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Birth stories: Labour without drugs

Conventional pain relief? Not for us!

Posted: 21 April 2008
by Susan Lawson

Susan Lawson, 35, from Bristol, is partner to Greig and mum to three-year-old Noah and six-month-old Barnie. After seeing her best friend Tessa’s peaceful home birth, she followed suit and hired a birthing pool for both her deliveries.

Birth facts
Baby's nameBarnie Edward
Weight8lb 3oz
Length of labour3 hours
Pain reliefTENS, water, gas and air
Worst bitI suddenly felt very scared during transition, but Tessa helped me to focus on my breathing and administered homeopathy remedies.
Best bitSitting in the water with Greig and Barnie after the birth, with and my mum and best friend in the room with us sharing the moment.

Susan Lawson

A year before Noah – my first child – was born, my best friend Tessa had hired a birthing pool to give birth. I was at the birth and it looked wonderfully peaceful. I remember sitting with her on her bed afterwards looking at this tiny baby thinking “this is how I want to bring mine into the world”. I’ve now had a water birth both times myself.

We hired a pool with a heater and filter so we didn’t have the hassle of topping it up or cleaning it. For both births we set up the pool a couple of weeks before my due date so we could enjoy sitting in it and watching TV. It was heaven just to float in it when I was feeling big and uncomfortable. We even had pool parties with lots of friends jumping in!

The second time round I was ten days overdue. I didn’t want to be induced so I decided to try acupuncture to get things going. I left the acupuncturist at about 7pm and an hour later I started experiencing cramps. They weren’t that painful, but they made it difficult to sleep.

At midnight I was sitting downstairs and wasn’t sure if I was in labour, but I decided to ring Tessa to come over just in case, and while I was on the phone the contractions started in earnest. I tried to ring the midwife but I was told that the lines to the hospital were down. Greig and I sat there, grinning at each other, thinking “well, we’ve done it once before – I guess we can do it again”. We did eventually get through to the midwife and she arrived for the last 90 minutes of labour.

By now the contractions were very strong. I had hired a TENS machine [Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator for labour pain relief] and that definitely helped, with Greig pressing the button. I probably could have persevered longer with the TENS but the pool looked so inviting as I remembered how lovely it had been in the water during my first labour.

Greig got in the pool with me and during each contraction I knelt, holding onto the edge, while he applied pressure to acupressure points on my lower back. Between contractions I floated, stretching my legs out so that I could relax and conserve energy for the next contraction. Tessa helped by administering homeopathic remedies and looking after us all. My mum arrived and sat upstairs with Noah, while the midwife sat in the kitchen and let us get on with it.

I didn’t have any examinations to see how far dilated I was, but I just knew that things were progressing quickly. Towards the end, a second midwife arrived and I asked for gas and air. During my first labour I had used it from very early on, but this time I only used it in during the final stages, making it more effective.

At the peak of each contraction I felt the urge to push. During the final stages I sat between Greig’s legs in the pool and I reached down to feel for the baby. I was surprised to feel something soft like a balloon – I realised that my waters hadn’t broken yet and he was still in the amniotic sac. I had visions of him being born in his sac and floating to the top, but the waters broke as he came out so he went straight from fluid into water.

‘The midwife lifted him up to my chest and we sat in the water for about 20 minutes, just the three of us. He was perfectly still, snuggled up next to me, not even opening his eyes or letting out a cry. I don’t think he even realised he had been born. My mum came downstairs to meet him as soon as he was born which was wonderful.

After about 20 minutes I delivered the placenta without the need for drugs and then Greig cut the cord.

The time after Barnie was born was magical. Those first moments are private and special, and you can hold on to them for longer when you are in a pool. As soon as you get out people pounce with towels and take the baby to be weighed and dressed, but in there it was just the three of us, in a brilliant bubble.

I really have positive memories of both my births. Delivering a baby is hard work and painful, but it can be a peaceful and happy experience. It’s a shame more women aren’t encouraged to have home births.

Where to get it

TENS machine:Costs between £22.95 - £26.95 for 30 day hire
Birthing pool:Costs as little as £50 per week to hire (luxury heated pools start at £80 per week) or call 01225 868961

This story first appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of our magazine, Pregnancy, Baby and You.

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