I woke up in the morning at about… 5.30, I think, with wicked cramp in my hips. I didn’t really think anything much of it because I was used to waking up with hip cramps due to SPD. However, these ones didn’t go away when I changed position. I lay in bed dozing on and off for a while, as the cramps started to come in waves and spread to my lower back and mid-pelvic region.
At this point I still was not convinced I was having contractions, despite the fact that I eventually had to give up trying to get comfy in bed and go downstairs. It was about 7.30am by this point, and my son was still asleep. I spent half an hour going to and from the toilet emptying my bowels repeatedly, and returning to kneel on the floor and lean over my birth ball, rocking my hips through the cramps. By 8am I finally admitted to myself that things were probably getting going, but I was still somewhat suspicious that it wasn’t the real deal.
I called my husband and told him what was going on, and we agreed that I would call him and update him if things changed. By the time half an hour had passed, I was calling him again and telling him to come home. The cramps were starting to feel more like actual contractions. I asked him to pick up some things on the way home – a hot water bottle, some biscuits and cakes for the midwives and some glucose energy sweets – but after 10 minutes found myself texting him and saying not to bother and to just get straight home. The contractions were manageable at this point, although I had to concentrate to get through them and there was no way in hell I was moving from my spot, leaning over the birthing ball.
So he got home sometime between 9 and half past, and we decided to get my son out of bed and dressed so he would be ready to go to my friend Annie’s house should it be necessary. It didn’t take long but it felt like forever; I felt quite panicky and nervous, what with there being so much to do to get ready. Things were progressing fast and I just wanted everything to be ready before I was incapable of doing anything else.
I resumed my spot over the birthing ball and stayed there, rocking my hips and moaning through the contractions. My little boy (2.5) wasn’t fazed by it at all; we’d talked a LOT about how mummies make big noises to help get their babies to come out, and it must have paid off because he wasn’t worried. He even came over at one point to stroke my arm and give me a kiss. He seemed to be doing okay so we decided to have him stay at home with us for a while, but soon he actually asked us, out of the blue, to take him to Annie’s house. I found this really strange in hindsight, because of how things played out after that. It’s almost like he knew that things were going to get very intense very quickly and that he’d be better off playing at his friend’s house. I’m glad he went, even though I had wanted him there, because then I could really let go and focus on the birthing without worrying about scaring him.
So. I got my husband to call the midwives, and they arrived 10 minutes later – my own midwife and her partner, both the most experienced homebirth midwives at the practice, and both midwives I had gotten to know considerably before the birth. I was so pleased it was them. Gwyneth showed up first, and my husband left with our son to drop him off at Annie’s. She started getting all her things out and ready, and I found myself sobbing in between contractions. Gwyneth tried to comfort me, saying I was doing well etc, which I thought was really funny at the time because I wasn’t actually sad at all. I have no idea why I was crying, but it felt good so I just let it come!
Gwyneth said she would examine me; I was always intending to refuse any cervical checks but at this point the contractions were becoming strong enough for me to roar through, and I was curious to see how things were going. A quick check revealed that I was 7cm dilated! I was amazed and it really bolstered my confidence, knowing I was almost there and yet I was coping well and confidently without even contemplating the idea of pain relief. When my hubby returned, I was like “BABE, babe I’m 7cm!” all excited, like I’d passed some kind of test!
Marion arrived shortly after this. She was the midwife who looked after me antenatally and I have to say I was so glad to see her. Her presence made me feel really strong and capable. She was amazing through the whole thing, a real tower of strength.
After this, the contractions started coming thick and fast. I stayed hanging over the birth ball whilst everybody else rushed around me. Pads were being placed under me, my hubby was desperately trying to inflate and fill the birth pool (we never made it in the end, Squish had other ideas!), all the while I just rocked and roared my way through the contractions. I was quite happy there in my little bubble. It’s weird, because although the sensations could have been described as painful, it didn’t really hurt, if you get what I mean? It’s hard to explain. I was roaring, and by this point I was shouting the dreaded words “I can’t do this any more” and “I’m scared”, but it wasn’t because it hurt. It was like… my body possessed this awesome power and there was nothing I could do about it; I knew I had to channel it and make it work for me rather than against me but I was frightened of the energy that I would have to summon in order to do that… I don’t even know if that makes sense. Anyone who had heard me in labour would have thought I was in agony, but I really wasn’t. It just felt so good to make those noises; so primal and instinctive. I kept thinking, is this it? Why doesn’t it hurt more?
I started feeling like I wanted to push, and the midwives told me to just carry on and do whatever I felt comfortable with. So I started pushing but I don’t think I was quite ready to start. It didn’t feel quite right. At this point I started losing it a bit and my hubby talked me back down to earth, telling me not to be scared and that I was nearly there. He was amazing; I was so worried he wouldn’t know what to do during the birth but he knew exactly what I needed. We were so connected, although I was frightened to look him in the eye. It would have been too intense. By this point I had ditched the birthing ball and instead was leaning on him – he was sat on our settee and i was on my knees in front of him, alternating between bracing myself on his legs and leaning into his chest. Soon I felt it really was time to push so off I went. At first the pushing wasn’t very effective; I could feel that I would poop if I pushed and I was suddenly self-conscious, but I talked myself out of that mindset pretty quickly, found my stride and started to move the baby down (and yes I did poop, quite a lot actually lol). I felt my body move apart to let the baby through. It was frightening, and succumbing to it was hard but so empowering. I stopped leaning into hubby and instead knelt upright and held onto his hands, pulling against him hard. He told me afterwards that I almost pulled him off of the sofa.
As I felt baby move ‘around the bend’, I leant into hubby again and really went hell for leather to get the baby out. At the start of each contraction I felt him move down on his own; a sensation I never got to feel with my firstborn (that’s what happens when you’re on your back, feet in stirrups and sliced from front to back). I panted as he crowned and as his head popped out I shot upwards on my knees, like a reflex away from the burning of the crowning. I rested briefly with his head out, and asked that someone take a photo. Gwyneth grabbed the camera and snapped away, but she couldn’t have done it right as the picture isn’t there. They told me that the baby was gorgeous and to keep focused; i would meet him soon. Marion then started saying something about listening carefully to them and to do as they said; later she explained that she thought there was a risk of shoulder dystocia because of having a big baby but as it was he came out fine, and not all that big after all (8lb 1oz).
At some point, I don’t know when, they told me they would have to clamp and cut the cord – apparently it was wound so tight around his neck that they couldn’t unhook it. I was disappointed as it was really important to me to leave it to stop pulsing but they did what they had to do; it was necessary and they still made a point of telling me what was going on, which I really appreciated. I delivered a little boy into Marion’s hands at 11.16am, after 5 hours of labour (only about 3 hours of what I would consider to be hard labour), 24 minutes of pushing and with just one teeny tiny tear that didn’t require any stitches.
He was blue and needed help to start breathing, so they whisked him off into the kitchen to get him going, leaving us sat there with me saying “I did it! I did it!” and us both laughing euphorically. That was before I started to panic, of course, and sent hubby into the kitchen to see if he was ok (and indeed to find out if he was a ‘he’). I wish they had done the resus in the room with us because the brief separation was enough to give me the uncomfortable feeling of looking at him and not feeling like he was mine. It didn’t last long, though. After just a few days we were head over heels in love.
The placenta was born 10 minutes afterwards with no problems. We encapsulated it, and I felt amazing thanks to the placenta pills. I took a shower with Marion’s help, and she helped me get into bed afterwards. She sent hubby up with Squish, tidied up a little and then left us to it. We snuggled for a while before going downstairs to get everything straight for my son’s return home. Their introduction went well. He had a hard time adjusting at first but things have really settled down now.
I am so happy with how things turned out. The timing was perfect, the midwives were fab, the hubster was amazing and the birth itself was straightforward and, I dare say, pretty easy. I’m so proud of my role in preparing myself, my family and my home for the birth and so grateful for the experience playing out so perfectly. I felt great afterwards, albeit very sore in the hips (my SPD did NOT like me kneeling like that, but it’s improving slowly). People who visited us couldn’t believe I had given birth just a few days previously.
Our birthing was the healing experience that I needed so much. It was truly awesome and I can’t wait to do it again.
Imogen is a 23 year old mama of two. She lives in a small town in Devon with her husband and her gorgeous sons, currently aged 4 months and almost-3 years old. She is passionate about attachment parenting, breastfeeding and natural birth, and is the proud author of Alternative Mama.