I wrote the story of Sorley’s birth in the weeks and months following his arrival. It was cathartic and I wanted to try to remember everything. I had dreamed of a peaceful birth at home in my own space, and I spent (9 haha) months preparing myself mentally and physically for birth. I did yoga, meditation, and breathwork as well as a lot of visualisation and use of mantras. I worked closely with my Doula's receiving massage and acupuncture but In the end, you never know how childbirth is going to go…. here is the story of how Sorley was born, I hope you enjoy it.
Thursday 20th September 2018 ~ the day after my due date.
My mum had arrived the evening before and I told her I wanted to go for a big walk the next day to see if I could get things moving. Up until this point, I hadn’t felt any signs of the baby coming. We walked (waddled) up Calton Hill, I went up every possible steep route and took any stairs available. We walked about 8km (a marathon for a heavily pregnant woman!) and on the way back to my flat I started to feel some cramping sensations low in my abdomen like period cramps, I started to get excited but by the time I got home and rested they had stopped.
Still, before I went to bed Keith helped me walk up and down all the stairs in our building a few times just to maximise my chances of going into labour that night.
I slept pretty well until I woke to some more of those crampy sensations. I also thought my waters might have started to go (turns out they hadn’t, I had just pee’d myself a bit) I drifted in and out of sleep but was becoming more aware of them so tried to keep a track of the timings. At about 7.30 am Keith woke up and I told him that I thought things might be starting to happen. We sat in bed and had a cup of tea, it was the last morning it was just the two of us, we were so excited! I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case it would come to nothing again so Keith went off to work as usual and I told him to keep his phone close by.
That morning Mum and I went to meet my cousins for a coffee on Leith walk, the “sensations” were growing in intensity and forming a distinct pattern. Mum was tracking them all.
We decided to head home (via Lidl to get some more snacks, haha) and I called Keith to come home from work. I finally started to believe I was actually in labour! We ate some lunch while I still had an appetite (good decision) and got some things organised. I had been keeping my Doulas Nicola & Lena up to date. I also called the midwife team to let them know I was in labour. Then we did the most surreal thing - picked out a wee outfit for the baby to be dressed in when he/she arrived! We also assembled the next to me crib. We were all relaxed but v. excited!
Around 3.30 pm my surges were starting to get more intense, we called the midwife and Lena to come. And bizarrely I insisted that I needed to have my legs shaved for the occasion so Keith shaved my legs for me!
I remember feeling so excited and READY.
Lena and the midwife arrived around 4pmish, my contractions/surges had really picked up in intensity and they would come in waves of two at a time. I was moving a lot still, swaying my hips etc and choosing to lean forward over the yoga ball, kitchen counter or wall whilst someone pressed my sacrum, held my hands or Lena worked on acupressure points.
Keith would read me my affirmations or simple words I had written down like - breathe,, trust, gentle, open, surrender, love, family, flow etc
In between each surge, I felt completely normal and able to chat, laugh and relax. At about 6 pm the midwife suggested she checked me to see how dilated I was, I agreed and was about 5/6cm - yep definitely in labour! Keith & Mum had inflated the birthing pool, this took much longer than it should have as the boiler wasn’t working so they had to heat pans of water on the cooker!
I felt calm and focused, I loved being at home in my own space. Lena smudged the room with sage and lit all the candles then I finally got into the birthing pool around 7/8 pm and it felt AMAZING.
The water on my skin felt incredible and it definitely acted as a form of pain relief. I could move easily and freely. I preferred leaning forward in a kneeling position over the side of the pool for each surge, in between, I could rest or move gently. The next few hours went past in a haze and it grew dark. I was labouring hard and I was moving more and more inwards, and becoming less chatty and engaged. I do have some random memories such as Lena, mum and Keith flossing at the side of the pool and “Circle of life” coming on my birthing playlist. I was well looked after by the dream team, they kept me hydrated, fed me frozen grapes and teaspoons of honey to keep my energy up as I couldn’t face anything else. I got out the pool a couple of times but mostly preferred being in the water which was constantly being topped up so it was always warm. My midwife was incredible, so gentle, calm and really did not interfere with me at all. Every so often she would check baby’s heart rate, then my heat rate and blood pressure and the rest of the time she sat at the kitchen table taking notes.
At about 10ish she asked if I would like to be checked again but I declined - I didn’t want to be disheartened if I had not dilated further. Another couple of hours passed and I was working hard but the baby was not descending. I agreed to be checked. I was helped out the pool and onto the bed, this itself was tricky as I had to stop every few meters whilst another surge came and they continued whilst I was on my back getting checked (they were super uncomfortable when I was on my back) the midwife told me I was now 8cm dilated but the baby’s head had not moved fully into the correct position.. at that exact moment there was a popping noise and my waters went! It was very dramatic, lots of fluid and I was so pleased I had put waterproof sheets on the bed! The breaking of my waters meant that the baby’s head dropped into position. From this point, it was GAME ON.
I felt a dramatic shift in my body, I got into the pool again and barely opened my eyes for the next couple of hours, I was so focused on my breath - I kept thinking about Judy Cameron (who I learned many, many childbirth-related tips from and she was also who taught me how to teach pregnancy yoga), as she had done a birth preparation session for us and had told me the more breath you can get into your body the more oxygen gets to your uterus so it can contract properly. I was completely focused on my breath.
I felt calm and safe, I didn’t feel the need to use the gas and air. I was so focused and “in the zone”. Next to the birthing pool I had set up a little alter with precious things, candles and photographs including photos of my grandparents from both sides of the family, my Grandad was the youngest of 15 and I remember thinking about my Great Grandmother a lot. It gave me a lot of courage and strength to know that she had laboured 15 times, I felt her power as well as my Granny and my Grandma’s and all of my female ancestors.
I got back into the birthing pool and my contractions now felt much more efficient. I could feel the baby moving down, and my body opening, I tried to breathe deeply and hum & let my body get on with it, I kept checking my jaw to make sure I wasn’t clenching (there is a direct relationship between jaw and pelvis). I remember mostly having my eyes closed and I had absolutely no concept of time. My 2nd midwife arrived at some point and I was introduced but I was way beyond talking by this point. I was starting to tire but I vaguely remember a longer pause in contractions and I rested and fell asleep for a little bit (5-10 mins).
I reached transition at around 1.30 am, my contractions were coming in waves of 3 now, the midwife told me to listen to my bodies cues & if I was feeling the urge to push to go with it.
My baby and I were working hard together now, the surges felt different as my body naturally began using the fetal ejection reflex and I worked hard on controlling my breath. It was amazing to feel my bodies wisdom, it knew exactly what to do.
My birth team rallied round, helping me through the surges by holding me, letting me squeeze their hands and arms, pouring water down my back and holding a cold facecloth on my head. Lena saying “YES YOU CAN!” when I needed to hear it most.
My midwife was really hands-on now, I will never forget her saying “Helen, you are going to meet your baby very soon!” I couldn’t believe the low, growling, primal noises that were coming out of me! I just wanted to hold my baby in my arms.
Finally, his head was born and my body took a rest for a few minutes. Then with one more surge and a big push from me, out came his body, the midwife caught him and passed him under my legs, I picked him up from the water and held him to me. Our beautiful baby boy had arrived gently and calmly at home on the 22nd September 2018 at 2.20am. We were all so happy!
In the hours that followed I birthed the placenta, and needed a couple of stitches. Keith and I shared lots of skin to skin time with our baby boy and I began breastfeeding him. There was so much love & laughter. Keith, Lena & Mum had a dram to celebrate and we all ate toast, including the midwives. By 5am everyone was starting to get tired so the midwives weighed & measured him - a healthy 8lb 3oz, 55cm long little lad. We said goodnight to the midwives, Lena & mum, then Keith and I headed to bed with our new addition, he slept soundly in the next to me crib - I however barely slept, the adrenaline was so high still so I lay watching my little miracle breathing and feeling in complete awe of my body - WHAT A DAY!
Childbirth was the most intense and incredible experience of my life, and I will cherish these memories forever.
I share my story to empower others in the way I was so empowered by positive birth stories throughout my pregnancy. I hope you enjoyed, please leave a comment if you read it and feel free to share!
Much love, Helen x