Henry is now a month old, a whole month of muddling through the 4th trimester! Before more time passes, I wanted to share my birth experience with you. It’s quite a long post, it’s hard to do it justice in just a few paragraphs, it was just so different to my first. I’ve broken it up into sections so you can skip to the bits you’re interested in.
Background – my first labour
To say I had a ‘bad birth experience’ with my first wouldn’t be quite right. It was relatively straightforward, natural and I came away with a beautiful, healthy baby boy, oh and some 2nd degree stitches to remember it by. However what happened during my labour left me feeling deflated and thinking… would things have panned our differently for Louis, had we questioned the Midwife’s along the way?
Having started off with all the best intentions for my first labour, timing and breathing through contractions, leaving it as late as I could to go to hospital, what happened when I got there was far from ideal. The team in triage made me feel like a neurotic first time mum; practically forced me to have pethidine (for the ‘pain’), against my preferences, and after examining me incorrectly had me rushed dramatically to the labour ward. I was apparently 2cm at 2am and by 2.40am I was 7cm and had been administered morphine based pethidine. The pethidine has inevitably been passed to Louis, who was now well on his way and drowsy. They insisted on bursting my waters to help speed things up… for who? Him? Them? This caused further stress for both Louis and I.
As a result, Louis came out after a short 4hr labour, sleepy and wouldn’t latch on. I was exhausted, uncomfortable and spent 48hrs on a tropical maternity ward, mid summer, being hand expressed! Our feeding journey thereafter was just a bit of a mess and still makes me sad to this day. It didn’t work, my milk never really ‘came in’, bottles and tops ups perhaps dwindled my supply, I don’t know. He just couldn’t thrive on my milk alone and I physically couldn’t cope with the demands. I lasted 2 months of breastfeeding, shorter than I’d have liked for us, and this caused me great sadness and onset anxiety throughout the first year of his life.
Choosing where to birth
So 3 years later, thinking about ‘Labour day’, I was adamant that whatever might happen, we’d be more in control and understand the options available to us.
Very early on in our pregnancy we discussed the idea of a home birth. Having heard some amazing and positive birth stories first hand, we struggled to find a negative one online. Friends would ask us “but what if things go wrong?”, well you have to look at the risks, what could ‘go wrong’ and what would the midwives do in that situation? It’s all very personal to you and I’m not experienced in any way to explain those risks.
Yes we could have looked at the birth centre, but there is no guarantee on the day there will be space. I also wanted to be away from “too many chefs” – in hospital you’re more likely to have a change of team on shifts, too easy for your team to have ‘meddlers’ and the environment on a labour ward is not for me.
For us having looked at the risks, assessed my pregnancy and previous birth with the Midwife’s, we decided a home birth with pool was right for us. In another post I’ll talk about how we prepared for the home birth, but for now, the details!
I didn’t feel it necessary to do a full on antenatal preparation course and I had heard a lot of great things about the principles of hypnobirthing. What I actually found was a great course locally called Mummynatal, which was a birth preparation course combining relaxation and exercise for birth. There are elements of hypnobirthing about it, but it’s very much about trusting your body to birth, using the power of breath and the mind to relax and keep you in control. It was great – would 100% recommend it.
Our Henry’s birth story
Louis had been on time, as in, I went into labour on his due date! So the weeks leading up to Henry I convinced myself he’d be early or at least on time. He wasn’t, I was 5 days over, yet those 5 days felt like 5 weeks! On day 40wks+3 I pretty much begged my midwife for a sweep. I had left the clinic feeling a few twinges, but nothing really strong enough to be excited. This then brought on a frustrating 48hrs of stop-start contractions, each night I’d go to bed feeling like it was starting and wake up with nothing.
On Thurs 10th May, the morning of Henry’s birthday, I woke early and burst in to tears, the contractions had completely stopped. I got up, completed a purchase in my Mango basket, to cheer myself up(!), showered and got dressed. Ant decided to work from home and told me to chill out and that he’d sort breakfast for Louis, as well as walk him to preschool. At 8.30 am as the boys were getting ready to leave I thought maybe I was having a contraction. Fearful they’d stop I decided to join the boys for the 10 min walk. Along the way I had to keep stopping, the same for the way back. Having stopped 3 times in the 10 min walk to breath through the contractions, we decided it was time to call the Midwife!
Back at home, a midwife arrived and asked if she could observe me. After an hour she asked if she could internally assess me as she suspected it was happening. At this point she said I was 3cm and called for the afternoon team to come and take over.
With labour now in full swing, I realised I’d not eaten! I had some toast, sat on my ball, put a playlist of relaxing birth music in my ears, Tenns machine on and attempted to ‘get in the zone’. I just turned my back from the Midwife’s and looked out the window to my garden, practicing my breathing techniques. As part of my birth classes I learnt about visualisation and how it can be used to help calm you in birth. I chose to picture my two boys playing together in the garden, and started thinking how much I’d wanted this. As every contraction came I said to myself “this is bringing me closer to my dream”.
At about 1.30pm I could feel the surges getting more intense, I asked Ant to put all the childcare arrangements in place and to start filling up the birth pool, which was inflated in our living room ready. I put on my eye mask, had the midwife light a candle and this scent gave me something new to focus on. I inhaled the gas and air as each contraction came and pushed against the wall for relief. About 4.30pm I believe I hit what they call transition, I just felt I was now fully dilated and close to pushing. I got in to the pool as the contractions intensified and soon turned into surges to push.
After around 45 mins of pushing, alternating from leaning against the pool, to floating on back, I felt my waters burst. In the next contraction Henry’s head made an appearance, I just knew one more and he’d be in my arms. Then just like that, after the next push there he was floating up and towards my chest, my beautiful baby boy.
The birth didn’t go without a few dramas for poor Ant, he was having a nightmare getting the temperature right and at one point had a near stand off with the midwife who said I wasn’t to get in it (due to the temperature). However for me, it was in a way, everything I wanted and a totally positive experience.
After delivering the placenta, I lay on the sofa with my baby, skin to skin for his first feed. Having felt so anxious about feeding, I had bottles sterilised and ready made formular ready to go… but then just like that he latched on beautifully and started feeding from me, both of us just knew what to do. I couldn’t believe it.
That night we decided to leave Louis at my neighbours, as to not disturb his bedtime routine and instead would bring him home after he’d had breakfast for cuddles. Which is exactly what we did.
I can’t quite still believe what a contrast of birth and feeding experience I’ve had. The feeding has been going great with Henry, I feel I had that motherly rush of love a lot quicker this time and in contrast to Louis, he is thriving and gaining weight on just my milk alone. I truly believe that bringing him in to the home in a relaxed and positive environment has had such an impact on both of us and really helped to strengthen that bond.
I know we’re not out the woods yet, it’s still early days and life as a 4 is still very new for all of us. Who knows what the next few months will bring, but I look forward to sharing the highs and lows with you here.
If there is anything more you would like to know about my home birth I’d be happy to chat to you, message me here or on my Instagram @sarahparkerpics I am planning a preparation for home birth post too.