Birth Stories, First baby, GentleBirth workshop, Pregnancy after miscarriage, Rotunda, Third stage of labour
Amazing first birth in the Rotunda
Cleo, my first baby, was born on 23rd February 2010, and I suppose that was the real start of my journey towards being a GentleBirth Instructor.
I really wanted to have a natural birth and used GentleBirth during my pregnancy from about 26 weeks, doing home study and attending the workshop with Tracy. My concerns were avoiding an assisted delivery or a Caesarean, but I suppose I mainly wanted a positive birth experience, and I thought that keeping things as low intervention as possible was the way to go. The only person I had ever heard describe birth as “wonderful” had had a home birth, obviously with no epidural. My mother had described my birth as great once she’d had the epidural – “like being at the hairdressers”. I didn’t want to feel like I was in the hairdressers, I wanted to experience birth in all its primal glory, if I could. I devoured Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and felt that, after all, I was born to birth, so I could do it. My husband was super confident that he could support me, once we attended the workshop, and assured me he’d seen hundreds of births and could probably manage the delivery himself (he’s from a dairy farm!). I had a great pregnancy and felt so well and energised as I approached my guess date and then went over it.
I went into labour at my EDD + 6 days. The surges started at 7am and were only 7 mins apart. After an hour, they were 3-5 mins apart but I knew that there was no point going to hospital yet because they were not that intense. From the first surge, I knew this was it, so told Peter there was no point in going to work. We hung out at home for the day and just chatted. From an hour or so into my labour the surges were uncomfortable enough that I had to breathe through them. The hard bit was only one breath long, in and out and I would say to myself, this will pass quickly. They were sore if I sat down, but fine if I stood and swayed so I spent many surges bending over the table or the mantelpiece, reciting that affirmation. About 10 hours of this carry on, (the time really does pass so quickly!) and I started to get impatient that things weren’t going anywhere so went for a walk. On the way back, I had a waaaay more powerful surge and looked down and there was water coming out. The same happened on the next one so I assumed the waters had gone (tip: have a sniff if this happens to you…urine smells like urine, amniotic fluid is sweet-smelling!). It was about 7pm at this stage so we had dinner and went into the hospital. As I was very calm and relaxed, I was left in the waiting room for about an hour, during which time I was able to sit quietly and listen to GB on the headphones. I was totally relaxed between surges and just closed my eyes and breathed when I had a surge.
So now came the first difficult bit. I was examined and was only 2cm (felt like punching someone after 14 hours or so of labour!) and it seemed the waters hadn’t gone at all – I had probably peed myself (I now think her head engaged at this point). But the midwife was insisting I stayed there and be admitted to the prelabour ward, while they’d send Peter home because it was out of hours. It made far more sense to us to go home and keep on as we were, when there was no medical reason for us to stay – especially when she said that my labour might slow down and they’d have to speed it up with drugs. Which was the reason I didn’t want to be admitted in the first place! We were most definitely going home! She said no, we said yes, eventually she got a doctor down who scanned me and told us there was no problem if we wanted to go. She said she worked in England where people were a bit more vocal about their wishes so it seemed pretty normal to her for me to want to be at home and I’d be better off. I was so proud of Peter as there was no way he was going to budge and be convinced to stay there, we were going home, and that was that.
All that lying around getting the trace on the heartbeat and being scanned threw out my focus though and when we got home I could feel things were harder to cope with. After about an hour, the surges were 4 long breaths out and in at the peak and very little break between them. They were radiating from front to back and it felt like my pelvis was going to explode. I got a bit panicky and I started to feel like I really needed the epidural and I wasn’t coping. So back to the hospital, this time I wasn’t very calm and couldn’t sit in the waiting room, could only lean over the reception desk, but was examined very quickly and was 6cm. I got the gas and air at this point as I couldn’t lie down for them to do the trace on the baby without it. Then went straight to delivery and got the gas again. The gas was like being really drunk, you can still feel everything but you don’t give a sh*t! Plus it helps focus your breathing. Was great because it meant I could lie down and rest and just flake out between surges which was a godsend because I’d been on my feet most of the day.
It was a quiet night in the Rotunda and there were two midwives in my room plus a senior midwife popping in and out, as well as a medical student. When I was admitted, I asked about the epidural and the senior midwife looked at my birth preferences and said I was doing brilliant, that it was absolutely amazing to be admitted at 6cm on your first baby, and that I still had time for the epidural if I wanted it so to see how I got on. Was hilarious when they asked me if I had birth preferences and moaned, ‘Yes, but I don’t think I want to stick with them!’. They just told me to hand them over, helped me out of my clothes and handed me the gas.
The whole time I was in the delivery room, I listened to my GB tracks on my ipod over and over (just as well, as there was a good bit of chat from the others. If I had my time again, I’d tell them all to STFU and stop polluting my birthing space with their shite talk).
All of a sudden, a bit more than an hour after we arrived, I could feel myself lifting up and turning over onto all fours like it wasn’t me doing it (poltergeist!) and the midwife looked and said, there go the waters, your baby will be here soon. I gave up the gas as I couldn’t use it on all fours and I just had to be on all fours to be comfortable. My body started pushing the baby out and it was like throwing up after waaaaay too much drink, really really forceful but it was throwing down instead of up! In between surges, I just flopped, listening to my GB and when a surge came, I just let my monkey do it and allowed my body to completely take over. Totally switched off the intellect. I could feel her head coming down and it just felt so hard, like a little cannonball. Eventually I just knew I had to get out of the bed and stand up and I did and then she was really coming. As she crowned, it stung like billy-o and I saw my sex life flash before my eyes and felt fear….and just thought, this can be over now. So for the first time, I listened to the midwife telling me to push and I pushed…..and out she came! The perfect birth!
Straight away the midwife said, oh look, it’s a velamentous cord insertion. And she said the cord wasn’t pulsating when we tried to stop her cutting it – and she cut it. So when my baby was passed to me, she was passed from the side, sort of enter stage right rather than up through my legs, which made it a little strange. She was also mostly pink and had her eyes open, wasn’t crying and looked for all the world like she was taking it all in. She was the most beautiful little thing – I just exclaimed “Oh my God, she’s gorgeous”. But I have to say I didn’t feel a rush of love – amazement, awe, relief, pride, strength, empowerment……. The love came after I sat down on the bed and had a good rest! It was less than 3 hours after we arrived back at the hospital.
I was so wrecked as I lost “more blood than normal” – have discovered since the birth of baby no 2 that I seem to bleed quite a bit at the birth but have very little lochia afterwards. My bleeding both times was pretty much done after day 3. So I was given syntometrine to stop the bleeding and deliver the placenta. However, as the midwife was carrying out controlled cord traction, she snapped the cord (she shouldn’t have been pulling it at all due to the fact it wasn’t a “normal” cord), said “oh shit” and that’s where the fun started. The world and his wife came down to try to retrieve the placenta and when they couldn’t I had to be brought to theatre, where I was given a spinal and had it removed manually. I was also stitched while I was there as pushing through the crowning meant I had a second degree tear (which was very minor, and healed brilliantly and very quickly and mostly painlessly).
The funny thing is that while all of that was going on, I was fine. I breastfed my daughter and then when I was separated from her for an hour and a half, I was on such a high, I laughed and chatted to the staff in theatre. I felt like superwoman!!!!
The memory of feeling my daughter enter to world, to feel her come down and out of me is so special. I am so glad that I got to birth her actively, my way, as really all the midwife did was catch her.
Although it didn’t end well, I still look back on the whole thing as amazing – because up until the placenta fiasco it was the perfect birth. And I think the affirmation “I accept whatever path my birthing takes” helped me stay super relaxed when it all happened – when I look back, I just can’t believe how calm and happy I was while it was all going on. It was much worse for Peter who was left holding a newborn and wondering if I would come back….
Cleo was a very easy baby and fed well from the start. Amazed all the staff in hospital with her expert breast crawling! No sore nipples, no milk supply issues, just baby bliss. We took Early Transfer Home from hospital so I was home within 30 hours of giving birth. The ETH team were fab, but I can’t say they they were great with breastfeeding help because we really didn’t need any. It felt completely natural, I think due to confidence from the breastfeeding mp3.
Despite the turn it took at the end, I had a wonderful, empowering birth that for me was transformative. When we get in touch with our primitive selves, we are powerful and all conquering 🙂