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The Birth of Bonnie Gray: Ellie & Harry's first baby, birth centre, water birth

Surprise baby girl: Bonnie Gray

Due: 29/11/2021 - Born 03/12/2021 10:57am (40+4)

Weight: 7lbs 11oz

Planned: Waterbirth in standalone MLU

Actual: Waterbirth in standalone MLU

Pain relief: Hypnobirthing breathing, TENS machine, gas and air, birthing pool

Time from first contraction to arrival: Long latent phase of 32 hours. Active labour to delivery 8 hours.

40+2 (1st December)

I started experiencing irregular surges of back pain. My husband, Harry, called and I told him, but said not to get too excited. Fast forward to 8pm and suddenly these surges were more regular and I was breathing through them. I also lost lots of my mucus plug throughout the evening and had an upset stomach. We started timing using a timing app and realised they were coming every 6 minutes. I continued to bounce on my ball sporadically and then lean over a footstool in our lounge to breathe through each surge. This went on until 2:30am on 2nd December when we decided to try and get some rest as the surges weren’t getting any closer together.

40+3 (2nd December)

The next morning we woke (I’d only been woken by about 2 surges the whole night) and the surges picked up again, this time coming every 4 minutes. We drew the blinds, lit candles and prepared our bedroom to be the calm setting we’d planned for labouring at home. I had the TENS machine on which I really liked, and found up breathing to be a great distraction. However, this went on for 12 hours (!!!) by which point I was getting very frustrated because the surges weren’t progressing in terms of frequency or intensity. We called the birthing centre, and the midwife told me going to bed would be the best thing. I was sure she was wrong and was walking the stairs sideways when my husband convinced me resting was probably best.

40+4 (3rd December)

I went to bed at 8:30pm and had no surges at all until 2:30am when I was woken by a rather strong one. It felt different. I woke Harry and said they felt different and we realised they were coming every 2/3 minutes. We ran the bath but after being in it for less than a minute I wanted to get out as I couldn’t get comfortable. I insisted we left home even though the midwife said to give it another hour - I knew the baby was really coming this time!

We got to the birthing centre at 3:30am where the lovely midwife had set up our delivery suite with fairy lights, LED candles and a diffuser. She did my vitals and then offered a VE which I accepted where she told me I was 4cm. She said they tend to hold off running the pool until a woman is 5cm so encouraged me to find a comfortable position using the ball or bed. Quite quickly I realised I couldn’t get comfy as I really wanted to be on my knees but the floor was hard. She ran the pool for me then and wheeled in the gas and air canister. The relief of the water was INSTANT and so nice. We had been playing the positive affirmations but I quickly realised all I wanted was to watch Friends on Netflix (a definite stress reliever for me!) so we put that on my phone.

A few hours of surges in the pools went by when the midwife asked if I’d passed urine at all. I hadn’t - and I couldn’t even when she asked me to. She warned that a full bladder could result in difficulty for the baby in coming down the birth canal, so she asked me to get out of the pool and sit on the toilet. I DID NOT want to do it, but my husband calmly reminded me it was best for the baby so I got out. I then had a massive surge on the loo which was very uncomfortable because I didn’t have the gas and air or the relief of the water. I couldn’t pass urine either so it was then suggested I have an in/out catheter. This involved getting on the bed which I didn’t enjoy, but at least it meant relieving any pressure on my bladder. At the same time she performed another VE and to my delight I was 8-9cm.

I gladly got back in the pool and then there was a change in staffing as it got to 8am. Our new midwife was amazing. She was reassuring but firm which is something I need! At this point my surges started to feel a bit ‘pushy’ towards the end and completely involuntarily I was bearing down. This feeling got stronger and stronger to the point where I was hardly breathing in because the urge to bear down and breathe out (while making some quite animalistic noises!) was so strong. I don’t think I ever consciously thought about birth breathing because my body did it so naturally. I will add here that my waters never broke, and when I put my hand between my legs I could feel the bulging bag of waters coming out which was so surreal! I definitely had a wobble at this point saying I couldn’t do it and that I was too tired to carry on. My husband and midwife reassured me I could do it and that this baby was coming out - which is what I needed to hear.

A few more ‘pushy’ surges and suddenly I felt I couldn’t resist and her head was out. The midwife said on the next surge the body would be born, but I knew I’d already pushed it out! I looked down and saw our baby girl staring right back up at me in the water. The most surreal and amazing experience of my life. Her eyes were wide open and so beautiful. My husband and I pulled her out together before parting her legs and exclaiming ‘It’s a girl!’ We both sobbed and hugged as our baby girl silently took us in and we took her in. The best moment of my life.

My husband cut the cord after delayed cord clamping and I had the injection for the placenta. Bonnie and I had skin to skin while the pool was drained. She then had skin to skin with my husband while I was helped out of the pool and the midwife gently massaged my tummy and pulled the placenta out with the cord. She said it was a little gritty due to being slightly overdue but that was normal. I was checked over and amazed that I had just 2 grazes and didn’t require stitches! Bonnie was taken then to be weighed and checked over before being brought back to me for more skin to skin. Shortly after that she had her first breastfeed and we were discharged just 8 hours after she was born.

I truly believe had I not gone into my birth well informed and educated it could have been a very different experience. Hypnobirthing gave me confidence and information, and was also invaluable to my husband as birth partner. He felt armed with information and knew he could advocate for me at any point with confidence.