Before I got pregnant with my daughter I was absolutely terrified of the idea of giving birth. I even googled to find out if there was such a thing as an official phobia of labour. There is. Tokophobia. Everything about it completely freaked me out and made me think I’d never want to have a baby.
When I was pregnant I went through different phases. Sometimes I was completely fine about it and other times I was back to feeling completely and utterly petrified. However, from the moment we had that 12 week scan and giving birth became a reality I knew I wanted to do it in the most natural way possible. We took part in NCT antenatal classes as well as the free classes you can attend at the hospital. I looked at a few books and chatted to a few people. All of these things confirmed to me that my preference would be to give birth in water at a birth centre and avoid any kind of hospital environment as much as possible. I know this is a really personal decision and there is no right way.
In our area there is a big hospital which has a low risk delivery suite but also access to doctors, paediatricians, surgeons and medical pain relief. There is also a smaller midwife run birth centre with just 2 labour rooms and 1 post natal room. The birth centre offered tours (if they were not busy) so we had a little look round and just loved it. It felt like arriving at a hotel and was so calm and quiet. Unfortunately during pregnancy we had a couple of experiences at the bigger hospital when Zara wasn’t moving very much and we had to go in to be monitored in the evenings. I knew I’d rather be in the birth centre rather than the hospital even though it meant if there were any problems I’d have to be transferred. It was strange. I’m a huge worrier and not a risk taker at all but I was pretty convinced that the birth centre was the right choice for me. My midwife explained that even though about 30% of women end up being transferred to the hospital for one reason or another, actually a lot of those are not emergency situations.
Most people were really supportive of our decision although we did have one conversation with someone who didn’t hide their horror at my choice and told me how horrific birth is and how I was stupid not to be in the hospital where medical intervention was immediately available. It was after that conversation that I realised how incredibly important positive birth stories are and I started to refuse to listen to anything negative and immerse myself in positive stories. For example, I have friend who talks about how she LOVED giving birth. I read books full of positive birth stories and books that explain how amazing our bodies are and how this is what they are designed to do. (Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth’ and Stand and Deliver-Emma Mahony’) I did pregnancy yoga and learnt a lot of breathing techniques and positions designed to help during labour. The teacher also taught hypo birthing and did do some of the meditations at the end of the class. I had no idea what hypo birthing was previously and thought it was something to do with being hypnotised. It’s not! If we have another baby I will definitely be investigating it more.
I was sure Zara was going to arrive early and had been on tenterhooks for at least a week before the due date. I did have quite a lot of cramping pains in the last couple of weeks before she was born and had a few times I thought maybe something was happening. I was in Sainsburys one afternoon and suddenly felt as though I was wetting myself. It was only a little bit and I genuinely was completely confused as to what had happened. It was enough to alert my attention but not enough to stop me going to the check out and purchasing what was in my basket. There was nothing on the floor but I did need to change my underwear and trousers when I got home. I phoned my husband and phoned the labour line. The midwife I spoke to insisted that if my waters had broken I would definitely know about it. I was still unsure so just assumed they hadn’t. Who knows that I thought had happened. I’m not in the habit of wetting myself!
That evening I had a few cramps and by the time we were going to bed they were getting a bit uncomfortable. I tried to sleep for a while and maybe got a couple of hours but woke up at around 2am with definite pains. I went downstairs and sat on my yoga ball watching Gossip Girl. At this point I was pretty sure they were contractions. I wish I’d written this earlier as I cannot really remember the details. I don’t know how far apart they were but they weren’t particularly painful. At 6am I woke Dan up and I called the birth centre again. They said to come in and get checked out as we weren’t sure if my waters had broken. Dan insisted he needed to have a shower first. We arrived at the birth centre around 6.30am and we were seen straight away. A midwife examined me and they couldn’t work out whether my waters had broken or not. The contractions were perfectly manageable and I wasn’t in a lot of pain so they sent me back home. That was fine by me. I wanted to say at home as long as possible. I had a TENS machine whilst I was at home. I have no idea if it helped at all as I cannot compare the pain without one but I quite liked using it.
We chilled out watching Michael Macintyre but mid morning I got a call from the birth centre asking me to go back in as they wanted to check again to see if my waters had broken. We went back in around 11 and saw a different midwife. It was agreed that my waters had broken and then she told me that due to a risk of infection they would want the baby to have been born within 24 hours of the waters breaking. She suggested that I went to the main hospital and was induced. The difficult thing was she said it was my choice but it was what she would strongly suggest. Obviously I wanted the best for the baby but I also desperately didn’t want to go to the hospital and didn’t want to be induced. I ended up agreeing to see how things went over the next couple of hours and if things weren’t moving at all I would go.
We went back home, continued watching Michael Macintyre and ate some lunch. From what I can remember the contractions seemed to suddenly get more painful and closer together. Dan phoned the hospital back with me screeching at him that there was no way I was getting in a car because I couldn’t bear to keep still. Fortunately we only live a few minutes drive from the birth centre. I sat in the car counting the number of seconds in each contraction so I knew when the pain would go away. That was what got me through the whole labour. It’s funny, I always used to count when I was running. I’d tell myself I only had to run until I’d counted to 300 and things like that. I also used to really like knowing how many seconds were left for an exercise in circuits classes.
At the birth centre we went straight to one of the labour rooms. A very quick examination showed I was already 7cm dilated. I remember faffing about with my brand new tankini I’d bought especially for the occasion and then throwing it on the floor and walking over to the pool half heartedly covered in a sheet from the bed! I think that was the last moment I remotely cared what anyone was thinking. I loved being in the pool. I did have gas and air but Dan dropped it in the pool and I honestly don’t think it worked properly after that. I didn’t feel any effect at all. I counted the seconds in each contraction. I knew how long each one was going to be and counting and knowing when it was going to end really helped me. We had music playing and the midwife and her student kept their distance, just coming over when they needed to do any checks. I barely noticed them. Dan sat next to me and I think I mostly just kept telling him I couldn’t do it and moaned that it was taking ages. I drank a lot of cold water and kept rubbing my head on the side of the pool (my forehead was really bruised the next day and was genuinely the most painful thing after labour). I remember getting cross with Dan because he was trying to make the music work and I wanted him to sit with me. He also kept trying to make me eat mini cheddars and I didn’t want any.
When I started to feel the need to push I remember telling the midwife ‘something was happening’. The pushing bit did feel like it was going on forever. I kept saying it wasn’t working. The midwife kept telling me to stop saying negative things but actually when I said something negative someone would say something positive and reassuring afterwards and that was what I needed to hear. Maybe if we have another I need to tell people around me to just randomly keep repeating positive things. When the midwives knew it was nearly time they did things like get the heated towels ready and I loved that. Hearing them making plans for when the baby was out was really encouraging.
When Zara was born and the midwife brought her out of the water my first words were to ask if she was a girl or boy. Dan said a boy! She was all tangled up in the umbilical chord and it was a bit confusing. The midwife correct him. I held her and asked Dan ‘Is she Zara?’ We knew if we had a girl she would be called Zara and she just seemed like a Zara straight away. The lights were really low and she had really dark skin and lots of dark hair. Zara was 8lbs14 and I had no tears!
I wanted to get out of the pool quite soon after she was born. My original plan was to wait for the placenta to come naturally but I just wanted it over with so asked for the injection. To be honest, this was the hardest part of labour for me. I wasn’t expecting more contractions and more pain after the baby was born. I found the contractions before the placenta came out really painful and couldn’t bear being still holding Zara. I just wanted to look at her but I was so uncomfortable and getting quite stressed. I had to give her to Dan for a little while to hold. To stay at the birth centre and not get transferred to hospital the placenta has to come out one hour after the birth of the baby. Mine came out after 57 minutes! It was a close call.
I had a shower and we were moved to the post natal room. The nice thing about the birth centre is that you get your own room and they make up a bed for the dad. They made us tea and toast although I sent Dan out to tesco to get more food! I feel awful now that I made him trot off to the shop the evening his daughter had been born but all I wanted was food and the birth centre doesn’t do full meals.
Looking back now I wish we’d taken more photos. The midwife had to actually ask us if we wanted a photo after she was born.
I’ve really enjoyed looking back and writing this. I love reading birth stories. I’ve been listening to Gi Fletcher’s Happy Mum Happy Baby Podcasts (I’d definitely recommend them) and she was talking to Clemmie Hooper. She mentioned her blog and how she has a collection of birth stories on there so if you are a fan of birth stories you should check it out. If any other bloggers have a birth story to share then please do link it in the comments.
Thanks for reading. XX