I’ve wanted to write this for a long time, but its taken me a while to process my birth experience and understand how I feel about it. (as well as remember what happened in what order…but we will get to that later)
Whilst I was pregnant I spent a fair bit of time wondering what birth would be like. It’s one of those life events that happens all the time, but there is no way of knowing what it’s actually like until you experience it. (Although I think most mothers could agree that the depiction of birth in films etc is not very helpful, nor is the fact that no one TALKS about birth)
When I was past the half way mark in my pregnancy and it felt like birth was drawing ever closer, I decided to read a book about hypnobirthing by Katharine Graves. I wont go into what hypnobirthing is but anyone who is pregnant should do some research into it (no matter what kind of birth you are having – natural, Cesarean, epidural etc; hypnobirthing is for anyone who is bringing a baby into the world) The Positive Birth Company is also incredible.
I decided I wanted a completely natural birth, in the midwife led unit and in a pool if possible. Although I was preparing myself to have whatever kind of birth me and my baby needed.
My due date was the 27.01.19 based on my cycle, but that was moved to 25.01.19 when I had my dating scan.
SATURDAY 26TH OF JANUARY
Me and Kieran decided to take our dog Archie on a long walk along the beach and grab a coffee in town. I’d been experiencing Braxton hicks contractions at random for the last few weeks, so didn’t take much notice of them while we were out – although looking back they were much more frequent that day. I will note that at this point I was fully setting myself up to be pregnant for the next two weeks…everyone tells you that first babies are late.
We got home, cooked some dinner and had a relaxing evening watching telly in bed (if I recall correctly I think I managed to bag myself a massage from Kieran too) we went to sleep at around 10PM (by this point in pregnancy sleep was a distant memory amongst all the peeing and turning over to stop my hips aching)
At around 5 minuets past midnight I was woken up by what I can only describe as period pain, strange I thought – even though late pregnancy is full of pains and twinges I had never been woken up by anything before. I tried to go back to sleep – but unsurprisingly that was not successful. (I will admit I was laying in bed glaring at Kieran slightly pissed off that he was fast asleep)
12:20pm, the pain came again. They continued to come for the next two hours, but completely randomly and at all different intensities. Slightly disheartened at the fact that it was probably just Braxton hicks, I went to cuddle the dog and get some cereal (if anyone knows me they know that cereal is my solution to almost any situation)
I then sat bouncing on my birthing ball in the dark in our bedroom (might I add that Kieran is still fast asleep)
At around 3am the contractions started to get stronger, and were coming at more regular intervals. what started off as slightly irritating period pain was now requiring me to focus on my breathing a little more to get through it. Here’s where I decided to wake Kieran up (no easy task). It took about 15 minutes from waking Kieran up to having a functioning Kieran who understood what was going on…amusing now, not so much then.
We started timing the contractions…but they were still slightly irregular and about 6 minutes apart. So we went to make hot cross buns and tea and sat in the dimly lit bedroom having a mini picnic at 3am…slightly strange but was just what I needed at the time.
4:30am. I was trying to wait until I really needed it to get in the bath…water is a really amazing pain relief in labour but I didn’t want to jump the gun and not get the benefit. But I definitely needed it at this point…being on all fours and burying my head in a pillow was no longer working. Kieran ran a hot bath and we both went to camp out in the bathroom for a while. Can I say, getting into a hot bath has never felt as nice as it did then. All the tension I had built up over the last 4 hours seemingly melted away. I think I stayed there for a good hour, timing the contractions with Kieran. There was something so calm and safe about being locked in the dimly lit bathroom in a hot bath while it was dark outside and the rest of the world was still asleep.
9AM – TIME TO CALL THE HOSPITAL
The first time we called, the contractions were not quite 3 in every 10 minutes, so the midwife said it would be best to relax at home for a while longer. Here’s where I had my second bath…might sound a little excessive, but being in the bath was the best place for me.
11AM – SECOND CALL TO THE HOSPITAL
The hospital I was down to give birth at is a 45 minute drive from our house…believe it or not there was no other option. I was dreading getting in the car…the thought of not being able to move about was horrific. So the majority of this call to the hospital consisted of debating if I should come in…because if I wasn’t in established labour (4cm dilated) they would send me home, and I was not going to do that journey more than once.
In the end they agreed to send a community midwife to my house to see how dilated I was and make the decision from that.
The midwife who arrived was a lovely woman who had seen me a few times during my pregnancy, she checked all my vitals and sat with me for a while. She was hesitant to give me an examination as I seemed so calm and so she assumed I wasn’t dilated very much. But I convinced her as I really just needed to know where I was at…much to everyone’s surprise (but me of course) I was 4cm and in established labour.
We all got in the car and made our way to the hospital. I put my headphones in and listened to one of my chill playlists on Spotify. Much to my surprise I was completely calm, eyes shut and focusing on relaxing into each contraction. I’ve never felt so relaxed and focused in on myself as I did in those 45 minutes.
We arrived and were shown to our room in the birthing centre, I had all my vitals checked and got straight into the big pool…absolute bliss. Kieran sat by the side of the pool holding my hand and we just relaxed there for a few hours. (we did change rooms somewhere in the middle of that as the temperature regulation of the pool stopped working…but that’s a minor detail)
3:30PM. I had a second examination only to find I was still 4cm…the midwife immediately wanted to break my waters and was preparing the equipment AS she was asking me. I told her to stop and explain the pro’s and con’s to me, and decided to wait a few more hours but try to walk around and use the birthing ball more to move things along. I wanted as little intervention as possible, and was determined to have trust in my body. We spent the next few hours with Micheal Mcintyre in the background and pacing around the room – intermittently burying myself into Kieran which was more than comforting.
A few hours later we decided to have the midwife break my waters in the hope it would naturally release more hormones and move things along. I decided to have some gas and air at this point…after a fair bit of deliberation as I was terrified of it making me throw up. But thank god it didn’t…just made me slightly delirious and say a few strange things. I used it for a couple of hours and then left it.
8PM – SHIFT CHANGE OVER
Here is where I was assigned a new midwife – Laura – an absolute angel. I got back in the pool for another hour or so, but had started feeling like my body wanted to push. (believe it or not, you body just does it for you and you don’t get very much say in the matter – incredible right?) Laura said she could see what was called MEC (where the baby does a poo inside) which can have a few complications, so she wanted to move me to a room in the labour ward as a precaution. Despite being hesitant, I agreed in the end. We all up and moved room for the second time (quite comical really)
10PM – THINGS GET REAL
Everything suddenly moved on very very quickly. I had gone from 4cm – fully dilated in around 4 hours. (which all the midwives were pretty shocked at, despite me being on my knees telling them that this baby was coming, dilated or not)
At this point I was leaning over the edge of the birthing pool, Kieran was standing next to me with his hand on my back. Suddenly what looked like rather a lot of blood appeared on the floor…I could hear Kieran in the background concerned and checking with the midwife that that was normal, which it was she reassured him. (I was too focused to care)
I got back onto the bed and little ones heart rate began to raise slightly. By this point I was exhausted…I hadn’t slept in 48hours, nor had I eaten much in the last 24. The midwife said it would be best to give me some fluids through a canula…but I refused and knew I had the strength in me somewhere to do this completely by myself.
11:30PM – ANOTHER MIDWIFE JOINED US.
Lead midwife Becky joined us as little one (still unnamed at this point) was crowning, but his heart rate showed a little bit of distress. After a discussion between me, Kieran and the midwives they decided to give me a small episiotomy to get baby here quickly and safely.
11:58PM. With one push, a squirming, vernix covered baby was placed on my chest. I’ve had Kieran confirm that my first words were “oh my god that’s a baby”…as if i hadn’t noticed that he had been inside me for the last 9 months.
Kieran gave me a kiss and we waited for the cord to finish pulsating before he cut it. Our baby was here, safe and perfect. I’d brought him here with nothing but two doses of paracetamol and a few hours of gas and air. Proud is an understatement.
I felt the very first twinge at around 0:05am on the 27th, and our boy was placed in my arms at 23:58pm on the 27th – just about fitting his entire birth into the 27th, his original due date. Kieran was by my side the entire time. Birth is an incredible experience, and it truly showed me my strength as a woman. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and not just because you get a baby at the end of it – because the whole process is something so very special.
Arlo Tobias Woolf was named at around 7am on the 28th. 8Ibs4oz.
‘Did you do any antenatal classes prior to birth ?’
Yes, I attended the half day course offered by the community midwives – but if I’m honest it wasn’t very enlightening. The best source of information for me was the research I did on hypnobirthing. I also started following lots of positive birth accounts on Instagram, in order to expose myself to all different kinds of birth and make me feel prepared for any scenario.
‘Do you think exercising during pregnancy helped you during labour?’
YES! I can not emphasise this enough, labour is like a marathon. Personally each contraction was not a type of pain that I couldn’t handle, but the relentless nature of labour is tough. Endurance is built through exercise, and if I had not of kept up my training throughout my pregnancy I don’t believe I would have had the birth I did.
‘Are there any things you would do differently?’
Although I am incredibly proud of my birth experience, there are a few things I would set up differently for next time. I 100% will be having a home birth, something I would have done this time if we had been living in our own house. I will also pay for a private midwife if I have the money, as seeing the same woman throughout pregnancy and then at the birth I believe would make a world of difference. I would also like a birth photographer – one thing I do regret is not taking enough pictures.