In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Katie Stockdale, 37, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email email@example.com.
The idea of birth always terrified me. Even before getting pregnant, I assumed I’d have a C-section. I created a detachment from it because I never thought I could do it – but it was something I had to take seriously when I found out I was expecting. The baby was going to have to come out one way or another.
A private elective caesarean was my first thought. Too expensive. Hypnobirthing was my second, which seemed more viable. But looking back now – having been there, done that, got the baby – I realise it was my doula who made the birth such a positive experience for me.
I remember the moment we thought about hiring one. I’d been on a long-haul trip for work and my leg was swollen when I got back. Where I was getting checked out for DVT at the hospital, I had an injection in the leg. My partner couldn’t handle it. No word of a lie, he looked like he was going to hit the deck as the needle went in.
Perhaps a bit of help during the birth wouldn’t go amiss, we thought.
Finding a doula was interesting – the website was basically like Tinder. We scrolled through profiles and one woman, Sam, stood out to me because she had kind eyes. It sounds strange, I know, but it felt right. We had a call and invited her round just to meet, with no commitment. Sam brought cake, and we bonded over baking. I had no concerns – she was great – so we agreed to go ahead.
Doulas work in different ways. We bought a package (ours included two antenatal appointments, the birth and a postnatal appointment). Having her reassuring voice during my pregnancy was such a comfort. We’d chat about how I was feeling, and my birth preferences. Weirdly, all the things I asked for – massages and being stroked – I didn’t end up wanting in labour.
My pregnancy lasted forever. I was overdue, so at 40 weeks and 10 days – when I first felt cramps walking home from a fish and chip pub dinner – I was relieved. Sam was kept in the loop. “When you need me, you need me,” she said.
I was feeling confident at this point. I’d done a complete 360 and decided – at around 38 weeks – that I wanted a home birth. The hospital was a five-minute walk from our house, so we thought we’d give it a whirl and see how it went.
My contractions were unusual – close together but short in length – so I couldn’t get much rest. I got through those early stages with a bath, breathing exercises, and Netflix. My partner slept, but in the early hours of the morning I woke him up, and at around 7am, we called Sam – the start of 12 hours together.
Sam was amazing, being there for my partner and the midwives as well as me. Part of her role included practicalities – we’d hired a birthing pool, so she made sure it stayed at the right temperature and was functioning properly.
But she also did so many little things I was grateful for. Putting a cold flannel on the back of my neck and forehead (I can’t tell you how good that felt). Being there to offer water, food, and tea. And at one point, when I was craving fizzy pop more than I had ever craved anything in my life, she went to the shop and got a big bottle of Sprite and Lilt. It was the best thing I’ve ever tasted.
In the later hours of labour, I got seriously fed up of listening to the woman’s voice on my hypnobirthing tracks (sorry!), so we put on the birthing playlist made by my friends at my baby shower.
There were definitely pockets of time I remember joking around with Sam in between contractions. At one point my partner had to answer the door to people canvassing before the general election. He was trying so hard to deflect them, and we were all laughing as we listened from the living room.
I hadn’t been having vaginal exams, so I had no idea how dilated I was. At one point, around 5pm when I was having a little wobble, I asked for an examination and was told I was 10cm. That transition was brilliant. I was on the home run and had a new surge of energy to get my son out.
Weirdly, my waters didn’t break while I was in labour. I could see the amniotic sac bulging when I went to the loo – and they only broke when my son came out, at around 7pm. It was fucking insane, I’m not going to lie.
Easton was born in the birthing pool. I pulled him up straight on to me and remember saying: “I did it”, over and over. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it had happened after all that time and all those emotions. It felt amazing. Even now, I can recall exactly his skin felt on mine.
Easton went into hospital with me and my partner that night for aftercare, and I’d say at this point, Sam’s help was even more valuable. She helped us put the car seat in the car, while we were in that haze of being new parents. And after we set off, she tidied up our home and left the the place immaculate – it was like no one had even been there, let alone given birth.
She visited us at the hospital later on, and made sure we got home okay. I know we were in a fortunate position to be able to have her and I also know that it’s not the case for everyone, so we did feel privileged.
But for me, it was a blessing. Sam was an absolute dream.
My birth advice?
The idea of giving birth can be really scary but, remember, you don’t have to do this alone. The day you give birth is one of the most important days in your life and if you feel like you need support, call it in!
Tell your midwife how you are feeling, investigate hypnobirthing books or classes or maybe even chat with a doula to see if they can help. You won’t regret feeling supported on your journey.
As told to Amy Packham.
Katie runs pregnancy wellness company Peace, Love And Birth, which you can find out more about here.