Two year ago this very day my darling, precious daughter was born. And now here is the story of her birth , for what other thing could I post today?!
I share it because I love to read birth stories. When I was pregnant, I would read story after story on HomebirthUk every lunchbreak, weeping hot, happy tears on my desk.
And I share it because it is a chance for me to reflect on it, and imagine what this coming baby’s entry to the world will be like.
So here it is. Be warned though, it is more mucous plug than modge podge recipe. So walk away now if you are in search of thrifty craft, walk away.
12th November 2010
It was my due date, hurrah! What better way to spend it then on a two hour bus journey through south London to eat lunch at Ikea with my nephews (my sister had to pick up a Swedish trinket) and then with my best friends and their kids for a big party for a small two year old. At the party my mucus plug began falling out and I was able to share this gross but fabulous detail with my lovely chums.
On the way home I approached the train station just before mine, and one part of my brain said “Get off the train early and march home, EVERYONE says you need to get moving to get Wrigglewriggle (our nephew name the womb-baby) wriggling on down.” My heart, a deep down instinct, though, said “STOP! Stay on the train, and then catch the bus straight to your door, you need to relax.” It was a 3 second dilemma and I opted for what seemed most rational and hot stepped it 3 miles home.
In hindsight, I will always question if choosing logic over intuition in that moment led to me having the labour and birth that didn’t match up to my home waterbirth ideal.
That evening I was so excited that even 3 hours of googling “mucous plug fall out” and “signs of labour” and the information that mucous plugs could loosen weeks before birth, could not quell my surety that babe was on the way.
Early the next morning, at 6am, I went to the loo and felt very wet in my pyjamas, I knew this was my waters breaking but tried to tell myself that I just wet my pants a little bit (as you do). I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I woke up at 8, read the Guardian and had a cuppa then got up to, well, go to the loo again. As I stood up an almighty gush of water poured out and just kept pouring, I felt like Mary Poppin’s hanbag – how could this much water possibly fit inside of me???!!! I delved into Wrigglewriggle’s awaiting pile of washable nappies and stuffed the liners into my undies and awaited our midwife and friend, Nikki.
Nikki had a coffee with us, heard that my waters were clear and not pink (or another colour which would be bad) and left us to it. She talked us through the NHS guidelines on waters breaking- you should go in to the hospital after 12 hours. However the “doubled risk” of infection only goes from 0.5% to 1% so we wanted to stay at home as long as possible. She was fully supportive. We were told to call when contractions begin.
The day passed by, cake with friends and a takeaway curry in the evening, delivered by a man who was the spitting image of Lionel Ritchie. It was that evening that my twinges turned into surges (hypnospeak for contractions) we had turned our lounge into a love cave with saris hung all over it, candles and my American hypnobirthing lady on the ipod. “Totally loooose and totalllly limp”. I will never again be able to hear the words totally, loose or limp again without her voice bursting in to my mind! I rocked on the birth ball, did some yoga moves, and thought about welcoming a baby in to the world – we reckoned on being parents by dawn.
My surges grew in their intensity but didn’t get closer together for some time. I was torn between doing a lot of physical activity to keep them coming and resting in order to conserve my energy for the real deal. It was probably the hardest part of labour- not knowing which to do. When I put the effort in the surges got faster and stronger, so much so that we even blew up the pool. However at 5am I went for a sleep at which point they slowed down from three every ten minutes to one every ten minutes. They then didn’t pick up again for some time.
At 10:00am on Sunday Nikki popped over again and had a feel. My waters were pink now, meaning my cervix was on the move a little but we were gutted to hear that I was only 1cm dilated. I was not even going to have vaginal examinations but curiosity just got the better of me. I thought the baby would be out in my arms by now, not still snuggled happily up there! Nikki was calm though and told us to keep doing what we were doing.
All of Sunday I had the Black Eyed Peas song going through my mind “tonight’s gonna be a good night!” We were once again certain that we’d be parents by dawn. We walked, slept, rocked, ate ice cream, wrote a letter to Wrigglewriggle inviting her out, and one to each other- to make sure there was no hidden anxiety keeping me all closed up. Those were special, if frustrating moments. We had chance to reflect on life and each other, but we were impatient to meet our new family member!
At about 1am on Monday morning I went to bed to try and rest. I was missing a whole night of sleep. But I couldn’t sleep- the surges were strong enough for me to have to leap out of bed and spiral my hips (!) – a brilliant move that we nicknamed the Circle of Life. At about 3am I got out of bed on all fours, these surges were serious now. About an hour later I woke Tim up- I needed some light touch massage, thank you darling. I was really using my hypno breathing techniques now, I had to preempt each surge, prepare for it. They got closer and closer, every two minutes, eeep! We called Nikki at about 6am.
Nikki arrived and had an exploration- 4cms dilated: woopie! Nikki reckoned babe’d be here by lunchtime. Tim filled the pool. I got shouty. I was so in the zone. Making growly OOHs really helped my focus and breathing. The love cave we had set up downstairs was neglected, it was here in the bedroom, leaning on the end of the bed, that I wanted to be. I was finished with the American too, her and her rainbow relaxation. I was working with something innate now.
At 10 am I jumped in the pool, so delicious. Sadly it was so relaxing that my surges really settled down, from one a minute to one every 2-3. I got out and Nikki had a check. I was only 5 cm dilated and what was more she could feel Wriggles head and it was at a funny angle. Nikki wondered if my babe was a bit back to back, and my surges not strong enough to push head through my cervix. The word “Hospital” came up for the first time. We thought we’d give it a couple more hours.
However the next three monitors of the babes heart rate showed it was rising. With me being three days past my broken waters, Nikki felt this was a worrying sign of infection. Nikki called the ambulance, I put on a ridiculous purple beret – it was a freezing, snowy day and it was all Tim could find. We flung together a hospital bag (so certain of my homebirth were we that we flouted the advice to prepare one just in case) and we left. Tim was feeling sad at this stage, I was just still so focused on the job.
It was 1pm when we arrived. They immediately hooked me up to a monitor for the surges and the baby’s heart rate. They felt that I should get some antibiotics and also some fake oxytocin to give my surges that extra boost. It was 4pm when this started coming through the drip. Because my surges had been so strong before there wasn’t a clear change, I was still able to totally get on top of them still and breath through each one. I was really drawing on visualisation at this stage, with every breath in I imagined my cervix opening up like a flower and with every breath out I imagined Wrigglewriggle moving down and turning into the right position. I was very purpose filled so the pain wasn’t overwhelming at all but at one stage I did have to ask for paracetamol.
In between contractions I tried to take control of the environment a bit more, the hospital responded with strange looks perhaps at requests of lights being dimmed and staff coming in small numbers and with low voices. It was as if it was preposterous that I might try an establish a cosy, intimate environment at a hospital. I had to really assert myself at times, but I was like a bold, purposeful lioness at this stage and felt confident making sure my voice was heard.
I refused to wear their hospital gown, but the midwife responded with “Well, you may need a C section so we need you in the gown”. Manipulated, I gave in. But then my next emboldening surge came and with it I cast off the gown and did the whole thing Butt Naked. HA!
Someone came into discuss epidurals. I tried to be clear that I would like to avoid one, that I’d use the gas and air if I needed pain relief. As she left the room she rolled her eyes at my midwife and said “If it gets too much she is going for the big guns.”
I was leaning on the side of the bed on my knees. At 6pm they checked me and Hurrah! The baby had changed into the right position and I was 7cm dilated.
By now the growly oooh’s I was making before had turned into full blown primal roars. They came from the depths and really helped me feel in touch with my body. I didn’t feel any urge to scream or swear out of pain, these vocals were something else altogether, as natural as a cat purring!
At about 7pm my body flipped a switch, the ejection button, and my contractions were suddenly pushing this baby out. It was incredible. Shortly after this an obstetrician came in and told me that they would check me again at 10pm, and I exclaimed “Not on your nelly, this baby is going to be out well before then.”
This was where it got hard- my body was totally pushing this baby but the midwife wanted me to restrain myself as she could see that I hadn’t fully “blossomed”. My hypnobreathing came in so useful here as I just really kept in control of it and tried to imagine blossoming. This stage is really compressed in my mind, it just feels like moments. Before I knew it my midwife just said “Let go to the feeling now”. It was brilliant just being able to let my body do its thing.
Within moments Tim was looking at the top of Wrigglewriggle’s head, a hairy little thing, and with 5 or 6 long pushes Ramona Lily unfurled out of me and gave a yell to rival her mothers. I grabbed her through my legs and at the sound of my voice she stopped crying and nuzzled in for a bit of nipple.
Welcome, Ramona Lily!
She nestled into my arms, born to be right there.
Gosh. Birth eh? What an experience. There was some pain, and I was surprised by it so convinced was I by all the orgasmic births I had been reading about. But dished out in equal measure was purpose and exhilaration. It isn’t my perfect birth story- I was gutted not to have a home waterbirth, gutted to have oxytocin and antibiotics, but throughout the time I was completely confident of my body’s ability to do this. Of me being designed perfectly to give birth to Ramona. It was a long and tiring three days, but I would do it 10 times over to have this beautiful little girl in our life.
At the end, as I held Ramona, my midwife called me a superwoman. In 7 years of midwifery at Kings College Hospital I was the only woman she had seen have synthetic oxytocin without an epidural, let alone no gas or air or other pain relief. I don’t think that speaks of me being tough and brave, but more of us being quite out of touch, as a society, of how birth should be. Women are designed to have babies but we have got into a crippling cycle of fear, that is perpetuated constantly.
I can not WAIT to go through it all again for this little treasure inside me now. Despite Ramona’s pleas for it to “wake up! Come soon baby!”, I have 5 months to spend listening to the American and her limpy, loose Rainbows….
Happy 2nd BirthDay Ramona!
PS Read all about The Mule’s Positive Birth Movement…