After peeing on that stick and seeing the little blue lines, if you’d have told me I was going to have an empowering, drug-free home birth I would have laughed in your face and cried a little inside from fear. To me, birth was painful, scary and should be done with as many drugs as possible. So naturally, I set about planning a hospital birth with an epidural.
So what happened?
I’m an avid reader and knowledge seeker; whenever I approach something new in my life I treat it like a project. I learn as much as I can and then decide what to do. I bought ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ and could feel the fear creeping up on me as it described (in some detail…) all the things that could go wrong.
I believe in the power of intention, the potency of words and the magic of visualisation, so I knew reading about everything that could go wrong wasn’t for me. I snapped the book shut and starting looking for pregnancy and birth books that aligned to my belief that what you focus on expands. I inhaled The Gentle Birth Method, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering and every positive birth book I could get my hands on. I started to learn about the conditions required for birth, how the body needs to be relaxed, feel safe and secure - it made total sense to me.
At the same time, I saw on Facebook a friend of a friend, Clemmie had a home birth and had done a hypnobirthing course with Hollie De Cruz. I signed up for the course starting in 4 months time.
Following a series of unbelievable twists and turns, I found myself sitting at the front of a class on an island in Sweden, 6 months pregnant, learning to be a pregnancy yoga teacher with famed Kundalini teacher, Gurmukh Khalsa. Surrounded by 20 midwives from around the world, I gained a deep knowledge of birth, the birthing body and most importantly, an unswerving belief in my ability to have an empowering, dare I say it, enjoyable birth.
My mind was made up, I wanted to try for a home birth. But how on earth was going to convince my husband? Unbelievably and unknown to me, whilst I’d been away at the training Guy had been doing his own research (down the pub - 10 dads, only one said birth was positive, they’d had a home birth) and when he phoned me to ask what I thought of trying a home birth.
I cried with the synchronicity of it.
Doing Hollie’s amazing course gave us all the tools we needed. We did our homework like grade A geeks, guided meditations every day, practicing breathing and I kept up with my daily yoga. It felt like preparing for a mission with an amazing teammate. Cheesy, but true.
Guy was in charge of the pool and embraced the role with little too much enthusiasm. All the kit was bought, tested and tested again. We were ready.
My waters broke at 3am on Friday 11th December, with such a big gush I found it hilarious. I was so relaxed, I went back to sleep. We phoned our midwife, Claire to tell her and pottered around the house waiting, we watched loads of bad comedies and went to the supermarket, convinced we needed more snacks for the midwives (we were right, we did. Always get more snacks). I remember feeling a strange sense of the in between - knowing what was about to happen, but having no idea when or how. I used my yoga and meditation practice to stay in the moment, trying not to project and enjoy what honestly felt like a sacred time.
The last day of just us 2.
I got to bed early and at 3 am (24 hours exactly after my waters broke) I had my first surge (hypnobirthing speak for contraction). I woke Guy up very excited. I’m in labour I told him. We cried, me from joy, him from fear (I think).
The next 6 hours were spent in and out of the bath, eating mango (my high sugar fruit of choice) and congratulating ourselves on how easy it all felt. Then the real labour started and I couldn’t talk through the surges anymore - I used the tens machine which was amazing, but mainly as a focus and something to anchor on. Claire arrived at around 10am and said I was doing great. I opted to have no exams, I didn’t want to know how far along I was as I knew (being crazy goal oriented) that wouldn’t help me but would probably frustrate me. I am where I am, it will be what it will be, I kept telling myself.
I laboured hard for another 8 hours, I used ALL the tools to keep me focussed, not letting my monkey mind stray into fear or overwhelm. I just stayed present and calm. I still don’t know how I did but I guess my years of meditation practice were paying off. Jessie’s heart rate was being monitored every 30 mins and hadn’t changed once.
I felt the need to push at about 8pm - but nothing was happening. Instinctively I knew something wasn’t right so I asked for an exam and was told that I had a ‘cervical lip’ which was stopping Jessie being able to descend. Claire showed me a move (like a downward dog) I had to do every surge and it did the trick, we managed to take enough pressure off my cervix for me to dilate fully.
I now got into the water and went totally into myself. I can’t really remember much except the taste of the blue plastic on the edge of the pool. I was still labouring hard, Jessie not yet ready to descend for another few hours (was it one? was it five? I can’t remember). Whilst Jessie’s heart rate still hadn’t changed, Claire and Elke (there were 2 now) wanted me to get out the water to move things along (apparently I was too relaxed?!). They had me walking up and down the stairs, squatting (good job I’d been doing my yoga then) and even drop squatting. It worked and about 30 hours in I was ready to push.
Now, from my hypnobirthing I thought a few good, deep breaths would do the trick. Which I tried. Nothing. Elke (the more direct of the midwives) told me to PUSH. Really PUSH. I was hesitant for some reason and really struggled to put my all in. Here came my wobble….”I can’t do it. It’s too hard, what will happen if we just go to the hospital?” After a short pep talk from Guy, I dug deep and found the strength from somewhere to keep going, keep pushing. I pushed for 3 hours, Jessie did a lot of stretching and retreating, over and over again.
Finally, at the top of the stairs, she crowned. “I can see the head”, the midwife said. “Come into the bedroom, where everything we need is”.
So in my most surreal experience to date I waddled with a head poking out from between my legs into our bedroom. I waited for the famed ‘ring of fire’ I learned about, but I honestly didn’t feel any pain. Guy sat on a chair and I placed my head on his lap, one leg up, one down and pushed.
Jessie fell onto the floor (she didn’t but that’s what it felt like) grey, silent. My heart stopped. Then a cry - hers, then mine. I couldn’t believe I had done it. I held her next to me in shock, exhaustion, and pride.
The midwives checked Jessie and I over, then got all of us into bed, her still attached to me and dimmed the lights. For 20 blissful minutes, we lay there as just us 3. I don’t really remember it but I remember the feeling of calm. Claire and Elke came back in and Guy cut the cord. I went off to the bathroom to birth the placenta, which I did easily and quickly. Phew. (I was really worried about that bit. Lots of people shared with me home-birth placenta rupture horror stories. Thanks for that.)
Claire and Elke (aka. heroes) cleaned everything up and got us all back into bed. Jessie started to feed which was agony and a relief in equal measure.
The total birth was about 35 hours and I’ve never felt more exhausted, empowered and present in my life. And I doubt I ever will again. Until next time, maybe.