31 May

Elly’s Birth Story

Elly is a 30 something mum of one who is still very much learning on the job.

I was ready for baby to arrive, I’d attended NCT classes, read as many book as humanly possible, washed & put away all the baby clothes, stocked up on essentials such as nappies, filled the freezer
full of meals, written my birth plan and packed & unpacked my hospital bag umpteen times.

I started my maternity leave 4 weeks before my due date as I was convinced the baby would be 2 weeks early and I wanted to ensure I had some time at home to prepare for its arrival. So it was typical then that my due date came and went with no sign of baby making an appearance anytime soon.

The birth plan:I had originally intended to give birth at the midwife-led unit at Heatherwood Hospital however I changed my mind when I realised that should I require any medical intervention that this would mean a trip in the back of the ambulance to Slough. The thought of a transfer while mid labour was not a risk I was willing to take.

In short my birth plan was to try to give birth with no or minimal pain relief, to remain as mobile as possible, minimal monitoring and to use the birthing pool if possible.

3 days after my due date I had a sweep to try and get things moving, nothing happened that day and nothing seemed to be happening the following day either until about 6pm. I felt a twinge and wasn’t
sure if it was a contraction or not, having never done this before. So I decided to get the weekly food shop out of the way, just in case this was the start of labour. I waddled round the supermarket with hubby with the occasional twinge. The twinges continued throughout the evening and were getting progressively stronger, it was now clear I was in labour. I knew from my NCT classes and all the reading that this stage could go on for hours, so I wanted to try and remain at home for as long as possible. The pain was increasing so I had a bath and then got out the TENS machine I’d hired, this seemed to help at first but then made me feel and be sick. My contractions were coming quicker, so hubby called the hospital, they advised getting in the bath (again) and taking a couple of parcetamol!! We searched for parcetamol and unbelievably had none in the house, back to the supermarket for hubby. I ran the bath while hubby was out but waited until he returned to get in. In hindsight this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. On his return I took the paracetomal and got in the bath. POP! My waters broke, I threw up the paracetomol and the contractions were now coming thick and fast. We were off to the hospital now, as a bath and 2 paracetomol were not going to do it. Trying to get dried and dressed while having contractions is not the easiest thing in the world, I will never forget hubby telling me that I really did need to get dressed and to basically hurry up.

The drive to the hospital was traffic free but eventful, I was sick twice en route, at which point hubby asked if I wanted him to stop the car? The thought ‘on what planet would I want you to stop and make this journey even longer’ crossed my mind but I simply mumbled no. We arrived at the hospital shortly after midnight, abandoned the car while I made my way through A&E to the Maternity Ward.

We were swiftly shown to a room, I was asked to give a sample, while hubby moved the abandoned car. At this stage I was unsure whether I’d be able to provide a sample as my contractions seemed to be coming so fast. As predicted I couldn’t. The midwife then examined me and declared I was fully dilated and the baby was well and truly on its way. No time for that water birth then!

I started to push and things were progressing really well. Things suddenly took a turn, every time I had a contraction and started to push the babies heart rate dropped. The midwife was concerned
and called a doctor in. It turned out that the cord was around the babies neck and every time I pushed the cord tightened. The call was made to try and assist delivery via a vacuum cup. This meant a episiotomy was required. The cup was attached, throughout this whole process I didn’t utter a word. Hubby kept asking if I was ok and all I could do was nod. I concentrated on breathing and trying to stay calm while more and more people were entering the room. I ended up pushing my baby out naturally, despite the cup being attached it wasn’t used. My beautiful son James was born at 01.25am, I had been at the hospital just over an hour. I cannot even begin to describe the overwhelming sense of relief when I heard him cry for the first time and the feeling of him being placed on my chest.

We eventually made it to the maternity ward at about 5.30 am after being stiched up and taking a much needed bath. Hubby had gone home to catch a few hours sleep and I was alone with James for the first time. I could not sleep as all I wanted to do was stare at this beautiful baby we had brought into the world. I still catch myself looking at him and thinking ‘Wow, we did that’.

29 May

Emma’s birth stories

Emma is a mum of two girls and juggles motherhood with running two small businesses with her husband.

The way you give birth to your baby has a profound influence on your experience of being a Mum. It shapes your relationship with your baby, your feelings towards him or her and your ability to physically do the things required to meet the baby’s needs. The events surrounding labour and delivery stay with you. In time the memories fade and are replaced by newer worries and experiences but they are always there in the distant recesses.

I have two beautiful daughters. My eldest, Alys is 4 and my youngest, Nansi is 10 months. I had two very different experiences during their deliveries. My feelings about Alys’s delivery were mainly negative and painful to recall for a long time afterwards. The negativity faded but I didn’t really put it behind me until the birth of Nansi. Nansi’s delivery was entirely positive and a very empowering experience. The only negative aspect was my sadness that this hadn’t been the case first time around. I felt that Alys had been cheated from a calm, positive start to life and that I’d let her down. I wondered if her clingyness and temperament as a baby was in part down to her first experience of the world and I felt angry that she had to endure this.

So, what went ‘wrong’ first time around? My first pregnancy at age 31, was normal. I enjoyed being pregnant and for the most part wasn’t in too much discomfort or pain apart from the usual kinds of moans and groans most pregnant women experience. We’d opted to have the baby in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant an ‘out of area’ hospital slightly nearer our house as opposed to the Midwifery led unit the other side of the county. The nearerst hospital or birthing centre was at least a 25 minute drive away, if not more at rush hour. We had heard a couple of horror stories about women in labour being moved by ambulance from the MLU across Cardiff to the consultant unit in the University of Wales Hospital. Having no access to a consultant was a concern for my husband. We thought we’d be able to get the kind of delivery we wanted at the Royal Glamorgan in any case. As we were ‘out of area’, the hospital midwives were a different team to the community midwives. I saw my named community midwife once and seemed to see a different midwife every time I had an appointment. There was no continuity and no-one spoke to me about a birth plan or what I wanted the birth to be like. It was a good job we had signed up for private antenatal classes! After attending NCT classes, I diligently wrote a birth plan.

I had a stretch and sweep 7 days after my due date and the midwife had said I’d already started effacing so I was expecting things to move along fairly speedily afterwards. The following day I started feeling contractions in the middle of the night and the first stage started. I got up about 6.30am so I could move around and by about 8am I put my TENS machine on. I kept mobile, used the birthing ball and had a hot shower. By about 9.30am the contractions were 5 minutes apart, I’d had a ‘show’ and quite painful, so we phoned the hospital. They told me to take paracetemol and phone again when they were 2-3minutes apart. I packed my bag and walked around a lot and about 40mins to an hour later they were 2-3 minutes apart, so Mark phoned again. As we lived a good 35 min drive away they told us to come in. By the time we got to hospital, things had slowed down a bit but on examination I was 4cm dilated (not classed as established labour). Rather than send us home, we were sent for a walk and to find some lunch.

Needless to say, this brought on contractions again and we went back to the delivery room we’d been assigned. I was 6-7cm by this point so I asked to go in the birthing pool. I was convinced it would help with the pain I was getting in my back. I’m not really sure what happened after I got in the pool but I started feeling horrible. Perhaps the heat did something to my blood pressure but rather than relaxed and soothed as I’d hoped, I suddenly felt out of control and in a lot of pain. I’d been doing so well beforehand with the TENs and using positions and movement. We only had a student midwife in the room with us and I couldn’t seem to get the hang of the gas and air. I said I wanted to go home, retreated into my head and asked for something for the pain. Beforehand I had said (and in my birth plan) that I didn’t want pethidine or an epidural, so looking back, I would have expected the midwife to get in my head at this point and reason with me. Instead, she took me back to the delivery room (there was only one pool in the delivery unit) and spoke to the senior midwife.

Things are really hazy from here. I had pethidine although I think I was quite far along and as it kept being pointed out ‘I wasn’t following the normal pathway’ (I was quicker), goodness knows why I wasn’t discouraged more. Everything slowed down so I was given syntocinon in a drip to speed things back up again. I had to be monitored and somehow ended up lying on a bed on my back despite protestations. I then pushed for 2 hours but just couldn’t get the baby out. The baby’s heart rate dropped and the room seemed to get fuller. Eventually the senior midwife let me kneel on all fours on the bed and give it one last go. Nothing. It was decided that I needed an assisted delivery. The consultant favoured a Ventouse. He gave me a large episiotomy (a third degree cut right through my perenium) and the first attempt failed. On the second attempt, thankfully, Alys Rose was born, weighing a perfect 7lb 8oz. I was exhausted but we had a beautiful little girl. Alys came straight to my chest for cuddles but then spent a long time with a bare chested Mark as they sorted out the mess that was my bottom end. He describes it as harrowing as witnessing a car crash. He was holding his new baby daughter in his arms whilst his wife was bleeding profusely and being stitched, legs in stirrups before his eyes.

Finally I got to breastfeed Alys and after a bit of difficulty, we just about managed it. After not much time to be together and recover, I was moved to a ward. Mark was told to go home and I was along with our baby. I hadn’t even had a shower. I felt pretty lonely. Alys was quite sleepy thanks to the pethidine so feeding was a little tricky. I was really sore and woozy but was basically on my own. There was no-one to watch the baby when I had to go to toilet (at the end of the ward) and I had to wait until Mark came in for visiting the following day before I could clean myself up.

We were discharged after 2 days in hospital and we came home. I couldn’t walk properly for 2 weeks and my stitches didn’t heal properly – I had a little hole that took a while to heal and I got an infection. I found breastfeeding difficult. Alys had a very sore head and would only sleep on Mark or me. We were both traumatised and very, very tired. I blamed myself for losing mental control in the pool and cried a lot. Midwives visited and one in particular was lovely to me. She talked about how different it would have been in the MLU and how they would have let me labour differently.

28 days after Alys’s birth I was discharged by my ‘named’ midwife (only the second time I’d met her). I was deemed physically well enough it seems but at the point she actually walked out of my house to let herself out, I was breastfeeding Alys and was in tears, having just broken down about my experience of her delivery. Unbelievable. I didn’t have diagnosed PND but I really could have done with someone sitting down and talking through things – preferably one of the midwives who attended the birth. Instead, I was left to deal with my ‘grief’ and didn’t properly get over it until just before our second baby was born.

Fast forward three years. Strangely, pregnancy second time around was much more stressful than the first time. I had experienced an early miscarriage the previous year and the experience of giving birth the first time was imprinted on my memory. I also now work for myself, running two businesses with Mark. We can’t just leave work at the door and come home. I also had a very active toddler to care for. Around 20 weeks, I started getting SPD quite badly. Luckily it eased slightly as the baby grew inside me. I still kept active and did antenatal yoga classes and attending a yoga birthing workshop with Mark – highly recommended!

This time around we decided to deliver in the MLU at the University Hospital. Despite it being a 40 minute drive, it seemed to be the best place for us to have the kind of delivery we wanted, with little or no intervention (all being well this time). I saw the same two community midwives at every appointment and talked a lot with them about my experience with Alys and what I wanted this time.

The due date came and went again. I did lots of walking and yoga but still no movement. A stretch and sweep after 7 days wasn’t really possible as my cervix was so high. The midwife also had concerns that the baby seemed small as I’d started measuring small for dates. I got stressed. I didn’t want a consultant led birth and was determined to deliver in the MLU.

The following day, like her sister, the baby decided to come. I started getting pains in the early hours and got up to move around and try and bring things on a bit more. I laboured all day. I went for a walk to the shops with Alys and my Mum who’d come to help out. I did three loads of washing. I tidied up. I even did some work correspondence. All the while, I was standing up, being active. I put the TENS machine on after I’d put Alys to bed at 7pm and starting using the ball again.Things started to speed up and get quite painful so we phoned ahead to the hospital and they told us to come in.

Once again, things slowed down again on the journey and on examination in the hospital at about 9pm, I was gutted to find out I was only 2cm dilated! The midwife had a feeling things might move quickly though and didn’t want to send us home so sent us off round the hospital for a walk. It was dusk and we went outside for fresh air. Within half an hour I couldn’t walk with the pain and we were back again. Mark made a brew and I was kneeling on the floor using the ball as he just popped to the car to get our bag. The room was dark with just a lamp on and all was quiet and calm. My waters went. I called out to Mark as I heard him come back.

‘You need to come, my waters have gone. Get the midwife.’ He ran in.
‘I need the toilet!’ I said. He started to help me off the floor as he midwives came in.
‘No I need to push!’ I changed my mind.
‘OK’ said the senior midwife.
‘What?!’ said Mark.

They got me on the bed and lay me on my side. I started to push and Mark asked if they could fill the birth pool so I could deliver in water.

‘Hmmmn, we’ll try but I don’t think we’ll have time as it takes 20 mins’ they said.
‘What?!’ said Mark.

A few big pushes and about 10-15 minutes later at 10.50pm, along came Nansi May, weighing a teeny 6lb 2oz. She came to me for a little feed, then as I was sewn up (I’d tore along my old scar), Mark cuddled her on his bare chest. Then she came back for a lovely feed.

Shell shocked a the speed of things, we stayed in the delivery suite for a couple of hours talking and cuddling Nansi. The two lovely midwives made us tea and toast (we didn’t have time to drink the first brew Mark had made!) and popped in to check on us. After a while, I had a shower in the ensuite bathroom and we moved to another room. It had a double bed so Mark could stay, a cot for Nansi and an ensuite bathroom. We were too stoked to sleep much but we all had a nice rest together. After more tea and toast that Mark was able to make in the little kitchen and the necessary checks were performed on Nansi, we were discharged just after 9am.

It wasn’t quite the home birth I had thought about but it was a wonderful second experience. The midwives were amazing and despite the worry that Nansi was looking on the small side, they did everything they could to support us in our decision to delivery in the MLU. In the days following we had lots of support from my named midwife and the breastfeeding support counsellor. I couldn’t speak more highly about the post natal care I received. I was up and about and even managed the Mums race at Alys’s sports day 6 days after (I walked it!). Nansi and I have had a few difficulties breastfeeding mostly due to oversupply but she’s doing brilliantly.

Two very different experiences but the same outcome of a beautiful girl each time. I’ve been able to put behind me what happened with Alys and accept that was just what happened. What I did both times was no better or worse than the other. Just different. The important thing was that my children were born safely, and are happy and healthy. I now have two special little girls and what I do everyday as a Mother to them, really makes the most impact.

13 May

Mia’s Birth Story

Mia is a midwife, which did not put her off trying the whole labour thing for herself in the slightest…

I am a midwife – originally from and trained in Britain, but now living and working in Canada – and as such I have been attending women in labour since 2000. I work as a caseload midwife, so look after women from the moment they find out they’re pregnant through to six weeks postnatal, and I’m on call 24/7 for their births. I’ve seen every kind of birther, from the screamer to the joker, and always wondered what I’d be like when it was my turn. As a self-confessed talker, I never expected I’d be rendered speechless!

My pregnancy had been great and despite my age (37) we’d chosen not to have any antenatal testing or ultrasounds – if an indication had arose we would have been happy to change our minds on this, but we both felt confident and happy with our decision. There was something really lovely about the thought that the first time anyone saw our baby would be at the birth. My boyfriend was convinced we were having a boy and was excited to be able to have a small companion to go off-roading with! I was secretly hoping it would be a girl, because I knew that, despite his reservations, in the event he’d go all gooey over her. Well, we’d see.

One week and a day before my due date – which I’d deliberately kept secret from everyone but my boyfriend Isaac and my midwife Megan (who was also my work partner and best friend) – we were sat watching telly on the sofa in the evening. I had been having frequent, painless Braxton Hicks for weeks and noticed that they were feeling a little more crampy than usual. I didn’t mention anything to Isaac, as I didn’t want him to be worried unnecessarily, but went to bed that night half expecting something to happen. That said, as a first-time mum, I was anticipating a long slow build up and planned to try to rest as much as possible. Within an hour or so of going to bed, Isaac snoring in happy ignorance next to me, it became clear that they were actually getting stronger fairly quickly, though still fairly spaced out; I decided to take a trip downstairs to get a drink and see if moving around helped. Almost as soon as I got downstairs I realised that they were speeding up and getting even stronger. I tried to time them but I couldn’t seem to focus on the clock. My head was still telling me that it had to be early on in proceedings, but I downloaded a contraction timing app for my iPhone so I could get an idea of where I was. Within a short period of timing them I was shocked to realise that they were already 2-3 minutes apart and they were taking everything I had to breathe through them.

I had planned to labour by myself for as long as I could before calling Megan but suddenly decided that I needed to call her asap. I made the call and was unable to talk due to a strong contraction – as I breathed heavily into the phone I heard Megan say ‘Oh my God Mia, are you having this baby now?’ I finished the contraction before replying ‘It would certainly seem so!’ That was when Megan told me that she as actually at another birth – another first-time mum, so unlikely to be finished any time soon – and so she told me that she would call Noreen, the back up midwife, to come to me straight away. My head registered the disappointment that my best friend wouldn’t be at my birth, but was hit by another contraction straight away and just had to get my head down and deal with the steam train of a labour that was hitting me. I later found out she had burst into tears at the thought of missing my birth as soon as she had hung up the phone.

Next move was to wake Isaac up; easier said than done. I tried once gently: ‘Isaac, can you wake up please, I’m in labour.’ Nothing. ‘Isaac’ I said a little more sharply. This time I got an opening eye as a response. ‘I’m in labour.’ ‘Seriously?’ ‘Seriously.’ A moment later I realised he’d passed back out. ‘Isaac! I need you to wake up!’ ‘Yes!’ he said, passing back out seconds later. So this time I turned all the lights and managed to say ‘Get up – I need you now’ before another contraction hit. Hearing and seeing me breathing through a contraction seemed to give him the kick up the arse he needed and he leapt out of bed. I shouted a few instructions for him: put the dishes away, get me a drink and start getting the pool ready, and he began doing everything in a state of apparent panic. After a few minutes he ran up to me, in tears, and gave me a big hug, holding on to me as though his life depended on it. I reassured him I was okay – I was after all very familiar with labour, but this was his first time witnessing it first hand, and he was quietly freaking out. He then went back to his tasks, which gave him some focus. I called our former student from our midwifery practice – now finished her training but not yet registered as a midwife here – who is also confusingly called Megan, and asked her to come. I also apparently asked her to call Hailey, our office assistant and birth photographer, though I don’t remember doing so! I carried on breathing through the contractions, each one getting stronger and taking more out of me to manage. It suddenly occurred to me that if I wasn’t at home, wasn’t able to walk around, squat and lean on my kitchen counters when they hit, if I was instead at a hospital being made to lie on a bed, tied to a monitor, I would be asking for an epidural by now. My admiration for any woman who manages a ‘traditional’ hospital birth without pain relief increased in that moment, along with relief at being able to labour and birth in my own home.

By now I was approaching a deeply non-communicative place. I closed my eyes, knelt on the sofa, made low noises and went into myself. People arrived, the pool was being filled, I was largely unaware of what was going on outside my own head. Occasionally I heard phrases or words – it was funny to hear the usual labour conversations between midwives from the ‘other’ perspective. I would estimate around 5-10% of my head remained a midwife, it is impossible to switch that off entirely, but the rest was completely a labouring woman who could do nothing but deal with the rise and fall of the waves of contractions.

At some point, the pool was ready and I threw off my nightgown and settled into the water. It felt great, and I quickly found my head welded into a towel on the side of the pool. I hadn’t opened my eyes for more than a few seconds for some time by then, and continued not to do so until after the baby was born. I was totally unaware of the passage of time. Suddenly I felt a pushy feeling, and heard myself make the grunty noise that any midwife associates with the onset of second stage. Thank goodness for that, I found myself thinking. I let the pushy feeling build and after a little while I decided to do an examination on myself – possibly prompted by Noreen or Megan but my recollection is a little hazy. I felt a tiny bit of cervix at the front (an ‘anterior lip’ of cervix) and tried to push it away, though found it hard from that angle. Megan also tried at my behest, before I yelled at her to stop! The lip went away fairly quickly however and I began pushing in earnest.

Many women over the years have told me that the pushing stage is, in many respects, a relief for them. Women have even told me it feels good – it feels as if the body takes over and you are able to use the contraction, rather than just trying to get through it. Sadly, and to my surprise, this was NOT my experience. Every push felt like my pelvis was splitting open, it hurt, it really really hurt, and it took everything I had to put aside the pain and push anyway. I could hear, though my closed-eye fug, the usual midwives’ expressions of ‘Oh good push, lots of progress that time, good for you’ etc., but because I knew my midwives so well having worked with them, I could tell from their tone every time there really was progress, and when it was just their patter! Isaac was being amazing – he was physically and emotionally supporting me as I squatted, knelt, side lay – constantly changing position to try to bring the head down that little bit more – constantly whispering in my ear, telling me I could do it and allowing me to wrench his thumbs with every push! In between contractions I swore continually: ‘f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck’, trying to build up the courage to push again.

I wanted to say ‘I can’t do this’ so many times, but having heard so many women before me say the same thing, and knowing they could, I tried to bite my tongue. I felt I had to find the strength from somewhere. I had a ‘birth altar’ right next to the pool with gifts, beads, cards and pictures given to me by friends, that I had planned to use as a focus during the labour – since my eyes were to all intents and purposes welded shut, I did not use it. However, in amongst them was a framed picture of my mother, who had died just over two months before. At one point my eyes opened briefly and I saw my mother’s face; I said to myself that if she could do this for me, I could do this for my own child. It gave me that little bit more energy for the task that I needed.

The head came down and began to stretch everything, but my perineum is apparently made of titanium, and just wouldn’t budge out of the way. I found myself saying the immortal words ‘I’m about THIS close to asking you for an episiotomy!’ I heard Megan and Noreen reluctantly discussing it – we are all VERY non-interventionist! – but in the meantime I just tried to find that extra 10% any way I could. Eventually after 3 hours of pushing, and with a bit of encouragement from my team, I got out of the pool, ostensibly to go and sit on the toilet but couldn’t get more than a step or two so lay down next to the pool on my right side and gave it my all. I started yelling with the contractions – not because I was losing control, but just because I wanted to see if it would help. Slowly, slowly the head advanced but not as quickly as I wanted it to, or felt was warranted by my extreme efforts. I suddenly noticed that Isaac was in tears again and realised I was scaring him with my loudly vocalising effort, so in between the contractions I found myself reassured him I was in fact okay, though I really didn’t feel it at the time! Suddenly I heard the front door open and in came the other Megan, my best friend. She had finished up at the other birth and raced across town to be with me. As she knelt down in front of me, my eyes flickered open briefly enough to lock gaze with her, she took my hand, and I felt a rush of relief that she’d made it in time. I redoubled my efforts and gave it all I’d got. Twenty minutes later however I suddenly had a moment of clarity and realised that the only thing holding this birth back was my damn stupid titanium perineum. ‘Give me the f*cking episiotomy!’ I found myself yelling. This time I heard people leaping to it and I heard, but did not feel, a tiny cut being made. It was no more than a tiny knick in the skin – nothing like the whacking great episiotomies I’ve seen doctors do – but it did the trick and the head came out with the next push. The relief was overwhelming. My midwifery head kicked in again at this point and told me that a slow second stage can sometimes pre-empt a shoulder dystocia. I could almost hear this thought ticking through the brains of the three other midwives in the room, so we all held our breaths while waiting for the next contraction, running through what we’d need to do if she appeared stuck. I felt the baby squirming and trying to breathe, with the body still inside me; a very strange sensation. Happily, when the next contraction came, the baby slithered out with no problems and Megan and Megan both passed it up to me for immediate skin-to-skin. I lay there in shock and relief and grabbed on tight to this wriggling screaming thing on my chest, while getting my breath back. Isaac was by now a blubbering mess, as were most of the people in the room! After a few minutes I said to Isaac ‘Right, you have to tell me if we have a boy or a girl’, at which I moved the blanket over us and opened up the baby’s legs without looking. ‘We have a girl!’ he proclaimed, prompting a fresh flood of tears. Gooey already, I thought to myself smugly.

Eventually the cord had stopped pulsating so I cut it – Isaac politely declined – and he gently took our daughter while I knelt up and pushed out the placenta with a lot more ease than the baby; but then as I always say, there are no bones in a placenta! I was helped to the sofa to lie down and heard my daughter smacking her lips – I took her in my arms again and she latched on immediately to my breast, which was the start of an almost professional ability to breastfeed. A while later we headed upstairs, I had a tiny repair for my tiny episiotomy and snuggled up in bed with our gorgeous daughter.

I’ve since been asked if my experience will change the way I care for my women. Absolutely not! I still believe 100% that homebirth is a fabulous and empowering experience for the women that want it, and when the circumstances mean that it’s safe to stay there. I’m not, and never have been, about homebirth at all costs. But I know that the only reason I found my quick and intense 4 hour first stage, and my difficult and exhausting 3 ½ hour second stage, manageable, was because I was in my own home and able to cope with it in a way that my body was telling me I needed to. I know that if I’d been in the hospital (and not been a midwife who was able to assert herself) I’d probably have ended up with an epidural, with a ventouse or forceps birth to boot. Although it was hard and painful, I am over the moon that things worked out the way they did. Even the episiotomy! It is funny to me that a midwife who had done one episiotomy in her whole 12 year career (and that was an African woman who had had a circumcision) would beg for one at her own birth, but I felt like I was totally in control of that decision and I knew the pros and cons; this is always the cornerstone of informed choice and feeling good about your birth experience, rather than what ends up happening per se. Plus one of the first things you learn as a midwife is that you need to be open-minded and respond to individual circumstances! So if a 3 ½ pushing stage was the price I paid for my beautiful daughter, I’m very happy with that. She really is the apple of my eye – and her daddy is still totally gooey over her.