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Amy's Birth Story - The Birth of Ivy May

Learn why it's so important to prepare for childbirth during your pregnancy. Holistic midwife Anne Margolis gives tips for preparation and offers her new resources.  Subscribe to Ask the Midwife Newsletter: bit.ly/askthemidwife

Amy used coping techniques including breathing, focus, going within, movement, vocalization, and water to achieve her natural water birth. Her partner knew how to best support her. If you'd like to learn about coping techniques you can use in labor, how your partner can help, and so much more, head over to http://www.homesweethomebirth.com/loveyourbirth and sign up for a comprehensive, holistic childbirth education course!

I was convinced this baby would arrive early, so once I hit 40 weeks, we were starting to get impatient. 9 months of pregnancy seemed liked a lifetime and Paddy and I wanted to meet our baby!

Luckily my body had it all under control and at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015, I woke to what I suspected might have been my first contraction. I had been having a lot of “activity” most nights for the last week, so I desperately tried to not read too much into it or get too excited. It was probably just more of the same, right? I managed to get back to sleep, but was woken again at 5 a.m. by another, stronger contraction.

After that, sleep was not forthcoming. I lay in bed for a while and breathed, visualized and manifested having my baby in my arms. After a while I decided to get up and start my day. We had a few chores to do that morning so Paddy took the dog to the vet and I pottered around the house, tidying up, as I’m wont to do when I need to keep busy. Little contractions greeted me occasionally, but I was able to breathe through them without any trouble. When Paddy got home we took the dog for a brisk walk around the park, hoping to keep things moving inside me.

Violet, our midwife, arrived at noon for our scheduled appointment. She watched me labor through a few contractions – after trying to ignore them all morning, I needed to focus on them now, and keep my breathing under control. Once one would end though, I was able to rejoin the conversation. Despite my frustration at what I’d determined as slow progress, Violet assured me things were moving along beautifully and we would be meeting our baby over the next few days.

Days?! I wasn’t sure I could manage that! Violet left, and the afternoon progressed with me having very irregular contractions of varying intensity. Paddy began to prepare the house for the birth while I relaxed when I could. We decided a hearty meal was in order so off to the supermarket Paddy went to get supplies. He spent the late afternoon cooking while I continued to manage my wildly varying contractions with focus, breath and rocking on my hands and knees.

Night came and things continued much as they had been all day. 5 minutes, 3 minutes, 10 minutes apart, of all different lengths. Violet had said we were to call when they were consistently 5 or less minutes apart and intense. Despite our vigilant timing, this never seemed to happen!

As the darkness continued, things began to increase in intensity but never became regular. I had made a nest on a mattress by the couch from which I would rise to my hands and knees, swaying and vocalizing through each contraction. Paddy had a scarf tied around my waist and would support me, rocking my hips while the waves rushed over me. Once it ended, I would lay back down and rest, as would Paddy. This continued all night.

By 4 a.m., I was disheartened. I had been in early labor for 24 hours and felt like nothing was happening. Around 5 a.m., after my contractions had slowed to 10 minutes apart and we both managed to sleep in between, things began to increase. I continued to sway and vocalize and made a deal with Paddy that we would ring Violet at 6 a.m. On the dot, he picked up the phone. I heard them chatting in the background and was relieved when he reported back that she was just going to get herself in order and would be over in the next hour.

At that point, Paddy updated our student midwife, Molly, and birth photographer, Sharon, of the night’s events. Violet arrived around 7 a.m. We chatted for a while and I enquired about breaking my waters to speed things up. This was decided against. We settled for an internal examination; risky for my mental state as it may have shown no progress. Luckily it showed I was around 4 cm dilated. I was so relieved, as I finally felt I had reassurance that my body was actually making some progress! Contractions picked up after that, in both intensity and frequency, and Violet excused herself to make some phone calls and clear her day.

Things become a little less clear after that. I continued to labor from my nest on the floor. Rising to my knees and vocalizing, low and loud, through each contraction. Paddy was there every time. As things progressed and I had less time between contractions, I would bury my head in his lap during the lull as he sat on the couch. Molly arrived, shortly followed by Sharon, and someone started making hot towels. Oh the relief! While it never took away the pain (of course!), it gave me something else to focus on, along with my vocalizations.

From this point on I was entirely checked out from the goings on in my house. I needed to give my full attention to what has happening inside my body. It took every ounce of my willpower to stay calm and within my body. If I lost vigilance for a second, I began to panic about the intensity of what I felt, and that there was no way I could cope with what was ahead.

They began to fill the birth pool, and I decided I needed to get in the shower. Water felt like it would fix everything at this point. That and Paddy needed to help with the pool but I was hesitant to let him go. As I swayed and vocalized through my contractions in the shower, hot water poured over my body and some relief was found. Paddy came to check on me and I told him in no uncertain terms that I wanted to get in the pool. They were having trouble with the hot water and things were taking longer than expected. He managed to stave me off for a while, but eventually I just got straight out of the shower and into the pool, while they continued to fill it around me.

Things were getting very intense by then. The contractions took over my entire being. They wrapped around my middle, spread down my thighs and enveloped me. Still, I continued to be lucid in my head. At one point, I decided I had had enough. “I can’t do this, I don’t want to be here anymore”. I heard Paddy ask Violet if this was transition, which she confirmed it probably was. I remember thinking in my head, “What do you know, I’ve got so far to go yet!”

Paddy was kneeling by the pool, supporting me from behind. As I rose up to meet each contraction, he spoke to me, telling me how amazing I was, how close we were to meeting our baby, how proud of me he was. My notes claim I dozed between contractions, although I felt like I never had a moments reprieve!

I got so hot in the pool, someone began putting cold cloths on my head and neck, which felt amazing. I sipped water between as often as I could, enjoying the feeling of the cold water slipping down the inside of my hot, hot body. My vocalizations were all that were keeping me afloat now. Paddy would make them with me, reminding me to keep them low when I started to panic and moved to a higher frequency. 

At some point my body began to push involuntarily, which made it impossible to maintain a consistent noise during the contraction. Part of me started to panic as I tried to explain to everyone what I was feeling. Violet said to try to let it build, and again, in my head, I replied how impossible it was to control! Eventually, I was told that if I had an urge to push, I should go with it. It took me a while to figure this out, as I continued to try and vocalize through the contractions.

Eventually I realized I needed to direct that energy inwards, and I began to make some progress. The pressure building between my legs was so intense, and with every push I felt the head move down, stretch me out a little bit, and then disappear back inside. Everyone was so excited as they could see a bubble of membranes, which still hadn’t burst. I tried to look down at the mirror a few times but it was too hard to concentrate, so I just closed my eyes and listened to my body. With every push Violet and Paddy kept saying how close we were to meeting our baby. I did not believe a word of it! Every push and every contraction seemed like a lifetime.

At one point Juliet, the second midwife, arrived, sending our dog into a frenzy. In my head I was yelling at him to be quiet as I was trying to bloody concentrate! This contract, push, retract pattern continued until I managed to muster something inside myself and really go for it. I pushed with more strength than I ever realized I possessed, a few screams (maybe more than a few) and then all of a sudden, out popped the head! Oh my goodness! Everyone was so excited, Paddy was crying behind me and they were talking about how baby had its eyes open and was looking around. Paddy kept saying “The ear, look at the ear.” Apparently that was the first part of our baby he saw.

Violet said one more contraction and you’ll meet your baby, which I most certainly didn’t believe! It seemed like an eternity until the next contraction, and I could still feel the baby kicking and moving inside me. Eventually it came, one more big push and out slithered our baby! Molly deposited baby on my chest and the most incredible sense of joy and relief washed over me. I had done it, it was over, oh my goodness my baby is here! We soaked in this joy for a few minutes and then someone suggested we look between the legs. I had been convinced my entire pregnancy we were having a boy, so imagine my surprise to discover I had in fact, birthed a little girl! A daughter!