I gave birth to my son, Finn, almost 2 months ago now on the 15th June – during the Covid-19 pandemic. A pretty crazy time to bring new life into the world for sure, but with along with its challenges, there were also some pretty revolutionary learning opportunities and blessings I experienced during this time (this in no way is intended to bypass the utter devastation this time has brought many and I recognise my privilege.)
To really understand the decisions, I made and subsequently Finn’s birth story, I feel that the background of my first birthing experience, that of my daughter Eva, is necessary. Read about it here.
I fell pregnant with Finn in the October of 2019 and was determined that this time it would be different. We’d since moved back to the South Lakes and I’d undertaken training to become a Doula with the wonderful Kicki Hansard of BirthBliss Academy, to enhance my knowledge. After debriefing with a wonderful local midwife Janet Naylor, and confirming my suspicions that the events of Eva’s birth were indeed, entirely unnecessary, I was 100% set on having a home-birth this time around. Luckily for me, on my first appointment, I was met with the response ‘Oh brilliant, we’re great at them here!’
I cannot fault the subsequent care from the Juniper team here in the South Lakes. I experienced some Prenatal depression early in my pregnancy and still felt the effects of my previous traumatic birth, but the continuity of care put in place made me feel incredibly safe and respected. It was clear that the hospital environment had become a trigger for me as the only time I felt anxious was when attending my scans, making me even more certain that having my baby at home was the best choice for me. I enjoyed a healthy pregnancy and therefore made the informed decision to decline any further tests and measuring after my 20 week scan. Intuitively I felt all was fine and my midwife was incredibly respectful of my decisions.
Then in the March, at 6 months pregnant, our trust suspended home-births due to Covid-19. The midwives were clearly as disappointed as I was but it was out of their hands. I thought long and hard about what to do. I truly felt that having my baby at home was the best choice for me but was left with the option of giving birth in hospital or at home – unassisted, an incredibly difficult decision. Hospital now was not only a trigger for me due to a previous traumatic birth but also felt like ‘the eye of the storm’ in regards to this awful illness, and as pregnant women, we were categorised as vulnerable. In the end I knew that I needed to birth where I felt ‘safe.’ I felt safe in my home and I trusted my body’s ability to birth, therefore I decided I would ‘free-birth.’
I continued to see my midwife. I felt both reassured and upset each time I did so. It was not a decision I wanted to make as I felt so safe under her care. I had also hired an amazing local Doula (please email me for contact details) who supported me emotionally throughout and became such a wonderful friend. I kept my body and mind healthy. I read stories about birthing women in other countries and cultures (Veronica Robinson's book 'The Birthkeepers' was a firm favourite on the subject) and felt reassured by the lack of complications they have when birthing. I read up on ‘undisturbed birth,’ taking in information from Michel Odent and Ina May Gaskin, learning more about the hormones that are at play and how our modern ways disturb our natural ability to birth effectively. I worked through my fears through meditating and journaling with help from Pam England's 'Birthing From Within.' I created a birth space where I displayed my affirmations and practiced yoga. I joined online support groups such as Home Birth Support Group UK and Freebirth and Emergency Support Group UK created an run by Doula, Samantha Gadsden. I educated myself and my husband on ‘warning signs’ and true medical emergencies with midwife, Joy Horner's online course and traditional Midwife, Heather Baker's book 'Home Birth on Your Own Terms.' I knew that hospital was there IF I needed it. I would simply birth at home for as long as I felt comfortable.
As my due date (or guess date) drew closer, I naturally drew further into myself. I started to act like other animals before they give birth and hid myself away, staying closer to home, taking a break from social media and finally turning off my phone.
A week before my due date, I received a phone call from my midwife – home births had been reinstated! And my midwife that I had seen all along was on call … I could hardly believe my luck.
My due date came and went and I explained to my midwife that I did not want to discuss induction, I had made an informed decision to let baby come when they were ready. I began to experience mild contractions a couple of evenings prior but when I went to bed each night they disappeared – as infuriating as this was at the time, I know now that this was my body’s clever way of preparing for what was to come.
The morning of the 15th June, at 41 weeks + 1, I awoke after a particularly deep sleep, feeling really quite anxious. I knew that at my 41 week appointment that day, my midwife would be required to mention induction and although I declined again, I was becoming nervous. It turns out that my midwife had an inkling that she would be seeing me in no time at all due to this little anxious spell!
At around 5pm, I went to toilet and felt a popping sensation followed by trickling waters. I called both my midwife and my doula to tell them but explained that I hadn’t had any contractions yet so thought we had time. Shortly after, I experienced a mild contraction. I sat with my daughter, having a snack and my husband leisurely blew up the pool but wouldn’t fill it just yet because … we’d have plenty of time.
Just before 7pm, as we were putting my daughter to bed, my contractions ramped up considerably, to the point where I briefly thought Finn was arriving over the toilet! I shouted goodnight to Eva, thrilled that she would likely be at home, asleep when the baby arrived – just as I’d visualised. I pulled myself into the bath that Col had run for me but quickly grew uncomfortable and decided that I needed to be in the pool – despite its lack of water.
Things were getting INTENSE and I was aware of the speed things were happening as I felt the feelings of doubt creep in that are so typical of the transition period. ‘But I can’t be in transition this quickly!’ I thought. I had my eyes closed but felt my wonderful doula enter the room and I broke down in tears. It felt like a wonderful release. She massaged my lower back as I leant forward facing the edge of the pool. With her mothering energy, I felt instantly more relaxed and felt a shift in Col’s energy too – this was invaluable.
It wasn’t long before the midwives arrived and my due to the Covid restrictions, my doula left for the time being. Col stayed behind me at the side of the pool and I remained relaxed as I focused on my breath and let my body lead. The effectiveness of the continuity of care my midwife had put in place really became evident here as I trusted her completely and she knew my preferences inside out. She said very little, but gently and calmly encouraged me and suggested that I shifted my energy down more. I was aware that I was making some very primal noises and noticed them become lower at this point. She told me to follow my body if I felt I needed to push, which I was surprised to feel that I did. Now leaning back against the side of the pool, I began to push and shortly after felt the relief of my son’s head being born. As I birthed his body, I was told to reach down to guide my baby out (as per my preferences) and I lifted my son out of the (just full) pool and to my chest at 8.49pm – 40 minutes after the midwives arrived.
Gazing at my son, I felt such an overwhelming feeling of joy – there’s nothing quite like the high! Both of us so alert. He didn’t cry, just looked up at me with his big eyes, so calm. I’d done it, I was in total awe of my body and what it could do, I felt like superwoman.
I moved out of the pool and onto to the sofa to deliver the placenta. We waited for the cord to stop pulsating before Col cut it, and I pushed the placenta out around 10 minutes later We then enjoyed a wonderful golden hour just the 3 of us. Afterwards, I had a few stitches due to the sheer speed of his birth, but was able to receive all care in the comfort of our own home.
Once the midwives left, our doula came back to help us clean up and we sat up until the early hours chatting and basking in the high of a wonderfully, healing birthing experience after an intense few months. In the morning, Eva came through to our bedroom to meet her new baby brother – who arrived as she slept.
I could not have wished for more.
Doula - Kate Read (email for contact details)
Kicki Hansard and my BirthBliss Academy Doula cuddle
And finally, but most importantly .. my amazing husband, birth partner and life partner, Col. Thank you for you unwavering support, I love you xx