I had hoped for a home waterbirth when I was expecting my first daughter, Jessica, in 2011 but when she was diagnosed antenatally with a complex heart condition, our plans changed and I chose to birth her in hospital as she needed heart surgery very soon after birth. Although Jessica’s birth (with the help of forceps) was much more medicalised than I would have originally hoped for, it was still a very positive experience and I am hugely grateful to all the team at Southampton – without the wonderful care Jessica received there, she would not be here today.
After two heart scans showed all was well with baby’s heart second time around, I knew I wanted to try again for a home waterbirth. Two of my lovely midwife friends, Carole and Tracy (Phoenix Independent Midwives) agreed to be my midwives (having previously supported me through my pregnancy with Jessica). I hired a heated birth pool from Birth Pools Online which was set up ready in our dining room. We had a little hiccup when we first filled it due to a faulty part which meant we almost flooded our dining room but thankfully a replacement part was sent out quickly and the pool was set up successfully the second time.
I had gone into labour at 38 weeks with Jessica but this baby seemed to be much more comfy inside the big mamma house and waited for a few days after the due date before deciding it was time to be evicted. My labour started on the night the clocks went back – the first contraction starting just a few minutes after the clock changed. It was an hour or so before I came to the conclusion that this time it was the real thing and not another bout of Braxton Hicks contractions (as I’d been having over the previous few weeks). I woke Michael to help me put on the TENS machine but after a few more contractions, I felt it was time to phone Carole and Tracy.
Michael also phoned my mum and my twin sister so that they could head over to be with us and to look after Jessica who was fast asleep in her cot. By the time Tracy arrived, I was in the pool downstairs. The water was so warm and soothing and whilst the contractions felt intense, I could focus and breathe through them. Michael had put my relaxing birth music on and was kneeling by the side of the pool, holding my hands during the contractions and giving me hugs in between.
My mum and twin sister arrived a little while later and Jessica woke up shortly after their arrival so Mum went upstairs to see to her and then brought her downstairs a little while later. She wasn’t at all bothered by Mummy being in labour – she came over to me saying “Mummy” and gave me a big kiss. Then she went into the lounge with Nanny where she could play with her toys. Every so often Jessica would come to the gate between the lounge and dining room and look at me and say “Mummy!” and then go back and play. She wasn’t fazed by it at all.
As the contractions got stronger and more frequent, I felt myself retreating further inward, really needing to concentrate on getting through them. Michael continued to be there for me to cuddle and hold his hands as I needed and my twin occasionally offered a few words of reassurance but mostly was just there being quietly supportive which was exactly what I needed her to be doing.
As it started to get light outside, I was beginning to feel scared and overwhelmed, feeling like I couldn’t do it. Carole had now arrived and she and Tracy reassured me that I was doing well. The contractions were starting to space out a little though and Carole suggested that perhaps it might be a good idea if my mum took Jessica (who was still playing in the lounge) upstairs for a bit. I hoped that this was a good sign that everyone thought baby’s arrival might be imminent! Jessica came over to give me and Michael a big kiss before Nanny took her upstairs.
I was beginning to feel much more ‘pushy’ now and the sensation was overwhelming me, frightening me. I didn’t want to do this anymore. I was scared of tearing, scared of something going wrong. I wanted it all to stop and go away for a bit, to give me a breather but I knew that if it stopped, I would never want it to start again!
The pushing stage felt so long. I had thought second time around the pushing stage would be quick but this seemed so slow – taking three steps forward and two back every time. And then –
“Little pushes now.”
Nearly there. I felt a little pop and knew baby’s head was out. One more contraction, another big push, and relief as I felt my baby’s body emerge from me into the water. Somebody was telling me to lift my baby out of the water and then suddenly there were two beautiful dark eyes blinking up at me. Joy flooded over me as I looked at this precious little bundle in my arms. I looked down.
“It’s a girl!” I said jubilantly. Michael was crying and I was dimly aware of my sister, Tracy and Carole saying “congratulations” and “well done” but I was mostly focused on my beautiful new daughter, my little Sophie.
She wasn’t crying yet though. I blew in her face and rubbed her little arms to encourage her to take that big first breath. And then she screwed up her little face and gave a big cry, much to my relief. I couldn’t move her very much, it was all I could do just to keep her little face above the water as her cord felt quite short.
Mum brought Jessica downstairs. “Baby!” Jessica exclaimed when she saw Sophie. She was fascinated as she stood on the step next to the pool with Michael holding her, looking down at her new sister and giving me a big kiss.
After a few minutes, I asked Carole if we could cut the cord as it had stopped pulsating and I felt so restricted by it being short. Carole clamped it and then Michael cut it. I cuddled Sophie for a while longer hoping that the placenta would come out naturally. After an hour though, it still hadn’t emerged and I was finding the sensation of having it still inside quite uncomfortable so opted for the injection to help deliver it.
[If you’re squeamish, skip to the next paragraph because I have to confess to trying a placenta smoothie – mostly out of curiosity. It tasted mostly of the chocolate and the strawberries which had been added to it.]
After a nice warm bath it was lovely to be able to get into my own bed and snuggle with my new baby. I did enjoy my ‘babymoon’, pretty much staying in bed for a week (on my midwives’ advice) whilst Michael looked after us all. It was wonderful to feel cocooned in my home for that first week – we didn’t leave the house until we took Sophie to church for the first time when she was a week old.
And now that tiny (or not so tiny – at 8lb 10oz Sophie weighed 3lb more than her sister had at birth!) baby is turning one. How fast that year has flown. Happy 1st birthday beautiful Sophie – Mummy and Daddy love you millions.