Thursday, March 31, 2011

Avalon's Birth Day

On Monday the 28th March 2010, I saw my estimated due date pass me by.
My only anxiety came from the fact that if I went 14 days past that date I would be 'pressured' with induction at the hospital, thus ending our plans for a natural homebirth. 
With much love and support our wonderful midwife, Helen had assured us that I would not be having this baby in the hospital.
I had what I suspected was a 'show' in bits and pieces over the coming several days and had an appointment with Helen on Thursday the 1st April. She examined me and  said I was 2cm dilated. 
I think that in itself was a huge boost mentally to what lay ahead... 8 more to go and then we would meet our baby girl.
That following night we went to our friends house for dinner, all was well and after a beautiful meal of chilli  fettuccine I started to feel... well... a little odd. 
I couldn't quite figure out whether I felt unwell or not but I just felt strange, jittery and couldn't sit still.
 It was only at about 10pm that night that I admitted to myself this was probably the beginning of labour.

 About 5am on Saturday (3rd) morning I started getting light cramps every  30 minutes, lasting for about a minute, and stayed all day. I felt the cramps (or rushes) come and go ever so faintly, sometimes I wasn't even sure if it was 'anything'. 

Out of curiosity Grant started to time them and we saw a pattern slowly progress. These rushes were by no means painful but we decided to cancel our plans that night with friends and decide stay in. 
I headed to bed that night in the knowledge that I would probably need my stength for the coming day or two
By 10pm the rushes were 20 minutes apart and things really got started at 2am when I noticed they were consistently 7 minutes apart. I let Grant sleep as I knew he would need his rest too and I breathed gently through them, again, they were not painful, and I didn't feel I needed to move around so I  managed to doze lightly but I was too excited to sleep. 
At 5am, I decided that things were feeling a little stronger and I wanted a warm bath while Grant set up the birthing pool in our living room.

After my bath, at about 6am, my rushes were about 5 minutes apart so I started using the TENS machine. 
I am not sure how effective it was in terms of pain relief but it was definitely a distraction. They were feeling stronger but not much more than menstrual cramps. Ironically, Helen, our midwife was arriving at 9am for a scheduled appointment  but she had wanted a call when we were about 5 mins apart as she lived close by and could 'arrange' her day. Grant phoned her at 7am while I was breathing and rocking with the TENS on my back.
 I didn't feel like breakfast although I attempted a piece of toast.
I rocked on all fours on the couch and paced while Grant filled up the birthing pool.

 When Helen arrived at 9am I was having a particularly quite strong rush that was lasting over a minute, I cannot remember if I was humming or not but she entered the living room saying, 'That sounds promising!' She asked me whether I wanted to be checked to see how far I had dilated... I ummed and ahhed but decided to go for it, I was 2 cm dialated when I had seen her the previous Thursday so felt things were moving along nicely. I was so excited when she said I was 6cm dialated. Great news! It felt so good to know I only had 4 more to go and that also I could use the pool- that warm water looked so inviting.

Sinking into the pool was absolute BLISS and even more effective than the TENS. I seriously cannot recommend it enough. After 9 months of feeling so heavy, the weightlessness and warm water was beyond what I had imagined. 
We lit candles and listened to classical music (up until this point we had been watching sky news (?) Grant sat beside the pool while I wallowed; we chatted and I ate pineapple (SUGAR!), drank water and Helen stayed in the dining room writing notes and drinking coffee. 
I loved that our midwife was completely hands off and respectful of my space. 
This was all about our baby, Grant and I. Just as we had imagined- She was there if I needed her but she left us largely to ourselves.

I guess as the rushes or waves got closer together my recollection gets a little hazy. 
I continued with the breathing techniques I had learnt in yoga class; visualisations and most effective, counting the contractions. 
I had read Marie Mongan's book on Hypnobirthing and found it a great resource. I counted out loud through each wave as a distraction when I was having difficulty focusing on visualisations.
Grant was an amazing support and birth partner, he helped me remain focused and reminded me of my breath. 
My yoga instructor Cathy said at every class, 'When you finish a contraction, forget about it, you will never have that one again and you are one step closer to meeting your baby.' I kept that as a mantra running through my head.

Helen checked me again (with my permission) about midday and I was 9cm dilated. 
Ironically, this is when I went into transition and also when I decided to use the entonox. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't. I had actually forgot that I had it available to me as pain relief until it was suggested by Helen at my protests of 'I can't do it.' 
All in all, I used it for 20 minutes before I decided to push. The rushes during transition felt like waves on top of each other but again it was manageable, the warm water and my husband got me through that 20 minutes.
Somewhere previous to this a second midwife, Kealy, had been called (as is law in the UK) and she arrived just as I began to push. In hindsight, I think I was trying to push before my body was ready. As I said, I decided to push instead of just letting my body do what it needed to do.
 At this stage my waters still had not broken.
 I had a lot of difficulty with pushing. I felt like I wasn't 'getting the hang of it.' I know that I had difficulty feeling the rushes at this point (transition/entonox?), I believe this may have been because Avalon was transverse so I wasn't feeling the progression of her moving down. 
This was without a doubt the most difficult part of my labour, emotionally and physically.
I kept changing my positions in the pool to try to get her moving. I even got out for 5mins and tried to push on the toilet at the recommendation of Helen. Before getting back in the pool, I lay on the couch and Helen broke my waters I could feel Avalon's head with my hand. 
I felt what I remember as a sudden drop as I was getting back into the pool... now HERE was an urge to push!
I shut my eyes and breathed her down.
To my surprise it felt more natural to me to be sitting back in the pool and gripping the sides with Grant beside and behind me for support.
The sense of relief was indescribable when I felt her head emerging. All I kept hearing Grant say over and over again was 'Oh my God... Oh My God!" 
I wish I had looked down but I was so in the zone to get her in my arms. 
I can honestly say I did not feel pain as she was crowning and as she entered the pool. That oxytocin has a lot to answer for! (not to mention the water and the perineal massage I had spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy doing.)
Before I knew it, she was in the pool.
I did it.
I was sort of dazed and Helen said 'Take your baby' but I didn't really hear her, I am not sure where I 'went' for the moment but Helen had to scoop her up and put her on my chest. She was born at 2.15pm on Easter Sunday, the 4th April 2010, weighing 8 lbs 9.

Grant was behind me outside the pool and he also wrapped his arms around me and her. We cuddled and I cannot even describe that moment and how it felt ♥
... and then there were 3 of us ♥ ...
It was at least 5 minutes before we even knew if we had a boy or girl as we were too mesmerized with her to even look.
 She came into the world when she was ready and certainly in her own way, we knew she was transverse as every time the midwives listened for the heartbeat they had to keep moving around my stomach as she kept changing her position. Helen described it as she was 'corkscrewing' her way down and of course, she never turned as she came through the cervix.
 She was born on her side with the biggest part of her head coming through. I had a 2nd degree tear  but didn't need any stitching. 
I ♥ being at home.
Because of the tear there was a lot of blood in the pool and on the advice from Helen she wanted to see what was happening so I was given an injection to get the placenta out. This, like a couple of other mentions, was not part of my birth plan. 
We waited for the cord to stop pulsating and then Grant cut it.
The placenta still has pride of place in our freezer. 
At the time I had no clue what I wanted to do with it but I knew I couldn't throw it away. We thought of encapsulation but as time got away from us we have decided to use it to make prints on canvas (just waiting for Avalon to be old enough to join in the fun) and then will plant it.
I was pretty dazed in the hour after her birth, I guess through blood loss and what my body had just been through, I felt quite dizzy when I first fed her and was shivering too. 
Breastfeeding her for the first time was amazing, little did I know it was so much more than just nourishing her with food. I was in love instantly. 
Grant made me honey on toast and some sweet tea and the shiverying/dizziness calmed. Helen left to attend to other commitments (she would return a few hours later to see how we all were) I chilled out with Avalon whilst Grant had the task of emptying the pool.

I cannot underestimate how good it felt to be at home. 
I was so much more relaxed than I would have been in the hospital and I can remember earlier that morning thinking I am so happy I don't have to get in a car and get to a hospital right now, instead, I am wallowing naked in a warm bath.
I very possibly would have given birth with the aid of forceps, or faced a C-section if I had been in hospital. Thankfully, I avoided intervention.
Every woman is different and everyone views birth differently, I had a few reasons why I chose to birth at home but primarily it was finding a place where I would feel most relaxed, safe and secure. For me, that was in our home.I really feel there are no words to describe how amazing the day was. I felt calm, in control, supported, loved and empowered. This day defined who I am more than any other event in my life, from it not only do we have the blessed gift of our daughter but I have found my passion in supporting and empowering women through their childbirth choices. 
For me, choosing to homebirth led to the path of natural and instinctual parenting and in my research of birth choices and discovering my best birth I have met some of the most supportive and amazing women I could ever encounter whom share the same ideals and passions as myself ♥
I felt incredibly calm; this in itself surprises me as it is not a personality trait of mine but I was so determined for our child to be born in a calming and 'warm' environment. 

I honestly felt 'no fear' throughout and I guarantee that my experience would have been so different emotionally had I been in the hospital. In that sort of environment, I do not doubt my memories in terms of pain and experience would have been so different, and nowhere near as positive. 
But that is just me.
I cannot believe that Avalon is almost 1.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful girl... we love you to the moon and back xx


  1. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story Kate. It always fascinates me to hear of other womens birth stories - most of which are painful and traumatic. Yours is natural and beautiful... as it should be. Happy first birthday to Avalon. My niece Charlize turns 7 on the same date, so I won't forget it! Nicola xo

  2. awww that is beautiful! Happy birthday Avalon, you beautiful little soul. Well done Kate, I hope that one day I too can have an empowering home birth! So you recks get one of those pools huh?

  3. Thank you both for your lovely comments...
    I am all for women being able to have the birth they want provided they and baby are healthy and happy. I think some people are taken aback when I say I actually enjoyed labour and look forward to doing it again.
    @Zoe... ABSOLUTELY recommend the eco birthing pool in a box, is fast the assemble and fast to empty... we sold ours on within weeks to a friend (You just replace the liner) she had a wonderful unassisted birth in Germany.