Once I knew I was pregnant I was super excited and just thought about what I’d do with my baby. But I had really bad pains in the very beginning and not long after they went away, I had back pain due to my pelvis realigning or something. I got a book called The Gentle Birth Method and in it the author said that most women prepare for the baby with a nursery or clothes etc, but that they rarely prepare their bodies and minds for the birth itself. From there on, I tried to take control and accept that every bit of pain and discomfort had a reason and I could be proactive and not be a victim to all of this happening to my body. I’d ride the waves.
I prepared for the inevitable discomfort with microwave bean bags, hot water bottles, and by holding myself differently when I walked, to minimize discomfort. I kept small vomit bowls in the car, my bag, and by my bed just in case so I wouldn’t be caught out. I kept a fan next to my bed as I found that forcing my temperature down prevented me from getting sick in the first place (everyone’s different so find what works for you). I kept crackers and water by my bed, and ginger candy and ginger tea in my bag to have at work or on the go.
When the third trimester hit I had 3 bottles of Gaviscon stationed around my life. One for home, one at work, and one in the car. I used every single one and later got prescribed something stronger when I decided I was having too much.
I became obsessed with research, and I purposefully avoided anything in TV shows or films that showed birth. They all go the same way, with the mother giving birth on her back and screaming even though she’s had drugs. I told myself that won’t be me so I got it out of my head.
In my research I came across “hypnobirthing.” I went down that route because it empowered the mother to take the birth and make it her own and it gave the birthing partner a role in the prep as well as in the birth.
Looking back the person who did the least in our birth was the midwife. I adored my midwife, but the fact was, I had it covered.
Our local hospital offered a hypnobirthing course for fifty pounds, so we did that. They started by telling me facts I already knew from my research. Anatomy of the pelvis, certain positions are better for birth like squatting, all fours, etc and that walking around during labour helps move things along. The biggest thing I got from the course was how my husband and I could work together to help me relax. We didn’t quite mesh with their guided meditation in the class, but it gave me ideas and we practiced our own version of meditating at home. My hubby would rub my back or my head while I lay down or rolled on the ball going to my own safe space in my head.
I have many medical friends (doctors and med students) who were opposed to me trying a home birth for my first, especially considering my husband and I live on a boat. Their reasoning was that it’d be hell for emergency services to get to me. I felt it wouldn’t be any worse than living in a flat with no lift.
The midwife came to see the boat herself and said it wasn’t any smaller than some flats she’d been in, so she brought the kit. I had to convince my dad several times that I would be fine at home, that I did not want an epidural or any drugs because I wanted to be present in the birth, and that there was a hospital nearby should anything bad happen.
I kept telling myself “I can do this.” By the third trimester there wasn’t an ounce of fear about the birth. I was excited to prove to everyone that I could have a positive birth experience. Especially my sister who had given birth three times and kept trying to tell me what would inevitably happen. In the end I found that eradicating the fear was half the battle already done. When we are afraid our body and muscles constrict. Women are evolutionarily very vulnerable while giving birth so our bodies will fight to keep the baby inside if we are scared. We can have plans B and C and emergency plans without letting them cause us fear. That’s just being smart.
On the morning I woke up to tummy pains at 4am I dismissed them because it felt like period pain. When I started timing them I realized they were 20 minutes apart and regular. This was it! I was so excited I stopped trying to sleep and we put things into action. Hubby cleared the living room of dog beds, and anything else. We called the midwife, and then sat down to watch Star Trek on Netflix with a bowl of cereal while we waited.
I texted my family (who were back in America) updates as well as my friend in Scotland. When the first midwife came they were every 13-15 min. She looked at me during a contraction. I didn’t speak during the contractions because I was focused on my breathing. She decided it wasn’t the real thing because I wasn’t screaming. She said it could take days and to call if it got down to every 10 min. Then she left. Within 20 minutes of her leaving, they went to every 10 min. We had to pause the TV during them now because they were more intense and I needed to focus hard on my breathing and remind myself that every contraction was doing good. I thought about the path my baby was doing nuzzling closer and closer and how the contractions were encouraging my body to open a bit more for the baby.
We called the midwife back. The first who came had just finished her night shift and mine was on duty. What luck that the one I had appointments with who also taught the hypnobirthing course was on.
Hubby had to speak to her on the phone, though, because I needed to focus. She asked if we needed her or pain killers. I said I could handle it at the moment. She said to call if it got to every 5 min. As soon as we hung up the contractions went back to back.
From 10 min. to constant with hardly a break. We stopped timing them and called her back. It took her about half an hour to arrive and I was beyond speaking. I had my eyes closed and was just focused on breathing. At no point did I scream or cry, but I swear the pain was more manageable when I had my hubby’s hand to hold.
Midwife came in and saw me lying down on the couch with my eyes closed still in my pyjamas (my hopes of walking around during labour never happened. It just progressed too fast to need to walk). I didn’t let her stick her hand inside me until she gave me the gas and air. I was a bit short at that point. I knew what I wanted and I didn’t have time to mince words. I needed to focus on my body.
When she finally did stick her hand inside me she said I was at least 7 cm dilated. I needed help getting the pyjama bottoms down. If I had it to do over again, I’d decline the dilation check. It broke my concentration to have that happen. I felt the need to push while still lying on the couch and my hubby noticed so they spread out the plastic shower curtain.
As soon as I got my knees on the shower curtain my waters broke in an unmistakeable gush of fluid. The next time I got the urge to push I did and it felt good. The entire time the contractions were happening to me and I had to pretend like it was ok that these intense feelings were happening to me and just breathe it out, but when it was time to push it was like I could finally do something about the sensations.
I could answer them back - by pushing - and it felt right. I was on gas and air from this point onward, breathing as needed. This part blurred together. I was on my hands and knees. I know at some point I evacuated my bowels for which I apologized, there was no stopping it. I’m not quite sure when the second midwife arrived, but she was there when I was on the shower curtain.
They were trying to put the sensor wand on my uterus to check on the baby and asked me to lean back after the next contraction for them to check, but there was no “after the contraction.” It all blurred into one and I only cared about finishing what I needed to
do. By this point my husband and the midwives were having a conversation that I mostly tuned out, but I was glad the attention wasn’t on me because I didn’t want to talk.
I felt the head crown and I’ll admit, I did get scared at this point. I sucked the gas and tried to push slightly hoping I could ease it out without it hurting or tearing me. It turns out it wasn’t possible. I didn’t tell anyone I could feel the head. I wanted to do it on my own. But after maybe 20 min. or trying and failing to push it out or hold it in the midwife stuck her hand down and said “I can feel a head!”
I was thinking, “Yeah I can feel it too!”
She asked me if I wanted to feel it and started to guide my hand down there. I pulled away and said I was good. I kept sucking gas, but the gas didn’t help with that last part. There was nothing to do but push and hope for the best. I think the reason I was scared at that point was that I didn’t know how big the head was so I didn’t know if I was at the peak of stretching or only a third of the way.
This pain was sharp and not the internal kind that I had coped with the entire labour. I think the last thing I said before the birth was, “I changed my mind, let’s adopt.”
With the midwife’s coaching I finally just pushed and my baby fell out of me and face-planted to the floor about 6 inches below. There was a pause while the 4 of us looked down to see this grey lump.
I was thinking, “Is that the..??...it is!” As soon as I realized I scooped my baby up and brought it to my chest barely registering it had a penis confirming the previously unknown gender.
I ripped my shirt off and put him against me for skin-to-skin. He didn’t cry, but his eyes were open as slits and he was breathing. I stayed squatting there on the balls of my feet with my thigh muscles burning from use while I held my son next to my husband who looked on with me. The midwife asked if we had a name. I looked at the hubby. I was certain I wanted to use the boy name I’d found before the conception still, but he had to like it too.
Hubby nodded and said the name. I was pretty content.
But the pain in my muscles was too much and I needed to pass him over so I could reposition. I had previously said I didn’t want to cut the cord before the placenta was out, but the cord wasn’t long enough to hand him to anyone else.
The midwife assured me that we had already achieved “delayed cord clamping” and all the blood was finished pumping. She then cut the cord and took the baby so I could move. I repositioned onto my knees in a more restful position. The midwife asked if I wanted drugs to hurry the placenta along. I didn’t. It came out within the next couple of minutes. It looked like a dead Ood from Doctor Who.
This next part I didn’t plan for. I was a complete mess. My legs were covered in blood and my own faeces. The hubby got cloths and helped me wipe down. People told me that after the birth you’re so high on adrenaline that you don’t feel pain. Well I felt it. I immediately took paracetamol for the first time since the conception. (I refused in pregnancy).
I was completely naked at this point in front of the 2 midwives, but by that point it didn’t seem to matter. They had to help him prep my underwear with the heavy post-birth pads (‘cause he’d never used feminine products before). If I had it to do over I’d buy the disposable underwear beforehand. I didn’t have it at that point. So I put on my own nappy and bathrobe and sat on the couch to reclaim my baby. He had started crying because he was cold even though they wrapped him in towels. I put him against my skin with the towels over.
My baby was still cold so hubby had to take off his shirt and put on his bathrobe to do skin to skin with our son. It was at this point that I finally texted my family (who knew I was in labour) that I was fine and we had a healthy son. The midwives showed me how to breastfeed.
After that all I needed to do was rest and bask in the after-glow. We introduced baby to the dogs, snapped some pics, and called the family once I was decent on top. We’d pre-bought food, snacks, and afterward ordered a pizza. The birth was at 3:16 pm so the midwives were gone by 5. All in all a very considerate baby.
Sometimes people ask me if I’d do a home birth again. I wouldn’t give birth any other way. Being able to call the shots kept me in control and confident and made me feel completely empowered.
There are only a few things I can do well, and I feel that birth is one of them, even if it’s not a transferrable skill. I wouldn’t trade it.
If/when I do it again I’d change:If/when I do it again I’d change:
- no dilation check
- disposable underwear pre-ready with pads
- get a doggy sitter to take dogs straight after birth ‘cause they were a lot of extra work on my husband who already had to look after me
- Just push when the crowning starts. There’s nothing to be gained from trying to hold it in. It made my area swollen because he was crowning for too long because I was scared of tearing.