On finding out that we’re having a third baby

Moments after Ophelia was born, high on the experience of a home water birth, I declared that this was perfect and I was never going to do it again. No more babies.

Maybe it was the easy start with Ophelia (she took to breastfeeding easily and was a rather laid back baby once her colicky stage passed). Perhaps it was the realisation hitting me that I might never do it all again. But I started wondering about having a third.

Laurence was adamantly not into the idea. He pointed out the cost and the fact that we mainly live off his income. With three, you’re totally outnumbered. We were content with our two.

I agreed to give away the baby things. He agreed to remain open to the idea.

Then, I found that was gaining weight and feeling a bit grotty. Just in case, I took a pregnancy test. It was negative so I binned it. That night, for some reason I fished it out and saw that it was positive so I did another test and found the faintest line ever. I showed Laurence and even had to hold it up to the light for him to see what I was talking about.

I think we were both in shock. It wasn’t off the cards but it wasn’t completely planned, though I won’t say more as it would be oversharing. I’ve already regaled you with my peeing on a stick story so you’d probably thank me for less detail, not more.

pregnant with third baby-2

We told the girls pretty much straight away. Talitha’s response was classic: “You’re joking!” But she’s been absolutely delighted from the start and is already cuddling my bump (how do I have a bump already?!). Ophelia really doesn’t get what’s going on at all. It feels like she’s just a little baby herself but she’ll be two next month.

I keep thinking there’s a much bigger gap between Talitha and Ophelia than there will be between Ophelia and the new baby but it’s only three months less. I guess I just see her as “the baby” which is why it’s hard to remember that Talitha wasn’t much older when I was pregnant the last time around.

The last few months for me have been filled with mixed feelings, excitement over and gratitude for the new baby but also anxiety about how we’re going to cope. There has been a bit of “What have we done?” along with “Looking forward to…” I’m one of two so having a third child seems an alien concept but Laurence is one of three and it’s still taken him a while to get his head around the idea.

On New Year’s Eve we went to the hospital for the dating scan. It was a familiar experience. We’ve been to that building so many times now. We know where the water fountain is and the loos. We chatted about completely unrelated things. Then, when we went in, that moment still managed to take us by surprise.

pregnant with third baby-3

A real baby, fully formed, up there on the screen. A real baby, wriggling inside me. Not a conceptual third child, a real baby, a new member of our family. How cute it was already. How much I already loved this baby, even if conflicting emotions had distracted me.

I’m twelve weeks pregnant and now I just look forward to July. There will be chaos. I don’t always manage to meet the needs of two so I can’t predict what normal will look like when a third joins us. Every new baby is a step out into the unknown. That’s no longer something I fear.


Our hypnobirthing experience – and a KG hypnobirthing CD and book giveaway

On the coach to London to take the first of our two-part KG hypnobirthing course with Katharine Graves, we were unsure of what to expect. We both admitted uncertainty about what it actually entailed or what we’d get out of it (if anything!). We didn’t know that this experience was going to be powerfully transformative, for both of us.

KG Hypnobirthing is a complete antenatal course, so everything you expect to be covered in a childbirth preparation class, from what happens physiologically in birth to medical complications, is discussed. But it goes so much deeper. It’s a chance to get to the heart of what you fear about birth and, beyond that, an invitation to think differently about your life.

I know I may have just made the whole thing sound borderline esoteric but it is utterly grounded in common sense. I’ve written about the KG Hypnobirthing course here and here if you’d like to read more about it.

Our KG Hypnobirthing experience

The most important thing we both took from it at the time was a release of all our anxieties surrounding our first baby’s birth. We began to dare to believe that it didn’t have to be frightening and out of control but could be a calm, healthy and welcoming experience, no matter what form it took.

In the lead up to Ophelia’s birth, we listened to the CD “Colour and Calmness: Relaxation for a Gentle Birth” most nights. I don’t think Laurence ever heard more than the first couple of lines. He just instantly went to sleep. Most of the time, I didn’t hear all of it either. I relaxed into an easy, restful sleep.

When I was consciously listening to it, I found Katharine’s voice calm and assuring. The practice of visualisation allowed me to find places where I could so deeply relax, finding them more easily each time as the pictures became familiar.

On the big day, we had the audio ready, along with the scripts that Laurence could read. I found I mostly wanted to listen to Katharine’s voice. Even now, Laurence tells people how surprised he was by the effect that listening to the CD had on me. I was obviously having surges (in hypnobirthing we don’t call them “contractions”) and yet I was able to relax into them.

For me, I was completely unaware of how many hours passed or how many times I had listened to the CD. I had no real experience of fear, even in the irrationality that transition brings. And although it was difficult work, intense and uncomfortable, I couldn’t describe it as pain in the sense we’d usually consider, not until Ophelia was coming out and even then it was more a case of getting fed up than anything that could prompt fear.

Having known how well KG hypnobirthing has worked for us, I’m pleased to be offering you a chance to win The Hypnobirthing Book and the Colour and Calmness – Relaxation for a Gentle Birth CD, both by Katharine Graves.

To enter, tell me who you hope to have with you when giving birth and enter to Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to UK residents only.
Giveaway ends on 1 June 2015.

Listed with The Competition Hunter, The Prize Finder, Loquax and SuperLucky.me.


Pregnancy Isn’t Always Lovely – Hyperemesis Awareness Day

caitlin I had the privilege of meeting and being inspired by mother and fellow blogger, Caitlin Dean, when we went WWOOFing on her sheep farm in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband and three kids.

Caitlin is a three-time hyperemesis gravidarum survivor and a Registered General Nurse. She is passionately dedicated to raising awareness about HG and providing support to sufferers.

She is chair person for the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support as well as the author of the popular Spewing Mummy blog. Since today is International Hyperemesis Awareness Day, Caitlin is guest posting for me about this serious condition that too many of us know too little about.

The 15th May is International Hyperemesis Awareness Day and so I’m here today to tell you a bit more about this condition, which affected me personally through three pregnancies and has robbed dozens of my friends of their physical and mental health and even of their babies’ lives.

You see, hyperemesis gravidarum isn’t just an “acute bout of morning sickness”. It isn’t “a normal part of pregnancy”. It cannot be cured by a bit of ginger, thinking positively or getting some fresh air.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (or HG for the sake of ease) is a serious complication of pregnancy which, if left untreated or poorly managed, can cause life-threatening complications for mum and baby.

Charlotte Bronte died of hyperemesis gravidarum at the age of 38 in her first pregnancy

Charlotte Bronte died of hyperemesis gravidarum at the age of 38 in her first pregnancy

Prior to the invention of IV fluids and modern anti-emetics last century, it was the leading cause of death in early pregnancy. Even now in the 21st century there are cases of women dying from complications arising from the condition.

Yet it’s similarity to the mild and not-at-all-dangerous pregnancy symptoms of “morning sickness” means that it is totally undervalued and frequently dismissed as women making a fuss or being neurotic.

Tell me this… Did getting a positive pregnancy test turn you into a neurotic drama queen?

No, me neither.

So what actually is hyperemesis gravidarum?

Well the main symptoms people associate with HG are nausea and vomiting. But we’re not just talking about feeling a bit sick and puking up now and then… we’re talking 24/7 all consuming, entire body crippling nausea which feels like you’ve been poisoned. We’re talking vomiting anywhere from 5 to 50 times a day, every day for weeks, even months.

We’re talking still vomiting when you have nothing but stomach acid and blood from your torn oesophagus left to spew up. We’re talking retching from the slightest movement, like rolling over in bed.

All this puking means that dehydration can rapidly set in… that brings headaches, dizziness, constipation, chapped lips and skin and guess what… more nausea and vomiting is a side effect of dehydration!

Malnutrition obviously sets in rapidly too and this can bring disturbances in your electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. So, for example, as your body becomes calcium deficient you become lethargic, dizzy, your bones begin to ache and it’s hard to walk steady, changes in your brain begin to cause depression (and of course the suffering and isolation contribute to this), confusion and anxiety.

four-pics-together

On top of this, you may experience ptyalism (excessive saliva production), which means you need to spit in a towel or cup constantly and are losing yet more fluid.

Heightened sense of smell is part and parcel of HG. And when I say heightened, what I mean is you grow the nose of a blood hound! You can smell everything, from rooms away with the doors closed.

It’s not just heightened though, it’s warped… your own child and husband can smell so revolting just trying to have a comforting cuddle can trigger more vomiting… and then, inevitably, guilt.

Okay so I’ve painted a fairly grim picture which hopefully helps those of you who haven’t suffered to start to understand what a women with this may be going through…

What can be done about it?

Well the key is early treatment, without which the condition can become rapidly dangerous for mum and baby. There are a number of safe and effective treatments for women to take and she should not be made to feel guilty for not have a totally “au natural” pregnancy. Information about treatments are available on the Pregnancy Sickness Support charity website.

If she is dehydrated then rapid rehydration at hospital is essential to stop the vicious circle. Increasingly hospitals are offering day case rehydration and are embracing better treatment regimes such as those developed by Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

Support is key and that’s where awareness amongst people who haven’t suffered comes in…

hands-2 How to help a friend with hyperemesis gravidarum:

First of all… don’t suggest ginger. Unless you’d like your friend to fantasize about smacking you in the gob because she’s too weak to actually do it?

This is such a common suggestion and is said with well meaning in an attempt to help but the reality is she has already tried ginger in various forms and discovered that it’s really horrible to regurgitate! If only it were as simple to use ginger… I wouldn’t need to write this post!

In fact, so much of how you can help is about what not to say rather because the reality is there is very little you can say or do that will relieve symptoms. There are links to posts about what not to say below but, back to what you can do to help.

• Offer to help with shopping, cleaning, washing, childcare. Picking up prescriptions is particularly helpful.

• Text her (but accept there may not always be replies), HG is an incredibly lonely journey.

• Try not to talk too much about pregnancy or be overly excited about it… many women are battling with feelings of huge disappointment, guilt and may be contemplating a termination.

• Want to get her a gift? How about some comfy maternity pyjamas, a pregnancy pillow or something totally non-pregnancy related. Avoid foodstuff and anything that smells. Audio books are great.

• If she’s worrying about medication or in need of support then do the research for her, contact Pregnancy Sickness Support on her behalf if she wants you to and register her for peer support. Sign post her to my Spewing Mummy blog too.

Most of all, and my particular message for HG Awareness Day is this: ADVOCATE for her. If you hear people dismissing her condition, claiming it’s “fashionable now” or saying that they had it but just got on with it, correct them, challenge them, tell it like it is.

Still now I hear comments like “I’ve never heard of that – it must be in her head” or “Women in my day didn’t get that, they couldn’t take time off work or lounge around in bed”.

It’s not just offensive to the sufferers but to womankind as a whole. It plays into the idea that our uterus’s cause hysteria and that we look to princesses for our fashion trends (God forbid the Duchess should break her leg for the mothers of Britain will need to start flinging themselves from the climbing frames to sport our matching plaster casts!).

And it is the ultimate injustice to the women and babies who have lost their lives to this illness.

HGAwarenessDay_UK+USurls_FB_ProfilePic

Check out these links:
10 tips to help a friend with hyperemesis gravidarum
What not to say to a woman with hyperemesis gravidarum
Spewing Mummy Blog
Hyperemesis Gravidarum – The Definitive Guide
Pregnancy Sickness Support (for UK and Ireland support and info)
HER Foundation (for US and worldwide support and info)
NHS Choices – Severe vomiting in pregnancy


Breastfeeding and Birth books for children – review and giveaway

It always surprises me how interested children are in reading about the everyday. As in, I think we’ve probably read a book about going to the library – at the library. Books can powerfully demystify potentially scary or confusing experiences like going to the dentist or feed their natural curiosity about things like plane journeys.

That’s why I love these two books published by Pinter & Martin: Monica Calaf and Mikel Fuentes’ You, Me and the Breast, and How You Were Born. We’ve had You, Me and the Breast for quite some time and will be donating the copy Pinter & Martin sent us to our local La Leche League group.

It’s one of Talitha’s favourite books. She will request it over and over, given the chance – usually wanting Daddy to read it. So it’s given me the giggles hearing Laurence read: “When you came out of my tummy…”

To be honest, I didn’t really “get” it for a while. It just seemed weirdly over-factual for a children’s book, if that makes any sense. But now that she’s at the age where she’s asking questions about everything and we talk about things that she did when she was a baby (mainly because she has a baby sister), I can see the appeal. The Picasso-style drawings seem more adult than kiddy, really, but she likes them.

How you were born

I like that the baby grows into a child who is clearly a child but still breastfeeding. She can identify with that and, even if she couldn’t, because it shows how normal breastfeeding past infancy is. It’s also great that it ends with the boy not needing to breastfeed to sleep anymore. It’s a hint that he’s on the path to weaning but that it’s not a sudden thing. For us, that’s been a part of our conversation around weaning and that it will some day happen.

As for How You Were Born, I think we love it equally. There is so much to talk about in the images and it gave us lots to chat about regarding Talitha’s birth as well as Ophelia’s. The birth described is natural, straightforward and at home.

It may not be exactly the way it happened with both of them but it’s a lovely image of birth that I’d like her to have. I love that contractions are described as waves. All in all, birth is not at all painted as something to be feared but a beautiful, peaceful and powerful experience. I love that this is her introduction to the process.

Talitha reading

We’ve already read it many times and this quote gets me each time:

“They say that the two most important days
in your life are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.
We will always be with you on this journey.”

Pinter and Martin is giving away a copy of each of these books on this here blog as part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. Comment and tell me what you want your children to know about breastfeeding or birth and enter the Rafflecopter widget below.

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Giveaway ends midnight Tuesday 8th July 2014. Winners will be contacted shortly afterwards. UK entrants only.

The books retail at £6.99 each but with code “HYWBBLOG200” you can get £2 off per book plus free postage when you buy directly from Pinter and Martin.

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com


Blogging Through Two Pregnancies

Last week started on a high note with the news that I’m a finalist in the Mad Blog Awards. Thank you to all who nominated me. This little blog has come to mean a lot to me over the last three and a half years. To be up for “Best Pregnancy Blog” is the bling on an already treasured piece of the Internet.

I’m particularly excited to have made it in this category since I started blogging back when I was pregnant with Talitha. Back then we didn’t really know what bent our parenting would take.

We tended towards the alternative anyway (possibly me more than Laurence though now I’m not so sure) and were vaguely talking slings, cloth nappies and home educating. But we didn’t know much about attachment parenting (and were turned off by its media stereotype) and I wasn’t sure how bothered I was about breastfeeding, one way or another.

I approached the birth of our first child with a kind of wide-eyed enthusiasm and with possibly more naivety than was healthy. Always an avid researcher, I was probably clued up on a lot of things others wouldn’t give much thought to but I had so much growing to do.

I look back at some of those blog posts with so much advice I’d like to give the me of three and a half years ago. But she wouldn’t have listened or, if she did, it would have further disempowered her. She needed to live it. She needed to find her own maternal instinct and know that it belonged to her and only her.

In my first pregnancy, I was also a Pregnancy Blog finalist which was huge for me as my blog was still very new. I didn’t win and rightly so as I shared the category with others who had been in it much longer and had gathered a community around themselves. I was just pleased to be noticed.

In a way, I still feel a little like this, this time around. Certainly, at least a couple of the other finalists in my category have blogged for longer. Each blog, Edspire, It Started with a Squish, Me, the Man and the Baby and Mum’s the Word, has a character all its own and Jennie, Danielle, Emma and Jayne all do things with their blogs that I can’t, just as we all carry our babies and parent our children in ways only we can. Do go check them out.

Still, I’ll be honest, I would like to win this time, probably mainly for selfish reasons but also because this pregnancy has allowed me to give voice to a desire too many women dare not allow themselves to dwell on – a desire for a positive pregnancy and birth.

I started this pregnancy with so much excitement and worry. Then I started thinking it could be different this time. It became more real again when we found out we were having another girl.

The course of everything was massively impacted by attending a KG Hypnobirthing course. That is one of the best decisions we’ve made. We also opted to hire a doula – another great choice.

All in all, I learned a lot about positive pregnancy and was able to complete that chapter with Ophelia’s birth story with which I was entirely satisfied. I learned once again that things don’t have to be “perfect” to be “positive”. It even helped me to reflect on Talitha’s birth, which I’d found traumatic and see all the good in there too – there was so much of it.

I am profoundly grateful for my girls and no matter how they’d been carried, birthed or fed, I’d be grateful for them, just as I love them equally though the early journey with each has been very different so far.

I do get a bit sad (and a bit angry too), though, when I hear about women talking about things being done to them and being made to feel like they have no choice.

There are things out of our control when it comes to pregnancy, birth and infant health but mothers matter and, ultimately, mothers are the usually the ones best placed to make decisions about their bodies and their babies.

Anyway, if you want to see me win “Best Pregnancy Blog” in the MADs, you can vote for me here – http://www.the-mads.com/vote/


Burning the Umbilical Cord

I first heard about umbilical cord burning from my doula. She suggested that it could be a ceremonial way to celebrate a baby’s final separation from her mother.

I wasn’t totally convinced but my interest was piqued enough for me to go looking for more information on the Internet. I had no questions about its safety. After all, it’s the way umbilical cords are severed in places where sterile instruments are not available.

It just kind of felt like another “thing”, you know? And I needed to be convinced it was something I wanted in case the midwives who came took issue with it. I definitely knew I did not want a hospital clamp, though, and this was one alternative.

Burning the umbilical cord

We actually ended up going with burning the umbilical cord because I was very disorganised. I lost the embroidery threads I was going to use to braid a cord tie and procrastinated about getting them replaced. So, cord burning by default.

Umbilical cord burning

Decision made, I looked forward to it, thinking I might say a prayer while we were burning it. Laurence wasn’t keen so it was supposed to be the doula and me but when it came to it, I was completely exhausted so they did it while I lay back and awkwardly snapped these shots.

Laurence burning the umbilical cord

On one hand, it was beautiful and did feel significant. Also, there was no need to worry about the midwives. They just kind of let us get on with it.

The cord was tied with a ribbon (embroidery thread would have been better), the placenta placed in a bowl and two candles held to the umbilical cord over a bowl to catch the wax.

It took a long time, though. I didn’t realise this until Laurence told me tonight that it took about thirty minutes! He found it stressful because we were waiting for an ambulance to arrive and had no idea when it would. Also, there were concerns over Ophelia’s temperature. Ah well.

As it healed, the umbilical cord got rather smelly. I thought I’d mention that as I couldn’t find much information on this anywhere. It wasn’t a problem at all and the midwife who discharged us from the hospital (we transferred after our home birth) said it was just because of the burning. It’s healed really nicely. The cord fell off on day six.

Having done it, I’m glad we did it but, being totally honest, I’m not sure we’d choose cord burning again.

——
Circus Queen is a finalist in The MAD Blog Awards. Please vote for me to win “Best Pregnancy Blog”.


Ophelia’s home birth story

I’ve wondered since what it could have looked like in a photograph – that moment she shot out of me with one last mighty push. I’m glad no camera caught it, that everyone in the room was too involved to pick up a camera. Seeing it through another’s lens might have warped my own memory. My memory of it is perfect. A perfectly formed, tiny baby plunged out into the water and suddenly there was relief.

It felt like many hands got in the water to catch her. It was a moment of confusion. Our doula had told the midwives that I wanted to be the first to touch and hold my baby. In second stage irrationality, I doubted my ability to do it. I said “No” and asked no one in particular to do it. Silently, I was telling them that I wanted them to do the whole thing for me, pushing and all.

An hour and a half of pushing and I was getting fed up and losing faith. I tried to conjure up the waterfall, the stream at Grand Riviere in Trinidad, the opening hibiscus. I confused everyone by alternately asking for water and saying “waterfall” so they weren’t sure whether I was thirsty or focusing on my downward breathing image.

There’s no doubt that practising KG Hypnobirthing techniques was hugely effective throughout this labour but there came a point where I couldn’t or wouldn’t do the calm, serene, “breathe your baby out” the way I’d planned. Instead, it was primal growling and shouting: “I can’t do it. I don’t want to. No, no, no!”

Birth story - birth partner comforting in birth pool.jpg

Incredibly, part of me still wondered if I was really having the baby. Maybe they were all wrong. Maybe I wasn’t even dilated yet. But I knew what I was doing wasn’t helping. Laurence kept reminding me to keep my noises low, which really helped even though it annoyed me. He said “waterfall” a few times and I almost snapped: “Fuck the waterfall!” but didn’t because I knew that once I started swearing I’d keep on doing it and that would mean giving up what focus I had.

It’s really hard explaining this thought process because it wasn’t really thought in the conscious sense. It was all a deep knowing.

That makes me realise I’ve started this birth story in a strange place, at its most incoherent point. I’ll go back.

The day before, Sunday, we were wracked with uncertainty. We had just found out the day before that I was Group B Strep positive. GBS is a bacteria that it’s estimated 25 per cent of pregnant women carry in their bodies. Colonisation of the birth canal can come and go so, many of us have it when we’re giving birth but never know. While the bacteria is harmless in adults, it can be very dangerous in newborn babies who contract a GBS infection. Very small numbers of babies are affected but it’s serious when they are.

So, it’s generally recommended that intravenous antibiotics be offered during labour (though this translates into “be strongly advised” in our area). We looked at articles on the websites of the GBS Society, AIMS (Association for the Improvement of Maternity Services) and the Royal College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists. We drew up lists, we discussed, we agonised, we prayed. Then we decided to continue with our plan to have a home birth, keeping an eye on my temperature during labour and observing Ophelia closely after she was born.

I don’t mention any of this to convince anyone either way of what should be done in such a situation. I’m sure that had we gone to hospital and had the antibiotics that that too would have been OK and indeed it would be the right decision for some. For us, this was the choice we needed to make. It’s an inescapable part of the story because it reintroduced something key we’d already released in preparation for this birth: fear.

Yet on Sunday, we got peace. Two people who didn’t know us, at a church we don’t normally attend, came up to us separately to pray about the birth. After putting Talitha to bed, we talked about how present we felt God was as we looked ahead to the birth, which we still expected to be two weeks away. We agreed that I would phone the unit the next day and speak to the Supervisor of Midwives to iron out what all the different options were in our situation. I never got the chance. I woke up at 4am on Monday in early labour.

After an hour of surges, I woke Laurence and told him it felt different and that I thought I was in labour. I don’t think he took me particularly seriously, which didn’t matter as I didn’t need him at that point and wanted him to go back to sleep.

Birth story - big sister

I couldn’t sleep so got up and cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen. I may even have done some laundry. By the time Talitha woke up, the surges were gathering strength. I started to sing and sway through them. “What are you doing, Mummy?” she asked. “I’m dancing,” I replied, suddenly realising that she could not be there. I’d hoped to have her in the house during the birth but now knew that I’d never progress unless I could retreat wholly into myself. That would not happen with her around. So, Laurence rang his parents and his father came to pick her up, along with a night bag I hoped she wouldn’t need.

It was now past 10am. Everything had slowed down. We went for a walk. I continued to have surges. By now I was appreciating holding on to Laurence. His slow breaths helped steady mine. We had lunch and watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was all candlelight, laughter and romance. At some point I napped between surges while listening to the Colour and Calmness hypnobirthing CD. And it all gathered speed.

Birth story - early labour walk.jpg

By 2pm I wanted to be on my own, planting myself on the toilet, sniffing frankincense and visualising hot air balloons. What happened when is hazy from there. We called our doula, Nicole, over at some point and she helped with the birth pool and with setting up the recovery area.

To my disappointment, everything slowed down again as soon as she got there. It was familiar. As soon as someone new entered the situation, my surges lost their intensity and moved further apart. I felt awkward about it but ended up asking her to leave for a while. Apparently, she’d also felt that she should go but didn’t want us to feel that she was abandoning us, so it was good all around.

When she’d gone, things picked up almost immediately. I reached a point where I desperately wanted to get into the birth pool but, worried that it could slow down the labour, I opted for a shower instead. Weirdly, the water from the shower both offered relief and massively sped things up. I finally got out, not sure what to do next when I felt that I HAD TO GET IN THE POOL.

Laurence helped me in the pool and it was not the relief I expected. Things were coming on much more quickly than I’d anticipated. We agreed that he should call the doula. Shortly after, we agreed that he should call the midwife.

Birth story - heading towards transition.jpg

I think at that point he was a lot more aware of the urgency for the latter than I was. I was still wondering if I was in active labour. I was torn between not wanting to give birth unassisted and not wanting someone I didn’t click with to insist on examining me and tell me I was “only” 2cm dilated. At this point, though, Laurence was dead certain it was on.

Nicole came in quietly. It should have been a real signal to me that things had progressed. The first time she’d come, I was awkwardly aware of her presence. I’d even adjusted my pyjama bottoms to cover my bum while on the birth ball. The second time she came, I registered her presence but welcomed it. I was stark naked and unconcerned about the fact. It was primal. It was on.

Laurence read me Psalms and KG hypnobirthing scripts. I let my mind go with them, resting with the words and images. My body moved in ways it felt it needed to – rotating, head shaking. Unfamiliar sounds leaked out. Nicole asked if I was pushing. I told her that I felt the pressure but didn’t think I was dilated. She knew I was but just said that it was OK, that I didn’t need to know what was happening.

Finally, I said (or maybe begged), “Hot!” I heard her whisper “Transition” to Laurence. My eyes were closed. Thankfully, they mouthed the rest. I never knew that the midwives were lost in another part of Bristol and taking a long time to come. Transition came with a beautiful lull. A short rest. Then, the pushing fell on me. I found it harder and harder to modulate my tones. At one point I shouted: “I need a midwife!”

Laurence and Nicole continued to calmly encourage me. Then I asked (or maybe told) him to be quiet. I only wanted to hear a feminine voice. Even at the time I found this interesting.

The midwives arrived, coming in quietly and keeping a respectful distance. They were there thirty minutes before the birth so didn’t even have a chance to look at the birth plan. There was a conversation about them wanting to listen to the fetal heartbeat and being told that I didn’t want to be asked, I just wanted it done. I snapped: “Just do it!” To my amazement, the heart was beating from so low down, the baby was certainly about to come out.

I’m not sure when I threw myself back but I felt I needed to be on my back in the water instead of upright on my knees. I shouted: “Somebody hold my legs!” It was not how my head had wanted to birth. It may even have contributed to my tear but it was the position I felt I had to be in and that truly is enough for me.

Her head came out and was sucked back in. Over and over. I asked about getting into another position but couldn’t bear to move or be moved. The midwives told me I was fine where I was and that it was happening. With the last surge, I decided I was done with it and consciously pushed. No head lingering for a moment before the body slips out. She shot right out of me.

Natural third stage, cord burning and recovery on the sofa with my sweet baby at the breast were followed a few hours later by a trip to hospital because of concerns over my tear (it was thankfully just second degree) and a 24-hour stay as a compromise because the paediatricians were worried about Ophelia in light of the Group B Strep positive result. This last bit is part of the story too but needs nothing more than a mention.

That moment of pulling her out of the water and onto my chest anchors, eclipses, transcends all.

Birth story - Ophelia is born.jpg
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