As soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted my little one's birth to be as natural as possible. The fact that I had got pregnant at all had been a miracle; all the 'experts' had told me it wasn't going to happen. Having always lived my life my way, I'd ignored their pronouncements, kept on believing and through working holistically, miraculously restored my fertility and within a week of trying, conceived a child (you can watch me talk about it here)
My beliefs on natural living and doing what you love permeate everything I do – my diet, my work, and my play, and I wanted them to be reflected in how I brought my child into the world. Peace and calm we vital for me, a birth free from fear and away from unnatural environments and interventions. I knew the best place for that was at home.
Even though my partner, Rob, and I are both English, when I got pregnant we were living in Italy and I started investigating natural birthing in Italy. What I found didn't fill me with confidence, and we decided to speak with an English midwife and my partner found Kay on the internet. After speaking to her on the telephone a couple of times, I knew that I wanted to return to England, birth at home and use an independent midwife.
The independent midwife meant dipping quite considerably into my savings, but there was no question it was worth it – I didn't want there to be any quibbles over my wish for a home birth on the NHS, and I knew that potentially having an unknown midwife turn up at my door when I was in full flow would not be conducive to the calm, medication-free birth I longed for. Getting to know the person who would help me deliver was vital.
Once I'd made that decision more research followed: Hypnobirthing made such sense and I committed to doing the relaxation daily; I read up on the scans and tests offered and decided that I did not routinely want any; I've always been a water baby myself so started investigating a birthing pool.
My partner and I returned to the UK by train when I was 4 months pregnant and moved in with his Mum, who was to give us a welcome home during the rest of the pregnancy and early baby days
My pregnancy – which was my first - progressed well. I made sure I ate really well and until the 8th month, when I pulled a muscle in my tummy, I walked every day. I tried mixing with other pregnant mothers – I went to a pregnancy yoga group and a pre-natal day – but ended up wanting to stay away; I didn't find anyone who was home-birthing and ex-students kept returning to the class talking about their pain relief/epidural/cesareans. I didn't want to hear about that, so made the choice to stay away. Instead, I practised my hypnobirthing every night and kept focused on the calm, medication and intervention free birth I wanted.
I assumed the baby would come late, so was surprised when, early on a Sunday morning at just over 38 weeks into my pregnancy I started to feel strong sensations in my lower belly. I mentioned them to my partner, but told him we'd wait and see – I'd never been pregnant before, had no idea what labour felt like and my waters hadn't broken. I didn't want to cause unnecessary alarm! I carried on as normally as an almost-due pregnant mother can...I made some of the falafel I was planning for dinner that night, did some knitting and in the afternoon, went for a lie down.
As afternoon turned to evening, the surges I was experiencing got closer together and more intense. I started to think that this was probably it. My baby finally wanted to come out! I felt apprehensive yet very excited. My partner inflated the pool we had ordered and we turned the living room into a birthing haven – dim lighting, candles, lavender oil burning and music from my kundalini yoga practise. I sat on the floor, resting on my partner and as each surge came, shut my eyes and focused on keeping my breathing slow and long, just as I'd been practising every night.
My partner had phoned Kay and explained what was happening and was timing my surges. When they were about 3 minutes apart we asked Kay to come over. She arrived about 4.30am, creeping in quietly and taking up a spot in the corner of the dark room.
And the surges continued...each one accompanied by breathing and holding onto my partner. After what I was told later was a few hours (time was stretched and bent throughout the labour – I was really not aware of how long anything took) we started to think about getting water into the pool. It took 2 hours to fill it (as I was told later!), much longer than we had thought – despite having the central heating on and an immersion heater working. When I finally got in, oh, what bliss! As soon as I stepped into the warm water I felt waves of relaxation flow up my legs, through my torso and into my shoulders. It was like exhaling after holding a long breath – a joy and huge relief. I found myself most comfortable kneeling, leaning forward slightly, resting my head on the side of the pool and holding my partner's hands over the top.
From there things got slowly progressed. Dawn was breaking but I hardly noticed the light coming in under the curtains, I was inside, focusing on my breath and my baby with every surge. As the feelings became stronger, the noises I made did too, with instinctive, very loud, groans accompanying each surge.
There were no examinations, no pressure, everything was calm and quiet. This left me in the best position to allow my body to do its work. I totally believe things would have been so very different if I'd been in a hospital, with a midwife I didn't know, who had a time limit and procedures to follow.
After a few hours the surges got much more intense, an all encompassing expulsive reflex taking over my whole body with every one, and for the first time, I found it more difficult to be in control of my breathing, squeezing the life out of my partner's hands! Kay started using a mirror to have a look under the water and it was such a joy to hear her say she could see a head. My waters still hadn't broken and it was surrounded by a yellowy sack of water.
As my baby travelled down I started to be able to feel his head, he'd move down with a surge and then – to my dismay – slip back, kicking all the while! I was still kneeling, Kay suggested I bring on leg up into a squat position, and this really did make a difference to what became the last few minutes of my labour. Surge after surge came till I could feel his head stretching me further than I ever imagined I could stretch. Suddenly, I felt the most amazing joy and relief as my baby’s head was birthed into the water and then before I even knew it, his body was out too.
I lifted him up out of the water and held him to me. He was crying – so loudly – and it took us a while to realise he was cold, but he was so alert, looking up wide-eyed at myself and my partner. I couldn't believe he was here!
After a few minutes I realised we didn't know if the baby I was holding was a boy or a girl! I'd spent most of my pregnancy sure I was having a girl, so when Kay checked and said, 'he's a boy', I was surprised...but something in me felt it was just perfect that way.
I got out of the pool (I'd been in there 5 hours!), was dried off, and laid down on the sofa with my boy lying on my chest. All the intensity of just a few moments ago was gone and my baby was in my arms.
I had chosen to deliver the placenta naturally and Kay suggested adjourning to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and after a few minutes and a few more surges the placenta plopped out.
Returning to the sofa, Kay examined me and confirmed that all looked good and didn't need stitches. I relaxed into the soft cushions and took my boy back into my arms. I felt amazing – tired but so content, a drug-free birth meant I was as alert as my baby and able to really savour the first few moments.
Birthing my boy, Gabriel Ethan, this way has changed me. I am so proud that I had the faith to prioritise and keep going after the natural birth I really wanted. I allowed my body to get on with what it was designed to do, with out any interventions or medications. Through that I gave my little one the most peaceful, drug-free, calm birth I could ever have imagined and gifted myself the joy of experiencing child birth as it is meant to be – natural, peaceful and oh so empowering. Thank you Kay!