Mari and Jill asked me to be their doula fairly late on. They had a wonderful IM Susan booked and as Mari is also a fellow doula, it was a family and birth I was very much looking forward to supporting.
Antenatally we worked through some of the feelings Mari and Jill had been left with after their youngest son’s birth which ended in an unnecessary c section. Both Mari and Jill had been left very traumatised by everything which had happened and in quite different ways but they were both absolutely certain things should be different this time.
Mari put a great deal of thought and effort in to trying to cover all bases to ensure if labour headed down a path they really didn’t want to walk, things would still be on her terms. She had a few knock backs along the way, some of which were pretty shoddily timed as the family were also coming to terms with losing Charlie, their foster babe.
Despite all of this one thing remained as plain as the nose on your face. This was a very strong couple and Jill’s desire to ‘get it right’ and protect Mari was unquestionable and heartwarming.
As we moved towards (and as predicted, past!) Mari’s due date we had worked through as much as we could, come to a place of what felt to me like deep understanding and were all very much looking forward to and focusing on what we wanted – a peaceful family home birth.
Mari text me on the 25th April to say she had felt some ‘twinges’ but nothing major. I saw Mari the next day when she came to covet my garden, eat Devonshire Splits and collect a bigger birth pool. We saw each other again on Tuesday 30th at the One To One midwives open day and I knew that would be the last time I saw her before she birthed. She let me know again later that evening she was twinging – a bit stronger than previously but again nothing major. She must have taken them a bit more seriously because she rang me to get ‘the bat phone’ number that evening and we exchanged our usual banter texts and she said she would check in with me in the morning. My other client was due to head to the hospital for induction on Wednesday morning so the other thing I was going was constantly updating Hannah, Mari’s back up doula, on the situation with my other client and Mari. Jill also texted excitedly as she sensed things were probably starting. I told her to get Mari a stiff drink, leave her to it (she said she was ‘oof and breathing through it’!) and get to bed. She seemed surprised but I told her this could be VERY early on and to think back to last time and that they needed to ignore things for as long as humanly possible. I sent her this text:
“If I were with you now I’d give you a big squeeze, flash my (easy now…) winning smile and tell you this. It will be amazing. You will be enough xx”
Mari updated in the morning that things had simmered over night and that they would be going about their normal day. Jill expanded that this meant a trip to get Mari’s eyelashes permed….
By this time my phone was beginning to look like an extra digit to my hand. My day was spent checking in with Hannah the back up and updates from Mari and Jill and also from my other client who by now was in hospital and had started the induction process.
I told Jill to make sure Mari was as rested as poss, took a nap and ate and drank well. Jill said the plan was to go to the osteopath then home to bed at 6pm and I told her to check in with me before she went to bed.
Just before 5pm Jill text that things were ‘proper hotting up’ and that Mari had some bloody show. I put Hannah our back up doula officially on stand by at this point but I had a strong feeling I would be at the birth and that things would be further along than they realised or than Mari would dare to admit to herself. Jill and I kept in touch on text which was funny. I was giving Jill things to do but obviously too many!! My favourite being ‘fucking hell, nap or count?! Which one please?’. Eventually we established her contractions were probably about 2 in 10. Just as Jill had been given permission by Mari (and me!) to nap she text to say Mari wanted to speak to Susan as the contractions were feeling pushy. All I could think was I will piss myself if this is an unplanned Freebirth because Mari is doing so well going into denial about it being proper labour!! I offered to set off as I thought to would probably be positional and would be able to make some suggestions. Jill let me know that Susan had confirmed she suspected the same and they would try her suggestions to help the baby turn. I suspected Mari was thinking waaaayyyy too much but wouldn’t be able to do anything until I was there. I sent this message to Jill:
“Keep doing what you’re doing. I agree with Susan. Baby turning into a nice position. Try encourage Mari to stop ‘thinking’ and just let it happen. Tell her I said she’s to switch off her doula brain and get out of her neocortex and in to the airing cupboard – she will know what I mean. Here when you need x”
At 8pm Jill text to say Mari wanted me to come and maybe try some rebozo. On my way I checked in with Hannah and also my other client. Nothing to report so I headed to Hebden.
I let myself in at 8.30pm. Jill made some tea and we all chatted about where they felt they were up to. I sat down and observed for about 10 mins or so over a brew. Mari was not yet in ‘labour land’ but her contractions said to me we could easily get her there. She was standing for the contraction, with her back against the wall lifting her bump and Jill supporting her in front. She looked quite tense and was trying to ‘get away’ from the peak of the contraction as it was becoming expulsive. The baby was definitely turning! The she would sit and yawn in between, then get up again and lean on the wall….this wasn’t going to facilitate her going into labour land. I asked for her rationale behind the standing and leaning on the wall and she was talking about the angle of her pelvis and things being too much to the left in this position and not far enough forward in that position……woooooaaaahhhh….. Too much thinking! I told her (bossy doula) that she needed to stop over analysing and I let her finish her brew (kind doula) and then said I think we need to change tac. The main things that needed to happen were a position she could rest in between contractions in and her brain needed to be off! So I said were going to all stop talking for starters – cue Jill looking scared. I also said its too light in here even with lamps on so they needed to go off. I said her if its not working we will try something else (compromising doula) but I wanted to try her on all fours over the ball or sofa. She opted for a nest of cushions on the floor and head into pillows on the sofa. We wrapped her in blankets and she soon got warm and started to really rest in between. I also wanted her to try to focus her breathing more which we did together a couple of times stood then again continued with when kneeling. This seemed to help her too.
By 10.10pm she was well into established and active labour and starting involuntary pushing with the whole contraction rather than just the peak. She was in good spirits and Jill massaged her back while I started to get the pool sorted. I honestly wondered would we get it filled as the new boiler was proving to be fabulous at providing hot water but there was bugger all cold! Jill and I faffed about and Mari did lots of contractions with us bobbing in and out to the pool and me thinking how to get round the pool issues. I think it was around this time I told Mari I would shortly make her dreams come true by asking her to take her knickers off for me. She said ‘that’s your dream honey’…touché! All the time she was very calm and focused in between, politely asking how long the pool would be. Had it not been for me and Jill tramming up and down stairs with buckets of cold water it would have been a very serene atmosphere! Jo woke briefly and I went to him as Jill was downstairs getting water. She then went up and settled him. When I was in the room I would occasionally look to see if there were any signs of baby coming with Jill looking eagerly at me and there started to be some anal gaping…in a moment in the kitchen Jill dared to ask if I thought this was it and I said I wouldn’t be surprised if Flower would be born today….cue big grins!
About 10.30pm Mari asked if it was too soon to call Susan….erm…no. So Jill text Susan and she said she would be 20 mins or so. She arrived with her little basket of tricks at about 11pm and quietly observed the scene. I was in the kitchen seeing to the pool which was almost ready and Jill was by Mari’s side. Susan felt the babies position (perfect!) and listened in (more perfection!) and we all just let Mari keep doing what she was doing….it was working exactly as it should.
The pool was ready and Mari was relieved to get in. I had turned all the lights of except the main kitchen one and the fairy lights. Mari’s blessingway banners hung above her in the pool as she pushed her baby earthside.
Susan observed with a mirror (not the massive bike mirror Jill had kindly provided) and the signs were it wouldn’t be long. She encouraged Mari to feel how close Flower was as she could see his head was just inside. Mari felt inside and said ‘wow’ and how she was going to do it. Jill was thrilled and excited and Mari asked if she wanted to feel. Susan said to Jill to come round to where she was standing and she would be able to see Flower’s head when Mari pushed. Her face was an absolute picture when she saw the head appearing and she came back to Mari to tell her how amazing it looked and carried on supporting her by her side as she hung over the pool. She offered sips of water to Mari and I offered sips to her…Susan quietly watched and waited.
Jo woke up about this time so Jill went to bring him down and settled him on the sofa with a blanket and snack while I was with Mari. I said to her that she had only gone and done it and she was saying how amazing everything was. Susan told her she was an amazing woman. We were almost there.
Flowers head would almost crown then slip gently back so Mari was stretching beautifully. She was a bit concerned that the head wasn’t quite coming and wondered if she should change positions (get back in the airing cupboard you!) Susan said she could try standing a little and jiggling but that wasn’t an option so I suggested swaying her hips a bit which she did gently. She suddenly got cramp in both thighs and Susan and I quickly leaned in the pool to try to massage it out….I almost joined her in there…
I continued taking photos and we all gently encouraged her. Jo decided he was joining us at that point which was actually perfect timing. He sat watching from the kitchen sofa as the head was born. Mari knelt back on her legs (almost sitting on the Flower’s head!) as his head was born and Susan told her ‘that’s the head out’. Jill was so excited and Jo came forward to join her as Mari pushed out her baby’s body. There was a little fluffy cloud of blood and she reached down to bring him up to the surface. 12.01am. She did it.
Flower baby was in perfect condition and let out a little pussy cat cry quite quickly and we were all thrilled. Kisses all round.
The cord was quite short so after it had finished pulsing Susan cut it at Mari’s request and Jill and flower had some skin to skin while Susan and Mari were talking about the third stage. I got the kettle on, washed up and got towels for Mari and baby.
Mari and Susan headed upstairs to the bathroom so she could sit on the loo to encourage the placenta to come while I stayed downstairs and started the pool clean up. Jill and Jo sat on the sofa snuggling their new baby boy then Jo decided it was chocolate biscuit time so we all got stuck in with a brew.
Jill took flower babe up to Mari so she could breastfeed to help the placenta which apparently did the trick. There were some membranes left behind which Susan careful removed. The placenta was sent down to me and I got on with the business of making a smoothie. Once prepared I took it up to Mari who was showering and continued the clean up operation downstairs while talking to Jo and Jill as they were in and out. I kicked Walker out for a wee too as I remember my dogs getting forgotten at my homebirth and pissing all over the floor…(proactive doula).
Once everything was reasonably ship shape downstairs I was conscious I could be called out to my other client any time so I went and asked Mari if I could take my leave. She was snuggling with her babe who I then was told was Pip. We had a natter then I said my goodbyes and left…..job done
I got home and into bed at 2.15am (happy doula)…..then the phone rang at 3.15am….(waaaaaaaa!)
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