Birth Story Of The Week – Abi and and Linus

Oooo I do love a birth story and one from a midwife too! Abi has 2 children and shares her birth story here of her second child Linus now 6 months old.

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As a midwife I’ve been privileged to have attended a lot of home births. My community mentor when I was a student midwife was a real home birth advocate and had a really high home birth rate for our area. I’ll never forget the thrill of getting those phone calls in the middle of the night to say a lady we had been looking after throughout pregnancy was in labour and to get there ASAP. It was a delight to see women at ease in the comfort of their own surroundings, relaxed and excited, interacting with their birth partner as normal, free from any of the “rules” in hospital. Inspired by these women doing birth their way, I knew even then when it came to having my babies I wanted to have them at home.

I’d been booked for home birth in 2011 with my daughter, but unfortunately needed inducing the week before my due date due to static growth and reduced amniotic fluid. However I still had a really positive experience, labouring in the pool and having a quick birth on dry land after about 6 hours of established labour.

However, when I got pregnant with my son I knew right away I would have him at home, all being well. It’s not even as if I’m particularly emotionally attached to our house, but having been through two horrendous hyperemesis pregnancies I felt even more strongly that hospital was not the place for me, having spent so much time there being rehydrated and patched up. I also felt keen to end my baby making days in the best way possible, to get, if you’ll forgive the word, some “closure”. Luckily apart from “just” the hyperemesis my pregnancy was pretty normal other than a bout of anaemia at 36 weeks. However, this wasn’t going to stop me achieving my dream of a home birth at the last hurdle, and a week of ferrous fumerate tablets and intensive spinach consumption sorted that out!

We’d hired a La Bassine birth pool from WaterBaby Birthing Hire and can thoroughly recommend their services. I’d also ordered a TENS machine as it had helped me so much with my first labour. I’d prepared home birth boxes rather than hospital bags with everything we might need for me or the baby, so my husband knew where to look or to just grab the boxes should I need transferring to hospital at any time. We had plenty of old towels and sheets as well as the essential biscuits and drinks for the midwives. We were good to go.

Having been induced before I had no idea when or how this baby might begin to come. It turned out he decided to come at the same gestation as his sister, 39+3. I’d been in a foul mood the night before (exactly 6 months ago tonight as I write this!), having been really sick that evening. I even text my midwife to tell her how fed up I was! She said in hindsight when she got that text she knew I was going to go into labour that night! As I went to bed I remarked grumpily to my husband what a state the house was in and how it was a good thing I wasn’t going to go into labour that night. Little did I know!

I woke up at 2:30 contracting out of the blue and they were regular, every 6 minutes, but short lasting. My husband was asleep in our daughters room, so I pottered around for a while doing jobs to make sure this was it before waking him. Quite soon the contractions went to every 2 minutes but still only lasting 30 seconds. However, by 4am they were still in this pattern so I felt sure the baby would be arriving that day so woke my husband with that old cliché “it’s time!”

I’d decided against having my daughter there for the birth. I would have loved her see her brother born but it would have been selfish of me as she is a sensitive soul and I was concerned I might get quite vocal during transition! So we called my parents to come collect her and they arrived at 6am, along with my wonderful midwife who I’ve worked alongside for the past 8 years and who looked after me so well through my awful pregnancy. I’ll never forget the look of excitement on my daughters gorgeous sleepy face as she came downstairs as usual that morning and saw us all standing there in the living room!

I put the TENS on and sat with my midwife chatting and having breakfast while my husband busied himself with setting the pool up. I still wasn’t in established labour but as I only had a 6 hour labour with my daughter we all knew it could kick off any time. Slowly but surely the contractions started lasting longer and became stronger. By about 8am my midwife encouraged me to get in the pool and I resisted thinking it was too soon, but soon changed my mind and was glad I did. The warm water is so wonderful and instantly relaxed me. I spent another couple of hours breathing through the increasingly strong contractions with the support of my husband and midwife.

At 10am I was struggling slightly so asked my midwife to examine me. I was 5cm dilated with intact membranes. At this point I felt I still had forever to go and asked for some entonox as it had helped me when I had my daughter. I remember feeling quite panicky at this stage, thinking it would be hours and hours and it was like a switch had flipped inside me. My midwife head had gone right out the window and although I was clearly in transition I *might* have started shouting for a hospital transfer, an epidural, a caesarean, anything to stop the pains coming. My husband told me this is exactly how I was in the final stages with my daughter but I couldn’t really make out anything anyone was saying to me.

Soon after something rather odd happened and I’m sure you’ll think I’m crazy but it was the most intense and strange experience I’ve ever had. Suddenly it felt like my head was underwater (it wasn’t!), like when you’re at a swimming pool and an hear the echoes of voices all around but the sound is muffled so you can’t make anything out. Time seemed to slow right down, almost to a slow shutter speed. It was almost like an out of body experience, but maybe I had just had a wee bit too much entonox! I wasn’t afraid, I just told my midwife I needed to push but was worried it was too soon. She told me to follow my body but I was convinced it was too early, however the urge was suddenly too strong to ignore.

After a couple of small pushes I felt everything stretching, and the midwife told my husband it was the bag of waters bulging outside my body. I remember thinking to myself “right, that’s how it will feel when he comes so just bloody get on with it!” and just breathed on the entonox as I felt his head emerge soon after. With the next push, at exactly 11:11am, Linus was born in the pool and I reached down to pick him up and bring him to my chest. We have a lovely video me holding him straight afterwards and I’m laughing and shouting “I did it! I did it!” It makes me well up with pride and love just thinking about it.

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I wanted a physiological third stage so pushed my placenta out in the pool about 20 minutes later. My midwife helped me out of the pool and checked me for perineal trauma but I didn’t need any stitches, which I was thrilled about having had a small episiotomy with my daughter. I breastfed Linus while my midwives did the paperwork etc and my husband pumped the water out of the pool. Then after that I had a wee and a shower they tucked me up in bed with a sleeping Linus, and within an hour they were gone and I was sipping my first cup of tea in 9 months and munching on pâté with crusty bread!

As I said my hospital birth was a largely positive experience, but it can’t compare with the home birth. I’m struggling to put into words how wonderful it was to be in my own home with a midwife who knew me and allowed me the freedom just to follow my instincts. I was high as a kite with happiness and pride for about two weeks afterwards! Every day when I’m sat in our front room where he was born I smile to myself and remember how it played out that day. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”

Birth Story Of The Week – Helen and Matilda

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Hello! I’m Helen, mother to two fabulous and very loud children – Matilda, aged five, and Hugo, three. I am one-half of the comedy duo Scummy Mummies. We produce a number one podcast and comedy show taking a funny, honest look at the scummier side of parenting.

But my entrance into motherhood was quite the opposite – in fact my first labour was your full-on, all-natural, candle-burning, classical music-playing, yoga-chanting-in-the-lounge type of home birth. It was so calm, so lovely, and not very scummy at all. How my life has changed since then…

It all began when my waters broke at 9.45pm. I remember this very clearly as I was watching a show about John Prescott and laughed so hard that I thought I had wet my pants. There was a big whoosh of water and it just kept dribbling everywhere. I still think it’s hilarious that it was John Prescott who sent me into Labour…

My husband’s reaction was to run around in circles while looking panic-stricken. Obviously this was very helpful for me. I do recommend other birthing partners do the same. The contractions started at 11.30pm. At first they were about half an hour apart, but then they sped up fairly quickly. I tried to breathe through them and keep positive through the pain. Despite six months of yoga and breathing training, that first proper contraction was a huge shock, but I was determined to stay focused.

I was doing lots of Omming, Owwing and Oooohing – the neighbours must have been thrilled! I know my husband was. It might sound ridiculous, but it worked like magic and I felt really able to manage the pain. I rang the hospital and at about 3am a midwife came to the house. I had dilated to nearly 2cm and was getting strong contractions every 10 minutes. The midwife told me to take a Panadol and lie down, adding that she would come back later. I had been hoping for some lovely drugs and a massage, but apparently I was coping so well I didn’t need them – bummer! So my husband and I were left to do our 10 minute moaning sessions by ourselves.

But the midwife did give me an amazing piece of very simple advice: “Always lower your shoulders when the contractions come, and slow down your breathing.” Funnily enough, this got me through! I had a lovely bath (cue the candles and classical music) which helped me to relax and get into the rhythm of the contractions. Will, my husband, made himself useful by reminding me to only do “out breaths” and stay calm. He massaged my back and hands as I lay on my side in the bath and concentrated on my breathing. When I stopped focusing I started thinking about the pain too much, which made my breath get short and then I would throw up. That bit wasn’t so great!

At one point, which I now think was transition, I screamed, “I want to go to hospital and have an epidural” – followed by lots of swearwords I now forget. But Will kept me positive and helped me to keep breathing and relaxing.

By around 7am, I knew things were really happening so we rang the hospital again. By this time I was sitting in the lounge on a fit ball while Will set up the pool. I tried using the Tens machine but this seemed to make the contractions worse, so I decided it wasn’t right for me (i.e. I through it across the room in a rage.)

I should also mention that this was when my husband turned to me and said, “I’m really tired, you know – I did a full day’s work yesterday.” This was not his best moment and let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for his predicament.

The midwife arrived at 8am, by which time I had dilated to 7cm. I was doing my contractions over the ball, swaying a lot, doing my “golden thread breath” and making the “ssshhhhh” sound. About half an hour later I got into the lovely warm pool and started using more sounds to get through the pain – lots of Ooooos, Ohhhhhs and Aaaaawwws. Again, this sounds funny now I think about it, but it was a really good way of communicating my pain levels to the midwife. Will said it was like listening to a car being tuned! (He watches a lot of Top Gear.)

My midwife, Claire, who had been visiting us at home in the run-up to the birth, had just started her shift and we got a call to say she could come straight away to deliver my baby. I nearly cried. It was so lovely to have the midwife I adored and trusted with me.

Claire arrived just as the second stage really kicked-off. We had more candles, more classical music and everyone spoke very softly and calmly. The pushing part was intense, but I got through it with all those sounds while holding tightly to Will’s hands. I ended up on all fours which was great, as I could look at him and feel supported by the water. (It was also good as there were a couple of incidents in the pool that required a sieve and I was pleased not to see that – I did regret eating lamb shanks the night before.)

When Matilda’s head crowned, the midwife told me to put my hands down and catch her. With one big push, a twist and a turn, I pulled her out of the water and held her in my arms. She came out screaming and was big, purple and amazing. She yelled for about 15 minutes, so she was definitely alive and well! We decided to name her Matilda Claire – this means “strong and mighty” as she was then and remains today! She also shares her middle name with my sister and, of course, my midwife.

We left the cord attached while I sat in the pool for an hour. It was so calm and relaxing. Matilda and I shared some lovely skin to skin contact as she kicked about in the water. The midwives gave me a huge spoonful of honey and made themselves a cuppa.

Then it was time for stage three – Will cut the cord, I hopped out of the pool and the midwives popped a carrier bag on the floor. The placenta flopped out with one big push! I have never felt so glamorous in my life. The midwife checked my downstairs for war wounds and to my relief, no stitches were required! What a vagina!

And what a baby! Matilda was born on her due date, Tuesday 28 October, at 11.45am. She weighed 8lbs 3oz and was gorgeous.

The midwives left around 2pm. Will, Matilda and I hung out on the coach staring at each other for a few hours. Then my mum and dad arrived to make us cheese on toast. Job done!

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My daughter is nearly six now and I have since had a second hippy-dippy, drug-free, moan-filled water birth. It was just as wonderful and I highly recommend it! I feel extremely lucky to have had a supportive husband and brilliant midwives helping to make both my births truly beautiful experiences.

Anyway, that’s enough lovely gushing. I must get back to writing about feeding my kids Haribo and fish fingers for dinner.

The Scummy Mummies Podcast is available for free via iTunes or ScummyMummies.com. Check out episode 14, ‘Midwife Crisis’, featuring the fabulous Clemmie Hooper! The Scummy Mummies stage show is performed monthly at The Hob in Forest Hill – visit their website for details. Twitter: @scummymummies

Birth Story Of The Week – Maria and Emyrs

Baby Emrys less than a day old Chris and Sonny in their new playpen aka the birthpool Emrys and me 9 months later

“It never even occurred to me that I could give birth to my baby at home until I met my friend Cara when we were pregnant with our first babies. Up until then I was conditioned, as I think many Western women are, to believe that babies were born in hospital. Not so for Cara. She was determined to have her little one at home, as hospitals were a place she feared deeply for various personal reasons. I was impressed by her bravery and positive mindset. And she did it! Her bright and curious daughter entered the world in a pool in her parents’ front room, with Bob Dylan’s ‘Queen Jane Approximately’ trumpeting her arrival. It was perfect.

As for me, I had to have my first baby in hospital. I was scared and had no idea what to expect. I wanted doctors, I wanted beeping machines, and I wanted drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

My birth story of my first child Sonny, is beautiful because he was born. The midwives looked after me well and my baby boy was delivered safely. All was well. Yet I couldn’t help but feel that it could have been even more special, even more beautiful, perhaps even serene? So when I saw that second stripe appear on the pregnancy test eighteen months ago, I knew that I was going to go for it the second time around. I was going to have a home birth.

This was not a decision I made lightly. My husband and I discussed it at length, and I read every book I could get my hands on, keen to hear the bad stories as well as the good. My midwife was extremely supportive; here in our small seaside town of Bournemouth in the UK, the Maternity Unit is midwife led. They are pro natural birth and encourage particularly second time mothers to consider home births. As I was low risk I was good to go.

We prepared the house for the big day, hired a birthing pool, and even visited a specialist shop for the needs of the elderly to purchase industrial-style bedsheets in case I wanted to have my baby in our bed. We were fully prepared with every eventuality covered. I knew that home births did not always work out, that sometimes women had to be taken to hospital to have their baby. I kept myself informed of all possible outcomes, but tried to remain positive, and believe that I could have the birth I dreamed of.

The day I went into labour, my step-mother came to pick up Sonny. It was half past five on the bright and unseasonably warm October evening. This was it! We said goodbye and I remember thinking, in a few hours-by midnight maybe-our baby would be here, in this house. I would be bathed and tucked up in our bed, nursing my newborn and drinking sweet tea. In our home. I would be committing every little detail of the last hours to memory. My special, unique and perfect birth.

We called the midwife and she came to check me. At about half past seven I was just 2 centimetres dilated. She told me to rest, have a bath and call her when the contractions were closer together, and/or my waters had broken. By midnight nothing had really changed. We went to bed and tried, in vain, to sleep.

Things did not start to pick up until 9 o’clock the next morning. We called the midwife again. This time Janine came and checked me. I was seven centimetres! She got me sorted with some gas and air, and called her colleague Linda. I knew that calling the second midwife meant that the baby was coming. My husband Chris started to fill up the pool, and set the baby’s clothes and towels to warm on the radiator. I got into the pool, and I remember looking at the tiny white babygro, hat and vest, certain that in just a few hours our baby would be here in our home.  As Chris played me my favourite records, I tried to focus my mind on the pain, telling myself that the baby was coming soon and this would be over. But my waters still had not broken.The early autumn sun beat through the window, a beautiful day to bring a new life into the world. My all-time favourite record was played-‘Bob Dylan’s Gospel’-a gift my dad had given my mum in the late ‘60s, before they were married. I remember feeling overwhelmed-I was emotional, I missed my mum, and I was exhausted.

Janine and Linda decided it was time to break my waters and I agreed with the plan. It was gone midday, and my contractions were starting to slow down. After a few painful tries my waters finally broke. Linda left the room and Janine held my hand and looked into my face as she told me quite gently but firmly, that there was meconium in my waters, and that Linda was calling the ambulance. There was a chance that my baby was in distress. We had to go to hospital. It was no longer safe for this birth to happen in our home. My contractions sped up and became more intense. The midwives let me push, making it very clear that myself and the baby would still have to go to the hospital-but he was not ready to come out yet.

The paramedics arrived and I was taken on a stretcher down our garden path and into the ambulance parked in our road. I was so frightened and distressed-how the hell was I going to get to hospital? How the hell was I going to get through the next 20 minutes in the back of an ambulance, which let’s face it, is not much more than a transit van.

The journey was excruciatingly painful. I clung to the gas and air as Janine rubbed my back. I tried to picture the journey to the hospital, feeling every turn around every roundabout, every speed bump. It was the longest journey of my life.

We finally arrived and were taken straight to the delivery room. Janine had to hand me over to another midwife.

“You’re leaving? You can’t stay?” (She did tell me this before we got in the ambulance, but I suppose I was still in denial) More devastation, more tears. Janine assured me that my new midwife, another Chris, was the best. I was in safe hands. Still, I had built up a strong bond with this woman, and I wasn’t ready for her to leave. (In fact, Janine was such a special midwife, she called me a few days later to ask if she could come and visit the baby and me, and talk through what had happened. I was so happy to see her again)

Midwife Chris was the opposite of Janine; she was big, brash and most definitely the boss. She was exactly what I needed. I did everything she said and concentrated as hard as I could. I delivered my baby boy at 4:30pm on the 10th October, 2013 in hospital. He arrived screaming and red-faced, his little fists clenched and trembling, as if in a terrible rage at leaving the warmth and comforting dark of my belly. He was perfect. He was beautiful. Despite the meconium, baby Emrys was healthy, and I was unscathed.

We were left alone; my husband, me and our newest member of the clan. We were in a hospital room, with stiff white sheets and strip lighting. There were no baby clothes warming on the radiator, there was no Bob Dylan on the record player, there was no promise of the comfort of our bed after a shower in our own bathroom. But that was OK. My baby was here, and he was safe. I had got through a long labour and had done most of it at home.

I do not regret trying for a homebirth, and it hasn’t necessarily put me off trying again if we were to have a third child (although my husband would have something to say about it). My home birth did not go as planned, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I look back on the experience fondly and with no regrets. And now nine months later, when I look at my baby boy I can’t help but feel that his birth is such a small part of what will be his story.”

Blog: ohidoliketobe

Birth Story Of The Week – Steve, Lorna and Wil

Steve blogs all about his life over at Rainbow Dad and tweets @1Rainbowdad.

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“I really can’t believe that it’s been almost 5 years since our first born, Wil, came into our life. I remember it like it was yesterday. What a day. Changed our life forever.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The excitement started when we found out we were expecting our first child.

Our story begins a bit differently. You see we’re a gay male couple, so it’s not so easy for us. My amazing sister, Lorna,  volunteered to be our surrogate. Something that we will be forever thankful for.

The thrill and joy we felt, when Lorna suprised us with the positive pregnancy test, didn’t diminish throughout her entire pregnancy. What I wasn’t expecting though, was just how scared and fearful I’d be throughout the entire thing. Scared that something would go wrong. Scared that the baby we wanted so much would be hurt. Or worse. Scared that we would lose the child we already loved. I wasn’t used to such an irrational fear. I had always been level headed and optimistic. After all, my head knew that Lorna had already carried two healthy children. Why would it be any different this time? I just couldn’t help it. Never had I wanted something more.

It was odd for us. Lorna lived 2 hours away from us in Sussex, so the time we could spend with her was limited. We made sure though that we attended every pre-natal appointment with her. The first time we heard Wils heart beat will stay with me forever. I’d almost convinced myself for no reason that it wouldn’t be there. Deep inside I think I couldn’t believe that we deserved this opportunity and therefore it was clearly going to end badly. We walked into the room and my heart was in my mouth. All the tension and fear I felt though melted away when we heard his heart beat . Strong and loud. Like a train chugging proudly down a track. I couldn’t help but look at Ivan and cry with relief.

Strangely it didn’t get any easier for the subsequent scans and remainder of Lorna’s pregnancy. There was never anything wrong. We had a strong and healthy baby growing. Every scan, every appointment proved just how silly I was being. I just couldn’t help it.

I must have bugged the he’ll out of her calling all the time and asking how she was. Trouble was as we weren’t with her often so I needed constant updates to feel involved. The scans were amazing. Overwhelming. Unbelievable. I was so proud. Proud of Lorna. Proud of Ivan. Proud of us. We had a 3d scan too in order to see Wil again. It was the most amazing feeling seeing him on that screen.

When we weren’t with Lorna we just spoke endlessly about how it would be when we had our son. At the 20 week scan we found out he was going to a boy. We were so happy. If only for the simple fact that we’d both easily agreed on the name William. But for the life of us couldn’t agree on a girls name. Ivan had some rather odd ideas as to what was a good girls name. So, having a boy saved a hell of a lot of arguing.

The day we got that phone call was overwhelming. Lorna rang us the morning of 10th July 2009. She had been in labour for a while,  but still early stages. Given the distance we had to travel we agreed that we would head over and stay at my Mums which was only 5 minutes from my sister. We got there late afternoon and eagerly awaited a call to say we should head over. Not only was Lorna bravely having our baby, she also decided that she wanted to have him at home. I didn’t have a sister I had a wonder woman. Perhaps she really is an angel.

We’d been waiting very impatiently all afternoon when we got the phone call. Unfortunately the phone call was to say that labour had stopped. Frustrated we decided the only thing we could do was drink wine at my Mums to pass the time. After all, we were going to be parents. Surely it would be one of our last opportunities.

I had drunk enough to feel merry and forget the frustration of labour when the phone rang again. This time it was to say that labour had started again and was going full throttle.

Shit!  I was half pissed. I couldn’t let my sister know I had been so irresponsible. She was selflessly suffering for us while I sat back and drunk. I put on a sober voice and agreed we’d get our heads down and they would call as soon as it seemed imminent. I guiltily put my head to the pillow praying I would sober up in time.

The final call came a couple of hours later. About midnight I guess. Thankfully the adrenaline completely sobered me and we headed straight over. We arrived and Lorna was upstairs. Her house was busy with 2 midwives and the sound of painful screaming. I would like to say I felt guilty, but all I felt was a bubbling excitement at the fact that we would shortly be parents.

We’d agreed with Lorna that we could be there for the birth but not actually in the room. In Lorna’s words she knew what a bitch she was in labour. I was just massively relieved that I wouldn’t be seeing too much of my sister!

We waited nervously downstairs. We were so excited but so scared. I don’t remember what we talked about I just remembered keep looking at each other when her screams broke the silence. We had to move from room to room as Lorna moved around; upstairs, downstairs, bathroom, bedroom. It was endless. I thought they’d said he’d be there any moment. 4 hours passed and it seemed the midwifes were getting worried. They didn’t say anything, just seemed more serious and had more conversations that we couldn’t hear. Lorna was doing so well,  but was clearly getting tired from all the work she was doing on only gas and air.

I didn’t have to say anything to Ivan to know he was as worried as me. That delightful feeling was starting to sit as a knot in my stomach. We moved closer to each other and held each other in silent support. Then the moment came that the midwife told us that they were going to move Lorna to the hospital. She had made no progress for a few hours and was physically drained. Lorna needed assistance that they couldn’t give her at home.

Lorna was on her own in the bedroom whilst the midwives made arrangements for an ambulance on the phone. One of the midwifes went back into the bedroom and I heard a cry of “we’ve got a baby”. In one desperate effort whilst on her own Lorna had managed to deliver our baby. The midwives helped fully deliver him and laid him on her chest before calling us up. I looked on overwhelmed with love and amazement as Ivan cut the cord binding my amazing sister and our precious son William Campbell. We had a kiss and fed him, lost in the amazement of him. He was perfect. A beautiful bundle that was to be the start of our real journey together.

William Campbell was born on 11th July 2009 at 05:09hrs weighing 9lb 6oz. And he was perfect.”

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Birth Story Of The Week – Gemma and Leo

Today’s birth story comes from Gemma founder of the blog Bristol Foodie. Gemma emailed me after following my blog for a while she says – “Whilst pregnant I was bombarded with horror stories of birth – and as a result many women seem to see a traumatic birth is an inevitability. I hope that you can publish my story and share my experience to show your readers that birth doesn’t have to be horrific – in fact with a little self belief and confidence in your body, it can be an amazing experience which you can treasure!”

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“I was overjoyed to find out I was pregnant but very nervous about birth inparticular tearing and needing stitches. Just thinking about it made me shudder! I knew that fearing birth would only make the experience more traumatic so decided very early on to try hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga with local company, Purely Pregnant.

I was amazed by how quickly my perceptions changed! I quickly learned to block out all of the horror stories about childbirth that (unhelpfully) people love to share and focussed on the birth I wanted rather than the one I feared. Hypnobirthing was really transformational, after a matter of weeks I was feeling so confident and excited about our upcoming birth that when my boyfriend suggested home birth, I decided to go for it!

I enter week 40 convinced I’m going to be late. Mum on the other hand was convinced that I would have the baby within the week and when I go to my local NCT cafe session, my NCT teacher says the same. At this point the birth pool is still in boxes and I’m due to have a new boiler delivered that week Eeek!

As luck would have it, that very night, I wake up with pelvic discomfort. I toss and turn as the discomfort comes and goes and at 3am wake my boyfriend, Sam. “It’s happening”.

3.00am I leave Sam asleep and go to watch TV, after all it will be hours before things really kick off. I put on David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, bounce on my birthing ball and do the “calm breathing” we learned in hypnobirthing.

4.00am I’m trying to not be too neurotic about timing contractions but at 4am curiosity gets the better of me. They’re closer than I thought, 5-6 minutes apart lasting a minute each. I wake Sam “I think we need to start putting the pool up”

For the next couple of hours Sam battles with the instruction manual for the birthing pool whilst I continue my relaxation techniques. The contractions are manageable at this point, a tightening sensation coming and going.

6.00am Surges are every 3-4 minutes and we ring Central Delivery Suite to let them know I’m in labour. I’m feeling okay so we agree for me to take a paracetamol and to ring back when I feel that I need more support.

8.00am Two hours later the surges are starting to feel more intense. No longer sitting on my birthing ball, I’m most comfortable on all fours. At 8.30ish we call CDS again and ask for a midwife.

At some point between 8am and the midwife arriving, British Gas arrived to drop off our boiler due to be installed the next day. I was in the living room and not really aware of what was going on but Sam tells me that the delivery men moved pretty quick when he told them I was labouring in the living room and that we were having a home birth!

9.30am The midwife has arrived and contractions, at 3 minutes apart are getting stronger and stronger. By now, I’m making a low “ooooh” sound as I exhale on each surge. My mooing might have sounded odd but at the time I found it was a really useful way of keeping my breathing calm and controlled.

I take two more paracetamol, put the hypnobirthing CD on and climb into the pool. As I lie back in the warm waters of the pool my whole body relaxes. For me, the water didn’t lessen the intensity of my contractions, but allowed me to relax and recover between contractions so I could rest and preserve energy for later stages.

11.30am Contractions start to slow and the midwife recommends I get out of the pool. We don’t know if my waters have broken. The midwife says I’m still in early stages of labour and I assume the pushing sensation I’ve started feeling for some contractions is the baby resting on my bowel as he moved down.

Sam is doing an amazing job helping me to breath calmly but I know that I’m struggling to cope. “I’m going to have to go to hospital.” I think to myself. “If this is early labour how much more intense will it get?!” I feel disappointed but know that I’ve done everything I can.

12.30pm We agree its time for the midwife to give me an examination. “Well” she says, “your waters haven’t broken, but your cervix is gone!” she looks and sounds surprised as am I! “I’m fully dilated?!” I can’t believe it, just a few more hours to go! I’d heard of people going through moments of “I can’t do this any more” and struggling to cope as they go through transition (7-10cm dilation) and in hindsight my moment’s of self doubt weren’t me giving up but must have been my transition from first to second stages of labour.

Full of relief and excitement as I enter into the second stage II get back in the pool, relaxing into the water. A second midwife arrives and my contractions get even stronger. I’m calling out to Sam and “mooing” with every contraction now, clinging on to him as I feel my muscles tighten. Its getting hard to stop myself tensing up with each surge but Sam’s continual coaching “breathe… breathe… slowly Gem… slowly” helps me to slowly exhale and stay in control. As I breathe out and relax everything feels so much better. In these moments I realised just how powerful my hypnobirthing techniques were things were certainly much more painful when I was tensed up. I’m so pleased I spent all that time practising how to relax myself, these skills came in really handy when I needed them most.

I feel the baby bearing down and start doing the “J breath” I learnt in hypnobirthing to try and breath him down. I focus on staying relaxed and working with each contraction, trying to stay relaxed enough to let my body take over and push as it needed to.

2.00pm My waters still haven’t broken. I stand in the pool and lean on Sam in the hope that gravity might break them and that our baby will follow soon after. I push hard with the next contraction but my waters stay in tact. The midwives break my waters as the next contraction builds. I push hard again, and let out a bit of a scream as I feel a searing, white hot pain and am swiftly guided back into the pool by the midwives as my waters and baby come out in one contraction.

2.05pm My baby is passed up through my legs and I lie back in the water with our son on my chest, Sam’s arms around the two of us. Tears of joy stream down my cheeks, the pain from minutes earlier already a distant memory. Weighing 6lb12oz, we call him Leo.image (1) (1)

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The next task was birthing the placenta which actually felt like more effort than the baby! I happily accepted gas and air for this part feeling just too exhausted to push without some help.

Leo had come out so quickly that I had a little tear and needed stitches (luckily these could be done at home). This was the thing I had been dreading most of all but in reality it was fine. I had gas and air, local anaesthetic and I didn’t feel a thing!

Sam confided in my afterwards that Leo came out so quickly that he was expecting me to have a much more serious tear and the midwives agreed. Perineal massage had seemed like a pretty arduous daily task during the last couple of months of pregnancy but I’m pretty sure that this was what made the difference between a second and fourth degree tear.

In the weeks that have passed I’ve loved seeing the look of disbelief on people’s faces when I describe my birth as “amazing” but it really was! Yes it was hard work, and the contractions got incredibly intense but I managed to stay in control throughout. I’m so pleased that I was able to give our beautiful baby Leo such a wonderful welcome into the world.

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I was terrified of birth at the start of my pregnancy but managed to really turn things around. I hope that sharing my experiences will help other women who may feel anxious about birth to have confidence that our bodies are designed to do this and that whilst complications can and do occur, childbirth isn’t always a traumatic experience it can be an amazing one!

Nicola with Elizabeth and Alexandra

In celebration of Mother’s Day over here in the UK, I bring you this amazingly empowering story from Nicola. Nicola who lives in Denmark got in touch only a few days after she birthed her second baby! Impressive stuff. Nicola was so traumatised from her first birth that she was left feeling like a failure as a woman and mother. But this only made her more determined to change a negative experience into a positive, and under two years later Nicola birthed her second baby her way, the right way. Here she shares her story.

Dear Clemmie,

I started reading your blog about 10 months ago while researching ‘gas and air’: I live in Denmark where I’ve now given birth twice, and as my local hospital had stopped offering gas and air for pain relief, I was doing some research… since then, I’ve been hooked & find the stories and posts incredibly inspiring.

The reason I’d like to share my birth story is to offer encouragement to women who have had traumatic experiences but want to have children again; needing to face a fear of childbirth. I had a horrendous time giving birth to my firstborn, but have just had a truly positive second childbirth experience at home which I hope would give these mothers something positive to ponder.

“After a previous early miscarriage I was overjoyed to be pregnant with a healthy baby 5 months later and when labour day arrived at 40+3 I was in excellent form (I am a marathon-runner, cross-fit fanatic & much more!). The pregnancy had been fine, although we saw 4 different midwives over our 5 appointments. Things started to go wrong when we arrived at the hospital that was too busy to admit me despite being 4cm. I was given drugs to stall the labour, reacted badly to the pills, was a day later given morphine without proper explanation and began throwing up with each contraction. This continued for 4 hours alone in a side room: I was dehydrated and still stuck at 4cm. This wasn’t the labour I’d envisaged, where I would be respected, informed and able to let my body do its job! Once a midwife was finally assigned to us she broke the waters and put in an epidural and IV. I was soon 8cm so she reduced the epidural as I laboured & vomited, waiting to push.

My husband helped me out of bed to stand for the pushing: for over 2 hours with a hormone drip before the baby finally came out. I was ill, exhausted, dehydrated, my throat burned from vomiting and I am sure I only got through naturally thanks to my high fitness level. Two days after regular contractions had started, my daughter was born.

Beyond relief that the ordeal was over, I felt like an absolute failure. It took me months before I could replay any part of the experience without breaking down, and even longer to stop blaming myself. I believed I had failed at becoming a mother; that I was weak not to question the drugs being given. However, I did receive written advice from the chief midwife that she would recommend not birthing there again… and this is where my story moves from despondency to hope!

9 months after my daughter was born I was pregnant again with a mixture of trepidation and joy! I went to get my papers and was asked by my doctor how things had been ‘last time’. The floodgates opened and she was a super-star: immediately changing me to a different hospital and signing me up for a special midwife dealing with women who’ve had difficult first births. This time, we saw the same midwife at each antenatal appointment and were given tasks to discuss between times, such as ‘for each thing that went wrong, what can you do this time to try to prevent a recurrence?’ Seeing the same midwife each time also meant that the antenatal appointments were more than just a physical health-check: we built a relationship and felt cared-for.

During the early months I realised my preferred option was a home birth. I would be in control, a midwife would be assigned to us for the whole labour, and above all – no drugs would be allowed! Not even gas and air at a home birth here. We also wouldn’t need to travel to hospital, and they couldn’t be ‘too busy’ because home births take priority. It was an all-round winner.

So, three days ago I gave birth! And wow: what a change of experience. I feel healed, whole and that I am indeed a capable mother after all. The baby was 8 days overdue and we were staring down the barrel of a medical inducement, ruining all our homebirth and drug-free plans. In a last-minute avoidance attempt we went to 3 hours of reflexology and rebozo (I have all my money on the rebozo being the golden answer!), came home and did more rebozo on the floor, went to bed, had sex and then I started nipple stimulation.

Within an hour I was having period pains, so ramped up the stimulation. Two contractions came & I tried to recall some hypno-birthing mantras, but they were lost on me. Third contraction made me roll onto all fours on the bed & my husband started timing them, even though I laughed that he thought anything could be happening given that last time took 2 days! I was convinced by my breathing that these were 20 second false alarms, but they were actually 50 seconds every 3 minutes from the word go, and hitting me deep down in the pelvis.

Half an hour later he called the labour ward to say ‘something’s happening but she thinks it’s a false alarm.’ … And one hour later he called to tell them to send someone right now. The interesting thing is that I still thought it was a false alarm, no one should do anything, and OH MY WORD how could another contraction have come so quickly?! Denial…

I was still on the bed, swaying in a pear shape for the contractions then resting forward. I was getting 6 sways in to start, but was now regularly making 10 or 12 circles to get through. Some contractions hit harder than others, sometimes I moaned like a cow into the pillow, but at no point did I think it was inescapable. I was desperate for the midwife NOT to arrive so she couldn’t tell me I was 4cm, devastate me & make me ask to go to hospital for pain relief.

Fortunately my husband was a little more aware of what was going on & had already filled the pool. The midwife arrived after 40 minutes to hear me moo-ing for over a minute. She looked like an angel dressed in white in my bedroom door & asked ‘why’ I wanted to go to hospital? I told her I didn’t feel well & if this is 4cm “what about the rest”? She smiled, told me to get straight in the pool or I wouldn’t be going anywhere because I was fully dilated and she needed to unpack her bag. Seriously!

I hopped into the pool with some kind of new energy, leaned forward & pushed a little at the top of the contractions. Twice. I called over to ask whether I was actually allowed to push and she replied ‘yes, if you want to’ in a very non-committal manner while continuing to unpack. Third push and I bit the wooden spoon like I’d break it, started screaming ‘HELP MEEEE!’ into my husband’s neck and was convinced I was about to die: I’d felt three separate things ‘pop’ between my legs during a good 2-minutes of contraction and had NO idea what they were – internal organs? Why wouldn’t anyone say what they were?! Why would neither of them help me?! And why was she still unpacking her bag on the other side of the room?!

As the wave subsided I heard them telling me to stop screaming, my husband whispering with relief that ‘we’ve got a baby! We’ve got a baby!’ and a massive, plaintive cry from the baby who was in the midwife’s calm, capable hands behind me. Those 3 things weren’t my internal organs busting out; it was the waters, the head and the body all in one fell swoop!

You can see from the photo: I could not stop smiling! I had done this amazing thing, all by myself! I had proven that our bodies, as women, are capable of labour and birth when allowed. I had proven that last time didn’t need to be like that, but that it didn’t need to overshadow what would come in the future. I had proven the stupid hospital wrong! I had shown that HOPE can be built from your worst dread.

I write this with my new baby asleep next to me, and my daughter snoozing in the other room. I feel well, I feel proud, I feel whole. I feel the absolute opposite of the failure of a mother from last time.

I want to tell women who’ve had bad experiences: next time doesn’t have to be like that. The single biggest thing you can do is identify 3 extremely specific things that went wrong, and what exactly you can do in your own control to prevent that next time. Perhaps you need more pain relief, perhaps less. Perhaps you need someone with you who will take control and ask questions; perhaps you need a note to take to the hospital with you to explain why you’re scared. But don’t let it stop you fulfilling your dream of another child: we have 9 months to positively challenge our thoughts to create a better experience. To believe it can be better and different. And whatever happens, remember that you are a full woman & a success just for giving birth, however it happened. No one can ever take that from you: you are wonderful!

Nic & Elizabeth after 2 days of labour Healing with Alexandra Happy family the morning after the birth

Birth Story Of The Week – Julia and James

“Easter 2013 – 4 very excited children anticipating chocolate! In reality they had a stressed Mummy looking after 3 poorly ones and deep cleaning the house for about a week. Baby Pip`s `official EDD` was March 30th, Easter Saturday, while the girls were aware of this I also made it clear that Pip will choose when he is born and it may well be after the Easter break.My daughter`s 5th Birthday was April 10th, the days leading up to it were busy, the night before my parents stayed and I had a bath with Epsom salts and Clary Sage Oil (alone!!) and felt very relaxed, I had a few Braxton Hicks and niggles that evening but nothing significant and I slept quite well. Next day, April 10th, we had a small party for our daughter, I made sandwiches and a bit of party food and we had both sets of parents to celebrate. After, I had another bath, then started to nest – I should have known…the bathroom was thoroughly scrubbed, house hoovered throughout – washing and ironing done and away! I went to bed around 9, I couldn`t get comfortable and commented to my husband that I felt a lot of pressure, like I was being torn. I eventually slept and woke up at 23:49 … 2 minutes before one of my daughter`s was born, I lay in bed thinking `aww how fab I am awake as she turns 5…then 23:51 – the exact time she was born I had a contraction! I thought 

`Ohhh, what was that?!`

Shortly after my husband came to bed and I had another…every 10 minutes for a while and then 7, different to any contractions with the girls, these were spreading to my back too. I text Catherine, my midwife at 12:58am: 

`Putting you on alert. Contractions every 7ish mins I think. Will keep u updated.X` 

I lay in bed for a while longer, wondering whether to tempt fate or not and set up the room I planned to give birth in. Part of me didn`t believe `this is it, this is labour`. I went downstairs about 1.30am, only to be back up and down the loo, trickles of urine, Pips head was so low. 

Once downstairs the contractions were coming every 5 minutes and unbeknown to me my husband text Catherine again and she came out, while she was on her way about 2:15am, my husband went out for snacks and I paced the floor with each contraction watching Friends on Comedy Central `The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs` and `The One with All the Candy`. I was trying to distract myself! 

 
Catherine arrived and took my blood pressure, measured my bump and listened in to Pip`s heartbeat – all was well. Pips back was turned to my right side and he needed to rotate round, this would explain the intense back pain! Contractions by then were every 3 minutes but not lasting longer than 30 seconds…around 4am this changed again and they were back to every 5 minutes, much more intense and lasting about 60 seconds. I had a hot water bottle on my tummy at this point, with each contraction the intensity and pressure low down was growing worse, I found the pressure far more intense than the actual contractions and required all my attention. 
 
Contractions were ticking along nicely and it was decided Catherine would leave us to it for a while. Catherine left around 4:30am I think, my husband went to bed to get some sleep and I decided to stay on the sofa to sleep…that didn`t happen, as soon as everyone left and I was alone massive contractions every 5 minutes, I didn`t know where to put the hot water bottle, my back or my tummy!! I breathed through them, closing my eyes to focus while using the heat from the hot water bottle to reduce the intensity. My parents arrived at 5am. At 6:03am I text Catherine again: 

`Contractions every 3ish mins. I am coping okay. Will keep u updated. Hubby gone to bed.X`

I sat talking to Mum in between contractions, my husband has said earlier that he needed to pop into work to sort something out and I wasn`t sure whether to let him or not. He has lost his phone, so I was worried that if Pip decided to come when he was on his way to or from work he would miss the birth. By this point it was around 7am, labour had been 7 hours so far. In the end we decided he would go, he said he`d be an hour maximum. My parents sorted the girls around 7.30am and I decided to have a bath. My husband ran it and went off to work. I went to the loo and had a massive show, it wasn`t showing any signs of slowing so I text Catherine again: 

`Had Massive show. Having warm bath will update after x`

I got into the bath but couldn`t lie down, I found sitting forward eased the pressure, the pressure of Pips head was much more intense than any of the contractions. I planned to stay in the bath until my husband got home, however the warm water didn`t take the edge off the contractions, if anything it made them more intense and closer, I couldn`t concentrate to time them, eyes closed, breathing through them, telling myself Pip was on his way and that my desire to scream wouldn`t help anyone. My Dad (and Sasha, the dog) kept coming up to check I was okay, calling through the door. Sasha was desperate to get to me, sniffing round the door – my intuitive baby. After about 20 minutes in the bath I decided to get out, I thought the contractions may ease so I let the water out first. A contraction hit as the water ebbed away, perhaps the water was helping more than I had initially thought, there was no way I could get out of the bath, I started to panic a little, thinking I may end up giving birth alone in the bath, the contractions were on top of each other at this point. I tried to think calmly, determined to get out. I text Catherine again:

`Trying to get out of bath. Very intense now. Don`t know how often hard to time.X`

Catherine replied she was on her way so I thought I have to get out of the bath! More show, made it from the bathroom to my room, then downstairs. Dad had said my husband was on his way back so I sat waiting for him, growing more and more impatient as each minute passed. Just as Catherine arrived I said to Mum: 

`Where the hell is he?`

worried he would miss the baby being born…he arrived as I was cursing. It wasn`t long between him calling and arriving home, but to me it felt like hours. I wasn`t comfortable on the sofa, but couldn`t move to get comfortable.

 
 I had text our birth photographer about 8am and she was now on her way, this was around 9am…she arrived soon after. By this point I`d made if off the sofa, I was squatting on the floor leaning as far forward as possible to reduce the immense pressure, Entonox was offered but I refused until 9:37am, my waters broke, I felt a pop and looked down thinking
`ooh aren’t they clear!`At this point the contractions changed, I grabbed the Entonox and started to bear down, feeling woozy and spaced out thinking `he is coming`, I ended up half sat/half lay, feeling his head as it came…then nothing, I opened my eyes and expected him to be here..his head had been delivered but his body wasn`t coming, my contractions had stopped, one weak one later he slowly started to come, I had to literally push him out myself without contractions. He was like a parcel, the cord wrapped around his body several times. He was shocked, we tried skin-to-skin and rubbing him, but he needed some help. Longest. Two. Minutes. Ever. Hearing him cry was such a relief, holding his little warm body next to my skin while the cord stopped pulsating was the best long awaited feeling!! My waters broke at 9:37am and James Raymond Peter was born at 9:50am, weighing 8lbs 10oz at 41 weeks and 5 days.

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Hes been born with a tongue tie, but this isn`t affecting his feeding at all, he has a good strong latch and shows signs of hunger (chewing fingers etc). I am forever indebted to Catherine, she was amazing and just the Midwife I needed to give me the courage to have a homebirth, nothing is better than sharing such an intimate time with someone you know.”

Birth Story Of The Week – Holly and Mabel

WARNING! YOU MAY FEEL EXTREME BIRTH ENVY AFTER READING THIS STORY

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I have to admit that I am one of the lucky ones. My first pregnancy had been about as text book as you could hope for. The birth of Florence was remarkably quick. In fact, it is safe to say that I was able to stick to my birth plan from start to finish. Florence was born at my chosen Birthing centre (the only woman there), in the pool listening to radio 2 after about 6 hours of labour. Perfect.

Of course the only problem with this is the more I spoke to my friends who had subsequently had their babies, I realised that I was just that – LUCKY. I know everyone tells you the horror stories, but I really started to feel ashamed of my ‘perfect’ birth. So when I became pregnant not long after (there is 19 months between my two) I was actually more worried than I was the first time round. Surely, I couldn’t be that lucky twice…

Well, turns out you can! Aside from some pretty horrific varicose veins (I came home in tears when my midwife was so shocked at seeing my swollen and purple veins that she actually told me they were the worst she had ever seen – yeah thanks!!), my pregnancy was uncomfortable but otherwise uneventful.

My plan had always been to have this baby in the same Birthing centre, in the same pool. What I didn’t know was that funding had been cut so the centre was only open in the day and the pool was out of action with no plans to fix it before my due date. Another trip home in tears. I was point blank refusing to go to the local ‘monster’ of a hospital unless I had to, so when I asked my midwife about options for a home birth , expecting her to give me a big thumbs up, she remained indifferent and gave me little information about where I could buy/hire a pool (I was told to ‘goggle it’) or even how this thing would work. Again, panic set in.

I quickly emailed the lovely Clemmie, who I know through school friends. Thankfully, she gave me all the information and reassurance that I needed, so much so that my husband wanted her number on speed dial ‘just in case!’ With this I found my ‘birth pool in a box’ on gumtree and told my midwife I wanted a home birth. Decision made!

I finished work on the Wednesday with exactly a week to go before my due date. On the Saturday I was walking around Sainsbury’s with my toddler thinking, hmmmmm, this hurts a tad. I put Florence to bed as normal, with a few intervals during the bedtime story as the ‘waves’ came and went. I still hadn’t mentioned anything to my husband – God knows why. He was cooking me a nice dinner and I didn’t want to ruin it, so again I ate my tea, getting up a couple of times to make myself a drink (not normal behaviour). We had had a particularly tiring night with Florence the night before, so when I got up off the sofa halfway through ‘Take me Out’, the hubby asked if I was off to bed? I told him no, but it’s time to call your mum. I have never seen him looked so shocked!!

I’m not sure what made me leave it so long to get the ball rolling. I guess I was sort of in denial, but things soon got moving. Darrell put up the pool and started filling it after my mother in law came to collect Florence, all the while I was hugging the walls with my TENS machine electrocuting me. The midwife arrived (after a very tense conversation with the coordinator who told me there were staffing issues and she wasn’t sure if anyone could come to me – another tearful moment in this story). She took one look at me and called for the 2nd midwife to come right away. She hadn’t even examined me – I guess I had that ‘fully dilated’ look about me!

I got in the pool,  which was just as amazing as I remember, with my favourite Yankee candle burning and the ipod playing, all the while hubby made everyone tea and toast. Very civilised. That was until the midwife piped up to say that there was no mouth piece for the gas and air, and could I do this without it? At first I felt brave and said yes. However, 10 minutes later the husband was looking around the house for something that could be used instead of the mouth piece. Another 10 minutes into the story, I was so desperate that I was sucking on the tube direct from the tank!! Who needs a sterile mouthpiece when you are minutes away from giving birth??

And after a remarkably short time, I caught our second daughter, Mabel. A beautifully purple Winston Churchill lookalike. What an amazing feeling to get out of the pool in your living room, feed your new born daughter while the midwives drink tea and tell you how amazing you are.

I guess I know how lucky I am to have such straight forward births – but to anyone who is considering a home birth, if you can, “please do it”. I promise it’s not as scary or as messy as you think it is going to be.

holly and florence holly and florence 2 holly and mabelIf you would like to share your birth story, any birth story is welcome then please email it to me and some photos at gasandairblog@gmail.com

 

Birth Story Of The Week – Helen and Alba

This weeks birth story comes from Helen founder of Lionheart magazine and new Mama to Alba born in September.

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“It started with a gentle jolt at 5am. It was the tightening combined with twinges that I had been waiting 13 days for. 13 days is a long time when you know something life changing is going to happen, maybe-possibly-imminently. Of course like many expectant mothers, I didn’t know exactly how the process would go, but I was ready. I’d done the classes, eaten the cake, said goodbye to the colleagues and stretched like a pregnant yoga cat. Gosh, you and everyone you know are so darn excited for you when you hit that golden due date. So ready, ready, ready to meet this little baby. A day is fine, so is a week, but the golden due days start to shine less when 13 of them pass and nothing happens. That ‘imminence’ you felt at your fingertips you realise, wasn’t there at all. It’s actually over yonder up that mountain, laughing on a cloud.

Needles stuck in me. ‘Acupuncture has triggered labour that evening for some ladies’. Raspberry leaf tea with pineapple chasers, fire curry for starters and sad movies for dessert. Chocolate baths and marathon walks. The entire first season of Orange is the New Black. Surrounding myself with newborns due after my own. Baby being monitored. Stretch and sweep times three. ‘They do tend to come when they’re ready,’ on repeat. Our induction was booked for day 14 and the poppet; oh treasure my love, made her first gentle movements to leave her haven on this, day 13.

I wasn’t scared of birth, just intrigued and thrilled at the prospect of meeting our baby. I’d also heard and read some amazing, positive birth stories. That’s why I had opted for a home birth. We had everything ready for our glorious birth at home; the pool, lots of white towels, snickers bars, tea and biscuits for the midwives, candles ready for the light and flowers on the mantelpiece. All the taps were also shiny clean thanks to my incessant cleaning – a necessity – and the cats groomed. However time continued to pass on day 13. During the slow but exciting passing of the hours, we went for coffee, ate good food and wandered around. All the while, my contractions were every nine to 10 minutes apart.

By the evening, I felt they had really intensified and were every five minutes apart, so I rang the hospital to see if a community midwife might be able to pop in. Maybe we would meet our baby tonight? Nope. Not strong enough or regular enough. ‘Go and get some rest,’ said the voice at the end of the phone. I sort of knew this would be the case, but didn’t want to settle down for a kip. I wanted to be moving forward. It was tricky. I was convinced every minute of shuteye pulled the contractions further apart. So I had a bath and draped myself over surfaces as each contraction hit. Put on an old film and hummed a little as I paced the lounge. I told Charlie to go to bed for a bit. He slept like a giant panda until the morning sun rose and he found me walking the stairs and chatting to the cats, like they were my whiskered little birthing partners. It was Charlie’s birthday, so today had added oomph. ‘Wahhh, happy birthday, my love,’ I softly wailed.

The midwife popped in at 11am. ‘You’re 3cm’. Disastrous. How could this be? She continued: ‘I think something is stopping your progress. You should all go to the hospital, just to check everything’s OK, as baby’s now 14 days late. Then you can come home again if you’d like.’ The bag packed for this scenario, it was flung into the car and we drove down the road to the hospital. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving this destination as soon as the community midwife had said she wanted us to pop in. This was going to be where I met my baby. I think it was because of the 14 days, the 30 hours of little progress and just because something felt right and I wanted to trust my unbroken waters housing the cherub. I don’t know. I just couldn’t leave.

Rather than the monitoring, we were able to go to the midwife led unit, a luxurious hotel of birthing, complete with enormous pools, beds, floor pillows, birth balls, private bathrooms and fairy lights. An industrious blonde permed midwife met us at the reception and we waited in the lounge with Kirstie and Phil on the TV circa 1999, so they could clean the room we were aiming for. As I stared out the window complete with those cosy window spikes, to the city and hills beyond, I heard a baby cry as a lady walked past with her newborn in a car seat. Done and dusted, she was on her way home. Well done her! I thought. Now, what on earth was before me? An hour or two passed in the lounge, with Kirstie and Phil on a back-to-back extravaganza.

I needed to hear the pool filling! I needed the pool, please!

Eventually, after a true eternity of house searches, we were beckoned into our room. Calm, tranquil music and low lights greeted us. I was told that the pool is a source of pain relief, as was the gas and air, so it was best to hold out as long as possible to utilise both of them. After an initial gasp of horror, I stripped off and bounced on the birth ball while clinging on to Charlie’s belt, very quickly an imprint of the buckle soon formed on my forehead – nice. I became very attached to that buckle. Time melted and the world became deep and wide (interesting in retrospect!), focus hit me and carried me on its meditative chariot.

God, I didn’t have a care. Just this baby, just this intense, empowering experience. My entire body was being taken over with its own innate superpowers. Women are amazing. The human body is a wonder. I have a vague recollection of a junior doctor coming in with the midwife ‘to see what a normal, happy labour was like,’ as she put it. I remember agreeing for him to see our baby born, when the time came. I really was off and away, smiling from under a canopy of hormones and focus. The midwife could have told me that Wispa Golds were raining down outside and Ryan Gosling was in my birth pool and I would have simply smiled, nodded, closed my eyes and furrowed my brow. She said she thought we had completed a hypnobirth class, as I was so in the zone. I remember drinking in all the praise along with the awful Lucozade. I think it was the pregnancy yoga that zoned me. Who knows – maybe some fairy godmother made a trip to see me. Anyway, I was finally allowed in the pool – hurrah! – at 5cm.

Dear Pool, I think I forgot to tell you that I thought you were just marvelous that day. You’re so clever, comforting and…well… fluid. Such a shame it ended the way it did. However, I still talk about you with great fondness and have recommended your services to many others.

The pool. Heavenly, floating, gorgeous, brilliant pool. I loved the pool. Can you tell? However, after an hour or so, my baby did not like it in there and the squirrel’s heart rate zoomed up. So much so that I had to get out of the watery haven and lie on the bed to have my waters broken. The breaking signified change. A door opening to a hard, fierce place, it was raw and cold, Post break my hands tingled, I felt dehydrated, exhausted and actual pain really hit me for the first time. What’s more, the worst bit, I hadn’t dilated any further – the midwife said in actual fact, I’d gone down to 4cm. Added to this, the baby was stargazing, hence why everything was taking so long… and it might hurt more.

I went heavy on the gas and air. My smug little Zen space had officially exploded and I was standing in the chilly, industrial middle ground. No more fairy godmother whizzing around. The belt buckle sadly, was also now redundant. I wondered how and when I would meet this baby of ours, right at the same time I said hello to the anxiety that had quietly tip toed in. I told the new midwife how I felt, after the talked of one – the lovely one who had previously given me at A+ – went home, her shift complete. ‘You’ll have this baby tonight, don’t worry!’ she said brightly before she left to return to her warm home, roast potatoes and Sunday night telly. I smiled… but I was weak. The Drama Queen was awaking in me and with a baby labelled ‘Diva’ by all the sonographers and midwives since week five; I was worried about our combined drama potential.

The new midwife was very nice indeed. She understood my concerns. It felt like nothing phased her. After our introductions for some reason, I went on to tell her I wanted to push. She said, go on then. I pushed. It was clearly pointless, I knew it was, but I wanted movement, no idea what I expected to happen. She left, popping back every now and then. Time floated before me, like I was in the Labyrinth film’s limbo, which incidentally is a movie I find equally terrifying and excellent. It was all just… melty. I demanded Van Morrison on repeat, as I thought it would bring back my old mate Zen, but the scallywag was gone. Charlie demanded I eat. I couldn’t think of anything worse. The only thing that appealed to me was gas.

After four hours or so of new midwife time, new midwife told me that I had not progressed at all. I have no words to express how this felt. It had been 40 plus hours since that first contraction. And yes, I know I wasn’t in established labour and that only started 10 hours before or something, but… I just wanted to meet our baby. Ya know! The midwife suggested that we move things forward and go downstairs to The Drip. Or we could continue to wait, but she was concerned I was shattered, which I was. So the decision was made to pop along downstairs to the delivery suite, all jolly and bright. Previously I had in my mind that downstairs symbolised all that I didn’t desire for my baby’s birth, but instead at this point I guess it became exactly what I needed. So, as we wheeled down to the suite, knowing we had to now make this new, clinical space our sanctuary I was aware I needed to relax. I could do this before, but now I just felt so tired. So the words tumbled out of my mouth: ‘Please can I have an epidural?’’ Bleugh. Out. Better. The midwife replied that with the drip speeding up contractions, it would be wise and I would need my energy for pushing. Gosh.

The lights dimmed, just an angle poised lamp on the midwife’s notes. Bill Callahan playing softly, a view of the city’s lights. Charlie snoozing on the floor and the sweet, regular sound of our baby’s heartbeat. This was a different place, one of calm and a gathering of thoughts. This was the epidural I thought I would never have. And frankly, in some (many) ways it saved my experience of the birth of our baby, as it pulled me back to where I needed to be. It gave me rest, peace and that wonderful focus back again. I guess, a drug induced path to Zen. I told the midwife I was so sad it had come to this, I had wanted everything to be natural and she said that in no way should I feel bad about my circumstances or decisions – there were many factors involved and soon we would meet our baby and that’s what mattered. Emotion.

After a few hours of dozing and chatting (her husband works in magazines, she met him in London as a student in the 90s, they have two kids – I was interviewing) I was 10cm and ready to push. I made sure to stop the epidural switch earlier than this to hopefully feel as much as I could. I was soon instructed to puuuush with all my might, taking short breaks to take in more air. Again and again, I pushed and imagined holding my baby in my arms. I could feel the baby coming. I absolutely loved this very active part.

It took just 10 minutes for this beautiful, crying, wriggling, eyes wide-awake baby to emerge. The midwife unwrapped the cord around the baby’s neck and handed our baby to me, whereupon my body absolutely flooded me with hormones and love. I didn’t know if it would come straight away, but I was utterly devoted and loved poured from me immediately. It was incredible, like nothing I have ever experienced before. I also quickly noted that this ‘boy’ (I was sure the baby was a boy, as was pretty much 99% of people we knew), looked very pretty. ‘She’s pink!’ said the midwife. Oh my goodness.

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 This was our little, gorgeous Alba Elise. A bundle of pure love, joy and inspiration from the very moment her heart started beating. She smelt amazing, her skin felt so soft and her cheeks were so plump. We had skin on skin and cuddled as a family, chatting to her, telling her how brilliant she is and that we love her ‘soooo much’. Slightly annoyingly, I had quite a lot of blood loss and a couple of other complications post-birth, but the medical staff were fantastic, as was Charlie, who after voicing how much he despised the birth partner chair, lay on the floor and napped with Alba. Then had a few rounds of tea and biscuits, Alba had some more colostrum, I had a blood transfusion, Charlie gave us an inflatable tiger balloon and everything felt rosy. We were floating on a cloud.

We love our little Alba so much, she has taught us an endless amount about loving and our capacity for love. Everyday, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Our baby girl is a joy to know and has the sweetest, kindest eyes and the most glorious, wholehearted smile I’ve ever seen. We are truly blessed to have this little addition to our family. Our love, love, LOVE – grows with each precious day that passes.  My sweet, wonderful, determined, happy, beautiful tiger”.

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Hels is the founding editor of Lionheart Magazine – a lifestyle magazine full of interviews, fashion, illustration, stories, photography, craft, recipes and way more – an independent publication that’ll make you feel peachy good! Buy issues one to four, right here: http://www.lionheart-mag.com/shop

Birth Story Of The Week – Ali and Effie

Today’s birth story is very special because I was the midwife. Not that I have favourite births that I’ve attended but this is certainly up there. I’ll never forget watching my friend birth her baby girl. Thank you Ali for sharing.
Twiiter: @ alienoretcorwin
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This is the story of my second birth. I wanted to write this for Clemmie’s blog as Clemmie was our midwife, and those of you who have had babies will know how much a midwife touches your life, how you will never forget them. I met Clemmie virtually on Twitter and then we met in real life before Clemmie joined the team of midwives I was with and got assigned to me, so we were becoming friends as my pregnancy was progressing which was really quite special.
I feel very lucky to be writing this story, what I think is a beautiful birth story. I had a very straight forward pregnancy and my first baby was born at home and so I had planned another home birth for my second.
I knew Effie was going to be born on the spring equinox, it’s my grandma’s birthday and was a week after my due date, and I was right! My birth started in that classic move style way of my waters breaking. It was about 6am, I was lying in bed when all of a sudden there was water gushing out, I did that classic pregnant woman thing of worrying I was pissing myself so quickly jumped out of bed but it was pretty obvious it was my waters going. All I could remember was the midwives telling me to put a pad in if my waters broke to check the colour so I was pointing my husband in the right direction to find a pad, but when he finally presented me with it, I quickly realised I needed a bath towel rather than a panty liner!
Pretty soon after that the contractions started to come and my husband started to get things ready. I woke my mum up who was staying with us to take care of my son then I went and knelt by my bed whilst the contractions built. Shortly after that my husband came to check on me and I was already asking to call Clemmie. Within 15 mins or so Clemmie was with us and as soon as she walked in the door I threw up. During my first labour I had vomited for 8 hours straight and so had some anti-nausea drugs ready, Clemmie’s first job was to jab me in the bum!
I remember my husband putting the Tens machine on me but walking out of the room before telling me how to use it but I didn’t want to turn it on anyway, all I wanted was to get in the pool so as soon as was possible I got in and ran the warm water coming out of the hose down my back.
I was in the sitting room at this point and I could hear my son and my mum having breakfast in the kitchen but I couldn’t focus and asked my husband to chuck them out, I needed the peace that a two year old can’t give! I can’t really re-call every detail and I’m sure you don’t want me to but it felt like things were progressing pretty quickly, I continued to vomit a bit but nothing on the scale of my first labour so I was fine with it. The second midwife arrived (who was my first midwife at my son’s birth!) and I started feeling like I needed to push. I pushed with each contraction for a little while but nothing seemed to be happening so at that point I was examined but was I wasn’t fully dilated so Clemmie and Erika (the second midwife) told me to stop and relax a little in the pool.
I remember the next hour or so in a slightly bizarre way, I could see the midwives sitting on my sofa chatting, writing notes, eating. I don’t think I spoke at all, the pain had lessened but my contractions were still strong and regular. I clutched a sick bowl for comfort and told my husband to change the music (although I can’t tell you what we were listening to). Then after a while I felt the baby move, it felt like a huge movement and pretty suddenly the baby was definitely bearing down and I needed to push, Clemmie checked me again and I was fully dilated so I started to push. I think during my first labour I was pretty out of it by the time my son arrived, I’d been so sick and was on a drip and was pretty tired that I didn’t feel him come down or crown at all. This time it was different though, each contraction I could feel my baby move down, I knew when she was close and could feel the sting as she crowned. I could see her head when it was delivered and when she came out it was a pretty magical seeing her be born. There was a split second when she was out in the water before Clemmie reminded me to catch her and then she was up, straight onto my chest.
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We didn’t know what sex we were having, and we had a boy already, but although I craved a girl, I know we would have been happy either way, once they are born and in your arms crying and pink you can’t care, you are just so happy they are healthy. After gazing into my babies beautiful eyes for a while Clemmie asked what we had, no one had seen yet, so I lifted her up and I have to admit my heart leapt when I saw she was a girl, it had all been too perfect.
I think I read in my notes that it was five minutes before I delivered the placenta, it was certainly quick, I was still in the pool holding the baby when I felt a contraction, so with the next I pushed and the placenta was delivered. Clemmie caught the placenta which was still attached to the baby!
After that, I remember the midwives had made me a path of those bed mat things to the sofa and they walked me over to it, and wrapped me up with my baby in a big bundle of towels and blankets. And that is where Effie first fed and we lay there together for hours, chatting to the midwives, eating toast and drinking gallons of water. It felt so natural and normal chatting to my new friend and my husband in our sitting room with our little addition, who was very tranquil and happy, just to be wrapped up against my chest. A few hours later my mum came home with our son and life continued as normal, Effie arrived in our home in such a natural way, it was as if she was always part of our family.
So five hours and with no pain relief, it really was such a lovely and calm birth. I am very very lucky to have had such great midwives, such a wonderful service to allow women to have babies at home, it made a massive difference to me being that relaxed and comfortable and I’m sure it wouldn’t have been the case for me if I’d have been in a hospital setting.