Our hearts are vulnerable and open to heartbreak from the moment we dream of having a baby. So many hopes, so many fears, so little guarantees or certainties. For some couples the depth of this vulnerability is already felt before they can fall pregnant and for some it unfolds with unimaginable force during the pregnancy when a baby is lost. Giving birth becomes attached to the feeling of grief, loss, also strength yes, and leaves the parents with an even more vulnerable, injured heart for any future pregnancy journeys. To grow and give birth to a baby after loss is an experience that asks of more courage, more strength, more healing and more support than anyone who has not been through it can imagine.
This is the story of Elise and Sandy who welcomed their beautiful daughter after losing their first baby girl last year. As a doula I have been privileged to hold a few couples through the emotional depth of growing and birthing a baby after loss and it is always a particular privilege for me. To feel into the emotional dimensions involved, hold couples in the space of processing grief and preparing for a new birth journey is big work but also so worthwhile. Needless to say my heart opened wide from the moment Elise and Sandy invited me into their home and shared their story with me!
This new pregnancy didn’t come without their tender hearts being bruised once again when around 20 weeks it became clear that Elise’ cervix began to shorten prematurely and she needed a cervical stitch (cerclage) procedure at 22 weeks to hopefully keep it closed and create a safe home for her baby to keep growing. The following weeks were full of hope, fear, ‘holding on’ and slowly but steadily gaining trust that their daughter was strong and intending to make the most of her mama’s perfect home inside her belly. Our visits were spent preparing for various birth scenarios but also feeling into the oh so wide spectrum of emotions involved of growing a rainbow baby and giving birth again which until now had been a very sad experience for both of them. Giving Elise partner Sandy the opportunity to express his feelings and create the possibility of experiencing birth as a ’new beginning’ was a big part of the work we did together.
After many weeks of consciously ‘holding on’ to her baby Elise ended up reaching full term and went into labour at home when her baby girl was ready to join them earthside. They had experienced the amazing continuity of care by their beautiful midwife Sue throughout their pregnancy and on Elise’ birthing day everyone who she had hoped to have by her side was there. Her surges had intensified quite suddenly after going to the bathroom at home and she arrived at Gosford Hospital in well established labour. Strong, persistent backache indicated her baby was choosing a posterior position and after choosing to have sterile water injections Elise felt some relief which was further supported by moving into the bath. As if giving birth was not challenging enough, Elise had been diagnosed with Influenza A the day before she went into labour meaning her support team had to wear face masks and Elise struggled with congestion. What an epic test of strength! Witnessing, holding and supporting Elise as she worked with her body through the ever growing intensity was a privilege. So much surrender, intuitive movement, being in a meditative state supported through music, she was the essence of a birthing goddess. Still, bringing her baby through the birth canal and into her arms required Elise to move through moments of self doubt and finding her last physical reserves. Birth always tests us in unexpected ways! Takes us to places we’ve never been and think we cannot move through…but she did and Elise gave birth to her perfect baby girl - a tender and emotionally overwhelming moment for everyone.
Elise and Sandy’s hearts were tested once more during the immediate postpartum when Elise’ exhausted body needed some extra support but after some rest, healing and recovery they were able to go home and begin their life together as parents with their absolutely perfect baby girl. What a gift, what a celebration of life and what a journey with the most precious ending.
Photos shared with permission. If you are interested to learn more about birth doula support and how I can support your pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience please get in touch!