I was 4 days overdue and I had been getting plenty of Braxton Hicks, so when I woke up on Monday, 21st May at 3.00 am with pains, I was not sure it was 'the real thing' so after breathing through them, I went back to sleep. This happened 2 or 3 times, so I thought I'd better start timing them, and sure enough, the contractions were coming around 5 minutes apart. I woke my husband Chris. 'Are you in labour?' he asked and promptly turned around. I thought he'd gone back to sleep, but when I breathed through the next contraction; he said 'that was 5 minutes?' He had turned towards his clock to time me, not to sleep!
We got up and went downstairs, called the midwife who said she'd be round to see how I was getting on. We had planned a home water birth, so Chris started preparations in the lounge, waterproofing, pumping up the pool and filling it with water. Meanwhile, I woke my 10 year old son and called my dad to pick him up. He arrived at the same time as the midwife, June, so Dad and Iziah left while June examined me. I was pleased to hear I was 2-3 cm dilated already.
I called my friend and student midwife Red, for whom I was a case holding. She arrived by 5.20am and by then I was already getting tired. The contractions were coming regularly. I was using the breathing techniques I had learnt in my Yoga class and swaying on a gym ball.
June suggested I go back to bed to rest for a while, so Chris and I went up. By now, everything else was prepared, we had all had some toast and it was just a matter of waiting.
The contractions were regular and seemed to be getting much more intense. Chris was still timing them and noticed that they were getting further apart. On hearing this, I thought I'd rather get up than let everything slow down, but Red assured me that things were not slowing down and to keep grounded and centred.
By 8.00am, June examined me again, and said I was now 5-6 cm dilated and could go into the pool if I wanted. I wanted! So I went downstairs really excited as this was the part I had been looking forward to.
The lounge looked lovely, candles were lit, whale music was playing and it smelled lovely with lavender, camomile and geranium burning in the oil burner. The pool was ready, by the lounge window and it felt wonderful to slip into the warm water. The pain eased with the buoyancy and I had the sense that this was my space. I moved around for a while, testing positions until I found I was most comfortable with my back to the pool, one hand holding Chris's hand, the other holding the side of the pool. With each contraction, I moved my body around in the water in a figure of eight which seemed to help. I was breathing throughout and I could hear my yoga teacher Nerissa's words: 'Each contraction will end.'
Hilary, the midwife we had seen throughout my pregnancy arrived at 9.55am. It was lovely that she could be there as she had been so positive about my homebirth from the beginning. She and June were present throughout but quiet and let Red take the lead role. She was monitoring me regularly with an under water sonicade. I was quietly encouraged by Chris and Red but apart from that the atmosphere was calm and respectful.
By 10.15am, I felt ready to push. Red told me to go with what my body was telling me, so I did. Contractions were getting really close and really intense. However, in between each one, I was very relaxed and calm.
Red was amazing and kept me going saying: 'Little nudges now, don't push too hard. Keep going, you're doing really well.' Eventually, I was told I'd have to move around so that I was on all fours in the water, so that gravity could help my baby out. I couldn't move on my own, so everyone took a limb and I was helped round. A few pushes later, at 11.18am, my baby was born. I turned over and Red said 'Pick up your baby, Frances'. I looked down into the murky water but could only see the reflection of the sky on the surface. Eventually, after what felt like 10 minutes, but was actually only 4 seconds, I reached down and brought my baby to the surface. I held it close and when Red asked:
'Do you know what you've got?' I looked and said: 'It's a little boy!'
Our baby Merlin was calm, quiet and perfect.
I stayed in the pool for a short while before it was time to come out.
I had decided it was best to deliver the placenta out of the water so that the midwives were able to see the blood loss clearly. Everyone helped me out; I was still holding Merlin, as he was still attached to me and still quiet, but now more alert and taking everything in. I was manoeuvred on to the edge of the sofa, with Chris behind me, supporting my back. Although I had opted to have a physiological 3rd stage (no injection to hurry the placenta out), it came out quickly and in one piece after I had given Merlin his first breastfeed (which he took to easily). There was a lot of blood, which was apparently normal as Merlin was so big.
Once the cord stopped pulsating, Red handed me the scissors. Before the birth, Chris and I had discussed the cutting of the cord. He had not felt he wanted to do the cutting, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it would be much more symbolic for me to do it. I took the scissors and cut the cord in one go. It was a moving and memorable moment.
Red wanted to check to see if I had torn, so she instructed Chris to take off his t-shirt in order that he could have skin to skin contact with Merlin. Chris had been nervous of holding our son, as he?d never held a baby before, but he took Merlin in his arms and held him close naturally and comfortably. Meanwhile I was checked for tears. Luckily, thanks to Red's 'little nudges', I had not torn at all; I only had a couple of tiny grazes where Merlin's hand had scraped me on the way out.
Merlin was then weighed: 9lbs 14 ½ oz! I was exhausted but elated. We all had celebratory juice and biscuits. Not long after the birth, I was in my own bed with Chris and our newborn between us. I felt a great sense of peace and serenity. I felt so blessed to have been able to deliver Merlin in such a wonderful and calm atmosphere with three amazing, beautiful midwives and Chris. I could not have wished for more.