Sarah woke me at 05:30 this morning with labour pains. Successive contractions were just a couple of minutes apart, so I got straight on the phone to Laura, our midwife, and Jacky, our doula. This is the same birth team that supported us in 2008 and smoothed Lucas’s entry into the world.
Poor old Jacky had been at a long birth the day before and had had just one hour of sleep, the poor thing. She didn’t complain, though, and got straight on her moped to drive to our house.
Laura has to come from Bloemendaal these days, so she arrived a little later, at about 06:20. At least the roads would have been clear.
In my haste to fill the birth pool, I forgot to first insert the sterile liner, so I had to halt the filling process, pump off the water I already had and then fit the liner before starting again.
This all took rather more time than I would have liked, but I was still ready in time for Sarah to want to get into the pool and continue her labour there.
This labour was more intense than either of the previous two. The contractions were coming just a minute apart, a frequency that Sarah never came close to in either of her previous labours. By way of contrast, Lucas was born during contractions that were still five minutes apart. Sarah barely had a chance to draw breath after each one before the next one hit, causing her to bellow and gasp for breath.
There was a lot more pain this time around, too. At least, the deafening yells and fingernail marks left in my arm gave me that impression. Sarah’s unsure, though, and it’s hard to be objective, because one will always remember a birth that has just happened much more vividly than one that occurred years ago. She’s certain that the labour was harder this time, however, because the frequency of the contractions left no time to relax and prepare for the next.
Eventually, it was felt that Sarah was having trouble surrendering to the birth process and she was encouraged to step out of the birth pool. I sat on the edge of the bath, while Sarah squatted in front of me. The full force of gravity was now able to assist, and with a deafening roar, the baby’s head left the world inside Sarah and entered into the strange realm inhabited by the rest of us.
After one more booming roar, the baby lurched out into Laura’s hands. In all of the excitement, I forgot that we didn’t know the baby’s sex, so it didn’t occur to me to look at its genitals until a couple of minutes later. Its massive, swollen balls left me in no doubt.
We helped Sarah back into the pool, so that she could relax in the warm water with the baby.
I asked Laura to call the children up from watching TV downstairs. A minute later, they appeared with smiles on their faces to admire their new baby brother. Then, they quickly disappeared again to continue the much more interesting pursuit of watching Toy Story 3.
After a period of relaxation, we manoeuvred Sarah out of the birth pool again — no mean feat, I can assure you — and helped her into the bedroom and into bed. There, she would complete third stage labour, a.k.a. placental expulsion.
After the placenta was delivered, I called Sarah’s friend, Rachel, who came over and expertly turned a large chunk of Sarah’s placenta into a tasty smoothie, which Sarah then happily drank. I tried some myself, out of curiosity. It was a little bit salty, but not objectionable. Rachel had mixed strawberries with the placenta to mask the taste of the organ.
The remainder of the placenta will be dried and turned into nutritious capsules for later use.
Jacky stayed for a while after the birth to help clean up, but then went home to get some well-earned sleep. Rachel quietly made some soup for the family. Eloïse and Lucas exploited the fact that Papa had a lot on his plate, utilising the situation to obtain a glut of television viewing, from which they regularly reappeared to demand yet more dried mangoes.
Laura remained to complete her paperwork, writing her account of the birth and then returning upstairs to weigh the baby, who was now stirring a little.
Grietje, our kraamverzorgster (maternity nurse) rang our doorbell at about 13:30. We were very happy to see her. Maternity nursing is one of the greatest benefits of the Dutch healthcare system and we’d be lost without it. Grietje will be helping to shoulder some of the burden over the next few days. Not only have we swelled the ranks of the family by one, but Sarah is pretty much an invalid at this point, so I’m going to be hard-pressed to meet the demands posed by the other four members of the family.
Grietje left again at 17:15, and things rather went downhill after that. I’ve been running around like a loon all evening, attending to Sarah, changing nappies, sorting out food, brushing teeth, getting the children ready for bed, pumping out and deflating the birth pool, dealing with washing and a load of other things.
I’d love to pretend that the day has been all sweetness and light and wax lyrical about the wonder that is childbirth, but the truth is that it’s been a very hard day. Lucas, in particular, is struggling to adapt to the simple fact that his mother can no longer do simple things like wipe his bottom and brush his teeth. He’s demanding that she still perform these duties and throwing a tantrum when she explains that she can’t. There have been a lot of tears this evening on all sides and I’m afraid he’s going to have to learn his lesson the hard way, which will be tough on all of us.
Our new son was born at 08:54 CEST, weighed in at 3800g (our heaviest child to date, by quite a good margin) and measured 52cm. He’s doing very well and is a very undemanding little chap. I don’t think he has cried for more than a total of sixty seconds since being born. He’s certainly been better behaved and more even-tempered than any other member of our dysfunctional family today.
I’d like to tell you our new son’s name, but I don’t yet know it. I’m glad Sarah managed to wait until Wednesday to give birth, because under Dutch law, that means we don’t have to register the birth until Monday. That gives us the weekend to come up with the name. We have a short list, of course, but it needs to be pruned further in the coming days. For now, his working, pre-launch title is Nemo.
We already have some lovely photos of Nemo in the birth and postnatal phases. We hope you’ll enjoy them. There are a few more great shots, but, because they expose a lot of Sarah’s body, she first needs to either approve or — more likely — reject them for public consumption.
On that note, I’m going to bed.