Birth Story No. 21: Ruth’s Active Birth

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I was 3 days past my ‘due date’ and couldn’t wait to meet our baby. I was trying to remember that ‘the baby will come when she is ready’ but I hadn’t felt any tell-tale signs and thought I was in it for the long haul. To cheer me up, my husband and I decided to make the most of our pre-baby time and go out for dinner at our local Italian restaurant.

At the end of the main course I started feeling mild cramp-like pains, but I managed to have dessert before deciding I felt different and wondering whether perhaps something was starting to happen. We got home at 7.45 p.m. and I went to lie down and see if what I was feeling really were surges or just the weight of carrying my little one around for 9 months. I put my hypno-birthing CD on and waited, trying to relax and practicing the deep breathing Janet had taught us at the Active Birth Centre pregnancy yoga classes which I had attended weekly from when I was 23 weeks pregnant. After half an hour it was clear something was happening and it was surges I was feeling – labour had begun! My husband rang the Maternity Triage Unit at the Whittington Hospital, which was the hospital we had chosen for the birth. At that point, the surges were coming every ten to fifteen minutes. The hospital reassured us that it did indeed sound as though labour had started and reminded us to continue timing the surges and to get in touch again when they were longer and coming more regularly.

Going into hospital

By 9.30 p.m. the surges were coming every 3 minutes and lasting 45 seconds, so my husband rang the Whittington Birth Centre and they said it was time to come in. Expecting to have a long phase of pre-labour we were surprised by the speed and the intensity with which labour had started and it was at this point that we were rushing round the house to get together our last few things for the hospital whilst waiting for the taxi to arrive. Luckily we also remembered to feed the cat, but not to turn the lights out! At this stage I started to feel less relaxed because I was concerned that we would go into hospital and be turned away, assuming that because things had progressed so fast they would slow down – as labour often does at this point – with the upheaval of getting to the hospital.

In fact the opposite happened. My surges got stronger and longer in the taxi, and I remember wishing there weren’t so many speed bumps on the road on the way there. We got to the hospital just before 10 p.m. It was at this stage that I wished I had followed advice and found out exactly where the Birth Centre was… After wandering around for some minutes searching, we luckily found a helpful caretaker who was shutting up for the night and let us through the back way to the Centre – he perhaps sensed my urgency at this point! We met our midwife at the entrance of the Centre and were quickly shown to our room – a massive room with double bed, large en-suite bathroom, birthing pool, and various bits of equipment like a birthing chair and stool, ball and beanbag.

Time to get into the birth pool

We were lucky enough to have the same midwife for the whole labour. She got us settled in the room and took my blood pressure and monitored the baby’s heartbeat – both were fine and so we were left to our own devices with the midwife popping back to check on us every ten to fifteen minutes. By midnight, I was feeling uncomfortable and it was time to get into the birthing pool. This was the most wonderful experience and I am certain it was this that made it possible for me to not need any other form of pain relief. The soothing effects of the water helped me get into an established routine for managing the surges, and I used the “humming breath” which Janet had taught me.

“Getting into the birth pool was the most wonderful experience and I am certain it was
this that made it possible for me to not need any other form of pain relief.”

Meeting our baby

My husband also used some of the massage techniques which we had learnt at the Couples Workshop which Janet also runs. At about 2.30 a.m. my waters broke whilst I was in the pool. About an hour later, I had a strong urge to push. This led to an hour and a half of pushing, with progress being observed using a mirror, and monitoring being carried out whilst I was in the pool. Although the baby’s heartbeat was constant throughout and wasn’t raised, I needed to get her out into the world so in the end I got out of the pool and, with the help of two midwives, Dorothy (Dolly) entered the world about twenty minutes later at 3.51 a.m on Sunday 26 February. She was healthy and well and we were able to snuggle up and enjoy skin-to-skin contact for a couple of hours after the birth, including during the (quick) delivery of the placenta.

I was then able to get up and move around and we were ready to leave the hospital twelve hours later. We didn’t use any of the suitcase of things which we had packed, or eat any of the snacks until the next day, when they were much appreciated!

Surprising myself

I really enjoyed Janet’s weekly yoga classes for relaxation but was a bit sceptical that I would have the composure to use all that I had learnt during the birth itself. However, a strange calm came over me during labour, I went deep into myself and felt like I had shut the rest of the world away. I used different breathing techniques to urge the baby down and as natural pain relief and in the pool I used the “cat” pose and other positions learnt during the classes – they came instinctively.

I’m very grateful to Janet for teaching me and helping me to have exactly the labour I had wanted – as the midwife said – I pretty much ticked off everything which was in my birth plan! 

“A strange calm came over me during labour. I went deep into myself and felt like
I had shut the rest of the world away.”

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