It has taken me a little while to get an opportunity to write this down as Polly is our fifth baby, so as you can imagine life is very busy, however I promised that I would share after receiving support from the Induction of Labour group on Facebook, which was so helpful at the end of my pregnancy.
I wanted to share my birth story as not only over the course of this pregnancy, but also my previous four, I found reading other people’s birth stories really helped to empower me to have faith in my body and the decisions that I was making, particularly as my pregnancy continued, and continued to continue until way, way past my estimated due date.
I had planned a home birth with this baby as aside from my first baby being born in the hospital, the following three were all planned home births, although my second birth with my son ended in a transfer to hospital and him being born in the back of the ambulance, baby number 3 and 4 were both peaceful home water births, and this was also my plan this time around. My other four babies were all born between 41 and 41+5 weeks, so when I went for my dating scan during this pregnancy and the EDD that they calculated did not coincide with my dates at all I anticipated that this would result in my pregnancy being very post dates this time and I was correct!
My fantastic community midwife was aware that I didn’t want to discuss induction at all until at least 42 weeks so 42 weeks came and went and I was in and out of ABC for CTGs and extra scans, all of which were totally normal. This period of being over 42 weeks was incredibly stressful.
It was very difficult to deal with societies perception that women are a ticking time bomb after they pass their EDD, I was used to comments about ‘how long are they going to leave you' and ‘they won’t let or allow you to go much further surely’ after having four previous pregnancies that continued past my EDD, but being over 42 weeks really was something else.
Constant comments from well meaning people on every school run, or the cashier at the supermarket really can have an impact on how women feel about their ability to birth their baby, and really begin to evoke a fear that our bodies are incapable or broken if Labour doesn’t happen by the due date. People really did look at me like I had three heads when I said that I was over 42 weeks, but of course this was only according to the scan date which I was certain wasn’t correct, however this didn’t prevent it from being mentally draining .
As the pregnancy approached 43 weeks the obstetric team were particularly eager for me to accept an induction. However I was totally immersed in the evidence around post dates induction due to (not so coincidentally) writing a research proposal on this very subject towards the end of my pregnancy. I therefore felt totally comfortable with my decision to continue the pregnancy and allow labour to begin when nature intended to (although it did feel like it would never happen). Also as a mother, I had confidence in my body to birth just as it had four times previously, although it did take reading lots of birth stories and reading positive affirmations to keep my head in this positive space.
At 42+6 I had another scan and CTG, all remained well and once again I declined an induction. The lovely midwife performed a sweep and she was gave me a lovely aromatherapy blend of neroli, lemon and clary sage. She was really lovely and positive which was really needed by this point. That night I sat on my sofa crying my eyes out at a birth video on my phone which consisted of lots of women meeting their babies for the first time.
I was asking my husband why this baby doesn’t want to come out and was so emotional that I didn’t even eat my chocolate cake and custard (which is very unlike me). When I went to bed that night after rubbing in the oil I was hoping that my emotional breakdown (plus the prospect of a full moon appearing in that early hours of the morning) were both positive signs, and they sure were!
At 43 weeks I awoke around 4.30am with a strong tightening, I didn’t get my hopes up too much as I had previously had lots of Braxton hicks particularly in the early hours, so I rubbed in some more of the aromatherapy oil and went back to sleep. My sleep was very fractious and I was having the odd sporadic tightening, but at 6am I woke to a message from my friend visiting from Australia who wanted to come and visit the following day, and thought to myself she is going to get to meet the baby after all.
By 7am I was up and out of bed getting the older children ready for school and nursery, not surprisingly there were no tightenings whatsoever at this point, mornings are usually pretty hectic but on this particular morning we also had builders outside with lots of noisy equipment filling in the hole around our stop tap drain out on the driveway, which had broken and left us with low water pressure. Obviously this wasn’t ideal when planning a water birth so we were joking that the baby had waited all of this time for the water pressure to be repaired which it now was! My husband did the school run but decided against going to work as we thought today was probably going to be the day.
The second the house was empty I lay on the bed and got a long strong tightening (aren’t our bodies clever) and I pottered around the house cleaning, tidying and dancing to smooth FM. My previous two labours had began with my membranes rupturing and contractions not starting until 24 hours afterwards so I just expected this time to be the same, however it was very different. As the morning continued I had random tightenings, maybe one or two an hour, no pattern to it whatsoever so continued doing what I was doing and my husband took the puppy out for a walk and to kennelgate for a wash.
At approx 11.45am I rang my husband to get a wiggle on and get back to blow up the pool just so it would be ready for later when I needed it, he was on his way back when I started to get tightenings a little closer together so I decided to ring my midwife to give her the heads up that something was happening but it probably would be much later on, this was shortly after midday. My husband came back and started to blow up the pool etc, I carried on cleaning and dancing around and about 12.45 I started to experience strong, intense contractions and thankfully my midwife arrived just before 1pm. I instantly felt safe and relieved and all of a sudden I was in established Labour but able to talk and laugh with my midwife in between contractions whilst my husband filled the pool, got the aromatherapy diffuser out and bustled around trying to make this lovely optimal birthing environment we had been planning for so long.
Shortly after 1pm, I lay down on the sofa for a quick antenatal check and with the next contraction I jumped off the sofa onto my knees where I had an extremely intense contraction, after this my midwife thought it would be a good idea to get the entonox and equipment out the car so her and my husband popped out for that quickly whilst I messaged my amazing friend and caseholding student midwife to come over.
I grabbed an inco pad and put it on the floor under me but didn’t get out anything else as I have no history of precipitate labour and still thought it was going to be a while, despite the intensity of the contractions.
The entonox was next to me by the next contraction which I was very relieved about, and the contraction was much more manageable with it. The next contraction (as I listened to my midwife singing along to smooth FM in the background) I began to feel pressure but I thought it was maybe just the entonox making me feel disorientated as I couldn’t possibly be feeling pressure yet.
Sure enough with the following contraction the pressure increased and my membranes ruptured, my midwife shouted my husband (who was trying to put on my extensive 59 track birth playlist haha) to come and help shove something under my legs to protect our lovely light grey carpet!
My husband was slightly confused by this as I was laughing and joking a couple of minutes before and all of a sudden the baby was coming. I felt tremendous pressure with the next contraction and asked my midwife if anything was visible (which it wasn’t). The fetal ejection reflex then totally took over and despite my brain over thinking (what if the baby is OP, I’m probably only 3cm, that’s why nothing is visible, why am I just kneeling in my front room opening my bowels just because I’ve had a few puffs of gas and air) sure enough with the next contraction I birthed the head. I really felt the internal rotation of the shoulders which I don’t remember feeling with my other births and her body followed swiftly after at 1.25pm!!
I was totally shocked at how quickly it happened and couldn’t quite comprehend how I was looking at my baby lying on my living room floor when not long before I was only having sporadic tightenings. My husband announced that she was a girl (our fourth girl, our son is now very outnumbered ) and the pool had enough warm water in so I scooped her up, removed my clothes and we got in the pool together to wait for the placenta and get to know our newest addition.
My friend and caseholding student arrived shortly after so sadly missed the birth I was still blessed to have her there to part of the beautiful oxytocic bubble that we were in during the first couple of hours of Polly's life. The warm water felt like heaven and Polly was really calm staring at me and feeding, I wish that you could bottle up and sell that amazing euphoric high that I felt during that time, no feeling compares to it at all.
After an hour and no sign of the placenta I stood up in the pool and with a couple of little pushes I birthed the placenta with very minimal blood loss of 100mls! I then cosied up on the sofa for more skin to skin and continued the tea and biscuit fest whilst my midwife did the notes and cleared up, amazingly our carpet came out unscathed! My friend (and caseholding student) and I tried to take some lovely pictures where you make a heart shape with the cord, but we were terrible at it (despite it being as long as a skipping rope) and didn’t want Polly to get cold so she tied the cord with a cord tie and my husband cut the cord. Polly weighed in at 8lb 6oz, slightly heavier than my girls but lighter than her 9lb brother.
The children came home from school and didn’t even notice that I was snuggling the baby on the sofa, they thought she was one of my daughter’s dolls at first but were all overjoyed to find that they had a new baby sister, they have all been besotted ever since. I am glad that I trusted in the process and made the choices that I felt were right for my baby , me and my family. This pregnancy really taught me much more than I could have realised and the conversations that were had after I reached 42 weeks have certainly led me to consider further how well informed women actually are when they are making decisions regarding their care.
Polly was certainly worth the wait and I feel incredibly blessed to have had such amazingly positive birth experiences where I felt supported and empowered by the people close to me and also my amazing midwife who I am extremely lucky to have had for all five pregnancies , who has attended 3 out of the 5 births. If it weren’t for her planting the seed of home birth during my second pregnancy my births, subsequent family size and career path may all have been entirely different. Continuity of carer really does promote positive outcomes and I have received the absolute gold standard of midwifery care thanks to the NUH midwives, for that I will be forever grateful. I hope to see the day when that is the norm for all women and I look forward to continuing being part of the amazing process that is pregnancy and birth for the rest of my life, but from the other side