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In Profile: Sophie and John's Birth Story

This is the story of the birth of the son of Dakini Sophie and Daka John in March this year. Sophie shares how he came into the world.
My gestation was 43 weeks and 3 days. I had a strong feeling we were having a girl.
I had taken all of Friday and Saturday to deeply rest and did feel like I wanted to hibernate so perhaps wisely, I was gathering my reserves.
On Saturday evening John and I had been in the pool from about 10 pm, an enjoyable habit we’d got into of an evening and been practising the hypo birth breathing and exercises.
I started to feel a period pain like sensation and figured they were contractions. It wasn’t too intense or painful but did take my attention to breathe through it with the hypno birthing surge breath. Just for curiosity, I timed them on an iPhone app and saw they were about 2.5-3.5 mins apart. We phoned Samsara our doula and she said she could come whenever we wanted, but probably best to wait till they become more intense and 2 mins apart.
At this point, we got out of the pool and arranged the birthing room properly. I was still happily moving about at this point.
John had a bit of a rest from 3am for an hour or so, as I was fine on my own timing contractions in the pool. This gave me reassurance and by now I was sure that labour was really happening and I was pleased it wasn’t  stopping and starting. When they began to increase steadily in intensity, we called Samsara who came about 5am, now Sunday morning; Mothers’ Day!
Contractions were more intense by then and I was needing the pressure from Samsara or John on my sacrum; what relief that brought!
I had just found a comfy position lying on my left on the futon which meant I could rest and deal with each contraction as it came. I was still doing the contraction breathing technique pretty well at this point, although it was feeling more challenging to do so.
John called the hospital to let them know I was in labour, their response was interesting – John was told to wait till my waters broke then call back and the midwife will come!
I got in and out of the pool a few times, going from the futon to the pool then the ball in a few cycles. Leaning over the ball felt very good during contractions, I was able to do circling movements with my hips.
Toni came to video us about 7ish, I was really pleased to see her but couldn’t talk much by that time.
I knew I was getting low in blood sugar but couldn’t face much of the fruit smoothies John made for me which is really rare for me. Drinking coconut water felt really good. I was feeling some tiredness by this time.
Perhaps about 8/9am I was starting to feel I might be hitting transition because my mood sank a little, feelings of “I can’t do this any more” and “this is TOO hard” were surfacing and I knew to recognise them as transition or at least hoped that was what they were.
When I asked Samsara was I in transition, she wisely answered, “I will let you know in a while”
Soon after this, I began to feel like I might want to push. Something felt different, hard to quantify now as my memory fades.
When Samsara did confirm that I had gone through transition, I felt relief, I started to think that if I was in the pushing stage, I was through the most vulnerable part of the labour and my fear of the midwife’s agenda and possible transfer to hospital was now irrelevant because all I had to do was push the baby out! I felt a bit giddy for having got that far with no pain relief or medical care.
We had previously discussed when to call the midwife and John and I preferred to leave it to the last safe opportunity i.e. when I was pushing. I had felt absolutely safe and happy with Samsara all the way along and to be honest, I had a strong desire not to call the midwife until after the birth but I don’t think I had the confidence to actually do that. So we agreed that now was a good time and John called in the other room.
Both John and I had felt the baby’s head by now, while we were in the pool. I didn’t have anyone else examine me vaginally at any point, this was my preference. John had first felt the baby’s head, initially behind the G-spot area, then later right at the entrance of the vagina, membranes still attached.
The contractions were quite strong and overwhelming by now, I don’t think I was able to maintain the hypno birthing breathing, as I kept hearing John kept reminding me to breath as we’d been taught. Perhaps this had been going on for some time, I mentioned to Samsara that I didn’t think this was a ‘Hypno birthing’ birth, she said “Its Sophie’s birth”, also that I seemed quite calm and ‘in another world’.
I had declined routine ultrasound scans during pregnancy after doing research into the safety and accuracy of them, Sarah Buckley’s book “Gentle birth, Gentle Mothering” was where we found most of the studies on them. I also wanted to avoid Doppler use in the labour and for the midwife to use a Pinard (non-ultrasound tool for hearing the babies heartbeat) instead. I was aware that this was a challenge for midwives who are accustomed to Dopplers because they are easier and more versatile to use.
I needed to speak to the supervisor of midwives to arrange this in the weeks before my birth, they said they would send out a more experienced midwife to fulfil this request.
When the midwife arrived, she took time to read my birth plan in the living room and when she came in to the birthing room I was in the pool, pushing gently, going with my body’s desire to push.
The Pinard was difficult to use in pool, I had to lift my bump out while on my back with John’s help which was uncomfortable. I decided to get out hoping that would facilitate easier results. I didn’t get back in after this. A few contractions later the midwife couldn’t get a heartbeat with the Pinard. Baby behind pubic bone so she began to ask consent for use of the Doppler, after a few attempts I did concede as by now I was wanting to hear his heartbeat for reassurance. Although I did have a deep sense that the baby was absolutely fine, the first sound of his heartbeat was magical!
In order to keep monitoring me with the Doppler, the midwife was asked me to lie in side lying which was incredibly uncomfortable. In the following contraction, she then wanted me lying on my back which was excruciating. This was very distracting for me because it took up the whole time between contractions which were the only rest and space I had been getting. It also took up all the head space I had and dominated the entire labour at the time. I felt I had lost control of my labour.
My waters broke spectacularly during a push where I was lying on my side on the futon. I think the water may have hit both the midwife and Samsara! The midwife soon mentioned that there was Meconium in the waters which is a reason for  a hospital transfer, which she recommended. She let me think about it while she left the room and I spoke with Samsara who told me the it isn’t necessarily a problem, the fear is the the baby may inhale some, but the risk was low. I decided to stay at home.
After continuing to monitor with the Doppler the midwife started saying the baby’s heart rate was dipping slightly during each contraction, which was also a reason to transfer to hospital. The midwife was telling me this repeatedly, trying to get my consent,
She did offer me a solution; that I attempt push him out as soon as possible to avoid the transfer. Both her and Samsara were encouraging me to push down really hard into my back passage.  It was feeling exhausting and non-productive. I was getting shaky and could hardly support my weight in all fours by now, this felt like the best position though. The midwife said that I had been pushing for a while now and she would have expected the baby to have arrived by now normally. She indicated that this was another reason to transfer. I really didn’t want to go to hospital, but I didn’t know how long I’d been pushing, possibly about an hour and a half?
Samsara said if I did go in, the journey would likely shift something and he could be born naturally. This was the hope I clung onto as I felt myself concede to the transfer through sheer exhaustion and feeling lost. The thought of going to hospital felt so wrong, but I knew something had to change/ shift and I hoped I could be left to birth him naturally there. So I surrendered and went reluctantly along with the agenda which had stepped in to my labour.
Standing to get ready to leave felt almost comical to me, leaving our dark moist, homely flat that we’d been in for hours, working as a team. I got help putting my trainers on, I had a grey nightie on and put a big jumper over that, the thought I would be cold having not eaten and being exhausted so I put my coat over that too. I told John to just leave anything that wasn’t in the hospital bag, since everything felt irrelevant other than having him come with me now.

Just after birth

Coming down the stairs felt ridiculous and as I stepped into the street, I was very aware of the head between my legs and the pavement looked incredibly hard and cold. I hoped the baby wasn’t going to come out there. I climbed up into the ambulance and got onto the stretcher facing the back so I could kneel. I had one contraction there before we set off and then when the ambulance was moving, my next contraction, I pushed and something felt different. I felt a yielding and suddenly a gush and I knew the baby was coming out. The head was out and I was directed to push more and his body followed. In less than a minute his body came out. I couldn’t see as I was facing the other way. John caught him with the midwife. I was encouraged to turn around to hold the baby and there he was lying on the stretcher! A boy! He was looking around but didn’t cry at all. He seemed calm and alert.
I turned around and sat in the pool of blood and meconium which had come out with him. It really didn’t matter. The midwife passed him up through my clothes because she knew I didn’t want the cord cutting immediately. Wearing so many clothes now seemed a little silly! I really cannot remember much about this intense period now, but I was so full of relief, slight pain in my perineum and overwhelmed with joy at seeing my baby boy and the fact it was over. The Ambulance continued to move and we got to the hospital in about 5 minutes as it was such a short journey.
As soon as I felt the baby coming out, I felt huge relief; no hospital birth, no medical interventions! Phew.
We had to go to check everything was okay, and they like to monitor the baby for 24hrs in case of meconium aspiration.
Welcome to the world!

The baby was inside my clothes, skin to skin with me for the first hour. I was wheeled through the hospital on the stretcher into a private labour room. We met up again with Samsara and Toni who had to drive to the hospital on their own because they couldn’t come in the ambulance. When they did eventually weigh him, he was 3.22 Kilos or 7.1lbs.
I was so high and happy and excited. The midwife did apologise profusely for getting us to transfer, I think she was feeling guilty but she had to work within protocol so was bound by that. I think she realised he could have been born in the house if we had waited a bit longer and maybe moved me about in the house. Unfortunately that didn’t happen because the whole process had been dominated by hospital protocol.
When the midwife checked for my placenta, she took the blanket down to see my tummy which showed a definite lump near my pubic bone where the placenta had gathered. She asked me to stand and by now I could feel intense pain in my perineum. It came out with one gentle push, slithery and easy.
I was so high after the birth that I was laughing and joking with people. I was so happy that I had done it, he was out and didn’t have to have any medical interventions. This was the way I wanted my birth to be, with a few details slightly different of course.
I had achieved something quite rare, birthing a first baby in the UK with no medical interventions and I am incredibly proud of us. My gestation was 43 weeks and 3 days and I had refused to be induced. I was due to be monitored in hospital the Monday after he was born, but of course that never happened!
Sophie, John and son

John was brilliant the whole time. He really held space for me and made sure everything was in order, not a small undertaking. He put up the birth pool, dealt with all the problems with it and cleared everything up.
So much research, learning, money, time and intention went into this birth and it was all worth it.

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