- Second time mum
- Back to back labour
- 8 pounds 5
- 35 hours from first surge to birth
- Around 6 hours active labour
- Planned homebirth
Here I am again, writing another birth story, nearly exactly two years to the day that my daughter was born.
With this being my second baby I was under the impression that it would ‘just fall out’ as they say and since having my firstborn I have also trained to become a hypnobirthing teacher, so I had massively increased my knowledge around birth.. Everything was adding up for this birth to be a complete walk in the park. I thought it would be a breeze. Everything is easier second time round right? Apparently not as it turns out!
My pregnancy was pretty straightforward and uneventful, with the exception of Covid 19 throwing a fair few curve balls our way. I knew I wanted another homebirth and felt even more strongly about this with the added regulations which were being introduced in hospitals due to Covid 19. Throughout my pregnancy the goal posts surrounding birth were changing all the time and different trusts were implementing different policies. I struggled to enjoy my pregnancy as I was so anxious about how it would be affected by the ever changing covid rules.
The main worry for me was that the homebirth services would be suspended again like they had been at the beginning of the pandemic and I found myself constantly checking the UK and Manchester homebirth support groups on Facebook daily for any updates.
At around 30 weeks I was transferred to the Community Midwife continuity team and assigned to a wonderful midwife, Annabel. She came to my house for all my appointments and was so helpful and reassuring, keeping me updated with any news or updates to the homebirth service. The weeks went by and the homebirth service continued to be unaffected, the only update they provided was that the ambulance service had increased their call out time slightly. This didn’t worry or concern me as I only live 10 minutes away from the hospital and could always transfer by car if needed and ambulance if it was an emergency. (A highly rare occurrence with second time mums)
My due date came and went, as I suspected it would and I tried to wait patiently and enjoy my last days of ‘freedom’ without letting my covid anxieties get in the way. I had experienced Braxton Hics throughout the week and felt confident that I would go into labour soon. I was sure that he would be born on the weekend of the full moon, Lily was born on a full moon, and I just had a feeling that this baby would be the same!
On Saturday 30th at around 3am I had my first few surges, they were completely manageable so I just lay in bed letting them come and go. I think it got to about 5am and I came downstairs to watch some TV to try and take my mind off my uterus!
The surges continued but they were very mild and very irregular, sometimes they would even stop completely for an hour or so. I found this a bit disheartening at times as I just wanted to get on with it all!
Around 11am Matt, Lily and I went for a walk around the lake near our house. (We did exactly the same walk when I was in labour with Lily!) I would stop every now and again to breathe through some of the stronger surges.
We came home and had lunch and pottered, all the while the surges were coming and going but completely manageable. At around 5pm, my mum and dad came over to pick up Lily. I got quite emotional when she was leaving. She’s only two so didn’t really understand how much her world was going to change with the arrival of a big brother/sister. I think I was upset at the thought of her not being my baby anymore, there was going to be another one taking her place very soon!
Matt made tea, which I managed to eat all of. In my first labour I didn’t eat for 2 days as I was constantly sick, so I wanted to eat as much as I could whilst I could to keep my energy up!
After tea we started to get the room ready and Matt blew the pool up. It was starting to feel more real now. We sat down and watched a few episodes of The Crown, with Matt having to pause every now and again if I needed to breathe through a surge. At around 10pm the surges started to get a bit stronger and I couldn’t concentrate on the dramas of the Royal Family, so I stuck on my Tens machine and my playlist and started to focus on my breathing. I had a small cloth doused in Clary Sage and every time a surge came I would take a huge inhale of this and whack on the Tens machine. I found both of these things massively helpful in. This is how I carried on for a few hours, zoning out to my playlist. My playlist, Tens and Clary Sage were my saviours!
At about 11pm Matt fell asleep on the sofa. I figured we may have a long night ahead of us so wanted him to get some sleep whilst he could. I carried on breathing through the surges and using the Tens machine.
At around 2am I woke Matt up as the surges were getting stronger and I wanted his support.
I felt that I still had a way to go, but I wanted to see a Midwife and get some gas and air as I knew I would need it soon! Matt called triage and luckily Annabel the lovely midwife who I’d seen throughout my pregnancy was on call, and she lives just around the corner, so it didn’t take her long to get to us. Annabel arrived at around 3am, set up her camp in the kitchen and then examined me shortly afterwards and found that I was 2cm. I know this news shouldn’t have disheartened me, but it did. I thought I was much further along as the surges were much more intense than I had felt with Lily.
Annabel said that she could stay If I needed her to, but we agreed that she should go home and we would call her back when the surges were more regular. (At this point they were every 5-10 minutes.)
At around 9am Annabel called and said that she was on her way round to check on us to see that we were doing ok, which was a relief as I was desperate for some gas and air by this point! I asked if she could examine me and she found that I was now 4cm. Again, I know this news shouldn’t have, but it disheartened me again. With Lily I had laboured to 8cm on my own without any pain relief, however here I was at 4cm cm really struggling and asking for gas and air! Deep down I knew my dilation ‘score’ wasn’t an indicator of how long I had to go, but I couldn’t help but feel deflated. The surges were so intense that I felt like I could give birth any minute, yet my cervix wasn’t even half way dilated! I felt the pain very low down in my back and they felt much stronger and more painful than anything I had experienced with Lily.
At around 10am I decided to get in the pool for a bit of extra pain relief. It was amazing, I felt immediately more relaxed. However it slowed my surges right down.This was great for a while, but I really wanted to get things moving and didn’t want to slow my labour down. So after half an hour of light relief in the pool I got out to help the surges return, which they did!
Annabel suggested walking up and down the stairs to try and get things opening and help baby get into a good position. So I spent a good 2 hours side stepping up and down the stairs, poor Matt had to follow me around with the gas canister so that I could quickly get on the gas and air as soon as I felt a surge building.
Annabel suggested emptying my bladder to see if that would help baby move into a better position, so I did this a few times to try and help move things along.
After a few hours of walking, swaying and trying all the positions under the sun I was exhausted. I’d been awake for over 24 hours by this point and was running low on energy.
I’d started to make the textbook ‘mooing’ sounds though, so I knew that my baby was on its way. Annabel and Hayley (My other amazing midwife who had snuck in at some point!) suggested that I try to get back into the pool to see if that would help. So I got in, in between surges, however it slowed them right down again so I got straight out. I definitely could have done with the rest but I was determined to get my baby out. I think more than anything I just wanted to get the pain over and done with!
I felt like I wanted Annabel to examine me to see if she could see a head, because I felt that the baby was here, I was sure he was going to be born at any minute. I found it impossible to lie down on my back even for a few minutes, the pain was just too unbearable. So we tried another position and she found that I was about 8cm, and apparently my cervix was slightly inflamed which could have been preventing baby from getting out. So still no sign of baby but I really felt like I needed to bear down.
At one point I had a wobble, asking if I could go to hospital, I just couldn’t see how this baby was going to come out. Annabel and Hayley were great, they encouraged me to walk up and down the stairs again to get things moving again, which it did. It immediately brought on another really strong surge, which made me roar! Annabel and Hayley came into the hallway and asked if I could make it back into the living room, I was gripping onto the bannister demanding that I would just give birth here on the stairs, I didn’t want to move. They suggested I walk back down as it really sounded like baby was close from the noises I was making so I hobbled back into the living room in time for the next surge. We tried various positions, leaning over the sofa and standing up hanging around Matts neck.
We weren’t sure if my waters had gone at this point, but then I had a few trickles which I think helped move baby down into a better position. I wanted to try and get into the same position which I birthed Lily as I thought that this might help. So Matt sat on the sofa with me between his legs, holding me and holding my hands, then I had one foot on Hayley and one foot on Annabel to push against them, and this is how he was born. With a lot of pushing and a lot of roaring! Not at all like the calm water birth that I had imagined. He had his cord wrapped around his neck twice, which Annabel quickly sorted out. This could again be another reason why I had to try so hard to get him out!
I discovered that we had a little boy and we just lay there in shock and tears. There’s no other feeling like it. He arrived at 2.30pm on a Sunday afternoon on the last day of the full moon, and was born about 3 floorboards away from where Lily was. So although it was intense and tough, it was just perfect.
We had skin to skin and just stared at him for what seemed like hours. I don’t remember the placenta being born at all, I had the injection and I think Annabel just pulled it out of me. I remember getting checked to see if I needed stitches, this bit was really painful and I needed a lot of gas and air to get me through this examination. I just kept reminding myself that it was all nearly all over and that my healthy baby was here and that I’d soon be upstairs in bed. I had a few grazes which didn’t need stitches so Ernie was handed back to me for cuddles.
Annabel and Hayley were amazing, they helped Matt to clear up and made us both a brew.
Annabel and Hayley both said that they believed that Ernie was back to back because of the pain that I was in, and throughout the whole labour I felt the pain low down in my back. When they said this it immediately explained a lot, I know all births are different, but the pain and intensity was in a completely different ball game to my first birth. (Back to back labour is known to be more painful than a ‘normal positioned’ baby.)
Ernie’s birth was intense and powerful and overwhelming at times. I had to really call upon my hypnobirthing techniques to help me to stay calm and in control. There were a few moments when I felt scared and like I wasn’t in control, so I had to bring myself back down to a place of calm, I was so conscious of not letting my adrenaline kick in at any point.
I relied heavily on my breathing and for some reason just chanting the word ‘Calm’ over and over to myself. I don’t know where this came from, but I really needed this being said over and over, and shouted at Matt a few times to gently chant it to me!
Being completely honest, after my birth, I felt like I had failed. I had built this idea in my head that my second birth would be serene and calm and that my baby would just float out of the water! It couldn’t have been further from this and I feel sad for myself that I let these feelings of disappointment creep in. A few weeks down the line and I’m feeling much more positive about it all and realise that we had an amazing birth. Although it was painful and intense, I was present, powerful and had my baby in the place I felt safest, home.
Having chatted to a few friends since, I think that this is a feeling that many women have after birth, unfortunately so many of us feel like we have failed or feel disappointed that our births didn’t go the way we expected. Now that I have a bit more headspace and there aren’t as many hormones flying around my body, I have the clarity to understand that there’s no such thing as ‘failing at birth,’ deep down I knew this all along, but I struggled to remember this in those first few weeks of feeling fragile and hormonal. It has also taught me the importance of going with the flow and being flexible. This is something that I teach on my course, but I don’t think I realised how important it is. Having high expectations can lead to disappointment, and I think this is what led to me feeling a bit deflated after Ernie’s birth. With my first birth, I had absolutely no expectations, I just wanted to get through it and hopefully have a positive experience, however with my second birth I had hoped it would be a calm serene water birth, so when these expectations didn’t come to life I felt deflated.
So I suppose my main takeaway from this experience is not to put too much pressure on yourself and be kind to yourself after birth. You have just done the most astoundingly amazing thing of giving birth, however it may have happened, you are a complete warrior, and absolutely not a failure!