Aida Kaman Stephens is an independent midwife who has a "challenging" obstetric history involving a shoulder dystocia at home, and for her fifth baby a transfer to hospital when her baby did not descend. She planned a homebirth for her own sixth baby, attended by a fellow independent midwife.
I was expecting labour to start around the full moon which was the 14th of March. On the 13th, I had noticeable braxton hicks from around 2pm and it lasted until 10 pm. I did an internal some point then, but couldn't feel anything. I remember going to sleep hoping that I wasn't going to go into labour while Andrya (my midwife) is doing my antenatal visit the next day as I didn't really want her to feel that she ought to hang around until labour gets going.
I woke up at about 6 with some braxton hicks. Apparently Andrya was up around this time too, for reasons she wasn't sure of. I did manage to back to sleep and got up again at 9 so that I could get dressed for my antenatal. I was aware of the braxton hicks - they weren't painful but they were obvious.
When Andrya arrived at 11 a.m. I told her that I am having mild contractions?/braxton hicks (more like) and upon palpation, babe was 4/5th palpable. Andrya asked if it was ok for her to go to Putney (1 1/2 hours drive away) and I said that would be fine. She left at around lunch time (one-ish) and I went upstairs to chat on messenger with one of my clients about liver function test etc. etc.
I remember being given some lunch by slaveboy at around 1.30pm and then telling slaveboy (my husband!) that I could do with a bath being run for me. He told me to get in the pool but I said no, I just want a bath as it was too early to the pool in my opinion. I got up to go to the toilet, then realised that I couldn't go further than three steps before I had to stop to deal with the 'braxton hicks', asked slaveboy for the phone so that I could call Andrya and ask her if it is ok to go in the pool. I told her that I might be contracting, possibly 1 in 4, Andrya laughed and spoke to slaveboy who said that he would time the contractions.
I went downstairs and got into the pool. Apparently, as I was undressing, slaveboy could see my purple line which looked like (in his words) "someone has drawn a line with felt tip pen and smeared it on my lower back". He timed the contractions and realised that they were a minute and a half apart, lasting 50-60 seconds. I kept telling him that they weren't proper ones as it must be an arm causing doubling contractions.
Slaveboy tried calling Andrya but couldn't get to her and almost lost the plot when he realised that he didn't have the number for Joy, the 2nd midwife. He tried again and did get Andrya. This was at 2.30pm and I was in the pool and it was at this point, I did another internal and thought that the PP was -2 but that I was fully dilated with bulging membranes. At this time, my other five children were happily running around in the house, not very aware of what was going on.
I remember thinking if only the membranes would go and it did, 5 minutes after Berny (the lady who films the Homebirth Diaries TV programmes) arrived. I have to say, Berny was fantastic as she held my hands while slaveboy was busy dealing with the children. Having known my previous challenging labour histories, Berny wasn't too keen (understandably) being alone with me (she is a qualified, but non-practising, midwife herself). Bless her.
Andrya arrived at 3.20pm, and rude me didn't even say hello, and just demanded entonox. She rightfully asked me if she could get her equipment sorted first. I was at that point already spontaneously pushing.
The entonox did help tremendously. I wasn't using it during the contractions but in fact, in between, as a means to block out my internal dialogues (I was desperate to make sure my head wasn't going to interfere with the process and freak me out)
3.45pm there was some labia parting with the pushes and I remember it was around this time that I started worrying that I might need to be transferred in (last labour I had to transfer in for no descent) and I verbalized this. Andrya told me that I need to let that thought go as everything was fine.
4.03pm Andrya thought she could see dark hair at the introitus with peaks of pushing.
4.30pm Andrya could see around 20p size bit of the baby’s head and I remember saying that my baby is coming, please come etc etc. It was at this time that slaveboy was sitting Zak (3 year old) in front of Bob the Builder on the telly.
4.45pm Joy (2nd midwife) arrived just as the head was crowning.
4.47pm Head born with pushing (Andrya also saw thick meconium at this time approximately)
4.49pm Cord was visible by head and I was still pushing. I remember Andrya telling me that it is time to give a big push, and I had my hand on the baby’s head, and I was trying to assist it to be born and I realised that it wasn’t coming easily and I knew that Andrya would have to assist soon. Andrya asked me to pull my right leg up ( I was on my knees leaning forward in the pool) and she assisted in baby’s restitution (Maia had cleared her chin but didn’t do a full restitution so Andrya helped clear the shoulders).
4.52pm baby Maia was born. Her tone wasn't brilliant (well, non-existent actually) and she wasn't breathing so after 2 mins (heart rate was there but I was told later on it was only 60bpm) I was asked to get out of pool. Cord was left unclamped and intact.
4.55pm Rescue breaths were given as Maia wasn't breathing, she was being stimulated on warm pad and given facial oxygen. All this time, I wasn't panicking though and I kept saying that she was fine (I must have come across as positively la-la but I honestly believed and still do believe that she was fine)
5.00pm HR went up to 120 and she was breathing well. Andrya worked out APGAR scores;
At 1 minute – 1 (heart rate)
0 (respiratory effort)
0 (reflex to stimuli)
0 (muscle tone)
Total : 2
At 5 minutes – Total 7
At 10 mins – Total 10
5.10 pm By this time, my children who were happily playing outside came in to say hello to their new sister.
5.32 pm Placenta and membranes delivered. I did prior to this feel a bit wobbly, I remember thinking "oooo everyone's voices sound really distant" but I recovered.
5.55pm Maia was suckling by now but not for very long. I was expressing colostrum into her mouth though. She then discovered her lungs and proceded to scream in angst til around 2 a.m when she rediscovered my nipples and realised that breastfeeding is cool and stayed there til 6am.
We had planned for a lotus birth (where the cord is not cut, and the baby remains attached to the placenta until it falls off naturally). Andrya washed and prepared the placenta before she left. She also turned up the next day with the placenta bag which she made for Maia. Up until then, Maia was fractious for a while until I decided to get her placenta out of the temporary bag put it in. She then just flopped and chilled out. We treated the placenta with herbs and salt. The cord dried really quickly and Maia has been extremely calm. Very responsive to voice and touch and she sleeps with the placenta bag by her side or by her feet. Even Andrya has commented on how calm and alert she is. She feeds really well and sleeps well too.
We have come up with a theory. We don't think the cord being attached is doing that much difference (the only difference being I am in bed with her and she is not being used as a human version of pass-the-parcel. We are putting off visitors from coming which is great and I am never more than a feet away from her most of the time). I think the difference is from perhaps the hormones the placenta is giving off. You can actually smell it. My female cat hasn't really left my room for days. Slaveboy, who is so not airy-fairy and cosmic and initially thought the idea repulsive, actually doesn't mind the smell and he said it stirs something primal and subconscious in him.
Anyway that is all I have to report. All I can say is thank God that I was at home as I am sure had I been in hospital, they would have cut and clamped her cord and completely taken away her only lifeline.
Aida's website, Lotus Within, has information about her Independent Midwifery practise and some articles by Aida on gestational diabetes and other topics.
Home Birth Stories
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Grand Multiparas - are you higher-risk after you've had five babies?
Meconium - what does it mean if your baby passes meconium? Should you transfer to hospital?
What if...your baby needs resuscitation at a homebirth?
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