Stella Juno - Birth Story
Born at home in London, 08.45am, 16th October 2020
I was one week ‘overdue’ with Stella - and although I don’t really believe in due dates being anything other than a guideline, having only gone to 38 weeks with Charlotte, I was expecting much the same again. So it felt like a really long wait at the end.
My midwife suggested I have a sweep when she came round at 40 weeks + 6 days, which I thought was a good idea as I was really trying to avoid an induction. On this day she saw I was 2cm dilated and the baby’s head was really low, so she thought it wouldn’t be long until something happened. On her recommendation I kept active with a walk - and all through this I felt quite spaced out with lots of pressure down on my pelvis and lower back. I was definitely feeling like the sweep had possibly kicked things off.
That evening we went to bed as usual. I was woken hourly at 1.30, 2.30, 3.30 with a light stomach cramp, which I knew was the birth starting - it was just the same with my first daughter. At 4.30am I had a stronger surge - then 3 more followed, every 10 minutes. I was quite surprised to think it might be ramping up already. These surges were a bit stronger, but still only like a bad period pain - I breathed through them. I told my husband, but told him not to wake up, I was fine. In the end there were only 4 of these surges, then I slept until around 6am when they started again.
Around 6.30 I got up, had a shower, did my hair a bit - I knew it was happening this morning and wanted to be clean and ready. The surges were straight away around one every 5 minutes, they were manageable - I just shut my eyes and did my deep breaths - 4 counts in, 8 counts out. We ate breakfast as a family and I was fine just coping wit these surges from around 7.00 to 7.45am.
Suddenly around 8am they got a bit more intense - the cramps were quite strong and I really needed to focus on them so I went down to our bedroom and got in a comfy position kneeling on the floor resting forwards over my birthing ball. The surges were around every 3 minutes, but sometimes I’d get two in a row in quick succession, sometimes a little break. They were mostly quite intense, but the odd one was easier again. My husband was in with me when they were happening - then would run out to do various things like call the birth centre, get Charlotte dressed etc. Charlotte then sat at her iPad so we could concentrate as we knew things were moving quickly.
At 8.30 I suddenly felt like my waters were breaking - so we went into the bathroom but it turned out to be blood (mucus? Plasma?). Rick was worried so called the midwives again. I was sat on the toilet, feeling like I really had to go - just a huge amount of pressure in every area down there. But I really remembered my breathing, and resisting the urge to close up - just let everything open and the body do its work with gravity.
I said to Rick: “I think the baby is coming right now!” - so he said, “get off the toilet now, on all fours, go!” So I did that. He grabbed towels and laid them around. I think I was making more noise at this point, as Charlotte came down asking what was happening - I just told Rick to shut the door for a minute as I wasn’t sure how she’d feel thinking I was in pain or seeing the baby actually coming. She was great and just sat on the stairs outside our bathroom.
I said I could feel the head coming, and Rick looked and felt huge relief because he couldn’t see it yet. But literally seconds later, sure enough, there was the head emerging. I did a big breath/push and the head was out. Now Rick was a little unsure at this point because he didn’t know how long a head was meant to just stay there looking around before the rest of the body should come - fair enough! So he just told me, we’ve got to get the body out, a big push again - which I did, and the body came straight out. Just prior to that, for around 10 seconds I could feel the whole of the baby moving in my birth canal, it was quite amazing. I knew it would be the great release of the baby fully coming out so that helped me push and let go at the end - and it felt great.
Rick caught our baby girl! I turned around straight away and sat on the floor and held our baby. She was ok - breathing and calm and she didn’t cry - just awake and aware. It was beautiful. I put her straight to my chest and I think she suckled a bit. Charlotte came in right away and I remember reaching out to her and saying, come to cuddle mummy and meet your sister. She stayed for a few minutes then said she didn’t like the blood and was off to watch her iPad again!
We just stayed like this until the midwives arrived around 10 minutes later. There were tears shed, and we just sat close together, slightly unbelieving at what had just happened. Once the midwives arrived, everyone sprang to action again. Thankfully my parents also arrived a few minutes after so they took Charlotte to the playroom and entertained her for the morning. I still had to deliver the placenta so I had the injection to help that along. We wrapped the placenta up and put it in the sink as we want to try and harvest the cord blood from it if possible. I then walked very slowly into my bedroom and we set up to do my stitches. Rick held Stella the whole time.
I must say the stitching was very hard. I had local anaesthetic, but I could definitely still feel pain and the midwives had to literally give me all the painkillers they had with them. I tore in the same place as last time apparently - I’m hoping and confident it will heal very well, but it took a long time and felt like a lot of stitches to me. I had some gas and air at this point which felt good. I think I definitely went into a bit of shock here as my legs & body were really shaky and I was crying a lot. I just wanted it to be over so I could hold Stella agin and hug Rick.
After everything was cleaned up, I climbed into bed, which felt just blissful. Propped myself up with all the cushions, and held Stella close. Charlotte came back in to meet her sister again - as did my parents. It was just so special and emotional having them there as well.
We went in a bit of a blur then - everyone left except Rick (Charlotte was off to my parents for 2 nights) - and then we just sat in our little bubble with Stella. We reminisced a little about what had just happened, we were both quite overwhelmed I think - but our long awaited daughter was here at last, safe and well. And we had delivered her ourselves.
I can’t thank Rick enough for supporting me through this, and being such a capable person able to cope with whatever life throws at him. Thank goodness it was our second birth or we would have been so scared. But I felt like my body knew what to do, I was strong, read the signs, and just had to submit to what was happening in each moment.
I had envisioned a slow, calm build up at home with the midwives there. A bath, candles, chilled out low lighting etc. I thought I’d be able to really get on top of my breathing and get into that deep hypnotic state like my first birth. But this was different as it was so quick - it felt like I only just had time to collect myself after one surge before the next one came. I tried my best to really get in the zone with the breathing & focus, but it was very much on a second by second case this time round. I did still feel fairly in control, but also that my body was running away without me. I think this is the thing with birth, you really can’t predict how it will unfold, but you have to just flow with it. I’m trying not to wonder too much about if I could have controlled the last stage of labour more so the baby came slower and I didn’t tear so much. I’ll never know, but it felt like my body had the power at that point, and my mind couldn’t catch up - so I’m not sure how I could have changed it without some more guidance from the midwives maybe. I’m still really happy and thankful with how everything went, but just trying not think what could have gone differently both positively and negatively. These worries are fading day by day as my body heals.
Having our playlist organised and on for the whole morning really helped and the power of music is just amazing. Especially during the earlier surges and then the stitches afterwards - it helped me focus, and took my mind to all the amazing gigs we’ve been to together. I can’t listen to some of those songs without crying at the moment! - but I am only on day 8 PP so a little hormonal!
Even though this wasn’t quite the home birth I’d planned - it was a totally transformative visceral experience that I’m so glad happened. If anyone is planing to give birth at home, I’d really recommend it for the most amazing quiet moments after - just being in your own bed with all your things around you, having your own food and not having to leave and go anywhere is just beautiful.
Welcome to our family little Stella Juno - I can’t imagine life without you already. We love you so much.
Written by Rosie, on day 8 postpartum, 24th Oct 2020.
Sitting on the couch with a sleeping Stella next to me in the Moses basket.