We’d always wanted a natural home birth and felt excited throughout the pregnancy and beforehand. We had a tense final week of pregnancy though when a growth scan was recommended at 39 weeks which we decided to turn down. We had already declined many tests over the previous 9 months including the 20-week scan, so this really tested our approach and my instincts. I had to put my emotions aside and remember the faith I had in my body, knowing deep down that everything was well and our baby was perfectly formed.
I woke up at 5am on 19th July 2016, 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant, feeling quite awake and with what I thought were more Braxton Hicks. I stayed in bed and let the thought pass through my mind that maybe something more would happen that day… these Braxton Hicks were about 8 minutes apart… but I didn’t think more of it.
By mid-morning I was busy making muffins, wrapping parcels and getting on with my plans for the day. The surges were anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes apart now but I just thought they would pass. At around 10:30am I went to the toilet and had the rest of my show. I told my partner Damian, who was working in our office outbuilding, ‘we might be having our baby quite soon…’ but, still not convinced anything was going to happen today, I didn’t give anything else away.
In the next couple of hours I began to feel more downward pressure consistently 5 minutes apart. The surges were powerful and wave-like, and I really stopped to notice them now. This is when I knew we would greet out baby very soon, although I was still open to the fact it could be today, tomorrow, or even longer.
I remembered hearing people say they tried to rest during early labour so I decided to lay down on the sofa to practice my breathing with our Hypnobirthing music playing. The pressure on my lower back was heavy and I couldn’t get comfortable. My body told me to stand, so I did. It felt like the only way my breath could really release the surge down and outward. I continued to stand, walk and lean forward in the living room, doing whatever my body told me to do. I used the relaxation breathing we’d practiced, imagining each breath entering my mouth, meeting the surge and flowing down and out with it. It all felt natural and calm.
I moved from standing, to leaning on the sofa or over the birth ball, and suddenly at about 2pm I felt a need for Damian to be with me and wanted the security of home (I wasn’t going to be walking to the post office that day!). So whilst Damian quickly went to send our parcels I sang to our baby, read positive birth affirmations out loud, scattered pages from my birth affirmations colouring book at my feet and breathed.
Damian returned and quickly settled into mode – shutting the blinds and turning off lights and phones. I took off my clothes now, as at 34°C on the hottest day of the year I was feeling the heat.
Damian began timing surges over the next 40 minutes. They were continuously longer and closer together at 2 to 3 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute or longer. I simply let me breath move each surge out and at 3pm Damian called the hospital so they could notify the community midwives.
We waited for the midwives to call back and I decided I should go to the toilet. I knew if I went upstairs I’d want to stay there and be closer to our bedroom, where we ideally wanted to welcome our baby into the world. I could feel the weight of our baby more than ever now and the surges were still consistent, each like a wave slowly and gently moving downwards. We quickly headed upstairs and Damian continued to prepare the birthing space with shower curtains, sheets, towels and blankets on the floor while I leant over the birth ball and felt myself going deeper into my body – eyes closed, breathing and rocking during each surge. I consciously relaxed each muscle and noticed the power within my body intensifying.
At 3:30pm the midwives called and I was happy to hear the voice of a midwife we’d seen throughout pregnancy. After hearing me breathe and hum through a surge she said they’d be on their way.
For the next 15 minutes I stayed focused but let everything else blur out – I said birth affirmations and reminded myself of our natural plans. Things were intensifying and it was invigorating to feel the power of the surges – I enjoyed knowing that my body was doing everything right.
Our midwife arrived at 3:45pm with a colleague and I was barely aware of her quietly entering the room and saying she would check the baby’s heartbeat. She then asked if I was happy to be examined, I asked if it was necessary and she said that it wasn’t at the moment, so I said to wait. We has asked for minimal intervention and monitoring.
The midwives left the room to wait downstairs (and enjoy the muffins I’d made that morning!). For 30 minutes I stayed leant over the birth ball whilst Damian did light touch massage. We smiled and laughed between surges, so amazed and excited that this was finally happening.
At about 4:30pm our midwife suggested I go to the toilet, so I sat in the bathroom for a while feeling the surges intensifying in this position. Damian whispered birth affirmations to me and the midwives sat on the stairs talking quietly. All of a sudden there was an audible splash – my waters had released. It felt like a small release of pressure from my lower abdomen. I felt ready to move back into the bedroom and even more excited now that milestone had been met.
It was 5pm and our midwife asked to examine me. I agreed and lay on the bed, feeling very uncomfortable for the first time during labour. With so much pressure on my pelvis I couldn’t wait to be off my back. We had asked not to be told about ‘progress’ so she just said I was doing ‘very well’.
We stayed on the bed now, still using the birth ball to lean over. The midwives left the room again and I focused on each breath, thinking open and downward. I was quite vocal at this stage too, using low hums to meet the power of the surges, which were still increasing in intensity. I thought of my Mother now, and how she had given birth to my 3 siblings and I safely and naturally at home. I felt empowered and excited to meet our little one.
At around 6pm I felt my body take over and my pelvis move to the right as our baby turned and moved around inside me, continuing the journey. All of a sudden something felt different, heavy and low – it almost shocked me and I called out ‘it’s coming!’. The midwives rushed in. With our midwife by my side and Damian still offering light touch massage and gentle words of encouragement we were suddenly much closer to meeting our baby, and the excitement was palatable.
My breathing grew deeper and I began to sing through surges. We spoke to our baby, encouraging him or her down safely and calmly. With each surge I felt myself opening and focused on the image of the opening flower. Sooner than I expected they could see the top of our baby’s head – and an indication of how much hair there was!
I used strong downward breathing and felt the gradual turns and lowering of our baby – it was amazing to acknowledge these amazing stages of the birth so calmly. At 7pm the midwife suggested we move to a different position but I had no idea what that should be. In the end I slowly manoeuvred off the ball to lean back onto Damian (who skilfully balanced on the edge of the bed).
Now with each surge I could really feel my breath moving our baby down and out. I breathed downwards between surges and our baby’s head slowly emerged. We both looked to see the full head of hair and laughed touching our sweet baby’s head.
As a stinging feeling crept in I knew we were about to meet our baby and 2 surges later I bore down with all my body and our baby suddenly appeared on my chest. Our sweet creation was quiet, eyes wide open looking up at us as we stared back, smiling and whispering a welcome. We had planned to birth the placenta before cutting the umbilical cord but the midwives were concerned about the baby’s colour so needed to cut it earlier. As they picked up the baby for a quick towel rub we saw it was definitely a boy! Seconds later a small yelp was heard and our son was back on my chest. He grabbed Damian’s finger before starting to root for a nipple.
The midwives went downstairs and left us for 20 minutes or so. We simply stared at our boy, speaking gently and touching his perfect fresh body. He looked right back at us taking everything in. He quickly found my breast and latched on. And there we were, happy and full of love.
I had a minor internal graze that the midwives suggested 2 stitches would help heal quickly. Damian had skin to skin and showed our boy the house whilst I chatted to the midwives who did the stitches, ran me a bath and began tidying up.
The 3 of us quickly got back into bed and our little one began feeding easily. After the midwives left we went downstairs for a large nutritious meal, including placenta smoothie, and stayed there until 2am revelling in the day. I didn’t sleep a wink that night but just starred at our son asleep on my belly.
Caleb Orion is a calm, happy, inquisitive baby and has settled into our lives perfectly. Every day we’re enjoying everything he brings to our family.
If you want to feel inspired about birth, whether you're planning to be at home, in a midwife led unit, in hospital, or in the operating theatre, you might like to read The Positive Birth Book, from the founder of the Positive Birth Movement, Milli Hill.