She emerged with such speed

This week’s birth story comes from the lovely Anna Demetriou one of our very own Instructors!! She can be found at This Mother Can and she is based in Philadelphia, USA.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with is!

Despite all of my preparation, I was the fool who believed the hearsay that second babies come sooner than first ones. So, at 39 weeks – when my first daughter had made her arrival into the world – came and went, I started to feel on edge. I knew the wisdom of not paying too much heed to your Estimated Due Date (EDD), but I was anxious about childcare arrangements for our 21 month-old, and desperately hoping labour would start whilst my mother-in-law was visiting from the UK for ten days, so that our daughter could be looked after at home. I kept reminding myself of the affirmation ‘my baby will arrive when the time is right’, but I know I still had one eye on the calendar!

Sensing my anxiety, at 39+2 my mother-in-law pushed me to have a lovely, relaxing day to myself: I went for coffee and read a book, had a prenatal massage, and went to my prenatal yoga class, before an afternoon midwife appointment. I explained to the midwife I saw that day, Vicky, that physically I felt fine, but that I was struggling emotionally a bit knowing my mother-in-law would be returning home in a few days and that that meant we’d have to rely on friends for help with childcare. Vicky offered a membrane sweep, which I accepted, and I was really pleased when she said I was already 3-4 cm dilated. She inserted an evening primrose oil capsule to help soften the cervix, but also said her suspicion was that the baby was positioned ‘back-to-back’ and that in such cases babies are usually either late, or that labour begins with the waters releasing, before any surges are felt. I left her office feeling a bit despondent that we might be waiting a while for our baby to arrive, and under advice to try scrubbing the floor, or resting in other similar forward-inclined positions, to try to get the baby to turn.

That evening I felt a strong ache in my lower back – similar to period cramps. I did some yoga stretches before heading to bed with a heated rice sock slung in a scarf that I could use for some counterpressure relief. By the time we went to sleep, the constant ache had developed into more of a surge-like pattern, but because of the earlier conversation with my midwife, I really didn’t believe this was the start of labour (silly now, looking back!). The surges weren’t coming frequently enough to start timing them, and I managed to get some sleep in between, but must subconsciously have known that this was the start of labour as I got up a couple of times to add last minute bits to the birth bag. At some point in the night our daughter woke up and came into bed with us. I cherished those peaceful few pre-dawn hours, lying for what I was starting to realise would be the last time as a family of three; soaking up snuggles with my first-born whilst knowing her sibling was on their way.

By around 6 am, the sensations had intensified and lying down no longer felt comfortable, so I got up to do some mobile positions on my birth ball. I’d obviously done a good job of convincing my husband the night before that we had time to wait, as he came downstairs a couple of hours later dressed for work (which was met by me with pretty short shrift, I have to say!). My mother-in-law made me some porridge to keep my energy up and I took a shower, enjoying the relief of the warm water on my lower back. By 10.30 am my surges had become stronger and more frequent, although still didn’t seem to fit a regular pattern (2 mins, 3 mins, 7 mins apart). I rang the hospital, and they told me to come straight in.

We took an Uber for the very short drive to the hospital; the poor driver looked a bit taken aback and navigated the city potholes very carefully! In triage, I was assessed and told I was 5-6 cm dilated. By this stage my surges had really slowed down, but the admitting midwife was really kind and said I’d come at the right time, assuring me that once we got settled in our labour and delivery room it was likely that things would pick up again. I was really pleased that the one delivery room with a tub was available (at our hospital you can’t give birth in the tub, but you can labour until you’re fully dilated in there). Our wonderful doula Cathy (who’d also supported me in my first birth) arrived at about 12.30 pm and came straight to the room where we’d dimmed the lights and starting spraying some diluted lavender oil – one of my key relaxation anchors. After having my blood pressure checked to confirm I was ok to get in the water, Cathy began to fill the tub for me. Meanwhile the midwife on shift popped in to see me; coincidentally it was Vicky who I’d seen in clinic less than 24 hours beforehand, and she was delighted with the progress!

Getting into the warm water was such a great relief and as I sunk in, tuning into my breathing and listening to my Calm Birth School tracks, I could feel myself relax. The tub was deep, and I spent most of my time on my knees, leaning forwards up against the side – still trying to encourage the baby to turn if they were, as suspected, back to back. The sensations of my surges continued to be in my lower back, just the same as with my first labour. As well as being submerged in water, Cathy and my husband took turns to direct warm water from a shower head directly on to my lower back too, and that counter pressure was wonderful. I had to stand up intermittently for the baby’s heartbeat to be monitored by a nurse, and when I did either Cathy or my husband used a heated rice sock slung in a scarf rebozo-style to keep the counter pressure on my lower back. This was a tool we’d used for much of my first labour and did wonders for me; it was so comforting to have the same team with me second time round who knew just what I needed.

I continued labouring this way for a little over three hours, alternating between listening to my guided visualisations and the affirmations track. The sensations were intense, but so much more manageable that I had found them in my first labour, and I felt completely in control throughout. My husband later told me that sometimes he found it hard to tell when I was having a surge – something that definitely could not be said for my first birth!

Looking back there were a couple of signs that I was probably going through transition – I remember feeling quite emotional thinking about my 21 month-old daughter and her no longer being my ‘baby’. Cathy later told me that at one point I’d turned round to her and said, ‘wow, you forget how intense labour is, don’t you?’ and she said she knew then that the time was near. Gradually I started to feel more pressure (my waters hadn’t yet released) and around 4 pm my midwife came in to check me. She confirmed I was fully dilated and was surprised I hadn’t yet felt the need to bear down, but as soon as she’d finished checking me that urge was there.

At that point, after what had been a really calm and quiet few hours in the tub, it felt like things began to move really quickly. I got out of the tub and, having drunk lots of water whilst in there, I went to the bathroom. I knew I wanted to try to stay upright for the second stage, so my nurse and Vicky manipulated the bed so the head was raised, and Vicky suggested I try kneeling on the bed in a sort of child’s pose, leaning on to a beanbag propped against the head of the bed for support. This was great as I was still feeling the sensations of each surge in my lower back, and in this position either Cathy or my husband could continue to apply counter pressure. By this time, I felt a strong urge to push so I followed my body’s lead, and my waters released with the first push.

My husband later told me that at that stage Vicky urged my nurse to speed up her preparation of the delivery kit, as it was clear that our baby’s arrival was imminent, and at 4.27 pm – perhaps two pushes later – Mia Kathleen was born! She emerged with such speed that she sort of slipped through Vicky’s hands and on to the bed between my legs, and Vicky encouraged me to reach down, pick Mia up myself and discover her sex. This hadn’t been part of my plan, but in retrospect I was so grateful that Vicky had the presence of mind in that moment to encourage me to do so; it was such a thrill to be the first person in the world to lay hands on our beautiful new daughter, and felt like a fitting end to the work that we’d done together. I felt relief that she was here safely, joy that we now had a pair of sisters, and so proud of us for managing the calm and controlled birth for which we’d hoped and prepared. Although I was already a mother, Mia’s birth was definitely a huge moment of transformation for me, bringing about a renewed sense of appreciation for my body, confidence in my instincts as a parent, and ultimately setting me on the path for a hugely rewarding new career!


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