Suzanne and Thea

SH&RH pregnant

If at the start of my pregnancy, you’d asked me how I hoped I would give birth, I would have informed you that natural childbirth, not to mention a drug free, pain free one, was a myth!  And then I would have gone on to tell you that the only possible way our baby was coming to join us was via caesarean section.  Now, this isn’t a birth story where I turn a full 360 degrees, and tell you my daughter glided out into a pool at home with me smiling, and yogically breathing my way through labour.  Almost but no, not quite like that!  But my view of birth and my approach certainly changed as my pregnancy progressed, and my wonderful midwife Clemmie, was one of a number of people who played a part in that.

Throughout and since my teenage years I’d been told war stories of the pain of childbirth and more importantly, the aftermath and scars that are left, both physically and mentally on the female body.  I think women tell these stories partly to exorcise their own perhaps unhappy memories of difficult births, and also throughout history  we know that in small communities, women assisted younger women through pregnancy and childbirth, sharing experiences and aiding and teaching future generations of mothers.  So I think it’s mostly well intended, though it left me with such a fear of the butchering my body would undergo, that I spent my twenties telling people I didn’t want children!

But as is often the way, I entered my 30s with my biological clock ringing in my ears and after a long struggle, we were delighted when we got pregnant with our first child.

Around the time that Clemmie was assigned as my midwife, two other things happened that influenced my opinion of how I might give birth:

A friend recommended I read a book called Birth Skills by Juju Sundin, an Australian obstetric physiotherapist.  To say it blew my mind is an understatement.  It was the first time that I truly understood both the physiology and psychology of labour, and I began to believe that my body ‘knew’ what to do.  I learnt that labour pain is not the pain of illness or disease, but the healthy pain of the uterine muscle working.  It’s just a muscle that works hard, gets tired, and aches.  I accepted that though a part of me would be in pain during contractions, the rest of my body would be pain free!  And that it would only hurt for the duration of the contraction.  And I grew to accept that as I can’t control the pain of a contraction, why waste precious energy and time trying, why not put my energies into something else.  It also felt like the first time that someone was saying, you’re afraid of the pain of childbirth? You’re absolutely normal!

This message was also reinforced when I hired a doula named Milana Silva.  She believed that you could achieve a peaceful pain free birth though the power of the mind, but she also told me a doula was there to support the mother in anyway she needed, and if that meant assisting her though a c-section, or discussing an epidural, a doula is there for you.

And then there was the wonderful Clemmie, who listened to and answered my many questions, talked through my worries and concerns, and allowed me the time to work out my own birth plan.

The other truly important message of Birth Skills, (and that of my doula and midwife and mum) was that no matter what happens during your birth, the important part, the truly important thing to take away with you, is that you did your best for you and your baby, and it doesn’t matter how they arrived, what matters is they’re here.  You meet your baby!

So, how did my beautiful daughter Thea eventually join us?

I experienced Braxton Hicks from about the middle of my pregnancy, and I often wondered how I would know that I was having actual contractions.  But 3 days before my due date, I went to bed one Tuesday evening, and just as I was drifting off to sleep, I knew.  It suddenly felt different.  I glanced at my husband Rich who was sleeping beside me, and decided that until it was truly time, I wouldn’t wake him.  I then spent the next 9 hours making a note of how long each contraction lasted and how far apart they were.  When Rich woke up at 7am he said, “someone’s been wriggling around all night”, to which I replied, “someone’s been having contractions all night!”

I texted Clemmie and my doula to warn them, and attended a pre planned appointment with the consultant at Kings.  This appointment had originally been booked in to discuss their preference to not allow women aged 40 and over, to go beyond 40 weeks.  But on examination, I was told I was 2cm dilated and the lovely consultant,  said, “I’d be surprised if this baby wasn’t born within the next 48 hours!”

So off home I went to busy myself through the early stages of labour.  On the advice of Clemmie I baked a cake!  Two cakes actually!  I think secretly she likes to eat cake when she visits her ladies, but she says it’s a good way to take your mind off things!  I went for a walk to buy ingredients and had to stop quite often to breathe though the contractions, all the while thinking, OMG I’m in labour here, actual labour, but here I am walking along Lordship Lane buying cake ingredients!!

By the time we went to bed on the Wednesday evening, the intensity of the contractions was starting to increase.  Though Rich had been following me as I walked around the house, massaging my back with a wooden massage roller, I decided it was time to use the TENS machine I had hired, only the week before as a last minute decision.  Oh how glad I was that I hired it!  The TENS machine was perfect for me.  I paced the bedroom floor (as Birth Skills had taught me), focusing on my breaths and counting through the contraction or rhythmically repeating, healthy pain, healthy pain, with the TENS doing its thing on my lower back.  My little walks would take me to various baby girl dresses that Rich had hung up around the house, some of them with our 3D scan picture attached!  A sweet reminder of who we were about to meet.  In between contractions I sat in a comfortable chair in the corner of our bedroom, with the sound of waves playing quietly on the iPod.  I love being by the sea and had adored swimming throughout my pregnancy, so the wave sounds were hugely comforting to me.

On Thursday morning both Clemmie and my doula arrived and both commented on what a peaceful and serene scene they had entered into.  When I think back to my early fears I had not imagined any of this!  After examination Clemmie told me I could move to the pool if I wanted.  From a fearfully planned c-section to a birthing pool that was sitting in the dining room!  So you did do a full 360, and your baby did calmly glide out into water you ask?  Well no, not really, as two contractions in the pool later and I was yelling loudly to anyone who would listen that water alone does not cure pain! What was I thinking?!

But the next game changer then arrived in the shape of gas and air.  Oh it was Heaven!  For the next few hours I floated about in the warm water, with a fantastic chill out playlist playing in the background, and blissfully declared my love of entonox.  Really, this bit was just lovely.  I must have felt pretty ok throughout this stage of my labour, as I apparently offered pizza to anyone who was hungry and directed them to the freezer!

But as is often the way, things changed a little.  I became pretty worn out (by this time I hadn’t slept for two nights), and Thea became a bit stuck (holding a hand up by your ear will get in the way of your route through a birth canal y’know!).  Eventually, and happily, we transferred into hospital.  An epidural and some forceps later, and Thea was born on Thursday evening at 22:51, an hour and 9 minutes before her due date.  In the theatre a radio was playing Don’t Take Away the Music by Tavares.  Yes, baby was born to the sound of disco!

In the weeks after Thea arrived, a few people (on hearing my birth story) said, what a shame you ended up in Kings, rather than birthing naturally at home.  But honestly I look back and I don’t mind, nor care, that Thea was born in a theatre at Kings.  My birth choices were mine.  I’d educated and empowered myself and though of course was scared of the unknown, felt, if not confident, comfortable on the day I went into labour.  Not how I had originally imagined it at all.  From the early days of wanting a section, to deciding to buy a birth pool, and eventually to having the epidural, I was happy to make these choices for my baby and I, and they were all good choices at the time.  I learnt to be prepared to deviate from ‘the plan’ and trusted that it would all be ok, whatever happened.  The important thing is that I got to meet my daughter Thea.  How she arrived is really irrelevant.  She’s here and she’s amazing.

Thea 1st pic Thea feet

Birth Story Of The Week – Chloe and Rory

I’m back! It’s a funny old thing having no internet. On one hand being totally cut off from Instagram, Twitter and checking the Showbiz section of the Daily Mail online (oh come on I know you all do too!) is quite liberating. But on the other hand you don’t realise how much you use the internet for searching pretty much everything. We’ve just moved into our new house. Yup we are home owners for the first time, totally broke, totally clueless and too nervous to hang a single picture just in case it cracks the wall. But feeling a little uninspired creatively I felt lost without Pinterest and it was almost impossible ordering a new washing machine without going online. Even when Sky failed to turn up to install the rooter and phone line they suggested tracking our progress……….online! See impossible. And of course there was no Birth Story Of The Week last Monday. But alas! Here is today’s wonderful story from Chloe who’s blog is so beautiful I have serious photo envy, but then she is a photographer. I feel a bit connected to Chloe’s birth as I gave her my old birthing pool to use in labour.

Blog: Sorry About The Mess

Twitter: khloeee

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7AM

I wake up on a gloomy May morning, three days past my due date, and for some reason I am in denial that I am in labour. I have been having irregular contractions since this time yesterday, and as I wave Sam off to work, I remain oblivious to the fact that they are becoming a lot more regular.
 
The sweep I had 48 hours ago couldn’t possibly be responsible for this. I have been warned so many times that second labours can often be slow to get going, that it’s often very stop/start, that the latent phase can last longer. So, the birth pool remains deflated in its bag, toddler overnight bags remain unpacked, and plans for the day are made.
 
8.30AM
All of a sudden, everything is hazy. The contractions are coming on top of each other, and I know that this is definitely happening. Sam has been at work for just half an hour, and I need to call him to come home. It takes him probably 45 minutes, during which time I call him every five minutes because I can’t remember how long he said he’d be. I call my midwife. No one is here (the toddler doesn’t count!) and I can’t focus on managing the contractions. I feel panicky, dizzy, and sick.
 
10AM
Our midwife arrives. Sam is busy dismantling our dining table to make room for the pool, inflating the pool, putting sheets on the floor, etc. I am 4cm and disappointed. The contractions had been so intense and everyone tells me that second labours are quicker, I was hoping to be told I didn’t have long to go.
 
2.30PM
The hours pass in cycles of pacing, squatting, and moaning about how long it’s going to take. I am 7cm dilated. The midwives inform me that this is not as much progress as they would typically expect for a second labour. There is talk of breaking my waters if I’ve not progressed much further in the next two hours.
 
4PM
I am definitely reaching my “I’m too tired to keep doing this” point. I am reluctant to start on the gas and air (it became somewhat of a crutch during my first labour), but I still have the pool to try.
With Arlo, the pool had made me feel hot and faint, and due to having hard sides and base, it wasn’t all that comfortable. This time is a completely different experience. I’m not too hot, and an inflatable pool is so much more comfortable. Contractions seem to slow a bit in the pool and not last as long, but I am so much more comfortable that I really don’t care. In fact, I become a bit scared to leave the pool and face strong contractions again. But it is time for another examination.
4.30PM
I am 9cm and everyone is happy. We decide there is no need to break my waters at this stage.
Knowing I am almost there, I have a new-found sense of optimism and enthusiasm to keep going. This is probably the most relaxing part of the whole labour. I am happy, chatting and joking with Sam and the midwives (our second midwife had arrived by that point), thinking “it is amazing that I am so lucid and ‘with it’ at this stage during labour”. Not having gas and air really made a difference for me and I remember everything so much more clearly than with Arlo’s labour.
I seem to cope so much better with this transition phase of labour than with the earlier stages. 4-8cm has definitely felt like the hardest point during both of my labours. I don’t know whether it’s the boost from knowing it won’t be long, or the fact that during 8cm-10cm my contractions slow a bit, giving me more of a break between each one. But with both labours I’ve found that stage to be a quieter, almost relaxed time.
6.30PM
Why am I still here?? Why am I not feeling at all ‘pushy’ yet?? Despite being ‘almost there’ two hours ago, the baby is posterior, and needs a little longer to get his head in the right position to get past that last lip of cervix in order to be born.
Contrary to what I was told during Arlo’s labour, this time the midwives don’t think there is a problem with me seeing what happens if I push despite not yet feeling those uncontrollable urges. They say that some women find they need to push to help the cervix open up that last bit. Just as with my first labour, it seems that we are just waiting for my waters to break and then we’ll be straight into the second stage.
6.45PM
I decide to see what will happen if I really push with the next contraction. I feel a pop. My waters. From then it is very quick. The midwives are not able to see a head at all, then suddenly the head is being born.
The head is out, but nothing is budging with the next contraction. I move from my crouching position onto all fours for the next contraction, but still nothing. Everyone springs into action very quickly and I know I need to listen to the midwives and do everything they say at this point. I get out of the pool (with a head between my legs!) and am told to lie flat on my back. Sam is at my head and the midwives are holding my legs up to my chest. I push with all I have for the next contraction. I think there is one more contraction before things start moving and the midwives can help pull his body out.
6.55PM
Born in the doorway between our kitchen and dining room, I catch that first glimpse of my baby as the midwife lifts him up and onto my chest. He is a boy, and he is much bigger than we were expecting (9lbs 4oz). Now it makes sense that it was a bit tricky to push out his chunky shoulders!
I would have loved to have had the whole waterbirth experience and ‘caught’ my baby myself. Or at least to have been able to see him being born. I also didn’t get to to the nice bit and have our first night together at home in our own bed, as we had to transfer to hospital shortly after his birth due to meconium in the waters – they wanted him to have 4 hourly obs in case of infection (he was fine in the end).
But labouring at home was completely the right thing for me, and it made such a difference. I’m really happy with the way Rory’s birth went, and how I managed the pain. Half way through my labour I do remember having a little chuckle at myself for being so silly to think that perhaps the pain would be different or easier because I was at home – the pain is exactly the same, hospital or no hospital. But being in my own surroundings definitely helped me feel more grounded and in control of my labour.
There is a definite sense of achievement that comes with giving birth in your own house… that ‘I can do anything’ feeling. But most of all, it’s lovely to have the daily reminders of welcoming Rory into the world under our own roof. Every day, I walk through the doorway where we became a family of four.
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