Shared here with permission, this story was originally written by Charlotte Wilcock on April 09, 2020, posted on the Positive Birth Community Facebook Group.
Days before I was due to give birth, the hospital announced the closure of the MLU due to virus measures.
I had been really distressed by all the COVID related changes to my birth plan in the weeks running up to birth (greatly amplified by the fact I’m autistic and can’t deal with changes!) I had a difficult first birth and was determined to have a healing, calm, drug-free water birth this time around. I was happy to do this at the MLU and planned my birth around the facilities there.
Days before I was due to give birth, the hospital announced the closure of the MLU due to virus measures. I was devastated to find out I would be birthing on the labour ward instead. Even though I would still be under midwife-led care there is only one room with a pool available, and from my previous birth experience I didn’t want to be in a clinical environment, without the lovely MLU facilities.
Each day the hospital announced further virus measures like limitations on birth partners, and I really struggled mentally, having regular meltdowns and feeling quite hopeless because of the way my autistic brain interprets things and can’t visualise unplanned events. I went into a real negative spiral after such a positive pregnancy and worried about every aspect of birth.
Despite going overdue I had felt physically really comfortable and mobile and continued to be active, but on the morning of the 01/04 I felt a sudden onset of seriously intense weight and pressure in my pubic bone and couldn’t move at all. I went in the bath around 3pm to try and relieve the pain, and after a while I realised I was having surges too! I started timing them on the Freya app and by 7pm the app was telling me I was in established labour.
My partner put our 5 year old to bed and arranged for his mum (who had been self-isolating in preparation!) to come and spend the night so we could get to hospital.
I got to the hospital around 9:30pm and was creeped out by everything being taped-up and cordoned-off, but as soon as we got up to the ward, and our midwife introduced herself, I felt better. I got great vibes from her from the off ✨.
Using B.R.A.I.N., I agreed to a cervical exam as from my last birth I felt it would be positive either way – either I would be 4cm and considered in active labour, or I would be close to 4cm due to the frequency of the surges, and that the exam would likely speed things up the same as last time (where I went from 3cm to 6cm in a few minutes!)
The midwife said I was 3cm but my cervix was thin and ready. She suggested I go home to progress on my own, and that she would write up notes quickly before I left. As soon as she left the room surges started coming a few seconds apart. When she came back she could tell I’d progressed a lot and was happy to keep me in.
We were limited with facilities, but made the best of the situation with room spray and candles. I used a tens machine throughout and found it so so helpful, if nothing else – just as something to focus on. I found labouring standing up felt best during the first period – pacing around then standing in one spot by the window during each surge. (Don’t know what drew me to this one spot, but when the surge came I really wanted to be in that specific place 😂.)
After a while I started getting shaky, so I knelt on a pillow on the floor over a birth ball. I laboured that way for a while, and the surges grew steadily more powerful – I remember holding my partner’s hand saying ‘I CAN do this’ and he would echo back ‘you’re doing this’ whenever things felt intense. I started feeling a lot of pressure below, like needing a poo. I stood up and was violently sick. I realised this was transition, so I stripped off and leant over the birth ball on the bed. In this position my body naturally started to push with each surge. I felt like I’d managed really well through the labour until this point, with just the up breathing and my partner supporting me, and this was definitely the hardest part. I’d found comfort in staying silent up until this point, just focusing on the quiet and my breath, but now felt the need to roar with every surge, and with some surges found it easier to actively push than breathing down.
After few surges baby’s head was born and the body followed easily. The midwife was amazed because he was still in his sac, and she’d never seen it before! (Baby’s dad was also born in his sac ❤️) She passed him up through my legs and we had 4 hours together as mum, dad and baby, cuddling and breastfeeding (despite the hospital regulations which said birth partners had to leave immediately after birth.)
I needed a few stitches for a small tear and a haematoma drained from inside my vulva (no pain relief for this either! Gas and air makes me sick and I didn’t want to go to theatre for a spinal, and stay longer on my own on postnatal ward) but my partner got to hold my hand and help me breathe through the stitch up.
I had been SO SO worried about giving birth on the labour ward and without a pool, but working through the digital pack and practicing hypnobirthing clearly got through to my psyche on a core level, because when I got there it all felt so natural and my mindset switched to a positive, empowered one.
Also thanks to the course my partner knew exactly what to do and was so wonderful, it made the whole experience so loving and beautiful, I want to do it over and over again.
Despite all the uncertainty and stress in the lead up, when the moment came I fully believed I could do it, and I did. Most proud and powerful moment of my life!