! Finally, the doctor who helped Mowgli's breathing came over and told me that Mowgli was doing perfectly and would not need any more help. We sat together as a new family for a few hours, just cuddling and taking in our baby. Monika showed me my beautiful placenta and did some gorgeous placenta prints for me before putting it in the fridge so that I can encapsulate it later
Now it was time to weigh and measure Mowgli! We all had a hold and put our guesses in. Monika guessed 3.5kg; I guessed 3.6kg and Gaj guessed 3.7kg - he was 3.7kg! Gaj was right on the mark. His head circumference was 35cm, and he was 50cm long. Everything else about his newborn exam was perfect. Gaj and I put him in his first cloth nappy. A red one. Monika left us alone to do some paperwork, and I called my mum, dad, sister and my grandma. Gaj called his parents and his sister as well. Everyone had been on edge waiting for the news for the last few days, and it felt so good to be telling them about Mowgli's arrival finally.
Due to my haemorrhage, we were advised to transfer to the hospital for observation overnight, so finally, after nearly 5 hours snuggling together, I got out of bed and passed Mowgli to Gaj. He put him skin to skin and cuddled him while I had an amazing warm shower. I did it. I DID IT! During my shower, I sang 'feeling good' by Nina Simone; I was so high on love hormones. I am the happiest woman alive.
Okay, I will end this birth story here before you all die of old age. I will finish by saying this: everything that happened during my birth happened with my fully informed consent and permission. My delivery was nothing like I had planned, but it was perfect in its own way, and it taught me a lot. ️
️Mowgli Gwyn Chelo-Chandran. You are loved. ️