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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: MY SECOND BIRTH

SECOND TIME MUM, UNASSISTED HOME BIRTH

Just as with my first pregnancy, my due date came and went. I always told myself not to hang all my hopes on that single date.. but as it passed I couldn’t help but feel impatient. At my 40 week appointment on 1st March 2017, my midwife booked me in for an induction for the 11th March with little discussion. Her reason for this was that “it gets booked up quick”, so better book me a slot. I was furious with how blasé she was. I had made it clear I did not want to be induced and to be booked in only 10 days past my due date, I just didn’t feel heard. 

At that same appointment I was told my baby was head down and partly engaged – which made the induction date seem even more unnecessary. I went home feeling frustrated. That induction date hung over my head for days. I wasn’t getting any niggles or signs of labour yet and was dreading the prospect of my labour being interfered with. 

We walked a lot over those next few days! I was dragging Jack (my partner) & Elba (my eldest daughter who was just over 2.5 years at the time) out for walks everyday and bouncing on my birth ball at every opportunity. 

I toyed with the idea of a home birth during my pregnancy, but we opted for another hospital birth this time because I really felt I had such a positive experience the first time; I’d felt safe and things had gone exactly how I’d wanted. Naively, I thought that by keeping the hospital as my choice of place to give birth, I’d be able to have a similar experience. Of course, no two births are the same!

GOING INTO LABOUR

On Sunday 5th March (40+4) I had a familiar, dull period-like pain coming and going all day. During the night the pains were coming more frequently and I was sure something was happening. It didn’t feel very established, so I took myself to bed to get some rest, assuming I’d be woken by labour at some point during the night. This wasn’t the case. I woke up in the morning to nothing! Any discomfort I was feeling had completely stopped. During that morning, I was pretty sure my waters were trickling. I popped a pad in and went about my day. We chose not to contact the hospital as I worried I’d be given a countdown to induction and didn’t want to be given a time limit for my birth to happen spontaneously.

We chose not to contact the hospital as I worried I’d be given a countdown to induction.

I walked with a friend that lunchtime. My waters were still very lightly trickling and I was feeling a lot of pressure in between my legs. Once I returned home, at about 3.30pm, the tightenings and period-like pains returned. I decided it was time to speak to the hospital. My mum drove down to be with Elba and we went in to be assessed at 5.30pm. At this point I was experiencing irregular contractions.

BEING ASSESSED

After arriving at the hospital my waters gushed. It was such an odd feeling and so unfamiliar. During my first labour my waters didn’t break until the last moment and I was already in the pool.

I was very briefly assessed by a student midwife around 6pm, who listened-in to baby and felt my tummy. She confirmed I was experiencing contractions, which I obviously already knew! She said she wouldn’t internally examine me because my waters had gone, so I was at higher risk of infection. I was a little surprised by this. Usually they are keen to perform VE’s to get an idea of how things are progressing (despite this being unreliable). Nevertheless, I was happy to not be poked and prodded too much during my visit!

The student midwife then told me I wasn’t in established labour because my contractions weren’t regular enough yet; to go home, take a bath and have something to eat. Then, of course, told me I’d have to come back in the morning for an induction if nothing had progressed further by then. I was adamant my baby would be here before the following morning! 

ARRIVING HOME

As we left my surges were getting stronger. Even by the time we reached the car park I was having to stop and breathe through them. We followed her advice and headed home anyway! The journey home was pretty horrendous. Labour came out of nowhere and every bump in the road exacerbated each contraction. We arrived home at 7pm. I was so relieved! 

My mum was in shock to see us home. She’d made some dinner, but I couldn’t stomach anything to eat. I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges. Mum suggested taking off my leggings and shoes, and getting a little more comfortable. I was adamant I’d be going back to hospital soon, so just took off my shoes and stayed fulled clothed. 

I stood in our front room, bent over the table, breathing through regular, strong surges.

As my contractions were getting stronger and closer together, I suddenly felt so disheartened. I felt I was not coping with my surges as well as my first labour. Little did I know how close I was to having my baby! Elba was sitting on the sofa just opposite from me at this point. I asked my mum to take her up to bed.

Jack spoke to the hospital again just after 7.30pm. We explained how my labour had progressed substantially since leaving the hospital. They kept firing questions at Jack, who was repeating them to me. I was not in the right frame of mind to be answering questions. I had zoned in; focusing on my body, my breath, the swaying of my hips. They asked Jack if we wanted an ambulance sent out or if we could make the 25 minute journey back to the hospital in the car. I just looked at him. I think my eyes said it all. At this point I had no idea how close together my contractions actually were, I just knew there was no way we were getting back to the hospital in time for our baby’s arrival. 

BABY’S ARRIVAL

I felt calm. Whilst mum took Elba to bed, Jack and I stood in the lounge swaying together. He took my weight as I hung from his shoulders. I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down. When my mum returned I told her felt like I needed a poo, so she helped me into the downstairs toilet. As I pulled down my leggings, the pad I had placed in my pants to catch my waters had a little blood on it. The sight of blood made me feel uneasy. Mum asked Jack to grab some towels from the airing cupboard. I went to the toilet and we laughed as she wiped my bum for the first time since I was a toddler! It still makes me crease just thinking about it.

A second later I felt my baby crowning. 

I felt the roar in my throat and the urge to bear down.

I said “mum, I can feel the head… the head’s there”. 

She said “let me check”. 

I said “No need.. I can feel it!”, as I reached in-between my legs and cupped my hand over the top of the head. A feeling I will never forget. In fact, sometimes now when I place my hand on the top of her head, it takes me back to that moment and I can physically feel how much she has grown. 

I pushed with my next contraction and my baby’s head was born. The rest of her followed very quickly with the next contraction. Two pushes and she arrived earth-side at 8.05pm (an hour after arriving home from the hospital). Jack and my mum held the corners of a towel and created a hammock underneath me, catching her as she arrived.

IN A TANGLE

As I stepped forward, mum wrapped the towel around her. We didn’t know what sex our baby was, but I didn’t even think about checking to find out. I just instantly felt I wanted her skin on mine, but the umbilical cord was trailing between my legs to where she was behind me. I still had my leggings around my ankles so I had to untangle myself! Mum was right… maybe I should have taken them off! 

I stripped off my clothes and mum passed her to me through my legs. I brought her up to my chest… and then she cried. What an amazing sound to know that she was ok. Jack and my mum wrapped us both in towels as I sat and cuddled her. I beamed as I realised I had another beautiful daughter. 

THE THIRD STAGE

I sat naked, holding my little Wren for half an hour before the paramedics arrived. They checked us both over and allowed us to wait another half an hour for the placenta to be born. This didn’t seem to be happening naturally. I was eager to get her straight on my breast to encourage a physiological third stage. She took a couple of minutes to work it out. Perhaps she was a little shocked after her speedy arrival!

After an hour, they suggested going to the hospital for a managed third stage, which I accepted. By this stage I just wanted to get cleaned up and my bum was numb from sitting on the floor! Jack cut the cord, it was completely white! Amazing! We were put in the ambulance. Wren laid on my chest for the duration of the journey to hospital with her eyes wide, staring into mine. 

My birth didn’t go how I thought it was going to, but it was the most empowering experience of my life. To birth unassisted, calmly and in control, feels incredible! In hind sight, I should have given more thought into preparing and planning a home birth, but I am grateful I had a completely undisturbed birth and it was very telling for how in times like that, instinct takes over.

Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?

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BIRTHING AT HOME

There are many benefits to birthing at home, but it is still often seen as a controversial choice. 

Despite many believing it’s the more risky choice, birthing at home completely supports the physiology of birth. Those that choose to birth at home have a much higher chance of achieving a natural, physiological birth with much less chance of medical intervention. According to a systematic review and meta-analyses by The Lancet (2018) the outcomes for babies being birthed at home (by those who intended to birth at home) showed no difference to those birthed in a hospital setting and for the mother, the outcomes were improved in a home birth setting. 

It is apparent that intervention in birth leads to more intervention, and you could say that the transfer from your home into the hospital is the first intervention for most birthing people. To leave your home, a place where you are familiar, safe and unobserved, to enter into a bright, sterile hospital surrounded by strangers is disturbing the process, no matter how smooth the transition goes. 

BENEFITS OF A HOME BIRTH

You have the undivided attention of your community/independent midwife as unlike in a birth centre or labour ward, you are the only birthing person around. 

Partners can become more involved; being at home gives you the opportunity to be more intimate (which supports the physiology of birth) as your home enables you to have more privacy. 

Should you choose to, you are free to have siblings assist your birth.

You have the freedom to move about your home, exploring different rooms, finding comfort on the bed, in the bath, in a pool, etc. Being in your own home means you have the freedom to alter the birthing space, creating the perfect environment to support a physiological birth. 

You are at much less risk of infection as your body has already built up a tolerance to the bacteria in your home, creating antibodies to protect you and your baby.

You’re free to eat and drink whatever and whenever you choose during and immediately after labour. 

You have choice who you welcome into your birthing space. In the hospital, people (health professionals, hospital staff) are free to come in and out without warning, interrupting the natural flow of labour. 

It is much less stressful than the logistics of travelling to hospital, worrying about traffic, sorting parking, finding the labour ward, waiting around in Triage, being told you “aren’t far enough along” only to be sent home to do it all over again in a couple of hours. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone that goes to hospital to birth their baby, but it is very common. 

PLANNING YOUR HOME BIRTH

PREPARING THE PERFECT SPACE

There are a few simple things you can do to support and protect your hormones during labour, to ensure your labour progresses as it should. 

Oxytocin (the love hormone) is what makes your uterus contract. When oxytocin is released in abundance, you will experience longer, stronger and more effective surges. It is important to protect the environment in which you are birthing because oxytocin is a shy hormone. If at any point you do not feel safe, protected, undisturbed or unobserved, your oxytocin production can be effected and in-turn, your body will produce heightened levels of adrenaline, causing labour to stall. This is our bodies way of protecting us from harm whilst birthing our babies. 

Things to consider when preparing your birthing space:

  • Lighting – Low lighting encourages privacy, encouraging you to feel safe and unobserved.
  • Temperature – Warmth supports the production of oxytocin.
  • Smell – Scented candles/essential oils in a diffuser can enhance a feeling of calm.
  • Music – What sounds help you to relax?
  • Water – Being immersed in water can calm us. Perhaps the use of a pool or bath.
  • Who are you welcoming into your space? Do they bring the right energy? 
RELIEF & RELAXATION

Below I have created a list of comfort measures to support you during your home birth. These are not all essential but will help you to cope with the process of labour:

  • Hot water bottle for early labour
  • TENS machine
  • Positive Affirmations to stick around your birthing space
  • Create a playlist that will help you feel calm and focused
  • Candles or fairy lights
  • Food & drinks prepared ready when you need
  • Birth ball to keep active and help labour progress
  • Essential oils to use in a diffuser, in the bath or in a massage oil
  • Other complementary therapies; herbal/homeopathic remedies
  • Flannel or ice pack
  • Birth pool and accessories
  • Lip balm
PRACTICAL THINGS FOR YOUR HOME BIRTH

Once again, these aren’t essentials just practical tools to assist your labour.

  • Plastic sheeting to protect floors, sofa and beds
  • Soft coverings such as old sheets or towels
  • Extra old towels 
  • Bin bags for rubbish and washing
  • Flannels and hair ties
  • Container (bowl or bucket) in case you are sick
  • A straw for your drink 
  • Food/drinks for partner/midwives/doula
  • Camera 
  • Maternity notes and birth plan to hand to midwife upon arrival
  • Packed Birth Bag – in case you need to transfer

POST-BIRTH NEEDS

Consider things that you may need as soon as baby arrives. 

  • Blanket for you and baby
  • Post-birth food and drink to restore energy levels
  • A change of clothes ready to put on after a bath/shower
  • Clothing for baby 
  • Nappies
  • Cotton wool
  • Maternity pads
  • Large comfortable underwear

In the UK home birth is an option for all, including those with more complex pregnancies. It is important that you choose to birth where you feel safe and you can make that choice by researching and informing yourself, basing your decision on facts.

Are you planning a home birth? If there is anything else you’d like to know, if so please feel free to leave me a comment below.

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: AMY

FIRST TIME MUM, HOME BIRTH, VAGINAL BIRTH

Amy is a first time mum who had an undisturbed water birth at home at 37 weeks. Her experience was calm and positive. Read her story below.

By sharing positive birth experiences written by real women, we can empower.

“As a first time Mum I was expecting to have my baby sometime around 41 weeks. I had my home birth all planned and had just tested the pool out and got the right adaptors for the taps. A few days later when I was exactly 37 weeks pregnant (to the day) I had quite a lot of energy and was going about my business as usual. I cleaned the house, popped to shops and went on a long walk with my dog. After walking up a big hill I felt an ache in the side of my belly. It didn’t even cross my mind that this would be anything to do with labour I just thought it was a weird pregnancy pain. This ache continued until I was home so I had a nap for a few hours and by the time I woke up, the ache had gone so I carried on as normal. 

At around 7pm I sat my big old pregnant bum on my husband’s knee and gave him a squeeze. When I got up to walk to the kitchen I felt something run down my leg…”hmmm I don’t think I weed myself” I thought, before realising that this was probably my waters breaking. We called the midwife who asked us to monitor the situation and call her back in the morning. I had some dinner, had a shower and washed my hair.

A bit after that I lost my mucus plug (promptly took a photo of it which I still look at to this day) and started to think things might be kicking off a bit quicker than expected. At around 9pm I started getting quite intense surges and was just sitting upstairs on my yoga ball thinking I would have to deliver my baby myself…we called again and our lovely midwife said she would be on her way. She got stuck in traffic so I had a slightly worrying few hours breathing through my surges upstairs while my husband inflated the pool and got my birthing cave ready. 

“I had so much respect for my body and what it could do, without my conscious mind getting involved.”

When she finally arrived I had been having intense surges pretty close together, for a while (I didn’t time anything so I don’t have the details) I was surprised how much I felt it in my thighs, something I wasn’t particularly expecting. I had no vaginal examinations as I had requested and everything seemed to be moving very quickly. I had all these lovely active birth movements ready in my mind but in reality all I wanted to do was sit cross legged and bolt upright on my bed. My midwife just sat in my room and chatted to me in between surges. It was immensely comforting and reassuring. 

I think it was around 2am I shuffled down the stairs and hefted myself into the birthing pool. I think at this point I was in transition and having really intense surges, pretty much back to back. My midwife gently suggested that I try turning around and kneeling up leaning my arms over the side of the pool, which I did, and things seemed to kick up another notch. I decided that although it was even more intense in this position I would stick it out as it would probably be over quicker! Then I did the typical thing of thinking I needed the loo, hefting myself out of the pool and padding my wet feet to the toilet and realising I didn’t need to go after all! I got back in the pool and back into that same position leaning over the side and my body just started to push. This wasn’t a voluntary thing at all, my body just did it for me which felt totally bizarre but a relief from the back to back surges. I am not sure how long the pushing lasted for, my husband says it was 45 mins to an hour (if you asked me I would say it could have been 5 minutes or 5 hours, I have no idea). For a while my son kept edging down the birth canal and then what felt like him shooting back up again (this was alarming to me as I had not been warned it might happen) but around 4.30 am all 7lbs of our beautiful little guy eventually emerged, and was in my arms within seconds. 

I actually found the second stage easier than the first as it felt really productive and my mind was totally overridden by my body’s natural instincts, meaning I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on. I just went with it. Yes it was incredibly intense, yes it was incredibly challenging, but I would not have wished it any other way. I had so much respect for my body and what it could do, without my conscious mind getting involved.  I had a physiological delivery of my placenta and then after examination my midwife realised I had a small tear and so she stitched me up on the sofa, using the torch on her phone to keep the cosy atmosphere.

An hour or so after giving birth little baby Noah managed to latch on nicely and the three of us snuggled in bed, in disbelief that this had all happened so quickly! I believe that in addition to a certain amount of genetic luck, the preparation I did previous to my birth (pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing, reading and watching positive birth videos) as well as my decision to have a home birth all strongly contributed to my straightforward and quick labour. Thanks to this I decided to retrain as a pregnancy yoga & hypnobirthing practitioner so I could help other people have a similar experience. 

Women’s bodies are incredible.” 

If you had a positive birth experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Please send your story and any pictures you’d like to include to info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk.

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MY DOULA JOURNEY

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post. When I came out of university and was taking my first steps in the world of fashion, I started a blog to update about what I’d been up to and how my career was progressing. I was 21. I am now 30 and following a completely different path, which I am so unbelievably grateful for! 

It was during my first pregnancy that I read and researched so much about growing and birthing babies that I knew I wouldn’t be returning to a career in fashion.  My first pregnancy was unplanned… by no means unwanted, but due to being slightly irresponsible, myself and my partner (of five years at the time) found ourselves having to grow up very quickly after falling pregnant aged 23. Fast forward a couple of months we were extremely excited and prepared to welcome our baby earth-side. I think it is important to realise pregnancy has many different meanings for people, many different reactions and many different outcomes. I draw on my experience of finding out I was pregnant for the first time and understand that some people don’t feel immediately ecstatic but that news may also come from a place of shock, worry or panic, and it may take a while to digest the news. I know that it did for me. I had always had that mothering instinct, perhaps from having three younger siblings (the youngest of which is 16 years younger than me) but at that time, I felt like the least likely person to have a baby. With that being said, I was in awe of the whole process. We had a dating scan at 7 weeks because I genuinely had no idea when my last period was, so was completely unable to estimate how many weeks pregnant I was. From the moment of the scan and seeing that tiny kidney bean with a flickering heartbeat, all fear left me. From then on I was absorbed in it. I read books, started a pregnancy yoga class, listened to podcasts and joined every forum and group online that I could. I wanted to know and understand everything that was happening to my body and how it was growing a baby. 

Finding out I was pregnant for the second time, with my daughter Wren, was much more relaxed. I felt ready. I always kept track of my monthly cycle by this point (which is where my fascination with women cycles started, but thats a whole other blog post) so I was sure, when my period was a week late, that we had another baby on the way. I was very lucky with both of my pregnancies, they both went very smoothly.

“I am extremely passionate about
women receiving the right support during such a transformational period of their lives and that is what fuelled my desire to become a doula.”

I went on to have two very different but equally empowering births. Elba was born in the water at the hospital in a dark, cosy birthing suite with a little gas & air for pain management. It was the birth I had hoped for and felt so lucky to have had everything go to “plan”. My second birth was an unplanned, unassisted home birth… & although it may sound it, it really wasn’t that scary and it didn’t occur through lack of giving enough time to get to the hospital. My waters had started trickling that morning so early evening we went to the hospital to be assessed, where my waters literally gushed and contractions had started to come on a little stronger. But because they were irregular & not lasting a specific amount of time, I was sent home with the advice to “have something to eat, take a bath and wait to be in established labour” before going back up there. Wren was born in our downstairs toilet an hour after arriving home from the hospital, with just my partner & mum there to assist the birth. It was an incredible experience. It happened pretty fast but everyone was so calm, allowing instinct and intuition to take over. In hindsight I wish I’d planned a home birth after toying with the idea throughout my pregnancy. 

I am extremely passionate about women receiving the right support during such a transformational period of their lives and that is what fuelled my desire to become a doula. I really wanted to have the most natural labour possible, so I armed myself with tools that I felt would make this happen. I felt calm, confident and welcomed birth. I couldn’t wait to experience it. I want to empower women to feel this way, to rid them of any fear they are withholding and coach them through in the gentlest way possible. I am fascinated by women’s health, our cycles and everything childbirth, & genuinely feel it is my calling to support women in this way.