As I was writing this birth story, some parts of it were easy to remember and some parts of it remain a complete blur but all of it brings with it good memories and an experience that in some places is simply beyond the words I could ever write. But I’ll give it a go and as with all good stories, it’s probably best to start at the beginning…
My husband and I had a little help from the NHS and a magical drug called Chlomid to eventually get pregnant.
Taking a pregnancy test had become like a monthly ritual and a disappointing one at that until the last month of our dose when we discovered those two sacred little lines! Taking in that I was pregnant was so strange, we had planned and yearned for this for 2 years and yet the reality didn’t feel… well, real. We were tentative at the beginning, aware that early pregnancy is not always a sure thing. We had seen many friends go through heart-breaking situations and wanted to remain realistic but still hopeful.
We booked an early scan and marvelled at the strong heartbeat on the screen, a pulsating dot in the middle of a couple of blobs. Nothing much, but it was ours. At the 12-week scan the excitement heightened as we found that everything seemed well.
After our 12-week scan we decided to start the exciting process of telling friends and were so happy and excited to speak to our friends Chris and Sarah who had used One to One before and another one of our friends Joni who works for them. We broke the news to her by asking how we could sign up and her face was a picture. I’ll admit, the first thing that attracted me was the convenience of someone coming to our house for the appointments but soon we realized that the most important thing was the relationship that we built up with our midwife Ellie and the amazing way she kept us informed of everything, giving us a choice every step of the way.
As the weeks and months progressed, we got organized, spent a lot of money and spent a lot of time talking about this beautiful possibility; our little girl. We did an Active Birth course and a two-day Hypnobirthing course. I’d heard of Hypnobirthing from a vlogger I watch called Giovanna Fletcher. She and her husband made a video about why they used the techniques for the birth of their first boy and it all sounded such a contrast from the screaming painful experience laying on the bed that I’d seen on One Born Every Minute! The Active Birth course was brilliant for giving us the details of a practical birth that didn’t have to be how birth is represented in TV and film and the Hypnobirthing course took all of this information and tailored it to what we could do to keep those good hormones flowing.
My pregnancy was fairly smooth and as I reflect now I feel so grateful that any concerns were minor. I found being pregnant an amazing experience and tried to cherish all of the moments that made it so special. There was however a glimpse of worry when one night we had a visit to the hospital to monitor baby’s movements. It was a scary time and even though everything was fine and the hospital staff were amazing and reassuring, just being in the hospital environment made me feel nervous and wary. I knew that it was a safe place but it was so new to me having never been in hospital before. After this, Lee and I spoke about a home birth and after a while we knew that it would be the best thing for us. We were all about keeping those good hormones flowing!
As the due date approached and the birthing pool was left at our house, I tried to keep in my mind that this date was only a guide but it was so hard. I’m sure every pregnant woman feels the anticipation as the date approaches but as I had been working in a busy Reception class until 2 weeks before this, I was looking to this date to keep me going at work. As it happens, I needed the 2 weeks rest (and more!) and as the due date of the 19th of April came and went, Lee, Ellie and I had lots of conversations about what this meant. I was sore, massive, swollen and not in the best of moods during this time – poor Lee – but Ellie was so reassuring and gentle, as always, keeping us informed about the next steps but also giving us the choice as to how to proceed. Despite lots of Braxton Hicks, there were no other signs so I decided to have a sweep. Ellie came round on the 27th, 8 days after the due date. Her hopefulness that it might kick things off turned out to be right as that evening Braxton Hicks turned into something stronger and we hoped that this was finally it! As it happened, Joni came round to drop some spicy food off and I was having contractions whilst she was sat on the sofa drinking tea, telling myself that it was Braxton Hicks and not wanting to get my hopes up!
When I realized that it might be labour, I’ll be honest, I had a bit of panic! When you have never done something before there is always anticipation but birth seemed way too huge a thing for me to do. A bit too late for that I’m sure Lee was thinking as I cried that I was scared and couldn’t and wouldn’t do it! This was where my hypnobirthing really helped. At the beginning stages I let Lee sleep for a little while and I lay on my side listening to scripts and my birthing playlist. Getting into this calm, safe zone was invaluable in calming down and realizing that there might be a long stretch ahead but that I was prepared and my body could totally do it. Hypnobirthing techniques helped to center my thoughts on what all this was for and I imagined this amazing miracle that was about to happen in a positive and hopeful way.
We phoned Ellie at about 11pm to let her know something might be happening and she said to measure the contractions (or surges as they’re also known… gotta use the hypnobirthing lingo!) and give her a ring back if they got stronger… which they did! Lee sorted out the pool and I got into the bath to listen to some more scripts and music. My surges soon became more intense and closer together so when Ellie came round about 12.45am I was glad she was there to examine me. She came with the idea she would leave and come back if necessary but once she soon saw how far along I was she stayed, much to our relief! It felt like things were progressing really well and I eventually felt like I wanted to get into the pool.
This part of the birth is a bit of a blur but I know I was in there for a couple of hours at least. Ellie was fantastic at encouraging me whilst also letting Lee do most of the talking as the surges got more intense to the point of exhaustion. As it was now the early hours of the morning and we had been awake for such a long time, we were all exhausted. I was encouraged to rest in between surges and it utterly amazed me that it was possible to fall asleep and forget what you were doing for all of 10 seconds! I remember at this point getting more and more frustrated that I didn’t feel anything was happening and so Ellie agreed to examine me at 4am which was in another 45 minutes. The time previous to that had gone so fast but that 45 minutes seemed like hours! Ellie reassured me that things were going well but after a little while of my frustrations, suggested a change of scenery might help. During this time our second midwife Jo had arrived and she waited in the kitchen catching up on the notes.
Getting out of the pool and back in again didn’t seem to hold too much appeal but once I was out and moving around I felt an urge to go upstairs. As soon as I started moving up the stairs I knew I probably wouldn’t be going back down again! I think it was this time that I entered Transition and really felt defeated. I was so frustrated that it was taking so long for her head to come out and I remember telling Lee that he needed to take me to hospital now, as if it was as easy as teleporting there and all the problems would be solved! I thought so many times at this point that I wasn’t strong enough, that I wasn’t able to do this thing that had been done millions upon millions of times throughout generations. As this stage passed I started to think of all the people who had told me how amazing and empowering giving birth is. I wanted to look back on it with those same feelings but knew I would have to keep going to feel that sense of pride and satisfaction that I did it and I did it well.
I went from the bathroom to the bedroom and pushed for about an hour, leaning on the bed, the sink, the bath, sitting on the toilet and at one point even breaking off the toilet roll holder…! Jo and Ellie were amazing as Lee began to get overwhelmed and the sheer exhaustion hit him. He held my hands as I pushed but his ability to get words out was fading. When I eventually had the feeling that this was ‘it’ Jo and Ellie began to tell me that my baby had lots of hair! They helped me to visualize holding her and sitting on the bed and taking her in. All the words they spoke were said so calmly, meeting my birthing shouts and pushes with gentle tones that helped to keep things relaxed. All of that was amazing because even though it still felt a bit like an out of body experience to know that I was about to meet her, I also knew she was right there ready to meet me too.
My first thought when I lifted her up was that she was absolutely out-of-this-world amazing but also really big! Seeing her for the first time and hearing her cry was like nothing I have ever felt. I sat on the toilet and cradled her in total awe that it was over and she was here, a part of our family. I marvelled at the fact that I’d done it after yelling over and over again that I wasn’t up to the job!
Our Wren Dorothy Rae was here.
Lee cut the cord and took her to have some skin to skin in the nursery, sitting on my great grandmothers rocking chair that we had revamped. I sat with her on that chair many times as a child and so there is something extra special that the first time she was held by her daddy was there, with him marvelling at her and slightly shell shocked at what had just happened. Her middle name Dorothy was my great grandma’s name and it was a lovely thought to see how something of hers tied in with this new life.
I felt relieved and elated and exhausted all at the same time and Ellie and Jo clearly recognized this and came to speak to me about the placenta. I had originally wanted to wait for the placenta but they gently suggested that because my uterus had worked so hard and so quickly that it might be better if I have the injection. By that point I was ready to sit with our new baby girl and settle down with some of this amazing tea and toast I had heard was the best I’d ever have in my life so I quickly agreed and we waited.
The rest of the story post birth is where things become a bit of a blur. Thus far I had felt things were within my control and that I was in the driving seat of this amazing experience, however testing it was. However, it soon became apparent to me over the next 15 minutes just how much blood I was losing. The bathroom was already in a bit of a state and I could see the blood loss all around me. This continued for a little while with me asking if this was normal. Again, Ellie and Jo were hugely comforting and calm as my concerns grew. They explained to me that they thought I might need to empty my bladder to help the placenta release but I wasn’t able to do this. Catheterization proved too painful and so they made the decision I would need to be transferred to hospital. They called an ambulance and I was taken to the Women’s Hospital where I went to theatre to have the placenta removed.
The Women’s Hospital staff were amazing and I felt so well taken care of but the way in which Ellie and Jo helped to calm a potentially frightening situation at home was so important to me. I had never imagined that opting for a home birth would end up with a scenario like that – I didn’t even realize that a placenta could be so stubborn – but the relationship that Ellie and I had built up was crucial in keeping the situation calm. I was obviously worried at the unknown and knew that I was losing a lot of blood but Ellie really explained everything and I trusted her judgment about what was happening. At the hospital Ellie and Jo were right there until I went to theatre and praised me for an amazing birth. Even in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, despite my worry as I continued to bleed, Ellie was there and revealed the news that Wren weighed 10lb 2oz! What a beautiful whopper of a baby! I was even more amazed at that point that I had given birth to her with just gas and air.
After a couple of nights in the hospital we were home, ready to settle in to our ‘new normal’ – sleepless nights, endless feeds, amazed visitors and times with just the 3 of us, continuing to marvel at the wonderful person we had created. Ellie was still in contact with Lee checking how I was doing and even coming to see us on her day off to make sure we were all okay. A week or so later we had a debrief of the birth and again she reassured me and explained why the placenta situation had happened and was so supportive and caring. The visits that followed were also invaluable in continuing that support. Ellie was so considerate about my mental health too particularly after what had happened and it really helped that we talked so openly about my unique birth experience so I came to terms with it quickly and still looked at it in a positive way. My experience of birth has been massively shaped by the fact that we used One to One and our relationship with Ellie. I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone and it was difficult saying goodbye without a few tears!
And now we are here, a few weeks into this parenting journey. Pregnancy and birth were an incredible experience, full of firsts. The first appearance of a bump, the first movements, the first time I wet myself, the first time I cried at an advert whilst overwhelmed with pregnancy hormones… but by far the best first was the first time we saw this amazing bundle of joy. I looked at her and couldn’t fathom that we had created her, that I had grown and nurtured her, that she was ours to keep and to love. I look at her now and I still can’t believe it. Her podgy cheeks, her soft spongy skin, her smiles and her funny noises. All that we have discovered and know of her so far and all that is to come. Pregnancy and birth were amazing, but here and now, with her, is where the adventure really begins.
A special thank you to Ellie and Jo at One to One for everything.