After experiencing 2 births, I can safely say that it rarely goes according to our imaginary plan or so we believe when we reflect on it later on. Some plan a free-medical pain relief option and end up with emergency C-section, others elect to have a home birth but have to be rushed to the hospital for health reasons.
With this in mind, I drew a birth plan for my second baby with a few options marked in. My main point was to stay comfortable so all options remained on the table.
I still prepared myself for the birth unit, practising yoga and religiously listening to my hypnobirthing track. I visualised almost to perfection how I would deliver the baby myself in the warmth of the pool surrounded by professional midwives and my husband (OK he was in one corner of the room, just like the first birth).
Little did I know…
In a nutshell, this is how it went: I gave birth to our second daughter in the ensuite bathroom, without any kind of medical pain-relief (no not even a paracetamol). Child number 1 was fast asleep in her bedroom. My husband being downstairs to call 999 (he had the nerve to ask me ‘who should he call?’ while the head was crowning… Ghostbusters maybe?).
When I talk about my unexpected home birth to people I always feel stupid with the following remarks:
‘Did you not notice you were in labour?’ Yes I knew.
’Why didn’t you go sooner to the hospital?’ Contractions every 5-10 minutes, and I live 10 minutes away.
‘Were you not in pain? It only became unbearable 15 minutes before birth, by that time the only reasonable thing to do was to stay home.
I thought that as long as my daughter was in the house, I wouldn’t believe it would actually happen. But my body/mind interpreted it differently: She is in a safe place so bring it on.
I strongly believe hypnobirthing brought me comfortably up to the pushing phase. I’m not gonna lie, when it was game on I was dreaming of an epidural. Weirdly enough, I think my body knew. I installed a maternity mat on the bathroom floor and thoroughly washed my hands an hour prior to fun time.
Tip for any future second time mummy: Get rid of child number 1 after a few contractions in a row (Mum of the Year Award anyone?).
The community midwife who arrived 20 minutes after birth managed to diffuse the touch of drama that was going on in my head. She asked to have a look at my birth plan, I laughed and enquired why as I clearly didn’t follow it. She went through it point by point and made me realise that if you twist things a little bit, you always nail your birth plan.
OK I didn’t plan to stain the carpet with blood. Yes having strangers (paramedics) looking at my fresh-from-birth-vagina is not what I had in my mind. Nor panicking the neighbours (two of them pregnant at the time) in the early morning with the ambulance (thank god to paramedic who prevented anyone to go inside the house…see point about strangers and my vagina). Finally, I certainly didn’t plan that baby’s first trip in the car seat would be in the ambulance going TO the hospital. But I did plan for a calm, comfortable, straight forward birth, which was exactly what it turned out to be.
My husband said that he curiously enjoyed it more than birth 1: It was quick and he was the most useful person in the house, organising ambulance, midwife, babysitter, throwing towels at me to warm the baby, and cleaning the whole room!!
If only I could have photographed his face when he found me sat on the toilet holding a baby, priceless!
So if you ever find yourself in this situation, at home or elsewhere that isn’t a hospital, keep this in mind: If it goes that quick, it means it’s all fine! (That’s not from me, it’s from the pediatrician!)
I suppose my birth story starts about 3 weeks before when I attended The Bump To Baby Chapter Hypnobirthing class. I remember saying to Beth, “I’ve only got 3 weeks left and I haven’t practiced at all yet!” but she was confident I would be ok. So after a lovely day, practicing breathing techniques, visualisations and having some yummy lunch I was sent off with the Hypnobirthing book, YesMum cards and MP3’s of the visualisation tracks to practice.
I would say I would probably manage to practice visualisations once a day and tried to do breathing beforehand and also with my husband before bed. This was so that he knew what rate I was counting at so he could be there to get me back on track when I lost focus. Turns out it was more help to him just to manage his stress levels when seeing me ‘in pain’!
Although I use that word loosely as I specifically said that I didn’t want the word pain used at all whilst in labour.
Contractions started just before I went to bed, however being a 1st timer I wasn’t quite sure if they were contractions or not so I just went to sleep as normal, waking about twice in the night with the same feelings… Again, not quite sure if it was anything other then Braxton Hicks/stomach ache, at 5.30am my husband got up for work, I told him about the tightenings and he quite helpfully told me I should maybe call the triage number….to which I replied, “I think you should just stay home from work instead!” 🙂
We spent the day burning Clary Sage, listening to ‘spa’ music and watching a comedy to keep the oxytocin flowing. I’m not going to lie when I think back it was quite a long day waiting but I didn’t mind. When the contractions started to get stronger and last longer, whilst breathing I started reciting the affirmations in my head, ‘Each surge brings you closer to holding your baby in your arms’, ‘The surges can’t be stronger then you because they are you.’
We finally got on our way to the maternity unit at around 7 in the evening. I was aware that sometimes things can slow down once you change your environment so we got settled into the room, put the ‘spa’ music back on and made a brew in true Yorkshire style. The contractions came thick and fast so I got in the pool at around 9pm. I wish I could say I had a water birth as that was the plan but, it wasn’t to be as after quite a few hours, I was made to get out to go to the toilet. Not what you want to hear when your contractions are barely a minute apart… how was I going to make it down the little steps and onto the toilet without having a contraction! The fear started to kick in at this point because I had to deal with something that wasn’t going to be at all comfortable, but thankfully, I managed to stay focused with the breathing and made it to the dreaded toilet. Needless to say, I couldn’t go for a wee (the midwife had thought my bladder was too full, therefore hindering baby coming out) but the toilet was my new favourite place! So much so that at one point the midwife had to pad it out just incase I gave birth on the toilet!! What a joyous way to enter the world that would’ve been! 🙂
After much coaxing I got off the toilet and tried the birthing stool. I would say to anyone when you go on the tour around the birthing units or wards, try out the apparatus just so you know what it feels like. The birthing stool was another unknown to me that throws you off your flow. I moved to the bed/kidney shaped foam thing, with my husband behind me to hold me as I perched on the edge…I was giving all I’d got by this point but my contractions weren’t lasting long enough so the midwife brought in some Jasmine as it’s supposed to help prolong contractions. I would say about 10minutes later my lovely little girl was born. I felt immense relief, joy, love and exhaustion. Amabell weighed 6lb 12oz and I managed the birth with no pain killers or gas and air, all down to the focus Hypnobirthing had provided me with, the mind is one powerful tool!
Oh and then my little bundle of joy wee’d on us…lovely end to the story! 🙂
In 1982 my mother gave birth to me with the assistance of hypnobirthing. She told me the birth experience was beautiful and she was in control throughout. 30 years later, I was in labour with my first child and I thought my experience would be similar to my mums. That I would be in control. That I would enjoy the experience of bringing a new life into the world. Well, the birth was awful. I felt I was not in control of my body. I was terrified. I kept my eyes shut throughout. I demanded all drugs going and completely lost all faith in myself. It took me a long time to recover physically and mentally. Hence, the long gap of five years before we decided, it was time to try for another.
Determined to be stronger this time and take control again, I was recommended a taster session in Hypnobirthing. I only did NCT previously and didn’t look into Hypnobirthing properly. The course was incredible. I talked through my first experience with other mums and the wonderful Beth from Bump to Baby Chapter. I came away from the meeting feeling empowered and ready to go.
Between the hypnobirthing course and yoga classes, I learnt how to breath, relax and focus. I also met some absolutely fabulous women. I felt that I was stripping back everything medical thrown at me and remembering, as a woman, my body is built to grow a human. An actual human AND its built to give birth. That I should not be scared of the birth, my body will know what to do and I just need to breath, focus and work with it and my baby to get through labour.
9 months and 3 days later, I woke up, got my daughter ready for school and felt a ‘twinge’. The period cramp kind of twinge. The ‘oh yes its finally happening…oh sh*t its finally happening’ kind of twinge. I was meeting a friend for coffee that morning, but as I got to her house, the cramps stopped.
I cracked on with my day as usual, but let the husband know that things might be on the move soon…at some point.
I demanded a curry for tea. But I couldn’t eat it. Not like me at all to refuse food. 9pm came and the cramps returned. We called ahead to my parents who live an hour away, to get over quickly to help look after my daughter. They arrived just after 10pm. I sat bouncing on my ball, visualising, breathing, eating (to keep the energy levels up). Had a few cat naps and by 3am, I was ready to head into hospital.
We arrived at the birthing centre in Gloucester and I explained to the midwife, I wanted a hypnobirth. At this point, everything was manageable. VERY uncomfortable, but manageable. I walked about the room, had a bath and ate some more. But not much was happening with the contractions. They were remaining at the same constant, manageable level of pain. At shift change over we had another midwife. She asked if it was OK to examine me. I agreed. Unfortunately, I hadn’t progressed any further. She gave me another stretch and sweep and said I had two options…. Go home or go out for a few hours. I felt a complete failure and just wanted to go home. So we packed everything up. Walked out of the birth centre door and WHACK a MASSIVE surge. I stopped, cried, breathed and walked further….WHACK….another surge. This happened all the way to the car park. My husband asked what I wanted to do, but I said I had been told to go home, so we were going home.
The journey back to Cheltenham was interesting. I cursed every road bump and pot hole.
As we pulled onto the drive, I thought the baby was about to pop out. I made it to our downstairs toilet, goodness knows how, but I made it. I had a quick wee and then said, HOSPITAL. Well, I screamed HOSPITAL at my husband. I didn’t want to go back to Glos and to be honest, I felt like we wouldn’t make it.
We headed straight to Cheltenham where we were greeted by a midwife at the front entrance. Lisa was incredible. She was the calming, soothing, chilled out midwife I needed. My husband set up the music, so I could listen to the tracks from my yoga classes. I plonked my massive (I was massive) tired body in the birthing pool and I cried. The water was so relaxing and relieved my body straight away. I don’t think I have ever felt such a sensation of relief. I felt, safe.
The contractions remained intense, however, things progressed slowly. I was in the water, on my side out of the water, leaning against the wall, leaning against the husband, on the loo…everything. It was now the afternoon and I was exhausted. My breathing techniques were being helped by gas and air, but I had reached my limit. I asked for my mum…which I never do. I needed some time to recoup ready for the final leg. So they gave me diamorphine. It took the spikey edge off every surge. I was able to have a snooze in between the waves and my hubby even managed to eat a chicken sandwich. Which, I wasn’t aware of.
When the final moment came, I was led on my side, legs, arms, bum entwined with midwife and hubby. I felt like I needed a massive poop. I didn’t experience this sensation in the birth of my daughter, as I had an epidural and by this point had my legs in stirrups in the operating theatre. She was stuck and needed a little helping hand to get out. But, this time round I could feel everything. My body knew exactly what it was doing and I remember thinking, ‘my body can do this. I was built to do this’. Lots of banshee screaming erupted (I had been vocalising my surges most of the birth, but this was on another level of loudness) I could feel the head coming. It didn’t sting. It didn’t hurt. It felt like a HUGE relief, finally I was at the end of this. I was finally going to meet my baby. One last push and out my gorgeous baby came. All 9lb 9 of him! No wonder he had taken so long to get down the birth canal.
My midwife, lisa was such a special lady. She helped calm me down and remind me I can do it in moments when I lost my positive thoughts. She understood hypnobirthing techniques and even had the music we were listening to on her phone. It felt like we were meant to give birth in Cheltenham in the midwifey unit. This was the birth I wanted first time round.
The birth was amazing. Long, painful but amazing. I had given birth to an absolutely beautiful baby boy. I did it naturally (apart from the diamorphine pain relief, which I think helped to save my husbands blood circulation to his hands. They were squeezed a lot during labour) The hypnobirthing along with meeting incredible women, reminded me of what I had achieved with my daughter and what I CAN achieve. Our bodies are incredible, we have got this.
I’ve never been asked about my birth story. Not surprising really seeing as I’m not the one that did the pushing, but like most things in life, there are 2 sides to every story – granted, mine isn’t the one that people immediately gravitate to – I don’t think anyone has ever come up to me, ignored Clemmie, and asked me how the birth was – it would just be weird.
All that said, I’ve been present at the births of all 4 of my girls. I’ve been there at the classes, at the antenatal checks, at the scans and have witnessed first-hand the emotional roller coaster that Clemmie went through.
My approach and understanding of birth has, unsurprisingly, evolved over the years – I’d be shocked if it hadn’t to be honest – I’m married to a midwife and I have 4 children, if I’d not learned anything from one to the next then it’s not a good reflection upon my grey matter.
Birth No. 1 – I was 24 and bricking myself. Clemmie and I had been together for a total of just over 2 years when she was about to go into labour. You’d think that with Clemmie being a midwife, I’d be clued up and completely at ease with what was about to happen. Well, it’s true what they say – ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ I knew the basics of what to do not to get in the way and actually help, but I’d also educated myself on what can go wrong and was nervous that everything that could go wrong, would go wrong. Our midwife, who was also Clemmies Mentor at work, travelled back from Glastonbury to deliver Clemmie – she still had mud in her hair and smelt like bonfires. We’d done all the preparation you could, including making a birthing CD (how mid 2000’s) . Clemmie had also developed a craving for ice which I hear is not uncommon, so I spent a lot of my time running to and from the ice machine to ensure she was fully stocked up.
Knowing Clemmie was surrounded by her colleagues, I knew she was in safe hands and it helped relieve my stress levels immensely (that said, I rarely get stressed about anything) and focus on just giving Clemmie reassurance that we were ok and that she was doing brilliantly. She did get in the pool several times throughout Anya’s Birth (we don’t tend to call it labour as it makes it sound like a hideous chore, when in actual fact it can be a lovely experience). I made the mistake of pouring warm water over Clemmie’s back while she was on all fours and commented that it was ‘like pouring gravy over a big fat turkey’. If looks could have killed, I’d be 6 feet under right now, that’s for sure.
Finally in the end, Clemmie delivered Anya while squatting and hanging off my waist. She’d been active throughout the whole birth so I was glad not to see her on her back– being married to a midwife, I would often hear while watching a birth in a film, “oh she should be up and about and getting active, not lying on her back, she’ll find it harder to push and contractions might drop off” (I have picked up a lot since osmosis!)
Clemmie held her straight away, I then cut the cord which I liken to cutting the rind off of bacon. With that done, whipped off my shirt and had skin to skin with my first born – It really was amazing. The one thing that I know Clemmie is still annoyed with me about is that I didn’t shed a single tear throughout the whole birthing experience. Apparently I’m an emotionless robot father, but I know that I was feeling choked up on the inside.
Birth 2 – birth number 2 was supposed to be straight forward. We wanted a home birth but due to some complications, that option was taken away from us (which I was quietly happy about – I didn’t fancy a big paddling pool in my house to be honest, I had visions of it bursting and me clearing up after birth from under the sofa!)
We now had a different plan as Clemmie had developed obstetric choleostasis, so we were going in 2 weeks before our due date to be induced. Going to the hospital on the bus with a bag and a pillow tucked under my arms while not contracting was an odd experience. I’d never given any thought to the fact that some people don’t naturally go into labour but have to be encouraged so that one was a new one on me.
Things were progressing well and I remember a doctor coming in to perform an ARM to get the birth moving along, she then scurried away leaving us to get on with things. Things ramped up quickly and it was at that point I looked around and realised all the midwifes had left the room. Clemmie had gone into transition, seeing the speed at which she changed really had me worried, I felt out of my depth and without anyone to call over and not wanting to leave her, I pulled the emergency cord to get people back in to the room. I helped Clemmie over the pool and after slipping on iced water (she still had the ice craving) and wearing a vomit bowl on her head for about 15 minutes, she gave birth to Marnie in the pool. Clemmie was so loud, but after her head was out, we peered into the water to see a screwed up red little face. The rest of the body was born in relative slience and she slowly drifted up to the top of the water to be held by Clemmie. I was on hand to capture the whole thing on camera as I’d been told that I didn’t take enough photos at Anya’s birth (in all honesty, Anya’s birth was my first birth and I was a bit grossed out by the whole thing, Clemmie wanted photos from all angles and I wasn’t quite prepared to do that! It’s not like we would have sat down and gone through them again together over tea and cake or sent them to my family!)
Birth 3&4 – by the time I’d gotten over the shock that we were having twins, the due date was already in sight. Being twins, and with the added complication of Clemmie’s obstetric choleostasis coming back to haunt us, we were looking at a 36 week induction. This time we’d been studying hypnobirthing – I was incredibly sceptical of the whole thing, until I realised that the work Hypno is misleading. It’s actually about relaxation and breathing, rather than Derren Brown making you believe you were a chicken in a past life, back in 1843.
Once again I was on ice duty, but with no ice machine in sight and the birth taking a bit of time to get going, I walked about a mile into Camberwell to get my lunch and fill several large cups with free ice from the local Subway. All that time, in the back of my head I was thinking, “she better not give birth while I’m away or I’ll never ever hear the end of it!”. I got back and Clemmie was stood up, rocking over the bed with her headphones in. I walked over and rocked with her from behind her, holding her neck and counting her breaths. The smell of lavender was thick in the air.
After about 4 or 5 hours, Clemmie finally started to get regular contractions and she got into the bed. Held her hands and looked into her eyes. I told her that it was only her and I there (when in fact there were a good 5 or 6 other people there!) and that she just had to concentrate on my voice. Within 10 minutes, twin No.1 had arrived. I cut the cord and was holding her for what felt like seconds before a midwife tapped me on the shoulder and said the other one is coming – I’d genuinely forgotten that we we’re having 2 babies – while staring at my newest daughter, I’d somehow allowed that rather important piece of information to be forgotten. Within 5 minutes, twin no.2 was out into the world and before I knew it I was topless, holding not 1, but 2 new members of the human race. Looking at both of them, and then at Clemmie, I almost squeezed out a tear, but I was too happy and nothing would come. I truly am a robot.
Dad bloggers are taking the internet by storm with Simon aka. Father of Daughters leading the pack. If you have not yet seen his hilarious and real squares of dad life then you need to visit his Instagram and Facebook. It is a MUST. For the other side of this story you can read Mother of Daughters, Clemmie’s account of birth 3 &4, Ottilie and Delilah, here.
I returned home from work and the flat was in chaos. After spending the previous night in hospital following a false start to labour, my wife Rosie’s nesting instincts had well and truly kicked in.
Stressing about how underprepared we were for our impending arrival, she’d left piles of personal items in every room that needed washing, ironing or putting away. Despite being told by the midwife that it would almost certainly be another 10 days or so before our contractions would start in earnest, Rosie wasn’t convinced.
To allay her fears (and leaving the boring jobs for later), we lay on our bed researching TENS machines online and downloaded a free contraction tracker App on my phone. It was 8pm.
While testing the App out for the first time, Rosie suddenly clutched her bump and let out a quiet moan. The pain intensified for around 30 seconds before subsiding.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s just Braxton Hicks” I said confidently, given the midwife’s recent prediction.
But six minutes later, she had another cramping pain in her belly. Like clockwork, the pain grew progressively stronger for another 30 seconds before easing off.
“It can’t be real labour,” I said hopefully. “It’s way too early!”
But sure enough, six minutes later, it happened again. Nine minutes. Seven minutes. 10 minutes. Six minutes. Six minutes. Six minutes. Each separated by a consistent contraction of sixty seconds.
“Still think it’s Braxton Hicks?” Rosie asked…
At this point we called the Birth Centre, who confirmed that the baby was definitely on its way.
But then they gave us the bad news. Since we were only 36 weeks pregnant, we wouldn’t be allowed to have our baby in the midwife run Birth Centre as we’d planned. The baby was officially premature so we would have to give birth on the labour ward instead. Rosie was visibly upset but she didn’t have time to wallow as another, more intense contraction took hold.
“Once the contractions are three minutes apart and have been like that for an hour, then you should come in,” the midwife said calmly before signing off.
For the next two hours Rosie ensconced herself in our bedroom, with the windows open and the lights off, as the sun slowly retreated behind the horizon.
In complete darkness, she breathed her way through every contraction while (out loud) I counted down from 100 (a distraction technique our antenatal instructor had recommended) and massaged her lower back.
In between contractions I sprinted back and forth from the kitchen, preparing some fish cakes and boiled courgettes for supper. If we really were in labour, she would need some sustenance to keep her energy levels up.
I even managed to slowly but surely finish all the jobs she’d left for me to do, while dutifully rushing back to the bedroom at the start of every contraction to start the timer App, count down from 100 and massage her aching back.
At midnight, we called the midwife again. The contractions were more powerful than ever and had been consistently three minutes apart for about forty minutes. Kneeling on the bed with her head buried in a stack of eight pillows, Rosie could hardly speak when the midwife asked to talk to her.
“It’s time to come in…right away,” we were told.
This was it. Action stations…
I ran to the nursery to pick up our hospital bags and car seat, before hurriedly loading them into the car. As I rushed back in, I found Rosie at the kitchen sink washing up the dishes from our supper. I couldn’t help but laugh…even in the midst of labour, she refused to let her domestic standards slip. She grabbed the kitchen worktop and breathed her way through another intense contraction.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it to the labour ward. Between contractions, the midwife did a quick examination and confirmed that Rosie was already 5cm dilated, before adding that the baby would be with us by the morning. This baby wasn’t hanging around…
So Rosie was quickly wheeled off to a surprisingly large and dimly lit room, with a new midwife ready and waiting to take us over the finishing line. It was 1am at this point and we were told that the next cervix examination would be scheduled for 5am…a lifetime away.
Because we were around five days short of the pivotal 37-week mark, two monitors were strapped onto Rosie’s bump, and the room immediately filled with the sound of our baby’s heartbeat. The atmosphere was intense and the room was baking.
With every contraction I continued our ritual of counting down out loud, while massaging her back. I could see on the monitor an erratic graph, which tracked the progress of every contraction. So I used this to let her know when each surge had reached its peak. All the while, she breathed heavily on the gas and air (her new best friend) as I rushed back and forth to the water fountain to keep her fluids topped up.
Given how little sleep she’d had over the past two days, I soon started to stress about her energy levels. So, I encouraged her to try and eat some of the snack bars and sweets that we’d brought in our hospital bag. But all she could manage were two Jelly Babies…
Luckily we’d also bought some energy gel sachets (popular with long distance runners), which she did manage to suck on between contractions. I just hoped for her sake that this birth wasn’t going to turn into a marathon itself.
At 3am, during a particularly powerful surge, I felt a gush of liquid against my leg as Rosie’s waters finally broke. We convinced the midwife to examine her again and helped Rosie onto the bed, at which point she whispered…
“I think I’m gonna be sick.”
We managed to grab a cardboard sick bowl just in time as she projectile vomited twice, filling the entire container. Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough at finding a second bowl though, as she threw up again, this time on the edge of the bed, the floor and my shoes. By this point of labour, and already covered in various fluids, I was beyond caring. I covered the wet patch on the bed with a hospital incontinence sheet and wiped her chin with my handkerchief.
The midwife donned her surgical gloves to investigate the state of Rosie’s cervix. 6cm dilated.
I could see the disappointment on Rosie’s face but we reassured her that an extra centimetre of dilation and the breaking of her waters were two massive positive developments in the space of just two hours. So, she stood back up, leaned against the bed and resumed the cycle of contractions.
Before long, I started to notice a subtle change in her behaviour. She began hopping from one foot to the other to manage the pain. Meanwhile, she began making long guttural mooing sounds during each surge; a sign (I’d read) that we were nearing the pivotal transition period of labour.
It was at this stage that she started doubting herself. Repeatedly she asked for an epidural. We thought this might happen. So, as we’d agreed before the birth, it was my job to remind her of all the reasons why she didn’t want one.
You see, an epidural can massively slow down labour. Plus, it increases the chances that you will need either forceps, a ventouse or even a Caesarian to get the baby out – all things I knew for certain she wanted to avoid.
I reassured her that she was doing an incredible job. That she was being so brave. That she had already progressed so far. And that, with her waters broken and her contractions getting closer together, everything seemed to be speeding up.
I knew should could do it naturally. And she knew it too.
Sure enough, at 4am, within an hour of her last cervical examination she began to feel the overwhelming need to push. The midwife couldn’t believe it and questioned whether the baby might have rotated into the wrong position.
Again, we convinced her to check how dilated Rosie was. So the midwife donned a clean pair of gloves and disappeared down below.
When she re-emerged, the look on her face was a picture. “10 centimetres,” she said. “This baby’s ready to be born.”
She couldn’t believe it. We couldn’t believe it. It was all happening so fast. Rosie had gone into labour only eight hours earlier and now we were about to come face to face with our new son or daughter. Incredible, and with just two paracetamol and gas & air to get her through.
With each contraction, our midwife coached her through the process and gradually the baby edged closer and closer towards its escape hatch.
I’d sworn to myself that I would stay up at Rosie’s shoulder throughout the birth and never look down at ‘the business end’ of proceedings. But like a moth to a flame, I couldn’t help myself. I was transfixed as I saw a mat of black hair start to emerge as the baby crowned. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.
“You’re amazing! Keep going! You can do it! You are incredible!” I repeated, in a state of total awe for my wife and the wonder of childbirth.
After the head was born, the midwife instructed Rosie to pant, with short, sharp breaths. She followed her advice to the letter and in no time at all, our little one shot out and we were presented with our new baby boy.
Covered in a waxy white substance, his head slightly cone shaped after squeezing so quickly through the birth canal, we couldn’t believe it. He was utterly perfect; a healthy, happy seven pounds.
I wrote my birth story down for my own blog ‘Oatcake Adventures’ a few weeks after our little Oatcake arrived, with my ‘mama hat’ on. When Beth asked me to put together a little something for The Bump to Baby Chapter, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit some of my pregnancy and birth with the ‘midwife hat’ on! Though to be honest, only 2 months after giving birth to the little man, it’s likely to be impossible to separate myself from something so innately personal, but I’ll give it a go..
Despite having helped many women to birth their babies, hypnobirthing remained somewhat of a mystery to me until I fell pregnant myself. I had supported just one mother who had used it, and if I’m honest, her MP3s filling the room about her vagina opening like a rose bud in bloom, made me chuckle a little inside.. but hey, a first time mama- birthed her baby like an ABSOLUTE boss, with no drugs, so there’s got to be something right about it! So, when a friend of mine, who teaches hypnobirthing, approached me about teaching us when I fell pregnant, I was initially pretty skeptical. I definitely knew I wanted as few interventions as possible, and was pretty set on having a home birth and I knew that a lot of research pointed towards hypnobirthing as a way to help achieve this. So we decided we would give it a go!
There are so many misconceptions about hypnobirthing, and I was party to pretty much all of them- which is pretty awful for a midwife I know, but I’m on a mission to spread the word so watch this birthing space! You can hypnobirth and have all the pain relief options in the world if you want! You can hypnobirth through a planned or emergency c section. Just as you can hypnobirth your way through a water birth in your living room. You can hypnobirth and be CEO of a global corporation, you can hypnobirth and be a vegan who only wears handwoven clothes. It doesn’t discriminate about who you are or how your little one makes his way into the world, but it totally alters the way you perceive it. FYI I totally hypnobirth my way through life now, so you probably don’t even need to be pregnant.. just saying.
For weeks we had old sheets on the bed, waterproof mattress protector at the ready, we had collected piles and piles of old towels from family and friends and had lavender scented candles dotted around the house, all in preparation for my dream Hypno-Homebirth. But after three days of reduced movements, we opted for an induction, in hospital, on the consultant led ward- almost as far away from the original ‘plan’ as we could get. Now this was probably part my midwifery training and part my hypnobirthing mind- meant that we felt confident to make decisions at a time and in a way that was right for us. Baby’s movements are a really important indicator that they are safe and well, so its super important to notice if things change. Oatcake had had a few episodes of going pretty quiet in my pregnancy already, so on the Tuesday night we were offered an induction. We did some research, asked lots of questions and weighed up the benefits, risks, alternatives, listened to our instincts and decided to turn down the option of induction at this stage, i.e. Do nothing. In hypnobirthing this is called using your BRAIN. A method I now use when making every decision in my life now, from picking baby wipes in Waitrose (it’s my local supermarket, I’m not a supermarket snob I swear.. but they do sell fresh sushi so…) to putting an offer in on our new house (!!), so ultimately it’s an investment in your mind not just your birth!! Another 36 hours passed, we had a scan and some monitoring, and the induction was offered again. This time, after the same process of decision making, we opted for the induction.
We took some time, headed home for a few hours to sort out the house, and our heads (!), read as much research as we could on inductions for reduced movement and returned that evening confident we’d made the right choice to be induced. After further monitoring that night, I was induced at 11am the following morning.. and it all kicked off.
The TENS machine was an absolute delight, I might just put it on again now for a laugh I liked it so much, I would totally recommend getting your hands on one if your preparing to pop out a small human any time soon. Probably even if your not. Gas and air, also went down a treat, though temporarily made Leon’s reading hypnobirthing scripts the most hilarious thing in the world.. I just remember thinking- ‘does he know how much of a nob he sounds?’ and crying with laughter in my head, but hey! However you get your oxytocin hits is fine by baby! Needless to say, after another hour, the scripts were much welcomed once again! Incidentally I should point out here, I studied KG hypnobirthing and there was categorically no mention of the aforementioned blooming rosebud vagina. Strictly relaxing and chat about trees and butterflies. Which was great. Because I still just find the thought of the Rose thing hilarious.
10 hours later, 40 minutes of pushing (which by the way is way easier than just contracting), baby Oatcake arrived in my arms. Circumstantially, (being induced, in hospital, strapped to a monitor and laying on a bed) the birth was absolutely nothing that I had hoped for, but as an experience, for my mind, my body and my now my memory, it was all I ever wanted and more. I felt in control, I felt supported, I made my own decisions and totally rocked it! I’m convinced the sheer determination to make it great, made it so. It’s completely changed me as a mother, a midwife and a human. And now I’m on a mission to get people talking positively about birth, and get women to look forward to birthing their babies- pregnancy and birth has shown me strength within myself that I could never even fathom existed. Birth isn’t something to be afraid of, with preparation, support and a strong will, we are capable of amazing things! However your baby comes into the world Ladies, you are all rock stars and I salute you!
Oh and ps. We didn’t actually name our poor child Oatcake. His name is Otis. The cake part is just an affectionate nickname.
Megan is a midwife in training and mother of a little Oatcake, Otis. You can visit her blog here and her journey through motherhood in pictures here.
It’s difficult to know how to start this birth story. I still can’t believe I only gave birth to the twins just over 2 weeks ago. If you’ve followed my gas and air blog you’ll know this was no easy pregnancy, there were so many uncertainties; the horrendous morning sickness, the scary bleeds in the first trimester, the reality of going from 2 children to 4, both babies being breech for what seemed like ages and the fear of Obstetric Choleostatis returning. Well it did with a vengeance. In brief I had bloods taken at around 28 weeks into the pregnancy to have a look at what my bile acids and liver function tests were doing (I hadn’t started itching at this point) and they were already abnormal. After an initial wobble my amazing midwives and Consultant calmed me down and a plan was made to repeat the bloods in 2 weeks. By the time those 2 weeks came I was already itching on my hands and feet so I was started on lots of medication, creams to sooth my skin and Piriton to help the irritation. When people ask what it’s like to have OC, the only way I can describe it, is like ants biting under your hands and feet and no scratching will ever ease the itch. And the itching isn’t just on your hands and feet it’s everywhere. Legs, arms, bump, boobs. My skin was so damaged I was covered in bruises and scratch marks I looked like I’d been in a fight. It’s worse at night and some nights I wrapped cold wet flannels around my hands and feet to relive the burning sensation. The one thing that kept me sane was the amazing online support charity ICP which had a Facebook page where sufferers can post questions and receive help and advice. At 5am when I hadn’t slept this was a life saver.
By 34 weeks I was at breaking point, I was hardly sleeping and nothing was helping with the itching. I took myself off to see my Consultant full of tears and worry and begged her for an elective section. I could see no way of carrying on until 37 weeks feeling so tired, so I figured it was best to deliver the babies early to put me out of my misery, plus they were still breech and transverse so a vaginal birth was not recommended. Again my amazing Consultant calmed me down, talked me through the options but did a quick scan just to check their presentation. And guess what, they were both head down and twin 1 was engaged! I was shocked, I hadn’t even felt them turn. So it was decided to induce me at 36 weeks, have some steroid injections to help mature the babies lungs and she prescribed me some amazing sleeping tablets (which are safe in pregnancy) to ease the nights. I went away feeling calm, confident and for the first time excited to birth my babies.
We had a date for the induction so over the next 2 weeks I listened to my Hypnobirth relaxation MP3 every night, stuck my YESMUM to be cards all over the house and had weekly massages from my wonderful doula. I could do this and everything was going to be fine. A few days before my induction date I had lots of early labour symptoms, a bloody show, loads of period pains, cramps and back ache but no babies. I felt confident that my body was getting ready for Friday and carried on practising my breathing techniques with my husband.
The day came to meet our little squirrels and we headed to the hospital at 7:30 am to meet my midwife and consultant. I was sneaked into a birthing room (I didn’t want all my colleagues to know or see I was on labour ward) and the plan was to have my waters broken and hopefully get things going. By 8:30 my waters were broken (I was already 4cm dilated) and I went off with my husband and doula to walk up and down 4 flights of stairs. My doula had my squatting, walking sideways you name it we did it. I felt like I’d done a Zumba class. My doula brought a wet flannel with her which had lavender and clary sage oil on it and I sniffed it like mad woman, I actually felt quite high. After 2 hours nothing was happening and we went back to the birthing room to talk through my options. My midwife head came into play and I knew the next stage was having the hormone drip. I wasn’t scared or worried about what this would mean but I knew time was ticking on and I wanted to get on with the labour, I even said ‘I want to feel these contractions now’. I was aware I was clock watching so my husband suggested taking the clock down from the wall.
So we started the drip on a low dose which meant I had to be continuously monitored on the CTG machine. This wasn’t a problem as I sat on the ball leaning over the bed (still with my Hypnobirthing MP3 in my headphones) so I didn’t feel restricted or confined to the bed and could still be upright. I managed to totally switch off from everything around me, it felt like it was just me and my husband in the room and the calm voice in my ears from Hollie de Cruz. After about half an hour the contractions were very mild and didn’t seem to be building into much so my midwife slowly increased the dose and I carried on rocking on the ball. I breathed through every contraction imagining a wave breaking gently on the shore ‘inhale peace, exhale tension’. *Just to say at this point, this was the first time I’d practised hypnobirthing techniques during my own labour so by no means was I an expert but I just kept the breathing techniques as simple as possible.*
After another half an hour the contractions had picked up and felt I needed to work harder to focus on my breath and not tense my shoulders or jaw, this is when the breathing really helped to keep everything soft. I took my husbands hand during every one of these contractions and held the wet flannel to my nose to inhale the lavender and clary sage, still keeping my eyes closed throughout. After a pretty intense contraction I walked to the bathroom to try and have a wee (my doula had been giving me sips of coconut water after every contraction which was just brilliant). I couldn’t manage a wee and stood up and had a really strong contraction which was horribly fierce and took me by surprise, I leaned onto my husband trying to get back into my breathing and said ‘I can’t do another contraction standing up ‘. We walked back to the ball and it was clear the drip was definitely working as the contractions were really regular at this point, maybe every 2 minutes. I picked up the gas and air and rested the mouth piece in my mouth, not inhaling it just having it there as a comfort. The next contraction came and I instinctively knew I wanted to get on the bed (I’ve never birthed on the bed in my other labours) I turned onto my right side and felt a change in my body, a sensation I knew yet still couldn’t believe I was at that stage. Pressure. It was in my lower back right on my sacrum and there was no ignoring the different sounds I began to make.
My midwife head popped back on as I heard the paper of delivery packs being unwrapped and opened my eyes to see my midwife had changed out of her own clothes into scrubs and my consultant standing there smiling and looking pleased. ‘I’m not at that stage yet it’s way too soon’ I declared and they all reassured me that twin 1 was on her way. I suddenly felt scared and told my husband who calmed me down and told me l was going to be fine and brought me back in the zone ‘inhale peace exhale tension’. I still insisted on keeping one of the ear pieces from my headphones in one ear as I couldn’t bear not to have those sounds keeping me calm.
My body then took over and I began to feel twin 1 moving down in my pelvis at quite some speed because before I could even think ‘I can’t do this’ her head was crowning and my midwife asked me to slowly breathe. I don’t recall waiting for another contraction because a few seconds later she was on my chest skin to skin and screaming. I couldn’t really believe how quick it had been but was well aware there was another baby to birth.
My midwives kept the hormone drip running so that my uterus continued to contract and within 5 minutes I felt the next wave of contractions building and asked for her cord to be cut and clamped and my doula took her for a cuddle so I could concentrate on the next bit. Another moment of me being a midwife crept in as I recall looking at my midwife as my consultant quickly scanned the second twin to make sure she was still head down. ‘I’m not having a forceps!’ I declared as I heard the sound of the metal instruments being tided away from a delivery pack. ‘No you’re not having a forceps you’re having a baby’ my consultant said to me. The contractions were strong very quickly again and my midwife broke the sac of water of twin 2 and I felt her begin to follow the same journey her sister had only made a few moments before. I was still on the bed but had rolled onto my back, one midwife encouraged me to rest my leg onto her to ‘make more room for baby’ a phrase us midwives say a lot! ‘God I hate it when midwives say that’ I announced to my midwives, they all laughed. And before I even had time to think about the ‘what ifs’ I felt that same sensation of her head emerging, followed by her body. I had done it.
The placentas came out fused together one significantly bigger than the other but both looked healthy. My blood loss was minimal and I didn’t have any tears or grazes! (good old perineal massage). We spent the next hour munching on delicious goodies from the snack bag (thanks Jo) drinking tea and trying to master the skill of tandem feeding. After a quick shower (best feeling ever) and freshen up we were transferred to the postnatal ward where I was lucky enough to have a private room. My husband and I stared at our new baby daughters, both completely elated and exhausted at the same time.
We named them Ottilie Pearl and Delilah Iris just in time for their big sisters to meet them the following day.
Clemmie Hooper a.k.a. Instagrams @mother_of_daughters is the genetics behind these 4 beautiful faces . This mamas game is strong, not only is she part time midwife and full time mother of 4 daughters, this super mum has also just released a book ‘How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out.’ A guide to pregnancy and birth straight from the midwife’s mouth. It is available for pre-order, a number one read for all pregnant mamas.
Mind the Gap is a blog post I have in my mind but have yet to write. The story of starting all over again after a 12 year gap. My eldest was born in 2002. A traumatic birth that I always decline to share with people as I feel for pregnant women and just can’t see the point of adding to their anxieties. I was young, my recovery was difficult and I was advised that one hundred years ago neither my son or I would have survived.
So fast forward two years to my next son, 2004, and though I was up for giving a natural labour another go, at the last minute when I went past my due date and they started to talk about inducing me. I lost my nerve and opted for a caesarean section.
Now I didn’t mind the gap and (very happily) found myself with bun in oven again last year so my 2016 birth experience is the topic of this post. This time round my birth story was overwhelmingly positive and I’m so pleased to have been invited by The Bump to Baby Chapter to tell a story of a great caesarean.
One of my great Instamum friends was recently very heavily criticised for being ‘too posh to push.’ I find it interesting that any woman would take the time out of their day to criticise another but find this debate particularly strange. I’ve worked in the NHS for over ten years and the only argument I find myself agreeing with is the cost factor. C-sections are more expensive. You can’t argue with that.
But in this day and age when the main thing wrong with our world is a lack of tolerance of one another’s choices (be it religion, parenting choices, sexuality) I’m here to wave the flag for a woman’s right to choose the birth that works best for her and her family.
And this choice I had. My pregnancy had been pretty straightforward all the way through with a couple of minor concerns about growth towards the end that meant I needed a few extra scans. Interestingly I was enormous with my two boys and put on about two and a half stone with my first. This time round my bump was fairly petite and I put on a stone throughout the whole pregnancy. Gender disappointment is yet another topic for another blog but with two boys already in my brood everyone that cooed over my little bumpy told me it ‘must be a girl.’ Secretly I was crossing everything that they were right though to anyone that asked ‘a healthy baby is all that matters!’
The consultant who was looking after me had recommended a section and I was relieved not to have to ask for it. All being well I would be scheduled in for delivery at 39 weeks. This time delivering at Gloucester – my previous births had been in Cheltenham which is no longer an option for high risk pregnancies or sections.
The morning came and it was surreal. The 20th January this year was the coldest day of the year. But it was a beautiful, misty morning in the Cotswolds and the eeriness of the darkness at 6am matched the strange feeling you have on the day you hope, all being well, you will meet your baby.
Granny arrived as planned and took over childcare with the elder boys being packed off to school as if it was any other day. The drive to the hospital quiet, both my husband and I trying to keep one another calm. We’d done this before. It would all be fine.
Our arrival and welcome was wonderful. Our own dedicated midwife that talked us through the procedure and would assist in theatre and oversee my care in recovery. She introduced us to the surgeon and anaesthetist who asked me a series of questions. The surgeon herself was fairly heavily pregnant and was getting over a recent delivery when she had accidentally cut the baby with her scalpel (there is an extremely low risk of this with every c-section), the baby had been absolutely fine but you could see she was devastated. As she read through my previous hospital births she winced. ‘Ouch’ she said.
I was gowned up and this time remembered to remove my pants (I didn’t in 2004 much to the hilarity of the surgeon) and James donned his ER gear and squeezed his size 13 feet into size 7 crocs.
45 minutes after arriving at the hospital I was in theatre at 8.42am. Sitting very still hunched over while the spinal block was administered. This is so much worse in your imagination than in reality. I think I have a pretty high pain threshold but seriously – it’s ok. I was helped to lie down and as has always been the case in each of my sections (the anaesthetist was ready for it) had a very sudden and very significant dip in blood pressure. Seconds before the room span almost entirely away from me the drugs they gave me to counteract this very strange feeling kicked in and I was back in the room. Screen went up. Surgeon had the thumbs up from the anaesthetist and off we go.
When I had my first section I was very confused by the member of the clinical team who sat at my shoulder chatting to me about the most mundane issues throughout the whole procedure. Was she a gate crasher? Did the midwives not realise they’d let some nosy weirdo in a hospital gown in to nosey on my birth and ask me questions about where I was going on holiday this summer? Obviously now I understand that as the anaesthetist’s assistant her job is the crucial one of monitoring how I am doing, how I am feeling, keeping me calm and distracting me from the seriousness of what the hell is going on just centimetres from my nose. This time round I engaged in soothing chit chat about my boys and how proud I am of them.
Probably less than ten minutes after the screen went up it happened. Lots of excitement, smiles and looks of reassurance followed by a little howl and a gunked and squished up little baby face popped up from the screen. ‘He’s beautiful’ my husband said and even though I was expecting it I wasn’t forlorn by the news it was a boy – it was just my darling baby – here and safe and crying.
But our new friend at my shoulder challenged him…. are you sure it’s a boy (turned out he wasn’t and hadn’t even checked – just assuming that it would be a boy.) The midwife lifted little one higher and sure enough she was a girl. Cue floodgates opening on both mother and father’s side and as she was placed on my chest I may just have snotted directly into her eye. I’m not sure how you feel when you win the lottery but my guess is that this feeling was ten thousand times better.
As well as being a girl she was in tip top physical condition for which I count my lucky stars each and every day.
I was able to stroke her tiny nose for the forty five minutes or so it took to piece me back together and off we went to recovery. Safely snuggled in for some skin to skin and a good old feed (she fed for 40 minutes!) the midwife brought the nectar that is tea and toast and our little life as a family of 5 began.
My experience was first class and I was able to start my life as a busy mum of three feeling positive and physically pretty well. A caesarean section is not a failure. It is no less hard than a natural birth when it comes to recovery. Obviously the seriousness of major surgery is not to be undermined but for me it was the right option.
Our birth stories are all different. Just like as people we’re all different. Be proud of who you are and be proud of your story because regardless of the outcome or your journey your birth story becomes part of your life story and I’m sure you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Too posh to push is the birth story of our local girl Kate aka Cheltenhammaman. She holds the torch for flexible working for mums in Gloucestershire with lots of mum friendly jobs on her website and she also hosts many mum boss workshops. It’s not all work work work work work, she organises events specifically for strong, like-minded mums who want to have a bit of me time and fill their cup. Head over to her website for more information.
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.” ☺