The Natal Family co-founder, Steph Beaumont tells the story of the birth of her new daughter.
Although this was our fifth pregnancy, it was still unique in its own ways. At 13 weeks pregnant, we nearly lost our little one, and became at ‘high risk’ for a ‘late miscarriage’ for the next 11 weeks.
At a scan at 17 weeks, we found out we were expecting a little girl. As we left the scan I said that I knew what her name was – Iris Seren. Iris meaning rainbow – I hoped that after a stormy pregnancy, she would be our happy ending. And Seren, which is Welsh for ‘star.’ Wales is a special place for us, so we needed some welsh in there, and she was indeed our little star. It has always remained a miracle to me that she managed to hold on through the complications (but more of that another time).
At 32 weeks we had another scan and all was looking good, which meant we tentatively began to look forwards to planning her birth, planning our fifth waterbirth and third homebirth.
Then I started bleeding again at 36 weeks. Without going into detail, it was nothing specifically to worry about, but it was a little unsettling in some ways. However, in other ways it was also exciting, as it signalled that my body had obviously started to make changes ready for giving birth.
The evening of the estimated due date (by scan) I had a lot of tightenings and pressure. Although nothing progressed, something was definitely going on. The next day, my due date itself, was uneventful and we went out for dinner as a family in the evening.
At 40+1, I woke up in the morning feeling tighenings. When I went to the loo, there was some minimal pinkish discharge.
As the day went on, the tightenings continued and become quite noticeable, there was no pattern to them… but I had the sense that we were moving into the last couple of days of pregnancy now. The tightenings got stronger and more frequent into the afternoon, and then they stopped! Nothing happened that evening or overnight.
At 40+2 (or my due date as I had originally calculated based on my cycle) I started the day which what looked like the loss of the mucus plug. I wasn’t experiencing any tightenings, and so my children and I got on with giving my husband, Dean, his birthday presents!
We decided to go out for birthday lunch, and on the way Dean jokingly said that his daughter arriving that day would make a really good birthday present! I said that I would see what I could do!
We had a lovely lunch in the sunshine, and then went for a walk along the River Wye. About ¾ of the way into the walk I suddenly started getting some very strong sensations down in my pelvis. At the end of the walk we stopped for this photo – the car was in sight but I instinctively felt that I needed to completely rest now, and so Dean brought the car to me.
On the drive home I started getting tighenings. The irony that we got stuck in a freak traffic jam, which meant the half hour journey took twice as long! The tightenings were coming fairly regularly and were noticeable.
We got home, spent about an hour in the garden, then went indoors to relax for a little while. At about 5pm, I suggested that it might be a good idea for the children to have some dinner. Dean made them something to eat while I moved to sit on my birth ball, as I was not comfortable on the sofa.
On the ball I really tuned in to what felt right in terms of movement. I used pelvic tilting and rocking in between the contractions. During the contractions themselves, for some I continued to tilt, and for others it felt right to just sit still and focus.
I used the MummyNatal mini body scan a lot. As the contractions intensified, I used it to bring awareness to areas of my body I know tension can creep into – mainly my shoulders and jaw.
I used our mindful breathing tool a lot too – focusing on the sound and sensation of the breath in and out of my nose and mouth. The thing I love about the way we teach this in MummyNatal is that every breath is unique according to what is happening in the body, so some times my breaths were shorter, sometimes longer, but by tuning in and going with what felt right for each individual contraction, I knew my body was all working in harmony together.
By about 7pm the tightenings were definitely stronger as I was now focusing on breathing through them. I felt like they were so far apart though. When Dean asked me how far apart I thought they were, I said it felt like ten minutes! But we both knew that I could relax so deeply and fully between contractions that it gave a false impression of time, and so he timed them to see where we were at.
‘They are two minutes apart and lasting over 40 seconds’ each he said.
‘I think we better call the midwife and inflate the pool then!’ I said.
I was amazed! I just didn’t feel like that! It felt like I had all the time in the world between the contractions to recharge and re-energise. This is one of the things I love so much about what we teach in MummyNatal, as being able to really make the most of the break between contractions, just completely changes how the whole labour experience feels.
Over the next half hour Dean got the pool inflated and called the midwife, and our neighbour came over to sit with our other children.
At about 8pm, I got into the pool. I was sounding through all tightenings by this point, by humming, which we also practice in MummyNatal classes. It is just such an amazing focusing technique! The contractions felt very strong, I could feel my body working hard, I could feel a lot of pressure, but it was definitely not painful – just intense effort.
Once I got into the pool, things slowed down a bit. I was not worried as I expected this to happen, it has happened in all my births! The change in environment, even into a positive one which I prefer, is still a change and it just takes a while for everything to settle back down.
Dean timed the contractions again to see where we were at. He told me that they had gone a little further apart, they were now every 2.5 minutes! I laughed out loud, as this was obviously not very far apart at all, I would have guessed they were every twenty minutes from how long the gaps felt to me! Once again, I felt that I had all the time in the world to recuperate and re-energise. It was amazing that they were still so close together, yet so it all felt so calm and completely manageable.
The midwife arrived at this point. She appeared to assess that I was not very far along – perhaps the calmness was confusing!
There was some discussion about my birth plan, where Dean had to advocate quite strongly that I did not want any vaginal examinations, for example. We later learnt this was our midwife’s first home birth, as she had previously only worked in hospitals – so it just seemed she wasn’t yet used to people who just wanted to get on with it themselves!
About half an hour after she arrived, I felt my body give a little push, and as always happens with me, I instinctively started making deeper groans and noises. Suddenly the midwife appeared, saying ‘are you pushing, are pushing?!’
‘Just a little bit!’ I said, even at this point, it all felt calm enough for my slightly sarcastic humour to still present!
At this point, she must have realised I was much further along than she had thought I was, as I could hear hear behind me go into overdrive getting her things ready!
Over the next few contractions the pressure got stronger and stronger, until suddenly mid contraction I felt a pop and the sensation of fluid releasing along with a disturbance in the water of the pool. Immediately, I was very aware of the sensation of a little head pressing down. I knew that we were on the final leg of the journey now. ‘I can feel the head’ I said!
Dean was sat by me, by my head next to the pool, and the two midwives were behind me with their little torches shining into the water.
I could feel her head moving down with the effort of my body during each contraction. I just followed the natural sensations and urges of my body, and the room was mostly quiet apart from the noises I was making. I was still getting what felt like long breaks between the contractions, which was a great relief, as the sensation of her moving down was incredibly powerful this time around, and for me was the most challenging part of the labour.
I had my hand below ready to feel for her crowning, and I could feel the membranes hanging out, even though she had not descended down far enough for me to feel her head yet. My hand being constantly there meant that the midwives couldn’t see much, in my birth video you can hear them ask me if I can feel the head, as they cant see!
Suddenly I felt her head arrive right there, and I knew that in the next contraction she would crown. I kept my hand there as I believed that it was doing this when I was birthing Heath which aided the body/mind connection, giving the feedback to allow my body to do it gently, which had helped prevent tearing. When the next contraction came, her head crowned. This was another very strong sensation, and it definitely felt quite different compared to when I gave birth to Heath, when I barely felt anything at this point! It is certainly true, that no two births are exactly the same!
I birthed her whole head, and then rested against the side of the pool. I was immediately back feeling very calm and relaxed, and was even joking with the midwife! When the next contraction came, her shoulders and body were quickly born into the water. I reached down and lifted her out – within a few seconds he cried.. She was here and well, and after months of uncertainty it was an amazing moment.
She was covered in thick vernix, and she was rooting for the breast within minutes of being born! She had her first breast feed in the pool while we waited to birth the placenta.
It took about 45 minutes for the placenta to be birthed. We waited until the cord was white and all blood has passed to Iris before cutting the cord, and we tied it off with a cord tie. I cut the cord, as it was something I hadn’t done before.
The midwives respected our wishes to wait to check/weigh baby until after all my checks had been carried out. And I was beyond delighted to find out that I hadn’t torn! So I got into my pyjamas, got comfy on the sofa and just cuddled my new daughter.
Watch the Birth Video of Iris Seren on The Natal Family Facebook page.