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Heather's Story

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Sebastian's Birth. November 2023

I woke up around 3.30am and felt constipated, but I didn’t consider at the time that this could be the start of labour. The feeling seemed to come and go and I was up and down, in and out of bed until 5.30am when I woke my husband. He suggested that I have a nice relaxing bath, so we lit some candles, ran the bubble bath and I got in. I noticed that the feeling of constipation was definitely coming and going around every 5-10 minutes and so I discussed how I was feeling with my husband.

After some googling and timing, we decided that these could be contractions - although I had not been expecting to feel them in my bum!! We went downstairs, where I had a cup of tea and some peanut butter toast, and my husband set up the living room by turning on all the fairy lights, tea lights and lighting a nice-smelling candle. I was feeling nice and relaxed but also excited and still slightly unsure if these were really contractions. My husband called the midwife unit at around 7am and explained that I felt constipated but the feeling would come and go every 5 minutes, and that it was getting stronger and more frequent. The unit told us that this was almost certainly the start of labour, and that they would prepare to send someone out to us (we had been planning for a home-birth).

While we waited, I sat on my birth ball and we started to play my favourite boardgame - Stardew Valley - and cuddled our dogs before they were collected by family at 10:30am. After we timed the contractions at around every 3 to 4 minutes, we called the midwife again, and she arrived around 11.45am. After she had brought her things in, she checked in on me, looked at my file and read my birth plan. She was incredibly calm and made sure not to intrude on our time together. We continued to play the boardgame and looked through our wedding photo album, whilst the midwife would occasionally come in and check my blood pressure and our baby’s heart rate. After we noticed the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, I decided to get in the birth pool. Tom helped me breathe through the contractions and held my hand as they got more intense, whilst the midwife put pressure on my coccyx with the palm of her hand, which helped to ease the pain. She tried to teach Tom how to do it, but I quickly relegated him and requested that the midwife continue! The midwife also continued to monitor the baby’s heartbeat - I always found it very reassuring to hear his steady heartbeat.

After some time in the pool I requested that the midwife give me a vaginal examination to see how I was getting on. This was something that I had explicitly excluded from our birth plan, but I felt so comfortable with her and was keen to know. I got out of the pool and made myself comfortable lying down on our sofa. The midwife explained what she was going to do, examined me, and confirmed that I was in established labour.

I got back in the pool and a fair bit of time seemed to pass without much change. I continued to breathe through the contractions and to sip my lemon squash. The midwife could see that I was tiring a bit and suggested perhaps getting out of the pool and having a walk around / trip to the bathroom, and then a rest on the sofa. When I went to the bathroom I lost my mucus plug.

I then had a rest on the sofa and ate some millionaire shortbread bites. My husband did fall asleep (briefly!) next to me - the room was so relaxed and zen! - but unfortunately for him, the snoring gave him away! I was very comfortable on the sofa and got a bit of rest before getting back into the pool. By this point, I was beginning to feel that the contractions didn’t seem to be changing, and so I asked if I could be examined again - this was around four hours after my first examination. The midwife examined me and said that I was making progress and had dilated further. She explained in private to my husband that I had dilated a further centimetre, but that the baby had turned and had initially come down back-to-back, and that he had likely moved back up in order to turn around (it’s amazing that he knew to do this!). She suggested that, once that had happened and I had reached active labour, things would progress relatively quickly, although it was taking a bit of time now.

At this point my waters still had not broken, and so the midwife suggested going for a walk sideways, up and down our stairs and to have a shower. I followed her advice and had a lovely shower with a shower steamer. I spent a long time under the water with my feet spread and slightly rocking from side to side, and when I went to the loo afterwards, my waters broke with a popping sound. I went back downstairs and explained that my waters had broken, before getting back into the pool.

I soon realised that my contractions had changed now - where before it had felt like being constipated, I could now feel them at the front of my tummy. These were much more intense and I could feel them travel down my uterus. This was where I started trying to hum through the contractions, and I started to use the gas and air that was offered (although in hindsight, I did not use it effectively with the contractions and often just waved it away). This was a very intense part of labour. Presumably in response to this change, a second midwife was called, although at this point my contractions were very intense, and so all I could do was focus on myself and my humming. Tom was brilliant and kept reminding me to hum down whenever my breathing techniques started to slip and turn into shouts. I kept focusing on the “Powerful” bracelet that our hypnobirthing coach had given us, reminding myself that I was powerful, I could do this, and my body was designed to do this. It was one of the only things I could focus on. During this time the second midwife arrived and they continued to monitor Seb’s heartbeat - his steady beat continued to calm me despite the intense rippling contractions I felt.

Suddenly it felt like the head “dropped”. I somehow knew that this was it and he was “engaged”. The pain was more intense than anything I had experienced so far but it was a very definite sensation of something about to come out! All I could think of was I am going to meet my baby soon, I am powerful and I can do this. The contractions were now so intense that occasionally my whole body would tense up and spasm, and by this point I was struggling to focus on my breathing. At some point another midwife arrived to take over from the first, although I didn’t really register it as I was so focused on myself and working through the intense pain.

Before she left, the first midwife suggested getting out of the birth pool, but at the time I declined, as I wasn’t sure if I could manage it through the contractions. After about 5-10 minutes, and just after she had left, I changed my mind and was helped out of the birth pool by my husband and the two new midwives. The moment I was out of the pool, waves of contractions hit me and I immediately knew that I needed to squat down and just push. The midwives and my husband held me up whilst I squatted just off the floor and pushed. It was intense, but it felt like he was out in a few good pushes - I could feel him leaving my body which was simply amazing. The midwives caught him as he came out and then passed him up underneath me. I collapsed on the floor crying in my husband's arms with my tiny baby! It was such a beautiful moment.

After a few minutes cuddling our newborn, we then slowly got up, made our way to the sofa and enjoyed a beautiful golden hour cuddling our child skin-to-skin.

When it was time, the cord was cut and the placenta delivered - I opted for the oxytocin injection to speed things up, and it came out nice and easy. I then needed to be examined for tears, and unfortunately I had a second-degree tear that was a little too deep for the midwives present to stitch at home. However, to save a trip to the local hospital (which would have been a 4 hour wait for an ambulance), a fourth midwife that lived locally and was an expert in applying stitches, kindly came to confirm the tear and stitch me up. She was brilliant, explaining what she needed to do and checking I was comfortable with it - she gave me an injection to numb the area, as well as gas and air whilst she stitched me up. This time I had the chance to use the gas effectively and it was brilliant! I did not feel any pain during the process and it didn’t take very long.

All in all, we reckon I was in early and established labour for around fourteen hours, and in active labour for around two more.

Having had time to reflect on the birth, it was hard, painful and visceral, yet beautiful and empowering. The kindness and support shown to me by my husband, the midwives, friends, other expectant mothers, my hypnobirthing course leader, and the stranger who kindly gave us the birth pool was overwhelming. I know that Seb was born into a world with care and love.


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