A journey into Parenthood & dealing with loss

My photographer’s blog about my birth!

Thank you Lara for being so amazing.

Lara's Lifestyle Photography

A celebration; that moment when life begins.

From the time a woman knows that she is pregnant, everything changes.  The way she looks at the world, the way she works  – nothing is left to chance anymore.  Decisions are thought through more carefully, and much consideration is given to the all-important birth plan. While it is a given that a mom may not always get the birth plan she hopes for, Bianca and Brian are proof that sometimes, if you plan properly, you can get exactly what you wanted.

Bianca and I bonded at a networking meeting – Hello Boss Creative.   It was here that she first mentioned the idea of having her birth photographed.  I have to admit I felt quite honoured to even be up for consideration.  It is usually a private moment and would be my first birth shoot that I would photograph.  Actually, I’m not sure…

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** contains photos of nudity – NSFW **

10 July 2017

Mrs G had just returned from her holiday to France and needed assistance. I'd had a lazy morning, we really needed the cash, so I agreed to go through. While I was there I had a few contractions, but nothing major. I thought it was possibly from sitting at a desk, after being lazy all morning. I left her house at 1530 and drove home. In the car I had 3 contractions that almost took my breath away. The ones you need to do the focussed breathing through.

I got home just before 4pm and decided to lie down for a bit to see what happened with the contractions. I also started timing them.

They were still fairly erratic, but a pattern was emerging. With Kyle I had done this so many times when it wasn't the real thing that I was sure this was the case again. I decided to go have a warm bath.

In the bath I had one or two contractions and then they petered out completely. I stayed in the bath about 45 mins and the contractions didn't come back, but it was warm and comfortable so I enjoyed the peace while the in-laws were keeping Kyle entertained. I got out the bath and before getting dressed lay down for a few minutes again. The contractions started back up very soon after getting out the bath! But this time they were even more erratic!

I messaged Brian to head home exactly on time and then carried on with my evening. I had a feeling so offered to lie with Kyle at bed time. I just knew it might be the last night he was my only child. In the 45 mins it took for him to settle I had 9 contractions! I hadn't taken my phone in, so just counted them. After the snuggles and him drifting off, I joined B and the inlaws at the table for dinner – Prego rolls and chips with apple pie for pudding. I was clearly fuelling up, because I had two helpings of apple pie. Later I regretted that! I ate dinner rocking on my yoga ball and had a few fairly strong contractions. Strong enough that I needed to stop thinking and not have people talking to me.

I moved to the couch and continued timing contractions. I also suggested that B set everything up for the water birth, but even then I wasn't 100% sure that this was it. When he was needing help with setting up and I couldn't concentrate during the contractions I decided it was time to call Leigh, my doula. That was at 20:41.

She arrived just before 21:00 and helped to get the pool and everything else set up. Soon after she arrived I had a succession of contractions 2,5 minutes apart. At that point we decided it was prudent to call Marianne. At this stage I still thought she was in Mooi River and would be 2 hours. Thankfully with the updates I had been giving she had made an intuitive decision and driven down to Melissa's house earlier in the evening. So they both arrived just after 21:45. At this stage I also called my photographer, Lara, and she arrived just after 22:00.

I remember at this stage fussing with my playlist as I couldn't get my phone and the Apple TV to talk nicely, and I really wanted my soundtrack. B eventually fixed it by rather using blue tooth.

The pool was almost ready for me to get in when Marianne and Milly arrived. Before getting in Marianne took my vitals and listened to baby's heart rate. Although the contractions were intense, I was still having comfortable breaks between them and was able to chat and laugh between contractions.

I climbed in the pool and was conscious of 2Cellos playing. I still commented to Leigh how much I enjoy them and that I hadn't included their Game of Thrones medley because I thought it might not be appropriate. She had walked out the room and came back as the GoT theme song started. We both had a giggle. She did a beautiful essential oil massage of my neck and shoulders in between contractions.

I was very aware of not wanting movement when I was in a contraction, but I loved the feel of her hands on me during the contraction.

For the next 45 mins B focused on boiling water and bring pots and kettles through to warm up the water in the bath and also to get the bath to at least the minimum depth. Our geyser barely made it half way to minimum!

As the contractions got stronger and more intense, I changed position and also began lowing through the contraction. At this stage Leigh began with counter pressure during the contraction on my lower back.

It was during a break in contractions during this phase that I remember commenting to Leigh that everything seemed to be moving along pretty quickly! She just smiled at me. Little did I realise how quickly things were moving along.

After a little while Leigh showed B how to do the counter pressure and it was amazing to know that it was my super supportive husband who was now helping me through the contractions!

It wasn't long and I moved into transition. My moaning changed from cows lowing to more of a whale call! I also chose to move into a position on my back again. Supported by B who's hands went numb from me holding his forearms so tight!

Shortly after that change Marianne appeared from the bedroom and mentioned to me that it was getting more intense. It was amazing to have her calm reassurance that she noticed and I didn't have to do anything else – she was on top of things.

I was half expecting her to begin checking me and doing all sorts of things, but instead she positioned herself in my line of sight and instructed me how to change my breathing to cope better. I truly felt that this was my birth, and my body was doing this the way it wanted, without anyone telling it or me what to do.

The intense desire to bear down was incredibly. The first sensation soon after was of my waters breaking. It literally felt like a water balloon had been popped out of my vagina. It all happend in the water of the pool, but I had the sense that you would have heard the pop were it not under water! I remember seeing the greenish liquid flow out into the pool – it's an image that I think only I saw, and so I really want to paint it. Which is strange, because I haven't painted anything creative in years.

Marianne continued to make suggestions about how best to breathe in order to keep supplying my baby and body with sufficient oxygen. I remember becoming conscious of being quite loud and glad that Kyle wasn't there for this.

The intense desire to push continued and soon I could feel my baby crowning. The other sensation that I don't recall from my first birth was actually feeling the baby kicking and squirming as they descended the birth canal.

The head birthed and on the next contraction I pushed my baby out entirely. Marianne scooped baby up and put baby on my chest. I briefly tried to check the gender, but the umbilical cord was thick and between the legs and I wasn't able to see clearly at that point. It was at that exact moment that Kyle called from his bedroom. B went to get him for him to meet the new baby.

K's first words were "you forgot about me!" We had originally agreed that we would wake him up to watch the birth, but I realised while I was in transition that it might have been a bit loud and traumatic for him (he hates loud noises), and so didn't remind anyone to get him. He actually woke at the perfect time. He checked out the baby and then seemed most excited about being up in the middle of the night and being able to play! Typical 3 year old!

He went to play outside on the patio and it was then that I finally could check whether I had had a boy or a girl.

It was a girl!

The girl I have always wanted. The girl we thought we wouldn't ever have. The Johnson family is mostly boys in almost every generation. This was my seventh pregnancy, four of my losses we didn't know the gender, the one loss that was tested was a girl with a genetic disorder and we believed that that might be the reason behind the other losses. So as much as I wanted a girl, we had sort of steeled ourselves to the fact that we might only have boys.

But she is a girl! A perfect, healthy, beautiful girl!

Ayla Gillian Johnson!

Ok. Back to the birth story…

Kyle played, I snuggled our baby girl and we all waited for the placenta to be birthed. Once it was clear it had separated I was told to push it out. It passed without much effort and Marianne proceeded to check it. My team of self proclaimed Birth Nerds, Milly and Leigh, simultaneously commented on how "juicy" the placenta was. It was thick and intact. I found it really interesting to watch Marianne check it.

Blood was taken from the cord for standard testing. Since I am Rhesus Negative we needed to know baby's blood group. She is also Rhesus Negative, so there was no need for the Anti-D shot.

I then needed to hand the baby to B, in order for me to be helped out of the pool to be checked. This was much sooner than I had handed Kyle over, and Brian was more than pleased to be able to snuggle his new baby girl. We all moved to the bedroom.

I was checked. Only a minor tear in the same place that I tore with Kyle. Not bad enough to require stitches. Bed rest, keeping my legs together and nori were prescribed. Everything healed beautifully within about 10 days.

Ayla was weighed and measured and given the once over.

The absolute highlight of my home birth was being able to stay in bed with my gorgeous family straight after my baby's birth! No nurses checking vitals every few hours, no unfamiliar noises, familiar pillow and comfortable sheets.

I had completely lost track of time, as had my photographer, Lara. During a lull she moved the curtains to look out the window. When I asked if everything was ok, she said she was checking to see if the sun was coming up. I laughed and told her it was only 23:38! Less than two hours since she had arrived! My baby was born at 23:11, a little over an hour and a half after my midwife arrived!

By 01:00 everyone was gone and B and I sat in the dark staring at our miracle! Life was good!

The Beginning…

* All photographs by Lara Baker Photography!

Another miscarriage…

I found out I was pregnant just before my son’s first birthday party. Since all the family were going to be around, we told them a few days after the party. Everyone was thrilled as they know I want a big family. Once again my parents were sad that they were going to be in another country for the pregnancy, but were super excited about another baby. They had really enjoyed their 3 week visit with Kyle for his first birthday.

I went for my first scan early (6w5d) as my doctor knows my history and wanted to check that everything was ok. We even saw a heart flutter, which made me feel really positive. The baby measured 6w4d according to the scan, which was exactly what I was expecting, since I knew the date of conception because of my app. He scheduled me for another scan at 10 weeks, as then we would be able to see more etc. But things were positive.

As with my previous pregnancies he put me on Ecotrin (a mild aspirin) and folic acid. This time he also put me on Utrogestan (a progesterone supplement). I had had my HcG and Progesterone levels tested, so assumed it had to do with that, although I didn’t get the actual figure from him.

In the 3 weeks between my first scan and second, I had major nausea, tender breasts and all the usual signs of a good pregnancy. This led me to feel comfortable in this pregnancy. It allowed me to tell people, and start looking at buying things for the new baby. I was comparing this pregnancy to Kyle’s and how different the foods were that made me feel better. Although the nausea had subsided a bit the week before I went for my follow up scan, I thought it was maybe due to the chiropractic session I had had on the Monday after a weekend away camping for my birthday.

On Friday I went through for my appointment and knew almost immediately that something was wrong when he started the ultrasound. He was struggling to find the baby. And there was absolutely no movement. I felt my throat clamp shut almost immediately. The more he scanned and moved the device around, the more I realised something was wrong. Baby only measured 8w1d, and there was clearly no heart beat. I know it’s his responsibility but he then proceeded to explain what he was looking at, and showing me the different tissue density and how clearly the baby’s heart had stopped beating. He then double checked with the colour blood flow monitor and the sonar. The more he checked the more I could feel the tears welling up in me, until I couldn’t contain them anymore. At that moment I really wished that I hadn’t gone to the appointment alone.

I was scheduled for a D&C for Monday. But before I could escape the public eye I had to pay for my appointment, in a waiting room full of pregnant woman and then get the meds for Monday from the hospital pharmacy. I managed to pull myself together enough to get through that. When I got to my car I just sobbed. I sat in my car and sobbed for a good half an hour. And then I realised I needed to pull myself together enough to drive the 40 minutes home. Alone.

The weekend was tough! Everyone was checking in, giving advice, sharing their stories. I spent hours lying awake thinking about what i would post on this blog, amongst other things. I feel bad that my first post back on this blog is a depressing one, but it is what it is.

Monday morning we had to be at the hospital at 0530. I inserted the tablets to soften my cervix before I left home and proceeded to get more and more cramps as the morning wore on. I was finally taken to theatre at 0950. It was good to have hubby there for support, and my best friend popped in to hang out with me too. So at least I wasn’t alone for all the waiting. Dr P saw me after the procedure and said it went well and they got a good sample of tissue to send for genetic testing. I’m really hoping that something from the testing will maybe give us some guidance as to why this keeps happening to us.

I’ll post again when we get the test results and maybe share a bit more about what my emotions are doing. I’m still struggling to figure out what I’m feeling. I do know that this one has been the worst. Having seen the heart flutter first, and then seeing that I’m carrying a dead baby inside me was just so heart breaking. I can’t believe that my body could let me down again 😦

I’ve accepted that I am not very good at keeping this blog updated, but I’m sure the time will come when I will be better at it again.

I came across this today on a group I am in on Facebook. It really resonated with me. I’m just going to leave that here for everyone to read. Especially tomorrow when it can be such a difficult day for so many of the women mentioned in this.

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

(By Amy Young)

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The past 6 months

I can’t believe how bad I am at blogging! Kyle will be 6 months old next week, so clearly I have been very very busy.

Watch me grow

Watch me grow

Life with a baby is so different, than it was before. Even having au paired and nannied for 4 years, hasn’t prepared me for what life is like when the child is yours full time. I absolutely love it, but we have had our fair share of challenges.

  • Kyle is a sensory seeker, also known as FOMO. He has been since he was born. He is always alert, and following everything that is going on. He hates to be left alone and is very easily distracted from feeding and being put to sleep.
  • Until about a week ago, it was almost impossible to get Kyle to sleep without swaddling his arms. In the Durban heat this has proven difficult, as he was waking up from being too hot! Last weekend we made the first attempt to let him sleep unswaddled, and it worked.
  • Breastfeeding was not as easy as I had expected. Kyle was not a natural, and still chooses a relatively narrow latch. Pumping when I started work was even harder for me. At 4 months we switched to formula during the day when I am at work. I was surprised at how big a deal that decision was for me. Now that it’s made though, I am enjoying my moments of breastfeeding him even more. The tension and stress of leaving enough expressed breast milk is gone. He also now gets a bottle of formula at bed time, which means Daddy gets to really share in the bedtime routine.
  • Kyle hates the car! HATES it! I have never known a child who screams so much when in the car. It’s really only in the last few weeks that he is getting more tolerant of short trips. In the beginning, the moment the straps of the car seat came down, he would start screaming. We once had him scream for almost an hour while we were driving. Car trips were torture for me.
  • Kyle only recently decided to take a dummy. This has been helping with car trips a bit. He only has a dummy during car trips and when going to sleep.
  • Day sleeps are a bit of a problem! During the work week he sleDaddy wearing Kyleeps on his nanny’s back in the carrier. This means that on weekends, the only place he will sleep is in the carrier with us. And not if we are sitting or standing still. We have burst 3 exercise balls already, while bouncing our little boy to sleep! His aunty on the other hand manages to get him to sleep in his cot – so I have no idea what we are doing wrong.
  • We are using cloth nappies on Kyle. The challenge with this is that I have become rather addicted to them, and the child now has enough nappies to last 2 weeks without a wash. And I still can’t stop buying them. They are just so adorable!IMG_2723

Kyle Connor Johnson

Minutes after birth

Minutes after birth

was born at 13h50 on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 at Life Westville Hospital in Durban, South Africa. He came into the world via natural delivery after a relatively short labour at 40 weeks and 2 days.

I began counting contractions around 19h00 on Tuesday evening. They were fairly regular, but quite far apart and not very intense. Since I’d thought labour had started on Sunday night, I was not going to count my chickens before they hatched. I eventually decided to go to sleep around midnight. At 02h30 I was woken up by a rather painful contraction. I once again started recording them and they were closer together and firmer, but still a little erratic. At about 04h30 I woke hubby to let him know we were getting closer. He remained very calm and began getting everything together and into the car.

We both showered and at about 05h45 I was in the middle of getting dressed and had a leak of fluid. Now we knew it was time to head to the hospital. We left home just after 06h00. Here is the last photo of me pregnant:

Leaving for the hospital

Leaving for the hospital

We arrived at the hospital and I went straight to the labour ward. I was admitted and put on monitoring. I arrived a few minutes before the shifts changed, so we waited for the day staff to do most things. I was assessed and was at 3cm dilated, baby’s heart rate and contractions were regular and everything was as it should be. After the assessment was done we were moved to our labour room. I was the only mother in the ward the whole morning. All other deliveries that day were Caesarean Section.

We were made comfortable and then left to our own devices pretty much. My sister arrived around 08h00 to check in on us, and remained at the hospital for the rest of the morning, sending updates to all the family and friends. My parents had already started their journey from Swan River, MB, Canada to Durban, so they were getting updates as and when they could get wifi in airports.

Dr P arrived just before 08h00 and assessed me and I was now at 5cm and he was happy with how everything was going. I continued to to labour for a few hours without any intervention, but eventually asked for the entonox gas. Although that made me slightly woosy, it wore off quickly and definitely too the edge off. Dr P checked me once more when I was 9cm and said it would be in the next 2-3 hours. The last few hours are all a bit of a blur!

Once Dr P was happy for me to push, I managed to push Kyle out in 4 or 5 contractions. I avoided an episiotomy and only had a grade 1 internal tear. I got over and hour skin-on-skin time with Kyle in the delivery room and then he was taken with B to the nursery for his check ups and first bath. Dad finally got to hold him – I hadn’t even realised that I was hogging him the whole time in the labour ward.

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B was the most amazing partner during labour and I am so impressed with him. He was there for the me the whole time, making sure I was as comfortable as possible. He was a great distraction when I needed him to be too. He was totally all I could have asked for. The nursing staff were exceptional too and I am very impressed with my time in the labour ward,  the maternity ward is another story, for another day!

I was so thrilled to have had nearly everything from my birth plan stuck to. As Dr P said, my labour and birth were not just text book – I rewrote the text book. I was even told I’d get a gold star on the day I was discharged.

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Kyle is doing well and we are loving having this beautiful little boy in our lives!

The poser even at 2 days old!

The poser even at 2 days old!

 

It’s been a while

I apologise again for the delay. I’ve been really bad at even reading my blog roll, never mind updating my own blog. There really isn’t much of a reason really.

My pregnancy is still going very smoothly. I am 38 weeks on Monday and BSquirt is expected to arrive any time in the next 3 weeks. Dr P will induce on 3 June if baby hasn’t arrived by then on his/her own terms yet. I’m really hoping that an appearance will be made some time from 10-14 days from now.

I have had a surprisingly easy pregnancy, that I feel terrible complaining at all. However my pelvic bone pain is now almost constant, and baby hasn’t even engaged yet. I’m not sleeping well at all, and pretty much haven’t the whole pregnancy. I’ve been very lucky with very few other symptoms. I am still quite mobile and am still driving fairly happily. I do find walking up stairs a chore, but otherwise I’m feeling pretty fit.

All our shopping is done and we are as ready as we will ever be for baby to arrive. The best news is that I was told today that I have won a competition I entered in a magazine. The prize is a pop up travel cot that we just love. I saw it early on in the pregnancy and just knew it was perfect for us. So excited that we have won it. I can’t wait for it to be delivered!

I thought I would also share a few things that I have been watching on Netflix that have been really good. I watched The Business of Being Born and the follow up documentaries More Business of Being Born. I got so much useful information from these shows and really felt more empowered about my birth. I watched A Doula Story and enjoyed that too, although not really relevant to my own life. I then discovered Call the Midwife – a BBC series about midwives in the East End of London in the late 50s, early 60s. What a really fun show! I am loving it. I’m hoping season 3 will load on Netflix soon!

I can’t believe that I’m just over 2 weeks away from my due date! This has truly been an amazing experience and I am feeling calmer about the impending birth.

To all the other pregnant women on the blogs I follow – I am thrilled for you and wish you everything of the best, even if I don’t always comment or like your posts. You are always in my thoughts!

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