Welcoming Toula into the world
Updated: Apr 4
42 weeks gestation | Positive Home Birth | Fetal Ejection Reflex | Second Pregnancy | Previous Induction
Throughout my first pregnancy I begin slowly curating my social feeds with pregnancy, birth and postpartum educators and specialists. I know the power of adjusting what you consume and I wanted to make it as positive as possible. I've learned a lot and reflecting on my second pregnancy and Toula's birth I realise that whatever you believe an experience will be like really does impact how it will unfold. If you consume stories of pain and fear, from the media or from other peoples stories and you come to believe that this is how birth is then it is very likely that will be how your birth experience will unfold.
Pregnancy gives us 9 months (or more if you are planning and educating pre conception) to educate ourselves and get ready for what is literally one of the biggest days, if not, THE biggest day of your life. You will never forget your birth experience. How many other days in your life are like that? A wedding, either your own or one of a close loved one might be up there. A special holiday. Graduation. First day of a job. Maybe. The list isn't that big really. Take the wedding - think about the resources - the precious resources of time and money in particular that went into it - a lot right. If you approach your birth with a similar commitment to investment, support, research and education you will be on the path to creating your own experience. That experience can be the most empowering, transformational and life changing moments. It was for me. Let me tell you more about it.
My first pregnancy in 2017/2018 with Calla was for the most part, enjoyable. In hindsight there was a lot of stress involved. Stress that I was able to handle, so at the time didn't really transpire as stress that would affect me, my pregnancy or my baby. I had to move city - London to Glasgow, I was unsure about my employment with that move, I had to set up home with my partner, I was concerned about maternity leave pay, I experienced hyperemesis in the first trimester, ending with getting a hydration drip at a&e, I had excruciating pelvic girdle pain and finally I was encouraged and chose to have a cervical stitch from week 17 - 37. Oh man, it was a lot! But I took it one day at a time and managed without anything escalating and with clearer hindsight I can see that yes that stress carries and ripples through.
Following a birth prep workshop, we hired Jen Muir as our Doula. Knowing that we had someone in our corner, someone who was educated and informed who could help guide us when we needed it and advocate for us felt really good. I felt supported and cared for. I knew that my partner would be a great pillar of support but he has never done this before either, he is going through it too and Jen was there for him too!
From 40-42 weeks I felt the pressure of induction. Even though we had planned a home birth, I felt informed and ready I ended up choosing the indiction at 42+1. I say chose because ultimately it was my choice, we always have the choice even when it might not feel that way. It felt like coercive language, fear filled conversations, pressure to conform and like any other choice was me being irresponsible.
The induction was hard and fast and sadly I was alone in a ward for a lot of it as I laboured overnight. Jen and Greig arrived as I went to the labour suite and supported me in bringing Calla into the world a few hours later.
In the 3 years since Calla was born I began to grow Mellow Mummas, diving deep into educating myself on the physiology of birth, optimal positioning, mindset and how a yoga practice can support an empowering birth experience. My knowledge and awareness has expanded ten fold. I believe that we always do the best that we can with the information and knowledge that we have at the time, then when our awareness expands and we acquire new information, we use that for our next big decision. That is what I have reflected on with Toula's birth. Her birth experience was very different.
When I found out I was pregnant again I knew straight away I wanted to plan for a home birth again and have a doula present again. I spoke to Hollie in December, we chatted on the phone for hours about everything birth and more. I hired her the next day.
I wanted this pregnancy to be different. Physically I committed to it being different when I refused another cervical stitch. I trusted my body to carry Toula to term. I had less external stressors this time - no need to move house and set up home, much less financial stress around maternity pay and physically I committed to therapeutic and mindful movement and bodywork.
With Calla's pregnancy I thought the physical pain and discomfort I had was there to stay, I never saw it as manageable. This time round I treated pain and discomfort quickly with Massage, Osteopathic, Chiropractic and Physio treatments. I also practiced yoga, as well as teaching it. I attended strength and conditioning classes and I prepared my body with optimal positioning practices.
Hollie supported us as a family, visiting us for prenatal appointments which included birth planning, education, coaching, guidance and a little bit of tarot card reading and blending of essential oils! Hollie also brought along a birth pool and kit!
Around week 37 we blew up the birth pool and left it in our mezzanine area out the of the way. I prepped kit boxes for the home birth splitting them up into a baby box, my box and kit box. The midwife kit was dropped off at week 37 too.
I began colostrum harvesting, perineum massage and dropping into the right mindset, finished up work and wrapped up teaching yoga.
Week 38 till 42 feels like a little time warp. It is a time that is like no other. A sacred pause and a time to really listen to your body, your mind and lean on all the resources and support that you learn and gather throughout pregnancy.
Week 40 came around and again the conversation about induction came up. I was a firm no and my midwife was respectful of that. Same at week 41! This time I chose to have monitoring at day care at week 42.
At 42 weeks I really felt the pressure from care providers to take an induction. Even with education and awareness on my side I felt it. I began to doubt myself, my ability to go into labour spontaneously, to produce the necessary hormones, to relax and surrender to the process. I began to think I must not actually produce oxytocin, this baby isn't coming out on their own terms, I cant do this, I am not good enough.....
I want to stress here that even though I knew that 42 weeks is still full term, that due dates are questionable and that babies arrive when they are ready (out with emergency situations of course) I really had this downward spiral of negative thinking. That then caused me to get really stressed and anxious and of course that mindset isn't going to create oxytocin.
Around rolled 42+2 and I was letting go of my desired birth experience and I was ready to go for another option. Was that option induction or caesarian, I didn't know. I was weighing up the options. The indiction with Calla was a rollercoaster, hard and fast, I laboured for the majority of it alone on a ward. I did have a vaginal birth and I know that inductions often lead to a cascade of intervention that can lead to emergency cesarian. Do I then choose a cesarian and request it to be gentle and as baby led as possible with all the things on my birth plan (which did include a caesarian section) of delayed cord clamping, skin to skin, quiet and dimmed light environment, music , etc.
I like to be in control, steering the ship, or at least having a say in where we are going. My memories of induction last time are that I felt out of control! I really didn't want that again.
But I was 42+2 and in a bad place mentally.
So I surrendered to another option, induction or caesarian again I wasn't sure what but in my mind I had decided another way is the way.
And then with that surrender along came the first contractions! Spontaneous labour!
I was so happy!
That was around noon. I had practice contractions previously and I could feel the rhythm of these ones so I knew it was the real thing.
I timed a few to be sure and soon I was around 3 minutes apart.
I laboured easily for around 6 hours, the contractions were gentle and I was relaxed as Greig began to set up the birth pool working through a to do list on the notes app that we shared - a blessing as there was no questions of 'what do I need to do' or 'whats next'
I sat on my birth ball circling my hips, gently bouncing and breathing through them. I focused on a relaxed face, jaw, arms, shoulders and hands knowing that was where the tension was creeping in. In between contractions I used an extended exhale breath to remain relaxed and conserve energy. In through nose and out through mouth. During contractions I let go of the need to lengthen the exhale and just breathes in through nose and had a more forceful exhale through the mouth.
I called Hollie, our Doula and talked through how I was feeling, how the contractions were and when I wanted her to come out. We agreed to let them build and keep in touch and she would come out in a few hours.
I kept the oxytocin flowing by watching some funny shows, having a bath - in the dark with candles on whilst listening to Built to Birth meditations.
At around 8pm I knew things were progressing. I called Hollie to come out and then I called Maternity Assessment where I spoke to a midwife, told them I was on the home birth team and they reached out to the home birth on call midwife, Jill and she called me back. We spoke through how the contractions were feeling and what their timing was. I had a few contractions on the phone to which Jill just said breathe through it and she stayed silent on the phone until I spoke again.
At 9pm Hollie arrived and we sat in the living room together chatting and breathing through contractions, Greig and Hollie begin doing some counter pressure on my hips and sacrum as I sat on the birth ball leaning forward to my dining room table. We were there around an hour before Jill arrived at 10pm. Hollie had sat a printed copy of my birth preferences out on the table and when Jill arrived one of the first things she did was read through them. Jill was calm and quiet - I was already enjoying her energy!
On my preferences I had wrote I didn't want vaginal exams. When Jill arrived I changed my mind, I wanted to know where I was! So on my bed Jill checked me and I was 3-4 cm dilated. I had been contracting for around 10 hours at that point so I was thinking I was further on!
After getting checked I went for a long shower leaning over to let the water hit my low back. I was alone in there but everyone else was just a room away so I knew I could shout for them if needed. At that point it felt good to be alone!
As with my first labour I sat on the toilet for some time. The positioning of hips legs just works! Whilst there after my shower I felt the urge to be sick as soon as a contraction was over I jumped up, turned around and was sick! I knew we were moving fast! Hollie appeared with some beautiful smelling essential oils on some cotton wool to help the nausea. I remember calmly asking her what blend it was it was so nice - breathe from doterra.
I was so tired at this point I wanted to lie down so Hollie and Greig popped a waterproof sheet on my bed and I tried a hands and knees position which I couldn't bear. I lay down on my left side with 2 large pillows under my right leg. That felt good! Hollie stayed with me on the bed and did some counter pressure on my hips and sacrum which I don't know how I would have gotten through the contractions without.
I had music on - a chilled out playlist I had made weeks prior. The room was dark other than one salt lamp. It was perfect!
I could sense that Greig and Jill were in the living room with Jill popping in ever so often to check babies heart rate and mostly responding with 'thats one happy baby' She even turned the doppler noise down so to not disturb me. Her energy was lovely - she quietly appeared at the door, waited to be acknowledged then in between the surge she would put the doppler on!
I wasn't timing contractions now but they were coming fast! We were in this position in the room maybe an hour. I began to feel like the waters were about to release, of course I didn't really know if that was the case or not I was guessing and remembering what that felt like first time. I couldn't resist bearing down now as the contractions got stronger and I was really feeling them in my low back. I thought baby had turned to be back to back and we were going to be here for days. It was pretty painful right on my sacrum but Hollies counter pressure really helped. I was thinking ok lets get in the pool now. I had held off as long as possible but wanted to get in now. I could feel things changing. Even with my knowledge of birthing positions and use of gravity to help baby move I didn't want to keep changing position, I felt good where I was and I stayed as long as I could.
As the contractions built it felt good to be making noise throughout them as I exhaled. One thing that really stuck with me from my birth education and in particular the book Birth Skills by Juju Sundin is focusing on the noise, let the noise be more than the discomfort, let the noise carry and flow. I focused on that and in the earlier stages I also counted through the contractions. Another thing that is amazing about making noise on the exhale is that it prevents you from holding your breath - which causes more tension - which takes you into the tension, pain, fear cycle that we want to avoid. Try it! Its too hard to make noise and hold your breath!!!
My waters released during a contraction on the bed (lucky for that waterproof sheet) and I headed to the en suite bathroom a few steps away to take my wet underwear off. I sat on the toilet for the next contraction knowing more waters would likely come. Hollie left my side for what felt like 3 seconds and in that time I knew something was happening. I stood up from the toilet and felt baby coming. Fast! This all happened in a few seconds but I had so many quick thoughts. 'This is too fast' 'Im going to tear' 'Greig is going to miss this' As I stood her head emerged. I shouted the heads out and everyone came in. To the en suite. The smallest space in the house by far. The shoulders and arms thickly followed and I recall holding her under the arm pits half in half out as Jill, Greig and Hollie appeared. I felt a bit of shock which Jill picked up on encouraging me to relax, seconds later her whole body was out, she was here! Her cord was wrapped around her belly so we had a little puzzle to untangle her and get her onto my chest. I sat back down on the toilet with my baby on my lap in shock! Oh my god that just happened was my first thought and I remember saying 'I never even got in the pool!' I looked down and saw that she was a girl! Another girl!
We could hear the dripping of blood into the toilet and Jill wanted to monitor how much was coming out so we lined the bed with absorbent pads (and it still had the waterproof sheet on too) and I sat down on the side of the bed, holding baby with Greig next to me. I soon needed support to sit upright as I felt a bit of shock set in and began to shake a little.
I was keeping the placenta to have it encapsulated so I needed to get back to a relaxed state and get some oxytocin flowing so I could birth the placenta naturally. I went back to the toilet and Hollie had put the sitz bath on it to collect the placenta. Greig cut the cord and I remember Hollie taking a few pictures, me with baby, covered in blood and who knows what else with the biggest smile on my face! The placenta was soon here. I had yet to get baby to latch so it was a surprise that the placenta came so fast!
Birthing the placenta felt like a big relief! I then moved to the bed and got comfy with baby offering her to feed. She wasn't interested but I wasn't worried. We relaxed and enjoyed our golden hours with the obligatory tea and toast. Jill did do her checks on the baby for a while, she left us to have that time together. Jill and Hollie tidied up their stuff and the leftover of whatever was in the en suite. At one point I saw Hollie cleaning the en suite floor and I was just overwhelmed with gratitude for her! Of course there was a million other things that Hollie did that helped us create the right mindset and environment for this birth. But cleaning the floor just showed me her commitment to holding space for the experience we we're having. She put down the pool which I sadly never used and tidied away all the towels and kit! If you choose to have doula present asking about what they will do after birth is important as not all doulas will clean your en suite floor!
Baby was very sleepy and never latched, again I wasn't worried, we defrosted a syringe of colostrum I had in the freezer and that was her first feed, 1 ml of colostrum! I would highly recommend doing this from week 37. I did it every few days and had around 15 syringes ready to go. Way more than needed, I still have them and plan to give to Toula after her immunisations.
Greig got some lovely skin to skin time as Jill checked me over, I had a little graze which we waited to see if it would stop bleeding on its own. It didn't so she gave me a few stitches. That was a little painful even though there was numbing gel or lotion the graze was at skin level and as Jill told me, the numbing only works on muscle not skin! Ouch! It was middle of the night pitch black and Jill did this from a head torch so we could keep the main lights dim!
Back to bed with Greig and baby for some more skin to skin and before I know it Jill was saying goodbye. I'll add that there would normally be a second midwife but because baby was here so fast there wasn't any signs to say ok time to call the next midwife! We were all caught off guard at how fast she arrived. From 10:30pm at 3-4cm dilated to here at 12:10am! When I heard 3-4cm at 10:30pm I thought I would be labouring a lot lot longer. Jill hardly got her gloves on and got into the room as I birthed Toula!
Hollie stayed a little longer, preparing a care station in the bathroom for me - peri bottle ready to go for my next visit, pads at the ready and generally tidying up. What an angel.
Greig made us mac and cheese we had in the freezer for this very moment - my favourite comfort food. I ate it on the bed, something I never do but had no intention of moving! I sent some texts to close family and friends ad baby slept next to me. I eventually fell asleep too! Greig stayed up, filled with adrenaline.
Overall this was such an incredible experience. If you are thinking about home birth I hope this positive story has helped you imagine what it may be like or given you more confidence to do it. My advice for anyone considering home birth - be informed, read positive stories like this one, watch videos of positive home births and speak to a local doula. They are worth their weight in gold!
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