This article closes our series « Behind the scenes of a birth » with Marlène’s beautiful BirthStory. Marlène gave birth to her son Alexis and daughter Noémie at the clinic Générale-Beaulieu. She has wonderful memories of two very different pregnancies and two very different births. We are thrilled to share this story with you and end the year 2022 on a positive note.
Marlene, can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I am 32 years old and I am the happy mother of 2 children: Alexis 3.5 years old and Noémie soon 10 months old. Two little people who are as funny as they are dynamic and who keep us very busy! I have been in a relationship with Grégoire for 10 years and we have been married for 5 years. I am a pharmacist, a job that I am passionate about and that has always been obvious to me. Almost 3 years ago, I took over the responsibility of a small pharmacy in Champel just after my first maternity leave. This is kind of my third child!
How did you experience your two pregnancies?
In a very different way! For the first one, ultra-zen and calm and for the second one ultra-stressed (smile); the first months in relation to the pregnancy itself, then in relation to the rhythm of my professional life.
For the second pregnancy, although I was calm and optimistic by nature, I let myself be influenced by traumatic experiences that my family and friends experienced. When I arrived at the check-up appointment with my gynaecologist (who had already followed me for Alexis), I think she didn’t recognise me because I was so anxious. After the ultrasound, which had already taken a weight off my shoulders because the baby was good and his little heart was beating, she suggested that I have a blood test (DPNI) to detect certain types of trisomy. Once I received the results, I finally started to let go and live this 2nd pregnancy to the fullest despite the many professional responsibilities versus the first pregnancy.
Did you have a specific birth plan in mind for your deliveries?
Not specifically, no. I had heard far too much that it never went as planned! I usually have 3 or 4 plans in mind to bounce around, so that’s kind of what I did so I didn’t focus on one idea and come out « disappointed ».
For Alexis, not knowing how I was going to manage the pain, I didn’t want to be closed even if I wanted to have the most natural birth possible. I spoke about it several times with my gynaecologist who was responsible for passing on my wishes to the maternity ward. For Noémie, I was even more motivated by natural birth, as I knew what to expect, but I still didn’t close any doors. In both cases, it was essential for me that my gynaecologist was present in the room. Not because of her role, but because I needed to have a professional in the room who knew me.
On the day, of both my deliveries, my plans were respected.
How did you deal with the pain during your first birth?
I think like most women going through their first pregnancy, you always wonder what the delivery will be like, will your water break in the middle of the supermarket, will you wake up in the middle of the night with contractions, or will you rush to the maternity ward folded in half in the passenger seat with the pain.
In the end, for me, none of that happened (smile)! At the end of my pregnancy check-up, the baby was fine but I didn’t have enough amniotic fluid left. To avoid an emergency situation, the decision was made to induce me that evening. A membrane detachment was attempted, but my cervix was closed, so we tried to put in the « tampon » to prepare my cervix, warning me that it would take a long time. I prepared myself in my head for the pain until the next night and told my husband to go home and sleep as we had time and nothing would happen for 24 hours.
I managed the first pains with the balloon, a hot shower, and walking. I kept in mind the words of Blandine, the midwife who prepared us for the birth, that we shouldn’t go against the pain so that the labour would progress. So I concentrated on my breathing and tried not to tense up.
At around midnight, dilated at 3, I started to really feel the pain and, fearing that I would be too tired the next day to take the baby out, the idea of an epidural began to grow on me. I called my husband and told him I would probably give in but at least I would be able to push. He was surprised that I was asking for it « already » and so, stung in my pride, I remembered the existence of the bath, which I asked for, crossing my fingers that the peak of pain would not last more than 15 seconds as I had learnt during the preparation classes (smile).
After what seemed like a very long time, exhausted, I finally asked for the epidural, still convinced that Alexis wouldn’t arrive until the next day. At around 3.30 am, just as the epidural was being inserted, my husband arrived and the water broke. Everyone was stressed because my cervix was at 10 and, against all odds, it was time to give birth!
Fortunately, by the time the baby entered my pelvis, my gynaecologist was able to arrive just in time (smile). Between the time of the epidural, which doesn’t take effect immediately, and the pushing, I continued to manage the pain by counting during the contractions, concentrating on my breathing and with acupressure points.
It’s such an animal/primary thing to give birth. When your baby is due to come out, you lose all sense of pain or tiredness and do everything you can to make it happen.
What about the second birth?
Thanks to the self-hypnosis preparation, I was determined to give birth without an epidural. Compared to the first birth, I had several additional advantages: the presence of my husband and the knowledge of pain. The plan was first to manage the pain with breathing, the balloon, massage, then hypnosis, bathing, and if necessary gas.
I think I closed my eyes for most of the labour, concentrating on how I felt. I really managed the pain with all the techniques I had learnt and always with my favourite technique: counting, breathing and not going against the pain. I asked my husband to be my brain by reminding me of the different tools at my disposal.
My gynaecologist and the midwife were very supportive. Around 11 am, when the contractions intensified, I considered the epidural, but I was gently reminded that I didn’t want one and that I would manage.
What was the atmosphere like in the labour room?
Being a very private person, my biggest fear was that I would scream during the birth (laughs). In the end, I was very quiet! During the first birth, I remember the labour room being a bit panicky due to the turn of events, but everything was done to keep me calm, not to stress but to « go for it » (which worked very well). For the second one, I have a feeling of a bubble of kindness. According to my husband, everyone in the room was whispering so as not to disturb me. I felt that I was surrounded by supportive people, in a calm environment. I had a feeling of unity as if I wasn’t the only one giving birth. My gynaecologist encouraged me, my husband supported me, and the midwife encouraged me and reminded me of my hypnosis sessions.
I think that’s what I love about childbirth, that feeling of a team marathon, of surpassing yourself with the most beautiful trophy at the end of the race.
How did you feel when you saw Noémie for the first time?
When she arrived, I was still in my bubble, with my eyes closed. I first met her by touching her. I wanted, at that moment, to feel her against me. When I opened my eyes, I remembered how small a newborn is (smile) and then I thought she looked like her brother and I felt a lot of pride that I had given birth to 2 healthy babies.
Just after worrying about my baby’s health, I started worrying about my perineum.
How did you experience your first days as a mother in the maternity ward?
For Alexis, I couldn’t stand still, euphoric about being a new mother. I was hyper-vigilant and focused on my baby so as not to miss anything. I didn’t like the evenings when my husband left the hospital but fortunately, the whole maternity team was very present and attentive. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them sincerely.
For Noémie, I already knew what to expect so I took advantage of the services offered by the maternity hospital to get as much rest as possible before going home. I was as excited as ever, but without the stress. The icing on the cake was that we were lucky enough to be upgraded to a suite. The rooms are usually big, but this was really crazy! My parents, husband and son came every day and could enjoy Noémie in the living room while I rested in the bedroom. It was really nice.
I really got attached to Caroline, the midwife at my birth, and Emily, the childcare nurse. They are really two incredible people who I associate a lot with Noémie’s early days. I was always very happy to see them come into my room during my stay.
What did you find different between your two pregnancies/births?
For Alexis, I was employed at the pharmacy which allowed me to make the most of my pregnancy and maternity leave, whereas, for Noémie, I had more responsibility as she was now the manager and mother of her first child. I had more stress and less time before/during/after for her, unlike Alexis. It’s very guilt-ridden and difficult to reconcile work and motherhood! But I can’t say I regret it because I wouldn’t have done it otherwise. I love everything I do too much to be able to stop.
I enjoyed Alexis’s pregnancy more but was surprised by a very fast birth that I missed a bit. In contrast, for Noémie, I took less advantage of the pregnancy but was fully involved in my delivery.
Maybe we need a third one to enjoy the pregnancy AND the birth! (a little hint to my husband who reads us 🙂