My birth centre baby, the birth that healed me.

To say that I was scared about the birth of my second baby was like saying that having a newborn is tiring, in other words, a massive understatement! My first birth had left me traumatised (you can read about it here) and I was desperately worried that the same thing would happen again this time round, but coupled with an intense terror of having the same experience in hospital.

I think that the only reason I even found myself pregnant in the first place was because we moved away from the area that my daughter was born in, if it had been a case of having to go to that same hospital again, I genuinely believe she would have been an only child.

This is all I ever wanted for her, a sibling to love.

First time around, I had wanted a waterbirth. I had read all the books, I knew about picturing waves and breathing the baby out and had read a wonderful book by the fabulous Ina May Gaskin but everything had gone wrong for me from the minute I’d set foot in the car to go to the hospital. I wish I’d done it differently, although maybe, with my daughter having been back to back, the exact same thing would have happened if I’d gone for a home birth and it could all have ended disastrously……although I don’t really believe that!

This time, I was stronger. I knew more about birth, I’d done it for a start! The first time I had believed wholeheartedly that the midwives are the Gods of the maternity ward and that I must listen to them and comply even if my body was telling me different. Not this time! I was prepared to stand my ground.

I was determined to do it my way and take help where needed, but I was in charge! Really I wanted a home birth, but there were a few factors that stood in our way. We were renting at the time and the house wasn’t very big, I didn’t think I’d be able to squeeze a pool in and I also didn’t fancy all the clearing up after! We also had one child already, and I didn’t want her to witness it if it all went wrong. I also didn’t want to be distracted worrying about her and her needs while I was trying to focus on me. The last one was that my husband wasn’t keen. He had been left incredibly shaken up after our daughter’s birth and was very scared that something similar would happen again and I wouldn’t make it to hospital on time and he’d lose us both.

Luckily for us, our local hospital has the Cheltenham Aveta Birth Centre. I’d heard wonderful things about birth centres in general and decided that this was probably a very good middle ground. It would mean we were out of the house, we had medical care on hand and would be transferred faster in the event of a problem as there were ambulances on site. My husband was still unsure though. The ambulance would have to take us to another town, would there be enough time? So we went to look round and a chat.

From the second I walked through those doors, I knew it was where I wanted to have my baby. It was beautiful; light and airy with lots of lovely little touches, rocking chairs, sofas, colour changing lights, kettles and mugs in each room for making tea (that was the clincher! 😉 ) and the midwives were exactly how I’d hoped them to be. Friendly and relaxed, they put us totally at our ease, reassuring my husband, about transfer times, telling us our midwife wouldn’t leave us if we had to go in and turning my absolute fear into something bordering on excitement about the impending arrival. I felt safe there.

When I started getting contractions one afternoon, I didn’t believe it. I’d done it before, knew the signs of labour, and yet I was doubtful. I yet again thought it was trapped wind! My Mum had to make a 3 and a half hour journey to come and look after my daughter and I didn’t want her to speed over for what was essentially air! I also knew that I couldn’t leave it too late as I didn’t want her to have to drive late at night. In the end, my husband told me I was being ridiculous and trapped wind wouldn’t be bothering me the same amount of time apart for several hours and so we phoned her. She arrived at around 10pm, had a cup of tea and went to bed to give us some privacy.

We phoned up the birth centre and they asked us which room I’d liked the look of when I’d been to look round, I was very surprised, they were actually offering me a choice of room, I was in control of things from the very start. Luckily the one I’d liked was free and they told me they would pop my name on the chart and would see me by morning.

That night I laboured quietly, too uncomfortable to lie down and so spending a lot of time sitting backwards on the loo seat with my head on the vanity unit trying to doze. Not very comfortable! Annoyingly, by 5.30am not much had changed. I wanted to be out of the house before my daughter woke and saw me struggling but when I had gone in ‘too early’ the first time I had been made to feel really silly and a nuisance. I phoned up and explained the situation, giving too much info, ‘my daughter will wake up, I don’t want to rush hour traffic to see me walking to you’ etc. As it turned out, I didn’t need to give any reasoning, of course I could come in, they were looking forward to seeing me, my room was ready and they’d been expecting me sooner.

I instantly relaxed and we happily got our things together and walked in. It was only 10 minutes away, but took us longer, what with me having to stop and breathe through contractions every few minutes. Luckily it was a tree lined avenue and they were spaced apart very handily for leaning against! We were also early enough to miss a row of traffic watching me huffing and puffing, a bit relief!

Bump bump bump!

When we arrived, I was made to feel so welcome. There was no admonishment for being early, I was shown to my beautiful room and we all had a nice chat, the midwife introduced herself and explained that she would do my booking in but that she was almost finished on her shift and another midwife would be taking over. She filled in my paperwork and then introduced me to the midwife who would stay with me until the birth, Jean.

The first thing I did was ask Jean if she wanted to check how far along I was, with my hospital experience, I’d been checked many times and told how I was doing. ‘Ooh no, she said, I’ll just listen to the noises you make and go by that.’ I was amazed, and thrilled. This was how it was supposed to be. We all just chatted while I used the rocking chair back to lean on. It felt as if this was the most normal thing in the world, I was giving birth and everyone was cool with it, I wasn’t a patient, I wasn’t ‘performing to targets’, I was a woman, having a baby, like millions upon millions before me.

And the most important thing? My husband was included, wholeheartedly, he was as important a part of the process as I was and they let him know that. Hungry? Get some food, we’ll be here with her. Need a cup of tea? Make one, help yourself. Not sure what to do? Just ask. And so he relaxed, and he laughed, and joked, chatted and rubbed my back. In supporting him, they supported me, putting us both completely at ease.

When I was ready, the pool was filled and I spent several hours in there doing my thing. And Jean sat unobtrusively in the corner, making notes, just being there but not getting involved too much, occasionally topping up the hot water, checking we had everything we needed, fully aware of everything but staying out of it as much as possible. This was about my husband and I, we were the ones having the baby and because I was making all the right noises, she could hang back and just be present should she be needed. At times I even forgot she was there, but her reassuring presence was there for both of us should we call upon it.

Because I felt so relaxed, and so comfortable, I was more able to follow the advice in the books, I wasn’t self conscious. I howled I think, a lot, and there was some banshee yelling at one point! I’m pretty sure it was at this point that I was regretting choosing somewhere that was drug free, (aside from gas and air), although the essential oils did actually prove me wrong and offer some relief.

After a while Jean, who was just listening to me and drawing on her years of experience, realised I had been pushing for longer then I should, she asked my permission to check dilation, told me I could absolutely refuse, but because I trusted her, I was more then happy to allow it, it was on my terms.

She suggested I stand up, and then it went very very quickly, she was topping up the hot water when I told her the baby was coming now, she thought I was exaggerating as he had been up high minutes before but I was insistent so she just about had time to hit the button to call another midwife, got me to get back down in the water and mere seconds later, my boy arrived. He was born ‘en caul’, there had been so little interference in the birth that my waters hadn’t broken. After everyone had had an amazed look at him, (it’s apparently very rare and means he will be lucky, and a sailor!), Jean very gently freed him and placed him straight onto my chest, where he started feeding straight away, something that I’d missed completely first time round. We revelled in the experience for a short while. (Although I have to say, it’s not like the films, birth is messy and a bit gross so I didn’t want to stay in that water for too long!!!) Then there was the placenta. Something I’d also missed first time round, I’m actually quite grateful about that as it turns out, I was slightly freaked out by it if I’m honest! 😀

Out of the pool and after a little repair work (it was all so quick I needed some stitches.) it was skin to skin for as long as I wanted, and I was helped to clean up, made a cuppa and that heaven sent obligatory post baby toast arrived. As there were no visiting hour rules, my Mum could come as soon as I was ready and so brother met sister within hours of him taking his first breath. Not that she was particularly impressed! 🙂

He was born in the morning but because he was struggling to feed, they kept us in that night too, moving us to a different room, helping me to express into a syringe to feed him. Best thing? The whole time my husband could stay with us. He had been booted out into the night the first time. No sleep, shocked by what he had witnessed, leaving a wife recovering from a spinal and a baby he had almost lost to drive the 45 minutes home to be alone with just his thoughts. Even our dog was at my parents’! Not so this time. He went home to shower and change and put our daughter to bed and returned with fish and chips. Possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Barr the toast of course.

This is the birth that healed me. It sounds dramatic but those ladies that cared for me that day, (and after when I got severe mastitis and was too weak to make it home from the out of hours and they looked after us until the antibiotics worked their magic. Turns out he needed a tongue tie snipping, which they also did there.), handed me back my power. They showed me that with the right support, birth can be the most normal, natural thing on the planet. That it can be relaxed, funny, beautiful. The exposed and raw trauma that I had been carrying with me was gone. I felt mighty, and powerful, and that I had nailed this birth thing. I wasn’t a failure as a woman. I didn’t ‘get labour wrong’. And I will be forever grateful to them for that.

All worth it! My baby! Who is now four. Sob! 😀

I have had the absolute pleasure to stay in touch with lots of them and the birth centre will always hold a very special place in my heart. There, labour is a wonderful, exciting, beautiful and utterly normal thing. You know that they see births every single day, but you also know that each and every one is special too. I sound like a total hippy going on about empowering and healing but honestly, there is something wonderful about that place and I can’t recommend a birth centre highly enough. There will be no more babies for me, but if there were, I would choose a birth centre every time and I hope that things keep progressing so that this wonderful normalising attitude spreads and there will no more stories of barbaric births in hospitals like my first.

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36 Comments

  1. April 29, 2017 / 5:55 am

    Oh Lou. This is beautiful, and actually it sounds as though we had a similar experience on both counts. I had to fight consultants to go to the centre as I was classes as high risk following a haemorrhage with my first. I ended up with a “perfect” water birth with my own community midwife (who is incredible!) I absolutely know what you mean. My birthing centre birth healed me too and showed me how a birth can actually be when we’re supported and empowered in the right way. I loved reading your story. Thanks for sharing it. xx

  2. May 3, 2017 / 8:19 am

    It sounds like a perfect experience and much more empowering than your first birth. I honestly think that some hospitals have it all the wrong way around and don’t consider the mother at all. I didn’t have a ‘bad’ hospital birth, but it was definitely not ideal and it was nothing compared to my home birth. 🙂 x

  3. May 4, 2017 / 12:37 pm

    Sounds like you had a beautiful experience second time around x

  4. May 15, 2017 / 8:08 am

    I’m so glad you were able to have a second birth that wasn’t traumatizing! #bigpinklink

  5. May 15, 2017 / 8:18 am

    Firstly, Oh my word back presentation labour – Georgia was too – traumatised doesn’t cover it. I’ve never spoken to anyone who has had the same. We need to chat at some time about it because it still haunts me horrifically. Oh I am just so pleased that your second birth was beautiful – what a wonderful experience. And wowowowowowow just how gorgeous do you look pregnant!! #BigPinkLink

  6. May 15, 2017 / 8:29 am

    Thats so cool that you had a mermaid baby! They are very rare and lucky. Sounds like this birth was done 100% right! I have ignored certain parts of my first birth to get through the second. I can blame the midwives though, freak incidences but petrifying all the same. #BigPinkLink

  7. May 15, 2017 / 8:29 am

    Ahhhh such a lovely post no one that I can relate to. I had a horrific first birth experience having an emergency c section and forceps delivery after an undiagnosed breech baby. I honestly thought I could never go through that again and the memories still scar me BUT I did go on to have another as I knew that I so desperately wanted to have more children. I’m so glad your second birthing experience was a good one. Your post made me sad that so many woman have such varying experiences. #bigpinklink

  8. May 15, 2017 / 8:56 am

    What an interesting post to read, it is a shame that more mothers to be are not aware of all this insight online that is shared by people who have experienced these situations. I’ve heard alot about Birth Trauma and it can effect a person for the rest of their life, I am so pleased that second time round for you it was a completley different story because you had that knowledge and foresight to stick with what you wanted. (and you are going to have a lucky sailor thats awesome! ) Nicky xx #bigpinklink

  9. May 15, 2017 / 9:04 am

    I read your first birth story and I’m so pleased that you had this one to follow. I need to discuss my birth ‘plan’ at my midwife appointment today so it’s all very relateable to me right now! My first was at a different hospital, and although I had a good experience (despite a back to back labour) there are a few things that I do hope go differently this time around. My hospital this time have a birth centre, which I would really like to use. I suspect I won’t be allowed to use the pool though as I have a tendency to get a very fast heart rate, which they administer an IV for. With my first, he turned out to have meconium in the waters anyway, so there were a whole host of reasons why the pool wasn’t an option. But mainly I want the after birth experience to be different. The ward was so busy that we were booted off to the postnatal ward within an hour of me having my son (and that time included the stitches and placenta delivery, so really quick). No time for a first feed, or even a shower! And when we arrived at the ward, it wasn’t ‘visiting time’, which they observed strictly, so my husband was booted out. Even with a straightforward birth, I found the whole experience surreal and terrifying. This time I want to be discharged asap, and if we can use the birth centre, then we should be fine to stay in the room for a little while until we leave. Fingers crossed! #bigpinklink

  10. May 15, 2017 / 9:17 am

    What a lovely post – I too had a bit of a traumatic experience the first time around, but if we do have another I will definitely be aiming for a birth centre like this, I think it would make all the difference! #BigPinkLink

  11. May 15, 2017 / 10:21 am

    Wow that sounds just amazing. I’m so glad you got the birth you wanted. I’d wanted a birth centre water birth, but didn’t get it. Fingers crossed I’ll manage it if I ever have another. You’ve given me hope! #bigpinklink

  12. May 15, 2017 / 11:04 am

    This is a lovely story. Its wonderful that you had such a positive experience. #bigpinklink

  13. May 15, 2017 / 11:06 am

    This is such a lovely story and exactly how it should be! I think it really helps when you feel as relaxed as possible, it sounds like your midwives did an amazing job! #bigpinklink

  14. May 15, 2017 / 11:32 am

    That sounds amazing. My first birth was traumatic too. I still don’t know how I did it again. That birth centre sounds like a gift from the angels though. How lovely, peaceful and caring – everything you need at the time.
    #bigpinklink

  15. May 15, 2017 / 11:47 am

    Glad that your second birth experience – which sounds wonderful – went so well. 🙂 Sorry about the first one not being so good. Blocked mine out it was so pants!

  16. May 15, 2017 / 12:09 pm

    Sounds like you had a great experience! Wish mine had been the same!! Such a cute baby too!! #bigpinklink

  17. May 15, 2017 / 3:28 pm

    So happy you were able to have the birth that you wanted, it also makes such a big difference when your husband is there and can relax as well. It is as much an experience for the fathers as it is for the mother. #bigpinklink

  18. May 15, 2017 / 5:28 pm

    Hi, It sounds like the perfect birth as it can be the second time round #bigpinklink

  19. May 15, 2017 / 6:19 pm

    I has a similar experience with both my first and second. The hospital sounds lovely. Horray for baby number 2! #bigpinklink

  20. May 15, 2017 / 6:53 pm

    It’s so nice that you were able to have a birth for you and your partner and leave happy with the experience. It’s such a vulnerable time and we only hope things go our way. #bigpinklink

  21. May 15, 2017 / 6:53 pm

    Aaah Lou, I’m so glad it went so beautifully the second time!! Our stories are so similar too-my first (back to back) labour was horrendous, and my midwife shocking. My NCT teacher encouraged and helped me through the process of complaining afterwards too. I didn’t actually want a birth centre birth the second time around-he was back to back right up until the last few days, and I wanted to go back to the main hospital for ALL the drugs. Except neither of them had any beds, so I went to the birthing centre by default! But it was amazing. I totally underestimated the pain relief affect of water-the only thing I was sad about was the water made my contractions stop, so I had to get out-but swinging on a rope swingy thing they had there was fun instead!!
    Lovely to be back at #bigpinklink! X

  22. May 15, 2017 / 7:20 pm

    Aw it sounds so lovely! So glad you got a positive one second time round 🙂 #bigpinklink

  23. May 15, 2017 / 8:10 pm

    This sounds so different (and much more pleasant) than you last experience! Giving birth is never fun, but you should be relaxed and feel supported. I hadn’t considered a birthing center for myself, but I know women who have given birth in them and loved it.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  24. May 15, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    I’m so in love with this post! I’m ve unlucky that both of my labours were fairly straightforward and fast, but I can’t even imagine how nerve-wracked you must have been with your second! It really sounds like you had the most beautiful care during tour labour, and what else could a woman ask for! Love it. #bigpinklink

  25. May 15, 2017 / 9:22 pm

    I’m so glad your second birth was so much better than the first. This story actually gave me goose pimples, it was so beautiful and sounded absolutely perfect. Oliver’s birth was the complete opposite of what I wanted, but it was what had to be done at the time. I’m hoping that when I come to a second it will be much more like yours! How exciting that you had a mermaid baby, they are very rare indeed! #bigpinklink

  26. May 15, 2017 / 9:28 pm

    Oh I love this, and although I never did have the birth that healed me (my labours were all quite easy – sorry!!), I did have a baby that healed me, and I think that having something that takes away from a terrible experience or event is always something to be celebrated. By the way, you look AMAZING with a bump!!! #bigpinklink

  27. May 16, 2017 / 12:24 am

    I wont lie- glad the birthing days are behind me now

    #bigpinklink

  28. May 16, 2017 / 9:31 am

    Glad you had such a positive experience second time around. My first birth wasn’t great because I had no urge to push but with 2 and 3 it was fine! #bigpinklink

  29. May 16, 2017 / 11:11 am

    So glad you got to have the birth you craved the second time round and that it all was so positive for you. Whatever experience you have must stay with you forever. Thanks for hosting #BigPinkLink xx

  30. May 16, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    Oh Lou this is so beautiful. I wanted to give birth to Emma at the birth centre but it is over an hour away from the hospital so it worried me…then as it happens Emma refused to turn so there were other plans for me! I’m so pleased for you, it sounds so serene and a wonderful moment to remember. xxx #bigpinklink

  31. May 17, 2017 / 9:21 am

    Sounds like you had a wonderful experience. So great you were in charge of how you wanted to deliver your child and you had all the support you needed. #bigpinklink

  32. May 17, 2017 / 10:32 am

    Do you know what? The wife of a friend of mine recently wrote a long fb post about her horrific birth experience at the hands of an awful maternity unit that has now closed down. It was in Cheltenham and must have been the main hospital. She then had a home birth second time round. I can’t help wondering if your first was the same hospital although you say you moved. I had 3 c sections and never had a contraction so all different for me so I read natural birth descriptions like this almost like I’m watching a movie that I’m not part of if you get me. Your joy at your positive experience second time round pours through this post Lou and it’s clear you’re an utterly doting mummy. Bless honey. #bigpinklink

  33. May 18, 2017 / 1:10 pm

    This sounds like such a wonderful experience. My labour was pretty traumatic and I was terrified when Ryan was sent home. The thought of caring for a child after major surgery petrified me. I’m still unsure about having another baby but reading your post shows me that it is possible to have a nicer birth the 2nd time round. #bigpinklink

  34. May 20, 2017 / 1:35 am

    What a beautiful story with a lovely ending! I am so happy for you and your family. And that picture of the sibs, too cute for words! #bigpinklink

  35. May 21, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    After having a traumatic birth it is so lovely to hear a second time that is so different to a first time. I am so scared or the thought of being pregnant again as I do not want the experience repeated.
    It sounds like you had the perfect labour and I am so glad that you have a positive story to share! #bigpinklink

  36. May 22, 2017 / 12:35 am

    Sounds like a nice place. I picked a birth centre in a different town, rather than my nearest hospital for my first birth also due to bad experiences. I had a bad experience with management of my earlier ectopic pregnancy, and didn’t want to go back to the same wards. #BigPinkLink

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