Two years later I was heading towards my second birth experience. My pregnancy had been fairly uneventful,
except for one tiny issue. Both my dating scan and the 20 week scan put my due date at the 8th June. However, I know my body and cycle quite well and I was certain that the date was nearer the 15th June, making me almost a week less pregnant than the scans suggested.
I know that this isn’t a huge issue, but it was to me. We were now living in North Wales where they suggested induction at 40+10, my first baby had been born at 40+8, and with them thinking that I was six days ahead of where I thought I was, I stood a good chance of going over that magical 40+10 meaning they would want to induce me and my birth would need to take place in hospital and with a higher chance of intervention.
Having had such a calm and empowering experience the first time round I was keen to ensure I could be at home this time too. I had a good chat with my midwife and she suggested that I decline induction. This was not a ‘going against advice’ decision, but an agreement between myself, my husband and our midwife, who believed in me and supported my choices. On her advice we booked a hospital appointment at 40+10 (yes, I got there!) where I was put on the monitor for an hour to check the baby was happy, then given a scan to check the placenta was still functioning (I asked them to turn the screen away, I had waited 41 weeks to meet this baby and did not want any surprises spoiled at the 11th hour!) and finally on my request, I was given a sweep. I know it’s controversial and many people are against them, seeing them as an unnecessary intervention but I’m totally in favour of a good old sweep and remain convinced that they helped both of my labours along. I requested mine and felt very much that if I didn’t want them I wouldn’t have had to have them.
With a clean bill of Mum and baby health I went home with another monitoring appointment scheduled for a few days time.
The sweep didn’t initially appear to do anything and I went to bed that night feeling like I may very well be pregnant for the rest of my life, however I woke up at 5am with mild and irregular contractions. I got up and made a cup of tea, bounced on my ball and even got my breast pump out to try and help things along. For a while the contractions persisted but within a couple of hours they had tailed off. By this time my husband and almost 2 year old were up and ready for breakfast. I was fed up, would this baby ever come?
My husband, sensing that his grumpy, heavily pregnant wife might need some company and care, took the day off work and came with us to our usual Friday ‘baby gym’ class. I endured an hour and half of people saying ‘goodness, are you STILL pregnant’ and smiling through gritted teeth as I answered them. We returned home at lunch time and since I’d been up since 5am and wasn’t in the best of moods I retreated to bed for a nap. I was woken up a couple of hours later by a strong contraction. A second one several minutes later prompted me to get up and cheer up! Maybe this was it! I had a sandwich and a cup of tea and the contractions kept coming. We took our daughter for a walk to the park, the contractions continued and felt good and strong. Once home, I started getting things ready for the birth, my waters ‘popped’ again with an audible pop and again a slow trickle rather than a big gush. I took 2 paracetamol and called my midwife. I explained the situation and said that we’d call again when it looked like things were happening, I had a contraction while we were on the phone. To my surprise she said she’d come out and check me over, I told her there was really no need, I was ok, I’d taken some paracetamol and we were going to have tea and bath our daughter. She told me she’d be round in half an hour.
The midwife arrived, examined me and told me, to my astonishment, that I was 6cms. I was delighted! I got up and said ‘well, we’ll give you a call in a few hours then’ she looked at me a bit strangely and said ‘ you’ll have a baby in a few hours, I’m not going anywhere!’ My husband bathed our daughter and got her to bed. I paced about the living room. The contractions were strong, but in between, I felt great. I chatted away to the midwife and my husband, he made himself some dinner and then we all listened to some African drumming music (my husband and the midwife bonded over a shared love of world music.)
I had a pain management plan in my head of paracetamol, then a bath and eventually gas and air but I never got past the two paracetamol. The time flew by and I felt totally in control. I stayed standing and leant against the dresser in our living room. I also remained fully clothed (remember I was completely naked last time - I had told myself I wasn’t doing that again!) The second midwife arrived about 9pm, the midwife had assessed by the sounds I was making, that the baby was nearly here and eventually she gently suggested I take my trousers off. I was still standing against the dresser, totally aware, alert and in control. I was happy standing so that’s how I stayed. This time I felt more of an urge to push and the midwife encouraged me to go with it. When I was pushing I kept moving my foot, needing more purchase, so the midwife put an upturned sharps bucket under my foot which gave me me the ooopmf I needed. Suddenly there was a big noise and something flew out of me at force. I was momentarily terrified thinking it was the baby but it was my waters! Again, they had popped round the side initially and were still ‘intact’ and blocking the baby’s exit. The force of my pushing essentially made them explode onto our stone floor! The midwives and my husband got caught in the crossfire! We all burst out laughing. The next couple of pushes saw our baby emerge into the world and the waiting arms of the midwife. Again she was passed under to me and we were helped over to the sofa. A second beautiful baby girl. She showed no signs of being ‘overdue’ and weighed in at 8lb 7oz, so smaller than her big sister. Although we’ll never know, she certainly looked more at term, making my dates more likely.
In my first birth I had had a physiological third stage and I wanted this again, but last time I lost a lot of blood and I wanted to avoid that this time around. I had read that getting the baby on the breast immediately would help the uterus contract and reduce blood loss (as well as increasing the chance of successful breastfeeding) so I had written this into my birth plan. Luckily she was keen to feed and latched on right away. A short while later I felt the urge to push and the placenta was delivered. The blood loss was much less this time. I had a minor tear and again this was left to heal naturally with no ongoing issues.
We noticed that the cord had a knot in it. Sometimes cords have a build up of a jelly like substance and this is called a knot. My daughter’s cord had what’s known as a true knot and is an actual tied knot, usually done before 30 weeks when the baby has more space to spin around. At births these can be quite risky and can cause fatalities. The midwife told me she was a lucky baby. At the time, high on life, I just thought it was an old wives tale and it meant good luck. When the midwife explained what she had meant the next day it was a very sobering thought indeed!
I truly believe that by being calm and in control myself, her risk from this complication was reduced.
I literally felt like superwoman after this birth. I felt truly empowered and in awe of my body and what it could do. I love that in both of my births I felt listened to and trusted. I was very lucky to have straightforward pregnancies and complication free births. Many people might say that monitoring me at 40+10 is costly and a waste of resources but I believe that in a healthy pregnancy and for a woman who feels safe at home, home birth reduces the likelihood of interventions and subsequently complications, and I appreciated the opportunity to safely proceed with my wishes. For me, being allowed to understand and trust my body mattered the most and really helped me. Every decision was made in consultation with my midwife and there were always contingencies should something not go to plan. My husband also felt more involved at home and having him know my wishes and advocate for me at times when my attention was elsewhere was invaluable.