The arrival of Harry James

When I was pregnant with my first born I decided to have a hospital birth.  My reason was the same that many women give; I just didn’t feel confident that I wouldn’t need the medical facilities at a hospital.

My waters broke in the early hours of Saturday morning.  It was only a trickle and I had no pain so I went back to bed to rest some more.  After breakfast I phoned St Michaels and was asked to come in, where a midwife confirmed my waters had broken.  I was now feeling a dull pain very low round my abdomen a bit like a heavy period pain.  The midwife booked me in for an induction on Monday morning should contractions not begin naturally.  Although I was keen not to have labour started artificially, 48 hours seemed an awfully long wait!

When we returned home, I had a bath and took some paracetamol.  Paracetamol has an accumulative effect, so by taking it early in labour I hoped it would be more effective when the labour pains increased.  After the bath I didn’t feel like sitting down at all so gently paced around the house.  I had some surgery squash which I sipped throughout labour as I didn’t feel like eating.  Contractions started around 5.30pm.  These felt like a wave of dull pain going down my tummy and into my abdomen.  I phoned the delivery suite, but as contractions were not regular and I was coping with the pain I stayed at home.  As the evening went on contractions did get gradually stronger so that I would often moan at the height.  They became regular but as the pain was bearable I still thought that we were in for a long wait.

Although all I was doing was gently walking around, the time did pass quite quickly.  Around 8pm I was aware that I had been on my feet for 7 or so hours.  I really didn’t feel like being still, least of all sitting down but also knew that I was getting tired.  The quality of the contractions had changed and felt like a band of pain tightening around my abdomen.  I knelt on a cushion on the floor and rested my head on an arm chair.  During the time I leant against the chair the contraction pain and frequency lessoned.  My Mum rang at 9pm to see how things were going and advised me to go to the toilet.  As soon as I stood up I could feel ‘something’ between my legs.  As I hovered over the loo I touched what I realised must be baby’s head.  I immediately rang St Michaels and explained how and what I felt like, but the midwife explained it would feel “heavy down there” and as contractions had slowed I should stay at home.  I felt confused and for the first time worried.  My husband was saying “just tell her we’re coming in”.  When I hung up the phone I was rooted to the spot and couldn’t believe ‘this is it’. 

Luckily the car was parked right outside the house and I got on all fours on the back seat.  As the car reversed I felt a ring of stinging around my cervix.   I was having no contractions.  I looked down at the seat just willing all the traffic lights green.

As I got out of the car fluid gushed down my legs.  I waddled across the car park.  The midwife calmly greeted us and asked me to lie on the bed but I wasn’t sure how to get up there without sitting first.  I had on some loose black trousers so I don’t think the midwife could see how far along I was.  I tried to explain but she just looked perplexed!  Somehow I was helped onto the bed and immediately it was a rush to get my shoes, trousers and underwear off as quickly as possible.  Baby just slipped out and was lifted straight onto my chest.  It all happened so quickly, at 9pm I had still thought we were in for a long wait and at 9.35 my baby was in my arms.

I decided to deliver the placenta naturally which took 21 minutes and then my husband cut the cord.  It wasn’t until another midwife came in and asked if we had a boy or a girl that we thought to look!  We had Harry James, perfect.

The experience of my first labour gave me the confidence to have a home birth for my second child.  You never know exactly how labour will go and my labour with Harry wasn’t as I had expected.  In retrospect it seems that the rush to the hospital would have been stressful, but it didn’t feel like that at the time.  My body took over and knew exactly what to do; the contractions stopped, I didn’t push and my mind did not race with unhelpful thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘oh help’! This allowed me to maintain a certain level of calm.  In my view every birth is positive, a home or hospital birth, a birth with or without intervention, or a caesarean.  The point is however labour unfolds a woman brings new life into the world and comes out the other side as a Mother.  The key is to take the experiences of your labour and use them in a positive way.  Most of us would wish for a relatively painless birth with as little intervention as possible, but if that is not what happens you will most likely come out the other side of labour with a greater opportunity to learn from your experience as you embark on the next journey of motherhood. 

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Vicki and Merryn

I had a funny feeling in my tummy as we went to bed that Saturday night in the middle of a freezing January. Not a pregnancy feeling but a night-before-exams feeling or just-before-a-performance feeling. “Everything’s ready isn’t it babe? If the baby comes, we’re ready aren’t we?” I said to my partner Toby.

The hospital’s date was the coming Wednesday but I thought it was way too early. I knew when I’d conceived: in the middle of Beltaine when the woods were full of bluebells and everything was lush and green and abundant. Me and my sister had rubbed shelanigigs on the trees for good Spring luck and fertility that weekend as we tramped through the woods near our childhood home and I’d wished hard for some of that fertile energy to soak up into me. The hospital’s date had Merryn arriving in the world way too early by my reckoning. The reality was she came that Monday morning and now I think she was simply a 38-week baby… she was born fully cooked and ready.

I woke up that Sunday morning after the nervous feeling with mild cramps in my abdomen. Tobes got me a hot-water bottle. I didn’t think for a moment that I was in labour. All the birth classes and birth workshop stuff I’d done and still I genuinely didn’t have a clue. After 2 hours Tobes said “I think you’re in labour.” No way, I said.

Tobes pulled down a pioneering 1970s book called New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas from my bed-book stash. Along with Ina May Gaskin, Janet was my touchstone for positive birth stories throughout my pregnancy. It looked like one of those early Yoga books my mum had when I was a kid, all leotards and softly tonged hair, and men with beards. Janet Balaskas was a pioneer and brought some sense back to obstetrics. Tobes flipped open a page and thumbed down it with a frown. “Feels like period pains. I think you’re in labour.” Perhaps I was! Holy SHIT!

Tobes leapt into action and ran downstairs to get the birth pool ready. We had planned a home birth not out of any particular desire to give birth at home, but more out of an aversion to being in a hospital, which didn’t seem right either. There didn’t seem to be any happy medium. My mum had looked vaguely nervous when I told her.

I felt okay about it though… I’d read lots of birth stories, talked to lots of women about their experiences, and done a workshop and regular pregnancy yoga classes. I did yoga and pelvic floor exercises every night for the last four or five months of my pregnancy. If I can give one piece of advice to you it is this: pelvic floor, pelvic floor, pelvic floor! Also, liberal use of wheatgerm oil or olive oil (before bed) on your vital birthing parts is great. Slap it on!

So! Now here we were. Shit. I tried to have a shower. Couldn’t relax at all. I felt slightly sick, and sweaty-palmed, as if I had an upset stomach. I’d read that this can happen so I just went with it. Your body empties itself out so this was fine; I just went to the toilet and didn’t freak out about it. Then I went and leant over my pilates ball in our spare room, while Tobes was trying to time my contractions. They were coming pretty often, even at this early stage. I suddenly felt very emotional, and felt that I wanted to see my mum and sister right away, so Tobes called them. They weren’t far away but the feeling passed quite soon, and they made us promise to call if they could do anything or if I just wanted them to come and be there. I just felt quite insular by then though: I just wanted a midwife. With hindsight I should have got them all there for support for Tobes, to help with practical tasks and just the general vibe. Probably a bad judgement call but I don’t like fuss.

Tobes was on the phone to the midwives and I shouted at him to get someone there as soon as he could. I felt anxious now, as my contractions were getting quite full on. I wanted women around who knew what they were doing… living in community would have been great at this point.

My favourite midwife came really soon and was very reassuring. She took my blood pressure and told me I was coping beautifully, which was nice of her. She then told me she couldn’t deliver me at home cos my blood pressure was up. High blood pressure is a possible sign of pre-eclampsia and the NHS really HATE this. They won’t risk home delivery and you can’t blame them. I knew I didn’t have it though. I had had a totally normal pregnancy.

The midwife called Southmead Hospital to say I was coming in. I had chosen Southmead because they had a birthing suite and birth pools. Someone had cocked up some paperwork, though, and when we phoned up, I wasn’t registered to give birth there. So we went to St Michael’s where the one birth pool was occupied, and I gave birth in a hospital room, constantly monitored because of my ‘worrying’ blood pressure. Tsch. I should say at this point that ALL the midwives at St Michael’s that looked after me, without exception, were amazing. The things I have issues with, on reflection, are the system and practices in place.

So back to my birth story… the car journey was mercifully short, with me sat backwards and clinging to the back seat like a dog looking out the rear window. The reasons I did not want to give birth in a hospital were (a) increased risk of intervention and (b) increased risk of infection. I gave birth in a hospital and sure enough, both these things happened, but only to a mild degree. I had a normal, unassisted delivery in the end because I held firm when the “cascade of intervention” started. But I did not have a “natural” birth because I had a hormone drip at one point, and pethadin administered with it. Both these things need not have happened. But I digress.

So, for eight hours after we arrived in hospital, I laboured using breathing and visualizations to get through the contractions. I sat on a pilates ball and pushed against Tobes’ hands which held mine very tightly. This was intense for Tobes, who was exhausted and hungry! I was neither of these things as I was just focusing on the contractions. I turned to one visualization which had come up in my head during one of my ante-natal classes, of a Chinese dragon (like you kind you see in carnival) streaming through the air, and another which was a classic textbook visualization of a flower opening when the contractions reached their peak, which I’d read about in a hypnobirthing book but NEVER thought I would use.

The contractions were painful but not unbearable. More intense than I had anticipated though, and yes, more painful. But just about manageable. I remember saying to Tobes at one point “this is full on.” Apart from that I didn’t say much except to tell midwives that I liked them, or they smelt nice, or to get me another energy drink out of the machine, or to tell Tobes not to leave me. When he had to leave the room for a few minutes to take a break the midwives wouldn’t hold my hands firmly enough: I felt desperate! Didn’t they know I needed more of a firm hand handhold than that?! I was drinking and drinking so much liquid but I couldn’t pee.

After eight hours the midwife on our shift said that she’d like to break my waters, as they were still in tact “to speed thing up a bit.” I couldn’t think of a good reason why not: I had read about midwives doing it and it seemed an innocuous enough thing to do. I was 7 or 8 cm dilated at this point. This was a mistake. A short while after she broke my waters she measured my dilation and then looked as if somebody had died. “I am afraid that you’ve gone back to 3cm,” she said, her face ashen and white. She should have left my waters alone, as it turned out they were partially holding open my cervix. Their protocol is to break waters if women have been in labour a certain amount of time but I know now that it is not necessarily a good idea to do this. Me and Tobes both felt very despondent. I didn’t think I could do another 8 hours like that.

While we were at a low ebb we accepted the midwives’ next plan of a hormone drip to speed up the contractions to get me dilated again and some pethadin – also administered on a drip – for pain relief.

Let me say here that pethadin is a crap and ineffectual drug. It is not a good physical pain reliever and from my experience, and my reflection on my birth journey afterwards, I have concluded that it was introduced to make women compliant. It makes you out of your head but the pain doesn’t go away. I think it has been used to calm the fears of anxious partners ‘cos the women appear calm, and I think it probably makes doctors have an easier time convincing women of whatever intervention that they want her to accept. This sounds harsh but I cannot find any other reason why pethadin would be used as a pain-relieving drug during labour. I have since met medical staff and a cranial osteopath who agree with me. I also think that the pethadin made me feel disassociated from my experience in the few hours after I gave birth to Merryn. I was happy she had arrived safely, but I felt like I just wanted to zone out and was quite happy for Tobes to hold her. This is not like me at all. I guess you can factor in exhausion too, and possibly mild shock from such a momentous experience, but that still doesn’t cover it fully. I also think that Merryn didn’t feed straight away because of the effects of the Pethadin. Crazy to think you spend your whole pregnancy avoiding any kind of stimulant or drug, and then during labour you get an intravenous drip of a strong narcotic!

So after the pethadin drip we laboured on through the night and at one point I had lovely gas and air. I had not wanted it at first but Tobes persuaded me and what a lovely, soothing respite it was for both of us. The deep breathing necessary to inhale it is a great tonic to the tightness and intensity of the contractions. We had a long happy time of deep breathing.

The midwives asked me a few times if I wanted an epidural and encouraged me to have one. I knew at this point that I had to put the brakes on. If I let this journey slip any more out of my control then I could see it slipping all the way down the road to an emergency c-section and something in my brain just clicked into place and I told them I didn’t need one, and I didn’t want one. They didn’t ask me again. I knew I had had a straightforward pregnancy. I knew I was fit and strong, and that there were no complications with my labour. I had read so many birth stories that every sensation I had, I knew had been felt by someone else and that was a great comfort.

I still couldn’t pee, so at one point the midwives inserted a catheter so that I could go. I literally did not feel this at all, and was simply very grateful that that intervention was available, as I knew it was important that I go.

The heart monitor on my tummy kept falling off and the doctors did not like this. They pressured me a bit to have a tiny monitor clipped onto Merryn’s head while she was still inside me. I wasn’t happy about this but was too tired to argue it endlessly and deal with contractions. This was probably the only real low point for me. They clipped it on in the end after a few failed attempts, and me and Tobes ignored them again and went back into our world of labour.

As I was going into transtition I was sick a few times. I had read that this happened so I didn’t mind…

Then morning came, someone said that I was ready to deliver my baby. I was elated. “YES!” went my brain. “Bring it on, this has gone on long enough, let’s finish the job.” Tobes asked me where I wanted to be and I jumped onto all-fours on the bed, leaning over a bean bag that Tobes has thoughtfully chucked into the car as we packed for hospital.

I didn’t really hear what anyone was saying now, and I had no idea how many people were in the room. I just went for it. I felt an enormous pressure and I just went into myself and made some loud bellowing noises. I didn’t feel like I had to “push” exactly: it was more a huge pressure release that I had to go with. Pretty soon I heard someone say, “the head’s here already!” After 20 hours in labour I think they were surprised how quickly this bit was progressing. Pretty soon, Merryn’s head was out and I heard the midwives saying: “Vicki, push into your bum?!!!” This made no sense to me whatsoever: whoever decided that was a helpful physiological command needs to rethink their strategy. Merryn was definitely not going to come out of my bum.

Then another midwife said: “Vicki, you’ve got to change position to get her shoulders out.” I had absolutely no clue as to what other position I might get into so I knelt up on the bed in a slightly confused state, put my hands on one of the midwife’s shoulders and said to her: “I can’t sit down now, I’ll squash my baby!” and with that Merryn slithered out, shoulders, body and everything. One of the midwifes caught her and she was put to my chest after a brisk rubdown. The whole delivery took 25 minutes. I remember thinking how dark she looked, with her dark downy fluff and olive skin, and how much she looked like my dad’s side of the family. I couldn’t conceive in my brain how something that size had just dropped out of me. It all seemed very surreal. It didn’t feel like I had just delivered this healthy, bonny little package of baby girl. I didn’t see them cut the chord so I have no idea when that happened…  it was all efficient flurries and toweling down, and clearing up. Bless them.

The midwives had already asked me when I checked into hospital if they could give me the injection that releases the placenta straightaway after the birth. I couldn’t have cared less about the placenta at that point so I agreed and actually, it was amazing. They literally counted to 3 and placenta slithered out. I was too weak to think about getting up to look at it but afterwards, I was gutted no-one had showed it to me. I really wanted to see this amazing organ that had been living inside me for 9 months. Tobes has a look and said it was huge. After 27 hours of labour though, neither of us was in any state to think about keeping it or how we might store it! I told the midwives it was okay to let it go.

Merryn was a healthy, beautiful little girl. Our little otter. I stayed in a few days because she didn’t start to feed until the Friday. During that time I constantly expressed colostrum and then proper milk when it came in. The midwives were absolutely amazing and endlessly patient: kneeling beside my head with pipettes while I expressed tiny amounts of colostrum for what felt like hours. Tobes also helped me with this. Without exception every midwife who cared for me was an angel.

During the next few days that we stayed in hospital to get her breastfeeding properly, the midwives (and Tobes) both – separately – witnessed Merryn have a “dusky episode”. No, not a vampire moment (!), but apparently something quite common with newborn babies where they go a little bit grey and stop breathing for a couple of seconds. I didn’t witness any of these “episodes” and was very skeptical, even blasé, about it. Merryn was such a good colour, and so well filled out and healthy-looking, that I wasn’t the slightest bit worried about her… but St Michael’s deals with a lot of high risk pregnancies and a lot of very ill babies, and they are working at the front line of maternity care. They take the worst possible scenario and treat each case as if it were that: they have no option but to do this if they are to provide first class health care. I understand this, but it was frustrating for me to have us – a normal pregnancy and health, full-term baby – caught up in this cycle of over-preventative medicine. Because of the dusky episodes, the midwives ran loads of tests to see if Merryn had picked up a little infection somewhere. All tests were normal except one, which was ‘inconclusive’. We eventually consented to a lumbar puncture (tiny sample of spinal colum fluid taken out with a little injection) to check she had not picked up Meningitus in hospital. I told the paediatrician (in tears) that I was very unhappy about the procedure, before I consented to it. She had three children herself and allayed my fears. The baby across the ward from us had picked up Meningitus somehow. So we agreed to it. In the event Merryn did not utter so much as a whimper. And she didn’t have Meningitus. (I should say here that all the paedriatricians we met at St Michael’s were dedicated and committed individuals who I have a lot of respect for). So those few days were more stressful than they needed to have been, and for a couple of days, Merryn had antibiotics administered as a precaution, but ultimately she was fine (I believe she was always fine anyway… but we’ll never know for sure if she had an infection or not). I gave her probiotics with expressed breastmilk when she was a few weeks older to try to counteract those early anti-biotics.

The one thing I would say about labour, though, that you need to stand firm if the tide of intervention starts when you weren’t expecting it. Take your time to make decisions. Ask for half an hour to talk to your birth partner and think about your options. Nothing in labour happens quickly. You can ask for time if you need to think something over. As long as you feel you made your decisions independently and without pressure, you will feel absolutely fine about whatever happens… and at the end, you will have a lovely baby, no matter what. Don’t be afraid. We live in a country where we are very lucky and the infant mortality is extremely low. You have the best care possible. Your belief in yourself will go a long way to making your birth story a positive one…

Happy Home Birth

I’m a mum of two and after a straightforward first pregnancy, my midwife suggested I could have my second child at home. After talking to friends who had had very positive experiences of home births, I decided to go for this option. The midwife visited us at home a few weeks before my due date to run through everything with us that we would need and once we were all organised we just had to wait.

8 days before my due date I woke up feeling very tired, I spent the day looking after my older daughter and relaxing as much as I could. It was a Sunday so my husband was at home to help out too. At 3:45 pm whilst we were all out in the garden I started to feel a few aches and realised that they were 5 minutes apart. This confirmed to me that labour had started. I told my husband but as I felt fine and didn’t expect anything to happen too quickly, we got on with making tea and sorting my daughter out. I rang the local maternity unit who asked a few questions, then passed my details on to the on-call midwife who rang me. I told her I felt fine at the moment although my previous labour had only been 12 hours. She recommended that I give it a few hours and ring her back when things seemed to be hotting up. We ate tea, bathed my daughter and got a few things sorted out for the baby round the house. Then my parents came to pick my daughter up as she was going to stay with them overnight. By this stage my contractions were coming about 3 minutes apart and quite painful but were much easier to deal with by me walking around and keeping busy as much as possible to take my mind off them. We rang the midwife again and she said she’d like to come over at this point. She arrived at 8:45pm. At this stage I needed to stop what I was doing to breathe through each contraction, but otherwise, I was trying to still keep moving. The midwife was lovely, calm and relaxed and let me take the lead and do whatever I wanted to do. I asked her to examine me and she said I was 7cm dilated already and she thought the baby would be there pretty soon. This helped me decide to have some gas and air as I knew I would not need this for long and I was finding the contractions much stronger. This helped to take the edge off for me and gave me something to concentrate on as I walked around the room. Soon after that I felt like I needed to push and was encouraged to do so. Not long after my little girl was born in our bedroom at 9:58pm. She was placed straight in my arms whilst they had a quick look at her, then my husband and I could cuddle her and settle her whilst I gave her her first feed in our bed. The midwife tidied the room completely so you would never know a baby had been born there. She gave me a few stitches which didn’t hurt at all, ran me a bath and made me a cup of tea. Once we were all sorted out she left and I spent the night cuddling and feeding my beautiful little girl. It was such a calm and relaxed start in life for her and felt totally normal and natural. It was a beautiful experience which I hope to repeat someday. I do think that being in familiar surroundings, keeping moving, and feeling relaxed about the birth really helped it all to go smoothly for me.

The birth of Frank

I went into labour on a Tuesday evening at about 11pm after my husband Ben and I had been laying on the bed, watching a film. It was three days after my due date. It had been a hot May weekend filled with the Royal wedding and the Stokes Croft riots. Or rather for me, the near completion of a jigsaw puzzle.

I had what felt like period pains and had a small ‘show.’ I called my second birth partner, Beth who was living near Bridgewater at the time to tell her that something had started. We agreed that instead of going to work the following day she would come to us.

I sent Ben to bed in our attic room, as I wanted him to get some rest. He also had a terrible cold! The contractions were quite manageable and I was able to rest between them. I didn’t get any sleep though and in the wee hours they were close enough together that I felt I wanted to know a little more what was going on. I knocked for Ben who helped me time how far apart the contractions were. I was coping with them quite easily but they were about 7 minutes apart so we decided to call the midwife.  My sister and my Mum had both experienced at least one quite rapid labour so I was anxious that I wasn’t going to get caught short!

A midwife did come and check me over. She didn’t examine my cervix but by the strength of the contractions, she felt I was still quite a way off. She thought I was in the “latent phase” and that it was quite likely that my cervix would not have really started to open much yet.  She advised I take a paracetamol and try and get some sleep, which I did.

 

A friend had also advised me that when I first went into labour I should rest as much as possible. This is because first labours are often really long and one major cause for transfer to hospital or other interventions is the mother’s exhaustion. This was really good advise and I am so glad I heeded it. I didn’t know that I would not be having my baby until the Friday!

 

On ‘Day One’ of my labour Beth arrived and Ben and I were both so happy to have her there. We had all planned quite well together what we thought we would all need and how Beth could best support both Ben and me. This was especially important, as Ben really wasn’t very well. (The expectant Father getting ill does seem to be a common phenomenon – be warned!)  Ben and Beth had learnt some Shiatsu pressure points to practice on me if I wished and they had their individual tasks too, such as reminding me to keep my out breath long and to make sure I went to the loo. Beth also did a local food shop and cooked for us. I was restless and moving about quite a bit during the day but was still finding the contractions quite manageable.  I chatted on the phone to friends and tried to finish my jigsaw. I tried to eat as normal but did find I didn’t have much appetite. When evening came, I decided it was best if we all went to bed in our separate beds again as I felt quite able to cope and wanted to get as much rest as possible. The night was passed lying on my side on my bed with cushions between my knees.  When I felt a contraction was coming, I would move to my hands and knees. I imagined that I was opening like a country gate and tried to keep my breath long.  Then I would return to lying again and imagine I was floating on the ocean. This helped me to relax and to dose off.

 

A different friend had also advised me that the jaw is connected to the cervix. For this reason it’s good to remember (or have somebody to remind you!) to keep your jaw loose. Making your jaw wobble and blowing air through your lips can help keep your jaw and therefore your cervix relaxed.

 

On ‘Day Two’ of my labour we decided it was best if Beth went to work. She had a very understanding boss who was happy that she remain “on call” for us during the day. The most memorable thing about this day was that I decided to have a bath. I love my bathroom and although I had a birth pool all ready to go in the living room, I had always imagined that I might have my baby in the bath. I’d chosen a home birth because I loved my home and I wanted it to be the most natural and normal experience. I loved how domestic and comfortable it all was and wouldn’t have chosen to labour in the hospital. So I headed for my favourite spot in the house only to discover to my horror that nothing came out when I turned on the taps! The water was somehow off! I got quite freaked out and shouted at Ben to ring the water board. I was shouting that I wasn’t going to be able to have a homebirth with no water. I was sitting in this empty bath weeping, the contractions had all but disappeared and it was a real low point. What had happened was that the water company were doing some once every five yearly work in the area and had turned off the supply. After about 20 minutes it came back on!

 

In the evening Beth came home and I tried to eat some supper. Apparently I commented that the contractions felt a bit different. They were becoming stronger but were causing quite a bit of pain and discomfort around my coccyx and bottom. We decided to call the midwife, as we now hadn’t seen anyone for almost 2 days. The midwife on call was Judy from my Doctor practice. She didn’t feel it was worth her coming out because it sounded like things were still progressing quite slowly. It was really reassuring to talk to someone though and to know that Judy, who I know and liked, would be on call through the night. I felt I wanted someone with me so Ben and Beth took it in two shifts to ensure they would also get some rest.  Their main job as I remember it was to help me to get from a lying position to all fours when a contraction came and to get a hot water bottle onto my lower back as swiftly as possible.

 

On ‘Day Three’ of my labour Judy popped in at about 8am on her way to the surgery to see how I was getting on. We had a chat and she observed some contractions and concluded that I was still probably not in “active labour.” This was on the basis that the contractions were still not demanding all of my attention and didn’t appear to be very strong. She didn’t really want to interfere with me too much but asked if I would like her to examine my cervix. I was really keen to be examined, as I wanted to know for sure what was happening in there. “I take it all back” she said “your almost 8cm dilated!” I was overjoyed! Finally things were moving along. Judy would also be staying to attend the birth, which was really reassuring. I remember that the pain in my bottom was really bothering me. I felt like I was constipated. It wasn’t a big poo I needed to do though! – it was the position of the baby. Ben started filling the birth pool and Judy asked me where I was planning to have the baby. I didn’t feel like getting in the pool. I felt I needed my feet on solid ground and was able to cope with the contractions despite this added pain in my back passage. So the filling up of the pool was halted and the mats and plastic were moved upstairs into our bedroom.  We got the Tens machine out and I found that quite helpful for a while.

 

I was moving about back and forth from the bathroom and using all the space upstairs. Beth was attending me and although I didn’t feel like being massaged she was sort of holding me physically and ‘spiritually.’ I can’t really describe what she did for me. Although things were still very domestic and matter of fact, the atmosphere was shifting to become more focused and intimate. The energy was both delicate and intense. I was making quite a bit of noise and was using some yoga walks and positions I had learnt to help cope with the pain and to try and keep my pelvis open and my bottom loose. Beth would repeat mantras with me, like “open” and I remember repeating “come on pain! I need you pain!”and laughing as it sounded so ridiculous. At one point Judy felt I was getting ready to push so on the floor of the bedroom I tried pushing. Nothing more was happening though so it was up again back to pacing around. Ben was with me and I was glad he was close by but it was Beth who was kind of coaching me through. I was so glad I had chosen to have a female birth attendant.

 

Beth doesn’t have her own children but Ben and I had decided this wasn’t important. What was important was that we both loved and trusted her and that she had the qualities we felt we needed. We created a team and worked really effectively together. We called ourselves “Team Purdies” after the energy drink that helped sustain us through! She took the pressure off Ben enormously and allowed him to just “be by my side” whilst she dived in and became acutely in tune with the rhythm of the labour – quite amazing.

 

Around lunchtime after I had been labouring for about 62 hours I was beginning to tire. I remember my feet were aching from being on my feet for so long and I knew that if the baby didn’t come soon I would have to be transferred to hospital for an assisted delivery. I’d tried eating (a banana that I’d thrown back up) and I’d tried peeing to ensure the bladder wasn’t in the way but was unable to go.

The persistent pain in my back passage indicated that the baby was not in the correct position to travel down the birth canal.  Judy is a semi retired and experienced mid wife who until now had left me very much to my own devises choosing not to regularly examine me or to break my waters.  However at this point, she did want to have a feel of my cervix and found that I hadn’t dilated any further and actually my cervix was a little more closed than it had been hours before. She sent Beth and Ben off to bed to get some rest and with some gas and air beside me, she laid me on my left side on the bed. This was my first experience of lying still through contractions and it was incredibly painful! It was a taster of what it might feel like to have to be on a hospital bed! I needed the rest though and the baby needed to move round toward the left into a better position. I was in a drugged up haze and the baby was really active. I don’t know how long I lay there. The neighbours, in blissful ignorance, decided that now was a good time to do some metal grinding! It was very loud and poor Beth had to go out and ask them to cut it out!

 

Eventually I was released from my torture of lying still and I was helped up and to the bathroom. My legs were wobbly from the gas and I was quite light headed but I could feel the baby had moved.  On my way back down the landing I felt an almighty change in the contractions signaling the beginning of the pushing contractions. It was like the reflex you get when you want to vomit but obviously different and the other end! With the next one I pushed whilst holding onto the banisters and my waters burst out all over the landing floor. There was no way I was moving so plastic sheets were bought in. There was a knock on the door and another midwife arrived to start her shift. This took my audience up to five, all neatly positioned about the stairs and landing. Ben was beside me but I didn’t want to be touched. I needed to focus all my attention on pushing the baby out.

 

The midwives advised me to use all of a contraction by pushing then taking a deep breath and pushing again. Someone also said to bend my knees and to stick my bottom out to help give the baby room.  I wasn’t in any pain and was aware that something incredible was happening. Within about 20 minutes the baby’s head was out and then with one more push, I felt the body slip out and a crying noise. Ben said, “It’s a boy!” And he was passed to me through my legs and into my arms. He was crying and trying to latch on to my breasts. I was so happy and relieved to finally have the long awaited little boy in my arms. I was moved into the bedroom where I was standing when I suddenly felt very faint and managed to say “Can somebody take the baby please?” Before passing out backwards onto the bed. This was apparently quite a scary moment for Ben and Beth. I just remember waking up and thought I had time travelled to another land. I didn’t recognise anything until I heard Beth saying “You’ve had a baby” and I thought “Oh yes! So I have!”

 

Ben cut the chord and took the baby off whilst I lay back to try and push out the placenta.  There was no power left in my body. I tried blowing into a paper bag and giving the baby a feed but I just felt nothing. Eventually the midwives gave me an injection and out it came. After examining me though it was decided that I would have to go to hospital – after all that!  Judy wasn’t 100% sure but thought I probably had a 3rd degree tare and she knew it would be best to have it stitched by an experienced surgeon. I think everyone was expecting me to be a bit upset at this news but I was so happy and satisfied with my labour and baby I really didn’t care and relaxed whilst I waited for the ambulance.

 

Beth and the baby came with me in the ambulance and after a strong coffee, Ben followed in the car. Unfortunately it was now Friday late afternoon and of course the surgeon got caught up in the Friday evening rush of casualties. It wasn’t until quite late that I got to be stitched and then had to stay over night. I wasn’t in pain at all as the euphoria of becoming a Mum was now mixed with some strong painkillers and I had a really positive experience at Southmead. The midwives were really nice and made sure we were well supported and cared for. I was so exhausted it was actually very reassuring to wake up after a long sleep to find the midwives had neatly swaddled my baby up.  I also remember ringing the bell at some point in the night and asking the midwife to latch him on for me. I couldn’t have done that at home! Finally on Saturday afternoon though we could go home to my own bed.  Ben and I ate the best tasting Indian takeaway we’d ever had whilst admiring our little boy. He was perfect – strong and healthy. We called him Frank, which means, “free man” as well as “to be truthful.”

 

I found the recovery from the birth and particularly the tare, surprisingly long. Despite this hardship though, I felt transformed. I felt a renewed trust in my body and a new confidence to be the mother and woman I wanted to be. I also felt a deeper love and closeness toward Ben and Beth who’d given me so much. I also loved lying around breast feeding my baby and reflecting on his arrival, knowing that my experience of labour had been a gift, which I would cherish forever.