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Esme's birth, by Rebecca Wilson

This is the story of my first birth (only birth, so far :-)). My daughter was born on April 2006 and we live in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. My local hospital was the Southern General, my midwife team was Team D (I love them all!).

Well, my tale begins a long time ago, back in July 05 when we found we were pregnant. I always knew I wanted to homebirth so we set about arranging it. In the UK women are legally protected and have the right to deliver their babies anywhere they want to, but our health service is overstretched so arranging a homebirth can be difficult. They like to have you in hospital because there, with obstetric backup, the chiefs can have a midwife caring for 4 women in labour, whereas at home you get 2 midwives all to yourself. Well we got a bit pushy about it and were granted our request on the proviso that my BP (blood pressure)(which was always a little high) didn't get TOO high. Inevitably at the end of pregnancy it went up, which had my Obstetrician talking about hospital birthing after all. I went 11 days overdue and the last few weeks went into daycare in hospital twice-weekly for BP monitoring.

I had been booked to be induced in hospital by ARM (Artificial Rupture of Membranes - having the waters broken) on Tuesday the 4th of April and was praying I'd get my baby out before then. On Saturday the 1st, at 3am, I woke to fluid gushing out of me my waters had broken. I alerted Nicky (DP), then went on trying to sleep. Contractions were every 10 minutes, 40 or so seconds long, if I stayed awake and 12-15 minutes apart and 60 seconds long if I slept. I found it harder to be ready for them if I slept so after a while I just woke up and paid attention. I rocked on my beanbag, wandered about and sat on my bed and read birth stories. I also started to lay our stuff for birthing (rubber sheets etc.) and lit my oil burner with geranium and lavender to help keep me calm. I texted our birth partner, Jen, and told her to come over when she was ready. She came about 10ish. At 10.30 she and I went for a wee walk through the park, contractions still being about 8-10 apart and only 40-60 seconds long. It was lovely, I am in the middle of a city so seeing the tadpoles just hatching and a heron stopping by (to eat the tadpoles no doubt!) was so nice. When we got back the contractions had moved to 1 in five for 60 seconds or so, and I started to feel them. Nicky and Jen took turns pressing a heat pack against my back and massaging me during contractions, sitting behind me as I sat backwards on a dining chair. This helped a lot if they were touching me when a contraction began, if they weren't there when the contraction started I couldn't bear them to start touching me. At noon the pains were getting a bit breath-taking and I asked them to run me a bath.

The hot water was heavenly. It made the contractions hurt more, but the spaces hurt less. It was really perfect then, and I just wallowed and Nicky sat by me helping me breathe, and Jen sat on the loo with the seat down and knitted and chatted and we all had a good time. At 1ish I started to feel a bit pushy and began mooing and groaning through the contractions to help. I was worried as it seemed too soon to be pushy, so I asked them to call the midwife. It seemed to take forever for her to come, and I lay in the hot water with a cold flannel over my face mooing and breathing. The 1st midwife came at 2pm to assess me (to see if the other midwife needed to come or not). She sat by the tub and tried to feel the strength of the contractions through my stomach (couldn't examine me in the bath as my membranes had gone a good while before). She told me that although she could see I was feeling it bad, the contractions weren't that strong and that the baby seemed as if it were a tiny bit posterior and pressing on my sacrum, which was making me want to push. She said if I hopped out of the bath she'd examine me. I "hopped" (struggled) from the bath with Nicky's help and he dried me off.

I went back into my bedroom and got on the bed. Midwife examined me and found me to be 2-3cm dilated, 25% effaced. I was gutted. I was really having to TRY not to push and it was quite hard, so I couldn't believe I wasn't even in active labour. I had been 25% effaced for about 2 weeks! Midwife said she'd be back in an hour and would bring the mouthpiece for the gas-and-air tank with her as we hadn't got one in the birth packs. She also said I was doing fine and that if I started using pain relief I would go on doing so until the birth so to think about my options first. What she meant was I was mooing too soon and that if I exhausted the gas and air and the tiny morphine dose they could administer I'd need to go in to hospital. I couldn't help it, the pushing urge was there and fighting it was FAR more distressing than the pain of the contraction itself. In my head I kept thinking of stories of women who'd lacerated their cervixes and lost masses of blood, of women who were 6cm open then pushed too soon and their cervix swelled up to 3cm open again so they had to have a c-section. I was really panicking at these thoughts and felt like a huge wimp.

I got back in the bath and started telling Nicky between contractions that I needed to get an epidural at hospital as I couldn't stop wanting to push. He was brilliant and told me that I could do it and that I was doing fine and not to lose heart. He said I WAS doing it, and to wait until the midwives came. He also said I'd seemed better out of the bath so why didn't we try something else. I got out and we tried walking and did a few contractions with me stood leaning back against him, which worked for a while. But after about 20 minutes the standing made the contractions stronger and the pushing urge was harder to fight with gravity encouraging it so I sat backwards on my trusty chair again. Nicky sat in front of me holding my eye contact and breathing or moaning (while I roared) with me. I suffered a few panicky ones where I gave in and pushed and Nicky suggested I tried another position. I got on my knees and elbows in front of the fire, hoping this would help baby to come off my sacrum, but instead the pushing urge was unbearable. I did push a little as my roar got too high-pitched. I could feel my perineum bulging but thought it was just because I was pushing. I also moved my bowels a little. Nicky lovingly and uncomplainingly cleaned up the little mess on me and the rubber sheet I was kneeled on something which I will never forget. I got up after that contraction and sat back on my chair. I asked Nicky to get the midwives to come NOW as I wasn't coping anymore. He said I was coping but had Jen call them; they were already on their way.

They arrived at around 4 or half 4, and sat with me a while. I roared on through contractions and told them I wanted to push. They told me I was doing a good job of not pushing and asked if I wanted to try the gas and air. We had already discussed that it would probably be (going by textbook which is all they can advise with) another 4 or 5 hours before I was fully dilated, another hour after that before the head came down and then probably an hour of pushing before the baby would come. The midwife had sat beside me again holding my fundus through contractions to assess how strongly the uterus was contracting.

They also let me know that because my waters had gone at 3am, I'd need to start taking antibiotics at 9pm to protect the baby from Strep B and other infection. Luckily the paediatrician had let them bring tablets, otherwise I'd need to go into hospital for the intravenous stuff.

Thinking I had another 6 hours of this, and feeling really TERRIFIED by the urgency of the pushing feeling, I decided to try the gas. I have to be honest and say it gave little relief. It spaced me out so that though my thoughts were crystal clear, my communication stopped working and my feelings seemed far away. I still really wanted to push, I still had to drop the gas to roar 2 or 3 times through the peaks to avoid it. Intellectually I was still aware that I shouldn't push, but emotionally my panic about rupturing my insides seemed far away and unimportant. That said, it wasn't the emotional panic that was bothering me so much as the intellectual thought of hurting myself or my baby and the hopelessness of me trying to avoid this urge for another 6 or 7 hours, when I was contracting 18-20 times an hour, and the gas did nothing to help with that, but prevented me from articulating it, or even opening my eyes a lot of the time.

I went on with the gas and air for an hour or so, and at 6 the midwife said could I pee. I said I didn't know and she told me to go and pee and then she'd examine me. I staggered to the bathroom with Nicky's help and sat down. A contraction hit right away and I felt an intense burning pain in my pelvis. I was fighting desperately not to push and really yelling so loudly. I didn't pee I don't think, but I wasn't about to sit there and try again. So I got up and Nicky helped me back to bed. The midwife asked if I had peed and I said I didn't know but I felt as if my guts were coming out. They had me lie on the bed and wheeled the gas tank next to me. I started to contract again and sucked hard on the gas mouthpiece.

Nicky was looking from between my thighs to the midwives and stuttering. They were looking at him trying to figure out what he was trying to say. He was speechless. I put a hand down and felt a hard bony ridge down there. But I was so numbed from the pain on the loo that I couldn't tell if it was me or baby. I was fully expecting to be examined and told that I was 5cm or so, and so it didn't sink in that the baby was there NOW. The midwives looked where Nicky was pointing at this point and saw what he saw. I asked if I was dilated and one of the midwives said "your baby is waving at us" so I felt again and felt that there was more head there now. It was breath-takingly, agonisingly, amazingly, wonderfully intense burning fire there now. I said to the midwife "it stings like Fuck!" and she said "Yes, this is the stingy bit". Then the other midwife said my baby was coming, how did I want to deliver (I had specified upright in my birth plan). I felt another contraction coming, and said I'd have one more contraction with the gas and air and then decide. I felt the urge to push and I PUSHED. I felt the head, the shoulders, the body and the legs sail out of me in one glorious dive. I could also feel the cord unravelling behind her. She gasped a bit and gave a wee yell then was quiet.

We were both shocked by this turn of events. Someone said "it's a girl" and I said "Esme" having had this name lined up for a long time, and then "give me my baby". The midwife clamped the cord and asked Nicky if he wanted to cut it. We had planned for the cord to be left but since it had already been clamped I told him to go ahead and cut. She was quiet and a bit blue and seemed slow to get going. She had good muscle tone and heartbeat and was breathing but wasn't pinking up very well. They put her on my chest and she peed and pooped, but after a few minutes it was obvious that she still was having problems so they picked her up and stood by the window with her to assess her colour properly. It turned out she'd pooped a little before birth and had swallowed some of the meconium and had a lot of slime in her passages. They suctioned out her nose and throat and gave her some oxygen. As she started to pink up they put her on my chest again and she really got going then. They said she was probably just shocked at the suddenness of the delivery. She smelled of birthing and was looking about with little old eyes, like a little ancient monkey-sage come to show us the way. There was something so ancient and other-worldly about her, I felt awe and joy, but not pride because it seemed to me this little being had orchestrated my triumph for me and that I owed a lot. She was really beautiful.

After this they checked me out and said I had a little tear. One midwife said she'd stitch it, the other said she wouldn't bother. I opted to avoid the needle in the hoohaa and let it heal itself. It healed up fine. I waited 10 minutes or so for the placenta then took the syntocinon injection to bring it on. Out it came, whole and fine. I lay with my baby and sang a song to her we'd shared when I was pregnant.

Overall my birth was very positive for me. I wonder how long I could have pushed for after all, and also if she'd have done better initially if the cord had been left alone, but equally it all turned out fine and I feel fit and well, so nothing to complain about.

I'd do it again. Maybe not tomorrow, but one day.

Rebecca Wilson

Related pages:

Home Birth Stories

Pain relief - what are your options at home?

Waterbirth at home

First Babies and homebirth

Overdue - but still want a homebirth? When is 'postdates' risky?

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


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