Marjolein Mensink is a Dutch Midwife who shared her background with us in a previous blog. Here she shares about the birth of her first son, Ben.
Submitted by Marjolein Mensink
At home? You must be crazy. Isn’t that dangerous? It’s your first right? What if something goes wrong? I’d rather be at a place where I could get immediate help. You are expecting a pretty large baby aren’t you?
This is just a selection of all the comments I get being pregnant with my first baby and wanting a homebirth. The funniest (or maybe actually the saddest) was that of one of the gynecologists I work with, who asked if I also walk around town in my folklore costume, meaning that it is hopelessly old-fashioned to have a homebirth.
But my experiences as a midwife at home as well as in the hospital make me a 100% certain: for me, our home is the best place to be when our baby will come. Not only because I trust that nothing will go wrong, and if something seems to be going wrong I would still be in a hospital soon enough. But also because I’m very afraid that just by being in a hospital in the first place, unnecessary interventions will happen. My wish is to have as least interventions possible. Drawing blood is exiting enough for me, let alone having an IV or other ‘scary’ things. My partner Jacco is totally fine with it, he is as relaxed and carefree as I am, almost a bit ‘naive’ maybe. ‘If you say so, then I guess it’s so.’ How great is that, he puts all his confidence in my concerning the birth of our baby.
Obviously, my growing belly also gets the attention of the pregnant women and their partners I meet at work. I am surprised about how many people ask me if I’m not afraid of giving birth and especially the pain, since I see so many women in labor. My standard answer is that I am totally not afraid, because I always get to witness how strong women are. And it’s true: I’m not afraid of the pain and very curious on how a contraction will feel. To prepare for birth I do relaxation exercises, go to a yoga group for pregnant moms and listen to relaxing music every day.
My best friend Maartje, who is also a midwife, will be there at the birth. We are both very looking forward to sharing this experience, especially since I was at the birth of her beautiful daughter Lena as well. When Lena was born I lived in the East of the Netherlands so was relatively close by Maartjes home. Since I moved to the West to live with Jacco it’s a two hour drive now, but since it’s our fist baby Maartje should be able to be there on time.
My pregnancy goes well and I’m still enjoying every second of it. Also, being over 39 weeks pregnant, I do get very curious about the baby. We don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl yet and I am looking forward to discover this when the baby is born. On the evening of November 20th there is no sign of the baby coming soon. Maartje and I are texting and talking about the weather. There is a thick fog in the whole country, daytime as well as at night. If the baby comes tonight, we’re not sure if it’s safe enough to drive my way. But I think I will be overdue anyway, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
When I experience a cramping sensation that night, I think it’s just my intestines. My alarm clock tells me it’s 01.23 AM, and though I ‘m sleepy I’m smiling at the idea of ‘1,2,3 Go!’. I go back to bed but twenty minutes later I get the same cramp and a while after that another. I decide to go downstairs to not wake up Jacco. Because I can’t sleep anymore I put on a DVD of Glee. Normally I love watching Glee but this time I can’t concentrate. I’m on the bench, off the bench, walking around the room feeling restless. Just after 2 AM I realize that this is it! The contractions started! I’m very excited and start to wonder when the baby will be born? Lunchtime? Maybe around coffee time already? I get in the shower to relax and feel very happy and excited. The contractions are strong but I can breath through them without trouble. At 3 AM I wake Jacco: ‘Honey, I think the baby will come today.’ This gets him awake quickly and he jumps out of bed and asks if there’s anything he can do. He decides to time time the contractions, though I think it’s not necessary yet because I have the idea it’s a bit early since I just started having contractions. ‘They’re only one minute apart,’ he tells me, ‘Should we call Maartje?’ I don’t want to disturb her too early, but since it’s such a long drive maybe it’s wise to call her. We tell her I feel nauseous, have some bloody show and that the contractions just started, but that there are only short pauses between them and that I already feel some pressure down my pelvis. A look outside tells us that the thick fog didn’t miraculously disappear. To our great disappointment we have to decide that it’s too dangerous. Though disappointing, it does feel like the best choice to make. Maartje wishes all the best and ensures us she’ll be sending all the positive energy in the world. When we hang up Jacco suggests we call the midwifery practice, but I want to wait. I don’t know these midwives very well and also I think we don’t need anyone else around yet. We can still manage this together perfectly. I have a feeling everything is going very quick but there’s also some doubt. Either it’s going very fast or it’s much tougher than I expected. To know which one it is I decide to feel for myself what’s happening in my body. It’s unmistakable: I feel a tense balloon and only a soft lip in front. This is amazing! I am so happy it’s going so prosperous and am now even more confident about the birth (This is around 4 PM). Jacco prepares a bath and puts on the music I listened to so often. It’s great to be in the bath, though the contractions are getting more and more intense. It helps to make noise (something between bawling and singing). Jacco is a bit impressed by this I guess and tells me to stay calm. I actually do feel calm, but making these sounds just feels good. The advice of my yogateacher that it’s important to stay in contact with the baby comes up in my mind. I tell our baby that everything will be fine and that we are doing great together.
The pressure I almost immediately felt when contractions started is suddenly building up fast. It is so strong that it’s hard to still stay calm. I am considering if we’ll call the midwife. What if we could do this together? The next contraction I’m still in doubt but after another very strong one with the urge to push I’m certain that Jacco should make the call. Now!
At once I need more space and climb out off the bath. I try to do a contraction on all fours, because I think it might be comfortable but I don’t know how fast I should get on my feet again. Sitting on the toilet feels most comfortable, as far as the word comfortable is still in order here. I ask Jacco which midwife is on call. ‘I don’t know, but it was a man.’ There’s only one male midwife in the practice, so I know who’s on the way for our baby. Secretly I’m a bit frustrated that it’s precisely his shift tonight, because I think the word midwife isn’t like this for no reason. But I have no choice but to get over this soon. At this point the main thing on my mind is to get this over with because I really don’t like these strong contractions anymore. A few minutes after our call to midwife Arie my water breaks. The pressure is very strong now so Jacco calls Arie again to hear if he’s still far away, but luckily he arrives soon after this second call. When he finds me still sitting on the toilet he asks me to get on the bed so he can examine me. I curtly answer that I don’t want this, that I know I am fully dilated and ready to push. It takes a while before I have the courage to get out off the bathroom. My plan was to push on the birthing stool, but when I walk over to the bedroom I suddenly find the idea of lying down better. When I get on the bed Arie announces again that he want to check me. I growl that this is really unnecessary, I KNOW I am more than ready to push. In Jacco’s eyes I see sympathy for Arie, it’s as if he’s telling me to just let the man do his work. Luckily there is no further discussion, because with the next contraction my body can’t do anything but push. Now I am at once afraid. I don’t know if I dare to give in, can I really do this? Jacco assures me that I can and I also try to tell myself. Just open up, let go! It takes a few contractions before I have the confidence to listen to my own advice and when I start to give in I feel that the baby’s head is getting deeper soon. When Arie tells me to stop pushing for a while I am really surprised, does this mean the head is almost born? It does! I have to give a good push for the shoulder to come and then suddenly, at 05.45 AM, the baby slides out.
Wow. Did I do it? I did it! The baby is here. I am a mom. A mom!
I love feeling this little warm and wet baby on my breast and spend minutes laughing and crying of happiness. My hands slide down to search for the answer on one of the biggest questions and find it soon: a boy! Our wonderful son. Our beautiful Ben Willem!