Birth story of Bibi-Primrose.
In typical sods-law fashion, I would go into labour after only 2 hours sleep. After saying my whole pregnancy ‘as long as I get my Christmas dinner, she can come when she likes!’ I started to wish I had specified a time – here I was at 4.45am on New Year’s Day, and I was having fairly intense contractions. There was no mistaking them, these weren’t Braxton Hicks, and there was no hope of sleeping through them.
I started to get agitated by them but not enough to time them – I knew once I started that, my mind would be in overdrive and I didn’t want to prematurely start getting excited – I figured I’d have hours, maybe even days to do that, so I just lay there massaging my stomach and hips and mentally noting all the things that needed clearing away to make room for labour and the pool.
We had planned a home water birth, done a successful dry-run of the pool, and timed how long water heating and filling would take. I knew I needed an hour for inflating and filling, and at least 1.5hours of the boiler firing the water. It got to 6am and I started timing the contractions on my phone – laying down for an hour had done little to hold them off, they were getting faster.
I got up, and went to the loo. I don’t need to explain a ‘clear out’ but it was then that I had the ‘you were right, this is it’ realisation. I was, without doubt in labour. And my contractions were every 4-5 minutes. This was happening quicker than even I expected, so I put the boiler on, and started to clean up. Christmas was everywhere – decorations, food, snacks and a tonne of toys. My cleaning lasted 10 minutes…. Between trips to the toilet, and trips to the sink to drink water (I was suddenly VERY thirsty, uncontrollably so) and timing the contractions I got next to no cleaning done.
I went into Liam just before 7am. He’d been in bed since 3am so I was a little worried he’d be too tired to function much, but I was starting to feel a little bit vulnerable and something told me I needed him. I walked into our room, shook his leg a few times and said ‘Liam… It’s 7am and I’m cleaning…’ My choice of wording obviously wasn’t informative enough, but being 38 weeks pregnant he deemed it acceptable to clean at 7am and shrugged. So I added ‘and I’ve been timing contractions for over an hour….’ Which woke him up a bit.
Less than 5 minutes later Liam emerged in the living room and gave me a huge hug. I think he realised I needed a bit of confidence. I was sitting on the sofa and suddenly felt very panicked. Why was I doing this? Maybe I should go to hospital after all. I’m not ready for this. So I rang the hospital…. Being out of hours, I had to ring triage when labour started so that the on-call midwife could be called out. I rang them and blurted out ‘I’m having a home birth’ before I could re-engage the scared bit of my brain – I guess my subconscious was on my side after all. Contractions were averaging every 3 minutes, and lasting for a minute. I was swaying and rotating my hips for each one… The fact I was upright was already an improvement on Harrisons awkward painful labour, so I felt happy … So far so good!
The midwife came at about 7.45am. She wasn’t my usual community midwife but I had met her before when I was pregnant with Harrison so I was content that she wasn’t a stranger. Turns out she may well have been, her presence turned out to be one of annoyance and contributed to a few issues. She asked me the usual dumbed down probing questions at inopportune moments and I carried on breathing and swaying through contractions. I found it comfy leaning over the footstool of my sofa, kneeled on the floor so found a comfy spot a stayed there. Liam carried on clearing stuff out of the lounge, and my mum readied herself to come over. She can’t drive, so I was mentally bracing myself for Liam to leave. I knew that in the space of 25 minutes since the midwife arrived, things had ramped up a lot and I was having to really focus, breathe and hold Liam during contractions. The 25 minute journey to get my mum was crucial, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to say ‘go now’ so he held on.
The midwife wanted to check me. We agreed that Liam would wait until we knew ‘how things were going’ until he left. The midwife had acknowledged the difference in me between the time of her arriving and less than an hour later and was concerned that things were further along than we thought. She didnt want Liam to leave before inflating the pool, and I didn’t want the pool up without my mum…. You see the problem. So, she checked me. Flat on my back, midway through a seemingly unstoppable contraction, she tells me that I’m 4cm. I started to cry and wouldn’t let go of Liam. The contractions went back to back all of a sudden, brought on by the examination and I couldn’t muster the strength, mental or otherwise to get up and out of that position. So I found myself curled in the foetal position, as I had remained throughout Harrison’s entire labour. Even I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be, and certainly not on my bed, so I let Liam go to my mums and focused on bouncing (on the squishy edge of my mattress!) and reluctantly tried the gas. It didn’t work. I did everything I could to slow down – my breathing, my crying, my panicking was all adding to the pain. The midwife kept pottering around gathering things and I kept bouncing on the mattress. Time seemed to pass quickly, and soon Liam and my mum arrived. I never did ask how fast he drove, but he was in full blown soldier mode when he got back.
Liam is an efficient kinda guy. He’s easy going and relaxed, but when it counts he goes into what I call ‘soldier’ mode. It’s the ultimate combo of enthusiasm, efficiency and multitasking, and he just got on with it. That pool was out of the box, unfolded, pump out and plugged in within seconds of him walking in. My mum held my hands (and the now working gas mouthpiece) and Liam worked in the kitchen with the midwife now directing her instructions and questions to him. 3 contractions later (now every 1-2 minutes, my breathing had calmed them) I heard an eruption of swearing, then the manual pool pump. Something was wrong.
Let me explain why I chose home birth. Quite simply, to give myself the best chance of birthing my baby girl without a Drs stop watch sending me to theatre. Water was good pain relief for SPD. That was all there was to it. The thinking that water = calmer Hayley = better coping methods and a more effective delivery. Water meant more to me than home… I can’t stress that enough. My pain barrier is almost non existent, I panic easily, and my past pregnancy & birth told me to expect a large baby. Harrison’s birth included the words ‘the baby is too big for your pelvis’ so my mental nerves at having another seemingly unbirthable baby were quite hard to dampen. The thought of being able to move and help my baby move down without hearing those words was so important to me – hence water birth being my #1 aim.
I made my way down the hall and was presented with Liam frantically inflating the pool using the incredibly slow manual pump. I told him to stop, that I’d possibly think about transferring if I wasn’t coping well…. and then realised that the midwife was on the phone talking about pools. The hospital pool. She was asking the hospital to fill their pool, and to expect my arrival by ambulance….without asking me.
Well, that infuriated me and I must have zoned-out at that point, as I vividly remember feeling defiant that I wasn’t going anywhere, it was here or no where and started working through my contractions again. She wasn’t sending me anywhere without my permission, and I wasn’t about to give it.
Shortly after the pool fiasco, I was aware of someone else arriving, though I wasn’t introduced to her until about 15 minutes later. I was having very hard fast contractions, and was ‘out of the room’ for the duration – people talking went over my head, people touching me were slapped away, I just held Liam’s hands. I eventually heard the second midwife introduce herself, and was immediately comforted. She seemed nicer, just that one friendly introduction endeared her to me – though, to be honest, in comparison to the other midwife who I’d pretty much blocked out, she was always going to be my favourite. I liked her and started to direct any questions or comments to her. I started to feel pressure, then involuntary pushing, and quite simply said ‘pushing!!!’ to my mum, who was relaying messages for me.
The second midwife said ‘I don’t think you’d have got very far Hayley love!’ – this made me feel a little smug. My internal ‘I told you so’ directed at the first midwife got me through another very pushy contraction, and it was around this point my waters broke. I was on my hands and knees, leaning on my mums legs, holding her calf with one hand and Liam’s hands with the other. She later told me I left bruises. My growth scan @37 weeks had revealed ‘vast pools of water’- this wasn’t the case at all. Waters were normal and clean… Which meant for now, I definitely wasn’t going anywhere! Another internal ‘ha! You won’t see me transferring!’ celebration, and we carried on. My worries about my carpet being ruined quickly faded away, when I instead saw the nice clean fluffy ‘new baby’ towel underneath me being used to catch water and blood.
From waters breaking to baby being born was just over 1 hour. I’d gone from 4cm in my bedroom, to 9-10cm in less than 90 minutes… Perhaps even sooner, but I’d not let them examine me for a while. I remained in the living room, and switched regularly between hands & knees, just knees, then sitting on my bum so they could examine me. The pain was unbearable and I kept saying over and over ‘I won’t stay on my back, she will get stuck. I’m not staying on my back’ – so they had to be pretty swift with their examinations so that I could move again, get up onto my knees and keep the pushy contractions going. I was leaning onto Liam’s shoulders at this point, with him sitting on the floor supporting all my weight, bless him.
He didnt stop praising me, encouraging me or holding onto me. He was wherever I wanted him to be, all the time. Even when I couldn’t speak, and instead had my hands waving limply during a contraction, he somehow knew to hold them. Or to rub my legs when the SPD pain deep in my hips and pelvis stopped me from moving them. Feeding me water, holding the straw, holding the gas… He was wonderful.
Gas and air was my friend. I absolutely despised the stuff during my labour with Harrison, and so was pleasantly surprised when it seemed to help me – the noise helped me regulate my breathing, and that really kept me going. Every deep breath was one closer to my baby girl. I’d emptied a tank already, so I knew I was getting somewhere fast… I heard them unpacking loads of packets and packages, then saw the baby rescus kit appear and knew I was getting closer. I could feel more towels and pads being laid out on the floor around me, and could see my bump getting progressively further away from me. She was moving down…. And I was doing it, by myself!
I had been pushing her down for quite a while, still leaning up on Liam’s shoulders. Being on my knees meant I felt SPD pain quite badly, which was one of the reasons I missed the pool. The other was privacy. The constant need to check babies progress, or to just stare whilst I was pushing – I felt so exposed. The only happy thought here was that ‘well, I’m in my own home… No random surgeon can walk in!’ And that helped. I was so comfortable there in my little lounge. On the same floor that I walked over every day….my little baby girl that i had wanted forever was slowly but surely making her way around and down, and I was going to see her soon.
When the midwife asked me to try pushing, whilst sitting on my bum, reclined against the sofa, I only agreed as I needed a rest. My knees and legs were agonising, and Liam’s shoulders and back probably couldn’t take more of my weight! They wanted to see how much progress the baby was making with each push, as we were approaching the hour mark since I’d been fully dilated & pushing. I wasn’t worried as I could feel movement, I could see the bump getting lower, I could see the jelly trail from the Doppler working its way closer to my public bone – I felt confident and happy that she was coming, even if it was at her own pace. Alas, I let them check during pushes, and sure enough they tell me she had her head back, rather than being chin down, and so her progress was slow.
Jayne kept one finger inside during a contraction and told me to push down into where she was pressing. Slightly to the right, it seemed to help me and the baby lowered her head and straightened up a bit. Jayne then checked me again and found that though her chin had lowered, the the baby had turned slightly to one side and needed turning.
Harrison got stuck because he was twisted. Instead of his position correcting itself, he turned further the wrong way & got wedged… His size meant he was truly stuck, and needed a ventouse to get him out. Hence my previous episiotomy, and my dislike of cut-happy surgeons.
And now, here I was at the exact same point in labour with another stuck baby. One that was supposedly bigger than her brother. I got up. despite them wanting to check her movements, I knew better and made them pull me up, and Liam helped me turn back over onto my knees.
Something told me to keep at it, keep breathing and pushing and she will turn. I don’t remember when or how long it took, but baby turned. She didn’t correct her position though, she instead turned a further 90 degrees and was facing upwards. Well, this was a marvellous achievement. I managed to turn the baby! No surgeons, no ventouse, no episiotomy. This labour was amazing, I was doing all this by myself, and the lovely midwife was explaining everything to me, Liam and my mum. I felt like I was getting somewhere, like I’d actually beaten several hurdles and I was still going strong. The fact she was facing up was unbeknown to me, they’d just told me that she was no longer stuck, and had made downward progress.
Pushing continued with me on my back – I got back down again when my hips truly gave up. I needed that weightless feeling that water would give me, that or for someone to saw my leg off. Neither were going to happen, so I settled back, loads of pillows, Liam holding one hand, my mum holding the other, and we pushed. Well, I pushed, they winced as I squeezed their hands. Liam held gas, Liam brought water. Mum moved my hair, encouraged me. Between them they were like labour cheerleaders. Mum was massaging the painful hip, Liam was encouraging me… I felt like a superstar. And my bump got even further away from me.
I was told to hold onto my own legs, and pull back when I was pushing. I was wasting energy and strength holding others, so I instead had a vice like grip on my already painful legs, and kept pushing. I could feel her head moving down, slowly but surely and was starting to get to the point of ‘is she not crowning yet?!’ – I still didnt know her position was wrong, so kept happily pushing away. By this point it was 10am. Harrison who had been asleep throughout was now awake, so my mum went to him in his bedroom & kept him there.
I could hear Harrison, and knew that I wanted him to meet his sister. I wanted his sister to be born, here, in our little home, with no panic and no sadness or worries – I was so close, and was getting more and more excited that her head was getting further and further down. The midwives didnt do any directed pushing when she was crowning. I felt pain, but I’d felt pain all along so didnt immediately recognise the burning sensation… Until her head popped out and it went away! I was elated, smiling, and heard the midwife say ‘big push with the next contraction and we will have her shoulders!’ – just as my beautiful little Bibi-Primrose slithered out, by herself, without me pushing! She landed in a tiny puddle of her leftover waters, launched into the midwife’s slightly unprepared hands!
She was placed on me for skin to skin, and immediately cried and opened her eyes. Born at 38+5, on New Year’s Day 2013. Bibi-Primrose Florrie Davis weighed 7lb 15oz (big baby my ass!!!) 53cm long, after 5.5 hours of labour…. At home After a few minutes Liam cut the cord (After reminding the dim midwife that we wanted delayed clamping – which is recommended by our trust!) and held Bibi whilst the midwives assessed if I’d need stitching or not.
It turns out her position had caused me quite a lot of internal damage, which meant I required stitches in hospital. I was transferred in (by my own request, when the midwife with her 25 years stitching experience wasn’t happy to attempt it herself) by ambulance, with tiny Bibi less than 2 hours after birth. I had horrendous shakes and shivers, I was bleeding from the tears and was surviving on only 2 hours sleep and a few litres of water…. But I was, and am, so happy.
I’m so proud of myself.