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Ilham’s parents, Shiplu & Sharmin, contacted me in September 2016, as they had moved a while ago to the Hague and wished for a doula to inform them about birth practices in the Netherlands as well as prepare them for the birth of their first child. They preferred to give birth at the hospital, but with as little interventions as possible. We prepared for birth together, set up a birth plan, and agreed that I will meet them at their home when the contractions would start. After laboring some time at home, we would drive to the hospital together.

As usually, things did not go according to plans, and on 17 October 2016, the husband called me from the hospital at 23:00: The labor had started with Sharmin’s waters breaking. The hospital initially suggested that they go home, but after her contractions seemed to be getting stronger when she walked, the couple thought labor had started and asked me to join them at the hospital. When I met them at 2:30, they were still at the examination room, and it took an hour before the clinical midwife took us to a birthing room.

The baby’s heartbeat was not regular, so they wanted to examine for some time. The mother’s contractions were irregular and short. Movement did make them stronger. Yet when her contractions got more frequent and longer, she experienced them as painful and tiring. After she took a shower, she lied down in bed and decided to relax.

When the assistant gynecologist came to check the dilation, it was quite difficult. The couple had already expressed that they did not wish internal examinations, but since she now had broken waters combined with no contractions, the hospital felt a need to check in order to decide on how to proceed. Even though the assistant took care to do it as gently as possible, the internal examination was painful. They estimated that the cervix was almost closed and suggested that she takes a rest until the morning. When the morning shift came, the couple decided to go home and to come back for an induction the next day. I drove them home and told them I could come to help them at home whenever they would need me.

When I arrived at the birthing room at 8:15 on 19 October 2016, the mama-to-be was feeling energetic and wearing lipstick. She was ready to meet her baby. She had been having contractions now and then and had relaxed, so I was hoping that she would already have 3 cm. of dilation, so that she would only be induced with intravenous hormones. That was indeed the case, but the internal examination proved again to be very stressful and painful.

The assistant took the time to ask Sharmin whether she was fearing birth and why. She answered that she was fearing birth because of the internal examinations. The assistant advised in this case to take an epidural since she would still need to be examined, and her fear of examinations could prevent her from relaxing her pelvic area. She also explained that she did not wish her birth to be a traumatic experience. After explaining the disadvantages of the epidural, she said that she felt that the advantages would still outweigh in her case. Shiplu was still adamant on proceeding as naturally as possible, but in the end she had to decide herself.

Induction started at 9:30. Until she could decide on the epidural, I helped her cope with the contractions as actively as possible, as there was a chance that she would not be that mobile afterwards. Her contractions were slowly getting more frequent. When the assistant came back, she had decided to take an epidural. When the anesthesiologist was explaining the procedure, she had a moment of doubt when she heard the risks associated with the epidural. She was afraid that she would move during the procedure. Yet, she managed to recuperate and decided to go on with the epidural. She went through the procedure with a beautiful smile on her face.

As the couple did not really fancy the Dutch lunch, the husband went outside to grab something to eat. From that point on, we were alone in the room, chatting, about anything and everything. These precious hours helped her open up to me and brought us closer together. She was now totally relaxed and enjoying the moment. I was guessing she was also making progress with the birth.

When the assistant came to check her at 13:00, she was 5 cm. dilated. Shortly after the husband came back, she started to feel nauseous. I was guessing she had entered transition now. This was good news. She was progressing while we were talking. Indeed, when the assistant came back to examine her at 15:00 she was 8 cm. dilated. She was now really starting to feel the intensity of labor. I was telling her that she was doing great, and that she was almost there.

Just fifteen minutes later, she was already fully dilated! Before moving on to a guided pushing phase, the assistant first wanted to make sure how stressed the baby was by taking blood from the baby’s head. After the assistant took blood, the parents became a bit uneasy. I tried to calm them down by saying that the blood results usually come out normal.

Sharmin started pushing at 15:45. I was holding her hand and looking at her eyes in order to reassure and encourage her. The contractions were strong, but the assistant started to become uneasy as the baby was still a bit high, and she felt that its head was somewhat tilted. After quite some effort, at about 16:30 the baby was low enough for a vacuum extraction. The vacuum extraction was quite challenging, and it took quite some pulling with the vacuum and an episiotomy to assist the mother.

At 16:45, the baby was finally there: a beautiful baby boy, Ilham, whose name means inspiration, wow!

They wanted to check the baby right away in the room next door. The little Ilham did not cry that much initially but was thankfully all healthy. Finally, he could join his mother for cuddles. He soon wanted mommy’s breast but found it difficult to latch on. He seemed a bit tired. While the assistant of the new shift was stitching, the new parents were calling with family to share the good news. When the assistant was done stitching, the mom also began to feel tired after a tough labor and wanted to sleep.

I took a few pictures with my phone before I left them all to rest and to enjoy their family of three. After a birth journey with unexpected turns, now a whole new journey of parenting and getting to know each other had begun.

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