"Every decision I made was done calmly and thoughtfully - it made me feel very empowered"
This blog post is the journey of bringing Zelah earthside written by her Mummy Nina.... and what a journey it was! Yes, it's a birth story, but actually what I see when I read this blog isn't just a birth story, it's a journey of strength, determination, grit, power, team work, and dedication to a positive birth experience. We all love to read of a labour that was quick, straightforward and goes to plan. However, when plans have to change, when labour throws a curve ball and you need to adapt to go down a different path - those can be the stories that inspire and empower us, just as much (if not more) as the 'my baby just popped out on the kitchen floor' stories.
Nina and Ed's journey is a perfect example of how, even when plans change, you can still be in control and birth can still be positive. It is also an example of how having education and knowledge of the maternity system can have a real benefits to your experience and help you make informed decisions. Nina tells us about her 5 day labour and how she was a true goddess warrior journeying through the ebb and flow of labour and digging deeper than she ever has before to meet her precious baby girl. I was blessed to be Nina and Ed's Doula, and got to witness this strength and team work first hand in the many hours leading up to Zelah's arrival. As always, I am so grateful for the permission to share this with you.
Monday 8th May It was a grey, mizzly bank holiday Monday. My partner Ed and I had some errands to run in Truro, so we got a takeaway lunch from Sabzi and cracked on. I had a few sporadic contractions throughout the day, but thought it was Braxton Hicks, so carried on as normal. My sister Zoe came round for dinner and we had spicy enchiladas. I didn’t plan to eat spicy food the night before I went into labour - little did I know, tonight would be the night! Over dinner, the contractions got a bit closer together - every 30 mins - and I felt slightly nauseous. I didn’t really sleep properly that night as the contractions kept waking me up. I stayed in bed and breathed through them.
Tuesday 9 May By morning when Ed woke up, they were every seven minutes and starting to get stronger. We decided I was probably in labour, so Ed told work and dropped our dog Maggie at our friends, Jo and Shaun. We spent the morning getting ready, pacing around, breathing and counting the contractions. I had planned a home birth, so I wasn’t worried about getting to hospital.
By 11.30am, they were coming every 3.5 minutes, so we rang Terri who arrived as Ed set up the birth pool. My waters hadn’t broken yet and there was no sign of uterine seal. We didn’t ring the midwife just yet as, while they were quite close together, they hadn’t picked up in intensity. As the afternoon went on, my contractions began to stall and came every 7 minutes, then 10 minutes. It was looking less likely that I was in active labour, so we carried on without a midwife, waiting for contractions to get closer together again. I found the pool water was a huge pain reliever and it allowed me some much-needed rest before breathing through the contractions again. I was very uncomfortable, the TENS machine was hugely useful when I was out of the water. Terri was there the whole time, providing massage, words of encouragement when I felt deflated, making marmite sandwiches and passing over jelly babies!
By midnight, there didn’t seem to be much progress. We all took a nap and I resolved to go hard again at 2am, pacing up and down the stairs, squatting, lunging, trying to keep moving. My partner Ed was so supportive, letting me use his arms to brace myself through contractions. We thought maybe the baby was in the wrong position slightly, which is why we weren't seeing the contractions ramp up further. Terri got in touch with her support network and suggested a whole range of biomechanical techniques to get her to reshuffle - including sidelying and a supported inversion position. I found this process exhausting but I was willing to do anything to get my cervix to dilate. Still, the contractions remained far apart.
Wednesday 10 May I didn’t want any vaginal examinations, but by morning, I needed some information. I felt pretty deflated at this point, I was exhausted and in a lot of pain, yet the contractions didn’t seem to be getting any closer together. The midwife came round at about 9.30am. She was positive, she said my cervix was fully effaced and wafer thin, that I was 2cm dilated and she could feel the baby's head. She didn’t think the baby was in a funny position. It buoyed me to hear this. Her advice was: rest, restore your energy, and try again later. It was the reset button I needed to keep going.
Ed and I went to bed, I actually managed to get an hour’s sleep, before contractions ramped up again. I resolved to not get in the pool unless I really needed it, so we oscillated between the yoga ball, climbing the stairs, lunging, and squatting. I even managed to watch most of My Girl and eat a slice or two of pizza. Terri said she would come back if things ramped up, so we pushed on together. Ed was an unbelievable support, holding my forearms through every contraction, running around getting me water, snacks, pressing my lower back, stroking my shoulders and hair. Another day became night - we carried on.
Thursday 11 May By morning, I was exhausted. My waters still hadn’t broken. I wanted to get another VE to check any progress. Ed rang the midwife line, they wouldn’t send someone out again because all the midwives were busy. So we had two choices: go to the hospital to get checked or attend the routine midwife appointment in Newquay that I already had booked in. We chose the latter.
Terri suggested switching it up and getting fresh air to restart everything. So Ed piled me into the car, bumped me down the speed bumps to Porth Beach. We hobbled over to the sand, so I could stand barefoot. We watched the waves roll in and the wind whipped our faces. It was fresh and sunny but not warm. I remember thinking how strange to be here where everyone is going about their day as normal. It was a good reset. I hadn’t seen daylight in two days, skulking behind the shades inside like a vampire, trying to stimulate oxytocin.
By this point, my back was killing me. It felt like I had strained a muscle in my lower left hip, and I was constantly in pain. I needed the TENs machine on it at all times to feel normal. I felt like I needed some acupuncture to relieve it. We managed to get a last minute appointment with Laura Cullen. She massaged the sore point really well and it provided some relief for a few hours. Contractions were fluctuating but more intense, I couldn’t watch films now!
I wasn’t sure if I could make it back in the car for the 3pm routine midwife appointment, but I did. The midwife checked me again - I was only 3cm dilated. She felt the baby was in a good position, if slightly skewed. She said we had a couple of options: carry on as normal at home, as the baby's heart rate was fine, or go to the birth centre to get them to break my waters to stimulate labour. We chose the latter - I felt like I couldn’t face continuing doing what we were doing for any longer.
We went home, Terri came over to prep us on what might happen in hospital. Even once she’d gone home, she was on the end of the phone, answering all of our questions. We were also warned by my midwife that they probably wouldn’t let us in the birth centre until my waters had broken and they’d had a chance to monitor me. We packed our bags and headed down to the hospital. I felt surprisingly calm. Contractions had slowed to around one every 20 mins now.
At the hospital, as expected, they ushered us straight into the delivery suite. Inside there was a lot of back and forth about whether I could go to the birth centre. I insisted that they break my waters and, if after 30 minutes of monitoring everything was fine, I should be allowed to go to the birth centre. They reluctantly agreed.
Having my waters being broken wasn’t as bad as I hoped. My midwife thought there was meconium in the waters, which would mean no birth centre and continuous monitoring. We had to wait 30 mins to check, so I bounced on the ball, counting the minutes. Sure enough, there was meconium, which meant continuous monitoring in case the baby became distressed (so far, her heartbeat was calm and steady). This was quite a stressful part - we didn’t want a foetal scalp electrode put on her head, but it would allow
me to move around the room and continue labouring, whereas the ECG machine wouldn’t properly stay on my belly and required me to stay still while labouring - which was a definite no for me. But after a tearful discussion, we decided to go ahead with the electrode.
Friday 12 May I laboured for another five hours or so. I tried to sleep at about midnight, but just stared at the ceiling. My back was killing me, I could barely walk - my leg muscles were so tired. I was due to get measured again at 2am. I woke Ed up around 1.15am and said, I think I’m done. If there’s very little progress, I want a caesarean. It was a really emotional conversation. I went into this process wanting a home water birth - but things had changed. I didn’t want to potentially end up with a forceps delivery. My final VE at 2am confirmed what I thought - I was only 4cm dilated after 80 hours of labour. I wanted a caesarean. The hospital staff thought my decision was “rash”, but I assured them it was not, considering how long I’d been in labour. After a lot of back and forth, they agreed to let me have a caesarean. By 5.45am I was in theatre. I felt really positive - I was laughing and smiling as I felt thankful I was finally making some progress and I’d get to meet our baby girl soon. The team in theatre were really supportive and put me at ease. They put on our birth playlist and Ed held my hand.
Zelah was born at 6.04am, weighing 7lb 14oz. She was lifted out of my belly, held up over the screen like Simba, and placed on my chest as the song ‘Reborn’ by Alexis Ffrench was playing. Ed cut the cord. Incredibly, from knife on skin to Zelah being born was just five minutes. Our midwife took some amazing photos of the whole experience.
Overall, my labour was long, but a very positive experience. Thanks to Terri’s hypnobirthing course and guidance, I felt knowledgeable about the birth process and hospital procedures; this helped me make informed decisions every step of the way. It wasn’t the birth I planned for, but I never felt out of control. Every decision I made was done calmly and thoughtfully - it made me feel very empowered. I now believe it’s essential for every woman to know in detail what she might encounter on the maternity wing and Terri’s course provided me with that knowledge. Plus, having Terri there in my early stages of labour was so reassuring - her calm presence made me believe I could do it. Thank you, Terri."
Everybody is different, everyone labours in a different way, there are so many variations of normal, and what's right for one person might not be right for another. The important thing that you focus on your labour and birth, and prepare yourself for your journey - what you would and wouldn't be happy with, what interventions (if any) feel right for you. This is where independent, quality antenatal education comes in! Get in touch if you want to take control of your birth journey - Hypnobirthing can be a real game changer and in all my (nearly 10) years of teaching I've never had anyone regret their investment!