Rachael's birth - continuity, safety, control

As soon as I got pregnant, I started reading and researching. I wanted my pregnancy and birth to be a positive story - something I didn’t have from any friends or family around me, a fact which filled me with dread from the beginning.

After reading M. Hill’s “Positive Birth Book”, I decided that continuity of care was the greatest factor in a good birth experience, and happily, I found our wonderful independent midwife, Milly. With Milly, I could talk about the things I had read or heard, I could ask the stupid questions that came to me in the middle of the night, I could cry, or laugh, or talk about things OTHER than pregnancy (which in the depths of a pregnant lockdown was so important to me). She never promised me the home birth of my dreams - how could she? Neither of us knew what was to come! - but she came with the guarantee that nothing would ever be “done to me”, and as our friendship grew, I felt confident that if Milly recommended it, then that recommendation came from a place of love and knowledge.

Like so many women towards the end of pregnancy, I started to worry that maybe this baby just wouldn’t come out! Forty weeks came and went and I had no indication that anything was going to change. It was late August and my clever plan of telling people that the baby would be with us “before September” (instead of the specific due date) was starting to backfire. I was walking every day simply for something to do, I was living life much as I had since March 23rd...home, walking, garden, baking, napping… birth did not seem imminent. Then one morning, I woke up feeling a bit queasy and annoyed. I remember that day falling out with my sister, calling my mum in tears about whatever it is that she’d said or not said that had hurt my feelings, and saying to my husband, James, for the first time, “I think I’m ready to have this baby now”. 

That evening, we went for a long walk to the orchard for the first time since moving to our village. It was about a mile away from home and it was a lovely, balmy evening. As we admired the sunset, I asked him to take a photo of me “just in case this is the biggest my bump gets!” and as we turned to leave, I felt a sudden rush of feeling ripple through my body and take my breath away. I stopped to focus on it, and once it had passed, jokingly said “wouldn’t it be funny if I went into labour now!!”. A few minutes and a few metres later, it happened again. Then again. It wasn’t painful but I couldn’t ignore it. I told myself this was hopefully the beginning of something that would take several days to amount to anything at all. After all, I was a first-time mum and I hadn’t had a single inkling of a sensation before this.

By the time we got home, I was focused on getting in the bath (as had been my routine every evening). Lying in the bath, I wondered (for a fleeting moment) if I was in labour, but the sensations stopped and my mind went on to other things. Once I was out of the bath, it started again. James asked if he should call the midwife and I snarled (!) back that it would be ages before anything actually happened, and we’d only seen her that morning! Even as I said it, things started to get more intense and I stood by the little next-to-me cot we had ready and waiting (and never used!) vocalising and moving around trying to find some way to feel comfortable. (I never found a position that was comfortable, each surge just was so powerful and overwhelming, I simply did my best to ride them out). I conceded that we should at least check with Milly, who heard me in the background and said she was on the way. James asked if he should start filling the birth pool and she said yes but not to worry about the liner yet. A few moments later she rang back and said, “changed my mind, put the liner in”.

It was a relief getting in the pool. I had so many intentions of using my yoga on the floor to get through the first stage, but there just wasn’t time. Surges were coming thick and fast, and all I knew was: I had to be naked, I had to be in the pool, I couldn’t chat - and I was thirsty. I had the dark, private, quiet room as I had hoped, held and loved as surges crashed over me like waves. Everything during those hours of crashing waves was both very intense and very blurry around the edges to me. I remember sobbing between surges and Milly asking me “are you in pain or are you overwhelmed?”. I was overwhelmed, and the only way to help the energy flow from my baby out into the world was to roar - and roar I did! Sound and sound alone was how I moved through those short hours between being one and becoming two. 

I laugh now, but throughout all of this - I was in complete denial that my baby was actually on her way. Even when I started to feel her move down (then retreat! Then move down again), I couldn’t really believe it was happening. It was only when I sobbed this fear to Milly (“I’m afraid she’s never going to come!”) that she said “your baby is going to be here within minutes!” - this was like the magic tonic. Knowing that Milly believed that unlocked everything and suddenly my baby girl was moving down and starting to emerge. “Remember what I told you about taking things a little slower so she can come gently?” - I did. I remember looking up at James and staring into his face with amazing concentration. He was beaming, telling me “you’re doing it!! You’re doing so well!” and I sort of let things float for a few moments. Then I felt something move within me and it was time to let my baby out. It took another two roars or power and I felt her little face coming through me and out, followed by her little body and suddenly the room was filled with the sound of a new cry that I had never heard before but was so familiar! I had planned to be the person to catch the baby, but I just had to stay where I was in the moment, so Milly caught her and placed her on my back - wet, warm, wriggly and shouting “I’M HERE!!”. Somehow, I managed to stand up, she was passed between my legs, and I held her in my arms as I settled back into the pool’s warm, dark water and said “I did it! Hello! We did it!”

It had taken just 8 hours from laughing in the orchard to holding my baby in my arms - something everyone had told me was just not possible with a first birth, and something I hadn’t mentally prepared for. But here she was - healthy, chubby, a head full of hair, and absolutely perfect. The placenta was born very easily about 20 minutes later, although I admit feeling a surge was a bit alarming! Milly said “don’t worry, this has no bones!” and it was more like a release than a birth. I was so relieved. Holding my baby and realising I had done it, all was well, I couldn’t stop smiling - and that was when Lisa-Marie, the wonderful second midwife, took that photo. Full of pride and love, feeling like a warrior. She was here... I had done it!