“My first two daughters had been born in a small cottage hospital in Australia, where my primary care had been from the same midwife. The hospital was so tired that the paint was peeling off the walls, but I could see the sea from the windows. It was a simple but special place to give birth. I had practised hypnobirthing and in both cases, had a very positive birth experience.
We had since moved back to the UK and, pregnant again, I was excited by the prospect of giving birth for a third time. My best friend had opted for a home birth in London during the height of the COVID pandemic. As the NHS were unable to support the service due to a lack of ambulances, she had opted to go private. A hypnobirthing teacher herself, she was convinced a home birth was the start she wanted for her little boy. Her experience was wonderful.
I had also heard from many mums in Onslow Village of their positive experiences with the Surrey Hills home birth team. I was worried about the thought of a very medicalised pregnancy and birth, and continued to hear stories of intervention in UK hospitals. I knew I wanted as simple and as calm a start as possible for my baby. My second baby had been delivered after only 40 minutes in hospital so I was expecting a quick labour, and with COVID still rife it also felt like staying home was the best place to be.
I didn’t know until it happened to me that third babies can be tricky – no one knows why – and this time round my labour was not as simple as it had previously been. At 36 1/2 weeks I started to experience some tightenings. They were more than just Braxton Hicks, instead I was feeling them in my uterus where I feel contractions during labour. I was so excited! I just had to get to 37 weeks and then I could have the baby at home, but I was certain it wouldn’t be long before I met baby number 3.
Four weeks later, 5 days overdue, my third daughter was born. Throughout this whole month I had days or nights of what I now know to be called ‘false labour’. The contractions were sometimes strong (strong enough to wake me up), distracting, and, despite best efforts to keep busy, my sole focus for many hours of those weeks. I would have days of feeling totally normal (and healthy in my pregnancy) and then days or long nights when I was convinced the baby was coming. But the contractions never got stronger or closer together. After around 5 hours or so, they would fade away, and I’d be left wondering if I had imagined it all. It was a mental marathon that lasted for weeks.
During this whole period the home birth team was by my side. In the 6 days leading up to the birth someone from the team ‘popped in’ to see me at least every other day. They encouraged me to rest when I could, to have baths at 3am to ‘knock the false labour on the head’, and to keep the faith. I was starting to worry that something was wrong, that my body had forgotten how to do this, or that the baby was stuck in the wrong position. Even a sweep at 40 weeks hadn’t been enough to get it going.
However, good news was to come, a second sweep at 40+4 showed I was already 3cm dilated and that my cervix was thinning. I went for a swim and then reflexology, willing my body to relax enough for nature to take control and for labour to properly start.
That afternoon the contractions started more regularly. I was excited but had been here too many times before to really believe this could be it. By 10pm once again, they hadn’t built to anything substantial, and with a heavy heart, I fell asleep. Around midnight, I woke up and needed to get out of bed. The contractions had strengthened. Finally they were the waves I had longed for that would take me to the moment I met my baby. It was time to call the midwives.
Kirsty and Claire arrived around 1.30, and everything was building nicely with contractions becoming more intense and only a few minutes apart. That is, until around 3.00am, when everything stopped.
I couldn’t believe it. After everything, I was here again – sitting on the bathroom floor, willing the contractions to come, but they had evaporated.
At this point, I told my husband that maybe I was worried about waking the girls, and that this worry was holding things back. They are small and I didn’t want them to be upset if they saw me in pain, and I was no longer convinced they would stay asleep. So in the dead of night my husband carried them across to our neighbour, and I tried to stay positive.
In an attempt to reset I had a bath, and it worked. Within 15 minutes, we were back in action, and our beautiful baby girl was born at 4.45 in the morning. We called her Beatrix, after her Trixie beginnings.
The birth itself was one of the most special moments of my entire life. For most of it, the midwives left me and my husband to ourselves, where we swayed to relaxing music and candles, as he (and the gas and air!) helped me through my contractions and transition. When it was time to push, I moved to the bed, and the midwives guided me through a controlled and calm delivery. Beatrix weighed 10lb 4oz, but I didn’t have any bruising or tearing. I was astonished.
To rest straight away in our bed, new baby on chest, with a cup of sweet tea was the most blissful experience. After a few hours, the girls came home to meet their baby sister, we all snuggled in our PJs and ate toast in bed. My connection to Beatrix was strong from the start, and she cluster-fed on the first day so that on day 2 my milk came in (previously it had taken 4 – 5 days). I didn’t have the baby blues I had felt before. I was overwhelmed with love, and gratitude and the magic and marvel of birth.
I will never know what led to my false labour. It could well be that because of her size, Beatrix was just trying to get into the perfect positioning. It may have been some worries I had: that the labour would be too fast, that I would disturb my other children, that the experience was unknown from what I had tried and tested with my first two births in Australia. Or maybe it was just nature’s way, of which so much remains unknown.
What I do know is that the experience taught me some vital lessons: that every baby is different, that parenting is about patience, that we must trust and surrender to nature, and, most importantly, that we are so very lucky to finally have a beautiful, healthy baby in our arms. I will always be grateful for the support of Lucy, Kirsty, Claire, Becca and Lucy from the home birth team. And Trixie will be treasured forever. “
A huge thank you to our Surrey Hills Mum who shared her birth story.
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