Birth Story of The Week – Lizzie and William

lizzie and willima

Since I was younger I’ve always loved babies and been fascinated by the wonder that is pregnancy and labour. If anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d always said a midwife and now i feel so so lucky to have experienced for myself such a wonderful pregnancy and to have our own beautiful baby boy.

William is a bit of a miracle baby.  I’ve never had regular periods (make that 2 in 2 years prior to getting pregnant) and had been diagnosed with Polycycstic Ovary Syndrome many years ago, so i was always apprehensive about how easy it would be to conceive naturally. Despite only just starting to “try”, I had conversations with the GP to explore options for help with natural conception, expecting it to take a while. However, Matt and I were so lucky to fall pregnant with William within about 3 months, and feel truly blessed!   Anyway, this isn’t a conception story but a birth, so ill get on with that….

My due date came and went without too much activity.  My Mum had me 3 weeks early, so in the back of my mind I was hoping that my final few weeks of back ache and what i then thought were sleepless nights of pregnancy (little did i know about real sleepless nights!!) would have been cut short.  However, my first twinges of real labour started when i was just over 41 weeks.  I’d had period type pains all week but then after my second sweep, where the midwife confirmed I was 2cm dilated, we had a little family drama which I think kick started my contractions. My sister was stuck without her car at the last minute, so called me to ask me if I could pick up her little girls from nursery. I was out at the time, so had to do my best attempt at running home (at 9+ months pregnant this is a challenge!) to pick up the car and then I drove like a racing car driver to the nursery, over what felt like endless roads of speed bumps! By the time i picked up my nieces and got home, surges were coming every 10 minutes.

This was on the Thursday.  I waited a couple of hours before believing that anything was really happened but then called my husband Matt to come home from work later that afternoon.  The surges continued and i paced the house with my hypnobirthing affirmations playing to help me keep as relaxed as possible. I tried my best to suppress the feelings on adrenalin that I knew would slow things down, but deep down I was so blooming excited that we were on the journey to meet our baby. I continued to pace up and down the length of the house, waiting for the surges to get more frequent and more painful, but it never happened.  I text my lovely midwife Mary before we went to bed that night and she was on standby ready to jump at my telephone call. We went to bed that night with everything ready, expecting that we’d be awoken in the night by me in established labour. Frustratingly, it just didn’t happen.

On Friday i already had a third sweep booked, so went ahead with that, hoping it would again kick everything into action. I knew I should be patient and let the baby arrive in its natural time, but was beginning to lose my patience. Mary confirmed i was 3 cm dilated and really helped to bring me back to reality and suggested Matt and i forget about the very erratic contractions and go out for lunch to take our minds off what was happening. This was the such good advice. In my head I’d been going a bit mad worrying I was faking the surges and getting frustrated by not knowing if they were the ‘real thing’ or not.  Matt and I walked to East Dulwich to get some lunch and the contractions started again, this time even stronger.  Still completely irregular though and by the time we got home  they had petered out completely.  So again, we went to bed on that Friday night expecting a middle of the night trip to Kings.   Again, it didn’t happen! Throughout Thursday and Friday I’d been listening to my hypnobirthing tracks which really helped to get me through the duration. Although I knew I should be patient and wait for my body and the baby to be ready for labour, after almost 48hrs of surges my body was tiring and I was getting impatient about meeting our baby.

By Saturday morning i was 41+3 and really ready to get some reassurance by delivering a healthy baby.  At this point in pregnancy, not only was I tired and frustrated at not knowing when or how labour would get started but also worrying that something could happen to the baby before I was able to deliver it safely. I’m sure it’s normal for all Mummy’s to be to have the same worries, but because I’d never really believed my body would be able to get pregnant naturally, I always had concerns in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t work out.

After talking to Mary on the Saturday morning, we agreed that I would go into King’s hospital to get my waters broken, in the hope of it getting the labour going. A big part of my decision making was that I knew my lovely midwife Mary was working that weekend, so if I waited any longer she’d potentially not be around to deliver my baby. Having had Mary visit throughout my pregnancy, Matt and I trusted her implicitly so we really wanted her there to support us through the main event.  On the way to King’s, Matt and I stopped at the supermarket and stocked up on a picnic we planned to have at the hospital whilst we waited for what we thought would be a long drawn out labour to begin.  Little did we know what was going to happen in the few hours ahead.

We were taken into a triage room in the Labour ward and an Agency midwife introduced herself and started some checks on me. The usual, blood pressure, pulse and the baby’s heart beat. Being an Agency midwife, the poor lady wasn’t used to the machines at King’s and she couldn’t find our baby’s heart beat, despite two attempts on different machines. Obviously this is the last thing you need as parents to be, however, thankfully she got it, third time lucky.

The doctor came to break my waters at 11:45 and suggested Matt and I go for a walk in the corridors and walk the stairs sideways, in an attempt to get labour moving. I began to get dressed, with Matt and I deliberating on my outfit of a nightie and big furry Ugg boots. We needn’t have worried. By midday, 15 minutes later, surges were coming every 3.5 minutes. And they were strong! Who knows if the ones at home were real, but these were very different and I knew that this was really it.

The midwife could see things were progressing quickly, so we put on the TENS machine and I was given gas and air to use whilst taking deep slow brwaths. We also made sure the hypnobirthing tracks were playing loud and clear. At this stage I wasn’t really listening to the words in the hypnobirthing, but having listened so intently throughout my pregnancy, the music was so recognisable as relaxing that I didn’t even need to hear what was being said, to experience the calming result.

After 2 hours in the labour ward I was getting nervous that Mary hadn’t arrived yet and that we hadn’t made it to the Midwifery led unit.  I know you’re always told in pregnancy to keep an open mind about your birth plan, and although I thought I had, but at this point I knew that the birthing pool was what i wanted, and I was adamant that it would be the best place for me and our baby to get through the afternoon.

Just after 2pm Mary arrived and I waddled around to the Midwifery led unit, panicking about whether I’d get there in time before the next contraction, and in time to get on the gas and air.   We made it to the Woodland suit, wallpapered with a lavender field, and the midwives immediately started filling the pool. I tried kneeling and using the beanbags during contractions, but couldn’t get comfortable. Finally, I was allowed in the pool and it immediately felt amazing to have the weight taken off me and have the support and comfort of the warm water.

In the water I had a good set up, with a flannel on the side to rest my head, hypnobirthing affirmations playing and Matt to hold my hand. I didn’t go through one contraction after that point without holding Matt’s hand and really needed that support through every one, knowing he was there for us both.

lizzie hammond birth

Contractions didn’t really get painful as the afternoon progressed but occasionally my body convulsed and it automatically started pushing.  I had no idea that this would happen in labour. It was like a gagging reflex and completely took over my body (without causing pain) and I really enjoyed that feeling of my body being in control and working for me to get the baby on its way out. This felt like real progress! I could feel the pressure getting lower and lower and Mary examined me in the pool and I was 7-8cm. When Mary told me this I was proud of getting this far but knew the dreaded ‘transition’ was still to come. Luckily I don’t think I was effected by transition. I remember sobbing a little and thinking in my head ‘maybe I should have got an epidural’ but I didn’t ever say it out loud and knew deep down that what was happening was totally manageable and I could deliver the baby myself.

What felt like very soon after that examination the reflex pushing feelings got stronger and I said I could feel something much lower. Mary and Erica (the student midwife) used a mirror in the pool every time I had a contraction to check on progress and it was amazing when they started to see the baby crowning. At first Erica said she could see ‘something’ floating in the pool and it took her a while to realise this was our baby’s thick head of hair starting to appear! According to my notes, the second phase of labour was 36 minutes and this flew by. Although it’s a bit uncomfortable and I was nervous of any damage, I didn’t find this bit as painful as is expected. I’m sure the water helps but the fact that I knew it was productive pain and that the baby was so close, made it so much more manageable. I remember feeling the baby’s head deliver and Mary and Erica guiding me through little pushes to get its chin out. The head was now free and I just had one more push to meet our baby. At this point I couldn’t really feel contractions (that may have been the amount of gas and air I’d taken!!) but just pushed when I was ready to fully deliver our baby at 4:16pm.

I’d watched One born every minute repeatedly throughout pregnancy and cried at every scene when a Mummy was first given their baby to hold. Needless to say, I burst into tears as soon as I had our little baby in our arms. It might sound ridiculous given I’d had 9 months to get ready for it, but I was in shock that I’d actually created and delivered a healthy baby and completely overwhelmed. I kissed and cuddled the blue and slippery baby in the pool, whilst Matt reached over to stroke and kiss us both too. We were both in shock and in love! After over a minute Mary said ‘aren’t you going to check the sex?’.  It hadn’t even crossed my mind, despite months and months of guessing girl or boy throughout pregnancy. As soon as the baby was born all I cared about was that it was healthy. Unbelievably when I did check, we couldn’t believe it to find out it was a boy? Throughout my pregnancy, everyone had guessed my bump as a ‘girl bump’ and having 5 nieces we were pretty sure we were having a girl, so to have a boy in my arms doubled the surprise factor and was even more special.

lizzie hammond birth 2

After 7 minutes of delayed cord clamping, Matt cut the cord and took our baby boy for skin on skin with him whilst I delivered the placenta. Luckily it came away easily and was a doddle to deliver, in comparison!

I was completely shaky  and overwhelmed at this point as was helped out of the bath and onto the bed, where Matt lay with our baby. We immediately lay him on my chest and let our baby naturally root for his first feed. The midwives were amazing at helping me to feed and checking me over and I was in a really good place thankfully. They suggested we could go home that evening and when they first said it, I was still in a state of shock and overwhelmed by the previous 4 hours, so asked to hold off making a decision at that point. On reflection however, I am so happy we did go home.  We’d already decided on our final baby boy and baby girl names, so didn’t need to deliberate when we named him William Matthew Hunter Hammond. We made some phone calls to our parents in the bed in hospital and the midwives and Matt tried to force me to eat something, having not eaten since breakfast. It was the last thing I wanted but I managed to stomach something as knew I wouldn’t be allowed home if I didn’t.

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By 7:30pm we were discharged from hospital and I was wheeled down to the exit with our baby boy in my arms. I felt like royalty, with everyone smiling and congratulating me in the corridors. We sat William in the car seat and I sat in the back of the car with him for our journey home. It was unbelievable that only 8hrs before, we’d been walking up to the entrance of the hospital with our picnic expecting a long afternoon ahead. And now we were driving away as a family of 3.

When we got home Matt and I looked at each other and at our baby in disbelief. How could something so amazing have been growing in my tummy? We were in love immediately and if it’s possible, are in even more love with him today. In the first few days at home Matt and I were so overwhelmed with how adorable William is and occasionally caught each other cuddling him and crying of happiness whilst we looked into little face. The feeling of love as a Mummy is so incredible. I didn’t realise how intense and immediate the feelings would be, but William is the most precious and amazing thing in my life and I really do have an overwhelming maternal instinct to look after him and keep him safe and loved forever and ever. I just hope I have the same feeling as he grows into his terrible twos and teenage years!

Lizzie is a Hypnobirthing teacher based in London, check out her website here 

You can read about Lizzie’s adventures with William over at Maternity Leave Life.

Birth Story Of The Week – Siobhan and Arlo

Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

That, I think, says it all.

Birth Story Of The Week – Annalise and Beatrice

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

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

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

Sunday 12 October 2014

1:27am

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

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

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

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

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

9:30am

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

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

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

11:00am

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

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

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

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

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

3:00pm

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

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

6:00pm

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

7:00pm

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

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

9:00pm

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

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

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9:28pm

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

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

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11:30pm

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

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Birth Story Of The Week – Jade and Aoife

My baby girl turned one yesterday, so felt it a good time to share my birth story.

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When I got pregnant I was terrified. As a midwife, I had seen so many women in pain, begging for an epidural and thinking they were dying. How the hell would I cope with labour?! My colleague and friend had set up her business teaching HypnoBirthing a few years before. She suggested I come along to a course as she knew how anxious I was. I had no idea what to expect and my partner (who is very scientifically minded) was dubious to say the least. After the first session I was hooked. We were shown a video of a woman birthing in the pool, fist pumping and sobbing with joy when her baby was born. If she could do it, so could I surely? From then on, I worked my socks off on my days off and when I got home from work. I listened to positive affirmations; practised breathing techniques; read any positive birth stories I could get my hands on (many of which featured on your blog) and performed perineal massage. I also read some really influential texts, such as Grantly Dick-Read’s ‘Childbirth without Fear’ and all of Ina May Gaskin’s books. I was exhausted but determined to have a good birth. There is a lot of pressure on a pregnant midwife I feel. I didn’t want to be the one who was gossiped about in the tearoom as ‘not coping’ in labour.
One day after my due date at 3am, my waters broke. I went into midwife mode. Calmly got out of bed, checked the loss was clear and popped a pad on. I didn’t tell a soul, not even my partner until 8am. I phoned the midwife led unit where I was planning to birth and told them that my waters broke but I wasn’t contracting. I declined to go into the unit for a speculum examination (a look inside the vagina to check the waters have definitely broken) and told the lovely midwife I would like to wait to see if any contractions started. As a trained professional, I knew what I was doing and was desperate for my labour to start. I felt this was more likely if I stayed in my own environment. Ha! After hours of bouncing on the birth ball, watching films and pacing round the lounge, I was still only having mild tightenings every 10 mins. At 4pm, my mobile rang. It was the sister of the midwife led unit. She wanted me to go in and get checked out. Reluctantly I agreed as I knew time was ticking on. One of my closest midwifery pals was the lucky lady who got to perform the examination which was so bizarre. She informed me that my waters had in fact broken but my os (cervix) was closed. I was booked in to be induced the following morning. I felt so deflated.
We drove home and I made my chap stop en route to grab us some dinner. We got home and I ran a bath with my essential oils and put my HypnoBirthing relaxation CD on. As I got into the bath and started practising my breathing techniques, I felt something start to happen. A really powerful (not painful) tightening sensation across my tummy. They started happening every three minutes from then on. My chap came in with dinner for me (the fresh filled pasta with sauce – student grub!) and preceded to feed me over the side of the bath. I felt so relaxed and in control. My body, now fully fuelled, really began to work, with the sensations getting more intense. I must be contracting, I thought, though it really didn’t hurt. At about 11pm, I climbed out of the bath and preceded to pace our bedroom. All of a sudden, I felt the need to be at the unit. I phoned at 1am and informed them I was coming in. The five minute journey was no picnic. On all fours, on the back seat, I mooed like a cow all the way there. Once at the hospital, I stood nervously at the lift, which is directly outside the Delivery Suite. I was so anxious I would be seen by a colleague. I didn’t want to added pressure of being upstairs on the midwife led unit and colleagues on the wards and CDS knowing I was labouring! The midwife who cared for me was amazing, a previous mentor of mine when I was a student midwife! She didn’t want to examine me until 24hours after my waters had broken just in case I wasn’t in fact labouring. I was very calm so I’m not sure she was convinced! 3am (24hours) came and went. I wasn’t examined as she could tell after two hours of observing me that I was labouring. I wasn’t asking for any pain relief either, which would be another indication for a vaginal examination. At 4am, I felt my baby drop down into my pelvis further and rotate. This was accompanied by an overwhelming need to push (like an urge to vommit!) I had no control over this feeling which I hated as I had felt so in control up until this point. I couldn’t possibly be fully dilated though, surely? I had only started contracting properly at 7pm and still didn’t feel pain. I was in the pool at this point and expressed my confusion to my fab midwife who suggested I had a feel myself. So, in the pool, in front of my mum and fiancée, I preceded to examine myself!! OMG, I was fully dilated and could feel the head! I was doing it! The next two hours were hard work. I did everything I could to get my baby out. I squatted, sat on the loo, got in and out of the pool and pushed like mad. At times, It felt like my baby was just not going to fit through my bones. I remembered one of the affirmations which talks about your baby being perfect for your size though and that kept me calm and focused. At 6:23am my perfect girl floated into the world into the warm water of the pool and was bought up to the surface by her daddy. I had done it. Less than 12 hours of active labour, no pain relief at all and an intact perineum! Amazing! I felt like I could conquer the world, it was such an awesome feeling – the hugest high ever.
HypnoBirthing totally helped me stay calm throughout my pregnancy and in the immediate postnatal period as well as the labour. I was so inspired by this amazing movement that I decided to train as a Practitioner. I have now taught one group of parents in my mat leave and will continue throughout this year. I will be returning to work next week as a Community Midwife and I can’t wait to try and help more women feel better about birth. If I can do it, so can anyone.
Baby Aoife, a week old.  jade 2 jade 3 jade

Pregnancy Diary – 40 weeks!

Preparing to meet our water baby

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

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

Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I go home to bed, feeling grumpy.

Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Only Hippies Have Home Births?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pregnancy Diary – 37 weeks

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This series of pregnancy diary entries are written by Siobhan, mum of one and now almost ready to meet her second baby due in 3 weeks time! Siobhan’s first birth 7 years ago left her feeling like she would never be able to have a natural birth again, but with a bit of prep work she is now preparing for a home water birth. Here she explains how her views have changed about birth, and hopefully install some positivity into any of you who may be in a similar situation.

‘I remember attending a series of ante-natal classes before my son was born and one being called ‘complications in labour’. The midwife assured us that we were unlikely to experience any of these complications and if we were unlucky enough to, then it would just be the one. Nobody would experience all of the complications discussed. Well, my birth ran like a checklist of everything covered that day, bar the c-section, which I narrowly avoided (my son was delivered vaginally on the operating table in theatre, after I’d consented to an emergency secton).

Fast-forward 8 years and I’m feeling a little older, not so much wiser, but certainly less nervous and more confident in my (now surely looser?) cervix’s ability to dilate spontaneously. Also having educated myself through attending some amazing hypnobirthing classes (more on that later), I now believe a lot of what happened with my son’s birth was due to a domino effect of fear, tension, pain, fetal distress and intervention, a pattern which then just continued throughout my 2-day Syntocinon- induced labour.

So determined to make this birth experience memorable for all the right reasons, my partner and I signed up for hypnobirthing classes with Hollie of London Hypnobirthing, which we attended last month, and booked in with the homebirth team at West Middlesex hospital. Clemmie (founder of this blog) deserves a big shout out here as she encouraged me to sign up for a homebirth and I’ve not looked back since. The quality of care is superior times a million (!!) and most importantly it just feels right for me.

I used to journey to the hospital, wait 40+ minutes in the waiting room, often with my impatient child, finally see an unknown-to-me midwife for a quick 5-minute check-up and then leave fraught, having forgotten to ask most of the things I’d wanted to know (sound familiar?). I now have a lovely midwife called Natalie who comes round to my house, we have a cuppa, she spends at least an hour with me, responds to text messages with a kiss and generally feels like someone who is my friend and who genuinely cares about me and my birth. I cannot rate the service highly enough.

I will admit when I initially signed up for a homebirth I was thinking I’ve got nothing to lose as I can always change my mind closer to the time. However I am now so committed to my beautiful, romantic, waterbirth at home that I can no longer remember a single reason why I thought hospital might have been a better idea. How things have changed!

But however calm and tranquil I’m imagining the birth will be, the reality right now is quite different! Almost 37 weeks pregnant, still working full time, juggling hypnobirthing homework with birth pool research and with outstanding ‘to do’ lists everywhere, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. But as we prepare to meet our water baby, Clemmie has invited me to share with you what’s going through my head and my heart and what we’re doing to make our birth a positive one.’

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Next week Siobhan reveals how she preparing her body and mind with hypnobirthing techniques for birth and why it’s always worth doing a ‘dry run’ for the birthing pool!

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.”

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