I have always loved and found the long birth stories really inspiring and totally amazing during pregnancy so ‘Sorry not Sorry’ for the really really really long post… it will take a while to read so put your feet up!
Pregnancy overview; I found out 9DPO, burst ovarian cysts at 4 & 8 weeks, hyperemesis-gravidarum from 5 weeks, PGP, 2 lots of reduced movements and a history of surgery making me consultant led until after 20 weeks when I made my case and he made me midwife led.
After 2 weeks of latent labour preparations, once early labour started, things progressed quicker than we realised at the time, and almost without the midwife.
I started losing my mucous plug on Wed 8th May (36+4), with on-off period/back aches, very irregular tightenings and loose bowels. I continued to lose it as it regenerated each day but not much else was happening so I just did as the midwife said and carried on as I was, getting the oxytocin flowing. Surprising to us, we made it to our last antenatal class, the Labour & Birth session on Mon 20th May, just two days before!!! When we arrived I started getting stronger period/back aches that required more attention then previously. I chose not to take paracetamol in case it was labour, as I didn’t want to risk prolonging early labour.
At the end of the class I had a word with the midwives there to see who would be on call as my fantastic named midwife, who I saw the day before for my 38w app, wouldn’t be on call after the 22nd due to annual leave. Although I had met most of them and was really happy having any of the Ivy Team attend, I was really hoping that my named midwife could be there.
That night I tried my hardest to get to sleep through the constant back/period pain but it was persistent making it difficult and the braxton hicks seemed to be getting a pattern and didn’t go away when laid down, but I blamed it on my PGP and IBS and tried to drift off.
I woke at 03:30 on Tue 21st with the uncomfortable sensations now coinciding with irregular tightenings every 3-6 minutes, so I just couldn’t sleep and wanted to see where things went if I got up and about. 1 hour later, after finding me bouncing on my ball watching The Undatables in the dark front room, my husband told me to come back to bed and spooned my back pain away.
I got up with him at 7am to send him to work and take my client to golf. I figured if it was false labour still, then this trip would sure stop it as work, mixed with my hormones, had recently been stressful/upsetting.
I decided to ring the midwife to give them the heads up that I could finally say I was having ‘niggles’ so they could arrange their day as my named midwife was due on call at 20:30, (this was my motivation as I was so excited to get things going in time before she went on annual leave). I informed her of the ‘twinges’ and that I had lost my bloody show, not just the usual mucous, sometime around 8am. She said it sounded like I was doing all the right things, thanked me for letting her know, and that she would get some rest in case I needed her to come out.
The drive to take my client to golf 1 hour away went surprisingly well. I really enjoyed the drive in the sunshine, and the drive back was filled with good radio sing’a’longs. I felt like I had no care in the world other than noticing my tightenings were now coming around every 5 minutes, but no longer or closer together. When I was almost home, I had the urge to be with my mum and so gave her a call to see if she would come and spend the day with me.
We watched some Russell Howard Hour which really made me laugh and feel good, so we decided to go to the shops to get some bits in and keep me mobile with purpose (despite the lack of sleep I felt refreshed and energetic), have some fun and hopefully move things along naturally. We came home after picking up lunch and a hilarious trip to the new Food Warehouse store opening… seeing people’s faces when I had tightenings and the concerned staff asking if I was OK (I imagined them running for the mop and bucket to follow me round with!) which was quite funny and helped the feel good hormones flow.
My husband briefly arrived home from work at 15:30, then went straight out to collect my client from golf (I clearly wasn’t going to get him!), while I went for a beautiful walk with my mum to the local garden centre, in the blazing sunshine.
When we returned I really felt the need to be in water, so I got in the bath at 17:00 and started doing some relaxation and practicing my Katharine Graves Hypnobirthing scripts/breathing techniques, in the dark candle lit room with Lavender and Frankincense burning. This was amazingly relaxing and I felt so in control, but it also seemed to slow the tightenings down so I decided after the next tightening, I would get out. After a looooong gap without a tightening, at 17:42 my waters broke in the bath with a lovely big POP that echoed in the tub!! So I calmly shouted my mum to get her to look at the water before I moved it all around and we saw that they were nice and clear. Each slight movement made it gush out, which made us laugh, pushing even more out.
Mum helped me get out the bath to which the amazing work of gravity kicked off one hell of a tightening just as my husband walked back in. It got him all excited to start ringing the midwife and calling my bestie to come, and update his parents to come asap from London. Another on call midwife answered the call, who agreed she would come out to asses the situation after her next appointment, if I was ok waiting that long.
My best friend arrived and I changed into my underwear as I was so warm from my bath and wanted to be free from clothing but still needed a pad on. They all started doing jobs to start filling the pool downstairs as I wanted to ensure it would be ready when needed. I wandered around, turning on the tea lights and swaying through the tightenings while I put food on so we got a good meal before the action.
The midwife arrived about 18:45 and set up her kit in the entrance hall, as I wandered around waiting for my phone to charge so I could continue listening to my hypnobirthing tracks. After observing me for a while, we had a discussion to which I consented to an internal examination to check my waters and see what was occurring at that point. I was thrilled when she said I was fully effaced already and 2cm dilated. I have a long cervix so expected it to take a while, obviously the latent labour helped with that. With an obvious loss of clear waters that still kept coming, which was making me laugh it out.
The midwife said she would stick around a while to see how we go, so I took myself into the birth room and sat on my birth ball listening to the KGH positive birth affirmations and deep relaxation to help with the increasing pressures and changing sensations. My husband was behind me stroking my shoulders and back while my bestie sat doing the relaxation with me and passing me things as I wanted them, and mum did jobs up and downstairs.
I must have been content as the midwife quietly said that because I wasn’t officially in established labour (4cm), she would leave us to it for some unobserved peace and privacy. We agreed and she left around 19:45 with the reassurance to ring anytime, but my midwife would be taking over on call at 20:30.
I started feeling nauseated through the regular tightenings by this point and after wandering upstairs. The smell of food made me gag and I was put off all the lovely food and drinks we got in for the event. So I took my anti-sickness tablets and continued with my hypnobirthing tracks, with my support team around me, offering me Icepops that I even couldn’t tolerate, so I stuck to iced water.
Around 21:00 I was getting quite antsy because I was conscious it could be a long night ahead and I wanted to make sure I drank loads to keep hydrated and also wee often too so babies head could descend well. However, I kept going to the loo and I just couldn’t do anything at all. I was just getting really strong tightenings on the short walk there and every time I sat down they intensified. This really made me feel that I needed to be in the pool. I was a little snappy if I was touched (back massage really helped early on but now was irritating), but I contained it by doing my relaxations and reminding myself to breathe with the affirmations in my head and on the walls.
My husband decided to call the Midwife (everyone did everything outside the room as to not disturb me) to update her and she said she was well rested and able to come whenever needed. She also said I could have some paracetamol and see how I go but to be aware that if I got in the pool at this early stage (little did we know), things may slow down and I might need to get out if it does.
My husband had put the TENS machine on me earlier on when the midwife was there and although it was helpful for a little while, it didn’t last long and got to the point of annoying me and being more of a frustration. So after a violent episode of being sick around 21:30 and getting upset that the TENS wasn’t as effective as they normally are for me. I should have realised then that things were ramping up, but I was still expecting a long night ahead so didn’t click on to the many signs of progression and asked him to take it off.
I didn’t want to sit timing tightenings as I didn’t want to become focused on them and be distracted from my natural progression, but my husband did it for a while and internally I realised that they were gradually increasing in intensity and length. So he called the midwife at 22:00 to update her and she agreed she would come out to see how things were going but she would be 30-45 minutes. This didn’t bother me as I was convinced it was still early and I had myself prepared to be going all night. I didn’t want to take paracetamol, but I was surprised at how intense the sensations where getting, so early on (I was absolutely oblivious to all the obvious signs I was progressing faster than I was expecting), so I put it aside as an option if I needed it later on.
After a short discussion with my husband between tightenings, we agreed I would get in the pool (so glad I listened to my husband and didn’t go up for a shower as I suggested) and that I would just get out if it did slow things down. The relief upon getting in the pool was unbelievable, so much comfort and serenity, with soothing relief everywhere as the weight was lifted off my body and mind, it really took me to the ‘labour land’ I’d heard so much about and allowed me to just let go.
I soon realised that things were speeding up not slowing down, as the tightenings were coming very regularly and I was having to make some weird humming noise through the looooong building waves of breath, and had to really focus on that noise to be able to get through the changing sensations. At this point I asked for my hypnobirthing tracks to be turned off because I just couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying anymore, and just wanted to follow what I learned with the accompanying ‘Oxytocin’ YouTube playlist I’d made in pregnancy.
At 22:45 my husband had to call the midwife back because after a lovely long tightening, I told my team (no idea who was in front of me because I was just in the zone) that I felt a little uncomfortable pushy sensation at the peak of the tightening. 10 minutes later the midwife arrived and observed me during what felt like the longest surge yet. I was on all fours as I instinctively positioned myself when I got in the pool and used the step to prop myself up. I was completely oblivious to the world around me as I was so focused on listening to my body and making the most spectacular animalistic noises through my hypno breaths. Just plain breathing was not sufficient, I needed to vent my inner animals. Even joking mid tightening that I had turned into a wookie because I was gargling at some points!
When I emerged from the surge, I opened my eyes to the most amazing sight of my named midwife, this brought such relief to my mind and I felt myself relax to the deepest depth from the tension I’d unknowingly been holding before her arrival. We had a very short discussion to which I agreed to be examined in that position and she would asses how things were going. I was unaware as another surge started but to her surprise I was already fully dilated and baby was well on the way.
She so calmly and respectively set up all her equipment around me and out in the entrance hall, and although I heard her apologising for the noise, I was unaware of her setting up. I felt like I was floating on a cloud of loving safety and security (something I don’t think I would have felt in hospital). It suddenly made me feel all tingly when I heard her ask someone in my team to use her phone and ring the second midwife to come out.
As each surge came and went, the uncontrollable urge to push became stronger and stronger, and I could feel myself actively pushing without any instruction from the midwife or even my conscious brain, it just happened. Again I was completely oblivious as the second midwife arrived and shortly after the student midwife too
I know it sounds crazy hectic now having 6 people in this not so big room and 2 more on the way, but it was what I wanted and although I couldn’t see them, I could hear them and feel their presence, love, support and encouragement which made me feel like an absolute goddess in what has to be the most emotional time of my life.
I had little time between surges now and they seemed to last a long time building up before I got the massive uncontrollable feeling of pushing. I tried to breathe through but when it peaked it was so strong/tight, I physically couldn’t take the breath as my body just took over and the Fetal Ejection Reflex did its job. Baby’s head was bobbing up and down as each surge came and went, each time I felt him progress more and more which was really encouraging.
As a surge was ending, I asked my husband if he was ready to get in the water with me and as the midwifes were happy with the progress and leaving me to it, he got in at the back end watching intently, listening to the midwives instructions and reassurance, ready to catch baby. With each surge, I could feel the uncomfortable stinging/’ring of fire’ I’d heard so much about. Not just one time, but every time baby’s head descended down. This annoyed me at the time because all I’d heard is that it is only a short moment you just have to push past. Acknowledging this was negative thoughts. I was reminded of my hypnobirthing, to just relax my jaw and focus on relaxing as much as possible to allow my body to do what it knows best.
At 00:02 the head was born and straight away I felt baby start corkscrewing into position. I remember I shouted something at the baby about staying still *insert expletive*, because I could feel everything and it felt like he was turning round and round for the whole 2 minutes following. I heard the midwife saying to my husband how to pass baby through to me when born, and before I knew it, the next push and baby followed.
At 00:04 on 22nd May (a very special date as the Anniversary of my husband’s Nan’s passing) William was born to ‘Knights in White Satin’ by the Moody Blues. My husband caught him and passed him through my legs as I sat back. We brought him up out of the water and straight onto my chest. I asked the midwife not to put a hat on or wash/wipe him and as everything else, they respected our choices.
We sat for a while in the pool (until I watch the footage back I’m unsure on the times), then I started feeling tightenings so I said I wanted to get out of the pool to initiate the breast crawl/ breastfeeding and thus assist in a natural 3rd stage. The midwives helped us out the pool, still attached and unclamped we got onto the bed next to the pool. The midwives had kindly covered the bed with a big blue sheet which I presume was a sterile cover for catching blood volume and for doing stitches. Once comfortable, they all left the room for us to have our golden hour.
We had 1h 5 minutes uninterrupted peace where William latched on as a result of the breast crawl (which took around 45 minutes to find the nipple with some rest/sleep phases in there). The midwives then came back in, saw the cord had lengthened a little so asked me to try a little push and it immediately started to come out. It was uncomfortable but felt completely natural, and all that skin to skin was the perfect distraction and pain relief I needed. 3 pushes later and the amazing student midwife was guided to deliver the last of the placenta with me as I pushed it out.
We were asked if we wanted it leaving attached or if we wanted to clamp it. My husband cut the cord as it was white and I didn’t want a full lotus birth, we agreed to clamp it then swap to the cord tie a little later on. The midwives checked my blood loss (only approx 400ml) and for any tears. Unfortunately I did have a 1 degree tear and grazes on my labia (perineum was fine) into the entrance and next to my urethra, but thanks to the amazing Ivy Team ladies working together, all was perfectly stitched up at home.
My in-laws travelling from London finally arrived at 01:30 (I wanted them there earlier but they got delayed) just in time to see him get weighed (3350g / 7lbs 6oz). The in-laws, my bestie and mum had quick cuddles with him while I ate toast and had a coffee, then William went to daddy to have skin to skin and get set up upstairs while I went for a shower.
The midwives took me up to the bathroom to measure my first wee and help me in the shower. I really wanted to get cleaned up but I was starting to feel really faint with the heat from the shower so decided not to get in, and they so kindly and respectively cleaned me while I sat resting on the toilet. After cleaning up and finishing their paperwork, the midwives helped us settle in bed, answering our questions and reassuring us we would see someone later that day (this was around 4am I think). I was too high on love and excitement at how perfect it all went, just how we planned and wanted it, that I didn’t care about the time. Despite wanting to stare at him all day long, we managed to get some sleep, yay.
We noticed William had very noisy and laboured breathing, so when the midwife came around 5pm that same day we mentioned it to her. Unfortunately, despite everything else being absolutely fine, the rate of William’s breathing was too fast. His breathing was noisy because he had retained some mucous and was clearing it from his lungs throughout the day. The way he was breathing was normal, but the speed of his breathing required the midwife to report it to the hospital and the on call Paediatrician wanted him bringing in by ambulance!
The midwife was amazing and even escorted us to the hospital despite her shift ending and having to leave her car at our house. The ambulance staff needed her in the ambulance as they sent ECAs not Paramedics because they were the closest crew to us that could get us to hospital in the hour the Paediatrician gave us to get there. Thankfully after observation and many doctors checking him, there was no sign of infection and we got discharged home to keep an eye on him.
I am so grateful to the whole Ivy Team for their invaluable continuity of care and support throughout, not just at my appointments but in the community, answering my calls and texts anytime of day, attending the home birth and positive birth movement meetings, providing fantastic information to allow us to make informed decisions and get the positive experience we wanted.
I would never have achieved such a positive, empowering and informed approach and outcome if it wasn’t for Christine at LETO Therapies. The Katharine Graves Hypnobirthing course really cemented the belief in me and my husband that my body is made for this and I am so grateful for the knowledge and insight the course provided. But most importantly, the care and support received by Christine during the process made our journey so positive and empowering. There was no doubt in my mind, no matter what happened, even if our journey ended in everything being the last preference on my list, they were still MY choices and it was on my terms.
A huge thank you to the Goodwin volunteer doula and bfps service for their continued support of me as a volunteer. Another service Hull is extremely lucky to have!!
I write this at almost 4 weeks old and I’m so happy to say I’m healing well, breastfeeding is going well (it’s not easy but no-one said it would be). Thanks to Linda at Milk and Therapy, we are so grateful for her services and the FREE breastfeeding class she offers was just invaluable to us, especially learning about growth spurt days.
William is healthy and his jaundice gone (the only downside to delayed cord clamping but Soooo worth it). I’m still using my hypnobirthing and despite not a great pregnancy experience, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to going through it all again!