Freya's Positive Home Birth Story {Part One}.

August 15, 2019

I'm so pleased to finally be publishing my birth story, this is probably one the blog posts that has taken me the longest to write - partly because of the sheer lack of time when having a newborn, and also wanting to go through it all with Ben over the past few weeks, some of the details were really blurry to me. I wanted to write this all down for my own sake as well as sharing for those who are interested in reading it. It really was the most incredible experience I have ever gone through, and looking back at it now, I wouldn't change a single thing. In fact, I felt a real sadness {and still do in a way} when each Saturday goes past, that it's been another week since it all happened. I'm a week further away and fear that the memories of it will all start to fade. I'm sure I'll stop thinking soon 'this time five weeks ago, it was all kicking off' but I hope I never forget it and the way it all felt. Although it is SO true what they say, that old cliche that the very minute it was over and I had a baby on my chest, despite saying just an hour before that I'd never do this again, I'd forgotten the pain and just felt elated and wanted to do it alll again tomorrow.

I devoured as many birth stories as I could when I was pregnant - each one so special and unique. It's incredible how different every single one is, which is why they're all so interesting to read I think. I looked especially for the positive birth stories, hoping that mine - as every woman would - would be straightforward too and to avoid any fear of what could happen {although weirldy, I think you can take comfort in reading those which are scary and know that both the mama and baby were fine in the end}. And likewise for homebirths {I've written all about wanting and planning for a homebirth in this blog post}, I couldn't get enough of reading about those although couldn't find that many, especially for a first baby. So anyway, in my true indecisive, include everything fashion, here's our story {split into two parts as it's pretty long}. The story that brought baby Freya into the world and changed our lives forever <3.

The back story;

Saturday 29th June;
It was a really, really hot day and after a morning with family and friends, it got to about lunchtime and I suddenly realised I hadn't felt the baby move. I went into a bit of a panic, and went home to lay down for a while and drink some cold water. Ben was out with our friends, but after an hour I called him in hysterics with this gut feeling that something must be wrong. I called the maternity triage on the way to pick him up and we went straight to hospital. Luckily everything was fine, and they were so great seeing me straight away and hooking me up. The baby was fine and did start moving. I was also having contractions which were getting more painful. The midwife was ready to discharge us, and said that she thought that labour wouldn't be far away, but wanted the doctor to check my notes as we’d had a growth scan just a couple of days before {because of that unreliable tape measure system} and been in for monitoring a couple of weeks before. The doctor looked so briefly through my notes and instantly said she thought my placenta must be failing and wanted to induce me there and then as the baby wouldn’t be getting anymore benefit from staying inside given that I was at 39 weeks already. I instantly said no way to this, as as we’d had a growth scan just 2 days before which showed the placenta and blood flow was good and the baby was a good size. We also really wanted a natural birth and so knew to use the BRAIN acronym to question if this was right for us or not. Of course, in some circumstances induction is a safe and sensible option but this doctor was super induction happy {stating that there was no benefit for any baby to stay inside a mother after 37 weeks and that if the NHS could afford it, they'd get every baby out at this time?! Which to me seemed a little odd...} and we knew we didn't have to say yes. She then said she’ll want to induce me at 40 weeks in just a couple of days time and wanted me to come in every day until then for monitoring. The doctor then offered me a sweep which I did accept, she warned me that it might not even be possible if the cervix wasn't in the right place and that it would likely be really uncomfortable} and said I was a great candidate for it and was 2cm dilated already. I was ecstatic at this! I'd been having the odd period like pains before but didn't ever imagine that I would be in progress like this.
For the rest of the day I had contractions, back pain and bloody shows and felt super excited that this could be the start of everything. But then it all just faded away. Luckily the baby was moving well again after all this and I kept a really close eye on it, seeing my community midwife rather than going into hospital for monitoring.
I carried on that week as normal with a few symptoms here and there, carried on walking, scheduling some nice dates in with friends and Ben, a pizza night at my parents, our anniversary {where it’s a tradition in Ben’s family for babies to be born on their wedding anniversary. Ben was so sure the baby would arrive that night before that he didn’t even write my anniversary card haha}, hoping each night might be the night. But nope. Then it was Thursday when I had a clary sage ‘induction’ massage booked in and a midwife appointment for my second sweep. I was already having a few contractions by this point, including one in the middle of the sweep where the midwife had to stop for a second to not risk breaking the waters just yet. I was still 2cm but this time the cervix was fully effaced and she could even feel the head! So everything looked totally ready, but there was still no way to really rush it. I’d just have to be patient. {although we did get prescribed sex and nipple stimulation as the only known/ proven things to work 😳😂}. Throughout the day my back pain was getting worse as were the tightenings. On the Thursday evening, I went for a walk with one of my closest friends and we hoped that the beautiful evening, and my back aching, might be good signs. I went to bed and things started really progressing. Ramping up/regular but not painful enough. But then by the next morning {Friday}, it had all stopped again. I was starting to feel really frustrated by this point, it was like waiting for this snow to fall - the forecast not quite being accurate enough, it starts but then by morning you look out of your window and there's nothing to show for it. In hindsight, this was all early labour and you can't really expect your body to just start the real thing without practicing/warming up.

Friday 5th July; it was a ridiculously beautiful morning and we were meeting our new NCT friends for a walk, both of us girls heavily pregnant. I then went to a local coffee shop to meet a group of friends with their new babies that I'd met at pilates, moaning that I was the last one and stilll hadn't had the baby. Ben and I had planned to go out to dinner, by this point just scheduling things in in the hope that we wouldn't do them {if the baby had arrived} but wanting some distractions. So we went over to a new restaurant of one of our favourite local restaurant chains and sat in the sunshine for what would turn out to be our very last date night as just us two! It was such a gorgeous evening and the baby was kicking like mad throughout dinner, I was filming it as it was almost comical justtt how much she was moving and like she wanted out. On the walk back to the car I joked to Ben that I was suddenly really waddling like a pregnant lady, not realising that my bump had dropped and really made my back curve at the bottom. We drove home through the countryside, our favourite songs playing, the windows down and feeling so ridiculously happy. We walked to our allotment, the evenings stayed so beautiful and light at that time and picked a huge bunch of flowers, in hindsight all of this was just such a perfect build up - and the baby was still going crazy movement wise.

Last date night, and bump photos.

We got home and ready for bed, as I was shutting the shutters I noticed a magical pink sky, the first I'd seen in a while, and said to Ben 'maybe this is a sign?!'. My Mum, unbeknown to me at the time also said the same from her view of it. I hand expressed some more colostrum for the freezer, thinking that the nipple stimulation couldn't hurt but maybe progress things. We watched an episode of the Last Leg, and just as we turned it off for me to turn over and go to sleep, I felt this gush of water and leapt out of bed to go to the toilet. My waters had broken eeek! The water didn't stop and I was just SO happy and excited. It was really happening, at last! Ben and I both then suddenly had the tiniest panic, who do we call?! He went downstairs to get my notes and called triage who then put us in touch with the community midwife on call. She said that she'd come out to assess us {a huge benefit to having a homebirth, the fact I could stay in bed!} and at this point, I hadn't got any contractions. I stayed in bed, with an adult nappy on and at around 11pm the midwife arrived {after Ben had to go out in the road to find her!}
The midwife, who turned out to be the team leader for the homebirth team was lovely, and checked everything and my waters {to make sure they hadn't got any meconium in} and told me to get some rest if I could but to call back if anything progressed during the night. It was quite surreal, being in bed having somebody do my obs. I was told though that now my waters had released, if I wasn't in active labour in the next 24 hours that I'd have to go into hospital to be induced as the risk of infection goes up. We found something to watch to try and fall asleep to, I was buzzing so felt almost too excited to go to sleep but knew that I needed the rest. Randomly we came across Ben Fogle's new lives in the wild and watched an episode {which would later become the theme of my labour!}
Eventually we went to sleep and I woke up a few times with contractions {which at this stage felt like strong period pains, they weren't unbearable} and feeling hungry so went downstairs at 2am to bounce on the ball and eat cereal through the pain, I left Ben asleep as I thought it probably was still very early stages and wanted him to have as much rest as possible as I didn't know how long everything would go on for, you hear of some labours going through a couple of nights.
I went back to sleep for a while but I was then so happy when it was morning/light again and Ben woke up. We had breakfast together and I walked out into the garden, the light was so incredible I couldn't resist taking some photos of the sunlight coming through the roses. We then went for a really nice walk to get things moving. I put on an outfit where if we bumped into anyone we knew, that they wouldn't be able to tell I had a bulky adult nappy on underneath. It was so weird walking my waters gushing out randomly though! I looked down expecting to see water gushing out between my legs but luckily it was all contained with the maternity pad and pants. I didn't realise that once your waters broke, they could carry on leaking for hours after - I always thought it would be that one big dramatic gush and that would be it. Luckily it was early enough we didn’t see anyone in the fields! My contractions were only every twelve minutes so not regular enough yet, but so painful when they were there and I had to stop and breathe through it. I was timing them on a hypnobirthing app called Freya {coincidentally!}.

At around 8am, the new midwife {Carley} who had just come on shift called us and said she won’t come out this morning unless we wanted her to but she’ll need to call the local hospital to let them know we’ll need inducing tonight.
Obviously, I didn't want to be induced, so we said I wouldn't want to be induced straight away {we read up on it and the risk of infection goes up from I think around 5% to 10% after 24 hours} and so they came up with a plan that I'd still have to go in at 8pm for monitoring of the baby, to check there were no signs of infection but we could hopefully then come home again to see if anything progressed naturally. I was reallly hoping that things would progress on their own throughout the day so I could avoid hospital altogether, I knew that we had a bit of a deadline looming now.

We came home and set up camp in the lounge. The clouds rolled in {after weeks of glorious summer weather} and it felt like perfect day to stay home and have a baby! I was feeling so positive, and excited for things to hopefully progress. I got set up on the sofa with snacks and got the TENS machine out. We turned on the TV {we never watch TV in the day, let alone on a Saturday morning in summer so it felt really nice} and watched more of Ben Fogle's New Lives in the Wild - LOVE this show now, there were a few series worth on catch up. It felt like we were hiding out in our lounge for the day and I loved it. We decided to call my Mum at this point, she was getting suspicious of our radio silence, to let her know my waters had gone but not to get too excited just yet as I wasn't in active labour yet! And I messaged my friend F & E our hypnobirthing teacher to keep them updated! It was nice to let a couple of people know but then to just stay in our secret little labour bubble.

I kept timing my surges {hypnobirthing talk for contractions} on the Freya app. It kept me focused, and almost distracted from the pain/sensation, to have my phone in one hand and the tens in another and to click both on when a surge started. The tens definitely helped in early labour with the boost mode. I went into the kitchen to make lunch and kept moving around trying to let gravity do it's thing, pausing/grabbing my phone every time a surge began.  After a while, we went for another short walk, with the TENS wire hidden down my top for fear of seeing anyone we knew and them knowing! My back was beginning to ache a lot more by this point and I took some paracetamol when we got back. The surges felt like the most intense period pains I've ever had. At first they were definitely manageable, and the gaps in between were long enough where I felt normal in between for long enough to recover properly. In this time I kept going to the toilet, feeling like I needed to just sit on there for a while, TMI but I had some bleeding during this time which the midwife said was a good sign as my cervix was changing. We then moved our little camp into the kitchen sofa area where I was bouncing on the birth ball and trying to change positions. I was keeping my energy up with my snack bag - M&S tubs of chocolately bits/flapjacks and some percy pigs. At this point, I was having to stand up during each surge. 

By early afternoon the surges had ramped up in frequency and the timings on the app showed that I was in active labour {I think that's around 3 surges in 10 minutes lasting for more than 45 seconds for a period} Eeek at last! We called the midwife who said she’d be about an hour until she could get to us as she was just finishing up with her clinic so I had a bath as I wanted to wash my hair. Carley told us that she had a student with her on call today and would we be happy for her to attend to, when she told us that it was Vicky who we'd met at one of our routine midwife appointments in pregnancy we were so thrilled - in fact she'd told us that she really wanted to see a homebirth at around 24 weeks I think when we first mentioned it to Geraldine and so when she turned up, Ben said 'you got your wish!' It turns out that having Vicky there with Carley was the best combination we could have ever dreamed of.

The warm water in the bath definitely helped {I'd worried before getting in that if I had a contraction I'd have to stand up to get through it, but luckily the water made it manageable}, and I took in my big bump when sat in there for one last time. Although the bath actually slowed things down too much and when the midwives got here to observe me, things had really slowed down and I suddenly felt so despondent. I felt stressed at being watched and like my body was suddenly now hiding away, like I'd made the whole thing up. We’d been in our bubble and I was worried that any medical professional could really halt everything, let alone the thought of going into hospital. But in hindsight it just was the bath that had done this. I remembered my clary sage oil and started the diffuser burning away with it in and having some on a flannel to inhale to hopefully keep things progressing. 

The midwives went away, it was about 4pm by this point, as I wasn’t in active labour, and again if nothing happened by 8pm we’d have to go into hospital. I was feeling panicked, but Ben reminded me that that was still 4 hours away and a lot could happen in that time. My parents dropped some BBQ food off {before I went into labour, we'd planned to have dinner with them} although I didn't let them come in or want to see anyone, Ben went to meet my Mum in the car. It was the perfect fuel for Ben and although I was hungry, I couldn’t eat much of mine - every time I’d try to eat, a surge would come and I'd be gripping onto the table unable to chew or swallow. They were becoming more unbearable by the second. We thought it might be a good idea to get out for a{nother} walk so I went upstairs to get changed out of my dressing gown. But I realised at this point that it had all ramped up so much and I couldn’t even get dressed. I tried to lay down on the spare room bed, I was getting exhausted from the surges and from being on my feet for most of the day. I was having to grip onto a doorframe or lean over and sway through each surge trying to focus on the breathing techniques we'd learned {and trying to remember to hit the surge button on the hypnobirthing app in time although by this point I think we both realised that I was in active labour again}. It was then that I realised just how hard this was. Every surge completely flooding my body. I couldn't wait for it to be over but by this point they were coming thick and fast and I was crying by this point. Ben kept saying I should call the midwife back but as much as I wanted to, I was worried things would stop again if they came. I didn't want them to drive over unnecessarily and risk everything slowing down. But then when I couldn’t even lay down in bed for the surges were too strong to even lay down, I realised I definitely needed gas & air. Around 5pm I called Carley the midwife crying saying that if I hadn't progressed, I'd definitely want to give up already on the homebirth and go in for an epidural as I couldn't cope for any longer. She said that they’d come back with gas & air and see how I was getting on, ‘maybe I just have a high pain threshold she said'...

R <3 xx

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