I have been considering writing a blog post on my birth experience since Theo was born, but have never got round to it until now. When I was pregnant, I really enjoyed reading other women’s birth stories, but often would find people were quick to tell you horror stories and the negative aspects of giving birth. I was very open-minded while I was pregnant and did not have a ‘set in stone’ birth plan. However, I knew I wanted to use the pool and was made aware that this would be possible if everything with my pregnancy remained low risk, and if there were no complications during labour.
As a first time mum, you have no clue what to expect from labour and giving birth. I think you expect the worst – as many women say that it is the worst pain they have ever experienced in their life! I reassured myself while pregnant that ladies go through this every single day and are still here to tell the story.
There are so many different techniques out there to help you during labour, some which women swear by and some which women would never dare to use. Every woman is individual, and every labour and birth is different – meaning one technique may work wonders for one lady, but not for the next. I think when it comes down to it, it’s about finding something that works for you and your birth partner, while also feeling as comfortable (as possible!) during labour.
I want to begin by saying that I had an extremely positive birth experience, as my pregnancy was considered low risk and it stayed that way throughout labour and delivery. Every birth story is different and not every woman has a positive experience, however with the lack of positive stories out there, I felt it would help some people if I shared mine.
As my due date approached I thought more and more about how I would find labour and how painful it would be. I didn’t get myself worked up about it, and felt fairly laid back about what was going to happen – I knew he had to come out some way or another! On the lead up to my due date, I never really noticed any ‘signs’ that labour was imminent. The only thing that had changed was the shape of my bump, which some people said had ‘dropped’, but apart from that, there was nothing significant. The night before my due date, I spent time bouncing on a birthing ball while watching the TV. Whether this helped induce labour, or whether it was a coincidence, I don’t know?! I wasn’t expecting anything to happen on my due date and prepared myself for going at least a few days overdue.
That evening I went to bed as normal at around 10pm, but was woken by period type pains which were the start of my contractions. I remember looking at the time on my phone and it was around 3am. At this point, I wasn’t convinced that I was in labour so spent a couple of hours backwards and forwards from the bathroom to the bedroom messaging my friend who was on a night shift at the time (hooray for nurse friends!). At this point, around 4:30am, I decided to wake my partner to tell him I was in a bit of pain. He was pretty bleary eyed, and I don’t think he believed this was the real thing either! I ran myself a bath to see if that eased the pain at all – at this point my contractions felt fairly regular to me. However, I wanted to stay at home in my own environment for as long as possible, as I knew how much this helped with the early stages of labour.
Just before I got into the bath, I decided to give the maternity unit a call, who suggested I try the bath, keep an eye on how regular my contractions were, and to give them a call back in an hour or so. During the bath, my contractions got much more regular, and at around 6am I called my mum, who was going to be my other birth partner. With another phone call to the maternity unit, I was getting dressed and in the car on the way to the hospital. At this point I was fairly uncomfortable, and found myself pacing around the house during contractions. I was dreading the thought of a car journey to the hospital, but with encouragement (and a bit of force) from my mum, we were on our way.
The hospital said that they would examine me to see how dilated I was, and if I wasn’t 4cm they would send me home or for a walk. As we got to the hospital, my contractions were still coming thick and fast. I remember waiting for the lift up to the birth centre, just pacing backwards and forwards trying to focus on my breathing. When we got to the birth centre, we were led into a room and I was examined. Sure enough, I was 5cm dilated which meant I was considered as being in the active phase of labour and could stay at the hospital. It was at this point I was desperate for them to start running the pool, as this was the one thing I really wanted to use to try and relax through contractions.
I was introduced to the day staff at this stage, as it was around 08:30am. There was a midwife and a lovely student midwife who were present, the student midwife being the one who stayed with me throughout my labour and birth – and I can honestly say she was amazing. Once the pool was run and at the correct temperature, I was able to get in. I really enjoyed being in the pool and would 100% recommend it to anyone who is able to have a pool birth. I was also offered gas & air, which I didn’t use much at first as I felt it made me dizzy and feel slightly nauseous. Instead, I just continued to breathe and focus on relaxing while in the pool.
As time went on, I started to feel pressure and an urge to push. The student midwife stopped me from pushing, saying that she needed to examine me to check that I was fully dilated and able to start pushing. She also kept getting me to try out and move positions to ensure my contractions didn’t tail off. It seemed that every time I moved, I would get a strong contraction (much to my dislike!). My partner and mum were of huge support to me during labour, encouraging and reminding me that I could do it!
I seemed to speed everywhere during labour, so as fast as I could (I don’t know why?!), I got out of the pool and onto the bed where I was examined. The student midwife told me that I was in fact fully dilated and that I could start pushing during contractions from now on. I got back into the pool and into a comfy position, and decided that I would try the gas & air again during contractions. I also remember telling people to open the windows and put some cold water in the pool, which they obviously couldn’t do because it needed to be the right temperature for baby to be born into. This was around 12pm, and I felt that the gas & air was a little more effective for me at this point, so I used it during the final contractions.
I continued to feel relaxed, and focused on my breathing right the way through each contraction, knowing the end was in sight! At around 12:30pm, my waters broke, which just felt like a huge pop in the water. My mum ran to get the midwife and I remember closing my eyes a lot during this time and getting quite sleepy. I looked up at one point and there seemed to be so many people sat around the pool. They all encouraged and supported me to keep breathing and pushing for as long as I could with each contraction, while reminding me that I would get to see my baby soon.
The final few moments of labour were all very surreal – the feeling is hard to describe. I just remember having an overwhelming urge to push, with my body telling me what I needed to do. The midwife kept telling me that she could see baby’s head, and that in a few pushes he would be here! I just went with the urges to push, and with direction from the midwife, Theo was born at 13:07pm.
The moment I held Theo was such a blur. I hadn’t had much gas & air, but I think adrenaline hits you and it is all so surreal! I was lucky enough to have my mum there to take pictures of these moments (some which are a bit too graphic to share!) but it is so nice to be able to look back at how amazing the moment was. I had skin to skin with Theo for a few moments and then my partner was able to cut the cord.
I think that the next part of the birth experience is the part that many people don’t tell you about! I was helped onto the bed where the placenta was delivered, and then was checked over to see if stitches were needed. I can honestly say, that I felt like this was the worst part of the whole experience. During this time, my partner was able to have skin to skin with Theo, which was lovely, and I was able to have plenty of gas & air while being checked! After being sorted, Theo was given back to me and I was able to breastfeed him before he was weighed and dressed. At this point, it was all still a blur and I don’t think it had really hit me. I was able to go home that evening, and we began our life as a family of three!
I feel so, so lucky that I was able to have such an amazing birth experience that I know many women aren’t lucky enough to have. I felt relaxed the entire time, with fabulous support from my birth partners, the student midwife and midwife. I think many people are too quick to tell you about the negative aspects of giving birth, but I wanted to share my positive experience which hopefully doesn’t put people off! I always imagined my perfect birth before having Theo, and the real thing definitely lived up to this – it really was the most incredible day of my life, and I would not have changed a thing.