This was my fourth pregnancy as unfortunately I had three previous consecutive miscarriages over the 18 months previous. So it had been quite a journey! We had a wonderful outdoor wedding at Hilltop Country House in Prestbury and then went off to the south of France for 2 weeks on honeymoon. The little life growing inside me remained our special secret until our return to the UK. Due to our previous history our parents would’ve only worried had we told them! We tried to remain positive and enjoy our honeymoon, (although nausea, constipation and extreme exhaustion had other ideas!). On returning from Honeymoon we went for an early scan, at 10 weeks, up at Leighton Hospital. I was terrified. I was so anxious. We had been at the Early Pregnancy Unit thrice before and had only ever had bad news. My husband and my mum came with us. I felt so sick and worked myself up into a panic so they got me in quick. It was good news! There was the little heartbeat on the screen and a baby shaped blob wriggling about in there! Thank you Mother Nature, all was fine! I cried tears of joy and my Husband held my hand tight. “Hello little one” I said as I touched the screen in disbelief.
Three weeks later we were back at Leighton for our 12 week scan (actually at 13wks and 1day). On route to the hospital I began to feel anxious and felt my pulse rate rise. This state is alien to me as I am normally always so chilled! The closer we got to the hospital the more I began to lose it. Then we didn’t have the right money for the car park, the car park was full, we were now late, oh gosh, I was now in a state of panic! We eventually got in there and it actually didn’t matter that we were late as we ended up having to wait over an hour anyway! We had had to spend the change we had for our scan pictures on the car park and so I was worried we wouldn’t get any photographs of the scan to take home. A lovely lady overheard me asking the receptionist for change for our £10 note (she didn’t have any) and she very kindly gave us £3 for a picture, a lovely act of kindness.
We were called in for the scan. I managed to keep a lid on it and sure enough, there, on the screen, was our little baby wriggling about and all was well. We were overcome with joy! Baby was fine and growing well.
Unfortunately our experience with the community midwife was not a positive one. At our booking appointment she had the wrong notes up on the screen, barely looked at us, and made us feel very uncomfortable and rather ‘conveyer belt’. My husband might as well have not even been in the room as he was made to feel very left out of the ‘process’. Our appointment was rushed and she barely asked us the questions before pretty much answering them for us! There was no care and attention. I wasn’t impressed and thought that there just had to be an alternative. I researched independent midwives and discovered their service could cost anything from £3000-£5000! Rather out of our budget. And then I discovered One to One Midwives. I was in Crewe town centre and wandered past the shop, I was about 20 weeks pregnant and decided to go in and ask what it was all about, and I am just so, so glad I did wander in that day.
All appointments took place in the comfort of our own home, no more stressful anxiety inducing trips to hospital and ridiculous parking fees. Our appointments were so relaxed and informal and lasted between one and two hours. No rushing, no ‘conveyer belt’ and my Husband was very much included in the whole experience. We chatted over a brew and biscuits and I lay on my sofa whilst my midwife had a feel and a listen to baby. I finally felt like I was understood, and that my ideals of how birth should be were actually correct and normal. I openly expressed my wishes to have a natural home birth from the offset and the ideas that I had for my birth plan were greeted with open arms and a listening ear as well as backed up with a wealth of professional knowledge. I was accepted. I hadn’t felt this with the hospital service; I had always felt like my ideas were frowned upon, abnormal and strange, when all I wanted was just a calm and natural, normal, happy, drug free birth in my own home. Not much to ask for really! I immediately felt ‘at home’ with the one2one service and most importantly I felt listened to and safe.
Throughout my life I have practiced mindfulness, positive thinking and yoga as a life choice and so when it came to pregnancy and birth my only option was to use the power of the mind and work with my amazing body. I discovered Hypnobirthing and was elated that my ideology was actually not abnormal, quite the opposite in fact. This holistic and natural approach to birth teaches that birth is a totally normal and natural process, and what the body and mind can achieve when working in unison will blow your mind. It also really helps to prepare the man in your life for labour and birth, and gives him a specific role in labour, allowing him to feel more confident and involved. It involves focusing and quietening he mind, eliminating any fear and trusting the body and allowing it to take over and perform its miracles.
Hypnobirthing methods prepared me for the most incredible positive labour and birth.
We collected our birthing pool around my ‘expected due date’ and set it up in the dining room. I had my positive affirmations for labour stuck up on the walls and prepared my ‘birth box’, candles, music and meditations for labour.
My ‘due date’ came and went and I kept myself busy and active with walks to the shop, swimming 70 lengths twice a week, baking, watching chick flicks and preparing meals and freezing them for the days immediately following birth, (I definitely recommend you do this as it really saved us!) I was one of the lucky ones who was barely affected by pregnancy. Minimal nausea very early on was about the extent of my symptoms. My key to a healthy pregnancy and birth is definitely positivity, keeping fit and active throughout, and eating and drinking really well. You wouldn’t run a marathon without any training!
At 40+5 on Friday 7th April my husband and I were just heading to bed about midnight when I knew something had changed. My Braxton Hicks external tightenings had now become more distinct internal tightenings. I lay there for an hour or so then decided to wake my husband. We got up and called our midwife. Her advice, which I was very grateful for, was to try and rest as much as possible in this latent phase and eat and drink well. We did just that. We went back to bed and managed to get some sleep. The next day, Saturday, I was breathing through my surges as they came, quite sporadic at this point, focusing and using my hypnobirthing breathing techniques. It was a lovely sunny day. We went to Aldi to get in a few last minute bits and pieces and we decided to have a BBQ (or Bay-B-Q as we have re-named it!) I was in my ‘zone’. My husband, Gavin, mowed the grass and cooked the BBQ as I did some yoga on the lawn and bounced on my ball, and re-read some of the relaxations in my Hypnobirthing book (as well as reading some of David Walliams’ autobiography for a giggle!).
We went to bed on the Saturday night but at 2am things were starting to really heat up. I got up at 3am and ran a bath. I lit my candles and burnt some lavender oil. Breathing through my surges and listening to my hypnosis for day of birth, at 4am I called my midwife again to update her. She was amazing and reassured me we were well on the way. She assessed my progress by asking questions and told me she was ready to come over whenever we felt we needed her. At this point I felt my husband and I were doing a good job and we told our midwife to get some more sleep and we would call again later.
I got out of the bath and made myself a big bowl of porridge with dates, banana and linseed. My husband and I managed to get some more sleep on the sofa, sleeping when I could was definitely my saving grace, highly recommended!
By 8.30am things were becoming quite intense and I was truly in the zone. Surges were frequent and lasting around 1 minute and so my husband began to fill the pool. My contraction timer app on my phone was really useful. I stayed focused and with my headphones in I used my birthing ball and a warm lavender wheat bag to help with surges. The pool took about an hour to fill. It was too hot at first and when I first got in the first surge that came was different, and a real shock! We called the midwife, it was time for her to come. Things then relaxed and slowed a bit, giving me a bit of a well-earned break really! It was turning into the hottest day of the year so far and so my candles and fairy lights were redundant but the fan was much appreciated! My mum and 14 year old little sister arrived at about the same time as our midwife, 10.30am ish, shortly followed by my mother-in-law. We had invited them to be at the birth with us, and had bought them both a copy of the KG Hypnobirthing book for Christmas so they would understand and support our birth plan.
In between surges I chatted with my sister, explaining what surges were and what was happening internally. A great biology lesson!
At about 12.30pm my midwife suggested I get out of the pool for a walk about (I knew her reasoning for this, it was definitely going to get things moving!) All through my labour my midwife was calm and professional and only ever suggested, at no point was I told what to do. She went about her checks and notes inconspicuously and was there for reassurance when needed by repeating positive affirmations, telling me all was normal and offering kind words of encouragement. She allowed myself and Gavin to really feel safe and in control. Sure enough a walk around the house and a cuddle with Gavin allowed things to progress. At about 13.15, whilst leaning over my birthing ball in the lounge whilst my mum offered everyone beef stew and with Bargain Hunt on in the background, my membranes released! My midwife showed Gavin the ‘purple line’ (a non-intrusive way to check cervix dilation) and then noticed we had a head starting to appear and so suggested we make our way back into the pool pronto! I told Gavin to strip off to his trunks and jump in quickly! Sammy, our MaMa arrived and took over from my sister as photographer, and at 13.53 our little girl, Delilah Rose, floated gently into the world caught by her Daddy, Gavin, with the amazing guidance and support of our midwife, Lucy.
She was straight away placed on my chest in the pool and Gavin and I lay with her for half an hour/40 mins or so, enjoying these special first moments of her life. There was no rushing, no whipping her away to wash and weigh her etc. Lucy was amazing at performing her APGAR assessments etc. so discreetly that she didn’t interfere with our first special moments. The placenta was birthed easily and completely as I was getting out of the pool. We moved to the lounge where Lucy and Sammy had prepared the sofa for us. Another midwife, Julia, also arrived to support, and everything was cleaned up and organised without me even noticing!
Lucy then showed us the placenta in detail, explaining where baby had been living for the last 9 months, an amazing organ which deserved respect. I decided I wanted to try my placenta and make a smoothie with it (that Lucy came back to help me make the following day). We did have fun making it, and made enough for me to sip at over the next few days. It was surprisingly yummy! Couldn’t really taste placenta at all, just make sure you use a load of red fruits and yoghurt if you decide to make one!
So, Delilah began to ‘breast crawl’ and I guided her to my nipple where she took her first feed. Gavin also had skin-to-skin with her and she proceeded to do her first meconium poop all over us!
After the cord had completely finished pulsating and had gone white, we were offered to cut it. We did it together and Lucy attached our little daisy crotched cord tie. She was then weighed, 7lb exactly and we requested to measure her length too (not protocol anymore but we were interested to know).
Lucy and Sammy stayed with us for a good couple of hours after Delilah’s birth to offer their support and be part of our magical moments. They explained what to do if we needed them or had any concerns and told us they would be back tomorrow to see how we were getting on and to clean up and take the pool etc away.
I want to shout it from the rooftops that birth is normal, and doesn’t have to be medicalised. Birth is not the painful, scary process that you see dramatized on ‘One born every minute’. I want to empower other women to realise they do have a choice and can achieve the positive, happy birth they strive for.