Updated: Sep 24, 2018
30th December 2017, 0428, a date and time that will forever be etched into my very soul. The date and time that our little girl (yes, Pom was a girl!) made her entrance into the world, and gave me the name “mummy”. In return, we have named her, Thea Marina. Thea, meaning Goddess. In Greek mythology Thea was the goddess of light and mother of the sun, moon and dawn. And, Marina, after my maternal Grandmother, who alas, I was denied the opportunity of a relationship with after her far too premature passing.
This blog is a hard one to write, as, to quote Thea’s Daddy, “it’s hard to tell our birth story without sounding smug”! I have to agree, positive birthing stories are far harder to come by, it’s as if we somehow feel guilty that we did not endure all that many of our counterparts did in childbirth, and therefore conclude that it is not appropriate to share.
I have entitled this post with a quote from Jane Weidman, it truly encompasses how I wish all women viewed birth. However you bought your child into the world be proud, it is an achievement beyond any other, you have given life to another being. Something of that magnitude is worthy of a significant accolade indeed!
Having embraced all that the experience of childbirth had to offer, and in fact, gone on to refer to it as “the single most defining experience of my existence” I can honestly say that there is no one way to do it, and I should hope that all women have the conviction to strive for the birth that they want, and that is right for their family. A birth should be adapted to the woman and baby to whom it belongs, however, I believe that there is far too much emphasis is bending women to a “one size fits all” format for birth.
Homebirth was the choice for us, I wanted to limit anxiety/adrenaline in the hope that, if I could relax in the feeling of safety provided by familiarity, that my body would be in the best position to get on with the task at hand.
My birth story isn’t the purpose of this post. But, in support of my “share positive experiences too” stance, I shall layout the timeline of the arrival of our precious daughter.
I had very limited “signs” of labor early on. It is true to say that I was fed up of being pregnant and eager to get things moving, but when it came down to it, I needed some convincing that I was actually even in labor at all…
I spent the morning mucking out the horses and pottering about the farm, commenting to the other girls that I felt sick and my legs were a little “tight” (I know now that it is possible to experience contractions in your legs, but had never heard of that before!), I went to my parents house for a cuppa and remarked upon the dogs strange behaviour, he was calm, very unlike the bouncy lab we’re used to, whilst he still seemed pleased to see me, all he was interested in doing, was lying on my feet! From here, we went into town, where, in the bathroom of M & S, I had what I presumed to be “a bloody show”. Again, it seems that this can mean “labor imminent” for some woman, whilst for others, the show occurs week in advance of delivery. At this point, my other half headed to Tool Station for a hose for use in filling the birthing pool when the time came.
Little did we know…
Driving home, I felt several “twinges”, but having been told numerous times that “first babies are always late” and at only 39+5, I shook of the excitement that was creeping into my consciousness. You see, I had never been scared of labor…
As the afternoon progressed I shared my “twinges” with my fiance and told him I thought it best that I took a nap, “just in case”. I woke up at about 4pm and struggled to “ignore” the twinges, I decided to have a bath (with clary sage bubble bath “just in case”!) and to time them when I had finished. I complained that there was no hot water, which fortunately was corrected in time for filling the birth pool, and set about cooking dinner.
We made contact with our Doula who suggested that I slap the TENS machine on and take a bounce on the birthing ball. Advice which we took, as we began to note that the twinges were proving rather regular at every 10-12 minutes and lasting 45 seconds.
We played board games to distract me, although, the contractions began to build to the point that I had to leave the table and adopt a position on all fours, pressing my face into the corner of the sofa every time I felt the returning surge. The TENS machine remained on level one and provided enough relief.
At this point, daddy-to-be noted that the village shop would be closing soon and we had no snacks in to offer the team that would be descending if this was in fact “the real thing”. Yes. At this point, in spite of the increasing intensity of the contractions, and the fact that they were now 5-8 minutes apart, we were still kidding oursleves that this was not labor! Upon his return, he did note “I panicked, I think I thought we were planning a children’s tea party” Sausage rolls, crisps, Hobnobs, jelly sweets… hardly fuel for a tiring birthing team (or so I thought at the time. In reality, I could not have been more pleased of the Hobnob in the minutes after giving birth!)
Somewhere around 2200 (although, I admit that time moved quite differently, or did it stand still…??) I retreated upstairs. One of the reasons that I opted for home birth was because of the promise of a more efficient labour in the perception of safety. I thought I would labour downstairs in the lounge, indeed that was where the pool was and where we had laid down some tarpaulins, but in actual fact, in the moment, I wanted to be on my bed! To have the flexibility to do this kept things moving. FAST.
Somewhere around midnight my other half phoned the labour ward to ask that a midwife be sent out to us. My contractions were five minutes apart and lasting around forty five seconds. As we had been told they would, the midwife on the phone asked to speak to me to assess progress. A victim of my own calmness, she summarised that I was “too in control” to be quite ready for the midwife and even suggested I take a paracetamol! I did crank the TENS Machine up to level 3/15, but as we had been told that first labours are often lengthy, I settled back into the rhythm repeating my favoured positive birth affirmation. “This pain is safe and normal”.
At this point I did ask that Cally, our Doula be called and heaved a sigh of relief to hear that she, at least, was on her way…
20 minutes since the initial call to the labour ward my partner rang again and requested a midwife as contractions had ramped up to every 3 minutes, lasting a minute. She was dispatched…
The following 3 hours are something of a blur. I was “in the zone”, retreating into a quite primal state. Far from being scary, this feeling was empowering, the pain was so purposeful and I was focused on being guided by my body.
Somehow during this time my dear, dear other half set about filling the pool. A task that we had estimated following our “dry run” (pun intended) the day before, would take 5 hours…
He didn’t have five hours. Again, I am not sure who, or how this was communicated to him, but I understand that it came down to four pans of water, and two full kettles boiling at anyone time to get the task done in just 2 hours 17 minutes…
Things that I remember clearly from this period was the subtle arrival of our WONDERFUL midwife, Hattie. Hattie “got” homebirth and despite never having met Cally or I she was respectful of the “vibe” and disrupted nothing. During a break from labour I “came back into the room” to see a relaxed figure writing notes by the light of nothing more than fairy lights and an aromatherapy diffuser! Which she was quick to shut off as the clary sage was proving a little too effective. She asked me if I was 39+6 to which I replied “no, 39+5” to which Cally gently pointed out, “it’s 2.30 in the morning, it’s Saturday…” Cally was able to pull out some aromatherapy sticks from her “Doula bag of tricks” the frankincense proved to be my favourite and both she and Hattie massaged my back which proved an enormous relief. It was shortly after the midwifes arrival that I was sick. I hadn’t expected that but am assured that it’s common in labour, the body’s way of “getting ready”.
I’m not sure exactly when, but, it was suggested that the TENS Machine be increased, but I made a request for “something else” I never said gas and air and I am grateful (whether it was intentional or not) for the delay in preparing the canister which meany that I never took so much as a puff!!
I cannot comment on the exchanges between the other three members of the birthing team, but I have subsequently learned that they believed I was 8cms dilated before anyone even arrived! The “purple line” was tracked to monitor dilation and I only recall my blood pressure being checked a handful of times. Everytime we checked in with Pom, she was calmly getting the job done with heart beat that remained between 137-142 bpm throughout. I laboured largely on all fours and, in the instances where I was unable to turn over due to contractions, there was never any sense of irritation or over riding necessity at being unable to perform the monitoring. This wonderfully relaxed and hands off approach really left me in control of things. I never felt neglected and trusted entirely that Hattie was fully aware of what was going on, she just didn’t need to touch me to know! Had the situation warranted it, I never doubted that she was fully prepared and equipped with the necessary skills.
It was Cally who asked if I wanted to get into the pool, somewhere around 0345 according to the timeline of Hattie’s notes. I did. And was able to walk downstairs, to find my other half now trying to cool the pool (a situation that we hadn’t foreseen!). One fairly large contraction bent over the dining table was the precursor for getting into the pool. At this point Hattie called the labour ward… This was the point when my body took over entirely, involuntary pushing and what can only be described as “primal” grunting ensued. I did say to Cally that I was scared at this point. It was the first time that I hadn’t felt totally in control. I now fully understand what a doula brings to a birthing mother. From here, I drew an enormous amount of energy from her both mentally and physically (I held on pretty tight!). Doula’s pride themselves on “mothering the mother” and there is no better way to describe the support.
In the meantime Hattie was trying to raise a second midwife as per the policy for homebirths. Initially, we were told that it would be Emily, my named midwife of whom I was so fond. But, things were moving fast and they were having no luck in contacting her… Hattie calmly explained that as they couldn’t get hold of another midwife, she would have to ask an ambulance to attend. I don’t remember exactly the reason for this, I assume as, at that point Hattie was the only medically trained individual in the room. They were very discreet, in fact, I don’t even know when they arrived ?!? They kept out of the way, enjoying a cuppa in the kitchen!
Due to the absence of a second midwife the labour ward anxious that Hattie be absolutely certain that I had reached 10cms dilated. This was the only time I was touched during the entirety of labour.
The “pushing phase” lasted only 28 minutes, Pom was born into the water (not before my partner was handed a waterproof torch and mirror at the point her head was birthed… you’d have to ask him how her felt about that!). My waters broke 8 minutes before she was born, not that I knew that, I was told. Again, in her beautiful non intrusive manner Hattie told me to reach down and pick my baby out of the water, this coincided beautifully with proud daddy announcing to the room that we had a daughter. I have described birthing my daughter into my own hands as “the single most defining experience of my existence”.
The look exchanged between myself and my daughter as I lifted her up was indescribable and accompanied by a feeling that I want to carry with me for ever. When I have retold this moment, I have noted that other mummies give a knowing nod, there’s no need to describe that moment to them. They know.
We had opted for delayed cord clamping and Cally was able to aid us in getting Thea (although she didn’t have a name then) feeding whilst we waited for the cord to stop pulsing and for the placenta to be delivered.
It’s a daddy’s job to cut the cord and he did it well before taking her off for some skin to skin. Leaving me free for a cuppa and a biscuit!
Unfortunately, try as we might, the placenta wasn’t delivered in the allotted time, but as Thea was delivered and autonomous, I conceded to the injection pretty easily, from there, it was only a matter of minutes.
I draw the line here, that’s the end of our birth story. Thea was delivered. At home. Without medical intervention. Just as I wanted. I did have to go into hospital for stitches for a second degree tear, which caused some anxiety as I knew it would. (If you are reading this as to weigh up whether Cally is the doula for you, I really needed her through the hospital visit). But, I am leaving reference of that out of this blog as it was me that was admitted, not our daughter. We stayed only 4 hours (discharge took a little while due to the shift handover), and before long found ourselves back at home celebrating New Years Eve/Pom’s Due Date with champagne.