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First time Mama & a Home Birth to cherish

Amy's Story :

"Throughout the day leading up to labour I noticed pressure in new areas that I hadn't felt before. Before it had been more at the front of my pelvis but now I really felt the pressure underneath when we were out for a walk that day, almost like I just couldn’t squeeze my legs together because there was something in the way, that type of pressure. My husband also said he thought that my bump looked a lot lower but honestly, I couldn't really see a difference!

I first noticed signs of labour around ten that evening. I began to get mild back pain, at first I thought I had walked a bit too far that afternoon. It came and went very slowly, the sensation was so mild I didn’t even register that this could be the start of contractions although I was struggling to get comfortable on the sofa. When I went up to bed about 11pm I noticed a sudden change in the sensation in my back. It became much more obvious they were coming and going intermittently and no matter what I did with my pillow I just couldn’t lay down comfortably through them. My body wouldn’t let me sit or lay so when the surges came I had no choice but to stand and move. This was when I really started to think it could be genuine contractions.

I decided to message Erika my midwife (and also my mum who is a retired midwife) They both said yes it sounds like labour and to try and get some rest and to check in later. But feeling as uncomfortable as I did there was no way I could have rested through the contractions. I went to the bathroom at around 11.30pm and noticed some light bleeding and about fifteen minutes later I started to throw up. I then felt for sure I was going into proper labour and it didn’t feel like it would subside or die off. My husband was up with me but at 12.30am I sent him to bed. We had been told by our team that there is not point in both of us being exhausted and that I would rely on him later so he needed to get some rest. He also said he felt a bit helpless at this stage so I think it was for the best he slept or he would have continued to have felt stressed out. I stayed up all night cooking, cleaning, I did my makeup and hair to make me feel good. I also had Friends on the tv all night, my favourite show. Because I was cooking Sam (our dog) stood by me the whole time. He was there with me all night.

I had increasing contractions all night as I did my little jobs. I felt them only in my back and in my legs, sometimes even into my feet. I tried using a ball and being on my hands and knees but what really worked for me was either sitting on the toilet so that I had no pressure on my pelvic area or bracing against a door frame and standing up on my tip toes and twisting from side to side. As the contractions got stronger I used my tens machine to help as well. I was sick a lot through the night and also constantly needed the toilet! As the night passed I would set myself little targets. Get this curry finished by 3am. Do my make up at 5am etc. I would stop during contractions, I would have to, but in between I was comfy and could carry on as normal. I got a text from my mum around 3.30am. She had woken up and was just checking in. She reminded me to eat which was good because I had forgotten too!. So Sam and I shared some banana bread in the early hours of the morning.

Things started to feel really different at 6am. I could feel the strength of the contractions getting more intense and coming quicker. But they still weren’t regular at all, some would last a minute, others would last twenty seconds, sometimes I would have a five minute gap and others would be coming on again in thirty seconds! I was trying to time them but it was really hard to keep track. At 7.15am I went to get my husband. I didn’t want him to do anything in particular I just felt like I couldn’t be on my own any more and needed him with me for support. I also text Erika again around this time but I was worried it was too soon to call, after all it was my first baby and everyone had drummed into me how long first babies can take, I thought I had another 12 hours to go at least!. When I woke my husband he could tell better than I could that I was close to delivering! He started to set up the pool but I kept insisting it was too early . He ran me a bath to try and help relax me a bit and although the water was lovely, it was too small because my body just wanted to move. At 7.30am Erika messaged me back asking if I wanted her to come but because I still thought I had hours and hours ahead of me I initially said no & we agreed together that we would wait to see what happened as she didn’t want to interrupt any progress I was making so we agreed she would await our call.

But at 10.15am and all of a sudden it felt like my contractions were coming every two minutes, lasting about one minute. I had a small meltdown at this point as the battery to the tens machine started to die! It’s clear looking back now that I was in the transition phase but at the time I had no idea. I just held onto my husband and cried through the next contraction. What I wasn’t aware of was that as he had been filling the pool the hose had flooded the kitchen! I remember thinking at the time where does he keep going?!! I’m having a baby!! But at the same time not having enough energy to really care! Coincidentally Erika was stuck in standstill traffic due to a huge road traffic accident worrying about making it to me! Thankfully I was blissfully unaware until after the birth!

Erika arrived at about 10.45am. I was on on my knees under half of our dining table. I said to her, " I’m really sorry I think we have called you too early" She looked at me and instantly replied, "I think you're about to have your baby!" She also asked if I wanted to get in the pool because if I didn't do it now I probably wouldn't have time. Before getting into the pool she had a listen to Norah's heartbeat and checked my blood pressure. She told us that it was very high and the best thing to do was a very quick internal exam to see how far along we were and then we could make a plan. Turns out I was 9.5cm and she just said baby is coming quicker than we all thought. Erika gave me some homeopathy and rechecked the blood pressure which was was already coming down quickly so we were good to carry on at home. Within about five minutes of getting in the pool Sophie, my Birth Photographer arrived and I also felt the need to start pushing after a few final very big contractions. The pushing was actually a relief in lots of ways. It was so nice to have a change of sensation from the contractions. It was an unstoppable sensation. And as they got stronger I felt a large pop where my waters went. Norah's head was born in the next two pushes. I thought I would have a few more pushes to get her body out but it was just one and she was born. Sammy our dog was right there with my husband who was holding my hand the whole time.

Amy & Norah's Birth Story from my perspective as a Birth Photographer

Amy got in touch at around 36 weeks pregnant where she had just found out about me from a local Birth Practioner (The Empowering Birth School) who she had been having Birth Preparation classes with, to see whether I was available to be her Birth Photographer. As luck had it I had just come off call from another birth two days before and was good to go again! We managed to fit in a couple of visits and cuppas before I went on call two weeks later! I try and get to know my Birth clients as much as possible when they book in, even if its a late booking! During one of our chats Amy told me all about her Mum who was a midwife and that she had grown up with home birth in Australia as the norm and it was only when she moved here that she was completely shocked to learn that hospital birth was more socially acceptable! Despite that she was adamant about having a home birth, her upbringing had built within her an innate trust of physiological birth and she knew what her body was capable of and trusted it completely.

I awoke one evening to a text from Amy saying contractions had started. Knowing that sometimes with first babies labour can take a while, I felt quietly confident that I would sleep till morning, which I did, but checked in with Amy just before heading on the school run. Unbeknown to me, half an hour later things would ramp up incredibly quickly.

Just before 1030 Amy's husband messaged me to say to head on over. Luckily I had everything by the door ready to go so after shouting a few instructions to my own husband about school runs I dashed out the door. Driving over I had a sense that it was going to be a close call for a first labour to ramp up this quickly so without breaking any speed limit I just prayed for clear traffic!

As I walked in the door I was greeted by Amy's partner in the hallway, I whispered "How are things going?" and he smiled and said 'Brilliant, its all good!', everything was calm, quiet and serene, no sign of any urgency. I tiptoed into the lounge and put my bags down seeing Amy in the pool, still and quiet (and thinking she'd been there a while) I thought I'd chance a quick visit to the toilet, I thought I'd possibly misjudged the situation driving over as quickly as I had. As I walked out of the downstairs bathroom I heard the guttural sounds that experience tells you are the sounds of a woman giving birth.

I ran as delicately as I could without disturbing Amy or upsetting Sam the dog to unpack the camera and locked eyes with Erika, Amy's Midwife ( Wessex Independent Midwives) we smiled at each other knowingly. A couple of roars and baby's head was out, I'll never forget Amy's face! This pause between surges led to Amy speaking to her baby as she transitioned earthside and it was the most beautiful scene to have witnessed. The repeated affirmations to her, the outpouring of love in words and all before Norah made it into her arms. Five minutes after getting my camera out Baby Norah arrived!

Amy stayed in the birth pool for approximately 15-20 minutes and when it felt like the temperature of the water had dropped she hopped out in preparation to birth the placenta which came a short while after as she sat on a bucket clutching her newborn.

Seeing a woman birth in her own environment, one that is known to her, one that keeps her safe, with people around her that she knows, trusts & has CHOSEN, there is nothing like it. Watching them cared for in familiar surroundings & knowing that in a few hours they will be tucked up in their own bed with their newborn clutched to their chests is priceless.

"I had always felt that a homebirth would be the right way for me to have my baby & now having been through it I know that I made the right choice, not just for me but for my husband and baby girl as well. She had the most peaceful start in life & that reflects in her personality and in our parenting of her. My husband was such an important part of the birth and it gave all three of us an even stronger bond.

I look back at the birth of our baby girl with pure excitement, joy and a huge sense of accomplishment and achievement, which I sadly know is contradictory to a lot of people's experiences. I feel excited to do it again one day." - Amy

Private Midwives Erika & Rachel from Wessex Independent Midwives covering Hampshire, Wiltshire & Dorset

Birth Education - Shelley from The Empowering Birth School offering in person consultations & group classes in Dorset or online sessions.

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