Birth stories are one of the most important parts of building a positive, empowered and confident mindset for birth. Reading stories that give you an insight into the variations of normal can take away the unknown, give you an idea of what to expect and light a fire of excitement for what lies ahead for you!
Doesn’t really make sense then that I have never actually properly shared my own birth stories!! And I have 3 to choose from! So here I am to remedy that. On the eve of my second daughter’s 4th birthday, I thought it was a perfect time to share my experience of bringing her into the world. So…back in time to September 2016…
In the weeks leading up to the birth I had lots of Braxton Hicks tightenings, including some nights where they felt incredibly uncomfortable and, when combined with period style cramps, left me unable to sleep and wondering if perhaps I would go into labour soon. I had been having subtle shows of my mucous plug over a period of several days too.
Sunny side up?
On the Friday I had a midwife appointment. It wasn’t the usual midwife who I’d seen at my last few appointments, having that consistency had been really nice for us as a family as even Harriet, my 22 month old, had got to know her and looked forward to hearing ‘baby heartbeat’. I had the usual checks (blood pressure, urine, baby’s heartbeat, fundal measurement) and then the midwife had a feel of my bump. I knew baby had been head down for a number of weeks but I was a little taken aback when I heard her mumble something about baby being back to back. This wasn’t something the other midwife had ever mentioned, in fact we’d discussed being able to clearly feel baby’s bottom and back. My mind was on over drive from the minute we left the midwife. I couldn’t stop thinking about baby’s position, what that might mean for labour, overanalysing what position the baby was actually in, feeling a little out of control that suddenly there was a piece of information that could potentially affect the labour and birth. I didn’t know whether to feel scared or cry. Despite knowing that a back to back position didn’t necessary have any impact on the birth we wanted, I knew anecdotally and statistically that back to back labours can be more difficult, more uncomfortable, longer and more likely to result in intervention being required. Not ideal food for thought for a Hypnobirthing mind! To contrast this I was also massively doubting her opinion on the baby’s position anyway, and although I was starting to seriously second guess myself, I did feel instinctively that baby was in a normal anterior position.
The day of Googling, worrying and over thinking culminated in me in floods of tears lying on my side on the living room floor messaging my friend in the hope of getting some advice from her midwife next door neighbour. Both her and Pete suggested I could ring the birth centre and request another midwife check my bump to confirm exactly what position baby was in. Yep, I’m a total control freak and wanted to know exactly what this baby was doing in there! That way, whatever the result, I would be fully informed and could either forget the worry or actively plan techniques and positions to turn a posterior baby before and during labour. At about 9pm Pete rang the birth centre and Alison answered, the supervisor of midwives who attended my first birth. Alison reassured me with what I deep down already knew which was that most babies turn in labour and are eventually born anterior anyway, and said that because it was my second pregnancy it was far less likely to cause problems and I needn’t worry.
Was it the crab walk that did it?!
Me and Pete had lots of cuddles to calm me down and we decided to have an early night to rest my mind from the day’s anxieties. The midwife friend recommended side stepping up the stairs 2 at a time like a crab….with the support of Pete. Hilariously it turns out that I completely misunderstood exactly what she meant. So began me on ALL FOURS going up the stairs 2 at a time!! Head bashing against the banister and bum banging against the wall, we were in hysterics the whole time!
At around 11pm I woke with cramps and strong tightenings. I checked what time it was and tried to wait till it eased so I could go back to sleep. Before I could really get much sleep I felt tightenings again. Thirty minutes had passed. I did the same again, and sure enough felt very aware of tightening sensations and discomfort 27 minutes later. At about 12:25am I woke Pete to tell him what was happening and that it probably wasn’t labour but I was going to go downstairs to change position, have a drink and go to the toilet so see if it stopped, in which case I would know it wasn’t anything to bother about. I sat on the birth ball in the living room listening to my playlist and trying to relax. I had told Pete to stay in bed and get some sleep but he didn’t want to miss anything exciting so followed me downstairs and decided, once I’d told him the tightenings weren’t going away, perhaps he would get the pool blown up so at least it was ready just in case. I realised deep down I was experiencing real surges but still felt I wanted to hold back on contacting anyone just in case I was wrong. I really didn’t want to get the birth photographer up and driving over only to find I wasn’t actually in active labour. So, I waited it out, experiencing more surges that were definitely progressing in intensity and frequency. I needed to go to the toilet quite a lot which was a good sign and the surges began to stop me in my tracks so I could relax and breathe through them, struggling to remain in positions that were comfortable.
Time to make some calls!
At 1:19am Pete rang Nikki, our birth photographer, to tell her we were pretty sure this was it. Pete then rang my Mum so she could set off to our house to be here just in case Harriet woke in the night. We were so relaxed, just experiencing things progress. It just didn’t dawn on us to ring the midwife at this point, we were just focused on the moment at hand. Once those phone calls were made I asked Pete for a cuddle, I just dangled off him with my arms wrapped round his neck as he rubbed my back. That instinctive need to have your best friend and soul mate by your side through such an overwhelming experience is something I remember so clearly.
I settled back on the living room floor bent over the birth ball listening to affirmations. Pete lit the candles and my favourite incense and kept disappearing to do his ‘jobs’ (I even heard him emptying the bins!) clearing the conservatory and ensuring the birth pool was fully inflated. I started to really struggle to stay focused as the surges ramped up. By just after 1:35am they were approaching 3 minutes apart and I struggled to stay calm through them. I felt incredibly nauseous and with every surge I had hot flushes that left me feeling very out of control. I told Pete to please stop leaving and help me get focused again. He went through some Hypnobirthing scripts though I really struggled to concentrate as each surge came. Pete rang the birth centre at 1:40am. We still don’t know why we left it so late to call out a midwife!!
It’s coming now!
I wasn’t in pain, I was just physically overwhelmed by the intensity of the surges combined with hot flushes, nausea and the very vivid sense that I wasn’t going to be able to get myself relaxed enough, I wasn’t go to be able to do it. I had my head resting on the birth ball with my hands and arms dangling between me and the ball, restless and tingling with each surge. When Pete said he would fill the pool I insisted there would be no time. Whilst bent over the ball my waters went with a gush. Instinct very much kicked in as I hurriedly took of my jogging bottoms and underwear knowing baby was going to be born soon. Pete came back in to find me telling him the baby was coming NOW!! Pete rushed out to get a shower curtain and blanket (I shouted to get back here!) but thankfully for the carpet he ignored me! I clambered onto the blanket the second he laid them down. I had already clearly felt baby’s head moving past my cervix and downwards. I remember a sense of wetness and warmth and incredible fullness that I wasn’t as aware of when I birthed Harriet in the pool.
I told Pete the head was coming as I touched it with my fingers, Pete did the same. His breathing was quite fast as the inevitable just happened right there in our candle lit living room in front of his eyes. In what I think may have only been 1 surge the head came out, Pete could see the face of our little baby. I was kneeling on the floor and he was behind me. He didn’t sound scared, he sounded hurried like his mind was going at 100 miles an hour. I remember thinking ‘I hope the baby’s body comes easily on its own’ recalling how Harriet’s head was there a while before her body came. I placed my hand round the back of the head to very gently pull to help it along if needed but in what I think was one final surge the body came out quickly into Pete’s hands. He passed baby straight through to me and I glanced down to see we had another baby girl, immediately telling Pete. I clutched her to my chest as Pete and I stared at her, then each other, then back at her again, almost laughing at how amazing that moment had just been! Pete greeted her as Philippa Margaret, we kissed, touching our foreheads together in awe of the moment until the quiet was interrupted by a little cry from the baby and almost immediately the sound of Harriet’s voice coming down the monitor saying ‘baby….baby’.
When Harriet met Philippa
I told Pete to go and get her. He carried her down and put her on the floor in the living room doorway. She pointed and walked towards me saying ‘baby!’ over and over with a combination of tiredness, disbelief and shear excitement in her eyes. Pete put a towel over me and a blanket around Philippa and then rang my Mum, who was 5 minutes away, to let her know what had happened. He also rang the birth centre to find that the midwife hadn’t even left yet, but she wasn’t concerned and said she’d be there as soon as she could.
We had the most amazing few minutes together as a new family of four. Harriet was mesmerised, I was absolutely thrilled and walking on air at having birthed our baby alone and Pete just took in the sights and sounds of his 3 girls, saying ‘wow’ in between talking to Harriet about her new little baby sister. Mum quietly came into the house. It wasn’t quite the scene Mum had expected to find when she set off from home after Pete’s first phone call! Not long after my Mum came Nikki and straight away she quietly and subtly began documenting what was unfolding in the living room as we waited for the midwife. The midwife, Alison, the midwife who had attended Harriet’s birth, arrived about half an hour after Philippa was born.
Cord burning…and an unexpected visitor!
We had decided weeks before that we wanted to do something a bit different and separate the cord by burning it instead of cutting it. We laid the cord in a specially designed bowl, with 2 candles resting either side so the flames touched the cord as we twisted it gently. We watched and waited, so did Harriet, she was fascinated. After 10 minutes or so the cord burned through. This ‘ritual’ has a religious or spiritual significance for some and is not uncommon in traditional cultures. It was awesome!
I waited for the placenta to come naturally, it was well over an hour before it did but in the mean time I wolfed down a big bowl of Frosties! Heaven! Moments after I’d birthed the placenta, whilst Pete held Philippa skin to skin, there was a torch light through the windows of the front door and a knock. The birth suddenly got rather weird as Pete opened the door to greet 2 policemen! I’m not sure who was more surprised!
A while earlier there had been a break in at a property in the nearby village. The midwife had been driving past at the time, on her way to us, and her car had been identified by a witness as a possible get away vehicle! The police traced it to my house…and got pretty suspicious when they found a house with lights on, a front door ajar and 5 cars parked outside! You couldn’t write it! We soon got our stories straight and the policeman was happy that the newborn baby was a decent enough alibi for a midwife!
It’s hard to believe that little baby is about to turn 4…the hilarity and stories she creates certainly hasn’t stopped since the day she was born!
Our amazing birth photographer was Nikki Williams. Unfortunately she’s no longer in the UK but is doing amazing things back in the USA. Thanks Nikki, sorry we didn’t ring you earlier!