I'll preface this birth story by saying that I've had two very different births but both were incredibly positive experiences for me. My first birth was a planned homebirth with minimal pain relief (hypnobirthing, TENs, aromatherapy, massage, gas & air and birthing pool) and a physiological third stage (natural placenta delivery). It was a long process and I did end up transferring into hospital afterwards for stitches for my two second degree tears. However, I loved the birth and it felt so calm, controlled and peaceful.
My plan for my second birth was to aim for a very similar experience. I was booked in for a planned homebirth but had been advised that there was a good chance I would have to go into hospital as homebirth cover in Nottinghamshire is on a rota basis of community midwives. I'd had some anxiety about this but used my hypnobirthing relaxation tracks to erase those feelings - I was feeling very calm and prepared for any eventuality.
I'd had a feeling all along that our little one would not wait for their due date, and I was completely correct - just goes to show those natural instincts kick in early. For a few weeks I'd had niggles and practise surges, and just after midnight on 5th February I woke up to irregular intense cramps but somehow knew this was the start of labour. My husband organised the space downstairs for our homebirth and after an hour we went back to bed to try to rest (hubby did get to sleep but I lay in bed noticing how the cramps became stronger and more regular). I think it was around 4am, I needed to be up and moving about listening to my relaxation tracks - at this point it felt like the surges were coming every 2-3 minutes but not lasting those 60-90 seconds that you'd expect. I called my parents to let them know but said we thought it might be a little way off yet. However at 5am, I said to Mark that we should call the midwife and whilst speaking to them on the phone they advised that we would have to come in as no midwives were available for a homebirth and that we should make our way as soon as we could or if we needed to, we should phone for an ambulance. I still didn't panic at this point but I think my hubby started to get a bit worried. It took a while for my parents to arrive (who were our childcare) and it certainly felt like the longest time - we were on the drive and in the car as soon as they pulled up.
In the car, I still wasn't worried - somehow I knew baby would not come until I knew we were somewhere safe - I still had my relaxation tracks playing and did an awful lot of moaning but it was a relief when we did get onto the Sanctuary Ward at City Hospital. The birthing pool was already filled and after introductions and a few questions (whilst I held onto Mark's shoulders groaning), I gratefully slipped in. The relief was immense and I immediately felt more grounded. Mark kept me hydrated and used light touch massage whilst I listened to my tracks. The pressure began to become a little intense and there was the slight urge to push. Now at this point, the midwives became a little concerned as I started to bleed fairly heavily so they asked me to step out the pool so they could assess and put me on a monitor. I leant over the back of the bed and the surges and pushing sensation became stronger, but unfortunately the bleeding continued. I heard the term "APH" used - I've since learned this stands for Antepartum haemorrhage - a term for bleeding during pregnancy/labour and midwives were concerned about possible placental abruption. Now things became a little more serious and suddenly the room was filled with 8 people as opposed to the original 2 - they were introduced but I struggle to remember them all now - but there was a Dr and resus cart ready for baby. Now this sounds scary when I type it back, but I felt no fear at all - I knew who they were and that they were there just to ensure me and baby were safe.
I had hoped to have a hands-off birth, being upright with no guided pushing and a physiological third stage (natural placenta delivery) but this was not to be. In order for the monitor to work most effectively (due to baby's position) and so they could assess what was happening they asked for me to be on my back. My husband knew this was something I most definitely did not want and he was my voice during this time, he questioned everything of the staff and checked that I was happy with all decisions - this is why it's so important for birth partners to be clued into what happens at birth and your own choices e.g. through a birth plan. It ultimately is also why we both feel so positively about the birth, we knew our options/asked questions/and ultimately made the decisions.
They performed my one and only vaginal examination with my consent and confirmed I was 10cm but that baby hadn't fully dropped. At this point baby's heart rate was dropping and with the blood loss they wanted baby out asap. I remember the Dr telling me that I needed to push this baby out now or that she would have to intervene and use a ventouse. Now I'm quite stubborn and those words kicked me into gear - I would push this baby out. They broke the waters to help things along at 7.10am and I remember 4 or 5 pushing surges before our little boy, Charlie, made his way into the world at 7.26am.
We had immediate skin to skin and they let his cord pulsate for a few minutes but due to my blood loss they wanted the placenta delivered asap to avoid further harm to me. My husband cut Charlie's cord and I consented to the injection of syntometrine and the placenta almost immediately followed. It was fully intact and as the midwives commented, it was a beautiful thick umbilical cord - if you haven't ever seen a placenta, I would encourage you to take a look after its delivered - your midwives can guide you through its parts - it truly is a remarkable organ.
I had a second degree tear which was stitched up whilst I used gas & air and had some additional drugs administered via a cannula to stop the bleeding - and then it was back to being a normal birth scenario as soon as everyone left the room. We were left for a few hours in our own little bubble and it was truly wonderful.
There's still more to the story so I'll share more in my next post.
Welcome to the world Charlie - who was born at 7.26am on Friday 5th February 2021.