A few weeks have passed since our beautiful baby boy arrived and I’ve been looking forward to getting my birth story down on paper. As I write, I know I can’t do it justice. Nothing can capture the total magic of it.
So, back to the beginning.
Going over my due date
I felt pretty fed up when I got to 40 weeks. I hated the constant comments from people on the school run, 'Still pregnant?'The messages popping up on my phone 'Any news?' I knew people were just excited for us but I couldn’t help feeling like a bit of a freak show.
Trying acupuncture to bring on labour
I decided to have one last go at acupuncture. My body felt so ready to have the baby but I felt like something was holding me back.
I told the man doing acupuncture about how my Dad, who died last year, was there when I went into labour with my second born. It’s such a powerful memory for me and it’s made my grief feel raw again.
Instead of doing a traditional induction treatment, the acupuncturist said he’d focus on these emotions and help me let go of the grief.
I lay in the same spot, almost exactly to the day, that I had been treated a year before, following Dad’s death. It was a weird coincidence.
He put the needles in and left me to relax. I felt tears streaming down my face, which is how I’d reacted a year before. It’s so hard to describe the feeling but I guess it was like a sensation of release and letting go. I wasn’t in control of the tears.
That night I went into labour. The contractions started at about 9.30pm and were immediately pretty intense. After about an hour I thought I better call my sister to come and look after our boys. Even if it was another false alarm, she’d at least get to our house (about a 45 minute drive) with enough time to have a decent night’s sleep.
Using my TENS machine
I got my husband to attach the TENs machine pads to my back. Its gentle buzz was soothing and distracting from the intensity of the contractions. Within an hour or so the contractions were pretty regular, about 3 minutes apart and lasting about 50-60 seconds. My sister arrived and soon after we called the hospital.
I felt completely in control. The ‘up breathing’ I learnt doing hypnobirthing (breathing in for four counts, out for eight) was working a treat and really helped during the uncomfortable car journey.
We went straight to the midwife-led unit, which is where I’d planned to deliver.
Then I got disappointing news. After looking at my notes and previous labours, the midwife in the unit wasn’t confident about me staying in the unit and thought I should go to the labour ward. A registrar would need to see me to discuss the situation.
Second stage of labour
So, I laboured away in a little side room. The contractions were still intense but I think the change of plan slowed them down a bit. The TENs machine was working its magic and some swaying while leaning on a chair (in an upright, forward leaning position of course!) was helping me manage the pain. I spritzed my face with lavender scented water to help me cool down and relax. I knew how important it was to keep the oxytocin flowing and not allow the hospital environment, or sudden change of plan, cause an adrenalin rush.
I put on some headphones and listened to some calming music and the hypnobirthing MP3s I’d downloaded. I desperately wanted to get settled in a room, put on my fairy lights and music, and get into a birth pool.
Although I’d put in my birth plan that I didn’t want to be examined, I asked the midwife to check just so I knew what stage I was. I was 5cm dilated. Phew.
Finally the registrar arrived and explained I needed to be cannulated (this is where they insert a tube into your hand so they can give you fluids or medicine) because of my history with haemorrhaging and retained placenta. I had no idea this would be needed and my antenatal midwife hadn’t mentioned it.
I knew my choices were my decision
I knew from doing the hypnobirthing course that it was my decision. At first I refused to be cannulated but as more time passed, I decided all I cared about was getting into a birthing pool as quickly as possible. I just wanted them to hurry up and get me a room! So I decided to compromise and have the cannula. I insisted I stay in the midwife led unit so I could get in the water (the birthing pool in the labour ward wasn’t ready) and I also refused active management of the third stage (where you are given an injection to help the placenta come out faster) unless I was bleeding heavily.
I am not a rule-breaker. I’ve never had a problem with authority. In my previous births I’ve been guided by medical professions and always followed their recommendations. But I really believed I could birth my third baby without any medical intervention. I was determined to get the birth I always wanted. I felt proud that I was able to stay calm but still be assertive and decisive, all whilst labouring!
Finally, after two hours of waiting, negotiating (in between contractions) and not being able to get settled, I was allocated a lovely calm, dimly-lit room and got into the birthing pool. It was heavenly. The warmth of the water was so soothing and the depth of the pool made me feel cocooned. It felt so private.
My husband put on a relaxing sound track with some of my favourite songs. I nibbled on an energy bar and kept sipping water from my bottle.
The hypnobirthing breathing was working well for me. The contractions were full on but manageable with the breathing. In between I rested as much as I could, with my head on the side of the pool.
I also used a meditation technique I’d learnt through the Headspace app. I visualised myself sitting in my favourite spot in the garden, looking at the countryside. I imagined a golden light coming out of my chest. I was cuddling our baby, who also had a golden light spreading through him. It might sound a bit strange but it was so calming and helped me stay centred.
My husband briefly nodded off. It must have been about 3.30am.
After a little while (I’d lost all concept of time), I got out of the pool to have a wee. I felt like I needed to poo too but nothing really happened. I asked my husband to hold my hands while I sat on the loo (not a situation you ever expect to find yourself in). I felt like something was changing and looking back it probably was the transition stage.
I asked the midwife if it was ok to have gas and air. I didn’t want to use it too early as it was the only pain relief I wanted. She got it set up for me.
Before I got back in the pool I asked for another examination. I was 9.5 cm dilated. I couldn’t believe it - I’d only just asked for gas and air!
I was already getting the urge to push but the midwife explained I needed to resist a little longer as I wasn’t fully dilated. Back in the water I tried some yoga positions to try and get the baby into a better position to fully dilate.
The midwife thought it would be another half an hour. She left the room. Not long after I really felt like the baby was coming so we pulled the alarm and asked the midwife to return and stay.
Sure enough I was right. My contractions changed and I couldn’t help make a noise, a sort of tuneful wail, as I breathed out.
The baby's head emerged and I was worried that it wouldn’t be able to breathe under the water (something I hadn’t event thought about before!). The midwife assured me it was fine.
A couple more pushes - only about 10 minutes in total for the second stage - and our baby swam into the world. The midwife passed him to me between my legs.
I looked down and saw it was a boy. Our third boy! He was totally perfect and had a head of thick black hair.
Just like my dad.
I’d done it. It had been relaxed and calm and totally straightforward.
Delivering the placenta without an injection
Now, for the tricky part. The part I wasn’t sure I could do because I hadn’t managed it in previous labours - birthing the placenta. I opted to not have the injection during the third stage because I’d had the injection in the past and it hadn’t worked.
I got out of the pool and moved to the bed where we made sure I was warm and encouraged our gorgeous boy to feed (he wasn’t interested at first). I remembered how my yoga teacher had encouraged me to be upright for this bit. I moved onto a birthing stool type of thing so that I was squatting.
Finally, after another contraction, the placenta plopped out. Hooray! No need for medical intervention or surgery. The cannula had been pointless. I was so relieved.
I love this next bit. The precious first few hours of feeding our new baby, drinking sweet tea and eating toast.
I had done it. Our midwife, Belinda, had been wonderful. Other than to help right at the end (protecting my perineum as the baby swam into the world) she had totally left me to it. She had completely respected my every wish and reassured me that I could do it. My husband had been there, gently encouraging me when I needed it at the crucial moments, supporting me and speaking for me when the staff questioned my birth plan.
A beautiful baby boy
Our baby boy arrived at 6.42am on 5 June. He was 8lb 8.5oz. Our family was complete.
We have called him, George, after my dear dad. He may not ever get to meet our third baby boy, but I felt like my Dad was there with me, sitting by my side in my favourite spot in the garden that I visualised. He loved that spot too. And now his memory lives on in our darling little boy. Our unexpected surprise that is going to bring my family joy, after so much sadness.
My husband was in awe at how serene I was during the birth. It was everything I had hoped for. A beautiful, gentle start for our baby.