Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Unassisted birth in water

You may have read earlier that I did not get much antenatal support from the midwifery team in my community.  The Trust's consultant/obstetrician did not interfere with my plans but did not provide much support either.  He did suggest I come into hospital and discharge myself in 6 hours but did not obstruct my home birthing plans either.

I woke up on Sat at 2.30 am with a very strong contraction and thought I'll lie here as long as possible as this has happened twice before, two weeks apart.  Being 10 days past my due date, it somehow didn't occur to me that actually this was real.  The second contraction 15 minutes later kicked my butt out of bed and to the toilet for a poo.  Yes,  'this is it', I thought as I listened to my 3.5 year old laughing in her sleep and wishing her to stay asleep. I had a 3 contraction on the toilet and another at 3.05 which brought me to my knees on the floor and woke my husband who I was hoping would stay asleep for longer.  As someone who treats 7 am wakings as a divine right, he was out of bed and in his shorts in a flash. He must have carried me downstairs as I am sure I did not get downstairs on my own.  I went to the downstairs loo and had several powerful contractions while he went to inflate the birth pool.  I still somehow had the presence of mind to think 'Fool, the baby won't be here for ages yet.'  It didn't occur to me yet that with contractions now 3 minutes or less apart, that birth was pretty close. I was kneeling on the bathroom floor, bellowing through powerful contractions as my pain relief. Of course, I had no ability to measure them anymore and he said that they were 3 minutes apart.  I do remember him asking to phone the midwife once but he says that he asked twice and I declined the first time.  I chose to phone Fay first and felt pretty desperate when I asked that she 'please come soon'.  I then phoned the midwives after pausing for another contraction and felt dread when they said they'd be with me in an hour.

By now I can't stand so I crawl to the living room.  It is approximately 3:25 am, just under an hour since the first contraction.  As I crawled I felt that this was a 'horse' race to birth my baby before the midwives arrived.  I  slowly made my way over to the corner of the room and kneeled over the birthing ball, being incredibly loud and humming loudly for pain relief.  The imagery I practiced in natal hypnotherapy just wasn't happening probably due to the rapid onset of active labour.  This was a storm of contractions and I could only shut my eyes and hold pain's hand and walk with it, making it my friend.  I walked into the distance with pain and each contraction subsided.

Between contractions my mind was completely lucid and rational.  I shouted instructions out to my husband who is a marvelous team player and did it all with military precision.  He set up the TENS machine but I believed it was of no use as my contractions were already too strong for it to have the desired effect.  I no longer thought him a fool for getting straight on with filling the pool which as I glanced over between contractions was 1/4 filled.  I wondered if it will be filled in time to birth in.  It was my dream from I was 12 years old when I first saw a video clip of a water birth.  I also had hydrotherapy for pelvic girdle pain I had developed and loved the relief it had provided to the discomfort.   I figured that I may end up delivering on land now.  I asked for the TENS to be turned up but I felt no relief.  I just kept flowing with storm of contractions, accepting that this was the only way.  Finally I thought, 'I can't do this anymore.'

I completely relaxed over the birthing ball and I descended into a deep sleep as quickly as if I was anesthetized.

I woke up, maybe ten minutes later and I felt my baby take a big flip or rather turn and begin her descent.  It was all so smooth and painless. And there was no more pain.

I shouted, 'You have to get me in the pool now!'  My husband comes over from where ever he was and asked me if I could use the TENS in the pool.  I could not believe a civil engineer said that.  I growled like something from The Omen, 'It is electricity...'.

He hoisted me from under my arms and dumped into the pool, clothes and all. I struggle out of my clothes as at this point our three year old wanders downstairs asking 'what's this?' and 'why are you in there?'  I tell her baby sister is coming now and brace for the next contraction but which again was painless and got the intense urge to push for but a half a second.

 My husband phoned my daughter's godmother who had promised to babysit.  Unfortunately it was her husband's annual work's party and he had come in half an hour before, drunk.  And she doesn't drive.  Oh well, our daughter settles on my husband's lap beside the pool and they watch me.

I decided not to push with the contractions as I knew babies will come with or without pushing due to the maternal-fetal ejection reflex.  I could feel the amniotic sac bulge, and I was thinking that it had not gone yet and then it broke soon after. I leant, kneeling, over the side of the birthing pool, and I feel my daughter turn in the opposite direction with the next descent.

Now the phone rings for the second time.  The first time it was ignored because my husband was busy unsticking the TENS machine from his hands as he had forgotten to switch off first.  Then maneuvering   me into the pool and dealing with our three year old.

My husband decides not to answer it as my baby is starting to crown.   It turns out that the taxi with the midwives is lost somewhere in the area and they are asking over the speaker phone to turn some lights on.

 I feel her crowning but there was no ring of fire as I had heard and read about many times before.  I put my hand down and touch her head. I tell my husband that her head is coming so he looks in and cradles her little head telling me what he can see her eyes, her nose, her mouth. I am relieved to know that she is head first and settle in for the final contraction.  I had no more than 3 painless contractions in the pool in no more than 5 minutes as I remember.

The shoulders and her body came with the next contraction and I shout with excitement to my husband to pick her up and bring her up face first. He says he can't because she was under me so I squat on my haunches and see this tiny body, like an upside down frog with little arms and legs up towards me and I scooped her up. It is no later than 4.20 am and Fay arrived as I am about to pick her up.  I hold her close, looking at her suspended between between the womb and this world and whispered in my mind, 'Breathe, breathe.' and she takes her first breath.  Three minutes later the midwives arrive.

After much skin to skin and her first feed in the pool twenty minutes after birth, she weighed at 8lb 6oz and I had an intact perineum.  When she was weighed at 5 days old she was at her birth weight, a very special milestone for me.

further reading about the fetal ejection reflex

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