The best experience of my life

LeoswingMy daughter was born 2 and a half years ago via crash caesarean after a planned home birth dragged on for days. We transferred to hospital for failure to progress where one thing led to another and ended up in foetal distress. It was a very painful and scary experience from quite early on. I had a horrible time getting over it emotionally. When I got pregnant again I decided to use independent midwives rather than deal with the stresses that I felt would come from the NHS with planning a HBAC (homebirth after ceasarean) It was important for me to be cared for in labour only by someone I knew and trusted and also to be well looked after postnatally. We discussed before labour that if I asked for pain relief I didn’t want it straight away and that I didn’t want any vaginal exams to assess progress.

At 41 weeks pregnant about 11pm, I went to the toilet and felt a tiny click/pop down in my pelvis as I sat down. Not sure what it was, I got back into bed with a towel between my legs, just in case. About half an hour later the towel felt ever so slightly damp, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it. I went for another wee and a trickle of fluid fell out as I sat down. I could also see bits of what I assumed to be vernix, so knew it was my waters. I knew it could still be ages until labour so didn’t get too excited, just got a pad on but soon realised I’d started shaking a lot, which was purely nerves, so I gave myself a little talking to and a few deep breaths and went back to bed. I got some sleep but spent a good chunk of the night awake dealing with tightenings. I knew after my last labour that this could be the start of several days work so I really wanted to rest as much as I could, but also knew it was likely to ease off during the day as it was still early on.

Next day was Sunday so, after texting midwives updating them of the nights events, we started out with a big bowl of porridge and a dog walk, which eased the tightenings a bit, then I sent Sam out with Poppy to the supermarket to stock up on food to cook me a big dinner and get petrol. This meant I could shut myself in the bedroom to allow the tightenings to pick up, and have a “nap”. I snoozed and contracted until they got back and then went downstairs and did some dusting, hoovering, sticking up affirmations and getting the cameras together. The midwives checked in with me throughout the day with calls and texts but I was coping fine and didn’t think much was happening. They said something along the lines of, “after having a difficult time last time you might not realise how far along you actually are” and I thought something like “yeah whatever”.

Then I sat down to a lovely moussaka but put the tens on after consulting the VBAC FB group as it was getting more uncomfortable and tightenings were coming quite frequently (Sam kept asking if he could time them but I was keen to not think too much about timings and just get into it so kept saying no). We tried to watch Willy Wonka but I couldn’t focus on it at all and could only eat a couple of mouthfuls of food before gathering myself to ooh and ah through the next contraction.

We then went for a short walk and noticed that I’d had two contractions before getting a couple hundred yards but really fancied the walk. I was starting to make quite a lot of noise by now and Poppy had a slightly concerned look on her face so we hurried it up and got her to bed. We set the laptop up in bed to watch some comedy, but I couldn’t pay attention and just paced around and drank water and went for a wee, which was a struggle, but I really didn’t want to deal with a full bladder as last time I needed a catheter. Sam had now been suggesting filling the pool and calling the midwives for a while so he called Sharyn and I heard him say contractions were 3-4 mins apart lasting a minute. I went down to the “birth room” as I wanted to be with my affirmations that me and friends had written out and my special birthing candle and music.

I leaned over the sofa with Sam pressing my sacrum through contractions. The boost button on the tens had been helping slightly earlier, now I don’t think it was making much difference, but still I was a bit scared to take it off! (Midwife Claire had mentioned earlier that this was a good indication of when to call them). When the pool was ready I felt a bit of urgency to strip off and remove the tens before the next contraction. It felt good to get in the water and I really
relaxed between the pains.

The memories take on that fuzzy quality, I remember warm water and the pain and relaxing and going floppy in between contractions, often snoozing in between. I remember yearning desperately for the feeling of curling up in a soft bed and just sleeping deeply. Midwives arrived a few minutes after I got in the water about 10 or 10.30. They asked if it was ok to listen to FHR every 30 mins, which I was fine with. There is no way I could’ve managed VEs, so I was glad I’d discussed this in advance.

The pains were now pretty intense in my lower belly, thighs, lower back and hips (I never felt any pain above my belly button unlike last time when I had a burning feeling over my bump. This is another reason why I thought it might not be real labour). At some point (he reckons about an hour after I got in) I told Sam he needed to get in and press my hips and lower back for contractions. I was shouting a lot and I tried to shout “aaaaaa” as opposed to “owwww” to reduce some tension. Blowing “horse lips” really helped here too. At some point I must’ve started saying “no” because Sharyn told me to start saying yes instead of no. I was shouting that I couldn’t do it and I was too tired and it hurt so much and my hips were going to snap. The midwives and Sam kept saying I was doing it, and I felt this way because I was close to the end but I didn’t believe them. Sam kept reminding me of my affirmations and that Leo was on his way and encouraged me to call for Leo to come down.

I ignored all the obvious transition signs because in my last labour I felt all these things at about 3cm dilated when I still had over 24 hours to go. I started asking for entonox and they said to wait a while (we had discussed this previously and I asked for them to refuse me for a while if I asked). When I said I really need it they said I could have it in half an hour. Then I said “I want an epidural then” and Sharyn said “well I haven’t got one of those!” (I didn’t really want an epidural, I think I just wanted to haggle the gas and air from them).

I had started to do a fair bit of pooing which they said showed the babies head was getting lower but I said no I think it’s just that i needed a poo! The sounds I was making turned to low moany, sounds and eventually to grunty groans as I started pushing. The pushing feeling just came naturally and I think I’d been doing it for a while before I noticed it but it gave relief from the pain in my hips. I kept reaching my fingers into my vagina to see if I could feel his head but I couldn’t the first couple of times.

Then I felt the unmistakable feeling of a head coming down into my vagina and for the first time really realised I was about to give birth. This end pushing part was such a massive relief from the pain in my hips. I felt inside again and felt his head with hair on it and I remember I kept saying “Sam I can feel his hair!” and, “I’m going to do it!” And Claire saying “yes you are!” Sam says my attitude changed completely from that moment on.

I pushed and pushed and I remember wanting to laugh at all the things I’d read about resisting the urge to push and just breathing it out, I don’t think I could’ve stopped myself pushing for a million quid. His head slid out, there was a slight burning but I barely noticed it. After a little minute Sharyn asked me to change position, which I didn’t think I could do but she insisted and I obeyed. (They said normally they would wait a bit for the body but it looked as though I was still pushing and as he wasn’t coming, she wanted to help him out in case he was stuck). I turned from kneeling leaning over the edge of the pool to sitting back squatting. I could feel him trying to twist (bizarre feeling) but he wasn’t coming out. They asked me to stand up but I said I didn’t think I could as my legs just didn’t feel like they belonged to me anymore so Sam picked me up and I tried pushing with my leg up on the pool side, then they all helped me out onto all fours where Sharyn helped him out.

He came out followed by a gush of water and poo and blood and was passed between my legs for me to hold. She unwrapped the cord which was wrapped tight round him twice, and had been stopping him from twisting and coming out that last little bit. He wasn’t breathing so they rubbed him and were about to call an ambulance and suction his mouth but he started to breathe. I kept talking to him and saying his name, it was only a minute but it felt long! I didn’t feel frightened as he was still attached to his placenta and I knew I could trust them to do what was best for us.

At this point they suggested moving me somewhere more comfortable but I had strong pain in my back and my legs simply would not work and I couldn’t move at all so they all dragged me onto a mattress and I leaned back against Sam but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get comfortable. I took two paracetamol as the back pain was getting really bad and lay down on my left side cuddling baby. They then told me that Chris was on her way with the gas and air (they never had any with them all along!) so when she arrived I had a couple of puffs on it but the back pain continued to get worse.

I started feeling pushy again so just went for it and pushing eased the back pain and once the placenta came out it was instant relief! This was about an hour or less after Leo’s birth. He had a couple of sucks on the boob and then he went to Daddy for cuddles while they examined me for tears (this is where I got my lovely entonox fix) and I had a 2nd degree tear so they said I can go in to the unit and have a stitch or wait and see an hour or so if it starts to heal. I chose option2 as I wanted to avoid going anywhere so I went and had a shower and got into bed where Leo was weighed (8lb6oz) and after Sharyn had carefully wrapped the placenta up as we had planned to lotus birth, we soon had enough of it and cut the cord! (I drank some in a smoothie the next day and I will make prints as I did with Poppy’s).

They examined me again and felt the tear was knitting together well and wasn’t bleeding so I didn’t need a stitch. I cuddled up into bed while everyone else cleaned up downstairs and had a couple of hours kip before my daughter woke up and came in to meet her baby brother. I had always liked the idea of her seeing him be born but actually I am so grateful she slept all night because I needed Sam’s full attention.

Sam was an amazing birth partner giving me wonderful physical and emotional support and my midwives were just perfect. After my last birth I had been so worried to call them too early but actually when they came I really needed them. When I first found out I was pregnant I sort of imagined that a free birth would be perfect for me and having the Storks was a slight compromise on that to allow me to have the medical backup, but the whole pregnancy and birth process has been all the more special for them being a part of it.

I am so grateful that they didn’t bring the gas and air (I love the stuff, it was just very important for me to be as alert as possible as my first birth was under general anaesthetic. Also I had used it a lot toward the end of my last labour and it had almost run out which would’ve been horrendous so I didn’t want to get to that stage this time) and they encouraged me and said all the right things to keep me going. I only had to say “water” and it was there in my mouth. They replenished the hot water in the pool. After the birth they tidied up and did the washing and helped me shower and fed and watered me. They didn’t discharge me until 4 months later and we have stayed in touch. Leo’s birth was the best experience of my life and I owe that to the support I received and my own determination.

I stayed in bed for 2 weeks which I recommend to everyone. I was really well looked after and those two weeks were the most relaxing of my life. I wish every new mum could have this and the level of care I’ve had throughout this whole experience.