I've had this birth story up my sleeve for a while and been waiting for the right time to post it, it seems apt to follow my post about induction and due dates. I'll hand over to Jen to tell you how she brought the beautiful Finn in to the world, her story is interesting as she was over due and starting to lose faith, she managed her labour wonderfully and stayed calm using hypnobirthing techniques when things didn't all go to plan.
I’m not an anxious person, In fact I like to think I’m pretty calm but if anything can ignite anxiety it' s going to be thought of child birth when you're a first time mum! I decided early on in my pregnancy that I would do anything I could to maintain a calm, positive outlook and try to enjoy the experience of the birth as much as I could. Hence hypnobirthing!
I had a great pregnancy and was very excited to meet our little man. As the days crept past my estimated due date I was feeling less hopeful about having my preference of a natural water birth at the birth centre at Chelsea & Westminster. I saw my midwife at 41 + 2 days and have to say the support I got from her, as well as the birth choices midwife, at C&W was incredible. They were hugely supportive and very happy to accept my wish to wait until 42 weeks before making any further decisions. I was booked in for a scan at 42 weeks and was to be monitored closely until then. One evening I was concerned about reduced movements (the paranoia is real) and went to C&W to be monitored. All was fine, though as expected (and I was forewarned by my midwife) they put strong pressure on me to induce straight away, which in itself I found quite stressful. I held out as I knew in my heart I was being paranoid and the doctor agreed to support the plan I had with my MW. Whilst on one hand he kept saying he wanted me to stay in and induce me immediately on the other he could not give me a medical reason why I should do that. My husband used BRAINS which we had learnt on Jemma's course and I just kept asking re: any medical need to induce and he did not have an answer that we felt justified an induction for us. He talked us through options, implications for some time and supported our decision to wait.
I did however agree to have a sweep at that point. I felt that on balance this would be my best chance of going into labor and having a natural birth in the birth centre. When the MW did this she said I was 1cm dilated and that night (Tuesday) I had the show which all seemed very positive...but two days later nothing was happening besides some minor cramping. Having tried reflexology, walking, clary sage...the whole lot...I decided that I would have another sweep on Thursday and that if it didn't work I was happy to be induced on the following Monday. I had been getting increasingly stressed, which I knew was not conducive to a calm birth and felt that if I did just book an induction, I didn’t need to use it and I might relax which will let things happen themselves! I was right...
My midwife came to my home to do the sweep on Thursday. As she did the sweep she gave me the standard warning that it is possible for my waters to break during the procedure...as soon as the words came out of her mouth she gave a little start and lo and behold for the first time in her career my waters did indeed break! It was a strange one to say the least...we had a little moment, a laugh and she simply said ‘well no need for an induction then’! She did say that there was meconium in the waters and whilst it wasn’t an emergency it did mean I needed to get to hospital asap. I called my husband, told him to stay calm, we were going to meet our baby today and asked him to come home and get me.
Once my surges started, shortly after my waters broke, they became intense quite quickly. After a quick stop at the triage I was brought to the labour ward. Sadly due to the meconium a water birth and the birth centre was not an option. The midwives and staff reassured me that I could still have as close to the preference I wanted, ( I didn’t need to be lying down or be monitored) and could make the room as comfortable as possible. I was happy with all of that...I had my preferences but was also prepared to go with what was best in the moment.
Crossing the hall from triage to the labour ward I had to stop and lean against a wall as the surge was so strong. I remember thinking I haven’t prepared for them to be this strong! My midwife was incredible, I felt she picked up on our vibe quite quickly and having explained (as I and/ or my husband did with everyone) that we were doing hypnobirthing, wanted a natural birth, as quiet as possible etc etc she just responded & reacted so positively. I had asked my husband to run across the road and get me some food. I think I just wanted some time fully alone to gather my thoughts and have a little chat with myself. When he returned I had changed and went straight for the birthing ball. I asked for gas & air which I got immediately...best thing EVER! Andrei set about setting up the room...low lights, essential oils, and our playlist. I still can’t believe that one of the questions I asked my widwife whilst in labour was ‘what’s the wifi password’?!
I was quite emotional on the gas & air but relaxed. It almost felt like I was a little drunk, but in a good way! I felt the surges were quite powerful and every 60 to 90 seconds though the MW looking at her machine was reporting 2 to 3 minutes. At approx 3pm, three hours after my waters had broken, a doctor came in to the room to speak with me. He indicated that they would like to induce me within the next hour if things hadn’t progressed enough themselves. We talked about options, implications etc and agreed to that plan. I did request that if I was going to be induced to please have an epidural ready. I was happy to have an epidural if I was to be induced. The next hour felt quite long! The surges were very intense. I was utilising all my hypnobirthing tools and getting through it...the clary sage was hugely powerful (I’d had baths with clary sage almost every day for 4 weeks) as was Andrei’s voice (Andrei had read me the various scripts before bed religiously). His voice was my anchor and I remember saying to him please just keep talking. I’m not going to lie though, a part of me was thinking epidural and induction sound pretty appealing! When I was examined at 4pm by my midwife she said I was 4cm and no induction was required. Things were progressing well on their own. I was pleased and disappointed in equal measure! She then said ‘ok i'll check you again in 4 hours’. I literally cried ‘what, 4 hours, I can’t do 4 more hours of this’. She calmly explained that I had a long way to go yet and try to relax etc.
I returned to the rhythm of gas & air, and sniffing clary sage in between surges. After a few minutes I was feeling things were progressing a lot quicker than the midwife might have realised. I was certain the baby was coming as I could feel his head. I said to the midwife at 4.20pm please can you check me again, I’m definitely in the down stage of labour and the baby is coming...she did say it’s only been 20 minutes but checked me again and to her surprise I was now 9cm. I recall her being a bit shocked and saying ‘you’ve broken all the rules in the book’.
The next hour is a total blur. I remember moments, I recall the midwife getting firm with me when she needed to...I let a couple of surges get on top of me as opposed to the other way around! I remember a lot of gas & air, a lot of clary sage and I recall her telling me from time to time that she was just popping out to let the ‘bosses’ know what’s going on. I felt very supported but not observed. I had been on my knees over a pile of pillows on the bed the entire time. On one occasion having to lie on my back for an examination I nearly jumped through the roof with the discomfort.
Things were progressing, it was all quite powerful but under control. The clary sage, visualisations, gas & air, breathing, Andrei’s voice and a supportive but not overpowering MW were all doing their job. The lights were low, the music was playing and all was well. Sadly all of a sudden the MW explained that the baby’s heartbeat had dropped, it was an emergency and there were about to be ten people in the room. She said ‘stay calm, everyone has a job to do, they are here to help you, the lights will have to go on and you need to lay on your back’. I felt quite calm, and as people rushed in Andrei & I just stared at each other and he kept telling me everything would be fine. It was just quite a shock to go from one very calm scenario to the opposite end of the spectrum. It even felt quite strange to have our playlist going whilst all this activity was going on. In the space of a few minutes I’d had a catheter, episiotomy, forceps and my baby was born.
They took him to check him under the lamp but before they did literally dropped him on my chest and he was back on my chest again within what felt like seconds. The doctor was clearly aware and very respectful of the fact that what had ended up happening was not part of our birth preference. I had explained to our MW earlier that I would love to do a home birth next time. One of the first things he said to me when the drama was over was ‘the only reason we intervened was because it was an emergency. I’ve been monitoring you from outside all afternoon, you’ve done fantastic and don’t worry next time you can 100% have a home birth’.
I found visualisations hugely helpful. Early on in my labor, as I felt a little drunk on the gas & air I was thinking about other occasions I might be feeling a little drunk...and happy. I was properly imaging myself on the dance floor of a nightclub I used to go to with my school friends just having a great time. I also thought about loved ones who’ve passed but who would be absolutely there looking after me and my baby. I also close to the very end when things got intense was imagining myself being at home in my childhood bed and bedroom. Growing up on a farm I’ve often heard cows calving as a child and as I found out the ‘mooing’ noise is not all that different when it’s humans giving birth. When the delivery became an emergency the music on our playlist was the song I walked down the aisle to. I forced myself to take myself back to that last moment of significance All of these visualisations were hugely powerful and ultimately made me feel so incredibly safe.
It was the most incredible and powerful experience and although it was different to our preference, but at the finish it was definitely a positive experience because I still felt in control and calm throughout.
Baby Coffey de Sa arrived safe & sound at 5:18 pm on 1st March. And he was and is perfect! Weighing in at 4.03kg and a whopping 58cm he arrived to Tiny Dancer and the heady scent of Clary Sage! After three days of referring to him as ‘snow baby’ we finally named our little man Finn Miguel. We thought the Brazilian in him would wait until the snow had melted but no, the Irish half was clearly fine with the cold.