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labour

My Birth Story: Rebecca and Jason

My Birth Story: Rebecca and Jason

My due date was on the 8th May 2016. Bags packed, toenails painted, hypnobirthing cd on replay. We were so ready and couldn't wait for things to begin. My labour began on the 10th May after seeing my midwife for a sweep, she confirmed I was 2cm dilated. Later that day labour started with a show and mild contractions which were 15 minutes apart and quite manageable, so manageable in fact that we decided to go to the local pub that night for dinner as I knew things can take a while to kick in.

The contractions eased up the next morning so started bouncing on my physio ball sniffing a bottle of clary sage whilst sipping raspberry leaf tea.  Jason massaged my lower back and attached the tens machine (incredible at this stage!!)  By 2 pm the contractions were 8 minutes apart and becoming more intense, by 10pm the contractions were far more intense and coming every 4 minutes. It was time to head to the Stoke Mandeville birthing centre. Feelings of excitement, anticipation and the unknown took hold of both of us whilst driving down our bumpy lane (twice as Jason forgot if he'd locked the front door).

On arrival I was examined and disappointedly had not dilated any further, the midwife did a sweep and stretch (ouch!) and suddenly my contractions became intense and all consuming.  She then told me we could go home, I knew I wanted to stay in hospital as I felt so safe and calm there so they agreed we could.

It was so busy that night so we headed up to the postnatal ward. Walking became impossible so I was wheeled to a cubicle to await imminent dilation. This was the strangest part of the labour for me, my contractions were coming every minute, almost feeling like there was no break between them and all I could have was paracetamol until I had got to 4cm. We were in a room with sleeping new mums, brand new babies and another lady that seemed so in control of her labour, all I knew was I felt so uncomfortable to make too much sound. The environment made such a difference to the way I felt I could cope. The overwhelming waves of labour at this stage meant I couldn't relax which made my body fight what was happening. After 2 hours on PN ward they ran me a bath, this helped a lot as we finally had a room to ourselves, the contractions at this point were becoming frequent and far stronger.

Everything slowed down at this point,  in fact I almost feel like it was a blur through these few hours.  After what felt way longer than 4 hours I was examined, I was finally 4cms and ready to head to the birthing centre. I'd had a strep B test come back positive so I needed IV antibiotics, The midwives helped me onto a transformer labouring bed where they put a cannula in my hand, it took a few attempts but finally started to administer the antibiotics whilst taking gas and air. Relief.

The hypnobirthing really helped at this point, I couldn't panic, I had to surrender to the pain, I had to trust my body and wow our bodies are amazing. Jason was so supportive and was in constant discussion about what was going on, this made a huge difference as I had a voice that knew what I wanted. The room was bright and not the place I wanted to give birth so I asked if the water pool was free yet, it was and a midwife ran in to let me know they were running the bath for me. My contractions then changed and felt quite different, expulsive creating a feeling of wanting to push,  the midwife reminded me I would have to wait as the antibiotics needed 2 hours to work. An impossibility, my cervix had dilated completely from 4 cms to 10 cms in an hour.

We arrived in the birthing pool room, it was dimly lit, relaxing music playing and the water felt incredible. After a long wait I was finally in the pool, Jason was right by me and I finally could let go. I think I roared like a lioness, my waters broke and I started to feel pressure, it was her head. Jason started to cry as he saw her little head full of jet black hair emerge. It was all I needed to see to keep going, I kept saying is the midwife here she has to catch the baby as I'm pretty sure they were quite shocked as to how quickly it all happened. With a few more roars our baby appeared, the midwives caught her and placed her on my chest, there she was my gorgeous baby girl it was incredible. Jason was so emotional and we both stared at her in amazement.

After a few moments Jason cut the cord, held her in his arms for skin on skin and I climbed out of the bath to birth the placenta. I needed a couple of stitches but they were really no problem. All exhausted, Eleanor Primrose Pearce had arrived on earth. We were totally in love. The midwives and support enabled me to have my dream birth and I'm so incredibly grateful to the team at Stoke. She weighed a healthy 7lb1.

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Why I didn't hire a Doula

Why I didn't hire a Doula

This week I've been doing some thinking. Why didn't I find myself a Doula for River's birth? I've come up with the following reasons: 

  1. I didn't want my husband, my birth partner, to feel undermined
  2. To be honest, I didn't know enough about the role of a Doula and didn't realise how significant the presence of a Doula can be on your birth experience
  3. I read a lot about the less people being present at the birth the better
  4. Doulas are expensive! At the time, we couldn't afford this and I didn't like the thought that giving birth could turn out to be really pricey. *p.s. - I plan to make my Doula services available to all women and will be writing about this more in the future.

What I now know: 

1. A Doula never ever replaces your birth partner. They exist to support them to, to compliment them. Often, your husband or partner has never seen a birth before and it can be quite overwhelming for them - having a Doula there, someone they know will be there to help them support their awesome labouring partner, is often incredible peace of mind. Someone to help her birth 'decisions' get realised if their minds go blank from the emotion of the day. A midwife, no matter how brilliant she is at her job, has one primary concern - the health of you and your baby - she/he will not necessarily be attentive to your emotional needs and if you don't have a case-loading midwife, there's also a chance you've never met her before! A Doula is someone to take the pressure away from remembering everything your partner learned in NCT class (!) so they can be a little more free to enjoy the experience and just 'be there' for the mother-to-be. Today, more husbands/partners are an active role in the birth process and Doulas really encourage participation from the partner, offering reassurance if at any time they feel anxious. After all, it's natural to feel some nerves in such a life-changing experience such as labour, but our role, as a team is to keep the mother-to-be as calm and relaxed as possible. 

2. Statistically, the presence of a Doula, dramatically increases the mother's chance of having a less medicalised birth, with less intervention and higher satisfaction. 

A Cochrane review published in 2012 found that in labours with the continuous presence of a Doula, labouring mothers experience:

  • reduced use of pitocin
  • decreased rate of interventions during labor
  • less need for pain medication and less requests for epidural
  • higher satisfaction with birth outcomes
  • much lower c-section rate
  • higher chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth
  • shorter labours.

You can read more about the evidence for Doulas here: http://evidencebasedbirth.com/the-evidence-for-doulas/

3. The ONLY thing that matters, is that the mother feels safe, loved and supported. Whether that's "crowdbirthing" or locked alone in the bathroom with just her husband - the midwife, mother and sister banished to the other side of the door, then so be it!

My view is, you can never have enough love and practical help around you, but you'll have a good idea of who will help you to feel calm and who you definitely don't want there. At the end of the day we are mammals and we like to birth in private, warm, dark and quiet spaces so don't be surprised if you instinctively crawl into the corner to give birth away from every one of your audience members when the time comes. 

I read an excellent article on this subject yesterday. Here is is: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/30/birth-crowdbirthing

The Cochrane review I mentioned above also compared Doula support to other types of labour support, including support by hospital staff, support of a friend or relative, or partner support and found that doula supported mothers had the best outcomes. This is not to discount the very important role of family and birth partners, but to show that Doulas can provide additional help to a labouring mother.

4. Well...Doulas are expensive. They give many many hours of support, often sleepless nights away from their own family and are on call for your every desire for much of that time. Most importantly though, if a Doula can so probably improve your experience of childbirth and help you and your partner welcome your baby into the world in a more safe and peaceful way, a way that you'll treasure forever, you can see why millions of women hire Doulas. 

However, it's my strong opinion that this is a service that all women should have access to - not just the well off. This is why I plan to be, The Affordable Doula, whilst still managing to feed my own baby and hungry husband! Watch this space and soon, I'll reveal how. 

I know one thing for sure, I'm searching for my Doula for my second baby already! I can't wait to meet her.