Monday, 5 September 2011

Birth Stories 3


I had a wonderful few days with my partner trying to bring on labour. My waters broke on the Sunday and by the Wednesday still nothing had happened. We went for windy spring walks along the seafront in Hove where a ship load of wood had just been washed up on the beach. We had curry, pineapple, sex, jumping up and down and acupuncture. Nothing happened.

The flat was spotless. The sitting room was one large bed. A pool had been borrowed but not set up. I went into hospital for a checkup and the doctor reacted very strongly indeed to the fact that we had left it so long since the waters broke. He wanted me to stay in and be induced immediately. I was told I was risking the baby’s health by waiting a moment longer.

Greg drove anxiously home to get my stuff. I waited in an empty room for him to come back not knowing what would happen next. I didn't want to see the doctor again until Greg was safely there by my side. We had been wrapped up wonderfully in our little bubble for the last week.

Later, I remember the epidural wearing off because they had to take the line out for some reason and they forgot to put it back in – suddenly I was in the full blown pain of labour. The female doctor took a look and told me the baby's head was turned. I had an hour more, she said, to try and turn the head before they would try forceps or……

In the end I was taken in for an 'emergency caesarian'. I lay on my back, ‘please be gentle with me.’ I remember looking up at the female doctor at one point and she had my blood up to her elbows and spatterings of it on her protective goggles. My baby girl was pulled out of me and she was fine. I was over the moon – once you have your baby and she was healthy and everyone was fine – it doesn't really matter any more.


Crossing the seafront road we pass Henry Allingham – 1st World War survivor and the world’s oldest man – leaving in his funeral hearse. In 2 hours time she will arrive.

At the lowest most impossible point, when I absurdly, mulishly say ‘I can’t do it, I can’t’, the quiet watchful midwife with the beautiful cow-brown eyes speaks, ‘I see lots of dark hair. Feel’. I reach down into the pool and feel - between my legs the clotted tendrils of her hair float free. It feels the way seaweed feels, brushing my legs when I swim. Now, everything is certain.

I plunge and plunge and I’m the only one there until she is here and I grip her greasy duck-down body, her head above the water between my breasts, and look into an open howling mouth at some hardy gums.

Curiously, the first thought I have is: ‘That is where her teeth will be’. And I think what I meant was – in that shocked moment – ‘She will eat. She will speak. She will laugh. She will sing. She exists.’

Birth Stories 2


It was approximately 11am when my midwife arrived. She came straight into the bathroom to try to gently coerce me out of the bath water. There was no way I could move, I was not able to get up. I wanted to stay in the water, it felt like mercy. I knew the baby was coming soon, I needed to stay in the water, I needed to push.

“You need to relax, dear. Your baby is not coming for some time yet. If you get out of the bath, I will be able to examine you to see how things are progressing.”

I could not believe it. Her words cut straight through my confusion. Suddenly I became very scared. If this was the early latent phase, then I knew I would certainly not be able to cope with the later stages of labour. It was already so intense, so overwhelming I would not be able to continue like this for hours.

Eventually I was able to stand and, leaning heavily on G’s strength, I walked over to the bedroom and lay down. I was crying and deflated as I opened my legs for Steph to examine me. I needed to calm myself down, to find a way to get through the early phase of labour. I drew on my inner strength and the guidance from hypno birthing. Perhaps I had been overconfident to believe that I was capable of getting through childbirth at home, with no interventions other than breathing and love. I began to have doubts, to wonder if I was strong enough to cope.

G and I had decided to try for a home birth. We spent the weeks leading up to the birth attending antenatal workshops, preparing ourselves physically and mentally to cope with the arrival of our baby. We both wanted to share the experience with our parents, in the comfort and safety of our flat. We bought a birth pool, prepared the bedroom for resting. We were excited, but relaxed. I was jittery with third trimester nerves whilst G remained outwardly calm and level headed. After all, first babies are always at least 10 days later than their due date. We knew we had lots of time to prepare to buy all the necessary bits and pieces.

So without concern we went to bed on the 8th. March in the comfort and knowledge that we had time. We would go out to buy nappies and a blanket later that week. We would test out the pool some time tomorrow, and possibly even go out for drinks with some friends that evening.

For these reasons, when I woke on the morning of the 9th. March with cramps, I was sure that I had constipation. It was quite a surprise when we both finally realized that the cramps were minutes apart and I was in labour. At 7am., the process had begun. By 9.30a.m. I was unable to move. I rocked on the bed, hugging my knees with my head in G’s lap. We were confused, it was all happening so quickly.

We finally decided to ring the maternity ward to give them the co-ordinates. Needless to say, they calmly suggested I take two paracetamol and go for a walk or soak in a hot bath. And that is how I came to be stuck in a cold, shallow bathtub for an hour and forty five minutes.

G called for a midwife to come and help, because he was unable to keep count of the contractions. It was too erratic so we asked for someone to come along to make an assessment. As my birthing partner, G was tasked with the important job of keeping count. As my soulmate, he was my strength, the keeper of the space. Ready to solve, ready to count contractions, ready to light the candles, burn the essential oils, fill the pool, monitor the temperature. He was ready to hold me up, lay me down, ready to speak for me, to sing for me or leave for me if I called for it. However, it just so happened that at that point, he was not quite ready for what happened next. Through gritted teeth, I demanded that he ‘get someone who knows what the fuck is going on!’. And that is how Steph came to my rescue.

To my infinite relief, after the internal examination, I recall Steph’s voice uttering words to G I shall never forget: ‘Here are my car keys, please fetch my bag, and be quick, the baby is coming now!’ I was ten centimetres dilated, and the baby, Ella, was ready to be born.

There was no time for the pool, not time for candles, oils or music. I manoeuvred to the floor, leaded against G and helped the baby birth on dry land. By 12.47 she was born, by 1.47 the placenta was out. Unfortunately the cord was very short so it had to be cut, freeing Ella from the comfort of the placenta shortly after her birth. I was then able to reach her up to my chest. I watched in awe of the majestic power of mother nature as her swollen lips suckled on my breast for the first time.

Five hours after her descent began through the birth canal, Ella lay with her bare skin touching mine. Breathing against my chest, totally content.

Birth Stories 1

1. Kirsty

I’ve been meaning to write my birth story since my little girl was born, but those first 8 weeks were so full on and then you’re in a situation where you’re enjoying the subtle shift to a place with a little more space, psychologically and before you know it the intention to write comes when she’s needing you. Why do I never remember when she’s napping. Too many other activities competing for that gap. So here I am in a coffee shop, little one asleep for who knows how long and I’m writing it. Where does a birth story start? What the medics call active labour. It can’t have been a female who thought that idea up. On my due date I had menstrual like cramps as I walked around town. Oh, I hear her now, a little murmur from the pram announcing that ‘I’m here, I’m awake’. So now here she is, sat on my left knee as I write, coffee going cold. This is how it is. I think this’ll come in instalments.

2. Ellen

I remember it as a wonderful magical experience – it sits outside any other experience I’ve ever had, a unique bizarre experience. A place where time stops for 48 hours. Just for us, the world stopped for Mark and I, so we could bear our son. So I must have already forgotten the pain, it’s already blurred at the edges, my body has forgotten the sensation. I remember being scared of every single contraction though and 14 hours in, thinking it would never end. I just wanted to stop and sleep, there was no way I was ever going to push this baby out. I remember between contractions being total bliss, lying in the birth pool, the room being flooded in light, with huge windows. Gazing at the midwife and the student, being held from behind by Mark. I was rushing on pure endorphins, loved up like I had been dancing in nightclubs 10 years before. His arrival was just utter exhaustion, bewilderment, shock, disorientation. Here was this huge battered and bruised baby lying across my breast, peering out of swollen eyes at me. I got them to give me a copy of the notes of the birth. It’s quite amazing for looking back at, see what happened. I think it’s more moving than what I’ve written. This is what was written ‘Delivery of live male infant. Delivered onto mother’s abdomen. Dried, stimulated, cried at birth. Clean towel, cord clamped, cut by Mark. Baby skin to skin with mother, placed across breast.