Birth Story -Home Birth Back-to-Back Natural DeliverySep 20, 2023
I was 43 days pregnant and the tiredness, aches, twinges and emotions were building each moment of each day. I was watching an episode of Grand Designs when things started to happen. I didn’t think much of the fact that I found myself crying my eyes out because the builders on Grand Designs overcame some construction challenges and made a nice house.
However, I did notice that my usual Braxton Hicks cramps that I was accustomed to, did begin to feel a little bit different, a little more of subtle but certain electrical wave like, spasmodic temporary squeeze around the pelvis and lower belly rather than their usual longer sustained tightening sensation which happened along the front of my belly.
After one of these cramps finished, I felt a sudden wetness drop into my knickers so went to the loo to check and sure enough a long clear white stringy kind of globule of quite firm texture (similar to the fertile discharge but bigger and firmer) was present. My husband googled images of ‘mucus plug’ (not for the faint hearted) and we found some pictures that looked similar. A good sign that things were happening!
My husband got super excited jumped up and proceeded to nervously tidy, ran to the kitchen “right, OK, I’ve turned the dishwasher on!” he announces as if cleaning the dishes would make us ready for labour!
I warned him not to get his hopes up and not to get too excited because even when you ‘get a show’ it can still be days before labour kicks off. Nevertheless I started to pay a keener attention to the nature of the cramps that I was getting because I had a feeling deep down that it would be soon…I was 40+3 and afterall that is exactly the same duration of pregnancy as when my previous labour with my son Milo started…
9:00pm – 3:00am We went to bed and I had a look at a contraction counter app I had installed on my phone. In the latent stage of my previous labour I managed to sleep between my early contractions awaking only to experience them in a sleepy haze and record them on the counter app. So I planned the same this time around. Sure enough I dozed off easily and in a semi -sleep state was aware enough of the cramps happening to take my phone and record them then drift off immediately after it passed.
3:00am-5:00am Wed 18th Sep 2019 Sleep was less possible, James and I were both awake. Contractions were happening once every 10 minutes and they were strong enough to make me pay attention throughout.
I could still remain lying on my side but now I would do some ‘golden thread’ breaths and focus on the view of the trees out of the window and squeeze James a little. He soon learned my pattern and knew to hold space and not talk to me for the duration od the contraction, each one lasting around 45 seconds. At 5am, exactly like my previous labour, I could no longer remain lying down. I got up and had a shower. James called my sister to let her know things were starting because she would be my birth partner and needed to drive 2 hours to get to us. He then got a little more sleep.
6:30am Wed 18th Sep 2019 our son Milo wakes up, it’s his very first official day of School so James gets him ready as I slowly pace around downstairs still observing the contractions using the counter app.
7:00am My sister arrives around and spends time with Milo whilst James gets Milo ready for school and ensures the final details of readying the house for the home birth we are planning.
My sister and I catch up and she asks me what kind of support would I appreciate from her, and that she will be hands on or off depending on what I need but I that I should just communicate and she will oblige. As contractions build I assign her the duty of contraction counting using the app as I can no longer focus on the screen.
7:30am – 9:00am The sun shines brightly and now I’m in my yoga space that overlooks the garden. This is where the birthing pool is set up also. I use my birth art that I created with my doula during my pregnancy as a focal point for my attention during the intensity of each contraction. I inhale and then exhale, and imagine the exhale blowing and weaving out a stream of golden light towards the centre point in the picture. I have in my hands squeezy balls that I squeeze to help detract from the intensity of sensation out of my pelvis and into my arms and hands instead.
10:00am- 2:00pm It’s time to call the midwifes. 20 minutes or so later two arrive and James shortly returns from having dropped milo to school and from Waitrose picked up a beautiful bunch of flowers, which brought me to tears and some epic snacks for the midwives. He lays out the yummy spread of pastries, biscuits, savoury baked goods, olives and fresh berries, I of course don’t feel like eating anything despite it looking appetizing. I try 3 blueberries nevertheless.
Normally at a home birth you get one midwife for you that is with you for the duration and then a secondary midwife that arrives a little later, especially for the baby. It turns out to be my luck that today both midwives happen to be accompanied by another midwife each whom is shadowing them as they are transitioning from the hospital setting to the home birth setting. So I have 4 midwives! My main midwife Didi was apprehensive breaking the news and said its up to me if I want all to stay but I’m more than happy with the additional support and the house is big enough so that I can have my space if I so need.
The next two midwifes show up and they all have a cup of tea, a chat and look at their notes whilst I labour in the garden with my sister by my side. Being in the sunny garden is really soothing and we bring out the bunch of flowers in a vase which becomes my new focal point to rest my attention. I pick up a couple of conkers that my son had collected on a walk and swap the squeezy balls for them. Their smooth and slight texture and the firmness to squeeze provides more comfort and interest. The contractions are now 2 every ten minutes but each one lasts just over a minute.
The two midwifes for the baby decide to go elsewhere for a while and my two remain and observe me from a distance, occasionally coming to me to take my bloody pressure or ask for a urine sample etc. After what must be an hour or two Didi comes to chat to me. She implies that there is a chance that her presence could potentially slow things down and that I seem well supported so maybe they might go elsewhere to someone else whom needs support. I feel a little disturbed by this news and state that I’d rather they stayed. They hang on a little longer and sure enough it was the impetus my subconscious needed to ramp things up to the next level.
The contractions came in more intense, more frequent and even lasting up to 2 minutes at times. I find myself overcome with tears at times, not really at anything in particular of that moment just the rush of energy and intensity and the reflection that I’ve had such a hard pregnancy and this right now, finally is the culmination of my 9 months of difficulty and anguish.
The midwives are enthused by my sudden progression and hang around more intently. I come back inside and James is tasked with filling up the birthing pool. Its his job to maintain it at a certain level and at 37 degrees the entire time. A task he jokes afterwards as being on par with my being in labour for which his friends later sarcastically congratulate him on.
It gets to the point in my contractions where I can no longer maintain the management techniques I had been using up until that point. I got in the pool. I kept hold of the conkers as they still provided some relief but I couldn’t maintain my golden thread breathing. Instead the breath naturally transformed into all kinds of primal sounds as I squirmed and writhed in the pool trying to escape the intense pain that my body was submerged in. Electrical waves of pain engulfed my entire body. It was difficult not to lose control at this point. I shout for the sick bucket and I throw up some water and those three blueberries that I ate earlier on.
My sister with her words brought me back to the present and reminded me I’m doing well and just need to focus. She brought me a few of the flowers from the bouquet and I tried again to keep my eyes fixed on a focal point. It worked for a few contractions.
I’m not sure how much time passed. I query whether being comforted by the pool risks slowing down my progress because I have a unsubstantiated hunch that the contractions aren’t creating much progress. I spontaneously begin making the guttural deep sounds that a woman makes when she is bearing down to push… The sensation was heavy in my lower back and back passage, which makes the midwifes excited as that is normally a sign of good progression towards second stage of labour. I announce I think Im going to poo so get in between contractions quickly as I can straddle myself out the pool with as much elegance as a hippo. From the toilet I shout back to the others, “its Ok its just a small fart” and they all laugh and joke that they will record this in my notes.
James and my sister are by side as is one of the midwives whilst the other hangs back and attends to her paperwork. At some point the other two midwifes for the baby have returned I fade in and out of regular awareness and the intensity takes me deep inside myself I have visions of two bright galaxies merging and spiralling towards each other in a backg drop of blackness. I think at one point my sister asked me something practical, perhaps ‘do you want a drink? And I just reply “circles”. Everything in my subconscious spiralling and circling. Weirdly enough I’m still gripping onto my conkers!
More time passes and Didi thinks it’s a good time to examine me. The look on her face tells me what I had suspected… my contractions were not creating the progress the midwifes had hoped for. She informs me that I’m 5 cm dilated and the babies position isn’t optimal (we suspect that he is OP, (back to back)) so his head is not hitting the cervix at an optimal angle which is why my contractions are not creating dilation. I am of course immediately disheartened despite her saying, “don’t be disheartened, measurements in this case don’t mean anything, we need to get baby to turn and then progress can be rather quick”. So I discover, as with my previous labour, I have been experiencing a premature urge to bear down and push before my cervix is fully open.
I return to the pool and the two midwifes that were for baby intently watch and support me from the sideline of the pool. I try the gas and air and James tries to change the music from his phone and I hysterically scream at him for being on his phone as another contraction rolls in thick and fast and I need to hold and grip onto him. In between contractions I slumped into self-pity, and a feeling of despair that “I wasn’t doing enough and I can’t make progress” My sister and the midwifes assure me that I don’t need to ‘do’ anything and just go with it and let my body do the work.
They suggest that I squat and do figure of 8’s holding onto the side of the pool during a contraction. It’s insanely uncomfortable but I do it. Then they suggest I do a kneeling lunge back and forth during a contraction. So I do it. Again it’s excruciating and suddenly I feel a “POP” and that’s my waters broken. In between contractions I’m passing out and my head hits the water each time.
I’m aware that the morning has turned to afternoon. I get glimpses of James trying to arrange childcare for our son Milo as he finishes his first day at school at 3pm. I dare not ask what’s going on with Milo but my subconscious is keeping a tab.
Before labour we were undecided whether we should have Milo present at the birth but there’s no doubt in my mind we both agree that there is NO CHANCE that we would want him here to witness this! It would be much too intense and possibly distressing. This wasn’t one of those chilled blissful birthing pool home births. I was howling and convulsing like a tortured animal!
I feel more disappointment and despair as I realise time is flying past and I’m aware that the midwives end their shift at 7:30pm, the thought of them leaving and me being handed over to a different midwife, possibly just one or two rather than my strong team of 4 really concerns me.
They suggest it’s time to leave the pool and try something else and things ramp up again, I’m shivering and they take me upstairs. I have three seriously heavy contractions on the stairs that bring me to my knees, I’m naked gripping onto the midwife and the stairs. When I finally make it up they suggest to try sitting on the toilet backwards to help turn the baby. I’m holding onto James and making all kinds of noises and I fight the urge to push and instead try to focus on a visualisation of opening and baby turning.
Then they set up some cushions and towels in the spare room and suggest I try a position lying on my back as its said to create space in the pelvis and they stretch me out during a contraction. I endure 3 like this and I feel like I’m in one of those medieval torture racks. I don’t like the gas and air as it made me woozy and I recall made me throw up loads in my previous labour so I back off from it when it’s offered to me. I recall a position I read about on the spinningbabies.com website. Kneeling on the bed, bum in the air and hands on the floor, and inverted forward leaning position, to help baby move but takes away some of the urge to bear down. My bed in my bedroom is lower so we move to my bedroom. This is one position which actually feels manageable and like I can focus and feel some progress. I feel encouraged that I was empowered and encourage and to try more positions with a boost in determination.
The midwives realise I haven’t peed for ages so they insert a cathatar and find I have an empty bladder so am dehydrated. They insist I drink their sweet brown water concoction as I eat spoonfuls of manuka honey.
I subconsciously register that the midwives change over at 7:30pm so I feel the time pressure and really want it to all be over soon.
The contractions are hitting my sacroiliac joint I feel like this baby’s head is going to burst out of my lower back and I feel such a pressure, as if I’m uncontrollably pooing, but thankfully, I’m not! It’s often said that a Back-to-Back Labour is more painful.. they are not wrong!
Didi examines me again now on the bed and I’m now 7 cm and he has turned somewhat. His heart rate remains strong as it has done throughout. I shout out to her that this is exactly what happened in my previous labour and that the midwife manually manoeuvred my cervix with her fingers and I suggest that she do the same right now.
I could tell there was a sense of jitters in the room, with the threat of transferring to hospital looming in the air. As one of the midwives thrust the gas and air in my face I shout “NO” which I meant to the gas and air but Didi assumed I meant her and was very quick to pull her hand out of me. I was disappointed by this setback and James translates for me “no, she wants you to do the manoeuvre she meant no to the gas and air”.
One of the other midwifes’ steps to the plate and tries this manual manoeuvre (which I later discover is not a common practice at all yet I’ve had it in both my childbirths). She inserts her fingers and I feel her sweep her fingers around my cervix there are occasional air bubbles which feel disconcerting and make me whince it’s uncomfortable but I grit and and bear through it and try and stay as calm and focused as possible. She is confident and upbeat and talks through what she is feeling and where the obstruction appears to be in my cervix. As with my previous labour, it’s the left side as being blocked she describes it as sort of overhang of the tissue. She now suggests keeping her hand inside whilst I have the next few contractions. It’s extremely uncomfortable but now I’m desperate for this to work and can’t fathom a transfer to hospital. I don’t understand how that would even be physically possible I’m in so much debilitating pain.
The 4 midwives, my sister and James all watching with bated breath as I battle my next contraction. There is a jubilant excitement in the room as finally they catch a glimpse of the baby’s head. The manoeuvre worked and she managed to move my cervix out of the way of my baby’s head.
Now all I needed to do was 2nd stage labour. This is the pushing. One would assume that because I’ve had the urge to push for so long that now I can finally push it should be a straight forward and swift process. But I knew better than to assume this based on my previous experience in childbirth, where I had to push for 2 hours.
So we try more positions. All 4 midwifes making suggestions and I oblige them. I lay on my side, I go on all fours, I stand, I squat and I hang from James. The intensity in my lower back builds and builds as I feel my baby move lower down into my already very strained pelvis
I suggest laying on my back with my legs apart and up, with two people pressing against my feet as if I was in sirops, The midwifes dismiss this and are not keen but I insist because I know that this is how I delivered my son in my previous pregnancy so I know it works for my body so they let me try. I give a good push in line with my next contraction and everyone cheers as they see the head descend more. Next I stand and hang from James’ neck and again return to bed and lie on my back.
I have all 4 midwives at the business end 2 of them holding my legs up. My sister and James by my head holding my hands and arms. They are all cheering me on and I give it three or four mighty contractions each of which I feel my baby moving down. With the enthusiasm and support from everyone in the room I realise that I’m close and that my baby will be born soon, in my bedroom on my bed! I am now gritting my teeth, eyes rolling to the back of my head as I push with all my strength, I find myself calling out
“ Just. Get. Out. Of Meeeeee!!” And with that, finally baby is finally crowning and just at that moment my best friend makes a surprise entrance at the bedroom door! She has come all the way from London and she also happens to be a midwife, she joins James and my sister at the top end I don’t say hello or even look at her but I’m happy to know she is here.
She quietly also adds to all the guidance and instructions I’m being given from everyone in the room on how to carefully breathe my baby out.
18:06 PM Sage is born
Predictably, the pause between my contractions grows longer in these tentative moments. Thankfully one of the midwives thinks to support my perineum with a hot cloth to help my tissues relax and soften. I wait as I know it’s really important to work carefully and gently with the next contraction when it rolls in. I tilt my pelvis as I’m instructed to do and slowly his head pops out.
Then we all wait for the next contraction for his shoulder and body to come through.
They pass him straight over to me rubbing him vigourously with a towel as they do. He lets out an almoghty cry and we say hi. He is already so familiar and I feel like I’ve already met him, he looks so similar to my son Milo yet chubbier with rounder features. He continues to cry and I put him to the breast to settle him.
Moments later my son Milo arrives home and James brings him up to meet his brother. The timing is perfect. If the labour had been any longer, I’m not even sure what we would have done for childcare!
Baby is suckling at the breast now and the midwives are busying themselves with tidying up and updating their notes. One of them suggests that I have the injection to help expel the placenta and she says that it prevents me having a haemorrhage. Luckily I know enough about third stage labour to know that I’m not at risk of haemorrhage and in fact have full confidence that I can birth my placenta naturally.
Without me needing to say a word, my friend Leni advocates for me and declines the injection stating that I am generally easily nauseous so it wouldn’t be a good idea for me. I call out to my sister to get me the clary sage essential oil from downstairs. She soon hurries back with it and I take a big sniff and relax patiently and wait for my contraction to come. I feel it coming so get into a kneeling position baby laying on the bed in front of me now and with one gentle push the placenta arrives smoothly intact and is caught in a container as I plan to keep it. We leave the cord intact between baby and placenta for as long as it is pulsating. This is about 30 minutes. Eventually James cuts the cord and baby is weighed and various other measurements are recorded.
Didi asks me if I’ve named him, I tell her, he is called Sage. And one of the other midwifes remarks that midwife in French is ‘la Femme Sage’ which mean
s wise woman, which is very befitting given he had 4 midwifes present at his birth!
The midwives check my perineum. I assume the worst as the aftermath of discomfort down there sets in…To my complete surprise and astounding joy my perineum is intact! No tears! My vagina is fine! What a bonus! Especially given Sage was a big baby!
It must be 7:30pm now because the new midwife arrives and before we say our goodbyes to our 4 midwives they all gather around our bed for a group photo. What a day!
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