This is not really a birth story, its an entire pregnancy story. I think its important to share what happened in my pregnancy to truly understand how amazing it is my birth turned out the way it did.
First of all, some background information. The story you are about to read is uses ‘alternative’ methods by current birthing standards. When I initially read about these I thought that they were only used by hippies or people who hated medicine and tried to live on light. You may think that too. Well I’m not one of those people. I work as a cancer nurse and put of my job is administering one of the most revolutionary and expensive drugs there is – chemotherapy. I truly believe in the power of medicine and organised healthcare, when used correctly. I’ve also seen the consequences when it used inappropriately.
My pregnancy got off to a fairly bad start when I was admitted to hospital at 6 weeks with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. I was kept nil by mouth overnight in case I needed surgery and I was alone because my husband wasn’t allowed to stay. The scan was carried out the next day. It was an invasive, trans vaginal scan as I was so early in my pregnancy and again I was alone as the staff hadn’t given me a time for my husband to join me. The result was mixed – it was not an ectopic pregnancy but they were expecting a heartbeat, which was absent. I was told that I was to come back in 2 weeks for another scan but it was possible I would miscarry between. For 2 weeks I was completely terrified this was the end of my pregnancy and cried everyday. Luckily, the second scan gave good news, that there was a heartbeat and the pregnancy could continue as normal.
Whilst we were elated with the news, this was the beginning of the stress in my pregnancy. At 14 weeks I went on a hen party to Malaga. I got run down whilst I was away came home with bad tonsillitis and sleep deprivation. When I was still feeling ill I visited a friend who had experienced a terrible birth and had subsequently had trouble breastfeeding and switched to formula.
At first I didn’t think her birth story had affected me, but that night at 3am I found myself googling ‘breastfeeding support’ and ‘forceps’. In the days that followed I became gradually more anxious. I wasn’t sleeping and was having terrible dreams where my breast milk became blood and poisoned the baby. Or that I was being chased by someone who was trying to attack my bump. This led to me waking up and having panic attacks in the middle of the night, screaming at my husband that the baby was going to die or that someone would take her away. It all came to a climax when I had a panic attack at work and was sent home by my manager. I went to my GP the same day and broke down. I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore. It couldn’t be worth it.
I was referred to the mental health crisis team and mental health midwives. I was given counselling and support and whilst it helped, that is not what transformed my pregnancy and birth.
I had heard of Hypnobirthing before I was pregnant and thought it sounded good. I understood it involved meditation and since meditation had been suggested by my counsellor and had worked, we booked onto a course. My husband was fairly sceptical but agreed to go along to see what it was about. The course was run by the amazing Tracey Sutton (Pure Hypnobirthing) and completely changed my perspective. After the first session I actually felt excited to give birth. By the end of the course I was convinced I could do it. My husband felt that he knew what to do to help and support me before and during the birth. Knowing that my body and baby knew how to be born was a total revelation. This was not something to be afraid of, it was something to embrace.
After the first session, Tracey told us about a service called One to One midwives. I had been to my community midwives several times at this point and always seen someone different. This meant I had to repeatedly explain my anxiety issues and it was becoming exhausting. One to one midwives promised a named midwife that came to my home and who would be present at the birth of our baby.
I self referred to One to one midwives and a week later Becky came to our house. We instantly liked her and knew this would work. We discussed at length all my anxieties and fears and Becky completely put Dan and I at ease.
Initially we were signed up for a hospital birth. However, at every scan the sonographer found a reason for us to be scanned again
‘The baby’s leg isn’t bending, come back and check that it can bend”.
“The baby has a slightly large stomach, come back and get that checked”.
“Baby is breech, come back and get scanned to make sure everything is ok”.
My anxiety came back with a vengeance. There must be something wrong for us to get scanned so many times. They’ll force me to have a c-section etc. I became phobic about going back to hospital because I was dreading what they would say. Then, a solution appeared. Have a home birth. We discussed it with Becky who reassured us that home births are very safe for low risk mothers and that One to One would scan me if we felt it was required. I instantly felt like I had some control again and my anxiety subsided.
The rest of my pregnancy was a comparative breeze. One to One are on call 24/7 so Becky was always a text away if my anxiety got the better of me. If she wasn’t available her buddy Rachael was. Kat, the midwife assistant, came to the house to do a private antenatal class with me and I began pregnancy yoga with Anna who taught me further breathing techniques. Anna reiterated that pregnancy wasn’t a state of illness and that a good birth was totally possible if I remained calm. I was completely at ease, Dan wasn’t getting hysterical phone calls at work anymore – we were all happy!
I started having mild irregular contractions and strong Braxton hicks at 37 weeks. I was convinced miss Butler would be making an early appearance and made sure everything was ready. No such luck.
The day after my due date (Monday) my contractions started. Dan stayed off work and we let everyone know things had started. They were regular and strong but never came close enough together to call the midwife. Around 6pm they stopped. We were gutted, still no baby.
The next day (Tuesday) my mum sat with me whilst Dan went to work, still nothing. However, just after my mum left at 6:30pm, the contractions began again. When Dan got home we started timing again and they were regular. Determined not to have another false start we went on a mammoth walk, stopping every few minutes for the contraction to subside. I had put on a tens machine which was taking the edge off and Dan talked me through the Hypnobirthing and yoga breathing to keep me calm. Eventually the contractions became close together and I started having the urge to push. We filled the birthing pool in our front room, dimmed the lights, put on the Hypnobirthing tracks and called Becky. It was time.
Becky arrived and checked the baby’s heartbeat. All was well and the signs were there that our daughter would be born within the hour. However, after an hour of pushing my contractions became further apart and shorter. I asked Becky to examine me (which is not routine with One to One) to see if we were progressing. Our baby’s head was extremely low, hence my urge to push, but I was only 5cms dilated. Not only that, she had turned back to back.
It was 5am, I’d been having regular contractions for 11 hours and I was tired. Its fair to say that at this point I totally Lost. My. Shit. When Becky and Dan eventually calmed me down, Becky gave us a plan. I was to go back to bed with the tens machine on in a position that would help the baby to turn. I was to stay there until I couldn’t possibly tolerate it any longer then we would call Becky back.
We managed to go back to bed for 3 hours, both Dan and I sleeping between contractions. At 8am I need to get out of bed, as the contractions intensified. Becky had gone to get some sleep so Rachael her buddy came out. We had met her before so were completely comfortable with her being with us. I got back into the pool and continued riding through the contractions with my yoga and Hypnobirthing breathing, Dan by my side the entire time keeping me calm. The contractions had become increasingly sharp so I asked for gas and air. In what felt like a very cruel twist of fate, the gas and air was with Becky and she was stuck in traffic. At this point I started to panic and became very tense. Again, Dan and Rachael talked me down and I was able to survive until Becky arrived. I wouldn’t have been more happy if God walked through the door. The gas and air helped enormously and we continued our journey.
I’m not sure of times at this point, I was too focused on the contractions, but eventually I started to push again. Again my contractions became short and ineffective. I was running out of energy and getting tired. I had started lying down in the pool between contractions out of sheer exhaustion and Becky suggested I squat to make the contractions more effective. When it became clear I was too tired, it was suggested that I sit on the toilet (as an effort free way of squatting) until I was over the worst and then get back into the pool.
I managed to waddle to the bathroom and sit on the loo. Whilst Rachael refilled the pool, Becky did acupressure on my legs to get my contractions going again and Dan forced jelly babies and toast into me to get my energy back. The contractions started again with a vengeance and we made good progress. However, when it was suggested I get back into the pool I refused. We were making progress and I just wanted the baby out. I would have given birth on the street at this point. After 30 minutes of pushing, our daughter’s head was born. Becky told me to stand up (I actually said I couldn’t but was informed if I didn’t the baby would have been born into the toilet) and with one push our beautiful daughter came into the world.
Scarlett Betty Butler was born at 1:24pm on Wednesday 19th November weighing 7lb 1oz.
After she was born I sat back onto the toilet and she was passed to me for skin to skin. She had been born with the cord around her neck and foot and was a bit surprised to have come out so fast. Becky told me to blow on her face to wake her up and I promptly fainted! Becky and Rachael were amazing, managing to cut the cord, pass Scarlett to Dan and bring me round within seconds. After I’d come round and been sorted out, Becky and Rachael got me onto the sofa to help with Scarlett’s first feed. They brought Dan and I a much needed brew and tidied up. My post birth bleed had hit the water in the toilet so the bathroom looked like a scene from Dexter. By the time they were finished it was spotless and they left to get some kip.
I will never be able to express how grateful I am to One to One midwives and to Becky, Rachael and Kat for my care. Even when I had trouble breastfeeding and wanted to give it up, Kat was always a text away to give support and 12 weeks later breastfeeding is going great. If it wasn’t for my amazing midwifes and the techniques I learnt at pregnancy yoga and Hypnobirthing, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have had a C-section. I would have become panicked and anxious, my labour would have continued to stall, Scarlett would have become distressed due to the entanglement with the cord and I would have had a totally different birth experience.
That’s the story of our journey, well done if you managed to read that far! One to One are currently battling to be commissioned in Greater Manchester. All women deserve the choice of how to give birth. Please sign this petition to ensure this happens. https://www.change.org/p/greater-manchester-clinical-commissioning-groups-commission-one-to-one-midwives-across-greater-manchester?utm_medium=email&utm_source=signature_receipt&utm_campaign=new_signature&tk=nqDkl1wUyJWTLhbSonMnie16NiPTpzz18wwRQKnruFs