Annas Birth Story
- HWABC, born at 40+1 weighing 8lbs 15oz
(Background first child born at hospital after transfer from a planned home birth. I slipped 2 discs in my back during the labour which went undiagnosed, and ended up with a very managed ventouse birth. Second child, also a planned home birth was born by caesarean section at 38+1 as my back injuries had flared up badly. I booked with independent midwives (Bristol Birth Practice) for this, my 3rd pregnancy, as the VBAC policy of my local Trust isnt supportive of either home or water births).
On my due date I woke up feeling hugely uncomfortable and very tired; for around 9 weeks I had been having niggling pre-labour which was preventing me from sleeping well at night. Two days earlier the contractions had increased in intensity and Id had a small show, so I was hoping that things were coming to an end. As I had gone to 40+18 with my only previous spontaneous labour I had psychologically prepared myself for a long wait.
I had made plans to have lunch with a friend in IKEA and was having the odd contraction as we walked around afterwards picking up the last few bits and pieces for my homebirth. I then took my eldest to gymnastics and sat there for an hour feeling quite spaced out and deeply irritated at all the havent you had that yet type comments from the other parents. As soon as we got home I got in to the birthing pool with the kids as the contractions were getting more uncomfortable they still felt like pre-labour and was convinced that I was going to have a stop-start labour for the next week or so. I cancelled my chiropractors appointment as I wasnt into the idea of getting out of the nice warm pool and driving in the dark and cold.
After getting the older two kids to bed and pottering around a bit I decided it would be best to call Sally the midwife and let her know that the contractions were getting stronger I didnt really want to surprise her with a phone call at 2am. We chatted for a bit, she listened in to a contraction and said she would call back at around 11pm. I had the TENS machine on at this point and my main worry was how deeply irritating I found it! I had planned to use the TENS to get me through the night and help me sleep and then see how I felt in the morning as regards more pain relief. Im not sure if it was me, but it didnt really seem to do much, especially as I kept accidentally turning it up and electrocuting myself.
I spoke to Sally again at around 11pm and told I her I was fine (I was) and I wasnt even sure what this was (contractions were very erratic still and no closer than 8 minutes apart). I go into the pool again as the TENS machine had electrocuted me one too many times and I was actually getting a bit scared of it. I got out just after midnight and sent Richard off to bed as I was getting a little more convinced that this was actually it and memories of my first labour (29 hours and him not really coping with being that tired) made me quite sure that he needed to sleep. I lunged around the bed trying to sleep until 3am when I woke him up and got him to put the TENS machine back on. I had become convinced that he hadnt put it on right and went online to try and find someone awake to tell me if we were using it right(!!) and found someone who told me what to do. Unfortunately we had been using it correctly and I found it just as irritating. My plan to rest during the contraction and try and get some sleep wasnt really working (I dont understand how people can do that!).
At 5.30am I went and woke Richard again as I was clearly in labour the contractions were getting more intense although I could still talk during them and felt OK, just really tired. I started belting out instructions at the poor man (call the midwife, call my sister etc). I decided that the best thing to do was to get Sally to come with the Entonox and try and knock myself out so I could sleep. At this point I thought I would probably go into proper labour later that evening.
At 6.40 Richard made the call to the midwife (we decided to wait as long as I could) and asked her to come round. I carried on in the pool as it was my only option apart from the Evil TENS machine, and I was quite comfortable. My only concern was that it might slow things down so I was quite keen to get out once Sally arrived. She got to the house at around 7.10 and we chatted for a while. I then got out of the pool on to the bed and the contractions became much more intense. It was almost as if I need Sally there to go into labour. Richard was being amazing, pressing down on my sacrum during the contractions which was really helping with the pain (he had been doing this the whole time he was awake). The children woke up and my sister turned up to take care of them. I was starting to feel incredibly tired and decided with Sally that I would rest on the bed with the Entonox and try and get some rest. Lying down seemed to slow things down and the Entonox was working well for me. Before this I went to the toilet and things speeded up as soon as I was upright, so I knew in my rational mind that I could speed things up if I was upright. On the toilet I had a bloody show as well.
At 10am I started feeling a lot more pressure during the contractions and things started feeling more intense. Even though I was using the Entonox I felt that I needed to bellow towards the end of each contraction, which were coming about every 3 minutes by this point. As the baby had been very low for the last few weeks of my pregnancy I was very aware of a deep pressure towards the end of each contraction. I got up to go to the toilet again and things at this point became even more intense; deep down I knew it was close although I thought it was a few hours before she would arrive. I decided to stay off the bed and do some hip rotations during the contractions, while leaning on the edge of the pool. Primal Screams Higher Than The Sun was playing at this point and I can remember thinking that I was going to dance this baby out like a sad old aging raver
For some reason I was putting off getting into the pool, which I had adored being in during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I think memories of my first labour where I spent many hours in the pool were creating a kind of block, but I decided after 5 more contractions I would get back in it. Perhaps I was also worrying about slowing things down (too much knowledge is a dangerous thing; throughout most of the birth I had a very rational narrative voice giving me advice in the back of my head!!)
Just after 11am I got into the pool. The relief was amazing but all of a sudden it felt like Id gone up several gears in intensity. The pressure in my pelvis was increasing as well. At this point one of my worst fears was realised the second tank of Entonox was faulty. (Id basically transferred to hospital during my first labour as we kept running out of Entonox and I found this very difficult). Sally and Richard got the tank half working and Sally called Jo (2nd midwife) to bring another tank; I stayed quite calm during this although I did feel a little panicky. I carried on using the faulty tank which was giving out a little gas but by this point was finding the breathing using the mouth piece more helpful than the gas itself.
All of a sudden I felt an overwhelming urge to stand up Id been leaning on Richard who was outside the pool and I lunged upwards shouting I cant do this anymore (obviously transition, voice in my head said), and my waters broke. I was suddenly aware of the head coming down very quickly and thought hang on, this is too fast so pulled upwards with my pelvic floor but it was all too strong and her head shot down again. Sally said either sit down or get out of the pool no way could I have climbed out so I got down on my knees as I desperately wanted to remain upright. I could feel the head slipping out and Sally asked if it was OK if she caught the baby (originally wed wanted Richard to catch her but there was no way I could let go of him), I nodded yes and Richard told her it was OK. I felt her head slide out and then an overwhelming huge push and her body slid out with a little twist from Sally to free her hips. Sally told me she was going to pass her through my legs (she had to untangle the cord from her neck as well I was totally unaware of what was going on behind me!) and my baby was passed to me. I blurted out I did it I was so pleased and elated!
At this point my natural cack-handedness kicked in and I let her slip under the water which was the only scary part of the whole birth after a bit of rubbing she started to breathe and was put straight on to feed. I was helped out of the pool to lie down and try and birth the placenta. Our oldest came into the room (the kids and my sister had been sitting outside the door during the birth as they didnt want to come in I had left it up to them), and she cut the cord once it had stopped pulsing. The placenta was a bit stubborn and refused to come out, even though we tried sitting on the toilet, homeopathy, breathing into a bottle. Im sure it was psychological in that a lot of my VBAC fears had centred on something going wrong with the placenta. Or possibly Jo was right and I was hanging on to it as I was sad about not having any more children!! In the end I decided that I had had enough, wanted to get into bed and lie down so I asked for a shot of syntometrine. After this the placenta came out very easily; Sally did say she wished shed been a little more forceful and worked to get it out bu,t as she has done throughout the birth, she did as I asked which was wonderful. I had torn along my old scar from my first birth but we decided it could be left to heal by itself. I then got into bed with our new daughter and started feeding her and making all the phone calls.
In total I had been in latent labour for 15 hours, 1st stage of 4 hours and 29 minutes, 2nd stage of 3 minutes and 3rd stage of 1 hour and 11 minutes. It was exactly the birth I wanted and I feel blessed to have had such a wonderful experience. (Oscar speech moment warning). I couldnt have done it without my wonderful midwives Sally and Jo, my brilliant shiatsu therapist Suzanne Yates, who did an amazing job coaching me through my fears in the last few weeks of pregnancy and my chiropractor Nina who kept my SPD at bay. I also feel that I birthed our child with my husband who was a total rock and kept me going throughout he was so pleased it went well that he cried before she was even born. After our first two births it was a very healing experience for us both.
Ellen Isabella, born at 3.20am on Friday 16th January, weighing 8lbs 12oz.
Very early on Thursday morning, exactly a week before my due date, my waters went. This had never happened in my previous pregnancies and I was quite shocked at the audible popping sound. After a few initial gushes, they subsided to a gentle yet constant leak. As Id been contracting for several weeks anyway I wasnt too bothered by the fact that I was feeling regular, albeit short and weak surges. We called our midwife in the morning to let her know and saw her at our regular ante-natal appointment later that day. Everything seemed fine, I was just very tired (and a bit fed up), so had a nap while Richard and my sister carried on tidying up the house and trying to finish everything on my to-do list. The older kids came back from school and our youngest returned from a day out. We put them to bed and settled down to watch the Sex in the City movie. Which was pretty poor – and SO long! When it finally finished at around 1.30am we decided that we should go to sleep as we were both pretty tired; I hadnt slept at all for 24 hours apart from the short nap earlier in the day. Richard went to let the dog out and I got up to go and brush my teeth and get ready for bed; at this point I suddenly felt a couple of large gushes of fluid and then a very strong contraction.
By the time I got to the bathroom, I’d had another contraction. Then a few more on the toilet. At this point it did hit me that I was probably in labour and that we were at the point where calling the midwife was probably a good idea. My last birth had been a slow build up with an extremely fast second stage, so we were aware of the possibility of the baby arriving before the midwife. Richard came back upstairs and I made it pretty clear that I wanted Sally (my midwife) NOW – he went off to call while I focused on trying to breathe through the contractions, which were becoming more and more intense. I was feeling a lot of pressure in my back and pelvis. And quite a bit of pain, which was a surprise after my last labour which was pretty painless, although intense.
Once I knew that Sally was coming, I demanded to go downstairs and get in the pool. I was also quite worried about the amount of noise I was making as I didn’t want the children to wake up. Sally arrived at 2.20 am and I demanded the entonox; by this point I was getting very tense and a little worried about how I was going to cope. As soon as I got hold of the entonox the contractions stopped being so close together and literally started being one on top of another. Inside my head I started totally freaking out – the pain was going up a notch with each contraction, I was starting to panic and there was no chance for me to get my breath or control back. Suddenly the contractions stopped for a minute or so and I had to stop myself from getting out the pool and demanding they take me to hospital. Apparently I was muttering that I should have had a CS – at this point I really couldn’t understand why I had done this to myself. The difference between this and my previous labours was scaring me, I’d had no build up and I was terrified that I was going to be having to do this for hours.
Again the contractions started and I kept on at the entonox. I was squeezing Richards hands , pulling on his t-shirt and bashing myself into the side of the pool. It felt like an immense physical battle was going on inside me, and that I had to push against something, anything to counteract this inner violence. I could feel myself reaching a breaking point, there was no way I could physically or mentally cope with the pain any longer. So I decided to push, bracing myself on the balls of my feet and getting into a wide squat. I announced to Sally that the baby was coming; although I knew that she wasn’t in the birth canal I had decided she would be soon.
Sally came over and kneeled down beside me as I started to push. I could feel her head moving down the birth canal, nearly crowning and then slipping back up again. I refused to go through a long second stage so on the next push I kept going until I felt the ring of fire burning, at which point I stopped and waited for the stretching to feel comfortable. Her head came out very gently and then I took a deep breath and summoned up one last bit of energy to push out her body. Sally caught her and passed her through my legs to me. She seemed so small, so perfect and so beautiful. The pain stopped instantly and I sat down in relief looking at my daughter in both shock and delight.
After about 15 minutes I got out of the pool and sat down on a bean-bag in front of the fire. The second midwife Jo arrived minutes after the birth, although a French midwife who had been visiting with Sally had arrived during the labour. We all sat and had a drink, chatted and pottered. Richard fetched our oldest who wanted to see the baby as soon as she was born. It was so peaceful and calm after the intensity of the birth. I was so wiped out that I kept asking for the synto to help the placenta out but Sally kept me going as I’d asked her to – I knelt up and with some gentle traction and a few good pushes out came the placenta. We used cord ties I had made earlier in the week and I cut the cord myself. Ellen was nuzzling and had a feed, we then moved upstairs to bed although it was 6am by this point and we knew that sleep wasn’t going to happen. The kids woke up and were introduced to their new sister.
Overall it was a very different birth to our previous ones. It was intense, at times very painful. It was short – from the first contraction to the birth was one and a half hours. It was furious, demanding and shocking. Perhaps this was because I hadn’t found the hypnotherapy easy to do this time, perhaps it was my high level of denial about the whole pregnancy and having a baby. Our daughter is a precious surprise and her birth was a powerful lesson in how unpredictable life can be!
Birth of Iona 31-03-03
N: After thinking they had broken before my waters broke at about 1pm, this was obviously the real gush. I caught some in a bucket and they were slightly brown so we rang Sally, our midwife, who said that she would come over. I had booked an acupuncturist for a home visit at 2pm, she said that she could still nudge labour on a bit and also draw good points on me for Alf to press for pain relief (which she did literally with a marker pen). I found them amazingly helpful throughout labour and it gave Alf an essential role.
A: Looking back, without being told about the points, I am not sure what I would have done during labour. But I felt involved in every contraction, pressing at the points Niki wanted.
N: As well as four needles to move labour along Sue (the acupuncturist) also used a heat stick on the side of my knees because she thought my stamina was low. Just as she was finishing the hour session Sally arrived and then Sue left.
Sally, Alf and I then discussed the brown waters. It was worrying trying to decide the best thing to do and whether it was necessary to go to hospital to be monitored and if we went would they let us out. I knew I wanted to be at home but also did not want to be responsible for putting the baby at risk. Just as we were talking things through my contractions started. Id been having period pain type contractions on and off for two weeks and when Sally gave me an internal on Sunday night (the night before) I had been about 1cm dilated. But these ones came fast and furious. Looking back it was quite funny that Sally asked us our plans for this stage of labour - a walk or ... because soon I was complaining I was not having a break between them. They just merged one into the other. Alf was pressing my points hard and I was leaning on the sofa with my nose in a lavender bag. I tried the ball for one but didnt like the plastic smell. Sally was just sitting quietly to see how we were getting on.
A: I appreciated Sally giving us some space in the beginning as I felt we were able to get into a rhythm of dealing with the contractions and I wasnt worried about whether I was doing things right or not, except through Nikis feedback.
N: Soon my clothes were feeling uncomfortable and then I tried a warm bath. When I finally got into the pool it was a relief. All the time Alf was pressing my points and I was making sounds to try and keep the pain a positive experience.
A: Without having planned it, I found myself also making sounds as Niki was, I was aware of trying to breath slowly and making loud and low exhaling noises.
N: Within 13/4 hr I was fully dilated and the contractions changed to the feeling of the second stage. This was when Sally monitored the babys heartbeat and noticed it slowing down. It had all been so quick and Jo, the second midwife, had not got here. Sally calmly rang an ambulance to have on standby. By the time they arrived the heartbeat was back to normal. Sally left the room and asked them to wait till Jo arrived. I had too many other things on my mind to worry but I admire the fact I never saw them and it was all so calm. They just waited in the drive until Jo came and then left.
The second stage was long. The contractions reminded me of the urge to shit but the breaks in between were wonderful and in the pool I almost floated off to sleep. It was as though in the breaks my body gave me a natural drug to relax. Alf still on the pressure points! I could feel inside and the head was quite high and then again later was still high. It was after a while that Sally and Jo suggested things that really helped - letting go into the urge to push and being confident that it was a natural feeling to have my bottom sensing that it was about to explode. They gave me a homeopathic remedy for the letting go too. For one contraction I put my finger inside on the babys head and felt it move down and how I could hold the push for longer and it keep it lower down. All the time I was now making very low sounds through the contractions. Keith, my shiatsu practitioner, had told me that, especially as I have a tendency to keep tension in my shoulders, making low sounds would focus the energy low down to where things were happening. That really helped and helped me as well to focus on the contractions as positive steps to the end result as each one was working for me. Sometimes I visualised a drawing I love of an angel walking out of a tunnel to a circle of light.
A: We had talked before about the advice from Keith and it felt spot on all throughout labour. Whenever I heard Nikis voice going high at the start of a contraction I would make even louder, lower exhaling sounds. The high registers seemed close to tears and, I imagined, the feeling that this was getting too much to bear. The low sounds, which Niki always got back to, seemed to be positive, affirming - an acceptance of what was happening and a going with the experience.
N: Alf pressing all the time! The ones on my sacrum were lovely. I once asked for higher points and sure enough there were higher ones drawn on.
I had lost a sense of time but was aware of it getting darker outside and was relieved when Sally and Jo said that I definitely would not have an April fool baby! Within 10 minutes of them giving me the confidence to let go they saw the babys head. It was weird feeling it with my hand. I was leaning back on Alfs knees holding his hands tightly.
A: I was aware of trying to loosen Nikis grip in between contractions. The noises changed at this stage, Niki would hold a low pushing noise for as long as she seemed able, I was quiet and then began low, slow out breaths when the push was over.
N: We could have watched in a mirror but for some reason I did not want to see. I then turned around on my knees and put my head in Alfs lap. The head was really now on its way out. It was half way out for a couple of contractions and that was when it really hurt. Sally had a hot flannel held to me that was bliss. Alf said afterwards that my sounds started high pitch before I then focused them to the low sounds. All of a sudden the head was out and then there below me (at 10.34pm) was a fat baby girl wriggling on the floor.
A: I couldnt work out for a moment what was what as this purple, slippery shape lay on the floor - then, oh wow, the whole thing is the baby! One of my lasting memories is of Sally holding her up and her taking a few breaths, then a few breaths which gurgled and then a cry. I was crying too.
N: I picked her up and held her to me. I felt dazed and almost in a dream world. What happened next all took place very quickly. They cut her cord when it had stopped pulsating and then I was seeing stars and feeling very faint. Alf took the baby and I lay down. My uterus was still high and I was losing lots of blood so they injected me and catheterised my bladder so that the placenta could pass by. It was almost the most painful bit. I can remember everyone laughing when I said that I thought labour was not bad and quite enjoyable. I can also remember looking at Alf crying with our baby in his arms and thinking that she looked well and safe and asking Sally if I was going to die! Finally I had a hot sheet over me and our baby was snuggled in beside me and she started breast feeding. Otto (my dog) came and sniffed her and lay down beside us for a moment. (I didnt quite imagine I would give birth in the presence of my dog but he was amazing and Im sure has a greater understanding of her arrival because he was there.) Jo and Sally then left the room and Alf lay down beside us too. She ate and cried, ate and cried. I still couldnt believe it.
Sally and Jo left about 2am after we were fed, bathed and all tucked up in bed by them. Also after they had weighed her - 10lb 11oz!! almost off their scales!
Looking back on Ionas birth I see it as a very special and positive experience. Apart from the last few pushes I would not call what I felt pain. I felt Alf and I were doing it together and that it all had a purpose. I feel proud to have pushed out such a large girl at home naturally but was not ready for the length of time it would take to settle and recover afterwards. I feel I had amazing support for giving birth naturally and cannot thank Sally and Jo enough for giving me the confidence that my body would know what to do.
A: It felt to me also like an extraordinarily special time, I do not think we had been closer than during those hours. We were blessed by the, at times, magical presence of so many people. I well up with tears every time I think about what we owe them, particularly Sally and Jo - I cannot imagine any other scenario in which Iona would have been born naturally. There were three or four points where their judgement, intuition and willingness to treat every occurrence as it came, without pigeon-holing, avoided interventions that could easily have led to a caesarian birth.
N & A: We would both like to acknowledge the special people who contributed so much to Ionas birth:
Sally Randle and Jo Taylor - mid-wives
Sue Davidson - acupuncturist
Keith Philips - shiatsu
Rachel Wheeler - pre-natal yoga
Noreen Hart - NCT
Sue Ming - natural babies, water pool
Graham and Sara - friends.
Niki and Alf, 18th April 2003
WHY HOME BIRTH AFTER C-SEC?
Jake was born by emergency section in June 2000, In Lisburn, Northern Ireland. I was 14 days overdue and had been under pressure to agree to be induced since my due date. After two nights of attempted induction (prostaglandin pessaries) nothing at all was happening to my cervix but I developed a temperature and felt very nauseous. The babys heart rate was felt to be too fast and hooray, everyone was so pleased to have a reason to whisk me into theatre to get it all over with. Prior to being induced I had slightly raised blood pressure and some swelling and had been kept in hospital, measuring and testing my urine all day long, no fun at all. It was over an hour between the decision to deliver by section and Jakes actual birth. I had a spinal, morphine and anti-biotics and loads more medication afterwards, voltrol, heparin and a morphine drip to administer myself, although I kept being told afterwards that I wasnt using enough and having my watch squeezed for me! Although Jakes apgar scores were 8 and 9, he was put into an incubator on the ward for a while whilst I was put back together, wed had no skin to skin and I was at such an awkward angle I really couldnt hold him. Paul was kept out of the way as I was prepped and given my spinal- just when I really wanted him there. My birth plan had included a list of all the interventions I really wanted to avoid and the only one I didnt have done to me was the episiotomy! The doctor had trouble removing the placenta and
I had had a small haemorrhage and felt a bit out of it for a day or so. I was well supported with the breast feeding but Jake went from 7 to 5.5 lbs and we were in hospital for a week after his birth until he began to re-gain very slowly. I was suffering from a terrible rash all over which lasted until he was six weeks old, an allergic reaction I believe to all the drugs including a course of oral anti-biotics . When I got pregnant with my second child two years later, I thought seriously about how to avoid a repeat of my previous experience. My most intense feeling was that despite the genuine desire on the part of the hospital to do their best for me, it was me who had to accommodate their policies and practices rather than them adapting to what I needed. I had had to bargain to be left as long as I was, I had to ask a few times for a scan to check the placenta (which had been fine) before I was given one and all the time, from the first day of being overdue, I was given the sense that actually, I was probably not going to be able to deliver my baby and that in fact, my body wouldnt be able to do its job without help.
Until becoming pregnant again my main feeling had been that of relief and gratitude that we had come through in one piece, that after long weeks of struggling I had successfully fed Jake until he was a year old, but I knew beyond doubt that a hospital was not where I wanted to have my next child. I had met a number of women at a breastfeeding group who had had home births with their second children after terrible experiences, far more traumatic than mine, in hospitals. So that planted the wish in my head and it went from there. When I actually was pregnant, a whole host of negative and frightening feelings about the caesarean experience engulfed me and due to a house move, I was struggling to find independent midwives who could get to me and in the mean time was following the conventional route. I had two awful consultations at RUH which left me feeling very low. On one occasion a registrar accused me of caring more about where my baby was delivered than whether it was alive or not and always the attitude seemed to be that my c-section scar was the only part of my mind body or spirit that mattered to the health of the baby I carried. The attitude was still that my body was going to fail and that having a baby was such a scary, risky process that hospital was the only safe place. I tried once to explain that safe to me meant emotional as well as physical protection rather than the putting aside of any respect for womens bodies or understanding of consideration for emotional well being I had come to associate with hospitals. I found that blind quoting at me about the numbers of women whose scars had ruptured didnt stand up to any questioning as the doctors hadnt followed up any articles or research themselves- why should they, theyre very busy and its not their bodies being cut into, so its easy just to quote policy and expect women to be grateful that theyll attempt to put you back together after theyve cut you apart. I felt that there seemed to be constant expectation of how your labour should be and if it went any differently to the prescribed norms you simply were not going to fit into the system. Anyway, at the point of feeling very angry and patronised I was lucky enough to be given the number for Sally and Jos new independent practice.
Alex was born at home on my bed; I laboured all night but only for eight hours or so. I found the first stage really hard but used the bath and some breathing and afterwards I felt really pleased that I had no drugs in my system. He was monitored after nearly every contraction and Sally and Jo watched me, talked to me and supported me and my husband on every level, from finding out information about v-bacs to the point of Alexs delivery. Alex fed well immediately and never dropped his weight, the whole experience was profound, fulfilling and the attitude of the midwives who treated me as a whole person, had respect for my past experiences and ability to make fully rather than partially informed decisions made all the difference. They were not afraid of the responsibility of attending the birth of my child so I was not afraid of choosing what I knew was right for me in my heart. I gained greater confidence in myself and my faith in my own intuition, ability to make decisions and to take responsibility for my choices all increased. I felt over the years since having Alex that I have returned to being more than the person I was before the birth of Jake. How can you parent your children effectively if at the point of bringing them into the world the responsibility is frequently taken from you and youre just a passenger on some conveyor belt that someone else has designed? If you dont fit that mould you feel inadequate.
OSCAR THE ALMOST WATERBABY
January 2004 and it was a surprise to be pregnant with two small children already.
Conceptual opportunities being few and far between. A birth pool seemed the next step as I had really felt comfort from the bath during Alexs birth. We had all the usual concerns about having a v-bac and although I actually felt more anxious about things going wrong this time, my need to be at home and with midwives who fully supported me in my choices was just as great as ever. I also felt differently about the birth- that although I didnt want to be too relaxed about safety issues, I felt far more able to cope with any eventuality. When looking ahead to the birth of the third baby
It seemed like a normal family event. Some books and videos provided by Sally helped us to prepare ourselves and the children for the birth at home. We talked about making noises and how the baby would come. We watched the water birth video and showed the most tranquil ones to the boys who were fascinated. They played in the pool in the weeks leading up to the birth. As a whole unit we looked forward to the event and the pool gave us a focus and a space to visualise it all happening. I explained to Jake that he might be able to get into the pool or that I might need to be on my own, that I might be quiet or noisy, but that it was ok. As my due date loomed I became more territorial about the pool and wanted it as my private space, in my head it was a sanctuary for me and the unborn person inside me. This view was partially compromised by my flooding the whole room and us having to take up the underlay and somehow stop the old carpet from smelling but as Oscar was nine days overdue we had time to rectify the mess and for me to get over any fears of the whole thing falling through the floor due to wet boards! I used the pool every night to stretch, relax, explore positions for birth and feel the baby moving around. The warmth of the water was calming and comforting.
When I woke with very mild pains at 5am I was pleased and hoped the baby would be born by tea-time. I was able to just rub my tummy and go back to sleep except for having to get up to the loo every half hour or so. When in bed I just imagined my body stretching and opening up. By 7am I woke my husband as the dog wanted to go out. At 7.30 I was in the bath with my other two boys and only one contraction was strong enough for me to want space of my own. At about 7.45 I got into the pool as I felt it was a waste of potential comfort to be stood over the bed when I could have been floating around. The water didnt provide the initial pain relief I was hoping for but it was much easier to sway and move with the pains instead of tensing up. We decided to ring Sally to let her know things had begun but that it still seemed irregular and early stages. Paul took the boys downstairs; we tried to time some contractions which were about two minutes apart. Paul rang Sally to let her know the times, then suddenly I was shaking and one big contraction led to another. My waters went at this point, Jake came up to see me and said I could shout if I wanted to! I told Paul to ring Sally as I had a pushing sensation and it was really hard to resist it. Two or three contractions later, after speaking again to Sally, I realised that the head was coming and I was able to sway around and feel the babys head. Paul was on the phone to the ambulance service who wanted me to get out of the pool, I wasnt keen but as Paul said that Sally and Jo had said that too, I waited for one contraction to finish and stood up, immediately another one came which took me on to my tip toes. Then I found my legs didnt work and Paul had to lift each leg over the pool side and I sank down on to my elbows for a minutes relief as the baby was tipped upside down. With the next two contractions the head was crowning but not coming all the way. A paramedic came up the stairs, let in by Jake, which meant Paul could at last put the phone down and he held a compress to my bottom. I asked the paramedic for a hot cloth and Jake got me two pillows off his bed to go under my elbows, and without any contraction Oscar just slithered out into Pauls arms. After thanking God many times we managed
To get Oscar through my legs, which wasnt easy as the cord was short, and we just sat for a while and moments later Sally and Jo arrived. The paramedic kept out of the way and once reassured things were ok, went home. It took time and effort to deliver the placenta and then I needed to have time without the baby, he had a skin to skin cuddle with his daddy, and for me the shock set in- he had been born at 9am and I didnt really feel I was in proper labour until 7.30am. It had been hard not to hyperventilate with the contractions being so close and strong and fast, Paul kept me calm by reminding me to relax, focus and breathe more slowly. The water enabled me to keep moving around and having its support was very calming too. The whole birth, although fast and exciting, was not panicky- we felt that we could do it, that what was happening was right and normal, and although it was much quicker than anticipated, the boys didnt have any anxiety about what was happening- it felt like a natural event for them too.
Jake was very excited to see the placenta and commented it didnt look like the one in the book. I had some strong shakes and it was hard to get up, so I just lay down for a while. Soon I was recovered and Oscar and I had a lovely bath together. It wasnt long before we were all five of us sat together on the bed, and Alex and Jake got to cuddle their new baby brother, and we saw that he already had his first tooth!
I could tell immediately that this birth had been easier on my body than Alexs, a tiny tear which I hardly noticed and I had a wonderful sense that the journey had gone one step further, not just for me but for Paul too, not just a watcher but a real key player in his sons birth. It would never have been that way anywhere but in our own home. We would never have had such confidence in the rightness and normality of the birth without the guidance and support and consistency provided to us by Sally and Jo.
If we ever go on to have another baby I would definitely have a planned water birth and probably wouldnt get out of the pool but trust in our own instincts. Instinct is one thing that seems to be suppressed by the whole routine of hospital birth, there just isnt the same opportunity to listen and respond to your own body.
The birth of our baby.
Everything began on 20 December around 3.30pm on waking from my siesta I feel that the bag of waters has broken. I am very excited and laugh hysterically, which makes me realise it really is the waters, I am soaked
Elena wakes up, I tell her the baby will arrive very soon and that we are going to make it a cake to celebrate its birth: a prune cake (with few prunes since E eats them as fast as the cake is being made). G comes home early from work, and I tell him the news, he too is very pleased. The midwife arrives for the routine antenatal visit at around 6pm. She tells me that Govt guidelines suggest that labour should start within 96 hours of membranes rupturing; Im sure that it will happen before then.
We eat supper and while G is bathing E and putting her to bed I call my mother to wish her a happy birthday, I dont tell her about my waters going, I dont want her to worry.
I enjoy the birth pool while listening for the last time to my Self hypnosis CD for birth. I try out different positions and feel some contractions not really painful ones, I know that things are starting to happen
We decide to go to bed and watch a DVD of Bonnie and Clyde a cult film that neither of us has seen before. After about 40 minutes I cant take any more, I m not able to follow the film and want to rest before the contractions stop me. It is 2230 and the contractions are really starting to kick in. I cant find a comfortable position in bed. We try hundreds of different ones with lots of cushions but nothing works
I want to go downstairs to the sitting room but on the other hand I know that its best if I try and rest while I can. G puts the TENS on me and I get used to how it works (very complicated).
So begins a toing and froing between the bedroom and the loo, my body completely empties itself.
It is 2am, E wakes up coughing, she cries out. I think to myself what have I got myself into? WE should have left her at a friends house last night
if she is going to distract me every hour that wont do at all.
I decide to go downstairs to the sitting room. G joins me there. The contractions are getting stronger and stronger. Also Im nauseous during them, which is really horrible, in spite of taking Nux Vomica. I try different positions; I dance a lot, I need to move my pelvis and create a space in my ribcage so I keep my arms in the air. I try sitting on my birthing ball, but Im not at all comfortable there. I lean on the mantle piece, which is at the right height, and G holds me from behind, during a contraction I sit on my knees and he massages my thighs which are really hurting me. The contractions are very different to those I had with E ; they start at the sacrum and the base of the abdomen and especially in the thighs.
I ask G to time the contractions. He annoys me by telling me they are barely lasting 30 secs, and are coming every 3-4 mins. Im sure they are lasting a minute and ask him to call Sally our midwife. As far as I can see, this man who was really worried about us birthing unassisted is not in any great hurry for her to come. They are on the telephone for quite a while (which annoys me) and she herself times the contractions; she is coming over now, the contractions are lasting a minute and coming frequently. A part of me is pleased, I tell myself there must be progress
I decide to try the pool. Immediately the water relaxes me and soothes me. But from the first contraction there it is too much, I cant find a good position. G doesnt know how to help me and the contractions feel more intense in the pool. While waiting for the next one I explain to G that I need him to massage me with the hot stones especially my abdomen and my thighs. Another contraction comes, I feel Im coping less well, that things are moving fast and that the pain is more intense. I decide to get out of the water. I ask Sally to do an internal examination. She asks me why, what would it change? I know it will mean nothing that everything could suddenly speed up or slow down , that there are no rules, and that also since my waters have gone it adds to the risk of infection
but Id like to know
..so I examine myself and I think Im 2 cm
its disappointing and Sally doesnt seem surprised
During the whole labour I want to try things and when I do it doesnt work. I try burning sage oil (an odour I usually love), it makes me want to vomit, I put on a Julien Clerc CD, as soon as I hear it I want to smash the hi-fi. If G or Sally ask me a question, I dont know is my usual reply, where does this indecision come from, its not like me not to know what I want, and I dont like myself
.In fact my contractions will never be regular neither in frequency or strength. I think that neither G nor S think that things are progressing (not true sally), its depressing. It feels like Im reliving the birth of E. It is 0720, I am very tired and cant see myself being able to continue like this for another 20 hours
I take homeopathic remedies to get rid of these negative thoughts and memories.
Sally is a super midwife, very experienced and Ive total confidence in her. During the whole labour she is in the room next door and comes in every 30-45 mins to listen to the babys heartbeat, to take my pulse sometimes and see how things are going. When she comes in it changes the dynamic and energy in the room. G stops talking to me and that annoys me, I want her to leave.
I know that any minute E could wake up, and I cant see myself coping at all with the contractions without G. However, hes going to have to take her to our friends and so be away. Suddenly I ask him to call L my Shiatsu therapist. She will come at 0900 she cant before that.
E wakes up at 0800, and G goes to dress her and take her to Ms house. As soon as they leave the houes the contractions get stronger. Sally is out of the room, I examine myself, I think Im 3cms dilated
2 seconds later I recognise that unique urge to push and that stinging sensation
.I call Sally, she needs to call Jo the second midwife (its necessary to have 2 midwives at a homebirth sic) she asks me if I want her to call G back..I tell her I hope that G hasnt gone to have breakfast in a café and that hell be there and back quickly.
0825 G is back, the babys head is visible. Sally asks me if I want to go back in the pool, I who had always imagined giving birth in the water no longer want to at all. The baby is coming I feel it..
Suddenly an intense pain as if the baby was pushing inside to turn itself at the same time as the contractions, its super painful, scream provoking. Fortunately Sally reassures me and it doesnt last long. The baby is in a good position and ready to be born.
At 0837 the head is born, gently, I didnt want to push as I had for E, I wanted to let the baby slide out of my body
In spite of this I had the impression I was pushing like mad, and between 2 I breathe out shouting so loud I hear nothing G or Sally says to me. Sally was amazed at how gently the head was born little by little. I touch my babys head and talk all the time to my baby to tell it that all is well and Im impatient to welcome her.
At 0839 the baby is born. Im on my knees leaning into the sofa, on piled up cushions, so Im nearly vertical. Sally catches the baby (she offers to G to do this but I dont know what happened) and immediately passes her through my legs to me..
I hold her against me and we dry her with towels, she is covered in vernix, apparently a lot. G asks me if it is a boy or a girl, we check, its a girl!
At 0845 Jo arrives.
S and J leave us alone in the sitting room and go to make tea and toast. We enjoy those first minutes with our baby in front of the fire. I feel a few contractions that will help birth the placenta but for the moment time holds its breath.
At 0930 I go back on my knees, I want the placenta out. I have never experienced a natural delivery of the placenta, with E I had the oxytocic and the placenta was pulled out with pressing on my stomach so now I really want it out.
Sally advises me to let go of it, to complete the task.
At 0945 I feel something come out, hooray. G calls Sally, oh well its only a clot (as big as a calfs liver all the same). At 1005 I finally birth the placenta. Its a strange feeling to push again and use the contractions to expel something which is a lot smaller.
The midwives suggest a bath, I think Id prefer a shower. In the end when I go up to the bathroom, I realise that a bath is a better idea. Jo runs it for me and at 1020 Im in a lovely bath of warm water.
1045 all 3 of us are in bed, how lucky we are to be at home. Sally and Jo check my perineum, there is nothing not even a graze. Then Sally weighs the baby, 3550 grams on her arab butchers scales
By 1130 we are alone in the house, under the covers in our room, the same place where our daughter was conceived.
We have all afternoon to rest before fetching E from her friends. I spend these hours in a euphoric mood admiring you asleep in your fathers arms as he snores with contentment.
The day after the birth I realise my forehead is really painful, where I must have been banging it on the chimney piece during the contractions. Too weird, its at the level of the third eye, Im sure that must be signigicant
Rhiannons Birth Story
Nathaniels birth was fantastic. I keep looking back and thinking why didnt it hurt?
I wouldnt change a thing of how it happened. I started to contract at 11.15pm on Wed and had about 4 or 5. I woke David at 12.15 am for a chat and cup of tea. He got his calm/panic/excited look. Called Pa at 1.15 for Eiluned to get Dylan. Upstairs at 2.00 am ish with Eil drinking coffee and us 3 chatting. Put o TENS but dont even use booster. Lean over for each contraction and Eil says 3 times call the midwife
but even hearing they are every 4 mins lasting 60 secs I cant believe it! I keep expecting labour to be as painful (and long) as Dylan and cant quite believe this is it. Final contraction in bedroom, I can feel a strange pushing sensation (and opening out feeling) and decide to get in pool; contract at top of the stairs and at bottom. Get in pool and waters break and almost immediately I want to push and can feel a bulging on my perineum. A bit chaotic for 15 20 mins as Eil on phone to Sally, then to ambulance and Gail and David on phone and Dylan crying and wetting himself! I have no idea I am so close to birthing; more concerned with my beautiful baby boy and getting him safely to Gails and bed. Feels very powerful to already be a mother and to be caring for Dylan as Im also in process of birthing another
Dylan goes and I know I must leave the pool. Room empties and I make a huge effort to leave pool and kneel on floor as Sallys request to Eil on phone has reached me and I start to breathe and not shout at Eil and David to take control. I wonder how come I havent lit candles with all my preparation for weeks beforehand
Sally (midwife) arrives and I tell her I have to push
but my body kind of does it anyway and its nothing like in hospital this is me at my home with my family in my community and I feel so normal and yet so privileged. I remember almost feeling sorry for everyone else that theyre not experiencing it too. A bit painful when Nat pops near then slides back in, then I push his head out and it stings and I wait for this devastating pain of childbirth to begin whilst also realising that his body has slipped out and its done! Ive given birth all on my own and just breathing. I remember punching the air and the immediate joy of a 2nd boy and of doing it myself and so well!
Then I didnt feel like holding him until Id pushed out the placenta that was the most painful bit and I didnt like not feeling able to hold him but once out it was great and we tried the pool and ended up on the sofa. I remember in the pool he became Nat for us and we named him and I touched his little hands on the sofa. Then he fed for an age beautiful. I felt the proudest woman in the world.
The rest of that magical night and next day I felt very cared for and entered that special twilight of new life and all it brings. A healing came to Eiluned and I and a real feeling of completeness to our family
.I felt so, so proud of myself and of David and Eiluned so grateful for Sally and Jo and so in love with N P B-D No 2 Mr Moo and my beautiful D.
The birth of Lienke
Friday 16 march
If British people want to start labour theyll eat a good hot Curry. This evening we had dinner with a new Dutch college of Rinze. We thought it would be nice if we had something English for diner, so we cooked a mild curry as we dont like it hot!
Saturday 17 march
I woke up and felt that labour would start this day. Happy us, but like everyone says, if you have another child, labour will only start if your child is in bed. We decided to go to the Sains because I didnt want to wait all day. During the walk I had contractions and of course weve met a lot of people we know!
Round 8 pm my contractions started. Rinze was clocking and it was really funny because I was cutting fruit and Rinze said go to the ball, youll have contractions in 10 seconds During contractions I leaned on Rinze and started to sing a song. It was about meatballs and red cabbage. Some moments I could deal with contractions standing on my own and singing a song with my arms in the air. If you are fully relaxed its easier to deal with contractions and the contractions can do their work.
When Sally arrived I was just singing my song and after that the contractions stopped for a while, but thats normal when someone strange enter the room. I entered the pool and the contractions were gone! When I got out of the pool I asked Sally if she could feel the baby because I was a bit worried about her position. The baby was moving all the time and had hiccups! Strange baby.
Sally gave us 2 options, or start walking and be active or go for a sleep. We decided to go for a sleep. Sally staid and when I woke up I had a talk with her why labour didnt go further. She said that I had to let go of my worries. It was a short but nice talk. She left and we went to sleep again. Contractions started again and SPLASH my water broke.
After my water was gone the contractions became stronger and stronger and I had the feeling that I had to go to the toilet , I pood and Rinze called Sally to say that I was pooing. When she arrived I entered the pool and I thought: Second child so a short second stage. We will have the baby before Jelmer will wake up!
So Rinze and I went in the pool round 7 Oclock and I started pushing with each contraction. In the beginning I had some difficulty to switch my thoughts about contractions. In the first stage I kept my contractions in my body, the contractions were doing something inside me. In the second stage the contractions have a different meaning, they have to work the baby outside my body. After a couple contractions I knew what to do, push the baby out. I was pushing and pushing, and after a while Sally told me to change position, which I did. After a while nothing happened and Sally asked me to leave the pool and encouraged me to try different positions on the floor. I managed to do that and tried several different positions: standing, kneeling, lying, sort of jumping but nothing big happened. During labour I had a terrible back ache. Sally, Jo and Rinze had to push my back when I was pushing. Sally examined me and Jo did the same. They told us that the head was in a difficult position. I think Jo mentioned the hospital because nothing happened. I wanted to go in the pool before we made a decision.
When I was back in the pool, there was some progression. I examined myself once and a while and I could feel her head. But it didnt move, not a lot.. Nothing was happening and I asked them to call the ambulance because I thought it wasnt going to happen.
To my feeling it was a bit too cosy round my pool. Jo made some coffee, people were drinking coffee in front of my nose (dont do that!!) and where chatting about. I ordered them to go out of the room and leave me alone. Go, go. Im still in labour!! They left the room and I was alone.
In the pool I dozed a bit a couple of times: you cant push for 100% that long. .
Sally came in the room and checked me and the baby and sat quietly in the room when I was pushing. I think Rinze came as well, but it was labour again and not a cosy tea party anymore.
Suddenly I felt the head moving. Hurray!! The head is moving. I remembered Jo saying when the baby comes out it might be facing you.
The ambulance came and the driver wanted to wait for 10 to 15 minutes, after a while because labour was progressing - they asked them to leave. I then felt I really could do it.
It was easy in the pool to change position, which I did a lot. All kinds of different positions. I was sitting on my knees and I yelled I can feel an eyebrow!! It was the right eyebrow. I was really glad seemed to come to a close.
Sally was in the corner and came quickly. She asked me to lean backwards and finally, finally at 11:31 a.m. there was Lienke, a chubby little baby. Born with her head up and back to back. She had fat and felt good. She was pink and was breathing. She was looking for a boob and she latched on properly and was drinking for a while. The placenta came when I thought I couldnt bear any more pain, but it was necessary. The placenta came out and after a while I cut the cord while Rinze was holding Lienke.
They helped me out of the pool and on to the couch. We looked at the placenta. When Sally weighed Lienke she was 4680 gram! Wauw.. a really chubby baby. I felt rubbish and so tired as I gave everything to deliver her normally. I did but dont ask me why and how.
We were very happy with our independent midwifes they did a great job with doing not much, they let me be me. If we hadnt had them Lienke was probably born with a C-section or other interferes. Thanks Sally and Jo, you are great.
The days after Lienke was born I had difficulties with dealing the way she came out. What have I done? Why was she in here position (Persistent occiput posterior), why this weight and why this combination. In this country a homebirth is already brave and not using pain relief is almost madness, not to mention her position and weight.
Yes, Im proud what I did and I loved Lienke from the moment she was born, it was a beautiful labour and I would do it again. Lienke is amazing. They call her a stargazer in the Netherlands because she was looking for the stars when she was born.
Here some pictures about her position.
If you want to know more about her position you can google the following key words: Persistent occiput posterior, brow presentation, deflexed head, born face up, face to pubes, military position.
Our Birth Story Delphine Solomon
We suspect Peggy was conceived in Cyprus but resisted the temptation of doing a Beckhams and naming her Paphos! We were lucky and conceived very quickly but discovering I was pregnant was a big surprise. It took a while to sink in.
Id read a little about independent midwives and did some further research on the Internet. The idea appealed to me as Id heard friends say theyd never seen the same midwife twice during their pregnancy and meeting someone you hadnt seen previously as you begin your labour seemed alien to me. I strongly felt having one-to-one support during the pregnancy and that same person deliver your baby would be wonderful.
So we finally found the Bristol Birth Practice on the Independent Midwife website (www.independentmidwives.org.uk) and arranged a meeting with Jo Taylor and Sally Randle. After a couple of meetings we signed up and Sally began my antenatal care. She visited us at home and our meetings were relaxed, not rushed and I was free to ask lots of questions!
We first heard our babys heartbeat in our home, with Sallys assistance, a few days before our 12-week scan. It was a moving moment, Jerry and I stared at each other in amazement and I think, for Jerry, thats when reality really set in.
At our 22-week scan we discovered we were having a little girl, and I cried. Id dreamt of having a daughter and I couldnt believe my wish had been granted. More or less from that time she was named Peggy. Peggy was my grandmothers name. She was the most special person to me and I adored her.
My pregnancy generally went smoothly. I suffered from serious heartburn for the last 4 months and I hated the smell of Gaviscon towards the end. I also had Carpal tunnel syndrome in one of my hands and that was frustrating. But on the whole the pregnancy was enjoyable, and I loved my bump!
I did pregnancy yoga with Dominique from about 24 weeks and also joined Dominiques Active Birth workshop. What I learnt during these classes proved invaluable during my labour and I am confident they helped me achieve the birth Id hoped for. I also attended NCT antenatal classes.
I had 3 different due dates from various sources but I believed I was due on 16 February. On 17 February, Jerry was away in London and my midwife Sally visited me. I told her I had had a trickle of water all morning and I felt foggy. At 3pm I called Jerry and asked him to come home as I had period like pains. By 7pm, when he got home, they had increased and I went to bed to try and get some sleep. At 11pm my contractions were 15 minutes apart.
By 7am my birth partner (my best friend Camilla) and midwife had arrived. Jerry kept busy by making tea and breakfast for everyone. During my labour we kept the bedroom dark and I had a scented candle burning. I found a TENS machine helpful in the beginning as well as taking a long shower at a later stage.
I had a long pushing stage and got very tired. Finally at 12.17 the head was born to the ears and at 12.20 Peggy was born. Jerry stood by with warm towels to wrap her and I looked down at her in amazement. I kept saying to Jerry look what Ive done, look what Ive done and I felt like I had achieved the unachievable. Id given birth to this baby, me, the woman who cries when she stubs her toe, actually gave birth to his beautiful baby!
The next few hours at home with my daughter, Jerry, Camilla and the midwives are the best moments of my life. It was so wonderful, having taken a lovely bath, to be at home in my bed with my suckling baby, and everyone sat around drinking champagne.
I am sure that having an independent midwife and her attention gave me the confidence to have the birth I wanted and in my home successfully. Additionally having my friend support me during labour made me feel relaxed. I wasnt worrying about Jerry and it allowed him to help without feeling pressured to do so. I had my perfect, drug-free, birth at home and my perfect baby had the most wonderful introduction to her new world.
Sally and Jo were highly recommended to Richard and I by several people, so we were very excited to eventually have them at the birth of our second baby, Daniel Leon.
Daniel was born on Friday 7th December 2007, weighing 8lb 7oz. He was born breech, at home, very quickly. It was a beautiful, uncomplicated birth. It was evident towards the end of my pregnancy that Daniel was going to stay breech, so we had the difficult task of deciding whether to have the home birth that we wanted or not. Anybody whose baby has been breech knows that the decision is full of worrying thoughts: should I have him turned? Am I risking my babys life if I have him at home? What if something goes wrong? Should I have a c-section? Will there be time to get to hospital if necessary? Sally was so helpful, providing us with lots of information on breech births. We decided, having read a lot and talked a lot about it with Sally, Jo and other mums whod had breech babies at home, that having Daniel at home was no more riskier than a cephalic baby. Once we decided, we were able to just get on with life and the preparations.
Daniels due date was 8th December. Sally had a hunch he would arrive on time, he almost did! On the morning of the 7th I experienced period-type pains, very weakly and with no regularity. I wasnt sure if I was in labour, in fact I played it right down, deciding that I should only get excited about it if I had a show or my waters broke. So I carried on as normal, taking my daughter to her music activity in the morning despite the pains gradually increasing. By 2pm the pains had a bit of a pattern to them. I kept in touch with Sally, who needed to know early on how things were going in order to contact another midwife, with lots of experience of breech births, to attend Daniels birth. This carried on for a bit. I had a rest at 5pm for an hour to gather my strength for the impending birth. I couldnt really sleep and noticed I was having weak contractions every 15 minutes. Richard got dinner ready and we sat down to eat, which I tried to do but the contractions were increasing in intensity. Richard got our daughter ready for bed while I managed the contractions (which consisted of leaning against the wall breathing deeply). When she was ready for bed just before 8pm I waited until a contraction finished before breastfeeding her to sleep fortunately she dropped off very quickly and as I took her to her cot I had another strong contraction as I held her. I managed to put her down and at that moment my waters broke spectacularly there and then. She didnt wake! It was all happening now and the pressure on my pelvic floor was momentarily lifted.
I had a quick shower, leaning against the wall and breathing through the contractions. It was now just after 8pm. Richard phoned Sally who arrived at 8.20pm. I got into the warm birthing pool and Sally tried to palpate but the urge to expulse was too great and I had to get out very quickly (because breech babies can sometimes need help to be born, Sally had asked me to get out of the pool when I felt I needed to push). I imagined the birth would take a while and so was preparing myself for lots of panting and groaning and basically a night of it, but once I got out of the pool I got into the position that Sally suggested (on my knees), wrapped my arms around Richards waist and held tightly. The urge to expulse was phenomenal, exhilarating. I roared constructively through each contraction with a wide mouth, relaxed jaw and deep voice there was very little else I could have done! The worry that I had about breech birthing never entered my head, labour was happening too quickly. Daniels buttocks crowned at 9.04pm and in one contraction he was almost born, I paused when his head was almost out as he took his first breath, in order to minimise tearing, and then at 9.07pm he was fully born. I felt like I was controlling his delivery, guiding him out. It was all over so very quickly that I could hardly believe it. Daniel was handed over to me immediately. My placenta was born soon after without any pain or complications. I got back into the pool for a rinse before being examined. I had no tears and I didnt feel sore. I was amazed and ecstatic by that as I was in such discomfort after my previous birth experience in hospital. Sally, Jo and Joy attended to our every need until we were all tucked up in bed around midnight.
It was simply the most unforgettable experience and one that we are so grateful to Sally for. I feel so privileged to have had such a supported birth. I cant wait to tell Daniel all about it one day.
Birth Story for my second son a breech HVBAC
My first son was born in October 2006, I had a good pregnancy and everything seemed to be going well. I planned a homebirth. I went two weeks over my dates, but the local midwives were good and I went into labour at home in the early hours of the morning. All went well, I progressed well and I called a midwife, when she arrived she examined me as I wanted to get into my pool. At that point she could see that the baby was breech and advised me to go to hospital. This was a big shock as I had been palpated by 3 midwives, all of whom thought he was head down. The midwife at the time was very good about my reluctance to believe her, but I agreed to go in. When I got to hospital my labour progressed very quickly and I was told I had to have a emergency caesarean. I had a spinal and my lovely baby boy was born at 7.59am.
Like many of you I am sure that you were very happy after a c-section just to meet your baby. I was over the moon to meet our first baby, the way he was born didnt bother me at the time. But over time, as I was recovering from the operation and as I read more I realised that my birth was far from what it should or could have been.
Then in April 2007 I became pregnant with our second son, those of you good at maths will realise it was when my first son was only six months old. But we were very happy about it and once the morning sickness had passed I proceeded to the local midwives for my checking in appointment. It became obvious that although they are quite pro-home birth they were not allowed to do VBACs at home, and although I know from my friends that they are very skilled, I kept getting the answer it is not in our remit. I was put into consultant led care and went along to our first meeting at our local hospital. He was completely against HVBAC, and although we didnt argue much about it, he wrote some pretty horrific things on my notes; fetal death, maternal haemorrhage etc. He said I could try for a VBAC in hospital but if he was me he would just pencil in another c-section.
After this the local NHS midwives would not consider home birth with me at all so I looked into an Independent midwife. Sally and Jo visited us and said that the VBAC should not be a problem, that they would keep a close eye on me and the baby during labour and that a home birth was certainly possible. After a lot of consideration of the cost, we decided to go for it. My partner felt that it was a fair price to pay to not have me as upset as I had been since my first birth!
All then was pretty quiet, but towards 34/35 weeks it was still difficult to tell whether the baby was breech or not. So at 36 weeks I went back to the hospital for a scan which showed him to also be an extended breech. The original consultant just said right lets pencil in a c-section now. I refused and we had a short debate in which he thought I was mad!
I decided to ask another consultant at that hospital to try ECV, which I had at 37 weeks, although he tried very hard the baby was stuck. As an older and more experienced consultant he said I could try for a VBAC in hospital but he did have to write c-section on my notes. Although time was not on my side I was determined not to have a c-section unless necessary so as Sally had good links to Bath hospital (who are more breech birth friendly) I booked into see a consultant there on New Years Eve.
We all went to the appointment at 11.30, Sally, me, partner and first son! Whilst in the appointment (which went well and he was very positive about breech vaginal births, although, again on record had to recommend c-section), I started to feel like I had indigestion, which I put down to eating bread in the morning I am allergic to wheat! I went to loo a couple times before and after the appointment but still thought nothing of it. On the drive home I started getting cramps (of course now I know they were early contractions), by the time I arrived at home (only a 20 min drive) I couldnt sit in the car seat any longer. Got indoors and called Sally who recommended I rested and wait to see if they went away. Did this
.went to loo a lot
.had sudden urge to pull all clothes off my bottom half!
I was in total denial about being in labour, I reluctantly called Sally again and told her to come and see me, she was still in Bath and said she could be there in 30 mins. During this time I had steady contractions, my partner was downstairs trying to get our 1 year old fed and ready to go to our friends house, I refused to wear the TENS machine as I didnt want to waste the pads! I had a bit of water leakage but I thought that unless there was a big water breakage I couldnt possibly be in labour! Denial continued
..my friend arrived at 14.40 to collect my son, she wanted a chat but I refused to let her upstairs (as a mother she knew I was clearly in labour)! I then agreed to have the TENS machine on, the pain relief was nice! The IM arrive at about 14.45, she could hear me screaming from the street
I still thought it might be a false alarm! We chatted in between contractions about getting to Bath hospital as planned to have the baby vaginally, we all agreed to go but then Sally felt there was not enough time to drive so she went out of the room to call the ambulance. When Sally returned to the room my waters had gone, the relief I felt was enormous, the contractions stopped for a bit and the pressure on my back had finally stopped.
I then admitted to myself that I was in labour!!
Sally said it was too late to get into the ambulance as it was safer to deliver at home that on the A4! I was happy with that, although to be honest I was far too busy concentrating on what I was doing. The paramedics arrived, they came in saying dont panic we know what we are doing Sally said it was a breech baby and all was going well, they backed out of the room a bit pale! They waited in the next room. My partner finally came in to support me as he had been very busy answering the door, getting towels, getting juice, helping Sally with her bag etc. He sat down on the bed by my head. I was knelt down leaning on the bed, I had not moved from that position since my waters had broken, it was right in the doorway and there is loads of room at the end of the bed but it never occurred to me to move!
The pain I felt at this point was pretty unbearable, I couldnt concentrate long enough to change my TENS machine so that was not strong enough to help, and I dont mind admitting that I had a real panic moment where I said that I could not do it (and I thought to myself if this goes on for more that an hour I am going in for a c-section). Luckily Sally spotted this panic and she reassured me all was going really well and she could see the bum, I suddenly realised it could all be over in less than half an hour or so, so completely relaxed and went with the contractions. My baby rumped well, then inched out slowly, his legs flopped out to the ground and he moved out up to his chin. I was then a bit keen to meet the little man and pushed hard when I didnt have a contraction, which gave me a little tear. He arrived on the floor on a tea towel and my best towels, all the ones I had planned to use for a homebirth were still in the loft and I couldnt explain to my partner where my Boots birth mats were!
He was born 18 minutes after my waters broke, I was so relieved that it was over I just stayed on my knees, Sally sat me back and I was startled to see my son on the floor in front of me! I sat back against my radiator and she passed him to me (I actually gave birth with all my best clothes on, fancy bra and everything!). He was gorgeous and absolutely fine, he pinked up really quickly and was very calm. We snuggled up in towels on the floor and I fed him about five minutes later. I delivered the placenta about 40 minutes later, we cut the cord after about 25 minutes as I wanted to move a bit and we were all getting a bit cold. After that I had a nice bath and got into bed with him.
Because I think birth should not always be a horror story here are some of my favourite funny points:
Me sitting on the only torch we could find (a head torch) and it getting covered in meconium.
Me delivering on a tea towel of birds from Australia because I wouldnt move onto the towels.
Me asking for something to bite down on and all Sally could find was the fake leather bag of the TENS machine, and then me being grateful for it all the same and biting like mad.
Me leaning on the TENS machine controls during a contraction and accidentally pressing one side right up, then coming out of the contraction and being almost electrocuted down one side!
Sally being in her best clothes because she had just been out to lunch.
Me being in completely the wrong outfit to give birth in.
My Mum and brother turning up about 20mins after the birth to look after my 1 year old and walking in all calmly and then seeing the birth scene bursting into happy tears.
My son is doing really well and is a joy to have. Having Sally took away so much of the pressure that we were feeling from the hospital about the birth and she made it possible for me to concentrate purely on giving birth without all the politics. I do not regret in any way having a HVBAC, it is easier to recover from and very satisfying. I also now know that if I wanted another baby I can do it again. It was not easy dealing with the two issues of VBAC and a breech baby, I thought about them as separate issues, together they did not make a greater risk in my mind. I decided to have a VBAC as I felt that there was no major reason not to, and I decided to have a vaginal breech deliver as deep down I felt my body could do it. At all points I would have had a c-section if the baby urgently needed it.
I really hope this story helps other women in similar situations. It is tough, especially when you have a time limit within which to make decisions, but stick to what you want to do, research each decision well, and believe in the fact that your body can do it.
Maras birth story
My waters broke at 2130 on 31 August, 2 days before my due date. It was a strange feeling and new to me as it didnt happen in my first labour. Unfortunately my waters were green, so after much deliberating we decided to go to the local hospital and have a trace of the baby’s heart. Everything was fine so we went home. We finally got to bed at 0400. I couldnt sleep as I felt birth was just around the corner. At 0600 I started to have contractions but only 20mins apart. I felt really excited because I knew it was all beginning to happen. I woke D up at 0730 when they were about 6 minutes apart and phoned Sally who was going to pick Jo up and come over. I also phone T who came down soon after. Mum and Dad were at our house and took Z to their house. I was in the lounge chatting to D and T and my contractions were slowing down. Sally and Jo arrived. I talked to everyone and then felt ready. I remember saying to T lets get on with this now and went upstairs to get something to wear in the pool. I got in the pool at 0915. As soon as D and I were in the pool, I felt relaxed and excited. It was fantastic, it was just the 2 of us going through the experience. It all progressed very quickly, Sally Jo and T kept checking we were ok. Before I knew it I was crying, I knew this meant I was already going through transition. A couple of minutes later I felt the urge to push. I couldn’t believe how quickly our labour had gone. I pushed once and the baby’s head came out, twice and she was born. Sally caught her and passed her to Dean, who put her on my chest. It was amazing. Mara Rose was born at 10.14am. We enjoyed the moment, got out of the pool and a while later the placenta came. We enjoyed chatting and feeding and cuddling Mara. Sally weighed her and she was 6lbs 11oz. We had a wonderful experience, one we will never forget.
The births of Pelle, Rhona and Dilys
I am blessed to have given birth to three daughters. All of them entered the world at home under Sally’s exceptional care and all three births stand out in my memory as being the most beautiful moments of my life. Each birth taught me and helped me to grow as a person; I’ll always be grateful to Sally for her role in this.
When I became pregnant aged nineteen I knew very little about pregnancy, childbirth or parenting. In a way, my naivety ended up being a blessing which allowed me to truly follow my instincts and make good choices for myself and my baby.
My partner (Sam) and I planned to give birth in a local midwife-led unit attached to a hospital. Giving birth at home would simply not have occurred to me. Like many women, my ‘due date’ came and went, and after some time I was told it would no longer be possible to give birth in the midwife-led unit because my baby was ‘late’. Disappointed, I began coming to terms with the prospect of giving birth on the central delivery suite in hospital. As the days passed I was subjected to increasing pressure to induce labour. My instincts told me that my baby was fine and so I repeatedly declined the offer of induction, choosing to wait for labour to begin spontaneously instead.
I was advised to visit the hospital Day Assessment Unit for daily monitoring to ensure my baby’s wellbeing. These visits were tedious; midwives and doctors repeatedly warned us of the dangers of declining induction. Statistics were grossly exaggerated (“Are you aware that once you go over 42 weeks the risk of stillbirth is hugely increased?” one doctor told us – we soon discovered this was far from true) and emotive pressure was applied with members of staff implying that I was risking my baby’s life. Throughout these gruelling hospital visits my baby continued to thrive.
Feeling harassed and anxious, I had my care transferred to another local hospital. Sam and I did a great deal of research into overdue babies and decided that waiting was still the right choice. On our first visit to the other hospital our baby was healthy and well. However, we were told we would need to see a consultant to discuss prolonged pregnancy. Predictably, she recited hospital policy on induction and told us that this would be advisable. We explained that we were keen to have a spontaneous labour in the absence of a genuine problem. We told her we felt confident in our choice and that we had done ample research to support our decision. She seemed unsettled by our assertiveness and responded with, “Even if that means having a dead baby on your hands?”
By this point I felt mistrusting of the doctors and unsafe in the hospitals so I discharged myself from NHS care and at 42 weeks pregnant began planning a home birth! At short notice Sally agreed to be our independent midwife. She would attend my birth and care for me for six weeks afterwards. From that moment, everything changed. Sally was respectful of our choices and gave us clear, honest advice. Within twenty-four hours we had scavenged a birth pool, sheets and tarpaulins and transformed our tiny flat into a cosy birthing space. Sam stayed home from work and we spent the following days giving massage, mediating, practicing hypnobirthing techniques and listening to music. The days passed slowly until I finally went into labour.
Late in the evening, my ‘Braxton Hicks’ contractions became more regular and purposeful; I was not in pain but I knew I was in early labour. Excited, Sam and I went to bed for a few hours of rest before things really got going. At three in the morning I called my mum, Deb, who arrived shortly after. We carefully prepared the birthing space; it was beautiful. Candles and fairy lights gave a soft glow, music was playing and jasmine oil was burning. It felt so cosy and safe.
I laboured gently throughout the morning. I mostly felt comfortable and good. At one point, the fire alarm in our building went off and my contractions became intensely painful, but Sam and Deb confidently relaxed me until I felt comfortable again. Eight years on, I can still recall the feeling of sitting on the floor, resting back with my head cradled in my mum’s hands while Sam sat in front of me, holding my hands and stroking my legs. Their energy and attention made me feel deeply loved, safe and calm.
When Sally arrived, she held the space beautifully. She was unobtrusive as she quietly and confidently observed me from a distance, allowing the three of us to get on with it ourselves. Monitoring was respectful and non-invasive. I declined vaginal examinations, instead feeling inside myself with a finger. After some time, I felt an ache in my back so I got into the pool. The warm water was soothing and helped me maintain good positions. My mood was calm and positive and I was comfortable; I didn’t need any pain relief at all during the labour.
Eventually I reached inside myself and touched my daughter’s head! This was so encouraging and exciting. Her birth was gentle and very slow. For a long time, she nudged gradually down; I got out of the pool and did some active birth to help her along and my waters finally released. As I began to tire, a second midwife called Jo arrived. She brought fresh energy to the room and I climbed back into the pool, ready to birth my baby.
Once I was back in the water I felt elated. My contractions were coming thick and fast; I felt I barely had a moment between each one. I began breathing downward, gently pushing. I instinctively leant forwards on my hands and knees. I think my memories of this moment will stay with me forever. I can remember calling out to our baby that she was doing really well and it was safe to come now; I remember Sam gently cupping my face with his hands, kissing my head and whispering encouragement.
Her head was inching out with each surge I had and Sam climbed into the water behind me, ready to receive her. Her head began crowning very gently. What I had imagined would be intensely difficult was actually blissful – I felt ecstatic.
Her head was fully born and Sally said “OK Millie, one last push with your next surge to get your baby out.” The rest of her body came in one smooth movement. She slipped into the water where Sam was waiting for her. With his hands, Sam guided her through my legs to meet me. I can recall it so vividly. It felt like I had a thousand thoughts in just a few short seconds. I marvelled at her coming through the water like a fish. Her face broke the surface of the water with big open eyes and I knew she was searching for me. I brought her to my chest. Her body was hot, wet and new. Her face was turned up towards mine while I held her against me and her eyes were just gazing so calmly. It was like she recognised me and I was exactly what she had expected. I felt she had anticipated this moment over and over again just as I had. She looked infinitely wise. Holding her there for that moment I felt more complete than I ever had. It was as if I had been waiting to meet her for my whole life. I was laughing, crying and welcoming her.
Baby Pelle Sage was born a full 21 days after my due date. She weighed 9lbs 9oz and was healthy, calm and ready for the world. Pelle means ‘warrior’, named after an older girl we know, and Sage means ‘wisdom’. The hours after she was born were heavenly. My dad brought food over which we shared with our midwives, taking turns to cuddle Pelle and celebrate her arrival. Sam, Pelle and I settled into our own big bed together and my mum stayed over too.
Pelle’s birth held more significance for me than just her safe and healthy arrival. It left me feeling empowered; I had a new view of myself as someone who would be capable of anything and I appreciated my body in a way I hadn’t before. Having experienced trauma, depression and anxiety in my teen years, Pelle’s birth was a transformative experience which marked a lasting shift in my mental health, setting me off on my parenting journey on the right footing.
When I became pregnant again I knew from the start that I would have a home birth. Sally agreed to be our midwife for the second time and having had such a positive experience already I had few reservations. This time, we had time to prepare more carefully and held a blessingway where women family members, friends and neighbours gathered to write wishes and positive affirmations for the birth space. Once again, my due date came and went, and I eventually went into labour ten days later.
I was woken in the morning by two-and-a-half-year-old Pelle at 7 o’clock on the dot. She climbed into bed with Sam and I for the usual morning routine of cuddles and playing. I was soon aware of the familiar twinges in my belly and within an hour I knew that I was in early labour.
It was a stunning day outside and I felt an urge to have one last outing as a family of three, so we wrapped ourselves up warmly and drove to Bristol Zoo. We strolled around the zoo holding Pelle’s little hands. I recall feeling excited and knowing that this was the last time we would be together in this way before our family grew and changed forever.
Sam and Pelle walked ahead, admiring the animals and playing silly games. The sun was bright and I can still picture how sparkly the frost was. It was a perfectly crisp winter day and I felt so alive. I strolled along slowly and every eight minutes or so I stopped to breathe quietly through a contraction, swaying slightly and closing my eyes. I felt totally peaceful and happy. I remember enjoying the thought that the strangers who walked past me were completely unaware of the miracle that was beginning; it was my own secret.
At noon, my mood changed and I knew I needed to be at home, ‘nesting in’. We drove back and I sat on an armchair watching Pelle eat her lunch. With each contraction I drew out a breath lasting almost a minute. Although I was silent, Pelle noticed what I was doing and climbed down from her highchair saying “Oh I think the baby is coming, Mummy! Well done, Mummy, breathe,” while she stroked my arm.
I went up to bed to rest and concentrate on relaxing myself. Pelle went out with her aunt Tanagh and I told Sam to call Sally and Deb and tell them to come over in a few hours. I sat in bed breathing through the contractions. The labour was progressing quickly, but I remained comfortable and calm. Suddenly, I felt the baby’s head drop right down as though she would be born imminently! I jumped out of bed and hobbled down the stairs, shouting to Sam, “Call Mum and Sally and tell them to come right now!”
Everything was happening so quickly and I felt out of control, I was worried that I was in ‘second stage’ labour which could last a matter of minutes and I simply didn’t want it to be that quick. I lay on the sofa while Sam rushed about trying to prepare the room and the birth pool.
Deb arrived and I recall her presence being a real reassurance. I just wanted somebody with me, so she stayed right by me constantly. Sam and my dad Jonathan got the pool ready and Sally soon arrived.
What followed was unusual – active labour, which had begun so suddenly, took several long hours. It wasn’t until after the birth that we discovered she was very tangled up in umbilical cord, which probably caused her slow arrival.
I was much happier with the slower pace. Once again, I felt in control, confident and serene. I relaxed in the birth pool, gazing at the fish tank nearby and feeling occasional rushes of sheer excitement as I thought about our baby who was so nearly here.
I remember feeling much more alert than I was during Pelle’s birth. I was able to join in with conversation and I was very aware of what was happening in my body.
Pelle was now with my sister, Jen, and I was able to completely relax knowing that she was happy and safe until our baby arrived.
As with Pelle’s birth, the team of people supporting me were amazing. Sam and Deb were the most loving and dedicated birth partners I could have hoped for. Sally exuded calm confidence, deep trust and respect. She seemed to trust in me and my ability to birth my baby. She remained in the background, allowing us to do the work. Yet her presence was deeply reassuring as she quietly kept an eye on us and ensured the baby and I were well.
In an attempt to move the birth along I left the pool and was supported to do some ‘active birth’. Sally and Deb left the room. Sam invented and led me through a ‘birth dance’! I leaned onto his body and we swayed and stepped slowly about the room, encouraging our baby to move and turn with us. This was intimate, reassuring and purposeful.
At one point, I asked Sally if she should break my waters to see if that helped move the birth along, to which she responded “Well it’s your amniotic sack, Millie, if you want it broken then you can do it yourself!” – and so I did just that, reaching inside myself and tearing the sack with my fingers to release the waters.
For a long time, I had been able to feel the top of the baby’s head with my finger and eventually I knew it was time for her to be born. With some help, I stepped back into the warm water and began breathing her out. Slowly, with a few deep breaths and some very gentle pushing, she emerged into the water. I reached my hands down to bring her to me and at the same moment Deb noticed the umbilical cord around her neck, shoulders and belly. As I pulled her up Deb quickly unravelled her – she acted instinctively and knew exactly what to do.
I couldn’t begin to describe how magical, blissful and utterly wonderful those first moments were. Sam was in the pool with me and I leaned against him while we gazed down at our new daughter. She drew her first breath, then she stared up at us with wide, curious eyes. We named her straight away: Rhona Pearl. Rhona means ‘mighty’ and it wasn’t long before we realised how fitting this name was. Pearl was the name of one of her great-grandmothers.
Moments later Pelle arrived with my sister, Jen. Without hesitation, Pelle stripped off her clothes and jumped into the pool with us! She stayed with us in the water, stroking and greeting her new sister. Rhona weighed 8lbs 13oz and was very healthy.
My third daughter was born some years later, when Pelle was seven and Rhona was five. Having had two blissful birth experiences already, I looked forward to giving birth to our third child and had no fears. I imagined it would all be the same, with Sally, Sam and Deb at my side. Unfortunately, as my pregnancy progressed a problem arose: the independent midwives were temporarily not able to attend births due to an issue with their insurance. Sally would therefore be able to provide antenatal and postnatal care, but an NHS midwife would need to attend my birth.
I spent weeks mulling over the prospect of having a stranger attend me during labour. My personal history of trauma means that I can experience strong anxiety if triggered; giving birth is such an intimate and vulnerable time, but conversely, my empowering home births had been healing experiences. I think my previous births could have been triggers if I hadn’t been treated with such respectful and gentle care. In the end, I felt it was impossible to be attended by anyone but Sally, so we decided to go through the process of applying for exceptional circumstances. This was not easy, I first met with the Supervisor of Midwives and the Director of Midwifery at my local NHS trust, then my doctor and then the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to persuade them to grant Sally a special contract with an NHS commissioned midwifery group based in another part of the country. I had to be very assertive and eventually a special arrangement was put in place, just in time for me to reach my due date.
As with Pelle and Rhona, this baby came late. Twelve days after my due date I began feeling the familiar twinges in my lower abdomen. I went off food and felt like sleeping, so I spent the afternoon in bed. When I woke I told Sam I was in early labour. We had a few errands to run, collecting our children from a birthday party and calling past my parents’ house, so we set off out but didn’t tell anybody we saw. I calmly talked to other parents at the party through my gentle contractions and nobody would have guessed. We headed home and told Pelle and Rhona that the baby would be coming sometime soon. Pelle decided she would like to stay and be my birth partner as we thought she might. Rhona decided she would rather go to her Grandma’s house for the night. So we packed Rhona an overnight bag and I said goodbye to her, then tucked Pelle up in bed and promised I would wake her if anything exciting happened.
Sam and I went to bed but I was too excited to sleep! I woke him soon after eleven o’clock and asked if we could set up the birthing room before settling down for the night. We headed downstairs and set out sheets over the floor and sofa, blew up the birth pool and tidied the room. This birth was to take place in the kitchen-diner of our new home. We located the pool next to a display of wishes and affirmations written by our family and friends. We eventually headed back to bed and I drifted in and out of sleep until about five o’clock in the morning. I was no longer comfortable lying down and my contractions were regular and growing in strength, so we headed downstairs and began filling the pool with warm water. Sam called my mum, Deb, and she agreed to head over after a shower and some breakfast. She arrived around seven and soon afterwards Pelle woke and came downstairs.
I climbed into the pool, Sam sat with me just ‘holding space’ and offering comfort. Pelle and Deb cooked eggs in the kitchen, then after eating they sat at the table and did sketches of me in the pool. Pelle made a sign for the front door which read, ‘Do not disturb: baby on the way’.
Sally arrived and a little while later a second midwife, Suyai, arrived quietly and waited in the front room on standby to support Sally if needed.
At this stage, I could feel the baby’s head with my finger, only a short distance from crowning. I laboured happily in the pool, Sam and Pelle both lovingly holding onto my hands with each contraction that came. Seven-year-old Pelle was such a calm, confident and soothing presence. In between surges we talked quietly and laughed.
Unlike with my previous labours, I felt the strong urge to push rather than breathe the baby out. So I pushed hard with each contraction, breathing a long note aloud with each one rather than shouting or clenching my jaws – Sam told me afterwards it sounded like I was singing. I did this for what felt like a long time but the baby didn’t move further down. I began to tire and felt truly exhausted. I regularly checked how far inside me her head was, but she moved no closer and I became disheartened by the lack of progress. Sally felt that the baby’s head was at a slightly unusual angle which was making it difficult for her to come, so she suggested that I get out of the pool and move around. I did this for a while, then Sally pointed out that I hadn’t been for a wee all morning and perhaps emptying my bladder would create more space.
With a huge effort (and a lot of persuasion by Sally and Sam) I walked up the stairs to our bathroom and sat on the toilet. Sam came in with me and perched on the edge of the bathtub. Before I had a chance to pee, a contraction came along and in one moment, with no warning, the baby’s full head was born! I was so surprised I shouted, “Head! Her head is out!”; I had to hold my hands under her to stop her from falling into the toilet! All at the same time Sally and Suyai ran up the stairs, Deb and Pelle came out of the room next door and I knelt forwards onto the floor, catching my baby as she slipped out with such ease in one movement. So different to my gentle water births; I can only describe the sensation as powerful and awesome.
In this moment with everyone loudly checking what had happened and whether the baby and I were okay, Pelle cut through the crowd of adults with a broad smile across her face and happily started chatting away, oblivious to the chaos around her: “Oh my darling, my darling… Oh, here she is, hello my darling… Oh, she’s so, so beautiful, she’s my little sister!” – she gently touched and kissed the baby as I pulled her to my chest. Pelle had happy tears in her eyes and a moment later so did everybody else. I sat on the toilet wrapped in warm towels and there we all stayed, in our tiny bathroom, admiring this beautiful being who came so suddenly and with such force.
We named her Dilys Brook. Dilys means genuine, steadfast and true and has connotations with daffodils which felt perfect for a baby born on the spring equinox. Brook was chosen because our new home has a brook at the bottom of the garden which Pelle and Rhona enjoy paddling in. Dilys was a thriving baby weighing 8lbs 13oz, born thirteen days after her due date.
It was late morning so after I’d had a shower we sat around drinking tea with our midwives Sally and Suyai, talking about the birth and admiring Dilys. Suyai left, and the rest of us sat down and ate homemade soup together. After doing the usual checks and making sure we were well, Sally left too. Later on, Rhona arrived with her Grandma Helen. Dilys and I were upstairs in bed and Rhona came to find us. She greeted her new sister with such warmth, snuggled into bed with us and I passed Dilys into her arms. Rhona sang her a welcome song and then went and fetched me one of the little cakes she had made to celebrate. My dad brought a big pot of homemade dahl over and we ate together.
What my births taught me
I can only describe giving birth as a great privilege which I am so glad to have done three times. Each birth experience was a little different. At times they challenged me, but for the most part they were blissful and gave me the biggest highs of my life. Each birth boosted my confidence and self-image, making lasting positive changes to my wellbeing and my outlook on life. A big part of this has been down to the respectful, dignified care that Sally offered and the deep love and support from my partner and my mum. None of my births were straightforward: I dealt with very late babies, big babies, back-to-back babies, babies presenting at awkward angles, very tangled babies and slow progression of labour. Having such a confident midwife who knew that these in themselves were not reasons to intervene in the natural process meant that my births were positive experiences regardless. I never felt discomfort to the extent where I required pain relief and each birth brought with it many moments of pure joy which I will always remember and cherish.