Pernille on the birth of her third son
A few months after the arrival of her third child, Pernille Teisbæk shares her experiences of giving birth to son Bruce in an exclusive interview with To The Moon, Honey. Without any spoilers, we can reveal that Bruce was born in a way that Pernille had not dared to hope for even in her wildest dreams. Read the edited podcast transcript here
We were very pleasantly surprised when we found out that I was pregnant for the third time. But I was also very scared and anxious about giving birth again. This may sound incredible as I’ve already given birth twice. I should really be an expert in all of it by now. But that’s not the way I felt. To me, the whole prospect was associated with something that made me feel very unsure and vulnerable. Something I wasn’t able to control. I wanted to find out how to ensure I got the best possible birth experience out of the three I’ve been through now. That was the mission with my third baby.
I had a wonderful pregnancy considering that it was my third and that my children have been born in such quick succession. I was really lucky not to have any complications.
Tina Winther from Mama Profilax was my private midwife in the run-up to the birth as I really wanted to give birth slightly before my due date. My due date was 30 November and I gave birth on 9 December. So I was a bit late. In my mind, I’d decided that he would arrive slightly early – a bit like Bobby, our second child, did. The reason I wanted him to arrive early was that I’d already had two children who’d been reasonably big. Bobby weighed in at 4.3 kilos, and I had a feeling that the baby I was carrying was also quite a hefty weight.
When you’ve been through three pregnancies, you get to know your own body, and I could feel that I was carrying something that took up a bit more room than the others had done. But I passed through the hands of six midwives and doctors before I gave birth – and no one estimated him to be a gram over four kilos. By the end, I actually felt the weight was a bit unpleasant, but I didn’t feel ill. So I can’t complain at all. I’ve been really lucky. I know that. That’s why I ended up thinking that I had to bite the bullet and just wait it out.
I went through a few sweeps of my membranes, reflexology and acupuncture. I really tried to do my bit to prepare for the baby’s imminent arrival. But there wasn’t really anything that worked. I went for a chat at Rigshospitalet about being induced because they could feel that I was becoming frustrated. I spoke to a doctor who gave me a scan and told me that my baby was not especially big, but if I wanted to be induced, they were happy to do that. I was pretty insistent that that was what I wanted.
I had an appointment on the Tuesday where Philip and I went in in the morning and we met a really cool midwife who was going to be the one to induce me. She had herself given birth to three boys, and she looked at me and asked me whether I was ready to give birth – and I just wasn’t. Then she swept my membranes for the sixth time and told me to go home and relax, listen to an audio book, take it easy and just try to focus on the birth. Which is what I did. In the evening, I looked at Philip and said: “Damn, it didn’t work”. I had an appointment for 8 am the next morning when I was supposed to be induced. In all the preparations I had done with Tina, this hadn’t been part of the plan at all. This wasn’t what I’d set my heart on.
I remember that three to four days before I gave birth, I was at Tina’s and the baby had moved his head upwards. As the most natural thing in the world, Tina simply moved his head back down into my pelvis. We were both a bit surprised that he wasn’t ready in the right position as I was so far overdue. He had to come out now. We both thought that I’d give birth in weeks 38-39 – just like last time. But when I visited Tina in weeks 39-40, the baby had moved up on one side. So she laid me down and rocked me and did some rebozo massage and told me that I didn’t need to do anything. I just needed to lie back and receive. Suddenly I felt something happen. Tina told me that I just needed to let it happen. Fifteen minutes later, the baby was positioned nicely down in my pelvis – just the way he was supposed to be. I felt that he was generally very responsive to Tina.
In the months up to the birth, I visited Tina twice a week – just to have her feel the baby. We prepared me very thoroughly with acupuncture, reflexology and massage, and I went for long walks – but nothing happened. I kept thinking that something was about to happen, but all we did was prepare my body.
But then I woke up at 3 am with contractions. I was just so happy. I hadn’t expected that I’d feel so happy about giving birth because I’d been so anxious about it. But because I’d waited for so long, I went from being afraid to being insistent on the birth really having to take place now. So in that way, it was quite positive that it all took a bit longer than anticipated.
We rang Tina and she arrived at about 5 am. She examined me and looked at how dilated I was and decided that it was a good idea to leave early so that I’d have time to get settled before things really got started in earnest. When I gave birth the second time, things went very quickly so Tina thought that it would be a good idea for me to arrive at the hospital with plenty of time to spare.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was about six centimetres dilated and at that point I didn’t think that the pain was that difficult to cope with. But I could feel that I was getting really anxious, and I really didn’t feel well. I felt incredibly nauseous and nervous.
Tina was quick to suggest a bath where I could sit and compose myself and relax my body. That was pretty effective. I hadn’t thought of a bath at any point, but had focused more on having an epidural. For some bizarre reason, I totally forgot about the epidural and got down into this very hot bath which had an astonishing effect on my body. I hadn’t tried having a bath when I gave birth to my two other children, but the second I got into the hot water, everything in my body relaxed and I suddenly felt I had so much energy that I almost forgot that I was in the middle of giving birth. The fear I’d had simply disappeared.
When I’m afraid, my body starts to shake and when that happens, all sorts of negative thoughts also start to bubble up in my head. But the heat that embraced me in the bath gave me a sense of security that meant that all my shaking disappeared. Which also meant that all the negative thoughts in my head disappeared. I felt I had quite a lot of energy when I was lying there in the bath, and we talked about all sorts of things while I was in there – and I started to see the bright side of the whole experience. I got out once just to walk around – I wanted to get on with things, speed everything up. That may sound a bit odd when giving birth was really what I was afraid of, but while I was enjoying the pace, I also didn’t want to get to a point where I’d be too tired. I know myself and what happened when I gave birth before – that there comes a point when you get tired because you’re expending so much energy. I didn’t want to be too tired when he arrived.
While I was up and about, Tina examined me a couple of times to try to estimate how dilated I was. When I got to nine to ten centimetres, Tina thought it was a good idea for me to get back into the bathtub. I started actively giving birth in the bath, and I wasn’t quite clear about how long I was in this active state – maybe an hour or an hour and a half. The fantastic thing was that Tina asked my husband Philip to help me. She showed him some points to apply pressure to on my lower back which was where I was feeling the most pain. He ended up leaning in over the tub and massaging me every time a contraction came. I think this also made him feel that he was playing an important part in the whole experience. It was a great relief and actually the only pain relief I had. At one point, the contractions overwhelmed me so much that I sort of disappeared into myself. The contractions were so powerful that I could no longer relate to what was happening around me, and I just focused on the fact that I wanted to give birth right now.
When the pain was nearing its peak, I asked Tina whether it was going to hurt any more than this, but she reassured me and said that it wouldn’t be long now before he was born. That was the message that I heard and that helped me to focus on pushing – and then the contractions came just after that. I heard Tina say that she could see the baby’s head, and Philip put both his hands around the head and helped our son into the world. My waters broke just as he was born. So his birth was a gliding sensation and not the very powerful pressure where you feel your waters breaking and the baby’s head hitting your pelvis as he comes out. So there was no shock, but a gliding sensation which was very cool. Like a wave of pain that came and increased, but then vanished just as quickly. I felt that that was incredible. It was the experience I wanted. Not something that came and shocked me or my body. My body was relaxed. He was delivered quietly, and Philip helped him into the world. The baby was entangled in the umbilical cord – both around one arm and around his head. But Tina was quick to free him from the cord.
He was laid on my stomach, and that was a fantastic experience. I was still completely dazed because I was still in this giving-birth phase where I had sort of turned inwards. He didn’t really say much when he was born. And he was all blue. It was a very different kind of birth. There wasn’t any blood in the water either. It was completely clear. I’d anticipated that it would be a bloodbath. But everything was clean. There was nothing there. When he’d lain on my stomach for a moment, he began to cry. That was really beautiful. This warm baby, in this warm water. It felt so safe, and I felt really happy and that moment was a bit of a revelation for me. Philip stood there holding me, and it was all very moving. It was an incredible sensation because this wasn’t at all the way I thought giving birth was going to be. No drama, nothing.
Philip had brought in some music which he played from a speaker, and the most incredible thing was that the second I gave birth, Bruce Springsteen started to sing – and we had talked all the time about naming him Bruce. So we both felt that there was some sort of moment of revelation here with that track coming on just as our son was being born. It was very moving.
I got up out of the water and had to give birth to the placenta as you have to, but that was really also super easy. It was very uncomplicated. We were all pretty excited to find out what the baby weighed. He was a big boy. He took the top spot on the scales and weighed in at 4.7 kilos.
Carrying such a big baby can be really hard – it feels like all your organs are being squeezed out of the way and that was what I’d been feeling. That’s why I knew that Bruce would beat the others and take the top spot as the biggest. And not just in our little family. He actually took the prize for the heaviest baby born at Rigshospitalet in the past three months, so his birth was big news up and down the corridors.
I’d dreamt of giving birth during the day. I wanted it to be light outside so that it didn’t seem as spooky. I always think that if I feel ill during the night or go through something intense at night, it always seems more frightening. Luckily, I gave birth at 9.30 am so I got the daytime birth I wanted. We got Bruce breastfeeding quickly which meant that he could keep up his blood sugar levels and we could head home already around noon. I was really happy about that. Actually, it was such a great experience that, when we came out of the hospital and in the days afterwards, I thought that I wouldn’t mind doing it again. Not that we want more children right now or that we’re even thinking of a fourth child. It was just such a fantastic experience. I also feel that Bruce, who is the most amazing little boy, is very calm. I can’t help wondering whether this is because I had such an amazing experience giving birth to him and he didn’t suffer stress at any point. It’s been a great experience for him all the way.
He was born in water and looked up at me. There was never a point at which he had to respond to anything unpredictable or stressful. Tina checked him constantly – whether his heartbeat was as it should be etc. He responded as he should all the way through, in the calmest way imaginable. Even now he sleeps very well and is thriving. I don’t know if the way he came into the world has had any effect, but if I look at my three children, I already feel that I can sense a difference. I don’t feel that I’m calmer this time than I was on the other occasions in any way. I feel that I very much had the same experience the second time as I had this time. But I also feel 100% that his composure has something to do with the way he was born. Because everything around him was so calm and tranquil. He didn’t go through the same kind of agitation that the other two did.
When we arrived home from the hospital, our two eldest were at nursery and day-care, and we lay down and rested to recover from the birth. After a couple of hours, our two big boys came home and thought it was really exciting that there was a little baby and that mummy’s tummy had gone. They thought that that was pretty crazy.
I’ve been quite anxious about how introducing Bruce to their world would work out. But they’ve handled everything fantastically well. I really think that having child no. 3 has been easier than having child no. 2. The fact that our two big boys, who are, of course, still very small, have each other, has given me enormous comfort. Knowing that they have each other so that no one feels left out. I think that has been really incredible. Also seeing their bond and friendship growing much stronger. They’ve been enormously sweet and loving towards Bruce. There’s actually been no jealousy at all. Which is very impressive.
But I also think it’s been quite uncomplicated because Bruce hasn’t really been a problem. Of course, he’s been a presence because he sits with me and plays and lies on the floor, but he isn’t a baby who lies there screaming or making trouble. He isn’t keeping them awake or waking them up during the night. He’s just blending into everything. Into the trio that in one way or another will just grow stronger and stronger in the future.
I wish I could have put the fear I felt about giving birth to one side a bit more. Because there was no reason for it. When I look back at how I felt, I think I may have been a bit silly, and I’m actually a bit irritated about having spent so much energy on being so afraid of something that went so well. I’m also aware that I’m very privileged to have had such a great birth experience. That’s what I feel it is anyway when I compare it to the experiences of other people I know.
I’d done a lot of work to deal with my anxieties in the run-up to giving birth, and I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had Tina to help me. I was actually at the point where I thought a caesarean might have been the right solution for us. That’s not because I think it’s an optimum solution for anyone or that it’s the easy way out. But I thought that it was something that was easier to control and was something I could relate better to. For a long time I was sure that it was the route we should take until I was brought to my senses. Because it was clearly sense that was required rather than my completely insane imagination. When I look back, I had at least two months in the run-up to giving birth where I was on another planet. I still don’t really understand what was going on. But it was a very unclear and a very dark place to be. It was a place that I didn’t like being. Not because I was in a place where I was thinking negative thoughts about my life. I was just so afraid of the birth. There was no real way out of that. I just had to get through it. But Tina kept telling me that I had to think about what would be coming out of it all. There was a fantastic little boy in there and in just a moment I would be holding him in my arms. That was the image I needed to visualise on that journey through my experience of giving birth.
When you’re the mother of several children, you feel a responsibility for having to survive. It feels quite animalistic – there’s a reason for my being here. The meaning of my life is to be a mother to my two existing children, and that’s why I have to get through this and survive it. Of course, I was going to survive. I just needed it to be as good an experience as possible so that I would have the energy when he was born and be able to be a happy mother rather than someone who was scared out of her wits and didn’t have any energy left for them at a time when major changes were happening in their lives.
Starting to breastfeed Bruce went super easily. He got the hang of it almost the second he was born – as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I could feel that he had the energy. He wasn’t weak or tired. He just started feeding – instinctively. At the beginning I was a bit worried about whether he was getting enough to eat as he was so big and he was very hungry. I hardly did anything but breastfeed him for the first three days, I think. He just lay there and couldn’t get enough. But he’s thriving and doing well and is still a really big baby. He’s also won the prize for the longest baby we have. At only three months old, he’s 67 centimetres long.
My boys are now aged four, two and three months. We’ve just moved into a new house and have a lot on our plates. We’ve been working on our new house for almost a year, and it’s fantastic finally to have moved in and to see the children run around in the place we imagined that they would be. They are running in circles around our kitchen island and from room to room and are having a ball. It’s incredible that the images we had in our heads about how things would be have now actually become reality. I feel that they’re thriving in our new house where they have a great sense of calm. They know they’ll be here for many, many years – hopefully. I feel that the change of scene came at just the right time. Three boys take up a lot of room compared to some of my friends who have some very sweet girls who sit around playing with pearls – most boys just seem to be quite a handful and a lot more energetic. You have to be able to take them out and deenergise them. That’s been difficult during lockdown. We haven’t had many options. I feel that we’re in an enormously privileged position now that we have room to put Bruce in one room and let the other two boys zoom around in another. It really is fantastic.
Words Maja Claver & Tina Colquhoun Photo Liv Winther and private