I woke early to light contractions, 12 days after the due date. It was about 5am on Saturday morning and the sky was a beautiful dusky pink. I knew it was time. I had a water birth planned at the Lister Hospital, so I called the hospital to let them know.
I slowly had a shower, drank a smoothie and counted the time between my contractions. Once the contractions were 3 mins apart we took the hospital bag, and baby car seat and jumped in a taxi. I was doing well with my breath, slow and steady I managed it upstairs to the midwife led unit and started to settle into the room. Not long after the midwives came back in and said they had seen on my notes that I had a show the previous day. I had to go downstairs to triage to be monitored. I am 0 negative blood type which was reason for concern.
Time dragged on and my contractions got more intense as we hung around in the triage waiting room. A woman beside me was making the most horrific noises and the iron chairs circling the room didn’t do anything to make me feel more comfortable. I paced and paced until finally we were called in. I was put on my back and had monitors strapped to me. As time went on my contractions got more intense and I wanted to move. I had blood taken and was examined, then it all started to kick off. I began to loose my breath and scrambled to get up to be sick. I heaved and heaved over the tissue covering the triage bed. I just wanted to get back upstairs into a pool where I could relax and move, but once we got up there, there were no more pools left. I was told to sit in a bath for now which was cramped but better than nothing. My contractions became so intense and now my body jolted. With every jolt I lost blood. Finally I was given a pool but by that stage I’d lost all rhythm in my breath and I struggled to keep myself together between each excruciating contraction. A nurse came in and admitted she’d forgotten to dot an i on my name and so had to take the blood samples again. So here I was in the pool, with contractions 1 minute apart, the nurse stabbing me over and over in each arm in an attempt to take blood, but to no avail. The midwife berated me for not drinking enough water. My body pushed with every contraction, blood released at every push. The midwife berated me for pushing. My body was just doing it so I dived deep into struggle, pushing my feet against the side of the pool with every contraction in attempt to resist the push. My mind started to spiral, I began to beat myself up. I should be better than this. I should be able to breathe better. I’m a yoga teacher!
I should be stronger than this. I have held my identity on being strong for longer than I can remember.
My hypno-birthing recording that had been so centring throughout my pregnancy was starting to get on my nerves. “You are birthing your baby with ease, you are birthing your baby with ease...” echoed every time my body bared down on itself. “Turn this f**king thing off” I ordered. The midwife hovered in again, snapping at me to breathe. She pointed at the clock and brought my attention to how much time had gone by. I’d been stuck in this second stage of labour for hours. I started to feel like I couldn’t cope with any more pain. I felt real fear that I might die, which sounds dramatic to say now. They examined me again. I needed to get a move on (my midwife said) otherwise they would take me downstairs for a C-section. I said I couldn’t stop pushing, my body was just doing it. That’s when my midwife casually told me my baby had turned spine to spine. I shot her a look. Why hadn’t she told me at the beginning!? Here I had spent hours feeling like a failure. It was no longer straight forward. My baby’s head was pressing down at the wrong angle. The midwife wanted to give me morphine but I had no intention of doing that so between breaths I consulted with Michele and we asked for a second opinion.
A maturely aged midwife walked towards me. Her hair glowing white, with a gentle presence. At the time she appeared like an angel. She wasn’t yet qualified, an assistant midwife, but she specialised in Spinning Babies. When she put a hand on me I softened, and pressed my face into her soft belly. She was the first midwife who made me feel supported and cared for. By this stage I was out of the pool and on a table lying on my side, convulsing with every contraction, honestly not sure how much more I could take. She gently reminded me to breathe and I did better. Much better. She guided me into laying down twisting type positions that I would do in yoga. It was terribly uncomfortable with the contractions but we moved through a sequence. Immediately after I was still struggling.
My original midwife walked in with an entourage of other midwives and the head midwife. I felt ganged up on. They gave me an ultimatum, the morphine to relax myself or C-Section. I agreed to the morphine but held tightly to the angel like midwife and asked her if she could stay with us. The morphine would take about 20-30 mins to take effect. They injected me, and within minutes something had shifted. They assessed me again and the midwife said she saw my baby’s head. I got up on my hands and knees and pushed. The same CD comprising the music of Latin American women repeated itself for the umpteenth time since we’d turned off the hypno-birthing recording. Michele said at this point he lost me.
My gaze was fixed and my intention was on getting my baby out. It didn’t feel painful to push in relation to what I had been experiencing over the past hours, and within minutes I was on my back with my baby girl in my arms. From the moment I had the morphine, to the moment I birthed my baby, was 20 mins. At 5.50pm, on a Saturday evening in the British summer, I was shaking with adrenaline and incredibly relieved to have my healthy baby in my arms. Anna Elisabetta, 3.47kg. She came out screaming, a sound that brought so much relief for Michele but made me shhh to settle her. The screaming the midwife said is a good sign.
She hadn’t been born in water as planned but she had arrived safely.
The placenta arrived not long after and the midwife did a small amount of stitching before shooting off from her shift just in time. I never got to thank the Angelic midwife.
To this day I am sure it was the spinning exercises she did that shifted things and I felt annoyed they hadn’t left more time after the spinning exercises before enforcing the morphine.
We spent the night in the hospital, and miraculously the next shift brought us the most wonderful midwife who managed to keep us in our own room. I lay on the hospital bed, too wired to sleep, watching as our precious Anna pursed her lips and recovered after a very long day. When the midwives arrived at home the day after we got back they were flabbergasted by my notes. By how long it had taken, and that I hadn’t had an epidural during labour, nor pain relief for the days following. Despite that I beat myself up for a long time. Feeling like I had let myself and everyone else down. I hadn't been strong enough.