Aisling's birth story, by Nuala

Nuala's first baby, Aisling, was born at home in Edinburgh.

Pregnancy was mostly pretty uneventful - Edinburgh is very supportive of home birth so I never felt like I had to fight to be booked for it. I did develop a milk allergy, which was expressed by violent vomiting a few hours after I ate anything with milk in it and once I gave milk up I lost weight, which scared me. However, a growth scan confirmed the baby was fine, and I had been overweight before I got pregnant, which meant I had some spare to lose, so I tried not to worry.

Her due date was July 25. I started having bloody show on Monday 26 but nothing else for a few days. I wasn't too worried because this was my first baby plus I was born at 42 weeks.

Wednesday night (40+3) I had grumbling contractions. They ramped up to what at the time felt really frequent but now I know better. The on-call midwife (who was the one I'd liked the most during the ante-natal period - unfortunately, this was the last time I saw her) came out, had a chat and a cup of tea and recommended a hot water bottle and paracetamol. That calmed me enough I went to sleep. Another midwife dropped in on Thursday morning and confirmed with me that nothing much seemed to be happening. She stressed resting and eating at this stage.

My parents were arriving that day for a visit and I was worried by the idea of being in labour when they were around. Alex took Thursday off and kept me company - walked me along the canal to get lunch. I was still getting contractions, but they weren't long and only 2 or 3 an hour. My parents arrived and while the contractions never disappeared entirely, they calmed way down.

That evening (Thursday) we went to The Tower for dinner with my parents. The food was amazing and I had some red wine.

Alex went into work on Friday because while things continued niggly nothing definite happened. I had a few more doses of paracetamol. My parents headed home that evening, after dinner at our place. I ate hardly anything because I just didn't fancy it (it was roast lamb). We called the midwife again (well, triage, who then page the midwife - I found triage very variable - some of them were very nice but a couple of them were a little sharp when home birth was mentioned) about 11-ish and she called, suggested we try the TENS machine and sleep. I found the contractions were worse when I was lying down, which didn't help with the whole trying to rest theory. The TENS machine wasn't great either - I realised much later it was probably because I felt these contractions all in the back (not sure why - she was on the right (annoyingly enough - she had been on the left for the last month) but never at the back) so all it seemed to do was sensitise/irritate my skin rather than distraction from the contractions. At some stage after this I threw up, but I wasn't too worried because I knew it happens to some women in early labour.

At about 4-ish I got Alex to phone triage again - this was the most frustrating part for me - I understand why NHS community midwives can't stay with you during what was still pre/early labour, but I'd never done this before and was worried and needed reassurance. The midwife (3rd one!) came out, made some suggestions about how we were managing the contractions - she helped us adjust the TENS machine. She also did an exam and told us I was 2cm dilated and that the baby's head was well on the cervix, which cheered me up enormously - at least I wasn't imagining being in labour. Just as she was leaving I threw up again.

The next morning, my 4th midwife phoned (I had varied my later antenatal checkup times in an attempt to meet all of the team, but still ended up with a midwife I hadn't met. In the end, it didn't matter, but it did mean a bit of time where I was feeling reserved, which I had been hoping to avoid) and said she'd be by after she'd finished her morning checkups.

At some stage we came up with the idea of managing the contractions by me leaning against a bit of wall and Alex rubbing my back, which worked better than sitting on the ball or the TENS machine. I had a bath and Alex tried to nap. Midmorning-ish we decided to fill the pool because we knew from our previous test run it would take about an hour and a half.

The contractions were slightly more intense at this stage and sometimes I felt them in my thighs as well as my back. But they were still fairly spaced out - maybe every 10 minutes or so.

Once the pool was full and at the right temperature I got in, which with hindsight was possibly too early - the contractions spaced out again, but were much easier to manage. I spent about an hour in the pool and then got out. I think it was about then Alex suggested nipple stimulation to ramp up the frequency of contractions. We tried it for a bit but mostly felt silly. I do wish we'd remembered it earlier as it was after this that things did seem more established.

Now is when I'm a little unclear as to what happened when. I know the midwife didn't actually come until we'd phoned again - her calls took a long time, which is fair enough but I could have done with a phone call. I think she arrived about 2.30-ish, did an exam said I was 4 to 5 cm, which made me happy, but Alex found a little depressing - he'd not had much sleep the previous 2 nights and was worried it would be another day or two before the baby actually arrived. The midwife then headed off to do another couple of visits and after a bit I got back into the pool to give Alex a chance to nap in the living room.

I watched some West Wing (an episode and a half or so) and did OK for a while but then had a really strong contraction and threw up again. Alex got up then, helped me out of the pool, and forced me to drink some Dioralyte. We watched the Tour on the telly for a bit and then the midwife came back. I think it was 5/6ish at this stage. I dunno if it was then or earlier I had a whim to brush my hair. I remember standing in the living room, rocking while I had a contraction, slowing brushing my hair.

I guess that this is when things really ramped up. I know I watched some of the England match on telly and joked about naming the child 'England's Despair' but I really can't remember elapsed time at all by then. I know after a bit the midwife suggested I get back in the pool and there was a bit of time spent getting the temperature right. Poor Alex had to stop carrying buckets around every time I had a contraction to press my back.

Back in the pool, the contractions were much stronger - I would kneel by the side of the pool and hold on to the edge when they were strong. We tried pouring water down my back during contractions which I liked for about 2 contractions and then really hated. We think this is when my waters broke - the second or third contraction after I got into the pool, I threw up and at the same time felt a pop. We were distracted by giving me water and wondering if I wanted to eat, so I didn't tell the midwife this for a few minutes. This was when the vomiting speeded up and by the end of the hour or so I spent in the pool I was throwing up with ever contraction.

The contractions also changed - as well as the back pain, I was feeling very strong downward contractions on the top of my bump and stretching sensations at the sacrum. It was about then the midwife encouraged me to do pant, pant, pant, blow breathing. I don't know if they made a difference but it was good to have to concentrate on. She didn't have a waterproof doppler to listen to the baby's heartbeat, so I would stand up occasionally for her to check. Which was slightly annoying.

This was also when I had my last moment of relaxation - at some stage when I was alone in the room with the pool, I sat back in the pool, leaning against the side, floated my arms back and forth slowly and drifted off. Not quite to sleep, but certainly somewhere calm for a bit. Then I woke up and threw up again :)

After about an hour or so in the pool I asked to get out to go to the loo. I then settled into kneeling in the middle of the living-room floor clinging on to a chair - it really helped to push the back of the chair with my head during contractions. It was about then I complained about having to twist myself to throw up into a bucket - Alex found me a bowl I could put on the seat of the chair and I was much happier. I also started babbling about how this felt wrong and the throwing up wasn't fair and I didn't have control. With hindsight I'm guessing this was transition :)

I have no idea how long I stayed like this, but the midwife started arranging the futon cushions I would give birth on around me about then. She also phoned the other midwife to ask her to come but said there was no mad rush. She then got me lying on my back so she could do an exam. She decided I was 8cm (and seemed surprised by this) and we discussed me getting back in the pool. But when I stood up, I announced that I was pushing right then and this was no longer up for discussion. I kinda fell forward onto my knees and ended up holding on to the midwife's kit box. The midwife was encouraging me to pant rather than push and then checked me again to find the baby's head on its way. Then she said it was OK for me to push :)

I think it about then that when encouraged to pant I would say 'pant' repeatedly, which Alex found funny. At some stage he went and left the door ajar for the other midwife, which I found a little upsetting - I didn't want him out of my sight right then.

Then with a few pushes, the baby came - I reached back and touched her head but don't really remember what it felt like - I was too overwhelmed with the need to push. I tore slightly when her shoulders came out - both a perineal and a labial tear, but in the end it was decided neither needed stitches. She was purple when she came out but picked up every quickly.

I picked the baby up and asked Alex to tell me if it was a boy or a girl. He found this difficult because she was wriggling and her cord was in the way but managed it eventually. She was a girl. Apparently I then cooed at her and held her and generally acted like a complete sap. This was when the second midwife arrived. The second stage had only taken 10 minutes! She was born at 10.20pm on July 1st.

I had decided to go for physiological 3rd stage so after a bit the midwives needed to interrupt my little love-in with the baby. Alex got to hold her while I whinged about not wanting to push again. But once I changed position, the placenta came out really quickly. It looked huge and they asked me if I wanted it, but since our garden isn't big enough to plant a tree over it, I asked them to take it.

After a bit, the midwives cleaned me up and moved me onto our futon in the living-room with the baby beside me - I was originally planning to go to our bed but in the end was way too light-headed to walk that far. I'm pretty sure this was because I hadn't kept anything down for ages. Then, once the endorphins faded, I slept, occasionally waking up to gaze at her.

Links

First baby - is homebirth a sensible option?

Pain relief options at home

Using water for labour and birth

Back to Home Birth Stories

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