First-time mum Gina trusted her instincts, remained focused and used her breathing techniques to get her through an intense and long water birth

 

When my nephew was born I remember the nurse saying to my sister: ‘childbirth is your test as a woman. It is empowering and something only women can do’. Before that point I had never really thought about it.

A perfect pregnancy

When Nick and I fell pregnant we were elated. We had been trying for about 3 months, and when it happened we were so excited for the journey ahead. I knew I had a responsibility throughout the pregnancy and when delivering our baby to ensure it was calm, relaxed and stress free.

My pregnancy was textbook perfect. Nick joked and said he would keep me pregnant because I was so chilled out.

I had researched various births and had heard about hypnobirthing from a book my sister had called Mamabamba.

I watched a few videos where the woman looked completely tranced out and there was pure ecstasy when their babies arrived. I decided I wanted one of those births and so contacted Deborah at Boldly Glow Birthing.

We did a two hour intro course after which Nick and I were completely convinced that this was the route we wanted to go down.

We enrolled on a group course. We met wonderful people and learnt amazing techniques to relax, and meditations which I completed religiously throughout my pregnancy.

Twice a day, whilst putting cream on my belly I said the “Head down” affirmation and visualised our baby in the perfect position.I listened to the birth affirmations every day and did the meditations at night when I would inevitably fall asleep.

Mother’s instinct

My estimated due date was the 3rd October. I always knew he was coming on he 6th October. This was the date Nick moved to the UK ten years earlier and our official anniversary. Call it mother’s instinct, but just like I knew he was a boy, I was right about his birth date almost to the time!

I planned for a water birth at home. We got the pool and had a homebirth booked in. Knowing about the shortage of midwives in Reading we visited the Wallingford Birth Centre after having heard amazing stories about it, the midwife who showed us around instilled such confidence we decided that this was our plan B.

I went on maternity leave and the following week my Mom flew in from South Africa. We had a nice few days together.

Early labour

On Wednesday morning 5th October at 4:00am I woke up with some discomfort, I went to the loo and saw a continuation of my show, which had been going on a few days. But there was an undeniable throb that would come and go. There was bright red blood, which I was told should not be there as part of your show.

I woke Nick up and we phoned the triage line. She said that provided it was less then a tablespoon it was fine and to keep monitoring it. The discomfort continued and we realized these were the start of the surges that would bring our baby down!

In hindsight I realize how premature our excitement was, we pulled out the mobile app and started timing the surges. Both Nick and I were under the impression that this was going to be a relatively quick labour….We were wrong.

My Mom woke up and got as caught up in the excitement, we watched some TV series and ate.

I tried to go back to sleep and listened to some of the guided meditations. The only one I could get through was the sea of serenity.

My sister came to visit before going work at 9:00 that morning. We all sat around the bed drinking tea and eating biscuits. It was such a beautiful moment to have all of these people cheering us on.

The only thing that really helped was water

The day carried on in a similar fashion as per the above, the only thing that really helped the surges was water. I was constantly in and out of the bath or shower.

At 4:30pm, Nick and I took the dog for a walk. I would need to stop every now and then when the surges kicked in. And whilst they did move things along, it was not that much quicker. We hit the 12 hour mark

My sister visited again at 8:00pm. By this point I was getting tired of these surges. My Mom would take the shower head and hose me down in the bath. The water on my back really helped.

Nick had been in touch with the triage line earlier, they confirmed they had no home birth midwives available and that the service was suspended for the evening.

He then contacted Wallingford, and only told me this after Fynn had arrived, but they didn’t want to accept us as we were not in the Oxford postcode area! He said we had visited and were told we could go there and it was unacceptable. They eventually said it was okay and we could come in. Go Nick!

Shortly after this at 21:00 we were having 3 surges within a ten-minute timeframe. This is when they said to come in.

We got the hospital bag ready, which was half heartedly packed as I was having a home birth! My Mom ran around trying to find toiletries etc. Then Nick and I got in the car to drive to Wallingford.

The midwives were amazing and got us settled just before a shift change. When the shift changed the same midwife who showed us around, Jill, was on. I was relieved, as I really liked her when she showed us around. They got us comfortable and said to relax.

I got up and vomited for what felt like an eternity. I thought I was close now.

After about 23:30 I asked Nick to ask what was happening. My surges were sore and I was getting tired. I wanted to know something…anything.

Jill came and gave me an examination. She said I was only 2 cm dilated and that whilst she did not want to chase us away and we were welcome to stay, we may want to consider going home because it could still be hours.

After 30 minutes I said to Nick lets go home. It’s more comfortable and in the back of my mind I still thought our homebirth would materialize.

Heading home

We headed home shortly after midnight. And my Mom was anxiously waiting. I climbed up the stairs on all fours asking her why she never told me it was going to be this hard? I said I thought I would have this birth thing waxed.

Nick and my Mom said we should all try get some sleep as it was closing in on 20 hours and we were all exhausted.

I had another bath and then climbed into bed. The surges were severe. Nick was fast asleep the minute his head hit the pillow. I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I got up had a shower and tried to run a hot bath again.

I made my way downstairs. I squatted in front of the couch, on the gym ball, on the floor. I had another shower. And again tried every position I could think of. I wept gently and felt very sorry for myself as I wondered what my other options were. How else could this baby come out of me? I contemplated waking Nick up and taking me to hospital for a epidural.

My Mom walked into the lounge very upset that I was down stairs on my own. I said there was no point in all of us being awake. She woke Nick as she noticed a shift in the surges and needed the timer. She said: ‘its time to go back’. I could hardly breath.

I said I was not going back and I would have my baby in the bath by myself. I said it wasn’t my fault there were no midwives. I was obviously moved along from this frame of mind very quickly. I said I would only go back if there was gas and air and a bath ready for me. It was back into the car and back to Wallingford however this time it was much more intense.

Back to the birth centre

At Wallingford Jill noticed the intensity and frequency of the surges and said she would run the bath. She examined me and I was 4 cm dilated. I got into the bath and felt instant relief.

The surges came and went. I tried to go to my relaxing place with little success. I was breathing heavily with each surge but breathing through it nonetheless. A few hours and I felt my waters break. I then felt the pressure of him. I literally thought I was going to poo him out.

Nick was sitting next to the bath holding my hand and beckoning to my every whim and call, giving me water through a straw.

Jill was also right besides him taking notes. She would monitor baby’s heart beat as little as possible, per my birth plan. After each listen she would quietly say ‘happy baby’, thus giving me peace of mind in a very gentle way.

She followed every single thing I requested on my birth plan with such respect. She consulted with Nick outside of the room about everything.

At one stage I said to Nick – ‘let’s talk gas and Air’. Jill came and asked me if I wanted it. I asked her how ‘out of it’ , it would make me. She said: ‘it’s instant pain relief and doesn’t zone you out’. I said ‘let’s do it!’ I tried to breathe it in several times but it made me feel sick so I couldn’t use it.

Letting my body do its own thing

The surges continued in the intense manner and for the first time during labour I left my body. I didn’t quite make it to my special place but I left my body to let it do its thing. My body quietened down and my breathing was slow and calm.

After I’m not sure how long Nick said that I needed to get out of the bath for an examination. I thought that was it, after all of this I would have to get in an ambulance. Getting out of the bath was the hardest thing I had had to do at this point.

Jill examined me on the bed and said the baby’s heartbeat had increased but that his head was right there. I said I would work with the surges and get him here. She listened to his heartbeat again and said it was fine again and she was being over cautious.

I got back into the bath. I worked with the surges and tried to push when they came. I could feel him coming down and then the surge would end and he would go back up again. Jill explained this was effectively a rocking motion which was normal.

I changed position when I got back in the bath to a full squat, which definitely helped. I completed a few of these rocking up and down surges and then had enough.

I told Fynn it was time to come out now and gave an almighty push and scream with the next surge. Jill said she could see his head. This added fuel to an already blazing fire. So for the next surge I pushed like my life literally depended on it. I burst out crying knowing we were so close. It was all or nothing now.

The next surge I pushed like never before and out he rolled. At 8:15, Nick and I lifted him out of the water and held him in the bath, both our hands on him as we laughed and cried and looked at how beautiful he was. All could say was: ‘Look at what we did!’.

 

Skin to skin

We then put him on my chest for skin to skin whilst we waited for a natural third stage. I put him on my breast and he latched without any issue.

After 30 minutes the cord had finished pulsating and Jill asked permission to clasp it. Nick cut the cord which Jill said was thicker than normal. Even though it was finished pulsating, Fynn was nursing and when the cord was cut he gasped for air, which I found very interesting.

A few minutes later and my placenta was released. Jill lifted my placenta out and showed it to us. She explained it to us and it was fascinating.

Fynn had a nice meconium poo, we switched his towel and Nick took him for some skin to skin. I got on the bed and Jill cleaned the bath out, she had a look at me to see if I tore. She said Fynn’s hand was on his face when his head came out and it looked like his nail may have cut me. She had a look and confirmed I would need a few stitches.

She got a lamp, gave me local anesthetic and took the utmost care in stitching me up. She took my blood pressure and then left the room to make us coffee and toast.

Nick said the following day that she had such an immense presence, which he fed off throughout it all. He said as soon as Fynn arrived her presence disappeared as she allowed us all the space to be. He said it was the most incredible thing.

Nick then went to fetch my Mom as I lay with Fynn and he continued to breastfeed and sleep. When proud Granny arrived she held Fynn, while I got up to shower.

Reflecting back

So whilst we had planned a home birth, I am glad we went to Wallingford and had Jill there because she was unbelieveable. She respected the birthing process, she loved what she did and she was so supportive. If I could go back in time I  would choose Wallingford again and again – the team were incredible.

It has been 2 weeks since our birthing experience and already I know I am forgetting the discomfort that went with it. Was it all worth it and would I do it again? Well yes and maybe, yes.

Lastly to my unbelievable team. To my husband Nick: I chose my life partner so well and this was affirmed again by the way you have handled the pregnancy and the birth experience. You are already such an amazing Dad! Thank you for being there throughout it all. There is stuff I am sure you wish you can unsee but after scooping my poop out there is not much left to the imagination.

Mom, for making up the bed – every time I left I would come back to a nice new made bed. For holding the space and hosing me down, the reflexology treatments beforehand, the encouragement and being there every step of the way.

To my sister for popping in and bringing such lightness with you. It was refreshing, at a time when everyone could use the laughs.

To our family in South Africa, thank you for cheering us along from so far. All of your immense support along every step of the way got me through

As for The Wise Hippo hypnobirthing, well I realise now how amazingly well it equipped me for the entire birthing process. The focus it gave me throughout the labour, the preparation you do beforehand in practicing to be calm and relaxed. You transfer the skills subconsciously for life. I do not even want to imagine what it could have been like without doing the course!

A few after thoughts…..

  • If only I knew it was going to go on for 28 hours I would have taken it a lot easier in the beginning and toned down the excitement and rested more in the beginning when I could have.
  • About 3 days later I remembered about a tens machine and cursed that I hadn’t thought of getting/using one.
  • Birth is a test of motherhood, it is empowering and will make you want to give them a clout on the head when they slam the door in your face when they are 16 years old and know better.
  • It is raw and messy and bloody and gore, it is incredibly animalistic and absolutely incredible when you hold them in your arms.
  • Midwives are amazing and should be celebrated more. Incredible woman who deal with your blood, look at your vagina and worse and stitch you up so carefully. They deserve so much more!
  • Your birth partner is vital to take on the world whilst you internalize – choose wisely! (I had the best)
  • Giving birth is the most intense, vulnerable and true thing I have ever done!
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