Birth Stories: Home Births
The Arrival of Martha May (click to download Word document).
Beth's Story (told by Rozy)
Beth has been coming to pregnancy yoga since she got in the family way and asked me if I would be willing to attend her labour. She had come to birth preparation with her partner Wayne, but they both felt that they would like me to be there when the day came and I was very happy to oblige.
Beth started having contractions on the nights of the 25th and 26th January. They were strong, but nothing she couldn't handle with the breathing and moving and massage the she and Wayne had learned in class. She was due to come to yoga Monday morning (the 27th) but was too tired after the night's events, so went to see her midwife instead. The midwife called her contractions 'tightenings' and told her the baby was engaged (ready to go) but that she wasn't in labour, just prelabour (the contractions would only go on for a few hours and die down by morning).
Monday night I rang Beth to see how she was. She was having a contraction and said that she was scared because the mucus plug had come out from her cervix, and she was worried that there was 'too much gunk coming out'. I asked her if she wanted me to go over and she said yes, so by 10.30pm I was there. She was in the birthing pool (she was planning a home birth), there were lights on everywhere, an action movie on the screen in bedroom and she looked like she was fighting her contractions - holding her breath rather than breathing into them.
She said she felt like she needed to go to the loo (like all the sensations were in her bum) so we took her to the loo. She was not losing too much 'gunk', it all looked normal when i checked. She had forgotten to breathe down into her belly and fanny so I coached her through breathing out and making sounds when she was contracting, then set some candles in bathroom and oils burning and left her to it (she needed some privacy on loo!)
I then set lights off in every room, candles going and ambient music on, no more movies. I kept checking on her breathing and how long the contractions were and the gap between, but she was only contracting for around 20 seconds at a time and the contractions were about 10 mins apart. To be honest, we did not think she was in established labour because her contractions were so short, despite the frequency.
She could not poo (when labouring, women often think they need to poo, when it's actually the baby's head), but she was convinced that's what she needed to do, and then she would be able to get back to sleep! So I went with her to the bedroom and gave her a massage and talked her through a few more contractions. She said she felt sick, so I got her a bucket and then told her I would leave her to it if she was happy with that, and to call out whenever she wanted me.
I spent the next hour or so in the room next door with Wayne, listening to her sounds and keeping an eye on the time. I kept sneaking up outside her door to listen to how her breath was deepening and the length of the contractions. The last time I did this, she was definitely taking her breath deep and the contractions were 40 seconds to 1 minute long. I was thinking it was time to call the midwife, when she called out "Help!"
I went into the room. Beth said she could feel something. I asked if she wanted me to feel, and sure enough, I felt the crown of her baby's head, just pushing out of her. She had gone from 0-100 in 3 hours and we didn't even realise she was in labour!
I asked her if she felt safe. She whimpered "No." I looked her in the eyes and said "That's OK Beth, because I do feel safe and I know you can do this, so we are going to call the midwife and we are going to do this together slowly."
Wayne was on the phone to the midwife, who didn't believe we could feel the baby's head! She wanted to speak to Beth and then started asking her how long she'd been in labour, how long the contractions were! At that point Beth dropped the phone to have another contraction. I grabbed it and told the midwife to listen, that we could feel the head, that the baby was coming, but then I had to drop the phone as Beth was having another contraction!
I supported baby's head as it started coming, and then I had to catch her like a rugby ball as she torpedoed out of Beth! I cannot describe how relieved we all were to hear the first cries! We grabbed a towel, wrapped baby Elody and gave her to Beth to lie down with. Then two lovely ambulance crew turned up and checked all was well, which it was.
No need to go to hospital. No need to scream, no pushing, no terror, no cutting, nothing horrible! We were all in shock, but it was lovely shock. Other than giving birth to Scarlet, this was the most amazing experience of my life to date. I hope it can inspire you with how wonderful and gentle birth can be, and how amazing pregnancy yoga is for labour.
Just to let you know, Grace Freya Saunders arrived promptly on her due date, 8th January, weighing 7lb 13oz. She was born at home, (a planned homebirth) but not quite as I'd planned... all babies decide on their own entry!
After a fantastic home waterbirth (marred only by the stitches) with my first baby I was keen for another waterbirth. After a day of raspberry leaf tea, bath in clary sage oil and a birth inducing bowen treatment from my lovely husband on Wednesday, I started having twinges when I awoke at 7am on Thursday morning. They weren't strong though, so Robert went off to work and I carried on with my day as planned.
I called Natalie, my doula, around 8.30 to let her know that things were starting off, and she thought it was probably pre labour. Olivia's swimming class had been cancelled so one of my friends and her son were coming over for a play date later in the morning. Our front room had been transformed into a birthing room, the pool inflated and dust sheets and towels down everywhere, as well as extra heaters to keep it warm.
During the morning, the twinges turned into contractions but I was managing fine with golden thread breath, sitting on the ball and generally pottering around. Too well, as it turned out! I called my doula a couple of times as things seemed progressing but as I was so calm she was convinced it was still prelabour.
My friend arrived around 11 as I started to time my contractions as I thought they were getting more intense. They then started to come about every 7 mins or so. Robert texted me about 11.30 to see if I was OK, to which I'd replied 'contractions every 7 mins, just been sick'... he phoned me and asked if I was ever going to call! I explained that I was managing but things were much stronger so we agreed he should come home.
I then called Natalie to get her to start making her way over. She was reluctant when I told her Rob was coming (she still thought it was prelabour), but asked how I was feeling. When I replied, "I'm a bit nervous now," she said she would come. My friend agreed to stay and make lunch for Olivia as I was finding it harder but still managing the contractions with my breath.
Rob arrived home around 12.30 and I was finding the contractions really intense. He gave me a quick back massage and then put Olivia to bed, and Emma left around 12.50. As he was putting Liv to bed I ran the bath as I really needed to be in water quickly, then when Olivia was down, he started to fill the pool. I then called the hospital and the midwife called me back. I was really pleased as it was someone I had met a few times at my GP surgery, and she said she'd be round within an hour (again, I was pretty calm on the phone... mistake).
Things were really hotting up as I sat in the bath; my daughter refused to sleep and lay in bed shouting 'Muuuuummmmy' and 'Daaadddyy', but thankfully stayed put. As soon as I put the phone down to the midwife, I felt a pushing against my back passage. I tried to call back but just got the hospital switchboard so decided to stay put as the next contraction felt quite mild. I did feel though that I was not likely to get through this - particularly as all the professionals didn't really think I was in labour! I did keep getting urges to push but used butterfly breath to hold off.
Around 1.50, Robert came to tell me the pool was finally ready and did I want to go downstairs. I had a particularly intense contraction, rested for a minute and then stood up in the bath to go downstairs at which point the baby descended and I said "The baby's coming, I can't go anywhere!" Just then, the doorbell rang, and Robert dashed downstairs to let in my doula and midwife. Olivia got out of bed to see what was going on. Natalie came straight upstairs to look after her, saw that the baby's head was crowning, and got the midwife to the right place (she was looking for me in the front room where she expected me to be).
Then I breathed the baby out slowly using 'cafetiere' breath - holding her as she crowned. Her hand (as it was by her chin), elbow and then shoulder popped out and she turned to come out. I didn't have to 'push' at all; I just used my breath to birth her really gently. I had a tiny nick but needed no stitches which was great.
She was born at 2.10pm. Olivia watched the whole event and said "The baby's got a tail!" We then went downstairs to the nice warm front room to wait for the placenta. I had little blood loss and was able to have a natural third stage which was lovely. The midwife (and her colleague who arrived a little while after) left us alone to bond, and came in if I felt I needed to push the placenta. Grace took the breast and continues to feed well, albeit interrupted by her big sister who is very enthusiastic about loving her baby.
So, I didn't use my pool at all but Grace's birth was amazing nonetheless. I am feeling great - no problems - although the after pains are definitely worse this time. Our doula stayed till around 9pm helping us out, putting towels in the washing machine, cooking us dinner, and will come again in the next couple of weeks. The midwifes waited till around 3 to perform all their checks, giving us lots of time together, and Olivia helped her Daddy cut the cord. They left around 4pm after clearing up.
Our little bundle, Eliza Maeve, made an appearance on Thursday at 9.40am weighing 7lb 3oz! We're all doing really well and are still on Cloud 9. We had a lovely, relaxed home birth and managed to have everything that was on our birth plan and more. Here's our wee story of how things went...
I woke at 1.15am to contractions that were a bit irregular, so I tried to snooze for a bit (fairly impossible) and then eventually woke my husband Neil around 3am. We welcomed baby, very excited that we were going to see her very soon, watched a film and tried to stay as relaxed as possible - leaning on the gym ball helped.
I'd asked Rozy to be my Doula, so we called her around 4.30am (poor Rozy) for a bit of advice as the contractions were getting stronger and a bit more regular. She then came to the house about an hour later and helped to chill me out with a lovely massage and breathing with me. I think I was probably a bit wired!
All the way through, ujaii breath and golden thread breath helped me to manage the contractions - they really do work! Then, when the contractions were more intense and coming more frequently, sounding the ahhs and oohs made me focus on where Eliza needed to make her way out! This really helped me to shift my intention and focus more inward.
We called our midwife, Lucia, and after a few checks that baby and I were both okay (as part of my birth plan, I had requested no vaginal examinations unless absolutely necessary and the midwife fully supported this) I eventually got into the birth pool at 8.30am. The relief from the warm water was great! Neil and Rozy alternated supporting me with breathing and sounding out. They were both fantastic. Lucia wanted me to keep eating, which I really didn't feel like doing, but I was glad I managed to eat some apple, as it kept me going.
After a while, Lucia wanted me to go back upstairs to the bathroom. Neil said I looked at her like she was crazy and he was sure I wasn't going to move out of my beloved birth pool! But I was glad I did for many reasons. Whether it was walking up stairs or sitting on the loo, gravity definitely worked - after a few strong contractions, I felt that the baby was pushing herself out. I wasn't actively pushing, she was just coming. It wasn't painful, just very intense and uncontrollable. Neil and Lucia were with me but very much left me to it. They didn't talk to me or touch me but I do recall Lucia saying at one point to just go with it.
I got down on all fours and felt her head coming! I couldn't believe it was all happening so quickly. I leaned down on my elbows with my bum raised higher to try to slow things down a little and Neil said that I kept saying "It's okay baby!"
Lucia asked me if I wanted to stay there or go back to the pool... I was going to get back in that pool, even if I had to crawl down the stairs. Turns out that's pretty much what I had to do! I had just made it into the pool when her head appeared. The relief was amazing. Then she turned and after a couple more contractions, she was out! Neil caught her 'rugby-style', and passed her up to me. That was about eight and a half hours after I felt the first contraction. It was just amazing! Rozy did the honours of cutting the cord after it stopped pulsing.
There were definitely times when I found some of the contractions tough, especially when they were coming back to back, but I had to mentally override that. Having supportive, amazing birth partners, ujaii and golden thread breath, the sounding out of ahhhs and ooohs, and the birth pool really worked for me and got me through it. Being left on my own to have privacy in the bathroom at times really helped me to focus inward and block out everything else.
The whole experience of having Eliza at home was so special and relaxed for us. My two year old, Evie, was there the whole time. And after all the checks were done on Eliza and I and everyone had left, we all just piled into bed together as a family!
I did find the breathing and movements and the advice and support from Rozy each week in pregnancy yoga invaluable. I didn't have to use all of it, just whatever worked for me and what I was most comfortable with - but it definitely made me feel empowered and positive. I knew that I had lots of tricks and tools up my sleeve should I need them!
I really want to say a massive 'thanks' (words just don't really do it though) to Rozy for all her support and kindness.
I just wanted to say again a massive 'thank you' for your amazing support during my birth; you really are a fab doula! Also, please pass on my thanks to Clare for all the tips and techniques learnt during the antenatal yoga classes. Obviously you know what happened during my birth, but I thought it would be useful to other expectant ladies to hear my story...
Florence Joy Wilson was born at 4.30 in the morning on Saturday 18th June in my living room with my husband, my Mum, Rozy (who was my doula) and two midwives in attendance (my two and a half year old son Henry was sleeping in his cot upstairs).
On Friday morning at around 4am my waters broke, but I wasn't really feeling anything in terms of contractions so I just went back to bed and rested. I carried on with my normal day on Friday and had what I would describe as a bit of a 'funny tummy' and mild pains during the day. I put my TENS machine on at around 6pm and found it extremely good to help deal with the early contractions.
What I would call proper contractions started at around 8pm. I managed to eat a takeaway then decided it was nearly time to get Rozy round. She arrived at around 9pm and took me straight upstairs to do some breathing and resting while my Mum and husband got the pool and living room ready for the birth. We had some lovely music on during this time which was very calming. I was able to get some rest between the contractions, and the breathing really helped me manage the pain which at this time was moderate.
Once the room was ready for me I moved downstairs and we called the midwife who arrived about 11pm. By this time the contractions were stronger but I was still able to breathe through them using lots of sounds (Oooo, Ahhh etc) - the louder the better - Rozy and Gary were joining in with all the sounds which was really helpful.
Once the midwife arrived I got straight into the pool which was a great pain reliever although I was in and out quite alot to try and get things moving a bit. I also used a lot of the yoga moves both in the pool and out, as advised by Rozy. I have always found the visualisation breathing quite tricky so Rozy suggested getting some pictures of my son to focus on. I would definitely recommend this, as I found I was able to breathe much more effectively by blowing the love to an actual image of Henry rather than using my imagination.
By about 1am I was in the second stage of labour. Home midwives don't go in for 'pushing' - they just let the baby come when he/she is ready, which makes things much more relaxed. I was getting very tired by this stage and was draining the gas and air. The midwives wanted me to eat and drink as the contractions started slowing down. I got out of the pool, but once I was fed some biscuits and energy drink the contractions came back thick and fast.
I was asked to lay off the gas and air which was tough but made me really focus on the task in hand. I can clearly remember Rozy asking me to move my hips. She helped me to do this (as frankly I didn't really want to) but I think this really got things moving. I was aware of someone saying that it was getting light, and I think my little girl thought it must be time to be born.
I really couldn't help but push at this stage, as the baby felt like it was about to fall out (more like needing a huge poo though it must be said). Once she was ready she was wasting no time and I felt like I literally roared her out in a squat position holding on to the side of the pool.
It was all very primal. Her head and body came out in one go and the midwife caught her and then there she was on the floor squirming about. I looked down and immediately saw a distinct lack of willy and screamed out to my husband that we had a girl - this was a surprise, as we hadn't found out at the scan and I had thought I was having another boy!
As it turned out, Florence came out back to back and had a slightly funny shaped head due to being in a slightly funny position (which accounts for the sightly longer than expected second stage of labour). Once she was born I was able to get myself showered with the help of one of the lovely midwives, and next thing I know I was feeding my lovely girl in my own bed.
Having Florence at home was a wonderful experience. The midwives were absolutely excellent and complemented the kind of birth that we wanted perfectly. Rozy was also totally amazing and had a hugely calming influence; not only on me, but on both my husband and Mum. They both said they were extremely pleased that she was there as at times they felt they needed a break from the intensity of the situation. Rozy was also able to calm them and relieve their own anxieties.
Paul and I had attended your Birth Preparation Workshop, and on our way home we discussed how we might apply some of the things we had learned and explored. We had no real idea how that might work out in reality. We had the chance to find out yesterday!
Baby Erin Isabel Tweedy arrived yesterday afternoon 8/3/12, delivered safely (and rather swiftly) at home, weighing 6lb 14oz, five days before her official 'due date', but perfectly in time for afternoon tea on International Women's Day - auspicious! We'd been preparing and hoping for a natural, personal and intervention-free home birth, and I'm thrilled to say we achieved just that, with the help of Angela from the Crocus Homebirth Team at Mayday.
In our birth plan, we specified that we wanted to use yoga techniques as much as possible to aid pain relief and optimise delivery - and we did it! On Wednesday, I went for a longish walk, had my usual three cups of raspberry leaf tea, and spent an hour or so dancing around my living room with the bump (lots of wiggling and stretching, as well as silly walks, plus bouncing on gym ball, singing and talking to baby). I'd been getting a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions for a few weeks, but no pain other than general achiness, and no other clear signs of labour on the way.
At 2.30am my waters broke. From that point, I had mild period-type aches, and just rested in bed. At 6.30am I had my first mild contraction. It was a bit like a stronger menstrual cramp, but easy to manage by just breathing through. More followed, though without any real pattern or significant pain - more like discomfort at this stage. At 8am, Paul made us breakfast of porridge, blueberries and greek yoghurt with honey, figuring that we might need something sustaining if it turned out to be an eventful day. He was right!
Although it was a beautifully sunny day, we kept the curtains closed most of the day, with soft lighting, warm room and soft music throughout - including an hour-long mp3 of ocean waves crashing on a shoreline, which sounds a bit 'hippy', but was infinitely more useful and less distracting than anything else with vocals etc (69p from Amazon, bargain).
By 10.30am, contractions were five minutes apart and intense enough to stop me in my tracks, but I managed them by walking lots in between, and using ujayy breathing, and visualising ocean waves crashing in to a shore and then receding again. Paul was able to massage and soothe my lower back in between peaks, which really helped. Some contractions were felt more strongly at the front, others in the back, and, being at home, I made full use of all available 'props' during the increasingly intense contractions - bracing myself against a wall with arms up and back arched, bum sticking out, or leaning at a right angle gripping a kitchen worktop, with a straight back, dropping first one hip, then the other to relieve the peak. Throughout, Paul helped me focus on breathing, and particular kinds of breath, by doing them with me, which really helped. He also became a brilliant and very supportive prop to lean on as well as focus on as labour got more intense.
The midwife was called when contractions were three minutes apart and lasted a minute, and that pattern had been established for a good half an hour. She showed up at about half past twelve. As the contractions were more frequent and growing in intensity, I used golden thread breathing to focus on the outbreath. In between contractions, I knelt propped on cushions on the floor (like we do in class) and then went on all fours or knelt holding on to Paul (seated) during the peak. Wide knees, open pelvis. When they got stronger still, I stood and rocked through them with my arms around Paul's neck, and him supporting me, holding my waist. Gravity!
By this point, the TENS machine I'd started out using mid-morning was still proving fairly effective. At 2pm, according to the midwife's notes, I was in established labour, dilated to 5cm. From that point, things got MUCH more intense VERY quickly (it seemed) during which time I used gas and air as well as rocking. I admit I wasn't coping well at all, and the only way I could manage was to tune out completely and go into myself during contractions, which were so frequent and intense that I spent much of the latter stage of this period lying on my left side instead of upright. Throughout this, I was still breathing out and visualising flowing down, things opening, ripening.
The midwife's notes show that at 3.30pm I was 10cm dilated and ready to push - so officially, stage one lasted 90 minutes. The second midwife was called to attend for delivery. I started pushing at 3.32, and Erin was born at 3.45pm exactly, delivered while I was on all fours on the floor. I used BIG outbreaths with low moans and OOOOOOOHs while breathing her out, apparently, but I don't remember this!
I do remember that it hurt worse than anything I've ever experienced, and how surprised I was that I'd done it - and actually coped OK - when it was over. Second stage: 13 minutes. We had skin-to-skin contact immediately, which was amazing, and the third stage was physiological and swift, with placenta delivered 10 minutes later. All in all, I sustained a minor tear and a graze, but really nothing bad at all, considering the speed of delivery. The second midwife didn't get here in time, and showed up after the whole thing was over, just in time to put the kettle on.
I am so grateful to you and InJoy for giving me powerful physical and mental tools to prepare for, as well as cope with, labour. I strongly believe that without that toolkit, my delivery would have been a radically different and less manageable experience. Don't get me wrong - it was no walk in the park, and it definitely drew on all my energy, leaving me exhausted - but exhilarated.
Yoga didn't magically make my delivery simple or pain free, but I think I coped with it a lot better because of the physical and mental preparation I'd done, including antenatal yoga and the birth preparation workshop, and the toolkit of positions and techniques for delivery itself. I felt like I was engaged and involved in planning and delivering (no pun intended) my first baby's safe and confident arrival into the world.
During the pregnancy, it didn't always feel like I was in control of situations, symptoms or bureaucratic processes, but I did feel I had active involvement in the actual birth, at home. These things also gave me confidence to switch relatively late to a homebirth - I changed at 32 weeks, determined to have more control over my birthing experience, and I'm really glad I did.
After the delivery, the midwives got on with the cleanup and paperwork, while I had a strong cup of tea and a few biscuits, while breastfeeding my daughter for the first time. By 6.30pm, the midwives had gone, and it was just me, my husband and our freshly-minted beautiful daughter, cosy and happy (and slightly overwhelmed) in our own home. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Thanks, Rozy and team!
Meg (and Paul, and Erin).