Delilah’s home birth story

Delilah was born on the morning of Monday 18th July, a week ago today. I wrote this birth story that night in the urge to debrief. I have gently edited it since.

I’d been having lots of little surges (the hypnobirthing term for contractions) from 36 weeks so I knew my body was gearing up to have my baby, whether that meant at 40 weeks or beyond. Either way, Delilah was extremely low down, grinding her head on my cervix and had been since week 38. I felt sure that whenever it happened, this labour would be my shortest. At just over six hours from first surge to finish, it was.

At 40+1, I felt lots of smaller surges throughout the day as I cleaned the bathroom and picked raspberries from the garden. Laurence and the girls had gone to church without me as I couldn’t face being asked about a due date that had now officially passed.

I walked up the stairs at one point and caught my breath. I felt the baby had slipped down even further. The shape of my bump had noticeably changed. I felt sure it would happen today or tonight but also knew that could be wishful thinking so didn’t entertain it too much. Laurence had got used to me musing that each night could be the night.

I was usually high spirits that day, feeling more energetic than I had in the entire pregnancy. So I did lots of rushing about while my in-laws and my mum were over, not thinking that the energy might be needed later.

Suddenly, that evening, I got extremely emotional and stressed about a lot of different, unrelated things. All of them were real issues but none warranted the explosion that took place. I ended up turning off my phone, sipping a glass of prosecco and sticking on Chalet Girl while chatting on the sofa with Laurence about all sorts. I do think that’s the only way to watch that film, by the way, especially if you’re with someone who actually snowboards. It was the best “date night” we’d had in a long time. I felt insanely connected to him and felt sure that this was all leading somewhere soon.

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Sure enough, at 1:30, after about an hour’s sleep, I heard something pop so jumped up and ran to the toilet, where waters gushed out of me. It wasn’t enough to be the full waters and didn’t continue to leak but I reckoned something as happening. As soon as I got back into bed, proper, intense surges started.

I got up and went downstairs, thinking I’d hang out on my birth ball for a bit before waking Laurence up but discomfort was building quickly and a look at the clock said surges were about five minutes apart. I woke him up and told him we needed to get the pool ready. I actually had to tell him a few times. I’m not sure he sensed my urgency.

Once he was up, though, he snapped into action, covering our living room in builder’s plastic, shower curtains, towels and incontinence pads. He inflated and filled the pool, getting the temperature and level right and set my hypnobirthing tracks to play. Between surges, I tidied a few toys that had been left around, mixed ylang ylang and frankincense in the essential oil diffuser, lit a few candles and tuned in to the tracks. I constantly felt the need to rock and sway. When a surge came, kneeling felt most effective. It made it super intense but it just felt so right.

I went up to the loo, feeling like I needed to poo but after having a quick succession of surges there, I knew what I was really feeling was her head. I considered spending time in the shower and on the loo like I had with Ophelia but it felt like I might as well get in the pool. I asked Laurence what he thought and he reckoned I might as well. The pool felt gloriously comforting. I instantly relaxed. My surges slowed but they became increasingly effective. I could actually feel the baby move further down with each one as I breathed into it and visualised the sunrise, floating, bubbles and hot air balloons.

By this time, Laurence had called the midwives. We had a disagreement over it as having them too soon was a real fear of mine. In both my previous labours, everything slowed as soon as someone different entered the situation. I worried about this so much last time that I didn’t let him call until quite late. The midwives had got lost on the way and arrived when I’d already started pushing! So I told him he could decide when it was right to call and I think the fact that I’d been hanging off him during surges, squatting was probably pretty convincing!

In retrospect, my body was getting my baby into position for birth. Still, before I agreed it was time to call, I suggested we go lie for a bit in bed and cuddle through some surges. The minute I got into bed, I leapt up, went back downstairs and declared that I didn’t know what I’d been thinking – of course I was in active labour. There was no way I could have lain there.

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I stripped off my tunic and knickers and got in the pool. Getting naked always seems a big sign for me that things are happening. I kept my eyes closed when each midwife arrived to give Laurence time to explain that I was hypnobirthing, trying to stay in the zone. But things slowed right down and lost intensity. Worse yet, the first midwife, though lovely and gentle, was a bit too chatty. She kept making small talk and asking me questions that took me out of my primal brain and lose my concentration. She insisted on sitting next to the pool, watching me. The second also sat in the room and I felt increasingly irritated with their presence.

Laurence had asked them to be in the dining room, to keep monitoring to a minimum and not to talk to me. In the end, the monitoring was fine (despite continuing to talk to me unnecessarily, though my birth plan made it clear I wanted it done silently and quickly) as I was convinced throughout that everything would be fine, which luckily it was. Delilah and I were both find throughout.

My plan stated that I didn’t want internal examinations and I didn’t want one offered unless it was deemed absolutely necessary. That she offered me one made me desperate to give birth because I felt they were watching the clock. Aloud I just said no but in my head, I said, “I know this baby is coming and we know all is fine. A number won’t change that.”

On one hand, all of this made me feel a little annoyed that we’d called them so soon. They were following protocol but this was my body, my baby and my home. I had already been through all my plans with my community midwife and she’d felt everything I suggested made sense.

On the other, I realised they might not realise how far along I was so I tuned further into my instincts. When one suggested I go use the loo since I wasn’t managing to wee in a jug, I ended up hiding out in the bathroom where things became fast and furious again.

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When I returned to the pool, I found it really difficult to relax into the surges and let them do their work. I kept pushing myself against Laurence and raising myself out of the water. I realised I was getting pushy but my muscles all felt tense. I was getting tired and impatient.

That’s when I asked for gas and air. The first item on my plan was that I didn’t want to be offered pain relief. Having practised hypnobirthing, I do not think of labour as pain but as work. Laurence had accidentally passed on to me that it was being offered just when the midwife arrived (before they’d gone through my plan) and from then, the idea of it was stuck in my head though I kept trying to ignore it.

The sensation of fighting the surges made me think I needed something to override my conscious brain so I could let the muscles work. I agonised over it because gas and air with my first labour (an induction) had taken me out of the room, out of the experience. I couldn’t even get into an upright position to push, I was so out of it. I blamed it as one of the factors that made bonding with my first baby difficult. But I felt sure that I could control it this time and hoped I would stop if it was overwhelming me or that Laurence would help me see that I needed to.

So I discussed it with the first midwife. She warned that her supply was limited. I decided to go for it and make do if we ran out but I really didn’t think it would be much longer. Unhelpfully, the second midwife said, “So I guess we’re throwing away the birth plan.” That totally pissed me off and made me determined to get this over with. What a disempowering thing to say! Laurence replied, “Only this part.”

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When I started taking it, I found myself stopping before the surges were finished so I didn’t dull the whole sensation. I also found (and was a little disappointed!) that it didn’t offer as much relief I’d expected – I should have remembered this from five years ago. I was too far along for that. I still felt the surges but the entonox helped me to go with them instead of fighting against them. I wasn’t trying to push myself out of the water with each surge but could instead breathe.

We never did decide what we’d do with the girls. It seemed for a while that it might all happen with them asleep. But when 5am approached, we started discussing what to do because Ophelia would likely be up at 6.30 and I needed Laurence too much for him to be able to attend to her. We also knew that with an hour’s sleep and hours of labour there was no way we wanted to be looking after them that day! So he called his father who came to pick them up. While they sorted car seats, I held the first midwife’s hand through my surges. By now I was finding her encouragement to breathe slowly very helpful.

The first midwife suggested I get out of the pool for a bit and I decided I’d stay out. For some reason, I’ve felt throughout this pregnancy that I wouldn’t give birth in water. In fact, I asked Laurence to set up an area in the playroom because I felt it might happen there. At her suggestion, I sat on my birth bill for a bit. Moving around on it, everything quickened. She suggested I sit on a chair. I decided to kneel and hold on to it instead. It was the position that had felt the most right throughout the labour. It felt like the way this baby was going to be born.

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At this point, I was breathing in the entonox but only half breathing, half growling it out. She told me to save the energy I was spending making noise. But I knew I didn’t want the gas and air anymore. She must have sensed this because she said, “You can just push if you like.” My body had been pushing but I needed to just go with it.

I stopped using the entonox, started breathing down through my nose as best I could while growling and to my surprise, the hypnobirthing image of ripples came to me. In three minutes and two massive pushes, Delilah slipped out into the midwife’s hands and she was handed to me. It was 7.50am. I’d planned to catch her myself as I had Ophelia but I actually couldn’t have done it as I wasn’t in the zone or position.

Instantly, I was overwhelmed by how much she looked like Ophelia and how surprised I was that she was really here. A real baby. When the cord stopped pulsating, the midwife cut the cord and despite uncertainty about using the cord tie I’d crocheted instead of a hospital clamp, she went with with it in the end.

I’d had stuff in my plan about delaying baby checks and letting us be quietly together but I think the gas and air had made me little more “let’s get on with this” and less “rush of love” than I’d been with Ophelia. But I also think it may have helped speed things along by helping me to relax and keep my focus.

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The placenta took almost an hour to come and we were all getting impatient. With Talitha I’d had the syntometrine injection so it came away quickly. With Ophelia, breastfeeding and standing had made it slip out easily. I ended up accepting the offer of having my bladder catheterised, which didn’t make much difference.

I said I’d consider syntometrine as I might as well throw away the birth plan (the second midwife’s words were still with me). Laurence reminded me that I had had a lovely, straightforward, calm home birth, which absolutely was my plan. When the next surge came, with mind over matter I forcefully pushed the placenta out while the first midwife put pressure on my tummy. It was such a relief. And it was the first time I’d seen a placenta properly, this being our first daytime birth. It was fascinating but neither beautiful nor revolting. It just was.

Both midwives were extremely competent and I always felt that we were in safe hands. The first gushed about how well I’d done pushing Delilah out gently which made me feel really good. It had been a serious concern of mine as Ophelia had shot out like a cannonball and they couldn’t work out how serious my tear was, so I was transferred to hospital, which I was desperate to avoid. As it was, I tore again this time but it was straightforward and easily stitched upstairs on our bed, after which I snuggled into bed with my baby and Laurence. We stayed there for most of the rest of the day, getting up to have a shower and the just enjoying being in and out of sleep and feeding with newborn Delilah.

Delilah's home birth story

All in all, it was the easiest of our births and we kept noting how amazing it was to just be at home this time. I loved not eating hospital food for lunch and Laurence marvelled at being able to hang out with a baby this young. It was lovely having this time just the three of us to recover and enjoy getting acquainted before the older girls came home with Laurence’s parents and my mother at supper time, extremely excited to meet their new sister.

I think my take away from all of my births is that an experience doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Talitha’s ended up with induction and I found it traumatic in a lot of ways but looking back, I now mostly see the bits I am grateful for, like stopping to touch her hair. Ophelia’s carried the shadow of Group B Strep which I’d refused antibiotics for, choosing to birth at home. It ended with transfer to hospital and a two-night stay after the birth. But it was such a calm, utterly empowering birth. Delilah’s could have benefited from me knowing my midwife beforehand, unfortunately not currently possible on the NHS in Bristol. It would probably have been a good idea to have a doula this time. But, there were no concerns at any point and it all happened swiftly and relatively easily. I always felt safe in the midwives’ excellent care. And we got to do it all here, in our home!

She’s quietly joined our lives in a birth that really was just part of normal life. Sitting up in bed, cuddling her and breathing through after pains while I write this all down, I just can’t stop thanking God for these three children he has given me and for the man sleeping beside us who is absolutely the best birth partner I could have had.


34 weeks pregnant with baby number three

Six plus weeks to go still feels a long time but a look through our calendar with most weekends booked up until then and it really isn’t a long time at all.

Physically, all is looking as it should. A midwife appointment last Thursday confirmed that the baby is head down and that my iron levels are in good shape. A Spatone smoothie a day has kept the anemia away so far. This is my first non-anemic pregnancy.

The girls went with me this time. Talitha was delighted to hear the baby’s heartbeat and fascinated when the midwife took my blood. I’m not sure how much Ophelia understood because she was mainly fixated on showing the midwife her boots, repeatedly.

Other than being a bit sore and stiff at the end of a day when I’ve overdone it, pelvic girdle pain isn’t an issue this time so far, which I’m so grateful for because I haven’t been able to make it to an osteopath as I did in my second pregnancy and I was practically housebound at points in my first.

I do have to watch it, though, and am trying to listen to my body in terms of walking and lifting. The kids inevitably keep me active, which is a good thing, even if I pay in soreness later. I’m finding a shower in the evening really helps with that.

I am, however, feeling utterly, utterly exhausted. I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life. Not even in that first sleep deprived year with Talitha when she woke all. the. time. I’ve upped my vitamin D but I think feeling tired just going to be the theme for the next few weeks. I remember feeling so much better after having Ophelia so I’m hoping that will happen again.

A pregnancy massage at the Lido in Clifton yesterday was just what I needed. Laurence bought me a voucher for my birthday as he had in my first pregnancy five years ago. I may have drifted in and out of sleep, hopefully without snoring! I’m still feeling its effects today, despite nursing a headache.

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Emotionally, I am really looking forward to the birth. I’ve been listening to Katharine Graves’ hypnobirthing CD and despite falling asleep by the first few affirmations (I need to start listening in the day time too!), it’s been helping me to get into a really positive, empowered mindset. Maybe it’s reminding me about the things I loved about the last home birth?

We also went to another Bristol Home Birth Group meeting last night, which was interesting because it raised a big topic for us. We’ve been discussing whether to have the kids there. We planned to just keep Talitha home last time but I changed my mind last minute as I found her too distracting. In retrospect, though, I was still in the early stages of labour and had quite a long way to go. If she had been around, perhaps I wouldn’t have given my surges more attention than they required too soon.

Talking about it last night, we realised we had a conflict of approaches. I want the birth to be normalised as a part of our everyday life as far as possible and I feel it’s better to focus on what we want and expect to happen than give to much energy to what might happen. Laurence, on the other hand, is being far more pragmatic, probably because he’s the one who will be saddled with their care. In the end, I think we’ve seen that both perspectives have value and balance each other. So, we’ve made arrangments with various family members (we’re so lucky to have so many in Bristol) and we’ve agreed to wait and see.

I’ve almost completed the blanket I’ve been crocheting for this baby. The last bits are boring so finishing them feels a real labour of love, which it is. I love her already. It’s my first project of this size so it’s been a real journey getting here, even though it’s far from perfect. I hope to share it with you soon.

Practically, I haven’t sorted most of what I had by this stage the last couple of times. I’ve gathered clothes here and there but I haven’t actually laid everything out to see what I need. Hilariously, a pregnancy website I was looking at was telling me that at 34 weeks, it might be worth giving the hospital bag a last minute check! I’m definitely not there yet.

Nappies weren’t sorted up until the weekend when a friend sold me her cloth stash at a bargainous price. I said I was going to make cloth wipes since all of ours are pretty much threadbare but it doesn’t look likely now and having seen the quality of some Cheeky Wipes the same friend had, I may just buy a set of those.

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I’ve also been starting to think about what I’m going to wear after the baby’s here. I didn’t give this any attention in either of the last two pregnancies and found myself with clothes that were either annoying to breastfeed a newborn in or didn’t fit well in the postpartum period. So I’m appreciating getting my wardrobe started with this blue dress [pictured] sent to me by Vertbaudet. I can wear it now while pregnant but it also has poppers for breastfeeding once the baby is here. I think I may well end up in dresses until the autumn now, especially when it’s hot.

Parenting feels like it’s evolving as we get ready to add a third child to our family. I’m aware that having a baby sibling will be different for Talitha at five than it was at two years and eight months. Yet I’m also aware that it will be different for Ophelia than it was for Talitha, not just because she’ll be three months younger but because she is a different person.

While they’re both more conscious of my bump than I am a lot of the time, Ophelia is the one who draws most attention to it, probably because she’s the one who most needs a lap, a cuddle in bed or to be carried. It melts me when either of them talks to the baby but Ophelia is the one most prone to do so.

Ophelia is still breastfeeding, albeit for only a few moments at bedtime, only ever on one side. Often she will decide she’s had enough. I find it a relief because I’m experiencing even more nursing aversion than I did with Talitha. Perhaps my body is saying, “Too much.” Her latch has also changed and I’m not convinced that she is getting any colostrum, though it is there.

It seems entirely possible that she could wean in the next month. Part of me feels sad to think that she could wean so soon when I breastfed her sister to age four. There may also be some guilt there because I know I’ve encouraged her quite a lot, with more limits than her sister had. Yet, breastfeeding isn’t something that can be measured or predicted.

I wonder how both girls will adapt to a new sibling. Attentions already divided will become more so. Already they don’t always get what they want or need. It’s just not possible. I have to trust that what I give will be enough in the long run and appreciate how much they have already gained in each other.

I look at these two, how different they are and how easily I love them both, and wonder what my love will look like when it expands to a third.

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Read more updates from this pregnancy with baby number three:
31 weeks pregnant
28 weeks pregnant
25 weeks pregnant
22 weeks pregnant
20 weeks pregnant
18 weeks pregnant
16 weeks pregnant
12 weeks pregnant


Our KG Hypnobirthing Journey – The course, part one

Disagreements and skepticism were welcomed in the room as Katharine Graves confidently began the HypnoBirthing course we’d decided to attend. She acknowledged that the prefix “Hypno” was enough to make many people instantly conjure up “hippies, beanbags and chanting” and wonder whether it made any real sense. What there was no question about was that she had no question herself that KG HypnoBirthing works. Hers is certainty born of experience, not just intellect.

Laurence and I had come at it from sort of different angles. He wasn’t sure what it was or how effective it could be but was willing to go along because it was something I wanted to do. I had heard of it when we were pregnant with Talitha but didn’t really consider it, mainly because I’d underestimated the situation. I really didn’t think birth was that big of a deal and I didn’t yet know how deeply I’d be affected by a birth that was, for me, traumatic. Actually, his doubts about HypnoBirthing probably came from the fact that it was a traumatic experience for him too, only he had to look on, which I imagine was pretty disempowering.

“Hypnotherapy is simply words.”

Yet, in the lunch break, both of us agreed that this definitely didn’t sound like mumbo-jumbo. In fact, it was just common sense. Of course positivity during pregnancy and labour would affect the outcome and the baby. “Hypnotherapy is simply words,” Katharine explained, “Words are powerful.” Well, she’s got me with that one. I absolutely believe that. I don’t necessarily think that words always hold permanent, external meaning (I won’t go all academic on you there because that really isn’t what this is about) but I’ve absolutely experienced the power of language in my life. It’s helped me believe some amazing and awful (and, come to think of it, amazingly awful) things about myself and about my experiences.

Still, could birth really be pain-free? Could replacing the word “contraction” with “surge” actually affect the way the movement is experienced? I might accept that premise more readily as a first time mother but having been through a labour that was most definitely not without pain, I’m slightly taking a wait-and-see approach. I am definitely open, though. I don’t believe that the past dictates the future. For one thing, I’ve seen too many mothers successfully breastfeed after believing that they couldn’t since they hadn’t managed with a first child. So much of what we’ve learned about KG HypnoBirthing so far can be applied to all of life, which is why it makes sense.

“How does thinking in negatives affect your life?”

As Katharine pointed out, we often speak in negatives. An example she gave was a heavy snowfall which an adult might consider “the worst snow in years”. To a child, it could be “the best snow” – squealed with delight. She challenged us: “How does thinking in negatives affect your life?”

Well, I’d say it certainly affects your parenting! Thinking back to all of the things that I’ve found most stressful in parenting so far, so much of it was transformed by rephrasing. I spent vast amounts of time and energy in those first months at my wits’ end about naps. Once “she won’t let me put her down” got turned into “we get to enjoy this closeness”, I was infinitely happier. If I could look at her tears as a natural and desirable need for my compassionate presence rather than an inconvenience, I was more willing to slow down. When I began writing about motherhood on this blog as a beautiful gift and valuable work, and began to ignore anyone who asked if I was “just a mother”, I was able to see the meaning in our often repetitive days.

KG HypnoBirthing seems to work on the premise that we can change our perception of birth as painful rather than powerful. So much of this is simply about letting go of all the negativity we’ve accumulated.

I’m not sure that I was quite expecting the course to cover all the things that an antenatal course would so I was pleased to hear breech birth, back-to-back positions, the roles of midwives and obstetricians, pelvic floor exercises and so on, covered. These were all things I’d heard before both in NCT and NHS antenatal classes but not with such positivity. Katharine is straight-talking, not in the least airy-fairy and her confidence is infectious.

The second portion of the day was mostly spent doing exercises which involved relaxation and visualisation. We went through scripts that Laurence and I will practice here at home. We’ll be reading The Hypnobirthing Book (or I’ll be, anyway) and listening to the CD in bed, which has the upside of forcing me to actually go to bed when he does.

All in all, we’ve both left feeling a lot lighter. The day gave a chance to talk a lot about the new baby, which isn’t something we’ve done that much of. We were able to chat through some of the stuff that happened in our last birth and that helped too. I can’t speak for him but I’m actually looking forward to this second birth, whatever it brings. Whether we achieve the home birth we’d prefer or end up going to hospital, I feel certain that we don’t have to take the baggage of our first birth in with us. The past need not and will not bog us down with its accumulated fears.

The second half of the course is this Sunday. I can’t wait.

Read about the second half.

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The HypnoBirthing Centre with Katharine Graves gave us a free place on a HypnoBirth course at St Thomas’ Hospital on South Bank. I was also sent a copy of The HypnoBirthing Book and the Relaxation CD, which are included for all participants, and one of each to give away to you, fair readers. More about that soon. I don’t always bother to say this but since I’ve practically raved about Katharine in this piece, I feel like I need to say that everything I’ve said here is unashamedly my genuine opinion.