Even before I found out I was pregnant, I always knew I wanted a home birth. Hospitals make me feel anxious as I associate them with being ill or in pain so I knew I’d be more comfortable at home in my own surroundings. I wanted to avoid as much medical intervention as possible, so after some research we decided to use hypnobirthing as a way to manage the birth of our baby. We attended a two day course led by Siobhan from the Positive Birth Company
This is our positive home birth story.
Friday 8th December 2017
Friday’s plans were to get up early(ish) and sort out some stuff that needed to go to the dump. Jon was due back from work at about 11.30am so I wanted to get it ready for when he got back. The house was pretty chaotic, we had just finished putting the nursery furniture together and the garden was full of cardboard and packaging. My mum and dad were coming down to help us clear it and have an afternoon dog walk on the beach. Mum had also been cooking up some food for us to put in the freezer as post birth supplies.
Thursday night had been a frustrating night, I had been suffering with pregnancy insomnia on and off for a few weeks, but Thursday was a double whammy as Jon had a cold and was snoring his head off. I gave up trying to sleep in bed and instead made a nest on the sofa with the fire on in the front room. To help me relax and go back to sleep I played ‘The Boat’ MP3 provided by Siobhan and some other relaxation music I found on iTunes.
The relaxation tracks obviously did there thing as I drifted off and the next thing I knew it was 5.30am and Jon was up and off to work. We had a brief discussion about the volume of snoring that had occurred then said our goodbyes, see you laters and I love yous.
I trotted off back up to bed and cuddled up to Murph (our Whippet dog) and slept until about 8am when Murph got up and not so subtle asked for his breakfast to be served by barking his diva like head off. I got up and fed him and made myself a bowl of coco pops. They didn’t really go down that well, which was unusual because coco pops had been my staple go-to snack throughout most of my pregnancy. I got back into bed and had what I thought was quite an strong Braxton Hicks. I sat on the edge of the bed and breathed it through like I had been doing over the previous few of weeks – using the up breathing that we had been taught. When it eased off it made me want to have a poo, so off I went, did what I needed to do and got back into bed with the dog.
I should probably rewind to the previous Saturday night for a bit a context as we had had a false alarm involving a laugh/fart/wee yourself incident.
We were tucking into KFC as we had just taken Murph to the emergency vets after he decided to counter surf and eat half a fruit cake. Raisins are poison for dogs so he basically had to have his stomach pumped by the out-of-hours vet. We were due to go out to eat that night (a potential last date night for a while!) but we had to cancel that reservation and picked up KFC on the way home instead.
Whilst watching TV something made me laugh and fart at the same time (just one of those awesome pregnancy side effects!). Obviously farts are hilarious (fact) so laughed a little bit more and then felt a gush. I went to the toilet, composed myself, changed my knickers and went back downstairs. I didn’t think too much of it, but five minutes later I was getting fairly frequent Braxton Hicks. I told Jon about the gushing incident and we both wondered if that had actually been my waters breaking or rupturing. We decided to time them and I was getting one every eight minutes or so. We thought that this could be early labour so Jon quickly dashed out to get some supplies whilst I tided the kitchen and gave the bathroom a clean. Our midwife said that a lot of home births end up in the bathroom so I thought it had best be given a once over!
The Braxton Hicks continued until 11ish and then fizzled out. We decided to just go to bed and see what happened. At about 2am they came back so I woke Jon up to say I was going to call triage for some advice. The following morning nothing had happened so on the advice of the triage midwife we went in for a swab to check if it was my waters that had ruptured. These tests came back negative and confirmed that I had simply pee’d myself!
So fast forward back to Friday morning, this was why I didn’t think much of it and thought it was just another false alarm. I had a couple more probably about 5 minutes apart and again they really made me need to have a poo. I thought, ‘awesome, thanks baby, nothing like keeping on my toes with all these practice runs’. I then got period pain like cramps and my lower back started to ache. This felt different. This felt like the real thing so I called Jon.
In the lead up to our due date, Jon and I agreed that if I called him, I had to say ‘I’m not in labour’ first before proceeding with the conversation. This time I didn’t really know what to say so I did what the pregnant me did best and started to cry. Eventually I managed a ‘I think you need to come home now’.
Jon would be at least 40 minutes and I could feel myself getting anxious about being by myself. I knew from the course that I had to calm myself down to get the oxytocin going so I ran a bath, put on my electric tea lights, played the positive affirmation track and concentrated on breathing through each surge, which were fairly moderate at this point.
Jon got home and he could just tell I was in a different place and this really was the real thing. We had a few happy, excited, nervous tears together with me in the bath and Jon sat on the toilet. We started to time the surges, they were pretty consistent and growing in intensity so I suggested that Jon should get cracking with setting up the pool. From the bathroom I could hear him rattling around and the sound of the electric pump inflating the pool, I felt a lot more relaxed knowing Jon was home and things were getting sorted so I just carried on as I was, listening to my ‘plinky plonky’ relaxation music. I remember thinking that I could potentially be spending most the day like this, as I was expecting labour to last many hours.
From this point on my memory starts to get hazey. I can’t really remember getting from the bath to the front room, but my next memory is leaning over my gym ball in the front room. The surges were getting closer and stronger and we decided that we needed to call the midwife, I remember telling Jon that I now thought it was going to happen quicker than expected. Luckily, not long after this, the pool was full enough to get in it. I remember climbing in, feeling the warmth and just sinking into it. The relief was amazing. I think this must have released a whole load of oxytocin as the surges kicked up a notch again almost instantly. I found a good UFO (upright, forward and open) position leant over the edge of the pool, with Jon feeding me lucozade from a bottle and doing light touch massage between surges.
The next thing I knew the midwife was there, I hadn’t met her before, but she was very softly spoken and reassuring and I felt instantly comfortable, but couldn’t really speak as this took me out the bubble I had now created. I had agreed to an examination on arrival so I knew this was coming and that this would take me out my bubble briefly. I wasn’t rushed though and we timed it between surges. She was very quick and told me I was 5cm so I knew we had called at the right time and I was already in established labour which felt good. I quickly got back into the pool as soon as I could and took myself straight back into my bubble. I could hear various conversations between Jon and the midwife and at one point, in the corner of my eye, Jon was mopping the floor. I wanted to ask what was going on, but as soon as I started to think about what was happening around me, this took me away from my bubble which was my safe place where I had a very clear task to do. I later found out the kitchen had flooded when Jon had to unattach the hose from the kitchen tap so the midwife could wash her hands!
I lost track of all time and I had no idea of time frame or where I was in the process. I can remember suddenly feeling really worried because the surges were so close together that I was struggling to bring myself back down in between as they were happening one after the other. I could feel my breathing go and I had to have a word with myself because I could feel panic in the way I was breathing and knew I had to get a handle on it. I was worried that if this was going to go on for hours, I wasn’t going to have the stamina to see it through and I was going to have to ask for medical help, which I didn’t really want to do.
Next thing I knew my body halted for a bit, I remember using this moment to catch my breath and refocus. I suddenly felt very peaceful and just floated in the pool. Then everything changed and I wanted to push. I felt something cold on the back of my neck, this felt amazing, then I could feel the cold running up and down my arms. Jon told me at this point he wasn’t really sure what to do as I wasn’t making any kind of conversation. He had put ice in a flannel and placed it on the back of my neck and ran ice cubes up and down my arms. This was simply the best thing ever at this point!
I felt the downward motion and heard Jon’s voice saying just a couple more and we get to met our baby. I became a little more aware of the situation outside the bubble at this point and felt a bit of disbelief that the moment was actually here and also excitement and a feeling of accomplishment. I wanted to ask where I was in the process to confirm what I was feeling, but didn’t want to risk feeling disappointed if they said I still had a while to go.
With the next downward motion I went into Crossfit workout mode (this is what I have trained in for several years and throughout my pregnancy) I could visualise myself digging deep in a workout with the clock ticking trying to get the last few reps in.
I could feel the burn of the head coming out, but I was actually getting reassurance from this discomfort because it confirmed that my baby was coming out and I was nearly done. Then I had another downward motion and felt a huge release and heard the midwife and Jon say I had done it and to reach down and grab my baby. I looked down and saw my baby in the water. I felt a huge rush of achievement and I remember thinking ‘I’ve done it, I’ve actually done it, I’ve birthed my baby’. I picked it up, bought it to my chest and had a quick look to see what we had. I saw a little willy and told Jon it was Digby, it was a boy. I then doubted myself as maybe it was the cord I had seen, I double checked and it was definitely a boy and he even had a little wee!
He was quiet, but we knew not to be alarmed and the fact that he was still sleeping meant that the birth had been gentle for him. Jon later told me he had watch the whole thing and he came out in the sack which must have ruptured as he came out. I just sat there looking at him whilst the midwife put towels around Digby and myself. The house was calm and quiet, it just felt peaceful and perfect.
A few minutes later, two more midwifes turned up in the front room, I didn’t know how long they had been there or if they had been hanging out in the kitchen, but I didn’t really care. Turns out they had the gas and air and Digby had been born before they got there. They sat me on the sofa, I was shaking like a leaf and was encouraged to push again to deliver the placenta. I had no more push left and because of the shaking I just couldn’t coordinate myself. Eventually, after about an hour, they suggested I sit on the toilet. As soon as I sat down, the placenta literally fell straight out and I caught it in the plastic pot. I remember thinking ‘of course it was never going to come out downstairs, I was on my back!’ I had completely forgotten about applying our training to delivering the placenta too – next time I’ll remember!
I had 2nd degree tears (first I knew of this was when I was being examined) and was stitched up on the edge of the sofa with my legs propped up on two dining room chairs. Jon was shining his iPhone torch to help the midwife see what she was doing. This wasn’t pleasant and my dignity had well and truly left the building at this point, but it was a small price to pay as baby Digby was still fast asleep in my arms.
Birthing Digby was the most incredible, empowering and surreal experience. I feel very fortunate to have been able to achieve the birth that I wanted and feel confident in saying that our positive birth experience was down to the hypnobirthing course we did with Siobhan. The midwife team were very complimentary about the level of antenatal preparation we had done and they also commented that the training almost certainly aided such a positive birth experience.
Digby Francis White
Born at home
Official labour time 2hrs 17mins
In my last blog post I talked about how I felt inspired by some Rembrandt etchings I saw in Rome, so much so, I decided to dust off my old Bronica medium format camera.
The etchings reminded me of the traditional photographic processes I learnt back in my university days and the importance of understanding your craft. I also loved the compositions of the portraits and the square format in which they were produced.
My Bronica produces 6×6 negatives and lends itself perfectly to this Rembrandt etching style. I love this camera! I can remember buying it after I graduated from my BA in 2004 from my favourite camera shop, Mifsuds, in Brixham, Devon. I had always used Mamiya at Uni, but these were more expensive so I bought the Bronica instead. I love the clunk of the shutter and the sound of the film winding on, it’s so satisfying. The view finder takes a little bit of getting used to because it’s a reflected image and is opposite to what you’re actually seeing.
Ever since Rome and seeing the Rembrandt etchings, I’ve been desperate to shoot on film. I rummaged through all my old camera kit and found a couple of rolls of Ilford Pan50 that was seven years over its sell by date. It was a long shot, but the film was still in a sealed box and in its foil wrapper so I thought I’d give it a go anyway.
My husband and I took our Whippet, Murph, up onto Woodbury Common on a rather overcast Sunday. I knew I wanted a fairly plain background so the grey sky was pretty good for this. I just shot the one film using Jon as a model, as I really had no idea whether it would actually come out or not. The camera doesn’t have an in-built light meter, so I had to remind myself how to use my hand held meter and take the readings manually. I used to do this without too much thought, both outdoors and in the studio – I could tell I was a little out of practice!
After a bit of online searching I found Peak Imaging, who still offer a full range of film processing services. I was super impressed with how quickly my negatives were developed and sent back to me. I posted them on a Wednesday afternoon and got them back Saturday morning, which meant I could crack on with getting them scanned in. Unfortunately I don’t have access to a darkroom anymore, so from this point on, I had to revert to digital methods.
I forgot just how much dust sticks to negatives and the never ending battle in trying to keep them clean, but it made a nice change to have a more tactile, hands on approach to picture editing, rather than just waiting for images to download from a SD card!
The results were a little under-exposed so I want to do a few more test rolls to perfect the art of light meter reading and compensation. The main issue with shooting with medium format cameras is that there is quite a lot of distance between the front of the lens and where the film sits, so you have to allow for this in the exposure.
I’m feeling confident that once I reacquaint myself with this camera, I will soon pick up from where I left off many years ago. I’m really enjoying going back and practicing these traditional processes, which I will no doubt be able to reapply to my digital work. It has definitely triggered a new found appreciation for tradition. I sometimes get too caught up in trying to find something new and forget to look back and take inspiration from what has been before.
I took a trip to my local library and picked out books on Henri Cartier-Bresson and Edward Weston, two of the great masters – watch this space!
My husband and I have just got back from a four day, pasta and pizza filled trip to Rome. I’ve always wanted to go to Italy for the food and culture and my history loving husband, Jon, has always wanted to go to Rome to visit the ancient sites.
What a city it is! We both decided Rome was a place you could visit over and over again and see something new every time. We saw all the main attractions such as the Colosseum, St Peter’s and the Vatican, The Roman Forum…etc. For me, I loved getting lost in the back streets and stumbling across little pieces of history hidden away, in quieter and more peaceful surroundings. I found the hustle and bustle of the main attractions distracted me from being able to fully appreciate their significance. It’s hard to look up at the Colosseum , imagining it in all its brutal glory, when someone is trying to sell you a selfie-stick or guided tour every ten seconds.
I found I was fascinated by some unexpected things. Retro Fiat cars, Roman typography in the carved stone road signs, the vast amount of orange and lemon trees – we stopped for lunch at a crossroads one day and on each corner was an orange tree full colourful fruits, they were so beautiful. I also developed a new appreciation of stone carvings and sculpture thanks to our very knowledgeable guide in St Peters.
During the trip we visited the Vatican Museum that had a Rembrandt exhibition. I was familiar with some of his work, but less familiar with his etchings. In terms of art, these were my absolute highlight. Beautiful portraits dated around c.1635 etched into copper plates, the detail in them was incredible and they were so small and delicate looking. Both the process and result felt very reminiscent of Daguerreotype photographs – a photographic process invented by Louis-Jaques-Mande Daguerre in c.1839, where sheets of silver plated copper were used to capture an image.
Every bit a shadow, detail in eyes, hair and clothing must have been carefully considered so not to etch into the copper too hard or too soft. The compositions were again, very similar to many photographic portraits and from a distance, they did look like very early black and white photographs.
They got me thinking about the history of photographic processes and the importance of understanding your craft. I had flashbacks of everything I had learnt through from my A’level photography to my MA photography. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely an advocate of digital, particularly in a commercial setting, but there was always something very considered about the film based photographic process that was unavoidable; choosing the right type of film for the job, taking multiple light readings during a shoot to make sure that you wouldn’t be under or over exposing the film, developing your negatives with precision timing, going through the negatives on a light box (or sometimes taped to a window!) and then producing your contact sheets for editing, choosing the right printing process and type of paper to use (would your image require a warm tone or cool tone, high or low contrast, did you need to maintain detail in the blacks?). Every step in the process was considered.
Digital technology has made photography accessible to the masses and brings joy to so many people. This accessibility has also created a hugely competitive photographic market, with many photographers offering a range of photographic services making it difficult to choose between them.
I have been learning my craft since I was 16 years old and I understand the importance of putting care and consideration into every photograph I take. I have spent hours in dark, fume filled darkrooms learning how to create beautiful lasting images, skills which I’ve transferred into my more modern approach to photography. I have an ever growing collection of books on photography and art theory and continue to learn and be inspired from the greats across many art forms. I believe this is what sets me apart from many of my competitors. I know photography, its history, its process and its power.