The birth of Norah
Ellie and Sonny joined me for my group hypnobirthing class in Dartford to prepare for the birth of their first baby. Ellie also attended my pregnancy yoga class in Dartford. After some research Ellie wanted to plan for a home birth, but as a first time Mum this is quite unusual – despite being often safer than a hospital birth. Ellie writes:
I had always liked the idea of a home birth, but wasn’t sure if I was allowed to have one as a first time mum. Plus I didn’t understand the logistics and my partner Sonny was apprehensive about planning a home birth when I mentioned it. I decided it wasn’t meant to be, but once we completed the hypnobirthing course with Colleen we both got really excited about a home birth. It wasn’t even a discussion anymore, Sonny simply said to me ‘yes, you are having a home birth’. At one of my midwife appointments, early on, I mentioned that this was our plan and the midwife wasn’t really sure about it.
I had a few issues early in my pregnancy which complicated things. It felt Like I got everything under the sun in pregnancy! I had really bad sickness at the start which lasted for around four months. It then came back in my third trimester. I had thrush on off throughout my pregnancy. I also had a lot of aches and pains because of my job, which involves a lot of standing and bending over. (Although pregnancy yoga really helped with this.)
At around 15 weeks I developed group b strep, and I was told a home birth might not be possible. In the end my midwife spoke to one her supervisors and we got the home birth signed off, so we started planning. Then in my third trimester things changed and my home birth seemed like it wouldn’t be happening. I had to go for a growth scan, where the sonographer told me that the baby’s stomach was measuring small but everything else was growing fine. They explained that it could be due to various reasons such as maybe I just have smaller babies, maybe the baby had recently emptied her bladder or I hadn’t eaten in a while. But then when I spoke to my midwife I was again told that a home birth would not be possible, because maybe the baby had stopped growing or the placenta had stopped working. I spoke to Colleen about this who sent me some articles to read and I did lots of my own research and decided that the midwife was wrong. I had a really strong gut instinct that everything with the baby was fine.
At around 36 weeks I was booked for another growth scan for in two weeks time. Luckily I didn’t go into labour before the growth scan as that would have meant I might not get my home birth. Whilst I was waiting for my growth scan I had two calls with a midwife supervisor to go through my options and I was told I would have to go in after my growth scan to finalise my options and birth plan. I was told lots of times ‘it is your decision, but we would recommend you come in and birth on delivery suite, to be monitored constantly.’ They even started mentioning inductions. For me, personally, this was my worst case scenario and not the kind of birth that I wanted.
At this final scan I was told that everything was fine and on track, which meant I had all that stress for nothing. I went for another appointment after the growth scan and this time the midwife was really positive and supportive. She said all of my tests had come back perfect. She also confirmed my own research about group b strep, that it can come and go. But unfortunately once you have had it you are likely to get tarnished during pregnancy as high risk, even if it goes away. She even said that it was policy to go over worst case scenarios, but as long as I was happy with my decisions I could be signed off for my home birth – at last!
Leading up to the birth I was so excited. It amazes what the human body can do and I really believed that it was going to be a great experience. Plus I was really excited to meet my baby. Throughout my pregnancy, and before, I have always been very active. I walk to and from work, I did Pilates and weight training before pregnancy. I think all of this really helped me as I had a strong core and stamina. Towards the end of pregnancy I was still doing pregnancy yoga, walks at the weekend and I started perineal massages once a week to prepare for birth. I started drinking raspberry leaf tea, increasing the amount each week. When I was at home I was constantly bouncing on my birthing ball. Throughout my pregnancy my baby was always in a good position and low down, so I think she was just ready to come out at the right time.
I started loosing my mucus plug quite early on, so when I lost more in the lead up to birth I didn’t think much of it. For a week I was getting mild cramps, so I knew she was on her way. I spent the week trying to boost my oxytocin and getting in the mood for birth. I was walking up and down the stairs, dancing around to music, doing long walks every day, yoga and meditating. On the Wednesday night I went to the toilet and had my bloody show, so I phoned tambootie ward at darenth valley hospital. The midwife said that it sounded like I was in the very early stages of labour, to take some paracetamol and go back to sleep. I decided not to take paracetamol, but did go back to sleep.
On Thursday morning when I woke up nothing was happening. As the day went on I was getting a few aches and pains, but no real progress. In the middle of the night I could feel my contractions had started so I phoned the hospital again. They sent out two midwives who checked me over. At this point I had set up my birth space in the dining room. We had fairy lights, candles, my birth affirmation cards up, the birthing pool plus a cosy nest of cushions to rest on. I was only 2-3 cm and felt a bit disheartened, which was one of the reasons I initially didn’t want to have vaginal examinations. I don’t regret it, but I was really keen to get things going to ensure I could have a home birth. In hindsight I shouldn’t have focused so much on trying to get things going. The midwives stayed for about an hour, then decided to go and leave me to it. They advised that I should rest and try to sleep.
On Friday morning I woke up to my contractions being more consistent. In the afternoon my Mum came over, and we just sat together and relaxed. Sonny gave me some massages to relax me and I had a warm shower. I was also non-stop eating to keep my energy up as I was starting to feel tired from the broken sleep and contractions. My Mum kept telling me that she thought it was bad that no-one had been back out to check on me, even though I explained they were short staffed and I didn’t need anyone with me yet. She didn’t listen though and called them back, which mad me feel embarrassed as if I was a little kid again. When my mum spoke to them she said ‘hello this is Ellie’s Mum’ which made me and Sonny really laugh, and as I laughed my waters broke! It wasn’t a big gush, it was more like a pop and then a trickle. Because my waters had gone, the midwives came straight out. They checked me again, and I felt really excited to hear my progress, but I was only 3-4 cm dilated. So I agreed to have a sweep. The midwife told me to carry on doing what I was doing, and left again. At this point I felt like my contractions really slowed down, so I tried to get them going again. I was bouncing on my ball, walking up and down the stairs, dancing around to music and still nothing happened. By about 10pm I was really disheartened and tired so decided to go to bed. As soon as I was about to fall asleep my contractions came back. Sonny timed them and they were regular, so the midwives came back out straight away. After another vaginal examination I was 4-5cm dilated, so she gave me a big sweep which I really felt. After this things really ramped up.
Up until this point I had thought labour was really easy and not painful. I could breathe through the contractions before, but now I had to really focus on by breathing. Sonny was massaging me whilst I sat on my ball and moving around. He was really amazing at supporting me and prompting me so that I could really get in the zone. I was so zoned out I wasn’t paying attention to the midwives who mostly left me alone. Things started to get quite intense and I wanted to get in the pool, the midwives wanted me to wait as long as possible but in the end said yes get in. I was so tired now, in 48 hours I’d had around 4 hours sleep. As soon as I got in the pool it was like a weight had been lifted off me, and my contractions really started to ramp up. In between contractions I was falling asleep and my head was rolling around, I must have looked possessed. I’d wake up, breathe through another contraction and then fall back to sleep. My Mum and Sonny were taking it in turns to look after me. It felt like this part went on forever, but the whole of my active labour was three hours and 20 minutes, with 20 minutes of pushing. I was so tired so really had to focus on my breathing, I didn’t even have the energy to move around in the pool.
I started to feel the urge to push, and my breathing pattern had changed. I wanted to ask the midwives to have a look, as I felt like her head was right there. But I didn’t want to risk being disheartened again at my lack of progress. The midwives eventually suggested that maybe going for a wee would help encourage her down the birth canal, not realising she was already there. So I sat on a little pot to see if that would help, but nothing happened. Then the midwife suggested having a catheter fitted to empty my bladder to see if that would help. I didn’t want this but thought to myself, this baby is not coming out unless I wee so I need to do something. So I gathered some strength, got out of the pool and walked to my toilet with Sonny’s help. I sat down on the toilet and three contractions later she was born! My Mum said I was mooing, but I don’t remember that, it felt like an out of body experience. The midwife asked me to stand up and lean towards Sonny as she could see the head. I had Sonny sitting on the edge of the bath, one midwife squatting in front of me, the other midwife in the doorway and my Mum stood in the shower. Norah was born on Saturday 19th February at 4.32am and she was 6lb2. I remember looking at her and thinking ‘oh my god’ I didn’t get that rush of love but I was amazed. I had to sit on the toilet for quite a while so that I could have delayed cord clamping. We cut the cord twenty minutes after birth, and the placenta came out 45 minutes after birth. I had to slowly get up off the toilet so that the midwife could catch my placenta as I had planned to use it for raw smoothies and a getting a tincture made. Norah went straight to the breast for a couple of hours on and off. I’d had a small second degree tear which I decided to have stitches for. The midwifes weighed Norah and then my Mum dressed her.
It was a fantastic birth, but the worst part was after. Because of Norah being smaller than predicted the midwives told me that I had to go into hospital to check her blood sugar levels. They said because she had fed so long her blood sugar levels would be fine so we would be able to leave as soon as they’re checked, I would even be able to discharge myself. Because we thought it would be quick we agreed to go in at 8am. When we got to the hospital we had the worst experience, we weren’t even seen for a couple of hours. I hadn’t showered or rested as I thought we’d be so quick I would get settled once we’re home. The midwife that I saw was quite patronising and kept brining up my group b strep and telling me how I had put my baby at risk and listing all of the problems she was going to develop. I told her we could leave as they baby seemed to be ok, but she said no that Norah had to be monitored every hour and that we couldn’t be discharged. We ended up getting home at 7.30pm which kind of ruined the experience of such a lovely home birth, but at least the birth went well and now we have our amazing baby.