I want to share the story of my son’s birth and the things I did that I believe helped me have a successful, natural birth. I want to share because I want to help remove the fear and negativity that still seems to surround childbirth. I know not all births go as planned, but I want to show that some do – in fact many do, we just don’t hear about them.
When my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby, I went into research mode and read everything I could find on what to expect when I got pregnant and what would happen to my body and why. I felt ready!
After only two months of trying, I became pregnant (I was shocked too, I thought it would take longer!) and our journey to parenthood began. But then something happened that wasn’t in any of the books I read… practically uninvited, other woman started telling me their pregnancy and birth stories and they all had one thing in common – they were all negative experiences.
Now, having never experienced pregnancy before, they were not the stories I wanted to hear. I was told about terrible morning sickness, heart burn, stretch marks, back ache… then if I got through all that, I had a long labour to look forward to, complete with tears that would need many stitches and prevent me from sitting or peeing properly, then there would be the world and his wife down at the business end checking various things, the intrusive medical interventions because the baby would be stuck or be the wrong way round or I’d be too tired to push…argh! Luckily, I had every faith in my body’s ability to grow and then birth my baby– but not all women do and I could see how someone else hearing those stories would have just added to any fear and uncertainty they already felt. I didn’t doubt my body’s ability to perform all its other functions, so why would I doubt its ability when it came to child birth?
I had a very uneventful pregnancy, with a bit of sciatica towards the end. I loved being pregnant. I felt like I was part of something very special and I was doing something amazing. I had this little life growing inside of me and every time I felt him wiggle or kick, it made me smile. My body had actually made a human! I would lie there at night time, my hand on my belly, trying to imagine what he might look like and I would sing to him on my drive to work. It was the strangest feeling to think that I was never on my own because I was carrying this little person around with me. Enjoy your pregnancy, even if there are parts of it you struggle with. Know that every day that passes, your little human is growing stronger and bigger.
I’d read and been told that birth was like running a marathon, so it made sense to me to prepare both my body and mind for this ‘marathon’ (you don’t just rock up to the London Marathon without having done any training, right?) My friend had given me a hypnobirthing book and I practised the techniques every day. I taped a list of positive affirmations above my bed so I would see them before I went to sleep and when I woke up. I did light exercise and yoga to keep my body in decent shape, I sat and slept in the best positions for baby to be in the best position, I exercised my pelvic floor muscles EVERY DAY (those bad boys play a crucial part during birth and afterwards) and during the later stages of pregnancy we did perineal massage . I felt ready!
At around 3 in the morning, at 37 weeks and 5 days, my waters broke. I climbed out of bed and rushed to the bathroom. I was certain it was my waters that had broken and I was excited. I sat on the toilet for a minute or so to make sure it definitely was my waters, popped on a maternity pad and went in to break the news to my sleeping hubby. At that point, I wasn’t having any contractions that I could feel and I sat for a few moments to gather myself while my husband phoned the maternity ward. About 45 mins after I’d got out of bed, we were in the car and on our way to the hospital. (I had wanted a home birth, but because of a heart condition I have, I was advised that I would have to birth in hospital, under the care of my consultant)
We arrived at the hospital and I still couldn’t feel any contractions. The midwife examined me and I was 3cms dilated. About an hour later, I did start to feel the contractions and they started to become more intense and closer together – I knew each surge brought me closer to meeting my baby! I spent most of my time during those early contractions on my hands and knees, listening to my birthing music and visualising my cervix expanding. The sensation was like nothing I’ve ever felt before – but was it painful? I wouldn’t’ describe it as painful, no. Pain for me is a signal from your brain telling you that something is wrong and I knew that nothing was wrong and that my body was just doing what it needed to do. The surges were intense and they increased in intensity until I was fully dilated and then I was overcome with an overwhelming urge to push. Up to that point, I had allowed my body to do its thing, I was breathing my baby out, the contractions were doing all the work for me, but then came the moment when I just wanted to push. It didn’t take lots of pushing before he was out. There was a bearable sting as his head crowned and then the next surge pushed the rest of him out. At 10am, after what felt like an incredibly short labour, my son was born. The midwife passed him through my legs to me (I had given birth on my hands and knees) and I looked down at this tiny baby, that I had just brought in to the world. The midwife commented on my strong pelvic floor muscles (all those exercises paid off!) and described my birth as a ‘text book birth.’ I was hugely proud of what my body had just done.
We delayed cord clamping until the blood had stopped flowing and I delivered the placenta naturally. I had one very minor tear and what the midwife described as a ‘graze’ and had a stitch for each. I was pooping and peeing without any issues that same day.
Our son was at my breast within 30 minutes of being born – my body had grown him and now my body would continue that journey through breastfeeding. Putting him to my breast felt like the most natural thing in the world to do and I can only imagine how comforting it was for him after being pushed out of his safe world inside of me.
So what happened that I wasn’t expecting?
The anaesthetic injection I was given for the stitches, bloody stung!
After I’d given birth, I fainted…twice. Once on the toilet and once on my way back from the toilet. Once I was back in bed and had had a drink and a snack, I was fine.
I didn’t get my water birth. I have a heart condition which meant my birth was consultant led. The midwives wanted the ok from my consultant before they’d let me in the water – everything progressed so quickly that my son was on his way out before the consultant had come on duty.
I definitely wasn’t expecting everything to happen as quickly as it did.
I know that sometimes, with all the will in the world, things don’t go to plan and that natural birth you wanted doesn’t happen – but in the absence of a medical issue, there are things you can do to make a positive, natural birth more likely.
- Have Confidence in Your Body: Know that your body can absolutely do this! Like all mammals, we are designed to procreate, if we were rubbish at giving birth, our species would be up the proverbial creek!
- Prepare Your Mind: This links to the first point. Take time daily to repeat some positive birth affirmations. Programme your mind so that when the time comes to meet your baby, you will be there full of confidence and free of doubts. Read other positive birth stories, watch You Tube videos of successful natural births. Don’t watch things like One Born Every Minute, not all births are like that!
- Prepare Your Body:I know this one isn’t always easy, given a lot of women work right up to their due date, but eat well and when you can, rest! Sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry – listen to your body. Sleep on your left side, sit up straight or slightly forward, do your pelvic floor exercises (I can’t repeat that one enough) do your pelvic floor exercises! Do light exercise, some pregnancy yoga and later in the pregnancy, perineal massage. Be proactive at doing what is best for your body and your baby.
On The Day
- Do It In The Dark: Oxytocin, doesn’t like the light. Oxytocin is needed for contractions to happen. Bright lights and noise are not a friend of oxytocin. Turn down the lights when you go in to labour, play music/sounds that you find relaxing. If you’re scared or stressed, it will slow labour down or even stop it.
- Limit Examinations: You need to feel relaxed and internal examinations can break that relaxation. Knowing how many centimetres you’re dilated is not going to speed things up and could have a negative effect on you if you are not as far along as you thought. Only have examinations that are absolutely necessary. You can refuse any examinations.
- Keep Trusting Your Body: It’s easy during the throws of labour to doubt your body – ‘can I really do this?’ The answer is yes. It may feel more intense than you expected, but your body knows what it’s doing (women in comas have given birth) let it get on with it and know that billions of women before you and like all your female ancestors, you can absolutely do it!
- Get Off Your Back: We are not designed to give birth on our back – the only people who benefit from you lying on your back during birth, is the medical staff. When you’re on your back, you are literally pushing up hill, against gravity, you also reduce the size of your pelvic space. Lying on your back will make birthing slower, harder and increases your chance of tearing or needing an assisted birth. Giving Birth Upright – 9 Huge Benefits | BellyBelly Get on your knees, get on all fours, you can even stand!
- You Don’t Need All The Drugs: Ok, this is a controversial one and each person’s pain threshold is different, but just like lying on your back puts you at greater risk of needing an assisted birth, so does the use of drugs during labour. There are also risks to baby which you need to be aware of. Do your research on this one and make an informed decision. Pain relief in labour | NCT
Remember, you too, can have a positive birth experience and when you do, remember to share your story with other women – together we can take the fear away from birth.
Have you had a positive birth experience you’d like to share? Please leave your story in the comments, I would love to read them and I’m sure expectant mothers out there would too!