Emma booked on my 3 hour essentials hypnobirthing and antenatal course, after her previous pregnancy (with a suspected big baby) and birth during COVID ended in lithotomy position, attempted ventouse and then forceps and a postpartum haemorrhage. This time round, in her own words, she wanted to “learn Hypnobirthing techniques which I was not equipped with last time, but also to get support with advocacy and planning my birth to try and achieve what I want, as this time I'm keen to advocate for myself and push for my choices, rather than just accept what the system tells me I should have.”. She shares her story below.
The birth of Blake
So I suppose firstly, to give a little bit of context as to why I reached out to you to for hypnobirthing sessions and support - as you know my first birth with my first little boy wasn't the all natural physiological birth that I'd originally hoped for. In hindsight I wasn't as prepared for his birth as I could have been, and really needed to be. I'd done some research and a basic online antenatal course (in person ones weren't running due to covid) but I hadn't ever gone too far in to the details, as I was always under the impression that firstly - my body was designed to give birth so I shouldn't need to look in to it too much, and secondly - that the health care system would always be completely on my side and always acting in my best interests. And whilst I was kind of right about my body being designed to give birth, I now know that a lot of the research and knowledge that's needed in order to achieve a truly physiological birth (if that's what we want) is actually about how to approach this within the modern day healthcare system, and what we can do to best aid our chances of having a physiological birth.
My birth with our first little boy was around 12 hours in total, and happened during the first covid lockdown. My waters broke at home and as I was classed as high risk due to a baby above the 90th centile I was informed it would be best to go straight in to the hospital so I could be checked over. With this being the height of the first wave of covid I had to go in to the hospital on my own and I then spent the first 4 hours of labour in an assessment ward on my own as my partner had to wait in the car, until I was finally classed as in active labour and then able to be given my own room on the delivery suite and he was allowed to come in. Thankfully that wouldn't be an issue nowadays, but it did of course have a lasting effect on me and my perception of my birth, because I found that part particularly difficult. Labour then lasted a total of around 12 hours, and ended with a forceps delivery in theatre with a spinal block in place and an episiotomy which then also led to me having pelvic floor damage later on. I ended up with forceps as my baby was in deep transverse arrest, so turned to the side and unable to complete the rotation to move down the birth canal. I'd managed to get to full dilation and be there for a couple of hours but never experienced the urge to push, and sadly as I wasn't showing any signs of progression the decision was made to go down to theatre and attempt ventouse, followed by forceps, with emergency cesarean as a last resort. He was finally delivered by forceps. Whether or not all that was avoidable, I guess we will never really know. But the experience had been far from what I'd originally wanted, and I know it had also been pretty difficult for my other half too for various reasons.
So, once we'd decided that we planned on having more than one baby, I knew that if I wanted to avoid that situation again and still wanted to try for a truly physiological birth, then I needed to learn as much as I possibly could in order to give myself the best possible chance of that happening. And I didn't want to leave that until I was already pregnant, as I knew that once I was pregnant I'd feel under time pressure and feel like I only really had limited time to learn. So I started following accounts like yours and other really knowledgeable and fantastic birth workers. I listened to your whole back catalogue of podcasts, amongst some others, and delved in to that as much as I could. Just by doing those things I learnt SO much. By the time I did become pregnant for a second time I knew exactly what I wanted from my birth, and I knew I also wanted to back that up with some additional support and information. I hadn't done hypnobirthing with my first, but after looking in to it I thought it would be something that would be really beneficial to me, so that was when I signed up to your course. The course was obviously beneficial for me, but I think even more so for my partner, as it really helped to educate him on birth in ways that I think I would potentially have struggled to do in a neutral way.
And so I guess that leads me on to my second pregnancy! I expressed an interest in a home birth pretty early on with my community midwife. I was expecting to receive a bit of resistance to the suggestion as I'd had a baby who'd measured big in scans last time and had a tricky birth, so I thought that would be my stumbling block in asking for a home birth. But ironically the stumbling block was actually something I'd never even given considered, which was that I lost 700ml of blood during my first birth, so was classed as having a postpartum hemorrhage. My midwife said that I'd need to go and meet with the consultant at our local hospital to talk about it, but she did tell me that home birth services in our area are stretched and that even if I get everything set up for a home birth, there's a chance that it may not happen. We don't have a dedicated home birth team in our trust sadly, and my midwife told me that if the delivery suites within the trust are ever short staffed then they call on the community midwives on call to fill in. The on call community midwives would be the only people covering home births, so if they were called in to delivery suite (which they very often are with the midwife shortages) then they wouldn't be able to attend my home birth and therefore my only other option would be hospital.
Now, I knew that I could choose freebirth, however it's not something I personally feel comfortable with for me. Whilst I'd instilled so much confidence in myself, there was still the tiny seed of doubt as a result of my previous experience. My midwife did advise that whilst the midwife led unit at my local hospital was mostly closed, the MLU in another hospital in our trust was only around a year or 2 old and was a really nice facility to give birth in and would I be interested in going to have a look around as a possible alternative to home birth. I was actually really happy with that option because I didn't think that the MLU was going to be an option for me, but I didn't realise that there was a state of the art one at this hospital. In the meantime, while I was waiting for an appointment to view the MLU, I then had the appointment with the consultant regarding the possibility of home birth.
By this point I had signed up to your course Erin, and I'm so glad that I had because during this appointment, I initially started the meeting by asking if I could record the appointment because my other half wasn't present, and I wanted to make sure that he could essentially listen to the conversation first hand, because I knew that I wouldn't really do it justice or remember every detail when I got home. The consultant was quite resistant, and then when I pushed on that a bit further, he then went to go and find out what the trust policy was on recording meetings. While that was happening I was actually texting you Erin to try and get a little bit of advice and bit of guidance on it, which made me feel so much better and so much stronger in my resolve to request that the meeting was recorded, and you were amazing and were able to send me over loads of information on why legally recording is allowed. But whilst you were doing that the consultant did then come back in and basically said that, as he doesn't know what the guidance is on it, so he would be willing to let me record the conversation if I believe that not recording it is going to be detrimental to my care. To which I promptly said yes, I do think that not recording it would be detrimental. Then during the course of the meeting the consultant basically said that he wasn't confident in allowing me to have a home birth due to the risk of postpartum hemorrhage and that his recommendation would be that I give birth on the delivery suite at hospital due to them being able to stop blood loss in the event of another PPH. I pushed back on this and asked if he could explain the reason for the PPH last time and said that I am not happy with that as an option unless it is absolutely medically necessary. I wanted to avoid the delivery suite due to my previous experience. The consultant couldn't really give me a clear answer as to why I had a PPH the first time around. I did ask if it was likely that this was because of the difficult forceps delivery, but he couldn't fully answer the question and advised that it could have been because my uterus was not contracting quickly enough, or many other factors. It was agreed that I could go on to a course of iron tablets to sort of act as a preventative almost for the blood loss, and that we could have a review meeting later on in pregnancy - I think it was due to be around 32 weeks - to which I agreed. I remember coming out of that meeting feeling really upset and annoyed that the appointment had essentially predominantly become about recording it rather than feeling as though I was being supported for the medical reason that I was there. However, I just tried to put that to one side and focus on going forward. Knowing also in the back of my head that I'd got an appointment booked to go and view the MLU.
Pregnancy from there really was fairly uneventful. There was a good chunk of time where nothing out of the ordinary happened. Baby was measuring within the ranges of what they class as 'normal'. We were narrowly avoiding being in the 90th centile, so wasn't technically measuring as a big baby like my first did, which was great in the sense that it meant that I wasn't having to fight the system on that as well. Myself and my partner went to view the MLU which we really liked. It felt less like a hospital in its decor, and with it being a fairly new facility it had lots of things to assist a natural birth that wouldn't have been on delivery suite such as birth cubes, birthing stools, plenty of space to move around, a bed that could disappear in to the wall if you wanted it out of the way, as well as the slightly more obvious things such as a pool and the access to gas and air. Between us we decided that actually, it would be a great place to give birth, and logistically worked too as one of my main worries about birthing at home was my toddler and our two dogs being around, making plenty of noise and generally taking me out of the zone that I wanted to try and get in to. Our house was already a little chaotic and noisy at the best of times, even before the baby had been born!
The next point of note really was the follow-up appointment with the consultant around the 32 weeks. I actually didn't end up having that meeting with the same consultant as before. It was a different consultant, who felt more supportive and helpful. That said, I don't think I told her I was going to record the appointment, so that probably set it off on a better foot. I still expressed an interest in a home birth just to keep my options open but also thinking that if I pushed for the home birth then they'd definitely be more likely to accept the MLU as a compromise in negotiations. I advised her that I had however been for a tour around the birth centre and would also be happy to birth there. Whilst she seemed much more accomodating, I think because I'd expressed an interest in home birth she still wanted to follow up again in another few weeks time. After that appointment I actually regretted pushing the home birth part of it as I felt like I now still didn't have a plan set in stone and just felt a bit in limbo. I wanted to try and change that so during my next midwife appointment I confirmed to my midwife that I wanted to plan to give birth at the MLU, and would it be possible to speak to the consultant midwife about getting that set up. She said absolutely, and said that luckily enough we had just had a new consultant midwife start in our trust, as we had been without one for a couple of years. I got an appointment date set up to see the consultant midwife along with the head of the MLU, and allowed myself to feel a bit excited about it. My appointment was due just as I turned 37 weeks.
One morning when I was 36 weeks and 5 days, I'd broken up from work for maternity leave only a couple of days before, when I felt a trickle of liquid between my legs when packing my son's bag for preschool. I dashed to the loo expecting to find that my waters had broken (as my waters broke with my first labour, and we're a slow trickle for hours afterwards). To my horror I saw fresh red blood. Fresh red blood that didn't stop after I wiped it away. My partner was just leaving the house to take my son to preschool when I shouted for him to stop and that I was bleeding. I had my usual midwife appointment booked for later that afternoon so I called my midwife straight away. She told me to ring triage as they will want to see me to check everything is ok. I called triage, not at the hospital I'd planned to give birth at with the MLU, but the hospital closest to us where I'd previously had my first baby. If it was an emergency I didn't want to risk spending any extra time in the car than was absolutely necessary. Plus I knew the NICU was located at this hospital. I tried to give them an idea of how much blood I'd lost and they told me to come straight in. I packed my bloodied pajama bottoms and pants in to a plastic bag, stuck a pad on to some clean underwear and chucked some trousers on. My partner called my mother in law who thankfully only lives a 10 minute drive away. She whizzed straight over to look after our toddler while my other half drove us to hospital. I'd never felt so scared. I had no idea what was happening and was terrified that our baby wouldn't be ok.
When we arrived at the triage unit we were seen to really quickly. A lovely midwife made me feel at ease and hooked me up to the monitors. Babies heartbeat was ok, and it appeared that I was having tightenings. I couldn't feel them at this point, but they were definitely registering on the monitor. After a doctor had come round, I'd had some bloods taken and had a vaginal exam, it had been established that everything with baby looked ok, but as I was having tightenings and seemed to be 2-3 cms dilated. It looked like I was in labour. I was transferred to a room on delivery suite. Now that I knew baby was ok, my focus switched a little to the birth. I was hooked up to a ctg monitor and a new midwife was allocated to look after me in the new room. I asked just on the off chance if I would be able to give birth in this hospitals MLU, but as expected, it was closed - which I understood to be common practice here. I asked if it would be possible to use the delivery suites only birthing pool, but was also advised sadly not due to the bleeding. The exact experience I was trying to avoid was happening in the most panicked and stressful way I could imagine. I tried to practice my hypnobirthing techniques and calm myself down. I started to notice the feelings of the contractions, and struggled to get comfortable. The new midwife was introduced to us, did a few checks, and then left us alone, just popping her head round the door occasionally to check the monitor. I remember the noise in the corridor outside was so loud. There was so much talking, and the ctg machine was beeping so loud and the lights were so bright, and I just felt the complete opposite of calm. My other half turned down the lights and went to the car to get my bags so that I could have a few bits to make me feel more settled & calm. My contractions were becoming slower and much more spaced apart. After a few hours it seemed that I wasn't actually in active labour after all, so I could be transferred to the antenatal ward to get a little more settled and stay overnight for observation.
Over the next night and day I had regular monitoring sessions, along with the standard blood pressure and oxygen tests. I had one much more minor bleed, but other than that it just appeared to be the brown remnants of the first bleed. The midwife on the night shift advised me that standard policy is to stay in for 24 hours from the last sign of fresh bleeding. If after 24 hours I'd had no more fresh blood then I should be able to go home. Everything appeared good on the monitors. Baby was happy, tightenings were present but very much on and off and varying in strength. No one seemed concerned. I had an appointment booked to meet up with the consultant midwife and MLU manager the following day, but I had no idea if I was going to be out in time to see them. I asked if the midwife in charge could get a message to them and she said she would. I really didn't want to miss that appointment.
On the day I was hoping to go home the midwife in charge told me that the doctor would be doing their rounds that afternoon and would come to speak to me prior to discharge. When the doctor came she could see that everything from the monitoring and my vitals looked fine, and knew that I hadn't had any new bleeds. She said she would get me booked in for an ultrasound scan just to make doubly sure all was ok with baby and placenta, which I was happy to have. But then what the doctor said stumped me. She said that they were going to book an ultrasound downstairs for me so that they could check everything looks ok with baby and the placenta, and that she wanted to wait until tomorrow to let me go home. If I had another bleed between today and tomorrow then they may look to induce me tomorrow when im 37 weeks. I said to the doctor that I wanted to avoid induction as much as possible, especially as I experienced pelvic floor damage as a result of my previous forceps birth, and didn't want an induction to potentially increase the chances of another forceps, or make the already existing damage worse. I said if it really was urgent to get baby out then I think I'd prefer to opt for a cesarean in this particular case. However the doctor kind of glossed over that and talked a little bit more and then moved on to the next patient. Immediately I text my other half to tell him what was said. His immediate reply was 'text Erin', but we talked a little about how it made no sense to induce me if baby was premature, and I said thats probably why they want to keep me in until tomorrow, as then technically I'll no longer be premature at 37 weeks. I knew induction wasn't what I wanted, and something inside me just said that if this was really that urgent then I wanted a cesarean. I spoke to the head midwife on duty and told her what the doctor had said, and that unless they gould give me good medical reason as to why I should stay in for 48 hours instead of 24, then I wanted to go home once the 24 hours was up. The midwife agreed with me, and also said that she expected that the doctor had advised 48 hours post last bleed due to the fact that she was a newly qualified doctor who is probably being a little overly cautious. She said she could tell I was sensible, and as long as I came back in if I experienced any fresh bleeding then that would be normal protocol. That, combined with what I already thought, was enough for me to push forward with my request to leave after 24 hours. The midwife said that she would speak to the doctor and get her to come speak to me, but that it was also possible for me to self discharge. I said I was happy to wait to see the doctor, as my 24 hours wasn't up yet, and now that I'd made my decision I felt comfortable enough to push back to the doctor if needed. She also said she'd heard back from the consultant midwife that she'd give me a call to rearrange once I was discharged. As it happened, the doctor then got pulled on to 2 other separate emergencies with ladies in the ward I was on, and ended up down in theatre for several hours. In the end, one of the midwives brought over the self discharge form and said I could sign that and leave if I was happy to do so. She read out the terms which were fairly ominous, and included words such as being responsible for stillbirth and death. I signed and left. I experienced no further fresh bleeding for the remainder of my pregnancy.
That said, the last few weeks did seem to drag, due to the fact that we felt constantly on edge that another similar bleed might happen at any moment. But it didn't. In the week following discharge from the hospital I had a lengthy call with the consultant midwife, who was brilliant. We discussed the bleed and how it might affect my choices, and she put notes on to the system detailing that if I went in to labour before we met in person that I should still be allowed to birth on the MLU, as there were no reasons that she could see that this should not happen. We planned a meeting in person for the following week, but to be honest I fully expected to go in to labour that weekend and to never make it to the meeting. However I was wrong, and we did get to have our eagerly anticipated meeting with her. I went in equipped with my full birth plan (that I'd put together using your template!) thinking I'd have to fight for every point. How wrong I was. She felt like the advocate I'd been praying for all along. When I got there she had already written her own birth plan up for me based on the call we'd already had, and based on the results of the previous meetings with the consultants. It was great, and stipulated that I can give birth on the MLU and what many of my preferences were. I then gave her my own birth plan which she was really happy to read, and then we discussed some points (such as the fact that I wanted optimal cord clamping, and if I did have a physiological birth, then I also wished to have a physiological third stage and delivery of the placenta). She gave myself and my partner time to discuss all of these sorts of things in detail with risks and benefits, and allowed me to be in control of my choices. She added in all of the additional things I wanted to her birth plan and submitted it on the system so that if I went in to labour, the midwife attending could see it as soon as they logged on to my details in the system. We had a really good meeting which lasted almost an hour, I think. When I came out I felt so positive and so encouraged. I felt like I'd finally got someone on my side who would support me in my decisions and supported that these were the best options for me personally. Knowing this was all finally set up, I tried to relax and wait for labour. It wasn't as relaxing as I'd hoped because of the worry about the bleed, coupled with the fact that I was very uncomfortable in the last few weeks of pregnancy this time, which wasn't something that I'd experienced with my first. I tried to keep doing the forward leaning inversions that I'd done throughout pregnancy, and made the effort to spend my evenings sitting on the birth ball rather than my sofa.
Finally at 39 weeks and 2 days I went into labour. I'd been having cramps, twinges, and a feeling that labour was imminent all week and at around midnight the real, unmistakable contractions started. I waited for around half an hour just to make sure that they didn't die off and that they stayed as close together as they'd started which was only a few minutes apart at a time, and then I phoned the hospital to let the MLU know I was coming. I told the midwife who answered that I'd gone in to labour and that the consultant midwife had advised me to call them when this happened so that they could get the pool running ready for when I arrived as they take a while to fill. However, she told me that unfortunately the MLU was closed that evening due to understaffing. The consultant midwife had mentioned that if the MLU was closed for any reason, to tell them that I'd had it agreed with her that I could use the MLU and to speak to the manager on duty to arrange for someone to cover the MLU for me. She said that she would speak to the person in charge and see what she could do, but in the mean time, based on how far apart my contractions were, and that this was my second, I could head over and hopefully she would have an answer by the time I arrive. We called my mother in law to come over to look after our eldest, grabbed my bags and headed straight out. My other half put some calming classical music on in the car and I had my comb in hand to squeeze during each contraction. I focused on my breathing and just got in the zone. The contractions stayed thick and fast on the ride over, and by the time we got there I already felt like baby's arrival wasnt going to be far away. We parked and headed straight up to the desk. When I arrived the midwife who I'd spoken to on the phone was waiting for me at the desk. I think she could tell I was already in active labour as soon as I walked through the door as I had another contraction and had to stop in my tracks, lean on the wall with one hand, squeeze my comb with the other and breathe very loudly. She whisked me straight in to an assessment room and said she'd be back in a second as she was just going to check if the person in charge had a decision on the MLU, and asked if she could do a vaginal examination when she came back to see how dilated I was. I was happy for her to do this as to be honest I was convinced I'd already be more than dilated enough for it not to be an issue. My other half asked her to turn the lights down for us before she left, which she did. I tried to strip off my bottom half while I waited for her and get on the bed. Getting comfortable on the bed was a nightmare and during a contraction I genuinely couldn't stand the feeling of lying on my back. I asked my other half to go and ask if I could have some gas and air. She told him that its not hooked up to the walls in the assesment rooms but she would ask for a canniester to be brought in for me asap. I was making a lot of uncontrollable noise during contractions so I have a feeling that may have sped the process up a little. She came back and asked if she could do the VE straight away so that I could get off the bed again and in to whatever position was comfortable for me. I was 5 cms dilated. I got off the bed and immediately got on my knees and leant on the seat of the armchair next to the bed. I could hear her telling my other half that the person in charge had sadly said that there was no way the MLU could be opened, but she could see from the consultant midwifes birth plan that I wanted access to the birthing pool, and there was one free on delivery suite so on our ride over she'd made sure to get that filled up just in case, and that we could go straight down if I was happy with that. I nodded in agreement and then remember another midwife coming in with the gas cannister. The midwife who'd answered the phone, and who now appeared to be the midwife that would be staying with me, told her that it was too late, and that I'd be going straight downstairs to delivery suite. They asked if I wanted to walk but honestly I dont think I would have got very far very fast with the frequency and intensity of the contractions so I shook my head and they brought a wheelchair in for me. I remember having a little entourage of people along with my partner following me in my wheelchair down the corridor and in to the lift. I had my eyes closed and could vaguely hear the midwives saying words of encouragement, but I was so in the zone at this point that it kind of felt like they were outside of a bubble that I was in, and everything outside of the bubble sounded blurry. We stopped outside of the room and the midwife and my other half helped me out of the chair. I walked in and could see the bath was already full. I went and stood next to it and leaned on the side for support. The midwife turned the lights straight off so that the room was now only dimly lit, and went and got the gas and air nozzle for me. I inhaled it with the next contraction and instantly I felt myself relax. I'd finally arrived in the room I'd give birth in. It was calm, and looked quite nice, and I had gas and air in one hand and still had my comb in the other. I remember for the first time in about an hour being able to crack a joke and laugh in between a contraction. This was the only time I was able to do this throughout the whole of labour but it really stuck in my mind.
The midwife checked the water temperature and added a little cold as it was a bit too hot. My partner helped me to get my top off and then the midwife was helping me get in the pool. The water was warm, warmer than I was expecting, which was nice. I love a hot bath at home and that association helped me to relax even more. I got straight in to the position which felt instinctiveiy right, which was on all fours. My partner knelt at the side of the pool and held the gas and air nozzle for me. I then stayed in this position for the rest of the birth. It just felt right. A couple of times the midwife or my partner had to remind me not put my head too low as it looked to them like I was putting my face under the water. I was very close, but I was aware of what I was doing so wasn't in any danger, and again I was just doing what felt instinctive. The room was so still and quiet, it was lovely. The midwife occasionally popped over to monitor the baby's heartbeat, as per the request on my birth plan. I remember asking her a couple of times if everything sounded ok, which she reassured me it did. My partner asked me at one point if I wanted my playlist putting on. In my head I remember thinking 'oh that might be nice' but I didnt actually respond to him or nod or anything, and I think I was just too in the zone to relay what my brian was saying. And to be honest it was actually quite nice just being in the peace and quiet. For me that is. It probably wasnt for anyone else though, as some of the noises I was making during contractions were crazy thinking back. They were loud and animalistic like the typical mooing lots of people talk about, but I couldn't have stopped myself if I'd tried. I think as I'd been using noise as a pain relief method throughout it just felt natural now to make them whenever I felt a contraction. I do think they were helping with the pain. Plus I still had my trusty comb firmly in hand.
I realised that things must be progressing when the midwife said 'Emma, I believe you want a physiological birth of the placenta, is that right?'. I nodded, and she acknowledged that she'd seen me and I could sense the urgency in her voice. She wasn't asking to make conversation, she was asking because that moment wasn't far away. Not long after that I felt like I needed to push. The midwife asked me if I felt like I needed to push, and I said I wasn't sure. In hindsight that was a stupid comment because I definitely did, I just dont think I'd registered I was pushing. When the next contraction came I couldn't stop myself from pushing and just leaned in to it. The noises I was making got a lot louder, and the faces got a lot more animated. I remember thinking, 'god I must be pulling some weird faces right now', but I didn't care. It was just a weird outer body moment where my head thought something completely different to what the rest of my body and mind was doing. A few more contractions happened with a few more pushes. I was still trying to control my breathing but was also just completely letting go and doing what felt natural. My breathing must have changed as either the midwife or my other half, I can't remember which, said 'it's ok, you've got this, just remember to breathe'. A couple of pushes later I felt something happen. I reached down between my legs and felt a huge slippery bulge. The baby's head was out! I couldn't believe it, I was doing it!! The midwife had obviously seen in my birth plan that I wanted to catch the baby if I was in a position that allowed for it. She told me that during the next contraction the baby's body was likely to be born, so get ready to catch him. When the next contraction came I pushed and sure enough I felt another huge movement and reached down and grabbed my baby. I pulled him straight out of the water and straight to my chest. I couldn't believe I'd done it. I didn't even look down at him immediately I was just so stunned that I'd done it and had to take a breath. I sensed the midwife touching him and looked down just in time to see him cry. I learned afterwards that the only reason the midwife had touched him was because when she initially saw him she thought he looked very grey, and then she realised that it was because he was still in his sealed amniotic sac! She'd reached over to break the sac so that he could take his first breaths. It was the first time she'd seen an en caul birth in her career.
I stayed in the pool and soaked the moment up. My other half came around behind me to see him close up. The oxytocin was flowing in that room! It was an amazing feeling. After a little bit I then got baby to latch and fed him for a little while in the water. The midwife was checking the water for the blood clots etc that were coming out for size and to keep an eye on bleeding. The midwife asked if I felt like the placenta was ready to come out. I gave a few gentle pushes, but as I was now sat on my bum it just didn't feel right. The midwife didn't push the issue and instead asked my other half if he'd like to be the one to cut the cord. He hadn't been able to during our first birth, and had said before labour that he wasn't going to this time either. However now in the moment he changed his mind and said he would like to. Clearly the oxytocin buzz had got him too. The midwife asked me if I was happy for the cord to be cut now, and maybe then I could try to stand up and try getting out of the pool to see if that would help deliver the placenta. I asked if the cord had gone white as per my birth plan as i wanted optimal cord clamping (it was a bit hard to see the cord myself in the water), and she replied 'oh yes it went white about half an hour ago'! I literally couldn't believe he'd been born over half an hour already!! It felt like seconds had passed! I said, that in that case, it was fine. Whilst they were getting ready to cut the cord I felt a bit of an uncomfortable contraction feeling and tried to lift my bum off the bottom of the pool leaning to one side. In hindsight it was quite the feat considering I was still feeding the baby and my other half was cutting the cord at the same time. I gave another fairly gentle push and out slid the placenta. Initially I had a bit of a panic thinking it was a giant blood clot, considering I couldn't really see it through the murky water. But the midwife fished it out and confirmed it was indeed the placenta. I'd done it. I had a physiological birth AND a physiological third stage. Honestly I felt like superwoman. Superwoman surrounded by a pool of blood and other stuff... But superwoman none the less.
The midwife helped me out of the pool while my other half had a cuddle with our baby. And I went over to the bed as I still felt a little unsteady on my feet. While he was cuddling baby the midwife gave me a quick check over and said I'd got a couple of small labial tears so she'd call the senior midwife in to have a look at them and see if they needed any attention. I was still bleeding so she said she'd also keep an eye on that and then offered us both tea and toast (she did say it wasn't policy to offer birth partners toast but she wanted to - it seems a shame that they don't do that as standard. That one small gesture could mean a lot to the experience of birth partners) and then she left and we were on our own for a while. She bought our tea and toast in, however I felt quite nauseous so couldn't eat it. I felt sick after my first birth but assumed that was the shock after being rushed to theatre for a forceps birth ( I'd puked all over my other half's new trainers). So I guess I'm a nauseous person after I give birth. After a bit, the head midwife on duty came in, introduced herself, and asked if it was ok if she had a look at the tears - all the midwives were really good at asking for consent before they did anything. She had a look and confirmed that there were tears and that based on where they were located it would be beneficial to have stitches to help them heal properly. I'd had stitches with my first so was ok with it, but the first time I was numb and didn't feel them. This time they did smart a bit more than I expected but I was able to breathe through it again, hypnobirthing coming in useful again already - plus I used the gas and air again which also really helped. She then said that it may be beneficial to check if I had any tears in my bottom and would it be ok if she checked. She explained what the check would entail and was really reassuring and transparent. She did the check, which felt a bit weird and uncomfortable, but it was completely fine. She said all was good. She said she was a little concerned about the amount of blood I was still passing and asked if I would mind the doctor coming to examine me for that. I agreed and a few minutes later the doctor came. She explained what she was going to do and why and then performed the internal exam. She was a little less gentle than the midwives but I understand that she was trying to be more thorough. She said that she wasn't overly concerned about the bleeding but they could give me an injection to try and stop it a bit quicker. I didn't want a PPH turning in to a whole thing so I agreed to the injection. They administered it and left us to be on our own for hours. I had a shower and got cleaned up (more difficult than I thought whilst still feeling nauseous, but definitely helped to make me feel more human). Ate some skittles that I had stashed in my hospital bag as a labour snack, as they didn't make me feel anywhere near as nauseous as toast. And we sat with our new baby, and watched the darkness turn to daylight. I was later transferred to the postnatal ward for the rest of the day where they did checks on baby and waited for blood test results for myself. Everything all came back ok and I was able to leave that evening. I remember texting you while I was on the ward telling you that I'd done it. I was honestly so proud of myself, and still am. I'll forever be grateful to the midwife who was with us that day. She could tell that the MLU was important to me and she did her best to make sure we had an experience as close to that as possible. I went to see her a few weeks later to take a thank you card and we chatted about the experience a bit more. She remembered it as well as I did, which surprised me as with the amount of births she'd probably seen, I expected it would just be one of many. But even she said that it was a lovely birth, and that she'd remember it for years to come. So, that's our story. And in a way, I'm grateful I got two such different stories, as both have shaped who I am now in very different ways.