The beautiful birth of Eliza Grace

Thank you to Katy for sharing your wonderful birth story with us and huge congratulations on your beautiful little girl.

“Hi everyone, I just thought I would share my pregnancy and birth story. I’ve written it mostly whilst feeding Eliza in the night and it’s been so lovely to get it all down. I never want to forget how amazing it all was! (Apologies, it’s a long one! But I wanted to give a bit of background).

Eliza is my second baby; her older brother Joseph has just turned 3. He weighed 7lbs 12oz and was born after a looong latent phase, but then a relatively quick active labour and birth. I was lucky enough during my pregnancy to have been a guinea pig for two of my colleagues who had just done their hypno birth practitioner training which helped massively. I had a really positive pregnancy and birth with Joseph but I unfortunately experienced a tear that did not heal well at all. I was told I was a good candidate for reconstruction but that they advised that I wait until my family was complete before having any surgery. I was left feeling completely broken and damaged and it was a major factor in my postnatal depression.

My husband and family were wonderfully supportive and 2 years down the line I was feeling better in myself and felt ready to add another little one to our family. We quickly found out we were expecting baby number 2!

In-between my two pregnancies I had been diagnosed with Paroxysmal supra-ventricular tachycardia (PSVT) where my heart suddenly started to beat very rapidly. It’s a really scary experience and it caused me to have horrible palpitations. I knew through my work as a midwife that I’d now be considered High Risk but I was keen to still aim for a normal delivery with minimal intervention if possible, preferably in the pool.

My community midwife was lovely and very understanding of my wishes. I was booked for shared care (both midwife and obstetric) and was I also referred to a cardiologist who specialised in pregnancy. He was fantastic and really put our minds at ease. He felt that there was no reason to think I couldn’t labour and birth my baby the way I wished. I was started on a beta blocker 3 times per day as I was often tachycardic even when resting. I was also offered extra scans due to the potential risks of having a small baby as a side effect of the tablets.

The pregnancy progressed well and apart from feeling pretty tired all the time, I felt fairly well. The palpitations lessened the longer I had been taking the tablets. Not wanting to push it too much I decided to finish work early (29 weeks) as my job is very active. And not to mention the unsociable hours, why can’t babies be born Monday to Friday 9 to 5?!

Baby had been growing well according to the scans but at 36+5 weeks my fundal height measurement looked like it had tailed off a little. I was referred for another scan to double check. I joked to my husband in the waiting room that I thought that the growth was perfectly fine but that I wasn’t convinced baby was head down yet. Low and behold, my little baby was being a cheeky monkey and was lying completely transverse!

Due to the risk of cord prolapse if my waters were to have broken I was asked to stay at the hospital until they attempted to turn the baby by ECV AT 37 weeks. If that was unsuccessful they would book my elective caesarean for the following week. My dreams of a hypno water birth felt like they were slipping out of my fingers.

I spent the next 8 days trying to stay positive, doing spinning babies techniques, I re read my hypnobirthing book, read lots of positive birth movement and Calm birth school posts on Facebook. I even planned my gentle caesarean just in case! The day of the ECV arrived and I was so nervous! My Husband held my hand and I used my relaxation techniques, The consultant was firm but not rough and thankfully my little one obliged and got into a head down position! It was not too uncomfortable at all and I went home the following day after they confirmed baby had stayed in a safe position.

I was looked after so well during my stay in hospital and again, the staff were so understanding of my hopes of having a straight forward birth. I only encountered one midwife who told me that I wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to, even with baby being in a head down position, due to her being concerned about my heart issue.

Not wanting to potentially have that discussion whilst I was in labour, I decided to see a Supervisor of Midwives to make more of a plan for my birth. We agreed that If all was going well I would birth in a pool but on the delivery suite rather in the midwife led birth centre. And if I (or baby) became unwell at any point I would get out and have extra monitoring. It was a plan that we were all comfortable with.

After thinking I was potentially going to have my baby early, my due date came and went! I had a stretch and sweep at term +6 and term +9 but no joy. At term +12 we decided to go ahead with an induction. With the plan that I would still birth in the pool if I laboured without the need for syntocinon.

My little one head clearly not read the map and her head was ridiculously high in my pelvis and was not well engaged at all. Thankfully my midwife was happy to still proceed (after a quick scan just to double check baby was still indeed head down!)

I had my 1st prostin gel at 15:00 and I experienced almost instant period type cramping. After half an hour lay on the bed (to stop the gel escaping!) I was desperate to get up and move about. We decided to go for a walk to try and get things moving and help baby move down. We grabbed a coffee and something to eat in the cafe but quite quickly I felt the need to go back to ward as the cramping was getting pretty intense. It had no real rhythm to it and it was pretty unpleasant. I started to worry that I wasn’t going to cope with the induction process if I felt like this straight away. We got back to our room and I sat bouncing on the ball listening to our labour playlist. I asked for some paracetamol which helped take the niggly discomfort away.

The sensations started to change to more of the wave like pattern that I remembered from having Joseph. I started to really try and use my breathing and relaxation techniques which really helped. I kept hearing my lovely colleague Anne’s voice in my head saying ‘just breathe, fill that tummy with air and stretch those muscles against the tightening.’ It helped so much!

6 hours later it was time for another examination to check my progress. I was tightening every few minutes, 2 cms dilated and my cervix has thinned out well. The midwife commented that it had been a great change from when I first arrived. She would have been easily able to break my waters but baby’s head was still very high and kept bobbing back out of my pelvis. Worried that she may cause a cord prolapse if she broke my waters at that point she advised that we wait until things had progressed further and baby had moved further down. The consultant obstetrician agreed that that seemed the most sensible plan rather than rush in and perform a controlled ARM. We went for another walk, I had a bath and then put on my TENS machine when the tightenings felt like they had stepped up a gear. I knew things must have been moving when I had a big vomit and then started to get an intense feeling right at my pubic bone. It was baby finally getting its act together and moving down into my pelvis.

By this time, it was 05:00 am, it must have felt like a really long wait for my husband but it flew by for me. I think I was in my own little zone! My midwife examined me again and thankfully baby was much lower down and I was 3-4cms dilated. She offered to transfer us to a delivery room to break my waters. I reminded her that I wanted to use the pool and I saw her poor face drop. Another lady was using it! She said that the pool on delivery suite wasn’t used much (as they have the birth centre upstairs) but that there had been two of us in that night with supervisor of midwife birth plans to use the pool. I was gutted, but fair play to her for going after what she wanted too!

My waters were broken and I started to use the entonox. It felt like such a huge relief! I had initially been quite mobile but I felt quite light headed with the entonox so decided to lie on my side. I faced my husband and he held my hand the whole time, telling me he loved me and how well I was doing. He was amazing! We still had our labour play list going and I asked a few times for him to get my phone for me so I could read my affirmations.

I’d created a Pinterest board with all my favourites and I’d even included some bible quotes as we are practicing Christians. It was so motivating to read them all. Reading the bible quotes I got a bit emotional. We’d had a difficult year with multiple bereavements in the family and my mum being diagnosed with breast cancer. In that moment, it was all a bit of a relief to let it out. My midwife asked at that point if I wanted further pain relief, I think because I was balling like a baby, but it honestly wasn’t pain I was feeling. It was just the raw emotion of it all. I let her know that I’d ask if I felt I needed anything further.  (Neither of us mentioned pain relief again.)

It all got a bit giddy at one point and I remember laughing with my husband that he’d watched a documentary about a legal high in Brazil, taken to have a religious experience. With the combination of all the endorphins and the entonox that’s exactly how I felt! Call me crazy but I told him that god was in the room with us! Gosh that gas is good stuff! Haha in all seriousness though it brought me a lot of comfort and I felt a real sense of euphoria.

The labour became quite intense and I quickly started to feel lots of pressure. I was very conscious that I didn’t want to actively push because of my previous tear so I continued to breathe through the sensations. I’d been asked during one of my appointments with an obstetrician to consider an elective episiotomy to prevent any further damage but I really wasn’t keen. I found it easier to breathe through the pressure when I was quite vocal so I think I was doing a lot of moaning and mooing at that point. Again, I wouldn’t have described the feelings as painful, just really powerful.

I could feel my baby moving lower and lower and I vividly remember telling my husband that the head was almost here. I couldn’t help myself but place my hand down below. It was like the midwife in me took over and I wanted to guard my own baby’s head to stop it being born too quickly. It was amazing and such a relief to feel my baby crowning. I continued to breathe through the pressure and only pushed a few times when my body just completely took over and did it for me. My baby was born with the next tightening, at 08:05, and she was placed straight up onto my tummy into skin to skin. I had a beautiful girl!!

We delayed cutting the cord and at the last minute I decided not to have the syntocinon injection and to have a physiological 3rd stage instead. (This probably wasn’t one of my wiser choices what with the labour having been induced and me being on beta blockers but my midwife was happy to go with my decision) the placenta was born 20 minutes later with the cord still intact with Baby Eliza. We had lots of skin to skin, she had her first feed and then she was separated from the placenta when she was nearly 2 hours old! Our lovely midwife took a photo of it next to Eliza just before my husband cut the cord. We ended up taking the placenta home with us and buried it in the garden. Again, not planned, but it just felt right at the time.

I didn’t get the water birth that I had initially hoped for but I’m absolutely over the moon with how things went. I’m still on cloud 9 nearly 2 weeks later. I felt so supported in my birth choices and it was such a positive experience. The icing on the cake for me was when our midwife told me that I didn’t have any tearing at all! I actually sobbed!!! It was such a huge relief and I feel like it’s made the whole birth a bit of a healing experience emotionally.

Eliza Grace weighed 8lb 3oz and is doing well. We’re all so in love already! Xxx”

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