So, my daughter is 7 months old, I'm making chicken pie in the kitchen and a playlist comes on Spotify named Birth Euphoria. I made it when I was 36 weeks pregnant not knowing my baby was only 14 days away. It stops me in my tracks and everything of that Sunday in February comes flooding back so I'm writing it all down as my birth story. Hopefully I can share my Euphoria with you.
I'm a midwife. I work for One to One. I've worked for them since I qualified because I felt in my bones that caseloading was the only model that centred around women and would allow for me to walk hand in hand with women in their birth journeys and support them as best I could.
Naturally when I found out I was pregnant myself, I wouldn't have chosen anything else, so I sent off my form, only to receive a gobsmacked phone call from Jill. She was going to hold my hand, and hold it she did. She saw me and Joe without fail for every appointment, remembered our wishes, all she asked for in return was the kettle boiled on her arrival and a cup of black coffee, with a dash of cold water, be thrust into her hand at regular intervals. A woman after my own heart.
Despite some risk factors, I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy. Family history suggested I would be pregnant for 42 weeks so I ploughed on at work until 37+5 weeks, completing a course in Newborn Examination at 37 weeks and still attending births at 36. Having finished work on the Friday, Jill came to see me on the Saturday. 38 weeks. Time for a rest. I was still in my pyjamas and made no apologies for it. Eat cake she said, relax, have some me time. Yes, I thought. My sisters had told me stories of bouncing on birth balls and eating mars bars for 3 weeks before their babies arrived. I was going to have me some of that. I sent Joe to buy an enormous chocolate cake and planned how I would enjoy my next few weeks, pottering in the garden perhaps or getting a much-needed hair-cut. Bliss.
Finally being off call meant undisturbed sleep. Yay! I borrowed Joe's noise cancelling headphones (to drown out his snoring haha) and went to sleep listening to my chosen hypnobirthing tracks. Brian Eno was currently winning in the race to be my birth music. But there was still time to change my mind I thought.
3am. Needed a wee. Waddled bleary eyed to the loo. Sat on the loo contemplating life when there was a fairly largish trickle into the loo. Huh. I didn't do that. At this point I thought I'd lost control of my bladder. Urgh best get some tena ladies in. Glamorous. Back to bed and Brian Eno. Began a rolling over manoeuvre…...oh god no I'm wetting myself! Up, quick waddle to the loo. Pants wet……….. this couldn't be my water’s could it?! No. No that wouldn't happen to me. Hasn't happened to anyone in my family. Oh no. Does that mean the baby is back to back?! Argh! No. It's just wee. Isn’t it? What would you tell you if you rang yourself as a midwife? Put a pad on. Right get a grip. Quick text to my buddy Becky who was up with her 6wk old. What's it like when your waters go, what do you think, yes, I've out a pad on. Back to bed. Try to relax. Come on Brian Eno do your stuff. Another gush. Up again to loo. At this point I'm confronted by quite an obvious show on my pad and a pad soaked in waters.
It's 7am on Sunday morning, I've had not even 48 hours of mat leave and my waters have gone. My legs start shaking. This is it! I started to make a mental list of things to do over the next 48 hours. I'd convinced myself that my baby was back to back, I was going to have 48 hours to help it turn before labour might kick in. I'd do some weeding or go for a walk, I'd look up some positions to help baby spin. Joe would need to go shopping so I wrote a list. Joe!! I went and woke him up as gently as I could and whispered “don't panic but my waters have gone”. Cue panic. From both of us. I went downstairs and wolfed down two slices of toast and peanut butter. Carb loading I thought. I managed to get my head together and decided more sleep would be helpful.
I had begun to get some mild period pains but I was trying to ignore them. Except they started getting stronger. By 10am I'd had some whoppers. This baby wasn't going to wait 48 hours. Joe had gone out shopping. I rang my mum and tentatively gave her the heads up. Have you spoken to your midwife yet, she asked. No, I'd let her sleep. I rang Jill. I'm fine I said, just come over this afternoon to triage me, it's fine. Joe had come back from the shops but forgotten straws. He would have to go back out again.
My whoppers were getting more whoppery. I was leaning over pillows on the bed. I asked Joe for a hot water bottle and to set up the tens machine before he went out again. I felt calmer when he was there. I didn't want him to go out again but I really wanted a straw. The hot water bottle stopped working and at about 12pm I decided to try the bath out. Joe returned. I was using movement of my hips in the water during each surge, they were definitely surges now. I could feel every one build and peak, just as I had described to women I had cared for. But oh what a peak! Bliss when they subsided but my pubic bone felt like it was being pushed apart at the peak. At times it felt insurmountable. But I thought I had to keep going. I'm only at the beginning, I can do this. I decided at this point just to check in with Jill, when was she thinking of coming. Apparently she just had to put her chicken in the oven and had to do a day 5. I laughed on the inside but I was thinking I might have to fight with Jill's chicken to get priority.
I was needing to vocalise now with the surges. Ooooooooh I went. It helped so much. Move the hips and ooooooooh. I asked Joe to set up the pool downstairs. I needed to up my comfort measure game. He faffed as I knew he would. “Where are the shower curtains?” My internal voice swore and said in the birth kit basket I had purposely made to avoid this conversation. No Rachael. Stay calm. This is scary for him too. You need him. Instructions were given. I continued to oooh. I whimpered. I didn't feel I was getting a rest.
Finally the pool was ready. It was now 2:30pm I got out of the bath and waddled downstairs. The room was beautiful. Joe had put on the fairy lights and Brian Eno was already playing on his laptop down there. I whatsapped my sisters to say I was in labour and getting into the pool. I think I told Jill too, haha. The pool felt amazing. Only being 5ft tall meant I could fully submerge. I seemed to get a few minutes break. Time to recenter myself, time to look at Joe and smile. He was doing good. Then the surges began again. Strong. Rhythmic. Ooooh I went. I have no idea why that helped but it did. As did digging my nails into Joe's hand. I left him with a badge of honour which he tells me he was sad about when they disappeared and faded away. I felt awful seeing my nail marks in his hand after but my word, it helped at the time. As did some swearing. But I'll keep this PG.
Jill arrived. She entered quietly and respectfully. I knew she was there but didn't if that makes sense. The best kind of midwife. I asked if I could have some gas and air. The pubic bone ache needed more than a pool, swearing and some oohing now. The gas and air was amazing. Like having had a few rum and cokes. I could do this now. I had a funny internal monologue during labour. Jill told me to take a break from the gas and air at one point and I remember thinking not on your nelly! This stuff is too good. I was forced to eat a jelly baby and felt like a grumpy teenager because I didn't want one. Joe asked me to lean on the other side of the pool so he could sit on the sofa and not kneel down as his knees were hurting. Your knees are hurting?! YOUR knees are hurting?!?! I turned round because yes his knees probably were sore, I'd been in that position many a time and we were likely to be here for some time. Calm down Rachael, I told myself. You've got this. I needed Joe's hand. He went into the kitchen at one point and his hand was no longer there. I panicked. Where was he. I needed him. He made me strong. No words were needed. Just his touch and unspoken support. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to adequately voice my thanks to him so hopefully this will help.
Eventually in my gas and air fuelled blissful state I realised I was doing some little pushes. Huh. Weird. Maybe this baby was back to back after all and I was getting some rotational urges. I couldn't be expulsive just yet. Could I? I decided to have a feel and popped a finger inside. I didn't expect to find anything. I found a head! I couldn't believe it. A little hard head a little way back. I decided to keep this quiet. Give myself some time. The urges became stronger. I was pretty grunty. I couldn't stop these guttural noises escaping my mouth. I had another feel. The head was just there! “I think it's coming” I said to Jill, as if she didn't know and like I was unsure. Ha. Typical British, polite, don't cause a fuss. I had a temporary moment of wigging out “Suppose it doesn't fit through, suppose I can't push it out”. Jill told me it would all be fine as it was already nearly out. I knew this really. I could feel it. The pubic bone pain had gone. I carried on with my pushing. It was wild. No one can prepare you for that. The oohing returned. Suddenly the head was out and with that the body too. No stopping, no restitution. Just out! I turned over and searched for my baby, found it in the water and lifted it up, what was it! Boy or girl. Girl! Wynnie was with us. Her cord was round her neck so I unwrapped it whilst sobbing and laughing and shouting “I did it, I ****ing did it”.
Kelly arrived as the second on. I remember her kissing my head. I loved everyone in that room at that moment. It was amazing. It was 6:23pm. Time to eat chocolate cake. Joe put the birth Euphoria playlist on. One day like this by Elbow. Yes. Throw those curtains wide. One day like this a year would see me right. And here I am in my kitchen with that same song playing again. Wynnie is now crawling and smiling and laughing and hugging, we are a little family. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It really was euphoric.
Thank you to Jill for supporting me and holding mine and Joe's hand through pregnancy, thank you for giving me the space to do pregnancy my way, for listening to me when I needed it, for checking I was doing all I needed to do, for explaining everything to Joe so well.
Thank you to One to One for providing this service to women and enabling them to empower themselves to the birth they want.