This is the story of my second labour & birth. My first resulted in an emergency caesarean due to an internal infection and suspected Sepsis. I suffered with birth trauma as a result. After preparing though counselling, praying, reading, learning & a lot of talking, I was ready to labour with & birth my second baby. My plan was for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean), waterbirth at home supported by the University Hospitals Leicester Home Birth Team.
By the time my contractions began at around 1000 on Monday 11th January, pretty much everything had been in place for 4 whole weeks. I was 41 weeks pregnant and beginning to wonder if my body remembered what it was supposed to do to get this baby out! I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable over the course of the day, but more worried that the contractions would slow down, or worse stop. Thankfully they continued, though irregularly, over the course of the day and by the time I’d usually go to bed, my mum was on her way. Around 01:00 on Tuesday 12th, a couple of midwives came to assess how I was doing and though my contractions weren’t quite regular or intense for them to stay, they were confident that I was progressing and left the birth pool and aromatherapy mix behind.
I tried to rest as best I could until my regular midwife came at around 15:30 for my scheduled appointment that day. I agreed to a sweep in the reasonable hope that it would move things along a bit. The sweep proved very successful and my Bishop’s score was noted to be good. Around dinner time, my sister arrived (to look after Diane, our almost-2-year-old), closely followed by the midwives who were just starting the night shift. They soon established that I was progressing well, announced their intention to stay and began the long process of filling the birth pool.
By 22:00 I was in the pool & the discomfort of the contractions was greatly reduced. Until that point I had focused on using hypnobirthing breathing techniques and prayer, often offering up the discomfort for various intentions. Once in the pool, I had my Catholic birth affirmations in view and used them to inform my prayers. Jonathan (my husband) also prompted and prayed with me, often the Lord’s Prayer, or encouraging me to focus on St Joan, my confirmation saint and whose medal I wore.
After a while, I started using gas & air (something I knew from previous experience was useful, but I was keen not to use too much). I started taking only two breaths for each contraction, gradually working up to four as I felt necessary.
Various adjustments were made to the temperature and depth of the pool while I was in there. At one point it got too hot & I had to stand occasionally as cold water was added. At another time, I noticed (despite 4 other sets of eyes looking on) that the water level was dropping! It turned out the water was flowing back out via the hose and onto the kitchen floor!
When the clock ticked over to midnight of 13th January 2021, one of the midwives showed me the time on her phone, noting that baby would be born that day. At about 00:30, baby’s heart rate was noted to be elevated. An ambulance was called as a precaution with an ETA of 9 minutes, but I never saw it. I agreed to get out of the pool. I moved to the sofa and, with the help of a minor episiotomy, Angela Lilian van Kroonenburg was born shortly after at 01:00. We had skin to skin, I cut the cord (something I hadn’t planned on doing, but felt right in the moment) and received my stitches before she was weighed – 8lb 11oz.
I felt pure elation. I was safe, surrounded by family & midwives who had guided me and helped me to make informed decisions every step of the way. If I ever felt scared, it was of what my body was capable of doing. I discovered hidden depths and strengths, but could never have found them alone. I felt surrounded by prayer, and even when the pain was at it’s worse, I felt I touched Purgatory – suffering with intention & a heart full of love.