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Benjamin's birth story, by Caroline Brown

Benjamin is Caroline's first baby and he was born in Edinburgh in January 2007.

At almost 39 weeks gestation, I was looking forward to finishing work and having some time at home organising the piles of baby clothes, furniture and other paraphernalia. A MW (midwife) appointment on Tuesday 23rd had confirmed that the baby was still posterior (ie facing mum's tummy, which can make labour tougher) and had just started to engage (4/5 palpable), but there were no signs of labour and I told the MW I was convinced the baby would go over dates, as is the fashion in our family.

I was rather surprised when my waters broke early on Thursday 25th. I lay in bed for a moment, just thinking it must be my imagination. But, there was no mistake, and I ran to the bathroom to mop up the flow. Amusingly DH misunderstood what I said as I streaked past, and thought I was talking about my horses being broken…

A couple of hours later, I rang triage at the hospital to let them know and pass on the message to our CMW (Community Midwife) team. Elspeth – one of the few CMWs on the team that I hadn't met – arrived just after breakfast to see how we were. Baby was OP (long lie) and just a bit lower down in my pelvis. I'd started to have a few irregular contractions by then, and was playing with the TENS machine – mainly for its distraction value. Elspeth was happy with most things and told us to just carry on as normal, and get in touch once I'd been having regular contractions 5 minutes apart for 2 hours.

During the morning, I wandered about the house, reading and rereading all my handouts and notes about dealing with labour and OFP. The contractions got stronger, but without any particular pattern, and after lunch we went up for a walk up Blackford Hill to admire the sights of Edinburgh and help things along.

When we got home, my contractions were getting stronger and more regular, and I headed for a soak in the bath. Elspeth rang and DH told her my contractions were now 5 minutes apart. This was about 5pm.

A couple of hours later, we rang Elspeth again, just to let her know that I'd been contracting every 5 minutes for more than 2 hours. We decided that she would stay away until I needed her, so I laboured as before – with my TENS machine, in front of the fire, practising different positions – and with DH massaging my back as required.

After a while, I was beginning to find the contractions harder to deal with, so we rang Elspeth and asked her to come over. She arrived, and began to monitor and observe what was happening. I don't remember her doing much except sitting in the corner, timing things and making notes.

As things ramped up, the TENS machine was losing its magical powers and I was keen to get in the pool. I then asked Elspeth to examine me, to find out how far along we were, and whether I could start floating in the warm water DH had been diligently preparing. 'Ooh – you're doing really well, about 4 cm and thin and stretchy at the top, a bit thicker at the bottom, and I can feel baby's head'. I was a bit disappointed (6 cm to go!), but encouraged that the head was well down, although Elspeth couldn't tell which way round he was lying as there was some swelling on the baby's head.

Elspeth said that I could get into the pool if I wanted to, so I stripped off and got in. It was lovely to feel so weightless and manoeuvrable – but the first contraction seemed much more intense than I anticipated and I was worried that I wouldn't cope without the TENS machine. While I found news ways of coping with contractions, DH and Elspeth began to look at the gas/air bottles. Then I threw up, and Elspeth suggested that she should leave us for a couple of hours while I concentrated on some relaxed labouring in the pool. We were to ring again when we needed her. I agreed to this – she said she would stay if I wanted – and she duly left us to our own devices (approx 11.30pm). The lights were dim, music was playing and I was prepared for a long haul OP labour.

Shortly after Elspeth left, I told DH that I needed to go to the loo, and spent a bit of time so restlessly alternating between pool and bathroom. At some point I realised that I was getting a bit pushy, and started saying "get her back!". This was definitely transition – I was overwhelmed and complaining that it was too quick and I couldn't do it. DH asked me if I was sure I wanted the MW to come back, as she had only just left. The rational bit of my brain agreed (in between contractions) – and I said, wait 5 minutes. With the next contraction I was wailing "get her back!" again, and so he did.

The next part is a real blur. I don't have any feeling for how long it all took (it wasn't long!) or when one thing stopped and another started. I do remember that I was enjoying the feeling of floating full length in the pool, trying to keep myself as relaxed as possible. When a contraction came, DH and MW gently encouraged me to breathe through it.

I didnt actively push the baby out, just let my body do the work – panting when I needed to, and remembering the breathing technique of blowing out four candles, except I kept thinking fork handles (à la Two Ronnies)). As the baby moved down, I could feel things beginning to stre-etch. At this point, Elspeth asked me to get into a different position – I was still floating full length on my side, just leaning on one elbow – to deliver the baby. I rested with my back against the side of the pool in a deep squat. As the head crowned, DH ran in from the bathroom (having done sterling work with the sieve….) and I thought 'ooh, that'll be the ring of fire then'. Once the head was out, I asked if there was any hair, and both DH and MW said 'yes, lots!' We waited for the next contraction, and I put my hands down ready to catch the baby – I felt the shoulders rotate, and as the baby slithered out, I took him up and onto my tummy. As I did so, DH shouted 'It's a boy!' – the little thing gave a few wails and then settled down for a cuddle. And we all smiled; it was 12.48am.

Note from Angela: Benjamin was in the Occiput Posterior position in labour but, like most OP babies, turned around during the labour to be born facing his mother's back. Caroline knew that her baby was posterior at the start of labour and she was prepared for this, so she kept moving, went hill walking, and did lots of hip circling in labour. All of this will have helped him to turn - see Get Your Baby Lined Up! for more.

Ben's APGARs were 9 and 9 and his weight was 7lb 2oz. Overall my labour was timed at 8.5 hours, with a 48 minute second stage and 42 minute physiological third stage. I did have a second degree tear which was not stitched but left to heal naturally.

While we had a cuddle in front of the fire, the MW finished tidying up and left. We then went to bed, and when the morning had dawned rang our families to let them know that Ben had arrived. Later that afternoon we ate cake, drank champagne and sang happy birthday with Ben's first visitors.

The whole thing was wonderful, and just as we had hoped – very straightforward, calm and relaxed. It was just a bit quicker than any of us – including the MW - had anticipated! In terms of midwifery support, she was just what I hoped for: calm, gently encouraging when I needed it, and happy to sit and observe.

Caroline

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

First Babies and homebirth

Get Your Baby Lined Up! - OP and other presentations, and how they can affect labour.

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

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