Abigail's story - Kit's birth

Kit is my first baby at age 37 and was born during the corona virus pandemic at home aboard our boat.

We had only ever planned to have a homebirth but on my NHS due date we had a phone call to say due to the virus the services for homebirth were cancelled. We had been working with our doula Tortie Rye for four months, so we were also extremely anxious to hear that in NHS maternity settings a rule of one birth partner was being imposed.
With no plan B, we still felt sure that home was the safest place for our baby to be born. But now I didn’t know with any certainty or confidence where I’d be giving birth, or who would be there. It was extremely stressful.

My husband Tim and I had prepared well for a homebirth.  So now in desperation, we emailed as many independent midwives as we could and found one called Andy, who was part of Maya Midwives.  Thanks to Andy, I had the birth I wanted - every one of the three words I'd written in my plan - undisturbed, holistic, and natural - was honoured. 
I woke up at 3am with a surge but  felt rested and calm. I thought something must be starting so had a shower to relax and wash while I was able to and ate some muesli. I went back to bed and listened to my hypnobirthing track and fell asleep.  Just before six am, I was awake and also sick. The surges weren't regular or intense so I tried to rest between them. It was becoming a beautiful breezy sunny morning but we pulled the curtains down we'd sewn and set up the tented birth space aboard our boat home. I had 2 paracetamol and then Tim contacted Tortie to say something was happening. We also rang Andy our midwife and she said she was on her way and would be with us within 2 and a half hours. I suddenly fretted that I had gifts sent from my female friends for a birthing necklace  I'd wanted to make, but hadn't yet managed to.
The surges faded off a bit, and Tim and I started a rhythm where he would stroke me saying in a soft voice "resting," "relaxing", "sleeping" over and over until I slept between the surges.  When I had a surge I would also stand and he would press my hips together while I lent forward over the ottoman. We repeated this until I said I wanted to open my gifts. 
I sat on the birth ball and started looking at all the small objects female friends had sent for my necklace and started reading their comments. Tim sat quietly with me, observing. I was listening to beautiful music by Snatam Kaur and weeping joyfully reading everyones best wishes for us. Andy turned up while I was in the middle of this and sat quietly with me reading some of the messages too. The room was bathed in a beautiful pink and golden light .

Andy sensed that actually I wanted to be alone. She said to start to do our spinning babies particularly the forward inversion and said to call her if we needed anything.
We continued with our rhythm that we'd established on the ottoman. When a surge came I would go up onto tiptoes if it was strong. By the afternoon the surges were fairly regular but not intense. At some point we kissed and cuddled and had sex.
At one point in the afternoon, Suyai, the second midwife who had now come said there was a wonderful birth energy in the room. Both my midwives were so encouraging and said 'You two have both got this" so we're going to leave you to it and we'll just be next door chatting.  I hadn't called my doula yet - she had sent me a song via WhatsApp which was lovely, and around this point, we took a walk around the marina where we live. I was reluctant at first but it ended up feeling good. It was the last light of the day. That magical light that makes everything golden that in India they call "light to see the bride by."
Once we got back aboard, we resumed what we were doing before but it didn't seem to work as well. So instead of leaning forward, I would hang on the yoga swing in the ceiling while Tim squeezed my hips.
By 8 o clock, I decided I wanted my doula Tortie to come. Tim got in touch with her to let her know. Tortie had picked up some bits in the shop on her way to us, like coconut water. She arrived quietly in the space, bringing presence and peace. She observed me but I didn't feel watched. She said some encouraging things. She squeezed my hips as Tim had done when I called out that I needed that. I paced the room slowly
between surges and she encouraged me to "sink into it" and drop down into the surge. I realised then, and Tim worded this beautifully "Until that point we had been riding, swerving the waves. You know like when you first try surfing and your waiting for the big waves and your just hanging out on the board trying to avoid any waves and avoid falling off it." When Tortie came we started riding them. There was a switch now and Tim listened to Tortie as she coached me. I was now going into a squat for the surges.
I would describe what happened from here as feeling like Tortie would open a door and say, do you want to go in? I'll help you go in if you do want to and she gave me a gentle nudge in that direction.
Once the surges started picking up, I was well into using the swing hanging from the ceiling but it came to a point where I was too comfortable and had exhausted it's use. Tortie asked if I would go on all fours., so I did, The first few surges were really challenging but I got used to it. I started using the TENS machine now too.
I remember asking aloud "am I still in the latent phase?" at about 12 o clock and Tortie saying, "what I can tell you is that things are progressing and you're going to meet your baby soon." I also remember looking at the clock and it was nearly 1am and saying "I don't want the morning to come". The thought of passing through the whole night felt unbearable.  I remember at one point getting caught in a surge and feeling a bit out of my depth. But I was never frightened.

This whole time we had this generic sleep music that we'd been using in the latent phase playing on a loop. We had a birthing playlist that we didn't really use. Back on my hands and knees, my waters released. Tortie was behind me and I asked if it looked clear. I think I also said "is my baby is alright," or something similar. Honestly, I think I just wanted some reassuring words because I knew the answer to that question and was never worried. She said if I had a medical question that I should get Andy. I remember wondering if I'd get to use the birth pool but as it wasn't offered I didn't ask for it and I think I was afraid that if I asked for it I might fixate on it.
I wasn't able to stay in a lunge on the floor so I asked Tim to get the stool from the toilet. I put one leg up on the stool and the stool nearly tipped.
I had this moment of epithany where I realised I controlled the speed things were unfolding. I could embrace what was happening and have it or avoid it and  make it drawn out. So I decided to embrace it. In hindsight this was a bit of a transition moment but I never felt like I couldn't cope. In a lunge on the stool I pushed through, clung to the yoga swing and thrashed and squirmed around like a fish caught on a line with one leg up on the stool moaning. I just let the sounds come freely. Tortie said "AMAZING Abi, " . I could feel a big smile in her voice. I think she said something like, Yes! and your babys coming to meet you !

I felt the need to go back on the floor on all fours.  
I don't remember this bit clearly but remember it being physically fairly easy but requiring a lot of focus, and only that my arms were tired from being on all fours for so long. I remember Tortie saying,  "It's strong Abi because you've not done it before but you can do it." and I remember thinking, "I'm fine actually, this isn't hard or painful, I know I can now" . The sensations were actually easier to manage because there had been a change and that came as a relief. 
I remember Tim saying, "Abi, I'm going to light the Unity Candle now" (Glastonbury Unity Candle) and I knew with certainty at this point that Kit would be born soon. There’s something really special about that bit, as up until that point Tortie had never told me positively where I was in my labour and been evasive about it. I'm grateful she did that.

I had my head in Tortie's lap and she was talking to me. I remember her reading one of my affirmations to me and she said "remember the surges can't be stronger than you because they are you" and I have a very powerful memory of thinking, "they are no way challenging enough for me to need to hear that one, this is easy!"
I felt tuned in to my baby. Tortie said I could talk to her but I never did that out loud.  I felt more in tune with her in a way beyond speech, but it felt she was unknowable, like she was behind a wall but I knew she already knew what to do.
I could feel Kit coming down and going back up a few times and Tortie took her fists and rubbed them clenched vigorously on my hips down my thighs (like shaking the apples,) and that helped her move down loads. I said "yes, do that Tortie! don't stop" or something similar. I remember Tortie saying Abi if you reach down you'll be able to feel the top of her head but I wasn't into the idea. My arms were pretty stiff and I was too plugged in to what my body was doing.
I had my head in Tortie's lap and Tortie said I'm going to show you a breathing technique now. I said "Oh, is it the J breath" and she said "No, listen, I'll tell you what to do" and she had me blow a really long raspberry onto the back of her fist as I exhaled and used the breath to birth Kit.
We did this for a while, me blowing for as long as I could like blowing up a balloon. Tortie said something like "That’s great Abi your using up the whole surge, using up all that surge energy."

Kit's head was born and there was a pause. Her body
 was then born and Tim caught her. Tim was the first person to touch Kit.
I knelt up and when I was handed Kit she was in a towel and I brought her close to my chest. I couldn't believe we'd done it. It was amazing to see her and she was bright pink and well. I had an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and felt whatever had to happen next I'd be ok with. I still had my t-shirt on and I managed to whip it off over my head.
My placenta was still inside and Tim, Kit and I sat together reclined back on the birth bean. I remember Andy swiftly wiping her face over and Kit crying
I think I was encouraged into this reclined position to birth my placenta. Andy asked if she could apply some slight pressure to the placenta cord and I said "yes, whatever you think best," she said "I'm not going to pull, just apply a little pressure. My placenta was born and I don't even remember feeling the surge that birthed it or even any sensation and at the time I was surprised by this.
Andy said she'd like to examine me to check there wasn't a tear inside. I trusted her implicitly and I was told by Tortie to make a long exhalation while she did this. This was the only vaginal check I had during my labour.
Before I went into labour I'd talked to Tim my about my fears and one of my concerns had been what if I was too weak to hold my baby. He had reassured me he would help me too and keep me and the baby together. After Kit was born and had fed her a bit, I suddenly felt weak. I couldn't hold her, and I got the shakes and felt vague. There was no blood loss, so we don't know why.
My latent phase had been 12 hours and my active labour 12 hours. Starting 3am and finishing 3am the following day. I had no tearing and despite preparing an arsenal of comfort measures, the two I’d used were the silk yoga swing hanging from our roof and the TENS machine. The two affirmations that I wrote, that for me fully embody Kits birth were "I am safe, I am home" and " The only way to hold on is keep letting go"