10 Feb 2014

Faelen's birth story.

This is probably the longest post I have ever/will ever write.  It is the story of the day my son was born in our dining room.  

It has made it onto the blog as, whilst pregnant, I devoured every birth story I could find.  I tried to absorb every detail in an attempt to predict and understand what was coming.  So this is my contribution to that giant, emotional and exciting pool of words and experience.  But mostly, I wrote this for me.  I started it a couple days after Faelen was born and have fleshed it out since then.  I haven't wanted to forget a moment of that day.  Hence the length, I couldn't bring myself to cut out one rambly sentence as each rambly sentence relates to a moment that bought me my baby!

So, with that warning, only click to continue if you have a bit of time and patience!

At one day overdue, I had decided that labour was never going to begin and it seemed highly possible that I would in fact be pregnant for the rest of my life.  I had walked to visit a friend and her three week old baby, I briefly held him whilst she nipped out the room and, despite feeling my baby squiggling in my bump, I felt I was still a million miles from ever having my own.  I felt strangely detached from the possibility of having a child.
On the walk home I phoned my closest friend, moaned about the fact I would never have a baby.  I got in, I made supper for James and I.  We cleared the table, we washed up, we chatted and eventually we went to bed.  It was the most mundane and normal of evenings, we never knew it would be the last evening of our lives as just the two of us.
At 4am I woke up with a uterus cramp.  For the couple weeks before I had been experiencing cramps that felt like bad period cramps, assuming it to be more of the same I snuggled back into the duvet and tried to go back to sleep.  These low level cramps continued as I failed to sleep.  At 4:18am a particularly ‘surging’ cramp struck and suddenly it occurred to me, this could be it.  At that point, the butterflies in my tummy kicked in and further sleep was entirely impossible.
I didn’t want to wake up James in case it was a false alarm and I knew he had to be up early for work, so I listened to old radio comedies on YouTube, eagerly timing the spacing between the cramps (still not allowing myself to think of them as contractions).  By 5:30am there was no denying that they were occurring more frequently.  I woke James up just in case and, trying not to grin, told him this could be it (but also, it might not be it, lets not get our hopes up…). 
We pottered downstairs and made a pot of tea.  I sleepily ate peanut butter on toast (just in case).  Anticipation mounted as we timed the contractions  cramps and found that they were still increasing in frequency.  We allowed to consider this as labour, no Braxton Hicks had behaved this way.
I put on the hypnobirth CD and sat on the birth ball, concentrating on my breathing and sneaking sips of tea.  By the time the CD finished it was 8am and we were left with little doubt that we would be meeting our baby by the end of the day.
James set me a bath running whilst he prepared downstairs for the home delivery.  He closed curtains, unpacked the birth pool in the dining room and made me rounds of herbal tea.  He briefly had to run out to buy a lamp (one of the midwives demands for homebirths that we really should have bought earlier), so I lay in the bath and phoned my mum.  I tried not to let her get her hopes up at this point but as I was unable to talk through the contractions any longer, I think I failed on this count.  Eventually we gave up talking and I watched a bit of Ratatouille on my mobile phone in the bathtub.  After 20 minutes the contractions were no longer a background sensation but required my much versed breathing exercises to cope.
I felt panicked being in the bath on my own upstairs so pulled on my nighty and went down to be with James.  The contractions really picked up at this point and between sips of tea I had to brace myself against the wall, the banister, anything within reach.  The next hour was spent on my knees leaning on the birth ball whilst the pool filled, concentrating on my breathing.  Counting my breaths through each contraction was soothing, I knew by the fourth or fifth breath the contraction would be ebbing, so I waited for that breath each time.  James fed me two paracetamol (which felt a little like going into battle with a plastic spoon) but in the following contractions I vomited and lost them.  At this point anxiety hit in and little and, feeling stupidly naïve, I thought to myself this might not be much fun.
By the time the birthpool finally filled, it was 10am and I was having four contractions in ten minutes.  James phoned the community midwife who said she would be there in half an hour.  At this time all my thoughts were focussed on counting breaths, by breath five I could cope.  I pretty much threw myself into the pool when it was full and leant up against the side with my eyes closed.  The pool felt amazing, I could feel the contractions but the rest of the tension in my body had dissipated, I felt much calmer.
With my eyes shut and counting breaths, I lost all sense of time and was very surprised when the midwife and her student turned up.  Their intrusion into my space threw me and my contractions slowed a little.  They observed me in the birthpool for ten minutes during which time I felt incredibly self-conscious.  At the end of the ten minutes they suggested, from my manner, I may be too early in labour for them to stay.  I felt crushed and a bit worried – if this is what too early felt like, I did not want to know what later might feel like.  They wanted to be certain however before they left, so I had to get out of the birthpool and go to the sofa in the living room where they took my blood pressure, pulse and conducted an internal examination.  Whilst lying on the sofa my contractions changed from uncomfortable to painful, I wanted to beg to be allowed to be allowed back into the birthpool!  However, it turned out I was over six centimetres dilated, the midwives pretty much cheered me at this point and told me over and over how well I was doing and how well I was progressing.  I felt empowered by this information and raring to carry on.
Back in the birthpool, time blurred and my contractions were happening thick and fast.  After a time even the water failed to relax me and my contractions no longer lasted just the ten breaths, instead it was the seventh or eighth breath that the contractions started to ease off.  I found I was unable to get comfortable, I tried sitting down, lying further back, sitting up on my knees, nothing worked. 

I informed James that I didn't think I could do this anymore.  I was overwhelmed by the strength of the contractions and could not believe that my body could do this to me.  I felt like needed James to understand how frightened I was by it all.  The midwives were wonderful, they told me that this was likely the transition phase and a brilliant sign that the labour was progressing.  Being told this was wonderful, whilst I still felt panicked, I accepted this was as much a part of the labour as the contractions.  It was a sign that my body was doing what it should be.
When they phoned the lead midwife to head over, I felt thrilled how far I had come.

My biggest concern throughout was that the labour wasn’t progressing, I secretly hoped every contraction would turn out to be the last.  But James was perfect, every time I looked up at him he beamed back at me.  I felt incredibly special that something I was doing was making him this happy (and only a little cross that he was enjoying any of my pain).  I spent hours leaning over the side of the birth pool with my arms wrapped around James, squeezing him through contractions.  He supported me emotionally and physically throughout my labour, at times I even dozed on his shoulder between contractions.

At some point (I had lost all sense of time, hours just melted away) I felt like my body was pushing, like I needed to help it push.  The midwife told me I could push if I felt like it.  I believed this to mean that the baby was not yet on its way otherwise she would be encouraging me to push.  I thought I would try and hold off on pushing, I wanted to conserve my energy, but found that pushing was non-optional, my whole body was partaking in it, with or without my permission!
The midwives were sat three in a row around the birthpool.  They whispered to one another and to James, drinking tea.  My initial self-consciousness was gone and I barely opened my eyes during this time.  Occasionally I was aware of the click and rumble of the kettle, it felt very homely.  I felt like I had been pushing for hours (in reality I was only actively pushing for 17 minutes before I delivered) when the midwife told me to feel for his head.  I could – his head was squashy and covered in hair.  At some point during labour I had forgotten I would be having a baby, knowing how close he was was incredible – I had touched my child for the first time!
Shortly after the urge to push increased; my whole body was pushing with the contractions and it was a struggle to not push myself under the water.  It was a basic and all-consuming sensation as each contraction took over.  I remember no conscious thoughts just the physical sensation.  James and the midwives kept reminding me to breathe which felt strange as breathing was the only action I felt I could control my body to do!
Between contractions there was no time to rest and regain myself, they just kept coming and coming.  The midwives made me move position several times, I don’t remember whether this was to speed up the baby or to give my body a rest, I just remember hating being out of James’ arms and, between contractions, flailing back towards him!  (There is no dignity in child birth).

Towards the end of my labour I had been given gas and air, the click of the tube and sound of my breathing was reassuring and I tried to drag the sound of my breathing out with each breath.  When the midwife took this away, as she believed I would push harder without it, I was slightly convinced I would forget to breathe!
The midwives told me to hold my breath and push, so I did.  Then they told me to push even harder and, somehow, I did!  I felt my baby moving.  I knew I was so close to being done but my strongest memory of this moment being convinced that birthing him was a physical impossibility.  However when the contractions came, impossibly fast, I still pushed.  It took two contractions and his head was out, I could feel his hair floating in the water.  My stomach flipped in excitement and the wait for the next contraction, for once, felt like an age.  But it arrived and, at 2:47pm, our baby was born into the water.

Not one of the three midwives caught him!  I was still leaning into James over the edge of the birthpool when one of the midwives told me to pick up my baby.  I was so thrown by this, I couldn't believe our baby was born.  I didn't know how to turn around without stepping on him, so guided by the elbows I moved and I could see him – at the bottom of the pool was the dark shadow of my baby.  I leant down to pick him up thinking; how do I hold a baby?  Where on earth do I put my hands?!
I lifted him out the water, he was grey purple like a raw prawn, and the midwives unlooped the umbilical cord from his neck which had got tangled as I reached for him.  He didn’t cry immediately and I kept asking the midwives over and over is he okay? is he okay? but I was too shocked to hear the answer.  After an age, the longest few seconds of my life, he cried first weakly then found his lungs.
He radiated heat and felt dense and heavy. He wasn't the fragile, gossamer new born I had been dreaming of, he was a heavy, muscular person, separate from me from the moment he arrived. He possessed endless squirming limbs, I could feel those tiny arms pushing against me and his strong legs, robust as he struggled to pull them back in against his torso. He weighed so much and I simply didn't know how to hold him as my arms were shaking badly. 

The midwives pulled a hat on him and threw a towel over him as he lay on my chest, his feet still submerged in the water. I couldn't do anything but stare! My baby boy, battered, swollen and greasy, screeching from this hot, red mouth in the middle of his grey face.  The midwives left us to have peace for a few minutes. I'm not sure I thought anything, I just sat in the pool in awe, James hugging us both over the side. 

And that was it.
I had a few difficulties birthing the placenta and there was briefly hushed, worried talk between the midwives about the possibility I would go into hospital.  I barely noticed, I could only watch James holding this tiny bundle against his chest.  Eventually though, after strongly massaging my stomach and an injection of syntocinon, it happened.  I waited through stitches and endless questions (mostly about how to spell Faelen's name) then, eventually, the midwives packed up their equipment and left.

That evening I lay on the sofa in my nightie, hugging our son close under layers of blankets.  My parents visited and hugged Faelen so close.  Together, in our poorly lit sitting room, we dressed him for the first time and marveled at his tiny feet.  I felt a pride like no other as everyone congratulated me, touching my arms, hugging my shoulders and showering love on this person we had made.  Then they left and it was just me, James and Faelen on the sofa.  We drank cups of tea and ate terrible pizza, staring at this tiny baby trying to work out what happens next.


  1. oh wow, i don't know if i were brave enough to have water birth. the thought of giving birth scares me sometimes - not that we're planning on having a baby anytime soon.

    thank you for sharing this story, Jai.

  2. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

  3. What a beautifully written account of this life-changing moment.
    Thanks for sharing (even if I did have a tiny cry...as well as a big laugh at the paracetamol bit!)

  4. Awwww This makes me happy-cry! Stop with all the feels!! <3 xxxx

  5. Thank yous all, lovely words :) xx