I grew up hearing the saying "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." It was apparently inspired by a tale of Robert the Bruce, who while fleeing from the advancing English armies was hiding in a cave. To pass the time he watched a spider as it tried to weave a web. Many times the spider would fail to attach a strand, but it never gave up. It just kept trying until it succeeded. The Scottish King took inspiration from this and returned to fight King Edwards army and finally succeed in battle. Growing up in Scotland it didn't really matter if all the details of the story were true, it was the principle it taught us that mattered. No matter what the odds we only really fail when we give up or give in.
And so we decided to once again try for a home birth for our new blessing. However learning our lessons from our previous experience has very much been at the fore of our minds. It has only been with several months of hindsight behind us that Rob and I have been able to take a truly honest look at what happened at Aidens birth that led to our hospital transfer and unplanned c-section. I thought I was prepared, although I knew Rob was not as prepared as he could have been. I did all the reading I could. I read too many birth stories to count. Everything I read basically said the same thing, "Your body knows how to birth this baby, just trust your body." And so I went into my first labor and birth just trusting my body to know what to do. There is a degree of truth to this, but I discovered that it is not always all there is to it.
The last month of my pregnancy was not easy. I began to retain fluids and in the last week I started having protein in my urine. Both of these came down to the simple fact that I was not eating enough protein. (Not that I totally understood that at the time.) I had very little appetite as my short body held on to my every growing baby. After only a mouthful or two of food I was too full to keep eating, so I would stop. The problem was that I didn't go back to eat again often enough. I was too busy preparing for my parents arrival and the birth of this baby. I was uncomfortable and not getting enough rest either. The lesson has been learned and Rob and I have already talked about ways to make sure I eat enough protein at the end of this pregnancy. We have also decided that we will not be having overnight guests around the time of birth ever again, as it is simply too much for me to try to deal with.
Then there are many lessons we have learned about preparing for labour. Last time labour started with the rupture of membranes (waters breaking) followed about 20 minutes later by my first definite contraction. However I had been experiencing contractions that would start and stop for several days before hand. (I never really had many braxton hicks type contractions in the weeks and months leading up to birth.) The night labour started we had only been asleep about 2 hours, and in my excitement I didn't try much to go back to sleep between contractions. I was not well rested at the start of what would turn out to be a very long labour. A mistake I don't plan to repeat. When the intermittent contractions start happening I plan to start getting as much rest and sleep as I can until I can't sleep any more.
Throughout the actual labour I was so focused on "doing" labour that I used up more energy than I should have during the early labour. I also didn't allow myself to relax enough between contractions, and I didn't eat and drink enough during labour either, further depleting my energy reserves. Again Rob and I have talked already about what we can do differently and together this time to make these things different. Last time Rob wasn't really sure what he needed to be doing to help me. This time he knows he is going to have to be the one responsible for making me relax between contractions and keeping me regularly topped up with food and fluids.
The biggest surprise to both of us however has been learning that not everything comes naturally in labour. Some skills for birthing better need to be learned ahead of time. And we are making sure that this time around we both are doing the learning, together. I have two wonderful sources that we are learning a lot from. The first is the website spinning babies. From everything we have read on that website our best guess for many of our difficulties with Aidens birth is because he was asynclictic, or malpositioned during his descent through my pelvis. Thanks to spinning babies I have learned a lot about how I can try to prevent this from happening again, including staying off the sofa.
The other major tool we are using this time is a child birth preparation package called The Pink Kit. It was developed by a group called The Common Knowledge Trust in Nelson, New Zealand. A very good friend recommended it, as she used it for her first home birth after c-section. I have learned so much already from this material that I don't think I could ever recommend it enough. We have already learned how to map our pelvic outlet, to give us an idea of the space the baby has to work with, and so be able to concentrate on positions that will work best for my unique pelvic shape. I have also learned that I have a very flat sacrum, and so will most likely have some degree of back labour with all my births. The important thing about the sacrum and back labour is that last time the midwives had Rob apply counterpressure to relieve the pain, but this actually slowed things down. In the Pink Kit we have learned how to rock the sacrum to help relieve some of the pain for me without hindering the space the baby is trying to make by pushing my sacrum out. One of the skills I am most excited about learning to perfect with Rob is what they call a uterine lift, to help the cervix dilate. One of the reasons for such a long labour last time was how slowly I was dilating, so anything that can be done externally to help with that process is a great help as far as I can see.
While I know that there are many people around us waiting to see us fail again at home birth I am confident with the new knowledge we are gaining, lots of prayer and a lot more preparation, we will be going into this birth much better able to succeed.
If at first you don't succeed . . . learn what lessons you need to and then try again.