Positive Birth Story: First Time Mum’s Home Water Birth

My birth story starts on Wednesday 23rd September 2015. My due date was approaching on the 27th, however in order to avoid feeling fed up as soon as that day came, I had my 42 week date in my head and was convinced my baby would be late.

Over the past few weeks, baby had been changing from back to back to a ROA position (back of baby's head on right side and towards front of tummy). In order to try and get baby in a more optimum position, I was spending a lot of time on all fours, leaning forward, on my exercise ball etc. I even tried acupuncture on the Tuesday before things started to happen (which may have contributed to things moving along).

So on the Wednesday, I lost my mucus plug and was getting some mild period pains all day. I went to bed that night wondering if things might progress, so had ensured my home delivery/hospital box was well stocked with everything I might need for the labour, either at home or the hospital if that's the route the labour took us.

However, nothing happened all night so Ian went to work as normal on Thursday and I took the dogs for an early morning walk with mum. At this point, I was experiencing what I believed to be contractions, or surges as I referred to them, however they really didn't feel any more than period pains.

I was supposed to be meeting a friend for lunch, but by mid morning, I wasn't really feeling up to it (it would've involved a 30 minute car journey) so I cancelled that and just spent the day at home, mainly on all fours! Throughout the day, I was having mild surges, but they weren't at all regular and weren't getting anymore intense. It was a great opportunity to practice my breathing techniques I'd learnt through hypnobirthing. It was also at this point that I put a few drops of clary sage oil on a tissue and I was smelling that during every contraction.

At about 6.30pm, I picked Ian up from the station. I had a surge as I drove back and had to slow right down! But it was still very manageable and I was just pleased I could practice breathing through each one.

I called Michelle, my 121 midwife at about 7.30pm just to let her know what was happening. I wasn't sure if things were going to continue progressing or whether they'd all come to a standstill and I'd be waiting a few more days before they started up again. Michelle was in the area so she popped in at about 8pm to drop the birthing pool off. She had a feel of my tummy and confirmed baby still felt slightly back to back. She had a listen to the heartbeat and all was fine. She told me that she was actually on a days annual leave tomorrow (Friday), but said as it was a first baby, chances are I wouldn't need her so soon. She advised me to just carry on doing what I was doing and to keep her updated.

I had pasta for dinner - carbs to keep my energy up should I need it!

Ian decided to blow up the birthing pool at about 9.30/10pm. It was more just out of interest to see how the pool looked as neither of us believed we'd need it overnight (although by this time, I did start to let myself believe that this could be it!)

I had bought a TENS machine just a day or two before so I was playing with this later in the evening.

I went up to bed about 10pm as I wanted to try and get some rest. Ian came up about 11pm and by this time, the surges were definitely becoming more intense. They still weren't particularly regular but I was starting to feel quite sick after each one and started wandering to and from the bathroom as didn't quite know what to do with myself. I don't think I really managed to sleep in-between the surges, but I was at least trying to rest and conserve energy by going back to bed.

By 1.30am Friday morning, I started to time the surges on an app on Ian's phone. I had asked him to take over the timings as I was still using the TENS machine and had too many buttons to press as well as remembering to do my breathing! I'm not sure the TENS machine made much difference, but it was a good distraction and quite a nice sensation. I found that where I could feel the contractions on my tummy, it was nice to balance it out with the feeling of the TENS machine on my back. It made sense to me at the time!

At no point did I have any back pain during my labour and the midwife delivering said baby wasn't back to back, so she must've turned very easily at some point.

By 2am, the surges were about 10 minutes apart and lasting about 1 minute. At one point, I was in the bathroom and shouted to Ian 'start', indicating the start of a surge so that he could time it on the app. As I was breathing through the surge, he was asking what I had said and came into the bathroom just as I said 'stop'. I think we missed timing a few surges due to miscommunication!

I spent the next couple of hours wandering between the bathroom and bedroom, changing positions, sometimes swaying on all fours which I found helped, and kneeling over the side of the bath. I had told Ian to try and get some sleep and to be honest, I was more than happy getting in my zone and using my breathing techniques. I'm not sure Ian actually slept at all though. Although he seemed very relaxed to me, he later told me that it was just for my benefit and really, he was very scared (he used different wording!)

By 4am, the surges were 5 minutes apart, so I asked Ian to call the midwife. We knew Michelle was on annual leave, but we didn't realise the on call midwife, Heather, was in Brightlingsea-about an hour away. She had just finished at another home birth so sorted herself out and made her way over to us.

In the meantime, I asked Ian to start filling the birthing pool up. First of all, he had to fit the liner, which meant deflating the pool slightly in order to put it on.

We had prepared the hose and attachment in the prior weeks. We had tried 2 other attachments to the tap, but neither worked, but we were confident the 3rd one was ok-it was a huge, industrial looking thing that my dad (a plumber) had got for us. We'd attached it to the bath tap upstairs with the hose running down to the birthing pool in the lounge.

I was in the bedroom, on the floor on all fours, rocking/swaying through the surges and I could hear Ian trying to fill the pool up, but the adapter had fallen off the tap! I remember thinking that I might have to go and hold the hose on the tap, but luckily Ian had managed to reattach it. Afterwards he said he was really panicking and kept running up and down the stairs checking on the water level in the pool and that the hose was still on the tap upstairs-although he did a very good job of seeming very calm to me! At one point I asked him if it was nearly ready, to which he responded, "yep, nearly", knowing that it had actually only filled up by a couple of inches!

I came downstairs just before 5.30am to get in the pool. I remember thinking thank god I only had to go downstairs and didn't have to make that journey into hospital. I stopped at the lounge door and held onto Ian as I was having a surge. Ian had put on my hypnobirthing music (Hanshan Temple-I used to listen to it during relaxation in the pregnancy yoga classes) and had put the clary sage oil in the burner. We had dimmed the lights and it was such a relaxing atmosphere. I got into the pool and relief rushed over me. It was lovely and warm and I remember thinking it was just the best thing!

Heather turned up a few minutes later. I was mid-way through a surge when she turned up so didn't even acknowledge her until a few minutes later. She took my blood pressure, listened to baby's heartbeat, then sat on the sofa filling out notes. I didn't want too much interference and specifically requested no internal examinations. I really believe this helped with keeping everything calm and relaxed and the surges regular. I knew Heather was there if I needed her and she was certainly monitoring me from a distance, but I was in the zone and letting my body get on with it.

My waters went whilst I was in the pool. I suddenly said to the midwife that something had happened. I felt a pop, but it also stung. The midwife explained it was just my waters and it was a good sign. (I think I had hoped that was it and the baby had arrived!!)

Ian kept giving me coconut water whilst I was in the pool to keep me hydrated-it was so refreshing. He was fantastic and kept reminding me to go to my control room and to remember my breathing.

At one point I said to Ian that I wanted to know how far along I was. He quietly spoke to the midwife in the hallway and she said obviously she could do an internal examination but they both knew I didn't want this. Really I just wanted the midwife to tell me the impossible-that it was nearly over! Obviously something no-one knows for sure! At this desperate time, I was so pleased that Ian and the midwife were familiar with my birth ideal.

I remember hearing Heather call for a second midwife. I felt so relieved and knew it must mean I was definitely advancing as they have the second midwife there for the delivery.

I also felt reassured every time Heather checked baby's heartbeat, as each time, I noticed the Doppler lower down on my tummy, so knew it was moving in the right direction.

I'm not sure what time the 2nd midwife, Claire, turned up. By this time I really was completely in the zone. I remember Ian telling me she had arrived and saying "look, a familiar face" as we had previously met Claire, but I can't say I was too bothered either way at this point! Both her and Ian were helping me with my breathing as it had gone out the window a bit at this time.

As I went through the transition, I said I couldn't do it anymore. Heather reassured me that I was already doing it, to which I thought, well ok, I don't want to do it anymore!

During the last check of baby's heartbeat, the midwives struggled to find a reading. One midwife was checking my pulse and I heard her say, "that's definitely mum's heartbeat"-they were obviously picking up my slower heartbeat through the Doppler. Ian felt quite concerned at this point, but I was just thinking that baby was lower than that and it was all ok.

As I got closer to delivery, I could feel baby's head, but also felt it keep moving back up after each surge. For me, that was the hardest part. I don't know how long this went on for, but Claire helped me breathe through this and I didn't actually ever push-just let my body take over. 

I was kneeling in the pool when baby's head made an appearance. Ian said "there's a head!" and Claire said, "oh, and a hand!" Eden was born with her (left?) arm up by her head. Within seconds, the rest of her was born at 7.28am on Friday 25th September (I think Claire guided the rest of her out as her arm was out) and she was placed directly on me. My first words were "it's perfect" (it didn't cross my mind to even check the sex) and then "wow, look at all that hair!"

Ian originally thought we'd had a boy (no, that's the cord!) When I realised we'd had a little girl, I was so surprised (and thrilled) as I was convinced throughout the second half of the pregnancy that we were having a boy.

We had great skin to skin contact in the pool whilst we waited for the placenta. After about an hour, Ian then had skin to skin with our little girl. The placenta took a couple of hours to deliver and in the end, it only delivered by me having the injection.

Unfortunately I had to go to hospital for stitches (as a result of Eden coming out with her arm up) but I couldn't have wished for a better birth. I was in the comfort of my own home and it was such a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Although I know I was very lucky with how well my labour went, I'm sure all my hypnobirthing practice really helped me to stay calm and focussed throughout the pregnancy and labour. I also think being able to stay relaxed at home really helped with the progression of my labour. I'm naturally quite a stressy person and I'm sure had I travelled into hospital mid-labour, adrenaline would've kicked in and slowed my contractions down.

Writing my birth story has made me feel quite nostalgic about it and brings back lovely memories and certainly not ones of pain and fear. I just hope I'm as lucky next time!

Thankyou to Kirsti for sharing your amazing birth story!