Welcome to the World, Florence Pearl
Here’s my account of welcoming our firstborn into the world. It’s the reason I’m here after all, she changed my world & helped me show myself that I had more power inside of me than I had ever realised before and I can only thank hypnobirthing for that! I felt that strength start to grow during my pregnancy when it became obvious that I was NOT happy to accept impersonal conveyor belt care, or change my birth preferences for anyone else, only for myself or my baby when it felt right. You too can have an empowering first (second or even tenth) birth even if it looks nothing like mine, but for now, grab a cuppa and soak up my story. I hope it can show you that birth doesn't have to be how it's shown on the TV, how your friends have done it, or how you most fear it will be!
At 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant, I was woken at 4.56am to what I just knew was a real surge, after weeks of intense and regular Braxton Hicks which only continued if I was active. I let my partner, Matt, sleep until his work alarm went off around 6am, I’d been having surges roughly every ten minutes whilst lying in bed dozing during that time. He actually hit snooze on his alarm and said he didn’t fancy going in early for overtime and went back to sleep for a little longer. After a while I woke him and said that he wouldn’t be going to work today. “Why? Has the car broken down?” came his sleepy and slightly panicked reply which really made laugh. I reminded him that we were full term with our first baby and he quickly cottoned on.
After a little cuddle in bed we got up, showered and I went downstairs to start baking our baby a birthday cake! I realised whilst it was in the oven that I had no fresh cream for the Victoria Sponge filling, so we walked to the local shops to buy some. As we walked into the shop, I spotted a box of Capri Sun drinks on the shelf, I quite uncharacteristically insisted I needed a box! We grabbed those, some cream and a bit of brunch before walking home again. At this point surges were coming roughly every 8 minutes and I was still able to hold a brief conversation with my mum on the phone without letting on that labour had started.
I felt tired after eating and thought I should rest, so we cuddled on the sofa for a while but it slowed things down for me. At around 10.30am I sprung up and announced that we should take the dog for a walk…3 miles, a phone call to the community midwives and another supermarket stop later, we decided to head home as surges were coming roughly every 4 minutes and although very manageable, they were building in intensity now and I wanted to get into a smaller, cosier space, despite having enjoyed the fresh air and glorious spring sunshine whilst walking.
We got home and called the midwife again who said she would come out to check me. I bounced on my ball using my breathing & visualisation techniques (I think I could be alone here in admitting that I was actually visualising my cervix opening…not that I am familiar with what my cervix looks like mind you!) and listening to Bob Marley. A little while later the midwife arrive and after doing some observations decided that I was in labour, but couldn’t be very far along yet as I was coping so well, just stopping mid-sentence to quietly breathe through each surge. As I had declined a vaginal examination she said she would have to leave and come back in 4hours. I knew I was making good progress, so in order to keep her with me I agreed to a vaginal examination (yes it wasn’t ideal, yes it wasn’t what my birth plan said, and yes I wouldn’t have accepted it if she has been able to stay without it, BUT it was right for me in that moment) she was shocked to find I was 6cms and that she did indeed need to stay with us.
Matt had been filling the pool during this time and I decided I wanted to get in, this was at around 4/5pm. I spent most of the time between then and delivering, knelt leaning over the side continuing to breathe through my surges getting deeper and deeper into my ‘birthing space’. At some point my midwife changed as her shift ended and matt briefed the new one of our plans, she was lovely & respectful and just observed quietly from the side initially. Matt was a quiet calm presence in the room, offering my the glorious, cold Capri Sun’s through their straw – I can’t tell you how incredible they were at the time (so much so that they were top of the list for my birth bag with our second) and gently holding my hand through surges.
I remembered suddenly being completely bowled over by three really intense, back to back surges and I burst into tears saying “I can’t do this!!”. Thankfully I quickly realised that this was just transition – the point where labour moves from the opening, to the down phase. I was so grateful for my hypnobirthing knowledge in that moment as I that this was the point I’d have lost my shit completely, if I hadn’t have known what was going on! I was shaking like a leaf, I felt nauseous and was ready to just have this over with. Instead of staying in the pool feeling overwhelmed, I decided to get out and go upstairs for a wee, a surge at the bottom, a surge at the top and surge before heading back down – it was clear we were heading in the right direction and I got back into the pool declaring ‘let’s get on with this!’ I’d been able to use my knowledge and the breathing techniques to pull myself back to a place of excitement and power which I don’t think I’d have managed if I didn’t know how normal that feeling of overwhelm was at that point of labour!
As my body took over and I started to bear down during surges, our midwife let Matt know there was no second midwife free to attend and that she recommended transferring to hospital. They gently broke this news to me, and I recall simply looking up at her from the pool and calmly stating ‘I’m not going anywhere’ which matt ensured had been listened to. She was amazing and spent quite a while on and off the phone between my surges arranging bank staff so someone could be with us. It was strangely reassuring to hear her so calm and in control of the situation so I didn’t worry at all, in fact I was far happier to deliver with just her present, than to get into an ambulance at that point as I could feel baby descending through my pelvis! At some point a second midwife appeared although I do not remember meeting her until after my baby was born, and now my body was bearing down with a fierce determination. At this point I really questioned my ability to do this… crowning caused me to grunt, growl and even accidentally bite Matt’s hand – I won’t for one moment lie to you and say her birth was pain free at this point. It was raw, powerful and all encompassing, but I was able to position myself well with the sensations and know that they’d soon be over and that I was safe. The affirmation ‘my surges cannot be stronger than me, because they ARE me’ played on repeat in my mind during this stage giving me more strength than I’d ever imagined it could.
My baby came quietly into the water at 8.43pm, eyes wide open, taking us in with the torchlight provided by our midwife. I was told not to touch her head as she came out but couldn’t help putting counter pressure on anyway - I’ve never been a feeling of relief as strong as getting her out! I felt like a warrior princess, the most feminine yet strong I’ve ever felt in the moments after she was born. I was in complete shock to discover she was a girl after 9 months of being sure I was carrying a boy – I think I asked the midwives and Matt to check they were sure three times!
After close to an hour of skin to skin in the pool, a shift change consisting of a total of 4 midwives in my house and no sign of baby being interested in breastfeeding, we decided to use the cord tie and cut her cord so that I could get out as my placenta was not making a speedy appearance. With a little reassurance that it wouldn’t be too messy, I got onto our new sofa which was covered in absorbent pads to deliver the placenta. I ended up half squatting over the pads in the end, and the placenta came with quite a lot of blood. They estimated the loss to be around 800ml and again advised transferring in, as all of our observations were fine, so I decided to stay at home which was definitely right for me.
Going for my first wee after was harder than the actual birth (top tip, sit in a shallow bath of water / go in the shower if you need to!) but finally after weighing our teeny 6lb 3, long legged babe and ticking the ‘first feed’ box, we were left to get into our own bed and watch as Florence Pearl slept peacefully in her Moses basket by my side.
Overall, we got what we had hoped for with just a few small bumps along the way during the pregnancy and birth. Without the power of hypnobirthing and a clear idea of what I did and didn’t want during my labour, I imagine things would have taken a very different and more medicalised route either during pregnancy or the birth itself, so I’m forever grateful for the knowledge I had and the confidence it gave me to make choices I was happy with about our care.
Now, your birth does not need to be at home, or in water, or anything like mine in fact, to be AMAZING. There is no one size fits all ‘perfect birth’, but if you want in on the incredible information and tools which helped me come away from my experience feeling strong, empowered and in awe of myself, to use to create your own Best Birth, you can book me for Group or Private Hypnobirthing classes, or join a small group of wonderful women Sunday evenings for Pregnancy Relaxation. More details can be found on our Classes page.