Reading lots of positive birth stories, from a variety of journeys and experiences is so helpful when preparing for your birth. People will be quick to relay their labour horror stories, but avoiding these and reading all the positive birth stories you can, from a variety of experiences is invaluable.
All births are different
A positive birth story isn’t necessarily a “perfect” straight forward birth; a positive birth is one in which your decisions and feelings were listened to and honoured even if the path of labour didn’t run smoothly.
It is one where you felt in control, knowing that you did everything you could and even if the journey didn’t go to plan what happened was for the absolute best.
The experience I had with my daughter was a world away from the experience with my son. Whilst they were both straight forward on paper until the end, how I felt about my second birth so different.
The difference between the two experiences was knowledge. Education provided the tools and confidence to make choices, whereas I didn’t feel like I had any choices the first time.
Empowered to make choices
I went to my scheduled 41 week midwife appt. on Mon 25 July. I had been getting irregular contractions for a few days by then, and earlier that morning had a bit of a show so I thought things were heading in the right direction.
At the appointment my blood pressure was raised so the midwife advised that I go to Barnet Maternity Day Unit to be checked over. She warned me that I’d likely be admitted and not leave before baby was born. This sent up a red flag immediately and I started mentally preparing to fight for my wishes. I was desperate for my birth to be at Edgware Birth Centre and not back at Barnet where I’d had a previous traumatic delivery.
At Barnet (having called my husband home from work), we were monitored for an hour. My blood pressure went down during this time, but both our heart rates were too high. Hers settled into a nice pattern after a while, so they sent me for a walk and to eat for around an hour.
I went back on the monitor for another hour and both our heart rates had settled. The midwife looking after me could see that I was having quite regular contractions at that point, from the trace reading, but I knew they weren’t that big.
Although I was using my centred breath throughout them, I could have held a conversation during them if I needed to. I was just trying to focus on reducing my heart rate and relax so I could go home!
A midwife persuaded me to have my cervix checked before I left (with the promise of coming back in two days for a blood pressure check and to book in for an induction) so I could gauge how quickly I’d need to call in when contractions got stronger. Several midwives suggested a sweep several times, which I declined as I felt that things would happen by themselves.
I was also planning to call my community midwife the next day to discuss induction. I knew that I wouldn’t get to 42 weeks as I had a suspicion that things weren’t too far away. But I know that having a looming date would put pressure on and it was something I really wanted to avoid.
A calm, active labour
When I had a vaginal examination at 9pm, I was 1.5cm dilated but my cervix was still 1cm long and quite firm. I was convinced that nothing would even progress that night, which actually I was thankful for as I really wanted some sleep!
We got home at around 10.30pm and I tried to go to sleep but my contractions were getting stronger. I think the instant relief and relaxation of getting home sent a signal to my body that things were safe to progress!
I made my husband put the TENS machine on about 12am with the vain hope I’d still sleep (they were coming every 5min or so) but I was struggling by that point to use the centred breath through them.
Once the TENS machine was on, I felt much more in control. I realised that by giving up on sleep, getting up, putting on my Daisy music (through headphones so as not to wake my son), moving around, doing gentle rotations, leaning forward during contractions, and using the Escalator Breath things felt a lot easier.
Paul made a call to my mum to come and look after our son, as he knew that things were happening – I was blissfully unaware and quite relaxed.
By 1.15am Paul made me phone the midwife as contractions were coming every 3min and strong, but I was convinced I was ages away still. As an on-call community midwife was coming directly to Edgware from home they’d told me it was better to call early. The midwife said that she would leave immediately and meet us there.
The power of breathing
At 2.30am I was at Edgware Birth Centre. The beauty of a standalone birth centre was that the place was completely empty apart from me, Paul and my midwife Terri.
My blood pressure and our heart rates were perfect, and after agreeing to a vaginal examination we discovered that my cervix was 2-3cm dilated, soft and completely effaced. My body had done a lot of work in just a few hours after getting home from the hospital that evening.
Terri, the midwife, gave us a choice to stay or go home as she’d already filled up the pool. Luckily, we chose to stay as I couldn’t even make it down the corridor to help fetch our bags from the car as everything had just ramped up even more!
I was coping fine with the TENS machine and using the Escalator Breath, although I had started gravitating lower towards the floor with each contraction, so I thought I was nearing established labour by about 3.30am.
Terri disappeared at this point to hurry the other two midwives (one student). However, I didn’t click that anything significant was happening as I was still laughing about how hungry I was in between contractions, but never having enough time to actually eat!
A slow, calm, instinctual delivery
Terri had suggested using the pool for delivery to avoid another bad tear like I’d had with my son. At this point she had mentioned using the pool a few times, so I got in. She could obviously tell I was close; if I wasn’t I would have got out and gone back to using the TENS as I didn’t actually find the pool that comfortable!
I kept instinctively pushing during contractions, so I told Terri and she said go with it as it was either my waters bulging and about to go, or it was the head. Before I knew it two other midwives and my second birth partner had arrived, and they started setting everything up for the baby’s arrival.
Once a midwife managed to persuade me to open my legs to have a look she told me that she could see the head and to keep following my body.
I’d be using the Out Breath near the end of every contraction rather than all the way through. This is what my body was telling me to do, but we also specifically wanted the delivery to be as slow as possible to avoid adding pressure to my existing scar tissue.
Listening to my body
It was amazing to be able to listen to my body the whole way through labour but particularly during the delivery stage. To slowly allow baby to descend using the Out Breath the way I felt I needed to, and to feel baby wriggle around when she was releasing her shoulders was so bizarre. It was nothing like the controlled pushing from my first labour! The delivery was so calm that she was born in her sac!
Evie was delivered at 4.25am on Tuesday 26th July 2016, weighing 8lbs 3oz, so very quickly from start to finish but it was exactly what I wanted and a world away from my first birth and we were home as a family of 4 just 12hrs later!
I honestly cannot thank The Daisy Foundation enough, as a mum, for giving me the tools and the confidence to achieve the most amazing, healing birth! I had a 3rd degree tear with my son and didn’t have the best experience, so to have a completely different experience with my second was so healing.
I felt in control almost all of the time, and thanks to the knowledge of the birth and labour process I felt so relaxed the whole time. Had it not been for my knowledge that I’d gained as a Daisy teacher, my birth experience could have gone very differently.
I understood, that at the Day Assessment Unit, there were no time imperative decisions. I agreed to talking about induction to get the midwife off my back so I could go home, knowing full well in my body that I would have declined.
This is what I hope for your birth. That you have the confidence to trust your body and your baby, and to make the decisions that work best for you. Not from a place of fear, but from a place of knowledge and empowerment.