Meet our Zadie, born 1 1/2 weeks early at 8:01am on 11.01.23. She’s an absolute delight and we already love her beyond all expectations.
We had a very positive birth, which was also very fast – about 3-4h at home/in transit and then 1-2h in hospital. I have no doubt that the birth would have been far, far more challenging had we not done Calmbirth with our formidable facilitator, Karen McClay.
Labour began early in the morning, when I woke at about 2-3am. I was experiencing some mild pain, so initially went and got a hot water bottle. At some point, I woke Jonnie up and asked him to set up my tens machine – which was an absolute godsend. Once that was on, and even prior, my contractions were fairly regular. In all honesty, I think I skipped the first stage of labour – it went from zero to one hundred pretty fast.
But rather than getting in my head about it, I just took things one contraction at a time and focused on my breathing – just as we’d learnt in the Calmbirth course.
I spent this part of the labour mostly in the bathroom, on the toilet, and pacing around. Early on, I threw up (something I only remembered yesterday). The feelings through my body were strong but not intolerable. I found a really helpful movement was to do squats in sync with breath (so going down with the exhale and up with the inhale). I also used a breath called bumblebee breath that comes from yoga; this was amazing and super calming as it gave me a sound to concentrate on and helped elongate the exhales (which then calmed me down). As Karen taught us, the contractions come in waves and I found them very manageable with the tens, breath and movement techniques we learnt. I felt the most intensity in my lower back, so Jonnie would press there through the contractions. He was also busy running around getting the last bits of the hospital bag together, which we both think was good in hindsight as it meant I could just get into the zone and do my thing.
Before too long, Jonnie was timing me at 4/10 and at around this time my waters also broke; an audible pop and then big gush over the bathroom floor. He told the hospital all of this but they seemed a bit doubtful (mainly because it was our first baby) so they told us to come in but to be prepared to be sent home. We got in a taxi and arrived there somewhere in the realms of 6-7am.
Pretty much once my waters broke, I felt an instinctive urge to push. I just went with it and tried to stay in the zone and trust my body and instincts.
When we got to the hospital, we went upstairs and the midwives placed us into a triage room as they wanted to check my waters had actually broken and measure my dilation. It was changeover from the night shift and so it took a while for someone to come.
This whole time I was just breathing and pushing as that’s what I felt like I needed to do. As time went on, I found myself lower to the ground, making low sounds and so on. After doing the course, I knew this was all natural and normal, so trusted those inner instincts.
When the midwives came, they abandoned all talk to dilation and broken waters as they could see our baby’s head! They asked me if I wanted to birth her then and there and said it would take about 20mins. There was no time for baths or water births, even to change position. We never even made it into the birthing suite, and I gave birth to her with my sandals still on, which still cracks me up!
The midwives and Jonnie coached me through the contractions and the pushing. They stayed positive and encouraging, and I just focused on what needed to be done. The pushing was intense and according to Jonnie I had little micro naps in between. I probably found this stage the toughest, but then the motivation was there, being so close to the finish line! Right towards the end, I started to tire and her heart rate began to drop, so the midwives told me I needed to focus and just push, push, push. I’d wait for a contraction and then did so with all my might. After 2-3 contractions, she was here.
I gave birth to Zadie up on the triage bed and was actually in a position where they were going to inspect my cervix. Again, no time! The placenta came soon after she did. I didn’t have any drugs or intervention and I felt no need for them whatsoever. This is what I wanted for the birth, but I also went in very open to doing what I needed to do – I don’t think there’s any need for women to be hard on themselves for getting what they need, in labour or in life. I just felt a great faith in my body and in this very natural, age old process, and once it was all happening that trust only grew. For me, it was mostly mental. I was entirely out of my head and stayed very much in the moment of each contraction and recovered in the rests in between.
At the end of the birth, I had some grazing but no tears, and I lost some blood, but nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, it was a great experience and one I would have no fear to repeat. I would never describe it as painful, and the hormones really do make you feel on top of the world!
Our birth was the talk of the hospital, and I went home the next day as my recovery was very good and the midwives saw no need for me to stick around. Their home visits have been super helpful at answering questions and getting the hang of feeding.
I want everyone to know you have it in you to have a great birth; it will be different to mine and it may take a path you don’t expect, but with the tools learnt at Calmbirth – and a good headspace – I learnt that you can cooperate with your body and remain open to what happens. Partners also have such a huge part to play in providing support, covering practicalities, speaking your wishes and understanding when you need space, encouragement and companionship.
Calmbirth was crucial to me having this experience. I went into the weekend course knowing barely anything, and left with the knowledge and faith that we’d have an empowering birth, whatever shape or form it would take. The course made me realise I had agency in our birth, but could not control its timing, rhythm, or details. This fundamentally changed my mindset as it made me believe birth could be something positive, rather than something that embodied all of the negative stereotypes that permeate our culture and lives.
Calmbirth honestly equipped us with all the tools we needed for our birth, so we give our thanks to Calmbirth and Karen for being such remarkable and inspiring educators.
Wishing you all wonderful births with their own twists and turns as, no matter what, you get the greatest gift at the end of it – your little baby and a whole new world of joys, laughter and learning.
Jen, Jonnie and Zadie