In the Beginning…
I was terrified of childbirth. I didn’t understand how my body could do that and how I could survive it. I also hate hospitals, they stress me out.
So I read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, I attended hypnobirthing classes, hired a doula, went to NCT and NHS anti-natal classes, I did anti-natal yoga every week from 15 weeks, did an NCT water birthing class, an NHS home birth workshop, aqua-natal classes and listened religiously to the Birth hour podcast.
I had a ‘birth wishes’ document drafted and redrafted months in advance.
So What Happened?
My waters broke at 3:30am, at 37 weeks + 4 days. I had planned 3 weeks of maternity leave, I got 3 days. We messaged people and told them it was happening. My doula was with another lady, and had been with her for 48 hours. We didn’t have the birth pool yet (we were going to get it and do a test run that weekend). The midwife came mid morning, talked and examined me, and told me she was “100% sure” my waters hadn’t broken.
Alistair went to work. We told his parents (who happened to be driving down from Norwich to see us), and I went through the day as planned – lunch with the NCT ladies, Alistair’s parents over in the afternoon, dinner with Alistair and his parents. The whole time I was timing the steadily increasing waves using an app on my phone under the table, telling myself, ‘but this can’t be it because she said my waters haven’t broken’.
By the time we finished dinner I couldn’t walk the block back to the car. Our doula’s partner dropped off the spare pool when we got home and I went straight to bed. Al joined me when his parents left at about 11pm. I managed to get a bit of sleep in the 10 min gaps between waves. Initially I was lying in bed through them, then on all fours on the bed, then I had to be standing up leaning on the window sill. Alistair was helping me by placing pressure against my lower back.
We called the hospital and they said to take a bath and some paracetamol and call back later. I told Alistair that he’d better put up the pool. We tried to get me into the bath, but it was horrible and uncomfortable and didn’t help at all, so I got straight out and was freezing until Alistair dried me off.
I tried to move through a couple of waves without Alistair there to give him time to put up the pool, but they became unbearable without him. With him by my side helping me I could manage it. He was my main form of pain relief because he kept me so calm.
I moved into the living room, and found that the most comfortable place to be was standing next to the dining table resting my arms and head over a birth ball, which was on the table. We tried playing some music – the playlist I had prepared, our hypnobirthing tracks- but the only thing that ended up helping was listening to the sound of waves. Alistair fed me small chunks of melon, (I remember he provided a fork but I ignored it and grabbed them with my whole fist).
I made more noise than I ever could have imagined. It was an extraordinary mooing, moaning, groaning sound and it helped me a lot to make it. I remember when a wave started to build I started to moan ‘noooooo’, and Alistair said into my year, ‘yeeeeees’, which really helped me change to going with the waves instead of resisting and being scared of them.
The waves weren’t painful. They were incredibly intense, completely all consuming. I didn’t feel like I owned them or that I was doing them, but that they were happening in me and there was nothing I could do to stop them except welcome them and not resist them.
At some point we called the hospital again. The midwife arrived. She examined me and we found out later that I was 9.5cm dilated when she arrived. When she arrived I asked her “Rachel, am I having a baby?” It wasn’t until she said “Yes, you’re definitely having a baby” that I fully believed it was happening.
She called for the 2nd midwife straight after examining me. I asked her if I could have gas and air and she said “You could but it’s in the car and I don’t think we have time.” Instead she suggested that I get on all fours on the floor. This position felt natural to me because we’d practiced it so much in yoga. I went through a few waves on the floor, gripping Alistair on my left hand side and the side table on my right.
The midwife was telling me to push but I didn’t want to. I told Alistair “I’m scared to push in case I tear!”. Liz, our doula finally arrived and took the place of the table on my right. She said I should push too, so I did. That gave me confidence to start breathing our baby down. First I felt the head come out and then a slippery slither as the rest of Featie came out. (We called our bump Featie).
We had done it. We heard him cry.
They told me to reach through my legs and pick him up. They helped us get comfortable on the sofa. Rachel and Liz helped me feed him for the first time. Alistair got my mum on Skype. It was amazing and lovely and gentle. Liz cut the cord.
After a while they told me I had to push again to deliver the placenta. I couldn’t believe they wanted me to do more, but I got down on all fours again and in two tiny pushes it was out. I did have to transfer to the hospital as I had a tear that the midwives were unable to stitch at home but we had a deliriously happy ambulance ride all the way there with Featie, Al & I! I’m so glad that Luca, (what we chose to change Featie’s name to), was born at home.
And I’m so proud that I did it without drugs.
What I would change next time…
I would take 6 weeks off before the birth!
I would have the birth pool up and ready from 35 weeks.
I would have 2 doulas on standby, know who the backups are and don’t be shy in contacting them.
Most of all I would trust myself. I knew my waters had broken.