22 years ago today I became a mum – I had just given birth to my daughter at home, using water and gas & air. It was a really positive labour and birth, with few challenges. As I write this at 2pm, I would have been sitting on my sofa with tea talking to the midwives about going to hospital for stitches but I was calm and happy and ready to relax with my baby.
My birth story
My waters had broken the day before I gave birth, 12 hours before labour had started – I had a wonderful community midwife who popped in to see me and encouraged me to stay relaxed. Back then there was less pressure for labour to start so I knew I had time to potter around and get ready. I was 38 weeks pregnant and the cupboards were empty.
All I remember is feeling excited and ready for labour to get going and by the evening I was having irregular contractions. We went to the supermarket at some point and I remember my husband running around grabbing things for the trolley, while I wandered up the main aisle wondering when the next contraction was coming.
My contractions kicked in during the evening – still mild but, as a first time mum I didn’t know how much they would intensify. By about 10pm I felt like I needed some support and we called out our community midwife who stayed because of the time and because my contractions were intensifying.
A couple of hours later I was in labour with stronger, regular contractions. The only thing I remember about this period was being overwhelmed by exhaustion and feeling surprised that the contractions were okay. The only wobble I had was when I went upstairs to use the loo and the next contraction took my breath away and immediately made me panic – I remember saying I couldn’t do this and I wanted to go to hospital for an epidural. My midwife was really supportive and she got me downstairs and reunited with the gas & air and then I was fine.
I’m unsure why I wasn’t in the pool yet but I don’t think I started using the pool until 6 or 7am – I do remember it feeling amazing though.
There was a change of midwife at this point as well and this unsettled me because I didn’t know her. My contractions were strong, I didn’t want music, I didn’t want fuss or to be spoken to and I reached a point where I had to not panic and I was trying to work out how much longer this might take.
Because I didn’t know this midwife I wanted to get out of the pool to give birth – but this sent me into a spiral of panic and I feel like I lost all control at this point. Out of the water, the contractions were really intense and harder to work with – I just wanted it to be over and I kept pushing after a contraction had finished, ignoring my midwife and causing myself a second degree tear.
I remember nothing about my placenta, my next memory is being all cosy on the sofa with the best cup of tea ever, telling my midwife that I was happy to go into hospital for my stitches, even though that was an ambulance ride and a delay in settling with my baby.
Would I do anything differently?
I would rest much more in early labour and I wouldn’t call the community midwife out as early – I hadn’t appreciated how exhausted I would be or that she would have to go off shift.
And I wouldn’t have left the pool to birth – I really don’t know why I did that – and I wish I’d known the importance of working with my contractions and not pushing when I didn’t need to. I may still have needed stitches but possibly not as many.
What did I learn?
* how exhausting labour is
* that I can endure and dig deep
* how intense labour is
* labour is unpredictable
* how easy it is to panic
* that midwives have a different approach
* how labour and birth can be so different from your expectations
* that there is a moment of reality in labour when you realise this is on you, you have to do this, you are doing this
* that birth plans and preferences change so it has to be flexible
* how instinctive it is to move and get into more comfortable positions
* that homebirths aren’t necessarily as calm as you’d like
And this pregnancy and birth sparked a fascination in and a passion for birth, which became a new career. And I have continued to learn about birth from each parent I talk to and each birth I am part of.
As a doula I work with parents from across Newcastle and Tyneside.
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Copyright: Janine Smith