Meet Ella Simone (A Home Birth Story)

Hey there!

See, that’s what you get when you are the third kid of a family. With the previous two I wrote posts for the positive pregnancy test, the first scan, the last scan, the birth… Now you, dear reader, didn’t even know there was another one on the way. And now she is here. In fact, she has been since the 29th of January.

To be fair, it’s not like I ‘ve been posting about other topics and left out the whole pregnancy. I ‘ve been awfully quiet over here, ’cause I was super busy documenting our homeschooling journey over on facebook, at the Toverstuff page. I was also busy feeling exhausted the first trimester, visiting Greece during the second trimester and peeing during the third trimester. So.

But at least you get the birth story. That’s something, right?



WARNING:
Birth is a very natural and very messy business. And I love to give all the gory details (and some pics too). If you want, you can read the birth story of Loulou Maya and that of Vera Jo, so you know a bit about my “birthing background”.

If you are a midwife, doula, pregnant or home-birth enthusiast, you might find this post interesting and maybe a bit useful. If not, scroll to a different post. I ‘ve got some cool recipes on that blog as well.

The Decision

We ‘ve got two lovely daughters. Healthy and complex and weird and funny and challenging and charming. We also live in the Netherlands while our whole family is in Greece. Two parents, two kids. Aged 6 and 3. Excellent ages. We were starting to get our life back. Why on earth would we decide to have another one in the middle of a pandemic?

I ‘ll tell you why: because I saw the 8-week scan of one of my best friends, pregnant with her third and I thought, or, more accurately, I felt: I WANT ANOTHER ONE! I knew it was not reasonable or practical but I figured “it’s ok, I ‘ll tell Nikos how I feel and he will remind me why it’s a crazy idea and I will get over it”. So I go to Nikos, who was munching in the kitchen, and I tell him “we are in trouble, I want another baby”. And you know what he said? “Great! Let’s go for it”. Me: “…”. Now, Nikos is one of 3 kids. In his mind the perfect family has 3. I have a brother. For me two was the golden standard and I was really pleased my kids have both reached school (or kindergarten) age. Until that friend’s photogenic fetus drove me crazy.

The Beginning

Three months later I got the positive pregnancy test. I had gotten a bunch of internet cheap ones along with a bunch of ovulation tests. I was completely sure I was not pregnant that third month and rather frustrated (I know, it is ridiculous and I AM actually very grateful about how fertile we are). Anyway, I was whining at Nikos that one more month went by and nothing happened bla bla bla and he suggested I test and I got a late positive. I couldn’t believe it. Apparently I ovulated late that month.

I am not going to lie, the first weeks, or even the first couple of months, were hard emotionally and mentally. After the joyful discovery that I was indeed still fertile, I had doubts whether that was a good idea or not. After the first echo at 7 weeks and the second one at 12 weeks I knew I really wanted this baby and I was prepared for the big change it would bring into our lives. My oldest had been begging for another baby for ages and was over the moon with the news. My youngest was more “I already have a sister, what do we need another one for?!”. Nikos was genuinely happy. If he also had pangs of panic, he never let it show.



I was very very tired, nauseous and everything smelled like it was rotten to me. Though I never actually got sick, it was the hardest 1st trimester, apart from the fact that the girls did play with each other, so I could crash on the couch for 15 minutes after lunch, which was impossible when pregnant with VJ.

Fast Forward to The End

We went to Greece during the summer for a wedding that got cancelled because of corona. It was good to see family and I was convinced I was pregnant with a mermaid ’cause I felt so at ease in the water and enjoyed going on sea adventures with a contraption my dad has constructed (it was a canoe, but now you can pedal in it and it has huge wooden…wings?… flipper? I don’t know). Anyway, summer was good but then corona numbers started to rise and I wanted to be back home in case the borders closed, so we came back to the Netherlands sooner.



Months went by, a second lock-down happened here and schools closed again in December. I home-schooled the girls up until the last day before the birth. They enjoyed it and I enjoyed the peace and quiet that a day with a relative routine brought at home. They are both very curious and love to do different activities and crafts and learn about the world around them.



Luckily, my mom managed to fly here from Greece and she was here like she was for the two previous births. This time it was very last-minute but I am so glad it worked out, even if she had to endure a 10-day quarantine.

So mom is here, Nikos is working from home and the girls have no school. That’s the cast of our play, entitled…

The Home Birth of Ella Simone

I had some dull pains and aches from the 26-27th of January. They came and went and it was more intense Braxton-Hicks contractions than actual discomfort. On the morning of the 28th I knew that I would give birth. I had actual contractions that I knew from my previous births to be “the real thing”. Ha. Ha. HA. HA. Heeeh… Apparently nature works in that way: you do forget the intensity of things.

Anyway, for the previous two births, from the moment the first contractions started till I gave birth, it was about 12 hours. Well, this time it was different. So I wake up on the 28th, come downstairs, eat breakfast, inform Nikos he should let the people at his work now that his paternity leave would start soon, but I can still guide the girls when they ask instructions for their activity books. I also make cocoa pancakes, cause I just crave them. Then I go lie down and have a nice, long nap.

I wake up around 16:00 with more intense contractions that are somewhere between 6 and 9 minutes. My water has also broken in the meantime, but just trickles, so I know not all of it is gone. I call the midwives, cause they ‘ve asked me to do so once my waters break, to come and feel that the baby’s head is well in position and that the cord wouldn’t get in the way. They do come after half an hour and check me and they give me the “ok” to move around and hop on my ball and whatnot. And they instruct me to call again once the contractions are every 5 minutes.

It took until about 02:30 in the morning to get to that point and those contractions were intense. The midwives arrived at around 03:00. They were super-awesome. Coincidentally, the midwife that did all the work this time was at her first year of studies and attended VJ’s birth as an intern back then. She is now in her last year of studies and I know she is going to be amazing.



So the midwives set up their gear and then one of them went downstairs so that the room wouldn’t be too crowded, and the other one sat in the room with me, silent, in the dim light. She was super respectful of my space and only occasionally would whisper “you are doing a great job”, when she heard my breathing change because of a tough contraction. Nikos was with me, a discrete presence, offering water and back massages and caressing my hand. And respecting it fully when I wanted space. My mom was coming in and out every now and again, to check I am doing ok, but without bothering me at all. I also had my special playlist playing on a very low volume. It helped to keep me focused, along with the breathing techniques I had practiced at my pregnancy yoga lessons.

At around 05:00 I asked them to check if all my water was gone and if not to break the amniotic sac, so the rest would flow and free more space for the baby (it was their suggestion, to give it a couple of hours and if I couldn’t take the pain any more, to do this). They did and a lot of extra amniotic fluid came out. And then, really fast, it was finally time to push.

I had asked them to bring with them a birthing stool, after reading and hearing from a friend how great they can be. When I heard the one midwife saying to the other to set it ready, in case I needed it, I was thrilled, cause I knew the end was near. So I sat on the birthing stool, which is my favorite object at the moment, and I my legs, that had started to tremble, could rest and I could focus on getting that baby out. The midwives put a mirror underneath me, so they and I could see the baby coming. They asked me if I wanted some counter pressure with a warm towel, so we could minimize the risk of tearing. And they did it and I have zero stitches (yaaay!!!).



After 8 minutes of pushing, I felt Ella Simone ‘s head sliding out. With a second push the shoulders were out and they let me catch her myself. Precisely at that moment, Nikos came in, with both girls. VJ had woken up at the pushing stage (not from my screams -I am a silent birther- from a dream) and she woke up LM and they called Nikos. They came in just as Ella Simone came out and they came close to meet her for the first time.

They stayed with me on the bed while the placenta was born and Nikos cut the cord and Ella started to drink on the breast. The midwives gave us all the time we needed and then I got to have a shower while they checked Ella Simone to make sure all was well. I came back to a bed with fresh bed sheets, all mess of labor cleaned out and thrown in the wash and a sweet-smelling newborn to cuddle, along with my girls.


The First Week

Here in the Netherlands we get a very unique post-partum service, called kraamzorg. They basically send you Marry Poppins for 8 days after birth, to take care of everything. Those magical ladies are doing the daily check-ups of babies and moms (temperature, heart rate, hydration, weight loss/gain, feeding etc). They also clean the bathrooms daily to ensure the new mom doesn’t get an infection. They will also cook, do shopping and entertain older kids. You can hire one from a minimum of 3 hours a day up to 6 hours a day. The 3 hours are obligatory. That way the Dutch medical system won’t be burdened with sick moms and babies and the mental health of the new parents is under control as well.

Since my mom is here, I went for the basic 3 hours each time. And our current kraamzorg nurse must be my favorite ever. She is 60 years old, a drummer and ball room dancer, really good with the older kids, chatty but not too much and great with cleaning. So 10 points to the Netherlands for this awesome system!

If you wonder how the girls are doing, adapting to the new baby, LM is obsessed with ES. VJ is like a cat. The first two days she was walking around her, almost refusing to accept her existence, being in a bit of denial. The last three days she has asked to hold her, will caress her hair and observes her more closely. We are obviously doing our best to give them as much attention as possible and luckily with so many adults around, it works pretty well at the moment. We will see what the future will bring, but I ‘ve got a great parent coach lined up, to prevent complete chaos and crisis.

Epilogue

Home births are awesome. Treat yourself with a home birth. Get a midwife. Don’t let OB/GYNs bully you into hospital births and C-sections. Yes, it’s great that those medical advancements are there for the few cases that they are necessary. But don’t let the medical system rob you of a very empowering and peaceful experience. Especially if you live in a country with a high c-section rate/ medical birth rate, do yourself (and your baby) a favor and look for a birthing team that supports natural birth. An OB/GYN with a high rate of natural births, a midwife, a doula. Your regular gynecologist might be great to have a PAP smear, but might not be respectful at all of your birth wishes.

Especially if you are expecting your first child, it’s so easy to be scared into a medical birth with all that medical jargon. Remember that c-sections are easier for the doctors: they are fast, they’ve got great experience in them, they are perfect to plan around their holidays or family trips, they last much less than most natural births, they are more predictable. BUT they are major surgery, have a much longer recovery time and risks are involved for both mother and baby. I repeat, it’s great we have them, for the cases that they are necessary and they save lives. But do make an informed choice.

Now, wish me luck with my 3 dragons 🙂


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