My third imperfectly perfect birth story

I can not believe I am here to tell you A Third imperfectly perfect birth story!

“Maybe it is better for me not to have any children.”

“Oh well, maybe one day I will be more open to the idea of having kids…”

” I am barely managing with one kid… maybe having a second is not a part of my parenting story”

“Having two is amazing, and messy, and so beautiful!”

“I am expecting a third- wow! Shocking and thrilling!”

All of the statements above are a part of my parenting story.

My heart fills up with so much gratitude every time I remember my pregnancies: my third pregnancy, like the first two, was healthy and uneventful, with no complications.

My third son was born in 2020, 40 weeks 2 days, 3458 g, 49 cm.

Read more about maternity medical care in Japan.

Pregnancy and birth- medical providers

This time around I envisioned I was having a midwife-led birth at home or in a beautiful Japanese-style house. Even though I truly wanted an intimate home birth, we could not find the right places and people to do it. After exploring our options, we chose a smaller-sized family clinic.

Due to COVID19, no family members were allowed in the clinic and the regular classes- sophrology, yoga, parenting, and birth preparation- got canceled and at the clinic, I could only watch a video class for birth prep.

Birth preferences

This time around I knew more so I was a bit more assertive in my wishes. My doctors and the support staff were slightly surprised but they were altogether tentative and respectful. 

  • No interventions unless absolutely necessary; detailed information about any procedures or interventions
  • Sophrology disk playing (for relaxation)
  • Breathing techniques support- they encouraged sophrology training, which is very similar to the hypnobirthing techniques.
  • Staying active throughout labor and birthing in my preferred positions. If you have read my previous stories-first and second, lying on my back was the worst position for me. The team was not really flexible about a different birthing position- I was told that lying on my back or sidewise was the only option for the last part of birth. I was more open to the idea to lie on my side but at the same time, I was not convinced – why do something that I believed had no benefits for me or the baby.
  • Baby on my chest right after delivery– that was what they encourage in this clinic
  • The baby staying with me– they do encourage this
  • Delayed cord clamping– they agreed to wait 
  • Breastfeeding exclusively– they actually asked me in advance if I wanted the baby to be given some formula to supplement in the very beginning or breastmilk only; my wish was to try without formula. They observe closely baby’s gaining weight. The amazing support towards establishing breastfeeding was great.

Preparations: 

  • I did my best to find some time to do yoga, workouts, sometimes Pilates, walking, climbing stairs, nature walks.
  • I listened to hypnobirthing and sophrology tracks, pregnancy and birth affirmations, and used prayers.
  • Practicing breathing techniques was really useful. Due to Covid19 I could only see a video of a birth prep class at my clinic. Jump to this post to read more about pregnancy and birth preparations I tried.
  • And if you have older children, an important part of the preparations is to gently lead them into your new family chapter. Here is what we tried. Preparing your older kids for a new sibling
  • Finding joy in the little things, counting tiny wins every day. Ending the day with gratitude helped me stay grounded.
  • I tried something new. This was my third pregnancy but my first time to have a pregnancy photoshoot- a cherished present from a very special friend who showered me with her gentle care and love. Check her work on Instagram Riri from Kobe.

Birth

Last weeks of my pregnancy

I have been having Braxton hicks since week 29. Starting in week 36 Braxton hicks were stronger and more regular. In week 37 for a few evenings in a row, they were strong but once I relaxed and rested, they went away. My body was clearly communicating and telling me to get some rest when I was overdoing it. 

Week 38- the cervix softening and opening; brownish discharge; dilation 1 cm. This is when I started trying some simple practices to naturally induce labor. At the same time, I was patiently telling myself that it would start when it was time.

Getting closer to my due date I was having some intense slightly uncomfortable contractions. Was that it, I wondered. Things calmed down after a while. A day or two before my due date two hours of stronger contractions in the evening made my heart pound. But not yet.

39w2d- I was having contractions throughout the day. In week 39 I was 4 cm dilated. All I could do was to stay calm and focused, and whenever possible to take breaks to relax. My mother-in-law came over to help.

On my due date

I had a check-up and was 6 cm dilated.

A day after my due date

Finished dinner by 8:30 pm and went to bed to rest about 9:30 pm. I was listening to Christian affirmations and mediations till 10-10:30 pm, half asleep.

10:30-11:00 I went to the restroom 2-3 times, which was more often than my usual these days- once every 1-2 hours. The baby was moving a lot. My mother-in-law got up because she heard me.

11:00 pm stronger contractions: I was standing and swaying, and I squatted when the contractions were peaking. Might be it! I started measuring the contractions. The pressure in my low back was starting to build up. I leaned on the wall during the contractions. They were about 1 minute long and 7-8 minutes apart. I woke up my partner.

Time to call the clinic

At 12 am, after a contraction, I called the clinic. The nurse that received the call sounded a bit sleepy and confused, and I needed to repeat and explain. I got insecure with my language skills (My Japanese is intermediate level and I often lack confidence when speaking, especially on the phone).

I took my time to prepare and we left for the clinic. My mother-in-law and my husband were a bit impatient and nervous for me to leave earlier. I could understand their concerns- I was expecting their reactions- and did not let their impatience worry me. I didn’t want to rush. Taking a shower seemed like a good option. The fear of the contractions reducing and stopping altogether made me decide against it. Now looking back, I wish I had taken a long shower and spent more time at home.

On the way to the clinic

About maybe 12:15 am we headed to the car and on the way, I had three contractions -at the doorway, at the staircase, and when seated on the car. I was in the back seat, facing backward, one leg up on the seat, the other in the leg space, somehow fitting my big belly in-between. The contractions were over one minute long every 3-6 minutes.

My Christian affirmations from Christian Hypnobirthing app were playing, helping me concentrate on my deep breathing through the contractions. The ride to the clinic was surprisingly bearable, not as unpleasant as it had been the last time I gave birth. But I definitely prefer to have been able to skip the ride- one of the reasons home birth seems so appealing to me.

Getting admitted

By the time we arrived at the clinic, I had had 5-6 contractions 4-6 minutes apart. Because of the pandemic, a birthing partner was not allowed in right away. There was a slight chance that he could enter with me, in case I was the only birthing person that night, and I had actually believed it was going to be that way. But there was another woman giving birth and my husband had to wait outside till I was ready to push. Not having him by my side, I now realize, was the biggest reason for my birth to last longer than expected.

I went in for a check-up on the first floor and I had two contractions while waiting. The nurse gave me a back pressure massage while I was squatting during a contraction in the hall. She was excellent, and it felt so good. A doppler check-up and my blood pressure taken by the nurse, internal exam by the doctor. I was 7cm dilated.

My doctor encouraged me and said it was going to be speedy. He double-checked my birth preferences and agreed that I could birth on the side rather than their general rule on the back, which was pretty amazing! Yay, they were giving me the chance to choose and back up my choices!  Big win in a very inflexible system.

Pre-delivery

I got to the pre-delivery room on the second floor at about 1:00 am. I updated my husband, his encouragement meant a lot. A tiny dark space with a bed, curtains separating me from the other lady giving birth on the next bed. Hearing her going through her contractions was very distracting. I was not upset and made peace with it, even though I wished I were by myself. I remember I prayed for her.

By 1:30 I was connected to the monitor, and given a glucose solution drip-in. I was moving on the bed and around it- on all fours, making hip circles, squatting, swaying, leaning on the overbed table. There was not much space to move. It was a little challenging with the drip and the cables. I had experienced it before and accepted it this time as well. From time to time to the nurse came in and pressed the monitor piece to my belly to check the baby’s heartbeat.

Only one nurse was there for me and the other birthing lady. She was definitely busy. When she could, she came to give me a low back massage and applied counterpressure during the contractions and that felt amazing. I wished my husband was there for me. 

As soon as I was admitted, and in the pre-delivery room, the nurse asked me a few questions and helped me fill in a form- any allergies, any food I disliked, what I did, about help and support after delivery, etc. Things they should have known already. But it was fine for me, a little distracting at the same time.  Or maybe it was meant as a way of distraction from the discomfort during labor.

She also asked me if I wanted to labor on the side, and she was supportive. I told her I would do my best. And if possible I wanted to go on the bed after the head was crowning, so that I could stay active till the very last moment. She agreed and promised that they support me. I did not feel that lying on the side was the best or a comfortable way to give birth, but I had to work with what options I had and accept the limitations.

More support

Later on, another nurse joined and she was more often by my side, applying low back and perineum pressure during the contractions,  it made such a big difference that I wished I had more constant support. Still, I truly appreciated what I got.

By 2:00 am I was 10 cm dilated.

From 2 am to 3 am I stayed in the same room, waiting for the baby to descend. After an internal check-up, the nurse encouraged me that the baby’s head was near. When I told my husband about my progress, I kept thinking of him waiting outside and how hard it must be – a distracting thought. I terribly missed him. Partners can do wonders when they are present and offer appropriate support.

Meanwhile, the next-bed lady was being moved to the birthing theater which was in the same space, separated by sliding doors. The nurses were busy preparing. Brighter lights, doors opening and shutting, ringing, clicking, machines beeping, buzzing, it was so distracting from the darkness and stillness I was wishing for. I was included and excluded. I was somehow a part of their story.

A brand new baby entered this world, I could hear everything. A birth shared behind sliding doors. It was so beautiful. I felt warm hearing him cry. Soon it got quieter again.

Almost

From 3 am to 3:30 am I was left alone in the dark. By myself. I missed the support and the wonderful massage. At the same time, I enjoyed the isolation. Going into my own world- squatting in the tight space between the bed and the wall, leaning back against the wall. I tried to feel the baby and imagine my excitement when I could touch his head. He was so near! I wished I could stop the time and prolong this moment- to intimately push the baby out right there.

They came in to check on me.

Finally time to go to the birthing theater

About 3:30 am It was time to go to the birthing theater. I was so happy that my husband was finally coming in. The nurse helped me walk around, passing through the corridor to reach my part of the shared room. Walking was so difficult, with me pushing. What an absolutely unnecessary effort, I thought, but it seemed unavoidable in this environment.

Here I was- bright lights on, medical stuff, bags and packs everywhere, the machines beeping, the hospital smell, and a hard brown leather bed. I kept breathing deeply and tried to accept the situation, the circumstances that I could not change. Going with the flow, going with the flow, going with the flow…

I climbed onto the cold hard bed. I did lie on my side but after the first contraction in this position, the back pressure was unbearable, just too much. (Read about my first birth experience- lying on my back) I turned on my hands and knees, on all fours, the contractions were coming and I could not keep very calm and controlled anymore. I felt confused- was it a natural need or was I forcing it? I was torn between the need to push and the knowledge that it was better to relax my whole body.

Being in a deep state of relaxation- just like in the videos I had watched- was what I desperately wanted. My body and mind were out of control. Relaxing was not possible for me even though I kept trying the breathing techniques I had been practising for months- sophrology, hypnobirthing, J breath, etc.

The Christian affirmations were still playing and I was trying to stay with the visualizations but at this point, I could not hear anything anymore. My husband was by my head supporting my upper body. I was so desperate to hold his hand. I know I could have done better if he would have been by my side throughout the whole experience.

The waiting between the contractions felt too long

I wished it was all over. The nurse calmly reminded me how to breathe and I wanted so much to be able to. I was trying. My whole body- tight, desperately attempting to relax. I was very aware of all the things I was doing wrong but I couldn’t help it. If only pressing a pause button and restarting the pushing part was an option…

Then I was thinking that
  • the time between contractions was long,
  • and the contractions did not last as long as I wanted them to so that I could just wrap up this labor
  • I wanted the baby out fast
  • I wanted it to be over

Now I am wondering how my feelings at the time affected my baby. What did he take from this moment?

The head was coming out and going back, normal, I knew. My consciousness knew it was a process and patience was needed. But still, I wanted him out fast. The burning sensation, the ring of fire. I knew I had to stretch, I knew I could stretch- I was telling my body to stretch and relax but it was not working. “He is coming, he is coming, he is coming”, I was chanting.

I could feel the hands supporting the head, the doctor was there encouraging me. At one point they were helping me stretch with fingers which felt terrible. Then, the doctor tried to help by releasing some of the fluid.

One or two more pushes and his head came out.

The Big relief. And with another contraction, the shoulders. It took some time before the rest of his body slid out. 3:50 am. The relief. I turned to sit on the bed, the doctor helped to protect the cord. Stretching my arms to have him. I could not wait to hold him. His little wet body felt amazing. Recalling the moment makes my heart explode with emotions. The very first time you get to hold your baby- beyond words.

I would have chosen to do many little things differently but given the circumstances, we did what we could and I let go of some of my expectations and wishes.

Cord clamping

The doctor waited as we had asked for delayed cord clamping. In a while, probably about 5 minutes or maybe 10 mins, the doctor suggested cutting it. We had agreed to donate blood from the cord but there was not enough left.

For all of our boys, my husband never felt strongly about cutting the cord so we had never explicitly asked about it, I didn’t want to make him do it but in the end, he chose to. And the cord-cutting photo turned out to be my favourite. Shortly after the cord-cutting, probably within 10 minutes, the placenta naturally came out, slid out by itself. I was happy that there were no interventions.

After-care

I had a natural tearing and got a few stitches, a bit unpleasant. No bruises. They had to clean me. Kangaroo care followed. Those sweet moments.

Unlike the first two times when my babies were taken to be measured shortly after their appearance, this time the nurse actually gave us quite some time before they took him for measurements. Which was fabulous! After that, we had about one hour with my husband to admire our new baby. Then a pediatric check-up and to the nurse station.

Two hours after delivery they helped me stand up and walked me back to the room I was in earlier. Lying down on the crisp clean sheets felt nice. It was about 6 am, my husband had to leave and I had some time to rest and ooze off. Drinking cold water was the best treat.

Clinic`s procedures

From time to time the nurse was checking on me. My drip- medicine to help blood clotting after the delivery- finished and was removed. A staff member came in to congratulate me and brought a cute little arrangement of flowers. Second, they brought a sweet little photo stand with the first photos of the baby. Then, they explained the clinic routines and schedule during my stay. I had breakfast served at 8 am and it was delicious.

Before noon I moved to a shared room across the hall. Desperately longing to have my baby with me, I had to get the pediatrician’s approval before they gave him to me in the afternoon. The general rule is that they keep the newborns at the nurse station for the first 24 hours before starting to room share. Read more about what to expect when giving birth in Japan.

The homey style of this clinic and the amazing support of the whole staff helped me feel very comfortable and relaxed. I could feel how much everyone loved what they did! Their genuine care was much appreciated!

What I did well

  • trusted the process, embraced the contractions
  • believed in my body and did my best to build up physical and mental strength during pregnancy
  • listened to meditations and affirmations
  • used various breathing techniques, practiced a lot (controlled breathing, deep breaths)
  • tried different positions
  • asked for massages
  • recognized other people’s fears, worries, concerns but managed not to react
  • stayed calm and focused
  • enjoyed the dark
  • used acupressure (practiced during pregnancy and before labor started)
  • talked to myself, used strong positive language; made deep low sounds
  • tried my best to tune in to the rhythm of my body and the contractions
  • stayed focused and managed the stress well when I realized labor was taking longer than I hoped
  • could be an observer of my own labor

What I could have done better

If I had had my partner by my side, I am sure I would have felt better and labour- progressed faster. I could have stayed home longer. What I regret most is that I didn’t stay longer in the parking lot together with my husband. A calmer, quieter and more intimate environment throughout labour could have helped me stay more relaxed for the last part.

Lessons I learned

  • Trust the Lord- I was reminded there was much physical, emotional, spiritual pain, but God’s grace and deliverance are always there.
  • Being vulnerable can be a beautiful thing
  • Trust your body
  • Be grateful- find the tiniest little things to be grateful for throughout your pregnancy and labor
  • When you need to do a hard thing or have a challenging discussion or face a hurtful comment, choose to do it through Love
Photo by Lili Tatsumi

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