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SOVEREIGN BIRTH STORIES: KIRSTY

FIRST TIME SOLO MAMA. FREE BIRTH. 40+6 WEEKS.

It was an honour to walk alongside Kirsty as she prepared to birth autonomously outside of the system. Kirsty began her journey meeting with midwives, but quickly reclaimed her power, choosing freebirth. Here she shares her story of how she ventured to the depths of her soul to meet her baby, enduring a 6 day labour.

“I don’t expect anyone to make it through this whole story, though you’re welcome to if you’d like. For me, typing it out felt important as an exercise of processing and healing. 

  • This is a long birth story because my labour began on a Tuesday, and Ronan was born on Sunday.
  • I am a single mum, so my doula (the fantastic Sophia Crawford) was my main birth partner.  
  • This was my first baby, conceived after a previous loss. 
  • I planned a freebirth at home with Sophia’s support. While not technically a ‘freebirth’ in the end, I don’t give the midwives any credit for the eventual safe appearance of my son. 
  • To prepare, I followed lots of freebirth accounts on social media. I fully educated myself on physiological birth, retraining my brain to see birth not as a medical event. Birth is a natural occurrence that occasionally needs medical support. 
  • I also greatly thank Sam Gadsden and her freebirth group + course on Facebook. As well as The Normal Boring Freebirth podcast, and Kemi Johnson for her content! These resources and others like them were very loud in the echo chamber I created for myself in the lead-up to birth. They were so helpful. 
  • I invited my wonderful friend Lizzie to be at any or all of the birth. She had a 15-month-old, so she weaves in and out of the story. 
  • My aunt (Claire) in Ireland also provided support from afar as we are very close. She is/was mine and the baby’s next of kin. 
  • Sophia was with me for all five days (what a legend). She received moral support via phone and social media from Claire and various other doula’s in the Bristol/Southwest network! Thank you to Daniella Dean, Alix Thorpe, and Sam Gadsden. 

MONDAY: PRE-LABOUR

Over the weekend before labour started, I’d had pretty regular ‘twinges’ during the day. I continued to walk my dog daily. I’d take him on big hikes up hills, along rivers and streams to try and keep things consistent. Hills were becoming more challenging, and I was getting more breathless but moving felt good! For reference, I’m 5ft 4 and a size 8-10, so my bump felt disproportionately huge. I felt like baby was trying to claw his way out; his movements were so big!

I was expecting a decent-sized baby as I was born at 9lb 4, and we’ve had the odd 10lb baby in our family. I’d had regular ‘niggles’ over the weekend and surges in the evenings that tailed off by morning. By Monday evening, I had relatively frequent and intense but manageable surges, but by midnight things seemed like they’d tailed off again as they’d done previous nights, so I went back to bed and focused on getting sleep.

TUESDAY: 40+1

I woke at about 4.30, and things felt like they were starting again. The latent phase of labour had meant that things had stopped as daylight came around for the past few days. I found it frustrating, but despite this I think I’d done a good job of surrendering to the process. 

I managed surges in my living room, dancing, singing to Ronan, leaning over my ball, and breathing to music.

I messaged Lizzie at about 5am and asked if she could come today. I’d been alone for a few days and needed some distraction. At 7.30am, I updated Lizzie to say that I thought the baby was trying to get into position as he was incredibly active with each surge! It’s interesting looking back on my text messages to see that I’d known from the start he wasn’t in the easiest position to make his way down.

Surges continued into the day, so I let Sophia know, and Lizzie and her little girl came for the morning. While they were here, I used my ball and ignored the surges. Lizzie said she might be able to come back later if things continued. When they left late morning, I decided to get some sleep and said I’d let her know if anything changed. 

SOPHIA’S ARRIVAL

At about 1.30pm, I updated Lizzie to let her know they were ramping up. I then texted around for someone to come and walk my dog. In planning, I’d thought I would probably like to continue walking him in early labour, but I didn’t feel I could do that with the strength of the surges. Lizzie returned around 3pm for a couple of hours. We layed on my bed together in a mixture of quiet and chatting as surges came every few minutes. When Lizzie left, I organised for Sophia to come. While waiting for Sophia, I managed surges in my living room, dancing, singing to Ronan, leaning over my ball, and breathing to music. I felt really calm and excited to meet my baby soon… 🤣

I felt this process was sending me to the depths of my soul and would be healing. I was right.

At about 6pm, Sophia arrived, but things seemed to slow as the evening went on. So much so that we could eat and watch a few episodes of Friends. We put the slowing down to the change of energy with Sophia arriving. I anticipated things would restart again if I got into bed, so Sophia decided to sleep on the sofa while I got some rest. I left Ralph (dog) downstairs with Sophia and went to bed.

WEDNESDAY: 40+2

Things ramped up again when I got to bed. By 4am Wednesday, they went up a notch further. I’d created a nice nest space in my bedroom with dim lights and a large quilt folded on the floor. Sophia set up the oil burner as I’d chosen to burn lavender and frankincense. Ralph assumed his position by my side. We spent the morning here, and surges built in intensity again. Lizzie joined us at around 8am for a couple of hours, offering love and words for Ronan, and again in the afternoon for a couple of hours, when I moved downstairs for a change of scene.  

During the morning session in my bedroom, I felt quite emotional. I had the first of a few emotional releases over the next few days. By 3pm downstairs, I was making noise and having long, intense back-to-back contractions. My body was working so hard as I was leaning into and managing the surges with my breath and movement. I spent lots of time in a squat position on my living room rug (which is where Ronan was eventually born).

Baby was still very active with each surge, and I felt really confident he was ok.

LISTENING TO MY BODY

I was feeling into my body and moving intuitively, and I found myself lunging a lot to the right to create space in my left hip. So I told Sophia; ‘I feel like the baby is in my hip; something there feels sticky.’ I’d also been asking Sophia to hold my bump up for me as this relieved a lot of the pressure in my hip and made surges feel more productive. Sophia could feel what I was feeling, that baby was very active still with each surge, and I felt really confident he was ok. He was such an active baby in the womb, so his movements were reassuring. 

Although I knew he was head down, I felt he wasn’t in a position to easily make his way out, so we tried some gentle biomechanical positions to encourage him out of my hip. The side-lying hip release made surges feel so much more painful and intense. By about 8pm, I felt tired from the length and strength of surges. My cervix felt irritated and my womb was really tired. Sophia suggested I get in the bath to try and become more comfortable, which felt exactly what I needed.

ALLOWING MY BODY TO REST

In the bath, surges seemed to stop completely! In hindsight, I probably should have just stayed there and let my womb rest, but in the moment, I didn’t want to be experiencing no surges, so I quite quickly got out of the bath in the hope they’d re-start; however, nothing would bring them back that night. It was like my womb was saying ‘no more for now,’ as it regularly did over the rest of the labour. At about 11pm, I decided that I shouldn’t be ‘trying’ to get my body to do anything and we should call it a night and get some rest. I was tired, and my back was also in pain, spasming on one side.  

THURSDAY: 40+3

I woke up at 4am after 4 hrs of broken sleep. My womb had had her rest, and strong surges were building again. Throughout Thursday, I had surges build twice to the very ‘active labour’ stage of back-to-back incredibly long and intense surges, only to die off again after several hours of mooing. At one point, I really felt like this couldn’t possibly slow down again as surges were so intense and required so much focus on my breath to manage, but after a couple more hours, it felt as though nothing was changing.

I began to feel exhausted, a bit frustrated, and I really felt I needed to lie down and again like my womb needed a rest/refuel. Upon lying down, the surges quickly tapered off. It was like a switch had been flicked, and labour completely paused! Sophia and I were shaking our heads, almost in mild amusement. I remember thinking my cervix must be dilating as I’d passed bloody mucus throughout the day and thought I could feel it stretching. I also was sure my waters hadn’t broken yet.

The support and encouragement I got from Sam Gadsden’s Freebirth group was great. What was happening was normalised, and I felt armed to continue to trust the process and ride out the rest of the labour.

COMFORTING WORDS FROM AFAR

Later in the afternoon, Sophia had been with me for 48 hours. Surges were now back as short, intense bursts more spaced apart that I could rest through. I wanted to call Claire (my aunt) for a sense check. She is an osteopath, and I was hoping she could suggest something for the stalling and the baby’s position in my hip, which I felt was causing the spasms in my back and were now really bothering me.

Claire helpfully suggested that the only thing I could do was maybe take some paracetamol for the back pain so I could relax and get some sleep and trust the process and my intuition, and baby would be here soon.

Sophia had also been encouraging me to continue to trust my intuition, which felt so hard the more tired I became, and the more surges stopped, so this is exactly what I needed to do and hear from Claire. I decided to take Claire’s advice and get some rest and suggested Sophia go home and get some rest too, a change of clothes, shower, etc. I also wondered if a few hours to myself might change anything.

REACHING OUT TO THE FREEBIRTH COMMUNITY

For the rest of Thursday evening, I laid in bed, having short surges that felt like every 2 or 3 minutes, and they were strong but still much shorter and less intense than earlier in the day. The paracetamol helped, and I put a post on Sam Gadsden’s Freebirth group while lying in bed. I just hadn’t encountered a story like mine in my prep for this freebirth, so I wasn’t prepared for such frequent stalling of very active labour.

I asked for people to share similar stories if they had them. The support and encouragement I got from that group was great. What was happening was normalised, and I felt armed to continue to trust the process and ride out the rest of the labour. I messaged Claire to tell her I was resting and that I felt this process was sending me to the depths of my soul and would be healing. I was right.

FRIDAY: 40+4

During the early hours of Friday am, I became agitated as the paracetamol wore off, and during surges, my back was really going into spasm again, so I couldn’t get at all comfortable. Sophia returned at 6am to find me on the toilet and quite distressed by my back. She ran a bath and massaged the pain away for me until I could eventually lie back. Surges ramped up to once again become very regular and very strong. It was daylight, so thanks to Sophia’s suggestion, I put on my eye mask, put in my earplugs, and went into the zone. Sophia sat next to me, just watching my bump. I remember hearing her words of encouragement and the odd ‘wow’ as she could see the strength of the surges and the baby’s big movements.

This continued throughout the morning, and the surges felt big, long, and productive. By late morning/lunchtime, I decided I needed to move, so I got out of the bath and moved into my spare room. 

I set myself up in the corner of the room, swaying to my music. Sophia was out of the room, probably preparing me food or letting out the bath, and I felt really weary. This is where I had another big emotional release. I got an overwhelming feeling that my nan was with me and sobbed. I sobbed out fear, frustration, and grief. Then I remember Sophia’s arms wrapping around me from nowhere as she held the space for me to let out my emotion. It felt really good to let it out.

NOTICING MY BODILY CHANGES

As I regained my composure, the surges remained strong, and my waters started to trickle. I remember feeling like I was roaring, bent over the bed/standing, and rocking through almost back-to-back surges now. Sophia asked if I’d felt to see if I could feel anything, so I did. It felt like the sac of waters were bulging at my cervix.

After a couple more hours of massive surges, I felt my womb and myself become totally exhausted again. Lying down had sometimes brought me relief throughout labour. So I moved to side laying in the hope it would give me some moments of less intensity. Surges were still strong but became really spaced out in this position, and I got almost complete relief in between them again, enough to order more coconut water from Deliveroo, much to Sophia’s amusement.

I think I must have gone through about 10 litres of coconut water from this point onwards by the time he came out, as it’s all I could stomach. While it was tempting to stay upright to continue on, and it felt confusing that surges died off so much when I laid down on my side, I felt like I needed to rest and refuel before continuing. It had been an intense and long day.

Ordering more coconut water after days of intense labour… as you do.

FEELING THE FRUSTRATION

It was now evening on Friday, and I decided to get back in the bath. I was beginning to feel frustrated again now. Not because I was worried or didn’t trust the process, but because I was tired and concerned for Sophia if it went on for days more and that my family would begin to worry as they hadn’t heard from me for a few days. I didn’t want the pressure of people knowing I was in labour and the added task of setting boundaries for their concerns.

ANOTHER EMOTIONAL RELEASE

In response to my post on Sam Gadsden’s freebirth group, someone shared some meditations on releasing during labour. Sophia suggested I do these in the bath. During these, my surges really slowed further. I surrendered to the meditation and became aware I was sobbing after a time. I’m talking proper snot bubbles and ugly crying as Sophia rested a hand on my arm. When I came round from my tears, I felt I’d shifted something and like I was going to be sick, and I was. My emotions have always been delicately tied to my physical state, so I saw this release as normal and felt better afterwards, but everything in my body had almost completely stopped. 

Rather than overthink this, I eased into the process further, renewed from my sob. Sophia and I went downstairs, we ate, watched friends, chatted, and I bounced on the ball. It was now late Friday night. Sophia rested on the living room floor, me on the sofa.

Sophia and I worked together in the months leading up to labour. At some point, I mentioned to Sophia that I didn’t want a c-section because I suffer from adhesions (scar tissue sticking together). I have lots of bowel adhesions from previous surgeries. During my pregnancy, I’d been referred to a consultant at 16 wks because I’d previously had a LLETZ treatment to my cervix to remove abnormal cells. I was just under the criteria for needing consultant-led care. Still, they decided to refer me anyway without my consent. But the point is, I’d previously had minor surgery on my cervix, and I suffer from adhesions.

SATURDAY: 40+5

Sophia and I rested in the living room in silence for a while, and I breathed through surges and tried to get some rest. Shortly after midnight, we began talking. Sophia mentioned that she had been looking into the evidence for whether scar tissue/adhesions can prevent a cervix from dilating and found this possible. She asked me if I thought there was any chance this might be what was going on for me. I was open to considering anything causing such established labour to stop and start. 

INVITING MIDWIVES IN

We discussed how I would feel about midwives checking my cervix to ensure it was dilating and ruling out scar tissue. While I felt confident this probably wouldn’t be the case, once we had discussed it, I knew the niggle wouldn’t go away until I got checked. Sophia called the home birth team and invited them to come. They knew my plan was a freebirth, so they asked what I would want from them. I said one VE to check my cervix and the baby’s position if possible and that the bag of waters was bulging. I just wanted confirmation of what my intuition told me: that my cervix was dilated, and he was tilted into my hip. This is exactly what they came to do. 

One midwife said she couldn’t believe I was sitting on the ball, holding a completely coherent conversation and advocating for myself whilst almost completely dilated.

They arrived at about 5am. I had put together a specific birth plan for any medical intervention, which the midwives mostly followed, minus the odd boundary push I deflected. When they arrived, I was in the bath. Sophia asked them to read the birth plan, and they came in to meet me and discuss again what I wanted. 

During their checks, I didn’t really have surges, I remained very calm and advocated for us clearly. The first midwife asked permission to palpate to check the baby’s position. She noted that it looked like my bladder was very full as there was a large bulge over my pubic bone and asked the second midwife to come in and confirm. I felt I’d been going to the toilet whenever I needed it but noted I’d not been for a while! As per my birth plan, I reminded them I wouldn’t consent to a catheter and spent quite some time trying to wee. Eventually, I emptied my bladder and moved downstairs for my cervix to be checked. 

CHECKING DILATION

The midwives said they’d like to listen to the baby before and after the VE, which I agreed to as I knew he was fine. He was. The VE confirmed I was pretty much ‘fully dilated’ (the midwife said she couldn’t feel any cervix), with the baby’s head right there in his bag of waters, and the midwife told me that she thought the baby was slightly tilted into my left hip. I declined more monitoring and everything else they offered, apart from allowing my bump to be measured, because I was mildly amused that they thought taking a measurement at this stage would be useful. 

Overall this visit from the midwives was positive for me as it boosted my trust in myself and my intuition.

After they had completed their checks, I sat bouncing on my ball, and one midwife said she couldn’t believe I was sitting on the ball, holding a completely coherent conversation and advocating for myself whilst almost completely dilated. I thanked them, told them I felt empowered to continue alone as the baby was fine, and asked them to leave. They did. 

Overall this visit from the midwives was positive for me as it boosted my trust in myself and my intuition. They confirmed everything I felt. Newly energised, Sophia and I did some more gentle biomechanical stuff to try and encourage baby out of my hip. I’d gone to the depths of my soul, emotionally released multiple times, physically released with vomit.  I felt like his position was the only thing preventing him from coming, and at this point, although I was feeling level-headed, I was tired! 

RIDING THE WAVES… AGAIN

Within a few hours of the midwives leaving, the surges slowly started to pick up again. Lizzie came back for support, and I moved back to the spare bedroom, able to chat between surges until about 11am when I needed to lean over the bed and commence roaring. 

At about 11.15, my waters went with a gush, Hollywood style, completely clear of meconium. Sophia seemed pretty elated, and I remember her looking at my crystal clear waters and saying, ‘No distressed baby here!’ It felt like a massive milestone. I felt excited that something new was happening, and then my surges completely stopped. All I could do was laugh. Lizzie had to leave again, and I tried to keep my oxytocin flowing. I danced, rocked, expressed colostrum, bounced on my ball, and listened to music. Nothing much happened. It didn’t seem like surges were going to return anytime soon. Once again, my womb felt like she was asking for rest. I felt a mixture of amusement and exhaustion, but I knew baby was fine as he was still doing his usual river dance.

SPIRIT GUIDES

During the next few hours, nothing really changed. We spent some time pulling cards from my animal spirit cards, one each for Sophia, Ronan, and me. We couldn’t quite believe how perfect for each of us the cards were. Sophia pulled the Elk, which read about providing ‘underlying support and stability.’ I pulled the Frog, which read about clearing, healing, and using water to release! Ronan’s card was the Lamb, which read:

The lamb is the bearer of an important message…Lamb energy is the honest guidance you hear from an old friend, a young child, or sometimes a surprising stranger. Though the lamb’s message may channel through another person, the wisdom resonates within you. It will repeat and reverberate until you listen. Approach this gentle creature with utmost patience and reverence”…  

Lizzie came back around 3pm. She pulled a spirit card too, and pulled the Crow, “spiritually strong and watchful.”  At 4.30, Sophia left to refuel, and shortly after that, Lizzie left again. I got some sleep by myself as I had a feeling I’d be in for an intense night once my womb had recharged. 

A SLIDING DOORS MOMENT

While I was asleep, the midwife that had performed the VE early this morning called Sophia. Sophia told them baby wasn’t here yet but that my waters had broken. Despite our calmness and the fact my waters had only broken a few hours ago, they immediately began to ‘voice concern’ about malposition, risk of haemorrhage due to length of labour, tired womb, etc. When Sophia told me all this, I was really cross, firstly because they called in the first place when I had specifically asked to have no more engagement from them, and secondly because they called Sophia, not me. But what made me most angry was that the midwife said Sophia would be liable if anything happened. Of course, Sophia and I knew this was totally untrue and unfair.

I reassured her that while a freebirth is what I want, I wouldn’t be putting myself or my baby at risk. If there was any sign of distress at this stage, I’d call for midwife support.

I felt very happy to continue on and like things would be ok. My waters had broken, and my womb needed another break before the final push. I felt really unhappy that the midwife was involved. No matter how much you prepare for their fear and coercion, it’s so difficult to hold your ground once a concern has been voiced. All I wanted to do was focus inwards and stay tuned into my intuition. I now felt forced to sense check all of their fears, go over the evidence, and return to a place I felt I could trust myself because the midwives clearly didn’t trust me. I felt like my bubble had burst a bit. Not because I believed what they said but because I felt I had to be in fight mode rather than in a place of surrender.

MANAGING THE EXHAUSTION

At 8pm, Sophia came back to talk to me. She was honest that she was running empty from 4 nights of very little sleep. Her little girl had been upset that she was leaving again, for the 5th night in a row, and understandably pretty upset from the call with the midwife. She’d been a total rock to me over the previous days. At this moment, her humanness was really appreciated as she let her tears of exhaustion come.

I reassured Sophia that the decision to freebirth was mine. I acknowledged that without a partner, this is a lot for one person to support and said I wanted her to go home and sleep. Sophia was concerned about leaving me alone, and I reassured her that while a freebirth is what I want, I wouldn’t be putting myself or my baby at risk. If there was any sign of distress at this stage, I’d call for midwife support. I promised that if baby came while she slept, I’d call midwives to oversee my 3rd stage in case of bleeding, and I reassured her that I was still here, not because I was stubborn but because I genuinely felt baby would come at home eventually and safely and that medical intervention would get in the way of that.

I also suggested that I try and find some support for her/a second doula in case this went on for much longer, as I didn’t expect her to continue to be my only consistent support anymore. Sophia left feeling much lighter to get some sleep and asked me to call her back if things ramped up.

SEEKING ADDITIONAL SUPPORT

When Sophia left, I decided to try to get an emergency call with Sam Gadsden. I felt frustrated by the midwives and needed a fresh perspective and encouragement that I was making sensible decisions after such a long week. I also knew that if Sophia was going to tap out, it was Sam I wanted as my second.

She told me to have a low threshold for bleeding but encouraged me in my choice to continue to freebirth.

Thankfully, Sam was home and agreed to have a Zoom with me, and she was amazing! I’d been posting on the freebirth group intermittently. Sam said she expected me to be on my knees and was fully prepared that she might need to encourage me to seek intervention, but that upon speaking with me, it was clear I had loads of fire left in me and that I didn’t look like someone who’d been in labour for 5 days. Sam validated everything Sophia, and I knew about how unfair the midwives’ call to Sophia was and my choice to stay home without midwives present. She told me to have a low threshold for bleeding but encouraged me in my choice to continue to freebirth, providing some helpful suggestions. 

While talking to Sam, I was standing, rocking my hips from side to side, and began to feel the need to focus on my breathing as surges returned. Speaking with her put me back in my power and helped me to relax. Sam said she’d be able to tap in for Sophia tomorrow if needed, though I think we both knew it wouldn’t be, and she sent me on my way to continue. 

REGAINING MY POWER

It was now about 10pm, and the next two hours were amazing. I remember somehow forcing a banana down and feeding the dog. Then I danced, swayed, breathed through surges, and felt baby dead central, moving lower. I hung off the banisters in the hallway to support my weight, knowing that today was the day he would be here. Hanging off the banisters made things very intense. I was finding it difficult to focus on my breath, so I called Sophia, and she said she was on her way.

SUNDAY: THE DAY HE WAS FINALLY BORN

Sophia arrived shortly after midnight to find me folded over the sofa in the living room, mooing through surges, and instantly got about supporting me, reminding me of my breathing. I became really hot and was very uncomfortable & no longer felt relief from lying down; this made things feel much more intense. I asked Sophia to run a bath and remember feeling I probably wouldn’t make it upstairs, but somehow I did! For the first time, the bath didn’t give me any relief. I couldn’t lie back, so I was on my knees in the water. Sophia pointed out that my bladder looked very full again, and I realised I’d not needed to wee or been for a wee in several hours. 

Once I became aware of how full my bladder was, it felt like the baby’s head was hitting it with every surge, and this was why I was so uncomfortable. I tried so hard to empty it in the bath and toilet. Sophia suggested we call midwives to empty it if I couldn’t. I protested, but she reminded me that I had promised I wouldn’t put myself or my baby in harm’s way and that continuing to labour and drink with such a full bladder could cause damage to my bladder (she was right, it’s not the same!).

Reluctantly, after a long time trying to empty it and discussions with Sophia, I agreed that it would be sensible to ask the midwives to come back to empty my bladder. Far from a serene scene with me breathing through the now very intense surges, I was pretty distressed at this stage and really wanted the help to wee! 

EMPTYING MY BLADDER

Two midwives arrived at 3am, and the first midwife came to see me in the bath after reading my birth plan. I reiterated that I only wanted my bladder emptied, nothing else. I just needed relief from the now excruciating bladder pain. 

Somehow I made it to my bed. The midwife used an in-out catheter and relieved my bladder of a lot of wee! I instantly felt more comfortable, got back in the bath, and breathed. Now I could lie back and really wanted to just get back in the zone and allow the opportunity for oxytocin to flow again.

I had decided over the past 24 hours that I might call midwives when Ronan arrived to do the paperwork + monitor my bleeding etc. I thought he would be here soon, so I agreed that they could stay away from me/in another room unless I asked for them.

PUSHING BOUNDARIES

The midwives kept calling Sophia out of the bathroom for various concerns and requests that seemed to be coming from the hospital. They were obviously getting pressure from a consultant as despite the boundary I’d set, one of them came into the bathroom and offered me a conversation with a Dr, to which I made my annoyance clear and told her to go away. I felt I was being treated like there was a lot of concern for the baby and had to dig my heels in that I was tuned into him. I knew he was ok and I didn’t need to speak to anyone. Sophia had to be quite firm with them that if they didn’t stop asking things of me, I’d likely send them away, which seemed to work as they went quiet.

I hadn’t come this far to risk strangers’ hands pulling him from me.

FIGHTING SLEEP

Being in the bath brought so much relief, but surges had become like gentle waves. My womb felt so tired again, and I became aware that I was drifting in and out of sleep. Sophia was slumped over the edge of the bath with her eyes closed too. It was a nice moment of team calm, but I remember thinking, “If these surges don’t pick up again with so much external fear surrounding this birth now (from the NHS), I’ll end up being heavily pushed into intervention and really having to fight.” This thought gave me a kick. I hadn’t come this far to risk strangers’ hands pulling him from me, and I remember focusing on how much I wanted my hands to be the first to hold him.

As tempting as it was to sleep, I didn’t feel it was safe to do so anymore, so I asked Sophia to please get my eye mask and put drum and bass on downstairs, loudly! My plan was to tune into some music that would energise me and block out the rest of the world, and this is what I did. 

A CHANGE OF SCENERY

10 minutes later, I was hanging from my banisters again, drum and bass blaring with my eye mask on. Surges were picking up again, and I could hear Sophia in my ear saying, ‘Yes, Kirsty’! It was finally happening; he was moving down!

Looking back now, what happened next was obviously just my body transitioning. I felt an overwhelming need to be on my knees and suddenly felt like Ronan was between my legs. I also suddenly felt a pretty overwhelming need to know Ronan was ok. For the first time during labour I felt worried. I crawled to the living room and grabbed a hand Doppler I’d been gifted, but never used, and tried to listen in.

HEARING RONAN’S HEARTBEAT

Sophia suggested that since they were here and I wanted to hear him, I let the midwives do this instead so I could focus on my breath. I agreed, and she went to relay my request. The midwives were in the room from this point, but their presence is and was a total blur. I remember pushing Midwife One’s hand and doppler away the second I’d heard a few seconds of his heart. He was fine. I shouted at her twice more. Once to please stop telling me to push, as per my birth plan, especially when I wasn’t having contractions. Then again when she started laying out towels and gloves. My birth plan clearly said no to these things. I remember looking up and seeing the gloves and saying something like, ‘Don’t touch my baby; I’ll catch him myself,’ to which she cleared away the offending items!

I wished the midwives weren’t there but didn’t have the presence to remember that I could ask them to leave the room again. 

After I heard Ronan’s heartbeat, I ‘pushed’ to the background drum and bass for another two hours or so. I felt most productive in a squat on my rug, back against my sofa. I remember I couldn’t feel any pain; everything felt numb. It felt like my womb was almost asleep, and my roars were what was pushing him down and keeping my her awake.

WELCOMING MY BABY EARTHSIDE

I couldn’t hold my body up easily anymore; my legs had fallen asleep. Sophia held my weight from behind so I could focus. The midwives told me they could see the top of his head. It felt like it took ages to keep it from disappearing back up after each surge. My feet were numb from being in a squat. I moved to lie on my side on the floor, but here surges instantly began to slow down. My womb had had enough and was taking me moving as a signal to stop and rest. I knew that I would have to get back up and keep roaring to keep her awake!

I heaved myself back into a squat, Sophia holding me up from behind again and roared, and roared. It was working, the midwives told me he was coming, but I knew. I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to be naked and ripped off my top. They told me his head was out, and then turning. Then with the rest of his head all in the same almighty moan, I felt the weight of his body leave me as it flopped out onto the rug.

He screamed his bright pink head off before my hands scooped him up to my face. Sophia and the midwives hugged. Sophia cried tears of delirious joy as I sang to my son the song I’d sung to him every day for the last 9 months without realising I was doing so. 

FEELING HELD

At my request, the midwives immediately left the room and recorded an Apgar score of 10 at birth. Despite the NHS’s mistrust of my intuition and ability to feel my baby, he was fine, as expected.

I settled back onto the sofa with him, where we enjoyed 7 hours of uninterrupted skin-to-skin. Thanks to Sophia keeping the midwives out, I established breastfeeding, and enjoyed quiet visits from Lizzie and Alix Thorpe (doula). Alix had offered support to Sophia and me during labour. She agreed to be here with Sophia during the 3rd stage. Alix bought her baby boy, tea and tincture to help release my placenta. She supported Sophia in holding a calm and sacred space for me.

It felt incredibly special to sit in peace, 3 mothers drinking tea and soaking in oxytocin. 

Ronan was weighed about 24 hours later. He was 9lb 2 then, so I assume he was bigger at birth. From the start, he was bright-eyed, strong and engaged. We are 7 months into our life on the outside together. I feel proud every day of the fight I endured to bring him earthside at home.

Especially for first-time mums, having a freebirth or a homebirth feels like a constant battle against the system’s deep mistrust of variations of normal in pregnancy, physiological birth, and lack of ability to make birthing women the highest authority in their labours.

ON REFLECTION

Ronan’s birth was not how I imagined it. Without Sophia’s support to prepare and the support of her and the other wonderful Doulas that rallied around us to get us to the end, it could have gone very differently. It tested every aspect of my being and called for so much surrender in preparation and practice, which I now realise was the perfect initiation to motherhood.”

If you would like support navigating the system or would like support during your wild pregnancy or freebirth, tap here to book a call with me.