First baby, born at home in the pool, in the caul (in his own bag of waters)

newborn baby with motherI had my first show at 11 am three days after my official due date.  This was very exciting and I called all the midwives and left messages and made plans for passing the time.  Everyone knows that first babies take ages so hubby and I got in the car to go shopping and then head to the cinema  to take my mind off things.

Hmmm, so much for the theory. Half way around the supermarket I had my first contraction and it was strong, “holding onto the trolley, hardly able to breath and everything going ouch,” strong. While hobbling to the loo I had another two contractions and could hardly make it back to the checkout. So much for keep walking around as long as possible. This was about 2pm.

As soon as I got in the car things got a lot better and I took the hint that shopping and labour don’t go together. Needless to say the cinema got cancelled and next time I know to head straight for the film.

By 3 I had had some lunch (appetite still fine but that was the last time I felt like eating until I had some glucose tablets right at the end) and the contractions were regular but I could keep active. I had a lie down and was definitely able to sleep. I woke up around five and contractions were about every five minutes apart. Once I was up though they rapidly got to three minutes and I was finding coping a bit difficult. It wasn’t that they were painful but that I couldn’t get comfortable. This was when we asked for the midwife to come and she told me that I could get in the pool if I wanted.

newborn baby with fatherBirthpools are wonderful things. Once I was in I left much more comfortable and change positions easily. As far as I could tell, I don’t think it did anything to reduce or increase my contractions but it provided fantastic support. I was able to hold onto the side and support myself. The contractions kept coming and by now were really hard work. I have never been so happy to see anyone as when Michelle walked through the door and told me that everything was OK.

At some point Michelle suggested going to the loo and although a contraction on the toilet is not something I would recommend to anyone as comfortable, her good idea got me out of the pool and my contractions seemed to slow down a lot.

I then spent a good deal of time lying on the living room floor and I am fairly sure that I fell asleep between contractions, I was certainly able to relax to the point of not noticing what was happening around me. I tried using a TENS machine but I found that I could either concentrate on pushing the right button or on my breathing. Between the two I would most definitely say that slow, controlled breathing (yoga style if that is your thing) is the single, best, natural way to cope with contractions. My husband later told me that I kept turning it off and he had to sneakily switch it back on so really not sure how much was placebo anyway.

I reached transition lying on the floor. I moved onto the sofa, where Michelle did an internal check. She offered I think, because I was having trouble coping at this point. I remember asking for gas and air . As the contractions peaked I told my husband and the midwife that I wanted an epidural but there was no way that I could face the drive to hospital so not to make the call and then in between the contractions telling them that it was all Ok and didn’t really hurt at all.

So many people had told me that first labour takes ages. This, coupled with all the people being sent home repeatedly because they were only partially dilated had convinced me that labour was going to take a very long time and while I could cope with each contraction I couldn’t face the thought to many more hours of them. Being told that I was fully dilated and that I would have a baby in a lot less than the two hours the antenatal classes suggest gave me the boost I needed to carry on. I even completely forgot about the gas and air when it arrived.

This was when Michelle and Chris helped me back into the pool and the world suddenly became a much nicer place once more. (Darling husband had done a lovely job with candles and lighting too).

Once back in the pool everything moved quickly. Leaning on the side I could stay upright and rest between contractions which to me seemed much further apart now. With each one I could feel the baby’s progress. I could feel the head coming down, I knew when it rested against the pelvic bones (it felt as if the baby was stuck but Michelle said that was just the head pushing to make room) and when it was nearly down. I had a couple of glucose tablets at this point to help me out.

The antenatal class told us that crowning would burn for a minute or two and then everything would go numb. Actually which each contraction I could feel the baby’s head push a bit more against the perineum and then fall back. Each push burned and no numbing sensation was ever felt by me. Michelle kept telling me to relax and let my body do things in its own time and not to push as I might tear. I have never been patient and the thought that I was going to hold my baby in a few minutes (and that this contraction might be the last if I pushed) made me grit my teeth and push for all I was worth.

And suddenly out popped a head! I didn’t look (not much point as I had left my glasses on the floor by the pool). The wait before the last contraction felt like forever and when it came it was so strange. No pain, no pushing, just a small muscle contraction and out popped the baby like a champagne cork. My husband caught him and passed him to me. My waters hadn’t broken and so while I held him and rubbed his back Michelle pulled the membranes off his little face. He started to breath almost immediately and was the cutest, little, purple wriggly thing that you could ever hope to see.

We cuddled in the pool but all I could think of was that small wet babies are so very slippery when you are holding them over three feet of water, especially when they come out wriggling quite a lot. Cuddling was cut short as I was scared that I would drop him. The cord stopped pulsing within a few minutes and I delivered the placenta out of the water after about a quarter of an hour. In no time at all I was in bed, baby was nuzzling his way up my front (we did biological nurturing, it worked a treat) and latched on and feeding very quickly.

From first show to delivery took almost exactly 12 hours and by midnight we were both tucked up in bed. Contrary to all my expectations the actual labour was very quick indeed.

A note on contractions

Contractions do not hurt but they are not pleasant. The best way that I can describe the feeling is be comparing it to climbing a mountain or running a marathon with no training or preparation. A very large muscle that you have never used before is suddenly doing a lot of work and pushing against a hard object that doesn’t seem to want to move. Each contraction is easy to deal with and a good, deep breath and concentration take you through it but you do have to concentrate. The ones in the supermarket were bad because I was caught pushing a trolley or carrying something. Lying on the floor or in the pool was much easier because I could really think about what was happening.

The big difference is that when you are running a marathon you can stop and have a rest when you feel like it, contractions just keep on coming. They are hard work that you can’t avoid so you have to keep concentrating and focussing on relaxing all the time. As long as you keep the focus then it is fine. This was the first time in my life that I had ever seen relaxing as something that needed hard work and concentration.

Once the head starts to descend you can feel actual progress with each one which gives you something else to focus your relaxation thoughts on. The earlier ones are just muscle contractions although I had some “interesting” ones where my uterus gave a huge push at the end of each contraction. I could stop it happening and it was not pleasant at all. It was probably what got the baby out so quickly though.

Would I have a home birth again? Definitely. Being in my own home with the constant, calm reassurance of a midwife and the shear luxury of my own shower and bed when everything was over was something that I wouldn’t change for the world. I was quite a nervous first time mum and I need to know what is happening to me to feel reassured so having an experienced midwife on hand throughout the whole labour put me at ease. She spent most of the evening just watching me get on with things and occasionally reminding me to breath or telling me that I was doing fine and everything was normal. Calm, confident and professional reassurance is really what got me through.

My little baby came into the world in a peaceful and unhurried way with both his parents relaxed and happy. Thank you for Yorkshire Storks for making it all possible.

Although they asked me for a birth story, I want to add that the care and attention they gave us after the birth was first class. We felt that they were there for us during our first few weeks as a new family.