I can’t possibly tell this story without first sharing the last few weeks of my pregnancy.
Emmeline’s estimated due date was Christmas Eve 2012. A Christmas baby! The idea was so romantic. Giving birth surrounded by all the fanfare of Christmas, tree, twinkly lights and all.
Christmas Eve arrived we were more organised than we had ever been for the Christmas day. All the homebirth kit was accounted for too included the birth pool generously loaned by a friend after my own had met a grizzly end involving a hairdryer. We tucked up our clean children into their freshly washed bedding and read I The Night Before Christmas imagining the following Christmas when we would be reading to 5 not 4.
The following day was hard going. Being 40 weeks pregnant on Christmas day with 4 very excited children and all the toys, paper and chaos that go with them is not for the faint hearted. Simple things like bending over to pick up paper or doing a jigsaw on the floor where a physical challenge whilst all the while wondering, will today be the day? I was so worried about “ruining” Christmas by having to clear away all the fun in order to turn our living room into a labour ward.
I breathed a sigh of relief as we tucked them into bed that night sparkly eyed from the magic of the day. From that point onward I was ready to have a baby. Yet morning after morning after morning I awoke, looked down and found my belly still swollen.
The messages and comments started. “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” I was always so tempted to say yes and take in the look of horror on their faces for a few seconds before coming clean but never quite had the guts hehehe.
That didn’t bother be too much until a week in the “advice” started without even asking for it. Well-meaning friends with the best of intentions would bombard me daily with a laundry list of natural induction methods. I heard it ALL!
My low point came on New Year’s Eve. I was supposed to have a baby in 2012 and here we were on the cusp 2013! I wasn’t supposed to have a baby in 2013!!! It felt like sheer frustration coursed through my veins. I felt like I wanted to climb out of myself. I shed plenty of tears of frustration that night and woke on New Year’s day feelings so much better. A new acceptance came over me. I was having a 2013 baby. That was ok, I could roll with that.
At this point I did start adding a bit of clary sage to my bath and having Nick rub my feet paying particular attention to some of the pressure points associated with encouraging labour. Despite my own feelings of “they come when they are ready” and the reminders of just that on Facebook I started to worry for my homebirth. A week when you are waiting for something feels like an eternity. But a week when you’re on the clock suddenly starts to feel a whole lot shorter.
On the 7th of January at 42 weeks I couldn’t take anymore. I went onto Facebook and posted the following:
“I am finding Facebook and in fact the world, has become a pretty stressful place to be when you are this overdue. Due to that I have decided to sign off until after my little girls arrival. See you on the other side ♥
My baby’s not a library book,
so she’s not overdue.
My baby don’t take long to cook,
coz she’s not veggie stew.
My baby’s not an elephant,
and I’m not fit to burst.
The time and date aren’t relevant,
we’re blessed with days, not cursed.
My baby can’t read dates as yet,
because she’s very new.
So there’s no cause to fuss and fret,
if she don’t come on cue.
So stop your worry,
stop your asking,
there’s no hurry
in this golden pregnant time,
this pause, which is just hers and mine.
You leave us be, we are just fine.
©Rachel P (Wales)
Anyone that knows me knows I am a complete Facebook addict! I am always popping up pictures, statuses, and checking my phone to see what all my friends are up to. But switching it off actually felt so good! Like a release of pressure. Those last 4 days where so much more peaceful and calm without the Facebook world having such easy access to my psyche.
On the 10th of January at 42+3 I went off to day care at the maternity unit to be monitored again. This time the consultant that I saw gave me the same spiel “I would recommend you where induced, etc. etc. etc.” but was really supportive and just as I was leaving she said “It is really refreshing to have a mum who has researched all of her options and knows what she wants. I wish you the best of luck with your homebirth” Every time I went near a medical professional past 42 weeks I felt a surge of anxiety about the “battle of wills” one midwife warned me I would encounter, so this felt like a huge victory for me to have finally been acknowledged and supported.
From the hospital we went home to await our children coming out from school. We picked them up and the started on the 45 minute journey to my mum’s house. A new term of my Daisy Birthing classes was starting that night and my lovely colleague Dawn was covering for me but I had some admin stuff to take care of at the studio. I had always thought I would be getting someone else to do it as I would have just had a baby however, as I was STILL pregnant I decided to do it myself and meet the lovely mummies who were starting the new term. But at half at half past 3 I felt a Braxton, or was it? It felt different somehow. I had a few more in the car and said to my husband “Do you think this could be it?” He asked if I wanted to turn around and go home but I said no, I knew nothing was imminent.
So we arrived at my mum’s and we had dinner. I sat in the living room eating my dinner and began to blow through was becoming increasingly obviously early labour contractions. As I did I noticed my mum and Nick just staring at me and began to get up from my seat and go into the kitchen as I felt so observed.
It came time to go to the studio and I felt excited. I walked in, said hi to everyone, showed the new mums where to hang their coats all the while thinking that I would probably have my baby that night! I confided in Dawn, a midwife as well as Daisy Birthing teacher that I thought things where starting to happen. I felt like an excited child as I whispered my secret into her ear.
As soon as I was done at the studio we went back to my mum’s got the kids and made the journey home in earnest. Just as we arrived back in our hometown a contraction came over me and in my head I thought “Oh my god this could really be it!” Notice the “could”, after all that time waiting I just couldn’t wrap my head around this really being it and me actually birthing a baby. I had almost had to accept that I would be pregnant forever during those last weeks in order to be able to cope. It kept the disappointment of waking up to yet another day with my baby in my womb and not in my arms at bay. So when it came down to it I couldn’t believe I was having a baby until I was pushing.
We arrived home at around 8.30 and quickly got our 4 older children off to bed. Nicholas my then youngest seemed aware that something was going on but at 3 and a half he didn’t quite understand and it took some time to settle him. I could sense Nick was feeling the pressure of having to set up the pool and see to Nicholas. I helped by pottering about tidying around and comforting and reassuring Nicholas. The girls Ella 8, Emilia 6 and Evelyn 5 all went straight to sleep Nicholas wasn’t too far behind after some cuddles.
After Nick had collapsed the dining table and had hidden it in bits behind and underneath the sofa he put out the plastic sheeting and brought the birth pool in from the cupboard. Seeing it there in the middle of the plastic made me panic. What if this isn’t really it? What if he goes to all this effort and I’m not really in labour? The pressure built up in my head and I needed a break from it. I made a feeble excuse. “It might be cold in the cupboard; you best leave it 20 minutes for the plastic to warm up.” Nick agreed and busied himself with other things and I continued to potter and contract, potter and contract.
At some point I decided to have faith in myself and light my labour candle. It felt so momentous to hold that flame over that brand new white wick and allow it to burn. Like I brought to life a talisman that said I believe in me!
Nick began to blow up the pool and as he did I could feel myself holding back. He was so busy and I was alone. It didn’t take long to blow up though and he went to sort the tap. As he did I began to feel things build in anticipation of having him free to help me. Nick secured the hose in the pool and instantly I entered the active phase of my labour at 11pm.
Being a Doula and antenatal teacher I know a fair bit about labour and birth yet I was still amazed at how instantly my labour shifted up a gear as soon as everything was as it should be and I had my husband’s undivided attention and support. I began to lean over the arm of the sofa at this point. Being up and active after 4 fairly inactive labours felt soooo good. I felt like I was a real participant in my labour rather than a victim of it. Like my baby and I were working together as a team. I talked to her in my head throughout. Told her over and over again it was ok, she was safe, I was right there with her, and she could do this. It felt so great to connect with her in this way and really support her through.
I began to vocalise on the out breath of every contraction and boy did it feel good. The lower tonal vibrations eased me through what where quickly becoming pretty intense contractions. I sounded them into a blanket so as not to disturb the kids which really helped me to let go and feel free to vocalise as I needed to. The blanket muffled the sound pretty well (sound which my husband later tells me was not nearly as loud as my memory would have me believe) however I decided to call my parents anyway just in case I did disturb the kids. It was clear I needed Nick to be fully present with me in this labour to be able to progress and I didn’t want to risk stalling things by Nick needing to go and comfort the kids.
The first thing my mum asked on the phone when I asked her to come was “Have you called the midwives yet” I could sense her nervousness and eagerness to have health care professionals there and it temporarily left me feeling nervous and stressed. I quickly let it go though and focussed within. At this point I was on all fours on the floor mobilising my hips. I remember clearly drawing my fingers into the deep pile of the carpet during those contractions and it feeling so grounding and comforting. Who would have thought it!
We called the midwives just before my mum and dad arrived. Nick had readied himself with all sorts of retorts for all the “we don’t have any midwives available” stuff but was pleasantly surprised by the lack of fuss about my dates. When my parents did arrive the silence of my birth space was broken by frantic questions I could hear coming from the kitchen. Irritated I hissed through as loudly as I could “SHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” I didn’t hear anything else after that
At this point we ran out of hot water and the pool was cold and still had a way to go to fill. My parents and Nick worked together to get kettles and pots and pans of water on the go to fill the pool. I wasn’t really aware of what was going on at the time but I will forever be grateful for all the effort they put in to filling that pool for me. As they worked hard to fill it I began to yearn to get into the pool. A real desperate need to immerse myself in water engulfed me and I shared those feelings very vocally.
The midwives arrived around 1am. I had decided during my pregnancy I wouldn’t allow routine exams. Yet as soon as they arrived I requested one. I just needed to know where I was at. I don’t know why. With all of my previous labours which included routine exams I never got to more than 6cm before instinctually beginning to push. They and their finding have never been of any relevance or influence to my birth yet I still NEEDED to know. True to form I was 3cm and devastated. I quickly picked myself up with Nick’s reassurance “This is how it went with the rest. You go from 3 to 10 in no time, it doesn’t mean anything”
Shortly after, the pool was ready. Knowing the rule of thumb is not to get into the pool until certain boxes have been ticked and knowing I hadn’t ticked ticked them I steeled myself for a lecture as I undressed and got ready to get into the pool. Yet as I put my foot into the pool not a word was uttered and I let go of any tension as I immersed myself slowly into that gloriously warm water. Nick said he will never forget the look on my face as I got into that pool. I could tell at the time he felt a huge sense of pride as I saw his eyes glisten at the sight of me relishing the feeling of being in the pool he had worked so hard to prepare for me. Everything about that moment was pure pleasure, the sensation, the music, the smells, the pride. Bliss.
The pool helped ease things beyond measure and as I rotated my way through the contractions I felt so connected to my baby, my labour and my journey in my little watery sanctuary that nothing else mattered. The midwives stayed quietly on the sofa not even whispering a word to each other and Nick, our baby and I got to work.
I have always thought the cool cloth on the forehead was such a cliché. I mean who does that right? Hollywood myth right? Wrong, I did it and it was amazing! My face flushed warm all of a sudden and the feeling of that cold cloth of my face was just like another piece of bliss in my amazing birth space.
At 2.55 I decided I needed some help. I had always told myself it would be great to have a 100% natural birth but I would never deny myself a puff of gas and air if I needed it so I happily took the tube into my mouth and began to breathe in deeply. If anything it just helped me zone out even more than I already had.
At around 3.15am I suddenly thought “Ohhhh is that what I think it is?” Not looking forward to the rush of people I decided to keep my slight urge to push to myself and I quietly gave pushing a go to see if it really was time. Oh it felt GOOD and I could feel her moving down. I reassured her it was ok and I gave a second attempt at a secret push. This time however I couldn’t keep that primal growl from escaping from my throat and from deep inside myself I could hear the sounds of the midwives stirring and getting ready. “Damn” I thought, “I’ve been rumbled!”
Knowing that everyone was onto me I really went for it and allowed my body to throw itself freely into pushing. All of my babies where quickly once I began to push, my third in no more than 4 pushes, so I began to panic that she would be born and no one was there to catch. Apparently so did the midwives and one of them tried to scale a radiator in an effort to get to me! Everyone frantically got into place and yet there was still no baby. I remember feeling a bit confused. I had pushed a few times and no baby, I put my hand down and couldn’t feel my baby. Hmmm I thought, best make a bit more effort. So pushed hard and felt her move down. Just before she began to crown I had a nice long break (Long for the second stage of labour anyway i.e. a minute and a half ish.) During that time I just breathed her down, It felt so so nice, that quiet soothing time in between. Then a big urge came and I reached down and felt the top of my baby’s head! Something I had never done before and it felt amazing! To touch my child as she was in between worlds, for the first time I was the first person to ever touch my baby! What a moment! I delivered her head and again had a big break and just breathed it all through. Then one last big push and at 3.25pm my beautiful 10lbs 1oz baby girl glided gracefully into the world. I turned around and grabbed my baby who we later named Emmeline and pulled her onto my chest and cried out “MY GIRLY! WE DID IT!” I sobbed happy tears as I drank in every moment with my gorgeous girl and the fabulous gentle birth we had achieved together by believing in and trusting one another.