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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: JADE

FIRST TIME MUM, HOME WATER BIRTH,
42 WEEKS

Originally, Jade planned to head to the birth centre to have her baby, but after putting the time into learning about the birthing process and talking it out with her partner, they chose their home as their safe space to bring their baby boy into the world. Below, Jade tells the story of her wonderful home birth.

“Throughout my due time, I spent my days waiting and wondering when my baby boy was going to join me earth-side. As much as I tried to stay positive & be patient, I was so uncomfortable. I knew that as soon as I reached 42 weeks I’d be pressured for an induction & I feared my choice to birth at home would be threatened.

HOW IT STARTED

I’d been experiencing a dull, period-like ache on and off for about week, particularly at night. On the 30th September 2021, 13 days ‘overdue’ at 6am, I felt my first surge. I felt so excited and kept repeating to myself “I am going to meet my baby today!” My surges were sporadic & lasting around a minute. I was adamant I was getting this baby out today, so went downstairs to bounce on my birth ball.

I had a routine midwife appointment booked at 11am, but wasn’t sure whether to attend as I was pretty certain labour had begun, albeit slowly. We spoke to the midwife who explained it would be beneficial to go in so that they could check my blood pressure etc. My partner drove me to the midwife hub. During our time there my surges died down and I felt as though things had stalled. I’d done lots of preparation with my doula during pregnancy around the physiology of birth and the birth space; this made me realise, first-hand, that your environment and comfort play such a huge role in labour progressing. 

CALLING IN MY BIRTH TEAM

When we got back home around 12pm my surges came on thick and fast. I started timing them at this point and they were between 3-5 minutes apart, some lasting up to a minute & a half. I called my doula, Sophia. She said she’d be with me within the hour. When she arrived we spoke to the community midwife team. We thought it was best to give them plenty of notice that my labour had begun, as I had received a couple of calls during that week warning me of staffing issues. I did not want lack of staff to be a reason for transfer. The midwives said they would be with us at 5pm. I moved from the ball & spent the next couple of hours knelt over the back of my sofa. My partner fed me coconut water and rubbed my feet, Sophia set up the birth pool and got the birth space ready. My mum arrived shortly after this. 

I got into the pool around 5pm, before the midwives arrived about an hour later. I was using my breath to stay focused as I wasn’t getting much of a break between surges. Sophia saw the midwives into the kitchen and asked them to read my birth preferences. They asked me if I was happy to be examined and have all the routine checks. Sophia reassured me that I didn’t have to consent to getting out of the pool for this, but I felt happy for them to check everything was progressing as it should be. I struggled with getting out of the pool, but being monitored re-assured me all was okay. I was back in the pool in no time. The midwives then proceeded to sit in the next room to leave me and my birth partners alone.

PROGRESSION

The night started to draw in, the surges were getting more and more intense. An hour after the midwives arrived I asked for gas & air. After a few minutes I realised it wasn’t working for me; it was effecting the rhythm of my breathing, so I continued without it. 

At this point I was completely in my zone. I trusted that things were progressing as they should and really felt that I didn’t have long left. I kept repeating positive affirmations in my head.

SECOND STAGE

At around 11.30pm I started getting the urge to push at the end of each surge. My birth partners offered gas & air again, I accepted. I managed to get into a flow with it this time as it helped ease the sensation of each surge. I was able to relax in between. After about an hour, I noticed I was passing large blood clots. The midwife reassured me that I needn’t worry. She offered to assess me again and explained that pushing before I was fully dilated could cause my cervix to tear. I was happy to be assessed, for piece of mind, so consented to another examination. This meant getting out of the pool again – it was even harder this time! I felt weak and I didn’t want to leave the water.

My midwife confirmed all was well – I was fully dilated! I returned to the water & continued to push with each surge. Another hour passed and I started getting impatient and tired. As I placed my hand under the water and into my vagina to feel for progress, I felt a small, soft bubble. I was certain this couldn’t be my baby’s head because it felt too soft! The midwives reassured me it was. Knowing that he was so close to entering the world, gave me so much motivation to go on. 

In amazement, I shouted “the head’s out, the heads out”! I leant back slightly, as his entire body was born..

Another half an hour passed. I was feeling a lot of pressure in my bum and after what felt like a long second stage, I was feeling exhausted and frustrated. My partner, Sophia & my mum were all so supportive, encouraging me to keep hold of my positive mindset. At 1.58am, with one giant push, my baby’s head was born. In amazement, I shouted “the head’s out, the heads out”! I leant back slightly, as his entire body was born so quickly. Nobody realised he was in the pool with me! 

A GENTLE TRANSITION

I reached down below me to catch my baby and just held him there under the water for a moment. Stillness after the hardest thing I had ever done. We all stared at him, in awe. I felt a rush of relief and shock through my body as I gently lifted him from the water and onto my chest. It was an amazingly, slow transition for him, just as I’d wanted. He didn’t scream, he cooed and nestled into my chest. It was magical.

OUR GOLDEN HOUR

I leaned back against the side of the pool. I wanted an undisturbed third stage, so left him attached to his placenta, which I had not yet birthed. The pool was full of blood so the midwives asked me if I was ok to get out of the pool to birth the placenta, as it is easier for them to monitor blood loss. I didn’t mind moving, as long as the cord remained in-tact. My birth team helped me get up; climb out and sit semi-reclined on the sofa with my baby still attached to me. As I sat there, Sophia and the midwives told me they could see the placenta sitting just inside my vaginal opening. With one push I birthed it, with ease, into a bowl. An unplanned lotus birth! So amazing and so quickly after I had birthed my baby. I felt relieved that it was over and that the surges would now die down. I just laid there holding my gorgeous, healthy baby boy in my arms. 

The midwives left us alone to enjoy the rest of our golden hour. Sophia supported me in getting baby onto my breast. Shortly after, my partner cut the cord and had his first cuddle. I was amazed to hear my perineum was in tact, but due to a very slight tear on my labia I had a couple of stitches. 

It was such an amazing experience.

Sophia made me a bagel and a nice cup of tea. I felt weak but was buzzing with adrenaline. My mum helped me into the shower and then they both got me into bed. My partner brought up our brand new baby boy and got into bed. It was such an amazing experience. I feel so grateful that everything was well and I had the home birth I wanted! I couldn’t have done it without my amazing birth team.

WORKING WITH A DOULA

Sophia worked with me through my pregnancy to prepare me for birth, teaching me things that I would never have known, making me feel comfortable and informed about my choice to birth at home. She supported me during my birth and has been my absolute rock through my postpartum period. I am in awe of her passion towards her work and I know that my birth would have gone very differently without her by my side every step of the way. I would highly recommend to everyone to hire a doula, they are invaluable. It is so important to have that extra layer of support at such a vulnerable time.”

Do you have a positive birth experience you’d like to share?

If so, please email me at info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk

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POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES: ELLIE

FIRST TIME MUM, BIRTH CENTRE, VAGINAL BIRTH

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.

FINDING COMFORT

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. 

I found the bath absolutely amazing! The feeling of the warm water was incredibly comforting…

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. 

Sometimes dilation happens like that – very gradually and then all of a sudden just snaps back like an elastic band. 

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. 

TRANSITION

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.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. My proudest achievement.

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?

If so, pop an email over to info@theintuitivedoula.co.uk, I’d love to hear from you.

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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.