I can’t quite believe I’m writing this, but I am going to tell you my positive birth story. Yes, I actually experienced this elusive ‘positive birth’ that I’d heard everyone talking about but I’ll admit that in heart-of-hearts I never thought I’d ever be able to achieve. I might have even wondered if it was even real! I still can’t put into words how much it means to me to say I had a positive birth experience, it’s been incredibly healing, got us off to a really great start as a family of four and I’m still riding the high from the experience now, so I can’t wait to share our story with you….
My birth with Violet didn’t go to plan. This time I was determined things would be different, although deep in the pit of my stomach I felt terrified it would be the same and wondered what I’d let myself in for. My biggest fear would be that I’d have another back-to-back labour – it was agony. During my pregnancy with Pearl I tried my best to push these thoughts aside and be as positive as I could. I also worked my way through The Positive Birth Company’s Digital Hypnobirthing course, which was so reassuring and gave me some great techniques to practice too.
THE VILLAGE FAIR….
I like to go into labour in strange places. With Violet I was on the beach during a gale-force storm. This time we were at our local village fair. I’d woken up that morning with mild pains in my tummy. They were random and didn’t last long so we decided to continue with our plans for the day to take my mind off everything. We headed to our local village fair, it was a sunny, hot day so we stopped for iced coffee then we strolled around the stalls, buying jars of Sussex honey and chatting to our friends. After an hour, I was feeling like I needed to sit down and breathe through each contraction so we decided it might be best to get home. Things were starting to feel a bit real.
It was a ridiculously hot day so once we were home I worked through each contraction using my TENS machine (I have this one and it is AMAZING in labour) the birthing ball, breathing techniques – I also started using a timer app, which showed they were still randomly between 2-7 minutes apart lasting anywhere between 20-60 seconds! Not being the classic ‘3 in 10 minutes’ I phoned the hospital for advice and as it was the day of Brighton Pride and the roads were all closed/busy with traffic so I was worried we’d get stuck in traffic if we left it too long. They said to come in to be examined but by the sound of it (and that I was fully able to talk through the contractions) they said I’m likely to be sent home.
ARRIVING AT THE HOSPITAL
We got to the hospital and found our way to labour triage – I’d been chatting away happily in the car, nothing like when I travelled into hospital with Violet and the car journey was excruciatingly painful so I thought maybe this was all a false alarm. The contractions didn’t seem so bad anymore so I was absolutely sure we’d be sent home. We didn’t take in the hospital bags and I mentally prepared myself to be told I was not in established labour yet. I kept repeating that we will just get some advice then go home so I didn’t feel disheartened when the inevitable happened!
On the maternity floor we were given a room to wait for a midwife. It’s on the 12th floor so we stood and looked at the beautiful view over Brighton’s coastline – we could see the entire city and spotted all the landmarks like the beach, the pier and as it was Brighton Pride, rainbow flags were flying everywhere. The midwife came in and examined me but agreed I probably wasn’t in labour as ‘I was so calm’. Much to her surprise (and mine!) she told me I was 4cm dilated, which she said she couldn’t quite believe as I’d been chatting away so calmly and just breathing through each contraction quietly. She said she would admit me to the labour ward and instruct the midwives to run the birthing pool. This was really happening…. the baby was coming!
THINGS ARE RAMPING UP….
I think a lot of what happens in labour is linked to your mental state. Suddenly knowing I was in established labour seemed to give my contractions the kick-start they needed. As we waited for our room on the labour ward, contractions tripled in intensity and I had to use all of my hypnobirthing techniques to work through each one, standing in the corridor as I’d found a fan which seemed to be a great distraction, plus it was so ridiculously hot. The midwife who examined me arranged for me to have some Gas & Air at this point, which at first made me light headed, laugh and I shouted ‘Now I’m at Pride!’ as I heard some giggles from the midwives office, but soon it became vital to working through each contraction and helped massively.
Our labour ward midwife came to ‘collect’ us and I recognised her immediately from Violet’s stay on the antenatal ward. I was so pleased to see a friendly face at this point, it was so reassuring (plus she had a lovely student midwife with her too). I knew I was in safe hands. This really helped me keep calm when I could feel the pace ramping up and doubts starting to creep in on whether I’d cope. I kept feeling like I could easily have panicked, I felt so daunted, especially at this point, but I kept telling myself to focus and repeating my positive affirmations in my mind – it really helped.
IN THE BIRTHING POOL
We went upstairs and walked into the birthing pool room. I remember having a sudden rush of emotions as we walked into the room, it felt so surreal that this was actually happening and I almost felt teary that I’d managed to achieve my birth plan by getting into the water pool. I felt immensely proud of myself for getting to this point without losing my cool. I was in total panic and meltdown by this point with Violet, so this gave me a massive boost and couldn’t wait to get into the water! The water was warm and calming, we set up my spa music playlist and sprayed the Liquid Yoga spray around the room to set the calming mood. I worked through each contraction, laying quietly in the water between each one to rest and to reset my mindset each time, ready to take on the next one.
I got into the pool around 2-3pm (the timings are a bit fuzzy!) and coped well for the first hour. The midwives were very hands-off, quietly watching and listening to me and monitoring the baby every now and again – but they didn’t examine me or interfere too much, I remember them saying ‘Listen to your body’ a lot. This at first felt a bit strange to me, I wasn’t sure to trust my body and was worried I wouldn’t know what to do! I asked to be examined a few times as I felt like I needed to know what stage I was at and how dilated I was, but now I look back I’m glad they just let me get on with what my body was meant to do on my own – that really helped me stay in my zone and I’m glad they encouraged me to let nature take it’s course. I tried not to look at the clock too much or to think of the next stages, everything was about working through that contraction, in that moment only. I didn’t think ahead, only to the moment I’d be holding the baby in my arms!
After around an hour, things ramped up to the next stage again and I felt a massive shift in how the contractions felt. I want to be totally honest at this point about how painful it was! This is not to scare anyone but because when I had Violet I thought a ‘positive birth‘ would not be painful and that it is possible to ‘breath the baby out’ as that was what I was told! When this didn’t happen I felt even more like a failure.
So I want to be totally honest about this part and say each contraction did hurt just as much (or more) than when I had Violet, but the difference this time was that I knew how to cope with the surges, I had techniques to cope and breathe through each one and an amazing support team of V and my two midwives around me – I got by each one then had a lovely break in between to reset and centre myself. That is the difference that makes this a positive experience. It’s still birth, there is still going to be a level of pain to deal with and I think it’s important to talk about in a positive way, rather than to avoid the ‘P’ word all together.
At this point, each contraction felt like a giant mountain, it would build up and up and up and when I felt I couldn’t take it any more it would start to release again. I kept telling myself that I can do it, I’m a strong woman and this is what my body was designed to do.
As I wasn’t examined it’s hard for me to pinpoint timings or how long each stage lasted, but in the last hour in the birthing pool I wonder if I’d hit transition as I started asking the midwives for an epidural and saying ‘I can’t do this!’ – many, many times! Everyone, including V was so encouraging and just told me I was doing well and to listen to my body, they said that I could do this without and we’d be meeting the baby soon which really kept me going. I’d written in my notes that I didn’t want an epidural even if I asked for one, so I’m pleased they didn’t take me seriously and knew it was just the transition phase. When the midwife said she could seriously arrange me an epidural I immediately said I didn’t want one, so I’m sure transition just makes you say these things!
OUT THE POOL
Soon after this the midwives asked me to get out of the pool to examine me as it had been about 3 hours (ish) – I think they weren’t sure if my waters had broken, but I can’t remember exactly! Anyway, during the examination the midwife broke my waters by accident, revealing I had light meconium in the waters. This meant the baby needed to go onto a constant monitor and my time in the birthing pool had come to an end. I was pretty sad about this but at the same time but I also felt like I wasn’t progressing in the pool so thought a change of scenery and position might spur things along! I was getting a bit hot and tired so it was good to have a change up.
We had to leave our gorgeous birthing pool room and move to a ‘standard’ hospital room which was a shame, but when I saw we were in the room next to the one I gave birth to Violet in, it was meant to be!
This next section is a bit fuzzy but I climbed up onto the bed on my knees, leaning over the pillows on all fours. I knew that laying on your back is the worst position, so if I was going to be on the bed I wanted to be as upright as possible. The midwives put on the monitor straps but I didn’t even notice as I was in a complete zone by this point, I didn’t realise but the baby was only minutes away! The pushing stage didn’t come so naturally to me at first, it took a while for me to get in my zone. I felt like I was using all my energy to just ‘cope’ with each contraction when actually I needed to shift my mental state to pushing the baby out, which means letting everything relax, yet with each wave I was still tensing so much which is only natural as much as I tried not to! I could feel the babies head move down and knew it was time. The midwives kept telling me to relax, saying I was ‘holding something back’ and that ‘theres something stopping you’ which is true – I think I felt at my most vulnerable and it’s only natural to withdraw into yourself. They took the gas and air away from me so I could put all my concentration into each push and I prepped myself that on my next contraction I was going to push this baby out, no holding back!
PUSH, PUSH, PUSH!
At this point I just pretended there was no one else in the room, I shut down and blocked every sound out – I just had to focus on getting this baby out then it would all be over. I pictured what her face might be like and what it would be like to relax on the bed drinking tea and eating toast and told myself I’ll be there soon.
I pushed and pushed and felt her head moving down, right to the point of being born, but at the end of the contraction I ran out of steam and she’d move back up. This was the most frustrating part of my labour – so close, but so far! This happened a few times, although each time I felt I was getting more and more in my stride with pushing, disregarding anyone in the room it felt like I was following a primal instinct that was a moment between me and the baby that I’ll never forget. On the next contraction I told myself ‘the baby is being born this time’ and I pushed the hardest I’ve ever pushed, hearing voices behind me shouting ‘the head is out, the head is out!!’ I thought I’m not stopping now, this baby is being born RIGHT NOW and I am not stopping whatever happens!
The next few moments were like slow motion, yet blurry and fuzzy too as all I can remember is looking down through my legs and saw a tiny little baby being handed up to me. The shock, the elation and relief was like nothing I’ve ever felt before as I picked her up and clutched her in my arms. I had DONE IT. We had done it – She was HERE!
AFTER THE BIRTH
I laid back and held our baby in my arms. There was no big panic like at Violet’s birth, she calmly laid in my arms looking up at me as I looked into her eyes and cried tears of utter joy. The midwives pottered about helping me deliver the placenta and doing a few checks but I didn’t notice as I had my baby to look at and we were just mesmerised by her! We had our cups of tea and slices of toast, chatted to the midwives and even had a visit from our community midwife who’d looked after me in pregnancy which was so sweet.
Over the next couple of hours we gave Pearl her name, she had skin-to-skin with V and she had her first feed. The pride celebrations were going on in the city below but I felt like we were in our own little baby-bubble, looking over the city to the most wonderful sunset, it was the most beautiful experience of my life, it was just utter perfection.
So, thats the story of my positive birth. It was one of the biggest, toughest, scariest journeys of my life, but I did it. And a little point I’ve forgotten to add is that after Pearl was born, the midwife told me she was in the back-to-back position, which was my biggest fear! She didn’t tell me during labour as she didn’t want to frighten me or for me to lose hope in having a natural birth (if I’d have known I’d have demanded an epidural I’m sure!). The midwives said they’d not seen many women deliver a back-to-back baby without pain relief – so I really did feel like a superwoman and I felt like one!It’s proved to me that if I put my mind to something, I can do it. Sometimes you just don’t know your own strength.
Pearl Vivienne – 4th Aug 2018 – 6lb 9oz