I absolutely love reading birth stories as every experience is so unique, and after sharing my own two very different birth experiences [emergency c-section and natural VBAC] I decided to ask other mums and dads to share their beautiful birth stories with me, too. If you’d like to share your birth story, send me an email or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.
My beautiful and amazing friend Jo is sharing her birth story today. After two births that didn't go as she expected, she planned a water birth at home for her third baby and that is the story that she is sharing with us.
Finding out that we were expecting boy number three was very exciting; a houseful of boys and noise and laughter and fighting was to be our destiny and we couldn’t wait. Following our scan, thoughts of the birth began to enter our heads. Following two births which didn’t go to my plan, I was adamant that this time I would get my water birth, but remained grounded and realistic that if intervention was needed then so be it. My husband Mat and I discussed a homebirth and we decided to go for it - the pregnancy was low risk and there was no reason not to. We live six minutes from hospital and we looked into how a homebirth ‘works’ and weighed up all the ifs and buts and decided that this was the route we wanted to take.
With T, I was young and didn’t question a lot of the things which happened during labour, I also knew far less than I know now and was in a less positive place in life. With B I didn’t even consider the possibility that labour would be difficult, this was my second baby and the second is always easier, right? Well second time around there was a lot more intervention, but ultimately I felt more empowered and in control of the experience, but of course I would have rather done it ‘my way’. Both experiences left me with the most amazing babies though and I would go through them one hundred times over to have my beautiful and loving boys, so I really didn’t consider that I had any issues coming to terms with their births.
Third time around I needed to make sure that this birth wasn’t about making the other two right; I spoke to two colleagues about my birth stories and we talked about what happened with each and why. I then started looking into natal hypnotherapy which was recommended to me. I found a lovely lady who put together a 1:1 workshop for me and Mat and downloaded some tracks from the website to help overcome trauma from previous births, prepare me for labour and relaxation tracks for during.
Again, I went into my birth stories and the overcoming trauma issues came up - not that I considered either traumatic, but it was clear that I had some unresolved issues to consolidate!
My main concern this time around was that if intervention was needed then my recovery would be slow as it was previously with B; the episiotomy recovery really slowed me down and this time, with a toddler in tow, being less than 100% wasn’t really an option. There was also a part of me which worried about tearing/scarring and my life afterwards: silly in the grand scheme of things, but it did play on my mind a lot and so I felt that this was something which I did need to work on. Both boys had also been posterior for labour (ouch) and my waters had also gone before labour had started, which had lead to interventions and challenges of their own: I really needed these waters to stay intact!
The workshop was amazing and further taught me the importance of the right biochemistry for a natural birth and how to make it so; we learnt breathing techniques, did relaxation, visualisation and ways to create instant calm when needed. We discussed our hopes and fears and I finished the day feeling a lot calmer and in control.
The weeks that followed were up and down; mainly up! I felt generally quite positive but had the odd wobble. We did our relaxation on a nightly basis, give or take a day and felt pretty in control and relaxed, so when I started to get nightly contractions we felt excited rather than panicked or scared.
Baby was due on the 28th May but my babies are always late and so I was fairly relaxed about getting out and about on the due date, though it was slightly uncomfortable to walk so we drove into town and went for a walk and a coffee. I was getting contractions and feeling hot, but nothing regular in the slightest and so I knew something was afoot. Later that day I got a show and went for a lie down as I was now starting to feel sure that something was going to happen in the next few days.
After a few hours I was contracting about once every ten minutes and around 9pm I decided to call the community midwife and ask for some guidance as what best to do. We had a chat and she said I should call my parents and get them to come up and stay (they live about three hours away and were booked in for emergency childcare whilst we were labouring) and that she’d come over to for some obs, introduce herself and make sure everything was progressing nicely.
At 10pm the midwife, A came over. She was absolutely lovely, put my mind at rest and told me when I should call back. Everything was normal and healthy with me and baby and I was told to get some rest. We pumped the birthing pool up and unpacked the tens machine! We got our birthing suite set up and did normal mundane things like put the dishwasher on and made sure the loo was clean.
At midnight I felt the sensation of bearing down and called A back. She came around and I had the tens machine on, we discussed what to do and I wanted to get in the pool but we agreed on an internal examination first. I know that lots of people don’t like them, but the scientist in me needed to know whereabouts I was in the process. I was 5cm and thrilled how well I had done so far: my waters were still intact, which was great as I had mine go in advance both times before which had caused issues and so I was good to go in the pool. Before I jumped in, I welcomed mum and dad and said ‘see you in the morning!’ handing them some earplugs!
By this time it was 1am and I floated through the next two hours listening to relaxation tracks, napping and resting in the pool and feeling completely chilled. At around 3am I felt the contractions change and so A called her backup midwife C. This was exciting! The second midwife arrives when baby is imminent and so I was very excited that baby was nearly here!
C arrived and immediately I felt another connection: these wonderful ladies were making the whole experience so fantastic, I felt at ease and comfortable with them which is SO important in birth. The next few hours flew past again but at around 5am I decided something needed some attention; this baby wasn’t here yet and my contractions hadn’t got any closer together and nor had my waters gone. At this point A could obviously see that i was beginning to get distressed and suggested another internal with the possibility of breaking my waters. I agreed, though I was warned that if broken manually it was likely that things would start to happen quickly and things would get more uncomfortable. The examination showed that I was 6cm. What?! Four hours and only 1cm more?! No, I needed these waters to go, it was only about an hour before the kids woke up upstairs and I didn’t want to be birthing whilst they were wandering around with their corn flakes in the next room, so the waters went. It was suggested for me to stay out of the water for a while to help gravity do it’s thing. I went to the loo and boy the contractions had started to ramp up!
I got back in the pool and relaxed again and everything slowed. ‘Out!’ they said - I needed to get gravity involved again, so I was dried off and the tens machine went back on. I couldn’t get comfortable and was sat on my birthing ball when I decided that no, I couldn’t stay in that position any longer; the pressure downwards was too much and I was crying that I couldn’t do it and it bloody hurt! A and C were great, telling me it was ok for it to hurt and Mat was telling me to breathe and relax. I had moments of rage and tiredness and this stage and I couldn’t stay on the ball and so I threw myself onto the sofa, laid on my left hand side which was when something happened: in my head, through all the doubt and internal monologue of ‘I need pain relief’ and ‘I need to get to a hospital now’ I suddenly got grit, focus and determination and went totally into myself. I knew that not only I had to do this, but I COULD do it. A and Mat kept repeating something which was on my birth affirmation cards which was that my body is designed to birth, and so there I lay, for what felt like five minutes but turned out to be about twenty minutes of pushing.
I could feel the burning sensation that people talk about when the baby is crowning, in three labours this is the first time that I felt it! I could actually tell how close baby was to being born and it felt amazing, surreal and really amazing all at the same time. I pushed. Pushed again. And then I was told that if I wanted to birth in the pool then I needed to go now. Mat had just enough time to rip off the tens machine (giving himself a slight shock, but that’s a story for another day!) and jump in the water to do one last push and feel the head emerge! Oh my goodness this was totally surreal, panting, I waited for the next contraction to breathe out the shoulders. A & C checked and there was no cord around the neck and so I was good to go. The shoulders was harder as I was completely knackered by this point but I did it; no drugs, no intervention, relaxed, calm and in the water as beautiful and natural as birth should be. Two of the biggest inhibitors to a natural birth previously were unfounded this time: he was anterior and the waters didn’t go in advance of labour starting, I couldn’t quite believe it!
‘Catch him!’ they said, where is he?! I brought this beautiful baby up to me to lay on my chest. He didn’t even realise he’d been born as the whole process was so calm, beautiful and natural. We held our boy up close to my chest and of course I cried. I did it!
I must say that the feelings afterwards were so incredibly overwhelming, I wasn’t sure what I felt and I couldn’t quite believe that I did it, I had just birthed my 9lb 4oz (yes, ouch) son in my front room at 6.36am, just in time for the older two to come and greet their little brother as they woke up for the day. We held our boy in the water for half an hour, cuddling and crying and being totally in love with the new addition and the whole experience, then Mat cut the cord and we got out of the pool to birth the placenta. This was more tricky as I was so exhausted and had lost quite a bit of blood, but A and C were incredible and made sure that I was well and put me to bed to rest for half an hour shortly after I’d been stitched up and fed my newborn. I did tear slightly, but the healing from the tear was a breeze compared to an episiotomy.
A & C came to check on me several times and made sure I was 100% ok. They got me to eat, drink and go to the loo, also making sure the rest of the family were settled in and looked after too, leaving me, Mat and the baby to snuggle, feed and rest.
The experience was incredible, there are absolutely no words but a friend of mine summed up the birth experience as ‘I AM WOMAN’ which was how I felt: completely empowered, superwoman goddess status! In fact, I would love to do it all again, but I think the sleepless nights are going to keep us as a family of five for just now :)
It is always an honour to be able to share someone's birth story on my blog, but even more special when it is a friend's story. Thank you, Jo! You are the inspiration behind me thinking about a home birth this time round.
You can read more beautiful birth stories here.