Preparing for a positive birth after a traumatic first time experience.
The most valuable lesson I learnt from giving birth to my first daughter was that a ‘healthy baby’ is not the ‘only thing that matters’, I was determined to prepare for a positive birth after a traumatic first time experience. The mother’s experience of birth matters so, so much too. I truly believe the traumatic experience I had with my first daughter’s birth lead me to develop post natal depression. I got off to a terrible start as I couldn’t process what had happened, and would cry whenever I thought about the birth. On top of this I was navigating motherhood, breastfeeding, I was physically healing and of course was sleep deprived. I was thrown completely off balance like many new mums, but also had post traumatic stress.
Although I got help and lifted out of my depression, getting pregnant was a bit of a trigger - I knew I’d have to give birth again. I’m so happy that at this point I didn’t just let fear get a hold of me. I started the course with Lucy. I wholeheartedly think it was one of the best things I ever did for myself.
It finally just made sense after a lifetime of fearing birth - I knew so much about the physiology, the importance of certain hormones, how my husband and I could be as prepared as possible, both physically and mentally. Above all, I learnt not to fear birth. By understanding every element of what would happen to my body, and also what scenarios can lead to the interventions we often hear about in birth horror stories, I found that my fears about childbirth disappeared and instead I was looking forward to going through this experience. I didn’t even feel worried about the birth taking a different path from what I had planned- I felt ready mentally, for any eventuality. A wonderful affirmation which helped with this was- ‘I am ready for whatever birth my baby needs’. I really was. I loved the idea that birth is not this horrific event that so many women simply must bear. That it’s not just one day, lying on a hospital bed that you just have to ‘get through’. Lucy turned all these traditional views of birth on their head and took the fear away. I was encouraged to read positive birth stories and watch birth videos. I would have avoided watching anything like this before but it helped so much to see that birth really can be such an incredible experience for the woman. It’s beautiful.
We thought that life would have returned to normal by the time of our due date. Instead we were back in lockdown. Things did feel a bit overwhelming at times, looking after my three year old while heavily pregnant and exhausted. The thing that got me through was thinking about our baby. It was such a blessing to our family in quite dark times.
After a couple of sessions with Lucy I was feeling informed and pretty damn powerful. My gut was telling me to have our second baby at home so that’s what we planned for. I barely recognised the person who had this level of confidence in herself and her ability to give birth. I felt empowered by the choice I made- kind of like it proved to myself how far I had come mentally.
We had our birth pool delivered and we got the living room ready. I tried to bear in mind that it may all go unused, but at the same time allowed myself to entertain the idea that we may be some of the lucky ones.
Two days after my due date I had mild period pain-type cramps throughout the afternoon. The cramps turned into mild contractions after a couple of hours and I just knew it was my body gearing up. I called the midwife who said she’d come and see me. While I was waiting for her and my parents to come and collect my daughter, I had some nice time with her on the sofa watching cartoons, cuddling and breathing through the surges. I knew it was my last bit of time just us two, so I held her tighter than normal.
The midwife arrived and I firstly took a Covid test and she monitored my contractions and explained that when things got a bit further along she’d come back with one other midwife. I remember her saying that the moment my daughter left, my surges would probably intensify as I wouldn’t be in ‘mother hen’ mode and could relax into it more and focus. She was right- the moment it was just me and my husband I felt in the zone. I went up and had a shower and he prepared the living room. I remember walking downstairs into the most peaceful, beautiful room; dim lighting, candles everywhere, the smell of lavender, soft music, fairy lights, yoga mat ready and the birth pool filled. That set up was exactly what I had invisiged. I felt safe with him, at home.
As things progressed I found which positions worked for me- upright leaning on the arm of the sofa or my birthing ball was the most comfortable. I used some of visualisations techniques Lucy taught me to focus on breathing. My husband timed the surges so he would know when to call the midwives back. When they got close together he rang them and they both arrived within the half hour. I was asked if I wanted to be examined and although I knew I could decline if I wanted to, I was intrigued to know how dilated I was. I was 6cm at this point, and shortly after my waters burst. The surges then became more intense as the baby dropped down a little lower. It was at this point that I got into the water. I can’t even describe how good it felt to feel that warm water. The midwives left us to it more or less, popping in every 15mins to check the baby’s heart rate. I felt in great hands. Supported and safe. I remember seeing our kitchen- a very different atmosphere to the living room- it was bright, all the lights on, paperwork scattered all over the table- it felt like a clinical setting. I knew they were monitoring us closely and would make sure I was transferred to a hospital if it was necessary. Nothing felt remotely risky about being at home.
When I felt the urge to bear down we called them in and they advised me to do what feels right. I was on my knees in the water leaning on the edge of the tank, my husband was right infront of me holding my hands. They monitored me from behind with a mirror and torch under the water. Because I could only see my husband it still felt like it was just us at this point. I didn’t feel any fear at all. I felt calm strong and safe. I felt the pressure of the baby dropping lower and lower with each surge. When I was bearing down I felt as though my body was in complete control of the situation and had taken over my mind and all of me, and I trusted it completely. I remember when the baby crowned I knew that with one more push the head would be out. I had a rush of excitement at this point but tried to stay calm with my breathing and on that final push I kept it slow and steady as the head came through. I felt incredible at this point! I knew I was so close to holding my baby. I waited for the next surge and then the body came out into my husbands hands. He pulled her to the surface and into my arms. Remi didn’t cry, she was quiet and calm and just stared at us both with her huge brown eyes. I will never ever forget that moment. It was beautiful and changed me as a person.