I reached 36 weeks in my pregnancy and my braxton hicks were getting so frequent and strong that I was willing my baby to stay put for just a couple of weeks longer.
38 weeks came and went. Every few days I would get regular strong braxton hicks that I excitedly thought could be the start of labour. I spent my 'due date' crying. It seems silly now but I felt like I was 'overdue' after weeks of feeling like labour was a moment away.
The next morning I woke to more mild tightenings. I didn't want to get my hopes up so I mostly ignored them. I got up, made breakfast for my 3 year old son Jacob and got him dressed for nursery.
Afterwards we sat on the floor playing together and I realised the sensations were still frequent. I wanted to focus on them, so I put my headphones in, switched on my hypnobirthing mp3s and closed my eyes. I imagined my baby, in my mind I spoke to her and I told her how ready I was to meet her.
I told my partner Matt that I 'may' be in labour and I wanted him to set up the birth pool (we had an immersion water tank and I wanted to make sure we had enough time to fill the pool with warm water).
We kept Jacob at home with us, he had been well prepared for what he would see and hear at his sister's birth and he excitedly helped set up the birth pool with his Daddy.
I put some clary sage in an oil burner and sat on my birth ball. I was feeling calm and relaxed. I used my hypnobirthing practice to stay focused on the present moment, rather than wondering too much about if the sensations would progress.
At 11am I got into the birth pool, shortly followed by Jacob who wanted to cuddle me and catch the baby, yes he really was that excited!! Jacob was in the pool with me for around 30 mins and I noticed that I hadn't felt a single tightening while he was in the pool. My focus had shifted naturally to him! Matt got Jacob out and put on a movie for him in the lounge.
I asked Matt to rub my shoulders, realising that my labour may have stalled. As Matt massaged me, a huge wave of oxytocin came over me and with it a huge surge!! I instructed Matt to keep his hands - off me - from then on haha! I soon got back into the gentle rhythm of my labour (interestingly throughout my labour whenever Matt or Jacob would kiss or touch me I would have a way too powerful surge! The power of oxytocin was just too immense for me).
Our doula arrived at around midday and sat quietly crocheting in my kitchen watching over me and instinctively knowing when to bring me sips of water or take my excited 3 year old back into the lounge. She was amazing!
I felt so safe with her there, I knew she would advocate for me, having built up a strong relationship during my pregnancy. My contractions strengthened and intensified to the point I really needed to focus on them, but they were not yet painful. I had planned to call an NHS midwife when I felt labour was getting serious.
(Background: I had requested a hands off 'watch and wait' approach to my birth. With no VEs, intermittent monitoring of baby's heart rate, no blood pressure monitoring, no chatting or questions directed at me. Basically I don't like to be touched or disturbed when I am birthing. This didn’t go down well with the Supervisor of Midwives who called me up weeks before my due date to discuss her concerns regarding my birth plan. I lost trust in the midwifery team, I didn't feel confident that my preferences were being heard, I wanted their support, but I was not prepared to be coerced into abiding by the 'nhs protocols' so I made the decision to not involve them, until I felt that birth was imminent.)
At around 2.45pm I felt a very powerful sensation followed by a pop. My waters had gone. Almost instantly my body started pushing and I felt my baby’s head descending. I put my fingers inside my vagina and felt her head, she was close, adrenaline pulsed through my body, I was breathing rapidly. I had skipped 'transition' completely and gone from painless contractions to pushing my baby out. There was no midwife. Just me, my partner and son, and our doula.
I announced I could feel the babies head, my doula sensed the panic in my voice. 'just breathe' she said calmly...
She was right! Panic wouldn't help me birth my baby. I breathed, I focused, I tried to control her rapid descent, I willed my body to open and stretch. I took long deep in-breaths and blew them out with a gentle groan.
Without a break from spontaneous pushing, my baby's head was born as I was leaning forwards on the side of the pool, with both Jacob and Matt holding me. I sat back, kneeling upright, reached down and felt her soft fuzzy head. I then leaned backwards, smiling as my body took a well deserved pause.
As the next wave began to build, I reached down and put my hand on my baby's head, feeling her body glide through my fingers as she gently emerged into the pool. Sienna was born at 3pm.
I looked through the water, at my tiny little baby, still curled up almost unaware that she was no longer in my womb. I gently lifted her out of the water with both hands. As her face met the warm summer air, a little hand stretched out to touch her. It was her big brother who had just witnessed her birth and was already asking to hold her.
I rested my sweet little Sienna on my chest. She was slow to breathe, perhaps a little shocked by her speedy delivery. I felt her cord, it was pulsing strongly. I blew lightly on her face and she took a deep breath and began to grimace. She pinked up quickly and opened her eyes, she was just as alert as her big brother had been when he was born, Sienna took in her world, her family, her doula and then settled in for her first breastfeed.
I felt strong cramps while Sienna was feeding and my placenta came away fully intact after about 40 mins with a few pushes. We popped the placenta into a bowl and had a good look at it, what an amazing organ it is. I passed Sienna to her Daddy who was waiting with a towel for her, and handed the placenta bowl to my doula.
My family sat on the couch admiring our beautiful new addition, while my doula helped me out of the pool wrapped me in my dressing down and showed me to my postpartum ready made sofa 'nest'.
I fed sienna again and noticed her cold white floppy cord pressed into my tummy. I decided we should probably call a midwife. After a little confusion I explained that I wasn't in labour, but had already given birth.
I reassured them all was well and I was told someone would be with me in an hour to assist us with cutting the cord. We all sat and enjoyed making phone calls to loved ones and sharing the news of Sienna's arrival.
My doula left, after a giving me a big cuddle and having a sniff of my sweet baby’s head. We ate some food and realised the midwife had not yet arrived. We called again and one arrived within 10 mins. Matt cut the cord and tied it off using a cord ring. The midwife listened to Sienna's birth story and said it sounded exactly like what I had hoped for. It really was, I am not sure I would have felt brave enough to plan an unassisted home birth. But the way it turned out was perfect. The midwife left.
Matt, Jacob and I put on our PJs, kissed each other good night and went to bed, Sienna tucked into my nightdress skin-to-skin and Jacob cuddled up to his Daddy. We were now a family of four."