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Becky's Birth, by Kirsty Crowther

Kirsty's first baby was born in hospital with the assistance of a ventouse. The birth was traumatic and Kirsty suffered a third-degree tear, yet despite this she received appalling postnatal care and was given very little help in hospital. Her second baby's birth was very different.

I'd been having Braxton Hicks contractions, from very early in the pregnancy, so when I got long runs of them from 36 weeks, I didn't pay them much attention.

Then at 38 weeks and one day, I had strong contractions. They began at 11 o'clock at night, and after an hour had not stopped, so Dan and I got up and watched tv. We stayed up for two hours, but they showed no sign of stopping, so we went back to bed. Dan went to the spare room, to make sure he got some sleep. I read for a while, then went to sleep. At around 3AM, they were getting quite painful and had got down to 7 minutes, so I got my TENS machine. Everything looked hopeful, but in the morning, the contractions slowed and stopped.

After that, I regularly had two or three hours, of contractions, coming about seven minutes apart. They were usually in the evening or during the night. As it was obvious we couldn't tell the difference between the 'real thing' and a 'false alarm', we inflated the pool.

On Easter Sunday, while eating lunch in the garden, the strong contractions began again. Millie was playing in the sunshine and Dan got out his guitar. It was warm and sunny, and everyone was happy, so I kept quiet, and enjoyed the afternoon.

When Millie went for her nap, Dan and I cleaned the kitchen and tidied the house. That was when Dan noticed I was having contractions. He immediately began removing things from the dining room, to make more room. Then he fitted the liner for the pool.

The contractions were down to every 5 minutes, and Dan was a little on edge, so I suggested a walk. We took Millie down to the High Street. On the way we saw an albino squirrel. Millie was very excited and Dan took photographs.

The contractions were now about every three minutes, and walking during them was getting difficult. We decided to buy curry and a pineapple, in the hope that it would stop the contractions petering out again. I turned the TENS Machine up to 7.

The contractions were strong and often, but were erratic. Some were a minute apart, others five minutes, but mostly about 3 minutes. They'd been like that for an hour, while I'd been resting, but I didn't feel that they were doing anything. In labour with Millie, it had felt painful on the inside, when I finally began dilating, but that was missing. The contractions were stronger, and more often, however, than the contractions I'd had when having Millie. Also, I felt ridiculously cheerful, and this was how I'd felt when labouring with Millie, probably an effect of the hormones. We felt we'd better get some advice.

I called my midwives, and spoke to Alice. She was already at a birth at the hospital. She asked lots of questions, and I explained that I felt 'it wasn't happening yet', but needed advice, and had wanted to give them some warning. Alice arranged to call me back later, to see how it was going.

I noticed a few flecks of blood, but so little, Dan and I felt that they couldn't really be classed as a show. I was curious, so I had a scout around for a cervix, but couldn't find one. I found a head, covered in a spongy layer, which I assumed was my tissue, but I couldn't find the cervix. So that didn't give me any information either.

When Alice called back, everything was going along, pretty much the same. She'd been told to ask if I'd come into the hospital, as they were very busy. She knew I'd say 'no', though, and I did. She explained that she'd need lots of warning as it would take an hour for her to get to me from the hospital. She also suggested a warm bath, to see if it stopped the contractions, to help me know either way.

I got very cold and shaky and began to feel sick, so the bath wasn't very appealing, so Dan and I went for a couple of walks. Walking made the contractions really strong, but much more erratic. They then spaced from some 1 minute apart to others 15 minutes. I was also beginning to feel really tired, so we decided to go to bed.

The night was passed dozing between contraction and fiddling with the TENS. Then, in the morning the contractions stopped again. Hannah called to check on us, and we had to report it was all stopped.

The baby had begun to be engaged. The bump was now lower, and my coat wouldn't do up at the bottom. (It always stretched round Millie). Also it felt very heavy in my pelvis and I got shooting pains down the inside of my legs, when walking. And when it moved its head, I felt stretching pains inside.

On the Wednesday, Alice came to check on us. The bump had 'shrunk' by 2cm and was only measuring 33cm, (Millie was 38cm). Also my blood pressure was up a little. She sent us to the hospital for a scan and bloods. The hospital predicted 6lb 10oz. At the hospital the bump was really uncomfortable, and I really wanted to lie down and stretch it out. It felt like that for the rest of the day, and going up to Norbury to collect Millie was hard, as inside my pelvis felt really heavy, and the shooting pains kept making me miss a step.

I had a run of contractions for three hours during the night, and was getting quite annoyed with the whole thing now. Having the contractions so often had helped to make us relaxed about the whole thing, for which I was grateful, but I was getting tired having so many restless nights, and my stomach felt bruised.

Thursday morning, I took Millie to the playpark on the common. We saw lots of friends from playgroup, and I had a moan, that I'd had so many contractions, and that this baby was never going to come out. We were supposed to be having a picnic, but I was too lazy to pack one, so we went to Wendy's house for lunch. While eating in the garden the contractions began again. We sat enjoying the sunshine, and ignored them.

Later, I went home, and Pat, the secretary from school dropped in. We sat chatting in the garden, and I didn't mention the contractions. I was fairly sure that this was going to be another false alarm, and thought I'd avoid the fuss.

At 4 30, I felt pain on the inside. Like my insides wanted to tear open. In order to keep busy, and just in case this was the real thing this time, I began timing and put sheets on the cot. I considered calling Dan, but figured there was only half an hour before clocking off, so decided against it.

At 5 05, I called Dan, in case he was running late, I assured him that there was plenty of time, but told him to come now. He asked me to call the midwife, but I said I'd wait til he came, and see what he thought. I hadn't been using the TENS machine, so I put it on.

The contractions were quite painful, and I wanted the distraction and company, so I called Wendy. I was standing in the kitchen bending over the worksurface, rocking back and forth during the contractions. She asked what the timings were, and I had to admit I'd had to give up as I'd lost the ability to manage it and the TENS machine. She began timing them, over the 'phone, and I began giggling. I was very happy. It hurt a lot, but I was becoming convinced something was happening, and it was absurd having someone time me over the 'phone, especially as I kept having to break off mid-sentence. I decided there were definitely some happy hormones going on.

Millie was getting bored, so I tried to put Cinderella on. I was crawling about on the floor, and couldn't get the DVD player to work. Wendy decided I must be in labour, cos I'd turned useless. Also she timed one contraction as lasting over two minutes, and a few almost back to back.

I called Hannah's 'phone, but she was on a day off, and Alice already had a birth. I got Helen, one of the midwives I hadn't met. This made it slightly more difficult, as I'd talked to Hannah and Alice extensively about not having regular or often contractions last time, and that nothing had happened for hours, then I'd gone from 3 to 8cm in two hours. Also, I was on a wave of contractions and was having difficulty getting my thoughts straight, and explaining myself clearly.

Helen asked if I wanted her to come, and I said 'yes', but I could hear that I didn't sound very convinced. I was still on my own, so I called Wendy back, and talked to her til Dan got in.

When Dan arrived, I discovered I didn't feel very sociable. I'd been OK talking to Wendy on the 'phone, 'cos I had been able to keep my eyes closed, and didn't have to look at her. Also, if I'd had contractions and stopped talking, or chanted swear words, it was like she wasn't really there.

Thankfully, Dan went to cook for Millie and to fill the pool, (he'd asked me if he should and I said 'no', as I still wasn't sure). He decided to fill it anyway.

Helen arrived at 6 30, and must have thought I was raving mad. She came in and I was sitting in the middle of the floor, with Millie on my knee, watching Cinderella. And there I stayed like the least labouring woman for 15 minutes. A definite case of white coat syndrome.

I was beginning to think it had all stopped and I'd wasted her time, when it began again. This time the contractions were less painful, and seemed to come in a group, a few at a time, then a long break. This carried on for about 40 minutes. Helen offered to do a VE, but I didn't want to be told this wasn't it, so asked if we could wait. She sat and calmly read through my birth plan, and watched, but didn't say or do much, exactly what I wanted. It was very important to me not to feel pressured.

Helen checked the baby a few times. She said it was well engaged and reassured me that it was a happy baby and its heartrate was fine. She made no comment on the contractions, which was good. I'd hated being told they were not good enough the last time.

I got an urge to go the loo, although I was fairly sure I was empty, so when I got the next gap I went. I was right, I was empty, but now I was stuck in the bathroom. Each contraction made me double over, and close my eyes, and I was on a wave of almost back to back contractions, so I couldn't get downstairs.

Helen had gone to find Dan and had asked him if I needed privacy, so I yelled down that I was stuck, and she came up to get me. She was just suggesting trying two steps at a time, when I got a break. ( I could tell a break was coming because the ache would subside altogether, between the groups, an ache would remain, so I knew another contraction was coming fast).

I gasped, that it was a break and virtually ran past her, to get to the bottom before it began again. The contractions felt very 'big' now. Not more painful, but more consuming. I didn't want to move any more, but buried my face in the arm of the sofa and rocked back and forth on my hands and knees. Helen started saying encouraging things, and I wondered vaguely if she had noticed a change, and maybe this was it.

Dan put Millie to bed, and as he did so, it felt like the baby moved down an inch. It wasn't painful, just strange, like it suddenly slipped. I'm not even sure it was during a contraction. I tried to say, and the next contraction came and it was agony. I gave up and yelled panic. I'd had my face in the arm of the sofa and my bum in the air, but then it felt like something had shot out of my stomach and was going to explode out of my bum. I knelt bolt upright and grasped my bum, to stop it tearing apart. It was agony, I was so sure it would tear apart. I started screaming, and although I didn't want to scream, I couldn't stop. I don't think I've ever screamed in my life, but it just kept on going.

The contraction slowed and Helen was there and I was hanging round her neck. I was really frightened. It seemed so sudden, and so ridiculously painful.

During the contraction, a bulge like a small egg had been growing, then exploded, like a small, but very powerful water bomb. I managed to say 'water', but had assumed no one had noticed. Helen had though, and had checked how much.

Dan appeared and wanted to move me to the pool. I'd spent a lot of time, making Dan very clear on what I wanted, and to ignore anything I might say when I was hurting, so he was quite insistent.

But I couldn't move, and didn't want to. All the muscles in my arms and legs were tensed hard, and I couldn't relax them. They'd frozen, because I wanted everything to be still and stop. I yelled 'No'. Helen made him wait until the end of the contraction, then they bundled me off. Dan pushing and carrying. Helen removing the TENS and clothes.

Dan picked me up and dumped me in the pool. I was just standing there in the water. I couldn't make myself sit down. My legs tensed straight and my arms tensed straight on the side. The next contraction, I was still standing there. (And screaming again – I couldn't stop myself). I was vaguely aware of Helen 'phoning for a second midwife.

Helen tried to make me get into the water, but I was struggling to get control of myself. I just kept repeating 'panic'.

In the next gap, I tentatively lowered myself into the water, and the effect was instantaneous. The ache between the contractions disappeared, and the pain in my stomach was less during the contractions, allowing me to concentrate on what the baby was doing. Also, I lost the urge to tense all the muscles in my arms and legs, so became much more relaxed and the panic subsided.

During the next contraction I was still pressing on my bum quite hard to ease the explosive pressure, and Helen was urging me to stop, and allow the baby to move out. I said no and that it was coming too fast. She continued to urge, but wasn't annoying.

The next contraction the baby had passed my bum, and the pressure was gone. I felt for the baby, and found exactly what I'd found on Easter Sunday, only closer. This confused me. The head was still covered in a spongy layer. I tried to explain. I said 'its still wrapped', and 'its covered', but obviously Dan and Helen had no idea what I was talking about.

In the next contraction the head crowned. I felt hair, and the head getting wider and wider in my hand. Then the contraction stopped, leaving the head at its widest part. I'm sure it says in all the books, that it will slip back a few times, but it didn't, and it was quite a stretch, so I eased it back a little, telling Helen as I did it.

Helen said not to, but it was coming too quickly. It wasn't so much that it hurt, more that the expulsive force with which more body was pushing it, meant I felt it would fly out, and I wanted to ease it out slowly. I had no urge to join in and push, my contractions seemed to be doing just fine on their own, I just concentrated on keeping everything slower.

The next contraction got the head out. That was great. I had the baby's head in my hands, and it had load of hair. It was quite surreal, I would have quite happily just knelt there like that for hours.

The next contraction completely freaked me out. Helen had asked me to let go, so as not to over stimulate the baby, and with the next contraction it began waving up and down, like a dolphin, and felt like someone was yanking on it. I yelled at them not to touch, and they said that they weren't, but it continued, and I didn't believe them.

Helen said it was the baby wriggling to free its right arm, which it had had tucked up by its neck. In doing so it had freed the right arm, and left shoulder, but the right shoulder remained inside.

I'd forgotten that its recommended that babies are born in one contraction after the head, so I was enjoying the fact that it had slowed down.

Helen was happy that the baby was fine, as it was pink and waving, but suggested 'good, big pushes' with the next contraction. I hadn't done any pushing so I half heartedly attempted a couple, but found it very similar to pushing under epidural, I wasn't really sure how to go about it, and didn't think it would do much. So, I gave up. Then the baby just seemed to fall out by itself.

The baby slithered out of my hands and was behind me, so I turned to see it. Dan looked at it, and decided he didn't want to do anything I hadn't done, so he left it, so Helen scooped it towards me.

I picked it up and cuddled it. It was so different from Millie. It was pink, not blue, and it was covered in Vernix not blood. It didn't cry, just laid there in my arms. Dan and I looked to see what it was, (which was quite difficult as the cord was very short and was wrapped round my leg). It was a girl.

Dan got out and went to get Millie, who came down and got in the pool with us. She looked at the baby and squealed, 'baby', really excitedly. I had meant to get out fairly soon after the birth, but the water was so warm, and I wanted to cuddle, and it was lovely being the four of us in the water, so we stayed for a bit. The doorbell rang and Helen went to get it. I wondered vaguely, who on earth would be calling, and then realised it was Alice.

Alice was as surprised to see we had the baby already, as I was that she'd come, I'd completely forgotten we were waiting for a second midwife.

We were ready to get out of the pool, so Alice offered to let us cut the cord. Neither, Dan or I wanted to, and having seen it done, I'm so glad we didn't. It took some cutting and seemed quite gristly.

Becky and I were wrapped in towels, and moved to the sofa, which Helen and Alice had covered in Inco-pads. I fed the baby, and Millie asked to carry it, so we let her sit with her on her knee, which she loved. Dan's aunty Sally 'phoned, so we had fun surprising her, especially as she didn't believe us.

The placenta turned out to be harder to deliver than I'd expected. I'd expected contractions like the ones that expelled the baby, but just got period pain type contractions. Helen tried to remove it by pulling the cord, but it was pulling on the bruised bit of my bum, so hurt, but was also a bit gross, as the simple idea of pulling on the cord grosses me out.

In the end I pulled the cord myself. It took some getting used to, because firstly the cord was slippery and just slid through my fingers. Then after wrapping it round my fingers in a figure of eight, it started to stretch rather than pull out. Added to this was the fact that it began running blood, like milking a cow. So all of that was pretty off putting. Then suddenly out it plopped.

It did feel like it was just lying there inside, except the very last second when it felt like a tiny scab pulled off, so maybe it had peeled off from one side, and had mostly dis-attached and was just laying there, but with one corner to go.

I'd wanted a physiological third stage, but had had no urge to manually pull out my own placenta, but funnily enough now feel great pride in that achievement as well. I'd also had no inclination to labour without gas and air, although I also knew I didn't like it, but it never even crossed my mind until Dan mentioned it at crowning, and now I'm proud of that achievement too.

But the best bit was holding her head from crowning to birth. Being the first person to touch her, and her first contact. Also seeing and feeling her attached to me by her cord.

Alice did a 'placenta tour', which was fantastic. Actually seeing and properly understanding what I'd read and heard about. I've already had friends request to see that bit of the video.

This birth was so much nicer than my last one, and is a happy thing to remember, and something I'd like to tell Millie and Becky about in the future. I no longer think that giving birth is the scariest thing on the planet. I feel safe and secure, not in the slightest bit tearful, well looked after and happy.

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?

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

Fast Labours - is quicker always better? What do you do if your baby is arriving faster than your midwife?

Pain relief - what are your options at home?

Waterbirth at home

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