When I was 36 weeks pregnant I started getting strong Braxton Hicks, so called “training contractions”. Sometimes I would get a few together over a period of time and then they would fizzle out so when I started feeling tightenings on Thursday of my 39th week, I chose to ignore them and get on with my day as normal.
This was going to be my 7th baby. Every labour so far had been different, but none had followed a regular pattern, except my first. This was to be my 6th homebirth and I had decided that I would prefer to freebirth with only my husband there as support because I feel more comfortable in this intimate setting.
In the evening tightenings were still coming but my main concern was that I hadn’t really felt baby move since the morning. I laid down to see if I could get baby to move and tell me she was ok, but didn’t feel her. Then thought a warm bath might stimulate something, but again I felt nothing except the tightenings that I could feel a little stronger now. With every tightening I could see my belly hardening up and rising, and then relaxing again. My bellybutton was also emptier in a strange way, this is usually a sign on me that baby has moved down.
Once out of the bath I phoned my midwife for advice and then my husband to tell him that as soon as he gets home, I’m going to the hospital as I needed reassurance that baby was well – I couldn’t go through labour with the worry that baby wasn’t ok. He got home around 8:30pm and I shot off with my eldest two children to keep me company while he looked after the younger four.
Midwifes at the hospital measured my belly and told me I was measuring small. I wasn’t worried as I was having regular contractions and knew baby had moved down. They didn’t seem convinced. I remembered another reason why I like to labour at home – I could trust myself. Then, they put me on the monitor, I was very thankful to hear a clear strong heartbeat and as I laid there for 20 mins, I had time to reconnect with baby and I even felt her move!
At the end midwives came in and realised the monitor wasn’t recording and I would have to stay another 20 mins! I thanked them and took off the straps and explained that I was no longer worried and that I needed to get home as I could feel the tightenings intensify (I had felt many in the 20 mins I was strapped to the machine). I was thinking of my children in the waiting room and my children at home and the lady in the next bed wasn’t coping very well with her labour; it was spoiling my mood – I didn’t want to stay.
I made a quick exit and didn’t allow them time to argue much. As I was walking down the corridor on my way out, I was chased by a student midwife who asked me to sign a form declaring that I had left against medical advice.
As soon as I parked my car at home I felt a strong contraction and knew that baby was serious this time and would be coming tonight. I was humbly thankful to be home. In the flat, the children hadn’t eaten, it was getting close to 10pm so I made a quick pasta for them and left my husband to supervise, get them to clean up and put them to bed as I got into my own bed to try to rest before the serious business began. I also let my midwife know what happened in hospital.
I didn’t have any rest, the tightenings were getting stronger and closer together. They were still manageable though, but building up fast. During one of the tightenings I felt a gush of something… wasn’t sure what it was. My husband came and I asked for a tissue to check what had come out, as I was comfortable and didn’t want to get out of bed. The tissue was bright red – something I wasn’t expecting. As I got up to clean myself blood ran down my legs, I hadn’t experienced this before so felt a little concerned.
I was cleaning myself in the bathroom with a warm flannel and my poor husband was cleaning the mess I had made on the floor and I was wondering whether to be worried by the amount of blood or not when I noticed that there was mucus in it. Relieved, I knew that this was just a very messy mucus plug.
Reassured and clean I got back into bed but this time there was another step up in pressure and I needed to be on all fours during the contraction. This is the point where I usually get in the bath for pain relief. My husband was one step ahead and had already ran me a very nice deep bath.
And as I sank in the relief was instantaneous… Relief for a minute. Or less… The tightenings in the bath were now getting even stronger. I had to work hard to keep calm, breath through them and visualise my baby coming or recite prayers that remind me to hand myself over and put my trust in the most perfect Creator. At one point I felt I wanted to be fully submerged through the intense sensations I was feeling and could no longer feel comfortable in the bath, I was asking my husband to splash water on my belly, and I was turning sideways and tried every way to get comfortable. At this point we decided it was time to get out. The contractions were one on top of each other – I had not experienced a labour like this before – it was so intense, no time to transition from one stage to the next, and it felt like there was no break between contractions! I hadn’t been in the tub long before I felt birth was close. I was blessed to have the best birth partner, helping in anyway he could, my husband made my nest in the bedroom on the floor exactly how I had wanted it. He came back to help me.
But straight away I had a huge contraction and felt the urge to push. With this last contraction, my husband said there was more blood now, and sure enough, the water in tub was red, I asked if it was a lot and he said not too much, and his calmness stopped me from feeling anxious.
I had to get out though, my husband was also pleading with me to find the strength to get out. We had been told by the midwife that as bathtub isn’t too deep it can be dangerous to birth in it as if baby gets a mixture of air and water in her lungs she could drown. Plus I was no longer comfortable there.
So as soon as the contraction passed I got up and with my husband supporting me and putting a towel around my back to keep me warm, I stepped out – but only managed to get that far- the next one came and I couldn’t stand through it.
I dropped on all fours and felt baby’s head again pushing through – I tried to tell my husband that baby’s head was there and she was coming so that he could catch her, but I didn’t get it out on time… Poor baby dropped to the floor. My husband dived down to get her, and I looked round to see her in his arms, she was crying but still in her sac (I think it was partial but I am not sure as I only saw her face).
He didn’t know what to do, but could see her struggle for air. I explained a few times to break the sac with his hands before he managed it. He told me later that it is harder than it looks. “Its a girl!” he shouted. ‘I knew it’, I thought.
I was still on all fours, my head between the bathtub and the toilet, thankful that I had made my kids scrub the bathroom clean earlier in the day. Slowly I got up and sat on the toilet, he gave her to me as he went to get blankets or towels to wrap her in. It was beautiful to be able to cuddle her and hold her to my chest.
At this point my eldest son turned up… He hadn’t slept. “erm mum, it looks a bit scary in here”, he said. I looked around, he was right. The red bathtub, blood on the floor and baby also covered in blood. I told him, yes it’s a bit messy but me and the baby are both fine. My husband came and we wrapped up the baby. He sent my son to get my phone and ordered him to call the midwife. I wasn’t ready, but he insisted…
“My mum’s just had the baby!” my eldest told my midwife Jade. I spoke to her briefly, she was on the way.
We moved to the bedroom where my husband held the baby as I squatted on the nest I had intended to birth on and delivered the placenta. Then I got dressed and my husband got a bowl to put the placenta in and me and baby got into bed for our first feed. She was a natural feeder and latched on almost instantly…
My husband was busy washing everything I had messed up. As we were finishing our feed, the midwives arrived, it was nearly 2am on a Friday.
They clamped the cord and my husband cut it. I feel so much gratitude and a renewed love for him, he had been so loving and attentive, helping in any way possible then quietly cleaning up, he truly was the perfect support.
I have only two reflections for next time, if god allows it to come. First one – having a birthing pool would be much better than the tub – it is deeper and you are able to be fully submerged, also you can birth baby in it without the fear of drowning her. The second – keeping baby warm is incredibly important! When the midwives checked baby’s temperature, she was colder than they would have liked. Her little hands and feet were cold. We hadn’t taken enough care to keep her warm and it took quite some time of skin to skin to get her temperature back up where it should have been.
Hakima is a stay at home mum of seven and lives in Newham. She homeschools her children and there is never a dull moment in her life. Her youngest baby girl Hafsah was born in April 2018.