Eleanor's Birth Story

by Mel Rimmer

Mel's second baby, Eleanor June, was born at home on Saturday 15th January 2000, weighing 8lb 5.5oz, after a 7 hour labour.

Mel's first baby, Thomas, was born by caesarean section after she transferred from a home birth, for failure to progress in the second stage.

Saturday morning my husband, Ed, got up with Thomas, our 2-year-old son, as usual, giving me a nice lie-in. I couldn't enjoy it, though - I kept waking up, feeling very uncomfortable. I realise now I was having contractions. At 10:30 I got up and had a shower, but had to get out as I was very uncomfortable indeed. I couldn't even dry myself in the shower room, but went to the living room where I could sit on the sofa.

I asked Ed to get me a hot water bottle, a couple of paracetamol (painkiller, called Tylenol in the USA), and a cup of tea to help ease the discomfort. I suspected I might be in labour, but didn't really believe it. I thought if the paracetamol and hot water bottle didn't help, I'd have to re-think. I also thought if it was labour I was in trouble, as the discomfort was already quite severe, and if it got any stronger, it would be hard to cope with.

I phoned my sister, Stephanie, to tell her, and say I'd let her know when I was sure what was happening. She wanted to be at the labour and birth, and planned to drive to Liverpool from Sunderland, about 150 miles, when I went into labour. Before Ed had got me all the things I asked for, I was certain. The contractions were periodic, and making low moaning noises helped me to get through them. Thomas thought this was very funny, and mimicked my noises each time I had a contraction.

Now I was sure they were contractions, they were easier to deal with. It was only when I thought it might be just late pregnancy backache that it seemed severe. I called Mum and asked her to come over, and I also called the midwives.

Mum arrived and suggested I get in the bath. This sounded like a good idea. Just as I was about to climb in, the midwives, Ruth and Joyce, arrived. I was delighted, as this was my "dream team".

(In the UK, community midwives often work in teams of 6-8. This means that you get to meet all of the team during your pregnancy, but may not know which midwife will actually attend the birth until you go into labour.)

Joyce added some rose and camomile essential oils to the bath water, which was very pleasant. Dad came by at some point and took Thomas away. My sister Lindsey arrived a little later. Ed stayed with me all the time, pouring water over my abdomen during contractions. Mum and Lindsey took it in shifts, chatting to me between contractions.

I stayed a lot more clear headed between first stage contractions than I had with my first labour, when I had needed all my concentration all the time. The midwives pretty much made themselves scarce, just popping in from time to time. They got me out of my bath at one point to examine me. I was 8 cm dilated, which amazed me, as I hadn't been in labour long at all. I must have been contracting whilst I was asleep.

The contractions were a lot harsher when I was out of the water, so I started using gas and air at that point. The relief given by the water was greater than that given by the gas and air, and I was glad to be able to get back in my bath.

I drank juice from time to time, and ate most of a banana when I felt hungry. Lindsey put Fairport Convention's "Liege and Leif" on the CD player, and I enjoyed listening to that. My contractions were getting longer and more intense, although, as last time, I never experienced anything I'd describe as pain. One contraction began at the same time as the instrumental on the track "Sloth". It seemed to take the same form as the music, increasing as the music became faster, and peaking when the music climaxed. As the last bar faded, the contraction ended. I'll never be able to listen to the piece again without remembering that.

I started to need my concentration between contractions as well as through them. A little later I was sick, which I realised must indicate I was in transition. I was grateful for this landmark in the labour, and knew that my baby's arrival was one step nearer. I think I'd only been in first stage for about 4 hours. Ed drained the water out of the bath, and we decided that there was no need to refill the bath; I'd get out and push in a more upright position. We hoped that, this way, we'd avoid the malpresentation which meant Thomas had to be born by caesarean.

Steph had arrived at some point during early second stage, although I was too out of it to greet her properly. When I first saw her, for some reason she reminded me strongly of one of the midwives in "Spiritual Midwifery", all hippyish and smiling. It was a nice thing to be reminded of, as that book was an inspiration to me in both my pregnancies. I was a bit sorry that she had arrived when the easy, exciting first stage was over, and just in time for the hard work.

Unlike my first labour, I did have a strong urge to push, but I held back. Although I didn't verbalise it, even internally, I didn't really believe that pushing would make the baby come out; after all, it hadn't last time. I seemed to think that I just had to follow the line of least resistance and survive this stage until I could be transferred in for my nice epidural and section. If I'd framed these words to myself I would have realised what rubbish it was, but I only realised I'd been thinking this way afterwards.

The midwives kept moving me about, getting me to try all kids of positions, especially upright ones. I just wanted to curl up in the most comfortable (least productive) position. They kept saying, "Try to stand up" and I'd say "No", then "OK, next time". Every time they suggested anything, I'd refuse, but then concede 'next time'. I trusted them, and even though I didn't want to move, I believed their suggestions would help, so I agreed, but only in my own time.

Ed was wonderful. He held me and let me push against him. Lindsey was fantastic, too. The midwives would make a suggestion, such as "relax your shoulders", and Lindsey would pick it up and repeat it to me whenever necessary. She talked to me the whole time, but never bullied me. She also kept saying, "You really wanted to have this baby at home. Remember how much you fought for it". I was very impressed with her.

At one point we moved onto the landing and I did a few contractions leaning over the banisters. During one, I felt a gush of hot water all over my legs, like a large water balloon bursting. Someone said, "Your waters have gone". I said, rather snappily, "I figured that out", which made everyone laugh. We moved into the bathroom, and I sat on the toilet to push.

I was wondering when they'd be calling the ambulance to transfer me, and I heard Ruth say "We'll give her until 4 o'clock". "Oh good", I thought, "I only have to hang on until 4 o'clock". By 4 o'clock the urge to push was incredibly strong and I couldn't hold back any more. I started to make angry grunting/shouting noises. Ruth was very encouraged by this, and could tell I was pushing properly. She made me get more upright - Ed sat on the edge of the bath and I hung around his neck and shoulders to push. I could feel the baby's head on my perineum and the light finally dawned - I was going to push this baby out! I started to push with real energy.

Determined to make up for lost time, I even pushed between contractions, and Ruth had to slow me down. Lindsey came in and got behind me with a mirror so she could see the baby's head crowing. She was very excited and reported that she could see it, but I didn't need to hear it as I could feel the head.

Mum and Steph climbed into the bath behind Ed. At this point there were Mum and Steph in the bath, Ed sat on the edge of the bath with me around his neck. Ruth, Joyce, and Lindsey were behind me, clustered around the toilet. I had never planned to have so many people present, but since they had all been so crucial during the labour, it felt right that they should be there.

Another couple of good pushes and the baby's head was out. The midwives then told me to stop pushing. It was much harder not to push than it had been to push - I wanted my baby to be born. Ruth finally told me to push the body out.

What a feeling! What triumph! I thought, "I've done it! That'll show them!" and then felt a little ashamed of myself for thinking that the only reason for this had been to prove that I was right and most of the medical establishment was wrong. Someone passed the baby up to me, and I held my bloody, greasy, wrinkly baby girl and talked to her. "Hello, baby".

Mel Rimmer

In October 2001 Mel had her third baby, Samuel, also at home.

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