Summer’s home birth story – Part 1 – Preparations

It’s taken me almost a year to put this story together, to put into words one of the most profound experiences of my life and also one of the most personal. I’ve started writing and re-writing it a hundred times, unsure of the details to include or keep private and unsure of how to tell a story with a million parts and details without writing a whole book. From preparing for a home birth, to confronting previous birth trauma and then experiencing profound joy, giving birth at home was, and is, one of the most significant moments of my life. In sharing my birth story(s) I hope to inspire other women to consider home birth if they want to but more importantly I hope to inspire people to talk about birth with a more open dialogue. To talk about the good and the bad. To talk about all the choices and options and to help women believe in themselves and their bodies and to rid themselves of doubt, worry and feelings of failure.

In March 2016, Jasmine, my first daughter, was born in a fairly straightforward hospital birth. I spent the vast majority of time calmly labouring at home, arriving at the hospital to give birth less than 2 whirlwind hours later. In many ways, it was the birth I had wanted and planned, natural and un-medicated and ultimately, the birth that made me a Mother. The experience though, however transformative and “low risk” still left me feeling somewhat shaken, and my healing, both physically and emotionally, took many months. I remember spending many moments during those first few weeks, amongst the joy and celebrations, feeling shock, pain and sadness and that somehow, I hadn’t actually had the birth I’d wanted at all.

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Baby Jasmine, born in hospital

If you’re squeamish, feel free to skip this bit! Following Jasmine’s birth I required internal stitches following a 2nd degree tear, which although is really common (over 80% of first births), was also my biggest fear and meant that I was taken away from newborn Jasmine for over an hour to be “stitched up,” which was far more traumatic for me than the birth itself. (I used double the amount of gas and air!) My post-partum recovery was hard and I wasn’t prepared for it. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and failure when I re-told my birth story (which of course I now curse myself for in hindsight) and to be honest, I felt jealous and envious when I heard stories of women who had experienced water births or who hadn’t had stitches. Now, I can see that those feelings were there because I hadn’t processed or understood my own story, let alone realised how amazing it truly all was! Jasmine’s birth sparked my interest in reading about other women’s birth stories, birth trauma and birth culture around the world.

When we found out we were expecting Summer (although of course we didn’t know it was her at the time) I almost immediately started making plans for a home birth and I knew it was something that I wanted to make a reality, if at all possible. My community midwives were really supportive from the start and the idea, although misunderstood by some, felt like exactly the right thing for me (and Ben!) I researched the various logistics involved with doing it at home, ordered a birthing pool, joined some hugely helpful Facebook groups and started listening to Home-birth podcasts. I wanted all the knowledge I could get and really dedicated time to reading and preparing, something I didn’t do much of before having Jasmine. (For her, I adopted a more “go with the flow” approach!) Most importantly I created a space in my mind that was overwhelmingly positive about home birth. It’s safe to say I was vehemently determined but of course I always kept in mind the unpredictability and risks that childbirth can (but doesn’t always) bring.

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A few days before Summer was born

A big step in the preparations for home-birth was booking a “birth after-thoughts” appointment at our local hospital during which Ben and I met with a senior midwife to go through the details of Jasmine’s birth. I was able to ask questions and find out so many things I hadn’t known at the time, like why I hadn’t been able to have a birthing pool. I was able to cry (and cry and cry) and release 2 years worth of built up emotion related to my first birth. The midwife not only helped me to come to terms with Jasmine’s birth story but also knew just from speaking to me that I was a “home birther.” She knew it before I even said it was what I wanted! I left that appointment feeling understood, empowered and at for the first time, at ease. If you have any degree of birth trauma be it from an emergency delivery to the most straightforward delivery, I strongly urge you to talk it through with a professional. You deserve to free yourself of negative associations and own your birth story without shame, fear or feelings of failure.

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Newborn Jasmine

Preparing for a home-birth was also a big exercise in regularly practising mindfulness, meditation and visualisation. I was mindful about what birth stories I listened to and mindful of not letting people’s concerns or worries invade my space. I spent hours visualising the birth I wanted, imagining it playing out step by step, building a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted, from the atmosphere in the home to the guidance I wanted from my birth partners to all the things I didn’t want as well. I made a set of positive affirmations which I stuck around the house and I spoke to women whose own experiences or words of encouragement made me feel uplifted and strong. I downloaded hypnobirthing tracks onto my phone and listened to them in the shower, as I drifted off to sleep and as and when I needed to. I was determined, focused, positive and most importantly, I believed in myself and my ability to birth safely in the comfort of my own home.

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Part 2 – Giving birth at home – coming next!


Dear Jasmine….Happy 3rd Birthday

Dear Jasmine,

Today you turn 3 years old and I find myself repeating, “I can’t believe it,” over and over again. I’m sorry if all the birthday excitement from me has seemed a little crazy but for me, as your Mummy, your birthday is a day of huge significance. Your birth day was the day that I became a Mother and my whole world changed in that moment. Not only that but your birthday is a celebration of you, of all your achievements this past year and the first day in a new chapter of exciting things to come.

A year ago, at just 2, you were a little person with your own thoughts, ideas and preferences and a year on, whilst so much of that is still the very essence of you, there’s also been a shift this year. Some days it feels as if you’ve grown up two years this year, not just one, because the transformation in you is just too big to fathom. Now, you are even more able to do things for yourself. Whether it’s helping yourself to food, taking your own milk from the fridge, using the big toilet, turning on and off the tv or the latest skill…doing your own hair clips, your determination for independence and, “I want to do it by myself,” attitude is actually very inspiring.

Back in June last year you became a big sister to Summer and I think, although you couldn’t say it as such, your world got a little bit turned upside down. We went through some tricky patches, me losing my patience, you adapting to change and I think it’s fair to say things were tricky. There were times, if I’m really honest with you my sweet Jasmine, that I’ve found this year of parenting really tricky. “Age 2-3″ has certainly had its ups and downs. The demands of two children, very little sleep and a feisty toddler (that’s you) have at times driven me to the point where I have wanted to scream. Don’t be sad reading that because it’s not anything you did wrong, not at all. It’s just been hard work  and many times I felt out of my depth, not knowing what to do for the best for either of us. ‘Two” definitely hasn’t been terrible but it certainly has been tricky and I think that’s OK for me to admit.

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This year you became a big sister

So whilst that sounds all dark and gloomy, it’s not supposed to be! In a million ways we’ve had an amazing year too. We’ve laughed together, danced together and played together for hours. Your unique soul has shone brighter than ever before with your personality and interests revealing themselves to us more each day. Of course we still have our moments here and there but I’m pretty sure the fog has lifted in recent months and in that shift we’ve found a new ease and a new rhythm together…even without your day time nap!

Now you’re 3 whole years old and I’m more in love with you than ever, of course. I think i’ll be saying that even when you’re 30 years old too and imagine the letter I’ll have to write then! Jasmine, my sweet, kind, sensitive, funny, beautiful, curious girl, here are a few of my favourite things about you now on the day that you’re turning 3:

I love the way you ask questions, all day everyday, about everything. Your desire for knowledge and your desire to understand the world is amazing. You ask me what day it is, where we’re going today, what Daddy is doing, what Grandma is wearing, what’s wrong with Summer, who we saw yesterday, what’s so-and-so’s brother called, what can you have for a snack, did I see that, did I see this, are we going there, what’s that what’s that what’s that?

I love the way you have “best friends” now and although the best friend, changes each day, I can tell that your friendships mean a lot to you already. You missed your friends when we were away in Israel for a month, you look forward to seeing them talk about your adventures together at Nursery. Your friends cheer you up, spur you on and bring a smile to your face and it’s such a joy to see.

“Girls are the best,” is your mantra and you tell me at least 5 times a day, sometimes adding, “not boys” onto the end, to which I add that we do like boys too because, equality, and all that. I love that you have a strong female identity and in a world where you may still have to fight if not for your own equality, then for the equality of girls around the world, I’m going to let you keep repeating this mantra for as long as you want to.

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You are an amazing big sister to Summer. I know it hasn’t always been easy and it still isn’t. I know Mummy carries Summer on her hip all day long and pays close attention to her at meal times and bath time. I know I’m not there for you like I was when it was just us but Jasmine, you are so kind to her and so caring. You soothe her when she’s sad and your words make her feel better. You only have to be in the room with Summer and she’s happier. You find sharing me difficult at times but you also understand it deeply, that she needs me too and I guess that’s why it hurts you. Sometimes you’ll say, “Mummy, you need to give Summer a cuddle,” and in those moments, I’m so grateful for your wisdom. Summer is so lucky to have you as her big sister, she really is.

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I love the way you only wear dresses now and have done every day for at least 6 months. You choose your own outfits every day and strongly reject any suggestion that doesn’t involve a “pretty dress.” You love pink, princesses, jewellery, high heels and hair clips and love a soak in a hot, deep bath at the end of every day. That’s my girl! You embrace your body and love to dance in front of the mirror declaring body positive statements about yourself with pure and delightful self-confidence. Please, do this forever.

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A pretty dress and hair clips makes for a happy Jasmine

You’ve inherited creativity from Daddy‘s side of the family although your musicality comes from me! There’s few things you love more than art and being creative. You can spend hours playing with play dough, drawing, painting and making things and our current prediction is that you’ll be creative when you’re older, too. We flit between that and CEO of a major company, you know, because you just love to be the boss! When you’re not busy with your arts and crafts, you’re usually dancing or singing spinning around or tip-toeing like a ballerina.

You’ve got a sweet tooth and love all things cake, chocolate and biscuits which of course we only give you in extreme moderation! “I want a snack from the snack cupboard” is possibly your most used phrase of all time followed by, “no, not that one….a special treat.” Once again, it’s Daddy you can thank for this habit! You really do love your food though and your latest favourite is pistachio nuts! You are beginning to understand your identity as a vegan and what that means to you and our family. I can’t wait to continue this journey together.

Happy birthday my sweet girl. You are my absolute joy, every single day. I love you to the moon and the stars and back, or, “this much,” as we say with arms stretched out wide. You are simply incredible and I honestly cannot wait to get this next year started. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be our best yet.

Love,

Mummy

x

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