13 days ago our gorgeous boy Hudson arrived right on his due date, Tuesday 15th March (so he’s one of the 4% of babies who arrive on their due date!) at home as planned. The birth was amazing, intense and just an incredible experience for all of us.
The delay in me writing about the birth is due to looking after the gorgeous little man and breastfeeding on demand since his arrival…I am currently typing this one-handed for that very reason! Luckily breastfeeding has gone really well for us so far and he latched on straight away and I’m not finding the broken sleep too bad at the moment as he’s already sleeping for a good 2-3 hours in between his middle-of-the-night feeds with his cluster feeding now happening from 6am onwards and every evening. *Update* I am now finishing writing this two days after starting the post and we had a pretty sleepless night last night. I have been feeding him lying down so neither of us wake up too much to feed but I think we both nodded off twice during feeds which meant a very disturbed two hours or trying to feed from one side! I either need to sit up with him if I am feeling tired or find a new position to keep him latched on if we do fall asleep.
On the day it all started at about 11am when I started to feel period-type pains fairly regularly. They weren’t overly painful and I waited for about half an hour to see if they carried in before texting my little sister to see if she thought it sounded like the start of labour! I wanted a second opinion before getting too excited or ahead of myself. She seemed to agree that it sounded like the start – wow! I tried to stay calm and found a contraction timer in one of the pregnancy apps on my phone to start timing them. That’s when I realised that they were regular already – every 5 minutes and lasting for a minute. Everything I had read about spotting labour signs told me that this was definitely established labour. Where were all the “pre-labour” signs for days before to give us some notice? Maybe the five miles we walked the day before helped get everything started…!
About an hour later I phoned the labour ward as the contractions were definitely getting more intense. However, I found them fairly dismissive as I sounded nice and calm on the phone and was breathing through my contractions so they thought I was in very early labour and thy didn’t even bother telling the community midwives as I found out an hour later! I continued to bounce on the birthing ball and practice my breathing exercises during the contractions and let Sam know that things were starting to happen just in case he had to leave work early. Another hour went by and things had definitely progressed again so I phoned the labour ward again and insisted that they told the community midwives as they could be up to an hour away and I didn’t want to risk them being told too late and not getting to us in time!
By 15:30 the contractions had definitely intensified and I was doing a lot of walking up and down the stairs and pacing to take my mind off each one. Sam phoned me to see how I was getting on and I decided now was the time to ask him to leave work. I felt quite tearful all of a sudden when I asked him to “come home now” as I was admitting that my labour was progressing and that I needed some support now – a sudden mild panic feeling swept over me for a few seconds when I spoke to him. All normal I am sure as I had no clue what was going to happen in the next few hours! He got home by 16:30 by which time I had got in the bath to try and relieve the pain. That didn’t help me at all really as lying on my back with my bump out of the water didn’t offer me any comfort where I was feeling the contractions! So I had a shower instead as I suddenly decided that I had to wash my hair as I had no idea when I would next have a chance to do so! That is honestly one of my top labour tips as you probably won’t feel like having a shower the day after giving birth and, to be honest, you won’t have time whilst you try to get used to feeding on day one!
When I got out the shower a community midwife arrived to see me and she took my blood pressure and felt the baby and, luckily, confirmed that I was definitely in labour and that it was all going well so far. I then got Sam to put the TENS machine on my back and get my labour playlist going on the iPad as the contractions got worse. I remember Sam then rushing around the house tidying, sorting and getting all of the birth pool bits ready in the living room. I was pleased he was keeping himself busy as, as the contractions got worse I didn’t really want to be spoken to, touched or bothered in any way! I just liked the comfort of him being in the house. Poor thing.
By the time it was 17:00 I got Sam to phone the labour ward again as I knew something has suddenly changed and we were getting closer to meeting the baby. After they spoke to me they realised this was “it” and got the on call community midwife to phone me to let me know her and her colleague would be with us in about an hour. The second I got off the phone I asked (…OK, told!) Sam to inflate and fill the pool as I knew I’d want to be in it pretty soon. I couldn’t even wait for the pool to be full before getting in and being in the water did help with the now very intense contractions as I could kneel and lean on the sides of the pool during each one and lie and float in the soothing water to rest in between.
One thing I will say is that the breathing exercise from my hypnobirthing book were so helpful and really got me through every contraction by keeping me calm and giving me something to focus on instead of the pain. Those exercises and the positive messages in the book definitely kept me feeling and appearing so calm and made the midwives think I had a long way to go yet due to my cool exterior. When the midwives arrived at around 19:00 Sam handed them my birth plan straight away to let them know what I wanted and it had the planned outcome – the calm, quiet atmosphere in the house was maintained as they read through my positive plan thanking them for coming to support us. I would highly recommend writing a very positive birth plan about what you do want to happen rather than what you don’t want. After all, they are coming into your home to help you give birth, the last thing they need is a list of bullet points about everything you don’t want them to do! In fact, my birth plan has been taken by the lead midwife to use as an example in her future antenatal classes, what a great outcome.
It took about 15 minutes for the midwife to be able to take my blood pressure etc. as the contractions were coming thick and fast by this point. About 15 minutes later they asked me if I wanted to be examined as I had said in my plan that I didn’t want to be if we could avoid it. But by this point I was desperate to know I wasn’t too far from actually giving birth as I was finding the contractions very intense by this point. The last thing I needed was to be told I was “only 3cm” but by this point it was a risk I was willing to take! I also asked for the gas and air at the same time but I really didn’t like how it made me feel – after a few deep breaths I felt totally light-headed like I was really drunk all of a sudden and I could easily been sick for the first few minutes.
Over the next 10 minutes the contractions suddenly changed again as the pressure changed to being lower down and I instantly knew this was the baby being pushed through the birth canal. This is when the only shouting/grunting and my one scream happened – all I can say is that the noises you make are completely involuntary and primal! Along with my shouts my breathing must have changed as I vaguely remember hearing the midwives saying something to Sam about it – I was almost oblivious to everything going on as I was definitely in my “birthing zone” and completely focussed. They asked my permission again to examine me but I could tell he was right there ready to be born and that it was too late to examine me. I told her as much and she had a feel and confirmed that the head was crowning, I think she was as surprised as me! They advised me to put the gas and air down to concentrate on pushing so I grabbed hold of Sam’s hands as I felt the next contraction building and pushed as hard as possible and within three pushes he was out. As I turned around to see him it was amazing seeing him just floating peacefully under the water before he was handed to me. As I held him he was silent and calm, almost as if he didn’t realise he’d been born thanks to the water birth, it was incredible. All the pain genuinely is forgotten the second you see your amazing baby.
I couldn’t recommend having a home water birth highly enough. Everything about it was brilliant: two dedicated midwives; you’re in your own comfortable environment and this helps your birthing hormones thrive; the water is so calming for the baby as it gives them such a natural transition into the world and once they are born you can then go and cuddle in your own bed, bliss! It did take Sam until 2am to tidy and clean up (I won’t go into gory details!), empty deflate and pack away the pool and wash all of our towels that were used during the birth but he was prepared for the aftermath and him being ok with that was a big part of our decision to have a home birth.