Ophelia’s home birth story

I’ve wondered since what it could have looked like in a photograph – that moment she shot out of me with one last mighty push. I’m glad no camera caught it, that everyone in the room was too involved to pick up a camera. Seeing it through another’s lens might have warped my own memory. My memory of it is perfect. A perfectly formed, tiny baby plunged out into the water and suddenly there was relief.

It felt like many hands got in the water to catch her. It was a moment of confusion. Our doula had told the midwives that I wanted to be the first to touch and hold my baby. In second stage irrationality, I doubted my ability to do it. I said “No” and asked no one in particular to do it. Silently, I was telling them that I wanted them to do the whole thing for me, pushing and all.

An hour and a half of pushing and I was getting fed up and losing faith. I tried to conjure up the waterfall, the stream at Grand Riviere in Trinidad, the opening hibiscus. I confused everyone by alternately asking for water and saying “waterfall” so they weren’t sure whether I was thirsty or focusing on my downward breathing image.

There’s no doubt that practising KG Hypnobirthing techniques was hugely effective throughout this labour but there came a point where I couldn’t or wouldn’t do the calm, serene, “breathe your baby out” the way I’d planned. Instead, it was primal growling and shouting: “I can’t do it. I don’t want to. No, no, no!”

Birth story - birth partner comforting in birth pool.jpg

Incredibly, part of me still wondered if I was really having the baby. Maybe they were all wrong. Maybe I wasn’t even dilated yet. But I knew what I was doing wasn’t helping. Laurence kept reminding me to keep my noises low, which really helped even though it annoyed me. He said “waterfall” a few times and I almost snapped: “Fuck the waterfall!” but didn’t because I knew that once I started swearing I’d keep on doing it and that would mean giving up what focus I had.

It’s really hard explaining this thought process because it wasn’t really thought in the conscious sense. It was all a deep knowing.

That makes me realise I’ve started this birth story in a strange place, at its most incoherent point. I’ll go back.

The day before, Sunday, we were wracked with uncertainty. We had just found out the day before that I was Group B Strep positive. GBS is a bacteria that it’s estimated 25 per cent of pregnant women carry in their bodies. Colonisation of the birth canal can come and go so, many of us have it when we’re giving birth but never know. While the bacteria is harmless in adults, it can be very dangerous in newborn babies who contract a GBS infection. Very small numbers of babies are affected but it’s serious when they are.

So, it’s generally recommended that intravenous antibiotics be offered during labour (though this translates into “be strongly advised” in our area). We looked at articles on the websites of the GBS Society, AIMS (Association for the Improvement of Maternity Services) and the Royal College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists. We drew up lists, we discussed, we agonised, we prayed. Then we decided to continue with our plan to have a home birth, keeping an eye on my temperature during labour and observing Ophelia closely after she was born.

I don’t mention any of this to convince anyone either way of what should be done in such a situation. I’m sure that had we gone to hospital and had the antibiotics that that too would have been OK and indeed it would be the right decision for some. For us, this was the choice we needed to make. It’s an inescapable part of the story because it reintroduced something key we’d already released in preparation for this birth: fear.

Yet on Sunday, we got peace. Two people who didn’t know us, at a church we don’t normally attend, came up to us separately to pray about the birth. After putting Talitha to bed, we talked about how present we felt God was as we looked ahead to the birth, which we still expected to be two weeks away. We agreed that I would phone the unit the next day and speak to the Supervisor of Midwives to iron out what all the different options were in our situation. I never got the chance. I woke up at 4am on Monday in early labour.

After an hour of surges, I woke Laurence and told him it felt different and that I thought I was in labour. I don’t think he took me particularly seriously, which didn’t matter as I didn’t need him at that point and wanted him to go back to sleep.

Birth story - big sister

I couldn’t sleep so got up and cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen. I may even have done some laundry. By the time Talitha woke up, the surges were gathering strength. I started to sing and sway through them. “What are you doing, Mummy?” she asked. “I’m dancing,” I replied, suddenly realising that she could not be there. I’d hoped to have her in the house during the birth but now knew that I’d never progress unless I could retreat wholly into myself. That would not happen with her around. So, Laurence rang his parents and his father came to pick her up, along with a night bag I hoped she wouldn’t need.

It was now past 10am. Everything had slowed down. We went for a walk. I continued to have surges. By now I was appreciating holding on to Laurence. His slow breaths helped steady mine. We had lunch and watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was all candlelight, laughter and romance. At some point I napped between surges while listening to the Colour and Calmness hypnobirthing CD. And it all gathered speed.

Birth story - early labour walk.jpg

By 2pm I wanted to be on my own, planting myself on the toilet, sniffing frankincense and visualising hot air balloons. What happened when is hazy from there. We called our doula, Nicole, over at some point and she helped with the birth pool and with setting up the recovery area.

To my disappointment, everything slowed down again as soon as she got there. It was familiar. As soon as someone new entered the situation, my surges lost their intensity and moved further apart. I felt awkward about it but ended up asking her to leave for a while. Apparently, she’d also felt that she should go but didn’t want us to feel that she was abandoning us, so it was good all around.

When she’d gone, things picked up almost immediately. I reached a point where I desperately wanted to get into the birth pool but, worried that it could slow down the labour, I opted for a shower instead. Weirdly, the water from the shower both offered relief and massively sped things up. I finally got out, not sure what to do next when I felt that I HAD TO GET IN THE POOL.

Laurence helped me in the pool and it was not the relief I expected. Things were coming on much more quickly than I’d anticipated. We agreed that he should call the doula. Shortly after, we agreed that he should call the midwife.

Birth story - heading towards transition.jpg

I think at that point he was a lot more aware of the urgency for the latter than I was. I was still wondering if I was in active labour. I was torn between not wanting to give birth unassisted and not wanting someone I didn’t click with to insist on examining me and tell me I was “only” 2cm dilated. At this point, though, Laurence was dead certain it was on.

Nicole came in quietly. It should have been a real signal to me that things had progressed. The first time she’d come, I was awkwardly aware of her presence. I’d even adjusted my pyjama bottoms to cover my bum while on the birth ball. The second time she came, I registered her presence but welcomed it. I was stark naked and unconcerned about the fact. It was primal. It was on.

Laurence read me Psalms and KG hypnobirthing scripts. I let my mind go with them, resting with the words and images. My body moved in ways it felt it needed to – rotating, head shaking. Unfamiliar sounds leaked out. Nicole asked if I was pushing. I told her that I felt the pressure but didn’t think I was dilated. She knew I was but just said that it was OK, that I didn’t need to know what was happening.

Finally, I said (or maybe begged), “Hot!” I heard her whisper “Transition” to Laurence. My eyes were closed. Thankfully, they mouthed the rest. I never knew that the midwives were lost in another part of Bristol and taking a long time to come. Transition came with a beautiful lull. A short rest. Then, the pushing fell on me. I found it harder and harder to modulate my tones. At one point I shouted: “I need a midwife!”

Laurence and Nicole continued to calmly encourage me. Then I asked (or maybe told) him to be quiet. I only wanted to hear a feminine voice. Even at the time I found this interesting.

The midwives arrived, coming in quietly and keeping a respectful distance. They were there thirty minutes before the birth so didn’t even have a chance to look at the birth plan. There was a conversation about them wanting to listen to the fetal heartbeat and being told that I didn’t want to be asked, I just wanted it done. I snapped: “Just do it!” To my amazement, the heart was beating from so low down, the baby was certainly about to come out.

I’m not sure when I threw myself back but I felt I needed to be on my back in the water instead of upright on my knees. I shouted: “Somebody hold my legs!” It was not how my head had wanted to birth. It may even have contributed to my tear but it was the position I felt I had to be in and that truly is enough for me.

Her head came out and was sucked back in. Over and over. I asked about getting into another position but couldn’t bear to move or be moved. The midwives told me I was fine where I was and that it was happening. With the last surge, I decided I was done with it and consciously pushed. No head lingering for a moment before the body slips out. She shot right out of me.

Natural third stage, cord burning and recovery on the sofa with my sweet baby at the breast were followed a few hours later by a trip to hospital because of concerns over my tear (it was thankfully just second degree) and a 24-hour stay as a compromise because the paediatricians were worried about Ophelia in light of the Group B Strep positive result. This last bit is part of the story too but needs nothing more than a mention.

That moment of pulling her out of the water and onto my chest anchors, eclipses, transcends all.

Birth story - Ophelia is born.jpg
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  1. March 10, 2014 / 8:30 am

    Oooh this gave me goosepimples. I have been waiting to read it, I love birth stories. I also lost all my good intentions of staying calm at the last stage and found I just shouted how I couldn’t do it for the last hour. It sounds like a lovely experience, that relief when they come out makes it all perfect. Ahhh looking forward to seeing you next week xx
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..Siblings {March}

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:32 pm

      Best experience! I love me a good birth story too. It was so good seeing you.

  2. March 10, 2014 / 9:32 am

    as you might understand, i can’t really relate to this, but it was very interesting to read, and after all you got a lovely new bubba and that’s what really matters šŸ™‚
    laura redburn recently posted..what i wore – fitted grey dress

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:33 pm

      You may not relate but it’s seeping into your subconscious, Laura. You’ve got a positive birth story in you now!

  3. March 10, 2014 / 11:06 am

    What a lovely story, and those photographs are so wonderful! I love her name xxx
    Keri-Anne recently posted..Siblings {march}

  4. March 10, 2014 / 11:21 am

    Wow. I am in awe of you!

  5. March 10, 2014 / 11:28 am

    Amazing writing. I felt like I was there with you. I thought of Bliss’ birth. Natural, powerful. I remember roaring like a lion and adamant I wanted no one near me. You’ve done an amazing thing, and managed to share it so we all felt it. Well done lady. Hats off. xx
    Ericka Waller recently posted..Why everyone should have three children

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:34 pm

      Thank you. I think when it’s something this intense, it just flows out of you, doesn’t it?

  6. March 10, 2014 / 2:48 pm

    I been waiting for this. Girl you ALMOST make me want to have another just for the experience of home birth. I pleased it went well for you. Totally get the primal thing. I remember with Angelo when I got into my labour room I whipped off my bits got into position and it was on. Midwives looking at me like ok I guess its on then lol. I look forward to hearing mor about little Ophelia. Luv the name too.

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:35 pm

      Haha! Well, I’ve had my beautiful home birth so…no more babies! šŸ™‚

  7. Karina
    March 10, 2014 / 4:12 pm

    Beautiful writing on a beautiful theme, Adele!

    My late father was born & raised in Trinidad: btw:)


    • March 18, 2014 / 9:36 pm

      Thank you, lovely. Always nice to hear from someone with a Trini connection.

  8. March 10, 2014 / 5:38 pm

    I’m so glad it all went well. It’s really interesting what you said about realising you didn’t want T there, I’ve always though I would want W but when I read that bit I just envisioned him asking a million questions over and over and that would totally ruin the vibe! x
    Fritha recently posted..Our Week in Pictures

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:36 pm

      Yes, it caught me by surprise. We made the right decision sending her off.

  9. March 10, 2014 / 8:34 pm

    I am so glad that you got your home birth because I still remember how disappointed you were that you had to have Talitha in hospital. Like Erika, I felt really sucked in and as if I was sitting there watching you from a chair in the corner. Such beautiful writing and what a magical blog post. It will be lovely for Ophelia to read it when she is older x
    Carolin recently posted..Win a Happy Nappy from Munchkins and Poppets

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:38 pm

      Thank you. I would have been OK about a hospital birth if it came to it but I really don’t think I would’ve been happy with another induction. Anyway, it was such a healing birth and I’m glad to have given one of my girls the birth I really wanted them to have.

  10. March 10, 2014 / 9:02 pm

    I’m so glad that things went ok {even with the hospital stay after!!} She is such a little cutie, as is T šŸ™‚ When I had Baya, Lola opted to go to a friends for the day, but Kiki stayed with me the whole time…. she was amazingly calm and happy throughout, and watched the whole thing šŸ™‚
    Polly Davies recently posted..Feathering the Nest

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:38 pm

      What a great experience for Kiki and how interesting that Lola chose not to be there.

  11. March 10, 2014 / 10:57 pm

    Wow what a beautiful written post and an amazing birthing story – I am so happy that even though it was hard at times the birth went according to your plan and in such a lovely and natural way šŸ™‚

    Laura x
    Laura recently posted..Fairtrade Fortnight – Vegan Banana Bread

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:39 pm

      Thank you. No one ever said birth was easy but it can certainly be beautiful.

  12. March 11, 2014 / 1:15 pm

    Wow, just wow. So beautiful, and perfectly written. I’m going for VBAC in a couple of months after no medical care in Ukraine so really need stories about prayer and peace being bigger than fear! Thank you Adele. xxxxxxxxxx

    • March 11, 2014 / 8:50 pm

      I’ve prayed for you to know that peace, Fritha, and will keep praying. When is your due date? Might be worth reading lots of stories about successful VBACs to help with any fear. There are so many around. xxx

  13. March 11, 2014 / 2:29 pm

    I love a good birth story – this was beautiful to read! My birth with Daisy was so different to the one I had with Ben – he took three days to be born, as I wasn’t dilating properly, and I spent most of the time sobbing. With Daisy it was far more primal, a completely different experience. So pleased for you that she’s here!
    Vicky recently posted..thoughts on style

  14. Devin
    March 11, 2014 / 9:16 pm

    A powerful and immersive account (no pun intended). I can’t wait to see you all and meet little O šŸ™‚

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:40 pm

      Thanks, hon. Really want you to meet her and to see Talitha again. And for all of us to see you, of course!

  15. March 12, 2014 / 1:36 pm

    Ooh having a little sob here! Huge congrats to you all x

  16. March 12, 2014 / 10:03 pm

    I had planned a homebirth with my third but she was breech during labour.Until now I had always been thankful that I delivered safely in hospital, but you’ve made the experience sound as peaceful as I wanted mine to be.Congratulations to you all xxx

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:44 pm

      Thank you. I’m sorry your homebirth plans didn’t work out, Aly. I think it’s great that you delivered in the place where you felt safest, given the circumstances.

  17. Jess
    March 13, 2014 / 4:09 am

    Thank you for sharing such a real, moving and empowering birth story! I have read about people entering the room slowing things down, particularly men. So interesting! (So pleased to hear you only had a 2nd degree tear, hopefully your recovery is a speedy one!) How is your milk supply going?

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:45 pm

      Yes, it was interesting to see how sensitive I was to that! Recovering well, thanks. Milk supply is amazing this time! Baby is piling on the pounds, literally!

  18. March 15, 2014 / 12:10 am

    Wonderful story Adele and even more wonderful result. Birthing certainly does take you to another ‘place’ – I completely understand the suspended reality feeling you described. And the relief when the baby arrives. X

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:46 pm

      It’s an incredible, transcendent experience, isn’t it? I doubt I’ll ever forget that relief either.

  19. March 17, 2014 / 11:04 am

    Congratulations to you all – so pleased to hear of such a wonderful arrival for your beautiful baby girl

    • March 18, 2014 / 9:46 pm

      Thank you, lovely! It’s been great following your journey with your third and feeling like we’re sharing something important together.

  20. April 25, 2016 / 1:21 pm

    I’ve only just read this for the first time now, Adele. It’s so beautiful and it makes me feel so excited to try for a similar experience.

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