I was excited about birthing my second child Eric, I’d been under Elke and Diane’s care long enough to know that my baby, partner and I weren’t going to be subjected to the same life-changingly awful experience I had had in hospital with my Daughter in 2009 as a result of being induced. I wanted and had finally started to believe (as I had once done before) that giving birth can and might be amazing. Even the prenatal checks at home had been a different world, this labour had felt like a real family event. rather than us being on an overworked conveyer belt.
I had a small show on Saturday at 1600 and felt very excited but at 12 days overdue I was anxious. Having independent midwives meant no stressful conversations about induction but, all the same, memories of my previous experience were again brought to the fore (I had been 19 days ‘late’ first time around). To feel as though I was not already failing (to keep to a predetermined timetable) was an unquantifiable relief. Unlike a hospital, Elke assured me that she didn’t mind when I gave birth as long as my baby and I were happy and healthy.
My first labour was 38 hours and so we weren't expecting anything to happen particularly quickly. We carried on as usual and walked to the park. By 1800 contractions had started but were still mild enough for me to put nearly 2 year old Violet to bed and begin to eat dinner but I did call Elke who suggested an early night and to inflate the pool before we went to bed. Half way through dinner it occurred to be that I was now having to stop eating and manage the contractions when they arose. They were close together but as they'd been short in duration, we weren't sure we were in established labour and my previous labour had been so artificially managed, we didn’t really know what to expect.
By 2200, we were in no doubt about it and my partner phoned Elke who heard me in the background and told us to fill the pool, she was coming over! Throughout this time I tried a few positions around the home but always ended up standing and leaning over sinks and our sofa to manage the contractions with Thomas using his hands and a hot water bottle to put pressure on my sacrum which seemed to help me the most and was very skillful of him considering he was desperately trying to fill the pool at the same time.
Elke arrived at 2300 and immediately made me more comfortable by putting a birth mat on the floor. At least my knees were comfortable. It was so great to have someone so calm and positive walk into the room at that point, she even managed to make me laugh. I was leaning forward onto the sofa cushions managing contractions whilst the pool continued to fill (we had every pan in the home boiling at this point) and it was so wonderful to hear her calming voice encouraging me to stay in the moment and manage one contraction as a time. I felt and reported increasing fullness as the baby began to move down and I heard Elke whispering to Thomas that he should start filling buckets as well as pans. Diane arrived and gave me such a warm and genuine smile and wave from the sofa, it was amazing to have my own little team in the living room. My confidence increased.
At about 2330 and with really strong contractions, I was helped into the pool. I liked it instantly, so wonderfully warm, supportive and cocoon-like. Elke listened in to the baby when contractions allowed and monitored progress by listening to me and watching a red line appear on my backside (at least I think that’s where it was). This was a total revelation as in hospital, I lost count of how many times I was hurt as hands and tools measured, poked and cut. So calm, gentle and common-sense in comparison. The power of the contractions combined with the unfamiliar sensations inside alarmed me but Elke kept telling me to trust my body, that everything was working perfectly, that I knew how to do this. Another confidence surge. I was amazed when Elke told me that our son had dark hair, I had no idea how far I’d come. Elke helped me to blow and I felt the burning sensation as my perineum stretched. I didn’t want to move but Elke encouraged and helped me to find a position which would further open my pelvis, one knee stayed on the floor and the other, I brought up so that my foot was on the bottom of the pool in a half squat. With the next contraction, the head was out and a couple of contractions later in this new position, Eric could turn and out came his shoulders and body. He was passed through my legs for me to bring to the surface. I couldn't believe it was so simple, despite the intensity of some of the contractions which had gone before. It made the events of 2009 look like a bad soap opera. Instead of lying alone in a recovery room with my baby 3 floors above, I was lying on my sofa with my baby in my arms and a cup of tea on the table. I finally understood how it can be when a Mother births in the surroundings best for her and with people she knows and trusts.
Every day since, I have thought about these 6 hours and how birthing at home changed my life for the better in all the ways that my own experience of giving birth in hospital changed it for the worse. I don’t just consider myself as having had a positive birth experience, more a positive life experience and despite my belief that women shouldn’t need to pay for this (I worked very late into pregnancy to be able to pay), it was worth every penny a million times over.
I want every woman who gives birth to feel as powerful, supported and respected as I did but we are a very long way off that in my opinion. In the meantime, to greatly increase your chances of understanding what you, your body and baby can do at their most amazing, especially if you are not one for timetables, please call the London Birth Practise.
To Elke and Diane, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.