Birth story - Sal and baby girl

At my 7 week booking appoint the midwife recommended our local birth centre and, not knowing much at that point, I agreed and promised I would go away and do a bit of research. I am so very grateful to that midwife! Around 24 weeks pregnant I purchased the digital hypnobirthing pack on a bit of a whim - I really wasn't sure if hypnobirthing was for me (I've always struggled a bit with yoga, and thought hypnobirthing sounded a bit "hippy". Of course, I was proven wrong!). By working my way through the videos and learning the science of birth (which I found SO interesting!), I found myself almost instantly becoming so much more positive and informed about birth - no matter what was to come. We visited the birth centre and it was clear that it provided everything the three of us would need.

My waters broke quite spectacularly at 9.15 pm on Saturday 15 September (39+6), which was quite a shock! That day I had gone on a lovely 3 mile walk, bounced on my ball and watched a lot of cheerful TV. After calling the birth centre, we went in to confirm that it was my waters (it was obvious!) and met Gill the midwife who told us to go home, get some sleep and go on a walk in the morning. As her shift finished at 8 am it seemed unlikely that we would see her when we returned. How wrong we were!

By 1 am everything had started to kick in and I was unable to stay in bed. Everything was intense very quickly, which I managed with my birth ball, TENS machine, Harry Potter audiobook and the “Up” breathing. By 2 am surges were in between 1-3 minutes, lasting anywhere between 30 seconds and 1 minute. This confused me a bit, as I had been expecting the surges to get gradually closer together and longer. I’d been expecting to be in for the long haul! I rang Gill the midwife to ask for advice, who told me that I should be expecting a couple of hours at least of surges lasting for 1 minute. OK I thought, I can do this.

At 3.30 am I woke my husband, and tried to explain that I had to wait for the magic "1 minute for 2 hours" formula, but by 4.15 am most were 1 minute in length (some were 2!) and so at 4.30 am I knew that I couldn’t wait and we headed back to the birth centre. This was a good decision, as I had such a lot of surges in the car and upon arrival.

When we arrived I accepted an examination (tricky as surges were coming thick and fast!) and was astonished and relieved to be told that I was 9 cm dilated! I do remember having a "I can't do this” moment with my husband, which was around the time of the examination, and as soon as Gill told me I was 9 cm I felt my body enter the second stage of labour and I thought I might be needing to push very soon. The birth pool was filled and it was absolutely fantastic! My body took over, and I had no choice but to go with it (the body is an amazing thing). There was a lot of mooing - impossible not to! Helped along by my husband and Gill, I remembered the “Down” breath and used gas and air to keep calm as much as possible and manage as each surge arrived. My husband had the chance to put on some of my favourite piano music, and fortunately the beautiful room didn’t need anything else. Strangely enough this stage was more manageable as I actually had a break between surges to chat and move around in the pool. During the first stage things had been so intense so quickly I had never really had the break between surges that I had been expecting.

As our daughter started to make her entrance her heart rate dipped a little, and after discussing with Gill I got out of the pool and onto the bed for the last few moments. It didn’t take long, and she was born at 6.59 am, less than 10 hours after my waters broke. My active labour was recorded at 3h 20 mins. We were left for skin on skin time for a couple of lovely hours. I realised once she had been born that a machine had been wheeled into the room at the last moment, but it had been done so quietly that I am not even sure I really noticed. It is reassuring to know, however, that the midwives were prepared had any additional support been required (and that they could bring such a large, potentially alarming machine into the room so discretely!).

It turned out that as she had arrived the baby’s shoulder had caused an unusual lateral tear (I did not feel it), and after being examined by two midwives it was decided that it was a little tricky and warranted a trip to the main hospital. I had been hoping to avoid a transfer (something that I think everyone worries about when they consider a separate birth centre) but I was consulted at every point and felt very comfortable that this was the right decision, having just had the perfect labour that I had wanted. The midwives were determined that I would return after the stitches, and they even held the room for us! I went by ambulance (no lights) to the hospital, accompanied by the birth centre midwives, and we were taken straight to a private room to meet two new midwives (one a third year student) while we waited for a doctor to be available.

It might sound crazy but the transfer and stitches process was still incredibly positive, and I felt supported and consulted at every moment. During the process I chatted away to the midwives and the doctor, and it was great to see the student midwife watching closely and learning from the procedure. Once we were done we were allowed to drive back to the birth centre (my husband drove us) where we spent the rest of the day and night being thoroughly well looked after and supported through the first hours of being parents. It was amazing - we didn't feel the need to rush home at all. We even ordered a pizza!

I am so glad that I chose to have my baby at the birth centre and very grateful to the whole team there for making such a wonderful environment and enabling such a positive experience from start to finish, for all three of us. Hypnobirthing was a fantastic tool to enable me to understand the birth process, establish my own approach to labour and explain everything to my husband. My husband didn't watch any of the videos, but we did buy the book "Men, Love & Birth" by the male midwife Mark Harris, which really, really helped join the dots for him - I would recommend this for all male birth partners.

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