Asher’s birth story
It was the morning of Sunday 19th April when I couldn’t help but feel a little restless and frustrated with the constant inquiries as to your arrival! To help me relax and pass the time, I decided I needed a project, so I started compiling bits for your baby book. To do so, I went to Hobbycraft with Daddy and Isaac to choose your scrap book. It was on the way back from the shop that I started feeling like the Braxton-Hicks I had been having frequently for the past few weeks were transforming into more of a crampy, tightening sensation. I didn’t say anything to Daddy at this time, I just relaxed and felt quietly excited and hopeful that things may be occurring.
In the early hours of Monday 20th I was certain that ‘things’ were progressing. Using the Pregnancy Bounty app on my phone I was able to record that I was having a contraction every ten minutes, lasting around 30 to 40 seconds. How exciting! In our darkened bedroom I timed them for about an hour and a half, meanwhile texting Jo and Em in New Zealand to let them know something was starting! To which Jo replied “wow, exciting! I’m walking to circus so Esther can give it a go and see what she thinks. We’ll send quick and easy birth vibes from Wellington” and Em said “Woo hoo sending best labour vibes take it easy x x x”. I woke Daddy up to tell him too!
After that, I resisted the urge to keep timing them and chatting with New Zealand, and turned my phone off and went back to sleep. Come the morning, to my disappointment, all sensations had stopped. I rang Sarah the midwife to let her know about the night-time surges, and we agreed that I would ring her later in the day with another update. Because Daddy and I thought this was the start of something, we cancelled Nanny’s visit for the day and asked her to be on ‘stand by’, and Daddy worked from home. Isaac helped Daddy prepare the birthing room with a few finishing touches; by sticking the sheet under the birth pool to the carpet with duct tape. Keeping up with the tradition of grocery shopping during labour, Daddy and I (with Isaac too) headed out to do the food shop! Unlike Isaac’s birthday, I did not need to time the surges as we paced the isles as I was still not feeling any sensations (to my disappointment). Once we got home, and after I had put my feet up for a while, I thought ‘right little baby, let’s try and get you moving!’ so decided we should go for a good walk. Our walk turned into a bit of a longer one than I expected, which really made me giggle as Daddy led us over muddy terrain, under low-lying branches and through a field with eight very friendly white Shetland ponies who followed us closely in hope of a snack! It worked though, and I definitely started to feel the surges returning about every ten minutes or so. My favourite part of the walk was through a field of bright yellow rapeseed, in which Isaac and I had some lovely cuddles. It felt really special and the sharp yellow flowers under a bright blue cloudless sky were beautiful. We later chose to plant a piece of your placenta in this field.
During the walk I had a call from Sarah the midwife and told her that again, contractions were around one in ten minutes. She decided to come by at around 7pm on her way back from another client close by.
We had dinner with Isaac and put him to bed as usual; telling him that he might have a baby brother come breakfast time! He was very excited and luckily went straight to sleep. When Sarah came the surges were still around one in ten minutes, lasting for about 30 to 40 seconds, and not very strong as I was able to maintain a conversation throughout. Sarah gave me a lovely foot massage and applied some acupressure on my feet and ankles. A stretch and seep and confirmed I was 4 cm dilated which made us feel very excited – you were on the way! So we settled in for the evening and called Nanny to come. We wanted Nanny close by should we need her to look after Isaac in our absence, for example if we needed to go to hospital. We then got things in the room ready, including filling up the birth pool and getting the video camera in position! Sarah taped a piece of cotton wool to my vest which she had soaked in clary sage oil to encourage my labour and surges to continue.
And then we just waited; with excitement! I bounced on the birth ball while we chatted, and at about 9pm I got up to put the kettle on and all of a sudden I felt my waters go. It surprised me as they didn’t go until Isaac was being born, so was a new sensation and very exciting! Just as they went, Nanny walked in the door! Sarah called our other midwife, Liz and she made her way over and arrived at around 10pm. Nanny had just left to spend the night at a nearby hotel called the Wee Waif, with her phone at the ready!
And again, we waited. I was under the impression that following the release of my waters, you would now be on the way to making an appearance. However, my surges remained about the same into the night, so like Isaac’s labour and in line with hypnobirthing, we put on a funny film to pass the time and help me relax; this time we chose Anchorman, which seemed to amuse Sarah and Liz too!
Finally at around 11pm, with not much happening, we decided it was probably best to get some rest, or even some sleep, so Daddy and I headed up to bed. Sarah and Liz slept on the sofas in the lounge.
But could I sleep? No, not at all. Unfortunately lying down proved to be the most uncomfortable position. The contractions felt much more intense and I had to get upright each time, lean forward and breathe through them. They came inconsistently, and were strongly felt in my lower back. Despite my background in hypnobirthing (Isaac’s birth and as a teacher), I struggled to think of these contractions as a ‘surge’ or a wave’, as I remember thinking ‘ouch, these hurt’!! But tried to relax and put my hypnobirthing techniques to use. I was restless all night and growing impatient. I wanted to feel like they were being effective, but instead they just felt painful and irritating! Eventually I needed a change of scene so I came down stairs with Daddy where we found two dozing midwives. Your heart rate was checked by Sarah and was fine; nice and relaxed. I sat on the birth ball, even tried the pool but it felt too early so dried and dressed and growing more tired, went back to bed again.
More waiting. The contractions continued to feel much stronger and more uncomfortable lying down, so it wasn’t long before we returned down stairs again. This time I tried Liz’s birth stool for a while, and Daddy sat behind me. Daddy gave me some great light touch massage during these contractions and I used ‘up breathing’ techniques and relaxation. Time was passing, my waters had already broken, and the contractions were not changing in terms of length or sensation. I felt myself starting to lose hope; envisaging a transfer to hospital due to ‘lack of progress’ and a cascade of medical interventions; pitocin to speed things up, an epidural for some pain relief, and baby becoming distressed before being pulled out of me – not the birth I wanted if at all possible! Knowing how important it is to be calm and relaxed for labouring hormones such as oxytocin to do their work, I voiced my concern to Sarah and Liz (I didn’t feel the contractions were doing very much) who reassured me that contractions are not just about dilation, but also helping baby get into a good position, and that things were happening! Feeling more positive, Daddy and I went back to bed for a snuggle (as advised by the midwives!) and waited. I texted Nanny at around 5am as I knew she would be waiting for news. Alas I had to tell her that there was not a lot happening. This time I stayed in bed until about 6am, and Sarah and Liz took turns to come up to monitor me and you while I rested in bed. Despite things taking so long, you were always very relaxed!
To my disappointment, by 7am, the contractions hadn’t changed, and now I was becoming exhausted after having had no sleep, and a very broken night prior to this. Sarah examined me, and confirmed that I was still 4cm! How disheartening. Not only that, but Sarah could tell that you weren’t in a great position. Your head was at a wonky angle and without my waters creating a soft padding, you had developed swelling on our head (caput). That was why things were taking so long and a lot of the sensation was felt in my back. So we formulated a plan. A yummy breakfast and a swift walk with lots of lunging to help you get into a good position. I couldn’t help but feel low in morale, and I don’t know if I concealed this or not. By now I felt quite flat in mood and was hoping you wouldn’t be much longer in making your appearance. Liz decided to head off to see another labouring client; a sure sign to me that your appearance was a long way off yet.
By this point, Isaac was now up and going busily about the house and having breakfast, so I told him there was no baby yet but I hoped you would be here soon!
And with great relief and joy, my hopes were met!
Soon after Sarah had examined me and shortly after Liz had left, in an instant, everything changed! As I started to carry on pottering about the house and clearing away the breakfast things, the contractions suddenly got much stronger, more intense and very quickly required my full concentration, breathing, posturing and moaning and groaning. The sensation remained mainly in my lower back, and Sarah did some counter pressure on my hips which felt amazing, while I leant forward over whatever furniture I was closest to. Sarah confirmed she knew things were happening as she could see my lower back shifting. Aware that my first stage of labour was now progressing very quickly (finally!) and that Isaac was tearing about the house in a whirlwind fashion, I texted Nanny and asked her to come straight away, and take Isaac out for a drive around before taking him to Foxley (it was 8am and Isaac didn’t need to be there until 8:45!)
It was just a few contractions like this, before I felt the urge to poo, and for a second I really wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to get in the pool or get on the toilet! Hurray! A great sign! I was also aware that we were one midwife down, and Sarah was trying to contact a back-up midwife. ‘Should I wait’?! I asked Sarah, who smiled and reminded me that you were coming, and waiting is not something we can do anymore! I chose the pool over the toilet. This turned out to be the right decision! I had gone from 4cm with not a lot happening, to fully dilated and wanting to push in literally, a manner of minutes. This was taking me very much by surprise and I had no time for any more up breathing practice, I just did whatever felt good to stay calm, despite the element of surprise! Although they were very fast and intense now, I was so pleased and relieved that things had changed and that you were on your way.
Shortly after I got in the pool and mid-contraction, I was aware that Nanny arrived. Knowing we wanted Isaac close at the time of your arrival, she just popped upstairs quietly and entertained Isaac in his bedroom. We wanted Isaac to be with us when you were born so you could meet each other straight away, so I was so happy to know he was happily playing upstairs on your journey into the world.
Once in the pool, Sarah’s voice managed to penetrate my birthing bubble and she managed to encourage me to turn from being on my knees and leaning forward (where things felt very powerful and fast), to reclining, weightless on my back (we had talked about this earlier as a way for you to have a gentle descent to avoid a tear). I turned over, and thankfully the surges (I would call them surges at this stage) seemed to slow down so I had some lovely moments to relax in between. When they came, I found them to be all consuming, and the sensation to push was just as satisfying and powerful as I remember it being with Isaac. Sarah had reached another midwife on the phone, but I heard her cancel her attendance when she said calmly ‘don’t come you won’t get here in time, I can see the baby’s head’! (or something like that!). During my second stage of labour, I felt wonderful. Relaxed, confident and in control and practicing my down breathing.
Daddy played the positive affirmations on the computer and sat behind me, gently talking to me with words of encouragement and love. Sarah quietly observed me and gave gentle reassurance with kind words and gentle touch. I could hear Isaac laughing and playing happily upstairs with Nanny. With each surge I used my breath to ease you down. Sarah encouraged me to reach down and feel your head slowly emerging into the world, which I did, and will never forget. I felt open. Your head felt hard, with a velvety soft lining that seemed to float away from you slightly in the water (I am still not sure what that was, maybe to do with the swelling on your head?). I remember Sarah saying to me ‘on the next contraction your baby’s head will be born’. This was music to my ears! I really had to concentrate on bringing you down gently, as I did not want a repeat tear. As you started to crown I instinctively used panting breath to ease your head out gently, and before I knew it, I felt myself open even more and your head was born. In the same surge, your shoulders and body followed. Sarah lifted you out of the water and placed you on my chest. “Hello baby!” was the first thing I said to you, and you had a good cry! You were born at the exact gestation of your big brother, Isaac; at 41 weeks + 3 days, on Tuesday 21st April 2015, at 08:26am. I then called “Isaac!!”. I so wanted him to come and meet you straight away! All I could say was “hello baby, hello baby”, I was so relieved that you had arrived and still so surprised things changed so quickly after I was starting to lose hope. Isaac came running in singing the theme tune to Cars, and Nanny followed. Daddy was so happy to see you! Isaac was very interested in you, and then started singing the Star Wars theme tune!
We had skin to skin immediately, and very shortly after your birth you were rooting, and started breastfeeding in the pool; what a clever baby. After a little while (I think when the cord stopped pulsating) I clambered out of the pool with you in my arms and with Sarah and Daddy’s help, and collapsed onto the sofa. Sarah checked me over – just a very minor tear and no stitching necessary, hurray! Although it didn’t feel this long at the time, we waited for two and a half hours for your placenta to be born. Nanny continued to play with Isaac, this time in the garden, as he had a very special job lined up, which was to cut the cord. In a lying down position (after trying the birth stool again), the placenta finally arrived naturally. Isaac and Nanny came inside and Isaac helped Daddy to cut the cord while Nanny filmed on my phone! Sarah then gave Isaac a great lesson about the placenta and inspected it for us to see, and showed us where you had been snuggly tucked up all this time. I am deeply fascinated and have deep respect for the amazing organ that kept you alive inside me for nine months.
The last thing needed before Sarah was happy to tuck us up in bed was to make sure I was able to wee! Two bottles of energy drink and a good wee on the toilet later, and I was in bed. Daddy served me lunch; a yummy sandwich and cheese snacks, and ibuprofen washed down with a delicious placenta smoothie. Delicious! Nanny took Isaac to Foxley for the afternoon where he very excitedly told people of your arrival. Later that afternoon, Linda Cook called by to collect your placenta for encapsulating and came upstairs to take a peek at you!
That afternoon I was too thrilled to sleep, and just wanted to listen to you breathe and feel your warm, velvety soft skin against mine, stroke your dark hair and take endless selfies! Daddy came up for a lie down with us and soon fell straight to sleep, snoring away! We stayed in the bed that afternoon, and after Daddy’s nap he managed to work magic and completely put our lounge back to normal and empty and put the pool away, ready in time to go with Nanny to bring Isaac home from Foxley. Later in the afternoon I came downstairs with you, and we gave Isaac the presents we bought from you – a card, some pieces for his train track and a special book called ‘The boy who lost his name’. Nanny did an amazing job helping to tidy up and help put Isaac to bed, then set off home to share her happy story and photos with Grandad. Later that evening we introduced you to Grandma, Grandpa and GG in skype who were over joyed to see you.
And then it was our bedtime.
I was so very happy to be able to lie down and feel comfortable; no more of those irritating early contractions. No more waiting. Our waiting had paid off. I was full of gratitude for Nanny, Liz and Sarah (who did an amazing job of juggling caring for me, for you, for Daddy, Nanny and Isaac AND getting her paperwork done!), and especially Daddy who had supported me all through the night. Most of all I was in awe and full of gratitude for you, my precious baby, that somehow, you amazingly figured out what you needed to do to get in a better position so you could be born peacefully and gently at home. Clever little baby. I held you, skin to skin, while the household slept. My two little boys.
Our new family of four.