Birth Diaries: 'I Chose To Have An Active Birth – This Is What That Means'

"My body just took over, like that feeling when you know you’re about to be sick and you can’t stop yourself."
HuffPost UK

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Holly Pither shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email

I wanted to have a baby for a long time, but we struggled. I have endometriosis, and it wasn’t until after I had surgery that I managed to get pregnant. When it finally happened though, it all became very, very real. I was scared, not of the birth itself, but about putting my career on pause, going on maternity leave and losing my identity.

Through my NCT classes, I’d come up with a pretty clear idea of how I wanted my birth to go. I wanted an active one – which is to say I didn’t want to be lying down, rigged up to machines. I guess this stems from being an active person in general. The more I read, the more I realised I wanted to be up and about.

For five or six days before I actually went into labour, I had false starts – where you feel contractions and think, “this is it!”, and then... they just stop. So when it finally happened for real, I was relieved and ready to go.


My contractions started in the night, but I held out until they were close together and went into hospital around 5am. It was probably still a bit early, but there was no way I was going home. The journey to the hospital from our house is a bit of a nightmare and it was coming up to the morning rush – getting back into rush-hour traffic only to have to come back again a few hours later? No way.

So we stayed. And not much happened. I knew this was common for first births, it typically take a long time for things to get moving. There were hours and hours with nothing to do, so I did what I planned and spent the majority of the day moving. For the first three hours, I walked around the hospital with my partner to stay up on my feet – going up and down the stairs, walking along the corridor, trying to pass time.

I had a room with a birthing pool and ball, so later spent my time walking around it, getting on and off the ball, and climbing in and out of the bath. The midwife was constantly changing the water to make sure it stayed warm. Water helped soothe the pain, to some extent, but I also think my positioning and constant moving around was key. It wasn’t like a regular bath. I wasn’t lying there still. I was moving around and getting into different positions constantly.

“You have all these plans to keep yourself occupied during birth – watch films, do crosswords, read books – but my concentration span wasn’t long enough.”

You have all these plans to keep yourself occupied during birth – watch films on the iPad, do crosswords, read books – but we didn’t do any of that. My concentration span wasn’t long enough. And those activities require you to keep still, which – as you’ve probably realised by now – I didn’t want to do.

At around 5pm that night, the contractions ramped up. I’d reached the pushing stage. Despite having had several hours of gas and air, I was told to lay off then, because I was “too focused on that and not focused on pushing”. Probably true, to be honest.

And oh, it was agony – even in the water. But it was also this animalistic, crazy sensation I can’t really explain. My body just took over, like that feeling when you know you’re about to be sick and you can’t stop yourself. You just can’t control it, but the human body is an amazing thing and it’s crazy what it can do and how it tells you to push.

After two hours, my daughter still hadn’t made an appearance. “You have to deliver her in the next two pushes, or we need to get you out this pool,” the midwife said to me. That’s when my drive must have kicked in, because I pushed extra hard and there she was – under the water in front of me, and then immediately scooped up and out. I didn’t have those moments of lying there with her on my chest – they needed to get me out to do a few checks, as they were slightly worried about me.

I was helped out of the pool onto a bed to deliver the placenta. And after my daughter had been checked over, they placed her on my chest. It was pretty insane, that. The emotion was absolutely overpowering and, again, when I saw her on my husband’s chest having skin-to-skin. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

My birth advice?

Choose your snacks wisely! I had a really dry mouth and cereal bars were awful. Sucking on a lollipop or ice cream was much better. Keep active where you can and trust your body will do what it needs to do.

Follow Holly’s motherhood journey on her blog, Pitter Patter Pither.