My first birth was at 38 weeks, and once more I had reached that stage. I spent the day talking to girlfriends, one had given birth just the night before and two were pregnant. I told them how I felt anxious about going to my local hospital the next day for an ECV (external cephalic version). I had been there the day before for a simple blood test and they had kept me waiting for two long hours. With a fractious two year old to look after it had been a stressful trip and was such a clear reminder of why I had chosen the Independent Midwives for this baby's birth. I knew I didn't have to go through with the procedure but, 'oh, I wish the baby would come tonight and then I would have to go there', I told them. Little did I know.
At 4pm I felt a few twinges and thought I would walk them out with my toddler for an hour, but by 5.30, at home making supper there was definitely mild contractions. I had been to the toilet four times in a row, my body seemed to be purging itself, making space.
By 7pm I was using the breathing techniques for each contraction and Oscar would not go to sleep without a story but I couldn't sit still with him any longer. I called my mum, and asked her to come up from Norwich to look after him, a two hour drive.
By 8pm Elke was sorting out a birthing space. I had bought a birthing pool, but we had discussed that this would not be appropriate for a breech birth. Also it was still in the box and I had no idea how to inflate or fill it, that was to have been my husband's job!
Jacqui arrived shortly after and I was still trying to settle Oscar. In the end she took my roles; Jacqui settled Oscar whilst I got settled down on a beanbag on the birthing mat with Elke. The room was warm, lit with fairy lights and most important for me, quiet.
My overriding memory of my first hospital birth was the noise. People coming into the labour room unannounced, foraging around for equipment, talking over you as if you weren't really there and generally not respecting the space you need to give birth in has to be your own.
Jane Evans arrives, wow what an aura! The team is complete, I feel as if I'm about to start an incredible journey. Finally my mum arrives (9.30) and I can reclaim Jacqui, now we can get down to business. The contractions roll in long and sometimes crashing waves, but with plenty of calmness in between. I breathe through and Elke helps me to blow them away. I try to visualise the position of the baby, how she is preparing herself for entry into this world. Elke softly encourages me and gently rubs my back, it is so soothing. I can feel the power from being in a cosy space where all the women are focussed on the birth and are supporting me and I think of all the women before me who have given birth and I feel like superwoman and I want to roar!
As the contractions build in intensity I know it can't be much longer. My husband arrives home and I am deep in another place, head down and mooing. I think he gets a bit of a shock walking into this space which once was our living room! If we were in another culture I would be in a hut on the edge of the village with all the womenfolk ululating around me! I am feeling very primeval indeed.
Suddenly, or so it seems to me, the most explosive expulsive contraction blasts out of nowhere. Whoosh, the baby bulges out and I fell myself stretching wide open. Not a crowning, but another body part. I can't identify what's coming out. Slip, slithery slide, whoah, something really big is coming, must be the torso. Ahh, now there's just a little bulging pressure inside, I can live with that I think to myself. Then a voice breaks into to my trance. It's Jane. 'Push the head out Hilary' she says firmly. I wake up and respond. Pop, out comes baby. A ripple of electricity around the room, I hear the baby's first gurgling cry and I imagine cheers and applause ringing in my ears, and feel the instant rush of love. My beautiful, big baby girl! What a spectacular entrance.
The calm confidence of everyone in the room, the body allowed to respond to labour in the most natural way, the mother supported by all around her. This is how I dared to dream the birth would be like and this is exactly what happened. What a gift, such a high. I feel privileged to be writing this story today.
Independent Midwives made this story a reality. Thank you Jacqui, Elke and Jane for the journey of a lifetime.