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Riley's birth story, by Kelly

At around 11pm on the 9th March the NCT “soon- to- be- Dads’  were all out getting boozed. I was relaxing at home in our new flat with over 3 weeks to go til baby's due date, contemplating the many boxes unpacked that day and all the work still be done…….when I began to experience what could only be my first experience of strong Braxton Hicks contractions. Uncomfortable and tight but not painful. Yet.

Throughout the night these mild irregular contraction-type tightenings occurred, getting stronger as the night wore on – surely not labour already?! I paced the hallway, bounced on the birth ball, tried to get comfortable on cushions.. and got very little sleep while my husband lay snoring in his beer (and tequila?) fuelled slumber.

Despite being sure that I couldn't possibly be in labour with over 3 weeks to go, I rang the midwife at 7.30am and asked her to pop around to check things out.

Odette (my ace independent midwife!) arrived at about 9am and gave me my first physical exam. 2 cm dilated with a very thin ripe cervix. Yes in labour though not established labour yet – (they don't start timing it or calling it the real deal until you are 3cm!). From what Odette could tell it was likely to be a quick one – a baby here by that afternoon – jeepers!

Lunch date with colleagues was cancelled as was the hairdressing appointment as I was told to stick fairly close to home. I rang Geoff (my husband) who decided to come home immediately. Next call was to Valda, a very close friend and another birth support partner, – also on her way immediately.

Hooked up to a TENS machine my lower back pain was helped tremendously and gave me enough reprieve to mentally get my head around the fact that this baby was on its way!

 The boiler is broken! Great timing – the home water birth planned was going to see some challenges. At least it kept my mind off the labour for a large part of the day while I rang Foxton's, plumbers, electricians and tried to get it sorted.

An electrician arrived feeling quite bemused to be presented with a woman in labour I'm sure. Despite all efforts to get it resolved we are left without heating and hot water so Geoff is sent out to get some electrical heaters for each room – he buys the complete stock in Chapel Market! Given the freezing temperatures outside its not a bad thing. Doesn't help with the hot water situation though.

By 3pm things hadn't changed much. Still only 2cm dilated. Contractions were every 5-6 minutes and generally lasting about 30 seconds. A physical exam revealed that the baby had turned OP (occiput posterior) explaining the back pain I was having and also why things weren't really progressing. He'd chosen the long way around!! Bugger!

Odette was great and had all sorts of tricks up her sleeve to have us turn this baby back round  - plenty of time on all fours, lie on left side, lift left leg though all contractions but most importantly get LOTS of rest – this could take 2 or 3 days!! Bugger….

 A hospital birth may have had me opt for  a c-section by this stage or maybe something to induce me so given how well I was still feeling I was pleased to be at home where I was given more time.

 I was supplied with some aromatherapy labour oils to apply to the tummy every so often until Odette returned.

For the remainder of the afternoon and evening contractions seemed to slow to about 10 mins apart – such a strange sensation and hard to describe but I still remember the feeling of 2 waves of pain with each contraction – the pain and tightening across the stomach peaking and beginning to ease only to be trumped by an excruciating wave of pain in the lower back.. breathe 2,3, 4, breathe 2,3,4... surprisingly seems to get me through!

Gave up on tens machine after realising I had been wearing it for nearly 12 hours – now more annoying than helpful.

Hours pass in a blur of pacing and breathing through contractions followed by a couple of minutes' sleep(?) in between.. Valda and Geoff are both sleeping ready to be rested for the big event as soon as I say the word.

By about 2.30 am contractions are every 5-6 mins again lasting almost 1 minute so I call Odette to come back - and its time to get Valda and Geoff out of bed for some company.

3am Odette arrived and prepares some rescue remedy in water which she randomly places under my tongue every now and again over the next few hours. It's amazing the calm - the aromatherapy oils seem to be working with good effect too.

All helped I am sure by the fact that my waters have still not broken – she lets me feel where the membranes are bulging – I can't believe they are still intact given the amount of pressure they are under!

3.30am I am advised to keep as mobile as possible but not much instruction needed there – it's instinctive – the others stay out in the lounge and I get comfortable on my bedroom floor amongst cushions and rugs and rock on all fours. Given the standard calculation of 1 cm dilation an hour Odette mentions that my next physical check will be in about 4 hours so just get comfy and keep up the good work!

By 3.45 I am grunting and making some strange noises that just don't sound like me at all - quite surreal. I continue to raise my left leg up on the toilet seat and lean against the bathroom basin for each contraction – each one now lasting at least a minute and breathing really not quite cutting it anymore. The urge to poo is overwhelming but passes after each contraction. Things are hotting up. More rescue remedy given when I feel that I am starting to lose it a little – it really helps . I am 7cm dilated less than 30 mins later.

Geoff and Valda start boiling water in pots and pans to try and fill the birth pool in time. It keeps them busy and I am left to continue what has become a very primitive experience on my bedroom floor in the dark. Fighting the urge to push is difficult but being on all fours helps.

By this time I'm pretty keen to get in that warm pool – it is my intended pain relief after all and I'm starting to think I'd quite like it!! But the damn thing is still virtually empty and not too warm either!!

My next recollection is the back-up midwife arriving and Valda bringing her into my room to introduce her to me. She is softly-spoken and soo calming. Its bizarre. Her words of encouragement at how well I am doing and how beautiful this experience will stay with me but now I NEED something more – if that damn pool isn't ready then I NEED some gas and air...NOW... please!

Odette examines me first and I am 10cm dilated - no need for gas and air as I'm finally going to be allowed to push.

I move from my bedroom to the lounge for the second stage – it's about 4.45am Saturday 11th March and this has effectively been going on since 11pm Thursday - there has been a distinct lack of sleep for 2 days.

Despite all this I still feel ok – the adrenaline is now starting to take over. On the way down the hall from the bedroom to the lounge my waters finally break. I lean forward on the walls of the birthing pool, on my knees, my hands enjoying the cool water – I've been feeling hot for a few hours now. The water is bliss. Nice that the pool is useful for something I guess!

 I remember this stage more clearly than the rest. The urge to push being incredible, clamping down on my husband's hand with my own, grunting and groaning  with the effort, still not sure where these guttural sounds could possibly be coming from… and also the feeling that I was missing out!

"Someone grab a camera" were the first words I had said in a very long time (other than the odd swear word).

 As I remember it there was only about 3 pushes before the head was delivered (5.02am) – I remember thinking that the head mustn't have crowned yet as it didn't hurt enough! Then the wonderful sensation of my little boy slithering out 5.05am – a wee baby boy 6lb 6oz and 3 weeks early!

He was passed directly up to me and cuddled close to my skin while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. Geoff then cut the cord, had his turn holding his boy for the first time and then Riley was cleaned up a little (being early he was covered in white stuff!!).  Not everything was rosy – Riley was grunting a little and having some breathing difficulties which were quickly resolved with some oxygen applied gently over his face . The midwives wrapped him up warm given his size and monitored his breathing closely.

What felt like only a couple of minutes later but was actually more like 25-30 mins later Odette suggested it might be time to try and deliver the placenta. I resumed position on my knees leaning against the birth pool for support and once again “pushed’ as much as possible. I remember sensations of dull period type pain – nothing more severe than that - and recall that it took more effort to deliver than I had expected. 2 or 3 strong determined pushes and we were done. The placenta was examined to make sure it was intact –it was fascinating to look at. I had come through the birth with no stitches, not even a graze or a scratch – for this I was very thankful!

With the formalities over we were sent to bed. The midwives stayed at the flat for the next 2 hours – coming in regularly to monitor Riley's breathing  - by the time they left he was breathing without any difficulty.

I was on a high for days afterwards. It was the most amazing thing and words really can not describe the exhilaration I felt. I could not get the grin off my face!

My labour was everything I had dreamed of and more…..

For us our drama and emotional trauma came in the next 3 weeks with breastfeeding……or lack thereof.  In fact to be honest a general lack of feeding at all.

It is a painful time for me to recall and I am still racked with the guilt than a non-breastfeeding mother is burdened with in today's "breastfeed at all costs" society…. That, I'm afraid, is another story!

However the important thing is that I have a healthy adorable little boy!

Kelly A

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Pain relief - what are your options at home?

Waterbirth at home

First Babies and homebirth

Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.

Birth before 38 weeks - what are the issues?

What if your baby needs resuscitation at home?

Get Your Baby Lined Up - what it means when your baby gets in an awkward position, and what you can do about it.

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

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