By 6:30am the midwives had gone and we were tucked up in bed, looking forward to a perfect first Christmas together.

At this gorgeously festive time, whether you are celebrating or not, I wanted to send you the warmest of wishes and a whole bundle of love. 

We’ve delved into the archives to find a festive birth story for you all to enjoy. 

Merry Christmas one and all  

We loved hearing Grace’s beautiful birth story with baby Phoebe. Congratulations to you both. 

“I make no apologies for the length of this birth story, and I really wanted to sit and write it all out while it was fresh in my mind. My latent phase of labour ended up lasting a challenging 2.5 weeks, during which time I would have loved to have seen more birth stories which included this phase as this was not something I was expecting. We’re so grateful to Suzy and the calm birth school community for providing us with the tools to birth naturally and undisturbed even when it felt like it was never going to happen. In the end, Phoebe’s birth came at exactly the right time, just as Suzy said it would. 

At my 39-week midwife appointment, I had been experiencing a lot of backache and period-like cramps and was told my baby was fully engaged and my body was “getting ready” for labour. I started to feel more Braxton hicks which would intensify with any kind of activity, including walking, and sitting on my ball. To me my body felt on the brink of labour and I was excited for things to get started for real. Two days before my guess date I woke up with diarrhoea which continued all day, before I experienced my first run of regular surges. They started off 15 minutes apart and gradually intensified and became closer together throughout the day. I was convinced she was on her way, and by 10pm the surges were requiring more focus and I even text my mum and a couple of close friends to let them know. Since it was late at night and still early labour we headed up to bed for some relaxation practice with our mp3s. All surges stopped and we fell asleep, false alarm! 

Several days passed with more backache and cramping but no regular contractions until two days past my guess date when yet again mild surges began in the morning and slowly intensified throughout the day, this time stronger than the previous episode. Around 9pm we decided to call out the midwives for an assessment of my progress. I agreed to be examined and it was found that although my cervix was now 80% effaced I was only 1-2cm dilated and not in established labour. They were very positive and encouraging and told me to focus on the effacement as it takes a lot of work and that getting to that point before active labour was unusual for a first time mother. I agreed to a membrane sweep to encourage things along, the midwife really believed with my favourable cervix that it was likely the sweep would trigger labour. Spoiler: it didn’t. 

I had further similar episodes of surges over the next few days but as they were not more intense than they had been that day I knew I was still not in established labour. By the time the midwife visited me for my 41 week appointment I was feeling very frustrated. I knew I was making progress and had to trust my body but I was so uncomfortable and exhausted. Surges had been waking me in the early hours of the morning and lasting for hours at a time, it was taking its toll. I agreed to another membrane sweep, keen at this point to do anything I could to encourage things along. I was told my baby was now at 0 station, that I was still 80% effaced and that although I was dilated 2cm she was able to stretch me up to 4cm and felt confident labour was very near. She reassured me that all of those surges were in fact real and working hard and that it wouldn’t be much longer. She arranged my next appointment for 3 days later, at 41+3 and informed me we would need to at least discuss induction plans at this point. 

The appointment arrived but of course Phoebe had not and so off I went for my third membrane sweep. I will never forget the look of astonishment on the Midwife’s face as she examined me that day, before exclaiming “you’re at FIVE cm, and I can stretch you right up to SEVEN cm! How are you not in labour?!”. I felt a new sense of optimism, by body had come so far already and was doing a fantastic job, I just had to trust that the rest would happen soon. I was offered to book an induction for Boxing Day which would have been 41+6 but I chose to decline this and instead book an appointment for monitoring and a post-dates planning meeting with an obstetrician. 

Thankfully she didn’t keep us waiting that long. Surges more intense than before but still mild and manageable began within an hour of the sweep and I thought “here we go, this is it”. They intensified and became closer together but remained manageable. I had been advised to call the midwives to let them know as soon as I thought labour might be establishing as they would be driving over an hour to get to me and my labour could end up being fast, so around 6pm we called to let them know we thought this might be it. The first on-call midwife arrived at 7pm and I agreed to be examined, only to be told I was still at 5cm and since I was still contracting irregularly this was not established labour. She left after a cup of coffee and I promptly burst into tears, feeling frustrated that another long day of surges had come to nothing. My husband Oliver gave me a big hug before going off to make us some dinner. I decided to put on Mean Girls, one of my favourite films, to cheer myself up, since obviously tonight wasn’t going to be the night. 

How wrong I was! Just after 9pm on Friday 23rd December I felt my first full surge of established labour while sat on the sofa. It was so intense and so sudden I was genuinely confused about what it could be, the hot sensation shot through my back and across my stomach so quickly. It felt nothing like the previous surges. The sensation passed but returned within a couple of minutes, strong enough that I couldn’t sit still through it and had to find a way to move. I knelt on the floor to hug my ball and sway as I breathed through the surges but they were coming thick and fast, every 2.5 minutes!! I had truly gone from 0-60. I tried to have a few bites of the pasta Oliver had made between surges, believe it or not I was still feeling hungry, but was unable to finish it as I just couldn’t stay still long enough. 

I remembered Suzy’s advice that the toilet can be a great place to labour so after a while I crawled towards the bathroom. I put on my TCBS affirmations MP3 and began to sway through my surges sat on the loo. Around 9:45pm I was finally convinced enough that this was labour to call the midwives back and to ask Oliver to get the pool ready. The sensations were really strong now and I couldn’t wait to relax in the warm water. I continued to sway and rock through the sensations with Suzy’s affirmations playing, vocalising long “aaahhh” sounds on the out breath as a distraction and focus point. 

Around 10:45pm the same midwife from earlier arrived and our first little hiccup occurred. The surges were now so intense I was struggling to stay focused on my breathing and could feel myself tensing up, so I asked for some gas and air. The midwife insisted that she needed to examine me vaginally first. This confused me as I had stated clearly in my birth preferences that I did not want routine vaginal examinations once I was in labour and this plan had been forwarded to all midwives by e-mail. Unfortunately, she had not seen it. I was in no doubt this was established labour now and didn’t want to be disturbed or under pressure to progress at a certain rate. I did not want to be told when to push. This is where our TCBS training really kicked in, as at this point Oliver calmly and politely directed the midwife towards our birth plan, advocated for my wishes and suggested that if the issue was whether or not to call the second midwife that perhaps we should just call her anyway. Thankfully the second midwife had seen our birth preferences and was more than happy to join us without a progress report. 

After this conversation there was a real shift in the midwife’s demeanour as she stepped back and let me take the lead. I was finally given the gas and air which was a blessed relief, it helped me to reissue enough to regain mental focus and control again. Soon after that the pool was ready and I remember the huge smile on my face as I slid into the warm water, feeling all of my muscles immediately let go. “This is bliss” I said before the next surge came. 

Once in the pool I lost all track of time. I breathed through each surge with the entonox, moving my body any way that felt right. The lights were dim and my calm birth music played, Oliver and the midwives whispered to each other and only spoke to me when I spoke first or to do my observations. The surges got closer and closer together until it felt like there were no pauses and in my head I remember thinking ah, I must be nearing transition now. 

One thing I had been concerned about prior to the birth was a patch of endometriosis scar tissue I have near my rectum which often causes an intense stabbing sensation in my pelvis a couple of minutes before a poo, but of course nobody could tell me how this would affect the birth. I wasn’t surprised when I started to feel a more intense version of that sensation as my baby started to descend. This was challenging as it meant along with surges there was a constant pain which had nothing to do with the birth, so I coped by using wave breathing with the gas and air even between contractions. The midwives were concerned about this until I managed to say “Endo pain” which prompted Oliver to explain for me. They suggested shifting positions as I had been labouring with my back against the side of the pool and my legs stretched out. I shifted onto my knees but quickly returned to how I was before, it was easier to relax. I was amazed by how easily I could move around in the pool, manoeuvring was a breeze! Once the midwives understood I was in constant pain they relaxed about me using the gas and air constantly and just made sure I kept the mouthpiece out of the water. 

Sometime around 1:30am I began to feel my body bearing down towards the end of a contraction, but only a little. I let the sensations lead and pushed as much or little as felt right, usually in a crescendo towards the end of a surge. This urge slowly intensified until I could feel pressure and something start to emerge down below. I reached down, excited to think it might be my baby’s head but it was actually the bag of membranes! They were still in tact and bulging ahead of my baby as she moved down. They didn’t break until minutes before the birth. As our baby started to crown I distinctly remember one of the midwives saying to me “she’s coming Grace, just go with your body and don’t be scared” to which I replied “I’m not!”. I meant it 100%. Through the physical intensity of the final pushes I felt only anticipation and excitement, stroking my baby’s head as she slowly emerged. 

Once her head was born there was absolute silence in the room during what felt like the longest pause in surges for hours. During these moments, I could feel her full head with my hand while she was still kicking on the inside – it was such a strange combination! When that final surge came and her shoulders slid out one at a time the relief was overwhelming. At 03:30 on 24th December 2016 our beautiful daughter Phoebe Clarice was born. 

I reached down into the water and lifted my baby straight onto my chest, nobody else touched her. I sat up straighter to keep her head out of the water and held her close as she let out a few cries, stroking her head and body. Oliver came up behind me to see her more closely and we enjoyed some lovely peaceful moments together, undisturbed exactly as we had asked. 

We relaxed for a few minutes as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. Once it had, Oliver decided he would prefer not to cut it and so I cut it myself. I finally felt ready to get out of the pool so I was helped out by the midwives and moved to the living room where we snuggled on the sofa to wait for the placenta to come. I was aware that I should tried to feed her but she wasn’t rooting or showing interest so I decided to wait for her to take the lead. I really wasn’t expecting to feel such intense surges again in order to birth the placenta, I think I imagined it would just slide out! Out of the pool these surges were intense and unpleasant, so I asked to use the gas and air again for some relief. Almost 50 minutes after the birth it still hadn’t come so the midwife suggested a trip to the toilet in case a full bladder was in the way. Oliver took our baby for some skin to skin of his own while I went. I had barely got my cheeks on the seat before the whole placenta came out in one huge gush. I for some reason found this hilarious, possibly something to do with the gas and air! 

With the birth finally complete we had some more time on the sofa while I gave my baby her first breastfeed and the midwives examined me for trauma. I had sustained a few minor grazes and one very tiny second degree tear which I was reassured would heal well without stitches. By 6:30am the midwives had gone and we were tucked up in bed, looking forward to a perfect first Christmas together.’ 

 

 

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