Updated: Mar 15, 2020
Giving birth to H is hands down the greatest achievement of my life to date. I love my birth story because it is mine and no one can ever take that feeling away from me.
I’ve toyed with sharing my story for a few months now and always hesitated because I was lucky, I didn’t have any complications and it was very positive. In true Mum style that then makes me worry. I worry that me doing it my way will mean that other mums will think I think they did it wrong (it doesn’t, but mum guilt is real). So I’ve given myself a good talking to, because when I was preparing for birth I mainly heard stories of extended labours, excruciating pain, emergency c-sections and nothing going to plan. I want to share some positivity so you know some births do go to plan too.
Long before I was ever even considering children I sat at home one night watching One Born Every Minute thinking to myself - I can’t wait to do that.
Yes there were lots of women screaming in pain, but they all ended with so much joy it emanated from the TV. That’s the bit I saw, the bit at the end, grown men reduced to tears of joy, families being made, pure blissful happiness. I wanted that.
Fast forward years later, I met the boy, we didn’t get married (I’m still working on that one), and decided we were ready to have a baby. It took us a little over a year to conceive H, so once we got that + sign on the stick, we were over the moon.
Already I was planning, I’m a planner by nature and am not usually settled unless I have an idea of how things will pan out. I was one of the last of my friends to have a baby so was fairly familiar with the process of labour (or as much as you can be when you’ve never actually done it). I had friends who had wonderfully straight forward home births and friends who had laboured for days ending in surgery. I knew that there would be elements which would be out of my control, so I wanted to focus on the bits I could control.
I considered a home birth, one of my oldest friends had two successful home births and I was hearing more positive stories from other friends. Not one person I knew who had a home birth regretted it, even those who didn’t make it into the pool.
However, Daddy H is a bit of an anxious sole and wanted the polar opposite, he wanted doctors and monitors - my worst nightmare. The one thing I was adamant on was I wanted as little medical intervention as possible. So we compromised, and agreed on the Midwife Led Unit at our local hospital. Here there was one pool in the unit and one on the labour ward meaning I had access to either and if you were solely under midwife care. I had a fairly straightforward, low risk, pregnancy so was given the OK for the birth of my choice.
As part of limiting the chance of needing medical intervention I knew that I also wanted to avoid an epidural if I could manage it. This was the hardest part, because as soon as you tell other mothers who needed or chose an epidural, they all say the same ‘Just wait’. I knew there was a chance I may not be able to manage without and that was OK, but I needed to have the mindset of I’m not having one. This mindset would mean that if I needed one, I definitely couldn’t have managed otherwise.
I do just want to caveat here, that I bare no opinion on others choice to have an epidural it was just not what I wanted.
Knowing what I wanted with all going to plan, I needed to arm myself with the tools to achieve it. I considered Hypnobirthing, but it didn’t quite feel like me, then I came across The Daisy Foundation which was completely up my street.
I had known I wanted to do pregnancy yoga to help with any pregnancy related aches and pains and this class offered this and so much more.
In the class we learnt stretches which would ease various pregnancy ailments, along with movements which can help encourage Baby into the best position for birth. We were given detailed information on what happens to our body during labour, and which different things can hamper and help with birth. I felt fully informed and empowered to make the decisions that would be right for me and my baby.
Our teacher, Sara, was fantastic, each week we talked about our various concerns, and she would give us advice on how to manage these fears. Most importantly every week we perfected the 8, 4 breathing technique - a technique which would get me through my entire labour.
I now had the tools I needed, the rest was a waiting game. For some reason, my entire pregnancy I had been convinced that I wouldn’t reach full term, but as these little ones like to - H thought otherwise.
Now one week over, my community midwife, Marion, came to visit me at home. She advised me that at this point they book an induction as a precaution and that our trust induces at 41 + 5. At that point I had heard very few positive induction stories and so I wanted to avoid it if I could. I asked to wait until 42 weeks and Marion agreed without hesitation, only asking me to keep a closer eye on fetal movements than usual and go straight in if there were any reductions.
Next, I was offered a cervical sweep to see if we could get things going. It was at this point we learnt how close I was to labour commencing. During the sweep Marion found I was already partially dilated and she could already feel the top of H’s head.
We said our goodbyes on the doorstep knowing we would probably next see each other with a baby in my arms. Before leaving, Marion paused and said, “I never usually say this, but I think this baby will come tonight”. She was not wrong.
Four hours later I felt my first contraction. I was excited, this was it, it was now my chance to go through labour and I was going to have a baby. As to be expected for the next few hours the contractions were sporadic, one here and there, no rhythm to them at all.
Knowing I wanted an active labour, I planned to spend my labouring time at home sitting on my birthing ball rotating my hips clockwise - rotate to dilate as we had learnt in the Daisy classes. However, it was now 10pm and I knew this was likely to go on through the night and wanted to get as much rest as I could.
I headed upstairs to bed and lay on my left hand side, to help keep your uterus off of the liver and improve circulation to my heart. I decided to watch something lighthearted on the telly, to keep my mind off the pain and chose Bridget Jones’ Baby. My contractions were quite regular now, approximately every 7 minutes apart. I breathed through each one, in for 8 and out for 4.
Around 3am, the contractions shortened - they weren’t any more painful but were every 3-4 minutes apart, for around 30 minutes, after which they stretched back out to 7-15 minutes. We called the unit just to check they didn’t want to see me given the period of shortened gaps, but they said to stay home until it was more consistent or the pain was unbearable.
Shortly after, the pain levelled up a notch so I took some paracetamol and applied the TENS Machine. I was now getting tired so dozing between each contraction while Daddy H took over the timing. At around 8 the pain levelled up again, I took some more paracetamol and decided to have a bath.
My contractions remained inconsistent, however the pain was steadily increasing so we decided to call the ward and see if I could at least come in for some additional pain relief. This was now our third call third call so we were invited in for an examination.
Making my way to the car really kicked things off, the pain was completely unbearable and my contractions shortened to every 2-3 minutes. We arrived at the hospital and slowly started making our way to the unit, stopping every 100 yards or so for another contraction. Just outside of the labour ward I stopped and broke down in tears with the pain, a nurse went to find us a wheelchair but came back with a midwife instead.
Finally in the birthing suite, I was starting to doubt my decision, it was too much pain - there was no way I could do this any longer. Then I met Lucy. She told me I was doing great, and asked where I’d learnt my breathing techniques because I was doing them so well, I felt renewed.
Lucy checked us in and read through my birthing plan, she complimented me on being clear, not only in my desires, but also what I wanted if things didn’t go to plan and what order I would prefer interventions to happen if they had to. Another surge of endorphins, I could do this.
I was examined and told I was around 5cm dilated so would be staying. Lucy advised that generally they would expect me to dilate ½ cm per hour and would look to examine again in 4 hours. I thought to myself, “I'm not doing this for another 4 hours!”.
One method of pain relief I was completely open to, was gas and air, Lucy gave me the option of the mask or mouthpiece and showed me how to use it. As the next contraction grew, I took a deep breath in through the mask and hated it, the air felt so heavy, I handed it straight back. I was advised to keep persevering and I would get used to it but I didn’t want it.
20 minutes later the pool was ready and I shuffled across the suite to it. Deciding on one last toilet stop before getting in the pool, my waters broke and everything escalated quickly. I got into the pool, the pain intensified and I felt the urge to push, I could feel her at the top of my birth canal.
Pushing with every contraction, I felt her move down. The pain was almost unbearable, and in my head I was thinking I really want an epidural, but how am I going to get out of this pool? All I could do was shorten it as much as possible, so I kept pushing, in between moans of ‘I can’t do this’ I kept pushing.
Breathing was all I had, still refusing the gas and air, I breathed in during the incline and out for the release. I was aware of conversations around me, I could hear Daddy H and Lucy talking about the music in the room (pop hits played on the pan pipes), but I couldn’t engage - it was just me and the water, that would get me through. After around an hour in the pool Lucy appeared at my eye level and said “Louisa I need you to confirm you have understood this. Shortly I am going to tell you to stop pushing, I need you to take short sharp breaths and little pushes as I direct you, do you understand?” I nodded and dipped back into the water.
Not long after came the instructions, I knew this was nearly it. In my birth plan I had expressed a wish to touch the baby’s head as she crowned. Lucy invited me to do this but I couldn’t reach, after the next contraction she let me know I would definitely be able to reach this time, but I was fixed solid, I wasn’t moving.
Before I knew it, I felt a whoosh and a sudden relief, Daddy H watched our baby swim to the surface, two hours and six minutes after arriving at the hospital.
Another instruction in my plan was delayed cord clamping, by at least 5 minutes. H came out with the cord wrapped three times around her neck, Lucy advised the other midwife of my wishes so they gently untangled her in my arms rubbing her back willing her to cry. Not long after came that first tiny wail, I could have cried, she was here, she was safe, we were a family of three.
If you are reading this while pregnant with your first, second or seventh, if you find yourself in a situation where a doctor or a midwife is advising something outside of your wishes, remember BRAIN and ask the following questions:
Benefits, what are the benefits of their recommendations?
Risks, what are the risks of continuing down your chosen path?
Alternatives, what are the alternatives?
Instinct, what is your instinct telling you to do?
Nothing, what will happen if you do nothing?
I hope you can find some reassurance in my story. Things can go to plan, positive stories do happen - and if things don’t go to plan you always - it is your body, your baby, your birth, your story.