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Skye's birth story, by Helen N

Helen's third baby, Skye, was born at home in November 2005. Helen sent this birth story to me the next day!!!

I had started having intense bouts of regular contractions almost 4 weeks before, the night before Samhain (Ancient Celtic festival marking the first day of winter), which were softening and effacing my cervix beautifully but, unfortunately, tended to fizzle out rather than get going. Some of these were intense enough that I felt I needed pain relief, many of which were intense enough that we called the midwife- but to no avail. This baby obviously had its own agenda, although what this was was a complete mystery: one midwife was guessing that the head was flexed and presenting brow first, based on the suture lines she could feel during an internal; at other times, baby was lying laterally, and putting very little pressure on my cervix. Trusting my body was getting incredibly hard, and I'd given up any hope of recognising labour when it finally started.

At 3.30am (the same time my labours with my boys started) a contraction hit that I had to move through- whilst lying down, in bed. Another one happened some time later, and then another: I tried timing them using the stopwatch on my mobile, which was next to my bed, but kept on hitting the wrong button in the dark. At 5.30, I got up and went downstairs because at that point I wasn't sleeping any more, and I thought an upright position might help.

Then, of course, a small figure appears at the top of the stairs...

"Mummy...(cough, wheeze) I wet the bed..(cough, wheeze, wheeze.)"

5yo Isaac, also born at home, had had a wet bed and was having a fairly interesting asthma attack on the same day his new brother or sister was born. The timing was phenomenal. I pumped him full of salbutamol (gave him the maximum dosage on his asthma care plan) and the prednisolone we keep to try and keep him out of hospital: generally, his attacks go from healthy to hospital in next to no time, and he doesn't do "mild" anything- to be fair, though, his attacks are few and far between. At some point, I realised that the contractions had completely disappeared.

Isaac fell asleep on the sofa, and I went back to bed, to start contracting irregularly again. I woke my husband up, told him I was having contractions and snuggled in next to him, with my back to his back, moving through the contractions. Up at 8.30, with the rest of the family, and the contractions started settling down and getting more regular: by 10 they were intense and painful, and coming three minutes apart and lasting one minute (like every false alarm I'd ever had.) We rang the labour hotline, who paged our community midwife, Sandra.

"I think I'm having a baby"

She was very calm and matter-of-fact, considering we'd had this conversation so many times over the last month, just mentioned that she was at the hospital, did I want her to pick up some gas and air, and she'd be right over... the contractions got more painful and harder to deal with. I was chanting "baby, baby, baby" through it, as it seemed to help. I came up from one fairly nasty one to find Sandra standing next to me, and Isaac wheezing again.

Sandra examined me, told me off for not eating and pronounced that I was now in active labour. Isaac had another ten puffs of his inhaler, and while the boys watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory we started semi-seriously considering the possibility that this baby would be born in hospital, on childrens ward, by Isaacs bedside. We called my mum to let her know that this, the most awkward yet of her grandchildren, was finally on their way. My contractions stopped - I don't know when, just with worrying about Isaac I hadn't had one. Overcome with heat, noise, disappointment and worry, I went upstairs for a nap. I felt a huge contraction, like a ball of fire, and a distinct pop. Called to Sandra, who steered me into the bathroom - where's the waters? Didn't they just break?

Changed my pad, lay down again, heard a knock on the door as another midwife delivered Sandra's sandwiches. Closed my eyes, felt like crying with disappointment- this wasn't the way it was meant to be. Felt another ball of fire, and then warmth and wetness everywhere as my waters finally broke and transition hit: hard. I wasn't sure whether to stand up, sit down, move, cry, laugh, jiggle, or do nothing and give Sandra time to finish her lunch. Part of me seriously considered the last option, then another fiery feeling happened and I thought I'd better tell her.

She and Steve came rushing upstairs, helped get my skirt and pants off - they took my slippers as well, and my feet felt so cold. Sandra did a quick internal to check that the cord hadn't prolapsed, and confirmed that, as she'd obviously suspected, I was fully dilated: the sleepiness and the lack of contractions was my "rest and be thankful period" as had happened with the boys, and I'd somehow missed the hard part of labour. I wiggled and jiggled trying to decide what to do next: the bedroom was a bit cold for having a baby in, but everywhere else was a bit far away to get to, and I didn't like the idea of a baby falling out halfway down the stairs. Whilst I was shuffling around, trying to decide if I felt like pushing, Sandra was grabbing plastics, towels, and getting her bags and baggages upstairs ready.

Can't stand up - something's missing. Where's my husband? Oh, shit, the baby's head's coming now and Sandra hasn't got her gloves on. Yes she has. I hear him coming up the stairs at the same time she reminds me that if I want to catch the baby, I'd better do it now - tells me not to push, to slow down, at the same time that I'm trying to work out how that would go. I'm not trying, not putting any effort in, this isn't me doing it. I hear Sandra asking me if I'll let her help with the shoulders: it seems fair enough, we hadn't planned for me to be on my back trying not to give birth at the time I did, and shoulder dystocia (stuck shoulders) is apparently the big risk factor for a fat lass with a tendency to have big babies. I feel baby wiggle and jiggle some more, hear him cry, push to help him and he's out and on my chest and I'm struggling to get my T-shirt out of the way so I can keep him warm.

We cuddle him close, and then Sandra asks if we've looked to see what it is. I see the cord- and nothing else. Shock headlines, it's a girl! I've been calling her "him" for the past 9 months. We wait for the cord to stop pulsing - Sandra asks if I've made a decision about the syntometrine. Our baby, Skye, is so still and calm and peaceful, I worry she's not OK, but I can hear her breathing. Her eyes aren't open.

The cord stops pulsating, and Alex, my eldest comes bounding upstairs- we ask if he'd like to cut the cord. He does, but struggles, it's so tough... so Steve does the last bit. I try to push out the placenta - manage a blood clot, feel really smug and self-satisfied that I've done it and had my natural third stage- then realise that the cord is still between my legs. I decide to stand up - might as well put that plastic to some use - and wait for a contraction. And wait, and wait. Finally, I decide I can't be bothered with waiting any more and try a push, just to see what happens - without warning Sandra. She grabs a bowl and catches the placenta with a "Whoops!" and a splosh, and much laughter - is very pleased with us.

We settle back down on the bed, and Skye nurses whilst I cuddle her. And nurses, and nurses, and nurses, and nurses, and nurses - until I send her off downstairs to get weighed and warm. 8 lb 5 oz, absolutely perfect, and incredibly calm and laid-back.

Apparently, the reason Sandra asked to help with the shoulders is that Skye came out with her hand up next to her face - no wonder it took her a month to get out. I'm shocked it was so easy.

All the blood stains were safely removed with the help of a proprietary brand of cleanser. No midwives were harmed in the making of this birth story (although she never did finish those sandwiches.) Isaac didn't need to go to hospital, and says at least five times an hour "I think our baby likes me."

Helen N

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