It has been over 5 weeks now (editor’s note : by the time this is published it has been over 8 weeks..!) and I am only just finding the time, and energy to sit down and write our birth story down. I have been worried that the details will slowly escape me, and I really want to hold on to all of them like little treasures. Because the 9th of April was truly the most monumental, life-changing day of my life, it brought us our daughter Lyla and made me a mother for the first time.
It all started on Thursday 8th of April. I was 40 weeks + 4 days at that point, and I had been having stronger Braxton hicks for a few days now. Well to be honest with you at that point I was only just realising that the sensations I felt, those tightenings were Braxton hicks. My midwife pointed it out to me while she examined me a week earlier, my bump went tight while she listened to baby’s heartbeat, but to me they were barely noticeable and totally painless, but I started noticing them more and more as the week went on. Here and there I also felt some heaviness down in my lower belly, similar to maybe when your period is approaching, every little sign was exhilarating and I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the big day!
To be honest with you, I had been on the edge of my seat since I was 37 weeks pregnant haha — I was a very happy pregnant mama, I loved being pregnant! (Past the first trimester… let’s be honest!) I felt amazing, lots of energy, I slept so well the entire way through, I had great appetite, I loved my new curves, and absolutely adored the connection I had with my tiny little babe nestled between my ribs. Kicking, fluttering, hiccuping gentle little soul that I carried around with me all these weeks.
I loved every second of it, but then 37 weeks came, and it was officially safe for baby to come any day, baby was fully cooked, and could come at any point. The day I turned 37 weeks definitely flipped a switch for me, and from that point on I was excited to not be pregnant anymore and get this baby out ha, so the remaining 3 weeks were full of anticipation as you can imagine. Funnily enough, and I am sure it was to do with the fact that mentally I was ready to come to the end of this journey, I started feeling a little heavier (I mean duh, I was carrying a healthy plump baby ha!), I had more water retention which I didn’t have at all all pregnancy and the heartburn really went up a notch making me sleep less well.. so you could say I was ready to pop this baby out!
But let’s wind back a little, back to week 12 of my pregnancy — we had just come back from our summer in France where we spent my whole 1st trimester, I was finally starting to feel better and we had our official 12 week scan to check and see this little babe (we had an early scan at 8 weeks but baby was then just a little tiny bean!) We had our scan at our local hospital, but we knew from that point on that we wanted something different for our birth, I wanted to birth our baby at home if I could. We went back and forth on our decision, but given the state of the world, we were in the middle of a pandemic which made me want to avoid the hospitals even more, and for the longest time in my life I always knew I wanted to give birth in the comfort of our home.
It was clear as day, having a Homebirth was what felt like the most natural decision to us. Giving birth at home was our goal. Michael was on board, we read and watched so many documentaries and books on the subject, really educated ourselves about the birth process and after weeks of research it made the most sense. So at this point we had two choices, either we could go with the Homebirth team at our local hospital, which was and is amazing, or we would go private and hire a midwife team from a private company. In the end after much deliberation, we decided to hire our wonderful midwife Barbara and our second midwife Hannah through a company called Private Midwives. This meant that we had continuity of care and the reassurance that we would be able to be at home – at that point the NHS had changed the rules once and cut the Homebirth team in the first lockdown, and then reinstated it so we were worried they might do it again, which added to the reasons why we went private, a decision I feel very grateful we were able to make.
We decided to get started with Barbara from week 24. She would come to our house and check on me and baby from the comfort of our home, she came every 2 weeks until week 36 and then came once a week after that. It was amazing having her there, we would sit on the sofa and quiz her, asking all sorts of questions and going through everything we wanted to know. We looked forward to our weekly catch ups. She would check on baby’s position and growth every time, and listened to baby’s heartbeat which Nemo was really intrigued by..! We had a WhatsApp group chat where we could check in if needed. It was a dream – and I fully acknowledge that this is a huge privilege to be able to have this level of care.
Everything went smoothly during my pregnancy, all my levels were great, baby was doing great too, so we were on board for having a Homebirth (you needed to be low risk to give birth at home and baby needed to come after 37weeks) We felt fully prepared, and had such amazing support from our midwives, we had prepared for all kinds of scenario, making birth plan A, B & C, we also prepared a postpartum plan which was amazing. Barbara also happened to be a herbalist and a lactation consultant which was really the cherry on top, she was a true gem!!
37 weeks came by quicker than ever – which was a huge relief as I knew we were able to go ahead with our plan A. From that moment on I was VERY keen to have this baby, and if you’ve ever been in that magical limbo between pregnancy and birth you know what I mean!
During the following 3 weeks I made my best effort to stay zen (HAHA), and bring on all the oxytocin I could, limiting stress, meditating, going for long walks to get baby moving in the right direction..! Baby had been head down from week 30 and had not moved, which was great news!
I had also been going to see my osteopath from my second trimester every 3 weeks or so, which helped a lot with some back pain I had but also to prepare physically for the birth, making sure I was aligned, and helping baby have more space to get into the right position too (something I can’t recommend enough during pregnancy and postpartum for you and baby)
At week 37 baby had started to engage the top of its head, and by week 39 it was as low as it would get before coming out said my midwife, which I well and truly felt with a lot of ‘lightning crotch’ moments as they call it haha it felt like baby was right on my cervix, which if you’ve ever felt it is a very strange sensation!
The few days before the big day felt like baby could come any moment, baby was really low, and as a first-time mum you just get in your head with every little sensation… “could this be it?!”
Well on Thursday the 8th of April I woke up with a heaviness in my lower belly, I felt a little ‘crampy’ but again I wasn’t sure if this was it or not, I started my day like I normally did and tried to not overthink it, but by early afternoon, those crampy feelings were a little more obvious, I could sort of point out a beginning and end but it wasn’t easy to time them, at that point I didn’t really know if it was contractions, I thought maybe it was just my Braxton hicks getting more intense… fast forward to the end of the afternoon when I could start timing the tightenings.. I made a note of them in my notes app, and then decided to download the Freya app which became very helpful!
At around 5pm I told Michael that this could be it..! he was wrapping up his work day, and made sure to tell everyone he might not be in the next day…! He then cleared up our guest room/office, and prepared it for the birth, blew up the birthing pool we had rented a few weeks prior, moved the furniture around, turned on the fairy lights, got his computer out of the room and made it all peaceful and ready. At that point we decided to text our midwife, she had told us to let her know whenever anything was happening so she could get herself organised. She was excited, and said it was a great sign things were moving in the right direction… exactly what you want to hear, FINALLY! We were giddy with excitement.
We had dinner (M made us some delicious gnocchi in a bolognese sauce), and I continued timing the tightenings, at that stage it felt more like period cramps I would say. As the evening went on, the ‘surges’ as I liked to call them, had a clear beginning and end, I could time them and they became closer and stronger but still quite period-like. We decided it was time to get some rest before things started picking up.
We went to bed and tried to get some sleep… which was a great plan in theory, but didn’t quite work out for me! I left our room to leave Michael to sleep as I knew I needed him to have energy for what was coming. I laid down on our sofa bed in the guest room by the pool, the lights were low with our salt lamp glowing in the corner, I tried to relax, while timing the surges and listening to my hypnobirthing tracks. Over the next 4 hours between 10pm and 2AM they became stronger and stronger, I managed to doze off around midnight for half an hour but between the excitement that something was FINALLY happening, the not knowing how things would progress.. because duh.. I had never given birth before and had no idea how my body would react, plus the fact that the surges were definitely more intense, to the point where I definitely had to breathe through them, I didn’t sleep much at all! Around 2AM they became stronger and closer together so a little while later, after waking Michael up, we decided to call the midwife to come and check on us.
Barbara arrived at 4AM, oh it was so nice to see her, it felt so reassuring to have her with us, and to tell me that we were doing great..! I asked to be checked, as I felt things had picked up and my curious mind really needed to know I was progressing in the right direction. She did, and told me with a big smile that I was 2cm dilated and things were definitely happening. She then said that she would go back home to catch some more sleep and we should just call her when things picked up even more… I think she saw that I was still able to talk and act normally between contractions so she knew I had a bit of time to go.
At that point my surges were well and truly there, and I had to stop what I was doing and really concentrate to breathe through them, Michael set up the birthing ball in the shower which felt amazing, I sat in there rocking my hips with the hot rain shower on my back, the room was dark and only lit up by little battery candles, our birth playlist was on, I moved my body in rhythm with the music. I felt so good in the shower, the surges were much more manageable with the water on my back.
This entire time Michael was with me coaching me through each surge, holding my hand, telling me to breathe. He kept me hydrated and made me a big PBJ smoothie to keep my energy levels up. I remember in between contractions, worrying about our water consumption because I had been in the shower for so long haha Michael was like.. ‘huh babe do NOT worry about that, it really doesn’t matter. But I genuinely couldn’t stop thinking about it and even lowered the water pressure so it would consume less… ridiculous what you end up focusing on when you’re in labour land haha
I ended up being in there for a good 2 hours, by that point I had also lost my mucus plug, and we thought perhaps my waters were leaking but we weren’t too sure. So Barbara was called again just before 8AM, because SURELY I was almost there…ha!
I made the decision to get checked again because it had been a good 4 hours of some serious surges and I needed to know we were getting somewhere. I felt like I needed a lot of reassurance, it was a mental game, and not knowing how long and what to expect was definitely hard, so I looked for comfort and words of encouragement to tell me that everything was going great and it was happening exactly as it should.
I got out of the shower, and she checked me in our bedroom, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know but again the curiosity got the better of me – she told me I was 3 cm… which was a real low point for me as I couldn’t believe that in all this time I had only dilated 1 cm..!! ONE..??!
I am not quite sure if I regret asking to be checked again, because I think in a way it did make something click in my mind that perhaps I was fighting each contraction, and I needed to go with them and fully embrace them, but goodness that was easier said than done. At that point the morning sun was coming through the window and bathing the room with a warm glow. This time Barbara stayed with us and sat in our living room coming in and out to check on me but also leaving me and Michael to labour together.
Michael was squeezing my hips with each contraction, (earlier in the morning he had started doing ‘hip squeezes’ which felt so good!)
it was my saving grace and really helped to lighten the surge even for a little fraction of time. He was my rock. He kept me focused, he kept me calm even though I was finding it hard to cope at times, he kept me breathing deep through each surge, and goodness I am not sure how I would have coped without him.
Between 8AM when Barbara checked me and around 11AM I dipped in and out of the shower (the shower was my happy place, it made everything so much easier!), walked a little, and then ended up on all fours holding onto our sofa bed when my waters broke.. it was such a strange sensation! So in a matter of 3 hours I happened to go from 3cm to almost fully dilated..! Which goes to show those numbers really don’t mean much! It was finally time to get into the pool..!
At that point I was well and truly gone into labour land, so much so that I didn’t even notice Hannah our second midwife arriving! I was truly in another world, trying to rest with my eyes closed between each surge, Michael filled in the pool during that time, but I remember wanting him to stay with me at all times because he was helping me with each surge with the hip squeezes and at that point they were coming every couple of minutes. Once the pool was finally filled, I slowly went in and it felt like heaven!
The hot water all around my belly felt so good, I straight away went into an all fours position leaning over the edge of the pool as this was what felt the most comfortable. From that point on once my waters had broken, the surges got intense and very strong, and they shifted to being downwards contractions, where I felt like my entire body was pushing and I couldn’t help it. It was very surreal.
Things were progressing, baby’s heartbeat this entire time was perfect, baby was relaxed in there and doing well. I, on the other hand, was starting to feel really exhausted. Michael made me another smoothie as that’s all I felt I could handle, I had a bite or two or some of my oat chocolate balls, but I didn’t feel like much. I kept asking if things were progressing, and my lovely midwives were so supportive, and really amazing at keeping me calm despite some tears on my end (which looking back was probably what you call being in ‘transition’) and feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore.. I remember Hannah telling me to feel for baby’s head, and it took me a few surges to find the courage to do it, but I did, and right there not very far I felt the top of baby’s head..!! It was exhilarating, baby was so so close. At that point I had been involuntarily pushing for over an hour and a half, but not much progress was made, so my midwives suggested I get out of the pool to try and pee and also move around to see if gravity would help.
Getting out of the pool truly felt impossible. I didn’t know if I could do it.. it felt like climbing the biggest mountain – ha little did I know what was coming next!
With the help of Michael and Barbara holding me, I managed to lift myself up and get out of the pool. Being in an upright position, and doing anything but being on all fours felt impossible!! But I walked to the bedroom and we then proceeded to try different positions to get this baby moving out.. We tried deep squats with Michael holding me, side lying positions, and I was by then actively pushing with each contraction, doing 3 big pushes with each surge. I remember feeling so desperate for things to happen, I knew baby was right there but I didn’t understand why all this effort I was putting in with each contraction wasn’t bringing me my baby.
We discussed our options, and decided to try a bit longer, with more pushing and changing positions, but after over 2 hours of active pushing and a few more of involuntary pushing since 1pm, it was now 5pm and I was well and truly exhausted, and I needed a change. So together we made the decision to transfer to hospital. My contractions were starting to space out a bit, and I had less and less energy to push every time a surge came. I was a little sad that we needed to transfer but I also felt some relief knowing that no matter what, I knew that this baby was coming soon!
The ambulance was called, they came in and after being coached by our midwives to reassure them that I was fine, just well and truly in labour, they came in and introduced themselves and offered me some gas and air which up until that point I hadn’t had despite having the option to – I’m not sure why I didn’t (I think during my whole labour I just wanted to be left to it, we had tried the TENs machine and I hated it, so I think in my head gas & air was going to be the same!) but it was very welcomed at that point and helped me to relax a little when a surge came.
Now remember when I said it felt impossible to get out of the pool… well it was now time for me to put some clothes on… what?! And walk down to the ambulance. WALK all the way down (via the elevator mind you) at that point, I’m not sure how I managed to find the strength to do it, because I very much had a baby right there almost out in between my legs haha and walking or sitting was NOT welcomed, but I did it, I slowly walked down, breathing in gas & air on the way, and climbed into the ambulance. I remember everyone being rather slow, and I really wanted to tell them all to get a move on, but I was trying to focus, each contraction was very pushy and strong, they told me I could either sit or lie down in the ambulance.. neither felt possible but I chose to sit. After what felt like an eternity (in my mind), we were on our way to the hospital, Barbara was with me the whole time, and Michael was at the front with our hospital bag which he was able to put together in a hurry in a few minutes ( I had packed one just in case, but needed last-minute items like some toiletries and a few items of clothing)
We finally arrived at hospital (our short 6min drive took closer to 15mins!), I walked out of the ambulance and they told me to sit down in a wheelchair because the walk to the Delivery Suite was long.. and goodness it was! I had my eyes closed the whole time, dipping in and out, but all I remember was opening my eyes as we entered the Delivery Suite to a lovely midwife called Pippa who appeared like an angel, she was so warm and calming, she welcomed us into the delivery room.
In there, everyone was ready, they knew we were coming, a couple of doctors, and midwives were waiting for us, Barbara and Michael at my side the whole time. I was sat on a bed while they got me ready. The lovely doctor who was on call, checked me and said ‘oh yes baby is right there’ – to which I internally thought “ NO SHIT” haha she said that baby was basically just slightly coming at an angle and got a little stuck on the way out which is why all my efforts of pushing weren’t getting us far.
I was offered an epidural, to which I said “sure do whatever you need to get this baby OUT..!”.. but baby had other plans.! Her heart rate which had been stable all along, dipped for a second, so the doctor gave me the option to get her out quickly rather than waiting for up to an hour for the epidural to be put in and take effect – she said we can get baby out fast by just doing a quick local anaesthetic to which she added “it will be just like going to the dentist…!” (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!) They needed to use forceps to gently move baby’s head so baby could exit easily…
All of this happened so fast, the local anaesthetic was done (barely felt a thing) the forceps put in, and unfortunately an episiotomy as they just do them automatically when doing forceps to avoid tearing in multiple places.. (which was annoying but genuinely healed so fast!) To which I also didn’t feel a thing. Doctor told me to wait until the next contraction so I can push this baby out myself…
My contractions had slowed down so waiting for the next one felt like an eternity especially when I knew it would be the final push…!!! The contraction finally came, I pushed and gave it my all.. and birthed baby’s head! Then we waited until the next one which was close, and suddenly I felt baby’s little body slipping out.. they immediately placed baby on my chest and told us to find out the gender together, Michael and I both moved her umbilical cord out of the way and screamed it’s a girl..!!!!! She did a few little cries, and quickly settled on my chest, did one big poo haha and started looking for a nipple straight away..!
We kissed her and cried and I kept saying “it was you.. I knew it!!” The most magical few minutes of my life, meeting our baby girl for the first time! She was all plump, dark blonde hair and beautiful lips just like her dad’s with almond shaped eyes. They waited for her cord to stop pulsating, and presented Michael with some scissors to cut the cord.. for the first time ever we weren’t connected physically anymore, she was out into the world our beautiful baby girl.
The first few hours were such a blur, but they stitched me up, and left us to bond as a family, our midwife Barbara stayed a little longer to show me how to latch her on the boob and said her goodbyes. We called our families one by one to share our magical news and introduce them to… Lyla!!
It didn’t totally go to plan, though, and we ended up having to stay a few days in hospital after being told we could be discharged that night after I spiked a slight fever.. which ended up being the not so fun part, I was put on antibiotics as they feared infection, which meant that Lyla had to have some too as they assume something could be passed on to baby automatically. In the end we were both fine, none of our test results came back with any infection, but we still had to go through the antibiotics course, which was disheartening, but I guess that’s how it goes in hospital, no risks taken. In the end I’m thankful for the care we had, but I do just wish we hadn’t had to go through those extra days in hospital, and looking back I think the fever was probably due to me just being absolutely exhausted but we’ll never know!
Our little Lyla had to have a cannula put in for her antibiotic dose twice a day, which had to be replaced a total of 5 times (in both her hands and in the sole of her foot…) because they either couldn’t find her veins (she was too plump to find them we were told ha) or it fell out. This was the hardest thing ever watching your baby being pricked and prodded, my heart goes out to any parents who have babies in NICU. We were very lucky to have had our own room, and Michael was able to spend the day with us and brought us all of the delicious food, smoothies, and snacks.. he was an angel! It was hard not being home for those first few days and having to spend nights alone with Lyla, but I am so thankful that we were both doing fine. We got to go home on day 5 and it was the best thing ever!!
Friday the 9th of April 2021 was the best day of my life, and although our little Lyla had slightly different plans for us in the end, I couldn’t be happier with how it all unfolded. Being able to be at home in the water until I was fully dilated and she was ready to come out was a dream, and as much as transferring to the hospital wasn’t in our plan A, it was in our plan B and because of that everything unfolded exactly like we wanted, everyone knew our birth plan and our choices were respected, everyone in the hospital was an absolute angel, and despite the few days post-birth which were incredibly hard emotionally at times, Lyla and I spent the entire time doing skin to skin, she slept on my chest for the first few days of her life, and it gave us time to bond just us two. She had her own little plan and that was fine by us!
I am so incredibly in awe of my body, and the strength I found within, it was for sure the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but also the very best thing I’ve ever had to do, and I genuinely cannot wait to do it again! The depth to which you have to go during the birthing process is incredible, and being able to witness the wonders of my body birthing our baby into the world will forever be my favorite thing I’ve ever done. It brought us our little Lyla!
It has been over 5 weeks now (editor’s note : by the time this is published it has been over 8 weeks..!) and I am only just finding the time, and energy to sit down and write our birth story down. I have been worried that the details will slowly escape me, and I really […]
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Tania Joy is a holistic health coach & mama-to-be. This is a destination for all things slow living, easy vegan recipes, natural beauty & inspiration to live a simpler, slower, more thoughtful life ☼