I woke up at 2am on 30thMay with what I interpreted as the beginnings of labour – contractions that felt a bit more intense than the ‘twinges’ I’d been having beforehand. I was sleeping in Martha’s room – Martha and Charlie were in our room. This was the best arrangement because it gave me a bit of space. The contractions were few and far between and I was able to doze and listen to a hypnobirthing track or two. By 6am I was sure things were happening and called Maternity Triage at the hospital to let them know I’d started having contractions but no show or waters. Charlie heard my voice and got up – we were very excited but knew it was just early stages. Charlie walked Juno (our dog) and I had a bath and when Martha (6 years old) got up we told her things had started. She was very excited and pleased that she’d predicted the right date that the baby was going to come (also her due date – apparently only 5% of babies arrive on their due date). We had pancakes and bananas for breakfast.
I can’t really remember that well how the day passed. I tried to rest, keep hydrated and well fed. Late morning we decided that a walk would be a good plan so we all headed off to Sissinghurst woods with Juno. Charlie and Martha did their usual mucking around and playing ‘it’ and I waddled along, holding onto a tree or Charlie when I had a contraction.
I’d made contact with Nell (who was due to come and help us with Martha and with the birth) Nell is my closest friend and I attended the birth of her daughter in 2013.
I don’t remember that much about the day. The contractions throughout were very irregular in frequency, duration and intensity. I wonder if the bath and the hypnobirthing made me very relaxed and slowed things down a bit. I was using an app to time contractions – this gave me information but perhaps prevented me from just letting go and allowing the birth to unfold without being too conscious of time passing. Charlie had filled the bottom third of the birthing pool by mid-morning.
Nell arrived around 16.30 – it was lovely to see her and hang out together for a while – she was amazingly supportive. We spent some time in the garden, because that seemed to bring on the contractions (oxytocin-inducing flowers and veg patch). Walking up and downstairs had the same effect. Sitting still or kneeling had the opposite effect. Martha was on and off the scene – she brought me cool flannels and snacks, including the 2ndstrawberry of the year from the garden. She also took a dip in the birthing pool, about which she was absolutely delighted (my water baby)!
Things ramped up during the evening and I retreated to Martha’s room, which was the darkest in the house. It’s clear that I went through transition here. I’d been breathing through contractions and relaxing my shoulders and jaw but felt rising anxiety that the contractions were getting too strong for me to remain so controlled – I felt like they might overwhelm me somehow. Because things had been going on so long I was very tired and anxious about having enough energy to get through. I didn’t want to end up at the hospital!! I was desperate for the midwife to arrive. She did (around 21.00) and she was really, really lovely – Lynne. She listened to the baby’s heartbeat, took my blood pressure, pulse and examined me internally (she dislodged some show too). I was 6cm dilated and she said I could get in the pool. Joy!!!!!! My lovely pool attendant Charlie had made sure it was ready.
I got in, put my hypnobirthing track on and felt such relief. The contractions got more intense and soon I found myself bearing down. I wanted to hold on tight to Charlie’s hands for every contraction – I was on my knees leaning on the edge of the pool. Stretching out one leg behind me provided some relief. I remember groaning a fair bit. It was amazing feeling my body pushing the baby out – I wasn’t pushing consciously, I was really feeling the pushing from my uterus. It was quite remarkable!
At one point I felt like a blew a balloon out of my vagina – this was the outer layer of the amniotic sac that hadn’t yet broken – it wafted around in the water. Lynne said, ‘have we got a head?’ – obviously surprised. I remember asking in a bit of a panic ‘what’s happening, what’s happening’ because it didn’t feel like a head to me and I felt concerned about what it was. I also felt like I’d had a poo and was self conscious about this because I knew everybody was behind me. The midwife explained what had happened but soon after I felt the head of my baby coming down to the bottom of the birth canal. The sac broke as the baby’s head was born. The baby wiggled around a lot when the head was out but the body still in – a very strange sensation but it made me feel really happy to know that the baby was ok. The heart rate had been perfect all along Lynne monitored it as the baby moved from my right hand side, into the middle and down.
Then she was born. Lynne caught her (because it all happened so quickly) and brought her up through my legs and into my arms. The umbilical cord seemed quite short again (as with Martha). We didn’t look at the baby’s gender immediately – I had a cuddle with her and Lynne was trying to get her to move but she seemed in shock. She had gasped when she came out of the water and was still getting oxygen from the pulsing cord so we weren’t too worried. Lynne rubbed her face and chest quite vigorously and she started to make little noises. We cuddled and had a few photos. We also looked and she was a girl so we welcomed Juniper into the world!
Lynne said we needed to be concerned if we could no longer see my feet because of the blood. As the cord was still pulsing we didn’t want to cut it yet so I stayed in the pool a little longer but there was more blood. Lynne asked if the cord was still pulsing and, as it was, I asked if I could get out of the pool with Juniper still attached to assess the bleeding. So that’s what we did. I climbed out of the pool and onto the sofa. It soon became clear that the bleeding wasn’t a problem. The cord stopped pulsing so Lynne clamped it and Charlie cut the cord.
Juniper then suckled on me quite easily and naturally. This caused my uterus to contract, which was quite painful. When I was ready Lynne suggested we use the contractions to deliver the placenta – Juniper went for some skin to skin time with her daddy. I sat up and pushed with half of my bottom on the sofa and the other half raised. It was like giving birth to a big plate of jelly. Sally took the placenta to examine it, showing Nell the different parts, and declared it to be really rather large. After this Lynne inspected me for any tears and said I had a very small tear that didn’t need suturing as it could heal naturally.
Then it was time for cuddles all round (Charlie, me, Nell), more suckling, photos and fizzy wine. Also, the weighing of the baby! She was 7lbs14oz – bit bigger than Martha had been. I was so happy that things had gone to plan thanks to some careful preparation and my amazing birth partners – Charlie, Nell and Martha – and midwives – Lynne and Sally.
I saw a friend the day before I gave birth, at 41weeks and 5 days not knowing what we were expecting. My friend commented on how much cake I was eating when I went in for 2nds to finish off her daughters. I was having low pains that day and she said I was ‘storing energy’ ready for labour to which I laughed. I noticed the pains more when I was walking around, so that evening me and my partner Andy went for a long walk around the park. I noticed the lower pains started to get stronger. I did gentle exercises on the birthing ball before bed which really helped my pelvic floor. Waking up a few hrs later at 2:30am to feel more lower pain, I wondered if this was the real thing as we had a false alarm the week before . I woke Andy and we decided for me to have a warm bath and take some paracetamol to see if this was the real deal this time. 4 hrs later the almost period like pains weren’t going away. We called the hospital and kept them informed of progress. We called our parents too and about an hr later Andy was telling me we were going in to hospital. I remember keeping track on an app for how far apart the contractions were and telling him we were going to be sent home as they weren’t far apart enough. When we got to hospital I was examined and was told I was 5cms dilated, to which point I realised I had not used the app properly ! We were taken straight to the delivery ward. I was on a birthing ball with gas and air by 8am and getting used to the pains of the contractions. My dad unexpectedly arrived much to my surprise, which made me feel even more at home at the hospital and was a great support for Andy . 4 hrs in and My back waters broke as I got onto the bed to be examined. I was 6/7cm
. My midwife Louise had to break my top waters to allow baby’s head to move down. I was back on the ball after feeling much more comfortable but the contractions instantly felt more intense and pressure was building. I no longer made conversation or small talk between contractions as I focused on my body. Louise asked if I needed anymore pain relief to which I eventually agreed to have an epidural. After the stint was put in my hand and I was back on the bed, the anaesthetise was in the room ready. I remember feeling my body pushing with a contraction unexpectedly. The anaesthetise told me not to push but I couldn’t help it and with another contraction and me saying I was pushing louise checked me again and said we were ready to have the baby. Hearing those words, I told her I couldn’t push. Like I suddenly froze and couldn’t do it. Louise reassured Me and Andy was telling me I had done so well and that I could do this. There was no time for an epidural and my dad had already left the room to give me and Andy this time to ourselves. Louise helped me into a comfortable position for pushing and with in about 20/30mins our gorgeous little boy arrived. A moment I will remember for the rest of my life was andy crying to me – it’s a boy, it’s a boy. Feeling my boy laying on my belling for the first time was priceless . All in all I laboured for 12 hrs and Harry was born weighing 8lb 2 at 14:10.
Where do you want to give birth?
How are you reaching that decision?
Who do you want with you?
How do you feel about induction?
What about pain relief?
Are you happy to have routine vaginal examinations?
What if you need an assisted birth? … or a caesarean birth?
Optimal Cord Clamping?
What are the options for delivery of the placenta?
The first hour with your baby?
“Birth Plans are not just idyllic wish lists lit by pretty tea-lights and trimmed with home-made bunting. A Birth Plan is a chance to take a detailed look at the huge number of choices and options available to you, to consider the many ways birth might unfold …” from the truly wonderful Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill (honestly, just buy it)
I meet lots of mums who’ve been told, quite rightly, that birth is unpredictable but so is life, that doesn’t mean we just drift through it without intention does it? So, if you’re someone who’s planning on just ‘winging it’ I’m here to tell you , you do so at your peril. There are things that you can do to maximize the chance of your baby’s birth being a positive experience, no matter what path it takes. It’s your responsibility to take the time to learn, question, understand so that you can make the right decisions for you and your baby.
The likelihood is that the midwife caring for you in labour will be someone who doesn’t know you. She will want to support you uniquely, but she’s not telepathic she’ll be delighted to have some guidance. Your partner is likely to be the person you really want advocating for you and knowing what you want/need inside out – having worked out Birth Plans together means he/she is going to be totally clued up.
Rather than being a vague list of how you picture your perfect birth, I’d like to encourage you to really, really think about it and maybe have a plan B too (or even Plans C, D etc.).
First of all worth bearing in mind that to guarantee that healthcare professionals supporting you during labour and birth actually read your plan it’s best if it’s short with bullet points. Midwives really want to support your wishes as best they can, but they’re really busy and marching in waving a laminated, weighty tome is unrealistic. Remember, you don’t need to put things like “dimmed lights, music, quiet …” because you’ll actually be there and be able to point these things out yourself. Rather, stick to things that are really, really important to you. Work out what’s non-negotiable and what you’re happy to compromise on. In particular concentrate on anything that might deviate from ‘standard’ care. Here’s an example.
Of course, it’s impossible to meticulously ‘plan’ a birth which is where Plans B, C etc. come in. Again – probably best not to present your midwife with ALL of your plans but have them ready to hand over if birth takes a different path and different discussions need to be had or decisions made.
Here are some considerations to have ironed out in case an unplanned caesarean is necessary (or for putting together a planned caesarean birth plan).
For speed and clarity build a ‘visual’ birth plan. You can download the icons from The Positive Birth Book for free here.
I appreciate that the process of doing these plans properly is going to take up a bit of time, but I also know how enormously beneficial it is for couples … any gaps in knowledge are going spring up – far better now than in the birthing room … you’ll both have time to get really informed on anything that you’re not sure about. The discussions that will arise between you will mean that you’re both on the same page when the time comes, understanding what’s important to you both and why … your birthing partner needs this knowledge and info (rather than it all just being in your head) in order to be able to confidently advocate for you. And, of course, any differences in opinion between the two of you are far better thrashed out now, with plenty of time for reflection, considerations and info. gathering.
So, there’s a pregnancy project for you … a really useful one. Any questions, gaps in knowledge that come up please, please get in touch. I have reams of info. that I can quickly ping over to you in an email totally free and I’m happy to do so.
Suggestions for a Caesarean Birth Plan
First of all, I have 3 tracks available specifically for mums planning a calm caesarean birth.
In the case of a planned caesarean birth here are some suggestions/questions that can be addressed beforehand. In fact, do remember that an ‘emergency’ caesarean is actually an ‘unplanned’ one – there’ll be time for discussion in this situation too. In the case of a ‘crash’ caesarean there will be no time for discussion and partners should be aware that they may need to wait outside the theatre. This is because there is a need for the baby to be born immediately and everything will happen very quickly – the baby will be born in a matter of minutes.
I would like a familiar midwife stay with me throughout the birth.
I’d like to know what’s happening, can someone give me a commentary?
I would/would not like the screen be lowered so that we can see our baby being born
Will our baby be born into bright lights or can this be avoided?
I would like the theatre be quiet at the moment of birth.
Can music be played during the birth?
I would like our baby be turned to face me as he/she is born.
Could someone take photos of the birth?
My partner & I would like to discover the sex of our baby.
I would like the cutting/clamping of the chord to be delayed until it has finished pulsating if everything is ok.
I would like my baby to passed straight to me for skin to skin
We would like the paediatrician to wait to check our baby until after we’ve had a cuddle
If I am not able to hold him/her I would like someone tell me what’s happening and make sure that I can see my baby all the time.
I would like to breastfeed while suturing takes place.
I would like my partner & baby to come with me into the recovery room.
If our baby needs to go to the Special Care Baby Unit, I would like my partner go with him/her.
If everything is well, the answer to most of these questions will be ‘Yes, of course’.
Pembury now try to carry out the Baby Friendly Caesarean – here is a link to their video clip with info. https://youtu.be/fR-39ITbJOQ
Jane’s Preferences Partner – John
Jane would like to use a birthing pool if one is available to labour in and maybe to birth her baby in (will decide at appropriate time).
Jane would like to have a vaginal birth with minimal intervention. She understands that there may be a need for medical staff to suggest intervention and would like the opportunity for discussion of any that may be deemed necessary if that is appropriate.
As such, she would prefer:
– to be left alone with John as much as possible.
– Intermittent monitoring
– No drip to be sited until necessary
– Jane’s aware of pain relief options and will ask for them if she wants them. Please don’t suggest.
– Physiological (Natural) third stage, no injection.
– Optimal Cord Clamping
– Baby to be passed straight to Jane once born.
– Skin to skin
– Jane & John to discover their baby’s sex themselves.
– Baby to have Vitamin K injection/Baby to be given Vitamin K orally
– John would like/would not like to cut the cord
I just wanted to get in touch with you to share the news of the birth of our perfect little son, Eli, who was born on Thursday at Pembury Hospital.
Following the hypnobirthing class we attended, my husband, Royden and I felt so much more assured and positive towards approaching this labour, however I still felt that the best thing to combat the long-term affects from my traumatic first labour was to go down the elective caesarean route. I followed your tracks designed for c-sections and found them to be reassuring and calming in both the lead up to the operation and during the event itself – particularly when receiving the spinal injection where I needed to be most calm and collected. Thank you so much for providing the skills that I needed to feel in-control and empowered in an environment where I could have actually been quite vulnerable.
Regarding the operation, I cannot speak more highly of the staff I encountered at Tunbridge Wells hospital. The theatre team were absolutely amazing – so informative, reassuring, well-humoured and accommodating. They knew what they were doing and worked with precision and confidence whilst making Royden and I feel very valued, and our experience special. We were told what was happening at every step and very much felt like our consent was of prime importance to them the whole way.
The actual birth of Eli was beautiful to me. At my request the screen was lowered so I could see him at the earliest opportunity- and although I heard him first (he has a big pair of lungs!) seeing him and being able to determine his sex ourselves was such a perfect moment for myself and Royden.
Unfortunately due to a litre of blood loss, I had to be monitored quite closely after labour and I suffered a few dizzy episodes- however I found the labour and postnatal team to be excellent with me and so patient. At no point did I feel rushed for a quick recovery and exit from hospital – I was given time and many opportunities to find my independence and confidence before making my way home. What an amazing midwifery team/obstetrics Tunbridge Wells has. We are so lucky.
Although I know c-section recovery is not a barrel of laughs and that I am only at the beginning of a fairly long journey back to normality, I truly feel that my positive experience has made the start of our life with Eli that little more manageable and enjoyable and that a family of four we are ready to take on the world!
Thank you Louise for helping me to think more positively and feel more self confidence. I would highly recommend anyone to take the time to really assess their options and prepare themselves for the most positive outcome- whatever path they may go down. It has certainly made a huge difference to us this time round!”