A healing home birth

I’d been waking up in the night for the last week or so with ‘cramps’ with Braxton hicks tightening that would come and go…but every morning I’d wake up and they were gone (much to my disappointment)! Monday 6th April was my 13yr anniversary with my hubby. We had an evening of cosy sofa time, and watched friends in bed on YouTube – great for the oxytocin boost…and it worked! Around 2am on Tuesday 7th (4 days after due date) I woke up with slightly different cramps which were coming every 10 mins or so. I couldn’t sleep through, so I got up and did a little bit of yoga beside the bed while Mike snored away. The movement seemed to make the sensations stronger. I didn’t want to wake Mike yet, knowing he’d need all the rest he could get if this was the real thing! After an hour or so I was fairly sure this was the beginning, I woke Mike and we stayed cuddling in bed for a while as I breathed through the surges, and then made our way downstairs to set up the birth room. Mike had blown the pool up a few days before, and got the table set up for the midwife ready, so all we had to do was pop the heating on to make it cosy and get some lavender going (I’d been using lavender like perfume in pregnancy to help keep me calm!).

Around 3.30am I called my mum who lives around the corner (who was extremely excited and had been waiting for this call for ages!). Given the Covid-19 situation, she was allowed to be in the house to look after my 2yr old, Isla, but not present as a birth partner or around the midwife. I was just grateful to still be able to have her present in the house, it made me feel even more at ease. At this point my surges were still manageable and I called Stroud maternity to let them know things had started, my midwife Sonya arrived not long after and started setting up her kit while Mike helped me manage the surges and mum slept on the sofa in the living room. I kept changing positions from all fours, to side laying, to half squatting and resting over the birth ball. Mike tried to set up ‘friends’ on YouTube, and ended up just buying a Netflix subscription on the spot so that we could watch full episodes (which I am glad of postnatally to binge watch while I feed Bodhi!).

Baby Bodhi

Sonya was my midwife when I was pregnant with Isla, and she was so disappointed she wasn’t able to be present for the birth (and I was too!), so this time she really wanted to make sure she was on call for me to make sure it was a better experience this time – what a wonderful midwife. I’d seen her the day before and we discussed having a sweep, but I wasn’t sure (I wouldn’t ordinarily want one, but felt pressure to birth before any more restrictions on home births came into place with Covid-19). She helped me decide to wait, and let my body go into labour itself, as this is what I really wanted. She helped me realise that I was scared of the restrictions changing before baby arrived, but that actually I didn’t need to be fearful and rush my body into labour, because everything was ok. Once I recognised that my fear mindset and anxiety could be stopping me from going into labour, and it didn’t matter if baby came today or in a week, I felt myself relax so much more and get excited about the birth again – which clearly worked! It really reinforced to me the huge mind-body connection and its part in supporting the physiology of birth. I was also pleased I didn’t have the sweep in the end, because if I had, I would have assumed I’d gone into labour because of it.

Sonya was wearing protective gear at all our appointments and for the birth – she wore a mask, apron and gloves (she should have had more PPE but it wasn’t available yet to her). Her wearing a mask didn’t faze me at all though, it didn’t change how she cared for me either, and I was prepared for her wearing it. We had talked in the birth plan about only checking my dilation on her arrival to see where I was at, and then not again for the rest of the labour. She checked me at around 5.30am and I was 2cm dilated. My surges had ramped up a little over the time of her being there, so I tried to drop any negative thinking about ‘only’ being 2cms, as I’d thought I would be further along. I reminded myself that my body had been slowly gearing up for labour, and labour doesn’t always progress like its suggested in text books (I knew this from my first labour!). Sonya reassured me that she thought once I progressed a little more, labour would be a lot quicker this time. She decided to leave around 6am, and said to message her when I felt I needed her back. As she was gone, this allowed me to have my mum’s support again, and Mike could grab some breakfast and then take a short nap. We were holding in mind that this could be a long labour like last time, but I was remaining hopeful baby would arrive by lunch time!

I was feeling a lot of back labour again, just like I did last time. The counter pressure that helped last time didn’t feel helpful with this labour. Mum suggested a hot water bottle and we snuggled on the sofa instead, with me laying on my left side using my massive pregnancy pillow between my knees. We watched more ‘friends’ episodes and I laughed in between the surges as they started to ramp up. It reminded me of being ill when I was younger, staying cosy on the sofa being looked after by my mum, it was really comforting. I found myself making more sound as the surges got stronger, long ‘ahhhs’ came and I focused on lengthening my exhales through that. After a while I felt like I needed to move again, I stood and swayed holding onto my mum and burrowing my face into her arms with the surges. She told me how amazing I was doing, that she was so proud of me, and to ride each wave, taking slow breaths.

Soon it was 7.30am and Isla was awake, so mum went up to get her and set her up with breakfast. Isla had been waiting for ‘baby to come out of mummy’s tummy’ for a while now, so she understood what was happening. Mike took over supporting me again, we went back into the ‘birth room’ (my yoga studio!) and my surges were getting even stronger. I tried to eat something but it made me feel sick, Isla eyed up my banana and PB instead! I continued to change positions, and make sure I was going to the toilet regularly to empty my bladder. I wondered whether we should start filling up the birth pool, but Sonya had suggested to leave it until she returned, as I’d gotten in it too soon last time (which may have stalled the labour).

Things started ramping up even more with the surges, Mike helped me through each one, holding me close and telling me after each one ‘that’s another one done’, ‘you’ve done it’, ‘just breathe’. This reminded me how each surge brought me closer to my baby. I kept thinking about having a relaxed jaw and throat, to help relax the pelvic floor. I leaned into each surge, rather than tensing and resisting it. I kept repeating ‘I am open’ to myself and thinking about all the love and support that I was surrounded with. I felt so safe and strengthened by everyone. I could hear Isla playing in the room next door with my mum, hearing her little giggles and chattering, it was a happy reminder of what I was enduring – that I would soon have my baby in my arms and another little one to love as much as Isla.

Around 9am I realised I was really roaring into surges and felt myself (or my body!) almost pushing at the end of each one. They were powerful and intense. A thought crossed my mind – ‘I can’t do this, I’m struggling’. I didn’t say it out loud, but I felt unsure if I could manage with this intensity if I was still far off from birthing. Looking back, this was the classic ‘I can’t do it’ moment just before baby arrives, but I didn’t see it at the time! Thankfully, I asked Mike to message Sonya at that point and ask her to come back. Fairly soon after that, I felt a pressure and went to the toilet to be alone. The toilet is a private place, and I could really release into each surge.

Baby Bodhi and his big sister

I had a huge surge, let out a huge roar and felt a ‘pop’ – my waters definitely went and I felt baby move down. I reached down and to my surprise, felt a head! I shouted to Mike ‘there’s a head’ and luckily Sonya had just arrived 5 mins before. I felt a rush of relief that it would soon be over, and excitement that I had almost done it! Sonya explained how the position on the toilet was great for making space for baby, but could put a lot of pressure on the perineum so I might like to move. I knew this from my pregnancy yoga teaching, as squatting can be intense for the pelvic floor at this stage. In between surges, I waddled over into the birth room, and got on all 4’s. Sonya suggested widening my knees, and I remembered to slightly internally rotate with wide knees, to increase the space in the pelvic outlet. With the next surge, his head was being born. This was a different sensation. Sonya helped me through this part, as I didn’t remember feeling it last time (because I was out of it on gas and air). I breathed and breathed, not pushing, but letting my body birth my baby. His head soon emerged, I had my hand on his head as it came, and then his body quickly followed.

I looked down to see my baby boy beneath me, he cried pretty quickly – as did me and Mike. I’d done it. I’d really done it. He was born at 9.36am. The second midwife arrived soon after, I’d met her before, so it was nice to have two familiar midwives with me. Both were so amazing and supported me through birthing the placenta which came pretty soon after, we waited for the cord to stop pulsing for Mike to cut, and we both had skin to skin with Bodhi. No stitches were needed (but these could have been done at home if I needed them), Sonya said that was largely because I didn’t do any pushing and I just breathed my baby out. I was set up on a pile of bean bags and pillows in the birth room, cuddling Bodhi, eating jam on toast and drinking tea. I hadn’t drunk tea since morning sickness in my first pregnancy, but something made me crave it, it tasted AMAZING.

My blood type is Rhesus negative, so Sonya drew some blood from me and from the cord to see if I needed an anti D injection. I was also given an injection to help the uterus contract and prevent more blood loss, just in case, as I was feeling a little faint. Everything that could be done at a Midwife led unit, could be done at home. After a while I transferred to the sofa in the living room, and the midwives cleared up in the birth room – there really wasn’t that much ‘mess’ though! As I left the room clutching my new baby in my arms, I had a little happy tears moment and couldn’t thank Sonya enough for all her support. I felt so lucky. This birth had been everything I’d hoped for. It was simple, gentle and empowering. It was a healing experience from Isla’s birth. I went into the living room and we introduced baby to Isla and my mum, it was a really special moment. Isla cuddled him, giving him kisses and saying ‘baby outta mummy’s tubbie’ and pointing to all his tiny features. It was absolute bliss to be at home recovering, with all my home comforts.

I spent most of the day on the sofa continuing to watch ‘friends’, eating, having skin to skin and feeding. The afterpains this time were quite strong, especially every time I was feeding him, so I just wanted to lay down and not move much. I loved that Isla was involved and around in the house for the birth, it really helped her understand. We’d bought her a few presents which were from the baby, and she spent the day bonding with him, as we all started to get used to being a family of 4. Family came by and looked through the window to see him, it was a surreal situation to not be close to everyone and embrace, but we’re lucky that a lot of our family and friends live close by so they could meet him from a distance. Around 5pm we went to make pizza, but found there’d been a power cut, my mum lives around the corner so she cooked the pizzas for us (which tasted amazing, I couldn’t eat enough that day to refuel!) and then we ended the night with me feeding Bodhi by candle light – incredibly corny, but true!