Victoria's fifth baby was born at home after a very tough labour. She has described her third and fourth births as "blissful, really enjoyable labours", but although Esmé was more than a pound lighter than her siblings, she was determined to come out in an unorthodox manner..
25th May 2006
My baby had been breech throughout the entire pregnancy. I tried loads of tricks (forward rolls in the swimming pool etc.) to get it to turn, but nothing worked. Then at an antenatal class at 36 weeks we were discussing posterior babies and I remember thinking, grumpily, 'I'd be happy if this one would turn OP - I could cope with that - I've done that before!' So maybe I only have myself to blame! The baby did turn that night - head down. Confirmed by a scan at the local hospital! I was so happy! I could have my water birth - the thought of another waterbirth was one of the things that had kept me going through the pregnancy. I was really looking forward to labouring in water again, and a breech birth meant that, although I could labour in water, I would get out of the pool for the actual birth as there was more chance of the baby needing attention after the birth.
I'd had an antenatal appointment on Wednesday 24th May that showed a trace of protein in my urine and that my blood pressure was slightly raised. Andrya (independent midwife) wasn't worried, and a little part of me thought that I would probably go into labour sooner rather than later. My due date was not until 6th June, but I didn't think I'd still be pregnant then. In the early evening I had a reflexology session, and Sue said she thought I'd have the baby within the week. On the way home, via a detour to pick up a take out curry, I had a few Braxton Hicks contractions - but wasn't overly worried as reflexology normally meant I'd have a few of these.
Stephen and I tucked into a huge curry. At about 9 o'clock I realised that I was still having contractions, that they weren't Braxton Hicks, and that they were about 10 minutes apart and that they really were rather intense. I called Andrya and Berny to give them the heads up, so that they could grab an early night and get a bit of sleep. I said I would call back when the contractions were 4 minutes apart, or that I would text if everything fizzled out. At midnight I sent a text saying that everything had stopped and I was going to bed.
I went up to bed, tried to sleep - but was woken up every 10 minutes by contractions, so I got up at about 12.45 and went down stairs.... the contractions eased off, so I went back to bed - only to have them start again. I got up, came downstairs, decided that if I wasn't gong to be able to sleep I may as well be comfortable - so stood in the kitchen leaning on the work surface reading a book. As I got more engrossed in the book the contractions started to get more intense. Soon I felt I couldn't cope by myself any longer, and I woke Stephen up - it was probably about 3 am by then. He soon realised that I was getting contractions far more often than I thought - and told me to 'phone Andrya while he 'phoned Berny (who was filming the birth).
I clung to Stephen during contractions - in all my previous labours I have not wanted anyone to touch me, but I really needed physical contact this time. I had one contraction while coming downstairs (I'd wanted to look at my children!) and during the contraction I could have sworn I heard a gentle knock on the front door and I knew it was Andrya - I told Stephen to go and open the door. He opened the door just as Andrya's car was pulling up! Always lovely to see Andrya - while she brought her stuff in Stephen made toast, I made tea and coffee and told Andrya what was happening so far. Oh and we decided to get some more subtle lighting for the birth room - it used to be our office and had 2 huge florescent tubes, so Stephen and I went off in search of table lamps!
Andrya quickly palpated my bump and the baby was LOA, heart rate was fine, I was looking forward to a lovely, peaceful waterbirth. I was sure that I would have a baby in my arms before the children had to leave for school.
At 4.50 am I got into the pool, which felt good. The contractions felt much stronger, but the gaps between them seemed longer (they weren't - I asked!) I was feeling nauseous from the curry, and finding the whole labour much tougher than my previous 2 births. I had clung on to my vision of another lovely waterbirth throughout what had been an emotionally difficult pregnancy, but the reality was that the water wasn't helping as much as it had with the previous two labours. I couldn't get comfortable, and didn't feel terribly grounded. I had to keep telling myself that it was going to be OK, I was giving myself a running commentary and encouragement throughout each contraction at this stage.
Just before 6 pm Hamish came down and said 'hello' - lovely to see him, but I know what time he wakes up and I had confidently expected to have a baby by the time he woke up - so I was a little despondent. Told my baby to 'Hurry up... I want to meet you!' during the next contraction. Didn't feel much better about things when Kitty came down about 20 minutes later. Andrya reckons first stage ended at around 6.20 am. At 6.40am I was asking for entonox. I knew Andrya would say no, as I had told her in advance that it had made me feel ghastly when I had Joshua, but Andrya was saying no this time because a colleague had failed to return the gas head, and she was desperately trying to get in touch with someone to bring a spare!
I was very uncomfortable at this stage, and finding it hard to move around in the pool, so Andrya suggested I get out of the pool, go upstairs and have a pee to see if we could get things moving along, as I was getting very tired. By 7 am I was back in the pool, the contractions had slowed to 1 every 5 minutes, but I was feeling a lot of pressure. At 7.12 I had a show, and started to think that the finishing line was in sight. More show came away with each contraction and at about 7.30am I started to feel a bit pushy with each contraction. Surely it couldn't be much longer now? My previous 2 second stages had been 10 and 15 minutes long! At 8 am I got out of the pool as I wanted to go to the loo - I was back in the pool 5 minutes later having not been able to go!
When I was back in the pool Andrya had some stern words with me - she asked me to let go of any issues I had and to remember that Stephen, Berny and Andrya loved me and believed I could do this. I had a bit of a cry - but realised that she was right. The next contraction was much more focused.
At 8.25am I was still in the pool, complaining of pain between contractions, Andrya suspects that baby has a hand by its head. I remember thinking that if we called an ambulance they'd have entonox! I was sure I'd said this out loud - but I hadn't - although Andrya was apparently thinking the same thing! At 9am, Kathryn, a local midwife and mutual friend arrived with entonox which I started using. Kathryn then disappeared into the living room and was entertained by the children. Not sure if it took much pain away - but it gave me something to think about! We are all making long deep toning noises with each contraction - and we were loud! Several of the neighbours wondered what was going on and Kitty tells me that I was making so much noise that she could barely hear the TV! I was hanging onto Stephen and Andrya as though my life depended on it.
At 9.05 as nothing had changed for ages Andrya suggested I get out of the pool and try a different position - so I got into a squat position, leaning against Stephen and tried to push. Looking at my belly Andrya suspected that the baby was posterior - I could see myself that below my belly button my stomach was flat so knew she was right. We then started doing deep squats, with hip presses during contractions. Basically, I squatted between Stephen's legs, and during each contraction as I pushed for NATO Stephen used his legs and hands to push in at the top of my hips in the hope of giving me a bit more room at the bottom for the baby to come through. Hard work, felt better - but still nothing was really happening.
At 9.45am we discussed our options. I could tell that Andrya was getting a bit worried at this stage. We tried me lying in left lateral with Andrya pressing down with all her might on my hip, and then I agreed to an internal to get a baseline so we could work out what was happening. Strangely this wasn't as weird as I thought it would be, after all it isn't every day that one of your closest friends puts her hand in your fanny! I do remember thinking that I liked her purple gloves!!! More bloody show (there isn't a towel in the house that has remained clean!) Baby is indeed posterior, membranes are bulging- but Andrya reckons there is plenty of room for baby to come down.
Andrya suggests I sit on the loo for the next contraction - as she really needs me to push and for me not to worry about pooing! It is now just before 10 am, and I am getting desperate! I push on the loo - feel the baby move down, but cannot articulate anything. My legs are shaking as I struggle to walk back towards the birth room, and Andrya is suggesting I get on all fours to see if that helps the baby rotate. Stephen (who is behind me) says he can see my membranes bulging (who knew he knew so much?)
We are back in the birth room, I am standing, with my hand down between my legs - I can feel the head - but my mind is telling me it is too small to be a head - and can't understand why I can feel hair! Stephen is in front of me now - to help me get onto all 4s, Andrya is behind me. I realise it is now or never and somehow summon some energy from somewhere and push with the next contraction. My waters go - covering Andrya in liquor. The head is born - direct OP - hands by face, and I carry on pushing while standing over a parquet floor. The baby is born as Andrya and I scramble to catch it! I sit down and clutch the baby, 3 minutes later the placenta is out.
We called the other children in - they were so excited to be there when we discovered that the baby was a little girl!
I am so glad it is all over. I was shaking on and off all day! I feel very smug that we managed it, but my word it was hard work - the hardest thing I have ever done - far harder than the much longer OP labours I had with Joshua and Kitty. If that had been my first I don't think I'd be having any more! I know that I was incredibly lucky to have a midwife like Andrya who believed I could do it and worked bloody hard to help me do it - it couldn't be more different from Freddy's birth. I am glad I was at home, but it was also quite scary as the prospect of a 30 minute ambulance ride to the hospital was quite daunting - and I know that I couldn't have carried on much longer. Stephen was a star! Says he has lost whole chunks of time and has never been quite so worried about anything - never seen me unable to cope in the way I was unable to cope in the later stages.
Esmé is a doll, tiny - which could be why she couldn't get herself into a better position - or have enough weight to push through (Kitty was nearly 2lbs heavier - born direct OP but much more easily). Esmé had impressive bruises where her head was grinding against my sacrum, you can see them in one of the pictures here another smaller bruise under her nose because she refused to remove her hand from her mouth! I think every bone in my back and pelvis aches! Even my neck hurts!
We reckon all the blood (and there was so much blood before she had been born that the pool was bright red and entire house was covered in blood soaked towels - Andrya was apparently concerned about the possibility of placental abruption) came from her hands probably damaging my cervix!
My perineum is perfectly intact. That has been such a bonus - my perineum is more comfortable now than it was in the week or so she was born. And it was lovely to have a midwife who let me check my own perineum rather than insisting on doing it herself.
When Esmé was breech I considered trying External Cephalic Version (ECV - where an obstetrician attempts to massage the baby round into a head-down position). It intuitively felt like the wrong thing to do. I couldn't help feeling that there could be a reason that the baby was breech and that to attempt to force it to move could do more harm than good. And finally - the cord was 8" long! I hate to think what would have happened if we had tried to force her to move. Just goes to show that one should trust one's instinct.
Get your baby lined up! Posterior presentation, other awkward presentations, and what you can do about them.
Grand Multiparas and Home Birth - is birth riskier when you've had five or more children?
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