I meet Danielle when she was 32 weeks pregnant during a photoshoot. She has a beautiful energy and a very positive vibration coming from her, I felt I was right in home! We (me) immediately start talking about Birth photography and how cool would be if I photograph the homebirth... safe to say that I was not present at the birth at all LOL!
On this month's blog post, Danielle will tell you in the first person how it was giving birth during a pandemic and how she handled an unexpected change of plans in relation to the birth.
What a beautiful story, Enjoy!!!
Ruben Richard Michael
Born 40+1 on 10/12/2020
Actual assisted delivery (ventouse) in emergency room
Recorded labour 1hr 17 minutes, from first surge just under 2hrs
Warning Triggers: change of plan, foetal distress, COVID restrictions, episiotomy, ventouse delivery.
Though our first baby, we opted for a home birth due to my anxiety around Covid restrictions. I was frightened at the prospect of birthing alone in hospital. My husband (Alex) and I practiced hypnobirthing and set up ready for a home water birth. I found daily yoga practice and birth meditation helpful for both mental and physical preparation. I also wrote out my favourite quotes from Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth.
At 40 weeks swollen pregnant belly measured “small”. The NHS midwife said she couldn’t support a home birth under hospital guidelines, despite good foetal movements, unless a scan confirmed all was ok with baby and the placenta.
Sitting in my living room, birth pool all ready to go, this was upsetting. Baby was active and I was convinced it was just strong Pilates abs holding my belly in. We booked a scan for the next afternoon .... baby however, had other plans...
That night I couldn’t sleep. Baby was super wriggly. I gave up, got up at 2.30am and had toast and hot chocolate. Around 3.30am, I noticed intense cramping in my low back and sacrum, it came and went so I started timing using Freya App - labour established!! This was it! Surges every 2 minutes for 1 minute and so intense I couldn’t move or speak through them.
What happened to the lovely long first phase of dancing, yoga and romantic movies I read about? This was 0-100 in just a few minutes!!
I called our private midwife for advice on what to do next but no answer (!) she was working in a hospital later that day.... if baby could just hold off for the scan and her to finish that lovely home water birth we planned might still be possible..... but the surges kept coming and there was now intense downward pressure. I panicked as my body began to push.
I woke Alex and got in the bath to help manage the sensations.
Alex called the hospital as things seemed to be happening quickly.
We agreed to go to hospital to be assessed. We were told we could return home for the birth if all looked ok.
We threw on a Tens machine and rushed to the car - with me puking into a bucket en route.
On arrival at triage the receptionists refused to let Alex in. I got upset and was repeatedly shouting “having a birth partner is a human right” while experiencing surges. I tried to leave but the intensity was too strong. I couldn’t walk anywhere.
The triage room was small, claustrophobic and clinical with very bright lights. Three attendants were in there with me. They kept asking me to lie/sit down but the pressure on my back was too strong. I closed my eyes and was standing, swaying, pacing and squatting using up breathing during surges.
When the midwife came in the room about twenty minutes later I was on all fours on the floor rocking, asking for Alex and to go home. Waters broke around this time. I needed to pee and was handed a small cardboard dish. No dignity of going to the toilet. Needless to say the sphincter law demonstrated itself perfectly, peeing was impossible in the middle of a room surrounded by strangers which added to my physical discomfort. I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I was the only person in the room who had read about the physiology of childbirth. I knew then I was going to have to really advocate for myself. My blood pressure was through the roof. Feeling helpless and trapped I was shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t get a grip on the adrenaline. The monitor showed baby was also really struggling and they kept showing me the paper reading and saying that they were concerned (but nobody seemed to be offering any solutions). I don’t know what was more painful, the physical intensity of the surges or hearing his little heartbeat dive so faint each time they came. It felt like I was in triage alone like this for a long time - I just wanted Alex.
I needed to negotiate!! I said I’d only accept an examination if Alex was present. Then came another particularly long and powerful surge while leaning forward over the bed. This time instead of managing the surge with up-breathing, I opened my mouth, fully surrendered and let whatever sound was there emerge. The penny finally dropped, this baby’s arrival was imminent! The midwife RAN to get Alex.
After an emotional reunion the examination revealed I was already 10cm fully dilated !!! Surges had only been happening for an hour but they were very strong with little or no break between them. Poor baby was not coping and the midwife was worried about possible cord prolapse. I was asked to get in a wheelchair and speeded to an emergency room. It was ok, I now had Alex. He told me to keep my eyes closed and keep breathing deeply. There were lots of people rushing round the room and alarms going. Someone dimmed the lights as we entered - at last my wishes were being heard.
Transferring from the wheelchair to the bed was the next challenge- I was determined to be upright and really didn’t want to be on my back. There was too much back pressure. With one knee on the bed and one foot on the floor I froze - this was where I wanted to be - upright, more in control, active birthing.
The midwives kept trying to encourage me to lie on my back. I resisted. More surges came - then an explosive bowel movement all over the floor and one of the midwifes (what an incredible human being she is!)
I reluctantly got on my side for a few pushes and I was then rolled on my back and legs wrestled into stirrups.
I was breathing to stay calm. Focusing on the hypnobirthing affirmations. Alex gave me a hanky drenched in lavender oil (it actually brought a lot of comfort). Instead of screaming I was trying to sing and roar through surges - at one point I was sucking Alex’s fingers another just wanting lots of kisses- anything to keep my jaw relaxed. One midwife was trying coached pushing which I definitely did not want, she was really up in my face - I think I punched her (SORRY! Again midwives are incredible human beings!)
An episiotomy was performed and Ventouse suction applied to assist with pushing. His head was out in 3 maybe 4 pushes. One midwife gushed that he was a “star gazer” looking up instead of the usual position looking down. This had made it more difficult to push him out as he was leading with the widest part of his head. Once his head was out the surging completely stopped - relief. It took a while for another surge to ramp up but a strong push during that and he was completely out, safe and on my chest in seconds. We’d been in that emergency room for just 13 minutes!
Nothing like the gentle, gradual foetal expulsion reflex I’d envisioned.
Alex was amazing, he kept telling me “just look at baby”. He gave a little cry and we knew he was fine - unfortunately the cord was cut early as they were worried about him but there didn’t appear to be much blood in the cord at all - not even enough to do baby’s blood test it transpired.
I had a managed third stage and got stitched up. Finally some gas and air!!! I had no Pain Relief throughout the birth just a Tens machine during the initial surges.
We were allowed home pretty quickly and could stay in the emergency room while waiting. These were beautiful moments I’ll always remember, Alex and I having a nap while holding our angel’s tiny hands. Ruben rewarded us with a very calm first few days. It was not the serene homebirth we planned for but I emerged feeling hard as nails and grateful to the NHS team who looked after us. The midwives commented that Ruben’s birth was full of surprises - how far along I was despite appearing calm (on the outside), his position and speedy arrival. Hypnobirthing techniques helped me to ride out the chain of events
This “whirlwind birth” left me traumatised in the days that followed. I kept replaying the scenario over in my head, analysing the what ifs, anger at having laboured alone without Alex, the question of unnecessary interventions (the whole thing felt like a battle of me vs the care givers), disappointment of not having a homebirth and not experiencing pushing my baby down naturally (without Ventouse). I didn’t want to let my mental state ruin Ruben’s first days and so I needed to move forward. Writing out this story helped immensely. I also treated myself to a necklace with Ruben’s initials and “star gazer” engraved on it. My medal! - and a treasured reminder of the immensity of giving birth.
I continued listening to soothing hypnobirthing relaxations. These helped release the birth tension held physically in my body and sent warm, tingly energy up my spine, shoulders and neck. As a yoga teacher I’m used to relaxations but this was a very deep, delicious release - hypnobirthing is truly magical - it works!
Mat leave in lockdown is strange. Meeting other mums and bubs in the park for a coffee and a chat most days keeps us sane. Ruben is 3 months old but my mum hasn’t been able to meet him yet. Hopefully that will happen soon.
Final words ... we made an incredible little human and I can’t wait to do it all again!! Women’s bodies are amazing and we can literally do anything!