WARNING!!! – Not for the faint of heart!
Two weeks before my due date I was getting strong practice contractions (Braxton Hicks) on and off throughout the day and night. Although it was my 4th pregnancy, I had never experienced labour before, not one contraction so there were many times where I thought ‘is this the real thing??’
During the evening and night of Sunday 26th June I was having Braxton Hicks contractions every 5-10 minutes that kept me awake but I felt sure that they were just practice and by morning they were still around but only every 30 minutes or so.
I carried on as normal as they didn’t seem to be ‘real’ contractions. It was a heat wave and I was so uncomfortable! I did the school run as usual and at lunch time my husband, Joe, decided to come home and take the afternoon off work. We now believe he had a feeling he should be here with me and we were right all along. In the late afternoon the pains continued and by evening I had to really concentrate through them and could find no relief no matter what position I got into.
At around 10pm I got into bed and tried to sleep but the rushes kept coming. I left Joe to rest and went to have a bath, sure that the warm water would ease the pain, but I was very wrong!
I had a contraction in the bath that was much worse than the ones before. I practically jumped out of the bath and wobbled downstairs to wake my husband. I felt we really needed to call a midwife as I was having very strong contractions.
I called ‘Medicom’ (a bit like a midwifery switchboard) at 11:30pm and was told the midwives would be here in 2 hours as they were at another birth. That seemed like forever to me and I felt things were getting out of control. I was very tired and wasn’t sure if I was even in labour. I had a ‘show’ and was bleeding quite a bit on and off.
I spent a lot of this waiting time leaning over the sofa breathing through the pain with Joe massaging my lower back hard every time I had a contraction.
The midwives turned up and I immediately asked for gas and air! I was not a happy bunny when I was told that I couldn’t have any as they didn’t have much and didn’t want to use it all at this early stage.
The midwives got me to lie down while they felt my tummy to see where baby was positioned. This hurt a lot and I jumped up and rolled over with another contraction. I was told that the baby was posterior (baby’s back facing my back). This really upset me because the baby had been anterior (baby’s back facing my front, often called the optimal position) all the way through the pregnancy, mostly on the right but pivoted towards the left in the last few weeks. Now I was worried how everything would progress now that baby’s position had changed.
I carried on contracting while everyone chatted around me, really not knowing what was going on. I was then told I was not in established labour and this could take a while. I have to admit that this crushed me. I was in a lot of pain, very tired and nobody could do anything to help me. I was advised to have a bath, relax, and try to get some sleep. I didn’t see how this would be possible as I was having painful waves every 5-8 minutes. I did have a bath, however, and although I hated being in the water due to not being able to move around fully, I did feel a bit calmer afterwards and managed to rest in bed between contractions.
The next day (Tuesday, day before my due date) was my husband’s birthday. I contracted quietly while he opened his presents and then he got the children ready for school while I moved into my ‘nest’ which was our boys' bedroom (the biggest and most comfortable room). We had planned to celebrate his birthday and I even made a cake the day before that never got iced!
By this time, I had been getting a lot of pain around my lower back and these strong pushing urges in my bottom that were impossible to control. I had never read anything about this before so I wasn’t sure if it was ‘normal’ or not but it was not nice! I now know it was the baby’s head pushing down and part of the posterior labour I was having. The contractions were still 5 minutes apart and occasionally closer and I wasn’t sure if I was any nearer to giving birth. In fact, through the whole labour right up until she was born, I still thought I had days left!
I spent a lot of this time on all fours. My whole plan had been to stay active and walk the contractions out. Although a couple of times I did walk fiercely and stamp with a contraction, mostly I just couldn’t cope with the pain of being upright. Joe encouraged me to walk so gravity could do its job but it felt like I was being torn in half every time I contracted standing up! When I wasn’t on all fours I was on the toilet with the strongest pushing urges in my bottom that made my uterus and lower back convulse. That scared me.
While having contractions I breathed in Ylang Ylang essential oil on a tissue which was very soothing. It had an almost trance-like quality to it, which was comforting during this time.
At about 12:30pm I was on the toilet with another strong contraction that made me push in my cervix and my bottom and I felt something come out of me like a plastic bag. That was my bag of waters!
The next contraction propelled me off the toilet with such force that it landed me on the floor. I had a tremendous involuntary push and screamed as my cervix burned. I shouted for Joe, this really scared me. I thought the baby was coming right away and my husband knew it was time to call the midwives again.
During the pregnancy I didn’t know how I would feel about having midwives in the room with me and I worried it would slow things down. But when actually in labour I was SO grateful when they turned up at 2:30pm. They quickly felt baby and listened to heartbeat and said baby is now anterior which was such a relief.
I was really starting to lose it at this point. I remember saying I want to go to hospital and just have a c-section. The pain was more than I could bear and I hadn’t slept in a long time. I was so tired I just wanted it over with at that point. I am so grateful to my husband for keeping me strong. He reminded me how long I had wanted this birth at home and that we were close to our dream.
I still thought I could be here for days and I said as much! The midwives thought it wouldn’t be too much longer though. I was still on all fours and sometimes on my side to rest. Joe massaged my lower back hard during each contraction. I was not a quiet labourer, I have to say! I was becoming very scared and out of control too which was a feeling I did not like.
I was told later that I had a small round bulge at the base of my spine where the baby’s head was pushing down. No wonder I was so uncomfortable (to put it mildly)!
I asked for gas and air and the midwives started to set it up but I couldn’t get it working! Joe tried to show me how but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take long enough breaths to get anything out so gave up on the only pain relief I could have.
I started having more stinging pushing urges and was asked to be examined. I initially said no but I really believed I had a long time left and the midwife wanted to reassure me that we were close. I had to get on my back for this due to needing to be ‘looked at’ rather than felt (as we didn’t know where the placenta was the midwife didn’t want to feel blindly). It took a while, and many contractions, for me to be able to get into a good position.
I didn’t actually get to be examined though. As soon as I was on my back a mammoth contraction took over and the baby’s head started to crown. This, for me, was the most painful and I did scream a fair bit I must admit. I put my hand down and felt the baby’s head. Everything was surreal at this point. In just three more pushes she was born at 5:34pm on her daddy’s birthday, just 3 hours after the midwives turned up. She weighed 7lb 12oz and was perfect!
It was during a lovely storm and I laboured through thunder and lightning which now seems very fitting.
She was put straight on my chest and I was left to find out that we had a baby girl. That definitely balances out the hormones with the three boys and one girl we already had!
The cord was left alone until it stopped pulsing while our daughter gently nuzzled at my breast. Within just a few minutes the midwife could tell my placenta had come away from the womb and I was helped to stand to dispel it. It slipped out easily without me really needing to push.
I had 2 vaginal tears and lost a bit of blood but all in all everything went smoothly and was a ‘textbook’ birth. The old c-section scars are always the focus when VBAC is mentioned but I’m pleased to say I felt no pain at all around my scar and the thought of rupture never entered my head during my labour.
I have to say I was worried about having NHS care while striving for my HBA3C but my Community midwives were fabulous! Every one i met read my birth plan and I had no pressure from them.
I also want to praise my wonderful husband. He was the perfect birth partner. He kept me strong, and supported me and stayed with me through it all while also doing school runs and making sure our other four children were happy! He was my rock and I will always remember that. He is my hero.
My thoughts on my HBA3C? It was hard and it was painful. I won't pretend it was 'orgasmic' or anything like the ideal 'Ina May Gaskin' birth I had in mind. But it was what it was and that was real and natural and exactly how it was meant to be.