A birth that’s optimal for mother and baby

My positive birth story starts when we decided to work with the Yorkshire Storks Independent Midwives. We always knew we wanted a pregnancy and birth free of as much medical intervention as possible, so when we were planning to have a baby we started to research alternatives. We consulted with Debs and Claire from the Storks in February, and knew that when I found out I was pregnant in April we wanted them on our journey throughout.Despite our crazy lurcher Freddie jumping all over them at that first visit they weren’t put off in the slightest so we were sold.

I should state that when I say lack of medical intervention, I would always seek the advice of a professional should something out of the ordinary arise, but we were keen to keep things as natural as possible, something the Storks fully supported. This was a massive contributor for us, as we were able to ask for advice and they would tell us the risk factors so we could make an informed decision, all the while respecting our wishes.

Through personal preference and choices that fit with our lifestyle, we opted for no ultrasounds (although we were considering a 20 week scan and then a placental location scan we declined both in the end, again with reassurance from the Storks we were able to weigh up risk vs benefit). I did seek the advice of my GP when I started experiencing itchy hands and feet, and had some blood tests done to check for Obstetric Cholestasis. This occurred a couple of times, with negative results each time.

Throughout my pregnancy we got to know all 4 of the Storks, which was great as although they all have vast experience they also had different experiences which meant we got 4 different points of view, which again helped us make certain decisions.

At 37+5, I had to visit the maternity triage unit at York hospital due to a burst vaginal cyst. Although seemingly benign, as I’d had no scans we wanted to rule out anything more sinister, such as low lying placenta, and despite it being 7pm on Christmas Eve, Sharyn was more than willing to get in a taxi from Keighley to join me. I assured her I was fine, and although initially scared, I used my breathing techniques learned at hypnobirthing and yoga to keep me calm. Sharyn was able to keep her Christmas call-out free, and at the hospital baby’s heart rate was listened to using Doppler. This was the first time as throughout my pregnancy we’d used pinard horn and fetoscope only, again through personal preference but at that moment it was important I knew baby was ok, so the Doppler was vital.

At 38+4, I started to have cramps each evening, with accompanied loss of my plug. At 38+6, New Year’s Day, at around 7pm, mild surges started. It was clear by around 11pm this was early labour, so Tyler phoned Debs who told us what to watch for and to call her anytime, she’d be with us whenever we wanted. I tried to get some sleep but the surges were around 5 minutes apart lasting about 1:30 and seemed worse when they woke me up so I spent the night  leaning over the back of the couch, bouncing on my birth ball, in the bath, in the shower, using the TENS, doing some accupressure and practicing my breathing. Despite nothing apparently working to ease the discomfort, time was passing amazingly quickly (and it hasn’t stopped since!). In hindsight, I think this combination helped the discomfort massively but having no reference point at the time I wasn’t sure it was.

At 3am Tyler went to bed to get some rest ready for what was to come. I woke him at 5, with stronger surges that were closer together. At 6:30 I asked him to call Debs, who was quickly on her way and with us by 7:15. At this point I was in the bathroom, on all fours on the bath mat, and had a very strong urge to take my pyjamas off. My waters released and I could start to feel some pressure, and I knew I was in active labour. Debs came and squeezed herself into our tiny bathroom (only at my request) on the floor next to me, as I’d subconsciously retreated to the smallest, darkest room of the house. She suggested Tyler get the pool ready, and told me Sharyn was around 2 hours away. I later found out Debs told her she thought there might be a baby here when she arrived. Afterward Tyler said it was quite clear the pool needed setting up with some urgency!

The thought of getting in the pool kept me going through my surges and at 8:30 it was ready. The relief was instant, both physically and psychologically, as I knew this is where I’d birth my baby. There were times in the bathroom when I thought he was coming. As the surges increased, I worked through them with only breathing, and I was so relaxed I even managed to nap well between them. The living room was peaceful, with aromatherapy, soft lighting, the lovely music from my yoga class on repeat for 6 hours and thankfully no Christmas tree or decorations (taken down the day before – almost as if we knew). I remember being extremely relaxed and feeling at ease, I remember laughing with Debs and Sharyn while they fed me a banana and an orange.

Even the dog was relatively calm. One of my concerns had been what we’d do with him if I had to transfer, but also how he’d act as he’s usually centre of attention and as a large rescue dog with a lot of energy and some issues he needs a lot of it. However he was politely inquisitive, came to give my arms a lick at the pool edge a couple of times, and was very patient when his walk time came and went and he clearly wasn’t getting one. 

It felt as though an age had passed since starting to transition with nothing happening. I hadn’t peed since 5am and Debs suggested I might like to have my bladder emptied via catheter. I weighed up my decision (again there was no pressure from Debs or Sharyn either way) and eventually I chose to have it emptied as my bladder was potentially full and making it harder for baby to move down. At this point I asked for fetal heart rate to be listened to, as I was conscious I had been in this stage for a while and wanted reassurance he wasn’t in distress. All was fine, and this was the only time I had any monitoring from when Debs arrived. This just felt right to me at the time, I knew all was well and my baby was coming to join the world.

I switched from leaning over the side of the pool to on my back a few times, and through surges I used my birth breathing and pushed when the urge came, squeezing whoever’s hands were closest – eventually I didn’t need to even say ‘hands’, some would just appear for me to grab.

As the baby’s head was crowning, I could hear Debs in the background softly speaking words of encouragement, and when I said I couldn’t do it, she assured me I could, that I already was.

At 12:15pm on Wednesday 2nd January, at 39 weeks exactly I gave birth to Hugo James Rouillard, in the pool. After his head emerged, the rest of him wriggled out at the next surge and Debs caught him and handed him to me. It was extremely calm and Hugo barely let out a whimper. I knew this was fine as I’d seen many videos of calm births where the baby didn’t cry. I was also prepared for his colouring to be purple and not to be concerned. Cue Freddie the dog sauntering over ready for a photo op with his new baby brother.

I had some skin to skin in the pool, and when his cord stopped pulsing, Debs tied it and cut it, and Tyler had some skin to skin while Sharyn helped me out the pool and got me settled on the couch to be checked over. I birthed my placenta naturally around an hour after giving birth and Debs talked us through it as she checked it over. We decided to donate it to the Storks for their study days.

I had a second degree tear which I was given advice on, and decided to have it stitched which was completed 2 hours later by another independent midwife at home, meaning I didn’t need to go to hospital and afterwards we all went to bed to enjoy our first night as a family of 3.

Postnatally, the Storks have been invaluable. Struggling to breast feed, Debs and Sharyn have been amazing, helping me with technique, reassuring me it would come with practice, listening to my concerns and worries and allowing my hormones to do their thing and cry when I needed to. It hadn’t really crossed my mind that they would be doing more for us postnatally rather than antenatally, and it’s this aspect that’s equally if not more important for me than the antenatal visits.

Knowing they were at the end of a phone, that I could text them with the slightest concern and absolutely no judgement or ridicule was what kept me going in those first few days. I also realised through birth and beyond that the relationships we’ve developed were stronger than they’d seemed antenatally; that our time together at these visits had made them almost intuitively tuned in to all my wishes, quirks and idiosyncrasies without me having had to say anything. They were even pre-empting the little things they suspected I might worry about before I worried about them!

Their passion, compassion, knowledge, selflessness, love for their job, love for all women and babies and their own individual qualities are just some of the reasons I would recommend the Storks. There’s something inherently special in sharing the birth of your baby with someone, and to have had these amazing ladies by my side is something I cannot put a price on. 

For anyone who knows me, my decision to home birth and have little intervention may have come as a surprise. I am naturally a worrier, suffer from anxiety and OCD and in the past have had phases of crippling anxiety that have affected my day to day work and personal life. To say the choices we made weren’t made lightly is an understatement but we did so with informed choice and support. All the things said about homebirth I found to be true – in your own private space, with people around you you’re comfortable with, the right atmosphere and the relaxation techniques that have been part of your pregnancy, a birth that’s optimal for mother and baby is possible. 

I firmly believe every mother should have the right to make a choice for them and their baby, and it’s this theme that runs through the story of my pregnancy. What helps is having women on your side to support you.