Updated: Jun 10
By Charlie Earwicker
Turning over in bed I felt a ‘pop’ - not uncomfortable or icky as I’d dreaded, but just like a guitar string being pinged. I was 38 weeks plus 6 days and my waters had broken - it was the start.
Unsure at first, I rushed to the toilet. “John, I’m peeing without peeing!”, I remember calling to my Husband, “I think this is it”. The baby’s head must have blocked my waters from fully going as there was only a slight trickle. They went properly later that morning, in the Maternity Triage Ward.
For now, I tried to remember the advice to take it slow and climbed back into bed to rest until the waves began. The idea of being able to “bank some more sleep”, as taught at our antenatal classes, now seemed ludicrous! Instead, I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my positive birth affirmations, bringing my mind back to my breath wherever I felt apprehensions or butterflies stealing my mind from stillness.
Apprehension was always going to be a factor to manage in my birth story. Anxiety had been a huge part of my pregnancy journey. I have suffered notably from Anxiety and Low Mood since my University days. Since having my first child, I’ve subsequently been diagnosed with PTSD (related to past traumas), which I now understand was significantly impacting the way I was viewing motherhood and birth itself. Even before my diagnosis though, I knew I had real fears about pain, being out of control and losing those closest to me. So I worked hard to bolster my armoury for birth - it was worth it! By the time the day arrived, the only way I can think to describe how I felt, in hindsight, was POWERFUL. Nothing since, or before, has ever made me feel so strong.
What did I do to prepare? I thought long and hard about which positive birth affirmations would be the most helpful to me. Not some generic Pinterest quotes which, sure, are great for inspiration, but I needed specifics. I stuck my affirmations to mirrors around the flat and would look myself in the eye as I repeated them to myself. The other thing I did was practicing breathe-work and visualisations founded in Hypnobirthing. I didn’t go for a full course and chose to focus on a few, very simple, techniques to keep my mind uncluttered - this paid dividends.
Secondly, I asked for help. This is probably the biggest single thing I did which helped me tame my Anxiety to a manageable level during pregnancy. Yes, there were still times when my mental health deteriorated dramatically, particularly during the third trimester, but because I had sought support from professionals, friends and family in advance, I had a backup plan and when I wasn’t in my right mind, knew I could rely on others who were. This was probably the start of me truly opening up to loved ones about my struggle with mental health and although the most scary thing I’ve ever done, it has been eye opening how kind people can be and how much people are there when you need them most.
The final thing I did was not to judge myself. I actually had two sweeps in week 38 of my pregnancy. This was controversial to some people. What they weren’t aware of was how much inner turmoil I was battling on a daily basis around the subjectivity of Baby’s movements. I personally concluded, the stress of remaining pregnant with heightened Anxiety was a greater risk than having a couple of sweeps at full term, to help nature along. Not a decision everyone would take I appreciate, but not a decision I am prepared to judge myself for either. My womb, my choice.
Now the day had arrived and things progressed quickly. After about 90 minutes back in bed I asked John to put the Tens on. This was amazing pain relief for me and I now know I could have been a bit more liberal with the power on it - I think I was trying to keep something in the bank as I didn’t have faith in myself that I would be able to cope with the waves! In reality I will be a lot more generous to myself second time around.
Around 4am I felt that “urge” you hear about, to get up and start moving. I popped some bread down in the toaster and went out onto our balcony as the sun rose. My husband joined me. We swayed and breathed and listened to the morning birdsong to welcome our baby. A reassuring calmness surrounded me.
Despite the waves being slightly further apart than recommended to leave for hospital, I asked John to make ‘the call’ at 6:30am. The Midwife recommended we give it another hour and keep timing. Mother Nature had other ideas! Within half an hour I was TELLING him, not asking him, to take me to hospital.
When we arrived, a Midwife met me at the car. Just clocking on for her shift, her experience must have told her to reach out and help. While John parked up, she walked me into Triage and called, “She’s doubling up”. Turns out my waves were coming two at once. Despite this, the breathing and Tens were the only pain relief I had used until this point. After a brief stop in the Labour Ward, I was transferred to the Birth Centre and asked for Gas and Air. What an amazing invention! For me, this paired with deep breathing and minimal intervention from the Midwife meant I truly got in ‘the zone’. My belief is that whatever pain relief gets you into that place is worth it. There’s no right or wrong and everyone experiences birth in a different way. Next time I’m fully prepared to work my way up the pain relief ladder if I need it.
It was looking unlikely the birthing pool, which I had my heart set on, would fill in time for Baby’s arrival. However, by this stage I was fully focused and felt strong enough to deliver without it. As it happens, the pool was full just in time for me to climb in and after fifteen minutes of pushing my beautiful little girl arrived at 10:01am.
I feel so lucky to be able to share my positive birth story with you all. It might not always go to ‘plan’ and we ALL have our own challenges to overcome. That said, I hope sharing joyous, happy experiences of birth provides comfort and strength to those who may be battling their own Anxiety and fear while pregnant.
You ARE a POWERFUL and STRONG Mama to be. You’ve got this.
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