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Arna’s Birth: The longest six-minutes of my life and the shining star that followed

How it all began…

 I almost fell into the toilet seeing the test result. We’d created another human being. Wow. We knew we wanted to give our first born daughter Alba a sibling but “planned” to conceive in about a year. Well, this baby knew better and simply showed up!

 When you find out you’re pregnant, there’s an expectation to be happy beyond measure but it took me a long five months to fall in love with the situation, and my baby. My hormones were playing a crazy dance within me, and I was beyond sick for the first 23 weeks. I never knew I could feel that unwell. I was continuously nauseous. I even got up in the middle of the night to talk into the ‘big white phone’.

 The only time I didn’t throw up was when I was massaging (thank goodness!). Probably because my focus changed and I was breathing deeply. During massages, it felt as though I was in a little protection energy bubble.

 At around six weeks, I started to get spotting. It lasted until 11 weeks. It happened when I was breastfeeding my daughter, who was 22 months old. I realised it was my body’s way of telling me I was ready to wean her.

Counting myself lucky

 When the fog lifted at 23 weeks I was ecstatic and thanking my lucky stars I wasn’t sick for the remaining 17 weeks. It’s amazing how different two pregnancies can be. Of course, my first pregnancy was without another child so I was able to sleep whenever I felt like it.

 The tiredness and the constant sickness was one thing, but abdominal separation…that was something new. The pain brought me to my knees. I told my hubby I’d rather give birth to five babies at once, then go through that pain again.

Time to connect

 The blissful easing of the all-day sickness allowed me to connect with my baby on an honest soul level. Finally. I have to admit we had a gender preference. I think deep down many people do but are hesitant to admit it for fear of sounding ungrateful. I knew right from the start we were going to have another little girl.

 I believe we have to allow space to speak our truth and deep emotions. By bringing things to the surface we can deal with it. So, I decided I needed to find out for sure if we were having a girl so I could fall in love with her by the time she arrived. While I felt guilty thinking this way, knowing we were having a girl gave me the reassurance and space I needed to connect and fall in love with her. And I did.

Choosing my nest

 Despite having an incredible birth at home with Alba, the idea of having this baby at home didn’t feel as light or uplifting. My hubby felt the opposite – he wasn’t sure of a homebirth the first time around but this time he really wanted to have a homebirth.

 A beautiful birthing centre opened in our town just a few months before my due date. While I still wanted a natural, intervention-free birth, I loved the idea of not having to jump around my family and clean up like I did the first time around right after birthing. I also had ‘bath envy’ – the centre had a beautiful, spacious corner bath in every room – it felt like a 5-star hotel!

 I knew I would birth the best where I felt the safest, and for some reason my gut was telling me to go to the birthing centre. I also thought it would be great for me to see first hand what happens there so I can support my pregnant friends and clients who choose the birthing centre.

Another reason, which may sound ridiculous, was that my home wasn’t clean enough. Having a toddler means no matter how much I’ve cleaned up, our home never met my ‘nesting standards’.

 I also decided I didn’t want my little girl to be there. She was a super sensitive little being. When we did my belly casting and “smartly” forgot to put some Vaseline between the plaster and my skin and it stuck. Seeing me making ‘uncomfortable’ faces set her off in tears and it took me half an hour to settle her. I was pretty sure my “mantra fest” would be enough to set her off during giving birth!

A loud pop

 A loud pop woke me on the 2nd of July at 2.30am. I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant. I jumped out of bed despite my ‘whale-ness’ because I was scared of wetting our brand new bed. Lucky I did, I immediately felt a strong gush of water. Thank god I made it to the bathroom… and noticed it was all clear! Yay.

 A gush of excitement rushed through my veins. I was excited about the possibility of meeting our little girl. I shuffled a pad under myself and tried to go back to sleep. Too excited, I checked the ‘cyber word’ to find out what was special about that date. It was a full moon. Jupiter and Venus were standing together forming the Bethlehem star in the night sky, for the first time in over 2015 years. I looked up and thought – what a special star to be born under.

The first wave arrived at 3am

 10 minutes later the next one, and then they came even more regularly. I couldn’t wait any longer, I woke my hubby at 3.45am to ring his mum to come and look after Alba, because her little sister was definitely on the way.

 I found it easy to manage the surges, and made the mistake of telling Nana not to rush.  But then the surges started to come every three to five minutes. I was still hesitant to ring Anne, our midwife, because I didn’t want to wake her up.

 The intensity increased but I managed them with breathing. I put off calling Anne until hubby said she wouldn’t mind being woken up – it’s her work! As he organised the birthing pool I had no idea how I’d tell him I wanted to go to the ‘Bethlehem Birthing Centre.’ It simply felt right to go there, especially having the Bethlehem star in the sky. I carried on breathing and prepared my daughter’s lunch for kindy – a perfect distraction!

 We rang Anne, who was already at the birthing centre having just finished birthing with another mama. She asked what I wanted to do and reassured me she’d support me either way. After a quick discussion with hubby, I said I would love to go to the birth centre.

 I knew I had progressed in my birthing when I started getting agitated that Nana hadn’t arrived, but hubby rang her, and she was just around the corner. Everything was ready to go, all I needed to tell her was where I put Alba’s kindy lunch, and what else to organise for her.

 It was a beautiful winter’s night, with a clear sky and crisp air. The Bethlehem star was shining bright up in the sky together with the full moon. It was a truly magical night, and I giggled thinking how special it was to be giving birth on this date.

Our little girl was close

 As we travelled to the birthing centre with hubby I focused on keeping the air flowing into my lungs. As I exhaled, I pictured the tension evaporating from my womb. I knew my baby was close as I felt myself sink into my inner space during surges. The excitement was palpable. We were both so looking forward to having our little girl in our arms.

 We arrived around 5am and welcomed by our midwife, a student midwife, a tub filled with hot water, and our lovely birth photographer, who was also my really close friend, Marijke de Jong. I was grateful to have her there, as I had not one image of my first homebirth, as the camera somehow got lost under the tarpaulin!

 Marijke had a homebirth with Anne as well and because Anne was due to retire in the near future, she wanted to capture her beautiful work. I will be forever grateful for her being there. As well as taking beautiful photos, she had a really reassuring and calm presence. I could not have been more blessed with the beautiful people within my birthing space.

 

 Anne never used a heart monitor to listen to my babies heart beat, she only used the pinard. I remember her using it on my tummy and talking to me in a really kind voice. She always knew what to say and how to say it, every single time.

 All of a sudden I felt the urge to nest. I started organising everything, my aromatherapy oils and diffuser, baby clothes, homeopathic remedies, everything! I didn’t feel like I could birth until everything was organised and tidy around me.

 

  Then Anne and hubby checked the heartbeat. Anne asked if I would like the cervix to be checked. I was fully dilated with a partial cervical lip at one side. I couldn’t believe I’d got through the first stage without feeling that I couldn’t cope, or out of control.

The power of the breath

 Breathing has power and so does your mind set. I was inviting each surge into my body, and allowing it to take over. Nothing else existed, only my tightening womb, and breathing. I knew the more I took in, the more my baby would get. So, with every breath I knew I was a heartbeat closer to meeting our little one.

 

 After brushing my teeth to freshen up, I decided to get into water. It was nice to know that my ‘whale-ness’ could finally go where she belongs! I love water, although in the back of my mind I remember it slowing down the birthing of Alba.

 Hubby was by my side all along, and I was so grateful to him. It is such a special sacred space, where you as a birthing woman is open on every level, your heart, your soul, with the up and down melting together. I felt like I was a channel getting enormous strength from somewhere not on this earth with each and every surge. My heart space almost exploded, and I felt so much love and gratitude for the people being there to support me.

 

 Towards the end I rocked back and forth during surges, making deep aaaaaahhhhh mantra sounds. The vibration of my own voice felt so soothing. Baby was coming way too fast, and I felt like my tissues were not able to keep up. I also remember not bearing down “properly” the first time around. Then it hit me! You need to push the same way you do when you’re going number two on the toilet. No wonder my first daughter’s second stage lasted so long! This time I actually needed to slow down and breathe through the process.

Bringing my baby earth side

 I was in transition for about 20 minutes and my surges were almost back to back. It was in that moment I understood why many mamas “want to go home” at this turning point. I knew I had nowhere to go, I was the only one to bring my baby earth side. So I surrendered, and let my birthing take over my being. Breathing truly was my savior… I felt the ring of fire for a short time before her little head came soon after.

 

 Still in the water, I waited for the next surge to build up. Anne asked if I wanted to lift my baby out of water. I could only nod as I felt the next surge take over my body once again. I reached down and felt my baby turn internally before sliding out into my searching hands. I reached down to bring my precious little parcel up to my heart.

 

 Everything expanded in that moment. You might not see the little details of your baby but you sense her whole being on a different level. You feel her weight in your arms, her soft skin and you are trying to take it all in.

 Four hours after my first surge, I was holding this perfect little human being in my arms. She felt so delicate, so petite, yet complete, resilient and strong. She truly is between worlds, in my arms, yet still attached to me through the umbilical cord. It’s a miracle. I could feel the cord still pulsing, flooding my baby with extra oxygen, extra volume and blood, with all it’s goodness.

 

  She cried straight away. Not loudly, just super cute cries. She had vernix all over her, the precious birthday frosting that protected her skin within my womb. And like little butterfly wings, I saw her trying to open up her eyes, resting close to my heart on my chest. Anne suggested I take off my top and try to feed her. They wrapped her up in some towels. And then she looked at me, deep into my soul before slowly closing her eyes.

And then she stopped breathing.

 Anne saw the colour in her lips and face change and just as she asked if she was breathing, I heard myself say  right in that moment: ‘she’s not breathing.’

 

 I can see how new souls might feel overwhelmed or not ready to come to this planet. Even with this implanted cellular memory in my mama heart, the night sky of my universe became starless. All I could do was to try and anchor myself from the oxytocin high and call out for her spirit to assure her that whatever her soul mission on Earth is, we’ll be there.

 That we love her and we want her in our family. I felt calm, probably thanks to the oxytocin or my beautiful birth. I uncovered her, and started to massage her back and feet…no reaction. I was constantly calling out for her and I could not shake off the feeling, that she might change her mind. That she might feel unwelcome…. I felt guilt rushing through me in a millisecond, but I shook the heavy feeling away and poured all my love on her, imagining us in a love bubble. I want you to stay little girl, please breathe again! This is a beautiful place, and whatever you choose as your karma this life, we are here for you!

Anne calmly, confidently helped us out from the tub, and I went to lay on the bed.

 Our baby still did not breathe, she was limp and blue. I knew it was my test, and her initiation. Weirdly I still felt calm. I had a sense at that time, that nothing could go wrong! It can’t, we just had a blissed-out birth. While these thoughts rushed through me, we constantly tried to make Arna breathe. I was talking to her, promising all that could come to my mind. Anne said we had to take her and try to make her breathe again. She was so mindful with her words.

 

 They pushed the ressuss table beside me. By that time they’d called the ambulance, and there was another midwife who was on call at the birth centre there too.

 My universe narrowed down. All I could absorb from my environment was how much I loved that purple little limp body. I tried to channel these feelings towards her, to make sure she would be ok!

 Now, thinking back, my only regret was that I didn’t get up, cord attached, and went with her to the table. The “good old” Hungarian way was so burnt into my being – you stay in bed and they take baby away. I had no idea I could’ve actually stood up and held baby’s hand. I could! I was strong enough, but I thought I couldn’t. So, I asked my husband to hold her hand, and to call her constantly. I did not want her to be there without one of us whatever the outcome was going to be. I was talking to her too, as she was only a few meters away from me.

The seconds slowed down

 It was six minutes (three from the cord cutting). It felt like the longest six minutes of my life. Meanwhile Anne and the team did what they needed to do. She was constantly informing me in a calm voice of what was happening. (Later she told me she was not that calm on the inside!). I could hear her saying that she couldn’t find the airway for some reason.

 My lovely friend Marijke put the camera down, sat beside me on the bed, and grabbed my hand. It was so reassuring and comforting. I was holding onto reality through her hands as I was still working on grounding myself. It was so surreal, like I was watching it from the outside. It didn’t sink in at all, that she could die, somehow it did not enter my head as an option. All I could do was focus on the fact that everything would be OK.

 I only realised I was holding my breath, when I heard Anne say “She is breathing! She is finally breathing!” I heard a big sigh rumble out of my chest. Meanwhile, the ambulance arrived but because Arna was stable Anne asked them to stay outside. I was still between two worlds, on a ride with our little darling. Anne wrapped her up, and placed her in my arms. She was beautiful, and pink, and I will never forget how she grabbed my little finger.

 

 Anne suggested we take Arna to hospital for further observation – maybe they would find out why she stopped breathing.

 Anne knew we had to keep our flow on so asked me to bare down to birth the placenta. She knew that time was precious, and that the adrenaline exposure would work against the oxytocin that helps to release the placenta. She never said this, but I knew why she was “rushing” me to get the placenta out. After a few pushes the placenta was born, complete and healthy. I only took a glance at it, then turned to my husband, and asked him to go with the baby.

 In Hungary it’s common practice to take the baby away, sometimes even to different buildings, in case there is a complication during birthing. I did not want Arna to be alone in the ambulance. Anne instantly said, “Why would you say that, we never separate mother and baby!” Oh, I’ll never forget the relief and joy I felt because I wanted to hold her as close as possible, to protect her with a love bubble.

 While daddy held baby, I got dressed and sat on the wheelchair, and they put my little girl on me, skin to skin, wearing her gorgeous little hand-knitted hat – a gift from the birth centre that I treasure to this day. We needed it – it was around 10C outside!

 The lovely midwife on duty, asked if we would like to keep the placenta and placed it in the freezer for us to collect later. I remember how kind the ambulance guys were, they were super careful putting me in and out of the car. I didn’t feel rushed but we got to the hospital in five minutes.

So close to a different outcome

 We stayed in the special care unit for three days. They did test after test on Arna, but could not find anything. I have to say the staff were brilliant. They were super kind, respectful, and asked me personally before running any test or procedure on Arna. I never left her side, she was on me all day and night, except when I had to go to the bathroom.

 That very first night I watched her slowly fall asleep on me. I felt her little body rise and fall with every little breath she took. Then it sunk in….how lucky we were. How close we were to living a completely different story. Love and gratitude took over my soul, and the tears ran down my cheeks uncontrollably. We were so close to losing her. Two minutes more and she could have had serious complications and brain damage. There is no day, especially around her milestones and birthdays, that I don’t think how special it is to have her with us.  She is the cheekiest, kindest, most spirited ‘pixie fairy’ I’ve ever met. We are truly blessed.

 

       PS: It wasn’t until Arna was eight-months old that we got some answers as to what happened at birth – but that is another story I will share in the future.

 

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