A note: This post kicks off a series of natural birth stories.
My story starts back in 2006.
I have a history of miscarriage. I had two early losses before giving birth to Noah, but for some reason had thought it would not happen again.
We decided to start trying for another baby in December 2005, and got pregnant right away. However, this pregnancy sadly ended in a miscarriage at the end of January, a very traumatic loss as I got to see the baby I lost and to this day believe there was something wrong with the baby causing it – due to a lack of development, I was 8 weeks along and the baby looked more like pictures I have seen of a 4 week foetus, yet large sized.
Since this was my third loss, despite not being consecutive, I talked my GP into referring me to the hospital for further testing. I had a ton of blood taken for various different tests, however by the time my appointment came along to see the consultant to discuss my results I was already pregnant again, after suffering a chemical pregnancy the cycle before, it turned out this time the baby was going to stick. I had about 8 scans as they monitored my pregnancy very closely this time.
However, things were not to go completely smoothly, as at 16 weeks I consented to having the triple test done for Downs/Edwards syndrome/Spina Bifida, something I regret doing as I feel very strongly against abortion apart from in extreme medical circumstances. This test came back with an elevated risk for Downs Syndrome, at 1 in 200. (The risk for my age, 29, should have been 1 in 1000.) Due to my loss history I refused an amniocentesis. The risk for losing my baby was double the actual risk of it having Downs and I could not accept those odds. So I opted for a detailed scan instead. The scan showed no soft markers for Downs and confirmed what we already suspected was true, that I was carrying another little boy.
At 34 weeks, I had another scan which also showed no markers for Downs. The consultant tried to talk me into an amnio at that stage, which I refused, as I could see little point. She said,
Do you know what risk you are taking?
I felt that was completely ridiculous, as whatever abnormalities my child might have had, we would just deal with whatever came up. I would love my child no matter what and strongly believe that we got given what we can handle and no greater than that. My gut told me though that my child was healthy and I clung onto this.
We started to plan the delivery, our local hospital had recently upgraded their birthing pool so that mothers could actually give birth in it rather than just labouring in it and then getting out before the birth itself. I fully intended on using this pool, especially after researching it and finding out that a warm bath is the second most effective form of pain relief after an epidural!
I had an epidural with Noah’s birth which had not taken properly (just down one side) and I had some horrible side effects (nausea and shaking). I was determined not to have one this time.
A good family friend of ours, Joana, is a midwife and had delivered Noah, we had her on call whenever I went into labour, although she would need some assistance as this would be her first waterbirth.
At 39 weeks, 4 days, I woke up to mild contractions, timed them as coming every 10 minutes. I told Gary to expect a call at some point in the day, and he trotted off to work with his mobile in his pocket. The in-laws were also told, as they would be looking after Noah, since my mother was going to be at the birth as well as Gary.
As the day wore on though, they did not intensify, or get any closer together. By the time Gary got home from work I was getting very frustrated and at that point not even bothered if they stopped, I just wanted SOMETHING to happen or let me get some rest. At 9 p.m., I decided to try and get some sleep so went to bed. It was difficult as I was woken with every contraction, but I was determined I would need some sleep if I was going to have any energy to deal with labour.
Then at 10 p.m. I had a phone call…it was Joana. I hadn’t spoken to her in a couple of weeks and she said she just had this feeling she had to call me – as if she knew something was happening! She said to call her when my contractions got to 2-3 minutes apart and until then to stay at home.
Somehow I managed to get to sleep and the next thing I knew, it was 1 a.m. and I awoke having a very intense contraction. I lay there timing them again, and noticed they were coming about 3 minutes apart and lasting about 50 seconds each.
I woke DH and we both got up, rang the in-laws. I got dressed and headed over to the hospital. I rang Joana on the way over.
At this point my contrax were 3 min apart, but every now and again I would have an extra one in between; they were painful but manageable. When we got there they had the pool all ready for me and they checked me before I hopped in. Joana was shocked to find I was already 9cm dilated – so I had already gone through most of labour at home!
I got into the tub and as soon as I hit the water I hit transition and started to lose it. Seconds after, I felt a huge pop and my waters broke. (Great timing!) I managed to get my shit together and focus on the contractions, which were getting really intense.
The only pain relief I had was gas and air, which I found helped, Joana was cheering me on saying,
You can do this! You don’t need the drugs, you’re going to do it on your own!
About 10 mins after I started to feel the urge to push, my body just took over – this part always freaks me out, how the body just does things with no input.
With my last labour, the pushing had been very, very difficult, as I was on my back wired up to machines after having an epidural, and it took over 2 hours to get him out.
This time though, I was able to get right into a good position and let gravity help me. Still, I was nervous. I also tore badly last time and was worried about it happening again.
In the end though I just realized the faster I get him out the sooner the pain is over and just pushed along with my body. I knew he was coming soon. I could feel the infamous “ring of fire”.
Joana called the other midwife in as this was her first waterbirth and she needed assistance for this last part. They got me to squat right in the centre of the pool as low as I could and as he came out, they told me not to touch his head, as it might stimulate him to breathe. His head popped out and very soon after the rest of his body.
When they told me the time was right I brought him up to the surface and laid him on my chest. I remember thinking how soft his skin was and what a big boy! He didn’t even cry and soon pinked right up nicely.
Once I had delivered the placenta, I was able to get out and they cleaned Seamus up, and of course weighed him. Then I breastfed him for the first time 🙂
I felt SO high and ecstatic that I had given birth with no drugs or much in the way of intervention. I was able to get up out of the pool and go to have a shower without assistance, and the recovery was SO much better as I had been able to really control my pushing so only minor tearing along my original scar. I swear if I have another baby, I will have another waterbirth for sure!
Seamus weighed on at 8lbs, 4oz, born at 4.50am (45 minutes after reaching the hospital) on the 24th February 2007. Perfectly healthy.
A note from Cate: Special thanks to Claire for sharing this awesome story!
I wanted to bring good birth stories to you to counteract what I call “the grocery store effect.” Pregnant women, you all are wonderful and beautiful and you have the excellent gift to bring to the world: life. You should not be treated like a trash receptacle for other people’s baggage. Everyone needs to hear more good birth stories.
If you have one you’d like to share, please contact me through Twitter.