The Freebirth of Oliver Ellis Thomas – born September 19th 2012 at 12.30a.m., weighing 8lb 4oz.
My first experience of birth was truly empowering. After a reflective pregnancy I was afraid of labour but during the process I managed to let go and embrace my instincts. I had a wonderful,natural water birth in hospital. It was the beginning of a healing journey that was a right of passage. I learned a great deal about myself and life in this time and when I discovered I was pregnant for the second time I knew it would bring a new path to walk.
For my second pregnancy I opted to have minimum contact with maternity services and I began to consider freebirth. What appealed to me about not having midwives present was the freedom and control it gave back to women and birth. I could imagine nothing more peaceful than allowing birth to take over with no interference. The more I thought about having midwives present, the more I felt it would be detrimental to my birthing experience.
I don’t have a personal issue with midwives, or hospitals. I think they do an excellent job under great pressure but I don’t believe that all women automatically need care in such a systematic way and particularly against a medical setting. There is a place for these services and it’s great that they are available for true emergencies. However, more often than not this power can be abused and many women end up with a birth experience they find difficult to process.
Birth should not be feared but embraced. I believe in a woman’s ability to birth successfully provided she is surrounded by the right, supportive environment that she was able to make an informed decision about. Our bodies are designed to give life and this is a powerful, life changing and emotional experience.
I do have strong opinions about birth but I did not want my own experience to be caught up with this political aspect. I wasn’t rejecting the system or trying to work against the grain, I just followed my instincts and trusted my choices. As my pregnancy progressed and I gained more knowledge I knew I would freebirth.
I did not have a specific due date as I had no ultrasound. I knew I was due sometime late September. On the morning of the 18th I woke up having mild contractions but by lunchtime they stopped. At 5pm I had a show and contractions started picking up again. They were very intense coming every 20 minutes or so. They were just far enough apart to tease me into thinking I wasn’t in labour but just intense enough that I couldn’t focus on anything else. At 8.00pm my partner, David and I settled our daughter, Sofia, into bed. During this time the contractions became closer together but remained erratic.
I decided to run a bath. The idea of labouring in the bath appealed to me strongly, it had been very effective during my first birth. I was keen to know what it felt like to give birth outside of water but this didn’t seem right somehow. During my pregnancy I had even had a dream that I would give birth in the bath and I think somewhere inside I knew this wasn’t far from the truth. I feel a pull towards water, I love the sea. When my husband and I first became partners he took me to a little fishing village on the North East coast and I found the ocean relaxing and restorative. The smell of the salty air, the crashing of waves, the ever changing tide and the depth and breadth of the sea seem to have an incredible power that calms and heals. However, as my little bath tub filled up I began to feel extremely dizzy and sick. I could not get into the water and I didn’t want to be alone. Labour appeared to be moving faster than I had anticipated. I was feeling afraid of the pain and so decided to contact our doula, Tina.
I followed my bodies cues and feeling the need to be on all fours I knelt on on the floor, resting against the bed, face down in the duvet. I used David’s hand and leg to help me through contractions, pushing and squeezing while he held our daughter asleep on his other side. Time seemed to passed slowly and I didn’t realise just how fast things were progressing. I was gradually feeling as though I was losing the ability to speak and all I could think about was water. I wanted to drink gallons of it and float motionless in it, feeling the warm, flowing sensation around me. I visualised myself alone in a stream , the water rippling. It was now approximately 11.30 and David suggested I try the bath again. He topped it up with warm water, Sofia was awake by this point but she was relaxed too. As I tried to get up, I leaned back from all fours and the pain was intense. I rested against the wall unable to move. With David’s help and a lot of concentration I eventually made it into the bath.
As soon as the water touched my skin I felt instant relief. As I lowered myself down the water transformed the sensations. I am almost unable to describe the feeling. It was a complete rush of oxytocin. I felt as though I was inside a bubble. My mind was completely clear and more in tune than ever before. I was aware of everything around me but I couldn’t move and I couldn’t speak. The contractions just came and went and I was completely still, silent and intently focused. It is one of the most powerful moments of my life.
When Tina arrived, David went to help her with the pool leaving me alone in the bath. I thought about the idea of getting up, walking down the stairs and getting into the pool and it seemed like an impossible task. Then quite suddenly I heard a loud pop and a small gush of red came from between my legs followed by a stinging sensation. I laid back as I felt my body in complete control. A familiar sensation overtook me as I instinctively seemed to seize up and bear down. I let out a loud noise that I couldn’t hold back. Tina came straight up to the bathroom and sat by my side holding my hand. We both knew my baby would be here soon. I still felt afraid and holding her hand helped me feel strong.
As I began to push my baby out I reached down to touch him. I felt the unmistakable feeling of his soft scalp and hair. With every push I could feel his whole body. It felt as though my body was moulding itself around his, easing him into the outside world. I felt excitement as his head appeared. I could feel our baby moving under water, half way between my body and the outside world. I began pushing again, his shoulders moved out and again a short pause before the rest of his body finally emerged in the water. I immediately lifted him up and put him to my chest. The rush of emotions and pure relief was incredible.
I remained in the bath for around an hour and a half, enjoying the refreshing feeling of the water, chatting with Tina and eating toast. I delivered the placenta in the toilet, then cut Oliver’s cord. I rinsed and checked the placenta, keeping it to one side as I planned to encapsulate it myself.
Over time I will process this experience and place it’s meaning within the context of my life, as with my first birth. It feels like a true achievement, I have experienced something really special, a moment of absolute clarity, control and freedom in a world that frequently limits our choices and confines us within very narrow margins. It has been a journey that has opened my eyes to new perspectives about birth and life.