ALICE & ALMA
It was the day none of us thought would happen, 6th November 2016, and Donald Trump was elected to be president of the USA. What an absolute ignorant toss pot if I ever saw one. I was in shock.
For me, it was also a day I didn't expect, I found out I was pregnant. It wasn't planned and it was something I didn't think would happen to me any time soon after being told I had cysts on my ovaries.
I'm not here to talk about the president, cysts, or dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, I am here to spread a positive birth story for anyone who is pregnant or you may just want to hear the story of my birth to Alma Bloom who arrived pretty much on time, in my one bed flat in zone 1, London. So go on grab yourself a cuppa.
After classing myself as a pretty organised and sometimes a bit controlling (the inner PA in me!) my attitude to the whole pregnancy (then labour) was pretty relaxed. Take your Pregnacare, turn up to your scans and midwives on time, then allow your body (and baby) to grow and do its thing. Simple right?
I attended a great antenatal class with Charlotte and the only book I read along the way was the Mother of Daughters, 'How to grow and baby and push it out.' A good, simple read which I would highly recommend. The chapter which caught my eye was HypnoBirthing. Something I didn't know about but became extremely intrigued about.
Whilst at a pregnancy yoga and lunch day hosted by my antenatal company, Bump and Baby, I met a lovely group of pregnant ladies and my hypnobirthing teacher, Lex.
I can honestly say, hypnobirthing (HB) or calm birthing helped me, or shall I say us, it helped my partner Mark and I mentally prepare for an unknown situation, it helped us communicate before and during the labour and it ultimately made me trust my body.
After convincing my other half that hypnobirthing (HB) was for me (us), I ebayed some old clothes and paid for a 1-2-1 session with Lex. Expensive but the best thing I have EVER brought. She came round, sat with Mark and I for a good few hours and gave us everything we needed to start practising - including the book my Judith Flood and some audio files to listen too. After this. I religiously practised these affirmations and repeated the sentences ' Your body knows what to do' , 'Trust your body and your baby.' 'Each surge brings you closer to meeting your baby'.
Here is where I fast forward to the actual show (Including THAT show! yuck) and the birth of my little Bloom. Please know, whoever is reading this that I am simply sharing, as I hear too many horror stories and I believe if you follow biology and nature you can have a good birth if you put your mind to it. I would also highly recommend anyone to consider a home birth if you can.
Sunday 2nd July (my due date) - at first I just thought they were braxton hix but after watch Love Island (cringe), I soon realised that around the time of the ad breaks, the twinges were occurring every 15 mins. Its also worth mentioning that I was feeling extremely hormonal this day - pretty vile and short tempered to be honest. I was also feeling like a period was due with a heaviness down below.
Monday 3rd July (40 weeks+1) - I still felt a bit grotty but after a very good nights sleep I just wanted to sleep even more. Looking back this was probably my body getting ready for what was to come. It's also worth saying that I didn't mention to anyone (even my close family) that I was in early stages of labour. I wanted to remain in a good mindset, keep my oxytocin levels up, I wanted to control my adrenaline, something that through HB you learn is the enemy during labour as adrenaline slows everything down. I also hadn't let them know about the fact I had agreed to have a home birth.
By lunchtime, I decided to let my community midwife know who then sent round her team of midwifes to see what was going on. The sensations weren't painful so I couldn't honestly say I was in labour by this point. As soon as the girls arrived at my flat, there I was in my bra and shorts with my heavy bump on full display - and they SAW my contractions. I never knew until then that your stomach actually tightens up during a contraction/surge, I mean physically tightens up. After a little examination and quick sweep in the comfort of my own bed they tell me I'm 3cm dilated and inform me that I have a very very stretchy cervix - proof in the pudding that eating 7 dates a day helps your cervix - yes!
They leave me to it and throughout the afternoon I breathe with each surge, carry on as normal, stand and move as much as I can, but preserve my energy without doing anything to strenuous. Keep things as usual they say.
By early evening, the surges were intensifying but still manageable. Mark makes me lentils and sausages for dinner, something I know I need for energy. I looked at labour as running a marathon. Something I expected is a good idea in the long run (excuse the pun) but during the marathon you think to yourself, ' why the fuck am I doing this, how am I going to cross that finish line?!' and like any activity, you need energy to run those 26 miles. It gets to 9pm and it's love island time again, hooray! Half of me was thinking if Kem and Amber are getting back together, the other half was me trying to get through this impending labour. But for a programme pretty easy to watch - I just couldn't watch it, by this point I had reached active labour. This is where your tools for HB really take centre stage rather than what was going on in the villa. I listen to the birth affirmations in the bath but the only thing keeping me going by this point was using my mind. You need to keep reminding yourself that each surge is only temporary. I breathed in that lavender flannel like there was no tomorrow (Thanks Beccy Hands!) I realised smelling something when I felt a surge coming got me through each one so I asked Mark to whack on his aftershave. I did anything to get my oxytocin levels up and smelling the man I loved definitely helped.
By late evening, I ask Mark, between surges, to get the midwife round. We call the hospital but they say I'm not ready yet so we continue doing what were doing. Breathing and managing each surge like I am climbing a steep staircase or mountain. It's a hard climb but you soon get to the top then you can come back down again and you aren't in pain anymore. Mark blows up the water pool (something we rehearsed a few days before). I decide to give the tens machine a go - I can't say it stopped the pain but I am sure it assisted in some way.
it's now about midnight, and I don't really care about how long or how frequent the surges are - I need that blimin' midwife round. It's hitting the early hours of the morning and I don't know how dilated I am. I could be 10cm for all I know. Mark makes the call and around 2am the lovely Andrea comes round alone - straight from her day shift at UCLH. She tells me to head back to bed for a bit of energy and meanwhile she kips on my sofa. I sleep then contract, sleep then contract, sleep then contract until I notice dawn breaking. I know its time to get this baby out. I just know it.
The surges become more frequently, I just keep breathing and breathing, knowing that if I keep my jaw loose and keep my mind set on the final mile of my marathon, I can birth my baby safely and calmly. I wait for the gas an air sitting neatly behind my sofa but it isn't offered. I look at my cats paw print framed, knowing that I will love this baby as much as I loved him (if not more) another tool that makes me determined not to give up.
Monday 4th July - By 7am, I know it's going to be a scorcher and a beautiful day. I look out onto the roof terrace, the roses in bloom and think, if only those students in the block across from ours were to see me now. A naked, screaming girl, 8 floors up, in full labour.
Mark fills up the pool with by pump that connects from our kitchen tap into the pool, and swiftly jump in. It was hot. Maybe a bit too hot, but my lower back pain eases and every surge now gives me the urge to push, naturally. A few days before this, I watch a panda give birth, naturally, in a zoo. That mother panda, knew what to do. She knew when to push, she just knew. I kept thinking, if animals can do this, I can do this. The second midwife arrives, by this point I am pushing. The first thing to make an appearance was 'my show' which I can only describe a massive bogie and a small jelly fish floating around. Nice. I ask Andrea to remove it as I get a bit distracted by it. The second thing to make an appearance is my waters. I was quite taken back by the force of the waters breaking but in my mind I knew my baby was going to be making an appearance soon. As Judith says, My baby knows what to do. It will come when its ready.
I ask Lucy the second midwife to guide me, I ask Mark to spray my face after I have regained my composure (after a contraction) then Andrea would check my baby's heartbeat to ensure he or she are ok. They then check my temperature and by this point I am over heating. The sun is well and truly up now. London is rapidly warming up and my flat is turning into an oven. We open up the windows, something I was reluctant to do with my yelps and I am told I need to get out of the pool. Something I am NOT happy about. I am so close, I do not want to get out of this warm soothing bath. I know I am nearly there so I stay in the pool and push with all my might. They can see a head - a head of dark hair they tell me. I push again and I push when my body knows when to push. I think of the mother panda, you can do it like she did.
Then the ending is here and best part of the show happens, Alma Bloom is born. I sit back on the inflatable step in the pool, the midwifes hand me my new baby into my arms and ask me what it is. It's a girl and she's just perfect - just like my birth.