As tough as my pregnancy was at times, I was 100% ready for birth. I had hypnobirthed my way into a state of excitement, looking forward to the Big Day. I couldn’t wait to meet my mini man, but also to experience birth. People (mainly women who had given birth before,) thought I was mad, and were quick enough to tell me so.
Caelen was due on the 5th of November (scan dates,) but arrived on the 29th of October (closer to my estimation.) I knew that this was really a ‘due month,’ so dates didn’t concern me too much. I woke up in the middle of the night and felt that the bed sheets were wet. Now as you mamas will know, the old pelvic floor is not at its strongest towards the end of the third trimester, so I couldn’t rule out the possibility that I’d peed the bed. Mike was in the other bed, as by this point I was huge and needed the whole bed to roll around in, trying to find any comfortable position.
I phoned the midwife who told me to put a sanitary towel in my underwear, and try to go back to sleep. When I got up again, if the towel was wet, this probably meant that my membrane had ruptured prematurely or my waters had broken. I changed the sheets and hopped back into bed. I wasn’t feeling any surges and I tried to sleep, but the excitement and general pregnancy monkey mind, kept me awake.
In the morning, I decided that I was not completely incontinent, and that my waters had broken. We went up to the hospital, sanitary towel in hand (gross but requested by midwife.) The midwives confirmed that my waters had broken and offered to induce me there and then. I was in the gown, in the bed, and baby could be with me by night time. Thankfully I was well informed and knew that I had some time to try to induce labour naturally. I declined the induction and headed back home with Mike, assuring the well-meaning midwives that I’d keep them up to date with my progress.
At home, I set myself up in my birth space, which I had chosen as the living room. It was frosty and cold outside and we had the fire burning in the living room. I made myself cosy and sat down to watch some funny films I’d been saving. I double checked my hospital pack and TENS machine, we were good to go.
I had a sudden craving for mince and tatties. For those of you outside of Scotland, this is basically minced beef with mashed potatoes, peas and carrots: The ultimate in comfort food. Mike whipped me some together, the angel, and I got stuck in. I washed it down with a ton of cold milk, which was funny because milk had made me sick throughout my pregnancy.
Later in the day, I began to worry about what would happen if labour didn’t begin soon. At this point, I did something that I would not recommend that anyone do, but I did and I think it worked for me. I had been taking raspberry leaf tea capsules throughout my pregnancy as my nausea prevented me from enjoying the tea. I decided to take one at this point, knowing that it brought on practice surges (Braxton hicks contractions,) almost immediately. Then I took another. And another. I’m unsure how many capsules I had in total, but the surges started to come very quickly after I’d swallowed them back with some milk. I am not recommending this and I do not know if it is safe to do so. I do know that within half an hour, I was surging happily and getting myself into the zone.
For an hour or so after my surges began, I still didn’t know if they were practice surges or ‘The Real Thing.’ How was I supposed to know? The feeling of surges is a difficult thing to describe as everyone experiences it differently. By around 6 pm, I started to have a regular pattern and I had three definite surges, around twenty minutes apart. Mike smiled and said we had lots of time before we had to head to the hospital, so I settled down for some pranayama and visualisation. I was well and truly in labour land by this point.
Very quickly, twenty minutes apart turned into four minutes apart. Boom. It was time to go to the hospital. I was dying to try out my TENS machine, so I got strapped in and was ready to head to the car. We popped the hypnobirthing CD on in the car and I began to breathe through what were now, fairly strong contractions. I was so excited and happy that I was finding the surges so manageable. It just felt like a tightness, like someone squeezing a belt around my abdomen: tighter and tighter… and then releasing. They only lasted around thirty seconds, a tiny amount of time. By the time I had got into a breathing loop, it was over. I knew I could do this.
Now by the time we arrived at the hospital (around 7pm,) I quite comically, found that I had to walk into the foyer, half squatting, with my knees bent and just the lower section of my legs actually walking. Think Faulty Towers. I have no idea why I had to do this, but distinctly remember being aware of people staring as I ‘stalked’ into the maternity unit.
The birthing room was dimly lit and cosy and my midwives could not have been nicer. I think I had 3 or 4 midwives over the duration of the birth, but they were patient and caring and completely on-board with my focus on a natural birth. I had planned on a water birth, but the early rupture of membranes meant there was a possible risk of infection, so this wasn’t going to be an option anymore.
I headed for the toilet in my room, convinced that I needed to poo. I spent at least an hour on the toilet, with Mike and my midwife chatting to me and making me laugh as I refused to move, convinced I was going to poo. The midwife reassured me that it was just baby moving down, but I am telling you, it feels like you are going to have a huge poo! I stayed put to stay on the safe side. I kept breathing, using my Full YogaBellies Breath and visualizing my cervix opening like a rosebud. The surges were still manageable and regular, it was just this huge poo that was starting to concern me.
Sitting on the toilet seat is a great position to birth in. I was making great use of gravity and an added bonus is that our body is accustomed to ‘expelling’ and relaxing on the toilet seat, so if we sit here during birth, it encourages your body to progress as it should.
I eventually peeled myself off the toilet seat and headed into the birthing room. I kneeled on a pillow at the side of the bed, my head resting on my hands and Mike sitting beside me. Looking back, I think I had it in my head that I wanted to try gas and air and so at this point I asked for it. The midwife said I was doing well without it but gave it to me to try. Things were going well, I was managing the surges well and Mike wasn’t freaking out at this point. The midwives left the room and afforded us some privacy to just continue with the gas and air.
Where do I start with Gas and Air? I had a couple of puffs and I felt a bit dizzy. It felt nice and Mike had a puff and we had a giggle about it. We were enjoying the floaty feeling when another surge began and I remembered that I was in labour. This surge seemed a lot stronger than the previous ones and I felt my mince and tatties rise up from the bottom of my stomach. What followed resembled (in my mind,) a scene from The Exorcist.
As I was violently sick, on Mike and the bed, my waters resoundingly broke at this point. The absent midwives returned to a rather different scenario, with Mike and I covered in my vomit and slipping around on amniotic fluid. The midwife took the Gas and Air from me and explained that it can make some people very sick. Clearly. Gas and Air would be good fun at a party ladies, but not for giving birth. These kind ladies, cleaned Mike and I up and then I was up on the bed, this time trying an all fours position. It took me a while to get back into the zone and regain my breathing rhythm. Mike read me one of the hypnobirthing scripts and I managed to get back into the zone.
Things were going well, the surges were coming thick and fast but I had a good rhythm now and felt that I had everything back under control. The surges were intense but I could cope. I was almost there.
It was around 11pm and I was starting to become tired. I sipped some water through a straw and sucked on some boiled sweets for energy. At this point, another midwife came into the room and before I knew what was happening, she gave me a vaginal examination and pronounced me only 2 cm dilated. I knew this couldn’t be true, I’d been told an hour ago I was 5cm dilated. What the hell was going on?
The midwife suggested that we ‘move things along’ with a little injection of syntocinon. I refused and was adamant that Caelen was much closer to arriving than I was being told. I could feel him coming and I knew it wouldn’t be long. Mike helped me change positions and I moved into Polar Bear position with my head resting on my hands and my bottom in the air. I swayed from side to side and started to make a low down growling sound that could only be described as a moo. I found this very therapeutic and the vibrations worked against the sensation of the surges. I kept breathing but my body was tired and I knew that my baby was coming.
I felt a sudden downwards push, a heaviness that felt as if my abdomen was going to push straight through my pelvic floor. I knew this was it. As my surges all joined into one, I mooed and groaned my little man into the world. The midwives asked me if I wanted a mirror to see him coming out, but I was concentrating on breathing down now, using the Birthing Breath. I felt baby’s head coming out and Mike, who has stayed at my top end for most of the birth, had a peek and shouted, “You can see his face! Push! PUSH!” A couple of deep, everything I had pushes, welcomed my mini boy into the world. I rolled onto my back and looked at this beautiful little face, his tiny crossed eyes and perfect face. I have never in my life felt elation like this. Seeing your baby for the first time is without any question, the most amazing moment of your life.
This blog is adapted from the revised edition of Birth ROCKS by Cheryl MacDonald, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.