Lizzi's story - Phoebe's birth

I am a second-time mum and gave birth at home in the pool six minutes after the midwife arrived and with just two pushes! It was a wonderfully healing experience after a long and tricky first birth that ended with forceps and a pph two years ago. I'm hoping my story will be encouraging for anyone feeling uncertain about whether their bodies can do this - I loved reading birth stories at the end of my pregnancy. Maybe my story can now help you.

I lost a first blob of mucus plug on Thursday morning and loads more during the day on Friday. I felt sure I was close and found myself singing a church song about waiting patiently at my toddler Reuben’s bedtime (“and as I wait I’ll rise up like the eagle, and I will soar with you, your spirit leads me on, in the power of your love”). 
On Saturday morning, I was woken up at 3am by an owl hooting. I went for a wee and realised I was having gentle, regular surges every 10 mins or so. I went back to bed and enjoyed listening to the owl for a while, dozing / resting in between surges. These stayed regular and got closer together - by 4.30 am they were 5 mins apart and I was focusing on breathing gently through them.
At seven, I got up and had a shower, and we woke Reuben and got him ready to go to Granny’s house. I tried to eat some breakfast but by that point (8am) the surges were coming every three minutes and I was finding it hard to sustain the long out-breaths I’d been practising. Reuben noticed I was uncomfortable. I was sort of lifting myself out of my seat when a contraction came, and puffing quite audibly - while we were sitting at the breakfast table, and he started mirroring my breathing like a birthing partner champion!

Granny arrived to pick him up and I felt a bit tearful. She saw I was cracking on quite fast and suggested that Bob (my husband) get the pool going. (He had already thought he should, but I’d discouraged him because I didn’t want to be too early!) It was good practice to try to keep a smile on so as not to scare Roo, and to hear myself tell him that mummy was fine! We waved him off. 
I had a couple of surges standing up by the kitchen side. They were getting more intense and  now I wasn't worried about worrying Reuben, I found it helpful to vocalise a bit more, trying to keep my moaning nice and low and my jaw and hips loose. In between surges I could feel the baby pushing her feet off the top of my uterus and grinding her head downwards, which was pretty intense, and made me feel a bit like I needed a breather.

I went and lay down on the sofa on my side for three surges and that was a welcome relief of the downward pressure. Bob came and reminded me that I had intended to stay active and upright and suggested a walk in the woods - which I had really thought I’d want to do - or the garden, or to make some flapjacks. I really needed the encouragement to get back up on my feet to use gravity - I’d been able to feel how much it was helping! - and although I didn’t really feel able to leave the house at this stage I thought maybe the flapjacks plan would be a good idea. I had in my head Ina May’s advice that in early labour you should start a job you want to finish to give you a reason to keep pottering around. Now in hindsight I think I was probably quite well into established labour at that point, so although I did unload the dishwasher those flapjacks never did get made!
At 9am, the surges were regularly 3 minutes apart and strong. I was groaning through them and we found that it felt good to have Bob massage my tailbone and lower back.
I still didn’t really let myself believe that things were progressing fast because the sensation was still primarily very low down under the front of my bump, rather than involving the whole bump which I thought I remembered from last time. I tried to keep moving my hips in circles and figure-8s in between surges. During surges, I liked to lean forwards and push off against the kitchen worktop or the arm of the sofa, bending my legs into the sensations. It felt good to introduce some tension through my legs to counteract the intensity. I tried bouncing on my ball too, leaning forward onto the arm of the sofa, but felt like I needed to stand up and bend my legs during each surge.
For a while I knelt down on the floor, next to the arm of the sofa and in that position at 10am I felt my waters pop. Bob dashed up to grab a towel and we called the labour ward. The lady on the phone listened to me groaning through a contraction and asked whether we wanted her to send the midwife straight away or wait and let them know. Feeling very conscious that last time around I’d thought I was further along than I actually was, I interpreted this to mean she didn’t think I sounded far enough along to need the midwife, so I said we’d call again. About three minutes later I changed my mind and Bob had to call back - things had definitely stepped up another notch and the baby felt low down in my bottom. 
Bob got busy filling the pool. I suddenly felt like I had to go to the loo and went upstairs. Things were very intense and I began to have a feeling that the pushing sensations at the end of each surge weren’t just about needing a poo, although still I didn’t quite believe it. Bob saw what was happening though and came up to try to bring me downstairs. In hindsight I think this was transition - my legs went all wobbly and I told Bob I felt a bit scared. 
Bob persuaded me to head back downstairs - thank goodness! - and I needed a lot of persuasion because I really felt like I couldn’t manage it. Even though we set off straight after a surge we had to stop half-way down the stairs for another one. By now I could feel the baby’s head deep in my bottom, although I didn’t dare believe it yet, and was really roaring with each surge. The midwife called to say she’d be with us shortly - we were delighted to hear it would be Kayley, who had been brilliant in my ante-natal appointments - and at that point I said to Bob “I’m going to die if she says I’m 4cms.” Bob reassured me that he was pretty sure I was “at the business end of things now darling”, as he put it!  
Bob tipped a final couple of saucepans of hot water into the pool and suggested I get in. Again I didn’t see quite how this would be physically possible but Bob supported me and I slithered into the water at about 10.55. It was cool and delicious to have my bump supported. As I squatted in the water I could feel the head descending through the birth canal during each surge and gently returning a little way back up in between. At this point I finally started to believe that I was about to have a baby! The rest periods between the contractions were longer now that I was in the pool, giving me some real breaks where I could think clearly, but I could feel real progress with each surge.
Kayley arrived at 10.58. She got her Doppler out and tried to find a heartbeat but the baby was too far down the birth canal. Bob reassured me that everything was fine but I also knew that already. I knew the baby had been working hard to push herself out and I knew she was nearly there. Apart from that Kayley didn’t touch me. She asked me if I felt like giving a little push during the next surge. I honestly hadn’t thought of that! I could feel the baby’s head almost crowning. It was a bit stingy at that point and it was a relief when the surge ended and she went back in a bit. Again I had a nice rest before the next one, and during that one I really did try to push. And out came her head!! I reached down and could feel her hair swishing around in the water. It felt like a long wait until the next contraction (although it can’t really have been) and Kayley told me she could see the baby rotating around. She used a mirror to show Bob. I was surprised at how much I had to push during the next surge - lots of the stories talk about the body just slithering out, which I suppose it did after the shoulders, but those shoulders felt almost as big as the head again. And then there she was, in the water between my legs. I couldn’t believe it! 11.04, six minutes after the midwife arrived!
I reached down and picked her up. The cord only reached up to my tummy and I cradled her in my arms feeling full of wonder and astonishment that it was over so quickly. And that she was so slippery! I kept saying “we did it, my darling”, to the baby, and that’s really what it felt like: she and my body together knew exactly what to do, and didn’t need any help from anyone - not even my brain!
We were getting a bit cool in the pool and I was supposed to be having a managed second stage because of the pph last time. I felt surprisingly able to get out of the pool while holding the baby (with Bob’s support) and we got cosy on the sofa. I delivered the placenta just a couple of minutes later anyway, with just a little push. There was more blood than Kayley really liked so they did give me the injection after the placenta had arrived in any case to help with contracting down. 
Baby Phoebe and I stayed on the sofa feeling triumphant and peaceful for an hour and a half or more. Kayley stitched me up and eventually took Phoebe to get her weighed. She had some skin-to-skin time with daddy while Kayley took me upstairs to try to pee, but I must have gone up the stairs a bit fast because that’s when my blood pressure really dropped. I lost a couple more big clots and some more blood and felt I needed to lie down on the floor before I fell down. At that point Kayley felt that the only thing to do was to call an ambulance. There was no sense of panic or rush though, as they got me dressed (while I stayed flopped  on the floor) and tried to put a cannula in my empty veins. I wasn’t bleeding heavily, just very weak and wibbly. Two paramedics arrived and Bob helped me bum-shuffle down the stairs.
In the ambulance I felt like I had been a warrior tiger queen. I was sad to be leaving Bob alone without us, but so overwhelmingly proud of myself and Phoebe and our amazing achievement that I still felt like I was on top of the world.
I don’t think I was a natural candidate for hypnobirthing. I’m rubbish at relaxing in normal life, I have a quite intense academic job and am used to thinking and reading my way out of problems. I did do lots of breathing practice during my pregnancy and use affirmations, but I didn’t use the hypno scripts or mp3s much because they just made me feel stressed - the more a calming voice told me “you feel supremely relaxed” the more conscious I became of my over-thinking critical brain! In the end I banned the word “relaxed” from my conversations about birth with my husband, and used “calm” and “focused” instead. The most important lesson from hypnobirthing for me was about staying in the moment and not worrying about what was coming next. In my first birth I made decisions that I later regretted on the basis not of what I was actually experiencing but of what I was anticipating. This time, taking each minute as it came, I found that things never got beyond what I could endure - not even close. And the sensation of my baby moving through and out of my body was simply indescribable.