Guest blog written by first time mum Rebecca Cowley
Saturday 4th July
6 days past my due date and we made it to our friend’s wedding reception, which I’d hoped we would. I was feeling good and it was great to catch up with friends. I had quite a bit of energy, and joined in a couple of dances!
Sunday 5th July
We didn’t get to bed until gone 1am and at 5am on Sunday morning I woke up with cramping sensations. I tried to go back to sleep but the cramping kept coming back so I got up (probably the earliest I have ever arisen on a Sunday) and went downstairs thinking that it might just be the start of labour. I kept myself busy by re-reading the positive birth stories at the back of our Wise Hippo manual and when the surges came I used the surge breathing techniques I had learnt in classes. Paul eventually awoke about 10am and I told him that things might be starting to happen.
I had lots of nice snacks that I had bought for the labour to keep my energy levels up, but unfortunately I was being sick after nearly every surge (they were now coming a maximum of 20 mins apart) so I couldn’t keep anything down and I gave up eating. Instead I had Isotonic drinks (which I had to send Paul out to restock). This zapped my energy levels a bit so I didn’t go for the nice relaxing walks by the river I as I’d hoped, but I did make sure I was active and upright as much as possible so we went for short walks up and down our garden and I did quite a bit of bouncing on the birthing ball. We also watched a number of Celebrity Juice episodes to get my endorphins going. I tried using the TENS machine that I had borrowed from a friend however I found this did not make any difference to the level of discomfort so I decided to stick with the trusted breathing techniques I’d practiced.
That night I propped myself up in a sitting position with pillows and listened to the Wise Hippo tracks – I must not have slept for more than 20mins at a time throughout the night, but I made sure I was as comfortable and relaxed as I could be.
Monday 6th July
Paul decided not to go to work as we didn’t know how quickly things would progress. My surges were still irregular but at times there was only 3 mins between them and on Sunday I had a bloody show, and that coupled with bowel evacuations and vomiting surely meant we couldn’t be too far off? I had my 41 week appointment with my midwife on the Monday which I decided to attend just to double check that everything was still ok with our baby and thankfully all was still good. I managed to evade the stretch and sweep as I was already in early stages of labour.
My surges were a bit stronger now so each time one came I stood up and circled my hips while leaning on a wall/Paul and using my breathing techniques.
As per the midwife’s suggestion I had a bath that evening while Paul read to me which really helped me to relax. Paul was great throughout and always offered words of encouragement and was always on hand to get me more drink and offer food.
Tuesday 7th July
Carried on pretty much the same as Sunday and Monday – I managed to eat a bit. My surges were coming at least every 5 mins so we called the Triage line but they said to wait at home until they were 3 every 10 mins for at least 1 hour (for me this never happened).
Wednesday 8th July
Surges were still not regular, varying between 2-10 mins apart, but I so wanted to go to the birth centre and get into a birth pool. At around 2pm my surges seemed to be closer together so we called the Royal Berkshire hospital and made our way to the midwife led unit. I had surges there and dealt with them as I had been doing at home. I am naturally a quiet person and this was also the case while I was birthing.
After a couple of checks the midwife suggested I was in early stages of labour as I seemed too calm and told me I should go home. I wanted to avoid unnecessary examinations and she also suggested that it was not a good idea due to increasing the risk of infection, and it would be more uncomfortable if I was in early stages, so we left without having an examination. The midwife said to fuel up on energy and suggested doughnuts, and I wasn’t going to say no, so Paul went to get these.
However, not long after arriving home I had what I can only describe as the urge to go the toilet or bear down which I thought might be due to the fact that the previous day I had been able to eat again. However after an hour or so of this happening after each surge I realized that it might be more than needing the toilet! We called the hospital again and the lady on the phone said I still sounded like I was in early stages!! Too calm again, but she sent a midwife round to check me rather than having to drive to hospital again. About an hour later 2 midwives turned up. Both midwives said that looking at me you would not have known I was in labour at all but they had read my birth plan and knew I was hypnobirthing and said I was a prime candidate for a home birth.
Caroline, a really lovely student midwife who made me feel so at ease, examined me shortly after their arrival and much to my surprise I was fully dilated. I was told that I could go to hospital but it would need to be in an ambulance and I might deliver on the way, or I could opt for a home birth. So Paul had to quickly gather bin bags, sheets and towels to prepare our spare room for the birth.
I was super excited at this point as I knew we would imminently be meeting our beautiful daughter. Even though I was sapped of energy from the last 4 days I found the most natural position for me to birth in was standing up leaning on a birth ball on the bed. We turned off the lights in the room and just had a lamp on to create mood lighting and had the Wise Hippo instrumental on in the background. I was a bit impatient to finally meet my little girl and pushed her out in about 45 mins , I went through the whole labour with no pain relief.
The positive birth affirmations helped during this phase as did knowing exactly what was happening in my body – I knew my baby and body were specially designed for this process and I enjoyed this stage. My waters never broke naturally and Caroline popped them during the pushing phase to help Grace’s entrance into the world. It was at this point we realized there was meconium in the waters and when I asked what colour hair Grace had I was told it was green!
Thursday 9th July
Grace Evelyn Cowley arrives at 12.08am weighing 7lb 8.5oz. Caroline managed to catch slippery Grace and passed her up between my legs so we could have skin to skin. I opted to have a natural delivery of the placenta so we waited while I had cuddles with Grace. It was a great moment to see Paul cut the cord. I didn’t feel any strong contractions so we tried standing up but this had no effect. Then the midwife asked me to try pushing but there was a large gush of blood and still no placenta so I had the injection after about 45 mins.
The 2 other midwives came into the room at this point and tried to stop the bleeding as I was pumped with a number of drugs (they believe I may have lost about 1.4litres or more). In the end an ambulance had to be called but there was a problem with this and they could not give a definite time they would be able to get here. I was lying on the bed at this point with one midwife pummeling at what she described as my ‘boggy’ uterus. I remained pretty calm throughout and wondered what all the fuss was about!
Unfortunately the same could not be said for Paul who was a bit overwhelmed by the blood and nearly fainted while carrying Grace but luckily one midwife was on hand to rescue her. Due to the problem with the ambulance another 2 midwives from Royal Berks were called in but not long after they turned up so did the ambulance, so our spare room had 5 midwives and 2 ambulance crew at one point, I felt pretty special!
I was a bit chuffed that I was having my first ambulance ride and very glad that it was in the early morning so luckily there no prying neighbourhood eyes about. Thankfully the bleeding stopped by the time we arrived at hospital and I was very excited to be able to try the gas and air while I was having my stitches done. We spent the next day in hospital and were released Friday evening and I couldn’t wait to get home to start our new adventure properly. I have to say that both Deborah, our Wise Hippo guide, and the midwife teams were brilliant and really helped to give us a positive birth and hospital experience. Grace is usually a very happy and calm baby and from very early on has had good sleeping patterns allowing us to get good 5/6 hr blocks of sleep!