Astrid is my third baby and the final member of our family. After having a beautiful home water birth with her brother in 2018, I was looking forward to her birth from the moment I discovered that I was pregant. During early pregnancy I attended a consultant appointment to discuss my risk of tearing (I had a 3rd degree last time) but was released out of consultant care after the appointment having been deemed low risk meaning I was able to plan a home birth. Up until 35 weeks my pregnancy was really straightforward. I felt good just a little more tired than usual but that was no surprise having a three and two year old to keep up with!
As I got into my third trimester I started to prepare for the birth. I used the Positive Birth Company's online pack to refresh my hypnobirthing techniques, did a daily relaxation and yoga and put up my positive affirmations around the house. I felt really positive and was looking forward to another great birth experience. Then we hit a bump in the road!
After measuring big at my 34 week appointment I was sent for a scan and they found I had polyhydraminos (raised levels of amniotic fluid). There was talk of early induction, which I flat out refused based on my experiences with my first labour, and it looked as though I was going to be put under consultant led care. This all came as a huge shock and I completely panicked. It was really difficult to advocate for myself as I had to attend all the scans and appointments on my own due to Covid restrictions. I felt like my choices were being taken away.
Luckily, I had the most amazing community midwife who didn't write off my option of a home birth and was able to help advocate for me with the consultants. I also made sure I did my research on polyhydraminos. I contacted tellmeagoodbirthstory.com who gave me some incredible advice and encouraged me to trust in my own body. I also found AIMS (the Association for the Improvement of Maternity Services) incredibly useful. They provided me with lots of evidence based information about the condition which allowed me to come to an informed decision. Using the BRAIN acronym and by looking at absolute vs relative risk I realised that in my case, a home birth could still be a safe option for me. I'm not usually very assertive so advocating for myself was outside of m comfort zone but after a lot of support from my midwife I was eventually signed off to have a home birth at 39 weeks pregnant. The main concern with polyhydraminos is a cord prolapse if your waters break early so we agreed that I would call the midwives out as soon as I was in early labour to check that the head was engaged.
My due date came and went (as expected; I was 11 days over with my son) and once I was 12 days over I agreed to daily monitoring. At my first appointment the midwife told me the home birth team 'wouldn't want to' do an overdue home birth with polyhydraminos and tried to book me in for a consultant appointment to discuss induction but luckily my community midwife was working at the hospital that day and put a stop to it! Despite all this I was feeling really calm and relaxed, my husband was furloughed so was around to help with the children and I was getting time to myself to relax and go for walks. Daily hypnobirthing practise and all the affirmations definitely helped with this.
The evening after my first monitoring session, I started to get a few period type cramps once the kids were in bed. I bounced on my ball to see if I could get them going but they eased off a bit so thought it was just braxton-hicks. I went to bed at about 10 o'clock and managed to fall straight to sleep. I woke up at about 1am and the tightenings had started again, but I couldn't get back to sleep so decided to get up. My husband, Adam, had not gone to bed yet and when I told him what was going on he started to prepare the house for the birth and blow up the pool. We were expecting a really quick labour as I had a 2/3 hour labour with my son. We got the fairy lights on and the lavender in the diffuser and I bounced on my ball watching a bit of TV and ate some toast. I wasn't sure this was it as the surges were really mild (I didn't need to use up breathing yet) but they were coming quite close together. Last time I'd been in denial about being in labour and the midwives only arrived 30 mins before the birth so I felt a bit torn as to what to do! After about half an hour and some regular tightenings Adam called the midwife who agreed to come and check me over to see what was going on.
Once the midwives arrived I had an exam to see how things were progressing. I was 3cm but the cervix was really thin. The midwives felt it would be best to stay, given the chance of a speedy delivery. But with 2 midwives and my husband all crammed in, my living room suddenly felt really small and I felt a bit observed. My contractions slowed down significantly and I was finding it hard to 'get in the zone' (despite the midwives being absolutely lovely). I headed upstairs to my bedroom and put on my hypnobirthing tracks. I dimmed the lights, I sniffed clary sage, moved around the room and bounced on my ball. I spent an hour or 2 up there and my contractions built really well. I was using up breathing to get through each one and leaning on Adam. A nice surprise for him as I wanted to be left alone last time!
Once my contractions had picked up I made my way downstairs as I wanted to be close to the pool just in case. By this point it was around 4 am. Adam had filled the pool but I was reluctant to get in it as I was worried about slowing the contractions. So I moved around the kitchen and looked at my affirmation wall while listening to my hypnobirthing tracks. I felt really calm and relaxed but I felt that I couldn't really let go as my children were still in bed upstairs. I had hoped baby would come before they woke up. However, with this labour progressing slower than I had anticipated I was starting to worry I'd be giving birth around the time they woke up. I realy didn't want Adam to miss the birth due to having to look after them. So Adam arranged to have our friends who are in our childcare bubble, pick them up.
Once the children had gone at around 5am I got into the pool. It felt amazing! I felt my body relax and really lean into the labour now I wasn't worrying about the children. My contractions ramped up in intensity and I went from breathing quietly through them to getting quite vocal. I was holding onto Adam's hands as we breathed through them together. I felt really connected to him through the whole labour, it really was a team effort! I loved this part of the labour, I felt powerful, calm and in control.
At about 6am the contractions picked up again and I started to feel a bit of pressure. I stated making more guttural 'mooing' noises but I didn't think at the time that it was transition as it felt so different to my last labour. I now know its because my waters still hadn't broken so all the sensations were really different. At this point, I asked for gas and air to help me cope with the intensity. It took a while for the midwife to get it from her car and by the time she got back in I was being very loud! I've never heard anything like the noises that were coming out of my mouth! The pressure with the waters not being broken was so intense. I felt in control and wasn't screaming in pain. I was just really vocalising what was going on in my body. It was so bizarre as it felt like someone else was making the noises! I had a few puffs of the gas and it sent me loopy! I felt disorientated and had a little panic. Adam and the midwives had to talk me down and encourage me to breathe it all out. The gas was quickly whipped away and didn't come back until after the birth!
I think the surge in adrenaline from the gas triggered something in my body as it now started to push involuntarily. It was an extremely powerful sensation and it took me by surprise. The midwives encouraged me to lean back in the pool to slow things down a bit as I had asked them to help me avoid another third degree tear.
After about 20 mins the midwife thought she could see baby's head but it turned out it was my waters bulging. I even felt stinging so I thought it was the head too. I started trying to push along with my body at this point but soon realised there wasn't a head yet, which was a bit disheartening. In my last labour I could feel him moving down and turning but this time it was just an immense amount of pressure. It was so strange!
Eventually at 6.50am, after more crazy out of body noises (poor neighbours!) my waters finally popped and her head was born with them. What a relief it was. One more contraction and a little push and her body was born. I reached down to catch her and bring her up to meet us. I looked down to find out that we had a girl! I was in such shock after a very intense experience that I didn't realise she was a bit floppy. Unfortunately, the midwife had to cut the cord and take her away to give her a rub down. She started breathing really quickly and pinked up great but didn't cry for a good few minutes. I think she was just a bit shocked too! She's absolutely fine it was just a tense couple of minutes.
Once that little drama was over I got out of the pool and met our little lady properly. Despite being 13 days 'overdue' she was absolutely covered in vernix and was my smallest baby, 1lb lighter than her brother and sister! The sun was just rising as I got my first snuggles with her - absolute bliss! We are all so in love and I'm so pleased she came in her own time and her own way. She was obviously born at the perfect time for her.
The midwives stayed for a couple of hours to observe Astrid as there was some meconium in the waters. I'm so glad they didn't break until the end now as that would have meant a transfer into hospital! She was absolutely fine though. I was thrilled to find out I only had a 2nd degree tear this time, which could be stitched up at home (the gas and air came out again at this point!). Last time I'd had to transfer into hospital to be sutured in theatre so it was wonderful to be able to stay at home this time. Once the midwives left, I was able to have a shower in my own bathroom and snuggle up with my gorgeous baby in my own bed while eating cheese toasties. It was such an amazing way to welcome our new arrival, I'll never forget it! We had the day at home just us 3 before Astrid's big brother and sister came home too meet her in the afternoon. Just perfect!