Sebastian's birth (VBAC at home)
I decided to hire Eleanor after finding out about Independent Midwives through the ukmidwifery mailing list. Before joining I had no idea that midwives working outside of the NHS existed.
Right at the start of this pregnancy I knew I'd be for a struggle with the NHS to even be 'allowed' to attempt a VBAC or 'trial of labour', let alone a homebirth. I had a caesarean section for 'failure to progress' after 23 hours of active labour with my first child, four hours of that at full dilation and pushing. However, odds were against me as I was terrified, with an OP baby, in hospital and had every drug under the sun (including augmentation). I was very keen to avoid this happening again. I also have several factors that deemed me 'high risk', I am plus sized, asthmatic and taking medication which is known to cause an increased risk of birth defects.
I looked up the independent midwives in my area and researched their reputations online. I eventually decided to meet with Eleanor.
I was nervous as I am a single mother on benefits and didn't imagine myself to be one of Eleanors usual sort of clients. She instantly put me at ease with her calm and friendly but professional manner.
I spent nearly two hours grilling her about her qualifications, her experience, her ideals, her transfer rates and was impressed with how she dealt with my questions. I felt comfortable with her and felt that we were on the same page. She dismissed the scaremongering of the NHS and made me realise that with good care, homebirth was a real possibility for me.
Throughout the pregnancy she was fantastically supportive, I don't know how I would have managed it without. Due to my previous birth and several miscarriages, I was extremely anxious over everything. She never got impatient with my worrying or my questions and reassured me each time I panicked.
She helped me to change my diet in a positive way, which meant I managed to drop several lbs of excess weight that my body was carrying and keep the weight gain during my pregnancy to a minimum. This diet also minimised my sickness and greatly improved my energy levels, and after my first pregnancy with hyperemesis gravidarum, this was such a pleasant thing!
She also encouraged me to see a fantastic osteopath who corrected a lot of alignment issues and helped with the pelvic girdle pain I was experiencing.
The first few appointments we had were spent debriefing from my previous traumatic birth, which was a tearful but necessary experience that helped me get into a much more positive head space. She spoke at length about the benefits of natural childbirth and really helped me to reclaim my confidence and belief in myself.
She even helped me keep positive during the WEEKS of false labour I had towards the end of my pregnancy. When my pregnancy continued past my EDD, she helped me to remain calm and focused and to avoid the stress of induction.
The day I went into labour I mostly rested as I'd been having what felt like strong Braxton Hicks contractions all day.
Around 8pm was when I started feeling like it could possibly be something more, as the contractions weren't easing off and weren't helped by lying down (in fact that made it a heck of a lot worse).
The labour pains were very different and until very close to my sons birth, I wasn't even sure it was labour! Sure it hurt, but it was bearable and I could get through it. I attribute this to the osteopathic treatment I had ensuring my son was in an ideal position, and the work that Eleanor and I had done to ensure I was feeling strong, confident and positive.
Times are a little hazy because the experience was so intense, but I believe around 10:30pm is when I first called her to tell her I thought something might be happening. She gave me a lot of advice about relaxing through early labour, not realising I was likely in active labour already as I was so calm.
After a few more contractions, timed by my birth partner who had arrived by then, I decided that I had started needing some help to get through the contractions. I walked around aimlessly a lot, sometimes leaning on the kitchen side for support. I also spent a fair bit of time on all fours draped over my birthing ball. I also rotated on the birthing ball a little, trying to bring him down.
When I started feeling unable to talk through the contractions and also feeling a lot of pelvic pressure, my birth partner called Eleanor again. I sat on my perching stool through several contractions as I felt it was putting my pelvis in a good position and also enabled me to rest while keeping gravity working for me.
Eleanor arrived at roughly 11:45pm I think, by then the contractions were intense and knocking the wind out of me a bit. She helped me get the TENS machine working, which helped a lot for about an hour and a half. She began filling the birthing pool at this point.
She checked my blood pressure and the babies heart rate, which were both fine, and was happy for me to decline a vaginal examination. I felt so happy that I had a midwife who completely trusted me, a woman who had never birthed naturally before, to just go with my body and do my own thing. There was never any worry about whether I was dilated enough or anything, we just completely let nature take its course.
Getting into the birthing pool was wonderfully relaxing, which was a blessing as by then the contractions were painful and I was tensing up. Eleanors voice was wonderfully soothing, she talked me calmly through the contractions, massaging my shoulders down when the intensity of the pain was making me tense up. I didn't want to tense up and stop myself progressing and her relaxing me really helped the contractions to do their job.
She advised me on positions to get in when I started feeling the urge to push, so that I wasn't working my body harder than I needed to. I never experienced the urge to push with my OP son, I did ineffective coached pushing. So I panicked when the urge took over my body, it was completely unignorable. For a while I was fighting it because it hurt so much as he descended through my pelvis, but she helped me to calm down and let go of that fear.
Once I'd done that, he started coming down for real and I found pushing felt wonderfully relieving. I felt myself doing little poos as I was pushing and both her and her back up were wonderful at stopping me from feeling embarrassed.
As my son started making his way through the birth canal the stinging sensation was strong and horrid, but Eleanor also helped me to push through that. Both her and her back ups were wonderful cheer leaders! At one point I started feeling extremely exhausted and frightened, and this is the point where she knew my baby would be here soon. But I was panicking, terrified that I couldn't do it and that I'd end up needing to be transferred to hospital for another caesarean. Her advice helped me to push effectively. The bulging of my perineum was so uncomfortable that I was only doing little pushes, and she basically said, “It's absolutely fine, if that's what you want to do, keep doing that, but it might take you a long time to push him out. If you really push hard for a good length of the contraction, he'll come much quicker”.
After that I started doing big, hard, strong pushes and it was only when I felt the dreaded ring of fire (which stung so much I'll admit I did have a good cuss) that I realised I was actually doing it, that I was actually going to have my baby. My membranes had been hanging out for a while, and soon she started seeing my son starting to crown. As soon as I knew he was crowning, I was like a woman possessed. I pushed with all of my might and he went from crowning about the size of a 50p to his head being out in about 27 seconds! She encouraged me to do another little push to deliver his chin, so that I'd be able to deliver the rest of him with the next contraction.
The next contraction came and he pretty much shot out, it was the strangest sensation and I couldn't possibly describe it. I felt myself tear a little as he slithered out, but it didn't hurt at all, my body just did exactly what it needed to get him out safely.
I think that she unlooped the cord which was around his neck and then lifted him up through my legs and handed him to me and I promptly burst into tears. The overwhelming sense of power, strength, love, triumph and appreciation swept through me like a wave. I just kept crying 'thank you, thank you so much!', at which point the back up midwife Sharon reminded me that it was me that had done all the work. I couldn't stop smiling and felt like I was on top of the world. It was the polar opposite of the dead feeling I felt when my son was lifted out of me in the operating theatre.
I'm almost 4 weeks post natal now, feeling pretty much recovered, not like I'd been hit by a bus like I did after my caesarean. Eleanor has absolutely been worth every penny that I paid her and I hope if I ever have any more children, she'll be by my side again. Having her around was like making a new friend and I'm so excited for her to see my son grow up, I couldn't have hoped for a more straightforward birth and wonderful start to my sons life.
After a few minutes I got grossed out by sitting in the pool with all the ick and the placenta wasn't coming, so we decided to get out onto dry land. Eleanor helped me shuffle on the sofa and shift position so that I could deliver the placenta, which just sort of plopped out. It was very calcified, it was a true 12 days late placenta!
Eleanor stuck around for a long time to help me get my son breastfeeding and clear up. The pool was drained and anything bloody or dirty was removed before I even had the chance to see it. She also did check me for tears and gave me the choice of having my tear sutured or not, and was happy for me to say no. I am pleased I decided not to, it healed completely fine after only a couple of weeks.
Breastfeeding was a struggle and symptoms from my health problems made the post natal period hard going, so the 28 days of post natal support included as part of her package were absolutely invaluable. I felt so helped, I was reminded to eat and sleep! She made sure I could bathe every day while I was recovering and really perked me up when I was feeling blue. When I got ill about 3 weeks post natal she even sorted out my medication and did my shopping for me.
I was so SO pleased I had hired her. I couldn't have asked for a better pregnancy or birthing experience. I had a COMPLETELY natural birth as I wanted and was up and about within a few hours of the birth. I phoned my friends and family and they couldn't believe I was so calm after just giving birth. I credit Eleanor with helping me to heal from my first birth and to believe that things could be different if I trusted myself to do what women have been doing for thousands of years.