Welcoming Aluna Grace!
So it’s been just over three weeks since we welcomed Aluna Grace into the world and as much as I’ve wanted to share her birth story, this is the first time I’ve actually sat down at my desk since her birth to write…and I’m not going to lie, being out of the groove it’s been a struggle. But I know you lovelies have been dying to hear all about it and I know that I’ll appreciate putting ‘pen-to-paper’ now, while it’s all still super fresh in my mind so here goes.
Same as it ever was…
If you are at all up to date with my birth stories you’ll know that my body tends to like my babies well done. Caesar was born 11 days after my guess date, Coco was born 13 days after hers and after what felt like an exceedingly long wait Aluna was finally born at home, in the water, delivered, by me! 15 days after her guess date. And it was everything I could have hoped for. I am going to write a separate blog about the lead up to her birth which I feel taught me some important lessons that I’ll share with you over the coming weeks, but today is all about the birth. So the day before I went into labour started really positively, which was great as the day before that had been horrendous. I had gone to visit a new reflexologist and I’m not going to lie there was part of me that was hoping the treatment was going to shimmy things along. After trying ‘everything’ with Caesar and Coco in the lead up to meeting them and as I say frequently during The Calm Birth School video course:
“Natural methods of induction are only useful if baby is on the verge of coming. If baby is not not, nothing’s going to work.”
So my reflexology session was more about going to relax and if I was lucky see what happened. I saw Caroline Lyons from Lotus Therapies in Whitstable and the session was great – I kept waking myself up with my snoring….
To sweep or not to sweep
Later on in the day my lovely midwife Virginia Howes from the Kent Midwifery Practice came to see me. A couple of days before, I had told her if nothing had happened by Monday, I wanted to have a sweep. So when Virginia arrived she checked for baby’s heartbeat, asked how I was feeling and double checked to see if I still wanted a sweep. When I said yes, being pretty no-nonsense and to the point – which I’d loved right throughout my care – Virginia told me what a ‘good’ sweep would involve and it didn’t sound nice. I’d had sweeps before with both of my previous pregnancies and whilst they were slightly uncomfortable (and ineffective at kick-starting labour) I’d gone with them as the lesser of evils when it came to potentially having to have an induction. With this pregnancy, because I’d opted to have an independent midwife, the only conversations I’d had about induction came from random strangers in the street and mums at the school gates which was amazing. Virginia and Lauren Durret, my doula from The Whole Nine Months had been completely supportive and were clear that induction was not on the agenda for me. The baby had been crazily active right throughout my pregnancy and whilst she was still moving around like a mad thing and my blood pressure was as it should be there didn’t seem to be any reason why I should go in for an induction, particularly with my past history of carrying late. However, I was now on my fourteenth day and although I’d been feeling great after my reflexology, there was part of me that felt I’d done pretty well in terms of staying calm and mostly positive and if I wanted a sweep I wasn’t letting myself or anyone down. Despite that, the thought of Virginia rooting around my nether regions for five minutes trying to stimulate my uterus wasn’t appealing and so before we went down that avenue I asked for a vaginal examination, the only VE I had during my entire pregnancy and birth.
Not what I wanted to hear
It was uncomfortable and based on what was going on in that moment, the feedback wasn’t what I wanted to hear. And everything I advise women about being mindful around VEs and clear that they only measure a moment in time, so not to get disheartened, went out of the window and my heart sank. I knew it wouldn’t stay that way, but I needed time to get my head around that it didn’t feel like it was going to be my time right then. Virginia was lovely, taking time to check that I was okay. I texted Lauren to let her know and she came back to me straight away with some reassuring words – that I didn’t appreciate at the time. But that’s the beauty of having a doula, you don’t have to reassure them, they are there for you and your feelings 100%. Anyway I decided to bunker down, on went Netflix and I watched films back to back until about 11pm when I switched on Billions. Not the type of program you watch when you’re looking for an oxytocin fix, but what the heck, I wasn’t going to go into labour that night anyway. During Billions, the baby started going crazy, my belly was like her own personal punch bag, it was really full on and about 15 minutes before it ended I noticed that I was feeling quite damp. I’d been losing quite a lot of discharge (apols if that’s TMI) and so I didn’t really think too much of it. Then I could feel myself losing more water and I thought to myself, hang on a minute. I stood up and there was a wet patch on the sofa. Woo hoo!! My waters had broken. (I have a leather sofa, no damage was done).
And so it began
I was super excited, because my waters haven’t broken outside of active labour before so I really wasn’t expecting it. Of course as soon as I stood up there was no question about what was happening and although, it wasn’t a big gush, I found myself half hopping, half running (really, in my condition) to get to the bathroom so I could sit on the loo & check that the waters were clear and grab myself a towel. By this time it was midnight. So all excited, it did cross my mind that I was already pretty tired, I should have been in bed by 10pm and I wondered if things really were going to kick off that night. As I got into bed, my husband opened one eye and I told him my waters had released and he looked like he might get up for about half a second, before I said it was fine and of course half a second later he was completely asleep again. #men As I relaxed in bed the first thing I reached for was my phone. I text Virginia and Lauren to let them know the good news and then on went the MP3s. First I put on the birth rehearsal, which had had me feeling super emotional in the lead up to birth and then the fear release…It was important that I listened to that as even though I was ready, there had been lots of points in the pregnancy where I had questioned was I doing enough practice and also I felt a pressure that I needed to have a great birth. I wanted to let those concerns go so I could just concentrate on the job in hand. I was hoping that I might be able to go to sleep, but what I had thought were pre labour surges (and in fact actually my surges) were too intense to sleep through. So I just listened to the mp3s sat up slightly in bed and focused on my breathing. I did this until just before 3am in the morning, when I thought I would try and lie down on my side…immediately everything felt super intense and I realized I needed the toilet. Again I was really pleased I needed to do a pooh and it was pretty loose (I’m doing it again aren’t I? TMI) so I decided to get the hubby up and ask him to fill the pool. Jerome got up straight away, I went downstairs before texting Virginia and Lauren.
Time to call the team
I’d been timing my surges for a while before then and I was experiencing surges 3 in 10 minutes ranging anything from 40 seconds to a minute. So when Virginia asked me if I wanted her to come, I hesitated before getting back to her, because I didn’t want her to come out at 3am in the morning if she didn’t have to. But with her being an hour’s drive away from my home, I thought it would probably be best if she did make her way over, because who knew what would be happening at 4am and I was pretty quick with Coco. I then text Lauren and took up my position in the living room. I had my laptop by my side, that was playing a slide show of the family photoshoot that the lovely Phillipa James had taken a few weeks before and the TCBS MP3 playlist on a loop. I had chosen the affirmations, the Powerball and the birth rehearsal to listen to throughout my birth. I instinctively sat down on my knees facing the sofa with my arms resting on the seat supporting my head. I had stopped timing by this stage and whenever I felt a surge I circled my hips. Everything felt really manageable. I couldn’t have told you how far along I was but because I felt very calm, in control if I had to guess I would have thought I was still quite early on. On reflection time passed really quickly, because before I knew it Virginia was there by my side watching me wind my hips around a surge. She asked me if my surges were any more intense, but I couldn’t give an honest answer, because I didn’t know. I just knew that it was all quite manageable. As the surge passed I think Virginia had a listen to baby and all was well. I hung out for a short time longer in the dark of the living room before moving into the kitchen which was all set beautifully for me by Jerome. There were candles running along the counter tops, our fairy light reef hanging by the door, affirmations pinned up along the window and the wall. It was perfect. And when I moved into the kitchen, he brought the laptop so I could continue listening to the playlist on low.
Even though the pool was ready, I wasn’t quite ready to get in. So I resumed the same position I had been in, in the living room on my knees, leaning on the seat of a chair. I think Virginia must have sensed things were moving along as she asked me if I was ready to get into the pool, I think I said no to start with and then a little time later she reminded me I could get into the pool if I wanted. I remember feeling, ‘okay, might as well’ regarding getting in, but as soon as I did I simultaneously felt amazing about getting into the water, but also more aware of the surges. The frequency of the surges immediately increased and I had to bring all my awareness to reciting my affirmations. I smile when I think about what I was reciting to myself on the day. The one that sticks out was “I am a goddess” …can you believe it?? I also said many times. “I can do this”. And I had to remind myself to release all tension from my body.
I remember leaning over the pool (same position on my knees leaning forward over the edge) and being aware that it was getting lighter and looking out over the garden and thinking how beautiful it looked. Then feeling like I needed to go for a wee. I told Virginia that wanted to get out to go to the loo. My surges were coming thick and fast at this point, she told me I could go in the pool, but I wasn’t up for that. It’s really interesting that I was completely present in between my surges this time which was very different to Coco’s birth, where I stayed ‘in the zone’ throughout. And so I really wasn’t up for that. Jerome had been quietly watching and supporting from the side of the pool at this point and Virginia asked him to help me out before the next surge arrived. Too late the next one came! I just managed to get out of the pool when the next one came and it was really fucking intense. Maybe partly because I had got out of the water, but also because I didn’t really need a wee…which totally threw both Virginia and myself. I talk about baby pressing on the bladder which can cause some women to go for a poo during labour or to at least feel like they want to go for a poo. When this happened to me this time, because I felt as though I wanted to go for a wee, I didn’t realize that it was the baby moving down past my bladder and neither did Virginia. She later said that in all her time of midwifery, no-one had ever said they wanted to go for a wee and been at that stage before. So, out of the pool I was standing and as I said I experienced this most intense surge, I lost a lot of water and I pooped! Yep, just a little one but out it came, as my body’s natural expulsive reflex kicked into play.
Even I can get taken by surprise
It feels weird to write this here, but this stage totally took me by surprise and my body tensed, I felt another really strong surge and the baby’s head began to emerge. I was stuck. I didn’t quite know what to do at this point. Virginia told me to get back in the pool, I didn’t want to move, but she calmly told me to get back in before the next surge and Jerome helped me back into the water. I put my hand around the back of me and could feel the top of Aluna’s head, although I didn’t tell Virginia or Jerome I could feel it. I could feel all of the hair. I was still in a bit of shock. I remember feeling the tension in my body and I said to Jerome ‘it hurts’ and I knew I had to surrender, so I finally made the decision to allow my body to sink into the water. As I did this the next surge took over and the baby’s whole head was out. I knew then the hardest part was over…her head was out. I brought my left hand down between my legs and as I surged again remember guiding her body through, before the last surge and she was out. Virginia popped her hand into the pool and guided her around to the front and again, I think I was a bit shell shocked to start with and didn’t immediately pick her up out of the water. Which is fine as newborns don’t breathe in until the cold air hits their face. After what probably wasn’t longer than a couple of seconds I lifted the baby to my chest and then came a rush of emotion that I felt so different to my previous two births. The joy, relief, oxytocin that I had done it. I had just had a quick, intense, powerful, beautiful birth and delivered my own baby and there she was full head of hair beautiful brown eyes just lying on my chest, it was fucking amazing (check my face!)
As always the toughest part of all my labours was delivering the placenta. Although, this time it was much quicker than the previous two I had no energy at all. Even though, Aluna’s birth had been super quick, so Virginia had arrived at 4am in the morning and we had welcomed Aluna by 5am! It felt as though it had sapped every bit of energy and strength from me and I made more of a fuss delivering the placenta than I had the baby! Go figure! Lauren had arrived and was telling me to remember my breathing and I remember thinking I can’t fucking breathe! 😀 But I did (of course) and it came out and my job was done. All that was left was for Aluna to start feeding and for me to get my lips around a lovely placenta smoothie. It wasn’t until we had been out of the pool for at least 15 to 20 minutes that I even asked what sex ‘it’ was. Again I was super shocked as right throughout my pregnancy everyone had been telling me we were going to have a boy, so I thought we were having a boy. It was amazing to have such a lovely surprise. Coco and Caesar woke up just as Aluna started feeding and came down, eyes wide, not quite believing what they were seeing. It was magical.
We didn’t name Aluna until later on that day, it was a toss up between Luella and Aluna, but as Aluna was born on a full moon, and the name means Goddess of the Moon, it seemed very fitting to go with Aluna. I felt and feel so blessed to be able to share with you this totally magical experience. Birth is amazing!!!! And look forward to helping many, many more women through the Calm Birth School Instructors across the UK and through the video course enjoy calm and positive births. Photo credit: www.treeoflifedoulaphotography.com
If you’re ready to enjoy your own calm and positive birth sign up for your three free hypnobirthing classes at www.thecalmbirthschool.com/freehypnobirthing.