When preparing for the birth of our daughter I knew I wanted some photos taken of the whole experience but I didn't think I was going to share them with the rest of the world. However, I changed my mind following what was the best labour experience I've had and I thought a positive birth story (with accompanying images) should be shared and celebrated. Women always like to share their horror birth stories and whilst it's good to get negative emotions and experiences of our chests, I also believe it's important to spread the message about great birth experiences.
Something I never shared in my pregnancy updates was the fact that my husband and I attended a hypnobirthing course back in November, run by Christine Huntingford from Magical Baby Moments. I met Christine back in May when I had a pleasure of photographing one of her courses and I knew I wanted to attend the course myself once I had advanced in my pregnancy. The course, the knowledge I gained from it and the techniques I practiced every day over the last months were without a doubt what made my birthing experience so wonderful and - indeed - magical.
Another thing I never mentioned was the fact that quite late in the pregnancy I decided I wanted to have a home birth... something I never planned to do! But after doing the hypnobirthing course and practicing, I realised I wanted to birth our daughter in a calm and familiar environment - it just made so much sense to me. Luckily, my husband was on board and we just had to arrange everything needed for a home birth.
And now, onto the birth story...
The day before Emilia was born I was pretty frustrated - I didn't have any symptoms that the labour was around the corner and I honestly thought I was going to be pregnant forever for another week. I went to bed that night feeling hopeless and super uncomfortable. I then woke up at around 3am with weird cramps in my lower stomach. I didn't think they were contractions, but I was soon proved wrong when I went to the toilet and noticed I had a 'bloody show' (which is one of the signs that labour is imminent). My husband and I got up, got dressed and went downstairs to our living room to set everything up for labour.
I started timing the contractions and they were coming every 5-ish minutes. I called a midwife at 4am and she asked me to call her again once contractions were getting stronger and more regular. Whilst Steve was setting everything up, I was sitting on my birth ball and listening to the relaxations tracks. I called the midwife again at 5am and she said she was packing up and on her way to our house. I wasn't in pain at all at this point and just enjoyed listening to the hypnobirthing tracks. I did put the TENS machine on though, as I was told you had to put it on quite early on for it to start working effectively later on. We called Steve's parents to come over and pick Antek up (who, at that point, was still sleeping upstairs, totally unaware of the whole situation!) and waited for them and the midwife to arrive. The midwife arrived just before 6am and the parents just after her. Once Antek woke up and came downstairs he was so surprised to see his grandparents and a massive birth pool in our living room! I was worried he wouldn't want to leave the house to give us space, but he was happily packing up his trunkie and getting ready to leave the house. Before he left he gave me a massive hug and said 'good luck mummy' (that made me tear up).
After the grandparents and Antek left, the midwife checked my progress and I was shocked to hear I was already 6cm dilated! As I wasn't in any pain, I thought I'd only be about 2-3cm the most. That also meant I could get into the pool. So I did... and it was heavenly. The warm water really did wonders and made me so so relaxed - and it helped with the discomfort I felt in my lower back. I was working through my contractions by breathing and visualising my uterine muscles working upwards (if you don't know what I'm talking about, this video explains the process of contractions perfectly). The midwives (at that point another one arrived) kept checking baby's heartbeat and it appeared to slightly slow down. There was a slim chance that the baby was distressed and seeing as my waters still hadn't broken, they suggested they broke them for me to see if there was meconium in them (in which case I would have to go to the hospital - something I didn't want to do). I agreed and after they were broken and seeing that they were clear, I could go back into the pool.
The contractions really intensified at this point and were coming thick and fast. It wasn't until I read my labour notes later that day that I realised I was 9cm dilated at this point!
(9cm dilated and smiling and joking with my husband and the midwives!)
I was quite surprised that I was still very conscious and aware of what was going on around me at this point. But that soon changed as soon as I climbed back into the pool. I got myself into an almost hypnotic state and really tuned into my body. I could feel the transition happening as I felt the baby moving down. I switched my breathing to 'birth breathing' (or 'down breathing') and visualised baby's head coming out. Every now and then I would glance over at the affirmations I printed out and stuck on our fireplace and bookshelf and those empowered me. I then felt the need to push/breath down the baby - so I did. It turns out I only pushed for 7 minutes!
After those 7 minutes, at 9:02am, Emilia was born peacefully in a birth pool, in our living room. The midwife picked her up from the pool and passed her into my arms. Our daughter was finally here! We were so ecstatic to meet her. We stayed in the pool for a little while and then Steve did skin-to-skin with her whilst I waited for the placenta to be delivered. It took 28 minutes for it to detach and we were done by 9:30am - meaning that the whole labour lasted 6 and a half hours!
I cannot believe how different this labour was to Antek's one. It was amazing, so relaxed, calm and I felt empowered and in control.
This whole experience would be totally different if it wasn't for the amazing team of midwives that were with us that day (three at the time of delivery, four in total that morning). I couldn't have asked for better care. They were totally supportive of the type of birth we had in our minds, not intrusive in a slightest and extremely helpful at every step of the way. They stayed with us for a couple of hours after Emilia was born to make sure we were both doing ok. They made sure I rested, had something to eat and even helped me get into the shower. We had one of the midwives pop in to see us twice on the day of the delivery to perform necessary checks, and in the following days she came to check on us. This meant I didn't even have to leave the house for almost two weeks as the postnatal care came to me!
I am so glad I went for a home birth and I was in a position to have one - it was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life that resulted in the most beautiful birthing experience.