As promised, here is the story of our beautiful daughter Matilda’s birth, one written by me and one by my husband Andy. I hope they will provide some inspiration to both the women you teach and their birth partners, just as the many stories I heard over the weeks did for me.
As you know, Matilda is my second baby, having given birth to our first daughter Bella 16 months ago. With Bella, I was diagnosed with late onset pre-eclampsia and my labour was induced just before my due date. The combination of the induction, syntocin drip, Bella being back to back and my blood pressure being very high, resulted in a very long and difficult labour where I had the works, including pethadine, an epidural and a ventouse delivery. Bella arrived into the world to a cheering team of 7 medical staff and although the birth experience was a positive one, I was very keen to avoid being induced this time around and to see if I could have a more natural experience.
My blood pressure began to creep up during this pregnancy so I had a few sessions with the fantastic acupuncturist that you recommended, Christine Hall, who kept my bp under control and four days before my due date I asked the midwife to give me membrane sweep. I wanted to do all I could to give the labour a nudge naturally in case my blood pressure decided to rise as the hospital had already been threatening another induction. Following the sweep I spent the afternoon experiencing mild cramps, I got quite excited by the time I went to bed on the Thursday night, but the baby showed no signs of arriving, however, about 30 hours after the sweep, on the Friday night, I had a show. Andy and I got very excited again but by Saturday morning nothing was happening so I resigned myself to the fact that I’d be back to the midwife on Monday, the day after I was due, for another sweep.
The next day, on the baby’s due date, we decided to go to my mother in law’s in Surrey for lunch and a change of scene. We all went for a brisk uphill walk after lunch in a bid to get things moving. By this point the baby was very low and I was walking like John Wayne, which seemed to raise a few eyebrows with the Surrey residents as I waddled past their houses. The walk tired me out so we decided to put Bella to bed at my mother in laws and I had a short nap. I woke up feeling fully recharged, went downstairs to see Andy and his mum Linda when my waters broke. It wasn’t particularly spectacular, probably half a tea cup, but at this point I felt things were really going to start happening. It was 7.30 in the evening, I settled down on the sofa which we’d covered with a bin bag and some towels, to watch X Factor and to eat some spicey potato wedges and half a box of mint matchmakers. I felt very calm and very excited.
By 8.30 I was pleased to report to Andy and Linda that I had very mild contractions coming every 6 minutes but they were very bearable, just mildly uncomfortable.
By 9pm we decided to head back to London, leaving Bella to stay overnight with her Nanna, hoping that by the morning we’d have at least made it into hospital. Andy drove back to London very carefully, which is rather out of character for him, and we arrived home just before 10 thinking we were in for a long night. By this point my contractions were starting to get close together and more uncomfortable although I could still stay sitting down throughout them.
When we arrived home Andy set up camp for me in our bedroom where I sat on the birthing ball leaning over a huge pile of pillows which we’d put on the bed. Andy turned the lights off and I asked him to leave me to it. He went downstairs to have something to eat. I could hear him pottering around, which gave me comfort to know he was close by, but I was very happy to be by myself, breathing through the contractions.
Between 10.30 and 11.30 the contractions grew progressively stronger until I thought they were coming every 4 or 5 minutes. I called for Andy to come up and time them and he confirmed they were every 4 minutes lasting around 50 seconds. We called the hospital and they told us to come in as soon as we could as I’m Group B Strep positive and they needed to give me anti-biotics four hours prior to delivery. They felt that although I probably had a long way to go, as it was my second baby I should come in now to be on the safe side.
It was at this point that things started to get a lot harder. I couldn’t speak or move during the contractions and I was dreading the drive to the hospital. My poor husband could do nothing right at this point. If he took the corners too fast it was agony and if he drove too slowly he was just prolonging the pain! I started to feel really sick as we drove over Battersea Bridge and we had to have a short pit stop on the Kings Road for me to bring up all those matchmakers and potato wedges.
By the time we arrived at the Chelsea and Westminster it was 12.40. I’m not sure how it took us an hour and ten minutes to get from our bedroom to the delivery ward 3 miles away but I was moving very slowly by this point. It took me what felt like an eternity to get from the underground car park to the labour ward. I walked through the brightly lit hospital corridors with my eyes tightly shut. I could not speak by this point and was just focussed entirely on my breathing to help me get through the contractions. I concentrated on the mantra you taught us, “my throat is relaxed, my shoulders are relaxed, my pelvis is relaxed” and this really made me feel in control. I also tried to visualise everything opening up for the baby and tried to focus on the breaks in between the contractions rather than the contractions themselves just as you’d told us too. All of these things really helped me.
When we finally arrived on the labour ward, Andy asked for an active birthing room and was told they would just check I was in labour first. I was so quiet that the midwifes didn’t thing much could be happening. Our very calm midwife Laura dimmed the lights in the room and I said the only words I said for a long time “get me a ball to sit on!” which she did immediately.
After some questions to Andy and a quick listen to the baby’s heart rate, she asked if I could get onto the bed to be examined. It was great timing as I’d just been feeling like the fog had cleared and I could manage to communicate again although I found it incredibly painful to get up and move onto the bed as the minute long contractions were coming with barely more than 15 seconds between them. It was worth it however as I was delighted to hear, and Laura was very surprised to report, that I was 10 cms dilated.
I told Laura that I’d been feeling the need to have a poo and she asked if I felt I was ready to push and I agreed that I was but I wasn’t going to be doing it lying on my back so with Laura and Andy’s help I turned around, kneeling on the bed, leaning over the back when the most uncontrollable urge to push began. Thankfully the contractions had become a bit further apart by now, to 4 in every 10 minutes, so I had a chance to take a breather between each one. During each contraction I managed a good three long pushes. After about 15 minutes of pushing I didn’t feel I was doing a very good job and Laura asked me if I felt I was holding back a bit, which I did if I was honest with myself. She said the monitor was showing that the baby was getting a bit tired which was all the motivation I needed to give it some real welly.
I could really feel the baby beginning to move further and further down with each contraction. Andy rubbed my lower back during each contraction whilst Laura encouraged me to push, push, push. It was what I could only describe as a very animal experience. On one hand I had no control over what my body was doing, yet mentally I felt very in control of the situation. I could feel the baby crowning, which wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be, and I followed Laura’s instructions very carefully, when to push, when to pant, when to push a little, as she expertly guided our baby out. Her cord was wrapped around her neck which Laura dealt with very quickly and easily, and after her shoulders were delivered, her body came out in one very quick and easy push after just 25 minutes of pushing and no tearing or need for an episiotomy. Laura passed her up between my legs and I met our beautiful daughter for the first time. It was amazing.
I had been planning to have the injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta but as I’d had such a natural labour Laura encouraged me to deliver it naturally so the cord could continue pulsating. After nearly 20 minutes the cord was cut and it took me 4 or 5 contractions to deliver the placenta. A little longer than Laura had thought it would but it was fine and I was glad to have done it in that way.
We were then left to ourselves for a good couple of hours in the dark and calm room. It really had been an amazing labour. I had felt in control pretty much the whole way through. Although it did get very painful at times, I really felt I’d managed to breath through each contractions focussing on the breaks between them rather than when the next one was coming. It was only en route to the hospital that the thought of any pain relief crossed my mind, but when I look back now, I think I was almost in the transition stage at this point. It wasn’t until after I’d had Matilda that Laura realised she hadn’t even offered me gas and air. At no point did I really need it. In fact, the first words I said after having her was “well, that wasn’t that bad!”
I feel very lucky to have had such a terrific birth experience, but I do feel that the yoga classes, birth prep and partners class really helped me to get into the mind set that labour is a natural thing and if you are lucky enough not to have any complications and let your body get on with what it is designed to do, it will do it. Thank you for all the inspiration and knowledge you gave us. It definitely helped me to have the labour that I wanted.
And now from Andy’s perspective! (He wrote this with the partners class audience in mind)
Some weeks ago I was sitting in Nadia’s class as you are now, slightly hungover, under duress, but showing a sufficient level of enthusiasm and interest to be deemed sufficiently supportive by my somewhat hormonal wife!
Our baby girl, Matilda Rose, was born at 1.30 am two days ago. The experience is still fresh in my mind and so intense that I wanted to keep a record for us as well as fulfil my promise to Nadia to send in our birth story from the partner’s perspective.
As a background, our first daughter Bella was born 16 months previously. Sarah had wanted a natural birth with minimal intervention however she developed pre-eclampsia and was induced. Bella was back to back and the syntocin brought on a painful labour. We rightly elected for an epidural which we were told would also help to keep Sarah’s blood pressure down. The anaesthetist, or as Sarah referred to her, the Angel of Mercy, did her stuff and Bella arrived in a bit of a panic to a room full of people but she was healthy and beautiful and that was all that mattered. The experience wasn’t what Sarah had wanted but it was still a positive one for her as she’d stayed in control and the midwife looking after us had been fantastic. For me I was just glad it was over.
Throughout this, Sarah’s second pregnancy, I was somewhat cynical about what I began to refer to as Sarah’s plans for an “organic” birth. Yoga, acupuncture, hypno-birthing cds – I financed the lot. It takes a brave man to deny a pregnant woman! In truth I think that the positive impact intervention had had with Bella made me confident in medical support and dismissive of anything else.
Matilda’s labour started at my mum’s house in Surrey. After a show on Friday night we were surprised to still be waiting on Sunday but after a brisk walk to the shops, up a steep hill, and a nap, Sarah came into the lounge where I was watching the tv with my mum, and said very calmly “ooops! I think my waters have just broken”.
Contractions started an hour later, but were just mild and very bearable. We decided to drive home during which time Sarah said she was visualising her body opening up for the baby, and I drove slowly for once, we played Magic FM all the way, and were a picture of calm. When we got home around ten I remembered it was my job to make her feel safe and loved so set her up in our bedroom with everything that she wanted including the birthing ball and lots of pillows and I, under her instructions, left her to it. During this time the contractions began to increase in force but Sarah breathed through them and rode with waves as Nadia had explained to do.
By 11.30 the contractions were coming every 3 – 4 minutes and lasting around 50 seconds. We called the hospital half expecting not to be admitted as Sarah didn’t appear to be in total agony as we’d expected she would be. We were called in however and it was at this point that I believe Sarah knew she was going to the safety of the hospital, when things really began to accelerate.
Sarah had her transition phase in the car and when walking to the ward. Firstly she was uncharacteristically abusive and then she went totally quiet and introverted, almost unable to speak as she concentrated on breathing. And riding the contractions as they increased in force and frequency.
Laura, our midwife, led us into the room to check if Sarah was actually in labour despite my assurance she was! Laura checked her and was surprised to see that she was 10 cms dilated. At this point, 12.45, Sarah said she wanted to push.
Up on the bed, facing the wall on her knees Sarah went into the final straight. Amazing is the only word for it. Laura guided Sarah through expertly, keeping her calm, telling her when to push and more importantly when to pant. I rubbed Sarah’s back, occasionally whispering encouragement, but mainly keeping a stunned silence. Matilda was eased out, Laura untangled the cord from around her neck, before delivering our beautiful girl. Tilly was passed to Sarah and after the cord finished pulsating it was cut and the placenta was delivered naturally.
What a different experience. The body did what it was built to do to absolute perfection. Sarah had no pain relief throughout the birth and said minutes afterwards “that wasn’t that bad!” Her “organic” birth was a success and the preparation beforehand undoubtedly contributed to her state of mind therefore the successful outcome. After such a natural experience I just hope hairy armpits aren’t the next stage!
For me I have learned the value of a mother’s state of mind which is created and influenced through environment, breathing, preparation and knowledge. We were lucky that Sarah had no complications with this birth, but her preparation before hand really contributed to a successful outcome. Also I believe partners should have total confidence in the excellent care that our mid wives offer whether with or without intervention alongside and wives should not fear intervention if it is needed. Most importantly make sure if, like me, you’re one of those blokes that likes to always have the last word, just make sure it’s “yes dear”.