Birth Story #6 Carol Montpart
From Barcelona, living in London
When did you become a mother?
I became a mother on the 15th of September 2019. It was a full moon – I had visualised Andre’s birth on that weekend and amazingly it happened then.
Was it a premeditated decision?
Yes it was. It took me a while to conceive. Davey and I got engaged, and as soon as we started to plan the wedding I got pregnant. It was at Christmas in 2018 and we were in Ireland. We were having a wonderful time surrounded by family and there was a lot of love around us. I guess the happiness helped in the creation of little Andre. It’s one of the best Christmases I ever had.
At which point did you feel that you were a mother?
After Andre was born I had a big identity crisis. Some mothers connect with the role straight away, but for me this took a few months and still. My life before Andre was ruled by my job and travelling for work – I remember I felt that all was taken away from me, I really missed my job. I can now say that I have accepted my new identity as a mother, around the time when Andre turned 10 months old something changed in me. I look back and see that this is all part of the motherhood journey and I have learnt not to feel guilty for feeling the way I did or do. Regarding the pregnancy, I was really busy the first 6 months with work, so it was only the last three months that I really connected with my body. I really enjoyed all of it from then until brith. I was doing a lot of meditation, visualisations and exercising everyday and I was deeply connected to Andre. I miss those days…
I know you gave birth at home. Which was your motivation for giving birth at home?
I never considered giving birth at home before I got pregnant. I was unaware that home birth was so readily available through the NHS in the UK. As it turned out I had some friends in London that had home births – listening to those stories opened my curiosity and I started to learn more about it. I read some key books like Ina May Gaskin’s ‘Guide to Childbirth’ and saw her documentary ‘Birth Story’. I also read a lot by Michel Odent like ‘Birth Reborn’ and ‘Do We Need Midwives?’. I realised that giving birth at home was not dangerous at all but the opposite.
About half way through the pregnancy my partner and I decided that giving birth at home was the right option for us. This decision changed completely our whole approach to the rest of the pregnancy and of course the birth experience. I didn’t want a painless birth, I wanted to feel everything. I stopped listening to bad birth stories, only focusing on the good ones. We wanted to have an intimate experience and I knew that going to hospital might not allow this.
Why do you think you had a need to “feel everything”? Where was the need coming from?
I think labour is an experience in itself and not just a transition or process to bring a baby into the world. There is a certain fear that society has built around women giving birth. In recent decades women perceive labour as something painful that they should get done as quickly and painlessly as possible, rather than the beautiful and spiritual act that it can be. I see birth as a team work, where you and your baby work together. There are of course things that you can’t control before and during labour and you should be open to accept any problems or surprises that might happen and be comfortable with your choices. But I strongly believe that your mindset going into the birth has a huge impact on the way it can unfold. I wanted to feel every second of all of it in an intimate environment with my things and with the people I trust around me – at peace.
How did your friends and family react to your decision of having a home birth?
My family was supportive, I guess they had to be. After giving birth they confessed how afraid they were with that decision. My mother didn’t want to tell me about her fears and didn’t want to interfere. There was a mix of opinions with my friends, some of them were surprised, others were fascinated, others didn’t understand why I wanted to ‘suffer’ and others saw it as a dangerous thing. At the end I tried to speak about the birth with people that shared similar thinking as I do. I encourage everyone to do the same, talk to people that will really listen and support you even if they might not take the same route.
Could you tell us more about the birth? Which were your expectations and what did actually happen?
I have a great memory of Andre’s birth. I woke up around 3am and I knew that he was on his way. I jumped out of the bed and I got started with my breathing techniques on the mat, with the ball and all the props I needed. Davey called our doula Liliana and she came a couple of hours later. Liliana has a hands off approach and we discussed this a lot before the birth. So while I spent a lot of the time in the bath on my own, I could hear Davey and Liliana telling each other stories while having breakfast in the kitchen which made me feel relaxed. I was calling Davey every now and then to ask for water or when I needed reassurance, also to help fill up the bath again with hot water. Liliana was pretty much invisible during the whole process, I think she only spoke to me three times but all her words were at key moments to make me feel better and more powerful. At some point the contractions became stronger and I felt like sitting on the toilet and pushing – it was then when Liliana called the midwife. Apparently my breathing and noises became more primal, I had finally abandoned my controlled breathing to become an animal and get ready to give birth. The midwife, Maxine came around 11am and soon after I was examined and she told us I was fully dilated. All of them presumed that Andre would be with us in 40–50 minutes but he didn’t come that easily. Andre’s head was not in the best position to exit and my efforts were not enough. Liliana wanted to help to speed things up and used some unexpected tricks like giving me some champagne and make me walk and dance to free myself of any stress or tension. At one point I was dancing and singing along with Patti Smith in the bathroom, it was wonderful. But an hour or two after that, Andre still hadn’t arrived and I thought I couldn’t do it. I said to Liliana: ‘Liliana, where are you? I can’t do it. He’s not coming’ and she hugged me and said: ‘Carol you don’t exist anymore, let him take over and you disappear. You are just a body now”. By then Maxine had agreed with Davey to instruct me and help me to push, she whispered in my ear: ‘I want you to push as hard as you can”. By now I was in the entrance of our flat, hanging from the radiator with my left leg on a stool. I remember giving this push and after a loud scream Andre’s head came out. I stopped to rest and Davey came to help me to push once more to get his body out.
Andre was born at 2.57pm – the birth took 11 hours. I always knew that if I had to go to hospital it would be fine and it could be a beautiful birth also. No matter how or where it would have happened I was ready. I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself, I would aim to give birth at home as long as it was safe for everyone. I was extremely lucky to have the team I had. Liliana and Maxine had an amazing connection and my husband was just the best birth partner that one can have – caring but not worrying or panicking, just trusting my body and Andre and us.
How come you had a doula? How did you find her? Would you recommend it to other pregnant women?
I started to look into it when I found out that the home birth midwife that was assigned to us might not be on call and attend the birth. I thought that having someone I know and trust during labour besides my partner, would be beneficial for everyone, especially as my mother was in a different country. My husband was interested in finding out more and some friends of mine highly recommended it.
Liliana Lammers name came up when speaking to a friend, we met with her and immediately felt a calming and reassuring energy. I also think she helped keep my husband at peace while I was doing my own thing. Her philosophy is to let the mother do it alone as much as possible and it worked for us.
Do you remember what you felt the first time you held your son?
If I remember well I was extremely happy and relieved! Happy that it was over and that Andre was there. I was so proud of both of us. I have an ear fetish and I remember looking at Andre’s ears first and thinking “These are the most perfect ears I have ever seen”. Some women want that moment for just themselves or the family but I wanted everyone that was part of the birth to be next to us – it was a team effort. It still makes me smile to remember the whole story.
Have you noticed which has been the most significant change in yourself after giving birth?
This is a very complex question and I am still figuring all this out. I am just a different woman and sometimes I don’t even remember who I was before Andre came along. I think that motherhood is the biggest death of the Ego that there is. Some days I feel the happiest person in the world and others everything becomes so overwhelming that I can’t see that overall motherhood is really special and amazing to me.
Is there a way to find the balance between those feelings?
I am not sure but I hope so! I guess it’s too early for me to know but I’m just going to go with it and enjoy the journey as much as possible.
Which has been the best advice you got during this journey?
The best piece of advice or note came from my neighbour who has a 3 year old and a 4 month old. She told me that when your first baby is born, you are waiting all the time to see what comes next and not quite enjoying what is currently happening at each stage. With her second baby she said that she’s enjoying more each phase and not looking forward to the next thing constantly. That made me be more present with Andre and enjoy every minute and every detail. Even if the moment is hard – it will pass.
They say it takes a town to raise a child, how much help do you get in London, far from your family? Could you tell us about the maternity and paternity leave situation?
I have come to realise that it makes a huge difference to have your family close to help. My family is in Spain and my partner’s family in Ireland. My mum and dad can’t come to London as often as they’d like because of their work. I was recently in Spain and my parents would take Andre for a couple of hours here and there. Just that small space and distance of him let me get some perspective and made me feel much better about it all. Reconnecting with myself makes me a better mother for Andre.
Maternity and paternity leave in the United Kingdom is not good and my partner only had three weeks off when Andre was born. Weirdly, the lockdown came in a good time for us, and it’s been somehow great to be able to experience all these months together as a family.
Taking that into account, are you able to find time to take care of yourself?
It’s difficult to find the time. I am back in the studio now and that’s been very beneficial to me. I missed my job and having some time to reconnect with what I love has helped a lot. This means that the rest of my time I want to desperately be with Andre which means little time for exercise and look after myself. I have decided that my time away from Andre is working and I am fine with this for now.
Has your relationship towards your mother changed after you became a mother yourself?
Massively. She was a hero to me and now she’s a Goddess. Only when you are a mother can you understand what that really means and you resonate with your own one and see her in a different way. I love her.
Would you like to have more children?
I think I will. I was not sure a few months ago but I had the chance to see how siblings connect through some of my friends and I find it so beautiful – I guess I would love that for Andre.
— Photos: Carol Montpart.