The Wonderful and Easy Birth of Milo George!

A planned home birth
Milo was due on 12th September but arrived slightly early at 22.14 on Saturday 8th September 2012.
Things started on Thursday 6th, my husband had left the house VERY early to catch a train to London and when I woke up I realised that I had lost my plug. I rang my husband to let him know but as I felt nothing else, I told him not to panic and to finish his day as normal.
In the evening I started to get some back pain that seemed to get worse every half an hour or so. As it was nothing too significant, I went to bed and got some sleep.
On Friday 7th, I went for a long walk with the dog and my sister (who was staying to help with the dog, etc). In the evening I was in a lot of pain all of which was in my back. I was also getting regular contractions. I spent a lot of time in the birth pool and tried to lie in bed occasionally too but this just made the pain worse. I didn’t really get any sleep at all.
On Saturday 8th, things continued in much the same way and the pain was getting unbearable. We spoke to the midwife and explained what I was feeling and that the pain was high up in my back. She realised that this was not to do with labour and may in fact be a UTI. The midwife came to examine me and we decided that my best option was to go to hospital to be monitored and get some antibiotics and decide from there whether to stay or come back home for the home birth we had planned. The midwife also suggested that I may not be in labour at all which was quite disappointing and caused my contractions to stop altogether!!! I agreed to have an internal examination (something I had originally been against) and discovered that I was 4cm dilated. By the time we arrived at the hospital, at about 5pm, my contractions and re-started and were really gaining momentum! I was monitored for a while and given paracetamol and a course of antibiotics. The midwife at the hospital was really lovely and keen to get me back home to continue things according to my plan. We got back home by about 7 and I spent some time going between the hot shower, bed and the birthing pool. At 9.08pm, when I stood up out of bed, my waters broke on the only section of carpet that wasn’t covered in towels or shower curtains!! This made us all laugh a lot. The pain from the UTI had gone completely and I knew now that labour was going to be much more manageable. I got into the shower for about 20 minutes and then decided to get back into the birth pool.
At 9.40 my husband called the midwife as my contractions were about every 3 minutes for longer than a minute…however, it did not feel this long to me! At 10pm Milo’s head popped out under the water which was a bit of a surprise to everyone, me included as I thought things were only just beginning! It was 14 minutes later, again it felt like seconds to me, that Milo was born and caught under the water by my sister (my husband had literally just stepped out of the room to speak on the phone to the midwife who was still at the hospital!).
My husband and sister helped the 2 of us out of the pool and wrapped us both in lots of towels to keep warm. The first midwife arrived at about 10.35pm and helped me feed Milo. I had a physiological 3rd stage which I did not have to push for and had no firther contractions or after-pains!
Milo weighed 8lbs exactly and slept from 1am (when the midwives left) until 7am on Sunday morning.
For a first timer, with no midwife and no need for pain relief, I think that I have been incredibly lucky with the whole experience of pregnancy and birth and would whole-heartedly recommend a home birth with a pool!

The Birth of Thamar Linnet

An unassisted homebirth…

The due date was 22/03/11 but Thamar Linnet (my first and preferably only child!) was born at 37 weeks.
I went to antenatal appointments up to 25 weeks (for the paperwork, e.g. MATB1) but told my midwife I wasn’t coming back. I agreed to a consultant appointment. Listened to what both of them had to say and ignored it all and reiterated that I planned to have an unassisted homebirth.
I had several reasons for this – firstly I’m not a sociable person and I don’t want extra people in my house (even if they’re not in the room) during what could be a stressful time. Also, I believe that in a healthy, well-informed woman, pregnancy and childbirth are normal physiological events. Sex is also risky (e.g. some people die of heart attacks), but nobody calls a nurse for the event. Plus I don’t see what it has to do with anyone else; they weren’t present for the conception and I didn’t want them at the birth! Besides, I live 5 minutes from the MLU/A&E.
I had been doing Optimum Foetal Positioning from 34 weeks, and was fairly confident the baby was LOA (which she was).
My husband split up with me last April (actually before the baby was [accidentally] conceived, so not a clean break to begin with!) but didn’t move out till two weeks after she was born. He was in the living room, not actually watching the birth.
My waters broke some time in the early morning of 28/02/11, so I cleaned up and went back to bed. Had a normal morning; nothing else happened until mid-afternoon of that day, when contractions started. I went to meet my husband at the bus station at about 5pm as he’d forgotten his coat that morning and it was cold. The rest of the evening I spent on the computer, including watching the newest episode of One Born Every Minute on 4oD. I found it quite amusing as it was so far from what I was doing!
Mid-late-evening I went into the bathroom to labour, walking around and swinging my hips. I took in an old chair cushion (one that covers the entire chair so fairly large but thin and flexible). At about 22:45 I told my husband that I was having the baby (he hadn’t noticed anything, even though I’d been in the bathroom so long!) and to just stay in the living room and not disturb me.
From this point the contractions were more intense so I slept on the cushion (lying on my left side) between them as it was late and I was tired. Then as they became closer and I felt the baby descending I stayed kneeling on the cushion, leaning on the sink.
I didn’t push till right at the end – I know this is when they usually advise not pushing, to prevent tearing when crowning, but I felt it was the right thing to do, and I think that was correct (even though I got a 2nd degree tear). Because as soon as her head was out the rest of the body just slid out immediately, and I noticed that the cord had snapped. It was about half the normal length (~25cm) altogether, so it probably had to break (which is why the pushing helped) for her to get out. She was pink from the beginning and the cord didn’t leak blood at either side (apparently they seal themselves faster when torn rather than cut) so I wasn’t worried about her or myself. She was born about 00:20.
Then she started crying and I called my husband in to meet her. I held her for a while, then we both got washed and my husband cleaned up. While I was in the shower the placenta slid out.
Then we got into bed and she had some colostrum.
I didn’t have pain during the birth; I would describe the sensations as discomfort. Somewhat like when you go for a long run and are out of breath with aching muscles.
We had problems feeding as she wasn’t good at latching, so I had to express and cup feed for several days once my milk came in. Despite seeing plenty of NHS staff after the birth (midwives, nurses, paediatricians etc) none of them spotted that she was tongue tied, it was only diagnosed by a lactation consultant from La Leche League who I called. So although she was breastfeeding directly after a week, she wasn’t very efficient and it was painful for me. We finally got the tongue tie divided at 10 weeks, so she was then much better at eating (although it wasn’t stopping her gaining weight)!

Baby Benjamin

Big baby born without intervention!
Baby Benjamin was born at 15:15 yesterday afternoon just the way I was hoping for – no interventions, no drugs! 🙂 he’s 10lb10oz, looks an awful lot like his big sis and seems to be very snoozy. Long may this last!
He was six days “overdue” and the past week I’d been tying myself in knots stressing about a) having a dreaded ‘stretch and sweep’ which was booked for this morning to try and kick start labour and b) that failing and then having to be induced – he arrived just in time to avoid a) and came on his own accord, both of which I am very happy about!
Yesterday morning I woke up with vague crampy feelings but not at all in pain and had a massage with a lovely midwife who also practices shiatsu massage in pregnancy – it was heavenly. About 20 mins after she left, my waters broke and I started feeling some mild contractions so I decided to get in the bath and asked my husband to go and get some things just in case we ended up needing to go to the hospital. By the time he came back half an hour later I realised we needed to go to the hospital immediately. In the ten minutes it took him to call the delivery suite, call the babysitter and throw things in a bag to go, I was starting to feel like the baby was going to come within minutes and was fighting the urge to push. My friend, who had randomly stopped by in the middle of all this chaos to say hello, bundled us all in the car and drove us to the hospital at top speed while I crossed everything I could and tried not to moan too loudly in the back as Izi was sitting right next to me a tad freaked out by the noises coming from mum!
We arrived at the hospital and I had three contractions between getting from the car to reception – about 30 feet apart – and walked in announcing I needed to push. Was given a room in the birthing suite with two lovely midwives within a couple of minutes of arriving – I completely credit their skill to getting such a huge baby out without intervention. Although everything progressed quickly initially, the pushing stage lasted almost two hours because he got stuck at the same point his sister had. I had a moment of absolute blind panic thinking that everything was going to go horribly wrong and I’d have another forcep (or worse) delivery. Thankfully the midwives knew what they were doing and talked me through several positions till we found one that worked, and eventually out he came (yes, very painfully). The whole thing took three and a half hours from start to finish, I reckon if he hadn’t got stuck it would have taken less than two.
I’m still a bit sore in places, but in comparison to last time, I feel amazing. Within a couple of hours of the birth I was walking about and eager to go home. The lovely midwife who gave me the massage yesterday was on duty today and came and gave me a big hug as I was being discharged and said all the midwives were raving about me getting Benji out on my own, that the hospital hadn’t seen a baby so big in months! So I think I am feeling a bit high at the moment from all the compliments.  And did I mention, he’s gorgeous?  🙂

The Birth of Rachel!

A Relaxed Hospital Birth
I was 20 when I found out I was pregnant with “the snuggleberry”. We had just finished our first year at uni, and all my friends were out getting wasted, and I was stuck at home being fat and sick.
Being pregnant was a bit stressful. We didn’t find our flat until Rachel’s due date (which I think may have helped in us securing it!) but she gave me a bit of extra time to get settled, unpack and be comfortable.
She even waited until I had a lift to the hospital, my aunt and uncle were visiting when my contractions started. When I was sure it was happening, I rang round my friends, “she’s actually coming now. It’s actually happening!” I was petrified before going into labour, only having heard bad stories. I was the one sticking my hand up in antenatal classes, worried about ripping and such!
They drove me in to hospital, but next time I don’t think I’d go so early. All I wanted to do was walk a million miles. Which I did, round the tiny room!
A few hours later, they came in to check what was going on. They told me my cervix was really thin, but I hadn’t dilated much. Not being very sure on the biology front, I thought all this pain was for nothing and I wasn’t getting anywhere. So I decided to have some pethidine, to ease it off, as I thought I would be there for days!
After I had had the injection of pethidine, I fell into a stupor for about 6 hours. I felt about ten contractions, but her father said my body tensed hundreds of times. When I woke up, I started on the walking again. I asked them to check me again, to see what was going on, they said they didn’t want to cause they didn’t want to check too many times, due to infection. But they had a look, and I was 9cm dilated! We had almost done it!
I went to the toilet, and finally my waters broke. Well “broke” is a bit of an understatement, they exploded across the room! I showed the midwife, and she said that I needed to move from the birthing suit cause Rachel had done a poo inside me (thanks snugs)
Then it was my turn to have a poo, or so I thought. I was saying to the midwife, “im just going to go to the toilet, cause I have heard about people pooing on the table whilst giving birth and I don’t want to do that” and she said “no dear, it’s the babys head” me “no no, I’ll just have a poo first… oh maybe it is the baby’s head” (it feels exactly the same!)
Then I lay down on the bed, and pushed. It felt really natural, like my body was doing it without me trying. I made noises I wasn’t even really sure were coming from me, they sounded really animal! Then I pushed her out in about 15 mins. As soon as her head left my body she started crying, which was weird cause her body was still inside! (her dad said the whole experience reminded him a bit of alien. Im glad I couldn’t see what was going on down there!) Then when they laid her on my chest, she fell silent instantly, like she was back where she belonged. When she went for her first feed, she latched on straight away and started suckling. I remember saying to the midwife “oh she stopped!” and her saying “she’s allowed to” then she started again.
The most painful bit was the stitches, but luckily that was when I remember I had gas and air on tap, so it wasn’t so bad. Then the midwife had to rush off to surgery, and I was left with just  me and my beautiful baby, sleeping in my arms J
I had a funny surprise when I got my yellow book back. There was a section crossed out saying “Helen is successfully feeding her baby… both mother and baby are sleeping”. They had thought I was someone else, and not known I was there, doing my thing! Which just goes to show, there is something to be said for leaving well alone and letting your body do what it’s going to do!

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. 

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.