Sky's Boat Birth Story, by Sarah M.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew I would like another homebirth on our boat, where our daughter was born 2 years previously. I was lucky enough to be looked after by the Albany Midwives again from 35 weeks and felt confident I was in good hands.

I had pretty bad SPD (Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction - pain in the pubic joint area) which started at 14 weeks and I took sick leave from my part time job at 25 weeks as my mobility was restricted and had physiotherapy and osteopathy. I started the osteopathy in the last couple of months and it really helped manage the condition as I was on crutches a lot of the time.

My primary midwife was booked for annual leave when I reached 41 weeks and I had some reflexology, homeopathy and a sweep to see if we could get labour started before she went away. Labour did start a number of times but kept gently stopping, so I resigned myself to the fact that my baby would come went he or she was ready, and not a day before! I discussed with my secondary midwife that I was happy to go past my date without induction, provided all was ok; she called after discussing this with the consultant, who wanted to see me a few days past 41 weeks, which was a Friday. I declined and agreed I would see the consultant on the Monday for possible assessment, as I hoped labour would start spontaneously over the weekend.

On the Monday at 41 weeks and 6 days I went to see a consultant, accompanied by my husband and midwife. Baby and I were assessed and found to be absolutely fine, so we declined the offer of induction but agreed to another sweep. That evening, my secondary midwife started annual leave and it was planned that Becky and Zoë would now look after me (I knew Becky as she was with the Albany when I had my first baby). That evening Becky called to see how the assessment had gone. I felt reassured as she agreed that my 42 week cycle meant my baby would probably be later than most and she was very supportive of our decision to wait. That evening I also spoke to my homeopath for a remedy as I was feeling a bit horrid after the assessment procedures, so I had a glass of wine and went to bed relaxed.

I woke at 1.30am with a contraction and knew this was no false start, BABY WAS COMING! I was so excited and eager to meet our little one. I stayed in bed, thinking I should rest while I could. About half an hour later I got up to put on my tens machine and got back into bed and woke my husband as I could no longer contain my excitement! We lay there cuddling and relaxing, with me breathing through the contractions and our daughter sound asleep next to us. A friend had lent me some books and tapes on hypnobirthing and I had practiced relaxation techniques during pregnancy. By 3am I could no longer stay in bed as the contractions were getting stronger, so we got up. Around 3.40am I realized the contractions were coming really quickly and were pretty poky at this stage, coming almost one on top of the other, so I asked Martin to run the bath and call Becky.

As soon as the bath was ready I got a burst of energy and pulled my clothes off and jumped in. I sat back (as much as a big woman can in a tiny little bath!) and relaxed, pouring a jug of water over my belly during each contraction and resting in between, which was totally blissful. I focused on my breathing and mentally recited my mantra: 'no fear- no pain- just relax and open up' with each contraction. This really helped to keep my shoulders, jaw and pelvic floor muscles loose. As with my first labour I counted my breaths through the contractions so I knew when they would peak and then begin to subside, feeling as if I were riding them like a surfer on waves.

Becky arrived at 4.15am. I remember she came in the bathroom and said hello, but I wasn't really able to talk, I was too busy focusing on riding each contraction and too blissed out in between. It wasn't long after this I heard myself groan with a push. For the next few minutes I was getting horribly confusing contractions where I would breathe through it and then have an overwhelming urge to push. I really didn't like this as I thought my body was playing tricks on me and I was starting to push too soon and I asked Becky how much longer this would go on. Becky came back in and told me to go with the pushing if that was what I wanted to do. I had no choice as the urge was so overwhelmingly strong.

Soon I wanted to get out of the bath and Martin helped dry me, while Becky and Zoë (the second midwife had arrived by now) made a comfy area for me in the cabin, with cushions, a sheet and my birth ball over a waterproof. I got down on my knees leaning against my birth ball and continued to push. My husband leapt into the other cabin as he heard our daughter wake up. She sat up and said 'baby coming!' leapt out of bed and joined us, watching me push. Martin tells me she put a toy on my back and playfully smacked my bottom! I asked her if she was ok, and she said yes, happily joining in the fun. Becky asked if she could do a VE to check I was fully dilated and confirmed I was. She explained she could see anal pressure and that the membranes were bulging.

I didn't particularly like being on all fours and felt the need to be upright and asked for the birth stool. I had used this for my daughters' birth and felt good on it, as the SPD can make it difficult getting comfy and it keeps my pelvis in a good position. As soon as I got on it I immediately felt good and strong and the pushing became more effective. I could feel the baby moving down with each push, but was still surprised to hear Becky telling Martin not to go anywhere as the baby was to be born in the next few minutes. I felt the baby's head was crowning and Becky talked me through blowing the baby out, which made it a lovely, slow controlled birth. The baby's head emerged in the caul and a few moments later my baby's body was born. I was amazed to see baby; it was all so quick and beautiful. The cord was really short and I held this beautiful little new person between my knees. I looked down and announced we had a boy, and was informed that was Becky's finger; we had a little girl, Sky Rebecca!

The placenta was delivered a few minutes later and then we lay down together. I felt it was all a dream as it was so quick and felt really nauseous so I had a homeopathic remedy. I felt much better after about 20 minutes and got my head together. Zoë showed us the placenta and tried to latch Sky onto my breast but she wasn't really interested in a feed at that point.

I was keen to get back in the bath as I wanted the warmth of the water around me as the after pains were surprisingly strong and continued to be for a few days. Sky and I got into a lovely warm bath and sat there gazing at each other, getting to know each others faces after all those months in my womb. Again I tried to feed her but she only took a few sucks. When we got out we wrapped up and sat with the others marveling at our beautiful new baby and all had tea and toast. The midwives and my husband cleared away the sheets and bits and then left, reminding me they were on call should we need them. We snuggled up in bed for the morning, Sky swaddled and sleeping peacefully in my arms.

The Albany Midwives were just fantastic. The care we received was incredible and we were treated as a whole family, with my husband and daughter fully involved, which was what we so wanted. Sky's birth was absolutely beautiful and very quick- 4 hours from start to finish! We have some amazing pictures of her birth with a particularly special one of her in her caul, eyes wide open looking at the world in her first moments. I shall always treasure these very special hours and look forward to telling her all about her birth.