Quinn's Birth Story

Well! I began writing this post on Monday 27th July, my "estimated due date", and I'll admit, I expected to be heavily pregnant on this date and ready to give birth at any moment. As it is, I sat with my laptop, in bed, with a cup of tea and my four day old daughter, Quinn, who'd been snoozing all morning. Her Daddy has the week off of work and had just made me an awesome plate of scrambled eggs with fried cherry tomatoes, parsley and chorizo (it was lush) - and here we are; I'm ready to share Quinn's incredible birth story.
Existing readers will know that I'd been planning a homebirth since learning that I was pregnant - I'd hired a pool after deciding that I wanted to try to avoid the use of painkilling drugs, and so opted for a water birth, and I'd also been preparing myself for her arrival with natal hypnotherapy, and by working with a doula. But how did it actually pan out? Pull up a chair!
I'd gone to bed Wednesday night feeling great, it had been the first day of my self-imposed "maternity leave" so I hadn't done anything work related all day and had actually climbed back in to bed after dropping Seb off at school, and napped for most of the day. My swollen ankles had reached epic proportions and I was suffering from agonising cramping pains in my lower legs whenever I walked more than 10 paces, so I'd decided to allow myself a rest. By the evening though, I felt good - the pregnancy overall had been really healthy and Boyfriend and I had been lounging on the sofa, enjoying watching our baby moving around in my belly.
At 5am on Thursday morning, however, I was woken by uncomfortable stomach cramps, and no matter how I tried to arrange myself and bump, I couldn't get comfortable. In the end, I decided not to disrupt Boyfriend's last hour of sleep with my tossing and turning, and got up. I paced about the flat, making myself a drink, laying on the sofa to browse Twitter, bouncing on my birthing ball, and making frequent trips to the toilet; wondering, as the stomach cramps continued to visit me in waves, whether this could be the beginning of labour.
I'd gone in to labour five years previously, with Seb, after my waters had ruptured spontaneously and with no warning what so ever - there'd never been any doubt that he was on his way, and my contractions had started immediately. This time though, I felt as though I were suffering typical menstrual type cramps, except they'd go away completely for a while before returning. I didn't bother timing these tightenings and cramps though as they were all over the place, sometimes I'd have ten minutes of relief, then I'd experience three of four episodes in the space of five minutes. If anything, they seemed to me to be too close together to be labour contractions - unless of course, they were final labour contractions, but I wasn't in anywhere near enough discomfort for that to be the case... or so I thought.
I went quietly in to my bedroom to retrieve something (I now forget what) and inadvertently woke Boyfriend in the process, telling him about my discomfort. We had a nice snuggle in the bed as I rode out one of these cramping sessions with some careful breathing, before Seb woke up, a little earlier than usual but probably having heard our voices.
I was upstairs with Seb when I decided that I might run myself a bath, to see if that would help to get me comfy, and in the meantime I'd sent a text to Marika, my doula, as she'd told me to text her and keep her updated "even if I didn't think it was important". I still have the text on my phone and it reads:
"Morning. Could be nothing but got up at 5 with regular on/off pains in lower bump and pelvis. Have laid on the sofa and had another three in 30 mins. They seem to be easier if I'm standing so just going with it at the mo to see what comes of it, if anything. Had a bit of upset stomach yesterday and this morning and have been losing a very small amount of mucus this morning - will keep you updated. xxx"
That was sent at 5:37am, before I woke Boyfriend.
Before I'd had a chance to turn on my bath however, I had an overwhelming urge to sit on the loo, and as I went to do so, felt a sudden, yet familiar, gush of water. Once again, my waters had ruptured on their own, and this time I knew that this must actually be the real deal. I asked Seb to call Boyfriend for me, who came upstairs for an update and we had a really lovely, happy, excited cuddle and kiss in the bathroom and got the bath running. I was genuinely just pretty pleased to have got 99% of the fluid loss in the toilet bowl - it was an improvement on the carpark, and car interior, which I splattered last time around!
I called Marika at 6:23am to let her know that we had some progress, and suggested that she might want to make her way over.
Once in the bath, my contractions upped their game somewhat, I used the Labour Bath Ease by Natalia Vital Touch and it smelled divine, I like to think that along with the warm water, it helped me to relax. Seb bought me three rubber ducks and a plastic rowing boat to ease my discomfort, I'm not entirely sure that it worked but once Boyfriend had offered him a jug, and suggested that he gently pour warm water over me, we had a slightly better Mother/Son labour arrangement going on.
I'd always wanted Seb to feel a comfortable part of his brother or sister's birth, even if just for a little while before he went elsewhere. I called my best friend Sushi from the bathtub to ask if she would be able to collect Seb at 8:00am. He was so lovely though, declaring himself entirely responsible for looking after me.
After about half an hour in the bath I decided to get out again, the contractions were starting to become intense enough that I was unable to speak whilst contracting, and when Boyfriend came back to the bathroom he found that he needed to remind me of my breathing, but I still felt that I was in the early stages of labour, and gained a lot of comfort from standing with my arms wrapped around his neck until a sudden declaration that I wanted to be on my own in the bathroom (no idea why!)
Boyfriend got Seb sorted downstairs with some breakfast and an audio book, whilst I made several attempts to go to the toilet before deciding that I wanted to be in my bed. At no point during my birth planning had I thought about utilising the bed - the bedroom in my flat is the smallest room, and was still being used to store various "stuff" that I intended to get rid of, I hadn't really transformed it into a safe haven of relaxation - but I had bought six jasmine scented candles, an oil burner, and a birthing pool for the lounge!
I climbed on to the bed and remained on all fours so that I could move my hips about comfortably, and when Boyfriend came to check on me (first going to the bathroom and finding it empty, following my stealthy exit!) I was starting to grow concerned about the strength and regularity of my contractions. I didn't seem to be getting any relief in between them, as quickly as one subsided, it was building again, but I managed to feel completely removed from the experience, as though I was watching myself experience each one, aware of the pain, but not entirely sure what it meant. I said to Boyfriend on several occasions that I doubted my ability to carry on - but he was incredibly reassuring, referring me back to the natal hypnotherapy preparation that I'd been doing (which at the time I became adamant I couldn't remember - but retrospectively I did really well to put in to place.)

For around the next 15 minutes or so the intense contractions continued, I know on one occasion I did bite Boyfriend on the arm... I'm nice like that - out of the sheer force of the contractions, or, what I thought were contractions, retrospectively, possibly not.

I was aware of no transitional stage in my labour, the contractions continued, in their weird, out of body experience kind of way. Each one completely took over my body but thanks to the preparation that I'd done with natal hypnotherapy, I didn't struggle to allow each one to work it's magic.

Things did, however, suddenly get very interesting at about 7:15am. Seb was still eating breakfast and listening to Dirty Bertie in the living room, when all of a sudden, I felt my baby's head, you know, there. I looked at Boyfriend in surprise and told him that Baby was coming, at which point he reassured and comforted me but didn't seem to realise that I meant actually coming, like, out of me. After my absolute assurance, he decided to have a quick look, we hadn't, at this point, even inflated, let alone started filling, our hired birthing pool, and I hadn't gone near my birth relaxation music or labour companion CD. We'd assumed that I was still in the initial stages of labour, and Boyfriend had concentrated on helping me to get "in my zone", before he could leave me to start preparing my desired birthing room (the lounge).

I grabbed a pillow from the bed and put it beneath me as Boyfriend hung over the edge of the bed to check what I was going on about. At that point, he said, "Oh. Shit." and ran from the room, only to return seconds later with the shower curtain and black sheet, still in their packaging, that we'd bought to cover the sofa, on the off chance that I wanted to use it during labour, or at least for post birth examinations. He ripped off the plastic and managed to coax me off of the floor (where I was kneeling with my elbows on the bed) enough to slide both underneath me.

At this point, Seb appeared at the bedroom door, only because he'd wanted to know why Brad had run in to the lounge, disturbing him whilst he was listening to his story, to then run back out again.

I should say that this part of the labour, from the moment I felt Baby's head shift in to the birthing canal, was completely painless. I was able to smile and talk to Seb, reassure him that Baby was on his/her way, and he seemed quite satisfied, uninterested even, and went back to the lounge. I suddenly felt completely and entirely at ease with everything, those crazy, body rocking contractions had disappeared, and everything seemed to slow down. If anything, I felt very comfortable, apart from the human head wedged in my vagina.

What was confusing me, more than anything, was that I had no urge to push what so ever. I'd read in several books that it's quite common for everything to stop completely once the cervix is fully dilated, to allow the body to rest before it goes in for the final leg, so I guessed this was what was happening, and chilled out for a moment.

At this point, the doorbell rang. Boyfriend went to answer it and as he left the room I felt a strong wave pass through me, no pain, no discomfort, just like every fibre in my body doing a strange, coordinated rolling movement from top to bottom, and I felt Baby's head emerge... so I just knelt there, wondering what to do, and hoping someone would be back in a moment. Whilst I knelt, pondering the situation, I felt Baby slowly rotate inside me (weirdest feeling) but still no urge to push. Then, there was another of those rolling waves, starting in my shoulders and going all the way down to my pelvis, and a sudden gushing sensation... I rocked back, looked at the floor, and there, on the pillow that I'd positioned beneath me, was a pile of baby and umbilical cord!

Time seemed to slow down but I'm certain I acted in the blink of an eye, scooping up this tiny baby and holding me against her chest. She didn't make a sound and laid against me, as I rubbed her and spoke to her, telling her it was OK. At no point was I at all scared but it dawned on me that if there was anything wrong (shouldn't she have cried by now? was she supposed to be this purple?) that we hadn't even called a midwife yet. At that point, the door opened and Boyfriend walked in with Marika, our doula, who both, in a split second after locking eyes with me, realised that I was, in fact, holding a baby.

I loved the moment that followed. Boyfriend obviously burst in to tears (this was always going to happen), and fell on to the bed infront of me and the two of us cuddled our baby between us, just as she let out a series of loud, gurgley cries - much to my relief. As we both soothed the baby, the cries were very short lived, and I suggested we have a look to find out whether we had a little boy or girl, I rolled her gently away from my body and then there was much kissing and cuddling as we learned that we had a brand new daughter, a first for both of us - Boyfriend already has two boys from a previous relationship, where I have Seb.

Thank goodness we had Marika, who, whilst she hadn't been able to attend my labour, or, technically, my birth - did at least think to call a midwife. Unfortunately, because of the potential risks of free birth (unintentional or otherwise), they wanted to send an ambulance - but Marika did at least come and speak to me to see how I felt about this, knowing that medical intervention isn't really my thing. I agreed to have a paramedic attend to check us over, as long as I wasn't unnecessarily expected to attend hospital. I swear the ambulance must have arrived in seconds. Boyfriend and I were sat on the bed, with Quinn snuggled between us, when we heard the sirens approaching. Bizarrely, we were attended by a first response paramedic and a full ambulance crew - which in my tiny bedroom, felt rather too much! After initial checks though, it was apparent that we were both in great shape physically. Blood loss was absolutely minimal, baby was happy, and I was in no pain. They gave us a towel to wipe away some of the gunk that poor Quinn was covered in - which we've kept (the towel I mean) and it's now laundered and fresh!

Quinn had an apgar score of 10 at birth - this determines a new-born's immediate health at birth, based on Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration - 10 is the highest possible score, but not too commonly obtained.

It wasn't long before a midwife arrived. Poor Nicola was just coming off of her shift when Quinn was born, but she was ever so good about getting me checked over. I'd requested a natural third stage of labour, i.e to deliver the placenta and afterbirth without intervention, and to leave Quinn attached by her umbilical cord until the placenta arrived. Unfortunately, however, it showed no immediate signs of putting in an appearance. It can take some time for the placenta to be delivered naturally, but very rarely more than 60 minutes, and midwives don't like to leave it any longer than this. We got to 50 minutes and I was having some cramping, but very little else. The cramps turned to contractions - genuinely much more painful than labour contractions, but there was no movement, I was told to expect to feel the placenta coming away or moving in to the birth canal, but I could feel no such thing, and the pain was pretty horrendous. In the end I agreed to cut Quinn's umbilical cord, which was now withered and white as it had stopped pulsing entirely, and to have the hormone injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta, it has been too long, which can be dangerous, and I was thoroughly fed up.

Boyfriend cut Quinn's cord, and thanks to the fact that I was standing up at the time, I was able to watch which was grossly intrigueing. Once clamped and cut, Quinn went to her Daddy for some cuddles whilst I manoevered myself on to the bed, with the cord hanging out of me and one end in a small bowl, to receive the injection in my thigh. Still nothing. The contractions continued but everyone was getting slightly concerned that my placenta was showing no signs of giving up. I tried "coughing it out" (this did nothing), pushing (this did nothing), and crying because I was frustrated (also did nothing). But eventually, we got some gas and air on the go (my only dalliance with drugs throughout the birth) and gave some almighty pushes to try to shift the thing and at last, it arrived on it's own - absolutely enormous. I've not seen anyone elses placenta in person, but I've seen plenty of pictures and this thing was a monster. Which is a good thing - it obviously served Quinn very well.

During the whole placenta delivery debarcle (which was by far the only horrendous and unenjoyable part of Quinn's birth) Seb had been happily playing with Marika in the living room, making me a Hungry Caterpillar themed card.

The second midwife also arrived before the placenta, and I was so so happy that it turned out to be Kelly, my community midwife, who'd just come on shift. I'd seen Kelly for every one of my antenatal appointments and we have a brilliant relationship, it was genuinely the cherry on the top of my perfect cake that she was able to play a role in Quinn's birth - what's more - Quinn was born on her wedding anniversary, and under somewhat unusual circumstances - so Kelly's said her's is one birth she won't forget in a hurry!

Once the placenta was delivered and inspected, the paramedics were free to go, Nicola did the usual inspections and I'm relieved to say that I suffered no perineal tears what so ever (thank you natal hypnotherapy and perineal massage).

Because blood loss had been totally minimal and I was in such good health, Nicola packed up and went home at the end of a 12 hour night shift (what a nice way to end it though, right?) and Kelly carried out the usual checks and observations on Quinn. Given Quinn's pevious apgar score of 10 this was pretty straightforward, but meant that around 75 minutes after birth, we finally got around to weighing her! She weighed 7lbs 15ozs - 3ozs less than her brother - and certainly well under the 10lbs we'd been "warned" to expect from additional growth scans!

We popped Quinn in to her first nappy - we're using cloth nappies, and she first wore a Mothercare Smart Nappy (we've seen pretty much ditched these entirely for other brands now).

I was sick another couple of times which was a real shame as it rather put a downer on the last little bit before Kelly left, but I got on with it and the sick bowls were taken away and luckily it passed once the syntometrine, the drug used to deliver the placenta, had worn off.

Quinn had Vitamin K administered by oral drops, as we'd opted out of having her injected. I'm confident that the risks associated with injecting Vitamin K at birth are non-existent, our decision not to inject her was simply to make her birth experience as gentle as possible, and not because of a previously suggested link between the vitamin injection and childhood cancers (which has since been largely disproven by credible research).

The midwife refuses to leave until you've been for a wee in these homebirth scenarios, presumably to ensure that you can go for a wee. I was totally prepped with the jug of warm water to take the edge off of the burn but... nope... nothing, no discomfort. I honestly couldn't believe how comfortable I was "down below" after Quinn's birth - and can only put it down to the fact that there was no active pushing involved in the final stage of my labour.

We snuggled up in the lounge once Kelly had gone, and Quinn finally showed an interest in breastfeeding - it's likely that her initial reluctance was just down to the shock of her rather speedy birth, because once she'd got going she fed well. I hadn't breastfed Seb at all, so this was, and continues to be, a new experience that both Quinn and I make up as we go along!

Marika took Seb to the park and around the local shops for an hour whilst Boyfriend had newborn snuggles and I had the best shower of my life, and after that, we enjoyed an afternoon together as a merged, brand new family.

I honestly couldn't rave about my homebirth experience any more than I do - it was incredible, to experience birth in such an uninterrupted, raw way, without intervention from anyone but my baby's father and brother, no drugs, no bleeping machines, no paperwork - just the real, authentic act of childbirth which I consider myself incredibly lucky to have experienced as I know it isn't an option for so many women.

The way in which the final stage of my labour progressed, wasn't something I'd prepared for, but is an element of my experience that I can probably entirely thank my preparation with natal hypnotherapy for. I'd been vaguely aware of the fetal ejection reflex (it is a thing) but hadn't done any research in to it - it just seemed like an interesting phenomena but not something I'd really thought about exploring - so it wasn't on purpose. FER is very rarely witnessed by midwives and doctors, and almost never at all in a hospital environment, because any interruption to the birthing Mother stops it in it's tracks - the fact that I was in a room entirely on my own allowed for possibly the most incredible bodily function known, and I'm pretty chuffed that I was able to experience it - though, as I say, it wasn't actually something I was aiming for or knew anything about. There's a good article on Fetus Ejection Reflex here, for those who are interested.

At 6:45pm on the evening of the 23rd July, less than 12 hours after Quinn was born, I strapped her in to her Papoozle sling and headed out for a walk along the seafront to a brand new restaurant, where I'd previously booked a table for their opening night - I don't think that would have happened, had I had a hospital delivery! My recovery has been largely non-existant because I had no symptoms as such to recover from!

I want to take this opportunity very very quickly to thank Boyfriend endlessly (as I probably will, always) for supporting me like a trooper in the absence of anyone else during our daughter's birth. Also Seb, for making me prouder than I could possibly be for his involvement and the way in which he handled the entire experience - made all the more enjoyable and straightforward thanks to Marika - who not only talked him through what was happening, but played an inordinate amount of Lego Marvel on the Xbox, kept everyone topped up with tea, and was the first non-family member to have those lovely newborn cuddles - my entire birth experience would have been poorer without her. Nicola and Kelly were wonderful midwives, and whilst I'm genuinely glad that I ended up having a completely unassisted delivery - their care afterwards was second to none - to Kelly I'm especially grateful for always championing my decision to have Quinn at home, and for standing by me when the hospital wanted to make things more complicated than they needed to be. Thanks also to the paramedics, who were fabulous fun, very sensitive to the whole situation and generally awesome (thanks also to them for the towel). Last, but not least, thanks to everyone who interacted via the blog throughout my pregnancy, commenting on previous posts, chatting babies on Twitter, or offering their advice when it was needed - onwards to the next chapter I guess!



  1. Oh my god. This sounds absolutely incredible! If only all births could go like this... mine was a little more complicated but you did so well!


  2. Ashleigh, thank you for sharing such an beautiful birth story. It sounded like such a calm birth despite how quick it all happened. :) Congratulations again. xx

    Jenna at Tinyfootsteps xx

  3. Wow, I think that is the best birth story I have ever read. I was on the edge of my seat, close to tears in parts but so relieved with the outcome. Wow, wow, wow,
    I wish all births were like this. I might even come back and read it again later. Yay for Quinn, a little girl and a very clever mummy. Lovely story #MaternityMondays

  4. What an incredible birth story, just beautiful! I think having a home birth sounds so wonderful, sadly I wasn't able to due to blood loss in my 1st labour so was Consultant led. I'm pleased it all went well for you. What a lovely post. #maternitymondays

  5. Oh goodness, that's incredible!