Despite this being my first pregnancy and labour, I as a trained doula, have always wanted a home birth but have had pre-exisiting hypertension so immediately was categorised as high risk and therefore had to be quite clear in my choice. Fortunately for me my pregnancy was uncomplicated and I really enjoyed every minute of it so my care team (the midwives but not the consultant…. obviously!) agreed to the home birth. This enabled both Will (my fella) and I to prepare for a conscious birth at home, but in the back of our minds we always knew that the home birth could easily go out of the window thanks to my blood pressure so we were ready for any outcome ie: c-section. We remained optimistic however.
My due date was 3rd July and I was convinced I was going to have a lazy boy so I added a week onto my due date and told everyone it was two weeks later to avoid the onslaught of communication. The last few weeks in the heat started to take their toll on me but I remained in good spirits, keeping active by walking, swimming and doing pilates and pregnancy yoga regularly plus listening to positive birth podcasts and reading Ina May Gaskin positive birth stories whilst eating pineapple, 5 dates a day, drinking raspberry leaf tea and keeping my pelvis tilted forward to avoid a back to back baby.
On the 4th July I went swimming with a load of my antenatal girlfriends and felt fairly regular tightenings throughout the day. I realised only then the the tightenings I’d been experiencing for weeks before were Braxton Hicks but because they were never uncomfortable or unpleasant I didn’t put the two together. I always assumed discomfort would be felt even though I’d refused to accept the labour would be ‘painful’. Intense yes, painful no!
Will returned from work later that afternoon so I told him about these tightenings and from then on in he secretly started timing the tightenings on his contraction app. We went out for dinner (7.30pm) and the tightenings flowed every 15 minutes or so. The excitement was building. We got home from dinner and then the tightenings continued to intensify so I started to finally believe that this was happening for real. The nesting started at around 10pm when I decided to hoover and mop the floors ready for the midwifes and the baby’s arrival at home ….. we were ready for this home birth.
We tried to get some sleep but at around midnight just as we lay down the contractions were coming thicker and faster and so Will called the midwife who instructed him to start blowing up and filling up the pool and to get back in touch with her when the contractions were 3 in 10 minutes. We checked my blood pressure which was fine still so I spent the night moving and shaking whilst Will got things prepared. The contractions were coming thicker and faster, 3 in 10 mins by 4.45 am so just before Will called the midwife we checked my blood pressure and this time it measured 161 / 100. We told the midwife who was shocked and she told us that sadly it was against local policy for her to come out to us at home with my blood pressure at this rate. She advised we call the hospital and go into the MAC to be monitored.
We grabbed all of our stuff and said goodbye to our home birth.
We arrived at the hospital at 5.30 am on the 5th July where I was monitored continuously for a few hours. I was reluctant to this as I needed to keep mobile through the contractions but agreed to the monitoring. We kept our birth preferences simple and open as we knew that anything would be possible with childbirth but one of my wishes was to not know the results of any VE’s. Despite my wishes I was given a VE and a consultant blurted out that I was 2cm dilated and that if I wasn’t high risk and my bp was lower I would be sent home but they couldn’t allow that so I would have to stay in hospital now. I desperately tried to not let this affect me but I’m sure the knowledge of my dilation really affected my subsequent progress.
I had to wait some hours for a room on the labour ward because the birth centre was a no no, but finally got one at 10am where I was given a few hours to get into established labour (4cm). My blood pressure medication dosage was increased to manage the blood pressure. I had a bath at 12.30 noon which slowed my contractions right down. We were able to have a short kip and have some lunch before we were swiftly moved onto the antenatal ward where I could progress my situation until I was in established labour. Little did I know how long this process would take for me.
I spent the rest of Thursday walking the circumference of the hospital grounds and climbing stairs sideways in the crazy July heats. On Thursday evening my mum came to relieve Will so he could have a nap. On the antenatal wards there was a lovely room called The Bubble where I could get some privacy and a massage from a midwife whilst listening to relaxing music and watching the colours change on a tall bubble light. I was able to get some rest and relief that for an hour or two that night. By this point I was in early labour for over 24 hours.
Friday came and went and was filled with intense surges lasting 2.5 – 3 minutes every 4 minutes. I walked, twerked, danced, omm’d, and blew raspberries through my mouth to cope with the surges. We were both exhausted. The midwife gave me a VE in the late afternoon to find that I was still only 3 cm dilated but that my cervix was paper thin so gave me a S&S (I hadn’t had any until this point) and said if I could get myself to 4cm I could get onto the labour ward and have my waters broken. Will and I were determined to get the job done so we took over the The Bubble, put our tunes on, he massaged me, squeezed my hips, cradled me in the rebozo throughout my surges and i continues to dance, breath and twerk. By midnight on the Friday I was approaching 4cm and the only room on the labour ward with a pool was ready for me. Yassss! I was excited.
Thanks to the S&S the surges intensified yet again so I tried the gas & air which I loved ( I’m an event producer and have produced many festivals so the gas & air took me to a festival immediately… lol) but I was so exhausted and needed some rest as I was approaching beyond 36 hours of labour. The midwife knew I wasn’t keen on pain relief and anything that might a) affect the baby b) compromise my ability to move and stay upright and therefore baby’s position for labour but I trusted her so when she suggested some pethadin to get me a few hours rest I agreed. I had the injection at 4.30 am on Sat morning. I had another VE only to find out i was still only at 4cm so my waters were broken at 7am to help speed things up a little more.
The new day time team found me in a bit of a pickle on Saturday. My blood pressure was rising and now unmanageable with the medication. I also had raised temperature which was a concern for infection in both baby and I so I was strongly recommended to have an epidural so I could properly rest and aid lowering the blood pressure. I wasn’t keen at all but couldn’t ignore my reality and wasn’t going to risk anything with the baby so the epidural was administered at 10am on Saturday ( after a second attempt) followed by a catheter, a baby monitor fitted to baby’s scalp which both baby and I were really grumpy about but I understood it was necessary, various canulars fitted for drips and antibiotics, baby’s head was scratched to take blood samples for infection. The only benefit we saw from all this commotion was that Will took a look and saw the baby’s head and a lot of very dark hair which was a total shock as we are both fair!
Finally I had some rest.
The first time in 3 and half days (60 hours).
Throughout Saturday my progress stopped and started so there was talk of c-sections which at this stage I was not adverse to. I was so exhausted and now worried about the baby that I would have done anything to get the baby out and end this long long labour purely because i was utterly exhausted, but our birth preferences clearly stated that we wanted a smooth, progressive, calm and empowering childbirth experience and where possible as natural as possible so the team did everything in their power to ensure this could happen safely. By 6pm I was told that I was finally at 8 cm and that given a few more hours I would be fully dilated (thanks to the sintocinon drip) and I could begin to push for an hour only.
10pm arrived and I was finally fully dilated. The room was super tranquil and the energy was calm, I was excited. I could feel my baby bearing down and I doing everything I could to keep my position favourable for en easy exit for the baby.
The midwives were shocked at how much I moved around on the bed. They said they’d never seen someone so active before on epidural.
I pushed for an hour in various positions, baby’s head kept on descending and then retreating back so after the hour the midwife called in the consultant on the night shift and they decided there and then to take me into surgery to attempt a forceps delivery.
I was totally gutted I couldn’t do this on my own, but I had nothing left in me so as I got swept into the theatre full of new faces, bright lights and lots of instructions I felt as though I was drifting into another dimension. I couldn’t keep my eyes open or my head up despite being given clear instructions of how much more was expected of me. I was scared. Will found his way amongst the many new people in the room to my head to encourage me. Our music was playing so there was still an element of our vibe in this new clinical set up. The doctor reached inside me to adjust the baby’s head which turned out to be slightly off centre and therefore poorly engaged for a natural delivery. I must have twerked and danced its head into that position, poor thing. The doctor was unsuccessful so his colleague attempted who had miniature hands and was successful. I pushed, the whole room erupted with shouts of encouragement, the doc inserted the forceps which felt horribly rough on baby and pulled with my three pushes. The head was delivered and soon after I pushed the body out.
I requested to wait for white for at least 3 minutes, especially given the concern for infection, so when the baby was handed to me still attached to the cord and placenta it didn’t really make too much noise or grasp for air.
Because all I could hear moments before during the delivery was the very slow bleeping of the babies heart beat I thought I was looking in the face of death and panicked.
But thankfully soon the baby let out a cry and we took a look and feeling very confused realised that we had been gifted a baby girl. 7lb 9oz Everly Wren was finally born at 00.56 hours on Sunday the 8th July.
A full 4 days after my labour really kicked off on the wednesday before! Hoooorrray!
Everly was taken off to have a canular fitted for antibiotics in case of infection so Will went with her because that is what we agreed whilst the team dealt with my retained placenta which eventually had to removed manually causing me to lose over 2 litres of blood. I was stitched up from the episiotomy and soon Will and Everly both returned to be my side. Just Wow!
We were both in total shock, in love, absolutely smashed to pieces from our 4 day labour party and just overwhelmed with all the emotions from the experience. I was so swollen and knackered….. totally unrecognisable. The team looked after me so well in the days after to ensure I returned back to good health before agreeing to send me home. They all commented on how admiring mine and Will’s attitude to our labour was and how lovely and calm our environment always was. Despite the slightly traumatic ending with the delivery we both feel very positive and grateful for our experience which couldn’t have been further removed from the labour we had hoped for at home. Our labour was what it had to be and luckily our preparations for a home birthgave us all the tools and knowledge we needed to deal with what we were faced with. It was still magical and empowering and totally worth it.
Post labour at home we all slept for days and kept visitors at bay so we could enjoy our babymoon. I had a closing the bones massage and a body bind which immediately made me feel 100% better so would recommend this to any ladies in the days following labour. Now we are in our flow and very much enjoying the magical moments of our new family bubble.