Valerie's home birth
Elliot’s Birth Story
My first birth resulted in the most wonderful boy in the world, but his arrival left me utterly traumatised. I was induced with an epidural and delivered after several hours of chin-on-chest pushing, ventouse and forceps. On top of all that, I had a truly unhelpful and miserable midwife in the local hospital during the delivery and untreated post natal depression - it was absolutely the worst year of my life. When we discovered we were expecting again, we realised I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I would burst into tears at the thought of the pregnancy and was truly consumed by fear.
My husband did some research and contacted Phoenix Independent Midwives. Tracy and Carole came to our house one evening and spoke to us at length about their services and presented us with a lot of resources to help me before we even decided to book with them. My husband insisted that we book them and I will be forever grateful that he did.
My second pregnancy was still not much fun for me. However, thanks to Carole and Tracy, I was able to accept that some women just don’t enjoy pregnancy. I am one of those women and it’s ok. Once I accepted that, it got much easier to manage the morning sickness, aches and fear.
Carole and Tracy came to my house for each appointment and spent ages with me (usually because I was so tearful thinking about the last experience). They continuously assured me that it didn’t need to be that way and because I still thought childbirth was safest in hospital, they agreed to see me through a hospital birth. They met with the hospital staff and discussed my case with them and had everything in place for a worst case scenario. I grew to trust Carole and Tracy implicitly - something I never came close to doing with any of the medical professionals involved in my first pregnancy.
They gently brought up the idea of trying natal hypnotherapy and thinking about a home birth, but never pushed anything on me. In my mind, those things just were not for me at all. I finally decided to at least read the book on Natal Hypnotherapy that Tracy let me borrow. The first 2 chapters opened up my eyes to the idea of a non-medical birth. Even though I am well educated, I simply never considered that childbirth should not nor did not need to be in a hospital surrounded by doctors. I started to feel much more confident in myself regarding childbirth and this was helped enormously by the genuine care and concern from Carole and Tracy.
I got the Natal Hypnotherapy CD and listened to it 2-3 times a week for the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I fully admit that I listened to it consciously thinking that there was no way that this was going to make a bit of difference. I am not a highly suggestible person and hypnobirthing was something for Earthy-yummy-mummy-types, not me. Still, I gave it a go thinking that at least I’d have a chance to relax for a few minutes. To everyone’s surprise, I decided about 3 weeks before my due date to try to have a home birth! I had realised that the only time I got upset and tearful anymore was when I thought about going to hospital.
Exactly 4 years and 2 days after my first horrific birth experience, I had the most empowering birth experience I could imagine.
For about a week before the birth I felt very strange, as if I was in a bubble and found it increasingly difficult to communicate effectively. Lo and behold! My waters broke at about 23.30 a week before the due date (exactly like the first time). I waited for something to happen, but nothing did. Fortunately, I had a previously scheduled appointment with Carole the next day. I expected things to go forward like they did with my first birth....induction due to increased risks. However, Carole gave us the scientific details on the increased risk in this situation. We found that it was actually such a small increase that we were not going to induce just yet.
Although I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions off and on for a week or so, nothing else happened beyond the annoying slow trickle of water. I got my son off to sleep and about 15 minutes later (almost 24 hours after the waters broke with a gush), I felt my very first contraction! It confirmed for me that I never felt a single contraction with my first pregnancy, and that they weren’t as bad as they are portrayed in the media. My husband and I decided to go straight to bed and try to rest. After about an hour, I found it very uncomfortable to lay. So we put the TENS unit on (I think this was only really a bit of distraction for me) and as the contractions got stronger, I put on the natal hypnotherapy labour CD. At this point, time became very distorted for me.
I was totally calm and not at all scared. I just went within myself and actually thoroughly relaxed between and during each contraction. My husband was setting up the pool downstairs whilst I mainly hugged my birth ball standing beside our bed. I had no concept of time. I was just getting on with it and not panicking at all like everyone expected me to be (including myself!).
My husband called Carole in the middle of the night when contractions were getting more frequent and she arrived within about 20-25 minutes. I think she was slightly surprised by how calm I was. I started to vomit (just as I did with my first) and Carole reassured us that it was a good sign and suggested that I try getting into the pool to ease some of the pain I was having in my Sacral Iliac joint (an injury from my first birth in hospital). The pool felt lovely and warm and reminded me of a hug. It didn’t take away the intense sensation of the contractions, but it did help me to stay very relaxed through them. Within about 2 hours in the pool, I hit the transition phase wall and did ask to go to the hospital. My husband looked to Carole and was instantly reassured that all was well and it was playing out just as we were told it would. Transition apparently brings many women to the epidural cry, and although I wanted to get out of the pool and go, I also sort of knew that this was the transition phase and honestly, I could not actually bring myself to move.
I felt like I had lost control of my body at that point. And I did. Instinct took over. I had no control at all as my body began involuntarily pushing the baby out. It is called a fetal ejection response. Tracy kept telling me that this would happen, but I just didn’t comprehend that it was truly an involuntary response. Carole did suggest that I breathe through one of the contractions and I tried, but simply could not stop this vaginal-vomiting like reaction that was happening. Still through this part of it, I would have sworn that the contractions (although quite strong and painful) were at least 20 minutes apart. I still think that they were that far apart. But according to the very detailed notes Carole made, they were 1 to 2 minutes apart!
Baby Elliot was born about 10 minutes after I asked to go to hospital.
I never intended to actually give birth in the pool, but it all happened so quickly in the end and without any vaginal exams! I think my being so calm threw Carole off a bit as when she rang Tracy to come, Elliot was on his way out! Tracy did arrive soon after Elliot. Together, Carole and Tracy helped bring me back round to the presence of mind to deliver the placenta easily (although it was about an hour later).
I will always remember Elliot’s birth as one of the most empowering events in my life. As a woman, I felt so very strong and competent - things I had not felt about myself since before my first son’s birth. But I also ‘got it’. I just understood what it was all about- that childbirth need not be a medical drama and in fact, in most instances, it should not be medicalised at all. I sat in the pool with Elliot doing the newborn crawl to my breast and I literally watched his colour change before my eyes as the cord gave him all the nutrients he could get. Elliot’s brother was able to see and hold him upon waking up at his normal time and we all had a cuddle in bed which was bliss. I felt then and know now that I would never have been able to give Elliot such a peaceful start to his life had I gone to hospital to deliver like I originally wanted.
Both my pregnancies were very similar. The onset of labour was identical. The outcomes both produced wonderful baby boys. But the first left me traumatised emotionally and physically, and he has a small scar from the forceps. The second, thanks entirely to Carole and Tracy, left me empowered and recovery was much quicker and easy. Additionally, Baby Elliot was a much more contented baby. I wish all women could experience childbirth as it is meant to be.