A year has passed since the amazing unplanned home delivery that gave life to my daughter and I struggle to believe that this fearless, brave, hard working woman that gave birth to her that way was actually me. I wish I would remember every day I am capable of showing such strength and determination. I usually feel insecure deep down and wonder if I am a good enough mother, a competent employee, a present wife, a loving friend… I always doubt about myself, I tend to self sabotage my actions. But if I look back at that night of labor completely relaxed on my own, I believe I probably managed for once in my life to finally tune into my body and listen to what was happening, not fighting the pain, not even letting the fear take me to the core, at the bottom of my stomach. That was probably the first time I learned to let go: I knew what was coming and accepted that contractions would get stronger and stronger and by doing so, funny enough, they felt less painful. I also know now that her safe arrival in such an empowering way was actually a miracle of the God of my understanding, one of the many he performs in my daily life, the one and only that looks after me so well. My higher power helped me by raising my determination to make things different in my life in general, and more specifically in my second delivery. In fact, after the birth of my son 3 years beforehand, I was extremely anxious at how things would go with the delivery of my second baby. I remember having panic attacks in the last few weeks that brought to her safe arrival, thinking of all the things that could have gone wrong, as first time around… A nightmare period of my life! Luckily I had booked myself in early April for a whole day workshop at Active Birth Centre with Alice Charlwood, which I strongly believe made the absolute difference, together with my determination not to repeat the past and my Higher power’s plans for me.
Just to give you an idea of what delivery meant to me approaching the end of my second pregnancy: first delivery I was induced with contractions that quickly became 2 minutes long with as little as 30 seconds breaks (whilst contractions of non induced labor usually alternate a resting period in between, as there are two hormones involved with two different functions, not just the one they give you to start labor that produces strong contractions only); blocked on a bed for over an hour with no chances to do my moving and breathing exercises to help me with the pain that felt therefore excruciating, as I needed to be monitored (I found out afterwards I could have refused such awful conditions, I simply had to state they had to monitor me whilst I was moving, rather than leaving my husband and I alone in a room as understaffed); was performed an epidural 2 hours before giving birth (which I had not planned to ask for, as I wanted the most natural birth possible, but I really struggled at that point); due to the doctors being quite in a rush to accelerate the delivery and me being incapable of working with my body as I was now numb, my son ended up being born with Ventouse and this left me with a 3rd degree tear for which they had to give me several stitches (luckily he had nothing at all and I made a quick and amazing recovery in less than a couple of months, however the whole delivery remained in my memories as a very traumatic experience in its whole). Saying that I was deeply disappointed, frustrated and felt humiliated by the way I was treated by Kings College Hospital staff during the whole birth of my first child is really minimizing, when it should have been the most beautiful moment of my life, or at least I should have been supported with much more humanity in the difficult phases of it. So I was really not pleased to have to be looked after them again second time around. At least that was what I thought I was up for.
It turned out I did not make it to the hospital and my husband and I delivered our daughter safely completely on our own, in our bedroom! Below you can find a short account of my second labor, a different story all-together from the first one. I am writing about my story for you to know there is a different way of giving birth. We are so used to the image of the delivery in a hospital, patronized by medical staff and longing for pain relief even before getting confronted to what we will really have to go through. We don’t remember we are women, therefore our body is built to give birth, as millions of women have done for generations before us. I am not saying we have to refuse modern medicine all-together with its many advantages against the terrible losses there used to be during births. What I am saying is let’s not forget where we come from, let’s use medicine when it’s really needed and not as a standard way of giving birth. Otherwise it feels wrong as if we used abortions as contraception: we don’t, though it is useful to be legal when it is the last resource we have, do I get the point across clearly? In my case, I think I was unlucky first time around for 2 main reasons: I was induced and once you go down that path it is quite hard to keep the birth completely natural as so many medical factors are determinant once your labor is started artificially; I had no idea what my rights were as a patient, what I could refuse (at my own risk) and what treatment I could expect from medical staff. But this did not stop me 3 years later from taking fate in my own hands and change the birth of my daughter into the amazing story that follows. My only wish for my daughter is that, if she wants kids one day, she can live such an amazing experience as her birth was for me, however possibly with a planned home birth and a midwife there of course, especially for a first baby (as I am well aware so many things could have gone very bad in those conditions) ❤ .
11pm on 30/04
Started having constant little leaks of water but thought they were not properly broken yet as I was expecting a ‘lake’ all together as it happened with my son. Slept well between 11.30pm and 2.30am despite I was feeling some soft contractions in my sleep.
2.30am on 01/05 Waken up as my son had a nightmare and after putting him back to bed I could not go back to sleep myself so sat on the Swiss ball and rested on some pillows on top of the kitchen table, feeling comfortable and relaxed.
Between 2.30am and 4am I had a soft/mild contraction every 20 mins, I would just stay sitting on the ball and rotate my pelvis whilst concentrating on breathing to be able to very easily go through it, then would go back to rest.
Between 4am and 5am had mild contractions every 15 mins where I had to stand up away from the ball with arms kneeling on table supporting me, slightly bended knees and rotating pelvis whilst deeply breathing in, 5 seconds pause, slowly breathing out, another 5 secs pause (as suggested in my Italian book with the Zilgrei method).
Between 5 and 6am started monitoring contractions which were 30/45 seconds long and progressively every 10 minutes to go down to every 6 minutes; same technique and was doing quite OK with the pain.
(Note: I was in the dark, in my living room, in silence, both my hubby and son deeply asleep, I felt safe and was very peaceful to work completely on my own – As I was taught during the course, privacy helps labor a lot).
At 6am I started having irregular contractions that were:
1 minute long, 7 mins break, 30 seconds long, 2 minutes break.
At last midwife visits at Kings College H. they did insist me calling only when one every 5 minutes at least 1 minute long and for at least an hour (despite it was a second baby and my first labor was only 8 hours long), therefore I was not sure what to do.
At 6.30am still calmest I have ever been, woke up my husband considering we may need to start get moving but was still very relaxed and little alarmed.
Contractions were more painful by then, however to me they felt 65% of the total pain I had felt with my son, so I had the wrong impression I still had a couple of hours ahead and thought I may be 5/6 cm dilated, not more.
I know now they were already 95% of the pain I would feel before the 2nd stage started! Just to prove how much more painful contractions are when labor is induced artificially.
My hubby called hospital who gave us the OK to go there after getting details of contractions, then he called another mum that lives 5 minutes away from us to drop our son there and then take me to the hospital.
(Note: My mum in law was supposed to come and stay with us from the 25th/04 but she very disappointingly let us down a few days before and we had to rely on friends last minute so not the best plan but we could not have done any better at such short notice 😦 I know now this was all part of my HP’s plan as if she was there I would have gone straight to hospital and would have had to deal with medical staff rather than proudly giving birth on my own 🙂 ).
7am He left the house and that’s when my labor started seriously accelerating! I felt a serious urge to push, as I was told at the course I was clearly feeling the baby pressing on my pelvic floor.
I realized we wouldn’t have had time to go to hospital and maybe my husband would not even be back in time, however I did not panic at all. I felt I needed to go along with it, I knew what I was up for, what work would my body and baby do, it was a 2nd delivery, baby was in excellent position until the last visit, we were both generally healthy and I was very well informed and aware so I knew the only right thing I could do was to go with the flow which I could not stop anyway. I had completely painless and cold minded 1 or 2 minutes breaks in between those last contractions where I was serving myself lots of water and slowly getting undressed as feeling hotter and hotter. I did not have enough time or energy to call my husband or an ambulance though.
7.15am I positioned myself naked at the end of my bed, arms kneeling on it, a clean towel (which I had ready for the baby for the hospital) on the floor underneath my knees.
At every pushing contraction I was screaming like an animal (nothing human in that voice!), though it felt amazing and really helped with the pain as if the same muscles where activated and working together by the screaming and the pushing (we had been talking about the importance to vocalize the pain during the workshop). I could also feel the crown burning sensation so I knew exactly how much was coming out at every single moment (whilst I had epidural with my first I had no idea what was happening to my body so it was a first to me).
7.20am My husband got back home that he could see a bit of the head already. Called 991 staying really calm, positive and pragmatic. They sent an ambulance straight away, however the lady of the call center gave him instructions over the phone. She told him not to do anything, just be ready to catch the baby when it was about to come completely out and let me do the whole work without pulling.
1 push he saw the eyes, 1 the nose, 1 the head. He told me afterwards that he could see the perineal area was beautifully stretching to make space for the baby to come out and did not seem to be tearing again despite the episode of the first birth! (Thanks to the advice from the Active birth centre of performing perineal massages daily in the weeks before the birth to help my 3rd degree tear scar).
Baby turned 1/4 then 1 push he saw one shoulder, another push the other shoulder and the whole body came out up to the stomach.
One last push and our baby girl was safely born and screaming in his hands at 7.32am, whilst ambulance was at our door.
I took her from the back between my legs (as I had found out during the course that the cord is not long enough to take the baby from the side) and he went to open the door.
Paramedics checked on us and we were both doing very fine, lovely color, alert: she was 3.58kg and 52cm!
At 8.30am the midwife arrived and the placenta had not come out yet. However she made me lie on our bed and simply pushed it out: it had already beautiful detached, just had not come down yet, and the womb had contracted very well.
Best news ever: she checked on me a bit worried when she heard that I had a 3rd degree tear last time… I had nothing at all!!! She said she could give one stitch if I wanted but it could also heal on its own, so we decided to leave it 🙂
PS A big special thank you goes to Alice Charlwood at the Active Birth Center. I truly think I would have never lived such an amazing experience and be lucky enough to safely deliver my baby girl if I had not attended her workshop and had not got so much information about the positive approach to labor and birth of Active Birth philosophy. I also really believe she made this happen with her specific advise for me (we had personal conversations over the phone after the course before the birth), together with my determination not to be patronized again by medical staff, to live a completely different birth and make full decisions for my body, hence my life.