Hi friends, family, and strangers who happen to have found our blog.
After 10 days of keeping her mostly to ourselves, it’s time to introduce the latest addition to our family. Kathryn Jane Cross (Kate/Katie) was born at 5:39 pm WA time on the 3rd of March, 2012. She weighed 3.59 kilos and measured 51.5 cm long – if you’re still not on the metric ship you can look up the conversions online – and has the most wonderfully content behaviour a parent could hope for.
There are so many things I (Tim) could say about this birth, but I’ll try to keep it shorter than my undergrad thesis. In summary, it was a water birth, and it was amazing. If I had to pick one word to describe the hours leading up to Eden’s entrance into the world, it would be ‘horrible’ (sorry Eden, nothing personal, it was just the most helpless, gruelling, exhausting, discouraging experience of my life, albeit worthwhile); Kate’s, on the other hand, I can honestly describe as ‘incredible.’
It was an incredible time between Kathryn and I. During Eden’s birth, Kathryn was under the influence of various medical interventions – nitrous oxide gas, fentanyl – and was required to spend most of labour on her back, in a hospital bed. This is standard practice in most labour wards in the western world. She’d had her membranes ruptured several hours into the labour to help “speed things up”, but the primary effect was to increase the pain of contractions enormously, with no substantial change in the rate of progress. By the time we’d made it to active labour, and in spite of my best efforts to employ strategies and techniques from a great book I’d read called The Birth Partner, Kathryn was basically suffering in body and absent in mind. I honestly thought I had lost her at one point, when she was muttering things like “I don’t know who I am”, and “what am I doing here??” between contractions. I thought she was never coming back, and it was truly awful. I felt useless and almost sick with despair.
Kate’s birth was all natural. We spent the morning at home waiting out some mild contractions (Kathryn was woken up by them at 5am), and then decided to head to the birthing centre. The KEMH Family Birthing Centre is attached to a hospital, but has a much more home-like atmosphere than the average labour ward. I won’t go into detail other than to say that it’s midwife-led care (no doctor was present for the birth), the rooms are cozy, and they allow water births. If you’re curious, just click on the name above where I linked to it.
We called our doula, Kristin Beckedahl (owner of BodyWise BirthWise) around 2pm to tell her we were heading out, arrived at about 2:30pm, followed shortly thereafter by her, around 3pm. Things were pretty easygoing at that point. Contractions had slowed down a bit due to the ride over (change of atmosphere has a big impact!) and Kathryn was just trying to figure out how she wanted things to be set up. She declined to have an internal exam, and didn’t have one at any point in the labour, opting rather to ignore distractions and let her body do what it knows how to do.
Around 3pm, I was noticing that Kathryn’s contractions really slowed down whenever she layed or sat down anywhere, so we decided to try a couple standing up. She was facing me, head resting against various bony protrusions in my sternum/clavicle region, with me whispering encouragement/apologies into her ear. From there, everything just took off. Contractions went from being 5-10 minutes apart to 1 or 2, and with each one it was clear that progress was being made. There was pain, but there was also strength and confidence.
After only about an hour Kathryn was ready to get in the water. She had taken no pain medication and had no internals. Her mind was clear and her focus was strong. I was in awe of her.
The water was quite lovely and warm, so things actually slowed down a little bit as she first got in and relaxed, but in no time she had found her new rhythm and we were in the groove. Kathryn knelt forward in the pool, arms propped up along one side. I knelt/crouched opposite her, holding her hands through each contraction, my head tucked in next to hers. Together we rode through each contraction, me talking/whispering directly into her ear while Kristin (the doula) did simple but incredibly effective things to ease and distract from the pain. She poured water over Kathryn’s back, applied counter pressure throughout each contraction, and took turns with me passing Kathryn a water cup to sip from.
After about 1 and a half hours in the water, Kate was born. Underwater. The midwife gently pushed her forward, between Kathryn’s legs, and Kathryn pulled her out of the water herself. She came right up between the two of us. It was amazing. Kathryn announced that it was a girl, then proceeded to sob with relief and joy, saying “I did it, I can’t believe I did it” whilst holding yet-to-be-named Kate against her chest. Kate’s skin tone was perfect. She was kind of choking on some mucous, but nobody whisked her away or intervened; they just sat back and watched as Kathryn and I revelled in the euphoria of new life. They left the cord to deliver blood and nutrients until after the placenta was delivered.
Kate entered the world calmly and beautifully, and has more or less remained that way for the first 10 days. She’s been so great, sleeping well, nursing well, everything we could have hoped for. Eden seems to adore her, calls her “Baby Cake” and always points out her “tiny ears”, “tiny nose”, “tiny fingers”, etc. Eden has been a little more needy for cuddles and attention since we brought Kate home, but that’s to be expected. When Eden wakes up in the morning, the first thing she says most days is “Baby Cake!” and comes running into our room to see her.
So here we are, a family of four, and me outnumbered 3 to 1. Not sure what our plans are in the long run (not that the ones we’ve made thus far had any impact), but I don’t intend to end up in my father-in-law’s shoes, with a 6:1 female to male ratio in the house. Surely that man deserves a medal.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of Kate’s birth from my perspective. If you’re a woman, or the partner of a woman who intends to give birth someday, I implore you to consider water birth. And get yourself a doula. Since approximately 0% of our readers are in Perth, I guess a recommendation for Kristin won’t help her out too much, but I’ll give one anyway 🙂 Even if you’re a fantastic and supportive partner, you only have 2 arms and 2 legs, so there’s reason enough to get someone knowledgeable and experienced in there with you.
Thanks to Heather Pye, Tiny Feet Photography and Kelly McEwan Photography, who’ve provided images used in this post. I hope you continue to use your talent and skill to help preserve fantastic memories and allow others to share their experiences with family and friends around the world.