Today i have a guest blog from an absolutely gorgeous client of mine from earlier this year. Ill let her tell her story (While i sit here and blub, you will too!).
My positive birth story (6 months on but better late than never!)
Giving birth to Ralph is hands down the greatest achievement of my life. I have never felt so alive, so present, empowered and vulnerable in my whole life. When Ralph swam quietly but forcefully into the world I felt such elation, love and relief it was overwhelming. Even now it gives me butterflies to remember it. But if you’d told me just a year earlier that a birth like this was possible for anyone let alone me I’d have laughed in their face.
See my birth story starts with the birth of my first son Riley. I thought I had ‘prepared’ for Riley’s birth. I had attended an NCT course and checked everything off the ‘must have’ list. What more did a pregnant lady need to do??? When I went into labour with Riley I quickly realised how ridiculously unprepared I was! I panicked, felt out of control, didn’t know what I needed, let alone how to ask for it. Circumstances quickly led to a downward spiral and I ended up in theatre for a forceps delivery. My recovery wasn’t much better (I had also highly underestimated how tough post partum recovery is) and was left traumatised by the whole experience. It took me a long time to build the courage to have another baby, but with a lot of research and conversations with some amazing women I felt strong enough to face my fears.
I prepared for labour this time without visiting a shop, or antenatal class! I spent lots of time listening to positive birthing podcasts (Alexia Leachman) on my way to and from work. I got myself a top class, hands down best on the planet doula (@vikkiyoung). I also built a strong female network around me for other areas I knew I’d need support in, @phillipawillmot and other friends. I practiced hypnobirthing and mindfulness throughout my pregnancy and learnt to listen to and trust my body and its capabilities. I practiced how to stop thinking and reconnect with my body and it’s instincts.
When the day came I was calm and ready. It was Mother’s Day (11 days past my due date) and I had felt for a while that this would be the day. I was right. With my surges starting gently I insisted we still went out to eat for dinner (much to my husband’s reluctance). When I returned home Stuart put our eldest son to bed and with him safely tucked up the surges started to become stronger. Vikki arrived and we went for a moonlit walk. It was cool and dark and relaxing. We walked and talked and looked at the night sky. The walk definitely got Ralph moving in the right direction and the walk was marked by periodical stops at lamp posts to help me through the surges. I must have been quite a sight in my pyjamas and slippers causing a concerned neighbour to stop and ask me if he could be of any help! When we got home Vikki felt it was time we thought about getting to the hospital so my parents came to babysit and off we went. I had requested the pool room on the midwifery led unit at the hospital and this was prepared for me before my arrival.
I was calm and focused throughout the journey and managing well with my surges as long as I was bent over with my eyes closed so I could focus inwardly on my breathing. I consciously kept my pace slow throughout the journey and listened to my body stopping to rest when needed. It was midnight when we got to the midwifery unit and I remember bursting into tears when we got to the pool room with sheer relief that I had made it this far and was doing it just how I had visualised for so long.
I had decided in advance that I didn’t want to know how dilated I was throughout my labour and so I refused any examinations after an initial one to check all was normal. I didn’t want to allow a number to negatively affect my perception of how well/or not well my labour was progressing. My midwife was very respectful of my wish to have a natural birth with no interventions and I did not want to be offered any pain relief. I got into the birth pool at 12.15 and was amazed at the effect that the warmth and weightlessness had on the intensity of the contractions. I knew it was the right place for me.
The room was peaceful and dark and I lost all sense of time. Vikki and Stuart supported me through each surge as their intensity and frequency increased.
There was a moment when I started to feel things change and a bubble of panic started to rise in me. My thoughts turned to whether I could actually go through with this with no pain relief? Perhaps I had got it all wrong and I wasn’t going to cope? That I had gone too far for anyone to help me now. How would I know how and when I was supposed to push? I was scared but remembered to surrender to my body and it’s knowledge of what to do and I quickly called on Vikki’s help to talk me out of my overthinking mind and bring me back to the moment by explaining that what was happening was all a good sign of progression and preparing me for the next stage.
Very soon after this point my waters broke with quite some force in the pool, and I clearly remember feeling Ralph’s head descend through my pelvis and feeling him turn. My body took over at this point (textbook foetus ejection reflex) and I did not consciously push at any point. In fact it was important to breathe through this as Ralph was coming a little too quickly! I remember thinking at the time ‘Wow, my body is doing this all on its own, I have no control, how amazing!’
I felt Ralph crown and the infamous ring of fire, all the while Vikki calmly talking me through what was happening, reminding me to let my body do what it needed to do. A mere 12 minutes after my waters broke Ralph was born. He was caught by Vikki and placed in my arms. My baby boy was here and safe and I was a birthing goddess overjoyed to meet our new son.
I delivered the placenta naturally in the water and Ralph enjoyed some skin on skin time with his dad as I took care of this and got out of the pool. Ralph wasn’t cleaned or weighed or dressed for another couple of hours. He spent the first two hours of his life snuggled up in bed with me having his first feed and lots of skin on skin.
As dawn broke and my midwife was finishing her shift she weighed him and as my first son was 7lbs 6oz I was astounded that Ralph weighed in at 8lbs 13ozs.
I had a post partum haemorrhage 10 days after Ralph was born so my journey wasn’t entirely without complications, but I truly believe that my positive and empowered birth helped me deal with this more calmly and my birth has impacted on my self esteem for the long term too. It has made me feel more confident in my instincts, I know what is best for me and my baby. Not a health visitor or midwife or friends/family offering ‘advice.’ But I also know the value of having a village of wise women around you to lean on when you are empty. I’m also less hung up on my body image now that I know what it is truly capable of.
When I’m having a tough day or in those early wee hours when you haven’t had a wink of sleep or in moments of doubt, I go back to that moment in the pool when I roared Ralph into the world. It gives me strength and joy and I am very grateful.
Told you you’d blub. It’s pretty amazing isn’t it! Huge hugs to laura and a thousand thank you’s from all the women who will hopefully read this and feel empowered to seek out their positive birth. Whatever form that comes in. Gather your tribe ladies x