Thursday, 1 October 2009

My 'Not Quite To Plan' Lotus Birth

I planned to give birth at home, using a birth pool for pain relief. I wanted things as natural as possible, but mostly I wanted a birth that I would have happy memories of and I hoped to avoid postnatal depression this time.

My due date was August 4th but it came and went with no sign of anything happening, not that I expected any signs though as I'd had none with Erin until my waters broke. My mother-in-law's birthday on the 6th passed. Then on the 7th August, my mum's birthday, I started getting some pains at about 8.30pm. I thought maybe they were just Braxton Hicks as I'd been taking raspberry leaf tablets for quite a few weeks. From about 9pm though they became regular, every 10 minutes, though still not painful. At about 10.15pm my husband Alan phoned the midwife to let her know what was happening and to say he was filling the pool, just in case it was to suddenly go very quickly like my first birth.

I went upstairs about 11pm and felt two much bigger contractions about a minute apart. At this point I think I panicked it was going to be very quick again and we called the midwife, who said she'd make her way over. I then started to worry I'd called too early, Erin woke up and wouldn't go back to sleep so by the time Michelle (the midwife) arrived my contractions had pretty much stopped.

Alan started topping the pool up (he'd made it too cool) with Erin laughing at him and shouting "come back here little piggy" everytime he bailed some water out. I sat on my birth ball, Michelle dimmed the lights and Alan took Erin back upstairs. The contractions started to return though not regular. Erin eventually went back to sleep at 1am.

Alan helped me with the contractions by pressing on my lower back while I leaned on the side of the pool. Eventually I decided to get in the pool as the contractiosn were getting stronger. My contractions were a mixture of small ones that I hardly felt and huge ones that were hard to cope with. I was being sick and starting to feel I couldn't cope. Michelle offered to do an exam to see how far along I was and I agreed.

It wasn't good news, I was only 1-2cm dilated and Michelle said I was most likely having a back-to-back labour. I was really upset and I think deep down I knew I wouldn't get my homebirth. We discussed the options, but at only 2cm the only pain relief I would have at hospital would be gas & air (I wouldn't have accepted pethidine because of it's effect on Erin). So I decided I was staying put and struggled on. We tried a technique to try and help baby turn but it didn't make any difference.

Eventually I got out of the pool. I was exausted, couldn't keep anything down, not even tiny sips of water. I lay on the couch with towels under me and over me. I was being sick with contractions, which were sporadic. I tried to sleep but didn;t really manage it. About 3 hours after my last exam, Michelle offered to do another as I was saying I couldn't cope any more. I was only just 3cm. I decided then to transfer in to hospital. Alan called some friends of ours and asked if there was any chance they could look after Erin, luckily they said yes! About an hour or so later they picked her up and then I got dressed between contractions to go to hospital. Alan drove me and Michelle followed in her car. In the car I cried, I hadn't wanted to go to hospital, I hadn't wanted an epidural, I was scared and I just saw all my plans going out the window. When we walked through the doors to delivery suite at 9am, I felt tears rolling down my face again. Luckily the midwife that had been assigned to me was lovely. She did a vaginal exam too and I was still only 3cm. They didn't want to give me an epidural as there's more risk having one before you reach 4 cm, though she said I could have pethidine. She took me to a delivery room so I could have gas & air while we discussed options.

As it happens once I was lying down so I could suck the gas & air without feeling dizzy, I found it was pretty effective so I decided to give it a go with that for a while. I had support throughout from Alan and Michelle, Michelle would take over pressing on my back when Alan went to the loo. 3 hours later though and I was asking for an epidural! Luckily I was now 4cm dilated. At this point I was told that if the epidural slowed my labour down and they needed to give me a drip to speed it up that a lotus birth would be out, they'd have to cut the cord.

I got that at 12.30pm and it started to work about 30-45 mins later. I could still feel each contraction, just not quite as strong. I still needed to gas & air though. It gave Alan and Michelle chance to get lunch and try to get a bit of sleep. At about 3.20pm the (nhs) midwife came to check on me. I felt like I was leaking so she had a look and thought my waters had gone. She asked how I was coping and I said I'd like the epidural topped-up. She asked if I would like an exam to see how far along I was and whether I felt it was really needed so I agreed. She confirmed my waters had gone, I was 8cm and baby was halfway turned. She thought the baby would be born by about 6pm.

Just as I was about to say that in that case I'd like the epidural topped up I got two huge contractions. She decided we were probably too close to the birth to have a top-up. I had to start sucking away on the gas & air as the contractions were coming much stronger and closer together. Michelle, who was wandering past the room having had a break, heard me sucking away like darth vader! She came in and the nhs midwife started telling her the progress. At that though I needed to push. They both had a look and told me not to push because the baby was coming out really well on it's own. I sucked away on the gas & air so I didn;t push and it was amazing, I could feel my body 'pushing' her out. It was a really intense feeling and one I never had with Erin. Orla was born at 3.59pm, less than half an hour after the exam where she was only halfway turned.

We then waited about 50 mins for the placenta. The midwives suggested I try giving it a little push as they were pretty certain it would have detached. It had and soon came out.

Alan held Orla while Michelle washed the placenta. It was wrapped in terry squares and then in a hospital bag as we'd forgotten to bring our placenta bag (Oops!). The nhs midwife was interested to know more about it and I thought that was lovely of her to show such interest in it.

Once the epidural had worn off, I was able to have a bath and then be discharged. We were home just before midnight that same day.

Although my birth didn't go quite to plan I felt in control and supported throughout. It was an infinitely better experience than my first birth even though it was a harder labour.

It was interesting to see the changes in the cord over the next few days. Each day we washed the placenta and wrapped it in clean, dry terry squares. It was quite a warm time of year and we felt the bag was starting to get a bit smelly so we washed it. While it was washing & drying we had to put the placenta into a plastic bag which made it smell more. We also found that Erin (2) didn't fully understand that she had to be careful with it and kept wanting to push it away so she could get closer to baby so on day 4/5 we cut the cord. As it happens it fell off the next day anyway.

Here's some pictures!

Cord on Day 2:

Orla's placenta:

Orla with the placenta in it's bag:

Orla attached to the placenta:

I don't know if it made any difference to Orla and I don't think we ever will but we enjoyed it and it was special.

We did learn a few things from it so would probably manage better if we did it again! We would know that it's easiest to lay baby on a changing mat and wash the placenta in a bowl next to her rather than try to struggle holding a baby and wash a placenta at the sink. We'd definitely have more than one placenta bag and to put one in the 'transfer to hospital' bag.

More than 7 weeks on and there's no signs of my postnatal depression coming back.

Why I Chose To Lotus Birth

When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I did a fair amount of reading about pregnancy and birth. I knew there were many choices available to me, from where to birth my baby to pain relief options. I chose to give birth in hospital for the reason many first time mums do; I wasn't sure what labour would feel like, how I'd cope with it and it seemed like the safe place to be.

Throughout my pregnancy I'd happily gone along with all the routine tests. My birth plan consisted of a few simple requests like my husband is to cut the cord. As far as pain relief went I was happy to go with the flow and see what I felt like at the time.

Pretty much everything I'd read and been told suggested the average first labour is 12 hours so I'd prepared myself for that. When I did actually go into labour (2 hours after my waters broke) the contractions were full on. Unfortunately the midwives kept telling me I'd have 12 hours of it, refused pain relief until they realised I wasn't going to stop shouting until I got it. Then they gave it with no internal exam. I was treated throughout at as over-reacting first timer. Well you can imagine everyone's surprise when I gave birth 2 hours 20 mins after labour starting. Unfortunately it meant Erin was very sleepy from the pethidine I'd been given at the wrong time of labour. Because of the attitude of the midwife I refused to have my tear stitched as I didn't trust her.

I ended up with a baby too sleepy to breastfeed, weeks of pain with my tear and my back (I managed to knock my coccyx out of place giving birth) and months of postnatal depression.

As you can imagine I didn't want to repeat this with my second pregnancy. When I found out I was pregnant I started going along to Choices In Childbirth meetings to find out more about birth and also for some support while I planned a homebirth.

It was at one of these meetings that I was given a back issue of The Mother, in which I read a story about Lotus Birth; where the umbilical cord is not cut and the placenta is left attached until the cord falls off of it's own accord.

I decided as soon as I read the article that I wanted to lotus birth. Whilst I liked the spritual side of it, my main reason was wanting control over the birth.

We then had a couple of problems with the NHS. They weren't happy I refused to see a consultant because "postnatal depression" is on one of their tick-boxes for 'refer to consultant'. I refused the booking-in blood tests because they had most of the information from my last pregnancy; the midwife couldn't seem to understand why I wouldn't just have it done "like everyone else".

So I decided to use my maternity allowance and pay for an independent midwife. By this time I'd grown attached to the idea of a lotus birth and the spiritual side of it had really began to sink in, so we decided to continue with it.