My Birth Story: Zainab and Justin

Zainab and Justin

I woke up at about 3am on 27th January with surges and downloaded an app to time them. When I got out of bed I let go quite a lot of liquid (enough to wet the floor) and thought that my waters may have broken. By 7am the surges were coming 3 every ten minutes and my husband called the midwives. After a night awake I managed to fall asleep around 8, and when the midwives got to me at 9 the surges had slowed right down to one every ten minutes. They checked me and I wasn't even dilated so they left. Apparently my waters had not broken, and this was more likely to have been the show as a result of the sweep that I had been given. 13 days past the due date I was not thrilled at the prospect of more waiting. I had quite bad nausea since I had woken at 3am, which was worse than the contractions themselves. This reminded me of the hyperemesis I had experienced in my first trimester and was not a symptom of labour I was prepared for, but on the advice of the midwife I had spoken to that morning, I tried to make myself eat so I wasn't being sick on an empty stomach. The hypnobirthing breathing got me through the rest of that day and night. My husband helped me walk up and down the stairs in our house, and at one point I even tried camel walking!  I found sitting on my birthing ball didn't help the pressure on my lower back but leaning forwards on it or my husband was better. He got tired of rubbing my back after a while though! 

By the early hoursof the 28th the surges were much stronger and more regular again. My husband called the midwives again and when she first came I was only 2-3cm dilated so she left and came back again around 6am I think. Then I was 5cm so she stayed and my husband helped fill up the birthing pool. She told me the baby had gone back to back so I tried to make sure I stayed stomach down (e.g. on all fours) to encourage him to move back. It worked as when the next midwife checked me he was back to front again. That morning was spent in the pool (with a couple of breaks caused by leaks in the pool which my husband kept having to fix..kept him busy). I used a lavender soaked cloth (gifted to me from my pregnancy yogi) from the freezer to keep me cool in the warm pool and focused on the positive birthing statements that I had stuck on the walls, when the surges got stronger. At about midday (33 hours into labour) I told the midwife (a new one following another shift change) I might take a couple more paracetamol, as I had taken a couple earlier on. She laughed and said she didn't think they would help much at this stage, so I was offered gas and air. The gas and air, coupled with the hypnobirthing breathing and the water I was nesting in, got me through that final stage of labour. 


The most difficult thing was having to get out of my "zone" to be regularly checked by the midwives. In hindsight, I was at home, being watched over and supported by women who were very respectful of the little sacred space I had created, and it was much less intrusive than having to be hooked up to a machine. But at the time I just wished they would leave me alone until it was time to push. I remember that being the most vocal point for me during the labour, as I began to breath harder and ask where my mother was. After a while I felt like I needed to go to loo, but it wasn't happening. The midwives said that if I felt like pushing I should just do what feels right. So, I began to push. At this point my waters still hadn't broken. Then suddenly there was a big "whoosh" as my waters broke in the pool all at once. I was told I had to get out of the pool as there was meconium in the waters, so we went on to my bed. I was very wary of not lying on my back so as to allow as much space as possible in my pelvis for the baby's exit (arrival) so I laid on my side instead. My husband stood by me, holding onto my leg (I remember them saying he should let me hold it myself, he remembers them saying he should hold it). At that point my mother turned up and began some renegade coaching from the bedroom door - much to the disapproval of the midwives present as she'd be like "push! push!" when they were saying "wait for the next contraction"; but perhaps it was the extra nudge I needed to push harder (maternal pressure has always been a big motivating factor in my life. Ha). The midwives had called an ambulance as a precaution and I was desperate to get him out before they arrived. When I looked up to the midwife holding a needle and saying "I think we're going to have to do an episiotomy," I didn't need any more encouragement. I pushed as hard as I could and then another "whoosh!" I had managed to do it myself. The chord was round his neck but I could hear him start crying straight away. Mukhtar Justin announcing himself to the world. Though they had to cut the chord soon as he came out and make sure he was fine due to the meconium, I knew from the first moment he was just fine and couldn't wait for them to pass him to me. Once he was in my arms, the first thing he did was latch on and start feeding and it feels like that's what he's been doing ever since!

So, in short, after a 36 hour labour I gave birth at home having taken a couple of paracetamol in the morning and other than that just used gas and air. Despite the scare caused by the meconimun and the chord, everything was fine with the birth - not even a tear so no stitches needed. The hynobirthing relaxation, breathing, positive statements and all the learning I'd done about birthing really helped it to be an amazingly positive experience and I'd be happy if I can give birth like that again in the future. I feel really blessed that I was able to give birth, at home, as planned, without any major complications. I know how lucky I am to be able to provide my birthing story as another example of how a low intervention home birth can go right.

My Birth Story: Gabi and Adam


As soon as I found out I was pregnant I started to read others' birth stories. I suppose it gave me understanding and a great insight into what may happen to me when the time came. I really was clueless, as I think most of us are and I found it really reassuring to read the stories of all these women and I was fascinated by how different everyone's experience was. As I got closer to my due date I felt quite comfortable with the prospect of birth, I wasn’t terrified of it as I always thought I would be and of course, in many ways, I was very much looking forward to it. I felt armed with positive vibes and a belief that what would be would be and that would be alright.   However, as I went past my due date I started to search for and read stories, every day looking for a similarity or a sign that would make me feel certain that today would be the day and that soon I’d meet my baby.  

Every woman has a different story and every one is so different. I think it’s really important to emphasise that. I believe that reading others' experiences helped me and so I hope that reading mine will do the same. I’ll be honest as best my memory serves me and whilst I’m sure I should avoid using words such a ‘pain’ I’ll just go ahead and describe all the sensations as accurately as I can. I’m a great believer in protecting and encouraging expectant mothers, flooding them with positivity but there has to be a balance of realism, in my opinion.  

I was due on August 8th and I couldn’t wait. I really can’t say I loved being pregnant and as it neared the end I felt I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt bad for not relishing every moment and as the days dragged on and over ‘D-Day’ I became desperate. Every day I was trying a different ‘trick’ that I’d been told or found online on some stupid forum. It’s amazing what desperation will have you do and believe! On day 40+3 I ate 2 pineapples, a mango, a curry, bounced on my ball for hours, did yoga, walked the dogs, inhaled and applied clary sage and had sex. I felt nothing other than very sick. Of course. Useless. However, I woke the next morning with an acceptance that there is no due date and that, within reason, my baby would come when she was ready and that my body knew what it was doing. I was still analysing every twinge and wondering if it was a tightening, lightening, Braxton Hicks, a contraction, wind, full blown labour.

It was Tuesday night, eight days ‘over’ when I started to feel some different sensations. It wasn’t pain as such and I didn’t know what it was, I only knew it felt different. I was home alone, Adam was working and about a four-hour journey away. I sat on the sofa and went with it, deciding to see if this was going anywhere or getting any worse. After two hours these sensations started to feel like they were coming with some uniformity. They were consistently achy. At this point, I called Adam and said that perhaps he’d like to come home after this job which he did and arrived around 11pm. By this time I’d had a bath and was trying to settle myself still not really knowing if this was it or if it would simply pass. I fell asleep around midnight and woke again at 3am in considerably more discomfort than the previous evening. I went to the loo in great expectation of the mysterious and elusive mucus plug…nothing. I woke Adam and had another bath as the pains were ramping up. It was like strong period pains but more in my back and within the hour they were stronger and we decided to start timing them. By 6am these pains were every 3-4 minutes and lasting at least 45 seconds. This is what we’re told to look out for and when we are told to go to the hospital. So we called and they invited us in.   We’d opted for a mother-centric birthing centre attached to our local hospital and I had hoped for a water birth. That was as detailed as my birth plan was, choosing to have faith in my body rather than try to stick to a plan which, knowing myself, could stress me out if something deviated.

We hadn’t done a visit to the birth centre as we could have done as again I preferred to not know and to take it all as it came rather than spend the weeks pre-labour with an image in my mind as to how it would be. We had however, made a dummy run and checked out where everything was.  The journey is about 30 minutes by car and by the time we got there I was struggling to walk. The midwife asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1-10. I said 10 given that it was the most pain I had ever experienced, how was I to rate it any less? She examined me and I was 1cm dilated. 1cm!!! This was not labour, this was pre-labour and that terrified me. It hadn't even started yet. I had no tolerance for pain. Oh shit.

We were to go home and wait it out. So off we went.  I tried really hard to calm myself as the realisation hit that I just didn’t know what was going to happen, how it was going to feel started to scare me. It had occurred to me that in reality, my rating of 10 should have been 1 and that gave me some insight as to what 10 might really feel like. My midwife was scheduled for a visit to perform my second sweep at 1pm so we decided to wait it out until then and take action from there. So we were home and focused on getting through the next 7 or so hours until she arrived and told us that we could go back to the hospital. I was so fearful of making another wasted trip as I’d found the journey very uncomfortable and stressful. I had another bath and the pains were just as regular, consistently every four minutes maximum and lasting for 45-60 seconds. Adam set to work trying to get me to eat which I simply couldn’t face so he made me fruit, oat and honey smoothies which I’m so glad I got down me when I could. He’d brought my yoga mat and birthing ball up to the bedroom as I found being seated or on my back intensely uncomfortable. I needed to be on my knees, rocking and moving.

I was on countdown until Elizabeth my lovely midwife arrived. She asked me some questions. Waters broken? No. Scale of pain? I just didn’t know how to answer. She examined me and I was…..1cm! Noooooo! How can this be? She could feel the baby's head and the bag of waters. She performed a very ‘assertive’ sweep which was not comfortable but at this stage it was all pretty sore so no matter. We asked how to know when to go to the birth centre as the timings etc were all we really had to go on. She advised to wait, ‘wait as long as you possibly can as you will get sent home if you are under 4cm’. Given that I thought I was in full blown labour at 4am that morning none of this advice really meant anything to me. With nothing to compare anything to, how on earth do I know how far down the line we are?  As soon as the door closed behind her it really started. The next few hours are still very vivid to me. Adam had pulled the blinds, lit candles and incense. We were figuring out which positions helped, how to breathe and how he could help me, which he did greatly. The pain was intense now and I had become very vocal which I found both helped and alarmed me but I couldn’t help it. Every contraction was more intense than the last and so I was always ready to make the call and head to the hospital but after every contraction, Adam would say ‘Just wait a few more minutes’ ‘Breathe’ and ‘You’re doing great’ and so the next 3 or 4 hours passed. At some point I’d lost my plug, the ‘bloody show’ and all those days of wondering ‘is this it?’ were suddenly laughable. When it goes, you know!  

It was around 4 o'clock I think when Adam declared we were leaving. It was Wednesday and we were approaching rush hour which could make the journey over an hour. We loaded into the car for the second time. We have a small car and so the baby seat has to be installed behind the passenger seat otherwise there’s no room for our legs when driving. This makes the passenger seat very upright and close to the windscreen so there is no space at all. I couldn’t move and felt fixed at a right-angle which was at this stage excruciating. It was a very warm afternoon and I was sweltering so we made the journey with me screaming out of the open window. Towards the end, Adam really put his foot down and we must have been a real sight!  We made our way into the birth centre, I was really struggling to walk and couldn’t stand unaided when a contraction hit. I was 6cm! Thank The Lord!! We were getting there!  

Everything seemed to be in fast motion from here on in. I was in another room facing a huge jacuzzi looking bath before I knew it. I remember the two midwives asking me what I’d like to wear in the pool at which point I just stripped off and got in before the next contraction arrived. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I’d be wearing anything! Almost as soon as I got in the water, my waters broke. It was at this stage Adam decided he’d not be getting in with me!  I felt relief at being at this point, the journey done and such incredible excitement at the prospect of meeting my little girl but the fear was also strong. Knowing what I know now, I’d rate the pain at a 7.

What happened next is less vivid, more of a blur. The only thing that felt vivid were the sensations coursing through by body. That is all there was. I could hear Adam in the background and I knew the midwives were there but I was entirely inside myself, suddenly there was no outside, no water, no birth centre, no light or dark or positions or breathing. It was just a fire in my back, my stomach and my vagina and it grew in intensity as each contraction hit and then crackled in the background in between letting me know it was still there and would come back with force and move my baby further down my body. I had no idea where she was, how far along we were. Whether she was still in my tummy or whether she was right down in my birth canal and that scared me as I just knew I needed her out. I could hear my own roaring, so much so that the midwives were trying to stop me so I didn’t damage my throat but it was the only way I could bear the contractions. It was at this point that I asked for the gas and air. I’m not sure why I didn’t have it sooner. Perhaps they were waiting for me to ask for it, I don’t know. The gas and air helped me to breathe slowly and concentrate on breathing through the contractions. How much it helped with the pain is hard to say as, again, I have nothing it compare it to but it gave another focus and that was a good thing.  I reached the point when I cried out for an epidural. Midwives say there is a stage in every woman's labour when they claim they cannot continue, they want to go home or just not have the baby anymore. They said I could have the epidural but I would need to get out of the water. They said I should wait for the next contraction and then we could do that. I think they knew how close I was as I then immediately needed to push, it was so overwhelming. A totally primal urge that washed over my body. I remember it so clearly and it makes me feel breathless just thinking about it now. Unlike all the other words that had been spoken I heard clear as a bell ‘Don’t push! Breathe, breathe, breathe.’ I remember that I didn’t know why I shouldn’t push, I’ve not read WHY I shouldn’t push, I thought and as such, I thought that pushing would hurt my baby. It is astounding what power the mind has over the body and nothing has made me realise this with such clarity as in that moment when I thought that pushing would hurt my little girl. I didn’t push. I sucked on that gas and air and I breathed and roared through it. Her head was out. I remember Adams face as clearly as looking at a photograph. ‘Her head’s out!’ he said and I thought ‘Shut Up!’ That meant shoulders were next. I remember asking Adam to hold my leg, as if to pull my legs apart which for obvious reasons felt like the right thing to do and realising then that he’d been holding my head above water all this time. One final contraction and I felt her leaving my body. I felt her length in my birth canal tearing down through me and then the midwife telling me to pick her up out of the water. There she was! Underwater! I scooped her up and just remember balling my eyes out and looking at the midwives and saying ‘thank you, thank you’. The relief was incredible. She looked to be ok. I asked if she was ok, more than once! Her little face hit the air and she screamed and she had me at that very second. There she was. Wow. But she has dark hair! I guess the gas and air did work because for a split second I thought she was the wrong baby as I always thought my baby would look like me, with blonde hair! Back to reality and she was mine. We’d made it. Two hours after arriving at the birth centre and Ruby Jean was here, and we were all okay.

Adam looked at me with a bit of ‘see, I told you it’d be alright’ mixed with a lot of ‘Oh my God, look at her!’  I hadn’t even considered what might happen afterwards. It didn’t even occur to me to think about it but if you’re interested then here it is.  Adam was asked if he wanted to cut the cord, which he did. Whilst watching this happen I noticed I didn’t have a bump and how amazing that instantly felt! Ruby was handed to Adam who had removed his t-shirt for some skin to skin while I was helped out of the bath to the bed. Everything was covered in a lot of paper and those pads that as far as I was aware were for toilet training puppies. I had an injection to speed along the delivery of the placenta which was, in comparison a doddle. I wasn’t prepared in any way for the amount of blood. Hence the paper and pads. The pool looked, as Adam said, like the scene of a shark attack and it kept on coming for some time following delivery. I couldn’t feel it and it wasn’t painful, more of a gentle burn but it was a little disconcerting.  This after bit took just a few minutes, all the while Adam was holding Ruby in a chair next to me and I was on the bed staring at Adam and Ruby wanting so much to hold her. My head was clearing a little and I felt quite shocked, quite scared but I just wanted to hold her. Adam put her on my chest and the midwife helped me to show her my breast and she started to feed immediately. I hadn’t really wanted to breastfeed, until that moment.  Once they had checked us all over and saw that Ruby was feeding well they left the three of us to absorb what had just happened. It was the most precious time and we were lucky to have the peace and space to enjoy each other.

With the exception of the two midwives popping in and out to check we were alright it was just us for the next 4 hours.  I was examined and learnt that the real reason I wasn’t to push when that urge took over was to avoid tearing myself, not as I had thought to avoid hurting my baby. By some miracle, I’d managed to avoid the need for stitches and had come out the other end of labour relatively unscathed. No tearing, no stitches, no undue blood loss and no drugs. This was in no way due to planning, preparation or intention. I would have been first in line for an epidural and always assumed that I would have one but for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen that way.   We asked if we could go home. The midwife looked a little surprised and asked if we were sure. We were. It felt right and we felt ready. Ruby Jean had arrived with us at 6.27pm and we were home with a take-away pizza at midnight that same night.   It wasn’t plain sailing, but we did it. I still think about Adam guiding me through those pre-labour hours one minute at a time and that’s how I’m approaching these bewildering and exhilarating hours postpartum. Just one at a time. If Ruby and I got through that ok, we’ll do this standing on our heads.

My Birth story: Tara and Dave

Tara & Dave

I woke up with gentle contractions at 12.30am on Monday night. By the early hours of Tuesday morning I had regular contractions and we got excited that we would get to meet our baby boy that day! Contractions continued to get more and more regular but when day time arrived they slowed down. Tuesday was spent going for walks and bouncing on my birthing ball as the contractions had slowed down to every 20 minutes and were very irregular. As soon as it hit night time they kicked back up again and we were heading into hospital at 3am with my contractions being every 3 minutes apart and I was struggling with the pain. Unlike lots of people who say they want to stay at home for a long time I just wanted to get into hospital! We got to hospital and taken to ABC (the midwife Led unit at Watford), after an examination I got told I was only 1cm dilated and I was having a latent labour and got sent home. After a couple of hours of attempting to lie in the bath and listening to my meditation CDs, I was begging Dave to take me back into hospital (by this time is was 7am) as my contractions were very close together and I couldn't cope with the pain, we'd also not slept for over 48 hours now and I was exhausted. This time I was only 3cm dilated so they gave me pethedin so I could try and rest and moved me to the anti natal ward, I was allowed back in ABC once I was 4cm dilated. This is the section I will cut short but for me this was the longest 24 hours of my life. I was in the anti natal ward with women who weren't in labour. I was in excruciating amounts of pain and not dilating at all and I wasn't allowed gas and air until I was 4cm dilated - we finally realised my bladder was blocking my waters breaking. So I had a catheter put in and my waters broke early hours of Thursday morning and I went from 3cm - 7cm in 10 minutes. I then got taken back to ABC and the rest of it was plain sailing (much less painful then what I'd already been through!). I was in the pool for a while but the water was annoying me so I went back into our room and with just the gas and air, pushed Rufus out at 11.57am (62 hours later!) weighing 7lb13. What was interesting is we had done a whole course on hypno birthing and I imagined I would be squatting when the time came to push or in the water, but actually all I wanted to do was be on the bed, on my back! I have 2 favourite parts of the whole labour, which will sound so dull to everyone else! The first being when I had been moved back to the ABC ward and I remember looking up at the midwife who was saying to Dave put the babies hat in your pocket to keep it warm and I just remember thinking 'She believes I can do this, we're actually going to have a baby'. The second being when his head first started to appear and Dave looked at me with tears in his eyes and said 'he's got black hair'. After such a long and traumatic labour I didn't in a million years think we'd get the labour we had wanted but your body knows what it's doing! Dave was incredible and I still can't talk about how amazing he was with out crying! Some people said to us that he would feel useless and that there was nothing he could do but he was with me every step of the way and my god I put him to work - I could never put into words how grateful I am for how much he helped me and got me through it. I then had a couple of stitches which aren't as painful as I had imagined and we stayed in transitional care for 2 nights as one of Rufus's kidneys hadn't developed properly. We were home safe and sound on Saturday night with our gorgeous boy and 2 very excited but petrified parents!! 

The last few months have a been a whirlwind of emotions, extreme happiness mixed with extreme anxiety and tiredness! I always say it feels like time has slowed down and is in fast forward all at the same time! And lastly my advice to any new parents is, be kind to your self and to your partner. Nothing is normal and nothing is wrong, go with your instinct and you will always find yourself doing the right thing.