Seraphina Skye Edwards was born on 15th May, 2014 at home in the pool at 3.25 am. She came into the world completely calm and looking around. For me, my birth was a totally amazing positive experience. Seraphina is my second child. I also had a lovely home birth with my first although my labor was quite different. I used similar techniques for both.
I hope I can share with you the things I did that maximized my chances of having such an empowering birth experience.
In attendance were: her daddy, Emma Healey (my ‘One-To-One’ Midwife) and Dot Parry (my Natal Hypnotherapy teacher). I found Natal Hypnotherapy invaluable and I would urge all expectant mums to practice listening to the CD’s and do the course as well. Did you know that the caesarean rate in the UK is 25%, but if you listen to the CD’s it goes down to 15% and for women who do the course as well, it goes down to 8%! Isn’t that amazing? Just by preparing yourself and learning to relax and breathe.
My home birth comes at a time when the NICE guidelines have just announced that home births are a safe location for many women to give birth. Did you know that if you are low risk, if you choose to give birth in a hospital you are 3 times more likely to end up having a C section than if you choose to have your baby at home?
I transferred to One-to-One at about 7 months from the local NHS service. One-to-One are independent midwives but they are commissioned by the NHS. I wasn’t feeling overly enamored by the service that I was receiving from the NHS. The care I received from One-to-One was incredible and I didn’t need to pay. I would highly recommend them! Everything they do is evidence based. It is not all about ticking boxes. They bring midwifery back to what it should be about; empowering women to have the birth they want. Emma came to my home for all appointments and generally spent around 90 minutes (sometimes more) chatting to me and getting to know my family; my little girl, aged 2 and my husband…. Quite different from a 10 minute appointment with the NHS which in my experience, appeared to be centered on asking me the same questions as last time and where I felt I was just a number. I had felt I wasn’t being listened to. With One-to One, you also get continuity of care. You know who will be turning up at your birth. The evidence suggests that getting to know your midwife will help you to achieve a better outcome for your birth. My midwife, Emma, passionately believes that we are designed perfectly to give birth. She is extremely knowledgeable and I felt utterly supported by her in all the choices I made.
My waters broke at 7.55 pm just at the point when Dave and my little girl Matilda (2yrs 4 months) came in from the garden while I was in the kitchen finishing tea. ‘O, I think my waters have broken’, I said. Matilda says ‘Mummy’s doing wee-wee on the floor!’ Thank God I was in the house and not out and about! I hadn’t experienced this before as my waters only broke with Matilda in the pool 5 minutes before she was born after a 36 ½ hour labour. I decided to leave tea and go and put Matilda to bed instead. By 9pm, Matilda was fast asleep upstairs and it was only then that my contractions started.
Dave created me a ‘birth palace’, a safe and beautiful space to have my baby; voile draped from the ceiling, fairy lights, candles and a little shrine to my family. We left no stone unturned. We used a 6 senses approach; I had a 14 hour playlist of my favourite chilled tunes including Zero 7 and Sigur Ros; the space looked beautiful; I had a special smelling stick containing essential oils: rose, jasmine, lavender and juniper and an oil burner with these same essential oils, and my favourite food and drink was accessible should I want it. Dave and our friend Scott, also brewed me a ‘birthing beer’ from a 14th Century recipe that was used in childbirth. I took it whilst I was in the birth pool. It tasted incredible and amazingly, it ramped my contractions right up after just a few sips! And of course, I used my sixth sense, the part of myself that knows how to birth my baby!
I had planned to make bread and cakes for everyone and potter around nesting and preparing for the birth as I had with my last very slow labour; it was 36 ½ hrs! But this time was quite different. I got all the ingredients out of the cupboards but then decided that my contractions were too strong and I decided couldn’t possibly make bread and cakes!
It was time to call Emma and Dot. They arrived at 11.30pm. I asked Emma to check how dilated I was. As I had had a baby before, I was expecting to have a raft of checks. However, Emma said that though she could check me if I wanted her to, this was not standard procedure. I was surprised. From Emma, I understood that the checks often put people off, that the language used, e.g. ‘You’re only 4 cms’ could interfere with the body’s natural process of laboring and that the checks don’t really mean anything. You can go from 3cms to 10cms in 10 minutes depending on how relaxed and focused you are. I decided to experience ‘no checks’ in contrast to my last birth. Emma checked the baby’s heartbeat regularly to make sure that the baby was happy. Happy baby + happy mum = likelihood of a good outcome! Emma looked for evidence of normality, not evidence of problems. There were ‘no rules’. I was left to trust my instincts and allow my body to birth my baby like it knows how to do, just as my body knew how to grow my baby. ‘The less we do’, Emma said, ‘the more we give!’
This hands off but fully supported approach allowed me to birth my baby in 6 ½ hrs from feeling the first contractions. My body worked just as it should and I did not tear. My baby was born in the water in a dark space with fairy lights. She looked so peaceful. As I scooped her out of the water, there was no loud whooping, just gasps of amazement. Seraphina did not cry, she just looked around as I gently brought her up to my chest to commence skin-to-skin.
The sensations that I experienced during the birth were very, very strong. But I had a multitude of ways to deal with the pain including the visualizations and the affirmations (positive statements) I had been practicing. The statements included, for example, ‘All I need to do is relax and breathe’ or ‘I know my baby feels my calmness and confidence’. My visualizations included a perfectly, peaceful beach that I could go to at any time during the birth of my baby, a dial where I could turn down the discomfort (mine went from 11 to one in honour of Spinal Tap!). I also used techniques I had learnt from Emma in the Hypnobirthing tradition; a lotus flower that when I peeled back the petals represented my cervix opening and a mental image of exactly how the muscles were working to bring the baby out of my body.
I concentrated on keeping my jaw loose as described by Ina May Gaskin in her ‘Guide to Childbirth’ and I embraced the possibility of an ecstatic birth, welcoming and looking forward to each contraction knowing it would bring me closer to my baby. Keeping your jaw loose will help loosen ‘your bits’ too; a tense, clenched jaw will have the opposite effect. Natal Hypnotherapy talk about a ‘self-doubt’ phase. It is the part where every woman thinks ‘I can’t do this!’ At this point you are nearly there and because I knew about this phase I never articulated any concern. I knew I was nearly there.
Seraphina nuzzled around and latched on within ½ hr. She has done little else but feed and sleep. She is utterly dependent on us to feed and nurture her and I want her to feel safe and secure. When she is awake, she just looks around. I carry her either in arms or in a stretchy wrap nearly all the time so she has had all her needs catered for. On her terms, she can detach herself from us with confidence; in the knowledge that we will always be there.
I am writing this as Seraphina is 4 days old. I am looking forward to the 6 weeks of aftercare I will receive from Emma at One-to-One Midwives. Seraphina is extremely peaceful and I put this down, at least in part, to her birth experience. I hope that this story inspires other women to know that they too can make choices to help optimize their chances of an empowering birth experience. We are actually very good at giving birth; if only we trust in ourselves and are supported by those around us.
With love xx