A Mother’s Blessing, or a Blessing Way, is an intimate gathering for a pregnant woman and her closest female friends and family members, to celebrate her transition into motherhood. Unlike a baby shower, which is often about showering the baby with gifts, a mother’s blessing is about honouring the mother; celebrating her and her journey. It is an opportunity to shower her with love and well wishes, but most importantly nourish her with support that will continue through her fourth trimester.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Evolving from a traditional Navajo Ceremony, the spiritual intention behind this shared space is to honour the expectant mother, celebrate sisterhood and welcome a new baby to earth.
As the tradition has evolved, so have the activities involved, but would mostly include:
Offering words of support for the new mother and baby.
Pampering the mother throughout the day.
Celebrating her body with belly painting.
Sharing positive birth experiences.
Providing a dish for the freezer to help during those weeks after birth. It may be the organiser of the ceremony invites guests to start a meal train in support of the new family post-birth.
Crafting dreamcatchers together to hold the group’s hopes and wishes.
Bringing an object of significance to add to the centre alter. Perhaps a crystal, flowers or a candle.
Weaving flower crowns together to wear throughout the ceremony and take home with them afterwards.
Writing or illustrating affirmations onto stones.
THE RED THREAD
One of the most significant rituals that takes place during a mother’s blessing is the tying of the red thread. A ball of hemp/string is passed around the group and tied around each of the women’s wrists. The thread joins all the women together, representing the lineage of ancestors that came before them; the matriarchal line. The thread will be worn in support of the pregnant mother, until her baby arrives earth-side, when the thread can be removed.
THE BIRTHING NECKLACE
Each guest is asked to bring along a bead to be included on the birthing necklace. Each bead symbolises womanhood and transformation and represents the guests wishes for the mother and baby in labour and birth. During the ceremony the beads are strung together, the necklace to be hung in the birth space to give strength and focus during her labour.
Another wonderful keepsake for the guests and symbol of support for the expectant mother is a blessingway candle. Each woman will be gifted a candle to take home with them at the end of the ceremony, which they will light when labour begins. They can leave the candle to burn throughout the duration of labour, sending their collective well wishes for both mother and baby.
There are many ways to mark the day and each ceremony is individual to the woman herself. Some women choose to only include some of these activities, whilst others incorporate many more. The magic of joining together to show up for the expectant mother is that you get to send her on her path to motherhood surrounded with the support of loving friends.
Have you ever attended a mother’s blessing ceremony? Share your experiences in the comments.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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?
During her pregnancy Ellie invested time in preparing for her birth, enrolling on a hypnobirthing course, which led to her feeling confident and excited to birth her baby. Since becoming a mum, Ellie has trained and a Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Teacher to share her wisdom and encourage others to take control of their birth. You can find out more about her and her amazing courses here.
Below, she shares the story of her daughter’s arrival at 39 weeks.
“Since doing my hypnobirthing course, I felt confident heading into my birth. I even felt quite excited. I finished work and started maternity leave 2 weeks before my official “due date” and had spent the past week washing baby clothes, folding and putting them away (and re-folding and re-putting away – god knows why?!), batch cooking and general tidying and pottering.
I woke up on April 6th 2016 to a message in my NCT WhatsApp chat, that the second baby of the group had been born overnight. My feelings of happiness for my friend were quickly overshadowed by jealousy and intense impatience. When was my baby going to come out? Looking back – this was crazy, I was still a week from my due date! (With the hindsight of both of my birth experience, impatience is definitely one of my signs that something is afoot – baby is having ideas.)
I went about my day as normal, pottering away and cooking the final few meals to put in the freezer. The only thing that I had noticed that day was that my Braxton hicks had completely stopped. I had been having quite a lot of Braxton hicks in the week prior to this day, but I hadn’t felt any all day. This only made me think that things had slowed down and I would be waiting sometime before my baby made their appearance. Little did I know!
OUT FOR DINNER
That evening we went to meet my friend and her partner for dinner. As soon as I got out of the car, I felt a twinge. I ignored it. A few minutes later I felt another. I ignored that one too. These twinges continued, coming every few minutes and I continued to ignore them and carried on with my dinner and catching up with my friend. I didn’t let on to anyone what I was feeling and carried on chatting away and munching on my Nandos.
About an hour into the meal things felt to have ramped up a bit and the sensations felt more like tightenings now. I also had the distinct feeling that I was going to poo myself. However, whenever I went to the toilet nothing happened. I eventually told Joe what I was feeling and he suggested we go home. But I hadn’t had pudding yet so I wasn’t leaving! We leisurely finished our meal and said goodbye to our pals and drove home.
Once home, I got into bed hoping that I would fall asleep. However, my surges were still coming fairly frequently (between 3 and 4 minutes). They were also getting more intense so I decided to get out of bed and spend some time on my birth ball, bouncing on it and then kneeling on the floor and leaning over it.
It had now been about 4 – 5 hours of experiencing surges which had been fairly frequent from the start. Their duration was getting longer and the intensity continued to gradually increase. I decided I wanted a bath and Joe ran one for me. I found the bath absolutely amazing! The feeling of the warm water was incredibly comforting and I felt completely relaxed with just candles for light and joe stroking my arms when I was experiencing a surge. I started using my breathing techniques with each surge which I also found incredibly soothing.
Sometime later, Joe rang the birth centre to let them know that I was experiencing surges and thought I was in labour. I spoke to the midwife who listened to me breathe through one of my surges. She asked me if I felt I was handling the sensations and I told her that I was. The breathing and the bath were helping me through each surge. So she advised us to stay at home. Fine by me!
I continued to relax in the bath but after some time I started feeling like I wanted to move around so I went back into my bedroom to bounce on my birth ball and listen to my hypnobirthing relaxations. Joe had lit some candles in the bedroom and turned the lights down really low so it felt lovely and calm.
Over the next couple of hours, my surges started to get a bit closer together. I was having one every 3 minutes (almost on the dot) and they were lasting for just under a minute. I started to get a bit worried about getting to the birth centre on time! I remember being told that this is when we should ideally head to the birth centre, so Joe called in again. Again, I spoke to the midwife who asked what the surges felt like. I explained that I was handling them fine with my breathing techniques and going between the bath and my bedroom to bounce on the birth ball. The midwife told me that I would ‘know’ when to come in and to try to stay at home for as long as possible. So I continued to do my thing, relaxing in the bath until I felt the urge to get up and move around.
HEADING TO THE BIRTH CENTRE
By about 4.30am, I decided I wanted to go to the birth centre. So Joe called again to say that we intended on coming in and they agreed that this was sensible since we had already called twice before. I got dressed and Joe called my mum to ask her to drive over (she was my second birth partner).
The car journey was peaceful driving through Bristol in the dead of night. We saw a fox cross the road ahead of us just after we set off from home and for some reason, I took this as a positive omen.
We got to the birth centre at 5.50am and we were showed to our gorgeous room. Cossham Birth Centre is incredible. I call it the “baby hotel” because that’s exactly what it feels like. Our room was beautifully spacious with dim lighting, a double bed, a gorgeous pool and an en-suite bathroom. As soon as I got into the room, I had the urge to take my clothes off and walk around, stopping and swaying and leaning on Joe when I felt a surge.
My midwife asked me if she could do a vaginal examination and I politely declined. I asked if I could get into the birth pool and the midwife told me that I couldn’t unless she could examine me to confirm that I was in established labour (grrrr!). I still didn’t want an examination so we filled the pool up a little bit so that it felt like a bath and I continued to breath through my surges.
I kept feeling like I needed to do a poo so I spent some time in the toilet. Whilst I was sat there, I felt the sensations change to an incredible pressure inside bearing down on my bum. This caught me off guard and I called for the midwife who came in to check on me. She asked again to perform an examination and this time I agreed as I really wanted to be in the pool.
She told me that I was 5cm dilated. I remember feeling quite disappointed at this. I had been experiencing sensations for about 11 hours at this point and they felt to be getting really intense. I had hoped I would be further along.
The midwife suggested that I try walking around which could break my waters which she told me could help ease the feeling of pressure I was feeling. She also offered me some paracetamol (even though I had asked in my birth preferences not to be offered any pain relief unless I asked for it – second grrrrr!). Despite this, I took them. Looking back I’m not even sure why, as I had been handling the sensations fine with my breathing alone.
I continued to pace the room leaning on Joe for support until, fairly soon after, my waters went. At this stage everything ramped up very quickly. I felt I needed to stop moving and get settled somewhere. I wanted to be upright so I decided to kneel on the bed leaning over the back of it. I was feeling the urge to push.
My midwife asked to examine me again and, reluctantly, I agreed. She told me I was 10cm and that baby would be here very soon! She also explained that sometimes dilation happens like that – very gradually and then all of a sudden just snaps back like an elastic band.
I got back into my position on the bed (since we wouldn’t have time now to fill the pool up). With each surge, I felt my body instinctively moving the baby down. During this second stage, I could feel my baby’s head moving back and forth. With each surge I felt them move right down but then, the wave would pass and the baby’s head would retreat back inside. I found this incredibly difficult and it was then that I started to feel myself coming out of my relaxed state. I started exclaiming that I couldn’t do it. But with the next surge, my baby’s head was born and on the next, the rest of her followed.
Poppy was born at 7.50am (just 2 hours after arriving at the birth centre) on 7th April 2016 to two delighted parents and an ecstatic grandmother.
It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My proudest achievement. I was left feeling like Superwoman and like I could do absolutely anything and I genuinely believe that, had you asked me to, in that moment I could have.”
Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?
The third stage is defined by the birth of the placenta shortly after the baby is born. During the birth of the placenta you will experience uterine contractions as the placenta separates from the uterus wall, moves through the cervix and, when it has moved down far enough, you will work with a final contraction to push and get the placenta the rest of the way out.
As third stage often gets little mention in pregnancy books, lets discuss how protecting the third stage environment, as we do with our birthing environment, may encourage a faster, natural delivery of the placenta, reducing the need for intervention or an ‘actively managed’ third stage.
(noun) A flattened circular organ in the uterus of pregnant eutherian mammals, nourishing and maintaining the foetus through the umbilical cord.
When you become pregnant, your uterus contains just a cluster of cells. Half of those go on to become your baby and the other half become the placenta. The placenta is a temporary organ that is attached to the wall of the uterus throughout pregnancy. It performs many functions including providing nutrients, oxygen and protection against harmful bacteria via the umbilical cord. More or less anything you consume will pass to your baby via the placenta, which is why toxins should be kept to a minimum during pregnancy.
The placenta also disposes of the baby’s waste, such as carbon dioxide, which passes back up the umbilical cord to your blood stream where your body disposes of it.
Put simply, the placenta serves as the baby’s lifeline during the 40ish weeks in the womb. It is amazing and should be recognised for it’s vital role!
PHYSIOLOGY OF THE THIRD STAGE
During pregnancy, most women often spend lots of time making plans for their birth and deciding what birth preferences suit them most, but often the third stage is forgotten about or generally not given much thought. In many hospitals now, it is routine to have an actively managed third stage which means as your baby is born you are given an intramuscular injection of a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone oxytocin. Some women may not have a preference whether or not they have an actively managed or a physiological (natural) third stage (see below for pros and cons) but for those that do, its good to know what things could help the third stage progress so that you are able to protect the ‘golden hour’ and deliver the placenta naturally.
As mentioned above, oxytocin continues to play a huge role during the third stage. Oxytocin is a very shy hormone and there are things within the environment that can cause adrenaline to spike and for oxytocin levels to decrease, which will slow uterine contractions. In order to keep a good hormonal balance it is important to continue to protect the birthing space.
BREASTFEEDING AND SKIN-TO-SKIN
Initialising that first feed encourages the release of oxytocin, but if your baby doesn’t show signs of wanting to breastfeed straight away, just holding her close to your chest will have a similar effect.
Maintaining the environment of the birth space with low lights, warmth and no observers encourages the mother to feel comfortable and, in turn, speeds up the duration of a natural third stage.
Encourages a calm, quiet and undisturbed atmosphere allowing you to be present with your new baby.
Allows time for bonding through breastfeeding and skin-to-skin.
You can adopt different positions and move instinctively with your body.
Physiological management is less likely if labour has been induced or required pain management and intervention, as the administration of synthetic oxytocin will inhibit your ability to produce your own oxytocin.
It can take some time for the placenta to deliver naturally (time which is less likely to be allowed for in a hospital setting) and just as with earlier phases of labour emotional and environmental factors could delay it; such as a change in lighting, temperature or a feeling of being observed.
The process is quicker than a physiological third stage, lasting 5-15 minutes. After synthetic oxytocin is administered the placenta needs to be delivered quickly to avoid retained placenta.
In the event of the placenta taking a long time to deliver, it will have to be removed manually under general anaesthetic.
You may experience discomfort when the midwife performs the controlled cord traction (CCT), which is performed after you receive synthetic oxytocin via an intramuscular injection. A CCT involves the midwife placing her hand on your abdomen so that she can feel when the uterus contacts. She will then pull gently on the cord whilst applying pressure to the uterus.
It can be uncomfortable as you will most likely be asked to lay on the bed in a semi-reclined position so that the midwife can carry out the CCT.
DELAYED CORD CLAMPING
Another thing very injurious to the child is the tying and the cutting of the navel string too soon; which should always be left till the child has not only repeatedly breathed but till all pulsation in the cord ceases. As otherwise the child is much weaker than it ought to be, a portion of the blood being left in the placenta which ought to have been in the child.
For many years immediate clamping of the umbilical cord (between 10-15 seconds) after birth has been standard practice. There is now evidence to suggest that it is beneficial to allow the cord to fully pulsate before clamping for the following reasons:
The cord and placenta hold up to 30% of the baby’s blood. Allowing the cord to pulsate means the blood can flow through it and aid the baby’s lung expansion. When the cord is clamped immediately, blood has to be “borrowed” from the rest of the baby’s circulation in order for the lungs to be fully functioning (even though the baby’s other organs also need blood to start functioning).
As the baby receives the full amount of blood from the placenta, iron levels are higher and it reduces the chances of anaemia. Anaemia in infants can go on to effect the development of the nervous system and brain development.
Delaying the clamping of the cord allows the baby to receive up to a billion more stem cells than if it were to be clamped immediately after birth. Stem cells have wonderful healing qualities.
Birth weight will be increased and blood pressure stabilised after delayed cord clamping.
If resuscitation is required after the baby is born it is beneficial to leave the cord unclamped as it assists in oxygenating the lungs.
It has been suggested that the baby’s cord stump will take less time to heal and ‘drop off’ after delayed cord clamping.
BENEFITTING FROM YOUR PLACENTA
The placenta is becoming increasingly recognised for the important role it plays in post-birth healing. According to the Placenta Remedies Network “during and after a normal vaginal delivery (including post-natal bleeding) a new mother will lose between 1/8 to 1/10 of her body’s blood supply. Losing a large amount of iron so quickly can cause anaemia, leaving a new mum feeling tired, faint and exhausted. The blood needs high supplies of iron to carry oxygen to the cells. Low supplies of oxygen leave your cells starving and less able to heal after trauma.”
Consuming your placenta, which is rich in iron, restores your iron levels reducing fatigue. Blood loss during the postnatal period stems from the wound in the uterus where the placenta was attached and can last for 3-6 weeks. Consuming your placenta can reduce postpartum blood loss to 5-10 days because the placenta is full of stem cells and growth factors, which play a huge role in healing the wound in your uterus. Your placenta also aids the replenishment of vitamins E and B6, is rich in hormones such as oxytocin and corticotropin and immune boosting proteins. In addition to reducing the duration of postpartum blood loss, all of the wonderful nutrients in your placenta contribute to encouraging a plentiful milk supply, boosting energy levels and balancing hormone levels reducing the chances of “baby blues” and postnatal depression.
Your placenta can be made into numerous different remedies which include:
Raw placenta smoothie
Creams or balms
MAKING A THIRD STAGE PLAN
It can be very beneficial to include your wishes for the third stage in your birth plan. You have the right to an empowered third stage too. Things to consider for a physiological third stage:
State that you’d like to try for a natural placenta delivery. Keep the birth space protected – dimly lit, comfortable temperature.
Allow time for the cord to finish pulsating before clamping.
Immediate skin-to-skin with your new baby.
Put your baby to your breast. Try to initiate the first feed. Keep things calm and undisturbed.
State if you want to wait for newborn checks and weighing.
Don’t be afraid to ask to see the placenta once it has been delivered. If you want to take it home to benefit from placenta remedies ensure you state this in your birth plan and have your birth partner discuss plans with your midwife upon arrival.
Join me as I share my first birth experience. I feel so fortunate to have achieved the birth that I wanted, but now refrain from saying how ‘lucky’ I was and instead acknowledge the time and effort I put into educating myself during pregnancy. I worked hard to achieve my positive birth experience. I knew what I wanted, explored my options and informed myself so that I was prepared in the event that things didn’t go to ‘plan’. Read my full story below.
“I was 6 days overdue. Although I tried not to hang everything on the due date, as it came and went I immediately felt impatient and more eager than ever for things to get going. I tried everything to get labour going – long walks, bouncing on my birthing ball, sex.. but nothing worked! On the 5th day, my partner, Jack, made me an extremely hot curry for dinner. I have no idea if the baby was always planning to make an appearance the following day, but its nice to think that he got things moving!
That night (around 12.30am) I woke with a dull ache at the bottom of my back, which felt very much like period pains. By 2am it felt like a surge of pain and I was sure I was experiencing contractions, so I woke Jack. We started timing my contractions from this point and they were only lasting about 30 seconds, but coming quite regularly (between 3-4 minutes). We spoke to a midwife at the hospital, but decided to stay at home for a little while longer.
TRANSFERRING TO HOSPITAL
By 8am my contractions were regular and lasting a minute each. It was important to me that I laboured at home for as long as possible. I felt comfortable there and the last thing I wanted was to be sent home from the hospital for not being in established labour. I felt as little travelling as possible was best to keep my labour moving. We finally headed to the hospital at 10.30am and at this point I was already grateful to have my mum there as an additional birth partner – Jack drove, whilst she sat in the back of the car with me and massaged my back the whole way to the hospital. I remember feeling a rush of excitement as we left the house to go to the hospital. It was actually happening! The journey to the hospital was about 25 minutes and throughout I just fixated on my breath, going inward and tuning into my body, instead of worrying or thinking about the journey.
Upon arrival at the hospital I was asked if I wanted a VE. At this point I was intrigued to know how far along I was, so consented to being examined. I was told I was 5cm dilated. This was the first and last VE I had during my labour, I didn’t feel it was necessary to at any other point.
I was adamant I wanted an unmedicated birth, with the exception of gas & air, so made it clear to my midwife that I didn’t want to be offered any pain relief. They moved me to the birth suite at around 12.30pm, where I waited for the birth pool to be prepared. During this time I laboured bent over the bed, moving with each contraction. My midwife popped in and introduced herself properly at this point, but I had stated on my birth plan that I wanted to be left to labour on my own with just my chosen birth partners during the first stage, which she totally respected, leaving us well alone and just coming in occasionally to listen in to the baby’s heartbeat. I hated this every time! I really didn’t want my tummy being touched during labour. At the time, despite all the prep that I had done, I was not aware I could decline this. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have consented as it made me so uncomfortable. Always remember you don’t have to consent to anything you don’t want to do. Your body, your choice.
GETTING IN THE POOL
Just before I got into the pool I made the decision to start using gas & air. Up until now I had used breathing techniques and massage to cope with my surges. I requested the room be made as dark as possible as I was feeling extremely sensitive to bright lights. I felt grateful they made this happen, closing all curtains and turning off the lights, leaving only the lights from the birthing pool to light the room. As I got into the water, I felt so relaxed. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, in between contractions, sitting up in the water. After I had been in the water for an hour or so (timings become a bit blurry by this point), my midwife asked me to get out of the water to empty my bladder. This is where I suddenly felt the urge to push. I think getting up and out of the water encouraged baby to move down further. Shortly after getting back into the pool, my waters broke and all contractions blurred into one. I remember thinking that I was never going to get the baby out.. ah transition!
This was the hardest part and the only time throughout that I had a negative thought. It felt like I was pushing forever! Every time I felt baby’s head move down with a contraction, it would go back up again when I stopped pushing!
At 5.10pm our baby was born and immediately placed onto my chest. I was in awe of my body and this tiny person that had just arrived earth-side. Jack was sat behind me, leaning over my shoulder, when he announced to me that we had a baby girl. I couldn’t believe it; I was overwhelmed, grateful and so proud of us both.
After delaying for as long as the hospital would allow, Jack cut the cord and I moved out of the water quite quickly after for the third stage. It was here, on the bed, where Elba – our new baby girl – fed from me for the first time. She was amazing, latching straight away! Breastfeeding was everything I imagined it would be. I felt that instant bond between us.”
Do you have a positive birth experience that you would like to share?
Kim is a first time mum who had her baby in the Birthing Centre at 40+5 weeks. During pregnancy she had planned to have an elective cesarean, but after using hypnobirthing she completely changed her attitude towards birth and went on to have a gentle, water birth with the support of her husband. Her words at the end covered me in goosebumps, as I can relate to that same feeling of meeting my babies for the first time.
“At 5 days overdue I was beginning to feel a little fed up with being pregnant… feeling massive and uncomfortable! The past few weeks had been 30 degrees plus so life was hot! Finally, on Saturday evening, I went in to latent labour. I had a backache that was helped with a hot water bottle but struggled to sleep as waves of sensation were beginning in my lower tummy and surging round to my back and distracting me. The feeling was coming regularly every 5 minutes or so. My baby was extremely active and having a good wiggle about! However, despite feeling surges, they weren’t particularly painful, more like an ‘intensity’ and though I couldn’t sleep much, I didn’t feel pain or panic. I used my rainbow relaxation hypnobirthing track to get some decent rest and managed to doze a little.
The surges continued through the night but the intensity and frequency didn’t really change so the next morning I called the hospital and they agreed that it sounded like early labour – they advised me to call back in when things had progressed a little more. Annoyingly, the surges actually eased off and disappeared for a few hours that morning and I was dreading a false start. However, a little walk to the coffee shop seemed to get things going again. I could feel a lot of pressure from the baby so walking home again was comically slow! The surges came back with more intensity by the evening, beginning at 5 minute intervals again, and the hypnobirthing calm breathing I had learnt really had a chance to help.
I still wouldn’t describe it as painful at this point but did have to use my focus to breathe through the surges of intensity. We were expecting a long process, so tried to distract ourselves by watching TV, I even made a muesli from scratch so our cupboards were well stocked!
As the surges became stronger and I needed to focus more on the breathing and relaxation strategies I decided to have a bath, which instantly relieved some of the pressure I was feeling. Craig timed my surges and rather suddenly we found they were coming less than 3 minutes apart! Craig called the hospital and they said to come on in. Luckily there was no traffic at this time of night so the journey only took just over 10 minutes, but I had 5 or 6 contractions on the way – which were less comfortable in the car! Sitting down definitely increased the intensity so I decided to walk around to the birth suite rather than take a wheelchair so getting from the car park to the room took as long again! I think staying mobile was one of the main factors in keeping things moving and helping my baby along.
Our room on the Mendip Birth Suite at Southmead had been prepared fantastically well – low level lighting, relaxing music on, fairy lights around the room (which I only noticed after the birth!) Our midwife was amazing and I think a little surprised to discover I was already 5cm dilated as at this point I was calm and relaxed- I had to focus and breathe through the contractions but they were still manageable. The midwife filled the pool and as soon as I got in, things really began to speed along. Almost immediately I entered the ‘transition’ phase and at this point began to struggle quite a bit more. My body totally took over and I could feel the natural expulsive reflex kick in – it was an utterly overwhelming feeling to feel your body taking charge regardless of the psychological need to stop it happening! Certainly at this point I found it much harder to focus on the breathing techniques, but Craig really came in to his role at this point and supported me with encouragement and touch. He was a great advocate for me and discussed pain relief, which I was of course too late for by now, so I only had gas and air. Craig kept reminding me how to breathe it for the best effects and the sound of the air through the pipe was great at helping me slow down the breath again.
I had some surges where I could distinctly feel the baby come down and then go back up – the midwife explained everything that was happening and reassured me this was ok and was in fact helpful for my body. When the baby eventually crowned and her head was out I could feel her looking around the pool, the most surreal and fantastical moment of the whole birth – a feeling I will never forget, and then with the next surge she was born in the birth pool. She came straight to my chest and I burst in to tears.
From our arrival at hospital the birthing process had been less than 3 hours and I had only been in the birthing phase about an hour and a half, most of the time in the pool. We had not even had time to put the Stephen Halpern relaxation music on or the rainbow relaxation track! From the re instigation of the surges on Sunday evening my active labour had been only 10 hours. I have no doubt that my calm approach had helped things progress quickly and the breathing techniques made the surges far less ‘painful’ through most of the process. I could not deny the overwhelm of the birthing phase but am amazed at how my body just knew what to at this point and how quickly the whole process was over and how well I had been able to cope with the majority of the birth.
Meeting Eadie for the first time was the best experience of my life – from that very first second of looking in her eyes, I could see another soul looking back at me. Not a baby, but a human spirit. That was not something I had expected – we knew each other already!
(Another important note – Craig had been helping me with perineal massage over the previous weeks and the midwife was astounded to report that I had only grazes with no tears and no need for stitches. So though it was not sexy, I would definitely recommend this practice as well ladies!)”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.