Zoe's story - Levi's birth

A horrendous first birth experience left me really down and doubtful of my abilities as a mother (continuous foetal monitoring, stuck on my back, failed epidural, ventouse, forceps and ending in postpartum hemmorhage). 3 years on I knew my second birth would have to be different. A friend who had two home births recommended I read ‘Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth’ and blew my mind. I bought my pool off eBay before the end of my first trimester and my mind was set on a home birth. 

My first labour was long, and although people said the second might be quicker I was prepared for the long haul. I started having proper contractions around 3am on Friday morning at 40+2. Mindful not to get excited too early I rested between them during the night then in the morning we sent our little boy off to nursery and said Nana would be picking him up as things were starting. Me and my husband got the birth area set up just as I wanted, and spent the day really chilled out, contractions varied between every 5 to 15minutes so I knew this was a slow start but was managing them really well with my affirmations, kept eating and drinking, a walk, watched a movie etc. After Love Island decided to try and get some sleep but only managed a couple of hours before they really ramped up in intensity so I got my husband to blow up the pool at 2am and we really started breathing through the contractions together.

At 5am on Saturday contractions were thick and fast every 3 minutes so we made the call and a midwife who wasn’t part of my main local team but was lovely, came out and said I was 5cm and in established labour! Yay! She called midwife number 2 and I got in the pool. They started doing a few checks and baby was happy but my blood pressure of all things had started to creep over 90. She wasn’t too concerned but said maybe cool down a bit as she’d need to check it again. I got out the pool and wandered upstairs into the cool bathroom and carried on, feeling fine. Anyway over the next 3 hours it just got higher, they tried a different cuff and machine, got me laying on the bed, and waited longer than I knew their guidelines were telling them to. It eventually went over 100 and they said they were so sorry but they’d really get into trouble if they didn’t recommend we transferred to hospital. I was gutted and they knew it. I started to cry and wasn’t breathing through my contractions so well. Midwife number 1 said she’d read my birth plan (which included a warning of how traumatic my first birth had been) and would phone ahead to the hospital to tell them she really wanted them to do their best to give me the home birth experience while being monitored. 

I glumly got my stuff together and got dressed, the ambulance arrived at 9am, and as I got into the ambulance with her and my husband had to follow in the car I started sobbing and cried most of the way to the hospital, literally feeling like the whole plan had been a waste. Anyway, as we drove in something in my mind switched and I thought, no, what have I learned?? I can control this experience, I know what I can ask for and refuse, and this is how it is happening so I’m going to make the best of it. Midwife confirmed she was going to back me up as we went in. 

We met with who I can only describe as one of the loveliest hospital midwifery staff I have ever met. I didn’t know until afterwards but she was a specialist in stillbirth deliveries so was so clued up on birth trauma and also giving people the experience they want. She really listened to why I’d planned the homebirth (which I explained tearfully in between contractions) and said she would fight for me to get the best experience I could have away from home. 

Anyway she really came through for me, 10 minutes later came back and said if I was ok to take a pill to control my blood pressure spike then there was no reason why I shouldn’t use the pool and labour as I had planned. The doctor wouldn’t get involved and she would let me make all the decisions. She filled the pool, dimmed the lights, let us put our music on and left us to it. Me and my husband laboured away for the next hour in total peace, every now and then she crept back in and checked the baby’s heart rate and reassured us it was going great. My positivity soared. At one point my contractions slowed down and I was sure it was cos my waters hadn’t broken so I asked her if she might give them a poke and sure enough it was bulging so she broke them and it ramped right back up again. I remembered all my affirmations and as I entered transition started to feel myself making those uncontrollable pushing noises, it was so powerful. I never felt transition with my first birth as it was all panic and forceps by that point. 

As my baby started to crown I really started to feel my pelvis might break and remembered reading in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth ‘I’ve never seen anyone break in half during birth’ and decided to surrender to that feeling. It felt like my baby was enormous but little did I know at 10lb3 he really was!!!! As his head was crowning I was literally growling with the intensity but managed to put my hand down to try and protect my perineum, feeling his head was amazing and petrifying at the same time, everything was stretched so tight and rock hard. After his head was out I expected the body to slither right after and so did my lovely midwife but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to! His massive shoulders were a bit stuck even though I was already on all fours. She quickly called a couple more midwives on the buzzer (even said in the midst of this ‘don’t worry I’m not getting the doctor in’) who encouraged me to stand up and said I would actually have to push really hard (until then they’d barely told me what to do at all). With his head already out and this burning sensation still raging I was happy to oblige. It took three huge pushes to get his body out and I literally couldn’t believe the size, he looked about 3 months old!!!!! 

They sat me straight back down in the pool, left the cord attached and let me cuddle my massive boy. I was totally overwhelmed to be holding him in my arms. After about 10 minutes we climbed out and laid on the bed while we waited for the placenta. It didn’t come and as I had a history of PPH I said I was fine to have the injection. I fed my baby and had skin on skin while they very gently had to coax my placenta out which was rather stubborn still despite the injection. I laid there literally high on the fact that I had pushed my baby out myself this time, and the fact that he was so huge has only added to that sense of power. I had a horrid episiotomy last time and seriously doubted my body’s ability to let a a baby come out naturally, but this time I had only a small tear which only needed 2stitches. 

I thought during that ambulance transfer that all was lost and it would be horrific again. But between me and my husband, a well written birth plan and an amazing couple of midwifery staff, I feel like I have been healed of my first birth experience. I loved labouring at home and I love the empowerment that planning this birth made me feel even though it didn’t end up at home. And I guess not all hospital transfers have to be bad.