Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Alfred

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I was 23 when I found out I was pregnant, 24 when I had him, and though my boyfriend (now husband) and I had talked about it and both wanted a baby I always felt that I was viewed as too young, one midwife even called me a baby, and so I avoided ante-natal classes until quite late on. At 8 months pregnant having not thought about a birth plan I went to a couple of yoga and hypnobirth classes.

I loved them but once it came to B-Day everything I had learnt went out the window. I was terrified, totally unsure what actual labour was and found it all overwhelming.

At 3am on 26th March after an evening of mild but regular cramping I went to the loo and found I was bleeding. In hind sight it wasn’t much at all but I panicked and made my boyfriend call the hospital and tell them we were coming. I was unsurprisingly sent home. Then at 9am whilst in the shower I felt my waters go. It wasn’t very much at all and my contractions were still nothing to write home about but again we went in. By the time we got there I was in more pain but was only 2cm dilated and sent to walk around a bit. At this point I growled (husband says it was more of a moo) to take me home as I didn’t want anyone to see me. I now think that this is the point that my maternal instinct had kicked in and I knew I needed to be alone with my contractions. We stayed at home, in the bath until my contractions were almost on top of each other. At home was the calmest and most in control I felt in my whole labour. We left for the hospital and I barely remember the drive there. When we arrived at 2pm I was only 4 cm and gutted. It turned out baby was back to back and when I heard this, having never heard it before I was totally freaked out and immediately doubted my ability. I had gas and air for a bit whilst begging for an epidural between breaths. My husband gently reminded me that I desperately didn’t want an epidural but I ignored him and past me. To this day it is still a regret.

Despite the fact that the epidural allowed me to rest and calm down I spent the rest of the labour feeling nothing. Nothing at all. I pushed numb and painlessly, feeling totally useless and just listening to the midwives’ (who were all lovely) instructions. When they told me he was crowning I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t ready for him. It wasn’t the experience I had wanted and it felt like a total blur.

When he arrived at 11.36pm on 26th March I felt a bizarre mixture of sheer joy and total confusion. Who did this? Where did he come from?!

We stayed at hospital for another 12 hours which I hated. All I wanted to do was go home and be with my family. I hated my husband having to leave, nobody checked to see if he latched on properly once I was on the ward (lucky he was a star but I didn’t know that till my home visit!) I even got up to go to the loo and blood and waters went everywhere, something I had no idea would happen. Again it all felt totally alien and scary and I just wanted to go home and be with my husband.

I know so many labours can be a lot worse than mine physically and I feel so lucky we were both well and healthy but I felt and still feel so emotionally disconnected from it. Sometimes I wonder (despite the back to back thing) if I had just stayed at home would I have felt more empowered? More in control in my body?

Despite my husbands concerns I am looking very seriously into a hypnobirth home birth as an option this time. I want more than anything to be in control and comfortable with my surroundings. I also don’t want to be scared like last time.

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I just read my email back and wanted to add that despite sounding positively NOT positive, for me it was positive in the sense that it made me realise how important it is to understand how your body works and to really trust your instincts. I think if I had done that it would have been very different for me and I wouldn’t have been so scared and disconnected.

Also, look at the little 9lb 6oz star I got to take home with me! Worth all the pain and more!

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Follow Jo on Instagram @joannakays and over at her blog mamajolene.wordpress.com

Birth Story Of The Week – Katie and William

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As my youngest son turned 1 at the weekend, I remembered that high on endorphins and sleep deprivation, I promised Clemmie my birth story.  A whole year ago.  So, as I wait for this mythical ‘it gets easier when the  youngest is one’ thing to take hold, I thought I should probably get round to it now.  Here goes….

My delivery with my eldest son almost 3 years prior to William’s arrival had been a long and protracted affair.  Ineffective pessary, waters broken, then sent away for the ritualistic march up and down the stairs.  12 hours later, no action, so a lovely epidural and swift twist of the forceps and there he was.  Not traumatic or awful, but pretty exhausting and far from what you hope for, once you’ve gotten all of that ‘I just want a healthy baby’ business out of the way.

I was determined that it wouldn’t be that way for my second.  This would be a relaxed home birth.  I borrowed a pool, collected more old towels and bedding than I knew what to do with, and readied an army of babysitters to look after Albert.  Except William had other plans.  Due date came and went, no sign.  Daily sweeps told me that I was 3cm dilated with a ‘favourable’ cervix,  but it seemed that no amount of bouncing on a ball, long walks or vacuuming the stairs was going to move him along.  I was due to be booked in for an induction on 4th Feb, but decided, after a good chat with my midwives to leave him for a few more days to see if he fancied vacating of his own accord.  Still nothing, and with that, the chances of my homebirth disappeared.  I trudged into Kings on 7th Feb, only to be told that yes, I was still 3-4cm dilated, yes, my waters should just be broken so that we can get on with it, but sadly, they were extremely busy and had no staff or space.  I obviously reacted in the way that any massively overdue, hormonal woman  would do and cried, huffed and puffed at my husband, and then settled down to watch Homes under the Hammer on the ipad.

I hadn’t, however, banked on the appearance of my midwife at 10.30pm on a Friday night.  She breezed in to the ward, rolled up her sleeves, and very kindly instructed me that we were ‘going to meet this baby.  Tonight.’ I’m a big fan of the gung-ho approach, so completely went with it.  She found a delivery suite, settled us in, and promptly broke my waters.  She found a mat and a blanket for my husband and instructed him to have a nap because he ‘wasn’t going to be much use yet’ and left me to get on with it.  Brilliant.

The room was lovely and calm, and the lighting was pleasant – not hospital like at all.  There was a docking station, so I bravely left my iPod on shuffle and out of reach.  The fear that the next song could be Wham kept me going to be honest….  My contractions started pretty immediately after my waters went and became regular quickly.  I was on my feet and moving around the room, stopping to lean on furniture and hum when the contractions came.  After around 90 minutes, and still on my feet, the contractions were getting much stronger, and had moved downwards into my lower back.  Humming had turned more into growling and I wasn’t so much leaning on the furniture as clinging to it at this point.  My midwife asked how I was doing, and the words that came out of her mouth surprised me as much as her – ‘I think I need to push’.  ‘Hmm, you’d better take your pants off then’ came the reply.  By this time I was scorching hot, so thought it a good opportunity to strip off every last stitch.  Amazing what those hormones do to you.  My husband made himself useful with cool flannels and encouraging words, and I was examined – I was 8.5 centimetres, but still had work to do before I could push.  To be honest I thought I was heading for a repeat of my last labour and was starting to feel disheartened – I didn’t want a ‘medical’ delivery this time, and had felt like it was all going well up to now.

My midwife advised me to try lying on my side on a mat on the floor.  I was dubious at first – grasvity didn’t seem to be on my side here, but that shows what I know.  Contractions started coming along thick and fast, and I had some gas and air to take the edge off.  I’m not entirely sure that the gas had much effect, but the mouthpiece and regularity of using it was a useful distraction from pain and focusing on breathing.  What felt like two minutes later (but was actually about 40) the urge to push returned.  This time I got the green light to push and a delighted voice from the other end told me ‘I can see the head!’  This is where Vanessa really came into her own (as if she hadn’t already!) – we had already ascertained that he was a big baby, so hurrying this part could have been disastrous.  I followed her every instructions about pushing, stopping, puffing – to be honest, if she’d told me to stand up and do the Macarena I would have – and a few minutes later Williams head emerged.    A couple more pushed and the rest of him followed, all 9lbs 5oz of him, with not a single tear, graze or stitch.  There was a calm sense of amazement in the room afterwards – I was staggered that my body had done what it needed to so efficiently after a slow start, and we were all a bit dazzled by this enormous (and beautiful!) baby.

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I was the last person who was ever going to describe childbirth as ‘amazing’ or ‘relaxed’ or even ‘calm’.  However, my delivery with William was all of those things.  Although I was in a busy hospital, it felt like there was only me, my husband and Vanessa in the world, and then William too!  It was calm, I was calm, and William’s welcome into the world was calm and overwhelmingly happy.  The whole process took 3 hours from start to finish, and I was home and introducing William to his big brother 2 hours later.  If you find yourself having an induction or hospital delivery that you didn’t hope for, don’t despair!

Birth Story Of The Week – Siobhan and Arlo

Thursday

So my waters had gone, I’d managed to convinced myself it wasn’t wee, based on the fact I’d gone to the toilet mere moments before fridge-gate (so low was my trust in the stability of my bladder), and I’d just sat down to write my Christmas cards… You can read about that here.

It is about 1pm when I finish writing all my cards, and messaging friends and family for their addresses. This year (since I’m transitioning from young-mum-of-one to woman-with-two-kids), I have done the unprecedented and invested in an actual, physical, address book, so decide now is the perfect time to copy all the addresses I have into it. This leaves me feeling very organised and happy with myself (does this last-minute life admin count as nesting?!).

Because I’m not having any contractions and time is of the essence, I get to work on my nipple stimulation with an electric breast pump in an attempt to bring some on (upping the ante on the simple nipple twiddling of the day before). I am now listening to my Hypnobirthing affirmations, having decided the BBC’s ‘The Missing’, albeit totally gripping, is just a tad too tense and possibly having a detrimental effect on my uterus.

At about 2pm I call my midwife as I have not felt the baby move all day and she had said to keep an eye on baby’s movements. I tell her that I don’t need her to come out because I’m not having regular contractions but says she will pop by anyway to have a listen to baby… (Reflecting now, I clearly remember making this call. I would never in a million years have believed I would be holding my baby in a matter of hours!!).

Whilst waiting for my midwife to arrive I am having some contractions but not take-your-breath-away ones. They are however coming of their own accord since I have stopped pumping. I’m not convinced it’s the real deal though and feel I need a professional (i.e. my midwife) to tell me whether this is it or not.

We do crack open the birth bag at this point though, figuring we might as well make use of our nice things because whether or not this is it right now, since my waters have gone, I am going to be in labour in the next 24 hours or so. We light our lovely Diptyque Pomander scented candle that we chose for our birth (recommend doing this by the way!), pull down the blackout blinds in our bedroom and I start bouncing on my birth ball, whilst applying some make-up (obvs want to look good just in case it is happening!).

At this point I’m welcoming each contraction and when there’s a bit of a gap between one ending and the next one starting, I actually worry that it’s all died off and this isn’t it at all. So each time one comes I’m like YAY, GO BODY! I am doing my up breathing through each one but they aren’t in any way painful.

My midwife arrives at 2.30pm and has a listen to baby. All seems well. Around 3pm she says she’s going to make a move but to call her back when I need her. She tells me she thinks it will be soon. I ask how soon??!! She says she thinks that it will be tonight. I realise baby might actually arrive ON his/her due day (which is tomorrow) – how amazing would that be!

Just after 3pm James says it’s time for him to go and do the school pick-up. My midwife kindly offers to wait with me until he returns. At this point I’m thinking my son will come home, we will have dinner together later on and he will go to bed at his normal time.  Then hopefully (fingers crossed) my labour will kick off in the night. My midwife advises me to have a bath to ease the discomfort once she has left and to try and get some sleep to conserve my energy for later.

By the time James is back at 3.30pm, less than half an hour later, EVERYTHING has changed. I’m not having a bath or a sleep – it’s time to inflate the birth pool – and quick! My midwife has decided she is staying now and it’s not long until she is calling the second midwife.

At one point the contractions were irregular and pain-free, then very quickly they increased in frequency and then very suddenly they increased in intensity and I was not welcoming them any more.

I say hello to my little (soon to be big) boy when he gets back from school but am not able to say much else. I quickly feel like I need him out of the house because I need to focus all my energy and attention on each surge* so my friend is called to collect him.

*I will call them surges from now on because they are powerful and not just little contractions/tightenings.

At 4pm I ask my midwife to examine me. She warns me that it will not tell me how long my labour is going to be, but I need to know something is happening. The surges are intense. My midwife has a poke around and tells me I am approximately 5cm dilated. I am slightly disappointed to hear I am only half-way, especially since I was already 2cm on Monday. I this this means I have a loooong way to go (little do I know).

At 4.10pm my friend arrives and I say goodbye to my son. James is busy inflating and filling the pool and over the next half an hour or so I do feel quite alone as I deal with each surge standing at the dining room, gripping on to the edge. I just want the pool to be ready so I can get in, believing it will feel amazing. The surges are really intense and between each one I give myself an internal pep talk, reminding myself that I want a natural homebirth, that I can do this, that I am in control etc. Then the surge hits and I’m screaming silently in my own head very negative things like I can’t cope, I need pain relief. This internal battle goes back and forth like this for a while whilst I stand bent over the table, rocking backwards and forwards, channeling all my energy into my breathing. I’m not really aware of what is going on around me and am not making conversation with anyone. At this point I really have gone within myself. I do notice that a resuscitation area has been set up on the dining room table but try to put it out of my mind.

After a while I move into the living room, kneel on the sofa and hold James’ hand and tell him I need him to stay close to me now. I don’t care about the pool anymore, I just want him to help me. He crouches down next to me, holds my hand, applies pressure to my back, as I rock backward and forwards over the arm of the sofa, breathing in and out with all the strength I can muster. The surges now are relentless and totally consuming me with their power and I am just fighting to stay on top of them.

A visualization I was taught in pregnancy yoga really helped me at this point: I rocked forward on all fours as I breathed in through my nose and then rocked back onto my heels as I exhaled through my mouth, visualizing a long golden thread extending into the distance. To keep myself breathing out for a long time and not hyperventilating/losing control, I imagined that each long out breath was pushing this golden thread further and further.

At 5pm the pool is finally ready for action. (I only know this from reading my notes because by this point I was not aware of time). The long-awaited, much-anticipated, pool of dreams. I step in and in my memory step straight out, but apparently I was in there for a few minutes. I don’t like it and in any case I feel I need to go to the loo for a number two.

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My lovely midwife tries to convince me it is my baby but I am having none of it.  How could it be the baby, I think, when I still have so many hours to go?!

I hate the idea of poo’ing in the pool and think I know when I need the toilet. Turns out I don’t. As I sit on the toilet with nothing happening, James and my midwife stand outside the bathroom door telling me not to push too hard because I don’t want to give birth on the loo!

I am aware I have only been in labour for a very short while so cannot believe baby is almost ready to make his/her entrance. I ask my midwife to check that it really is the baby but at this point I can’t lie down on my back or even sit down(!). She kindly obliges and examines me standing up. She tells me I am fully dilated and the baby’s head is just centimeters from its exit! I have gone from 5cm to fully dilated in under 1 hour!!! This might go some way to explaining why it is so intense.

Only after being examined and being told me I am good to go, do I believe and give into the urge to push. And boy did I need to push.

At 5.15pm I start pushing, on all fours, on the sofa, completely naked (and not caring in the slightest), in front of the Christmas tree. This baby is not going to be a water baby after all! As I push I bite down hard on a pillow and roar. At one point I scream, “It’s not going to fit” but am reassured that it will. And, “It can’t stay there” when the baby’s head crowns just as the contraction ends, leaving me momentarily at full stretch (probably the most painful moment).

But after just four minutes of what feels like a surprisingly hard, brick-like object, descending down a tunnel that is far too small to accommodate it, at 5.19pm, my gorgeous, perfectly formed, beautiful, baby boy flies (literally flies) into this world and is caught (just) by Natalie, our midwife. James who has been crouched by my head, whispering encouraging and lovely things into my ear, calls “It’s a boy!”, tears flowing, as our baby flies out, little arms up by his head and legs open like a froglet, revealing what we’ve waited 40 weeks to know. He is then passed immediately through my legs and I bring him up to my chest, bloody and beautiful. James captures the moment on camera and it is without a doubt my favourite photo.

I am so happy. There are no words. I birthed our beautiful baby just as I dreamt (albeit not in the pool), at home, in front of the Christmas tree, with no pain relief necessary. This couldn’t have been more different to my previous experience.

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With my first I was almost two weeks overdue, my labour was induced and it lasted 2 long days. I was attached to a drip, pumped full of artificial hormones, strapped to a monitor and endured a number of invasive procedures. I couldn’t sleep and wasn’t allowed to eat. It was a very stressful experience. I ended up having an epidural so felt nothing and my poor son was finally born by forceps delivery in theatre, narrowly avoiding a c-section, under bright lights, surrounded by people I had never met. Arlo James, on the other hand, arrived the day before he was ‘due’, into a completely calm environment, in the comfort of our family home and my labour lasted just 2 hours and 19 minutes.

It was however the most intense 2 hours and 19 minutes of my life. The surges came on hard and fast and good God were they hard. I breathed for my life and could do little else but focus on that. The pushing was the most acutely painful part yet, ironically, the part for which I am most grateful I felt. To feel his head descend was so real and unlike anything else and I am so glad I got to fully feel and experience the miracle of giving birth. I have never felt more in the present in my whole life. It wasn’t calm or sensual, there wasn’t any incense or oms, (it progressed far too quickly for that!), there was no water baby but it was incredible and intense, powerful and primal (and quite bloody painful). My birth experience was, put quite simply, amazing.

Something I learnt in labour was that Hypnobirthing and all our practice didn’t make labour pain-free, but it helped me to feel in control and awesomely powerful and it gave James a real purpose. Also, I talk about ‘pain’ but at no point did I ask for pain relief, not even a paracetamol. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat, in fact, I wish I could(!).

Doing Hypnobirthing meant we were prepared and ready, excited even, for labour to begin! At no point was I truly scared or afraid: I knew I was capable and I trusted my body and baby completely. When it came to pushing I made these loud, primal, roaring/grunting noises. Although I had imagined quietly breathing my baby down as I’d seen in hypnobirthing videos, my body just took over and I could do nothing else but push. It was instinctive. It was powerful. And I went with it.

Had I not done Hypnobirthing I don’t think I would have gone with it. I would have been nervous of the pain. I would have doubted my ability to do it. I would have been worried about the baby. Instead I embraced it, I pushed, I roared like a lion, and then my baby arrived and immediately all the pain just stopped and pure elation flowed.

I had just experienced the most incredible moment of my life.

Things didn’t go quite so well afterwards. I lost 1.5 litres of blood and was transferred to hospital by ambulance. I had 3 tears unfortunately, which needed to be sutured and just when I thought we could go home, I had a huge allergic reaction to something in hospital and went into anaphylactic shock!

But why dwell on the negative?! I know what part I want to remember.

Friday

After a lot of waiting around in a very small and very hot and stuffy hospital room (shouldn’t complain, we did get a private room and James was able to stay with me overnight), we were finally allowed to go home.

And then I’m not sure what happened later that day, or the next, or the next. They all just sort of ran into one another.

We existed in this beautiful bubble for the next week or so and it was just gorgeous. It was like we had just opted out of real life with all its routine and demands. We slept when we wanted, we ate when we felt hungry (even if it was 4am) and we just allowed our home to fill with all of this love.

I miss it already. Those precious early days. I tried so hard to cherish every single moment, knowing it all goes far too fast. I will treasure my memories of that special time for the rest for the life. As James says, it is worth having another baby for (and we have had a LOT of sleepless nights!).

That, I think, says it all.