Hope Ellen's Birth, by Elaine Lyden

Elaine's first baby, Niall, was born in hospital - a ventouse delivery. Elaine's husband, Jack, describes the experience in another article. Hope Ellen Lyden was born at home, into water, on 22 July 2003.

The birth of my first child in hospital was a traumatic experience - hence the 4 year gap between pregnancies. Second time round I was adamant things were going to be different. Therefore, I opted for a home birth. This was against the advice of my female GP and the wishes of my mother.

My pregnancy progressed without any problems and I decided to hire a birthing pool as I felt being in water (in a bath at home) had eased the pain last time. I had no great desire to deliver in the water but decided to wait and see.

As I was overdue ( 2 and a half weeks) with my son, I expected my due date to pass by without incident. However, I woke with a show and expected things to happen - they didn't. Next day I saw Alice (a midwife) at the clinic - and left feeling disappointed as an appointment was made for the following week. That evening things changed - starting with slight pains/contractions low down. Every time I stood up they hit me but subsided when I was sitting or lying so I dismissed them as 'Braxton Hicks'. I couldn't sleep so as usual I got up for a few hours - again experiencing 'Braxton Hicks' but this time the contactions didn't subside so I sat rolling on my birth ball watching T.V. and timing them - they occurred roughly once every 10 minutes

After 2 hours I decided to go back to bed but en-route decided to bleach and disinfect the kitchen sink and clean the worktops. ( I should have realised then I was in labour.)

I dozed for a few hours but things started getting more intense around 6 a.m. I then woke Jack to tell him I thought this was the real thing. Contractions were now coming every 5 to 7 minutes - one strong one followed by a weaker one.

Eventually I got up at 8-ish with Niall. Then the contractions really hit me. I phoned my Mum and the midwives on call. By now the contractions seemed to be coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting 45 seconds. We decided to start filling up the pool at this point (filling with cold initially but then ensuring the temperature was around 40 degrees Celsius). Jack couldn't cope with the cover but the pool stayed hot enough for long enough in any case.

Mum arrived at 9 to look after Niall. I sat in the kitchen leaning over the back of a chair - a hot water bottle pressed against my back.

Joan, the midwife, arrived just after 10 - it was a relief to see her. I asked her to examine me as I didn't want to get into the pool too soon. She knew I was worried about about being examined, as in my previous labour it had been very painful, so she was very gentle. She immediately phoned the second midwife and asked Jack to finish his shower quickly and top up the pool with cold. I knew then it wouldn't be long. I was over 8cm dilated and ready to use the pool.

It was very difficult moving from my bed upstairs to the pool downstairs as the contractions were very strong - with little respite in between. I consciously tried to relax between contractions as last time I held on, dreading the next. When I got into the pool it was great; what a relief. The water was very soothing and although the contractions were painful, Joan and Jack's reassuring words kept me calm. The baby's heart rate was monitored every 30 minutes - this was both reassuring and a nuisance as I had to raise my stomach clear of the water. However, I feel it was kept to a minimum and carried out as swiftly as possible. The baby's heart was steady throughout.

I asked my mum to take Niall out for lunch at around 11 with instructions to phone in an hour. She left and the second midwife arrived. It was Alice - what a difference a day makes ! I wasn't in the pool for long when I felt the urge to push. It was amazing as I had no urge to push last time even when instructed to do so.

I got into a squatting position with my back against the pool side with Jack supporting me. Up until then I wasn't sure where I wanted to deliver - but now there was no way I was getting out of the pool. I was very warm so Jack provided cool cloths and plenty of water to sip. When it came to pushing it took me a while to get my breathing right and settle down - again Jack and Joan kept me anchored. At this point I felt I could use some gas and air but Joan said I probably wouldn't need it . She was right. She suggested a slight change in position - still squatting but taking more weight on my feet. This made pushing much easier. I could feel the baby moving down through my body.

As the baby 'crowned' the phone rang - my mum. We let it ring ! As the head was delivered Joan had to intervene as the cord was around the baby's neck. Surprisingly, the amniotic sac was still fully intact - Joan had to burst it to free the cord. The membranes or 'caul' floated gracefully across the pool. With the next push Joan manipulated the baby slightly as the shoulders were square on and a bit stuck. And then the baby was there on my chest - making a lot of noise. I looked at her and couldn't believe it was a girl - we checked 3 times - I was so sure I was carrying a boy.

Alice told Joan that I was bleeding so we decided that, as I was on iron therapy, I should have the injection of syntometrine for delivery of the placenta. To deliver I stood at the side of the pool and it happened almost immediately after injection. We all examined the placenta (I didn't look last time).

A word of advice here. The volume of blood loss looks dramatic as the blood diffuses through the water but don't panic about this - a little goes a long way. Equally, it is difficult for the midwives to assess blood loss accurately after the birth if you remain in the pool for any length of time, so I would advise you to discuss this matter fully with them well before the baby is due.

Next Joan helped me out of the pool and upstairs to my clean, fresh bed. After a bit of quiet time, just the 3 of us, I was examined - no stitches needed (another welcome change).

A little while later my mum and Niall returned with a teddy for the baby. We all sat round the bed, drinking tea and eating biscuits. We also had some champagne. I was so relaxed - just perfect. Photos were taken, phone calls made and eventually Hope was weighed. 7 lb 4 oz - a good bit bigger than her 5lb 11oz brother.

I'd had my perfect birth, the one that I so wanted, and just couldn't believe how great I felt. My two experiences were so different. This time I felt so happy, and energised as opposed to traumatised. I am sure this has made a big difference to Hope. Her birth was so gentle and calm, and she herself seems very peaceful.

Elaine Lyden

Note: Elaine had issues with a low iron count (low Hb or haemoglobin count) at the end of this pregnancy. She says:

I was anaemic at the end of my pregnancy. I had standard blood test at around 34 weeks but did not receive the results so I foolishly presumed everything was alright. One of the midwives on my team came to see me at 38 weeks plus -just to introduce herself. She asked about my blood and when I told her she said she would make enquiries. I was seeing another midwife at 39 weeks and it was then I was told my blood was 9.6. I was put on iron ( 200mg 3 times a day ) also more blood was taken and this time I was told my own G.P. would be in touch. She was, and luckily Jack took the call. My doctor was very concerned as my blood count was now 9.2 and it would take over a week to get it to an acceptable level. Remember my doctor was against my home birth in the first place. Anyway, I took the iron and saw a midwife at 40 weeks. She was a little concerned but I told her I was angry. I thought it was their fault as I should have been on iron from 34 weeks. However despite all this I gave birth to Hope the next day with very very little blood loss.

elyden @ scissors.supanet.com
(remove 'scissors' to get the real email address)

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