The prelude ::
July 3rd – 41 weeks
At 4 I woke to pee, as usual. Rolling and hefting myself from the bed. SPD making it difficult to move.. my pelvis hurts… I lay back into bed and checked my phone to see if there was any news from three other friends due right now too.. turned off the light and went back to sleep. I remember my belly feeling crampy in my sleep but wasn’t sure if it was just a dream.
A tiny pop and sudden warm water pouring between my legs. I’m rolling like a turtle stuck on it’s back trying to get up and not get the bed soaked with amniotic fluid. Waking Steven urgently to quickly get a towel. Hobbling to the bathroom where my baby’s water continued to pour onto a pile of towels on the floor. I’m laughing…this is crazy. Is this birth really starting with my water breaking like this? It’s so entertaining and fascinating.
I’m thankful for beautiful clear/pink water… and there goes the glorious mucus plug.
Stepping into the shower and trying to clean myself up enough to put on a nappy and pads. SO much water! Never ending as it poured out of me. A very slight contraction but nothing to focus on.
Trying to lift my legs into a nappy and stick pads in, water continues to pour..contractions are spaced far apart and crawling from my low uterus up the top. Nothing like I remember of contractions in Jack’s labour.
I took a picture and sent to my friends to let them know that it’s all happening
‘should we start filling the pool?’ Steven asked
nah.. contractions are so sporadic and around 11 minutes apart, we’ll leave it a while… but let’s go downstairs and sort out everything and get it ready.
It feels like an adrenaline rush – moving the pool into the living room, taking other furniture out of the living room to create space. Getting the pots by the stove. All the supplies in a box moved for easy access for the birth team.
After a little while we decide maybe we’ll go ahead and fill the pool halfway, so it’ll be easier to top up with hot water later – but no rush to get it completely full yet.
Little feet pottering down the stairs, Jack woke and came down to see what was going on. We let him know that the baby was coming today – which he didn’t seem to care too much about. He was more concerned by the way the living room was changed around. I made him a PB&J sandwich and turned some cartoons on the tablet for him to watch while we continued to set things up and see how contractions were coming.
At around 6am I quietly text midwife to let her know water went, contracting irregular. Didn’t want to call as I hoped she’d be asleep and knew I didn’t need her for a while. I also let my doula know quietly on facebook – knowing she wouldn’t get the message until she woke.
Just a quiet update as nothing regular just yet.. so just planning your day ahead, my water broke. All is clear. Contractions irregular right now.
midwife texted back asking when waters went, about contractions, if baby is moving well etc
About an hour ago when I was sleeping. Getting things all organised so contractions started a bit after water, just light and not in a pattern yet. Think baby was awake earlier, eating an ice pop and I’ll see about her movements
For an hour contractions were around every 4-5 minutes, lasting 30 seconds. They weren’t intense and I could easily talk and move through them. I knew that they would need to last longer and feel more intense so was thinking nothing of them.
Claire woke to join the party downstairs – the kids were giddy and wild… Steven and I tried to get them to just settle and keep the tone low.. As the sun was quickly climbing over the horizon and lighting the space, all I could think about was how I needed to keep it dark and oxytocin flowing with calmness. Kids running in circles after each other and tripping over the water hose – not the most relaxing. Already the tone of this labour is throwing me off.. labouring with the sun rising? The day just beginning. Water breaking? Contractions feeling so different in my body.. I can’t help but compare and wonder how this will all happen.
At 7 my midwife texted to see if she could stop over and check on me and baby, and then would leave again until labour established. That was fine with me, so she arrived and set her stuff up – getting her supplies where she needed so she wouldn’t have to rush later if things went fast. My contractions spaced out to every 10 or so minutes, we chatted about how different this all is. She commented on how I had mentioned at my last appointment about what she would like me to do if my waters broke before labour began – and how I must have just known.
I asked her advice on what to do with the crazy kids, I was afraid of all of this interference that I wouldn’t go into established labour. She was calm and reassuring, that this is just the way this labour is going to go – it’s going to be different.. It’s going to follow it’s own path. It’s going to be okay.
She asked if she could do an internal exam to make sure baby’s head was right down and no umbilical cord there. I specifically did not want any vaginal exams so it caught me by surprise, wasn’t expecting to be asked.. So took a few minutes for me to decide if I wanted to do that or not – but then I consented, so we moved to my bed for the exam – where she let me know that baby was beautifully head in, and cervix very soft and stretchy. She felt that it would just take a few regular contractions and that baby would be quick enough, and that it wouldn’t be long for that to happen.
Well that sounded positive, so off she went leaving us to get into our labour land.. and said she’d be seeing me this afternoon. I texted my doula to let her know how things were, that I didn’t need her here yet – and that I would call when I was ready for people to be here. She decided to run some errands closer to me, and just pottering around doing her own thing – letting me know that she wasn’t far for whenever I was ready.
After an hour or so midwife texted for Steven’s number so she could keep in contact with him instead of bothering me – I let her know that contractions were coming around 11 minutes apart, faster if I’m up, but that I was laying down right now, and they were feeling intense. She said that she could leave in the next half hour if I needed – but I really didn’t feel it was necessary, and that it was too early to have someone here. That that would just stall things more to have her here waiting. I was having lots of clear outs in the bathroom, and everything was manageable. I really didn’t want anyone else here.
The kids were driving me crazy. I asked Claire if she wanted to be here when baby was born, she was suddenly a bit emotional and seemed really tender. Probably from waking early, and also just seemed delicate and like she wouldn’t benefit from being here, as she was so easy being at Jack’s birth. Steven packed up some lunches, a bag with some bits of entertainment, some new books and things to bring with – and called my mother-in-law just down the road to come and collect them.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel having yet another person coming to the house, knowing I was in labour, all of these movements and things and.. not going at all to my idea of keeping a quiet, dark room – especially as the sun was coming up and it was looking to be a gorgeous, bright sunny sunday.
But oh was I grateful to pack the kids off happily, that they were looking forward to going with their granny – gave me kisses and hugs, and off they went.
So now, I thought, I could get into my own labour space with Steven.. let the hormones flow.. create an intimate space, and rest.. I hadn’t slept much last night, so a nap sounded good for some energy.
Steven snoozed behind me, the warmth and pressure of his body against my back felt so good, I clasped his hand around my stomach, just at my low uterus for the warmth of his hand and pressure – as contractions would wave through me every 11-15 minutes. They weren’t building up slowly like I expected them to, they would just suddenly BE. Here. Now. Laying down didn’t feel great. I kept in contact with my midwife through text, letting her know that things were feeling intense, but spaced randomly apart.. that I’d kind of like to get into the pool, but that I didn’t want to too early.. but that I was starting to feel scared of the pain from these intense contractions. She decided to go ahead and come to me, check on baby, stay in the background and do paperwork.
That was at 12:40pm.
My doula let me know that she was just going to be at the lake in town, which made me feel better knowing that at least on this lovely sunny day she would be enjoying herself at the lake instead of waiting on me.. instead of me having her here too early and feeling watched. But soon I let her know that she could go ahead and come, since Rebecca was going to be here – and the pool could start to be topped up with hot water and continue to be filled from the hose.
Midwife arrived, listened to baby.. I worked through a few contractions, and she worked on some paper work. Letting Steven and me find our way with the contractions – I stood swaying with his hand clasped at my lower uterus and other hand around my back. Second midwife arrived.
I had been going up the stairs to the bathroom often, having contractions on the toilet – which I hate. And contractions once coming down the stairs. Midwife suggested that I walk the stairs for a bit as she noticed the contractions each time I would come down, and how good stair walking is for getting baby in a good position. After a few of these contractions – holding onto the stair banister at the bottom, or holding onto Steven, my doula arrived… and then back up the stairs I went. and back down.. another contraction. Back up.. and back down.. another contraction.
Really my memory is foggy here.. We walked around the living room.. I kneeled on the bean bag.
I was drinking lots of ice water, starting to feel a little light headed – realizing I hadn’t had much to eat except the grapes and cheese this morning.. Second midwife made me some toast with jam. And I added some sparkling grape juice to my water for some electrolytes. I wasn’t really feeling in the mood to eat anything, nothing sounded good – but eating the toast did give me a boost that I needed.
I noticed that each time I sat on the ball, in any resting position – my contractions would space out, but the moment I’d stand up they would come rushing back together.
So after some resting, I was fed up and wanted to keep moving up the stairs where it felt like some progress was happening with the contractions.
My midwife continued to listen in to baby’s heart and check my blood pressure – all beautiful and perfect. My water continued to pour – I was changing my nappy and pads often, going quickly through all of my post partum supplies I was not expecting to use during labour!
She made the suggestion that maybe I change up the atmosphere and go for a walk outside. Getting some fresh air and staying moving, if I felt like that would be right. The idea of going outside in the bright sun felt like it was the last thing that could possibly be good, and I hated that there were so many kids out playing in the field. I didn’t want to be seen.. I didn’t want to walk around and people witness my contractions – but I hadn’t tried it, and had nothing to lose… so might as well.
I put on my shoes and Steven and I walked around the estate, I had four contractions that I could still walk through. Goodness this is all so different.. So hard for me to wrap my mind around. It was 3pm now and I was starting to put pressure on myself, thinking that I’d end up having to be transferred to the hospital if things didn’t start making progress. I decided that once I got back home I’d go to bed and rest for a little while, try to refocus, and in thirty minutes decide if I wanted midwife to check and see if there was any change to my cervix.
Steven and I lay down, he snoozed and I tried but I was just feeling really shit about all of this. It felt so disheartening and confusing to not have found an established labour state… That I was still so fully in my head, that contractions were random in intensity, length etc.. I lay there with one contraction sweeping through my body, so uncomfortable to try to work through it laying down.. Nearly 30 minutes in to our ‘nap’ and I felt fed up – this wasn’t getting me anywhere.. I need to get up and move and get this show on the road.
I hefted myself out of the bed and was met with a huge contraction that I had to sing through – leaning over the bed.. this one came with pressure.. this one came long.. this one felt like ‘oh my god I need to get into the water NOW’
My midwife heard me and was on her way up the stairs, Steven got up quickly – I felt like I needed to throw up. Someone was going back down to get the bucket for me but I wanted to hurry up and get down the stairs before the next contraction – and so I did… The pool had been sitting for a while and cooled down, I leaned over in the living room as another contraction sang it’s way through my body – vibrating through my relaxed mouth.. feeling like I desperately wanted in that water.. Like if I don’t get into this water right now a baby’s head is going to be born right into my hand.. I want in that water.
The girls were all boiling pots and getting the water back up to temperature as fast as possible – my midwife let me know that after the next contraction I could get in, I felt a bit pissed off – did she not understand? I need in it NOW. but of course, I was fine.. and I worked through that contraction and swiftly made my way into the pool – thankful. thankful. thankful.
I found my spot in the pool, leaning back – one hand grounded in clasp with steven’s. My knees spread to either side of the pool. A twist to the left once or twice… but back to leaning, floating on my back. Oh my back.. ‘my back..’ I said, and so my doula asked if I’d like for her to support my back. Her hands slipped into the water and held me under my back – I didn’t think it would make a difference, but immediately it felt right.. I felt grounded and supported just having that physical contact.
and soon another contraction rolled through my body – and I sang.. long and low.. bellowing that ancient birth song that feels like it carries on for miles and miles – a long string of sound that is only shortly broken by the new inhale of fresh breath.
and they came.. just like that.. one after another.
‘I’m not ready… I’m not ready.. I’m not ready’ I kept saying.. god I wasn’t ready. ‘it’s going to hurt.. I’m not ready’
my midwives and doula kept assuring me that yes, I am ready. that yes, I am doing this… yes.. I am ready.
but no.. I’m not ready – please someone else do this for me.. I’m not ready to feel this expansion.. I’m not ready
and then another contraction would spiral through my body, bringing her head lower and lower.. and through my song, in my head – I would tell myself ‘open.. open.. oooopeen..’
and as I’d tell myself to open, I’d relax my legs further open… I’d imagine myself opening wider, softer, gentle..
with my hand clasped over my vulva, feeling myself expand – examining myself with a finger to see how far in her head was.. right there.. right there that familiar silky head.
and another… another that I didn’t want to do but had no choice – and so my song expanded.. growing longer and longer as she continued to move down.. opening.. opening.. oooohhhpening..
I talked to her ‘okay baby.. okay baby. okay.. okay okay okay.. okay baby…’
and I opened for her..
and I sang for her..
the doorbell rang.. one of Claire’s friends asking to play. I stopped – wanting to make sure that none of the neighbour kids wouldn’t hear me. and waited until the second midwife came back in, and all settled… waiting for the next
okay baby… okay baby.. okay..okay.. okay..
she gently spiraled her way down.. down down down.. down and back, down and back, gently descending, so controlled on her own without my input.
and she continued.. until her head was born.. her legs wiggling inside me. Her head moving.. her shoulders shifting.
the WEIRDEST sensation – oh please baby.. please stop…. it made the contractions feel so crazy. It felt so wild. feeling every bit of her body moving as her head was there waiting.
and the song building.. open.. open.. open.. I told my legs to open wider.. I told my shoulders to relax.. I told myself to open and allow her to be born
My midwife asked me if I was ready to catch my baby – and so I kept my eyes open, moving my hand back down into the water ready to catch my baby…
and there.. the song expanded into the gentlest final swoop of her shoulders within me.. her legs leaving their final kick inside my womb – and there she was.. swimming in the water where I scooped her out and gently brought her to the surface to my chest.
Oh my baby, you tiny silky thing. Covered in vernix! what a lovely discovery! I massaged the creamy vernix into her back and let her come around, giving little purrs as she soon pinked up..
I said something about my baby girl, the midwives were joking asking if I had checked yet to make sure she was a girl – I remember that it didn’t matter.. I might have even said that. I felt between her legs and couldn’t make out anything but the umbilical cord – I lifted her for Steven to check, yes… our baby girl.
Oh joy.. you’re here.. you’re here.. you’re really here.. With your perfect round head, your silk of dark hair, your gentle cry, your beautiful self…
We relaxed in the water for a bit, and soon I was feeling some pains.. the placenta ready to be birthed. It came easily, but I had to close my eyes through one contraction – telling myself again to open. Telling my legs to relax, allowing myself to expand for it to be gently born – and there it came, my midwife’s encouraging words about how beautiful it looked being birthed – how perfect.. and there it was, scooped from the pool where I explored it with my hands to see her cord inserted into it. The cord had transferred all of her blood and was ready to be clamped and cut, which Steven got to do…
And welcome, baby.. you are now of the Earth. with oxygen in your lungs and your body wholly your own… Here you are.
We climbed from the pool and went to lay down on the couch that I had previously laid down a waterproof protector and sheets on.. Our midwives and doula went to the kitchen to make tea and sit chatting while Steven and I soaked up this new sweet baby girl.. I let her rest and begin licking around, doing the breast crawl until she finally found what she was looking for and latched on. I ate strawberries and a cup of tea – and we marveled at just how beautiful she is. I called my parents and introduced their newest granddaughter over video.
We rested together for two hours, looking deep into her knowing, dark selkie eyes..
Such a beautiful birth. Such an incredible time
Things shifted – and so this is where I’ll end Ophelia’s birth story, and begin my own *other* story another time.
For now, it is simply the unknowing, mystery unfolding, learning to trust, labouring like I never thought I would, listening to inner wisdom, following my body, blissfully unfolding into birthing my daughter into my own hands..