In this guest blog Home Birth Mother Rachel Singleton shares her birth story.
For my first birth I had an emergency c/section due to a breech presentation. In order to secure a HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean) for this my second baby, I had to birth in the UK. I was due to sit my midwifery final exams in TCD in Dublin in early December 2013 and William was due at the end of December. I was studying away the week before the exams when my daughter became very ill and couldn’t go to crèche. I was petrified of having to give birth in a hospital if I went into labour before I got to England. The stress of the whole situation caused my body to give off signs that labour was imminent and we made the decision to travel to the UK early – just in case – especially since my little girl had arrived at 37 weeks. This was December 3rd 2013.
Days and weeks passed and nothing happened, my due date came and went, the birth pool which had sat in the living room was now hidden under the bed upstairs well out of sight. My husband had to return to Ireland for a meeting on the 3rd of January. After all this time waiting we didn’t think William was going to show up at all!!! I got up at 6am on the 3rd of Jan 2014 and dropped Mark to the airport and came home for a nap.
I awoke feeling slightly odd; seeing as Mark was in Ireland I thought I would check to see if my cervix had started to dilate, I was shocked and horrified to find that I was 4cm dilated, after a NAP!! Then the contractions started!!
The reality of birthing in a home that isn’t really your home is that you can find yourself alone. That’s exactly the reality I faced. I was alone – well I had my 22 month old daughter for company, but essentially I was alone.
I rang Mark and told him to come back to England ASAP. Alone with my daughter, I brought her downstairs for breakfast. NOW contractions had started coming regularly and hard. I had to lie on the floor each time one took over my body, my daughter would stand over me rubbing my head asking “K mommie?”
The next task was the pool. I had stored it out of sight under the bed up stairs, I went up and dragged it out – between contractions – pulled it down the stairs and set about trying to blow up the pool up. First the seat, then the two lower sections. Then, on my own and alone I had to fit the cover, Finally I blew up the last section of the pool.
Contractions had started about 11am and this was now about 1pm.
I did call my midwife and my mother in-law and both were trying to get to me.
Pool finally up and now the contractions were very powerful and all-consuming; my poor daughter was toddling around the room entertaining herself while I tried to fit the hose to the tap in the kitchen to fill the pool in the living room.
Finally fitted I dragged the hose from the kitchen into the living room. I went back to the kitchen and turned on the tap – back to the living room – too cold, back to the kitchen turn up the hot, back to the living room, too hot now – and so on until I had the temp right.
Mark called, there were no flights till 3pm or 8pm; we were in real danger of him missing the birth and of me being alone the whole time. My daughter is the only real witness to my labour. By now I was in the pool and in a world of my own as she watched on. Finally, my mother in-law arrived, she took Lottie and left me to it. Alone, but in my own lovely labour space, and in a way I was exactly where I wanted, and needed to be.
I was alone for most of the actual labour, which I quite liked, but this was a tough labour, with my daughter’s labour I had felt no pain with contractions, but this time around it was so intense I remember thinking I would like to have the forceps, or at least an epidural. Each contraction I worked through I had to talk myself into staying where I was. I just wanted a break from the contractions!! Being alone was though, and as I was finding the contractions hard work I would tense up with each one and breath heavily, trying to contain or control each powerful wave, and that was using a lot of energy. The powerful feeling inside me was so strong, it felt like my body was trying to take off and I was trying to hold myself onto the ground.
At 2pm I check myself again and I was fully dilated and still alone. Mark was in Dublin airport waiting for his now delayed flight. By 15:15 a midwife was with me and Mark was still in Dublin!
With the midwife by my side now she told me to try and relax with each contraction instead of tensing, so with the next one I let my body relax and go floppy; I just gave into the power of the contraction. This was birth scary and empowering. Relaxing didn’t make it less intense but it helped me give into labour and let go. I had to succumb to the power of what was going on in my body and give up trying to contain it.
Soon after 3pm I began pushing, pushing removed all the pain of the contractions but it was hard work and I was exhausted, I have never pushed so hard in my life and each time a contraction came I had to work hard to do it. If I pushed there was no pain, but I was also too tired to push, so I made a deal with myself, push with every second contraction, take the pain on the others, Mark STILL wasn’t with me.
Asking where he was and waiting for him, kept me in the here and now and prevented me entering that relaxed detached state where you let labour take over. I had to stay present and worry about where Mark was and when, or if, he would make it. I pushed for what seemed like hours and got, I felt, nowhere. The reality was that I had been pushing for almost two hours. At this point I was declining fetal heart monitoring as I couldn’t stand to be touched and I knew my baby was OK. It seems ridiculous now, but I was talking to him and we were working together to complete his birth. Having someone put a Doppler to my stomach every 5min was only disrupting this delicate process.
In the UK two midwives are always present for a birth and as it appeared that Mark would miss the birth, I asked that the second midwife to start photographing the birth, once she started she kept going until he was born and we have ended up with a lovely record of the birth.
When I really felt I could no longer push any more Mark finally arrived. It was now 5:15. I had been desperately missing him to pull on, his strength helped me push and I needed him to ground me and give me renewed strength.
Now I pushed in earnest. It felt like forever, then the midwife said the head had crowned but wasn’t fully extended, The head felt massive and I was scared to push it out completely but had no choice. Then I felt a massive “pop” and the head was out, I remember saying to the midwife “Oh no, I think I ripped”. Then the contractions stopped and I had a rest, my son had decided to come as a compound presentation with his hand right up by his face. This was part of the reason that pushing took so long and so much effort. After a while I heard the midwife say to Mark, “If the baby doesn’t come with the next contraction I’ll need her out of the pool”, I started to panic, thinking I was going to have a shoulder dystocia. The next contraction came and the midwife pulled William’s hand straight to assist him out. When he was finally born I physically couldn’t pull him up from under the water due to a combination of my exhaustion and his sheer size, we later found out he was a 4,1kg or 9.3 lb baby; a massive size for a first vaginal delivery with a compound presentation!