By Rosie Gibbs
Sid’s birth began with a ‘show’ on a Saturday evening. I couldn’t decide whether or not to tell Oli but I couldn’t get the smile off my face. We had a brief moment of “Oh my god the baby is coming!”, and then remembered that actually it could still be another week or more. It didn’t feel like this was ‘it’, but it was great to have a little warning. The next few days I was able to get the last few things I needed for Sid and I started the emotional preparation I needed to get me through the labour and the first days of motherhood. I did more yoga, more affirmations, my guided relaxations and had some lovely long baths. I felt very serene and very ready for the adventure ahead. On the Tuesday I was meant to go to yoga that night but I didn’t feel ‘right’ so I stayed at home. I had a brief bout of vomiting and diarrhoea – I knew my body was getting ready. Unfortunately our wonderful midwife Joanne had to return home to Canada but we had just met our back up Ganka and I really felt like she was the person that was meant to be at Sid’s birth.
At 4am on Wednesday, 8 days before our due date, my waters broke spontaneously. I think I felt a strong movement from Sid and then a gush of water. I leapt out of bed and into the bathroom. I called out to Oli, abandoning our plan for me to let him sleep if the labour began in the early hours. We were instantly wide awake. I changed into the clothes I have chosen to birth in and got back into bed. The liquor was initially clear but I noticed it became pinky, red. We didn’t want to wake Ganka but weren’t sure if this was OK so we ended up calling her at 4.20am. She reassured us this was normal and told us to get some rest. At 5.00am she called back and said she couldn’t go back to sleep so she would come and see us. I was so pleased, I wasn’t worried about the bleeding anymore but her arrival made things real and a midwife visit felt more productive than going back to bed.
Ganka affirmed everything was fine and we discussed how things might proceed. I knew that it could be a day or two before my contractions stared and I was concerned about getting an infection or having to go to hospital if things didn’t progress. Ganka recommended going for a walk during the day, eating well and getting lots of rest. She thought it was most likely things would get started that night. Sid was in a good position and his head was 3/5 engaged. Molly, our back up midwife would come and visit at 3pm.
We had a quiet morning. I massaged a labour aromatherapy blend around my lower back and tummy hoping to encourage contractions. I had a few dull pains but the morning was relaxed and uneventful. I didn’t realise my contractions had actually begun but by about 11.30am it eventually dawned on me what was happening. It turned out those little niggles were contractions and they were becoming stronger and more regular. Despite my insistence that established labour would be hours away Oli began to time them. We sat together on the floor in the lounge. It was a crisp, clear winter’s day and we put on some of our favourite music (M.Ward I remember). The warm sun poured in through the doors onto my face and I started using some yoga positions and the Swiss ball to get through each contraction. I could hear birds, cars and children playing. It was a surreal time, being in labour with the rest of the world carrying on outside. Oli informed me the contractions were 3 or 4 minutes apart and we decided to call Ganka. She thought it was unlikely labour would be established yet and that the contractions might come and go like this for a while. We felt like we were handling things so said we would just see Molly as arranged.
I moved to our bedroom and turned on National Radio. I can’t remember what they were talking about but it was soothing. Hypnobirthing refers to contractions as ‘surges’, focusing on the sensation rather than the pain. I found this really useful and although they were painful, they were also giving me strength and focus. Ganka told us to fill up the pool if I felt I needed it so I sent Oli to do that. We knew the hot water cylinder was not going to be enough so he began boiling water in every available pot (even the electric frying pan).
I surprised myself when I began to use the active movement positions we had learned at our antenatal class. I hadn’t imagined being on dry land for this part and hadn’t considered putting them into practice. I began to move during each contraction, stamping, standing in the door frame on my tip toes then dropping into a deep squat, and then resting by kneeling against the bed. It amazed me that this needed no rehearsal or coaching. I loved that time on my own, the privacy and freedom I had was exactly why I had wanted to be at home. Oli would check in every so often and I know he felt helpless and frustrated he couldn’t be with me. By the time he finished filling up the pool I wanted to get in immediately. Oli called Molly and she said I could get in the pool if I wanted but we ran the risk of it being too early and stopping labour progressing. She organised for Ganka to come straight away. Oli also called Shae our student midwife to come as soon as possible as he needed help keeping the pool warm.
At about 2.30pm I got into the pool. Hooray! I didn’t experience instant relief like some women feel but I was so happy. It was where I wanted to have the baby so I felt relieved to be in there. It also gave my body a much needed rest and a bit of a mental ‘pause’ as my contractions gathered momentum. The inflatable pool was set up in the spare bedroom at the end of the house. I had spent a lot of time in there in the days leading up to the birth, and it felt reassuring to be in a familiar space. Shae was first to arrive and I instantly felt a bit defensive, like she was an intruder. She leant down and touched my arm as another contraction started and I snapped at her not to touch me. On any other day I would have felt terrible for that outburst but not in that moment. Shae was calm and patient, and set about supporting Oli and sorting out the water. It only took a few minutes for me to adjust to another presence but I’m glad I stuck to my instinct that I wanted the minimal number of people possible at the birth.
Not long after Ganka arrived and I was so pleased to see her. Just seeing her made me feel safe and re-energised. Now things really sped up. Oli didn’t leave my side; I don’t think my grip would have let him even if he wanted to. I hang over the side of the pool, tummy down. Oli gave me water to sip and covered my face and back with cold flannels. I was very short and sharp in my instructions and he never flinched. He was such a calming influence and at that point of the labour I really needed him. I was genuinely surprised at how painful it was. I had felt so positive and confident about the birth I honestly hadn’t considered it would hurt. The contractions were very close together. I swayed my hips in the water in the spiral motion visualised in Hypnobirthing. There was quiet music playing and the afternoon sun had kept the room bright and warm. I had prepared myself for the long labour so many people told me I would have with my first baby. During the day I had been steeling myself for many more hours of contractions and as I started to transition I wondered how if I could maintain this intensity. I had no idea how far progressed things were. The mood changed as the curtains were pulled and I suddenly realised this was the transition to the second stage – the contractions were one after another, I felt nauseas and overwhelmed.
The contractions had a lull following the transition and I felt alert and calm again. The room was very peaceful and had a great vibe to it which helped a lot. Ganka and Shae had worked quietly in the background and didn’t coach or intervene. Molly arrived. I began to push involuntarily. The pain was much less and the pushing felt like I was getting somewhere. I kept repeating to myself “every contraction brings me closer to meeting my baby”. I felt in control of my mind again, although it was amazing to have to completely give in to and trust my body to do the work.
Molly and Ganka encouraged me to move to a new position. I had been in the same position the whole time and felt very comfortable there and I was in a good rhythm. Perhaps a bit too comfortable though as nothing was really happening. Eventually Molly coaxed me to move to my side. As soon as I moved I had a really strong contraction. I lay on my back, Oli holding me under the arms, allowing me to sort of float. I had been pushing for 40 minutes when Ganka saw Sid’s head. It was so encouraging and I felt exhilarated. The air was electric; I could feel everyone willing him to arrive.
Ganka began to monitor Sid’s heart rate closely as his head was slow to crown. I could tell she was getting restless and for the first time she spoke to me in a way that gently directed what I should do – “We need to see the baby now Rosie, push”. Sid’s head crowned but he didn’t come any further. After a couple a contractions Ganka again instructed me to push and I didn’t wait or rely on the strength of the contraction, I pushed as hard as I could, desperate all of a sudden to get Sid out. Sid’s shoulders failed to rotate but with the last push he arrived safely into Ganka’s hands. She lifted him slowly to the surface and put him on my tummy. I didn’t care, or even know about any pain or discomfort. It was 4.33 pm. Time stood still as Oli and I gazed at our beautiful new baby boy. He took a short breath and made some little noises. He didn’t cry. He licked and nuzzled my skin. Oli spoke to him as he looked slowly up from my chest – “You know us, you know our voices”. We covered him in a soft towel and lots of hot water was added to the pool.
I gave Sid to Oli who sat with him against his chest, skin to skin. I love that memory of them. I got up onto my knees and delivered the placenta. I was helped onto the bed and reunited with Sid. The afternoon sun trickled in through the gaps in the curtains and it was a peaceful, golden time of absolute contentment. I didn’t feel tired or sore, I hardly registered Ganka doing my sutures. It was like a dream, completely euphoric. Sid latched himself on for his first breastfeed just before and about an hour after he was born, Oli cut Sid’s umbilical cord and we moved to our bedroom. Getting into my pyjamas and into my bed was the best feeling. I actually giggled with delight. Oli and I sat in bed, with Sid on my chest, skin to skin as he dozed and fed for the next couple of hours.
In the evening Molly went home and Ganka and Shae joined us to do Sid’s checks and weigh him – a healthy 4.1kg/ 9.1lb. Nobody knew I had gone into labour and it was a precious time – just me and Oli and our secret baby. When we were ready we started excitedly making phone calls and texts, giving our family and friends a big surprise when we told them Sid had arrived. At 8.00pm it was time for Ganka and Shae to go home. I could tell they had been on a high too and now we all sunk into the glow and fatigue of the day. Oli and I eventually dressed Sid and we all drifted off into a deep sleep.
It was incredible to wake up the next day to find our son sleeping next to us. Sid’s birth was everything I hoped for – natural, at home, and most of all, gentle and kind to our baby boy. I couldn’t imagine a better start for our new family.