Bryony's Positive Birth
Positive birth stories seem to be super rare. Whenever I spoke to any of my friends with kids, there was always some twist, major deviation from the plan or what sounded to me like an absolutely horrific experience. Finding out I was pregnant was the most exciting news we could have had but the nerves for the labour process kicked in so we booked antenatal classes with the PEP Midwives with the hope of preparing ourselves for the carnage. As the classes progressed, our conversations flipped from a bit fearful to being much more positive and actually being able to discuss the options available to us specifically.
From a birth plan point of view, we decided not to stipulate too much. We knew that an epidural may not be an option because of some previous surgery but we wouldn't know for sure until we tried so we decided to aim not to have one while still leaving the door open and I love water so wanted that to be included. Apart from that, I packed a tens machine and thought "do your best, get everyone home safe".
Contractions started at midnight on the Monday and I decided to get as much sleep as possible, knowing it could be a while before everything kicked off. It didn't get any quicker or stronger and in fact slowed at times so the next day was just a day of walking around, bouncing on the ball and getting outside. The second night, I went to bed but was being woken frequently by contractions. Eventually, things ramped up and we headed in to The Grange on Wednesday afternoon.
The care throughout the pregnancy was obstetric led due to a spinal operation I had three years before and we were supposed to go to the Obstetric led unit. However, with no pain throughout pregnancy and a good level of fitness, we decided this seemed over the top and while in triage, we asked to be swapped to midwife led care, which the midwife advocated for so we were given a space on the birth unit. The classes had given us the confidence to consider the pros and cons of this option and know that we were able to ask for it rather than just doing as we were told.
After an examination and a stretch we went for a walk where the contractions really ramped up and the tens machine stopped helping quite quickly. When I couldn't stomach a baked potato an examination told us I was in labour and I was given gas and air which was a game changer. Using breathing techniques and the gas in an all four position using a chair for support I was pretty comfy and everything progressed well. Ash had made a platter of snacks on a paper towel and kept giving me water and electrolyte drinks which helped the energy massively after 2 nights of little sleep. The pool wasn't available but I used the shower which was surprisingly incredible and our midwife arranged for portable gas in the bathroom so I could still use it.
I was offered more painkillers as things progressed including Pethadine but didn't feel the pain outweighed the risk of a drowsy baby for me at that point and felt while we were both doing ok, we would leave it, knowing I could always ask for it later.
Ash was doing a brilliant job of keeping me really calm and on track with my breathing and reminding me that I could do this along with the brilliant midwife we had been assigned every time I told them both I really, really couldn't (I did).
By the time the midwife convinced me to get out of the shower because my legs were a bit white from kneeling too long, I was 9cm (I definitely thought her head was out) and was offered more pain relief but decided we were pretty much there so we might as well carry on. I stayed on the bed but being on my back was really uncomfy so I switched to kneeling on the bed and holding the back of it to push. Our little girl had her head out with her waters still intact which was really cool then was born as her waters broke quite quickly at 01:21am! She was passed between my legs and straight to me and who knew you could love someone so gunky, slippery and screamy so immediately and so much!
We had our skin to skin and fed with the support of the midwives which was fantastic before Ash got to have his turn while I was stitched.
Labour was done and I didn't really feel I had done much myself- my body took over and just did her job. It was painful but I knew it would end with the best thing ever and it's surprising how much of an impact the breathing techniques, relaxation and confidence give along with the gas and air. The difference the water of the shower made for me blew my mind too.
I needed a few stitches but had no idea that had happened at the time- when Kate told us about that in the antenatal class, I was like "what so it's so painful you won't even know you've torn?!" but it really didn't feel like that at the time because I was just so focussed on meeting our girl that it all became secondary and the great thing is that it's literally impossible to remember pain physically after it's stopped and it's absolutely temporary!
I'm really grateful to have the most boring birth story in the room but to have been empowered with the knowledge I needed to advocate for a calm birth that suited us rather than an over-medicalised experience was a huge influence on that. Being aware of the options I could take and the process itself actually made me believe that my body would get the job done and allowed me to take much less intervention in the end than I would have without that knowledge behind me.
Had I made different decisions on the day, I would still be really happy as I know that the choices would have been really well informed and the end result would be the same wonderful Phoebe Wren!
Turns out positive birth stories aren't super rare - it's just when you're in a room of women who have less positive ones, you don't want to be that one that goes "yeah, it was pretty amazing actually".