My third homebirth experience

This birth story feels full circle for me in many ways, my third birth experience. With my first birth experience being one that left me utterly broken and traumatised – a planned homebirth with a back to back baby, turned hospital transfer for ‘delayed pushing’ (and more to the point, full bladder). What I will say is that experience lit the fire in me in terms of my career, but also my self-confidence and to make sure my voice will never be squashed like that again, or anyone else’s that I support in the birth space. A lot of recovery work in between, and my second birth was a beautifully healing homebirth experience (despite being a week into the first full Covid lockdown), there was a lot of closure, and more of a focus on surrendering, releasing and allowing myself to be part of the strong waves bringing my baby closer. So what was left for this third birth experience?

This pregnancy was the absolute hardest out of the three. Maybe because I already had a nearly 4 and 6 year old to run around after, on top of managing 3 businesses, and suffering with debilitating hyperemesis gravidarum, on meds up to the third trimester. I had about 3 weeks of enjoying the pregnancy once I stopped feeling sick, when I then started getting a lot of discomfort and pain, and very strong Braxton hicks which turned into what I thought was possibly early labour at one point. It meant I cut back on a lot of work commitments suddenly, and tried to rest where I could a lot more. Determined not to have a stressful end to this pregnancy (the last two pregnancies, I had issues with rising BP and low amniotic fluid that threatened my homebirth plans), I tried to navigate breech and transverse positions that Ru was adamant to stay in right up to 37 weeks.

After starting to think I might be planning a breech homebirth (yes that is absolutely possible, and my community homebirth midwife didn’t bat an eyelid when I said I’d be planning that), Ru decided to be head down after all. Great! Since I’d had that early labour scare, and continued having strong Braxton hicks all day long, everyday, I rushed to finish last bits of work thinking it wouldn’t be long before baby arrived. Every night I’d go to bed, and be woken at 2am with building waves. Come morning, no baby, nothing. This went ON, and ON. Even in the day I started to experience it too. I went through all the emotions, frustrations and tears. Prodromal labour is such a mind game.

My wonderful birth team (my husband, kids, mum and my doula) and friends and family kept me going with lots of love and kindness. But the disappointment of waking up still pregnant each morning, and looking at the next 5 messages on my phone from people checking in and asking where baby was, and the 10 comments on the school run every morning (I literally was getting heckled towards the end!)…inevitably started to get to me. Time stood still, yet I knew how miniscule the time is in perspective, and how much I’d regret meddling in the process at this point, just for the sake of birthing my baby a day or two earlier. I could wait. Bloody hard though. I was asked by people if I’d had a sweep, how dilated I was, what my plan was, when was I going to be induced. The answer was nothing. I didn’t want to do anything, and I soon only wanted to leave the house for a walk a day and the school run, socialising or appointments felt too much.  Everything in my body was telling me to stay close to home and go inwards. I knew (from the evidence) and felt in my bones, that any medical interference wasn’t going to put me into labour, or be helpful for me and my bubs.

At 41+5 I messaged my doula saying I felt I might need to help baby a little with their positioning. Knowing and feeling that he wasn’t in a comfy place for either of us, and the usual upright, forward and open positions that worked before, actually didn’t feel like what I needed this time. I had full faith that my baby could be born in whatever position they chose, as long as I could move instinctively to help them. My body was telling me he needed help engaging (and given he was barely engaged through the whole pregnancy, although common for subsequent babies, it just felt like he was trying to each night) so the next night when the contractions started again, instead of just trying to sleep through them, I decided to take the ‘flying cowgirl’ position. I could immediately feel pressure on my cervix in a different way. The contractions still fizzled out but come morning (41+6) I had a bloody show. Relief. I knew it was going to build through the day and this would be the day I’d meet my little one, probably not til nighttime, as that’s when the hormones surge.

I sent the kids off to school, and took a gentle walk around the block. I pottered around the house, feeling mini-contractions but nothing regular or of substance. My husband works from home, so he was close, and I let my mum know things were starting. She popped round at lunch to give me some food and a cuddle. I felt the nesting urge, and made the living room dark, a little bed on the floor of cushions and after half an hour of deciding what the right thing to watch was, landed on the T-swift eras tour (3.5hrs of drifting in and out of sleep, singing along to her hits, whilst in the side laying flying cowgirl position). I just wanted to sleep, rest and wait. More and more of my show coming away. The sight of blood was positive, a sign of cervical dilation.

3pm came, I decided I’d still do the school run (given we live at the top of the car park) and I stood in the playground smiling quietly to myself as I chatted to my mum mates and felt little waves coming and going, no one noticed me swaying and breathing them out. The kids played and eventually I walked back home with another mum. Of course everyone was chatting to me about the birth, I mentioned to her that I was actually in a slow labour right now, she wished me luck and I felt a wave of excitement walking back home, thinking about how I won’t have to turn up STILL pregnant the next day.

Just as we approached the door, I stopped the kids and said that things were starting, mummy was contracting and baby is trying to come. I needed quiet and their cuddles to power me up. They knew what to do, as we’d had many conversations about it all. As soon as we walked in, they saw my little dark cave, Isla luna sat behind me watching tele (As a fellow T-swift fan) and Bo took himself to do playdoh quietly (this NEVER happens). Kids at birth just know what to do. Bo then came in and we all sat together, I had a sudden strong contraction (thanks kids for the oxytocin) which I needed to breathe through and concentrate – I suddenly felt a little hand on my shoulder and luni’s little voice behind me offering to get my jelly babies and a hot water bottle. She was such a little doula.

Mike finished work and the kids had dinner, my mum came over to help with bedtime. I was starting to feel more waves coming now, but no real pattern. I went upstairs to help say goodnight to the kids, in Isla Luna’s room I had really strong contractions as I tried to read her story. She passed me a squishy sensory ball of hers that I ended up holding onto for most of the labour, it was actually better than the comb! I kissed her goodnight, and said we’d wake her when baby was close (her request).

It was now 8pm and as soon as I got downstairs, the contractions came thick and fast. I was leaning over a foot stool, coming up onto my knees for each contraction and burying my head into Mike’s chest, squeezing the stress ball. These contractions were painful and all in my back. My doula arrived, and contacted the midwives, luckily they were available for homebirths tonight. I knew the midwife on call from births I had supported in the past,  so that felt comforting. My birth plan was to labour with my birth team or solo as much as possible, so the midwife set up in the kitchen, she only ended up checking in twice throughout her time with me to listen into baby. Mike got the pool sorted and I decided to move to my studio, where Bodhi was born 4 years before.

The pain was intense and I felt the panic start to set in. This feeling was familiar. Every labour is different but this felt the same as my first labour. I dropped to my knees, moving was a real struggle. Like usual, vocalising was my go-to for breathing. A long, loud, moany exhale (right in my husbands ear, sorry!). As a quiet, introverted person, I really let it all go in labour! My birth team were incredible – bringing me water, food, on it with back pressure, cushions, a fan, all the right words at the right time.

I decided to try the pool, I was needing something more to help the pain. I got in and my first birth started flashing back to me in my mind. I’d spent HOURS there in the pool, feeling totally stuck physically, and with the pain. I looked at my husband and I could see the look in his eyes too. Without saying anything I think we both knew what the other was thinking. I started panicking more, saying NO NO NO with every intense contraction. They were coming so thick and fast, with no break in between. I was double peaking (when contractions layer one ontop of the other so there’s minimal break – often the body cleverly trying to nudge baby into a better position), and it’s brutal. No position brought me relief. Every movement felt excruciating. My doula asked, what’s No? I didn’t say anything, but in my mind I was thinking no, not this again, I couldn’t do it before, how can I do it now. It can’t end like it did the first time round. This can’t be happening…This may have possibly been my transition moment, who knows, since I’d not had any cervical checks. It was also hard to feel where I was in labour, there wasn’t the same pressure on my cervix, as my second birth did.

I ran through options in my mind, I couldn’t withstand this pain for hours like I did with my first birth. But transferring wasn’t an option for me either. Gas and air was available, but that would just make me not ‘with it’, and prolong this pain (I felt). I turned over in the pool (absolutely excruciating) and caught my doulas eye. Michelle, ‘back to back’ I muttered. ‘I know’, she said, ‘but baby can still turn’. I knew this, but also knew it was bloody hard work.

Well, I had a moment with myself, and realised this was my time to step into my power. There are times in labour to watch and wait, and there are times to ‘do’. I felt my body calling me to do something. 6 years ago with my first birth, I didn’t have this incredible birth team, I was contracting for hours completely stuck in the pool with a back to back baby, I braced for every contraction and felt like I was being beaten by the waves continually. I felt like I was told I couldn’t do it, and not given any support to help, and no idea how to help myself.

This time it was different. I looked at Michelle and said, ‘ok, what do I do’ (knowing full well what I needed to do, as a fellow biomechanics geek, but every movement was agony). I got out the pool. There was no time at all between contractions now, I was sweating and swearing and screaming my heart out. I decided to labour on the toilet (the dilation station) as this had helped hugely in Bo’s birth (he nearly was born there too!). I started feeling like I was pushing now, but it wasn’t the fetal ejection reflex I had before, it was more conscious – I needed this to end! After a while, I came back into the studio and tried some ‘shaking the apples’ to help relax my pelvic floor, and then dropping my head down lower in a puppy pose to help baby ‘back up’ and into a better position, all with michelle’s amazing guidance and encouragement. I managed a couple times doing this, in between contractions, but I knew I needed to do it DURING a contraction instead. This was so painful.

I felt myself become an animal, primal, after a couple more contractions like this I came back to all fours and, in my husbands words, ‘went fucking nuts’. I nearly pushed him over into the pool as I felt pressure, finally, to push properly with. It happened VERY quickly and I reached down to feel a bulge, then stinging as crowning started happening. I couldn’t slow the process down, I needed it to end. Ideally I would have done horse lips breathing at that point, but I was IN it, and I went for it. I reached down again and felt something squishy, not the hard back of a head I was expecting. Breech after all?! I called to michelle, ‘whats happening?!’. Turns out he came out back to back still, facing towards me, so I likely poked him in the eye. I felt the contraction continue and I continued to push, head and body all came out in one. Oh the RELIEF.

In my birth plan, I had stated how I wanted a hands off pushing phase and would like a birth pause, if it occurred that way. With both other births, baby was quickly swooped up and smushed onto me, without a chance for me to arrive back into my body, see my baby and pick them up myself. This felt important, and after this labour, I absolutely needed it. I birthed on all fours, so Ru slid onto the ground beneath me. I instantly knew he was ok. He didn’t cry, but he had good colour and tone. His eyes were open and he was alert. I paused. I cried. When I was ready, I scooped him up with me. Surrounded by my husband, my mum, my doula, and my midwife, who was floating in the background behind me.

My mum rushed upstairs to wake my little girl, and she came down very quickly to join us in our meeting moment. We found out together we had a little boy, and we laughed hard because we STILL didn’t have any name ideas – oops! After a few moments of landing together, my mum went to get my 4yr old, and there we all were. Sat marvelling at our newest family member. I started sobbing. Such relief. My team started propping me up with pillows and keeping me warm with blankets, the kids went off to play. I felt a pressure and contractions again, so I started pushing out the placenta, I gently guided it out myself. More relief. Sugary tea, and jelly babies powered me through as new midwifes (shift change) arrived. My husband cut the cord and we used the cord tie. Ru went into the next room for skin to skin with daddy and to properly meet his siblings. The midwife asked Bodhi what he should be called, he said Bob, and this was his name for the next day until we landed on Ruben (with Bobbie as his middle name).