The two weeks before I gave birth were rather trying. I had in mind Oscar would come early as Mollie had been 2 weeks early, but this wasn't to be. I also was in false labour for those two weeks, with strong BHs and several false alarms. Also, I was dreading a painful back-to-back birth (which Mollie had been) and had been told by my midwife that Oscar had turned OP (Occiput Posterior - baby facing mum's tummy). I got to work quickly on getting all fours and managed to turn him to an OA (Occiput Anterior - the ideal position) position 1 week before birth.
On the evening of the 22nd June, 4 days before due date (according to my dates), I had decided Oscar wouldn't be making an appearance for at least another week. I therefore went to bed without thinking anything was going to happen. Mollie ( 25 months old) chose that night to throughw some tantrums and we were up most of the night with her. She eventually fell asleep at 2am on the makeshift bed on her bedroom floor, where Toby had been sleeping to keep her company in the night whilst she got used to her new bedroom. Toby and I fell asleep either side of her, on the only bed in the house without a waterproof mattress cover – and which basically consisted of several small mattresses covered by a feather mattress pad.
Sods law, at 3.15am I woke suddenly and felt my waters totally go. I crossed my legs, wriggled to the side of the bed in a vain bid to save the mattress pad. I shook Toby awake and demanded towels, which I used to stem the huge flow. It was definitely the entirety of my waters gone in about a minute. Toby couldn't this time discount me being in labour.
Our birth plan and Toby's action plan (carefully written in job order) went into action. I hobbled to the toilet to pop in a pad to make sure there was no meconium. After a few minutes I started to feel very soft contractions (around 3.25am) , they were coming every few minutes and lasting for about 30 seconds. At 3.30 I called my parents, as my mum was due to be a birth partner. I guess I was quite chilled on the phone as the contractions weren't yet painful, Dad said they would be on their way straight away. I then called my doula (Belinda) and as soon as she answered the phone she said she was going to leave immediately. Both she and I had previously thought it would be a quick and easy labour, so she wanted to waste no time.
I then went downstairs to see how Toby was doing with getting through his 'to do' list, of getting the pool ready. He had kinda started to get things together, but was a bit shell-shocked I think and not sure what to do, so I directed him. I was trying to count my minutes with Mollie's bunny clock, and wasn't entirely sure labour had started as the contractions weren't painful. I then went to the loo and my bowels totally emptied. I started nibbling on some trail mix to give me some energy.
The contractions were regular and starting to get stronger so I called the delivery ward, ensured they knew I was a home water birth and asked for the midwives to come. I informed them that my contractions were every 2 to 3 minutes and around 30 to 40 seconds in duration and getting stronger. They called back shortly after and said the midwives were on the way, but that due to the SBCU being full, the delivery suite had closed and if I needed to transfer, it would be to Mayday. That strengthened my resolve not to transfer ! The midwife asked if I had felt the baby move, and I told her I hadn't since earlier that evening, she panicked me slightly by asking me to sit down and drink cold water and try to feel the baby move. I tried this, with cold raspberry leaf tea, but found it impossible, as each contraction was coming so quickly and I was starting to have to think about each one as it came.
I think it was around this time that Toby was fussing around with getting the sign to put on the lamppost outside our house, directing the midwives to it. I asked him to stop that and get the pool filled with water as that was the priority ! I was very glad it was already inflated and he just needed to put more air in the sides and bottom and clean it out with Milton before filling. I was glad the first thing he had done was put the hot water on, as it was the middle of the night and the tank was cold.
Debbie, one of my midwives, called me en-route and stated that neither she nor her colleague Catherine (who was also enroute) were comfortable with a water birth as neither had experienced a water birth for a couple of years. Debbie informed me I could not therefore deliver in water at my home, despite me reading out to her a letter I had got from the Head of Midwifery stating I could have my water birth and all midwives were trained (I had written to her as my own community midwife had told me not all midwives were happy doing home water births).
By this time I was definitely in established labour! I called back the Delivery suite and after talking to one midwife about the situation, I was put throughugh to the supervisor, Denise. I again read out the letter and Denise was very supportive. She told me I could go to Crowborough (midwife led birth centre) or Brighton to have a water birth, or wait until the midwives arrived to assess me and then send out a midwife from the delivery suite, who was experienced in water births, to assist me delivering in water at home. As I wanted a home birth, more than a water birth (the water being for pain relief, not for the 'experience'), I chose the latter option and awaited the midwives.
Midway throughugh the call, Belinda, my doula arrived – hurrah – the Cavalry :-)
By this time the contractions were rather strong. I recall visiting our downstairs loo quite a few times and leaning against the sink throughugh contractions. I was trying to keep breathing deeply throughugh them, then I was starting to let exclamations of pain release from my lips (and some expletives too, tho those felt funny). I was trying to remember to keep my body relaxed and kept trying to keep my shoulders relaxed. I ended up on my knees in front of the sofa, leaning against it with my head on the seat. The contractions were every 2 mins and lasting about 40 or so seconds.
Denise called back to determine the status. I was at this time experiencing very strong contractions so passed the phone to Toby who took the call. Denise suggested we call the paramedics as it sounded like birth was imminent. Toby passed the phone to Belinda as he wasn't sure what to say or do. She spoke to Denise and agreed to monitor me and call the paramedics if required – she didn't think that birth was imminent.
Belinda was great, rubbing my back, massaging me, and keeping me relaxed, reminding me to breathe. She got the oil burner out, but we never had time to actually get any oil burning. I kept trying to hold off getting in pool as didn't want to slow down labour until I really couldn't cope with the pain (it's best not to get in until after 4cm dilated as it can slow down labour; as I didn't want internal exams I was going on my pain threshold). Each one of my contractions seemed a lot, lot stronger than the previous one rather than your usual gradual progression.
About 4.40 I had a very strong contraction and I felt like I wanted to push. I told Belinda and she advised me to breathe through it, as it was probably the head getting into position and coming down the birth canal. I tried to do this but I felt my body pushing without me asking it to, and tried to stop it, though it managed a couple of small pushes before I could stop it.
I then decided I needed to get into the pool for pain relief and to slow things down. I really wasn't sure if I was about to give birth, or ages away. I decided then that I would have an internal exam when the midwives came, just to figure out where I was. When I said this out loud , Toby was very supportive. I stood up, felt another strong contraction and Belinda helped me to undress. Toby saw the midwives parking outside and Belinda suggested I wait for them to come in and assess me before getting in the pool, else they may just make me get out again. I agreed and Belinda put a blanket around me.
Toby then started swearing at the midwives, he could see them out the window and saw they had driven by (in their two separate cars) , saw our sign (which he had now got printed and onto the lamppost saying 'Midwives here please'), parked, then turned around and parked very carefully in parallel. Toby stood on the top of the steps 'politely' encouraging them to get a wiggle on.
Just before the midwives walked in I felt the urge to push. I was standing up, with Belinda opposite me, taking my weight. I just let my body do what it wanted to, felt some last bit of waters go, a small poo (and I remember being worried about getting it on the blanket lol!) and just went with the pushing. I remember groaning, and this was what the midwives heard as they approached the door and suddenly, finally, put some speed on.
They rushed in, washed their hands, Catherine got on her gloves on and got behind me just as I was pushing out Oscars head (4.54am)! She held his head (and to my mind, moved it a bit unnecessarily). I didn't hear a cry so was worried (forgetting they don't cry til they are all out!) and asked if he was ok. The contraction came to an end and Catherine asked me to get on hands and knees for next bit, in case he slipped she didn't want him falling to the floor. I found it quite difficult to do so, but managed with Belinda's help. I couldn't push and so waited for the next contraction and pushed – tho it was more difficult than when I had been standing up. Oscar came out and I heard him cry – huge relief (4.55am).
Catherine then started towelling down Oscar before passing him to me, which I did not wish to happen and had expressly written against in my plan. I was not able to see what was happening as I was on my hands and knees and luckily my doula said "Sonia wants skin-to-skin immediately" and Oscar was then passed to me, between my legs, despite his cord being quite short. This was important to me as I wished to follow biological nurturing as closely as possible.
I was helped up and ended up sat on the floor, against the sofa, with my legs open, knees up and Oscar held against my chest. It was in this rather unglamorous position that my Dad saw as he walked into the room lol. I said "Hi Dad, you've got a grandson" and he looked shellshocked, as did my Mum as she arrived a few seconds after. They had had a cup of tea before leaving – Dad said I hadn't told him I was having contractions, though I'm sure I did.
Oscar started to breastfeed immediately and I awaited the placenta. The Physiological third stage lasted 21 mins, til the midwife encouraged me to push and it came out easily. The cord was then clamped and Toby cut it.
The midwives examined me, said I had one small graze, then helped me get comfy on the sofa. Belinda was helping me drink water through a straw as I had my hands busy with Oscar feeding and having skin-to-skin. I persuaded the midwives to leave us skin-to-skin and not to weigh Oscar straight away.
I then recall the midwives sitting on the steps into our lounge, reading the birth plan, and making comments along the lines of "Oh, you wouldn't have been allowed that" at the 'in case of c section' part of it. Belinda was questioning them and fighting my corner :-) They called the delivery suite to register the birth.
Mollie had by now woken up (was around 6am) and Toby was upstairs looking after her. I asked my mum to ask him to bring her down. I think she took seeing Oscar in her stride and stroked his head and called him "baby" and "brother", tho she did also pat my tummy and call it "brother" :-)
We held off the weighing until 7am and up til then it had only been Toby and myself who had touched Oscar. Oscar weighed in at 6lbs 8 ½ oz, more than a pound heavier than Mollie.
After some tea, the midwives packed up and left (after taking my pink notes and giving me the green ones) and Belinda remained to help get more tea and got me some toast and tea – yum :-) My parents started tidying the house for me (they are very tidy people) and Belinda joked I wouldn't be able to find anything.
We then began our babymoon. Oscar James finally got named a few days later after the name had grown on us. I later read my notes and found his Apgar scores were 9 and 10.
So, I didn't get the water birth I planned for, but in the end it really didn't matter, as I had wanted it for the pain relief, not the experience – and I didn't need that pain relief. It wasn't an 'easy' labour (I don't think labour can be called easy) but neither was it hard and I managed without pain relief – the relaxation techniques I'd learnt from my doula really helped. The midwives did their best under the circumstances and my doula was worth more than her weight in gold – I soooo recommend having one.
In all, it was a very positive experience and I am so pleased Oscar came into the world in the middle of our lounge in a relatively calm manner (tho I think Toby will never fully recover from being 2 minutes away from delivering our baby himself lol).
Note: Sonia pursued her complaint about the midwives' attitudes to waterbirth, and had a great response. See the page on ' Trouble arranging a waterbirth?' for more about this subject, and more from Sonia!
Doulas - professional birth attendants.
Get Your Baby Lined Up - what it means when your baby gets in an awkward position, and what you can do about it.
Home Birth Stories
Fast Labours - is quicker always better? What do you do if your baby is arriving faster than your midwife?
Waterbirth at home
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Siblings at a home birth - what to do with your older children? Should they be present?
Fathers and home birth - fathers' feelings about the birth, and how they can help.
Home Birth Reference Page