A Wonderful Calming and Reassuring Influence
This is the story of the birth of our son Daniel. I want to write this down for lots of reasons. First, for us as a family to be able to remember how our beautiful son came into this world. Second, for me to be able to show how much I have valued those who helped this be the story of wonder and joy that it is (and nearly wasn't). And finally, for those who are to have babies to have a birth story to think about when they are considering their choices of how and where to have their baby.
I dedicate this story to those that helped Daniel so incredibly warmly and in such a giving way, along the way. To Adrian, Daniel's dad, for being absolutely everything I could want from a partner in life and especially in birth - you were truly incredible at making this all happen. To Katharine, our hypnobirthing teacher, who gave us both the knowledge and the confidence to do this in the best way for us in such a warm and supportive way. And to Annie and Tim, our last minute angel midwives who dropped everything to come and help us, you were absolutely perfect in the way that you helped us. I will always feel an incredible gratitude to you all.
This won't be written particularly well I am afraid - new born babies mean not too much sleep or time for making beautiful prose. But I want to do this now (day 3 of Daniel's life) before the memory fades and I forget what all happened. So here you go...
Our little family formally consisted of me, Beckie, and Adrian my husband. We are typical London mid-30s people, living in north London with me working as a civil servant and Adrian working in the City. Our life together began in 2005 and in early 2007 we bought a lovely house in north London together that was a classic refurb project for the next year. This house means a lot to us, with Adrian proposing to me in the house before we had even bought it and was the first big project that we did together. We got married in August 2008, having the reception in the house.
Daniel's little life began shortly after, being conceived in September 2008 which was a wonderful surprise - we had assumed that it would take a while! I was pretty well during the pregnancy - suffering from the usual aches and ailments of pregnancy (including a spell of nausea for two months), but I got through all that pretty well. I was very keen to keep fit and well through the pregnancy so kept walking to work every day of the pregnancy, right up to my last day at work on week 36. I also attended pregnancy yoga classes most weeks which was a lovely way to ensure I was keeping as strong and flexible as possible through pregnancy and was also a great way to engage more emotionally with my growing baby and the prospect of motherhood.
Through pregnancy yoga I came across Hypnobirthing which was advertised in the centre. After a bit of Googling it seemed that lots of people thought that this was a good idea and useful as a way to increase your chances of having the kind of birth that you would want. Lots of second time mum's seemed to be particularly keen on it after not having the first birth experience that they wanted. So, Adrian and I signed up for Katharine Grave's Hynobirthing workshop in April 2009.
Hypnobirthing turned out to be so much more than we expected. Yes, it was an opportunity to learn breathing techniques to encourage you to be calm during labour. But it was much more than this. Katharine who runs the course was wonderful. She brought forth a blend of fantastic information on birth with an amazing presence that gave me much more confidence in my body knowing what to do and being able to do it. It re-framed my view of birth, from one of obvious pain and need for medical support, to birth being a truly natural experience that doesn't have to be clinical but can be wonderful resulting in a beautiful baby. It re-framed my idea of timings from baby is due on XX date to baby being due sometime around that date and most importantly that baby will come when baby is ready and that this is fine. The Hypnobirthing class was also fabulous at providing an approach for Adrian to adopt. Rather than him feeling helpless for the birth, Hypnobirthing sets out a really clear and important role for partners in supporting women in birth, dealing with all the stuff that goes on around birth so that women can simply focus on having the baby. It also provided some fantastic advice on complementary therapies such as aromatherapy and homeopathy which proved to be really useful during pregnancy, labour and after the birth. The classes also introduced us to the idea of independent midwives who work outside the NHS but are of course registered etc.
Our birth plan was for me to stay at home for as long as possible and then move to hospital for a water birth in the birth centre. We had taken the tour of the centre and it seemed fine. The midwives seemed nice and I thought that this blend of less medicalised birth centre approach with the option of having more interventions just round the corner seemed like the perfect mix to ensure baby's and my safety with being able to have as natural an experience as possible. We considered a home birth, but I felt uncomfortable in case there was an emergency.
And so to the start of Daniel's birth. My labour began on Thursday with well spread out contractions (or surges as Hynobirthing likes to term them) that were not very powerful. Adrian came home early on Thursday evening and things started to pick up in the evening. By 3am I was having the surges about every 3 mins and they were lasting about 1 min long. According to what we had learned in our NCT classes and various other sources, this seemed to us like well established labour so we packed up our things and went off to the hospital. On getting there I was examined and told that while the contractions were going well I was only 1cm dilated so should go home. This felt a bit disappointing but off home we went. Over night the contractions strengthened and I definitely felt that things were progressing. So, back in the car at 10am to the hospital. Another examination revealed progress - but only to 3cm. The midwife then said we could either stay or go. We decided to stay as parking and moving around were all really stressful around the hospital. So, we were admitted to the Birth Centre and the room with the pool. We stayed there all day. I was sick a few times and the contractions continued but didn't seem to be changing in their nature. At one point I was put on a monitor so strapped to a bed for an hour - turned out all was fine. My morale was getting low - it felt like I was stuck in this limbo land of having regular contractions but without any progress. The room wasn't great - a big clock loomed over us telling us as each hour went by without feeling much change. At 6pm another internal exam - still 3 to 4 cm.....all that work for not much change.
At 9pm the consultant was brought in. He was truly awful. There were 5 people in total brought into the room all staring at me in my surging state, the lights were put on full and the consultant interrogated me and Adrian with the underlying premise being you shouldn't be there as you are not progressing enough. He then basically said I should once again be examined to see if I was progressing. Given my low morale at this point and the threat of being put on an open ward without Adrian, we decided that we would just go home and let things progress there. The shift midwife at the time was wonderful, really respectful and understanding and in full support of us going home and not having another exam.
So, we got home and I decided to relax in the bath which allowed me to have little sleeps between the surges. Adrian went to bed as was clearly knackered after having not slept all night. I then listened to the CD from Katharine's class that provided lots of very positive affirmations about birth and the importance of recognising that babies come in their own time. After listening to this a couple of times I felt so so much better mentally and physically. I knew that I could do this. I knew that I could have the birth that I wanted and that this was going to be ok. When Adrian woke I said that we should re-start the clock. Forget Friday - it didn't happen. Our baby is being born positively from here and we were going to stay at home for as very long as possible. He was wonderfully supportive and totally agreed.
The day time of Saturday is now a bit of a blur - the contractions continued to come and go, I had a bath or two and watched lots of episodes of Flights of the Concordes which was all very relaxed and I felt amazingly strong and good. I had stopped being sick that morning and was feeling so much more in control. Adrian had called Katharine on the Friday night when things weren't going well and they spoke on Saturday morning when she said she could come over on Saturday evening if we would like that. She came over on the Saturday night and was a wonderful calming and reassuring influence that gave us even greater confidence that we could do this. I think of her as the first of my outside guardian angels helping me along my journey. She read some relaxation scripts and did some light touch massage which was all wonderful. I mentioned to her that given our hospital experience, I had really wished I had arranged a home birth (her advice all the way along the course). A little later she picked up on this and suggested that this still might be possible. In my mind this was so clearly the right thing for me and our baby. This would allow our baby to be born positively, gently and wonderfully without all the associations of hospital I now had. Adrian was instantly in full support too. She gave Adrian a list of numbers and he got on the phones and by 9.30 he had found a team of 2 midwives that had agreed (in principle) to come and help us even at this very late stage.
Enter Annie and Tim - my second set of angels that helped me have the birth that I so very much wanted for our child. They arrived around 10.30 and came up to see me in the bath where I was relaxing between the surges. They were very positive and supportive from the first moment they came in. They were quiet and respectful and by the way they were, gave me full confidence that I could deliver our baby at home totally safely and calmly. I didn't have to go back to hospital - this was really going to be ok. From around 10.30pm to around 1.30pm (not that I had any idea of the time, it was just passing as it should to bring forth my baby) I lay in the bath with Tim pouring lovely warm water over my tummy to soothe it between surges and Adrian giving me a very wet and cold towel for my forehead during the surges. They managed to secure a water pool which was very much what I wanted as I had in my mind that this was clearly going to be how my baby was going to be born and would provide me with all the support and pain relief that I would need. By 1.30pm they had inflated and filled the pool, again in our bathroom. I was so happy to be able to stay there, this felt like the perfect place to have our baby. It was snug, secure and my associations with it are all very positive having had so many lovely baths there in my pregnancy.
I moved into the pool and the labour continued well. The surges deepened and I moved from them being primarily in my higher tummy to being more a mix of being in my higher tummy and being a need to bear down and push. Over time the pushing urge grew and our baby started the final phase of its birth. This all took time, but everyone was wonderful in letting me and my body decide the pace and each time a contraction came we inched closer to delivering our baby. I overheard Tim and Annie ask each other if they were happy and both just beamed and I felt amazing. At one point I felt between my legs and could feel the top of Daniel's head. At that point I knew I was going to deliver Daniel pretty soon and that this was all going to be just fine. At one point Annie said that this was like a movie birth and I felt so wonderful in being able to have got this experience. More contractions, more bearing down, more inching forward and eventually I was ready to make the final push to deliver our baby. And out he came, I leaned down and scooped him up from between my legs and there he was - our wonderful son.
We had done it. We had had the birth that I could only have really dreamed of. Daniel was perfect and happy. I was feeling amazingly well (needed no stitches or any other medication after the birth). Adrian was overjoyed. An hour or so later, Adrian and I were lying in bed with our little son, Tim and Annie had sorted everything out for us and would be back that evening to check we were doing ok. I was under strict instructions to stay in bed and only move to go to the loo. Tired - absolutely, but with a massive smile on my face that I had done it in the very best way for everyone.
Daniel is now 3 days old - he is thriving and seems like a very happy little boy who is already beginning to be fascinated by the world around him. Tim and Annie have visited us every day and every day we make great strides of progress into getting feeding, sleeping etc sorted. They are providing wonderful positive support to us new parents as we get the hang of all this new baby stuff - I have only ever felt wonderfully praised at what we are doing and happy about how well this is all going. They seem infinitely patient with helping us and for this we really grateful.
I would like to wish all mothers to be the wonderful birth that they want and hope that more and more people can feel as lucky as I do today and I suspect for a very long time to come.