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My Water Birth at the RVI Birthing Centre


Pregnant woman prepares for water birth at RVI Birth Centre Newcastle

The birth of my second baby was a redemptive, and wonderful, water birth experience at the RVI Birthing Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. It was much closer to what I had hoped my first birth would look like. Sadly, the birth of my first baby was a traumatic induction of labour which I still carry emotional scars from.


Pregnancy and childbirth, after birth trauma, can be very difficult. You can read my blog article about preparing for a subsequent birth, after birth trauma, here (https://www.pregnancypal.co.uk/elementor-975/).





Choosing the RVI Birthing Centre


Initially, due to the drama, and poor outcomes of my first birth experience, I thought about having my next baby in the RVI Labour Ward with continuous foetal monitoring and maybe even an epidural. I was reaching for ways to feel safer and to try and control the outcomes. I decided to at least start a hypnobirthing approach to birth again; focusing on the positive and building up confidence. I dug out Ina May’s ‘Guide to Childbirth ‘and Milli Hill’s ‘The Positive Birth Book’ and ‘Give Birth Like a Feminist.’ I began to feel stronger, fired up, and confident once more in my ability to have a natural birth. I also retook a hypnobirthing course, with my husband, Paul, so we could consolidate our knowledge.


I envisioned my water birth once more and started to plan for a water birth at the RVI Birthing Centre. I did start to consider a home birth but Paul was against the idea and sadly, the trauma of my first birth held me back from feeling safe outside of the hospital setting. It felt like the RVI Birthing Centre would be a good compromise between home and hospital and I also understood that the RVI Birthing Centre would provide us with a private room, after the birth, and Paul would not be treated as a “visitor.” It was very important to me that we could stay together.


I luckily stumbled upon some information about the Nova Team; a continuity of carer team based at the RVI Birthing Centre. The aim of this team was to provide the same midwife throughout my antenatal care (at the RVI Birthing Centre) and then, if she was working when I went into labour, this would be the midwife that would attend my baby’s birth. I would then attend the RVI Birthing Centre for post-natal care. This sounded perfect for me and I adored my midwife, Lucy. She was able to spend slightly longer at each appointment and offered me a Birth Reflections appointment to discuss my first birth experience. Lucy was encouraging and supportive and was excited about me doing hypnobirthing. I felt like we were a partnership preparing for my baby’s birth and it was wonderful.


If you would like to read more about hypnobirthing you will find some helpful information here - www.sagebirth.co.uk/abouthypnobirthing


The tricky thing about preparing for a subsequent baby’s birth in a hospital, or birth centre, is requiring child care for your first, especially when you have no family close by. Developing an on-call rota of friends and family from 39 weeks gestation was chaos and wondering what would happen my 2.5 year old son, while I was in labour, caused a lot of stress and anxiety. I also started to feel really guilty asking other people for help, particularly my mum, who was flying back and forth from Belfast. I felt very under pressure to have my baby and, as I reached the due date, felt the need to start doing things to try and induce my labour. The RVI Birthing Centre also has a policy that you cannot birth there past 42 weeks gestation (though I understand you can push to be "outside guideline"). I was swept up in the need to do things and was constantly bouncing on my birth ball, doing YouTube “induce your labour” workouts, and crab walking side ways up the stairs. I’m chuckling as I write this but really the pressure was so intense that it was hard to sit and be still, waiting patiently for my baby. Of course, none of these things worked.


Waiting for Labour to Start


At my next antenatal appointment, at 40+4 weeks, I agreed to a membrane sweep to help get things started. However, after this, my bump measurement suggested baby’s growth was static; that she had stopped growing. This immediately made me panic. Lucy was able to reassure me that she believed it was just that my bump had notably dropped and changed shape. However, bound by hospital policy, she phoned to book me another growth scan. We were told that no appointments were available and I was to attend Maternity Assessment for a CTG instead and, hopefully, the obstetrician I would see would be trained in sonography. Lucy warned that if I could not get a scan, then they may push me towards another induction of labour. I saw my dreams of the lovely water birth in the RVI Birthing Centre fading which only made me more anxious.


In Maternity Assessment I was hooked up to a CTG machine and all looked fine. We were also able to get a scan in Foetal Medicine, with the obstetrician, and all looked fine. Baby was estimated to measure over 8lbs via ultrasound; much more than she weighed at birth. On reflection, I do find it interesting that I went to my antenatal appointment feeling happy and confident in my wriggling, kicking, squirming, little baby’s wellbeing but the use of the tape measure, and my failure to follow a perfect linear progression of growth, caused so much anxiety. I then, along with the health professionals, relied on a computer to tell me my baby was actually fine and healthy, rather than using my intuition and connection with my baby.


Labour Begins


Lucy was so caring and gave me a call that evening, at the end of her shift, to check I was OK. She asked if I had started to have any cramps, after the membrane sweep, and I suddenly realised that I had been. I did not think too much about it, when I went to bed that night, but woke up at 2am feeling an unmistakable surge (contraction). I felt too excited to fall back asleep and lay in bed, with a hot water bottle, watching how far apart the surges were; one every 10-15 minutes. I lay in bed till about 6:30am, having thankfully gotten another 30 minutes of sleep around 5am. I then got up and went to my son’s room, happily announcing that “baby is coming today!” Paul asked if he should go to work that morning or not – thankfully I said no! I was able to eat breakfast at the table but after this the surges did start to get stronger and required me to pause and close my eyes. I must have come across quite calm and unbothered because Paul asked if I was coming to do the nursery drop off with him; this was around 8am. I stayed home and got dressed and tried to have another lie down.


A post partum woman holds her newborn baby after water birth at RVI Birth Centre Newcastle
Water birth at RVI Birthing Centre

I walked around the garden a bit, to try and stay active, but retreated to the living room, closed the blinds, and put on Cinderella (the Lily James version is my favourite movie), and rocked about on my yoga mat. I had planned to labour in the RVI Birthing Centre for the majority of my labour, so that I could set the room up with my tea lights, spa music, and relaxing room spritz. However, at home, I was waiting for things to start to feel difficult, as a sign that it was active labour, and time to leave. My induction, from my son’s birth, had caused relentless back-to-back contractions and I had thought, as I was just induced by a pessary of synthetic prostaglandins, that that was natural labour. Although at this stage, my labour was certainly not comfortable, or easy, it was not difficult and it was not painful. I was still waiting for things to get harder. Paul joined me in the living room and timed the surges. He pointed out how they were lasting about 90 seconds and were only a few minutes apart. He encouraged me that it was time to phone the RVI Birthing Centre but I kept saying, “No, no, no, it couldn’t possibly be time to go in yet.” The app we were using told us I was in active labour but for some reason I was expecting it to say “Hey girl, time to go!” before I agreed to leaving home. I kept telling Paul it was not time to leave. I even noticed the surges decreasing in intensity and just felt really tired and sleepy. I pointed out to him that the surges were feeling really gentle and the pressure had moved to my bum instead. Alarmed, he insisted he should phone the midwives and they encouraged us to come in. I understand now that this was the “rest and be thankful stage” where women get a break, and some even fall asleep, between the first, and second stage, of labour.


Water Birth at the RVI Birthing Centre


As I was getting ready to leave I felt the pressure in my bum increasing and the surges were building in intensity once more. I do wonder if getting up, getting shoes on, and leaving my zone, disturbed my peace. It was a 10 minute car journey to the RVI Birthing Centre and it was extremely uncomfortable. As we had two big car seats fitted in the back, there was no space to move about and my only option was to sit properly on the front seat with my seat belt on. We then parked outside the RVI Birthing Centre and it was a very slow, and difficult, walk to the entrance of Leazes Wing as I had to keep stopping and breathing through the surges. It must have been quite a spectacle to all the smokers lurking outside the entrance.


We buzzed the RVI Birthing Centre and the receptionist, who said she saw us coming, ran out with a wheelchair and I was saved from my struggles to walk, with a descending baby. We arrived into a lovely room with a birth pool and my midwife, not my usual one, started to fill it up. I was quite obviously in active labour, and I imagine it was quite obvious that baby was on her way. However, I was asked if she could check me with a vaginal examination and confirmed, “Yup, 10cm.” It did seem strange the need to do this intimate activity to confirm something that was obvious. It was also very difficult for me to lie on my back for the vaginal examination.


The RVI Birthing Centre have no beds in the birth rooms which encourage you to be more dynamic and not take on the role of a patient in a bed. I lay on my side on a squishy lounger thing, kind of like something you might get at a soft play, waiting for the birth pool to finish filling up. At this stage my usual midwife, Lucy, joined us. She was on her lunch break from the Birth Reflections Clinic and, because we had built a good relationship, wanted to check in on me. I was beyond grateful to see her familiar face and I cannot emphasise enough to people how important and wonderful it is to have continuity of carer. As it was obvious that baby would be here soon, Lucy popped on a pair of gloves and remained at my side throughout her lunch break. I felt tense and overwhelmed by the force of the down stage of labour so used the gas and air to help ease some of the sensations. However, once I stepped in the birth pool, it was like all tension just flowed away, I could relax much more and fully release into this stage of labour. Lucy held my hand and the support and connection between us was so strengthening.


Newborn baby sleeps after water birth at RVI Birth Centre
Water Birth at RVI Birthing Centre

My daughter was born shortly after I entered the pool and it was amazing to hold her against my chest.


She did not cry and instead seemed content to look at us and be held. Her cord was cut and I was encouraged to get out of the pool for the delivery of my placenta. I had opted to have the injection of synthetic oxytocin; this was actually given, without my consent, during my first birth, and the placenta had been released so easily that I thought it was worth getting again. However, this is when my birth experience took a left turn.








Birthing the Placenta


It is interesting that introducing an intervention, and meddling with the physiological process, that had worked beautifully to that point, caused a problem. Once my midwife had injected the synthetic oxytocin, I lay on my back and she applied traction to the umbilical cord. This was sore and uncomfortable and I had to puff on the gas and air again to manage the sensations. On reflection, it is sad how I went from roaring my baby out in a glorious water birth to lying on my back, submissive to the process of the intervention. After several attempts to pull the placenta out by the cord, my midwife called in the head midwife to help and she also could not get the placenta out. All of this really hurt and was so disruptive to our golden hour and a huge come down from the beautiful water birth. My husband was also holding our daughter against his chest, during this ordeal, rather than me.


I was advised that, as the placenta was not coming out, I would need to go up to Labour Ward for a manual removal in theatre. This is exactly as it sounds; after an epidural the obstetrician enters their hand into your uterus, rummages around for the placenta, then literally pulls it out by hand. Suddenly, my lovely, natural, water birth, was getting very medicalised indeed. I would also then be required to stay the night on Labour Ward and my husband, the "visitor," would be sent home.


We waited in a room on Labour Ward and our Birth Centre midwife stayed with us, helping us stay calm. She weighed baby and found she was 7lbs 9oz (much smaller than the ultrasound predicted the day before). I felt like I was sitting in a puddle; as the placenta had not yet fully detached, I was continuing to haemorrhage and it felt like I was losing a lot of blood. This is why manual removal of the placenta is recommended, if it does not come out on its own. I met with the obstetrician, and anaesthetist, and consented to the procedure. We were due to be taken in but then thankfully were told that there was a delay. Our midwife was out of the room, and I sat quietly, with my husband, nursing my newborn baby. I felt the familiar pull of uterine contractions and we called our midwife to come back in. Finally, with me pushing, and her pulling gently on the cord, we were able to release the placenta. What a feeling of relief! She then examined it and could see that it was torn. She advised that it had possibly gotten stuck by the tear and that is why it would not come out.


I was then able to head back downstairs to the RVI Birthing Centre, holding my baby, and feeling on cloud nine, beaming from ear to ear, that we had done it and I would not have to spend the night, without my birth partner, on Labour Ward. It was estimated that I lost about 750ml of blood and I certainly felt this for a few weeks afterwards in terms of fatigue, energy, and mobility.


We were so happy in the RVI Birthing Centre and made our phone calls to family, letting them know our baby was safely here. Our first phone call was to our son’s nursery and I asked if he could be put on the phone. He was 2.5 years old and did not totally understand what was going on but I wanted him to be the first to know. Our neighbour kindly picked him up from nursery and my sister, visiting from New Zealand, spent the night with him. Everything worked out! My usual midwife, Lucy, came to visit us again, at the end of her shift, which was lovely. It really makes a huge difference to have a continuous midwife who knows you well and cares about you.


Although I really enjoyed my experience at the RVI Birthing Centre I realise how disruptive a car journey, while you are in active labour is, and I would love to birth a subsequent baby at home. We arrived so late into the birth that we had no time to set up our relaxation zone and the tea lights, fairy lights, and room spritz all remained in their bag - which remained in the car! We stayed the night at the RVI Birthing Centre and headed home the next morning. The experience was not perfect but I feel positive about it and my little girl was super healthy and has always been a calm and happy baby. It did take me longer than expected to recover from the birth physically, due to blood loss, but I felt emotionally well. I hope my story shows you that you do not need to have a perfect Instagram worthy birth to have a positive birth experience.


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