The birth of baby T by Rebecca
Labour Part 1
J calls me on Friday morning to say she has been contracting every hour or so for a few hours. She and S spend a lovely day together with a walk, cake and acupuncture. At 1am I get a text saying she feels shaky with contractions every 12 minutes and S is asleep. I ring and go round.
The shakes/dry mouth are frightening her so we talked about the adrenalin surge that can happen when moving from latent to active labour. Within 10 minutes her contractions are more frequent and stronger. She is still shaky and wants to walk this off. S wakes and we plan to go for a walk together. As we try to leave, mid-contraction, their giant Christmas tree topples over missing J by a few cms which really frightens her.
So she and I go for a walk while S tries to wrestle with the tree. She has a few contractions but the shock has almost stopped them. The less frequently they come the more anxious she feels. We head home and, as things have slowed down and she is tired I suggest she gets in to bed and tries to sleep. S and I redecorate the tree and tidy up. J feels her contractions are getting more regular and stronger while she rests.
At about 6/7am J gets up and comes in to talk to us. Everything has slowed down again. She is feeling very frightened and emotional, worried she is too tired and isn’t progressing. So we talk through her fears and as a few tears are released her contractions come back.
She goes back for more rest as it doesn’t seem to slow down her contractions and I go home to give them some space.
Labour Part 2
Saturday at 1.30pm. I get the call that contractions are every 4/5 minutes, strong and have been so for a while. I head over. J is in the bath so S and I fill the pool while listening to her increasingly intense contractions. She’s making fierce, bear noises which are amazing. Once she’s out of the bath and upright contractions are frequent, long and strong and she wants to call her midwife.
When the midwife arrives the contractions have slowed somewhat. The midwife is lovely, softly spoken, knew a little of J’s history, a self-proclaimed fan of doulas and happy for me to go through birth plan with her before she sees J.
J instantly relaxes when she meets the midwife, who is quiet and respectful and asks to be left alone with her while she does her checks. When the midwife comes out she asks S to go in and see J. She explains J is 2cm dilated and feeling low because she isn’t as far along as she hoped.
I remind J about sphincter law and say that she could be further along and that dilation isn’t linear. I ask how she found the internal exam. She says the midwife was very kind and gentle but that she was so tense, had cried and shaken through the whole thing. She’d read plenty of Ina May Gaskin and began to see that it was very likely her cervix had closed up during that kind of experience.
The midwife leaves with lots of reassuring words and promises to brief the night shift midwives about what J wants and needs. J goes back to resting between contractions and I tuck S up on the sofa, drain the pool and head home for dinner and to try and get some sleep myself.
Labour Part 3
I text J at 2am as I’ve heard nothing, just letting her know I’m awake if she needs me. I get a call from S straightaway. J has been trying to rest but the contractions are fierce. She is tired, fed up and wants some pain relief.
They’ve called the midwives who will be there in an hour. Can I come? Of course! I greet S, hug him, tell him how well he’s doing and put some coffee on for him (as he looks like he’ll fall asleep standing up). J is in the bath. Her contractions sound incredibly strong, her noises are huge and lasting for a long time and words like ‘no’ and ‘ow’ are creeping in.
Once she’s out of the bath, she’s shaky and adrenalin-y again. I think she needs quiet and focus now to embrace the sensations and not fight them (for the first time she’s asking for pain relief from time to time, which I reassure her is coming with the midwives). I pop out and suggest S chills, drinks coffee and fills pool and I’ll be with J to give him a break.
She’s so tired but wants to get things moving, frightened the contractions will slow down again when midwife arrives, so is jumping about like a mad thing, swearing, crying, finding it very hard but being very strong. Contractions are really long and so intense. They begin to roll in to one another and I think she is heading towards transition and can see she’s in danger of loosing her coping strategy. I suggest she lies on her side on the bed between contractions. I tell her to ‘plug in and recharge’ as soon as she lies down. I talk her through a relaxation exercise and within 30 seconds she’s asleep. 2 minutes later she’s up having a contraction. Then back down to ‘recharge’.
I hold a hot water bottle on her lower back, lying on the bed with her. She rests her head on my feet, I stroke her arm and then during the contractions I make bear noises with her so that she stops saying ‘ow’ and ‘no’ and she pulls herself up and over the contraction. It’s amazing and she is totally coping again.
I love hearing her sing to T throughout her labour: ‘beautiful gentle baby, beautiful gentle birth’ and make positive affirmations – such presence of mind!
J gets in the pool. S pours water over her lower back. The contractions don’t slow at all. The midwives arrive 5 minutes later and after explaining J’s birth plan to them they do their checks. It takes quite a bit of negotiating to convince them that J will not have an internal examination at this stage, but S and I make a good team and J does not have another exam.
By now J is swaying and and mooing through the contractions. I pour water, offer her drinks, tell her that baby T is coming, that she is amazing: which she is. We pour water on her back and S now starts to tell her how much her loves her, how amazing she is, how beautiful and strong she looks (she does!). She asks us to press really hard around her sacrum as there’s lots of pressure down there suddenly.
Then she has a contraction where I can feel her start to involuntarily push underneath my hands. I say nothing… During the next one it happens again. She says ‘this feels interesting’. I tell her to just go with her body. J looks a bit unsure – it’s so intense. S tells her how well she’s doing and that her baby T is coming.
The midwives come in to the room – they’ve clearly heard something’s changed. I explain to J that they are now preparing for baby T’s arrival. She looks up with a moment of clarity: “Is he really coming, Rebecca?”. “Yes he’s really coming soon. You are doing it”. S hugs her from side of pool, she beams and then switches up a gear.
She is totally in another world, swishing through the water like a warrior mermaid, making grunting noises, unaware of everyone (unless we don’t press on her back/pour water!) until the end of each contraction when she says ‘everyone rest’, which we all found funny!
Suddenly J reaches down instinctively during a contraction. The midwife asks if she can feel the baby’s head. ‘Yes!’. “How far in do you have to reach”. She points to the joint closest to the top of her little finger (i.e. about 2cms) and then looks up us. The midwife gives a big grin and says ‘Well done J, baby T is nearly here’.
J is never directed to push and never seems to actively push, but baby T makes his way down. We can see the head. S is behind J, cradling her, whispering in her ear, I am in front encouraging her with a smile. The midwives tell her they will only observe, she will deliver her own baby and catch him.
Crowning is hard, but she copes by shouting ‘I love you’ to S as the baby’s head comes out. The body follows on the next contraction and he floats up to her, she catches him – beautiful moments as the new family cuddle in the pool. I am witnessing exactly the picture that J described during our antenatal meetings.
A couple of hours later I tuck them all up in bed and T latches on and feeds a few times – hurrah! They are all knackered. I leave them a few hours after the birth they look happy and exhausted. J says she had her dream birth and I leave feeling shattered and elated. I feel I’ve witnessed the real power of women first hand. The contractions were so strong for such a long time and despite so many things that could have got in her way she overcame everything and had the birth she wanted, bringing her baby in to the world with a cry of ‘I love you’. S was a brilliant birth partner. I admire them intensely and feel so privileged to have been with them for T’s birth.
Thank you to J and S for giving me permission to share their story. Initials have been changed to protect their privacy.Tweet