Updated: Apr 16, 2022
Honestly, I never intended on sharing my birth story.
It is such a personal, precious journey but I have experienced first-hand the power of reading and reflecting on birth stories during my own pregnancy. There are so many ‘horror’ style stories to be read, a bit like restaurant reviews- everyone leaves a bad review, but we often forget to celebrate the good ones. As a midwife, working predominantly in a high risk setting for the past few years I have witnessed many types of birth, many obstetric emergencies and many of what could be featured in the ‘scary birth story’ column. So, therefore I have chosen to share mine with you, my arm has been twisted and fitting with my ethos of supporting women to be excited for birth, not scared I feel it is important I share this.
17th September 2021- the most amazing and empowering day of my life. The day our son was born.
I am writing this 2 weeks on from that day and every day since I have reflected on our birth with many a smile. I often explain the importance of quality antenatal education to women in that your birth is so much more than one day it is the creation of memories that stay with you forever and my goodness I now feel how true that is!
On the 16th, the day before Finley’s birth I went to see our community midwife for a stretch and sweep. We had tried 2 days before, but my cervix was too posterior, and Finley’s head was too low for it to be successful. So, first note here is to not be disheartened if you to have an unsuccessful stretch and sweep. Partly because the evidence for their success isn’t there and secondly because just a couple of days later it was successful, my cervix was 3cm dilated and my waters broke. I would call that progress! For which I was mega grateful as like many women who watch their due date come and go, I was feeling a little (very) inpatient.
I can’t say I was contracting at this point; some niggly period style pains were all. But, thanks to my midwifery knowledge and just like we discuss on my antenatal courses I knew how I could support my body for this next stage. A nourishing dinner, walks with my husband, ball bouncing, hydration, creating a calm oxytocin- promoting environment and then some sleep.
Not a full night mind, roll on 2AM and contractions begun…
So, managing the early stages of labour. I tiptoed out of bed telling my husband I couldn’t sleep and was going to watch a film in the living room. In my experience, a tired birth partner isn’t optimal, and it wasn’t a total fib because I did put a film on- I can’t even remember what it was but some easy going romcom. I bounced, paced, lunged, swayed my hips, breathed (A LOT of this!), lit my favourite candles, had some toast and sipped water until my husband must have become suspicious and joined me around 05:30AM. By which time I couldn’t disguise these powerful waves of contractions every few minutes. There was lots more moving around by me- a tool that should be in every woman’s’ ‘toolbox’ as you prepare for birth. From helping optimise your baby’s position, opening your pelvis and being a great form of pain relief mobility is your friend for sure! Hydration and nutrition were in full swing thanks to my husband and on went my TENS machine thanks to @babycareTENS.
After a couple more hours, and my husband becoming increasingly worried about hitting traffic on the way to the hospital. The car journey was somewhat uncomfortable (put politely) so distraction was key! We sung Rag N Bone Man songs at the top of our voices all the way there I can’t promise it sounded pretty but it helped and must have helped boost my endorphins. Endorphins are our bodies natural painkillers and the more relaxed, calm and happy we are the more we make- I don’t know about you but I was up for maximising these bad boys as much as possible even if I sounded more like a strangled cat than Rag N Bone Man.
A few stops along the corridor, more hip swaying and deep breathing and we arrived at the birthing centre greeted by our midwife, and incredible friend of mine who came into care for us. My husband set about creating the birth environment we had discussed- music, lighting, diffuser, snack station etc. our focus was to make a space that was calming and relaxing to promote all the oxytocin and suppress adrenaline. Those of you who attend my courses will know how important this is in labour and how simple things are often most effective in achieving it! My contractions were powerful and frequent, and I continued to embrace upright, forwards and open positions that felt natural and instinctive. Leaning forwards on a birthing ball on the floor was a favourite of mine at this stage.
Our midwife did all the important checks to make sure we were all well and safe to stay in the low-risk birthing setting. Good job we were because in the meantime my husband had created the environment I had dreamt of pretty much since the day I saw those two lines on a pregnancy test. I am sure I’m not the only woman whose mind jumped 10months forwards after peeing on a stick (before the obvious shorter-term concerns then crept in of course).
After a short time (I can’t remember how long apart things happened to be honest time is a strange concept in labour) I opted to use the birthing pool. Ohhhhh my dipping into that was heavenly, the relief was wonderful. I had done a lot of swimming in pregnancy, and it reminded me of sinking into the pool on hold, swollen summer evenings feeling instant relaxation.
In total my labour was 6 hours long, at the time I thought I felt every one of those hours but looking back I feel it zoomed by! I didn’t stay in the pool after my initial dip, mainly because I vomited in it (not my proudest moment but a common side effect to labour!) and partly because after a further vaginal examination I opted to have a dose of Pethidine. This allowed me to gain a bit of rest, our little one was super low in my pelvis and as a result I was getting pelvic pain in between the contractions that didn’t ease up. Having a couple of hours respite was exactly what we needed. That being said every time a contraction came I dashed from the snug side lying position on a comfy beanbag to sit on the toilet! Toilets are popular places for women in labour and it was again an instinctive feeling to need to move and be there when each contraction came. The other great benefit was I maintained mobile throughout.
It turns out it was the hind waters (behind babys head) that broke the day before and my forewaters (infront of babys head) were still intact providing a cushion between his head and my cervix. So our midwife broke these and we jumped (I was so desperate to get back in I don’t think jump is far off!) back into the pool.
Finley, our beautiful boy was born calmly in the water very soon after this. I was beyond blessed to lift him up into my chest surrounded by the most kind, compassionate and supportive team. I cannot even begin to describe how I felt in that moment.
As a midwife fully aware of ALL the potential labour complications I definitely felt a massive sense of relief.
As a mum I felt completely overwhelmed with love for this tiny baby. An immense amount of love I never even knew was possible.
As a woman, I felt strong and proud of what my body had achieved, like I could take on the world. Genuinely the most incredible and empowering day of my life.
I often talk about the potential twists and turns of labour and believe that regardless of what a birth looks like for each individual it should ALWAYS leave women feeling the way I was fortunate enough to on this day. This has only made me even more passionate to continue teaching my online courses.
Sure, there were a few twists in my own birth. I couldn’t pass urine in labour- again often quite common but it is really important that bladders are emptied. A full bladder can inhibit a baby descending in the birth canal, damage the muscles if overstretched and it is also important urine output is measured to screen for dehydration in labour. So I had a couple of catheters inserted to ensure my bladder was cared for. My placenta was also a bit stubborn to come out, so an Obstetric Consultant came to help it on its way. I thought I would love using Entonox (gas and air) turns out it wasn’t for me at all and made me nauseous despite having seen it work fantastically for many women in my care over the years. But none of this mattered, I was supported with compassion by the team with me, made to feel safe and empowered to make informed choices throughout.
We cuddled up as a family tucking into chilli con carne and sticky toffee pudding whilst Finley found his love of my milk in a bubble of amazement. A few hours later, there we were leaving the hospital in which I have spend many years working with our baby. Ready to enter a new chapter of our lives capsulated in a love like no other.
I could not be prouder to be a woman, a mum and a midwife.
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