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I got my first proper contraction at about 11pm. Then another a few minutes later. Then another. What happened to the slow build-up when you have to preserve your energy and rest between contractions? We were diligently timing them, but they were just coming thick and fast. I got in the bath, Dad called the midwife who told him to call an hour later and see how we got on.

I had my home-made flapjacks, salted peanuts, orange juice, Lucozade sport and other snacks for me, Dad and the midwife out on the kitchen table. We put a futon mattress covered with dust sheets, then soft blankets on the floor in the living room. On this I had my two big cushions and gym ball to lean on. A pile of clean towels on the table, low lights throughout the house.

I can’t remember well enough to describe how the contractions felt, but I know the pain was in my lower back as I could cope with them as long as Dad was massaging the base of my spine.

Dad duly called the midwife again at 12 and she said she was on her way.  Breathing out slowly an imagined golden thread (yoga teacher’s advice) wasn’t doing it for me anymore and I realised that a long audible sigh helped control the pain. These long audible sighs carried on through the night, and transformed into long, extremely audible bellows. If I heard myself getting too high pitched I forced the pitch lower, stopping myself losing control. I think it was the thought of losing control that scared me most. What scared Dad the most was the time spent waiting for the midwife to arrive, she eventually appeared at 2am. Those two hours were very long for him. For me they whizzed by. I was concentrating on not losing it.

She examined me, I was 4 cms dilated. I was really pleased. But then hours went past – I divided my time between the cushions, the loo and the bath, contractions getting stronger and stronger, poor old Dad following me around, not allowed any time off. There was no change, the baby had hardly moved.

I remember the midwife needed me on my back for examinations, which was unbearably painful and almost impossible during the contractions which were relentless. There was no time to eat or drink anything and towards the morning I was becoming exhausted.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but afterwards the midwife told me the baby had been facing the wrong way, ‘back to back’. That was why it hurt so much in my lower back and also why the baby hadn’t budged. She had to turn first before she could come down. The midwife was concerned she wouldn’t turn, but eventually she did, and after many hours of contractions and no movement I think she came down for the final stage quite quickly (I think!)

When I did my stints in the bathroom, the midwife didn’t follow us in there, so me and Dad (and baby) were on our own. Dad recalls – and I do too – that about halfway through my labour, I was sitting in the bath and I said to him, ‘I don’t think I can do this again’. I think I felt that I could cope with it as long as I knew I never had to go through it ever again! I also recall one time a contraction started and Dad didn’t immediately jump to massage me. He was sitting right next to me, but I let out a loud, long and desperate, ‘WHERE ARE YOU?!’

The midwife said I would feel the baby get lower but I didn’t really feel any change. I kept looking down at my enormous belly thinking what a physical impossibility it was for the contents of that belly to get through where they had to get through. Then suddenly she was apparently a lot lower and I was being urged to push.

The impossibility of my big, round unaltered belly remained and this little babe was having trouble coming out. I had almost reached a state of total exhaustion. Even when the midwife told me to reach down and feel the emerging baby’s head, all furry, it just seemed to reinforce the impossibility of the whole thing. I think I was there for about 45 minutes with baby’s head half-way out. It was EXCRUTIATING! No sign of the gas and air that I had been promised. I remember saying ‘I can’t do it’, several times, and the midwife saying, ‘you have to’. I was squatting, supported by Dad who was sitting behind me. When a contraction came, the midwife told me to push, and Dad with his head behind mine was pushing with me. Eeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnggghhhh! Afterwards I commended him on this good idea of his which I had found very encouraging, and he said he wasn’t aware at the time that he was doing it!

The midwife laid an assortment of terrifying looking scissors on the floor just in front of my intimate parts. Sweet Jesus! (Throughout my upbringing, my mother had put the fear of God into me about the dreaded episiotomy). The midwife said, ‘you’re not pushing enough, and for long enough.’ It felt like I couldn’t possibly do more. Then she said, ‘Be angry.’ I wasn’t feeling anything like anger, but somehow this helped me understand what I needed to do. So at the end of each push when it felt like I couldn’t do any more, I screamed at the top of my lungs and gave it everything I had. This is how I managed it, and at 7.17 am, we became three as a tiny girl at last slithered out into the universe and came up for a cuddle.

Dad had tears in his eyes and I think the first thing I said to my daughter was, ‘I knew you were furry’. She still had fur on her back, shoulders and ears. The midwife cut the umbilical cord with a pair of the terrifying scissors. Baby was handed over to Dad, and I was guided over to the sofa to rest. It was a dark, peaceful morning, the world was just waking. The gas fire was on, I watched the midwife weigh the baby and dress her tiny form in a vest, babygrow and hat to preserve her body heat. She had been through a lot waiting to be born. I had used up every last bit of energy in my body. I couldn’t sit up without blacking out. The baby was brought to me, I rolled onto my side. She was placed on my breast and at once began to suckle. When the midwife wanted her to change sides, I couldn’t really get up enough to turn around, so the baby was placed on a pillow and commenced feeding from the upper deck. She lay there, a tiny, skinny, furry body in suit and hat hungrily nibbling on her exhausted, naked mother who was drifting in and out of dreams.

So that was my homebirth. No tricky travelling to and from hospital, just the peace of familiar surroundings. The midwife left us with our new tiny person and we transferred to the bed and spent all day there.  I didn’t get the rush of euphoria I had read and been told about at the point of birth. I was physically and mentally shattered. The sight of my daughter provoked a calm wonder in me. It wasn’t till a lot later when I sang to her in bed and she fell asleep that I got my tears of joy.

A few hours after the birth another midwife came to see us, then another the next day. Oh and I forgot this detail – our midwife did come back that day and while she was here, she started looking around the room and asked, ‘did I leave the placenta here?’ We said we hadn’t seen it. Later, we found it in a bucket with a lid on that I had got ready but never needed. When we saw her again, we didn’t mention it, and she didn’t ask!

dmc@dressmecaroline.com; cathmeir@hotmail.com; artygerty@hotmail.com; carey.catherine@yahoo.co.uk; celia.kent@classicfm.net