I’ve had three babies, and for all three I was determined to give birth in water, naturally, with no intervention.  My first two were born in the same midwife-led unit—18 months apart—at The Grange in Petersfield, Hampshire.  With my first, I laboured for only 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Spontaneous rupture of membranes at midnight and my beautiful daughter was born at 1:45 am.  No interventions, no pain relief.  Although I was determined to give birth in the water, she was born out of water, as I got too hot in the pool and needed the loo.  I had to be coaxed off the toilet and back to the birthing room, only for my daughter to be pushed out moments later on the bed. The pushing actually gave me relief from the pain.  I remember her looking around wide-eyed and in awe while I had a much-needed tea and toast.  She was 6 lb 5 oz and 4 weeks early. She took to breastfeeding like a duck to water.  My feelings on this birth was that it was a quick birth and very positive. My midwife was so patient, so calm, and just went with the flow.  I remember it vividly and beautiful is the word I would use to describe it.  Just one thing I hated about it—and no one warns you about this—I opened my bowels just before she popped out. Very embarrassing.  One week after her birth I was visited by the midwife who would attend to me for baby 2 (who I shall call midwife 2).  My daughter instantly picked up jaundice and was back in the hospital needing phototherapy.  So we went from constant cuddles to her being in a box. No warnings about this in pregnancy either. It was something of a shock and I felt very lost and confused, knowing nothing about bilirubin.  It was scary.

So midwife 2 attended to me for baby 2. In hindsight, it was totally inappropriate as I was nervous and cautious around her. I couldn’t relax because in the back of my mind was this cautious woman who ‘took my first baby away’.  Not a logical thought, but it was there all the same and I couldn’t help judging her with mistrust.  Four weeks to go before the birth and I am HUGE.  My midwife starts saying there might be a problem with too much amniotic fluid. She was talking about tests and induction and constant electronic foetal monitoring, etc.  In short, all things I was against. Being scared of the interventions and fearing midwife 2 didn’t have my best interests at heart I tried eating a lot of curry, pineapple and lots of walking to get things going. I then read about caster oil and orange juice opening the bowels and clearing things out. Not wanting to open my bowels in labour and keen to get things going I tried it. I drank it about 7 pm the night before he was born and things got going by 10 pm. I tried to avoid going to hospital too soon, but my ex-husband felt as baby 1 came so quick that we shouldn’t risk it and we arrived at the hospital around midnight. The birthing pool was set up and I got in. My midwife brought in a student against my wishes, which upset me and immediately things slowed down.  I tried to force the issue by pushing, but just exhausted myself. After a while I was asked to leave the pool so the midwife and student could get a proper indication of what was going on. I think we were 8 hrs in at this point. They stated baby 2 was crowning and then going back up the birth canal. I was on my back and the midwife insisted on AROM, again against my birth plan.  So I endured an artificial rupture of membranes and a two hour labour in the cold on the bed. I felt vulnerable and exposed, but I was tired and worn down so went with it. The pain went from painful-but-able-to-cope to unbearable, and I was getting stressed and desperate.  I could feel every pressure and grinding pain and it was horrible. The midwife kept me on my back and in the back of my mind I thought how wrong it all was, but I was tired and confused and just wanted it over. The midwife finally took matters into her own hands and the next time baby 2 crowned she pushed her hand in and grabbed him under one arm and pulled him out. He had got stuck as his hand was holding his ear, so I was trying to give birth to a head, shoulder and elbow in one go! No wonder it had slowed down.  Anyhow, I tried to move to pick him up and rub his skin, but the midwife said there was a problem and whisked him away.  Thirty minutes later we heard baby 2’s first cry, much to my relief! His live birth was recorded as 5:45 am and he was 8 lb 8 oz. The midwife told me he had come out white, not even bluey/purple like baby’s normally do and was ‘dead’ when he came out. I asked how they’d revived him and was told, “You don’t want to know.”  I should have been relieved he was alive, but I couldn’t stop focusing on the fact he nearly died.  I was over-anxious and wouldn’t sleep until he’d fed. That took three days as he initially rejected me. I put him under a window once feeding was established and fed, fed, fed. His too had jaundice, but it subsided extremely quickly.  I received no support for the trauma of thinking my baby had been born dead and when I got home with my 18 month old and newborn I took PND home with me as well. I always question whether the midwives interventions caused delays and problems in my birth, or whether she actually saved his life.

10 yrs on and due to circumstances beyond my control I wound up with a new husband and another baby in another city. This time I was facing the choice of a hospital birth or a home birth as the midwife led unit for the area was too far away. My husband wouldn’t entertain a home birth so the local hospital was the choice open to me so baby 3 was born at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. I fought the idea in my head and, having built fear in my head from the last birth, tried an NCT hypnosis for birth CD and book. Midwife 3 again picked apart my birth plan, and 2 weeks before the birth I was suddenly ‘too big’ for dates and may need induction.  I didn’t want the caster oil as it was so disgusting so tried acupressure instead. I tried the acupressure at 10 am and by 11 pm I went from having niggles to my waters breaking and increased pain 5 minutes apart. Again I felt unsafe (perhaps I should have got counselling after the trauma of baby 2’s birth, but it was too late for should’s) and the minute I got to the hospital, things stopped. The midwife sent me home with a warning that if I hadn’t gone into labour by 9 am I would be induced. This was totally against my wishes and I was quite upset, but I guess my body just decided to get on with it because I got outside and the pains kicked in again. My husband tried to convince me to go back up to the birthing room, but I insisted on going home. I jumped in the shower and felt strongly baby was coming. My husband jumped me back in the car, even though I didn’t want to go. In the birthing unit I begged for the pool, but my body started pushing and my baby was born ‘flat’ at 1:40 am. I had asked for delayed cord clamping, but within seconds of baby 3 being born his cord was cut and a huge team of doctors and midwives appeared to resuscitate him.  All this time I felt the midwife being scornful of my birth plan and she was actually quite disrespectful of my husband. He was nervous and scared and she criticized him quite a bit. Baby 3 was 7 lb 12 oz and 2 weeks early.  Much to my upset I wasn’t allowed to hold baby 3 for half an hour and it was hours before I was allowed to breastfeed. Very incongruent with the beautiful images of baby being delayed cord-clamped and being on my breast within moments of being born. However, I am so thankful he is alive and healthy and I think the hypnosis helped as I haven’t had any of the PND I had after baby 1 and 2. In fact, I couldn’t be happier.  Breastfeeding took a couple of hrs to establish and I have been ecstatic since! While the midwife only intervened once baby 3 was born, I question whether skin-to-skin and cuddles with mummy would have been better than resus, but he’s here, alive and safe 7 months on.

With all three births, I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as a perfect birth, no matter how much you plan for it.