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The Birth of Lily Sanders - A Tale of 2 Halves!

I should probably start by sharing with you that the very first time my midwife asked me where I planned on giving birth and suggested home birth, I stared at her like she was crazy and said that I felt the only sensible thing to do was to have the baby at the hospital.


This was down to my own ignorance based on what I had seen on TV and from family and friends sharing their birth stories which at points sounded horrific. But I didn’t know one really really important thing - my body needed a shed tonne truckload of the hormone oxytocin to give birth naturally.


I had been referred to the Kings Community Midwife team automatically as I had experienced some mental health challenges the previous year before becoming pregnant. At the time I didn’t know what a blessing this would turn out to be. It meant I saw the same midwife continually throughout my pregnancy, a wonderful woman called Alex who leads the Birchtree team. This was absolutely the best thing - she helped me to address my anxieties about pregnancy and birth and helped me feel confident about what was to come.


At my first appointment Alex gave me some information about the different birthing options. I like to be informed so started reading about giving birth on the ward, in a midwife led unit and at home. I also read the Positive Birth Book. As I read it became increasingly clear that our body’s are incredibly clever and are equipped to birth babies - we just had to let our body’s do their thing and make sure there’s a bucket load of oxytocin. And the best way to do this was to feel safe and comfortable and for me that meant being at home.


My midwives helped me to prepare throughout my pregnancy suggested hypnobirthing which I did early in my pregnancy around 20 weeks, with a superb woman called Jackie Kietz so I had loads of time to practice the breathing and relaxation techniques. Together these things and with support from Birthtale midwives Anna and Charlotte at my antenatal classes, I felt calm about what lay ahead. Excited even!


I was due on the 24th November and that night I couldn't feel a thing! So I figured the baby wasn’t coming anytime soon, proceeded to plan the next week and ordered a Sainsburys food shop for 11am the next day (I’ll come back to that!)


Low and behold at 5am the next morning I woke up and realised I was having surges. I was quite excited it was happening really but I tried to go back to sleep understanding this part of the labour could take a while. But things became quite intense quickly so about 20 minutes later I woke Chris up, my husband, and we started with the visualisations and breathing. We had on relaxing music, hypnobirthing recordings and during the surges Chris was massaging my back with tennis balls - the practice was paying off! We had the scent defuser on, low lights, we were set. My bed provided the perfect place to rest in between surges. Having Chris there for support was amazing.


Around 6.30am my waters broke EVERYWHERE - Hollywood film style. Chris and I were wetting ourselves (me literally) about the amount of water and from there things ramped up very quickly and so we called the midwives! I got into the birth pool and the midwife arrived at about 8am.


Chris was brilliant all the way through, our practice together really paid off. He kept me hydrated, massaged my back, and really supported my up breathing, visualisations, and using the affirmations. We were a team. The midwives left us to do our thing.


Things continued progressing and I realised I was in second stage and we changed to the down breathing. I also wanted to push so I did. Things had gone so smoothly! I didn’t feel like I needed any pain relief, I had Chris and the tools we had practiced.


BUT THEN EVERYTHING STOPPED! Literally the surges stopped coming as frequently and when they did they were less strong. So I got out the pool and we tried different positions, sat on the loo, dancing! We eventually got things going again. I was literally hanging onto Chris with my arms around him squatted down on my living room rug trying to make the most of the surges. I remember the midwife saying how much hair Lily had as her head was crowning and Chris saying he could see it. I just remember thinking I’m really ready for the baby to be born now... come on baby come out! And also how unfair it was they got to see Lily first!


Then suddenly one of the midwives said that on the next surge the baby really needed to be born... I remember thinking... that’s what I want too but I can’t make any promises!! Alas the baby didn’t come on the next surge and then everything felt like a blur.


I was asked to lie down and the midwives performed an episiotomy. On the next surge Lily was born at 1.22pm, but she wasn’t breathing. One minute turned into two, then three, and still Lily wasn’t breathing. I could hear a midwife calling an ambulance and the other midwife helping the baby to breath. They were so calm, telling me how Lily’s heart rate was strong and not to panic. At 4 minutes Lily started breathing - I can’t describe to you how good it felt to hear her cry. I said to Chris I don’t care if she cries forever, that is the best sound in the world (in hindsight I didn’t mean the crying forever part and luckily she has chosen not to!)


The ambulance men came really quickly then - 6 of them! Lily was breathing when they arrived and one of the paramedics literally cried with relief. It was a horrible end but Lily being ok was my only priority at that point. During all of that our Sainsburys delivery arrived (hilarious!) and the amazing ambulance men brought up our shop and put it away - they were amazing - whilst we got ready to take the baby to hospital. I couldn’t believe after pulling off the home birth we still ended up in hospital, but the midwives came too which was great.


I’ve been asked since if I would consider having a home birth again given our experience and unequivocally the answer is always yes. I truly believe my labour was only 8 hours long because I was at home, in my comfort zone, and prepared - my body was oxytocin central. No one can ever truly prepare for birth and the last twenty minutes of ours was certainly not what we had planned- but the home birth midwives were trained for the eventuality - we were in safe hands. Because we had continuity of care, we were also able to talk about what happened and understand it after the birth. We could review our notes and that was so important in coming to terms with what happened.


So there you have it, the birth of Lily Caterina Sanders. A dramatic entrance into the world after a swift and mostly calm labour. After a difficult few years I look back on the birth of my baby with feelings of empowerment. It’s massively helped me to feel more confident again in my own abilities. After giving birth I feel like I can do anything!

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