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The story of my own second birth.

Updated: 6 days ago

A long story about a short birth.

woman in labour leaning over birth pool

I’m writing this almost four months later, with the babe in question snoring and snuffling on my chest. Weird to think it was her that was in my belly for all those months.

The lead up to her birth was not easy for a couple of reasons. One being the battle I had been fighting with our local trust to support my home birth (I had my first at home and for me I know this was the right place to be.) The home birth service was suspended at nights and seemingly running on fumes during the day, so I had been trying to get an individualised care plan or midwives I knew to go on call for me, but it was all very ‘nod and smile’ and I didn’t really feel like I was being listened to or supported. The thought of going in to hospital was definitely not my first choice, but we had been discussing if no one could come out to us whether we would freebirth or take ourselves in. We hired an amazing doula so I knew wherever I was I would have that extra layer of support and more importantly protection.

The second thing that was causing me anxiety was the strong and sometimes regular Braxton hicks I had been experiencing since about 25 weeks. I had even been admitted into hospital twice (once at 33 weeks and once at 36) with threatened preterm labour. My first was born at 37 weeks on the dot and I felt in my gut that this baby would also be on the earlier side. I was also bloody massive. We made it to 37 weeks and I tentatively started doing all the things I had been avoiding, sitting on my birth ball, taking longish walks and stretching daily

Four days later I woke up at midnight my waters exploded in bed. It felt as if my daughter had just punched downwards and shoved her little fist out (which of course she hadn’t but I was sleepy and confused.)

I leapt up and ran to the bathroom leaving a trail of amniotic fluid behind me. I took note that the fluid was clear and still trickling….this was definitely not a weeing myself situation. I woke up my husband and tried to calmly tell him what was happening. We called the hospital only to be told that of course the home birth service was suspended, and for various reasons the midwives who were going to support me would not be able to. I was prepared for this but I was still gutted for a moment. I decided to go back to bed, maybe I would be able to sleep for a few hours and by the morning someone would be available to come out to me. But my uterus had other ideas. Within an hour of my waters breaking I was having regular surges, maybe 5 mins apart ( although I wasn’t timing) and there was no way I could sleep. I text Rosie my doula to tell her what was going on and decided with my husband that we would go into the birth centre. We called my Dad to come over to watch my eldest who was asleep in bed and none the wiser.

I forced myself to adjust to the new plan, let go of the home birth and focus on staying relaxed and calm.

We got our stuff together and got in the car, by now it was about 2am and I was having to breathe through contractions, although they were still very manageable. We made our way into the birth centre, the room was nice and dark and they were already running the pool. This calm was slightly ruined by the midwife saying to me almost straight away “hopefully you will just keep progressing and we won’t have to do anything to you.” I looked her dead in the eye and said “what were you planning to do to me?” she laughed and mumbled something. I have to say apart from this, she did a pretty good job of staying out of the way, and wasn’t even in the room for the majority of the time we were in there. Rosie arrived and we got ourselves settled in and we put the TENS machine on my lower belly, which was really helping. By this time I was really having to focus, close my eyes and breath through my surges. With each one I was trying to actively relax my body, welcoming and surrendering to them rather than trying to fight them.

We tried a few different positions, but anything other than just sitting still (and not being touched) felt much worse. The midwife asked my husband “is she always this calm” and he replied “only when she’s in labour.” By now things were really ramping up. Physiological birth seems to take you right up to the brink of what you can handle, but doesn’t quite tip you over the edge. My contractions were very powerful by now and seemed very close together, I could feel my temperature was fluctuating and after going a bit shivery Rosie suggested I rest a bit and helped me get comfy on the bed, lying on my side with pillows between my knees. I think I was only there for a short time before I needed the bathroom (this along with the shiveryness gave me the hint I was in transition and I knew it would not be much longer. We had set the bathroom up so it as dark and cosy too and after a few trips in and out I felt a sharp twinge and knew my baby was starting to make a move down.

I decided this would be a good moment to get in the pool, I had wanted to wait until I knew we were close-ish and this felt like the right time. Everyone helped me get in the pool and almost immediately I felt a shift, I had been silent during contractions up until this point but suddenly I felt a bit grunty, so I knelt with my elbows over the edge and tucked my face in so I couldn’t see anything and just went with the flow. I started to feel another change as my contractions became pushy, and totally involuntarily my uterus started pushing down.

With both my births I have felt a sense of relief once the pushing started, to me it feels more productive and you know there’s only so much longer it will last.

woman giving birth in a birth pool

I pushed and grunted for a few minutes, and the head came out, I don’t think the midwife knew I was actually pushing as she was in the corner making notes (not a problem for me as I wanted her to be as hands off as possible.) Then for what seemed like an hour to me (but was actually about three minutes) her head was out, and her body was in. This felt so, so strange and I really wanted to get the rest of her out, but knew I couldn’t do it without the cooperation of my uterus. I tried to give a voluntary push which did literally nothing. With the next contraction I really wanted her out, gave a shriek and out she came. By now the midwife had realised there was a baby in the room and helped catch her as she came out behind me and got her up to my chest.

Olive was born at 6am, four hours after we had arrived and six hours after my labour started. Her middle name is Rita, after my dear Mum who would have loved her so much.

woman holding newborn in birth pool with blood

I felt overwhelming relief and a wall of exhaustion. With my previous birth I had no sudden rush of love, and this birth was the same. I know now this is not a problem and those feelings just come a bit later for me. Right now I was just pleased my body had done the damn thing and she was out.

The next bit is the bit I am not as keen on. I had wanted a physiological placenta birth but there was some blood in the pool (which is to be expected) and the midwife recommended we cut the cord and give me in the injection to help me birth the placenta. I really wanted to wait but she said there was a lot of blood and I should have the injection. My gut told me I was fine, I felt totally ok, not woozy at all but as I don’t know how to assess blood loss in a pool, I agreed. Later on I found out I had only lost 3ooml of blood which is totally within normal limits, I think she just really didn’t like the idea of leaving me to birth the placenta alone. So, my husband cut the cord ( a bit sooner than I had wanted but I gave it a feel and I think all the blood had transfused through to the baby) and they gave me an injection. Then started a tussle with a second midwife who was hell bent on jamming a scratchy hat on my poor babes head. More on this another day.

I was helped out of the pool and had controlled cord traction to pull out my placenta, and the got assessed to see if I needed stitches (which I did) all while snuggling my baby and letting her niffle around my boob. She stayed like that for a good few hours, until eventually a new midwife took her to weigh her and check her, while I had a wee and a quick shower off.

She was 8lbs 4, pretty large for 37 weeks, she clearly knew the right time to make her exit. Babies are pretty good at choosing their birthdays after all.

woman breastfeeding baby after giving birth in Nottingham hospital

Despite the disappointment with the home birth situation, I had a really positive experience and I think this was down to a few different factors. I knew I had great support, my husband and doula made a great team and even though I didn’t really want or need them to actively do anything, their presence guarding my space and protecting my oxytocin was everything. My knowledge of birth physiology helped me stay calm throughout, and although for me it was extremely intense and painful at times, I knew that was what my body needed to let my baby out and my confidence never wavered. My knowledge of the maternity system also helped massively, I knew exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t and for the most part felt my wishes were respected. Of course there is also a luck component, my body seems pretty efficient at giving birth and because both my births have been relatively speedy there hasn’t been time for much clockwatching or offers of intervention.

I know I am biased but antenatal education is everything. Please, please don’t enter the system blindly, it is not set up to support you as an individual. Find a great birth educator that your values align with and learn how to support your body and how to navigate the minefield of a system and make sure you assemble a stellar support team who are going to advocate for you and do all the thinking so you don’t have to.

Come and find me for a chat or book onto one of my free introductory sessions to see if I could be the right person to support you and your family! And if I am not, find someone else who is.

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