The Birth of Edith
Our story starts with a bit of a wobble during a routine midwife appointment at 39+1 weeks when my bump measured small. I was sent to maternity assessment straight away for a scan, monitoring and tests to see if my waters had broken. The scan showed that the baby’s growth had slowed down slightly (but was still within healthy range) and my amniotic fluid was on the low side. However the baby’s heartbeat and oxygen levels were perfect, and I also felt absolutely fine. I was seen by an OB who advised booking an induction within the next week – in fact I was allocated an appointment 48 hours later.
I had spent time preparing for the birth using lots of hypnobirthing techniques, and having had a wonderful natural first birth and planning for a second home birth, I was devastated by the advice I was given. I knew that the baby was well and so was I, yet when you’re faced with a doctor giving a “medical opinion” it can be really overwhelming. I went home in pieces and discussed options with my husband. I was also very anxious about Covid and the prospect of being without my birth partner in hospital. Using BRAIN, we decided to cancel the induction appointment and give ourselves more time. I strongly felt if the baby was compromised I would have been offered a C section that same day. Buying some more time felt like a sensible idea, and as I had been feeling twinges at night all week, I knew the baby wouldn’t be far off arriving in this world.
I spent the evening trying to get the events from that day out of my head. I ate all my favourite food, spoke to a couple of brilliant friends for reassurance, watched a comedy and cuddled my husband. Thank goodness – as at 5.00am my surges started! I couldn’t quite believe it was happening so I took myself off to the spare room and snuggled into the duvet breathing and listening to the hypnobirthing tracks. I wanted to feel safe, cosy and private. By 6.30am the surges were about 6 mins apart so I woke my husband up and called the birth centre to let the home birth team know. I thought I’d have a bit more time but by 7.30am I was having 3 contractions every 10 minutes, and couldn’t talk through them. As my first labour had been quick, 2 midwives arrived at 8.30am and I was well on my way. I spent the first part of my labour in our bedroom with the curtains shut, my birth playlist on and essential oils diffusing. Leaning over my bed, I felt calm as I tackled each surge, using up breathing. My husband was there to reassure me and I also had a handful of birth affirmation cards spread out on the bed as prompts. I tried to continue switching positions from leaning over the bed to bouncing on the birthing ball. I also sniffed peppermint oil to encourage me to keep emptying my bladder. At 9.20am I waddled downstairs to the dining room, which we had turned into a wonderful birth space (fairy lights, photos, snacks, and a big warm birth pool). My 2 year old came in to give me a quick cuddle and kiss before heading off to the park, and I knew it wouldn’t be much longer until our baby would be in our arms.
The warmth of the birth pool and stair walk really ramped up my surges and I was well in the zone shortly after getting into the pool. I had written the words “powerful” and “open” in massive letters on the wall in the room, and kept repeating these in my head throughout surges. My husband was also very supportive in encouraging me to breath and visualise places that made me feel happy. After about 30mins of powerful surges and lots of animalistic noises on my part (!) I had a wonderful moment of calm and lay my head on the side of the pool to close my eyes for a few minutes. Straight after this my body just took over. I was very aware of all the changes going on in my body but rather than overthink it, I just let things happen. I could feel the baby’s head descend and even though this is called the “pushing stage”; I didn’t push at all. I experienced something called foetus ejection reflex (almost like a feeling of vomiting backward), which I believe is solely down to feeling private, safe and calm. When the baby’s head was born, I felt her shoulders twist and then with one moresurge there was a huge relief as her body fully emersed. My “pushing” stage was only 8 minutes long, with no tearing at all.
I reached into the pool between my legs to bring my baby up to my chest and couldn’t believe she was finally here. It was the best feeling in the world as she gazed up at me, not crying at all, just calmly taking it all in. We had some skin to skin while we let the cord finish pulsating. My husband cut the cord and I then shuffled to the toilet and with one push the placenta came out. After this I lay on my sofa with a cup of tea and homemade flapjack, staring hopelessly in love at my baby girl. Soon after I was joined by my toddler, and it felt truly blissful to be in the comforts of my own home with our new baby, as a family of four.
I hope my story gives some confidence to women who trust their body but are being offered intervention. I would also like to thank the Home Birth team for being so supportive throughout my pregnancy and for the service they gave during the birth. They even put a load of laundry on after the baby was born, and helped my husband clean up! Edith’s birth was 5 hours long end to end, with no pain relief at all, and a very fast but calm second stage. She weighed 6lb12oz and is perfect. If I had said yes to induction, I have no doubt my birth story would have been a very different one!
When a woman feels supported and safe, she really can achieve great things.
Sarah and Alex