Our dream of a natural home birth became a reality.

It felt like it would never happen at some points but it finally did, our daughter was born on Thursday the 9th of March at 9.13.pm.

Our dream of a natural home birth became a reality. 

The supposed due date was the 27th of February so we spent a while hanging on tenter hooks but in the end everything turned out ok, like we believed it would from the start. We were completely against the idea of an unnatural induction so we tried a natural clairesage oil on a wet towel in the bath instead. That sort of stuff seemed like hocus-pocus to me previously, but I promise you it really worked.

Our child responded well to the oil over the course of a couple of days and mild labour pains kicked in around 1am on the morning of the 9th of March. My dear wife being a true stalwart decided to quietly endure the pains with the company of a good book and I only found out we were underway on waking up later that morning. I still could not believe it but I just tried to be supportive and make myself useful.

Around 9am Itziar took a gentle stroll on the treadmill which was another suggestion we had for inducing labour naturally, it seemed to work too. A powerful indication there are multiple natural options to explore before going the drug route.

At 10am Itziar’s angel of a mother Cristina arrived. She is a qualified Doula (birth assistant) and mother of four. Throughout the process she balanced the roles of birth assistant and concerned mother with incredible precision and compassion. She had a homeopathic remedy for every ailment Itziar experienced; from back pain, to shivering, exhaustion to bruising. A glass of water with rescue remedy for the stress of it all was never far away either. I drank rescue throughout too and it really helped me to manage my anxiety.

Cristina offered her loving hands throughout and remained ever ready to massage her daughter with the kind of gentle love only a mother could give her own daughter on the threshold of motherhood. Her understanding of Itziar’s suffering at the experiential level truly humbled me. It was amazing to see her soothe my wife like no one else could even hope to.

By 11am the contractions were coming every minutes and lasting about 30-40 seconds. We decided it would be a good time to ask our midwife to come over. Marianne arrived a couple of hours later. By this time Itziar had already been in labour for thirteen hours. I gave Marianne some time alone with Itziar to check in and establish herself in our space. Taking a break was hard at first but I knew I could trust Marianne and Cristina to take care of my wife and baby. The two ladies have had seven children between them. Whats more Marianne our midwife has been practicing since 1981, the year I was born. Cristina had also attended quite a few births as a doula too.

Handing over control of my wife’s well being was a big moment and required a lot of faith on my part. If I had been relinquishing control to a stranger in a hospital it would have been a totally different story, especially if it had been to another man. The benefits of being in our home were seemingly infinite. I could prepare healthy wholesome food, rest and read comfortably. Not to mention the bath and bedroom which were such a calm and positive space for the process to unfold in. I simply cannot imagine the horror for me and Itziar of being in a strange surgical environment surrounded by strangers it would have freaked us out completely and made things much more difficult for our daughter.

As I sat downstairs something occurred to me. As a result of my experience it seems totally mad to me that childbirth is such a male dominated field, there is simply no way a man can even begin to conceive of what a women goes through and give her the kind of support she really needs. Only a woman who has been through it can do that, this truth has apparently been proven. Women carry the ways to sooth a birthing mother in their DNA. Men do not, but that is not to say that if possible a father should not be present. The father plays an instrumental yet very, very different role in his own right.

Now I am not saying that c-sections etc should not be done by men, but natural birth should without a shadow of doubt in my mind be facilitated by women. The concept that a person is free to choose not to attempt a natural birth by way of voluntary c-section and miss out on what is surely the most profound life affirming journey one can go through; be that mother, child or father; just seems totally insane to me.

At around 4pm Itziar was in a great deal of pain and she started to say she couldn’t continue. What I learned is that this point is a significant milestone in the process for every woman; the half way mark! On finding this out I explained to my wife that she was in the best possible place in the world to be given the current circumstances, she accepted my perspective and continued to endure the shooting pains with incredible courage. The problem was our baby decided to travel closer to her back than her abdomen so the pressure in her lower lumbar region remained immense throughout. My assertion of the same truth three hours later was not met with such a positive response but nevertheless it was accepted.

When my wife looked at me with tears streaming down her face and beseeched me to take her to the hospital all I could do was look deep into those beautiful eyes of hers and without saying a word communicate that I firmly believed everything would be ok. This was really, really hard but again I had absolute faith in our people so it was ok.

A really important point to mention is that if either one of us was not one hundred percent sure that we wanted a home birth we never would have been able to endure the ordeal. It got scary for both of us at times it was pretty heavy in there. Itziar was assisted by Marianne in doing an absolutely incredible job of just staying with her breath while our baby did an equally amazing job of working its way out of her body. I just had to manage my anxiety and that most profound of masculine urges; the desire to fix everything and everyone.

Marianne later described her role at that point of no return; ‘the transition period’; the essential milestone a woman must reach when she says cannot continue; as holding an immoveable weight. Just holding it even though it wont budge just holding it. An incredible skill in which she is deeply versed. She reflected that as the years go by and her experience increases she able to get out the way of the process more and more and simply be in it, encouraging, reassuring, absorbing each woman’s pain. A remarkable human being.

By 9pm things were really rough I had spent a considerable number of hours sitting behind Itziar in the bath rubbing her lower back with my palms. With every stroke of my hands I visualized her cervix expanding and opening it helped me to carry on and mentally made me feel as though I was making a positive contribution. I had been praying for quite a few hours by that time, asking whatever benevolent forces that govern the infinite universe to free my wife from the terrible pain she had endured so bravely for nigh on twenty hours. I was amazed but for practically the whole labour Itziar made hardly a sound other than exhales of breath. She spoke only when absolutely necessary.

The next ten or fifteen minutes could not have been more different. Our daughter was ready to arrive.

It is essential to mention here that never once did our midwife Marianne instruct Itziar to push, even when she reached 10cm dilation. In the aftermath we found out she was aiming for a very special type of birth that happens frequently in nature when a birthing mother feels, safe, secure and unobserved. Long standing advocate of the natural birth movement Michel Odent (my name sake but thats another story) describes this natural phenomenon as:

The Fetal Ejection Reflex.

Itziar sat up to squat on her haunches, she steadied her body with a hand on both my legs. With the most visceral blood curdling scream I have ever heard her body was consumed by an extraordinary wave of primal energy, the hairs on the back of my neck flew up. Her body had decided to push, not her her head, her body. This is why the phenomenon is defined as an ejection reflex. Again the concept of a person being told when to push by someone else seems utterly absurd now. The body knows exactly what to do we just have to allow it.

My prayers for a quick end to my wife and babies suffering were answered. With the third guttural roar our baby twisted her shoulders and literally flew out of the womb into the water of the bath. Our midwife was just in time to catch her. I had hoped to handle her first but there was simply no chance of that, it all happened too fast, my legs were rooted to the floor of the bath by Itziar’s arm.

The next moment all three of us lay together in what was surely the most profound moment of pure love I have ever known in this life. Tears rolled down everyones cheeks yet our daughter lay content in our arms with no such watery eyes. The stereotype of a wailing child I had come to expect thanks to the movies, simply absent. Luz just lay calmly and contentedly completely relaxed, a perfect, beautiful child with a thick head of stunning jet black hair and glorious enchanting eyes alive with curiosity and determination.

The idea we could have decided not to give our daughter the opportunity to make her own way into this world; if everything was ok medically; seemed very, very cruel and extremely disempowering. It would have felt like we had stolen something from her. Of course I only know this having been through the process. The sure bet the medical profession offers makes a compelling argument for non-essential intervention, but I tell you now it is nothing less than theft of most profound nature possible. There is nothing more precious you can take from a person.

The thought that Luz would have been taken away from us if we were in hospital made me shudder, the fact that I would not have been able to even spend the night with my family if we had been in one seemed all the more insane. Not to mention we would not have been able to eat our own food or sleep in our own sheets, be naked with our child.

Anyway from hours of saying she would never do it again; on seeing and feeling Luz, Itziar immediately announced she would be happy too endure another pregnancy; whilst apologizing profusely to each one of us for her pained remarks at various points. Everybody of course took no crossed words on her part personally, venting is simply part of the process. It was almost like Itziar had to release all her mental angst before her body could take over.

Amidst the euphoria of meeting our daughter Itziar eased the placenta out. It was time to cut the cord, I did so with a deep sense of gratitude. It was very empowering for me to be the one to sever my daughters connection to her mother. It felt like a symbolic gesture on my part that clearly emphasized my resolute commitment to honoring the responsibilities I have taken on as a father, a husband and a provider.

Cutting the cord

After a while we got out the bath and Luz was weighed, she came in at 3.44 KGS, a very healthy child, she also had long nails. This was all thanks to the really healthy diet of food and exercise Itziar committed herself too, her recovery has been remarkable thanks to this too.

After the weigh in it was dad time I got to have skin on skin contact with my daughter which research says is incredibly important for a man and releases instinctual fathering hormones throughout the bodies of dad and baby creating a permanent, unbreakable link.

Our midwife was expecting to have to stitch Itziar up due the swift exit Luz made from her womb and because it was her first child. However on inspection everything was in tact, just two very minor tears not even big enough to sow up. We put this down to the ‘epi-no’ which was a miraculous device recommended by Marianne. It not only prepared Itziar for the process physically but mentally too. It certainly put any doubt that she could not reach 10 cm dilation to rest. In retrospect our preparations were very thorough and I believe they really need to be for a successful home birth.

First moments of dad time

Shortly after we were left alone to enjoy our baby and the whole family slept the night through. Again the sleepless nights I had come to expect did not happen for us.

Reflecting on the birth Itziar said

Its indescribable but definitely the most powerful and empowering experience of my life as a woman. I feel like it connected me with the deepest truth of all, that we are simply animals; in the most beautiful sense of the word; and give birth in exactly the same way if were allowed to. I feel the experience connected me with the very essence of what it means to be alive.

In conclusion I must reemphasize that if you want a home birth all parties in attendance must be totally committed, it was a horrifying ordeal at times. If either one of us had harbored even an iota of doubt in the dark recesses of our minds it would have been very traumatic.Definitely get a doula but again make sure both parties are totally comfortable with her and you understand exactly what she will be bringing to the table.

Further more from the bit of research we did into home birth a lot of advocates we spoke too had actually been born at home themselves. This at some points created an impression in our minds that natural birth was something for only those pre-disposed. I guess what I want to say is that anyone can do it if they really want too; and it is medically viable; it doesn’t matter if you weren’t born at home, your baby can be, you can change the mold.

I personally had a very traumatic birth in the days when labour and delivery were dealt with in separate rooms of hospitals in England. My first experience of the world was hanging upside down between my mothers legs as she was hurried from one room to the other. Itziar and all her siblings were born in hospital too.

Family Time At Home Together

Both my wife and I feel like we have really given our daughter the best possible start in life, we were physically capable of giving her and as parents that makes us feel pretty good, it helps us to trust that we can continue positively.

So I guess that’s pretty much it.

I don’t know if I will write about fatherhood i’m not sure we will have to see. All I can say is thanks for reading, its been emotional. I think my daughter will have fun reading my journal when she’s a bit older.

Luz on the quilt I had as a baby handmade by my Godmother 30 Years Ago

Destructive Mental Habit Patterns; A Negative Inheritance

These past few days have been full of angst, sort this out sort that out. Move house, trade in the car, pack up the old house, work etc etc. Itziar and I have realized that the mental habit pattern we have become immersed in is a very negative one and not something we wish to pass down to our child.

Lately it has been one problem after another as soon as one issue is overcome another arises to takes its place. In a moment of clarity at 4am yesterday morning our part in perpetuating this cycle became acutely apparent. We crave stability in our lives yet our actions are not wholly aimed at advancing in that direction. There is something about the chaos which is so addictive. It is such a distraction from the mundane.

Taking a few deep breaths I remembered just how underrated breathing really is. With a deep inhalation a wonderful sense of calm settled on my troubled brain like a picnic blanket on summer grass. It is so obvious that my current M.O is the cause of great misery in my life and I just need to take time to breath. This is something I truly want to pass down to our child as the most valuable tool for mitigating the vicissitudes of life.

Anyway the day carried on we actually went back to sleep after our deep philosophical debate and woke as if the whole exchange had just been a shared dream. Then it was off to the tool hire shop to fetch a trailer which by some miracle the new old car we just got has an attachment for. Gone are the days of borrowing trucks and renting lorries from dodgy bearded men for exorbitant fees. Yes I proudly arrived home with my trailer in tow.

What they don’t tell you when you rent a trailer is that reversing is basically impossible. You go one way and the trailer advances in the polar opposite until you both collide. It reminds me a lot of human beings.

Tummy Talk

I had an amazing moment of connection with our unborn child this morning. Talking to Itziar’s tummy our baby responded as if he or she was really there. Laughing at my jokes and stroking my face. I have not done this nearly as much as I set out to but actually it proved to me that our relationship is already developing, which is just so amazing.

I told the little one all about where we are living now, the pro’s and cons, the ups and downs. I just talked to her like she understood without making ridiculous noises or infantile remarks.

I could feel our babies response to this level of respectful communication. Without saying anything and just responding through a variety of movements I got the message that our child really appreciated my description of our world and what is currently happening in it.

All I want to say is talk to her tummy, its so important I just know it to be true!

The last leg

Everything is moving along smoothly (hahaha) the list of requisite supplies for our home birth is in place and now we are just waiting.

We know our baby could pop out any day but somehow it still does not seem real. Somehow you still can’t  really prepare yourself for the raw reality of the whole thing so we remain in limbo.

On the one hand the biggest change of our lives is imminent, on the other the new world that awaits us still seems so far away. The aim of this journalling process was for me to integrate the experience in all its width and breadth on as regular a basis as possible. However on reflection no matter how many words I write I don’t think I will really believe its happening until it happens.

Thinking about the whole amazing, crazy, frightening, delightful process I can only say that I reckon we have done enough. We have read enough books, conferred with our elders, examined our options thoroughly. When all is said and done and the waters break I am betting we are going to be ok.

GERONIMO!

My Fear Of The Family Sedan

1998-2001 Volkswagen Passat sedan photographed...

Image via Wikipedia

Its been a long time coming but here I am.

My absence is indicative of what the third trimester has been all about for us; survival.

After the chaos of the first and the bliss of the second, the third has been about doing our best to get through all the challenges that life has been throwing our way, one day at a time.

The most recent challenge was the death of our wonderful car, with its turbo diesel injection. The faithful beast actually got me within 300 meters of the service centre before breathing its last. Incredible that the computer failure did not happen even one minute earlier, a faithful beast indeed.

I started to push my valiant steed towards the mechanics and suddenly I experienced what felt like a boost of superhuman strength, the car moved so easily. I then turned around to realize that there was a helpful chap lending a hand.

Anyway  I was politely informed this morning that the repairs necessary to get our faithful stallion back on the road are, to say the least, extensive. It seems like everything has decided to give up at the same time, total melt down. Rambling our way through the rocky crags they call roads in the rural areas of South Africa’s East Coast or the ‘Wild Coast‘ as it is affectionately known; was not such an enjoyable trip for our darling city car as it was for us. On reflection a tank probably would have been a better choice of vehicle for the two months we spent exploring there.

To make matters worse we had the ominous chat with the sales department today. The friendly rep showed us a family sedan we would be able to trade our little fire cracker in for with some extra investment. The boot space was impressive but thats as far as it went. A bolt of reality burst forth from the ether and hit me like a stab in the dark. As I looked at the vehicle my heart sank into my shoes, the long shape and sturdy structure had safety, practicality and value for money written all over it. AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Caterpillars, Elizabeth Gilbert, genius and me

Itziar & I

Moving on from this pivotal period in our lives (the wedding) has proved challenging . The video, the pictures, the emails its amazing how much is involved with the process of joining two peoples lives together after the big has long since passed.

Anyway we read a book last night called: ‘Hope for the flowers By Trina Paulus‘ its nothing short of genius in a warm and fuzzy way.

I heard a great TED talk by the author of ‘Eat, Prey, Love’ the other day and she said that in ancient Greece a genius was viewed as a separate entity to a an artist, completely distinct from the world f humans. A genius was a spirt that found expression in the hands and words of people. It felt like that when I was reading ‘Hope For The Flowers’, I continually said to myself:

How can something be this good and this simple?

To me thats the genius at work, simplifying our complicated perceptions of the world and planting burning spears of truth in the hands of those willing to work hard enough (in their own way) to be graced by them.

Remarkable

This way of seeing genius really takes the pressure off and I think it will be really healthy for our daughter to understand it like this. Apparently it was only as recently as the renaissance that man started taking all the credit for his work and existential excrutiation ensued. Anyway watch the talk…

Life can be funny like that sometimes...

I’m back!

Divali

After what has certainly been the most profound period of my life I have returned to the keyboard with a new awareness. Since my fingers last wept upon these pages and poured forth the mystic waters of my soul, I have to say things have changed.

Itziar and I got married on the 29th of October amidst much jubilation and merriment. It was a divine day and the elements conspired in our favor. Only an hour before the ceremony the angry south east wind abated its thunderous roar and left only a calm, celestial summer evening in its wake.

The ceremony was one of beauty and grace. We exchanged our vows by the calm waters of a tranquil lake in the cascading, lush green hills of the South African wine lands.

What was even more wonderful was the fact that our beautiful  baby could share the whole experience with us and in fact she was the guest of honor.

It transpired just before the event that we have been sent the amazing gift of a baby girl to adorn our lives with joy. We have chosen to call her Luz, which means ‘light’ in Spanish.

We arrived in Mauritius for our honeymoon shortly after the wedding to discover that the next day was ‘Divali‘ the Hindu celebration of light’s triumph over darkness. A telling sign for us, certainly a very meaningful coincidence.

Me, Itziar and Luz

An hour on the radio and a curious Kangaroo

Happy parents and babies doing things Kangaroo style

On Monday night we spent an hour with Itziar’s mum and her friend Mark on their Cape Town university radio show called ‘Labour Of Love’. We had a great time once we got over the nerves and relaxed into it. Mark and Cristina have a really nice show going and they made us feel especially welcome. Cristina Itziar’s mother is a doula (birth assistant) and every week she shares her knowledge and experience with listeners in Cape Town (unfortunately only within a 20km radius of the University, but still reaching an audience of around 40,000 people). She also brings along guests from all walks of birth to share theirs too.

Talking about our process thus far was a great opportunity to reflect on some of the highs and lows. But what was really interesting for me was thinking about what we have learned and sharing that.

The biggest breakthroughs for me during our pregnancy have come as a result of proving my assumptions wrong. There is one assumption in particular that sits in my mind and a lot of other people’s that when it comes to price the more expensive something is, the better it is for you. Even more so when it comes to your child. When it comes to pregnancy and child rearing this is simply not the case and I will give you a great example why.

We met an amazing woman called Olga who was another guest on the show that night. Olga makes what she calls ‘Kangapouches’, which are basically slings to carry your baby/toddler on your chest. Before the show we had a chance to speak to her about her product and find out about the mission she is on and the incredible research she is doing. Olga believes she has discovered the reason why babies cry! The wonderfully simple way Olga presents her groundbreaking theory is in a letter from baby to mother that she provides with all her products and requested that we keep on the fridge.

The letter:

Dear Mom

Would you like to know why I’m crying?

I’m crying because I miss you!

I miss that nine months we spent together!

You were all around me and protected me and fed me and now all has changed.

I just need a little more time to get used to this new world around me.

Let me feel your heartbeat to calm me down

Let me feel safe by touching you whenever I can

Soothe me by walking with me

Let me feel loved by hearing your voice as you talk and sing

All I want is to be a part of you just a little longer

I know it sounds like hard work but

I heard the other babies talking about this Kangapouch!

Put me into one and we both have our freedom, love and closeness!

Please hold me, hug me, kiss me, believe me you can’t spoil me!

I will always love you

Your little one

Olga and Maya

The compelling proof for Olga’s assertion lay in the delightfully happy child that accompanied her to the radio show, her daughter Maya. Everybody was completely taken by the incredible sense of joy and confidence that exuded from her, not to mention her bright, sharp eyes. She was clearly a very well adjusted and intelligent child with a great level of awareness and interest in her surroundings and no signs on of un-warrented fears. Olga’s husband explored the campus with Maya while we all chatted away and there was not even a hint of a tantrum at any point. Impressive for  an eighteen month old toddler surrounded by strangers in a strange place.

There are three or four different designs of baby slings that all allow you to carry your baby in different ways, even if you buy every single one you will struggle to spend more than R1500 (about 150 pounds). They are washable, you don’t need to drag them around and squeeze them past tables in coffee shops or past people at the supermarket. You don’t have to have a car with a huge boot to fit them in, you can take them on the plane without annoying everybody, you can get on with your day whilst bonding with your child and your child will feel part of your life, mothers can also use them to breastfeed discretely without showing the world their boob etc etc. But above all this practicality, convenience and clutter free living, they are just really, really good for cementing the a bond of trust and love between you and your child.

Find out more about the baby wearing  movement and the Kangapouch at
email: kanga@kangapouch.co.za
 

Kangas (happy mums & dads) & Roos (Content babies)

Life…

My goodness me it feels like taking the time to write has just been an elusive luxury meant for other people lately. Life has been full of ups and downs and downs and ups. To the point where it is sometimes hard to work out how things are really going. There is so much happening in my life that I am incredibly grateful for it seems crazy when I look at things objectively to allow the few things that are not going so well to worry me.

This however is a problem I have been battling with for many years. For a long time I have allowed what is not right about my life to get in the way of what is. Somewhere along the line I developed the mental habit of honing in on what is missing and not seeing what I have.

I am sitting here right now and I can tell you I have a glimpse of what I have and that tiny glimpse really makes me feel like good things are possible. For a start I am so grateful for the opportunity to connect with what I am thinking and feeling and share my  thoughts with the world, its a beautiful thing!

Itziar is really starting to show now, we are just over four months. The volatile nature of a woman pregnant is impressive. The range of emotions we go flying through each day, giddying. Planning the wedding has been a serious undertaking and getting on with life in its shadow can be very challenging at times.

However things seem to be creeping forward in a positive direction and the light at the end of the tunnel does not appear to be a fast approaching express train, from my current vantage point.

Photograph by: Smiler

The permeating nature of doubt

I was expecting this but I did not realize it would really come, a deep sense of anxiety is taking over my whole life. It manifests itself in totally irrational feelings of  worthlessness caused by a perceived lack of effectiveness in the world on the part of my very fragile ego. All of which is brought on by nothing more than a run of really bad luck.

From one moment to the next my emotions rise and fall like what can only be described as a roller coaster ride. I go from feeling I am on the right track to feeling like I am totally crazy and not ready for any of the responsibilities life has served upon my plate. It seems to that self-doubt is a luxury I cannot afford once I let into one area of my life it seems to permeate everything.

A plate full is what I am sitting with at the moment. I have a business that is refusing to leave the starting blocks as one problem after another blights its emergence in the market. The pain this is causing me is so powerfully compounded by my current life circumstances and ensuing responsibilities, it can get quite frightening.

As the company recovers from the spice chest debacle it is becoming more and more apparent that the infrastructure we have worked so hard to create does not appear to be an appropriate nesting place place for the phoenix that has risen from the ashes. E-commerce works for standard stock but what we really have is a gallery of functional sculptures.

We have shifted our focus from standardized items to unique batches of artisan pieces, brimming with creative energy. What seems to be hard to accept is that we have not done this by choice we are merely confronted with the reality of what we are capable of and we have to accept it.

Accepting reality is not always an easy thing to do but it is a place to start from and of course we are all painfully aware to some degree that with acceptance comes change. However, my experience lately seems to be that acceptance does not come easy. With every hurdle I face my level of acceptance seems to reduce when I need it to be increasing.

The more my level of acceptance reduces the more my mind wonders into conceptualizing how to create a new and better reality and all the seemingly important things that  I could be doing to manifest that. I have a bad case of  idealistic reality avoidance.

Really as Siddartha Gautama re-discovered for humanity and spent the rest of his life reminding us; my progress and ultimately my freedom lies in accepting reality as it is  and working with that.

Good luck me…

top picture by: juanjo tugores

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: