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Kristel and Seren

My labour started around 9pm on Friday the 6th of March, following a relaxing day at home and having lunch with my friend Cheryl.

When I felt my first surge just after 9, it was completely different to what I had experienced with my first birth, as it was all in my lower back this time and not my tummy. As it was such a different sensation I wasn't convinced that it was labour and decided to take paracetomol and go to bed. I managed some sleep before being woken by another surge at 11 and from that point they started to become more frequent.

I rang the antenatal ward for some advice as I really wasn't sure how quickly I would progress and whether I was definitely in established labour. They were very calming and supportive and suggested that I try to stay home for as long as possible, preferably until my surges were lasting for longer, but did say that if I wanted to come in that would be fine and just to ring ahead first.

During my surges I utilised the up breathing that Nancy had taught me and took some rescue remedy. The surges became more regular and lasted longer and I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep so I rang the hospital again and advised that we were going to come in within the next 45 minutes or so once our relatives had arrived to care for our Daughter.

The surges continued to come every 4-5 minutes during the journey and I continued to use my up breathing, whilst inhaling lavender oil from a tissue.

It was a very busy night on the antenatal and labour wards, so we were given a bed in a cubicle whilst waiting to be seen.

When the midwife arrived she commented my calmness and was very shocked to find that I was fully dilated when she examined me, so much so that she double checked!

I was pleased to hear that the Midwives had read my birth plan, which I had written inside my maternity notes. My original intention was to give birth in the Midwife Led Unit, however a Community Midwife needed to be called in and they didn't think she would make it on time given that I was already fully dilated so they said I could birth on the Consultant Led Ward without fixed monitoring, thus enabling me to stay active.

As they were so busy I was given a delivery room that is rarely used and as such, it was pretty small with no birthing ball, CD player etc, so I had to make the most of what was to hand, namely a chair and the bed!

I started off leaning over the side of the bed, then moved to sitting astride a chair. I initially refused the entonox, preferring to sniff my lavender oil with each upward breath during surges. The first Midwife was a little concerned that despite being fully dilated for over an hour, I wasn't getting any urge to push, but she could see I was in established labour.

She said that she would like to examine me at 6 a.m. if I still wasn't getting the urge to push, which I agreed to. After 20 minutes or so, she said she'd like to examine me at 5.30 instead. Thankfully my husband questioned this decision, knowing that with my previous birth the examinations had caused me pain and halted my surges and ultimately led to unwanted intervention. The Midwife agreed to keep it at 6 but was called away prior to then and a different midwife came to care for me and although I still didn't have the urge to push, I could feel that the surges were becoming more intense.

As 6 a.m. came closer, I went from being calm and collected, inhaling my lavender oil and breathing through each surge to getting fidgety, sucking on the entonox and shouting that I couldn't do it. Luckily my Husband saw that this was a sign I was in the transition phase and requested that the Midwife refrained from giving me an examination. Within 10 minutes I got the real urge to push with each surge and it was a totally surreal but immensely satisfying sensation as I was just going with what my body was wanting to do and not doing forced pushes to verbal commands as I had done on my previous birth. With each surge I used the affirmations that we had gone over in our hypnobirthing course, reminding myself that baby was getting closer and closer to meeting me and that my body was designed to do this. My lovely husband and the Midwife took it in turns to rub my lower back, which really helped as I could feel so much pressure there.

The Midwife listened in to baby's heartbeat every 15 minutes after a surge had finished and told us how strong and consistent it was, which helped to keep me calm and positive.

I moved from the chair to kneeling on the bed, so that she had a better view of what was happening. I continued to follow my urges to push with each surge, whilst inhaling entonox and doing downward breaths.

I could vaguely hear the Midwife and my husband joking about how stubborn my waters were and was then aware of another Midwife introducing herself and taking over but I was so in my own little bubble that I barely responded to her.

Soon after her arrival, she told me that the head was partially out and that she was going to break my waters, this was so rewarding to hear as I knew I had almost done it. She encouraged me to do gentle, short breaths at this point to allow a more controlled delivery. After breaking my waters she advised that on the next surge I would deliver my baby, so I gave one final push as the surge was building and felt my lovely baby girl slipping so easily out of me.

Seren Gillian Berry was born at 7.40 a.m, 10 minutes after the new Midwife arrived. She passed Seren up through my legs so that I could bring her up to my chest for those precious first cuddles and skin to skin contact.

To my complete surprise, the placenta followed naturally within 2 minutes, which was a relief as on arrival to the labour ward I was still undecided on whether or not to have the oxytocin injection to facilitate delivery of it.

I felt instant elation and pride at holding my newborn and knowing that I had laboured and delivered successfully without any of the interventions that I had feared from my rather traumatic first birth.

I wasn't even phased when I looked down at the bed afterwards and saw a lot of mess from where Seren had passed meconium inside me just prior to delivery and was grateful to the Midwife for not informing me of this when she broke my waters, as it may have scared me.

I felt no pain after the birth, so was very surprised when a Consultant was called in to examine me, as the Midwife suspected that I had torn again.

Such were my high spirits that when the Consultant advised that he needed to examine me, I joked about him taking me to dinner first!

Seren enjoyed some skin to skin contact with me whilst I waited to be taken to theatre and she fed happily at my breast.

I had to wait almost 3 hours to be taken down, but staff were wonderful, explaining that I hadn't been forgotten and that it was only their desire to form the best surgical team holding things up.

They kept my Husband informed of progress once I was in theatre, which was great for his personal wellbeing as on the birth of our first child, no one had called in on him until I was being wheeled back to the ward and he had been sat alone worrying about me for hours, whilst trying to calm our baby.

I spent two nights in hospital, which wasn't ideal but was necessary due to my severe tear. Midwives were very attentive and kindly gave me a private room for the second night as a perk for being their breastfeeding peer supporter, which allowed me some much needed quiet time alone with Seren.

Lots of people have taken pity on me for having a third degree tear again, but it hasn't bothered me in the slightest. There has been minimal pain, especially when I compare it to how I felt following my previous episiotomy,tear and forceps delivery and healing seems so much better, perhaps because I tore naturally instead of being cut this time. I also think that I'm less bothered by the tear because of how happy and proud I am to have achieved the natural, fear and intervention free birth I had wished for.

During my stay I thanked the second Midwife who cared for me during labour for leaving me to it and not instructing me to do forced pushing or holding my breath. She in turn thanked me for the experience of attending a natural, active labour and said that births like mine are a rare sight for her these days with the increased epidural rates, so it was a pleasure for her to just be able to sit back and observe.

My pregnancy had been troubled with conflicting advice from Consultants regarding my previous tear, I had been told I would need a protective episiotomy and that I couldn't give birth in the Midwife led unit. Thankfully, Midwives were very supportive of my own ideas about what I wanted for my birth and the hypnobirthing guidance we received from Nancy gave us the strength to challenge decisions we didn't agree with.

Ultimately the relaxation and confidence boosting hypnobirthing techniques and facts about the the stages of labour we had learnt, along with positive encouragement from friends and Midwifery staff made us fully prepared for this birth and gave us the most wonderful, natural birthing experience and happy memories that will last a lifetime.

I am so thankful for such a positive experience second time round and wish that all women could experience the same empowering and fear free births. Hypnobirthing is definitely the way forward!