I had my first baby 10 years ago and the whole experience was so traumatising that I vowed that if I ever had another baby, I was going to be one of those ‘too-posh-to-push’ mums and have baby extracted via the sunroof. I went into the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, where we lived at the time, at 4am. At 7am, I was put on a drip to speed up contractions. My contractions sped up too much so I had NO respite between them and I’m also told that I’m one of the small percentage of women that the epidural doesn’t work on – how marvellous! To speed up this birthing story, I told them baby was stuck, they disagreed, I refused to push, the registrar came in and said, “baby’s stuck get her into theatre,” I had a spinal block, baby was born at 9.30pm. I also sprained my coccyx which took nearly a year to heal. Ugh! What an experience. BUT Olivia was just perfect in every single way and of course, totally worth it!
I met my now husband, James, in 2009. We got married in May 2015 and I was pregnant by August. We were absolutely over the moon. This time, I decided that I was going to completely embrace being pregnant; I was going to look after myself, carry on working out and contrary to the first sentence of this post, I was going to plan to give birth naturally BUT I was going to do something about the fear I still held onto and decided to enrol hubby and me onto a hypnobirthing course.
The hypnobirthing course was fab and made it real for James too. I wasn’t overly convinced by the ‘no pain’ ethos but I was totally bought into all of the breathing techniques and the course was worth it just for those. It was also worth it because our tutor empowered us to ask the right questions with the medical staff looking after us. For example, during my first labour, I would have asked them why they needed to intervene and speed up my contractions when I had been getting on just fine? As a result of the course, I also decided on a homebirth… yes, away from all the medical intervention, surgeons and drugs! We moved to Cheltenham from Berkshire when I was 8 months pregnant and I immediately noticed how amazing the midwifery care was here compared to where I had moved from. My desire to have a homebirth and use hypnobirthing terminology, like saying “surge” instead of “contraction,” was fully supported. I felt excited about the impending arrival of our second baby girl!
We got the spare bedroom ready for the birth and 3 days after my due date, I started feeling tightening in tummy. I went to sleep that night and woke up to the same tightening. I had breakfast and decided to take a warm bubble bath. Whilst in the bath, the tightening felt stronger and I felt I had to breathe through it. I called Cheltenham birthing centre and had to stop talking when another ‘surge’ came – the lovely lady said, “If you couldn’t talk just then, you’re in labour my love.” I put on the music that I’d listened to during the hypnobirthing relaxation sessions and sat on a swiss ball, gently bouncing. The first midwife arrived at about 10am and asked me if I wanted her to check how things were progressing. I said yes and found out that I was already 6 to 7cm dilated. The surges started to come in stronger and I used my breathing techniques to breathe through them. I wouldn’t say they were pain free, far from it, but the breathing really did help. I buried my head in hubby’s neck which I found really comforting and hubby didn’t speak… also comforting. 😉 Two more midwives arrived and they were all fantastic – kind, patient, friendly, chatty – everything I could have wished for. I got to 10cm dilated with no pain relief but it was becoming unbearable so I asked for the gas and air. My water’s still hadn’t broken and I didn’t really feel the need to push but they told me to start pushing. I felt exhausted and just wanted to sleep. I felt like I had nothing left in me. I then heard the midwives saying that they were calling for an ambulance as the baby’s heart rate wasn’t recovering quickly enough between surges. I remember lying there thinking, “Wait a minute. If an ambulance comes, I’m going to have to get downstairs (there’s no way I could have walked), get into the ambulance, travel to Gloucester hospital – all the while with no pain relief – and our baby was going to be pulled out with forceps or worse, I was going to end up having a C-section.” Within seconds of hearing this, I put my chin to my chest, closed my eyes, breathed down and gave it everything I had. Before I knew it, I heard the midwives saying, “Cancel the ambulance, the baby’s coming!” And come she did at 1.19pm – my waters broke as she arrived! Gosh the relief was dizzying and I was ecstatic that baby girl and I had made it. We left the umbilical cord pulsing for nearly 30 minutes before James cut it and I delivered the placenta naturally too. The midwives stayed for nearly 2 hours after the birth and left me, James, baby Jasmine and the room I’d given birth in, all clean, fresh and ready to start our new adventure together. We relocated to our bedroom and ordered Chinese takeaway at 6pm. Hands down the most delicious meal I’ve ever eaten!
If you’re low risk, I can’t recommend a homebirth more. Not having to worry about when you can or can’t go into a hospital was brilliant and I genuinely felt excited about being at home, amongst our things. When friends come to stay, I love saying, “I gave birth to Jasmine in the room you’re staying in.” ☺
I have now experienced 3 incredible births – all completely different but all overwhelmingly joyous. Without a doubt the 3 best days of my life. I was thinking about which birth to talk about for the Great British Birth off, and decided that as it was world mental health day 2016 this week, I would discuss my 3rd pregnancy and birth. My 3rd pregnancy began as usual, Dan and I had a suspicion and as I was a bridesmaid at my cousins wedding (where there was an open bar) we thought we should check and there they were, two faint pink lines, the very start of Wilfred’s life. We were over the moon as always planned for 3.
I am honoured to have been asked by midwife Beth from @thebumptobabychapter to share my birth story.
Worried that I might only remember the terrific and terrifying bits, I put on my birthing playlist to try to bring back the little details. And WHOOOSH, just like a cinematic splash of exaggerated waters breaking, they all came flooding back.
May 1st 2015 (40weeks +8days).
- Nothing is working. I’ve hardly left the house for days, and Googled every possible way to make this baby come. I’m COOKED. Let’s crack on with life as normal. Heck, let’s go view a property in Axbridge!
- “Do you have any paperwork on recent essential works?” I ask the estate agent through gritted teeth, wondering whether he has noticed the TENS machine strapped to my trousers.
- Enjoying a pub roast dinner but wishing the carpet wasn’t so sticky for wanting to lie on the floor. Turning the TENS machine up.
- Stopping by a friend’s house for a nightcap and grumbling about how standing and sitting are both intolerable- she kindly goes hunting for a yoga ball for me to sit on.
- Laughing over the absurd comment “Who knows, maybe you are in labor!”.. ha ha ha. HA. HA.
- On the journey home I am noticing for the first time just how annoying the sound of my husband’s breathing is. Please, just, STOP all that inhaling. Hovering above the passenger’s seat instead of actually sitting on it, because for some reason that feels better.
- We are climbing into bed and I am trying not to mention the pain, only because I have feigned labor about 140 times in the last three weeks. The hospital bag has been packed for the best part of four months and I’ve been sleeping on a crunchy absorbent hospital mat since the day I was told the sad story of a brand new Tempur-pedic mattress being ruined by amniotic fluid.
- I’ve been a little bit excited for this.
- Let’s not cry wolf again, but just to be sure… I roll over to my side and set a timer.
- Contractions are three minutes apart. Lasting over a minute.
- CRYING WOLF NOW. CRYING WOLF!!!!
- The drive into Bristol from our peaceful seaside town has never felt more oppressive. The lights hurt my brain; other cars feel like enemies, I am starting to feel out of control.
- We arrive at the hospital and everyone around me is so normal, asking questions like “How is your evening going?” and “Why don’t you just pop on down the corridor” (the corridor, by the way, is SO LONG. I drag myself along the walls like an agonized snail, TENS cables trailing behind me).
- I am truly in pain now… do they believe me?
- Such luck, a birthing suite is available. And it is lovely. Low lighting, a pool, yoga balls, mats, and lots of space for active labor. I absorb this sight with gratitude, for a flickering moment, before the feeling of overwhelm pushes aside my awareness once again. I am sick all over the floor.
- Rachael the midwife informs me that I am only 2cm dilated. “It could be a long while yet”, she says. “Would you like to go home and maybe come back a bit later?”. I check in with my body, the answer is a resounding NO. DO. NOT. LEAVE.
(Dear expectant mothers, I’m going to be honest here about my pain, I’m truly sorry.)
- As time creeps on, the pain starts to engulf me. My prenatal yoga and mindfulness practices are being hurled out the window like apple cores and banana peels on a bushy country lane. I am clutching on to the side of the bed with blanched knuckles and a genuine fear that something is terribly wrong.
(My birth plan was for a natural water birth with gas and air if needed. At this point, however, I would have probably accepted anything.)
- I plead for gas and air. “You are very early on, my dear” says the midwife (who despite being lovely and highly proficient at her job was making me want to scream at this precise moment). “If you have it now” she says, “you might have little to fall back on when things gets worse”.
- …THINGS GET WORSE!?!?!?!?!?!
- “You could easily have another 10-12 hours before giving birth, perhaps you could consider Pethidine?”
(Cue magic husband moment- I will never stop thanking him for this splendid suggestion)
- “Do you mind checking her dilation again?” he asks, trying to remain calm but visibly shaking.
- The midwife is understandably reluctant, explaining that it has only been an hour since I have last been checked, and that sometimes it can be disheartening to check too often and find very little progress.
- Husband insists. I nod fervently.
- I am over 8 cm dilated. For a very brief moment, I see the white around the midwives eyes. This is unexpectedly quick, for a first birth especially. Within seconds I am clutching a mouthpiece and vaguely aware of bathwater gushing on full blast in the background.
(The gas and air helped an incredible amount, by the way. The feeling of stabbing knives subsided into spoons, giving me an immediate understanding of the phrase “to take the edge off”. It also helped draw awareness to my breath.)
- I can do this. Breathe.
- And then my birthing story takes a turn for the glorious. I descend my surging belly into the bath and the warmth surrounds me like my own mothers embrace. I instantly feel my muscles ease and my breath slow. I want to cry with relief.
- “Thank you” I mouth to my husband and to the midwife, the first nice words I have said since arriving. Alabama Shakes “Hold on” whirrs from my birthing playlist and my head finds a soft place on the edge of the bath.
- I finally feel in tune with my body. I am aware of my contractions, and am pushing gently alongside them. Between the surges I am listening: to my favorite songs, my own heartbeat, and the breaths of my husband alongside my neck (admittedly much less irritating than they had been in the car journey 5 hours earlier.).
- An entire three minutes passes between the birth of my little boys head and the rest of his body; a calm haitus of time spent stroking his hair underwater, my eyes locked with those of my husband.
Those three little minutes, our first of parenthood, now make for an astonishingly beautiful memory for me. A marital moment of silence and gratitude, burst by the shrill cries of our very own newborn.
I will always be grateful to the water for giving me back my breath, the midwife for allowing us these moments, and to my husband for speaking up for me when I had lost the ability to do so. I will however, never forgive him for secretly filming the entire thing, MUCH to my surprise.
Baby Finley Charles (a.k.a Weasly Bear) was born at 3:52am on May 2nd. Life has been bursting since.
The estate agent called in the morning to see what our thoughts had been overnight with regards to the property in Axbridge.
Never have we cared less about anything in the entire world. ♥
Pearl is the founder of Miraculous Mums. Miraculous Mums is a new project to celebrate everyday mothers: the neglected-to-wear-sunscreen-but-smothered-the-kids-with-it-ten-time mums; the mums who give their all to their children yet still, at times, doubt their own motherly aptitude.
Pearl (writer/failing toddler tamer) has started the project to promote honest motherhood and spread kudos and kindness.