I'm never quite sure whether it's my birth story or Everley's as she really was the one who was born. On the day my 8lb 1oz baby girl came into the world she took us by surprise. She decided enough was enough and was ready to meet the world on the 28th April, which was the date I'd always said from the moment we found out we were expecting. Seems there is something to be said for mothers intuition! At 39+2 she was a few days ahead of her due date, but I'd always said my baby was going to come early (even though I tried to convince myself she'd be late just in case).
It was the third week of my maternity leave and after the perfect two weeks of getting everything sorted in the house we'd just moved into I started to get bored and had decided I was ready to meet my baby now. The day before she arrived had been a busy one, a NCT meet up in the morning where I cuddled another baby and willed my bump to get jealous (seems it worked). Then onto a long walk with the dog. We did a circuit I'd been doing regularly while on maternity leave, but always found tired me out as much as our bulldog. However on this day it turned out not to be the case, by the time I had got back home I was still full of energy and not out of breath at all which made a nice change. This was my first sign that labour might be around the corner and in the back of my mind I allowed myself to think that this might be the energy burst everyone talks about. That evening I was off to meet some mums who had experienced a home birth and little did I know I'd be adding my story quite so soon.
Looking back I am sure this meeting helped little E make her appearance the next day. After speaking with the two mums and my doula I felt full of confidence and buzzing with the excitement of meeting my baby soon. It was almost as if something clicked and the meeting gave me the motivation to think "right I'm up for this" and to meet it head on.
Once home I was still full of energy (it was gone 10pm and I'd been going to bed by 9pm the whole of my third trimester). I couldn't get to sleep and found it hard to get comfortable. I finally drifted off, then was jolted awake by my first contraction at 2am. I didn't want to get my hopes up so tried to convince myself it was just Braxton Hicks and my body preparing its self. After an hour I decided to go and make a hot water bottle to help ease the uncomfortable aches and waddled down to the kitchen. My biggest worry was trying to not wake the dog! Then I had a moment of realisation when I figured pouring boiling water into a tiny hole would be much safer with the light on and the dog would survive the early wake up call.
After laying in bed watching the minutes tick by at 3.30am I woke my partner and said, "guess what, I was right this baby is coming today". He laughed at me and responded "bloody hell you're always right", then asked if I needed anything and I told him to just hold my hand and go back to sleep. I'd promised myself I'd last until 5.30am to phone our doula and once that time arrived we made the call. Though my partner was worried about waking her and I had to reassure him that it's her job and she's pretty used to calls at all hours.
At this point, I was kneeling on the floor with my head resting on the end of the bed. My doula explained on the phone that it was early days, so to relax and have a nice soak in the bath. She'd not rush and be there mid-morning. We followed her instructions and as I submerged myself in the warm water. I felt instant relief flow through my body. After a short time the contractions came again and Ross held the shower head over my back during each one, which was lovely but because your sense of temperature goes all over the place I spent each one screaming that the water was either too hot or too cold. Poor guy!
After a few, what felt like minutes but was in fact an hour or more, Ross said he would head to the supermarket and pick up some bits we'd need for the day. But I didn't want him to go. so he said he wouldn't and thank goodness, as just then, I felt the sudden urge to throw up. I was sick everywhere. Ross texted our doula to say she needed to come over,.
Once out of the tub, I plodded down stairs to have a cuddle with our dog but she was a bit too interested in what was going on so I returned to the upstairs hall and lay on the steps hunched over. When my doula arrived she took me to the bedroom and helped me get comfortable with what seemed like 100 pillows propping me up in all directions. She gave me some lavender on a hanky and little did I know this little square of cotton would prove to be my saviour throughout the labour.
During my time on the bed, my doula would visit with cups of tepid camomile tea which I'd slurp through a straw, calming and refreshing me simultaneously. After some time on the bed (who knows how long) I returned to the living room and decided to give the birthing ball a go. My hot water bottle was taken off my back and a self heating pad stuck on in its place, I can't explain how much heat helps with the contraction pain.
This is when my first bout of hypnobirthing came into play. As each surge started to grow I bounced on the ball and imagine myself and my little child holding hands walking up a mountain, then as it peaked we'd reach the summit. When it started to subside we'd be walking back down among the grass and flowers. I used this visualisation for some time while bouncing on the ball and my contractions became very intense. My doula covered my head with a scarf and kept me topped up with lavender to breathe. From time to time she rub my back or just put pressure at the bottom of my spine when I reached the peak of a surge. At one stage I tried to stand to mix things up but the surges were too intense for this. As I balanced myself back on the ball, a tennis ball was rolled the length of my back which felt amazing.
I was in this position for what seemed like hours and was kept fed and watered throughout. Having pillows piled up on table in front of me meant that during each rest period, I could lay my head down and shut my eyes to really take advantage of any respite. I felt a pop at some point and thought my waters may have finally broken. So I plodded up to our bathroom and to my horror found some blood. It was light pink and mucous and my doula reassured me that this was show, and another great sign that things were progressing well.
We stayed up stairs after this. I swang on the door frame, which hurt a lot as your legs give you no support but I knew it would be helping my baby move down. I then hung onto the stair rails for a bit and I put one leg up on the steps, again to encourage her to make her way down and open up the birth passage. This was exhausting so then it was back to bed again for a bit.
When I walked into the room I noticed my bed had been turned into a big fluffy nest. There were blankets, pillows, a hot water bottle scattered across the mattress and with the blinds shut tight, I felt like I was going into hibernation. But thanks to this amazing, safe den, I actually slept between contractions and really stored up some much needed energy. In fact so much so I started to worry that my labour was slowing down too much and might not be progressing as it should. When I voiced my concerns to my doula, she reminded me that labour doesn't progress in a straight line and reassured me everything was as it should be.
After some time, things really started to ramp up again and I reverted back to the hypnobirthing visualisations. This time, I imagined wrapping the pain up in a box, placing it in a paper sailboat and then blowing it away across a rippling pond. When my doula returned, apparently I looked up at her and whispered "I can really feel pressure in my bottom".
This was our sign that things were really advancing. She lay with me for a while using a wooden fan to create a cool breeze every time a contraction came, this became rhythmic and hypnotic helping to keep me to stay calm and focused.
We decided I should try and walk about then eat something, not realising how far dilated I actually was. I went through transition and proclaimed that I was mental for trying to do this at home and that I wanted to head into hospital and have an epidural. I then curled up on the bottom of the stairs and my contractions really upped their game. To try and get me refocused Ross plugged in the hypnobirthing relaxation MP3 and this helped me to concentrate on the job I needed to do, which was turning off and letting my body take over. At one point in the track it said "this is just your body opening to bring your baby into the world", after hearing this I started chanting it's just my baby, it's just my baby to keep me relaxed and calm. He still takes the piss out of me for that now....
Once I had refocused myself I was told I could get into the pool and this was music to my ears! Both for the pain relief and also as I knew this meant I was nearing the end and would finally meet my baby. I was leaning forward over the side of the pool and had a new square of cotton under my nose this time doused with frankincense to give me strength and boy did it work..... If it even started to slip while I was pushing I snatched it back and inhaled deeply. It was totally my drug, With my knees under me I was slightly curled up but my doula used the hose to splash water across my back during each rise of a contraction which again helped with any pain. As we prepared for the main event, I started to get really excited and couldn't wait to meet my little one. Once I had submerged myself into the warm water I experienced an intense urge to push and followed my body's lead on this. I shouted for Ross because I didn't want him to miss anything and I knew the baby was close. and I just wanted him near me. He really helped me to focus on my breathing and looking back I actually breathed the baby most of the way down until the final bit. I thought that was the stuff of legends but it really is possible.
I bared down with one contraction And suddenly felt a pop. I panicked and wondered what it was. Later we figured it out it was my waters breaking (finally). The water in the pool was so warm that I was sweating, it didn't help that this was all in the middle of a heat wave... So I was fed ice cubes and OMG it was the most amazing feeling sliding that freezing cold cube of water into my mouth. I'd also made frozen watermelon juice which exploded in my mouth as gave instant refreshment.
By this point I knew my baby was very close and I started to wonder where the midwife was,. We'd held off calling her all day as the pattern of my contractions had been erratic and very spaced, often 6 and even 7 minutes apart But now they were regular, intense and repetitive - the feeling is coordinated and you just know it's doing something.
The midwife was on her way but I got a little bit panicked that she wasn't there as I really wanted someone to listen to my baby. Having been in labour all day I just wanted to ensure my little one wasn't stressed and was happy doing all this work too.
I then heard the familiar creak for our front gate which made me sit bolt upright with relief as it must be the midwife arriving, the next second she was knocking at the door. Once I had decided on having a home birth a couple of people had told me about an amazing midwife called Natalie Carter at the West Middlesex Hospital, I'd been reliably informed that if I got her we'd lucked out! So when the midwife knelt down beside the pool and said in hushed tones, hi I'm Natalie, every muscle in my body instantly relaxed. I knew we were in good hands and everything was going to be fine.
From then things moved very quickly. With the next surge I was told to give pulsing pushes as they could see my baby's head, stupidly the impatient side of me took over and I gave a one big push and out popped my baby's head. A few minutes later, I was then asked to try pushing again without a surge, but to no avail. So when the next one came I was asked to stand to push the rest of my baby out. I did as I was told and the next thing I knew out she came to be caught by the midwife. I later found out that my contractions were seven minutes apart at this stage and she had asked me to stand as we had to make sure I delivered the rest of the baby as soon as possible. It may sound strange but I really enjoyed this part of my labour. I'm putting it down to the fact I'm a control freak and it was the first time in nine months that I was back in the driving seat of my body! It was also the first time in that day I felt useful.
Once she'd arrived I sat back down in the water and had my little girl passed through my legs to me. It was the most special moment in my life. I know everyone says it but you just can't explain that feeling. Making eye contract with this little person took my breath away and then I looked up at Ross who still had his head in his hands and tears streaming down his cheeks. I asked what sex the baby was and was told to take a look. This is when we discovered little miss Everley was a girl, after months of everyone telling me I was having a boy. I was ecstatic and also burst into tears. I just lent back against the pool and looked at Ross and whispered "I did it" I couldn't believe my birth had been so perfect and gone to plan. You're constantly told that it will never happen.
After some time with Ross and I just staring at our little bundle and admiring every inch of her vernix-covered body, I had to get out of the pool to deliver the placenta. As the cord was very short I was too scared to try and do this with her attached, so Ross cut the cord and took the baby for some skin to skin time. I then padded over to the sofa. The baby was laid on top of me and we positioned her to feed. She latched on perfectly but sadly even this didn't help the third stage to start. I could sense the midwives were getting restless about this and I knew there was no way I'd let myself be transferred to hospital for this bit after doing all the hard work at home. So in the end I gave in and had the injection. This helped my placenta come away and all was fine. I had a second degree tear so this got stitched up, by far the worst part of the whole experience.
Everley was then laid in my arms again and I felt complete for the first time ever as we started to make the most emotional phone calls of our lives- telling the grandparents!
I can't thank my doula enough for giving me the strength to believe in myself to have such a wonderful birth experience. I am a geek and did lots of background reading ahead of my labour and made a executive decision about the type of birth I wanted. Along the way I met a host of helpful people from my hypnobirthing teacher to NCT friends and through sharing their knowledge they empowered me to have the birth experience people dream of.