Our baby was due on the 15th March 2009, as it was my first pregnancy I expected to go overdue, I also believed that I would have to go into hospital to be induced and end up with a C-section - my worst fears. My hope was to have a home water birth.
I attended two consecutive terms of the pregnancy yoga. The combination of the yoga with the discussion, various reading at home, including Birthing from Within (England and Horowitz) and having wonderful support from my midwife throughout the pregnancy I didn?t feel that I could do anything else to prepare for my birth.. I believe that one of the most important parts of my preparation was to try and confront my fears because as discussed in the yoga class being uptight and 'closed' would inhibit the labour.
I was in my third week of maternity leave, on the Wednesday night I couldn't get comfortable in bed, as soon as I lay down I needed to get up again to go to the loo, it was a very strange sensation. The baby was particularly active and I couldn't get comfortable.. In the end I gave up trying to sleep and went downstairs to watch a film. The next day we visited the midwife, who predicted the baby would be 8lb and informed us that the baby was 4/5 engaged. That afternoon I attended yoga, I was aware that 'things' felt different but couldn't really specify how. I guess my contractions started to be more regular around 8pm, that's when we started timing them, they were approximately 6- 7 minutes apart and lasting 20 -30 seconds. I don?t think either of us really believed that I was in labour. I hadn't experienced any Braxton Hicks, so I did wonder if the contractions were Braxton's. I decided to use the tens machine, without any conviction that it would provide any relief. It was an obstetrics machine so I was able to use the boost to increase the stimulation during the contraction. On reflection I don't think I would have managed without it. For the next few hours I felt most comfortable either on my hands and knees rocking or using the pilates ball to rock. To manage the contractions I used the breathing techniques taught in yoga and the tens machine. Still unconvinced that I was in labour we decided to stay up a bit later ? just in case. By 11pm we decided to put the pool up, expecting that we would be taking it down the following morning. We went to bed around midnight, the contractions continued. I couldn't sleep so listened to Nerissa's labour CD which helped me to remember some of the skills we had learnt in class, I found it reassuring to be reminded that each contraction would end, that thought helped me to manage each contraction as I repeatedly told myself that it would soon end. Unable to sleep I got up at 1am; I used walking around, rocking and swaying as pain relief. As we hadn't filled the pool before we were unsure how long it would take to fill so at 2am, still not entirely convinced that this really was labour I woke my husband to ask him to fill the pool. By 3am we decided to phone the midwife. The midwife attended and did various physical checks; she informed me that I was 2cm dilated, as you're not considered to be in labour until 3-4cm she arranged to come back at 9am. I felt surprisingly calm and in control, and probably a bit excited that I was officially on my way to being in labour - it was really happening. The midwife advised me to go to bed to get some rest and initially I went to bed, however I then thought that this contradicted what we had been told in the class, I was concerned that if I lay down I could slow down the labour by taking the pressure off my cervix so I decided to get up again. At this time I wanted to be on my own. I felt I needed the space to experience the contractions in private, so I could experiment what techniques would help with the discomfort. I didn't feel able to sit or kneel down so spent the next few hours walking around the house. At some point I replaced the breathing technique with noise. I have no idea where the noise came from or what made me produce the noise. I made a deep, guttural noise that helped me to manage each contraction. I really didn't think I would make any noise during my labour, believing that I was too inhibited, but the urge completely took over my body. I was also aware that if I didn?t concentrate the noise would become higher, all the time in my head I had Nerissa saying 'screaming is banned'! By 6am the contractions were quite intense, I found it difficult to get comfortable and started to feel that I couldn't manage on my own.
At the end of each contraction I was getting the urge to bear down, again an impulse I couldn't resist. We phoned my Mum and then the midwife. The midwife arrived at 7am and agreed to inspect me again, at this time I was telling myself not to be disappointed when she told me I was 3cm, and in my head I was thinking I would have to go into hospital as I didn't feel I could continue at home. However she told me I was 7cm, I was so pleased (and very surprised) this gave me the energy to carry on. I was also able to get into the birthing pool, which was heaven. The water was so soothing. The transition into to the pool was not so glamorous, as in between getting Neil to take off the tens machine and getting into the pool I had a contraction, at exactly the same time as my Mum arrived, I don't think she will forget that image for a while!
The contractions continued with the same intensity and after 30 minutes I started using gas and air. I had been anxious that it would make me feel sick but I loved it, the only side-effect being that it made my throat dry, although that was likely to be a combination of the gas and the noises I was making.
By 8.30am the second midwife (and midwifery student) arrived. Again this provided a renewed energy as this meant the baby was really on its way. At this time I really shut off from everything going on around me. Everyone was talking around me and I kept thinking I could say this right now but I'm not going to. I felt quite content and I was able to speak when I needed to. Everyone seemed to work really well together, Neil held the gas and air for me, held my hand and let me know we were doing ok, one midwife looked after me, and she listened to the baby's heart beat every 15 minutes, the other midwife spoke to me and provided the reassurance that everything was going ok, my Mum did the running, she made the tea, gave me glass after glass of water and kept my head cool with a wet flannel.
For quite a while I had a really intense feeling which I think has been referred to as the 'ring of fire', it's a strange feeling because although it really hurts it also meant that the baby was on its way. I was advised to get on my knees and the change of position definitely moved the baby on. I was then told that I kept pushing my waters out, the membrane hadn't broke so with each contraction the bag was coming out then going back in. The midwives debated whether I was 10 cms or not, they agreed to check me in the pool and while I was being checked the waters burst.
The next contraction the baby's head was born, it then seemed a lifetime before the next contraction, and it was a peculiar sensation seeing the baby's head under water, particularly as there was nothing I could do to get the baby out. You're not allowed to touch the baby at this time, as the shock of physical contact could make the baby gasp.
At 9.31am baby Erin Elizabeth was born - the most wonderful moment of my life.
I got out of the pool to deliver the placenta, this provided opportunity for skin to skin contact and for Erin to have a feed. After the placenta I had to have a few stitches but with the help of gas and air this was a painless, if slightly undignified experience.
I had the most perfect birth experience, I remember being in the pool thinking 'is there anything I would want different?' and there isn't and I'm looking forward to doing it all again sometime...