Make yourself comfortable and sit back to read the birth story of Zoe – the beautiful baby girl born to first time parents Amy & Dave. This is such an empowering birth story that highlights the importance of being educated, knowing your rights and making decisions that feel right for you and your circumstances….
My birth story is a long one which begins way before I gave birth thanks to our little one being far too comfortable in my belly (she must have been enjoying all the ice cream I was devouring). So I apologise for the length but I really wanted to share my story in the hope that it might benefit someone else who ends up in a similar situation to me!
I knew early on in my pregnancy that I wanted to do some sort of birth and parenting class as neither me nor my husband have been around many babies. Due to covid, everything the hospital offered was online so I started researching private classes as I was sick of zoom! I came across hypnobirthing along with some other similar courses but the hypnobirthing syllabus resonated with both of us as we’re big believers of the power of the mind and the stellar reviews for Kerry’s course confirmed it for us.
We took Kerry’s course at 26 weeks which I was worried was a bit early but that was the only one with space on and, in the end, I was so glad to have that extra time afterwards to process and practise everything! The course left both Dave and I feeling so much more prepared for what was to come and also really excited for birth rather than fearful! Up until then, I’d just thought contractions were these painful side effects of labour rather than the body physically assisting the baby down the birth canal. In the weeks leading up to my EDD, I would play the affirmations every time we did the perineal massage or during my acupuncture sessions and I would try and practise the meditation whenever I could, although I definitely didn’t do it as much as recommended (sorry, Kerry)!
From 36 weeks, I began acupuncture weekly. At first, I was so nervous about inducing labour early because I wanted a decent amount of maternity leave before the baby arrived to get ready and relax (turns out, I needn’t have worried about this!). From 38 weeks, I started to expect labour could happen at any moment as they talk about term being 38-40wks which meant that, by the time I reached 40 weeks, I was a bit disheartened that nothing had happened yet. Especially as at my 38 week midwife appointment, they said they’d need to book my induction in at the 40 week appointment, which panicked me because I’d never considered induction a part of my birth journey.
Sure enough, at 40 weeks, they talked me through the induction process and said they needed to book a date now. The way they spoke about my birth suddenly changed from talking about when to call the hospital if I go into labour and how long to stay at home for, to the induction process almost being inevitable for me now that I was almost 40 weeks pregnant, and that I’d require all of the hormones and drugs because I’m a first time mum. I left the appointment feeling so disheartened and almost defeated. Up until that point I’d just been so excited to experience birth! I’d heard that labour induced by synthetic hormones can be a lot harder to manage as it isn’t guided by your baby and body.
After this, determined to not be induced, I kicked my natural labour induction activities up a gear! Acupuncture, massage, eating pineapple, diffusing clary sage, acupressure (after a quick email to Kerry to check that was okay!), walking up stairs sideways, bouncing on the fit ball…you name it, I was doing it daily! I decided to go in for a stretch and sweep at 40+3 and found out I was already 2cm dilated. How exciting, labour must be imminent! But nothing happened. Nor did it after a S+S at 40+6, 41+2 or even 41+4…except my mucus plug came away. Again, this got me excited but still nothing!
Eventually, having declined to talk induction thus far, at 41+2, the midwife said it was hospital policy for me to be induced prior to 42 weeks and she wasn’t in a position to sign off if I did decline it so she asked me to go in and see the doctor the following day. I agreed and, the following day, I went to the day stay for additional monitoring and scans and to speak to the doctor. Again, I explained that I knew that my baby was fine, I wanted to give them a chance to come when they’re ready and I didn’t want to have hormones which could place my baby under undue stress and lead to a cascade of interventions. I was also due to give birth in the birth centre and was sure I’d want to be in the water, both of which would not be possible if I went the synthetic hormone route. The scan showed my baby measuring 4.2kgs so the doctor was saying I probably wouldn’t be able to give birth vaginally anyway.
They were quite persistent about having an induction date booked in. I was currently booked to come in the following day at 9am for cervidil but really didn’t want to. I said I’d compromise and go to 41+6 so that it was prior to 42 weeks (their cutoff). But, because it was Easter, they were completely booked out. So, after much back and forth, we went home to think about it but knowing I wouldn’t take the induction the following day.
The next day we went in for monitoring again (something I agreed to while fighting induction). There was a brilliant midwife on duty who understood my fears and what I was hoping for and she suggested that she check my cervix to see whether or not I’d need the cervidil. Amazingly, she said she could stretch me to 3cm and didn’t think the cervidil would help. Therefore, I could just have my membranes ruptured and this I could do in the birth centre. This was at least one step in the right direction! Due to Easter, the only day I could get into the birth centre was the following day so, after many discussions with Dave and a few tears (picking my baby’s birthday felt so weird!), we booked in for the following day. Finally, we would meet our baby!
After spending the evening hoping to go into spontaneous labour, I woke up the next morning, still pregnant! We made a packed lunch (luxury of induction!) and headed to the hospital. At 9am, they released my membranes. Miraculously, there was no meconium so I could stay at the birth centre. The midwife had advocated on my behalf that I wouldn’t need to have a cannula in straightaway (something the doctor said I had to have) and I could have six hours to try for labour to start before being transferred to the labour ward and the drip being started (the doctor had said maximum two hours). As we both agreed that I didn’t want to spend six hours in the birth centre with nothing happening only to then be transferred to the delivery ward, the midwife and I agreed that we’d reassess after lunch and make a decision then.
After the initial gushing stopped (weirdest feeling ever – I couldn’t stop laughing!), we went for a walk to a cafe. But had to leave swiftly once the gushing started again! Back in the birth suite, I felt really awkward because I thought it was inevitable that I’d be transferred to the delivery suite for the drip so I didn’t unpack any of the things I’d brought with me such as fairy lights and hypnobirthing material. I was feeling some cramping but it was similar to that that I’d experienced after the S+S so I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Around 11.30am, I had my baguette and we decided to watch some RuPaul to pass the time. I was bouncing on the ball and sniffing clary sage and we were doing nipple stimulation to try and bring on the labour. About 30 minutes into the episode, I felt the cramps intensify, so much so that we had to keep pausing the show so I could breathe through the. Within a few minutes, I was having to stand up and lean against the wall to get through them. Dave decided to download an app for timing contractions and I would tell him when to press start and stop.
It’s from here that I lose track of time but, very quickly, I could no longer talk and was using hand signals to tell Dave when I was feeling these cramps (I’m hesitant to call them surges here as I truly didn’t believe I was in labour!). We remembered we’d hired a TENS machine so Dave suggested we try that. Note to other expectant parents: practise with the machine before you’re in labour! A midwife came in and had to help us figure it out! As soon as we got it working, it was absolute heaven. Such relief! It felt like someone was massaging my back. Why hadn’t I put it on sooner?!
I continued to breathe through the surges (I still didn’t believe I was in labour though). I had my eyes closed and was using the visualisations I’d practised to get through them. I also found pushing against the wall helpful and Dave held a mini fan up to my face; the white noise was really helpful. Best $15 I spent! I quickly became exhausted from standing so was trying out different positions such as leaning on the ball or the bed but nothing was working. It all felt like an out of body experience and I really had no idea what was going on except that I was just in my zone working through these sensations. Dave did try and play the affirmation tracks at one point but I think I was too far gone as I remember to telling him to “turn that f’ing woman’s voice off!” – whoops! I will add here that I think Melissa has a beautiful soothing voice but it just wasn’t working for me at that moment!
Again, I’m not sure what time it was, perhaps 2pm, Dave went to get our midwife because he felt that something was starting to happen. They said they’d be in after they’d finished their lunch to which he had to really stress that something was happening! Nobody thought it would! And I think because I was so silent, the midwife just assumed nothing was happening. From that point, our midwife was in the room with us but she left me to it and would simply come and listen to the baby’s heartbeat intermittently. She never said anything so I assumed all was fine and just stayed in my zone.
After what seemed like forever, I think I finally realised that this probably was labour and these were real surges! I remember asking the midwife whether I could get into the bath but she said it could slow down labour so I should hold off as long as possible. And she’d also spoken to the doctor and agreed that labour had started at 2pm so they wouldn’t check my dilation until 6pm (at which point we could make a decision as to whether I needed the drip or not). I remember feeling so disheartened and also defeated because this indicated to me that they thought I probably wasn’t even 5cm dilated at that stage yet I felt like I was at the end of what I could physically cope with. I kept thinking that I’d need some more serious pain relief pretty soon as I couldn’t go on as I was for much longer.
It was at this point that I said to Dave and the midwife that I couldn’t go on and they’d need to get the baby out of me some other way (I believe I said they’d need to cut her out!). And then I let out this animalistic roar from nowhere and had this urge to push. I could clearly feel a complete change in my body and what it was doing. Incredible! The midwife asked me if I was pushing, which I confirmed, so she said she’d better go and run the bath! Errr, yes please! I think this was about 5pm.
As soon as I got into the water, I felt a huge sense of relief as the weight was taken off my legs. The bathroom was dark and it was just me, Dave on one side and the midwife on the other. I knelt down and leant on the bar across the bath for support and used this to counteract each surge as it came. To feel my body naturally bringing the baby down was awesome! In my head, I didn’t believe I’d be able to push them out so, with each surge, I pushed as hard as I could. In hindsight, probably too hard…At this stage, I was beyond thinking rationally and trying to breathe the baby down! Once her head was out, Dave said that he actually saw her turn, as we’d seen in some of the birth videos on the course. He was totally blown away seeing this in person!
After 55 minutes of pushing, our baby finally joined us! Zoe Magdalena was born at 5.55pm on April 1st weighing 3.67kg (nowhere near 4.2kg!). The midwife guided her out and straight into my arms. Dave checked out her gender (she was a surprise) and then the midwife helped us back into the bed. She explained I’d passed a large clot so would prefer to give me the injection to birth the placenta. I was more than happy for this in case I was bleeding. Luckily, there wasn’t any. I had a second degree tear but, otherwise, we were both healthy.
Our midwife was incredible: she did delayed cord clamping without me needing to ask and Zoe was left with me for four hours of skin-to-skin before they stitched me up or took any measurements. During labour, she just left me to it, only speaking up at one point to ask Dave to make sure I was keeping hydrated. It was only afterwards that I realised I also hadn’t had any cervical examinations as Zoe was born five minutes before I was due for my first one!
After a shaky start to my birth story, in hindsight, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Even the midwives couldn’t believe how perfectly it had turned out! It took me about a week to recover from the shock of how fast it all happened, and many debriefs with the midwives and Dave and anyone else who would listen to me recount it! This was definitely an important part of my healing process.
I owe a huge part of this to Kerry and the information she had given us on the course plus the support leading up to the birth. It meant that I felt empowered enough to challenge the hospital and, ultimately, had the most incredible birth experience. Had I not spoken up, things might have gone very differently. Thank you, Kerry! From Amy, Dave and Zoe xxx