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My Positive Birth Story

So... that's my son. Son. That is a word I cannot believe I get the pleasure to use and it's going to take me quite some time to get used to it. It's been a little over 4 weeks since he decided it was his time to come earthside and I now feel ready to share my birth story here. When I was pregnant, I loved reading positive birth stories and watching positive labour videos on YouTube because honestly? I was shit-scared of childbirth. Finding out I was pregnant resulted in me immediately stating I wanted a cesarean no matter what but thankfully through reading and watching positive stories and practicing hypnobirthing, I became comfortable and confident with the idea of labour - in all forms - and had a positive experience myself as a result of this change in my outlook on the procedure.

I feel like I owe it to others to share my labour story not because people have to share (it's a very personal experience and it's fully understandable that some individuals have experiences they don't wish to mention again or divulge on the internet), but simply because I gathered so much knowledge, strength, and inspiration from others who had shared, I'd like to give back in case I can provide the same for anyone else. So, here is my story (trigger warning: discussing labour in detail, blood, and postpartum care)

It actually all started early on Sunday 11th August morning. I woke up at 2:06am with really bad cramps. After lying in bed in discomfort for a little while, I waddled to the bathroom and back and decided that I was having more obvious Braxton Hicks than I had had up to that point. The fact that they had managed to wake me up made me feel a bit concerned but also extremely excited in case it was "the real deal". After managing to go back to sleep, I realised in the morning it had all been a false alarm and felt a bit disappointed. This happened again in the early hours of Monday and Tuesday morning bizarrely, at exactly 2:06am again both mornings. 2:06am Wednesday 14th August I woke again, with cramps that felt incredibly strong compared to the past few nights. I assumed, again, that they were Braxton Hicks or an upset stomach and if I walked to the bathroom for the gazillionth time that night that they would subside. Oh how wrong I was.

Sitting on the toilet, I made the distinctive "mooing" sound that pregnant women make during established labour. Now, I had only just woken up and was still convincing myself that I was just having a rough time i.e. the shits but when I made that noise that I had learned so much about, that noise that is completely involuntary and just seems to come out of its own accord, I shouted to Matt who was still in bed that I thought it was actually happening this time around. He brought my phone to me so I could use my Positive Birth Company Freya app to keep track of my contractions or "surges".

I decided to hop into the shower in case it really was happening - because god forbid I went to the birth centre with greasy bed hair - and the hot water helped me focus and collect my thoughts that felt like they were bouncing around from panic to dread to overwhelming excitement. It took me too long to dry my hair due to the surges and when Matt returned from having a shower himself, I stood up to speak to him and my waters broke. I stood in the middle of our spare bedroom shouting "I'm not wetting myself on purpose I can't make it stop!" as if that made it any better. I decided to perch on the toilet again if nothing else but to save our carpets from devastation and my waters kept coming.

I called the labour line at that point and was told to try to go back to bed and see how I was feeling in 24-48 hours. I was frustrated when I got off the phone because my app had been telling me to go to the birth centre for the last 10 minutes because my contractions were coming thick and fast. I lasted maybe 10-15 minutes longer before asking Matt to call the labour line back again because I didn't want to speak to them unless I really needed to and in that time, I'd started to lose my mucus plug and felt like I'd never be able to leave the toilet ever again.

By around 3am, Matt and I were clambering into a taxi that bumped and rocked us all the way to the birth centre. I had put my headphones in and was still using my Positive Birth Company Freya app to track my surges - not because I needed to anymore, but it was helping me time my breathing and the positive affirmations in-between each surge helped me feel really calm and in control. Matt was amazing and took it upon his shoulders to be my voice for the most part and ran into the birth centre (alongside the taxi driver!) to let them know I was outside but finding it hard to get inside because the surges were so strong. I finally got inside and needed to have an assessment.

The midwives I had during my labour were fantastic. I'm sure they thought I was being dramatic during my assessment because I went from occasionally bending over the desk/chair in the room to breathe through a surge to crawling on the floor to breathe through one. For whatever reason, my body wanted to get as close to the ground as possible and I seemed to gravitate towards being on all fours and facing away from everyone. It turned out that little man had decided to have some of his first poo during this time and thus the midwives wanted to check how dilated I was as if I was under 4cm, they thought it would be better for me to go to the main hospital and labour ward because of little man's - literally - shitty antics.

I struggled to lie on the examination bed long enough for them to examine me but next thing I knew, I had asked how dilated I was and I was 10cm. 10cm! The midwife could see my baby's head! I can't lie, I was elated because a speck of doubt had started to creep into the back of mind that I wasn't going to be able to cope with labour. I started to think that if they feeling got any more severe and I was only 4cm dilated or less, I was going to have an awful time, so hearing "10cm - we really need to get you into the birthing room!" was the *best* thing I could have heard.

The rest of the labour was a bit of a blur to be honest. Because I had had headphones in for the majority of the time, I wasn't really listening to what was being said and Matt was answering most of the midwives' questions. When we got into the birthing room (somewhere between 4:30-5am), I noticed they weren't running the water for the birthing pool and realised that I had overheard a conversation that they had had with Matt correctly; because my waters had gone a green shade meaning they suspected Teddy had pooed, getting in the birthing pool was no longer an option. Due to how quick things were moving, I didn't really mind.

I didn't have time to put on my playlist of calming music I had created, I didn't have time to turn on my battery powered tealight candles, I didn't even have time to take my poorly chosen white t-shirt off. I simply got on all fours on a old-school-style gym mat on the floor whilst Matt was advised to sit on a birthing seat so I could lean on his legs whilst I pushed through the surges. Again, the midwives were amazing and encouraging - leaving me to do my own thing and just encouraging me through positive affirmations which I really appreciated. It helped me keep in the zone I'd managed to get into listening to my positive affirmations via my hypnobirthing app and I decided to continue to have that playing loudly as getting my playlist on was no longer a priority.

Everyone always says it but, it's truly amazing what the human body is capable of and how little of a shit you give during labour about various strangers staring intently into your vagina. Whilst I was hunched over on all fours, I had 3 of them with a torch behind me checking everything was moving along okay and it was still a sort of blur. Every single birth is so very different and there's absolutely no shame in anyone using pain relief during labour, but I was so shocked and surprised that I didn't stop to ask for any at any point. I honestly believe that practicing hypnobirthing and getting into such a positive mindset about labour aided this.

I had a 2nd degree tear as well as some grazing all of which needed stitches afterwards yet even during that, when I was advised to use gas and air, I was on such a euphoric high cuddling my baby that I simply didn't need it. Of course, it wasn't painless and it was certainly uncomfortable, but it was oddly manageable due to the outlook I had on the whole experience.

6:25am on the clock and Teddy was finally here. I've never felt such raw, animalistic instincts and emotion as I did during the last couple of hours of my birth and when he finally arrived. I remember hearing the midwives shouting "well done! Amy pick him up! That's it!" once he'd arrived and I scooped him up off the ground.

Remember what I was saying about my poorly-chosen white t-shirt? Well, something people failed to mention to me about labour was the amount of blood you can lose during the process. I didn't actually lose a lot, but I lost the "standard" amount really quickly as soon as Teddy arrived and therefore I was hurried onto the bed to have skin-to-skin contact with him and also advised to have the injection that can hurry up the second birth (of the placenta) and slow down the bleeding. I was happy to receive this because now I was just truly in a state of euphoria that I was actually holding my baby. My son.

Matt had the pleasure of cutting the cord after Teddy had received all of his blood back. Once it was cut and once I'd received my stitches, it was Matt's turn to have some skin-to-skin contact with our little boy whilst I ate some toast and a grotesque cup of tea but at the time, it tasted delightful.

Although I had a fantastic labour and couldn't have asked for it to have gone better, my aftercare wasn't so great. I had specifically chosen the birth centre as I was a low risk birth and I knew they were keen to help mothers with breastfeeding. It turned out that breastfeeding just wasn't right for us due to Teddy's tongue tie, his difficulties with staying latched, and then the stress of me not producing anything. The latter started happening because I was constantly being manhandled by staff and was getting upset.

The first night staying there, Teddy hardly ate anything and had to be syringed colostrum (first breast milk) because he couldn't feed directly from me. As you can imagine, it wasn't a smooth-sailing night for the two of us and it certainly wasn't helped by staff. If they weren't pushing his face hard onto my breasts when he was hysterically crying and distressed, they were instead nowhere to be seen despite their "concerns" over him not feeding. The next day when Matt returned to the centre, we spent all day waiting for someone to come and help us. We had one midwife who came and asked "has he managed to latch at all?" twice over the course of the day but that was it. No advice, no support.

In that time I had watched one woman come in, have her baby, and be discharged, and another woman who had been transferred from another hospital getting special treatment despite her openly saying that there were no complications with her birth or her or the baby's health afterwards. In such a small centre, I was a priority patient and wasn't being treated as such. It was incredibly frustrating and absolutely heartbreaking that my baby was screaming due to hunger and I simply had nothing to provide for him.

Once it got to around 7pm, I had fully lost my temper and will to stay there. The straw that really broke the camel's back (and my polite British-ness) was when I finally had the chance to speak to a midwife and said I wanted to go home, I was met with the rudest "and how do you expect to feed your baby at home when he's not feeding here?". "Well none of you have fucking helped me since 3am this morning so I guess I'll carry on figuring it out by myself?" is what I should have said. I was too tired and defeated by that point though and just repeatedly said "I'd like to go home" instead, in fear of bursting into tears in front of this clown who was supposed to have some bedside manner. By 8pm we had been discharged and as soon as we got home, I burst into hysterical tears in relief. I instantly felt calm and in control and Teddy had stopped seeming so distressed too.

I'm very proud and pleased to say that one month on, he's thriving, feeding well (albeit not the way we planned), and growing with no issues. He's a healthy, happy, and very active boy and I only wish it wasn't totally bitter to visit the centre one last time to give some of the staff a big middle finger because my little family have flourished all on their own. Despite the poor aftercare, my labour is something that I already look back on fondly and I'm just *so* pleased with how the whole process went. Whether it was luck or just normality, I had a good experience and I know not everyone does. And that's where my little slice of "miracle" lies.

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