For anyone that is interested, here is the story of Edith's birth, which happened on the cusp of the lockdown in the UK, on Mother's Day.
On Friday night at 2am Freda climbed into bed with us and I woke with some gentle contractions which went on until about 4am. I downloaded an app to follow the contractions (mistake) and found they were happening quite close together but they weren’t strong so at around 4am I drifted off back to sleep whilst cuddling Freda.
I woke up early around 5:30 and went downstairs for some breakfast. We spent Saturday having a nice chilled out day with a long walk around the village. I had been having some on and off contractions which came and went throughout the day, all of which I was able to just breathe through and carry on.
In the evening around 5:30pm the contractions started again with more frequency and I started to wonder if it was becoming time. I led on the sofa to try and relax but there was a lot of distractions going on including bedtime to organise.
After getting Freda off to bed the contractions died down again. We had some dinner and watched some tv. The contractions started up again with more frequency, and I rang the midwife around 10:30pm for some advice. She had just got in from a long shift and advised that the next midwife would be starting at midnight so if things continued to pick up perhaps to phone the next on call midwife.
By 1:30am things had calmed down again and we decided to go off to bed. I was getting frustrated by this point that this might take a long while and worried that it might be a long night ahead. I put on the TENS machine and went to bed.
I managed to get some sleep before the contractions started again around 5am. Again I got my timer out* and was monitoring them, about 5 minutes apart and 30-40seconds in length. I didn’t need the TENS at this point and was able to just breathe through them although it was getting tiring.
(*I wouldn't recommend the timers! They just make you too focussed on a phone screen and obsessed with the timings, I don't think it helped things to progress.)
As Freda generally wakes up around 6 we decided to ring my mum and ask her to come round and give us a hand. She turned up at 6 and I was able to stay in bed until 7 just riding out the contractions with the TENS and my breath. I rang the midwife again for some advice and got a bit teary as I was feeling so damn tired by this point and frustrated with the whole process. I just wanted to know what was happening and if this was going to go on for much longer.
After a little cry and a nap at around 9am I woke with a stronger contraction and called the midwife team again to see if perhaps I could get a visit later that day. The midwife described what she thought was happening - that I was experiencing a long latent phase coupled with the fact that baby was back to back and was slowly turning around inside to get into position for birth. She explained that the contractions were a sign that my body was getting ready and that once the baby was in position things would probably progress quite quickly. I’m sure the other midwives had explained all of this to me before but this time it seemed to actually sink in and made me feel a lot better about things.
I was feeling much better by this point, the contractions had eased off again and I decided I might as well just get on with my day rather than wallow about in bed. I went downstairs to see what the family were up to and help get Freda ready to go to Nonnies (thankfully this was the day before lockdown was announced). I was still contracting but breathing through and trying to use the movements I had been advised to turn the baby round.
Once Freda had gone off for a sleepover I got myself dressed and ready to go on a walk to the local shop to get some supplies. With everything else going on I had been social distancing for the week and we were running low on a few things. In all honesty I mainly just wanted a purpose and some more fizzy pop and jelly babies so we started off on our sunny walk to the village shop with the plan that I would wait outside whilst Charlie went in to get some bits - and he would only go in if the shop was empty.
Well we hadn’t thought that through and when we arrived at the shop it was closed, not only is it the middle of a pandemic but also it’s Mothering Sunday, so of course shop staff are enjoying a well deserved day off. No matter we thought, we will walk home again. We decided that even if the baby wasn’t on the way we would just enjoy an evening off together and try to relax for one night. I still felt like a trip to a shop was needed just to pick up some supplies in case the baby was about to come - we needed things like milk and bread and of course sweets and chocolate too!! It sounds stupid but I really felt like I needed the sugar hit. I think I kind of needed to be alone as well at this point.
I didn’t think I could manage a car ride and anyway as a high risk person I should only be making essential trips out so we decided Charlie would go on his own to the small supermarket on the edge of town. We got home about 2:30pm - this was when I went to the loo and noticed my mucus plug and passed - I was very pleased with this and sent Charlie on his way to the shop thinking things might actually start moving soon.
I brought myself into the lounge and started to do some leaning forward to try and spin the baby round, leaning on the back of the sofa. It really wasn’t comfortable to be on all fours and I was much happier stood up and walking about.
I needed the loo so went upstairs to our little toilet and by this point was needing to hum through the contractions. I noticed that I was now passing a little bit of blood so I knew something was happening now. Being totally clueless really to the process (even though I have done it before!) I was a little anxious but tried to remain calm and confident that I had done this before and that help would be on the way as soon as I needed it.
Whilst I was still upstairs Charlie returned home and I asked him to call the maternity unit for me to tell them I was passing a bit of blood now. The contractions were coming pretty fast and I was groaning through them. I had the TENS machine on still but kept forgetting which buttons to press.
We rang the maternity unit and they told us that the midwives had been trying to call us. We asked them whether we should start filling the pool and they told us yes!! So Charlie started faffing about with the liner and hose pipes none of which we had started to prepare yet. I had sent a text at 15.08 asking whether the midwife I had spoken to that morning would mind popping over to see whether the baby had started to move round yet and at this point it was about 15:30.
After about ten minutes no call had come through so I told Charlie to call the midwife back and ask them to come right away. I was by now making quite a bit of noise and not really sure what do do with myself. Still fully clothed!
I needed to go to the toilet but I knew the feeling I was having was actually a baby working it’s way down. I started to feel the need to push and after one strong contraction I felt my waters pop. I then started to try to remove my socks and trousers which was a bit tricky!
The pool had about 6 inches of water in it by now and Charlie had been running in and out to the kitchen and the outside tap which he was using to fill the pool (I was unaware he was using the outside tap!). I wanted to get in so Charlie helped me remove my clothes and the TENS machine from my back and helped me climb over the side of the pool. I told him that one half of the pool was cold!! (Always complaining). This was the water coming from the outside tap and the kitchen tap had run out of hot water as well. Charlie started running in and out trying to sort the water situation whilst also looking out for the midwives. He stroked my back a couple of times while I just carried on focussing on what was happening in my body.
Charlie went outside to show the midwives into the house (I later found out he accosted a poor unawares old lady thinking she was the midwife!) and as he left I really wanted to bear down so I gave a big push. I knew something big was happening now and reached down and felt something on its way out. Another big push and whatever it was had popped out - I shouted out “it’s coming out!” Followed by “it’s not the head!” because it felt squishy and not like a head at all. The midwife started to panic and rushed in on hearing this I think but before she made it through the door I had given another big push and the baby was fully out. I felt her wriggle in the water underneath me and pulled her up to my chest for a cuddle. When the midwife walked in we were there in the shallow water together.
It was the most amazing feeling to have just given birth to this little baby in my front room. Hardly a minute had passed when the midwife was in the room with me and checking everything was ok. She soon picked up on the fact that we were getting cold so got us out of the pool and navigated over to the sofa where we were cocooned in blankets and towels to warm us up.
One funny moment was when the midwife asked for warm towels (when we were still in the pool) and we had none prepared - she asked if we had a microwave, which we don’t, so Charlie turned on the oven and we were heating towels in there!
All in all from the start of our walk to being on the sofa after the birth was a total of three hours. After the birth the midwives checked me over and I had to birth the placenta too - not pretty but pretty amazing to be totally conscious and aware of the whole process. The actual labour was about an hour and a half total and Edith was born at 16.08.
The next morning we welcomed Freda back into the home and started our self isolation as a family. Of all the things I was frightened of, giving birth alone and without access to gas and air was one of the main ones. As it happens I did it, and not only did I survive it, I am so glad that it happened that way. It was totally empowering and an amazing experience. I have to say a huge thank you to the Cygnet Homebirth Team for being wonderful from start to finish.
Thanks for reading! If anyone out there is expecting or has recently had a baby, and needs someone to talk to, please feel free to get in touch.