Miri’s birth story starts way before the actual birth. She was our fourth and last pregnancy (our first ended in an early miscarriage), and her two big brothers had led the way with 2 very different births.
Birth is the sudden opening of a window, through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect. For what has happened? A miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything
In February 2009 Cooper was induced at 40+12, and ended up being a forceps and ventouse delivery following an otherwise exciting and amazing labour until he turned posterior and didn’t come down the birth canal. Tait was born in October 2010 – he was breech from about 30 weeks onwards and didn’t budge an inch (matches the kind of determined wee man he is today!). I tried acupuncture, ECV and even managed to convince the obstetric team at the hospital that I wanted continuous care with the same obstetrician who did the ECV, which meant they were ok with booking in a c-section at 40+3. I had wanted to try for a breech vaginal delivery but it wasn’t to happen, and what with the earthquakes happening, and my limited knowledge of what options I had, he was born by c-section and I was happy that I’d tried everything I could have at the time. So that brings us to Miri’s birth. Even before she was conceived I’d started looking for a new midwife. The amazing midwife we’d had for Cooper and Tait’s birth was retiring at the end of 2012, and although I spoke at length with her she wouldn’t have supported a home birth so in a way things worked out really well as I wasn’t prepared to discount homebirth as an option until I’d looked into things more. I spoke with the Homebirth Midwives team prior to getting pregnant and explained my hopes and plans around a future birth and they were happy to support me even if we ended up choosing a hospital birth. They said I sounded like a homebirther! So when I fell pregnant Violet became our midwife, and we also had a first year midwifery student, Shelley, who joined us around week 36 of pregnancy. Miri’s pregnancy was great – I was busy running around after the boys, and aside from a few aches and pains and general pregnancy problems I was mostly comfortable. I spent a lot of the pregnancy looking into positive birth stories and nearer the end I put together birth affirmations and quotes (thanks to help from my lovely friends at my Blessingway) which I stuck up at home and found so very inspiring. Friends also made me a beautiful birthing necklace. Kane and I tentatively attended a Hypnobirthing course, which we ended up taking a lot from. Just hearing basic information around birth (information I believe should be included in antenatal classes and currently is not) helped to continue my journey of making birth a natural and normal life event. Learning more around hypnotherapy firstly debunked the myth of what it is and isn’t, and secondly gave me an insight into achieving a calm state of mind. The other evening I attended was with The Birthing Room, which again focused on birth as an everyday event. This gave some fantastic information around positive birth, positioning and strategies to support labour. They were practical, doable and made so much sense. It felt so good to immerse myself in how natural and normal birth is, and should be, for most women.
Focus on what you can do and then do it with all your heart
Miri was due on Thursday 9th May 2013 – this would have been my Granny’s 100th birthday. As I was overdue with the boys I was expecting the same for Miri and so Kane and I (and our midwife Violet) were more than happy for me to go overdue at least 2 weeks, maybe more. After many, many talks we had decided I would labour at home and then go into hospital to have baby as Kane was not comfortable with me having baby at home. This was a hard decision to make but it was more important to me that he was fully present at the birth. However we still prepared as if baby was going to be born at home – we attended homebirth classes for antenatal support, prepared a homebirth kit (including a birthmat to use in hospital, towels, music, food, wheat packs, a scarf to support my tummy in labour and many other little tricks we’d learnt along the way). In the week leading up to her birth I was very aware of changes happening in my body – she had dropped, and I was getting mild period pains and clear discharge. On the Tuesday I got some bloody discharge which was really encouraging, and by her due date I was sure she was going to be born over the coming days. I went to bed on the Thursday night around 9.45pm, ironically saying to Kane that there was little to no chance that baby would arrive on my Granny’s birthday as there was only 2 ¼hours left of it! I’d had a really good day. The boys had been at preschool, and I’d finished off most of those little jobs that I had wanted to get done before baby arrived (including popping the wheat packs into the birth kit as a last minute idea). I somehow knew I’d get to 40 weeks so I went to bed excited that my official 9 months was up, and wondering what would happen next.
You are exactly WHERE you should be. You are doing exactly WHAT you should be doing
My recollections of the next bit are hazy. Kane came to bed soon after and was then woken by one of the boys so he went to lie with them. I recall feeling some tightenings whilst lying on my left side so I vaguely woke up and turned over the n they seemed to subside….but I don’t think they really did! A short while later I woke still uncomfortable and then started to get really cold. Like shivering cold, despite wearing flannelette pjs. The tightenings were getting stronger and I needed a wee, but I was so cold I didn’t want to move – I think I lay there for a good 20-30 minutes before I MADE myself get out of bed to the toilet. The cold tiles exacerbated how cold I was feeling and I recall sitting on the loo shivering like crazy. Then I looked at the birth affirmations on the shower door in front of me and I think this was the first point that I realised I might well be in labour. I then realised that the shivering wasn’t necessarily me being cold but it was adrenaline, and I knew that I had to reduce the adrenaline so as to let my body do what it needed to do to give birth. This was an incredibly empowering moment for me in the birth, albeit it early on, and I was somehow (goodness knows how!) able to reduce my shivering and move on. I went to find Kane to tell him I thought I was in labour, by this point I think it was about 11.30pm/midnight. The contractions were coming quite quickly at this point and Kane started to time them. But they were also a bit irregular in the length of them. On average they were about 30 seconds long and 2 minutes apart. We called Violet at 00:49 (according to phone records!) – I was able to talk through most the contractions so she felt happy things were underway but going nowhere fast.
In my head I remembered that I had read lots that if you labour at night then you should sleep ……so that’s what I tried to do, and Kane timed the contractions. It was a strange hour and a half of time where I was getting 2-5 minute lots of sleep at a time and then a 30-45 second contraction. Kane was lying behind me and at every contraction I would hear him turn over and write on some paper the time and then the same at the end of the contraction. The thing was that I was ‘managing’ the start of the contraction by myself with little to no sound/indication to him that I was having one – so at the end of each contraction I found myself wanting to tell him that it had been 10-15 seconds longer than he realised, but that annoyed me as it took me away from my focus! After a while I just stopped telling him, and then sometime later he fell asleep ….it was great relief not to have to worry about hearing the pen on the paper!
There is no need for us to hurry
During this hour in bed I used breathing from the hypnobirthing classes we’d attended and from the Birth Skills book I’d read, and also wheat packs (one on my back, one under my tummy) which were LIFESAVERS! I’d only put them in the homebirth kit that day, and I’m so so so glad I did. I worked with my voice/noises and matched them to the intensity of the contractions as they increased. Mostly groaning and guttural sounds. I also tried to use visual techniques I’d learnt from a birthing class evening I’d done about helping to open the pelvis to encourage baby down the birth canal. The mixture of all of these things was great . Around 2am I felt the need to get out of bed. I think at this point I thought it would be an idea to let my Mum know I was in labour (as I said this was something I wanted to do), but I couldn’t for the life of me focus on texting so I gave up. Shortly after this there was a definite change in my contractions. I remember leaning over the low boy and looking at that visual representation of contractions at the different stages – and then I remember trying to get it out of my view but each time I tried to move my hand to touch it I had a contraction! In hindsight this must have been transition! I can clearly remember the sensation of moving to the pushing stage – it felt just like the movies, I just kept saying “I’m pushing, I’m pushing!” Then I was saying “I’m going to poo!!” – poor Kane was amazing at dealing with everything including 4 or so poos whilst I was standing up in the bedroom! He had also been heating towels on the heater, boiling water and generally just getting things ready. The homebirth kit we had put together was proving to be just what we needed! I recalled what Erin had said to me only a few days before that the two periods of relief in labour come when the waters break, and when the head emerges. At this point my waters still hadn’t broken and the pressure was incredibly intense. It was amazing!
The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because it is you!
We phoned Violet again at 02:21 – her notes say that I reported the contractions were much stronger with lots of pressure, and she was on her way! Soon after I moved into our ensuite bathroom to go to the toilet – I found it hard to sit on it for long and soon stood up and laboured holding (hanging off!) the towel rail. I swear it was moving/rattling with each contraction, yet when I more recently tried to rattle it there was no way that I could!! With the bathroom being tiled I wasn’t happy about standing up, so I moved to the floor onto our bathmat. Around this time I think I looked at Kane and said something like “we’re not going to hospital, you know that right?”! We’d barely had a chance to realise what we were going through together. I also told him that if the boys woke up that we had to be as honest as possible with them, without freaking them out (I remember thinking that Tait – aged 2yr 7m – would probably have just sat next to me asking me questions, but Cooper – aged 4yr 3m – would probably have been a bit more worried as to what was happening)! I then urged him to get the birthmat we had made, and my friends had written on, which he did, and in between a contraction he helped me onto it. It felt soooo good under my knees!
By now Kane was on the phone to Violet again (02:33), she was coming as fast as she could and told us to call back if we could see baby coming. The contractions were strong but definitely doing something, and I started wondering exactly where her head was. I wanted to have a feel and was astounded and amazed to feel her head (still in the bag) pretty much crowning –I got Kane to take a photo, it’s the only one of me in labour (I had wanted a friend to take photos) and it’s a very special photo. According to the pho to it was taken at 2.35am. Kane called Violet again at 02:42 and she stayed on speaker phone this time as (according to my notes) Kane could see a ‘bubble’ coming out! Kane tells me that at this point Miri’s head was still in the bag, and he could see her closed eyes through it and she was sort of scrunching them up! This was when I had my only slight panic in that the waters had still not broken. Ironically this thought happened seconds before the waters broke – and yes it was the relief that Erin had talked about, and what I needed. And the best bit was that the birthmat caught it all! Of course, the next bit happened pretty quickly. A few pushes later the rest of Miri’s head emerged (Kane was saying to Violet “her chin’s out!” – i.e. her head is out as far as her chin – and I can remember saying something like “it’s more than just her chin out!!!” based on what I had felt, and couldn’t understand how it was just her chin!), then the next push one shoulder, the next the other shoulder, and final push and she was born. We weren’t watching the time so we decided that her time of birth was 02.45am.
My body knows how to birth my baby
Violet’s notes talk of her hearing Miri crying lustily on the phone, then us telling her that we had a beautiful baby girl who was breathing well and very pink! Violet arrived 7 minutes later to find me kneeling on the birthmat with Miri in my arms, followed very quickly by her back up Juliet and my mother-in-law Lynne. It was great to have their support for delivering the placenta (it needed a little tug to help it!), and then after 8 minutes of pulsating Kane was able to do the one thing he had originally set out to do and cut Miri’s cord. It was tied with butchers string. Soon after I was back in bed having cuddles with Miri and encouraging her for her first feed.
Violet’s notes include “0345 Great latch, gulping colostrum”. I did end up with a 3rddegree tear and headed to hospital but that’s another story! Shortly after that we got hold of my mum (who had her best friend over for a cup of tea), and we were able to give them news that Miri had arrived which was a bit of a shock! And what was lovely was that she did actually arrive on my Granny’s 100thbirthday according to the UK date. To be honest I still don’t think I’ve fully appreciated what happened. Writing this has helped it sink in, and allowed me to re-visit what happened and talk it through with Kane to get bits of his story. He was so incredibly calm, and I know that that was thanks to his temperament but also to how we had viewed birth this time round. All the reading, preparation, mind-set and surrounding ourselves in the positiveness of birth (whilst keeping in mind the options of what we could do if medical intervention was needed) paid off. So just like that….around three and a half hours after going into labour we had our little girl on our bathroom floor with the boys fast asleep all of about 3m away and not another person in sight. Just the 5 of us doing something that is so very normal. And that’s what I still feel, that the whole thing was exactly what it should have been, a normal process of life. One that I’m so very glad I didn’t miss the opportunity of experiencing.
We’ve all been waiting for you.
Your arrival has been marked, has been recorded
in the universe,
in the galaxies,
in all of space,
in all of time.
You come with a birthright, written in love and sung
through all Creation in words which promise
that no matter where you’re at,
that no matter who you’re with,
that no matter who you are,
~ Rita Ramsey