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Deian's birth, by Amber Harding

Amber had clearly put a lot of effort into preparing for her first baby's birth; she attended HypnoBirthing classes, arranged a birth pool, and most importantly, she was very well-informed.

My baby was due on 30th March 2007, but I had a feeling I might not get quite that far. We had planned for a homebirth since quite close to the beginning of pregnancy, as I had always wanted to birth in water and the local birth centre had only one pool which was offered on a first come first served basis.  Since midway through my pregnancy my partner and I had attended hypnobirthing classes, and had been practicing hard, so from being quite terrified of giving birth at the beginning of pregnancy I was now quite excited about the prospect! Over the weekend of the 17th/18th I must have had a premonition that things were not far off, as the pool, which had arrived earlier that week, was suddenly a priority in my mind to erect. We went to bed with the pool up but empty, and all other necessary birthing bits and pieces in the room alongside.

I woke at about 4.30am the next morning, wondering if I had wet myself! 28 and incontinent I thought, wonderful, but on closer inspection whilst in the bathroom, I realised (or rather thought) that my waters were leaking. After reading lots of other birth stories I knew that especially as this was my first baby things could still be someway off from happening. I went back to bed hoping for some more sleep, but almost immediately started having period pain like cramps. This made me even more determined to sleep as I thought if things were going to happen I would need my energy. I managed to drift off, waking intermittently with the cramps, but managed in total to get another two hours kip, bliss!

It was my boyfriend's birthday that day, so at about 7.30am we got up and went downstairs to open his presents. I told him that I thought he might be getting an extra pressie and he didn't know whether to believe me or not at first! By 9.00am the cramps were coming every four minutes or so and it occurred to me that things really were happening so it would be a good idea to fill the pool. This proved easier said than done as neither myself or my other half are particularly technical, and couldn't work out how to fit the tap adaptor on to our very trendy bit utterly useless mixer taps. Luckily friends of ours dropped over to say happy birthday and they worked it out for us, so the pool was now filling and I was starting to need to concentrate when the contractions came and decided to put my tens machine on. I was reluctant to call the midwife at this point as, even though I was coping well, I was worried that if they told me I was in pre-labour or only 1cm dilated I would be disappointed.

The tens machine was fantastic and I loved the boost option when a contraction came; I found it dealt with all of the discomfort and let me wander around the house pretty much as normal. By about 10.00am I though I had better let the midwives know that things were happening so they could plan their appointments for the day, and rang the on call number for the community team. The midwife who I spoke to (who unfortunately I had never met before) said she was doing an antenatal check not far from my house and would be with me in about an hour to see how I was doing.  When she arrived at around 11.00am with a student midwife, they watched me through a couple of contractions to see how I was coping. I explained to them that I wanted a hands-off approach where possible and had been studying hypnobirthing, so unless I asked, I would not want any pain-relieving drugs (all of this info and plenty more besides was in my birth plan but as I was two weeks early this was still on the pc and not printed off!!). I could tell from her expression that she was thinking 'we'll see how you feel in a couple of hours' time'. As I was coping well still she obviously didn't think I was very far along as she started talking about first time mums 'taking quite a while', and 'we'll do an internal just to see'. I was a bit miffed with her attitude to be honest, so when the exam showed I was 6cm dialated I was ecstatic. I really wanted to get into the pool by this time and all the research I had read showed that the pool helped speed labour up if used from 4-5 cm onwards.

This was where things got a bit chaotic. As we had not had chance to do a dry- (or wet, if you prefer) run with the pool, we had no idea how to use the temperature control or heater system. The pool was now full enough for me to get in but was about 45 degrees. Way too hot. Cue a comedy scene of chains of people with pans, buckets, jugs and bowls ferrying hot water from the pool whilst topping up with cold, whilst I hum loudly through contractions on all fours with my bum in the air!! My other half sensing how off-putting all this may be, had the presence of mind to ring Marian, my hypnobirthing teacher, who being the wonderful lovely lady she is and a huge homebirth fan, said she would come along if I wanted – yes please!! As soon as the pool temperature was sorted I hopped in, and Marian arrived bringing a sense of calm in all the chaos (it really was like an old western film with pans of hot water and people yelling for towels LOL). Marian really acted as a doula for me for the rest of the labour, helping me to concentrate on my breathing during contractions, and relax in between, whilst my other half topped up the pool and let me crush his hand whenever I felt like. I had my hypnobirthing music playing in the background and the curtains drawn, so it was nice and cosy, but no time for all the lovely candles and aromatherapy oils I had arranged.

The pool was absolutely gorgeous and things really moved along after I got in. The water cocooned me, and time seemed to evaporate. I know I was sick at one point and I was just aware enough to realize this was a good thing as my body was responding to the expulsion urges, but otherwise my endorphins really kicked in and I had little idea of what was happening around me. The contractions were now coming much closer together, every 30 seconds or so, and I started to feel a bit freaked out by how intense they were (looking back this was clearly transition) as I didn't have a chance to relax and re-focus in between. This only lasted for a couple of contractions before I started having the strongest urge to push. I had no control over it and it was like the feeling you have when you know you are going to be sick, and are desperately trying to stop yourself until you get to the loo, but can't really!

This was the first time during the labour that I started to vocalise and the sounds that came out of me were low and gutteral and again I had no control over them. After a couple of contractions like this one of the midwives asked me if I was feeling 'pushy'? If I had been able to I would have laughed, god knows what she thought I had been doing for the last ten minutes, but I just said yes so she brought the hand mirror I had left out over for me and put it in the water to see if I was making any progress. Nothing could be seen yet and she asked me to turn over so they could get a better view and monitor the baby more easily without asking me to move each time. This was fine with me at the time as I was away with the fairies, but as I continued pushing I realised that I had ended up in a semi-recumbent position – exactly the opposite of what I had wanted, having planned to be on all fours or squatting if possible to make my pelvis as wide as I could.  In the event I think this position made my second stage longer than necessary. I pushed for about 45 minutes to an hour, and had to work really hard to get my baby round the bend, so to speak. The pushing was much harder work than I had imagined it would be (had been hoping for some lovely relaxed breathing baby out LOL, but you can't have everything!) and I don't know if this was because of the way I was positioned or if it would have been like this anyway. Having the mirror in the water really helped to keep me focused when I started to feel tired, as I could see his head edging closer and closer each time I pushed.

As I got to the point where his head stayed put between contractions and didn't disappear I could feel the stinging and stretching everyone describes, and this was the only point I swore at!!  I put my hand down to feel his head and press against my perineum, and gave a couple of small nudges, and as I felt his head finally emerge, I panted as instructed. I was really glad because I actually saw and felt him turn to the side and wriggle his shoulders ready to arrive. This was the most incredible feeling and I was very conscious of what was happening. With the next contraction I gave a huge shove and out he popped into my hands and I picked him up out of the water and brought him to my chest. I was completely elated, and obviously a little endorphin-happy as I just kept repeating over and over, my baby – my baby!! He was covered in vernix and the cord was wrapped around his body quite tightly so it was hard to get him at the right height to keep him warm, but not drop him back in the water! The midwife helped me untangle him and gave me a towel to cover him with. As soon as the cord had stopped pulsating, my other half cut it, and I decided I wanted to get out of the pool as I was feeling chilly.

The midwives had made me a little nest from the old pillows, towels and duvet I had left out, so I sat down on the floor and got snuggled in with my beautiful baby boy. I offered him the breast but he wasn't really interested – in fact I don't think he had figured out what had happened to him yet as he hadn't cried when born - just opened his eyes and had a little look round. He was very calm, but I hadn't been concerned as he was a lovely colour and clearly breathing. His apgars were 9 and 9.

I wanted a physiological third stage, so after about half an hour the midwife asked if I could stand up to see if the placenta would arrive with the help of gravity, but it was a bit more stubborn than that and didn't arrive for another half an hour with a bit more pushing from me. I wasn't concerned but the midwife was getting a bit edgy, and at one point after examining me said she could see the placenta just sat waiting for me to give a shove, and she tugged a bit on the cord. This was naughty as with a natural third stage she should have been hands-off – had the cord come away this could have caused complications, but as it was everything was fine and I had estimated blood loss of 300ml. Even more happily I needed no stitches, I just had a small graze.

Baby boy then went to his daddy for a cuddle while I had a bath, and got dressed and we all snuggled down on the sofa for the rest of the day. The active part of my labour was all over in five hours, very fast for a first baby, which I am sure was due to being at home, relaxed and in control. My body was able to do exactly what it needed and the whole experience was fantastic. Deian is a very contented and happy baby and, again, I think a lot of this is down to how he made his entrance into the world. I would definitely recommend home birth to first-time mums; it has left me feeling empowered and better able to deal with the challenges of motherhood.

Amber Harding

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

First Babies and homebirth

Doulas - professional birth attendants.

Hypnotherapy for childbirth

Waterbirth at home

The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?

Homebirth UK email group


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