We had a little girl at 4.40 am on October 4th! She weighed in at 3.52 kg which I believe is 7.76 lbs and 54 cm or 21.26 inches.
Ameli Amelia was born in a birthpool in the kitchen of our flat in Camberwell, London.
On 2 October I woke up around 5am with irregular contractions, and had a bloody show but as it was my 30th birthday, I really didn’t want the baby to come on the day, so I cancelled all my plans and lay very quietly on the sofa for the bulk of the day, having irregular contractions.
I woke up at 3am on the 3rd of October with more powerful contractions, and I went in to the bathroom, the only room in the house where no one was sleeping, and sat on my Swiss ball breathing through the contractions. At 6am, I moved to the bedroom, and my lovely husband Martin read to me.
As the day progressed, so did the contractions. I spent the day on the TENS machine and Swiss ball. The baby moved around a lot inside me, and it seems she turned to a back to back position and my contractions were becoming very deep and painful. I tried to sleep on and off during the day, but found it really hard as I would wake up in the midst of a contraction. (I realised the next day that there were two higher pain settings on the TENS machine that I hadn’t even used!)
We called the midwife, Zainab, and she came around at 9PM. While she was checking to see how dilated I was my waters broke, a rather extraordinary feeling, and she did an impromptu sweep. At that point I was 4 cm dilated, so she told me to get in the pool while she went to attend another birth. At that point I just had the water for pain relief, and I was quite okay. The rest of the night passed in a bit of a blur for me, but here’s more or less how I remember it!
During my stay in the water my labour slowed down drastically due to the back to back position. Zainab had still not returned from the other birth and I was becoming desperate for some pain relief, so my mom, who practices as a midwife in Australia, but isn’t licensed to practice in the UK , put together the gas and air.
I started to feel the need to push, but despite pushing for quite a while, nothing much seemed to be happening and at about 1am Zainab wanted to check me again. Despite four hours of contractions, I was still only 4 cm, but my cervix had thinned. Up till that point I’d been in pretty good humour, but the news that I’d not progressed, and the baby hadn’t moved down any further really demotivated me as I’d been in a lot of pain (with the back labour), and was now pushing which before the cervix is dilated is really quite dangerous.
I was absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep, and the pain was becoming unbearable since I was out of the pool. It was during the hour and a half I was lying on the bed that I had a serious sense of humour failure. My mum had me lying on my side with a pillow between my legs to try to get the baby to turn again but she told us that if I didn’t progress in the next four hours, I would have to go in to hospital.
Having slept for 3 hours in 48 did not give me the reserves of strength I needed for this, and if it were not for Martin whispering constantly in my ear that I could do this, I am not sure that I would have! I was desperate not to end up having an emergency Caesarean, but at the same time I did not think I was able to do another 6 to 8 hours of the agonising need to push that I was experiencing! Every time I had a contraction my mum and Martin were telling me â€˜Don’t push, Don’t push, DON’T PUSH’ which was agonising!
I was sucking on the gas and air as if my life depended on it, and although I’m not sure that it actually helps with the pain, it definitely helps blur events! I lay on the bed with Martin for about an hour and a half drifting in and out of consciousness waking up only to moan and groan my way through contractions. Because I was pretty comatose for the two to three minutes between contractions it felt like an hour and a half of constant contractions.
I honestly don’t know where the two hours went that I was lying on the bed with Martin, and I think he was amazingly strong. Those hours passed in a huge blur for me and he was just there all the way. I was vaguely aware of Zainab coming in to monitor the baby’s heart rate from time to time, but Martin had asked her to leave us for a while, and she was fantastically hands off. When she checked me again at 4 o’clock, I had dilated from 4 to 8 cm in just an hour and a half!
My mom and Zainab had emptied out the pool to put in fresh water, and it wasn’t ready yet, so when I hit 8 cm, Martin had to put as much cold water in as possible in as short a time as possible as I was standing outside the pool pushing and groaning!
Oddly enough, here the day becomes crystal clear for me. I became very conscious and alert at that time, and was able to express my wishes very clearly. I needed a fan on me because I was boiling up in the warm water, I needed my music turned up and silence from chatter between contractions so that I could focus â€“ and I was able to ask for what I needed and Zainab and my mom, who had become the 2nd midwife (Zainab had told her colleague not to worry coming over as my mom could fill the spot, which I think meant a LOT to my mom!) were fantastic about just letting me have what I needed and not interfering any more than was needed.
Back in the pool, and between contractions I was calmly listening to a selection of gospel music I had chosen for the occasion. In preparation for the birth I had worried about whether I would want anyone in the room with me during the last stage as it felt like such an intensely private time, and I had told Martin I might ask him to ask the midwives to leave or stand quietly behind him and me. He was fantastic about telling people when to be quiet or when to switch off lights or so on. Despite my mom and Zainab talking to me and telling me what to do from time to time, Martin’s was the only voice I could actually hear, and I recall his voice in my ear the whole night, encouraging me, telling me I was doing well, he was proud of me, I could do this, my body was made for this â€“ all the affirmations I’d spent months telling myself and had written down for him.
I’ve always understood transition to be the most painful part of labour, but for me it really wasn’t. It was the most transcendental part, where I was able to focus the most clearly and able to see purpose in what was happening. Looking back now, it’s the part of the day I remember the most clearly. The pain was pressure, rather than pain, because I could feel my baby moving down rather than it just being an endless amount of rushes.
It was hard work, but it wasn’t actually painful, it was just focussed effort, and the perineum stretching and all that didn’t really hurt as such, it was just slightly uncomfortable, but it had purpose. When the baby’s head crowned my mom and Zainab stepped back to observe as I had said I wanted to deliver the baby myself and they were going to at least allow me to try. I reached down as the head crowned and smiled to myself, and in that moment nakedness wasn’t nakedness, a vagina wasn’t a sexual organ and nothing mattered more than the fact that this new life was about to enter the world.
I asked my mom to wake my sister and dad as I suddenly felt REALLY strongly that they should witness this. They came in, and my sister started taking photos, but Martin kept everyone quiet during the silent moments between contractions. I didn’t scream at all, and my moans were concentrated and focused on pushing my baby out. I remember at one point singing along to a song, and Zainab asking my mom if she had ever heard anyone singing during transition and my mom had not (don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t necessarily a beautiful sound, but it kept me focused and sane and calm!)
I pushed, and pushed and pushed a bit more, and forty minutes later the baby’s head crowned and we could see the hair. I reached down and touched the top of my baby’s head, and I remember smiling. In that moment, the presence of other people in the room didn’t bother me at all anymore. (I was wearing a short old satin night dress in the pool so that I wouldn’t feel awkward with all the family around).
I gave another push,fully expecting to see the head come out, then wait for the body to follow in the next rush. However, in this push, out came head, shoulders, body and all! She came out so quickly (in the end) that we were all really taken by surprise! I reached down in the water without checking the placing of the cord and lifted her out to breathe her first breath, but she had her cord so tightly wrapped around her neck, and it was quite short too, and we could not get it off, so we had to cut it as quickly as possible. If I’d noticed that in the water we could have unwrapped her, but I’d been too hasty!
My mom and Zainab cut the umbilical cord and unwrapped it. Once that was done, she went straight on to my chest for some skin to skin time and she didn’t even cry! Just a bit of whimpering. She stayed peacefully on my chest and went on to my breast almost immediately while Martin and I just gazed at her for ages!
It was only when I handed her to Zainab a little later that she started bawling, but she stopped again as soon as Zainab passed her to Martin. It was really amazing. My sister was taking photos, bawling her eyes out, my dad was welled up, Martin even got really emotional! Funnily enough, she was on my chest for about five minutes before we even checked to see her sex! Everyone was in awe of how beautiful and pink she was. The most special moment of my life to date is reaching in to the water and lifting my little girl out, knowing that I was the first to touch her.
With a family history of retained placenta, I had decided to take Angelica Root tincture as soon as the baby was out. While I was fawning over my baby, my mom popped some tincture under my tongue and it was a very successful move as the placenta came out about 20 minutes later without the need for injections or drugs â€“ a major relief for me as there was a good chance I’d have to transfer to hospital to get the placenta out!
My mom weighed and measured the baby while Zainab looked after me, and after a shower and a quick check for tears (a slight graze, but no tearing!), a check of my blood pressure and so on, I joined my husband and baby in our room. He had tears drying on his cheeks and looked amazed and awed by our little miracle.
My mom had never attended a water birth (she’s a midwife in Australia), and she is converted to it. She feels, now, that it is so much better for both mother and baby, and believes that she will now be an active advocate of it, which I’m really happy about. My sister told me afterwards that she was really scared for me and for the baby, but having actually witnessed the birth she now feels that it is more natural and beautiful than a hospital birth and even thinks she’d go the same way when her time comes! That is such a blessing to me! It makes the birth of my baby have far reaching effects beyond just us, and I am so happy about that, and proud of our achievement!
Ameli is so peaceful and calm and I’m sure her wonderful birth had something to do with it!