I've Delivered Babies For 10 Years. But Giving Birth Myself Was Surreal

Birth Diaries: "I’ve been in midwifery for over a decade, so I’ve seen a lot. Beautiful births, peaceful births at home, all the way to very traumatic births."

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Marie Louise (aka The Modern Midwife) shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

I was excited about giving birth for the first time – I’ve been in midwifery for over a decade, so I’ve seen a lot. Beautiful births, peaceful births at home, all the way to very traumatic births. Some of the worst things that can happen, I’ve seen. Regardless, I was able to trust my body and that it’d know what to do.

When the peak of the pandemic hit, I was already four months pregnant. As a midwife, I had additional knowledge of the research and knew the virus couldn’t cross the placenta to the baby. I wasn’t overly concerned, but obviously the virus was still brand-new so I didn’t know how it’d unfold. I’d say being a midwife made it slightly easier, though.

I really believe in preparation. It played a major part in how I felt about mentally about giving birth. I did a lot of work antenatally to reassure my mind that my body was in the best physical preparation it could be. And leading up to the birth, I used an app most days to help with my breathing.

Labour started on a Sunday, at 37 weeks and three days. I was having a home birth, so the midwife had been around earlier that day to check on the baby, go through paperwork, and make sure we were prepared. She ran through emergencies that might happen and how we’d deal with it. It reassured my partner that the home birth was a good option.

When she left, I started having tightenings and told myself something might be happening. Mentally, I knew it was safe to go into labour now as we’d had all the checks from the midwife. I let go of holding on – but it was early stages.

We went to go look at cars at a garage, and the tightenings got stronger. I remember chatting through finance options and feeling my uterus get tighter. I went to the loo, and saw I’d lost my mucus plug – where the cervix loosens and softens. Things were definitely getting on their way. We carried on with the finance options, though, then left – grabbing a pizza on the way home.

Back there, I started to have regular patterns of tightenings, but I still played it down a bit. I’d committed to doing a Facebook live for work at 8pm and wanted to go ahead, so I did – ironically, answering questions about pregnancy and birth. It went far better than it could have. By the end, I was literally trying to talk through my contractions (but no one knew it).

By 10pm, they were contractions, not tightenings anymore. I couldn’t talk through them anymore. At 11pm, my partner blew up the pool, going back and forth filling it up with buckets of water. I’d decided to have a doula for support and called her at 11.30pm.

In the meantime, I went to sit in the bath and had a really small glass of red wine to relax myself. I had music, some candles, and took a moment to really appreciate this was happening.

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My contractions got stronger at 3am, and my doula made the decision to call my midwife. It’s easy to panic at this point – I had to mentally calm myself down and reassure myself. I stayed active, too, standing at much as I could.

The midwife came at 4am, and I was in active labour. I needed to get in the pool as I could tell she was coming quite soon. I had one moment where I thought: I don’t know if I can do this. It’s a common stage for women to reach when they’re dully dilated. I even said I wanted a C-section, which wasn’t true at all.

I managed to get past that and listened to my body, which needed to push. Rather than pushing hard, I went with my body and waited for it to push – like when you’re sick and your body just vomits. It’s similar during birth, and I just went for it, resting in between each contraction. It was very intense, I could feel myself opening up.

At 6.25am, it was time. I delivered my daughter myself. I knew when the head was delivered, the midwife said the shoulders would be born soon, so during my next contraction I did a big push to get the shoulders out, then got my hands underneath her arms and bought her up myself! She was so calm.

It was surreal, like a dream. I’d seen it so many times with other people. But it was just amazing doing it myself. The shock if it all lasted about a week. “I’ve had a baby!” I kept saying. What an incredible experience.

My birth advice?

I’d say prepare mentally and physically for birth – you need mental strength to manage pain. Always understand your options and the process, too, as it takes the fear element out of the unknown.

Marie Louise is an expert for Biamother, a holistic wellness app for expectant and new mums, and the author of The Modern Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond. Find out more about her online classes.