I recently gave birth to my beautiful daughter – Ellie and here’s our birth story.
The birth of my first daughter, Isla, was pretty long (27 hours!) and you can read the full story here. It was a really positive home water birth, but at times I struggled mentally to keep strong which I think resulted in the long labour. So this time, I was determined that this labour would be shorter and that I wouldn’t let any fears or doubts into my mind.
I prepared for the labour using the HypnoBirthing hypnosis and affirmation tracks – listening to them regularly and even more so in the final weeks. This relaxation time was also really important in preparing for life with 2 under 2! The repetition of the affirmations was especially good and there were 3 in particular that really resonated with me so I printed these out and stuck them around the house. Every time I went to the fridge or my daughter’s room, I read the affirmations and the words and meanings really stuck in my mind and came to me during the birth. (Read more about how effective positive affirmations can be)
I also prepared for the birth doing perineal massage and using the Epi-No (more information here) This is a great practical way that you can prepare for birth and I did this at the same time as my relaxation. For me, this was really important for my home birth as I didn’t want to have any post-birth complications due to tearing and have to be transferred to hospital after a successful home birth. Of course, if you have a great, relaxed natural birth you are less likely to tear anyway but for me it was helpful for my mindset to know that I had prepared my perineal muscles for birth. This may seem a slightly alien concept to some but it’s something I always ask my clients to consider doing as research shows perineal massage in the lead up to labour reduces tearing and other related complications.
Another thing that I always ‘preach’ is patience when waiting for baby to arrive – viewing your due date as a relaxed estimate and not putting pressure on yourself. As I approached and went past my due date, it felt pretty hard to practice what I preach! I was torn between my rational side – knowing that baby will come when baby is ready and irrational impatience. My husband had joked that he wanted out of something at work on a certain date and for some reason this date got stuck in my head and I felt frustrated when this date also passed.
On the day my labour started, I remember finally finding peace – truly believing in what I ‘preach’ and finding patience. After waving off friends after dinner at our house, I started to feel a few twinges. As I’d been experiencing these for a couple of weeks I wasn’t expecting them to turn into anything. Our other daughter Isla must have known however that this was it. Normally very good at going to bed, we tried for nearly 2 hours to get her happily into her cot. All the while, I was getting surges and starting to think this could possibly be it but keeping that to myself in case it wasn’t.
At 9pm, Isla finally went to sleep and instantly my surges came on much stronger. I finally said to my husband, Lee, I think this is it – time to get set up. So we set to work, changing beds, getting out towels and preparing the birth pool. I must say changing sheets on the bed was a lot of fun whilst getting strong surges but it was probably good for me – keeping active in early labour is a great way to get things going.
Finally we felt all prepared and I got onto all fours, leaning on the birth ball, in front of the fire. It was a lovely stormy night with the rain hammering down and it felt so cosy to be in front of a roaring fire. The fire was something I’d actually pictured as part of my labour as well as it being at nighttime. I desperately wanted to birth overnight with our other daughter Isla managing to stay asleep so we didn’t need to call on friends to help out. So I felt lucky that this was what was happening so far.
By this point, my surges were coming every 2 minutes and we rang our midwife Wendy to let her know I was definitely in labour. We decided to just keep going ourselves and call her in half an hour to update her. I was using a contraction timing app to get an idea of how frequent and how long my surges were. Although this was a bit of a distraction – it did make me laugh when it kept flashing up ‘Go to hospital or call an Ambulance IMMEDIATELY!’
The living room was cosy with the fire, candles and my favourite tunes playing. Time didn’t really seem a factor and it was actually over an hour before we called midwife Wendy again. At this point, I was starting to feel a little nauseous at the end of each surge and was using low moaning noises to help me through each surge. As soon as Wendy heard this, she was at the house within 5 minutes. I remember Wendy arriving, taking my blood pressure and then saying she was going to start her notes and set up. This was about midnight I think. My surges were becoming pretty intense and I kept asking if I could get into the birth pool – I now needed something to assist me. Lee and Wendy were still fine-tuning the temperature and level of the pool so asked me to wait. At one point, when changing over between the hot and cold taps (and the resulting pressure difference) the hose fired out of the pool snaking across the living room and soaking me during a particularly strong surge. We had to laugh – the water was dripping down the walls and I was also dripping wet! Poor Lee was running around towelling down the walls and furniture whilst trying to fill the pool and trying to help me through my surges!
As mentioned, I was determined with this labour to keep focused and not let any fears or doubts creep into my mind. For me, birth is a bit of a solitary exercise – no one can do the surges for you and you can only rely on your own mind and body to guide you through. I know this will be different for others but this is an area I struggled with during Isla’s birth – expecting others to be able to help in more ways than just being supportive and present with me. Birth is a journey that within my mind I have to walk alone. The only points where I found my focus dropping was when Lee was trying to help me with massage or words of support as I almost wanted to reach out to him and ask him to bear some of the load. His support was paramount but actually I needed to be completely inside myself – I couldn’t let myself reach out to him.
After a particularly strong surge, I was almost begging for the relief of the pool. Wendy asked me to go to the toilet for a wee before I got in as a full bladder can actually inhibit labour / the descent of the baby. I knew getting to the toilet was going to be tough. I’d spent all of the surges leaning over the fit ball on my knees and when I had moved upright the surges were much stronger. So with some trepidation I set off down the corridor. A surge came on strong half way there – Lee held me up and told me I had to keep quiet not to wake little Isla – a tough moment!
I made it to the toilet and had a couple more strong surges there. Wendy and Lee were still tinkering with the birth pool. All of a sudden, I felt this monumental movement within me – I could feel the baby descending and twisting. I shouted for Wendy and Lee and said “it’s happening, she’s coming right now.” It all happened so quickly – I felt her moving downwards and then the head coming out. I didn’t push, or in fact do anything at all. It was like an unstoppable force I was witness too and almost not a part of. The head came out after a few seconds and then there was even more unbelievable movement as she twisted and turned (360 degrees apparently!) and literally twisted her way out. It’s only at this point as her shoulders and body emerged that my waters broke. Her head came out completely in the membrane (something called ‘en caul’ which is quite rare and many midwives believe to be lucky). I remember Wendy holding the membrane up wondering what to do with it!
The birth happened at 00.40 – so the labour was only 4.5 hours – amazing!
So here we were all squashed into our tiny toilet – Ellie was straight up on to my chest and latched on to feed almost immediately and I couldn’t believe it was all over. Even with the last strong surges, I still had no idea how far along I was into my labour and after a long labour the first time had expected it to be much longer. I think Lee and I were both in a bit of shock at how quickly it had happened by comparison to last time.
At this point, our two student midwives arrived in time for the third stage. I was still chewing on my pulsatilla tablet (homeopathic remedy which can assist the placenta to come out) when I felt the placenta coming. Only ten minutes after birth, the placenta was out, Ellie was feeding well and I was still sat on the toilet in awe of what my body had just done.
We moved into our bedroom, Lee cut the cord (read more about the benefits of delayed cord clamping here) and Ellie continued to feed for at least another hour. It gave the midwives a chance to recoup, write notes and have some chocolate cake and tea! So it was a couple of hours after the birth that Ellie was weighed (7 lb 9 oz) and checked (perfect!).
One of the best things about home births is afterwards – you are in your own bed, in your own home and no one has to go anywhere. It felt amazing that Ellie was here with us, we’d had our perfect birth with no interventions or examinations, no talk or knowledge of ‘how many centimetres dilated’ I was and no tearing. It was just as I’d visualised and hoped for – short, overnight and Isla woke up in the morning to meet her new baby sister!
I am ever grateful and amazed by the HypnoBirthing techniques for helping me achieve the birth we wanted. My mindset never wavered and I put that down to the preparation beforehand using the relaxation, affirmations and visualisations. That and also my absolute determination! Also a huge thanks to the Community Midwifery Program here in Perth who make home birth possible.
If you’d like more information on HypnoBirthing and how you can achieve the birth you want, contact Karenna from Hope and Honey.