This is the story of the birth of our beautiful daughter, Luna. The options I made and preferences I had were personal and individual, and in no way a judgement of anyone else’s who’s made different choices and had different preferences for their own birth(s). Birth is personal and very much a space for your own intentions and intuition.
The blog post below includes pictures with nudity.
The night before I knew I was definitely in labour, I wondered if it all might be starting. I had a feeling it might. I was 40+5 weeks pregnant (according to my dates, further along according to the NHS’s) and, throughout my whole pregnancy, I had been very clear with my care providers and support network that – unless I felt something was untoward with myself or baby – I would not entertain any conversation about induction until I was past 42 weeks. But the night before my labour kicked off, I felt very emotionally wobbly about that; I doubted my strength to face the pressure to be induced. I doubted my convictions and intuition. I doubted myself. And as I did, I went to bed reflecting and thinking that this was different. That something felt different.
When morning came, I woke up feeling some period-like cramps and I knew things were starting, but I kept telling myself that it may also “just” be the start of a long week, as my experience and time with other women and birth taught me that early labour could last for days, if not weeks. My intention had always been to pace myself, to ignore labour for as long as I could and lead my normal life until labour demanded my attention. I was determined “not to chase it”, as Sallyanne Beresford would put it. As such, I had explained to Robin that I wouldn’t tell him immediately when I was in labour, for I knew that telling him would make it very real for me.
So as I got up I decided to go about my day as I had planned to the night before, and to get on with stitching the baby quilt I was making for my baby, made up of pieces of fabric sent by various close family members and friends to remind my baby of the love that surrounded them around the time of their birth. I did tell Daisy, our doula and friend, that I had some light cramps but that I felt confident about her going about her plans for her day too. I made myself some breakfast, poured myself a cuppa, and installed myself at my desk and sewing machine for the day, stitching away.
Throughout the day the cramps turned into waves and surges. They were very spaced out and didn’t take my full attention, but I did acknowledge them. I kept stitching still and not letting it on to Robin, who was working from home at the desk two metres away from mine!
By the time Robin had finished work I was in bed having a rest, and he came to meet me and lay down next to me as he often did in those late days of pregnancy to catch up at the end of his workday. He asked me if I wanted to go for a walk, and I said I wasn’t sure if I felt like it – the surges were now coming closer together and a bit more intensely, though I didn’t tell him that. I then made a comment about his beard and how it was getting long, and Robin said he’d shave the next day. That was when, by replying that he might not have time the next morning, that I finally let him in on what was going on.
We decided to head downstairs to the living room to set things up for the birth. I had left everything that would be needed in boxes in a corner of the room, and we went about putting everything in place. As we did that, I noticed that every time a surge would come I’d go back to the dining table to take a breath and ground myself through it. My doula brain acknowledged that I was now starting to ritualise the waves, and that they were starting to take my focus and attention.
I asked Robin to call Daisy to let her know things were on the move, and if she’d be up for coming over for a little bit, in the knowledge that we might send her away again. She suggested Robin started inflating the birth pool so the noise wouldn’t bother me later. Again, my doula brain told me this was her code for “get things ready, you might want the pool sooner than you think”, but I was still adamant on pacing myself and managing my expectations for how quickly birth might unfold for me or how intense I would find it. I decided to head back upstairs into the bedroom.
By the time Daisy arrived, labour was definitely established. I had my eyes closed, and was kneeling on the floor, sitting back and resting in between surges, and leaning forward onto my chest of drawers when they came, swaying and rocking my body as a ritualised dance my body instinctively knew to do. My waters were trickling a little by this point.
Robin and Daisy went about filing the birth pool, even though I was still saying I wasn’t sure it wasn’t too soon to be considering that. Shortly after I’d be very grateful they ignored me on that front! Robin was sitting behind me and massaging my head in between surges when Daisy came into the room to say the pool was ready, should I wish to go in, and I decided to give it a try even though I was still telling myself it might be too soon, and it may slow me down.
Getting in the warm, welcoming birth pool was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced! I felt weightless and my whole body relaxed, and above all the water felt like an embrace and like somebody holding and inviting me to let go and finally fully acknowledge that birth was happening and that I’d soon meet my baby.
I spent most of the rest of my birth in the water, kneeling supported by my hands with each surge, and resting back onto my back or side in between, reminding myself to go really soft during those blessed breaks. I was breathing through the waves, and focussing on the beauty of the movement my loose hair was doing in the water. In the breaks in between, I somehow managed to sleep and even dream! I remember thinking that the surges must’ve slowed down if I was getting to sleep and dream, and – picking up on this – I heard Daisy reassure me that the pool hadn’t slowed me down. That my surges were still coming frequently and close together.
The next moments were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever lived. The room felt peaceful with music in the background, our cats would come in and out, Robin and Daisy lovingly holding space for me without interrupting or fussing about me – just like what I had anticipated I’d need. I remember at different points looking up to them when doubt would knock on my door, only to be reassured by trusting, warm and caring eyes. I felt very safe. I felt supported physically, emotionally and energetically. I felt loved and held so I could go deeper.
My hyperemesis gravidarum didn’t leave me until Luna was born. I was sick many times during birth, and I wasn’t able to keep any food or water down. My doula mind knew this may lead to lack of energy if birth was to be a long one, and I feared for my ability to keep going if I wasn’t able to fuel my body. I voiced this and shared my inner doubts, and I remember considering if that was a fork in my road that would lead to a different narrative, and if I was going to have to seek help from a hospital. I checked in with myself and baby, and decided to keep going at home where I felt safe and comfortable, and – with the support of Robin and Daisy – the mantras of my birth became “just get through the next one” and “one wave at a time”. Later I started being able to keep some coconut water and one of those children’s fruit pouches in my belly.
I noticed a new day was breaking and I recall thinking that it couldn’t possibly have been that long already. I can’t remember when I started to feel pressure in my sacrum and in my bottom, and feeling like I wanted to do something about that pressure. I instinctively started to push with each wave, and there was no more breathing through surges. There was no breathing my baby out for me, there was only roaring her into this world.
I pushed for a very long time. Again, fear crept in and I wondered if those surges and pushes were actually doing anything. I feared things were somehow stuck and once more voiced these concerns. I was reminded of my options, and again I checked in with myself and my baby, contemplating if this was another fork in the road where the narrative might change and if I needed help for my baby to be born. I felt this wasn’t needed and I anchored myself back on the earlier mantra of “one surge at a time”, “one push at a time”.
Daisy suggested getting out of the pool and trying to go to the toilet, as the movement and gravity might help me. I made it about 30 cm away from the pool, leaned on Robin for a couple of contractions before going back onto my knees on the floor. Whilst I was standing supported by Robin, my waters properly broke. Daisy asked me how I felt about calling the midwives and, after checking in with myself again, I asked if they could be called and decided to go back into the pool.
I had been very clear in our antenatal appointments about my intentions and preferences for my birth, and had asked that the midwives respected my privacy and only came into the room when I asked or, if they felt the need for it, that they’d knock on the door and ask either Robin or Daisy before coming in. I will forever be grateful that the first midwife that arrived at our home fully respected my wishes and sovereignty. After asking if she could, she came into the room, kneeled next to the pool and gently introduced herself, reassuring me that it looked like I was doing great and that everything was well. She asked if she could listen to baby’s heartbeat, and I agreed to it, and she used headphones as had been my wish so I wouldn’t be distracted by the sound the doppler makes when being submerged, and so that anxiety wouldn’t find an opportunity to creep in if it took a while to find the heartbeat. The midwife reassured me baby sounded really happy, and left the room again. I kept on pushing and resting as much as I could in between.
The sounds I made while pushing! They came from the depths of me, and I had never heard myself or other women make those sounds before! There was no controlling or thought about them – they just were and I let them.
Robin and Daisy alternated, with one putting pressure on my sacrum and giving me something to push against, and the other sitting in front of me so I could look up for reassurance if I needed to or to pass me some coconut water. I had been checking for baby’s head myself from time to time and I could then feel it coming down with each surge, and then going back up as babies are meant to as they are descending. And then it finally stayed down! I was close! Only, it went back up again and I remember feeling the frustration and realisation that I had to put in that work again to get baby further down again. I was getting tired, I could feel it. Daisy then came near the edge of the pool to tell me that our midwife had called for the second midwife, and that she would have to leave soon as her shift was ending and somebody else was going to come replace her. I really didn’t want to have to navigate new dynamics with a new midwife, and it was then that I made a conscious decision that my baby was going to be born before our midwife left. I realise now that up to that point I had been holding back somehow. And that perhaps Luna had been holding back too. I don’t know the reasons, but I remember choosing to go in and go deeper. To let go. To fully and wholeheartedly body, and mind and heart to surrender and let my baby through.
With the next few surges Luna was crowning and I asked Robin if he’d like to feel her head. And then the head was born and for a moment the whole room went silent. You could hear a pin drop. I recall thinking that I could either voice that the head was out and ask Robin if he wanted to see it, or that I could stay silent, stay focussed, and listen out for the next surge to go with my body’s lead to birth my baby. I chose silence. I felt baby turn, and with that last urge to push, her body came out and into this world.
I declared to the room “baby out” and reached below me to bring her to me. As I grabbed her, she was facing me, and her bag of waters was still over her face – a caul birth! Also known as a mermaid’s birth, or the birth of a witch! Her eyes were open and looking at me, and I hope to my heart of hearts that I never forget that first look. I carefully removed the membranes from over her face before bringing her out of the water, and pulled her towards me, only to find that she was very much tangled in her cord. Our midwife helped me unravel her and I could then finally sit back and hold her close, instinctively welcoming her in Portuguese, my mother tongue, despite having been speaking English the whole time before.
Luna didn’t cry immediately which didn’t scare me as I know babies don’t actually need to cry to start breathing, and I also knew that it can take a little while for the placenta to handover the breathing task to the lungs, especially in a water birth. So I kept gently talking to Luna (who hadn’t been named yet at that point, and we hadn’t even checked yet if our baby was a boy or a girl – it really didn’t matter!) The first midwife apologetically asked me if she could give Luna a rub to help her breathe, knowing that my wish had been for “no patting, no hatting and no chatting” following the moment of birth. I replied that I could rub her myself and did so. Luna gave a few coughs, showing us that she was starting to breathe. Even so, the second midwife – who had arrived before Luna was born but I hadn’t noticed – panicked that there was no cry and so I was told that they were going to give her a few breaths with the bag and mask. I still wasn’t worried. I knew my baby was fine and was just taking her time. My gut knew she was alright. After a few breaths with the bag and mask, the first midwife checked baby’s heartbeat and said it was all good, but the second midwife was still riding on adrenaline and kept giving her more breaths. The first midwife repeated that baby’s heart was fine, but the second midwife was still going. I know now that the only thing that would’ve prevented her persistence would’ve been me physically pushing her away, but instinctively I chose to remain grounded and anchored, and provide a calm shelter for my baby so she knew she was safe and that all would be well. And all was well.
We spent a few more moments in the pool, embraced by Robin who was beyond himself with joy. Our wee family of three finally all earthside and in each other’s arms. The name Luna as the likely name for our baby was uttered in those moments.
And then I got out of the pool and onto our sofa, with Luna in my arms and still attached to me by her cord. We rested for a while and I asked the midwives to give us privacy. Daisy brought me some hot tea and some food which felt like the best, yummiest banquet given that my nausea was completely gone, after 9 months! Luna and I cuddled there on the sofa, falling in love with each other and resting from our journey together.
After a while I knew the midwives would want to see the placenta be born, and after an hour had gone past and I had asked them to give us a bit more time as I felt well and wasn’t bleeding much at all, I was feeling some surges again. I had a camping toilet ready in the room in case it was needed, and Robin moved it next to the sofa so I could try birthing the placenta sitting down. I moved onto the camping toilet, still holding Luna, and felt like actually what I needed was to have a bowel movement (I didn’t). Daisy suggested that there was no problem if I did poop and to give it a go at pushing a little. With one push the placenta was born just as the second midwife was coming into the room to – I suspect – suggest I had a syntometrine injection. Much like when Luna was born, I simply declared “the placenta is out”. Luna was still attached to her placenta, more than one and a half hours after birth.
While I was sitting there on the camping toilet, Luna latched for the first time. I will never forget those feelings of overwhelm, gratitude and joy that my baby was there in my arms, feeding at my breast.
And then Robin cut the cord, the midwives did some quick checks on both me and Luna, and a few pictures were snapped. I had a second degree tear which I opted for not having it stitched as it wasn’t bleeding and it had clear edges that easily lined up. After a while the midwives left, and a little later so did Daisy. Robin brought me some leftover pizza as I was still feeling famished, and kept watch as Luna and I had a half an hour nap on the sofa.
We then all moved into the bedroom and into our bed, and snuggled together for the first time as a family of three (five with the cats), so tired and yet so ecstatic. And so, so very in love with each other and with our baby – our Luna – finally in our arms.