Updated: Mar 6
After a 'high risk' pregnancy, I managed to advocate for myself and my baby and avoid the labour ward this time around, instead birthing in the AMU. This is how I did it.
My Birth Plan
At my 20week midwife appointment my midwife asked if I had written my birth plan yet. I hadn't but told her I was hoping for a water birth. I was shocked to learn that my dream of a water birth wasn't to be. In reality my midwife was pretty brutal with the truth and simply said 'Well you can't have that!' when I told her of my water birth dream! I was classed as 'high risk' and did not meet the requirements for birthing in the AMU.
It is safe to say I was devastated - I cried in the appointment - I don't think the midwife realised just how much I had been dreaming of my perfect birth! I couldn't accept this sad reality. Surely it was my birth, and all being well I should have my baby the way I want to! Following that appointment I spent many late sleepless nights googling NHS policies and midwifery guidelines to find a loophole and argue my case. And I found several! I learned about my birth rights, I learned about the birth environment, I read an entire book one sleepless night on writing a birth plan, and I set to work writing the most detailed birth plan I could. I wanted to be taken seriously!
At 28 weeks, following a growth scan and gestational diabetes check, I met my consultant and went ready to fight for my water birth, armed with my new found knowledge. However I was shocked. My consultant listened and took me seriously, and was very understanding. He actually agreed with all I had to say. We came to a compromise:
I was classed as 'high risk' due to my BMI and baby measuring 'big'. My consultant had suggesting inducing me at 39 weeks but I had declined. I was determined my baby should get to 40 weeks. Our compromise was that if I went into labour naturally then I could birth in the AMU and have my water birth. If I was induced I would birth in the labour ward. I was slightly concerned about a big baby so was happy with the induction to avoid a forceps delivery that I had with my first son.
From 37weeks I tried everything to gently nudge baby along. We went for long power walks (or waddles), we had spicy food, I used raspberry leaf tea, ate dates and gave it my best shot. But week 39+6 came along and there was no sign of baby arriving and no twinges. I resigned myself to the induction which was booked for my due date the next day and we decided to make the best of our final night. It was June so we lit the fire pit, put on music and sat outside. We watched the sun set and cuddled until darkness just watching the flames before heading to bed. I remember just feeling so happy and content - cue the Oxytocin!
4am, My due date - 6th June 2022
At 4am on my due date, I rolled over and felt a trickle - my waters had released! It wasn't the gush I was expecting, that I had with my first, but it was definitely my waters. The hypnotic effect of the fire pit and actually switching off properly and relaxing had worked! My body obviously felt it was safe to birth my baby.
I wasn't having any contractions at all so I called triage to find out what I should do, as I was booked in at 2pm for the induction. They suggested continuing at home but coming in at 1:30pm so they could assess me and they would take it from there, I bounced about on my birth ball downstairs to try and get things going, but left my husband sleeping. Contractions had begun but they were so mild I hardly felt them. They were sporadic, occasionally ramping up to every couple of minutes then I would have nothing for 20minutes. I could easily sway through them.
At 1pm I kissed my toddler goodbye and headed for the hospital. I felt quite emotional leaving him and I think my contractions definitely stalled as I don't really remem
ber the car journey at all. Once at the hospital it was found my waters had gone and I was asked what I would like to do. My response was immediate - birth in the AMU. The midwife agreed.
I cried with happiness and went back to bouncing on my ball. They said they would prepare a room and come and get us so we waited... we waited for 6 hours! I wish I had realised it would be a long wait - I might have gone back to sleep. My contractions were still manageable and sporadic. I could have been at home had my waters not already gone. Eventually they came to show us through to our room.
The Labour Ward
We were walked right passed the AMU and into the next room in the labour ward. I stopped in the doorway and said I had requested the AMU. The auxiliary explained that not everyone 'qualified' for this. I challenged this statement and she said she would see what she could do - I had already seen that the birthing suite next door in the AMU was empty as we had walked past.
Two more hours passed whilst we waited, I could tell everyone was really busy as I could hear them running up and down the corridors outside and buzzers going off. It was now 11pm and I had begrudgingly climbed onto the bed in the labour room as I was tired having been up since 4am. That was when a lovely midwife came through, explained she was happy for us to head next door and would I like a aromatherapy massage to get things going? Finally! I sighed a huge sigh of relief.
The AMU, Midnight, 6th June 2022
Eventually at midnight we were shown through to my birthing room and I finally started unpacking my birth bag. It was dark and the midwives had already placed candles around, a projector was on and we connected my phone to the blue-tooth speaker to play relaxing music. I also had the Freya App and my birth comb to help with contractions. They were coming as strong cramps but still very manageable. My husband massaged my back and shoulders with clary sage oil and we got my contractions to 3 in 10 but I still was not in established labour. Every time I watched videos of my toddler on my phone my contractions would increase but it required a lot of mental effort and concentration to stay in the 'oxytocin zone' and when I stopped so did my contractions.
Decision Time - BRAINS
I saw the sun come up and was slightly disappointed - I knew the darkness would be better for my hormones. At 5am it was suggested that they use the drip to augment my labour and get things going as it had been 24hours since my waters broke. This was a huge decision making time for me. I knew accepting it would mean an end to the water birth dream. I also knew it may make my contractions more painful and that I would have to go through to the labour ward and be continually monitored. We had a discussion and I agreed to the drip - I was very tired and I really wanted to get things going and meet my baby. But I asked if I could stay in my birth environment - I did not want transferred back to the labour ward - and I also declined the continuous monitoring. I did not want to be unable to move. The midwives agreed and we got the drip set up.
I didn't notice much increase in my contractions and was still managing to breathe through holding my comb. I relaxed a bit mentally with the drip and finally they were coming regularly and I was in established labour by 6am. I dragged the drip into the toilet and hid there for a bit and it was nice and peaceful before returning to the cube chair I had been using. At 9am the doctor came to see me and chatted about the CTG monitoring again. I again declined and he said they could find me a wireless option. I agreed to this as it meant I could still move about.
At 12pm the midwife asked if she could examine me - I had declined all examinations up to this point but agreed. She told me I was 6cm but she felt that there was still some waters left behind the baby and would I like her to release these? I just wanted to meet my baby so I agreed.
I had been on my back on a couch/bed for the examination and as soon as the remainder of my waters released I felt a huge contraction. I panicked a bit and my husband had to step in to calm me down.
Midday, 7th June 2022, 'I'm Pushing!'
I was saying that the drip had made things too difficult and I needed an epidural. He reminded me I still had my TENS machine to try and hadn't even used the gas and air. So we got the TENS machine set up and he took control of that. After my waters released the contractions were coming thick and fast and now I really held onto my comb and my breathing. I didn't want to move from where I had been examined but my husband got me to turn around and kneel on the floor over the bed. He was monitoring my Freya app and the TENS machine simultaneously and stroking my hair between contractions.
What felt like 5 minutes later my body suddenly started pushing. I cried out to the midwife 'I'm pushing!' I felt like I shouldn't be as I was just 6cm 5 minutes ago - but in fact that had been half an hour ago. She encouraged me to just let my body push and I couldn't control it anyway. I didn't feel present in the room but in a dream, my body was pushing for me. I breathed as best as I could and all of a sudden in one push my baby was born. He flew out in one go 'like a bullet' as my husband described. We had written in our plan that he would catch our baby and let me know the gender. He made it just in time to catch him and passed him too me. I was still a bit spaced out for a minute or two before I felt this little one snuggling beside me.
He couldn't quite reach my chest as the umbilical cord was not long enough and I wanted to wait to cut it, so he lay on my belly where he had once been and I stoked his head and gazed into his face. I find it incredible that in this picture he is still connected to me! After 5 minutes the cord was cut and he was passed up to me. I don't remember birthing my placenta, I was so transfixed by my baby. Whilst I had a couple stitches my husband had skin-to-skin and then I fed him and had my toast.
Rory was born at 12:50pm, weighing 9lbs 11oz, 32hours after my waters had broken.
My husband promptly fell asleep on my bed/couch! Exhausted having been awake for that length of time and saying he had to sleep if he was going to drive us home. So after the best shower ever, and eating all my left over snacks, I sat with my baby in my arms in the birth partner chair buzzing from the high I was feeling. I was still awake when we were discharged at 8pm and only climbed into bed once home and having snuck in and kissed my toddler goodnight.
A Positive Birth? My reflections:
If I have learned anything about birth at Forth Valley, its to expect to be kept waiting - and to sleep while you are waiting! I think in this labour I was driven by excitement and impatience and ironically both probably stalled my labour and slowed it down. In hindsight, I should have simply relaxed more!
You may not think that my experience was that positive - I didn't get my water birth and I ended up on the drip with my waters being broken. Both were on my birth plan as things I absolutely didn't want. So why do I consider this birth so positive? I was listened to! Throughout my labour, my choices were respected. I was fully consulted and my permission sought at each stage. I was able to experience the AMU, the candles and serenity. And although my birth took a more medicalised journey with the drip, I didn't have to leave the AMU, instead they adapted to room for me.
But mainly, Rory was born without assistance, naturally, and only left me with a minor tear - a result considering his size! And I did it! I birthed my baby without pain relief and had the natural experience I had hoped for, and that, it turns out, meant more to me than anything else.