In March I launched a #BirthStories series on the blog and have been inviting women and families to share their birth stories with me, to try and change perceptions of birth and spread a little bit of positivity at this time. As you’ll know by now, I am a big believer that telling our story is powerful. The birth stories we surround ourselves in, and tell to each other have the power to shape cultures, beliefs, choices and lives.
So today, as I celebrate his 8th birthday, I thought I’d share with you my own.
I wrote my birth story when Mylo was a week old. I wrote it as a letter to him that he could read if he ever wanted when he was older. So here it is…
MYLO | BORN AT HOME
5th July 2012
Late last Wednesday night I had a sudden urge to nest. I felt the need to tidy up the kitchen, clean the bathrooms and mop the floors (which, as your Dad will tell you, is not normal behaviour for me!). I was tired but somehow I just needed to clean. I busied myself with cleaning until about Midnight. I’d been having Braxton Hicks, but I didn’t think too much of it as I’d been having them on and off from about 26 weeks. I didn’t notice any pattern to them, nor were they painful. I finally went to bed, but woke up at about 2am to what felt like intense period pains. I tried to adjust my position in bed to get more comfortable, with no success. So got up and went to the bathroom. In my sleepy haze, it didn’t occur to me initially, that this could be the start of labour. I sat in the bathroom in the darkness for some time. I left your Dad sleeping as I thought this would either go away, or if it wasn’t going away, it would go on for some time. I found myself having to breathe through them because of the intensity. I didn’t time them straight away as I didn’t want to get too caught up with thinking. But by about 2.30am, I realised they were coming every 2 minutes and they were lasting over a minute and they were intense. I decided I would call our Midwife, Beth, and give her the heads up. She asked me if I wanted her to come over, but I told her I was ok for a bit, that I would try and go back to bed and rest, and I would call her again later. I went back to bed and laid down, which lasted for about 3 minutes. It was not comfortable to lie down. So I sat on the edge of the bed and rocked and breathed through my tightenings. I knew you were on your way.
Your Dad woke up after a while, and asked if I was ok. I explained I was having tightenings and that I thought this was it. He got up and began getting things organized. We called Beth again at about 5am, and asked her to come over. I was worried about her getting stuck in the morning traffic, so I felt I wanted her there earlier rather than later. Still convinced I was in early labor, I decided to go ahead with a project I’d planned to take my mind off things in early labour – of stringing together the beads sent to me, and given to me from all the amazing women in my life from my Blessing Way ceremony, to make my birth necklace. I was having a hard time sitting still, and was unable to do anything when the tightenings came. I was standing and swaying, and leaning over the kitchen counter breathing. Luckily I finished the necklace, because not long after, I couldn’t focus on anything as I found myself slipping away in to ‘Labor Land’. After this, my sense of time was distorted and I can’t really remember what was happening around me. My memory of this bit is hazy. When I looked up, the birth pool was up and filling, and my friend and soon to be midwife, Carly, had arrived. Once the pool was ready, I asked Beth to check me, worried I was going to hear those dreaded words ‘…3cm…’, but to my surprise, I was 8!
I got in to the pool, and labored in there for a while. I’m not sure of the time frame, but to me, what seemed like not very long afterwards, I felt my body’s urge to push. I pushed for a long time, in various different positions, and your heart rate never faltered. It stayed strong throughout. Your Dad was in the pool with me for some of the time too, supporting me and keeping me calm. I got out of the pool at some point and you were born on our bed. I reached down to bring you from my body to my chest, and as you were born I was overcome with emotion in a way I have never experienced before. A powerful concoction of relief and immense love. I could not believe what I had just accomplished. I sobbed uncontrollably with tears of absolute happiness and pride as I looked down at the gorgeous little boy in my arms. The whole experience was worth it just for that moment alone.
Your birth was by far the most challenging experience I have ever encountered, both physically and emotionally, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Your birth pushed me beyond limits I never knew possible. It pushed me through intense moments of fear, doubt, excitement, fatigue, pain and finally intense elation, joy and love. Surrounded by love and support, you were born at home in our bedroom without intervention or medication, without being rushed, in exactly the way you needed to be born, which was important to me. I was supported with your Dad by my side, and fantastic midwives who knew us both and knew our desires and wishes, and who I love and trust.
The whole experience has reinforced my belief not only in natural birth, but in nature’s design for life and the miracles our body can perform without instruction. As a Mum now, I know your birth will only enhance my abilities as a midwife, bringing another level of confidence to my practice, and help me to connect with the women I care for on a deeper level.
The journey was wild, but worth every moment. I look back on it with nothing but satisfaction, joy and love.
That Thursday one week ago, 28th June 2012, I will remember for a lifetime.
Mylo, although it’s only been one week since you made your peaceful entrance in to the world, I now can’t imagine life without you. One week in to motherhood, and yes, sleep deprived, sore, and covered in milk, it is still the most magical experience. I can’t help but stare at you sometimes as you sleep, wondering what you dream about, but also wondering how I got to be so lucky.
With love always,
This comes at a time where statistics around mums and babies from ethnic minority backgrounds, and racial disparities and bias within our health services are at the forefront of many discussions. It may surprise you that Black women in the UK are 5 times more likely to die from causes related to pregnancy and birth than White people, regardless of income, education or any other socio-economic factors, and that this disparity increases in line with the mother’s age. Black women’s babies are also twice as likely to die. So it feels even more important to me to share my own story in light of this and recent events.
For those of you who don’t know, I gave birth in the United States, where worryingly, the maternal-mortality rate has been steadily rising for years – the only country in the developed world to do so. The U.S mortality rate more than doubled from 1991 to 2014! Over 700 women a year die of complications related to pregnancy each year in the U.S, and two-thirds of those deaths are from preventable causes.