ZOE & NINA
Pregnancy came with its usual challenges, morning sickness, swollen ankles and tiredness but overall it was a good one. I felt huge by the end and knew a big bonnie babe was coming as my belly grew and grew. The striking difference with this pregnancy to my last is that I had strong Braxton hicks from around 25 weeks. So regular and so strong I sometimes would need to lean forwards and breath through them. One Sunday I remember crying thinking labour might start early. I would do my best to relax and breathe through them and I’m so grateful that Nina stayed put for the whole nine months.
The day before labour started I was feeling really tearful and emotional, I felt like I was trying to hold it together all day. The next day I was 39 + 4 weeks and woke early, irritable and stressed, I was sure now that my hormones were really cranking up a gear now. My daughter, Ruby, spent the day with grandparents, so my partner, Rob and I cleaned and tidied the house. I wanted to get everything organised as I was planning a homebirth. We decided to do a practice run of getting the birth pool out. Rob went through the instructions and we got everything prepared, moved furniture out of the way and made sure we were ready for the real event. We then put it all away ready for my daughters return home as if she saw the pool she would want to have a go in there herself! Rob made some lunch for us and then we went to lay down in bed to watch a film. I was feeling a bit tired after an early start.
Suddenly as I lay comfortably snuggled up next to Rob, oxytocin (the love hormone) flowing, I felt a pop or a clunk within my bump. I jumped up and dashed to the loo thinking my waters had gone. In fact they hadn’t so I still don’t fully understand what that sound and sensation was. But, it doesn’t matter… To me that sound was the start of my labour journey, like a shot being fired to mark the start of a race. I began to feel contractions very low down in my bump. I felt excited that I was finally going to be able to live out all my plans for this birth, the whole time I’d been pregnant I was excited to see how the birth would roll out and now was the time. We carried on watching the film and I breathed through my contractions, they felt very mild, especially as I had been experiencing months of Braxton hicks so was used to regular tightenings. Ruby came home, and we had dinner together. We told her the baby was coming soon and she could either have a sleep over with her grandparents or stay home but possibly move over to nanny and grandads in the night. She chose to go straight over for a sleepover which I was relieved about as she's only three and can sometimes wake in the night and need help resettling. Rob’s dad drove to pick her up and wished us luck. I remember him carrying Ruby to the car saying, “it’s exciting isn’t it” and it really was… So exciting!
With Ruby taken care of, Rob started to set up the birth space for the second time that day and I ran a bath with a few drops of clary sage – it was finally time to relax and listen to my birth playlist. 101 of my favourite songs that I’d put together in the hope of them helping me stay in that ‘loved up’ oxytocin filled bubble… they did just that. As I lay in the bath I thought back on the book spiritual midwifery by Ina May. The book contains lots of birth stories and I picked up on people talking of a ‘high’ or ‘psychedelic’ feeling during labour. As I lay in the tub listening to the music I felt high. Like how music sounds better when you’ve had a drink, everything looked brighter and sounded better, I could feel myself energetically getting in the zone which to me meant that my hormones were building up beautifully letting labour progress nicely. After a couple of hours in the bath, I got hungry and really craved something baked and sugary. Rob made me some chocolate brownies which were totally perfect for me in that moment.
Once I was out of the bath I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. With ruby’s birth I felt contractions in my back and so just wanted to be on all fours. This time my contractions were front and low so leaning forward over my yoga ball getting into the all fours position felt uncomfortable. My mind knew all fours was great for opening the pelvis and coping with discomfort, but my instincts just didn’t want that. My body wanted me to recline backwards, a position usually avoided during active birth. But rather then let my mind control the situation I went with my body. I tried to lie down on the bed and watch some more of our film but suddenly things got more intense. This posture when out of the water was no good. I writhed around for a while and rocked back and fourth on all fours. With things stepping up a gear I decided to call the midwife. At around 11 o’clock at night I called triage. When I spoke to my midwife, Jackie, we agreed I would get straight into the birth pool and wait for her to arrive. Jackie got to us at about 11:30pm and set her things up. She got to know us and made it clear she was happy to let the birth progress while she checked me over, all of the stats for both me and baby were great.
We waited for a break in contractions to go upstairs and check my progress. I had an intense 10 minutes out of the water, I felt cold and without the water taking the weight off my body I was very uncomfortable. Lying down on my back to be checked was going against what my body wanted so the pain cranked up dramatically. But Jackie found I was 5 cm dilated with waters bulging but still intact. I got straight back into the pool and felt instant relief. Able to sit with my legs outstretched in front of me while I leaned back against the edge of the pool. With each contraction I would close my eyes, breath deeply and focus on relaxing all the muscles in my body. Letting myself go soft and limp, I relaxed my birthing muscles and visualised my body opening up.
Jackie phoned the second midwife, Lucy because she said she thought things would progress quickly. I stayed in my zone, listened to my music and relaxed through each contraction. When Lucy arrived, I was in deep, riding through a waves of contractions, each lasting a few minutes and coming thick and fast. I heard Rob say I was away with the fairies which I took as a compliment, knowing I was fully immersed in my labour. When I got a break, I gave Lucy a smile and said hello, I wanted to keep the energy friendly and supportive in the room so wanted to welcome her to the space. Things carried on like this for a while longer then suddenly I felt a bearing down and had to move to an upright position, this contraction was intense, and I needed to vocalise the sensation so made the deep birthing sounds women tend to. I knew this was transition and asked for some gas and air. Rob checked I was sure as with my first labour I didn’t like it, but I knew I wanted something to help me stay calm.
As I took in the entonox I knew now more than ever I had to let my body take over so just stayed soft and limp, breathing deeply and above all else make sure I didn’t push. I knew Nina was going to be big and wanted to avoid a bad tear. I leaned over the pool and Rob held onto me, rubbing my back and holding space for us. The midwives continued to be supportive telling me I was doing amazingly, to make sure I keep my bottom submerged under water and that everything was progressing beautifully. The encouragement and support of these three was so important to me. Nina’s labour was about stepping into my confidence and trusting my power as a woman. These three being there for support but not interfering helped that process. They respected me and I respected my baby’s birth.
I felt like the head was out, but this was just the crowning, I remember feeling the “ring of fire” as baby’s head pushed down. I thought about telling the others what I was feeling but decided I didn’t was to use any energy speaking which my body could use towards the birth. I felt Nina’s hair with my hand, floating in the water. Another contraction or two and Nina’s head was here. There was a pause as my body caught its breath, I stayed soft and relaxed, feeling the intensity of this transition as Nina and I rested before she moved through into our world. At some point during this pause the clocks changed into British summer time (hence the middle name Summer). Then at 2:04am my body without any active effort from me, pushed Nina down to earth. She was here, and she was perfect. We stayed in the pool and she suckled while the blood from her placenta passed through to her. It took 14 minutes for the cord to stop pulsating and Jackie and Lucy checked we were happy to clamp the cord. Rob cut the cord, and it felt like a loving symbol of her being disconnected from the womb now and fully here with her family.
I got out of the water to birth the placenta and had a few more checks while Rob and Nina snuggled. Lucy weighed Nina, and she was a whopping 9lb 2oz and completely healthy. Rob helped me shower and get into bed while the midwives got Nina into a nappy and wrapped in a warm towel before bringing her up to us. They were both lovely to me, told us congratulations and then left to get some sleep.
The birth of my Nina Rose Summer was simple, straight forward, sweet and calm, just like my little girl has been for the 11 weeks I’ve known her. All I feel is happiness, pride and love when I think of that night. I’m so grateful I have this feeling of strength at the start of being mama to two little girls.