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By KatharinaBishop Elias's stcry is one oi'perseveranceagainst all odds. L.rDecember2006, I rvasdiagnased * ith a malignant brain tumour {GracieI\r medulloblastoma).I r,r'aseight weekspregnatrtat the time. Afier undergoingseveralcperations,and extensive r-adiotherapytreattnent, I went into remissionin Apdl 2007. Iluring treatment,I had lost my pregnancy,and felt a deepsenseof yearningto be given an*ther chance..loytuily" i found out I was pregnantagain,in Febmarl 2008. I had my first sotl"Kiran" in a hospitatrin Germany in 200?. Altho*gh drug-iiee, and vaginal, iris birth was !er]'far removedfiom how I had envisionedand hopedthat it rvould be. It was a very stressfuiand traunatic event tbr tne, and I suffured tion.r birth trar.rmawhich took years to resolve. I knew immediatelythat I wantedto have a home n aterbirrhif I had a complication-fiee pregnanc-v. I decidedto meet with my locai NHS midwife ibr a prellnrinary chat tc flnd out about her attitudes towards homebirth. \&'henI met Julie at my houselbr rny initial eiglit rveek "trooking in" appointtnent. I irninediately knerv that i could trust her. Julie and I shaleda belief in the inherentknowledgeandrvisdom in women'sbodies.

l had read all the classicson tlaturaibirth. M3' researchhad gir.enme all the theoreticalknowledgeand an int*llectualhelief in th* ability'cf a woman's body to give birth naturall-v,gentiy and easil.v.But, rvith the tralrmaliceventsof Kiran's birlh still lingering in every ceil i:I my bod"v,I knerv that I'd have to go beyond an intellectuni beliel and understandingof the Lrirt&ingprocess. "I'n this end, I orderetl tirc l{ypBir-th home stutiy course.lVhen I was 18 weeks pregnant,I starled listeningto the cds every day. I also rvatehedthe dvds, and was greatl-!-encouragedby the fiirn clips of w*rnen in late latraur.without any signs of pain or bitrhir:yt'uli-v.I faithfully did the iessons,iisteningto the cds and day for praciisingthe tecliniquesaimost erer-vthe rest of my pregnancy. The day al1ermy due date, I woke up to a bloody show. I knew that losing m5'mucousplug meant that my cervix was r:pening,which gave me hope. Wilh Kiran, my cervix had stayeci closedand 0% el'taced,right tlp to the induction when he rvasa week overdue.On Thursda,vaftem{}on{6ti'}Jovember,2008). I felt a rush of determination"and had an intemal chat with the babS'.I said: "Right, bab-v,I'm ready to meet you. The next schoolrun, I'm doing t'ith you in m.\ arfii. rrotirr nry hclly.-' About 5pm the contractionsseemedto be coming n:roreregularly.I decidedto bouncecn iny irirtldng ball, and iio a llw yoga posesto help nry body along.At nround6.30i:rnthe contractions rverecoming regtilarly,at eighl minuies apart.I decidedto phone rny husband,Cliarlie, at wor"k.When he rvalkqdin the door, I u'as in-


credibly relievedto seehirl, and suddenlf ii . that er,erythingwas going to be alrigtrit.Justt: -' m1''ml1fiiphonedf?ilm Genrrany.We have :. :'on the phone every night. i told her that the r tractionswere now coming legularly at eigl:; minutesapart,but that I still didn't think tha: . was really in labour.:\ smali part of me n a. .: holding on to the belief that m,vbod-vdidn't know how to go into trabr:uron its own. She : sistedthat I cali my midr.vife and ask her to ; , * finally gave itr ancicalledJulie. Julie rvashaving her dinner, and askedir . was ckay if siref-inishedit beforecoming t i .: told her: "fJf course.You'11probablyjust tc i , , l'rn hallucinatinganyway,and that.I'nt no-'-, near having this baby!-'I was convinced:1-,:: rvas maybe two centimetresdiiated at the t:: - , and that I certainlyra'asn'tgoing to have tL: baby any time soon.Julie seemedto think ; ,' ently, however"becauseshe finishedher ci,:.:.:in recorcltime and arived at my house at 7.4*pm. Ey now the contractionswere collt-: . ever,vfive minutes.llhariie rvasbilsy filiin: . . pool. I{e had two water cookersplus four s:,*: , pans with boiling water on the gc at all iin;, The pool was big and took a iong tirne to tl .. : \rrewere sioivl-vgetting there. Julie asked r-. wanted an examination.I knew that I shoul: really get into the pooi until I rvassix or Si,:centimetresdilated, in order not to slou' dc-''r: ." early labour.The lvater looked very invitir,:. ,I wantedto know holv much longer I'd har. . rvait until i could get in.

TM33 March/April2009

rccted energl the virtue of constancy.RaphaeI means "God has outside of myself, healed". Elias, and the joumey to get him here, i.: ga\.e rrea feltpainfutand have manifestedhealing in our lives. I had lOSt my :,:-. :ncouraging intrusive.My Kiran later told me that Eiias came out with a prggnanCy .:- ie.andsaid: peacefulexpressionon his face,eyesclosed,just senses were t' heightened' I was floating in the warm water, suspendedin time. and felt a deep sense of yearning :1.::i:'1': u J compietelyfoThen he flipped a somersaultunder water and I -,rtnor.ina r;r" f-avourabl" tO bg giVen cusedwithin, ancl was picked up by his father. Stunned,I slowly r.r.rlion. You're felt a tremendous began to realise what had just happened.My ^ -^ - r r- ^ ,^ -ranother chance. . ar:oeffaced, surgeof power.I baby was here. I could finally hold him, seehim, r;... I'd say was in transition. smell him, touch hirn. He was placed on my ,:,".ut six to I was on mv chest,umtriiical cord still attached,and I gazed .ei en centimetresdilated." I couldn't quite take knees,holding on to the wall of the pool for at him in *'onderment.I couidn't believehe was : u at first. I'd never even dilated halfa centisuppofi. In this position, I startedto bear down. here. Everything had happenedso quickly. I fblt :::tre with Kiran. I was exuberant.My body The urge to push became overwhelming. My peaceful,joyful, sereneand deeply gratefui. Ten ::.,iid really do this! I was doing this! breath came in short, quick gasps.Julie kept minutes afler the birth, I felt another contraction, i kept repeating the affirmations from the reminding me to "slow down, push gently". At and bithed the placenta. I was still sitting in the 1r-pBirth course in my mind: "Your body ig this moment, gentie and siow seemedcompletely pool with Eiias snuggled against rny chest. I had *'.iiiâ&#x201A;Ź ta da thi,s.Just let impossible.I f'elta huge, all-encompassing rush bithed the baby, Charlie had caught the baby, .vour hody tttke charge. j. tirh theflow. Relax. Trust in the body'.sinof energy shooting through my body. I bore and I felt that Julie should now cut the cord. That -;retr +ri,sdotn. " Every time a contraction came, down again, trying to breatheas slowly as I r.vay,a circle was createdthat included all three ofus in the birthing process.I felt that Julie's -'l gentlv sway, breathedeeply, and 1etthe sen- could. Suddenly, I felt a gush ofwater shooting .:iions wash over me, without any resistanceor from my body at high pressure.My waters had help, encouragementand belief in me had been ::;r. Every contraction was bringing me closer broken. It was a liberating sensation.With the an essentialelement in this blissful birth. :-. :rolding my baby. histead of resisting them, I next intense contraction, I again felt a strong Elias weighedin at 44609 (9lbs 13oz).I went ;;lcomed eachone. It was now 8.30pm,the urge to bear down, andjust when the contraction up to the bedroom, had a quick shorver,and lay r:llri u as filled. and the contractions were three began ebbing arvay. I fblt an opening, then a down in my o\,'n bed. Elias was broughtto me, :,: llve minutes apaft. I r.vasstill laughing and release,and an absenceofpressure.My son's and we cuddled.and he had his first feed.He . :,<inswith Julie and Charlie,and wasn't experi- head had been bom. I heard gaspsof amazement, kneq'' what to do straight away. It r.vasbliss to be ;ir'rng an! pain. I had put Kiran to bed before surprise and joy. Charlie anciKiran were at the in my own home, in my own bed, cradling my beautiful newbom boy. ";he arrived, but he heard us laughing and chat- side ofthe pool, facing my back. They had the ,,rg in the kitchen, and carne downstairs to see trest view of their son and brother emerging into Kiran came in and joined us for a cuddle. ;'::t al1the fuss rvas about. He reaiised that the the world. Julie was by my head,encouraging When I askedhim what he thought of the birth, ::iv rvas on its way, and ire insisted that he me, and telling me rvhat r,vasgoing on, as I he said: "Mama, that was SO COOL." He was a ;" -rntedto stay and obseryethe birth. He had couldn't seefor myself. There seemedto be a bit u.orriedby my bleeding,initially, but *'hen 'i :tched many dvds of home births and water long pause,a quiescenceof time in which every- he saw rne completely at easewith it, he had a :rhs u.ith me, and was incredibly excited. I had thing was suspended.I waited for another conquick think and then said:"Blood is life. It's ::sisted going into the pool becauseI didn't want traction to come and carry my son's body out fine." The midwives left at 11.30prn,and all four :- .io* down a labourthatwasprogressing so into the wamr water, and into this world. Alter ofus had a cuddle and then drifted offto sleep ; el1.but at around8.45pm,with the contractions about 30 secondsofcomplete stillness,I feit together. another rush of energy, and a fbrceful ripple FIias'sbirth was an amazing.empowcring -:":ring forcefully and frequently, I finally un::essed and got into the soothing warm water. At rvent through my body. The contraction buiit up and inspiring experience,which tiils me with the irst. I was floating between the contractions, slowly, and I witnessedit building up and hnally greatestjoy and the deepestgratitude. :;r ins fun and laughing a lot with the others. It rushingover me, expellingmy son's body. i as dark outside, we had lit some candles,and 9.50pm: Elias enteredthe world. We decided to name him Elias Constantin -:e halogen heaterwas radiating a sofl, golden Raphael. His middle names reflect the attributes -.jat. Therervasa lovely, intimate,protective .:l::osphere in the room. I was floating in the and the jourrey we had been on in order to u'el;;rm water, and enjoyingmyself. Around come him into our family. Constantin relbrs to : -:[Fm, the contractions startedto pick up pace. - i:r seemedto be coming almost without a :reak. I had a few very strong ones. Every time . Ili came, I flipped over onto my belly, held on ::.the side ofthe pool, and had a good stretch. 1hs position felt the most comfortable to me. a'' ery time I was floating on my back or sitting, .:'; contractions felt more intense, so I soon .rcni all m)'time floating on my beliy, holding . n to the side of the pool for support. At 9.45pm ::l contractionswere coming one on top of the - L:er. and I could hardly catch my breath. I was .--i.ting to feel overwhelmed and highly sensi:,r e. I didn't rvantto be touchedor spokento. I ; eat completely inside myself, deep down, and ;:s locusedon the sensationsin my body" I felt : seat urge to focus and concentrate.All my ::entai and physical energy llras directed at my i rrmb. When I told Julie that I felt the ruge to :.:sh. she quickly calledthe secondmidwife, i ro was scheduledto help her deliver the baby. I felt an overwhelming urge to bear down. I'ir body knew exactly what to do. My conscious :rld rvas witnessing events as an external ob.:n'er. This was a primal, physicalprocess.Any .::erference, touch, speech,anything that di=,-lfi';,::

TM33 Marc(April2009



The Mother

Home Birth after a Brain Tumour  

Elias's home water birth story

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