Amy's Birth Story
Prep. In the run up to the Birth I'd been eating dates 4-7 each day from 34 ish weeks, I'd been practising hypnobirthing techniques, up & down breathing, relaxation scripts. I'd been using Clary Sage on a tissue under my pillow when sleeping or in the bath, I used Aniball from 37 weeks every 2-3 days. I listened to plenty of podcasts (I recommend birth-ed and Evidence based birth) and read lots of positive birth stories!
The weekend of my due date I'd started introducing some natural induction methods such as curb walking and bouncing on the birth ball often, my partner & I had also been watching happy lighthearted TV such as Friends and Schitts Creek. On my due date 30/5/21 we had a lovely day out in the sunshine, a long dog walk, a spot of baby shopping and lunch al fresco it was a real feel good day!
Labour. The next morning 31/5/21 I woke at 7am with mild period like cramps, I soon noticed they were every 10 mins and at 8/9am I let my partner know that today could be the day! For the next fews hours I got myself prepared, finalised my hospital bag, gathered my snacks and kept myself topped up with food and coconut water, I watched friends for a few hours whilst bouncing on the ball. At around midday I felt surges were getting closer together and the Freya app was intermittently telling me I should head into hospital at this point they were 3-5 mins apart. We called the birth centre and agreed to give it more time to see if they became more regular. I took some paracetamol and had a bath. Throughout this time I had a LOT of trips to the toilet!! 💩 (Sorry if TMI).
I was listening to relaxation scripts at this point and found I was only comfortable if leaning over the ball, bed or sofa. After 2 more hours we called the birth centre again and they offered to come in whenever we felt ready. We headed in at 4pm ish and I was examined, I was 3cm and agreed to have a sweep to help things along, the MW asked of I'd like to try a Tens machine as I was feeling all of the pressure of the surges in my back, we tried this out through a surge and it didn't feel any different so I didn't keep it on. I agreed to walk the stairs and have a walk outside as surges were still irregular but getting stronger at this point, after a short walk around the grounds, surges were strong and every 2.5 mins! We headed back to the Birth centre and were admitted to a lovely room around 5pm.
The room was amazing we had dim colourful lights twirling around the ceiling, a speaker to set up my birth playlist, a nice pool and plenty of equipment to get into different positions. The MW helped to set up the room whilst my partner went to get our bags.
The birth - we met 4 different midwives throughout our stay due to shift changes, all were lovely! I used the modular 'soft play' type furniture in the room to lean over and count though upbreathing, I stopped using the app at this point. At around 7pm I got into the pool and started using gas and air as I felt I needed some relief, I found it difficult to find a comfortable position but the breathing gave me a focus and I just had to focus on getting from one surge to the next.
There was a midwife changeover and at around 8pm, she read my birth plan straight away and I was re-examined out of the pool with permission and was 5cm. I was encouraged and told I was managing really well. For a while I felt I needed some rest from standing and leaning in a UFO position so lay on my side after the VE and continued with gas and air.
Again at some point I felt I needed more relief as I was feeling increasing intensity of surges in my back and was concerned the baby was stuck! We tried lower back massage but this was more uncomfortable. My partner continued to coach me through breathing during surges and I asked him to give me encouragement at the peaks and talking about waves passing, this communication worked for us and I honestly didn't realise the midwife was there for most of the time even though she was checking babies heart rate every 15mins. Time was passing really quickly and I had no concept of it at all.
At around 10pm I felt I needed a plan to help me to focus, I felt empowered through what I had learnt on the course and asked for another VE as I felt I needed to know how far along I was and what I might be able to do to help progress, I didn't want to stay lay on my side and wasn't sure I wanted to spend hours and hours in the pool but knew I wanted to be in there for the birth, the midwife agreed to VE but warned me that the number may not mean much at that stage (it turns out she was right).
I was 6cm and was disappointed I'd only progressed 1cm in 2 hours, the MW reassured me that this was good progress and my partner was giving lots of reassurance.
I asked what drugs were available as I wasn't sure I could continue as things were and we discussed the pros and cons (using BRAIN) and I decided I would have Pethidine - this was given around 10.30pm.
The MW then brought me a peanut ball to try to open up my pelvis whilst I was lay on my side, I felt relaxed between surges and almost like i was dozing in and out of sleep however the surges ramped up again and my waters started to leak out with surges.
Later the MW told me at the last VE she felt the baby was back to back hence the offer of the peanut ball (and likely causing the sensations I was feeling in my back), it seemed to help with positioning because soon enough I was calling out that the baby was coming! At approx 11.45 I had a sudden urge to get back in the pool, I couldn't get there quick enough I just knew baby was on her way and there wasn't much time! I was determined at this point that this birth was going to play out as I wanted.
20 minutes later she was out! She had turned to the right position. She was passed between my legs and I sat back to hold her, there was a little kerfuffle to get her into my arms as she was wrapped up in the cord but the experience of that 1st hold of her was out of this world, the feel of her super soft skin in my arms and seeing her eyes blink up at me was amazing. She was so calm and didn't cry what felt like several minutes. We just stared at each other as the MW and MW assistant took a video of the 3 of us.
We had delayed cord clamping and it only took 5 mins or so to turn white. My partner cut the cord then had skin to skin whilst I got out of the pool to birth the placenta, I was coached to push it out whilst lay down but nothing was happening so after 30mins I got on all fours and it came away easily I asked the MW to show me the placenta and she talked me through the various parts. The next few hours are a blur, we were helped to establish the first feed and left for a couple of hours before I had a check and had 2 1st degree tears each getting a stitch. We were taken to a clean room and tucked in for the night with tea and toast.
My birth was an empowering experience and as close as possible to an ideal birth based on my preferences. I went in thinking I wouldn't have drugs but the drug I did have 100% helped in the moment to get me to the endpoint. I wouldn't change anything and am looking forward to (hopefully) getting to do it again!
Monica's Birth Story:
During my first stages of pregnancy, the first and second trimester ran smoothly. During my third trimester, I was having growth scans as my baby was slightly on the bigger size. The scans showed that my baby was average size and weight but due to my frame (as I’m petite), my baby was big for my body. During my last scan at 36 weeks, my baby was in an oblique position. I was also given a glucose test, which I needed to monitor for a week by testing my sugar levels an hour after meals.
During these times, I referred to hypnobirthing, which Joanna taught us. Joanna sent me a link to encourage my baby to position itself correctly without having any interventions from doctors. I did these regularly whilst also visualising my baby turning and engaged in the correct position. Two days later, I had an appointment at the hospital to be assessed. The doctor felt my baby and after just two days, baby was engaged and in position. The doctor suggested an induction due to the growth of the baby and said I may struggle to push the baby out if the baby continued to grow as the shoulders would be difficult for me push. Under pressure and not having my husband (birth partner) with me due to Covid, I agreed and had an induction booked in. I also wanted a water birth in the birth centre but I was told I wasn’t able to do so.
My initial response and my gut feeling was to say no. I came home, referred back to the hypnobirthing book, my notes from Joanna and I listened to the hypnobirthing tracks. I referred back to ‘My baby will come when my baby is ready.’ I called the hospital to cancel my induction only to be told that I needed to be reassessed before cancelling. I made my way to the hospital, the doctor assessed me once again and I cancelled my induction. They once again suggested that I should not go beyond 41 weeks due to the growth and book in an induction. I was so happy that I listened to myself and my instinct (BRAINS from hypnobirthing) as I was able to cancel my 39 week induction.
At 39 weeks, my waters had broken and I made my way to the hospital with my husband. At the hospital, I was seen to by the doctor who monitored the baby’s heartrate, my blood pressure etc. My baby was still in position and although I was getting surges, I was not in an established labour. The doctor told me I was no longer classed as ‘high risk’ and as long as my surges grew stronger and more frequent, I would be able to use the birth centre and have the water birth I had always wanted. If not, they would place the oxytocin drip on me to start labour. They gave my husband a bed and throughout the night, I was walking up and down the room that I was in, bounced on the pregnancy ball and drank lots of water.
At 5.30a.m, the doctors assessed me but unfortunately, I wasn’t in an established labour. I was having surges but the surges were not close or strong enough. They placed the oxytocin drip in me and we waited patiently. During this time, I closed my eyes, listened to my hypnobirthing tracks and started my breathing techniques, which Joanna has taught us. I was getting surges but manageable. After a couple hours, the doctors checked me and I was still not in an established labour. The doctors increased the dosage of the oxytocin drip and told me if I wasn’t in an established labour soon, they would need to talk to me about other options.
At about 11a.m. the surges began to draw close together and I was given gas and air as my birth plan stated. After reading my birth plan, my midwife was incredibly supportive and said she would not offer me pain relief but to wait for me to request any if needed. I continued to visualise, breathe and use the gas and air by using the hypnobirthing techniques. The surges were getting stronger and stronger but I continued to use the techniques Joanna taught us. When I was ready to push, my midwife reminded me to use the ‘down breathing’ and I remembered practising this with Joanna. I breathed downwards twice and my baby’s head emerged. Another ‘down breath’ and my beautiful baby boy was born at 1.27p.m.
Joanna's First Birth - Our Twins
I remember so much of that day. The butterflies in my stomach as we got the train into London surrounded by commuters off to their day jobs – us with our hospital bag packed looking like we were off for a few days of sight-seeing. I remember the excitement that we would meet our girls but the anxiety that they would likely struggle but how badly? I was only 34 weeks pregnant and felt torn over whether it could possibly be right that they be born so soon…
At the hospital, the anaesthetist made me laugh and put me at ease. The obstetricians were so calm and professional and the midwife so matter-of-fact. I felt safe. It perhaps helped that I knew and trusted them all already as worked as a midwife at the same hospital.
The spinal anaesthesia was done in what felt like a second and before I knew it the drape was raised so I couldn’t see in front of me and the surgeons were starting. I could feel touch and a surreal feeling of them rummaging around inside me, but it wasn’t painful. I tried to imagine exactly what they were doing as had seen so many caesareans before and knew the sequence of steps. My husband didn’t have to use his imagination at all as was standing watching the entire thing!
The drape was lowered to reveal the first little head and set of shoulders squeezing out of me. She had a look of shock and disgust on her face as she was brought out into the cold. I felt such relief at her cry, as she was the smaller one we had worried most about. Our second had a similar reaction to being taken out of her warm home and I don’t blame either of them! They were passed to me all bundled up but the first was very soon taken to the special care baby unit due to her small size – just 1.6kg. It felt so wrong when she was taken away.
I was wheeled into the recovery area where I lay skin-to-skin with our second daughter. She started to breastfeed (another relief that she was able to do this) and then she did the most gigantic black tarry poo all over me.
My husband had gone to the special care baby unit immediately after the op and didn’t come back for hours as he had felt bad leaving our first. It would be in the evening that I had enough feeling in my legs to be able to get into a wheelchair to make it up to see her and hold them both again.
My recovery was luckily very straightforward, perhaps partly due to the small incision (the obstetrician knew they would be tiny after all!). Perhaps walking by myself the following day pushing the other twin’s cot was a bit much as I came close to fainting alone in the lift, but I slowly made it! The greatest challenge in those early days and weeks was producing enough milk for the two, but that did happen with time and perseverance.
Joanna’s 2nd Birth - Our Home Birth
Our initial birth plan went out the window after I took the KG Hypnobirthing teacher training course. Although I had had a caesarean before and there was a 1 in 200 chance of the scar rupturing during labour, we made the informed decision to birth our son at home rather than on the labour ward. We accepted the small but potentially catastrophic risk, feeling there were also risks associated with the routine procedures for VBAC women on a labour ward and the potential cascade of interventions. Instead, I trusted that my body could labour well if I was relaxed and well-supported in my own home.
At work, the more junior doctors were shocked I would “take such a risk”, but surprisingly the consultants were more supportive. We found a very experienced team of home birth midwives to look after us and felt very supported by them.
We ordered a birthing pool and I spent quite a lot of time lying down with my eyes closed and listening to a couple of hypnobirthing CDs. I almost always fell asleep half-way through and was not 100% confident that my mind was taking in the information! Nonetheless I was confident I would be relaxed in my labour and was feeling very positive and looking forward to the big day.
As my due date passed, I became more apprehensive about the prospects of a postdates induction, what felt like an increasingly large baby, plus I was becoming fed up with friends, family and complete strangers asking when I was due and whether I was having any signs of labour. I opted for a membrane sweep at 41 weeks – I considered it better to give my body a kickstart and reduce the chance of an induction, although I know I could have declined it.
The sweep followed by manically running up and down the stairs, bouncing on the birthing ball and hoovering may have helped move things along. A few mild period pains came and went that afternoon. Then the following afternoon whilst out in a faraway country park alone apart from my little two-year-old girls and with no phone reception I felt twinges and realised I had started having surges, albeit irregular and lasting only 10-15 seconds. I thought I had better drive home! I told my mum and she said she would take the girls to stay with her for the night. It felt a little unnecessary as I was convinced my labour was some way off and would probably take a long time – my body had never laboured before after all.
However, by the time my mum arrived at around 8pm, my surges were getting stronger and longer. My husband and mum seemed to be taking forever to get the girls ready to leave and I became pretty irritable, asking when they would go. My mum had thought I was in a bad mood and being rude but hurried them out of the door anyway!
I left my husband watching the World Cup and went into our bedroom with the birthing ball, closed the curtains and put one of the hypnobirthing CDs on. I just wanted to be on my own. I had done some pregnancy yoga classes and tried out every birthing ball position I could remember but when any surge came I felt really uncomfortable with all of them. I knelt on the floor leaning over the bed for a while and finally curled up on my left side in the bed.
I replayed the same track on the CD again and again. During the surges I could only concentrate on slowly breathing through them, but when they subsided I was able to listen to the words for a short while before falling asleep, only to be woken by the next surge. I had no idea how much time was passing but it can only have been an hour before there was a sudden gush of warmth between my legs as my waters went.
I shouted for my husband and asked him to check my waters were clear (no meconium) and to time my contractions so he could call the midwife and let him know what was happening – I did not want to be distracted by timing them myself. They were coming every 5 minutes. My husband was also running the bath for me as the pool was taking forever for him to inflate (it turned out he was using the deflating pump rather than the inflating one!). The midwife said all sounded positive, to get in the bath and to call him again in another 45 minutes. My husband returned to fight with the pool.
My surges quickly became more intense and one after the other. I found it difficult to get off the bed but managed with a lot of willpower. Once in the bathroom I felt nauseous and leant over the toilet for a while although was not sick. I then sat on the toilet and felt I needed to open my bowels (not much came!). I knew the feeling of needing to poo is similar to the baby’s head coming down, but I thought surely not, I cannot be so close to having the baby yet. I had what felt like seconds between each contraction and each surge seemed to last a long time – perhaps 90 seconds or more. The thought crossed my mind that what if this was too much for my scarred uterus to take, but there was no pain in between contractions so I pushed the thought to one side.
I got into the bath and crouched down just where I had stepped in, loving the sensation of warm water around my belly. My husband called the midwife again (just 15 minutes after the last call) to tell him the surges were becoming much stronger. The midwife said he was coming. My breaths were long and loud, but I did not care whether the neighbours could hear me through the open window.
The surges were becoming so unbelievably intense and I had a little panic that I would not be able to continue if they remained this way for hours and hours. I checked myself (I am a midwife after all!) and my cervix was paper thin, around 7 cm dilated and the head was so low. My husband rubbed my head and hand – any other touch irritated me. With the next contraction the head was coming down and I could not quite believe that it could be happening already. I grabbed my husband’s hand so that he too could feel the head coming. He called the midwife again who said he was putting his foot down, advising my husband to call for an ambulance.
During the next surge I felt the head push through in one quick movement and the feel of the head between my legs. There had been no burning or sharp pain as I had expected to feel. And with that the contractions stopped. My husband who had been on the phone to the paramedics and trying to remember my age (he was a little tense!) checked they were on their way and put the phone on the floor. We could not quite believe his head was already out! I then sat back in the bath in what felt like the natural position to move into.
The midwife shouted through the open front door around five minutes later and came bounding up the stairs. I was so relieved to see him. He sat at the foot of the bath, said hello and just smiled the most reassuring, happy smile. I had been panicking that I had had no surges since the head had come out but he said not to worry. Almost immediately I could feel the baby’s body turn inside me which was the most surreal feeling!
The midwife suggested I stand up and he gently released the baby’s shoulder by pulling the head slightly towards by rear and out slid Alexander. I sat back in the bath and there he was screaming up at me for just a second before he relaxed into the outside world, completely alert and beautiful. It was 11.22pm, around three hours since my daughters had gone and two hours since my surges had ramped up.
The paramedics appeared although in that moment it didn’t click who they were. I wondered whether they were journalists for some strange reason and I remember giving them a confused look. One of them turned on the bathroom light which so felt harsh and glaring. My husband quickly asked him to turn it off and I loved him for that. The paramedics stayed on the landing, waiting to see if they would be needed and soon left.
I opted for a physiological third stage and the three of us sat chatting for some time. The cord pulsated until the last bit of blood had transferred into Alexander. Once it was white the midwife clamped and cut it. I then felt a strong period pain-like surge and I think the placenta separated at this point. I did not have any urge to push and so stood in the bath to see if it would come that way, still holding Alexander but with two sets of strong arms close by in case I felt unstable. The placenta came out.
The water was getting cold and there was no hot water left in our water tank, so they helped me out of the bath with Alexander still in my arms, we got onto the bed and were covered with dry towels.
The midwife checked whether I needed stitches which I did, but he was able to then and there on my bed. My husband made himself very scarce at this point and went to make the tea! I used the gas and air throughout and was as high as a kite. I can really understand how beneficial using gas and air could have been during the labour, but it was not to be for me as it had all just happened so quickly.
We then drank tea and ate biscuits whilst Alexander had his first breastfeed. The atmosphere was so happy and relaxed. The midwives then went downstairs to write their notes and left my husband, me and Alexander to be together. It was magical to think that in just a few hours our son had made his way into the world.
I do wonder whether Alexander’s birth experience helped him to be such a calm and contented baby, although I am sure his sisters helped too by being a constant source of entertainment for him!