Lewis's Birth Story, by Gillian

Gillian's first baby, Elena, was born in hospital with the assistance of forceps, and Gillian had to fight to book a homebirth for her second because of this. However, after a good homebirth with Emily, a homebirth was a foregone conclusion for her third.

Gillian and Lewis

My waters broke at 1:10 am on the 18th June 2005. Still 9 days off my due date but I had been feeling very "overdue" once we got past 37 weeks which was when I was certain this baby would be born, having done 39 weeks with Elena and 38 weeks with Emily. I was sure the trend would continue…..but, no, it seemed not!

Elena had come in asking to go to the toilet. Motoi took her and I took the opportunity to turn over in bed. In mid-turn I felt my waters pop. Didn't want to cause a fuss while Elena was awake so stayed in mid-turn with my buttocks raised and my hand there trying to hold it all in! Motoi came back and I told him. He was unimpressed as he fancied more sleep, but still went and got me a towel. I put it between my legs and waited a suitable amount of time for Elena to go back to sleep before I went to the bathroom to sit on the toilet and let it gush out.

Meconium in the waters?

In my previous two labours there had been thick, green meconium in the waters when they broke. This resulted in people threatening a caesarean when I was in hospital during Elena's labour and with Emily, because I was at home and the waters didn't break until the last minute (about 15 minutes before she was born), it was too late for anyone to talk me into being transferred. In neither case was the baby affected by the meconium. I was fairly sure it would all happen again so talked at length with various midwives about the possibility. I felt very certain that I didn't want to be transferred to hospital on the basis of the presence of meconium alone if there were no other indications of the baby being in distress. Some midwives agreed with me on this one and others told me that hospital policy was to transfer anyone with meconium stained liquor to hospital for continuous monitoring. In my notes it said that I understood the risks and that I might not act upon the advice given by the midwife at the time.

Note from Angela: See also Meconium in the waters - What does it mean when there is meconium in the waters? Is your baby at risk? Should you transfer to hospital?

I had another couple of "unusual requests" such as not cutting the cord until the placenta had come out and allowing an unlimited amount of time for the placenta to appear without anyone giving my hassle or wanting to inject me with anything, so my case was brought up at a meeting of team leaders and supervisors of midwives at the local hospital. The result was that the second midwife at my birth would be a supervisor of midwives. I think this was mostly to protect the first midwife who could be in a difficult position if I chose not to take her advice, but I was pleased with this result as a supervisor of midwives can make judgements based on the individual case and has more flexibility in interpreting hospital protocol that the average midwife.

Anyway, having put all this in place, when I looked at the waters they were clear and pink!!

I sat on the toilet and thought that it could go one of two ways. Either this baby would be born before morning or it might not get started for a long time. I was glad that the hospital had recently changed its policy on inducing women whose waters had broken without contractions starting from 24 hours to 96 hours. I knew I would do it within 96 hours and that was one less battle to have!

As the flow stopped I thought I would go back to bed, but of course we were too excited to sleep. I got up and had a shower and more and more water poured out of me. I sat on the edge of the bath afterwards and watched it pour down towards the plughole. I pottered downstairs with various towels between my legs and put on a load of washing at about 4am as I had already used enough towels to justify it!

After that I went back to bed as, although I was having mild contractions, it was fairly obvious that they weren't building up and this state would continue for a while. I managed to sleep on and off. I woke up for the odd contraction and must have slept through others.

When 7am came and I was aware of my daughters, awake in the next room, everything ground to a halt. I got up and did normal things like made breakfast and brushed hair for a couple of hours. I also made tons of phone calls. After having said she wanted to see "The Brother" (as he was named from conception by his two big sisters) being born for the last 9 months she said that she would rather go to her Japanese kindergarten on that day instead (she goes each Saturday morning). So I had to arrange a lift for her to get there. Then there was a friend, Viv, who had offered to look after Emi. She also seemed happier to go off than stay and watch and it has to be said that I was quite relieved. The idea of a lovely birth with all the family present seemed increasingly unlikely when my contractions stopped just because they were awake in the next room.

There was also the photographer, Ian, to contact and my parents who were to be on hand if it all took so long that I had exhausted my friend's goodwill. Then another friend who had hired a birthing stool and had said I could use it if I managed to hang on until the 17th. I thought it unlikely but I was able to send the photographer for it while nothing was going on at home! Finally there was along phone call explaining the obscure location of the Japanese kindergarten to Viv who was picking Elena up from there.

The midwife, Louise, arrived about 9am and went off again quite soon as nothing much was happening. The very mild contractions were still about 7 minutes apart.

Elena went off at about 9am and then Emi at about 10am. I was quite tearful saying goodbye to Emi. It felt like it would be a very long time until I saw her again. Not really in terms of hours but just that I would be on the other side of a big journey before I saw her again and it felt like a huge parting to me.

Once Emi was away the contractions picked up big time. I was hardly able to get up off my birthing ball. I just bounced through them. We were in the back room downstairs and I felt the need to be upstairs, partly because it is more private as no one can see in, but also because it is next to the bathroom. We had cleared that room to make space for the birth and it felt right. We waited for a contraction to finish and I went upstairs followed by Motoi with the birthing ball and Ian with various other paraphernalia

There were still gaps between the contractions but they were getting more intense almost by the minute. People talking through them was becoming very irritating. I just wanted to bounce through them in silence.

The midwife came back at 11:30 with the second midwife, who was just popping in the said "Hello" as it was someone I hadn't met before. I don't think I managed to say anything to her until after the birth as I was just bouncing away with my eyes shut. She stayed as things were obviously hotting up. That next hour was extremely intense. There were no gaps between the contractions and they were getting painful. It was a very hot day - over 30 degrees - and we had all the windows open. I was aware of voices outside and later learned that the immediate neighbours were throwing an impromptu party in their back garden to celebrate the birth of their daughter three weeks previously!

It was odd that during this birth things were longer and slower and more intense than last time, but I still managed to have time for plenty of mental chatter, unlike last time when it felt very primal. "I can't go on," I would think and then immediately respond with "Oooh, I wonder if this means I am nearly there". Last time I felt Emi slip down and definitely knew she was about to be born. With Lewis I didn't feel him coming down at all, so I thought it could go on for hours still. One of the midwives offered me some gas and air and I enjoyed biting on the mouthpiece that came with it. I was aware of her saying that I needed to breathe it in, but couldn't seem to coordinate it as I was so used to breathing out for as long as possible during the contractions.

A couple of minutes later I felt the first expulsive contraction. I had been expecting a gap in between the first stage and the second stage contractions, as had happened last time, but I felt him starting to come out in the middle of a first stage contraction.

I said, "It's starting to come out" and had to get off my birthing ball and onto my knees - still leaning into my ball and Motoi's arms which were keeping me steady. That was when I got my gap and all my confidence returned. I knew I just had to wait for the next contraction and my baby would be born.

I did and he was. He must have edged down so gradually that my body must have had a chance to stretch and accommodate him and there was only the tiniest of tears. The neighbours outside knew when he had been born as they heard the cries. They all said "But we didn't hear any screams from you." That's because there weren't any. Just a few moans I think. The last part was so easy; he just slipped out…. all 9lbs 2oz of him! It was 12:48pm

The midwives passed him through my legs and there was "The Brother"… a real boy brother as the girls had said all along.

As expected, the placenta took forever! I tried sitting on the birthing stool but it didn't feel comfortable to me so I sat on the toilet. Eventually after 1 hour and 32 minutes it came out. True to their word, the midwives had left me to it and I was very glad of that.

When it finally came out and the cord was cut they asked me what I'd like to do now. "Lie down!" I said so we did, on the single bed in the back bedroom, on a shower curtain! Lewis was unimpressed with my offers of the breast and just slept the whole time. He didn't actually feed until late the next day and then not again for another 24 hours after that. This was another reason I was glad to be at home. In hospital they start intervening if your baby doesn't feed within 6 hours. Very scary.

The midwives stayed for a bit longer and eventually went away. Viv brought the big sisters back and we were all back together again.

Lewis is 3 months old today. It hasn't been easy. When Elena was born it was a total shock to our lives. Emily somehow just slotted in and it was a breeze. Third time round we were just as shocked as the first time for the first month. The breastfeeding has been hard again and I have been very sore and had nipples that look like a toddler's knee full of scabs. The night feeds and the lack of sleep are hard but the main thing is feeling like I am short-changing my two daughters, who are used to us being active and going out or doing something fun at home everyday. Now they get to see me being unable to do anything but feed their brother and being generally unavailable to them. I suppose it is a period of adjustment for us all. I have spoken to several people who say that he adjustment from 2 to 3 children is much harder than, say, 3 to 4 or more. I think they must be right!

Now that things have settled down and I have had some weeks of pain-free feeding, I am astounded (again!) at how much I am in love with my baby. How can it be so overwhelming and new each time?

So there you are. I am now a mother of three and I have a son. I never understood these women who couldn't see the bad in their (to me) very obviously flawed grown-up sons but I have become one of them and am in training to become the mother-in-law from hell! I only have a sister and don't really know how the beyond-babyhood relationship between mothers and sons works out although I can picture reasonably clearly a future relationship with my daughters. Not knowing is fun, though and being part of this relationship which is developing day by day is both exciting and fun. Watch this space!

Gillian

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