This had been a tough pregnancy. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ M.E, and my symptoms had gotten much worse while pregnant (with a few extras thrown in for good measure). I also have a history of recurrent miscarriage, so despite having a daughter already, naturally I was cautious in case anything happened to this baby. Considering my circumstances, I’m eternally grateful that I’ve been blessed with two beautiful baby girls!
I was stunned to be downgraded to low risk at 20 weeks. It hadn’t occurred to me this might happen. My first daughter was born on a labour ward. It was by no means a terrible experience, but for many reasons it marked the start of what became a battle with post natal depression and a struggle to bond with her.
I vowed not to let that happen this time, and since I was fortunate enough to have a choice, I really should listen to my gut and do what works for me. I heavily researched my options and decided to take the plunge and opt for a homebirth. Via the Newham Mums whatsapp chat I was pointed to the Homebirth East London chat. I’m super grateful to all the wonderful women in Newham who shared their wisdom – about homebirth, breastfeeding, post partum recovery and support, you name it. This community is awesome.
Now down to business…
I’d had a false alarm the week before at 37 weeks. We also got news that my father-in-law (living in France) was terminally ill and only had a couple of months to live. We were stressed out, mentally unprepared and realised we’d better get in sync with each other if this was going to work.
On the day I went into labour we sat watching homebirth videos and Ina May Gaskin lectures on YouTube. The thing that really stuck with me was the phrase, “go like jelly”. This was absolutely spot on.
At 11.30pm I was getting strong surge-y sensations that were the real deal. My toddler was asleep next door. We kept calm and I rested for as long as I could. It was a total relief to know that I didn’t have to go anywhere! By 12.30 we called the midwife to give them a heads up, and my sister arrived. She and I sat chatting while I bounced around on my birth ball.
My daughter woke up and my sister left to take care of her, which was good timing as it was getting harder to talk. I started to panic a bit because this was moving along VERY quickly! By 2.30 I was finding it tough to stand still, and the sensations were completely overwhelming. Then I remembered what I’d been reading, watching and talking about all day. GO LIKE JELLY. Although every fibre of my being wanted to tense up and protect myself from the pain, I let go. I relaxed. I imagined down below was turning to jelly. It hurt so much less, it was amazing! The more I did this, the more I felt those surges getting stronger and stronger. By 3pm I thought to myself “oh shit, this is actually working! This baby is going to come out now!”.
My husband called the midwife who was still about an hour away. She told him not to let me in the pool yet as this might slow things down. I won’t repeat what I said, but I declined that advice and insisted I get in the pool immediately. It felt so soothing to be in the water. I focused on my birth art and affirmations on the wall. I’d composed a playlist with music that would either make me laugh (Salt n Pepa’s “Push it” anyone?) or get me into my sensual hippy zone. I soaked all the vibes up and let the music flow
Then I remember thinking oh damn, that was a poo I just pushed out! My husband lovingly fished it out with a sieve. We both cracked up laughing.
I got on all fours because everything felt on fire down there and I needed to push. My lovely Frenchman held my hand and we looked into each other’s eyes. We’ve never felt more connected, and I’ll never forget how time almost stopped as I felt awash with love and power.
Through gasps I tried to tell him that the baby was coming and he better get down the business end! He called 999 and kept them on the phone in case he needed their advice. We couldn’t find the mirror we’d bought so he had to run around looking for one, and when he came back her head was poking out!
I made grunty, shouty, primordial noises and I could feel how close I was to tearing through the sheer force of the surges. I tried my hardest to get the balance right between jelly and pushing (so damn hard!).
I felt a little tear but by that point it was almost over. I could tell I was only one push away from her head coming out, so I thought to myself “ok, relax, two more pushes and you’re done.” I relaxed through a surge and I could feel her head leave, and to my shock the rest of her slid out at the same time!
At 3.35am I shouted to Minh “she’s in the pool somewhere!”. He helped me to find her and I lifted her up out of the water and into my arms. Her eyes were wide open. Seeing her little face gaze up at mine was glorious.
The cord hadn’t come out much so I could only rest her as far as my stomach. My husband and I looked at each other in complete amazement at what had just happened.
At almost the exact moment she was born, both the paramedics and midwife arrived. The rest is an oxytocin blur. I remember paramedics hovering about looking nervous and wanting to take charge. They told my husband to get me out of the pool. I asked if the baby’s cord had stopped pulsating, and it hadn’t. So whilst stark naked, sat in a pool in my house, with a freshly born baby still attached to me, surrounded by male paramedics barking orders, I told them I was staying put until she’d gotten all the blood she needed. (Possibly one of my proudest moments ever).
After 20 minutes my husband cut the cord, and I got out of the pool. I had a 2nd degree tear but to my relief the midwives were able to stitch it while I laid on the sofa snuggling. Just before 6am, the three of us came downstairs and baby Luna was introduced to her sister Gaia!
My sister was a super star and had been keeping Gaia entertained all night. We had tea and lounged around in duvets, exhausted but more content than I’ve ever been.
Sian is a Digital consultant and STEM ambassador living in East Ham, London, with her French-Vietnamese husband Minh-Hung, daughter Gaia (2), and baby Luna born in August 2018.