The story of our baby Bess's birth, by Rosie and Tim
A lot of this birth story took place before the birth itself! As with our son Wilfrid, born 5 years before, we had planned a home birth and felt very prepared for that (see diagram below!)
Our carefully prepared home birth room! All of the mental/physical time taken over this undoubtedly helped us when considering new scenarios.
However, as Rosie went further past 40 weeks things got a little trickier. The first week 'overdue' was very much expected since Wilfrid had been born at 41 wks + 4 days, however at the end of that first week Rosie felt quite emotional perhaps as the memory of facing the ‘induction deadline' resurfaced.
In the second week 'overdue' we expected things to get going, especially as Rosie was around 3cm dilated and the baby was well into the pelvis. However we agreed we’d be happy to go in for monitoring at the 42 week mark, to check all was well with baby.
We took lots of stuff to the hospital in case anything was indicated in the monitoring to suggest the baby needed to come out immediately! Happily, all monitoring was entirely normal: the baby’s heartrate, the ‘cord resistance’ (blood flow to/from placenta) and amount of amniotic fluid. As throughout the entire pregnancy, Rosie’s stats were also good, although with a slightly low temperature (she had had a cold all week).
We then spoke with a consultant, who was clearly in favour of induction and painted a slightly one-sided picture (i.e. the risks of induction were not discussed). However it was clear it was our choice to make, and we had already planned to undertake expectant management (continued monitoring but declining induction) for a bit longer, if monitoring was all fine. A growth scan was booked in for Monday and, after quite a long day in the hospital, we returned home.
On Sunday, Rosie spent some time talking to others who were experienced in this type of situation, both independent midwives and women who had gone ‘post dates’; she also had a detailed post dates/induction plan made by another mum which was very helpful.
At Monday’s growth scan (42 wks+ 2 days) the cord resistance and amniotic fluid levels were again normal, and the baby’s size was predicted as 8lb 6oz. Very kindly another doctor took a long time with us to discuss options. We booked for monitoring again on Thursday (42 wks + 5 days), with the possibility of going for induction on that day, partly since this was the date we thought was more likely to be 42 wks (we think the official due date was out by several days). After another quite long day at the hospital (we also visited the birth centre but their policy is not to take women past 42 wks), we went back home.
On Tuesday Rosie contacted several women she knew who had either undergone induction or a C-section at our hospital in the recent weeks. They offered some very helpful ‘tips’ and related their experiences. We started to create a new plan for an induction birth at the hospital, in order to keep making positive and informed decisions ourselves rather than ending up being swept along by events.
On Wednesday we went for our midwife appointment and Rosie had another ‘stretch and sweep’ – little had seemingly changed since the Friday before which was a little disheartening. Apart from that we tried to relax as far as possible.
Thursday ended up being our decision day. We went into hospital for the third time for monitoring – again all fine – and spoke at length with another consultant. We had decided Tim would speak with the consultant first, on his own, since it was really quite stressful for Rosie, and then we would discuss between ourselves. Deciding to have Tim take on a lot of the information gathering role was really helpful since much of the stats on bad outcomes (stillbirth, hypoxia etc) are quite emotive. Over the course of the day, after considering lots of options, we came up with a plan that we would opt for induction via Artificial Rupture of Membranes (ARM, breaking the waters) on Saturday (43 wks).
The hope was that, having had one previous normal birth, it was very likely this would kick-start things and get contractions going via Rosie’s hormones. The consultant we spoke to took a lot of care and answered our many questions, and it felt we were able to make informed decisions ourselves.
Throughout these weeks our family were very good at not bothering us, although it was impossible to not get a bit of a sense of anxiety from them as the days ticked on!
The actual birth!
Things had not got going naturally and so, on Saturday 29th June 2019, at the 43 wk mark (by scan dates) we made our way to the, now very familiar hospital.
We arrived around 11:15am at the delivery suite, where we were shown our room. We had brought a lot of things to help make the space ours (nice lights, music, own pillow and blanket, essential oils, a picture of Wilfrid), and also in case we ended up staying in for a while (lots of food, colostrum Rosie had been expressing for baby, spare clothes etc).
So we unpacked and met our lovely midwife, K. K was absolutely everything we could have wanted; she was very experienced in home birth and knew what we needed. As we had found helpful before, Tim went to talk through the birth plan with K away from Rosie, so Rosie could just concentrate on being relaxed.
Several things K said were very reassuring: she emphasised she would go at our pace and how important it was that we were the ones in control. She did some initial monitoring of baby and Rosie and then left us to settle into the room. We got the lighting low and pinned some affirmations (positive statements about the birth) to the wall. We thought it would be a good idea to have lunch before, to get energy levels up. It was slightly odd knowing that Rosie’s labour was hopefully about to start, after waiting for it for so long! Tim sent messages to close family to let them know we were at the hospital and in good hands.
A little before 2pm K returned, and confirmed our plan – she would break Rosie’s waters, do some monitoring to check baby was still happy, and then we would have 4 hours to ourselves to see if contractions could get going. We had a plan of strategies to use: going outside for a walk, Rosie using a breast pump, sitting on a yoga ball, listening to some of the hypnobirthing tracks, relaxing. At 6pm we would assess with K how things were going.
A good sign when Rosie’s waters were broken was there was no meconium in the amniotic fluid – most people we had talked to seemed to expect some since we were so ‘overdue’. This can cause problems for baby if they inhale it during the birth. K could also tell baby was in a really good position for labour which was great to hear.
We went for a walk to the small park in the hospital grounds, it was a lovely sunny day. Rosie could feel some mild contractions but fairly far apart. She felt a bit disheartened since if things didn’t get going ‘naturally’, the next step would be artificial hormones to bring on contractions which would likely be harder to deal with (your body doesn’t release endorphins in the same way to help cope). We went for quite a wander round before returning to the room. Back in the room we spent a bit of time using our other strategies, e.g. listening to the affirmations and Rosie using the breast pump. K came to see us and also mentioned that walking up stairs sideways might be helpful!
We decided to go for another walk around 4:40pm, and during this walk Tim started timing the contractions which were definitely getting quite close together – Tim actually recorded 21 in 50 minutes. However they were still manageable through breathing – Rosie would just stop walking, close her eyes, and breathe through it. They were lasting about 1 minute, but again, this felt manageable. Rosie certainly didn’t feel this meant things were proceeding quickly. We returned to the room about 5:30pm and Rosie lay on the bed on her side. As with Wilfrid’s birth, Rosie felt the contractions as period-pain like cramps in the front abdomen, not towards the back. This may be partly as baby was in a good back-to-front position (not back-to-back).
Fairly soon after this the contractions started feeling quite a lot more intense and Rosie wanted to move onto all fours on the bed to see if that helped. She had one quite strong pushing down contraction and felt she really needed to go to the toilet (classic sign!)
At this point it was getting towards 6pm. Tim thought he might need some help if Rosie wanted to get to the bathroom (which was in the room, but even so), and he also thought the baby might be close to coming, so he went to fetch a midwife. K was with someone else so another midwife came in. Rosie managed to get to the toilet, sitting there was quite a relief although really this was a sign the baby was about to be born.
The other midwife went to tell K she thought she needed to get back to us! When K came in she kindly said to Rosie she should come back to the bed “we don’t want this baby to be born on the toilet!” and helped her there. Rosie had her eyes closed throughout at this point and wanted to go back on all fours.
The midwives tried to hear baby’s heart which was a bit challenging, because of Rosie’s position and as the baby had already moved down (they ended up listening briefly via baby’s head).
Now K helped Rosie with her breathing (“remember your hypnobirthing”) and told her how the baby was doing – the head was well on the way to crowning. Rosie could reach down and feel baby at this point and with a few more semi-controlled pushes baby was born at 6:22pm, barely 3 hours after the first mild but definite contractions, and with no pain relief (not even water which we’d used for Wilfrid’s birth).
The cord was quite short but Tim and K helped Rosie reach down and find out we’d had a baby girl! Rosie was quite surprised as she had for some reason thought it would be a boy. After the cord stopped pulsing Tim cut it with K’s help and we cuddled our perfect baby girl.
Meeting for the first time!
K stayed with us while the third stage took place (delivery of the placenta) which Rosie did with a few deliberate, guided pushes after about half an hour. During this time baby also latched on for feeding which helped with the third stage. Rosie had a few stitches for a 2nd degree tear and after that we were given quite a lot of time alone with our newborn, and also some tea and toast! We messaged close family and also rang Wilfrid to tell him he had a baby sister!
Rosie had a shower after a bit, and felt remarkably fine (the short labour probably helped!), and we started packing up ready to leave as soon as our notes were done. Baby was checked over and weighed (8lb 4oz, very close actually to the 8lb 6oz predicted by the growth scan). We left the hospital a little after midnight and baby girl was very contemplative in the car seat on the journey home, looking at the lights. It was lovely going to bed at home. We named our baby girl Elisabeth, known as Bess.
Our beautiful baby, just after the birth, thinking
Through all the time we took over decision-making beforehand, our priority was achieving a birth which was smooth and low-stress physically for baby and Rosie; by this measure things could not have been much better. There were some signs that Bess was ready to come out: no vernix, long nails, birth weight on the higher side (but not enormous), placenta which was healthy but slightly ‘gritty’. On the other hand, there was no indication she was not also doing fine inside, and she had not passed any meconium.
Waiting allowed us to make our own informed decisions over timing and methods, and we also felt that this would give us the best chance of a smooth labour whether spontaneous or induced. Planning for a positive induction was definitely a huge mental challenge, but we did it!
Rosie found it really helpful to speak to others who’d been through similar experiences and is very happy to be contacted, via Alice.
Writing our own affirmations was also useful (can be used both preparing for induction and when reflecting after):
- I am/was strong for my baby and me during the birth
- I make/made decisions based on my baby’s and my best interests
- We take/took time informing ourselves about different options
- I surround/surrounded myself with well informed and empathetic people
- My birth will be/was a perfect one for my baby and me
- My baby will be/was ready for the birth journey
- My body responds/responded well to the induction process
- We work/worked to create a home from home birth
- Our careful preparations enable/enabled a smooth birth
- We adapt/adapted well to a new scenario
- We will have/had the perfect midwives helping us through our birth
- We work/worked well as a family team before, during and after the birth
(Reproduced with written permission)