I had the birth I had dreamed of and visualised during my whole pregnancy. A natural birth in our own home.
I felt some surges starting at 11pm on Tuesday 25th July. They were manageable and exciting. I would sometimes go on all fours and other times sort of doze through them and hug my husband Ben.
I did this all night, very calmly listening to the hypnobirthing tracks and getting rest. By the morning, around 7am it was all about getting prepared... I had some porridge, a banana smoothie, laid out my oils and put the Jungle Book movie on for happy vibes.
At my baby shower I had asked friends and family to write me birth affirmations. These made me smile and helped build my strength. There was no fear, just happiness (I hilariously had a shower and did my hair - I even put blusher on, I mean seriously what was I thinking?!)
I called my doula as I sat leaning on all fours on the sofa. She said she would come whenever I wanted but that things would become longer and more intense so I held off. They did get stronger and when they did, my doula said she'd make her way over.
When she arrived she told me how brilliantly I was handling the surges - every time I felt one, she said 'you've done so many of these now Luise, you can do another.'
I used the lessons in my yoga class, about inhaling peace and exhaling tension, as well as stretching and moving through the surges. I started to feel pushing sensations about 8am, at which point my husband and the doula decided to call the midwife.
I was excited. I remember thinking was she coming, was this it? The pushing sensations were tough and there was a great tension in my lower back. My husband couldn't get hold of a midwife - they took ages to arrive - a couple of hours, and when they did - my doula mentioned that she thought the pushing sensations may not be the baby coming but that the baby might be back to back. This meant I needed to relax, to go back to my calm oxtoycic state rather than being all adrenaline-fuelled and ready to birth a baby.
This got me down. But I was determined to try and move the baby into the right position, so I walked in the rain in the garden, doing high lunges and leaning against the window pane of the house when I felt a surge. We also used a rebozo scarf which was wrapped around my waist and the doula tugged it side to side.
It was close to 1pm when the midwives said they wanted to do an internal check to see how open I was. I really did not want this and had stated it in my birth plan. They put a lot of pressure on me but I stuck to my plan and said I was happy for the baby's heart beat to be checked and my blood pressure but that was all.
I laid on the bed with my husband behind me, and my little dog Oscar sitting next to me and just relaxed - this went on for some time and the midwives became more and more anxious to do a vaginal examination.
I kept running into my en suite in my bedroom, slamming the door shut with the lights off, saying just give me give more surges and then you can check. The surges were tough - but they made me feel so powerful and strong and amazed by my body. I would go as far as to say I even I enjoyed the surges at some points.
Luckily I didn't have any internal checks. The midwife periodically checked the babies heartbeat and suddenly noticed she had moved to the other side and was in the optimal position for birth.
This was just the boost I needed, moments later I felt the waters were about to burst, and the pushing sensations began again - the midwife confirmed this was the case - and I literally jumped out of the bedroom and sprinted (yes really) to the warm lovely pool in the living room.
I said 'let's do this team! Let's birth this baby!'
I used my lavender flannel and a calm low hum, with my Hypno music constantly on the same track.
My husband in front of me, my doula to my left holding my dog Oscar, two midwives (one wonderful male midwife called Jamie who made me laugh and a lovely lady called Maggie who had such a calm gentle reassuring voice). I was laughing and kept saying, 'I can't believe this is it!'
I knew all I had to do now was listen to my body. I had come so far and I wasn't afraid - just excited. I kept asking for reassurance, saying things like 'is this feeling normal - is this ok?'
Everyone was smiling and calm. I felt great and so brave. I kissed my husband and thanked him for making this baby with me. I said 'I can do this.' He said ''you already are Lulu.'
Thirty minutes later ur beautiful baby girl Matilda was born into the water. The midwife said 'Luise, pick up your baby...' and so I did.
I held her to my chest and kept her body under the water.
I've never felt a surge of love and energy like it. We knew she was a girl from the scan, but I was convinced she was a boy because she'd looked just like my husband. But she was indeed a little girl. The midwife asked have you got a name - and me and my husband said 'yes, 'Matilda!'
Part two of this story is a shame, and a complete contrast to the birth. It happens to very few women and I'm grateful I had done my research and knew that this could happen as when it did, I knew I would be in safe hands.
The midwives asked if I could stand, get out of the pool and onto the sofa to lay down. But as I did, there was a big gush of blood. Then the placenta came away, and there was more bleeding. I lost over 2 litres. Ben cut the cord. There was more blood and then the midwife Jamie had to massage my tummy and help the uterus contract Now was time to trust the medics and not just myself and I told them I understood that.
I was still very calm throughout. We had to get into the ambulance (I live next to the Shooter's Hill children's centre and my midwife and the ladies I know there were smiling and crying as they were worried about me). Once at hospital, I had to go under general anaesthetic. That was upsetting because it meant being separated from the baby, but it had to be done.
However, we returned home the following day and it's been an absolute whirlwind. A tough - happy - incredible - exhausting - magical week, and I've never been more proud of anything I've ever done.