CATRIONA & MAIJA
I dreamt of having a baby from as early I can remember, but later as an adult once I understood the basics about the birth I really feared that bit.
Yet something changed as soon as Ali and I saw Maija at our first scan. I instantly felt calm about giving birth to her, a strong feeling which lasted throughout my pregnancy, supported by the network of women I had the pleasure of meeting through pregnancy yoga, NCT, hypnobirthing relaxation classes and the many Instagram communities, all sharing positive birth stories.
During my pregnancy I read a lot of books about labour as well as attending NCT and soon realised I was quite naïve about it. As everyone says, birth is very different to how it is portrayed through the media but no one ever really talks about it in detail, sharing the facts about what it REALLY involves and how utterly AMAZING the female body is!
When I reached my estimated due date and there was no sign Maija was ready, I treated myself to a pregnancy massage, a couple of cranial osteopathy and acupuncture treatments, enjoyed day time walks and ate many pineapples, to encourage our little lady along.
Ali had taken a week’s leave ahead of his two week’s paternity leave so we made the most of our time together, just us, exploring new parks, catching a matinee performance mid week with some vouchers we’d had for years and typically never got around to organising, batch cooking, organising an imminent house move and importantly talking through our birth plan.
When I reached 41 weeks our midwife Claudia, who we’d met once before and absolutely loved, gave me a cervical sweep and predicted our baby will be in our arms by Sunday. It was now Thursday and she was spot on.
The next day I started to feel faint period like cramps and then diarrhoea came on very quickly followed by what I thought was the mucus plug.
My surges intensified during Friday night and by very early on Saturday morning I knew I was in labour. It was still early so while Ali was asleep I ran myself a bath, lit a candle and listened to my hypnobirthing tracks while using the breathing techniques I’d learnt at relaxation classes. Ali then made breakfast and prepared our tools – the TENS machine, lavender oil on a hanky and men’s hair combs to grip one in each hand during a surge – a technique Anna from Birthtale had taught me during one of my acupuncture sessions with her and one I recommend! Who would have thought?
A little later, along with my TENS machine and hair combs, we set out for a walk in Peckham Rye Park bumping into my NCT facilitator, Becky, along the way. I could only walk very slowly and with every surge found myself getting low to the ground kneeling on one knee at times. We later watched Four Weddings and a Funeral, me sitting on the exercise ball as I was no longer comfortable sitting on anything else and the laughing at the film and laughing at each other laughing at the film strengthened each surge, so much so I had to leave the room at times.
By 9pm when my surges were 3 in 10 minutes and had been for 30 minutes Ali called St Thomas’ to let them know we were coming in by taxi. I zoned out on the journey in with my eye mask on, headphones playing my hypnobirthing tracks and I was on all fours in the Addison Lee. I couldn’t sit. Ali asked the driver to not play any music and they were both quiet. The driver was so supportive and caring which really helped Ali, help me.
We arrived around 10pm and a lovely midwife Chloe examined me to confirm I was 3 centimetres dilated. I needed to be 4cms to be allowed in the Home from Home birth centre but rather than going home Chloe offered us a ‘quite room’ for the next few hours. Chloe gave me my second cervical sweep and also offered Diamorphine to help me sleep but as I wanted as little intervention as possible, I declined and took two paracetamol.
Ali set up the room with our LED tea lights and laid out my endless snacks and drinks before trying to rest, me as much as possible between the surges.
I was later offered gas and air (BEST thing ever) which didn’t leave my side right up until birth. Chloe examined me again four hours later and I was thankfully 4 cms so we prepared to move. As I hadn’t slept properly since Thursday and after Ali and I discussed the benefits and risks of taking Diamorphine we decided I should so I could get some rest.
Midwife Georgia warmly welcomed us around 5am to our private room in the Home from Home birth centre overlooking Big Ben. She helped us settle in while talking through our birth plan, before injecting me with Diamorphine. Meanwhile Ali laid out the snacks and LED tea lights for the last time.
Georgia finished her 12 hour shift at 8am while I was asleep so from then on our new midwife Giulia was checking on me and Maija’s heartbeat every 15 minutes, along with a midwife trainee, Rose. Each time they did this it would bring on a surge, as it would when I went to the loo or moved positions.
I woke up properly just before 11am on Armistice Day to find Ali looking out at the Thames with the Flotilla rowing past. It was a beautiful sunny day so it looked especially picturesque. Between surges I took a photo of Ali and the view and remember feeling very emotional and lucky having him by my side. The next surge hit me and I was quickly back standing against the bed, one leg up as if I was trying to climb it, gripping the hair combs and sniffing the lavender oil while Ali pressed the boost button on the TENS, as we did with all surges until the pool.
By this point the surges were so intense I couldn’t have the midwives or Ali talking loudly in the room - the smallest thing would irritate me, like Ali playing a song I disliked, I had no patience.
The breathing techniques I had learnt in the weeks leading up to labour were so valuable. I created a ‘Labour’ whatsapp group with Ali for reminders in case I forgot them and he did need to remind me how to use the gas and air properly alongside the breathing during each surge.
I spent the rest of the day up until around 5pm on all fours or squats before moving onto a birthing stool, which really intensified my surges and was the start of me wanting to push. I remember wondering if the midwives would tell me what to do and when to push but your body just takes over and starts pushing. Giulia and Rose were caring and supportive and let everything be on my terms. Ali asked for us to move into the birthing pool as per our birthing plan so 20 minutes later, leaving the combs and the TENS machine behind, I moved very slowly down the corridor using a zimmer frame, stopping during every surge to focus and for the gas and air.
I felt such relief when I was in the water, comforted by the heat and even dimmer lighting. Ali loved that he could sync his phone up to the pool speakers so he got on the playlist right away, while being my gas buddy and holding my other hand. I had packed a flannel and Evian face spray in my bag to use when in the pool to keep my forehead and face cool but that got forgotten about so I remember Ali using paper towels, which didn’t quite have the same effect!
One thing I never expected to have an issue with was having a wee but I hadn’t gone for 7 hours by this time, despite best attempts by Ali and my midwives to make water noises and turn on all the taps in the bathroom while I sat on the loo. Then after failing my attempt to wee in the pool, the only option was to have a catheter fitted. My full bladder was preventing Maija from moving further down the birth canal so I had to leave the warmth and security of the pool - that was tough and laying down by the side of the pool to have the catheter fitted was even tougher because my surges were so strong. 500ml of urine was drained and shortly after while laying down I felt a popping sensation which were my waters breaking.
Just under 20 minutes passed since I was back in the pool and Maija was ready to join us. A third midwife is needed for water births and to my surprise Georgia, our midwife who welcomed us 12 hours earlier, walked into the room beginning her new shift. I was so happy as it meant all 3 midwives involved were going to be present at Maija’s birth. A very special way to end a very special journey.
Georgia asked me to turn away from Ali where I had been leaning over the side, to face her and to open up, so I took some really deep breaths and let go of the gas and air.
I followed Georgia’s instruction to bear down and push, it felt hot like a burning sensation. Ali supported me from behind and Georgia guided me to touch Maija’s head, which was crowning and she helped me bring Maija up to the surface.
Maija Frida Ross was born at 8pm on the dot on 11 November weighing 7lbs 3 oz. 8pm was also the end of Giulia’s shift so she got to witness the birth just in time after being with Ali and I all day.
An incredible moment I will never forget. Ali holding me and me holding our daughter. We kept Maija warm in the water just staring at her while we waited for the cord to stop pulsating before Ali cut it.
I was surprised how little the pool had got ‘dirty’ and you generally hear stories of poo floating everywhere so I later asked Ali how many there were. Apparently there was only a nugget sized one, which makes sense as my body was clearing itself out during early the stage of labour with diarrhoea.
I was taken back to our suite in a wheel chair to deliver the placenta. I had the injection and it came about 15 minutes later. Georgia then gave me a couple of stitches - Maija had her hand on my cheek while being born and the elbow followed! Before my own experience I hadn’t realised the stitching for smaller tears is another responsibility of midwives. I had no idea how much midwives actually do. I’m in complete awe and will never forget how incredible Georgia, Giulia and Rose were to us.
To end my dreamy experience of our midwife support, Claudia who did my cervical sweep at 41 weeks called me a couple of days after birth to congratulate us and wish us well.
Despite labour being tough, no words can describe all the feelings and emotions, I feel really lucky to say I had the birth I wanted and the most amazing birth partner in Ali.
Love and hugs to all the mummies and daddies, you will be amazing! xx