Birth Story Of The Week- Clemmie and Woody

There’s always a special connection between people with the same name and this amazing Mama of two is certainly one to hang on to. I first met Clemmie through the powers of Instagram but she was on my radar for a long time after Hollie from London Hypnobirthing told me about this awesome ‘other’ Clemmie she had met and taught. Another Clemmie! Surely not but this Clemmie was as great as I had hoped. She lives in Peckham with her brood of boys (1 husband and dog included) and writes a brilliant blog Mother of All Lists. Here she shares her second sons birth story.

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My first labour was so terrible that I honestly thought my son, Bertie, would be an only child. Induction. Hyper-stimulation. Lots of blood-loss. Followed by an hour of panic attacks. Not ideal.

Cut to 13 months later and I’m pregnant again. The initial thrill of seeing that line appear soon gives way to a feeling of ‘shit’ I’ve got to give birth again.

I was determined to do things differently. After some obsessive googling I came across hypnobirthing. What a stroke of luck. A total game changer.

Our course at London Hypnobirthing was just brilliant. It forced me and my husband to discuss our fears, as well confirming home-birth was the way forward for us. After months doing breathing, visualizing and general prep, I felt ready, even a bit excited about my baby’s impending arrival.

That was until my due date came and went.

With every passing day the anxiety levels crept up. Flashbacks to being induced with my first were haunting me. I was convinced I was headed down the same road. Plus I’d had contractions on and off for days; it felt like my body was tricking me and it was driving me potty.

At 40+5 I sent Hollie, my hybnobirthing guru, a rambling email having a bit of a breakdown – even questioning my ability to go into labour naturally. She replied telling me to let go of the anxiety, to trust my body. IT WOULD HAPPEN.

She was right. The next day I had a sweep. Only in pregnancy are you so pleased to have someone stick their hand up you. Turns out I was already 3 cm dilated – woo hoo!

My midwife wished me fairwell. Deep down I think we both know we would be seeing each other soon. And that night I went to bed with a sneaky suspicion it was ‘game on’. But given the false starts and with the help of hypno I decided to get some sleep.

At 3.30 AM I was woken by a surge. It was definitely happening. No panic, No fuss. Just a real sense of knowing what needed to be done. With son number one safely dispatched to my sisters I got in the groove of labour. Which mainly meant being naked and eating Jaffa cakes. Oh and the midwife arrived.

There was a palaver with the birth pool. My husband had done a dry run, but crucially not a wet run – turns out the fitting couldn’t connect to our tap (funny in retrospect, not very zen at the time).

Eventually it was sorted. Once in the water I was able to breath through my surges. Don’t get me wrong it was hardcore. Exhausting. At the time I desperately wanted it to stop. But at no point did I feel worried or out of control. Instead I just focused on getting to the peak of the surge then down the other-side. “breathe in calm, breath out tension.”

Candles, chilled music (and yet more jaffa cakes), pool. All very lovely. But I was getting into a bit of a mental downward spiral, transition maybe, and found the darkness oppressive rather than safe.

My Midwife suggested that I might benefit from a change of scene.

Once upstairs the bright coolness of the bathroom felt like a new chapter.  No sooner had I taken a seat on the loo than I was hit by one almighty surge. Properly a case of ‘my body taking control’: I leapt-up, grabbed my husband in a strangle-hold for support, and out came baby’s head.

Then with the next surge Woodrow Victor Telford made his entrance into the world. He was born calmly and quietly with his waters in tact or ‘en caul’. Swiftly followed by my placenta, which convenient went into the toilet.

The relief was immense. I hadn’t been induced. I hadn’t used a scrap of pain relief. I hadn’t bled. Just a tiny tear that heeled naturally. And I wasn’t pregnant anymore!! I felt like the luckiest person alive.

Me and my new dude headed to bed. And that’s where we stayed for the rest of the day.

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When people ask me about my labour. I say it was everything I wanted it to be. A wonderful empowered experience that made me feel like super-woman, plus it got rid of all the demons from Bertie’s birth.

Even writing this now I want to do it all again. There really is no greater feeling than lying in your own bed at home, eating pizza, with your 4 hour old baby snoozing beside you.

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.

Birth Story Of The Week – Annalise and Beatrice

I had never known that a home birth was an option for us before an appointment with our midwife, to discuss the birth. The thought of being in hospital gave me the woollies; I have a phobia of both me and other people being sick, so a labour ward was the sort of place I wanted to give a wide berth (excuse the pun). The thought of taking that anxiety out of labour was the initial appeal, but quickly other pros mounted up, and all I kept thinking was that we could change our mind at any point and go into hospital if we wanted. Planning a home birth just gave us a choice.

When I first mentioned a home birth to my husband, Guy, he was against the idea. He was worried about the possibility of something going wrong. Both our fathers are retired doctors and were sceptical, which added to his hesitance. I kept reminding him that we could transfer to the hospital at any point – we weren’t ruling anything out. It took a few weeks of mulling it over, but eventually Guy came round to the idea, supporting my decision.

Guy and I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth; Guy looked after the logistics, working out how to set up the pool and find the right adaptor for our taps (at one point he tried the shower arm because he couldn’t fit the adaptors). I focused on getting myself in the right physical condition and mind-set. I was doing lots of exercise such as yoga, swimming, step and resistance training. I was also doing my pelvic floor exercises and perennial massage. I listened to a hypobirthing track as I went to sleep at night, and also found it really useful in helping me get back to sleep when I was struck with insomnia.

Sunday 12 October 2014

1:27am

I was five days past my due date when I felt my first contraction. I woke up at 1:27am to a strong tightening in my stomach that faded away. I lay still, wondering what would happen next, and shortly after felt the same sensation rising and falling.

I slipped out of bed, not wanting to wake up Guy, and went into our sitting room to lie down on the sofa. I put on my hypnobirthing track, taking the opportunity to nap between contractions, which at this point were around eight minutes apart. After two 40-minute loops of the track, the contractions were getting stronger so I put on a DVD of ‘Cold Feet’, one of my favourite TV series, to distract me and moved onto onto my birthing ball. As the contractions came, I rested my head on the arm of the sofa, rolled my hips on the ball and closed my eyes. I had set myself the target of 6:00am to wake Guy. When 6:00am arrived, I still felt pretty relaxed, so I decided to hold out for another hour. Just after 7:00am, I went into our bedroom, nudged Guy gently and whispered, “Guy, the baby’s coming”. His eyes burst open and he leapt up, “Really? Where? Now?”

Once Guy had properly woken up, I gave him an update on the past hours. Together we timed a couple of contractions, had some breakfast, got showered and dressed and at 9:00am paged our midwife to let her know that our baby was ready to make its journey.

The midwife on call, called us back soon afterwards. We chatted about my progress and how I was feeling, “That all sounds great”, she said reassuringly, “keep doing what you’re doing – lots of walking around and moving, and give me a call again when the contractions are three minutes apart, and really strong; so strong you can’t think or talk through them.” Before putting down the phone, she said, ‘Each time a contraction comes, say to yourself ‘bring it on’. The bigger and stronger; the more you’re progressing”. It was piece of advice that carried me through the labour.

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We called our immediate families to let them know that we were on, and were brought to tears by a call with Guy’s mother who had explained that she’d secretly hoped that the baby would make an appearance today as it was the 12th anniversary of the death of her father, our baby’s great grandfather, a very special man.

9:30am

It was a beautiful, sunny, autumnal crisp Sunday morning, so Guy and I headed out to our local park, for a walk. We picked up coffees, and walked slowly around our favourite wildlife garden, talking about our baby, its names and our hopes and dreams for him or her. Guy was keeping track of the contractions and would say, “You should be having a contraction around n…”, and on cue I would feel one rising.

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After about an hour of walking, the contractions had increased in intensity and we headed home. Along the way the contractions would stop me in my tracks and I would need to crouch down on the path or lean on a tree until it had passed. During one contraction, I remember a young family passing us, smiling and giving us the thumbs up.

Once home, we reattached the TENS machine. I returned to the birthing ball and Guy started setting up the birthing pool in the back room of our flat. We had a ‘regular’ sized pool, which is 2m x 2m – it was big. The contractions were coming every three minutes but I could still think and talk through them so knew I just needed to keep going – Guy and I would count together (he’d call from the back of the flat) so I knew how long until it would pass, I knew when we reached 20 seconds that it was going to ease again.

11:00am

Around 11:00am the contractions reached an intensity that I felt deemed a call to the midwife – they were very regular and quite strong (‘quite’ being a reference of hindsight). The midwife explained to Guy that she was up at the hospital with a new mother (her first delivery of the day) and that she’d be with us within the hour. When I opened the door to her, it was a huge relief and I burst into tears.

Our midwife was fantastic. Guy and I both warmed to her immediately. She walked in, sat me down and chatted to me about how I was feeling, watched a couple of contractions, checked the baby’s and my heart rates, and then examined me; “You’re 3cm dilated, I’m going to stay”. The golden words; I was so relieved.

From this point it was all about progress, ‘bringing on’ the contractions. I’d been sitting on my birthing ball, rotating my hips, using my TENS machine and breathing to relax through the contractions (pursing my lips and breathing out ‘golden spirals’), but to get things going, I needed to move around. I got to my feet and started pacing up and down our hallway, looking for places to lean as the contractions washed over me.

Guy had just served our midwife some lunch when her phone rang. I was on my way back down the corridor and my ears pricked when I heard her say, “I’ll be with you in five minutes, I’m just around the corner”. The midwife put down the phone and said to Guy, “There’s a lady round the corner pushing with her second child, I’m afraid I have to go. You’ll understand when you have a second child. I’ll be back as soon as my colleague [the other midwife on call] gets there.” And she fled out the door.

There was nothing else to do but carry on as we were going. I continued pacing while Guy started filling the pool. I remained calm for around 45 minutes before I started longing for her return. I sat myself at the front window and gazed out at the road, squinting at every car that passed, asking Guy, “Is that her?”

3:00pm

Within the hour, she was back. This time, when she walked in, she was wearing a smock and carrying lots of bags of medical paraphernalia. I thought to myself, “this is more like it!’ Our midwife had reached the other house five minutes before the baby had arrived – her second delivery of the day. The second midwife, had arrived shortly afterwards having had to hitch-hiked a lift in a police van (anther story in itself). It was an extraordinary day for our midwives.

The midwives carried out more checks and suggested I get in the shower for a change of scenery.  As my waters still hadn’t broken, I thought it might be because I was worried about the mess in our recently refurbished flat, so I stepped into the shower thinking it might help me relax. I got down on all fours, and what a relief it was. Initially, I thought that the shower was slowing down my progress as the contractions eased, but it was actually relief from the warm water. I remained there for what I thought was 30 minutes, but was actually two hours. Guy kept popping his head round but I just apologetically asked him to leave me. I felt very calm and just wanted to be alone and focus on the contractions. The midwife intermittently, quietly and discretely, came in and checked our heart rates. Hearing the little heart beat of my baby was amazing. It was a constant reminder to me that me this was a team effort, I was not alone. My little baby was going through something even bigger than me and remaining calm. I was so proud.

6:00pm

At around 6:00pm, I asked the midwives what my options were – I felt like I was having contractions that seemed to go on an on – running into each other. I was disappointed that my waters hadn’t broken and I was worried it was holding my progress back. The midwives suggested another examination and then to get into the pool. The examination confirmed I was progressing well and had reached 7cm. She described my waters as ‘bulging’. In my head I was thinking, “don’t push them too hard, I don’t want them bursting on our brand new mattress”.

7:00pm

I made my way down to our back room where Guy had created the most beautiful space around the pool with candles and music. As soon as I saw the water I virtually dived in. As I submerged, a contraction took over me, and at the same time I felt my waters pop. The midwife tucked herself discretely to my left and Guy to my right. The midwife left Guy to do the encouraging while she wrote up my notes and calmly answered questions and monitored everything. About an hour later I started feeling the urge to push. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing but after a few attempts the midwife suggested I keep my voice low and explained that I had strong but short contractions so to really try and drag them out. I begged for a time frame, to which my midwife simply reassured me that I was doing well.

Guy was incredible – encouraging me, filling up my water bottle and reminding me to drink, filling up the pool with warm water and keeping so calm. He went through waves of emotions; laughing, crying and quietly just absorbing the atmosphere. I remember it being dark and very calm – probably because I mostly had my eyes closed. I felt very safe, focused and supported.

9:00pm

After an hour of bearing down I was tired. I had only eaten a piece of toast and my energy stores were getting low. Guy knelt beside me and said, your next push is going to be for Poppy (my niece). As the contraction rose I thought of Poppy’s little face and I found a new strength. Next up was my grandmother, followed by Guy’s grandfather (who’s anniversary it was), and it carried on.

Shortly afterwards we were joined by our second midwife This arrival was another huge help, I knew I must be getting close if back-up was arriving. I remember feeling something, like a little nose budging, but one more push and the baby crowned. My immediate reaction was to leap out the water and jump up and down, but the midwives told me to breath and listen very carefully as I needed to do some very small pushes to avoid tearing. I followed their instruction and felt the head deliver.  I remember looking down between my legs and seeing a torch light flashing around. The midwife told Guy to join her and showed him our baby’s face in a hand mirror – its little eyes blinking and head looking around.

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9:28pm

With the next and final contraction I pushed the rest of the body out. I reached down and lifted my baby up in front of me. The midwives spotted that the cord – which was all spiralled like an old telephone cord – had got tangled around the baby’s neck, so they both quickly jumped in and unwound it. I then lifted the baby out the water. As the tummy passed my eyes I saw that we had a daughter. “It’s a girl”, I announced, followed by, “and she looks like your dad, Guy”. In the background INXS’ ‘Beautiful Girl’ was coincidentally playing, it was a moment of my life that I will never forget.

I sat back into the water and the midwives placed my daughter in my arms and latched her on to feed – her body submerged in the pool to keep warm, with a little hat on her hat and towel over her shoulders. Once all the goodness had been pumped from the placenta, Guy stepped forward and cut the cord – separating my little baby and me for the first time. We sat for 20 minutes while the midwives filled out the paper work and made a round of tea. Guy took our daughter for some skin-to-skin and I stayed in the pool while we waited for signs that the placenta had detached. After 45 mins, the midwife stoked up an injection to speed up the process and as I stood up to have it administered, I spotted drops of blood in the water. With one final push (I really didn’t think I had it in me), I delivered it!

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11:30pm

 By 11:30pm our wonderful midwives had weighed our daughter, administered a vitamin K injection into her little leg, completed the paper work, cleared up the placenta and were ready to go. Our daughter was the third baby they had delivered that day – they are superhumas. We thanked them for everything (how do you even start to thank people who have just done what they did), and I took our baby to our bed where we rested and fed. Guy emptied the birthing pool – with a whiskey – and when it was all cleared joined us in bed. Just the three of us, our new wonderful family.

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Homebirth – a Dad’s perspective

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‘We should, though, get accustomed to homebirth being ever more the norm. To go forward, we should go back to my Grandmother’s world.’

The past is, famously, a foreign country, where they do things differently. When I learned, as a child, that my grandmother was born at home, this felt decidedly the practice of another country. It seemed something that used to feature but, like spam meat, ration books or outside toilets, had so long ceased to that it was the preserve of aliens, never mind foreigners.

When we were expecting our first child, Stanley, in 2011, a work colleague told me that his wife had had a homebirth. This seemed to me alien speak, as my views on homebirth had lain mentally dormant, un-scrutinised since my youth. My co-worker even insisted that homebirth was much superior to hospital birth. This was so otherworldly that I couldn’t compute. I could only explain it in terms of the eccentricities, invariably much in evidence, of the guy who was speaking to me. Crazy man, crazy talk, I concluded.

I thought no more of homebirth till my wife, Monica, suggested it for our second child, Brenna, born on 2 January this year. Monica is not someone whose views I can dismiss as quickly as the person I worked with. And she rapidly won me over. Others that we spoke to during Monica’s pregnancy were, however, befuddled.

“You are,” they’d stammer, “having the baby at home?” “Well, that’s the plan. But the midwife will take you into hospital if there is any need. Planning for a homebirth doesn’t mean you’ll definitely have one. It just gives you the option and you can always revert to the hospital, if that is necessary or what you come to prefer.”

Regurgitating these points, picked up from a ‘meet the midwifes’ session, often brought a close to this conversational line. Presumably, those who moved the conversation on were content to see homebirth as a vehicle for maximising your options. To those who showed more interest, I’d explain how it might help, particularly with the first stage of labour, where being as relaxed as possible assists. The hospital being an unfamiliar environment not tending toward relaxation, while the home, in contrast, is wholly familiar and thus, more relaxing.

This generally persuaded even the most doubtful. One chap, though, insisted that we have the birthing pool on the ground floor, otherwise we risked a ceiling collapsing. This had been heartily dismissed as a possibility at the ‘meet the midwifes’ event, so, I replied, “has that ever really happened?” “Oh, yes,” he maintained, ensuring I had a tiny twinge of concern for our ceiling when I inflated the birthing pool in our first floor bathroom. But, as I did so, fully two weeks before Brenna was born, I pushed aside this misgiving, reassuring myself that the midwifes must know what they are talking about.

‘Be prepared’ is the Scouts motto and, we thought, we were acting in that spirit by getting the pool inflated, and keeping it so, at an early stage. At this time, action stations always appeared on the horizon. I’d go to sleep thinking, “this is the night that our daughter will arrive”. Then wake up the next morning to find that she hadn’t. The action stations were so regularly mirages that I stopped believing in them. There was a part of me that believed Monica would always be pregnant and the birthing pool would forever dominate the bathroom, without ever being used.

A few year days before Brenna’s birth, rather tactlessly when speaking to a German friend, I compared our wait with the Blitz, in the sense that initially it felt like it must end soon. But our wait went on a few weeks, as the Blitz went on for years, after a while, it just seemed normal that Monica was on the verge of giving birth, as grim acceptance marked London’s fortitude in the face of the Blitz. There are no conditions to which a person cannot grow accustomed, as Tolstoy said.

He had, of course, never given birth. That appears to me not a condition to which we accustom. No matter how excellent our midwives are, or how relaxing our homes, it can only be endured. Brenna arrived at 4.45pm, little over an hour after the midwives did. Thankfully, my colleague was right: homebirth was a quicker and smoother experience than Monica experienced with Stanley. But still not, pace Tolstoy, an experience she could be said to have become accustomed to.

We should, though, get accustomed to homebirth being ever more the norm. To go forward, we should go back to my Grandmother’s world. As challenging as birth inevitably is, Brenna’s homebirth was preferable to Stanley’s hospital birth, incurring less cost for the taxpayer, as no hospital bed or treatments needed to be paid for. Homebirth can help families meet the challenge of birth and the NHS the cost of remaining affordable in an ageing society.

follow Jonathan on twitter @Jonathan_Todd

Pregnancy Diary – 40 weeks!

Preparing to meet our water baby

Firstly apologies this is so delayed. As you can probably guess I had my baby! The last five weeks I have mainly spent breastfeeding, watching him sleep, falling in love and trying to squeeze in the occasional shower.

But let me rewind to my 40th week of pregnancy…

Monday

Today is my first day of maternity leave – whoop! It is also the week I am due to give birth. Everybody thinks I’m crazy to have worked so late into my pregnancy but I’m pretty sure I will be 2 weeks overdue like I was with my first… and 2 weeks is quite long enough to be at home waiting, especially since I am so impatient.

I am hoping to spend the week watching Netflix in bed (between school drop offs and pick ups) and possibly squeezing in a mani-pedi and the obligatory wax so that I am fully ready to meet our water baby.

Things don’t go quite as planned as my mother has decided to come and stay and so I find myself doing jobs around the house, having to plan what to do for lunch/dinner and generally being more social than I had hoped.

But this afternoon I have my appointment with the consultant at West Middlesex hospital. I have this because my bump has measured small throughout the pregnancy (just as with my first) and a few weeks ago I was referred for a growth scan, so this is just a routine follow up. I am hoping he might be able to give me an examination and see if my cervix is doing something because I have had lots of cramping over the weekend and episodes where my tummy goes tight and hard (not contractions but enough to keep me from sleeping and enough to get me excited… and then disappointed).

As I lay on the bed in the consultants room with my legs spread (oh the indignity!), I say to him; “I’m just hoping you’ll tell me I’m 2cm dilated already” being very overly optimistic. Realistically I’d be happy just knowing my cervix is no longer posterior. A second or so later he says to his student “and the lady’s right, she’s 2cm dilated”. I LOL for real.

But he’s being sincere – My cervix is fully effaced and 2cm dilated. I’m filled with joy. I could hug him. Jeez, I could kiss him! How happy I am! I clearly recall being 41+ weeks pregnant with my first and the midwife telling me that my cervix was like that of a non-pregnant person and that labour was quite a way off. I was preparing myself for the same news but this is beyond all my hopes. All the uncomfortable cramping of the last few days has been totally worthwhile – what a journey my cervix has undertaken already!

The consultant gives me a sweep and tells me I will likely be having a baby this week. He assures me that even if I needed inducing today, he would probably only need to break my waters, that I wouldn’t need to be put on the drip like last time. I skip out of the surgery, call my partner and tell him I’m 2cm dilated and that we are having a baby imminently!! He asks if he needs to leave work (I have the sense to say no, luckily). I am way overexcited.

I Google how long it takes for labour to start after a sweep, the results are very mixed. I have no pain or contractions, not even cramping. But I am still hopeful things will be kicking off soon…

Tuesday

Nothing happened last night, nothing happens today, nothing happens tonight. I got over excited and now I am feeling disappointed. My mother is still here and I have not yet been able to begin my Netflix marathon. I consider going out to beautify myself in order to be looking my best to meet the new arrival (if that’s even possible in my swollen whale state) but can’t be bothered. I have got a bad case of negativity after yesterday’s high.

Wednesday

My mother leaves today and I go to the day assessment unit at the hospital to have the baby monitored as the consultant advised on Monday. I feel this is unnecessary but since the baby has been quieter than usual yesterday and today I go along thinking the reassurance will be good. It also gives me something to do.

The midwife who sees me tells me that in her experience babies are often quiet before you go into labour. I don’t allow myself to get excited. I sit strapped to the machine for a while and everything seems fine with baby’s heartbeat. I tell the midwife I have been having cramping and tightenings and that I had a sweep on Monday. She tells me the best thing I can do is go home and do some nipple stimulation and have intercourse to get things going. I was thinking I might cook a curry but looks like the menu might have changed…

I go home and start twiddling my nipples (yes, really) whilst watching ‘The Missing’ which is pretty gripping…

And BOOM! There are contractions! Definite ‘waves’, (as everyone describes), increasing in squeezing intensity, before relief. After a while I decide to start using my app to time them (yes, there’s an app for that).

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For 3 solid hours I twiddle my nipples, watch multiple episodes of ‘The Missing’ and time my contractions. I notice that if I stop with the nipple stimulation they die off but if I keep that up, then they just keep coming. I am having one every 3 or so minutes and they’re lasting about 45 seconds. I am thinking THIS MUST BE IT!!!

My partner gets home from work and after a bit we decide to go out for a walk. My son is at a sleepover so we are relatively free to do as we please. I am initially reluctant preferring just to stay put as I am worried about doing anything that will make the contractions stop/lose regularity but then I remind myself that if this is true labour, a walk won’t stop it. And if it’s not true labour then it will stop eventually anyway. Either way a walk won’t do any harm and there’s possibly a Winter Pimms in it for me if I go, so… we head off!

As I feared it all dies off on the walk, but at least I get to go the pub and it feels a bit like a date night… of course I’m also feeling disappointed, frustrated and impatient!! I post on The Calm Birth School’s Facebook page asking for advice and am told by a lot of lovely people to be patient – baby comes when baby is ready.

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I go home to bed, feeling grumpy.

Thursday

Today is a mega day. A mega, magical day. So mammoth that I cannot fit everything that happens into this diary entry, so I’m not going to try! I am going to have to save all the in-depth details of my labour for my birth story post, which I promise to write very soon!

But to begin, the morning started disappointingly like any other. Me still pregnant. My partner off to work. However minutes after saying his goodbyes and leaving to catch the bus, he returns having decided it might be best to work from home. (Did the skeptic that he is experience some sort of premonition?!).

I wasn’t overly happy with this decision because I was certain nothing was going to happen and I didn’t want him distracting me from season two of Orange is the New Black, which I intended to work my way through uninterrupted.

However by 11am I was thinking perhaps he was right to stay because I found myself standing at the fridge with water running down my legs. At first I was unsure whether my waters had gone or if I had actually just wet myself! I put a pad in and waited.

Once I was convinced my waters had gone, I felt excited that there was now a deadline – I knew for sure I would either go into labour naturally or be induced within the next 48 hours (due to risk of infection). But I also felt the pressure of this deadline and worried that our happy homebirth might not happen…

At this point I decided the best thing I could do would be to write my Christmas cards, so that’s what I did.

And that’s where I’m going to leave things…! Call it a cliff-hanger

NB: I promise to follow up very soon with my full, no holds barred, birth story!

Birth Story Of The Week – Ali and Estelle

We planned a home water birth for the birth of our first baby.  We had bought a pool which we blew up at the weekend I turned 40 weeks pregnant (10 August 2014) and felt ready for labour to commence. However a few issues presented themselves at the latter stages of my pregnancy which potentially jepoardised this which I will explain below.

The first issue was a low platelet count (140 ish) which had been noted in one of my blood tests in June (although not picked up until July).  As a result, I was being monitored by the community midwives with regular blood tests. My count was slowly decreasing as the weeks crept on towards my due date of 10 August, despite my best efforts to increase the level by eating lots of red blood cell enriching foods like cherries, beetroot, sesame oil and green vegetable ‘pond’ juices. While the community midwives supported a home birth, so long as the platelet count did not decrease below 100, there was a strong desire from certain medical staff for me to give birth in the hospital/birthing suite. I had resisted this. My platelet count was on the lower end of the range at my 12 week scan so I was confident that the lower level in pregnancy was relative to that and, therefore, would not give rise to issues during labour.

The community midwives also said that I would not be advised to have a home birth if I went 10+ days overdue. To that end, they suggested I should consider membrane sweeps to encourage labour to commence.  I decided not to consider a sweep until I was 41+ weeks to allow time for labour to commence naturally, without intervention. In light of the next issue, I was very pleased I had opted not to have for any form of induction.

The platelet issue paled into insignificance once the next issue presented itself during a routine ante natal check carried out at our home when I was 40 weeks + 1 day on 18 August 2014. A midwife, whom I had not seen previously, carried out palpation on my bump and suspected our baby may be breech. I could not believe it. All previous ante natal checks had identified my baby as head-down and, by this stage, 4/5 engaged. A second midwife, also in attendance that day, was also uncertain as to whether our baby was breech. I was shocked to hear this at this late stage in my pregnancy.

The midwife was fairly confident that our baby was head-down. Such was her conviction, she sent me for a scan at the hospital the following day, rather than an emergency scan on the same day.  Upon arriving at the hospital, the midwife carried out palpation and she also thought the baby was head down. However, upon carrying out the ultrasound scan, one of our biggest fears was realised when our baby was confirmed as being breech. I was devastated as I believed our home birth was an impossibility and I was naturally concerned as to any consequences of the breech presentation in relation to our baby’s health/delivery.

I had to wait in the hospital from 11am on Tuesday 12 August 2014, when the breech was diagnosed, until 7.30pm, before an ECV (a procedure carried out by a consultant doctor to try and manually turn our baby) was performed.  I was told this was because I needed to be nil by mouth in the event I needed to go into theatre for an emergency C section.  This was far from ideal at 40+ weeks pregnant on a hot summer’s day on a hospital ward. After the ECV failed to turn our baby, I was told by the NHS that the only option was a C section.

Before the ECV was carried out, the obstetrician asked if we had packed our overnight bags, suggesting she fully anticipated us having a C section that evening and therefore, by implication, that the ECV was not likely to be successful. Of course we had not packed our bags; we went to the hospital fully expecting to receive confirmation that our baby was head down, as the midwife had indicated.

While I waited for the ECV procedure to be performed, I started to research breech birth and came across three midwives who were experienced in the field, namely Shawn Walker, Mary Cronk and Jane Evans. Shawn Walker very kindly spoke to me once I left the hospital and discussed matters with me at length. Separately, in the days that followed, I was also in email communication with Mary Cronk and spoke to Jane Evans who was very helpful. It was interesting to note that Jane’s daughter had given birth to a breech baby.

From my research, it seemed that breech presentation was not abnormal, it was, in fact, a variation of normal. This was something I held at the forefront of my mind in the coming days.

As I was 40 weeks + 2 days, the hospital wanted me to sign a consent form to have a C section on Friday 15 August 2014. I spent that evening/into the early hours of the next day frantically researching breech presentation and the possibility of vaginal breech delivery. The possibility of a breech vaginal delivery was not discussed at the hospital.

I had been practising Natal Hypnotherapy for the majority of my pregnancy and attended a 2 day workshop in Wimbledon. This, I believe, gave me the confidence to trust my body’s ability to give birth naturally and to trust my instincts, both of which led to our birth story I describe below. I would highly recommend the birth preparation CDs and the workshops to anyone preparing for labour. I had our mind map on the wall of our bedroom, together with a series of positive affirmations.

On the evening of 12 August, after I was discharged from hospital, I searched Google for “natal hypnotherapy” and “vaginal breech” and found Ruth Atkinson’s birth story. I emailed Ruth at an ungodly hour desperately hoping she would reply to my email. Time really was of the essence given the late stage of my pregnancy. I was truly grateful when I saw Ruth’s reply in my inbox at around 11pm at night. One of the things she said which gave me an element of hope was “All is not lost. It is still possible to have the birth you want…”

Ruth kindly spoke to me the following day and shared her birth story which was, strangely, not too dissimilar to mine in respect of the breech diagnosis late in her pregnancy and her desire to have a vaginal breech delivery. Ruth told me about the wonderful Maya Midwives who had supported the safe arrival of her breech daughter, vaginally, at home. I therefore wasted no time and contacted Andy at Maya Midwives on Wednesday 13 August. Andy discussed my circumstances on the phone and then sent me various information by email to read on breech presentation, including Jane Evans’ AIMS guide ‘breech birth what are my options’. Interestingly, Andy was also a breech baby herself.

Andy and Viv of Maya Midwives then came to our house the following day to discuss matters in person. My husband and I digested all of the information and decided we would engage the services of Maya Midwives and opted to continue with our home birth. I was so happy to have the support of Andy and Viv, both of whom shared similar views to my husband and I as to natural birth.

For various reasons, the NHS was still involved in our birth plan for a short while after this. Various senior midwives were in contact with us at that time and were concerned that we were opting for a home birth.  They therefore sought to highlight their views (on several occassions) in relation to the risks of a breech birth at home; their preference was for us to attend the hospital for the birth. However, I felt that the hospital didn’t really go into such detail as to the level of risk in relation to a C-section.  This was at odds with our informed decision to have a home birth (which we had already told the hospital on many occassions) and only served to add to what was an already stressful time.

This sentiments of this quote rang true during this time: “The more Wisdom you attain and the more Conscious you become, the crazier you will appear to others

We also hired another midwife, Kathryn Weymouth, to assist. Kathryn lives 60 miles away. Kathryn had experience of vaginal breech birth and was happy to attend the birth, together with the support of Liz Nightingale. I think our baby (given the moniker: Beatty) knew not to come until we had our team in place.  By this time, we had an excellent, supportive team together (including my wonderful husband). It was  therefore a matter of waiting for labour to commence.

By 41 weeks, Beatty had still not arrived. However, the midwives recommended that I ought not to do anything to try and induce labour, whether that be reflexology, acupuncture and/or a membrane sweep as it was important for a breech baby to come when it was ready, or opt for C section. So, it was a matter of (patiently) waiting.

Maya Midwives therefore embarked on ‘Project Relaxation’ as it seemed apparent that my body/mind were in a state of flux given the issues of the preceding week. I believed that I would not go into spontaneous labour until I switched of my ‘thinking brain’ and allowed my primal bran to engage, something I learnt in Natal Hypnotherapy. Project Relaxation was a lot of fun and involved making a belly cast of my bump, decorating candle holders (blue peter style), acupuncture and lots of candle lit baths.

All the while, I was getting many messages from friends/family wondering if we had had our baby. As each day went by, I was getting more anxious as I knew post 42 weeks would bring further issues to bear. We had even booked a fetal well being scan on Harley Street (as we were keen to avoid attending the hospital, where possible, to avoid further pressure from the hospital as to an elective C section) to check Beatty’s heart beat, amniotic fluid and blood flow to the placenta. I was not overly concerned as there is perhaps unnecessary significance placed on the ‘guess date’; many people had said to me that babies come when they are ready. In France, for instance, full term is considered to be 41 weeks, so there are different interpretations of ‘full term’. Beatty continued to be very active with lots of kicks which Andy said was a good indicator of Beatty’s wellbeing.

I wrote a letter to Beatty and read it aloud to her and also talked to Beatty several times a day to try and encourage her to start her journey into the world. I knew we could do it together and I truly believed that. At 41 + 6 days, my contractions started at 3.45pm on 23 August 2014, while eating strawberries and cream in the garden on a lovely warm day. They were irregular and not very strong. I had had the same sensation a couple of days before, while watching a DVD, when I had to get out of bed to ease the sensation, however on this occasion it passed after an hour or so.  We were therefore convinced that this was another false start.  Nevertheless, we walked to the park to try and encourage more contractions. While I had a few sensations, they continued to be irregular and did not increase in intensity.  We did, however, practice filling the pool but promptly emptied it, again not anticipating labour to commence imminently.

We received a message from one of our NCT group at around 2.30pm that day to confirm they had welcomed their little boy into the world, 2 days’ early. I was delighted for them but it served to emphasise the fact we were still waiting for our little one.

After a little break from the contractions, we retired to bed. However, by 8.30pm the contractions were coming more frequently and with increased intensity. We called Andy and Kathryn; Kathryn was watching an open air screening of Grease Lightning!  As both Andy and Kathryn were over an hour away from us, they both decided to come over to our house. This was much to the relief of my husband.

My surges were concentrated in my back so my husband massaged my back with increasing force to counteract the sensations. My contractions continued but did not seem to progress sufficiently therefore Andy and Kathryn, together with a student midwife, Suyai, retired to bed. I continued to have infrequent contractions throughout the night. I recall shouting at my husband (who was asleep) to massage my back throughout the night. We all woke up around 7am and, as my surges continued in a similar manner, the midwives decided they would give my husband and I privacy to seek to encourage labour to progress. They all went into the local town for breakfast. My husband made me breakfast of yoghurt and fresh fruit but I promptly threw this back up again.  I was in the kitchen on my exercise ball and could feel myself drifting away from my husband and the environment around me and retreating into my own body. Once the midwives arrived back at 8.30am, I was in established labour. The midwives did not carry out any internal vaginal examinations, rather they read my behaviour to assess progress.

I had never really considered where I would labour in the house but I remained in the bedroom. I recall it was a lovely sunny day outside but we kept the curtains closed to create a more ‘safe’ enclosed environment. The Natal Hypnotherapy relaxation music was playing in the background for the duration of the labour and we had lavender essential oil in a diffuser. The midwives were very respectful of our own space and left my husband and I alone for much of the time.  I do recall Kathryn the midwife giving me an amazing massage (she is a trained masseuse) on my lower back. It really did relieve the sensations I was feeling. I also had an essential oil mix on a piece of cotton wool to smell during labour to ease my slight nausea; I have a very vivid memory of this.

My waters broke in our bathroom during one of my contractions at around midday. I realised I was getting ever closer to meeting our baby! My husband and I were prepared for the transition stage from labour to pushing. However, I do not recall this period in the labour, nor does my husband; although, in retrospect, it may have occurred when I asked Kathryn if I could use gas and air. I think this was a moment of slight panic in my mind when I knew I was entering the final stage and thought I may need assistance. Kathryn gently discouraged this and I was happy to proceed without gas and air. I did have 2 paracetamol at some stage but not sure they would have had any effect whatsoever!! I did, however, use my TENS machine throughout labour and found this really helpful for easing the effects of the surges and it also served as a distraction, together with the tools I learnt with Natal Hypnotherapy.  I also made loud chanting sounds of AHHHHH and OOOOOM to get through the surges which I learnt from JuJu Sindin’s Birth Skills book – I would highly recommend this.

At around 3pm ish we were all preparing for the birth of our daughter. The midwives prepared the bedroom with the dust sheets and old bedding. I assumed a side lying position on my left side. This was an odd position in the sense that I had never considered this position in any of my birth preparation classes.  I recall the bedroom was very hot as we had to use a heater to ensure the room was sufficiently warm to receive our baby.  During the pushing stage, my husband pated my forehead with a cold flannel which was replaced regularly by the midwives to ensure it was cool. I also had lots of coconut water throughout the labour, together with ice cubes, made of honey/lemon and himalayan sea salt, raspberry leaf infused water and black molasses in hot water to maintain my energy levels.

Our baby was slowly descending but I could sense that the midwives were keen for me to change positions, although they very much allowed this to be led by me.  As a matter of common sense, it would have been more logical for me to be in a vertical position/all fours. I had pulled a muscle/ligament on my left side at some stage during labour so I was not desperate to change positions, as I knew it would hurt.  However, something urged me to jump onto an all fours position. Once I changed position, our baby seemed to descend much quicker. The midwives have since commented on the extent of my movements during this stage – I was almost kneeling at one point, then swaying my hips left to right and then leaning forwards in a prayer position. All of this behaviour was instinctive, rather than conscious, and the midwives believed this assisted our daughter’s birth. It felt like Beatty and I were doing a little dance with one another.  I was comforted that our daughter was almost dancing with her little legs hanging out of me and she was a lovely colour, whereas some of the videos I had seen of vaginal breech deliveries involved a baby looking a little limp and blue.

I recall the sensation of our daughter’s bum coming out and then her legs. I could sense when Beatty’s body had flopped out. I recall looking through my legs and seeing Beatty hanging there, with her head inside of me. We had kept the sex of our baby a surprise so I was constantly asking the midwives if they could discern the sex. As our baby passed urine, they could tell it was a girl. My husband and I were so surprised as 95% of people had said they thought it was a boy. While we had no firm view either way, we had become convinced that it was a boy; it was a lovely surprise to hear it was a girl.

I did not have another contraction to push out Beatty’s head for around 5 minutes. It felt like a long time. The midwives were not too concerned as our daughter’s lips were peeping out of me and her lips were opening and closing to take in air.  The only time the midwives intervened was to lightly move the cord to allow our daughter to breathe.  As no contraction came, I pushed without a contraction and my daughter was born at 4:17pm, exactly 14 days after her due date. It was the best feeling. My husband, who had been attending to me the whole labour, gave me a big kiss and then the midwives put our daughter in front of me on the floor. I couldn’t believe she was ours. I didn’t pick her up straight away while I took it all in. I then held her close to my chest – skin to skin – and we had our first cuddle as a family.

Our daughter was 8 lbs 9 ounces (the midwives did comment on how big she appeared as she was being born – I always had a strong suspicion that she was going to be a big baby!) and 52 cm long – although she appeared much longer; most people have passed comment on this since her birth. Our daughter scored 9/10 on her APGAR score.

Given established labour started around 8.30am that morning, labour was fairly quick. I also only suffered a minor tear which did not require any stitches. When I spoke to Jane Evans she told me that breech births are generally fairly quick and that generally women don’t tear – so breech birth does have its advantages!

We then all moved to our bed with our daughter in my arms while the midwives tidied up around us. One big bonus was that the student midwife, Suyai, used to be a chef so she made an amazing breakfast for us of eggs, bacon, spinach and tomatoes – beats hospital food any day! Andy also made me a lovely placenta smoothie and I ate some of the placenta immediately after the birth, when resting in bed. I cannot be certain, but I attribute the fact that I did not suffer any baby blues to the placenta which I consumed. I believe this regulated my hormones and replenished vital nutrients lost during labour.

I will treasure forever the memory of the three of us snuggling in bed that evening. If we had given birth in the hospital, my husband may have been asked to leave us that evening which would have been awful.  This was another (of many) advantages to a home birth.

Our daughter was slow to latch on but after a couple of days of practice, she was guzzling away – her new found hobby.

If the hospital had had its way, our daughter would have been born on 15 August 2014; that was not her time. In fact, the midwives noted that our daughter did not show any signs of being particularly over her due date. We were delighted she came naturally on her true birthday and not a date fixed by a hospital.

We did not name our daughter until a couple of days after the birth; such was our belief that our baby was a boy, we had not properly considered girls’ names. On Tuesday 26 August, we named our little breechling Estelle Augusta Barker – inspired by the main character in Charles Dickens’ novel, Bleak House, Estella. A strong, formidable character which we hope Estelle will be, too.

20140824_161904_edited-1 (1) IMG_20140824_164453_Lucas DSC_0867 copy 20140824_163826_edited-1 20140824_163737_edited-1 (1)A big thank you to the midwife team for all of their incredible efforts/support in the safe arrival of Estelle, to Ruth Atkinson for her inspirational birth story which gave me the strength to follow my instincts and a final thank you to my wonderful husband who supported me throughout the pregnancy, labour and beyond.

Do Only Hippies Have Home Births?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have seen and read the headlines last week about NICE encouraging low risk women to opt for a home birth. These new guidelines have had mixed responses from women and midwives all over the UK. It raised a lot of questions from some of my pregnant women who previously hadn’t considered a home birth as an option.

I decided to ask a few of my friends who have had a home birth to tell me why they choose a home birth and how it exactly made them feel.

‘I wanted to have my baby at home where I felt calm, relaxed and in control. I had complete confidence in my midwives and felt like it was just a natural process that I could best do in my own environment. The best thing about having my baby at home was being able to get into my own bed straight away, cuddling our new baby, introducing her to my two young boys and having a lovely cup of tea and toast.’ Natasha Mum of 3.

‘I had a home birth because I believe giving birth shouldn’t be too medical; it’s a natural process & a home environment can provide a perfect setting to keep calm & relaxed. I also had full confidence in my midwife & my husband that they could support me through it. Having a home birth made me feel incredibly proud of my body and my mind. It gave me an enormous sense of empowerment & encouragement if we decide to do it again! I loved the feeling of being safe at home & I could climb into my own bed afterwards with a cup of tea & cake!’ Sam Mum of 2.

I had home births because I knew home was the place I felt most comfortable. By feeling comfortable I knew I would feel more in control and therefore relaxed. The more relaxed I felt the less pain I would feel. Giving birth is a natural & normal process one which doesn’t always need medical intervention. Having my babies at home enabled me to be in control during birth and to relax immediately afterwards.’ Ali Mum of 2.

This next home birth story is by Zoe. I had the pleasure of attending both of her births both in hospital and at home. Here she explains why she also chose a home birth for her second baby Delphine born earlier this year. (She’s defiantly not a hippie in fact she’s one of the coolest Mums I know)

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I know I’ve been lucky with both my labours, i actually feel guilty talking about them sometimes as so many other women have had bad experiences.  But I guess its good to know that labour isn’t all bad or scary – yes there are some toe-curlingly painful moments but they pass pretty quickly (then come back) but sometimes it can be ok.

I prepared for labour by doing pregnancy yoga classes and i learnt about the stages of labour, i read some amazing inspiring stories about women giving birth in the back of trucks in the 70s in a book called Spiritual Midwifery, i read a bit about the principles of hypno birth and reminded myself that everyone had been born, its a natural thing so whats with all the hype!? By the end my pregnancy i was really looking forward to giving birth.

I would have liked to have had a with my first baby but we moved house to a new area on my due date, he arrived 4 days later (once we’d unpacked and i was relaxed) so it wasn’t an option i could plan for.  Instead we had him at the hospital in a birth room and had as similar experience as a home birth as we could in the hospital it was amazing.  We registered ourselves at the hospital in the morning when i was 1cm dilated, then went back home until later that evening when i returned at 6-7cm.  The birth room was really nice – there were coloured lights, a private bathroom, birth balls and a large bath which i got into and had him about 5 hours later with no pain relief apart from gas and air.

For me the actual labour part of being at the hospital was great – I had amazing midwives (Clemmie) who were supportive and really listened to what i wanted and who definitely didn’t panic/ pressure me, they made me feel relaxed and able to focus on my labour.  However once we were moved down (I guess around 1am) to the ward it wasn’t so fun we were given a curtained off bed and a chair for my husband, next to some guy who was singing (not very well)  to his new baby, people watching tv, talking, and lots of crying babies.

We had to wait there until 5pm the following day for a midwife to give me a Anti D injection (i am rhesus negative) then at last we could go home.   That day was horrible – we were tired and hungry and just wanted more than anything to take our baby home.

As I had such a straightforward first birth we decided to go for a home birth with our second, obviously as any mother would be i was worried about if anything went wrong what would happen but i thought this was a chance i was prepared to take in order to have the reward of having my baby and family at home straight away – with my bathroom, bed, clothes, music etc.

As my due date arrived the thing i was most anxious about was having my toddler in the house while i was in labour and felt that I couldn’t relax while he was there so he went to stay with my parents and a the next day I went into labour

I was having mild contractions throughout the day bouncing on my birth ball watching Orange is the New Black, my husband working upstairs feeling relaxed that I didn’t have to go to the hospital or anywhere else.   After having a sweep in the afternoon things moved quickly I remember leaning on my banister at the bottom of my stairs with my Tens machine on finding it to be the only place i wanted to be as my contractions were getting stronger.  I told my husband to get off his conference call and come downstairs. Clemmie arrived at about 4pm, I got in the pool and we talked about shoes!! And then I felt like pushing – my baby daughter was born about 20 mins later.  My placenta came out naturally in the water, then I got out and I lay on my sofa with a baby, cup of tea and a biscuit – it was amazing!  We even used the water in the pool to water the garden!!

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When I would tell people that I was planning a home birth they would mostly react with ‘ooo you are brave’ – why? my Mum was born at home, Call The Midwife?  I think its all part of the negative ideas that are attached to labour and the fear that its a horrible, painful and scary experience.

Women need to go into labour focused, relaxed and informed – be strong and not scared!

Pregnancy Diary – 38 Weeks

Hot off today’s headlines! NICE have said that Women with low-risk pregnancies are to be encouraged to have non-hospital births under new NHS guidelines, which could see almost half of mothers-to-be planning to deliver their baby away from traditional labour wards. This is wonderful news for midwives, women and even doctors who are working in over stretched, busy labour wards. As a midwife who works in a case-loading team and is able to offer all our women the choice where to birth their baby, this new guideline could not be more welcomed. Today Siobhan gives us an update on her preparation for her home birth.
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Preparing to meet our water baby

Monday – Iron worries

I mentioned in my previous post how I was totally committed to my planned homebirth, however there is one potential problem that stands between me and my birth pool dream and that is my iron level. It was 10.5 at 28 weeks and I was told to take Spatone twice a day, which I did. However by 36 weeks it had fallen to 9.9. (I have been told that a minimum of 10 is required for homebirth or birthing centre and 11 is preferable). I have now been taking Ferrous Sulphate twice a day and folic acid with orange juice. We have gone from eating kale with every meal (which my partner hated) to steak on a regular basis (which he’s much more happy about). This is after reading the post about nutrition on this blog and learning that we absorb iron much more efficiently from red meat rather than vegetables. My bloods are being checked again this week, at 38 weeks. Fingers crossed it’s risen and all the black poo has been worth it! (YUK).

Tuesday – Baby, be ready soon… please!

‘Babies are born when babies are ready’ is a rather tricky affirmation for me to embrace wholeheartedly as I was induced at almost 42 weeks with my son and I really want to avoid that happening again.  What if baby isn’t ready until after 42 weeks?! I don’t want to battle consultants who want me induced and to start worrying about whether I should follow their advice or not. Of course I want baby to be come when baby is ready…it’s just I really want baby to be ready by 41 weeks!

To help avoid this situation I have started having acupuncture twice a week. I don’t believe acupuncture is going to induce my labour and I don’t believe it will make my body do something my body is not ready to do. But I do believe that acupuncture can remove the obstacles (like stress, tension and worry) that prevent labour from starting. Last week the points used were to improve my blood and for relaxation. I slept really well that night for the first time in ages. My second session was this week and the points used were for ripening the cervix. Since then I have felt a stretching and tenderness down there. Could all be psychosomatic of course (says the skeptic in me).

Wednesday – Wet runs and hot tub fun

Tonight we had our ‘wet run’ – which is like a dry run with the birth pool, only there’s lots of water involved.  My partner inflated and filled the pool (and timed it), and then, because I couldn’t bear to waste all the warm water, we decided to get in and enjoy it! I started off LOVING the pool – it felt like we were sat in our own private hot tub… in the living room!!! But then I started feeling some waves of panic…caused by the dawning realization that in the next few weeks I’m going to be giving birth in this pool!! A human being, is going to come out of my vagina, in this pool, in the next few weeks. It’s mind-blowing and over-whelming. I felt a bit sick so went to bed with my relaxation track.

Thursday – to be present or not to be present?

My son has gone from describing a textbook TV birth – Mum-to-be in bed, on her back, sweaty, red and screaming to imagining a happy, calm, water birth. He asks all kinds of intelligent questions, like how come it won’t drown when it comes out in the water? After I explained how it won’t take its first breath until it’s lifted out into the air, he said he wanted to be there for ‘when it takes its first breath in this life, in our family’. How cute is that?!

We still don’t have a plan in place for what we will do in terms of childcare when I’m in labour. The first issue is timing. If only we could know WHEN in the next 4 weeks the baby is going to come! If it’s the daytime then he could be at school, if it’s the nighttime he could be sleeping. If it’s the school holidays then we could be screwed! Both sets of grandparents live approximately 4 hours drive away, which isn’t ideal/an option. And the second issue is whether or not Oisin should be part of the birth?! He says he wants to be there for when the baby comes out but will I be relaxed if he is and what if things don’t go to plan? What if he finds it distressing and I can’t comfort him or reassure him because I’m in the throes of labour? I really don’t know what is best but I know some sort of decision needs to be made imminently…

The best news today was my iron results came back and homebirth is a GO! It’s gone from 9.9 to 11.3 after just 13 days of iron tablets. perhaps it was the acupuncture!! My midwife seemed a little surprised and I have been having points for improving blood done during my needle sessions! Ooooh, maybe it is possible to poke this baby out 😉

Friday – packing the birth bag

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Now I’m 38 weeks I’ve decided I really should pack my birth bag – we’ve decided to call it birth bag as I’m hoping to avoid going to hospital. I’ve been gathering bits for weeks but finally got around to packing it all and it’s like the best bag of goodies EVER. I’m genuinely looking forward to when the first surge hits just so I open it. I have a lush new Diptique candle packed, a mini bottle of champers (of course), a new super fluffy towel and dressing gown, new bed socks, jelly babies, galaxy bars, laminated affirmations, a head massager, my luxe silk PJs and a set of L’Occitane toiletries which I’ve saved for months. It’s going to be like Christmas has come early… unless I’m waaay overdue and then it will be like Christmas has come late… and I will probably be massively pissed off.

I’ve also packed the obvious essentials like loads of industrial-sized sanitary pads and a few packs of size 14 pants from Sainsburys, to accommodate the aforementioned nappy-like pads, which I will be more than happy to dispose of ASAP. And of course some men’s t-shirts in size XXL from Primark to wear when in labour. I just don’t like to focus on this darker side of my birthing bag.

Finally, I’ve also got to work on creating a playlist for birthing a baby on Spotify. So far I’ve got a bit of Alt-J, The XX, Hozier, George Ezra and Bastille. Unless it’s a very quick labour (unlikely) I’m going to need to add a few more… Would love some suggestions??

Birth Story Of The Week – Kharmel and Minnie

I have total OCD…I write lists of lists and had an excel spreadsheet of everything I thought I needed for the birth of baby G (I can’t really remember where this moniker came from) I also Google everything…Pregnancy and birthing has taught me that regardless of how many colour coordinated excel docs you make, how many google searches, books you read, classes you attend etc – you are never truly prepared for what happens next. And by next I mean labour.
Our pregnancy was planned… I had tried to time it so that I would get preggo at Burning man because I naively thought it was as easy as that.  Mother nature thwarted me and I spent the whole week on my period, fat and bloated constantly freaking out about how a tampon was going to look with my outfit du jour (basically no clothes – goggle it!) So  back to London and back to business. Anyway long story short, I realised I was pregnant one night four months later whilst eating half a Spanish omelette in bed at 3am with ketchup. (I was about two days pregnant and googled pregnancy symptoms that night!  )
I had a pretty ‘okay’ pregnancy if you can call it that. I had hypermesis (I googled this, but didn’t think I had it until I was rushed to A & E and placed on an Iv drip for two days) but other than that was pretty smooth sailing – no cravings, no stretch marks : ) and no piles!
I knew pretty much from the beginning that I had wanted a home birth. I hate hospitals. I don’t really know why as I had never had any kind of surgery or had to spend a night in hospital until my Hyperemis and the food wasn’t all that bad! I went to a home birth class run by my local midwives which was really informative and not so hippy dippy as I thought it was going to be. There were lots of ‘normal’ reasons for wanting a home birth from women who had chosen to do so because they hadn’t had a great experience in hospitals with their first births, wanting more control over their births etc. I  was thinking how wonderful it would be to have a baby and then shut the door, shut the blinds and crawl into bed with our baby. Just the three of us. No hospital noise. No hospital lights. It was here that I first heard about Hypnobirthing and made a note to google it some more!!!
A few weeks later we met with an absolutely wonderful woman called Karen Mander who ran a two hour session that my and my boyf went to. He fell asleep. I thought it would be a crazy ‘alternative’ woman who had probably never had children herself, getting you to listen to whale music. Instead, we had an honest open discussion about how labour actually happens and the physical aspect of what is happening at each stage and what you can do to have a birth that is more calm by taking control of your body. This was the best money spent during my whole pregnancy (apart from a preggo massage at Space NK)
So I get to my due date and fancy sushi… I Google to see if sushi can really be that bad for you this late in pregnancy. Jury was out but I didn’t care at this point and drove to get California crab rolls and a beer. No sign of baby. I spend the next two days googling ‘how do I know if I’m in labour.’ Retrospective word of advice – when you are, you know. If you have to google it chances are you ain’t!! I google image what a mucus plug looks like (gross) google whether raspberry leaf tea/ acupuncture/ reflexology work. Google how accurate due dates are. Google how many women go into labour on their due date. Goggle is now my enemy. I’m bored.
Cut to two days later and I am definitely having contractions. They start on Sunday and hurt. But they don’t hurt hurt so I lounge about and think now is probably a good time to put on my hypnobirthing CD (damn why hadn’t I done this 4 months ago!). The midwife comes and attempts a sweep but I’m not having any of it. I go to bed and manage to get some sleep and eat a lot of shit – Nik Naks, Minstrels and some weird new Lucozade. My Dad comes over and I try to pretend that I’m not having contractions whilst trying to log them on my contraction timer app. It’s shit.
The next morning I’m definitely in labour, I’ve definitely seen my mucus plug (still gross) I text my midwife and curl up in bed, occasionally moving on to my birthing ball and then back into bed. Boyf starts filling the pool up at around 4pm and I get in without a midwife as I’ve decided I’ve had enough. The pool is amaaaaaaaaaazing. The hot water makes me feel relaxed and seems to take the pressure off. Then the gas and air arrives (with two more midwives and a student midwife) I have my diptique burning and fleetwood Mac on what seems to be repeat but maybe not. Anyway the gas and air is a dream and everything for the next three hours becomes a magical blur. I just remember floating around and generally feeling very euphoric. Oh and trying to eat a digestive biscuit at some point only to spit it back into my boyfriend’s face. Nice. I ask a few times how much longer, but not because the pain is unbearable… at this point I just want to meet my baby and see what he or she looks like.
Then I get to 9cms dilated and things change. I want to push. I tell the midwife and I think I start to try to push. Then I hear them all talking but can’t really work out what they’re saying. I didn’t know this at the time, but baby’s heartbeat keeps dropping with every contraction. They say that they are going to take me to hospital just to make sure everything’s okay. I was still high on gas and air so don’t really remember much of this part other than not wanting to get dressed to get in an ambulance. And not having a proper hospital bag packed as I was adamant I wasn’t ever going to have to go to hospital.
We get to the hospital and they quickly work out that the cord is firmly wrapped around the baby’s neck. I was going to need an emergency c section. Now, I’ve not had any surgery not even a tooth out but at this point I’m still super high on gas and air and don’t really care what they’re doing to me. I remember the radio playing and everyone being really nice and talking to me… I sign some papers and kind of remember talking about this bit in the NCT class. I’m awake but definitely too high to have any kind of freak out which I MOST DEFINITELY would have had, had I not been on gas and air.
Then she was out. Very quickly. There was a moment of silence and my boyfriend was definitely worried but I knew that all was going to be okay. And then a teeny tiny cry. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl and I remember Adam saying it was a girl and placing her on my chest. I was super spaced out of it but remember looking at her and thinking she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and fuck me she had a lot of hair!!
I would never have opted for a c section in a million years and it definitely wasn’t the greatest experience I’ve ever had but the hospital were amazing and I think that my home birth (while it lasted) was the most beautiful and magical thing I could wish for. As I write this 7 weeks later, and reflect, I now know that I would have always had to have a c section due to the cord tie,  but I would do it all again in exactly the same way. My midwives were the most wonderful women I could have asked for. It was their quick decision and knowledge that something wasn’t quite right,, that prevented things from going horribly wrong. Yes I now have a bumpy scar, and surgery and hospitals still scare me, but I’m happy that I attempted to give birth at home and got to enjoy 5 hours of labour at home.
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Minnie Rose Gravett was born at 10.21pm on Monday 29th September and weighed 6.6lbs. She’s a dream. And I still Google everything, although I have no time for Excel docs anymore!

Preparing For Birth – The Only 7 Things You’ll Ever Need To Know

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This was recently sent to me by a Hypnobirth teacher Shirley who felt that if women follow this advice no matter what road their birth takes they will have been fully informed the whole way, increasing their chances of a birth that is calm, relaxed and a positive experience. I couldn’t agree more so with permission I decided to share it with you all.

1. Learn to understand the birth process from start to finish and what factors can help and hinder it

2. Learn about your birth rights so you can make informed decisions that are best for you and baby

3. Look into your choice of place of birth ( if not at home ) and find out what their statistics are for interventions and c-sections, if these are high you should question this and maybe reconsider a different birth place

4. Find out what your place of births’s policy and procedures are. By knowing in advance you will know certain suggestions are policy and not what is necessarily best for you. Remember it’s your birth – your choice. You should never be told to do anything only be given options. Every option offered to you should include benefits and risks and should have alternatives

5. Mothers should know latest studies, show for first time mothers its safer to give birth on a Midwife Led Unit, followed by homebirth. For second or subsequent babies it’s home, then Midwife Led Unit, hospital comes third both times (The Birth Place Study)

6. Preparing your body by regular, gentle exercise, eat healthy and drink plenty of water. Birth is very physical. Everything you consume and breathe goes to your baby. Most importantly prepare your mind, the easiest way to do this is through hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing ALWAYS makes a difference. What you put in is everything!

7. Your guess date (due date) is only an approximate date, your baby will come when they are ready and just like apples on a tree they ripen at different times. There is no such thing as a late baby only different lengths of pregnancy. So smudge the date you are given into a rough estimate, 5th of May becomes late April to mid May. 27th June becomes mid June to mid July.

www.yobabymusic.wordpress.com/hypnobirthing

www.thecalmbirthschool.com

www.londonhypnobirthing.co.uk