Melanie’s first birth story

Cleo, my first baby, was born on 23rd February 2010. I really wanted to have a natural birth and used GentleBirth during my pregnancy from about 26 weeks, doing home study and attending the workshop. My main concerns were that I wanted to avoid an assisted delivery and what I saw as unnecessary perineal trauma that often accompanies epidural births. Also, the only person I had ever heard describe birth as a wonderful experience had had a home birth, obviously with no epidural. I’m also big into experiencing – travel, food etc. I felt that birth was something that I wanted to fully experience. My mother had described my birth as great – “like being at the hairdressers”. I didn’t want to feel like I was in the hairdressers, I wanted to experience birth in all it’s primal glory, if I could. I devoured Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and felt that, after all, I was born to birth, so I could do it. I had a great pregnancy and felt so well and energised as I approached my due date and then went over it.


I went into labour at my EDD + 6 days. The surges started at 7am and were only 7 mins apart. After an hour, they were 3-5 mins apart but I knew that there was no point going to hospital yet because they were not that intense. From the first surge, I knew this was it, so told Peter there was no point in going to work. We hung out at home for the day and just chatted – but from an hour or so into my labour the surges were uncomfortable enough that I had to breathe through them. The hard bit was only one breath long, in and out and I would say to myself, this will pass quickly. I spent many surges bending over the table or the mantelpiece, reciting that affirmation. That was fine for the first 10 hours or so (the time really does pass so quickly!) and I started to get impatient that things weren’t going anywhere so went for a walk. On the way back, I had a more powerful surge and looked down and there was water coming out, then the same happened on the next one so I assumed the waters had gone. It was about 7pm at this stage so we had dinner and went into the hospital. As I was very calm and relaxed, I was left in the waiting room for about 45 mins, during which time I was able to sit quietly and listen to GB on the headphones. I was totally relaxed between surges and just closed my eyes and breathed when I had a surge.


So now came the first difficult bit. I was examined and was only 2cm (felt like punching someone after 14 hours or so of labour!)and it seemed the waters hadn’t gone at all – I had peed myself (I now think her head engaged at this point and it was her head coming down on my bladder!). But the midwife was insisting I stayed there and go onto a prelabor ward to be monitored. As I only live 10 mins drive from the hospital, I wanted to go home and continue labouring at home rather than stay in hospital without Peter and have to labour on the wards. She said no, we said yes, eventually she got a doctor down who scanned me and told us there was no problem if we wanted to go. She said she worked in England where people were a bit more vocal about their wishes so it seemed pretty normal to her for me to want to be at home. I was so proud of Peter as there was no way he was going to budge and be convinced to stay there, we were going home, and that was that.


All that lying around getting the trace on the heartbeat and being scanned threw out my focus though and when we got home I could feel things were harder to cope with. After about an hour, the surges were 4 long breaths out and in at the peak and very little break between them. They were radiating from front to back and it felt like my pelvis was going to explode.  I got a bit panicky and I started to feel like I really needed the epidural and I wasn’t coping. So back to the hospital, this time I wasn’t very calm and couldn’t sit in the waiting room, could only lean over the reception desk, but was examined very quickly and was 6cm. I got the gas and air at this point as I couldn’t lie down for them to do the trace on the baby without it. Then went straight to delivery and got the gas again. The gas was like being really drunk, you can still feel everything but you don’t give a sh*t! Plus it helps focus your breathing. Was great because it meant I could lie down and rest and just flake out between surges which was a godsend because I’d been on my feet most of the day.


It was a quiet night in the Rotunda and there were two midwives in my room plus a senior midwife popping in and out, as well as a medical student. When I was admitted, I asked about the epidural and the senior midwife looked at my birth preferences and said I was doing brilliant, that it was absolutely amazing to be admitted at 6cm on your first baby, and that I still had time for the epidural if I wanted it so to see how I got on.


The whole time I was in the delivery room, I listened to my GB on my ipod over and over (just as well, as there was a good bit of chat from the others. If I had my time again, I’d tell them all to STFU and stop polluting my birthing space with their shite talk).


All of a sudden, a bit more than an hour after we arrived, I could feel myself lifting up and turning over onto all fours like it wasn’t me doing it (poltergeist!) and the midwife looked and said, there go the waters, your baby will be here soon. I gave up the gas as I couldn’t use it on all fours and I just had to be on all fours to be comfortable. My body started pushing the baby out and it was like throwing up after waaaaay too much drink, really really forceful but it was throwing down instead of up! In between surges, I just flopped, listening to my GB and when a surge came, I just let my monkey do it and allowed my body to completely take over. Totally switched off the intellect. I could feel her head coming down and it just felt so hard, like a little cannonball. Eventually I just knew I had to get out of the bed and stand up and I did and then she was really coming. As she crowned, it stung like billy-o and saw my sex life flash before my eyes and felt fear….and just thought, this can be over now. So for the first time, I listened to the midwife telling me to push and I pushed…..and out she came!


Straight away the midwife said, oh look, it’s a velamentous cord insertion. And she said the cord wasn’t pulsating when we tried to stop her cutting it – and she cut it. So when my baby was passed to me, she was passed from the side, sort of enter stage right rather than up through my legs, which made it a little strange. She was also mostly pink and had her eyes open and looked for all the world like she was taking it all in. She was the most beautiful little thing – I just exclaimed “Oh my God, she’s gorgeous”. But I have to say I didn’t feel a rush of love – amazed, awe, relief, pride, strength, empowered……. The love came after I sat down on the bed and had a good rest! It was less than 3 hours after we arrived back at the hospital.


I was so wrecked as I lost “more blood than normal” – have discovered since the birth of baby no 2 that I seem to bleed quite a bit at the birth but have very little lochia afterwards. My bleeding both times was pretty much done after day 3. So I was given syntometrine to stop the bleeding and deliver the placenta. However, as the midwife was carrying out controlled cord traction, she snapped the cord (she shouldn’t have been pulling it at all due to the fact it wasn’t a “normal” cord), said “oh shit” and that’s where the fun started. The world and his wife came down to try to retrieve the placenta and when they couldn’t I had to be brought to theatre, given the epidural and had it removed manually. I was also stitched while I was there as pushing through the crowning meant I had a second degree tear (which was very minor, and healed brilliantly and very quickly and mostly painlessly).


The funny thing is that while all of that was going on, I was fine. I breastfed my daughter and then when I was separated from her for an hour and a half, I was on such a high, I laughed and chatted to the staff in theatre. I felt like superwoman!!!!


The memory of feeling my daughter enter to world, to feel her come down and out of me is so special. I am so glad that I got to birth her actively, my way, as really all the midwife did was catch her. Plus having had the epidural and being stuck to the bed with my ass frozen for 6 hours, I’m really glad that wasn’t part of my birth experience.


Although it didn’t end well, I still look back on the whole thing as amazing – because up until the placenta fiasco it was the perfect birth. And I think the affirmation “I accept whatever path my birthing takes” was responsible for me being so relaxed when it all happened – when I look back, I just can’t believe how calm and happy I was while it was all going on. It was much worse for Peter who was left holding a newborn and wondering if I would come back….


Cleo was a very easy baby and fed well from the start. No sore nipples, no milk supply issues, just baby bliss. We took Early Transfer Home from hospital so I was home within 30 hours of giving birth. The ETH team were fab, but I can’t say they they were great with breastfeeding help because we really didn’t need any. It felt completely natural, I think due to confidence from the breastfeeding mp3.


I had a wonderful, empowering birth that for me was transformative. When we get in touch with our primitive selves, we are powerful and all conquering 🙂


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