Alice's story - Lucia's birth

Having a third baby was a very positive decision for us, but we also couldn’t quite believe it when I got pregnant! Despite being horrendously ill in the first weeks and losing 4kg, I was still classed as high risk as my BMI was just over 30, which meant ob-gyn led care. This led the way for stress after stress with the pregnancy and really this is what this story is about – finding the way forward as a pregnant woman and as a family when you are being pushed in directions you don’t want to go.

We are extremely lucky that we were once again able to use the private midwives who were with us for our first two boys. They are now great friends and invaluable in providing the open, honest and evidencebased care and advice a mother needs to make properly informed decisions. This stood in great contrast to all the other advice we had received. 

After being classed as high risk, I was advised to get the glucose tolerance test early in pregnancy. The result came back fine but I was asked to get the test repeated at around 30 weeks. I refused but did agree to a simple blood sugar test, and the result was a borderline high sugar reading.

Then came the next trial. My father was very ill so I decided to stay in England and have the full glucose tolerance test there. That result came back negative. My father sadly died and after helping organize the funeral, I returned to Italy to my next scan and antenatal appointment.

These showed a big baby and the ob-gyn interpreting the glucose test result from England as positive for gestational diabetes. Several things made this all more stressful than it needed to be. I had already drastically altered my diet and was daily monitoring my blood sugar (the borderline result had made me decide I should be careful) and all my four daily blood sugar tests were consistently coming back at very good levels.

I was feeling well (apart from being stressed and grieving!) and the baby was moving fine.

This is when we decided to a) not return for any more state care appointments and b) have a second opinion and scan from a private doctor recommended by our midwives. His reaction?

‘Why are you here? I don’t understand what the problem is.’

I also arranged a chat with a wonderful independent midwife in England who has a lot of experience with GD. That chat and the opinion of the doctor reassured us all immediately that I was fine, the baby was fine and we could go ahead with our homebirth plan without issue. It was like a weight had been lifted! 

The next three weeks waiting for baby were like a holiday. We were convinced the baby would come early so every day we got to do more things and my Mum could spend time with our two boys was a bonus.

Then another ‘issue’ came up – a positive group B strep result. Once again though, our wonderful midwives came to the rescue and advised a plan including probiotics to eliminate the bacteria and we put in place a plan to monitor the baby after birth.

Then a week of family illness started …by day three (my scan ‘due’ date!) I’d not eaten much and couldn’t really bear to get out of bed. And that’s when the surges started... I timed them for 30mins and could see they were already regular so I told my husband and Mum and called our midwives Marianna who was bringing her colleague Marta, and Ferdinando as birth photographer too.

I monitored for another half hour and still they were coming pretty regularly so I asked Marianna to come (they had to drive 2 hours to get here, so we needed to give them as much warning as possible!). We also put the local volunteer ambulance on standby to be ready to take us to hospital in the event it was needed. My husband began to heat the water for the pool and we arranged for our neighbors to pick up our eldest from kindergarten and to babysit him and his brother.

By now the surges were starting to get more intense and I needed to go into myself with each one. I asked my husband to call Marianna again (it was about 3.30pm by then), and I felt relief to hear they were only 15 minutes away. She told me later she really put her foot down then, if we hadn’t have called they might have stopped for a coffee! The surges were pretty strong now and I was pushing already with every one. My Mum was there breathing through each one with me and I started to need to concentrate further so I used the visualization of literally surfing each surge, kneeling on all fours on my surfboard just as I was on all fours on my bed.

It was a much more intense feeling than my previous birth where I was more in a dream world….I felt very conscious and aware this time, needing to concentrate hard to make sure I focussed on my visualization and keep my body relaxed. Horse lips breathing really helped with this.

Thankfully most of my really ill feeling and symptoms were superseded by labour so other than having to blow my nose a couple of times, I didn’t have to deal with that as well as the surges.

It must have been about 5pm that I felt my waters break….but just a little. The wonderful Marianna and Marta noticed then the water was yellow, but they didn’t tell me, knowing it would make me anxious. They just monitored me and baby closely and were ready to encourage me to get baby out quickly if needed. In the end it wasn’t needed though…around 5.30 there was finally enough water in the pool (my poor husband had been running around boiling big pots of water in between supporting me with light touch massage and encouraging words, unaware that there was a blockage in the hot water system!).

I got in the pool and the relief was so instant that I went into transition immediately. Just three surges later and our baby was born.

Although my waters had broken a little, she was still born en caul, though Marianna did need to break them after the head was born, in order to release the nuchal cord. This meant that the risk from group b strep (if indeed it was still present by then) was next to zero. There wasn’t quite enough water in the pool so there was a little dance to swing my leg over (baby couldn’t go back under the water) and then into my arms and a reminder from Marianna to check the sex – a girl!