Website of Lina Clerke -

Holistic Bowen Therapist,
Midwife &
Childbirth Educator Sussex UK


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Wonderful Birth Stories
to inspire and encourage you on your birthing journey

The Birth of Jessica Rose - 24th June 2003.
My husband Richard and I attended Lina's workshop earlier this year and went from knowing virtually nothing about birthing (just go to hospital and have baby) to feeling very empowered by the choices we could now make. We became very motivated to work towards having a natural active birth with minimal intervention and no drugs. The workshop also had an really positive effect in helping Richard understand his role as a support person and he has changed many of his opinions on such things as circumcision, he always tells people how great the workshop was and how natural birthing is the way to go.
I truly believe that education and preparation is the key to a good birthing experience. We were like sponges, we couldn't get enough information and would give anything a go to help us prepare for a wonderful birthing experience such as yoga, naturopathy, perineal massage, relaxation/meditation, choosing a trained birth attendant/support person (doula) and my husband and I aren't remotely the hippie/alternative types. Despite all the negativity ("trust me, go for the epidural", "Take all the drugs you can get, you'll need them") and horror birth stories that people are so keen to share; we persevered.
Looking back our only poor decision was the hospital we chose for the birth.
When I was 30+, weeks the hospital informed me that I would definitely not be able to use their bath which was very disappointing as having a bath available was important for us and I would not have booked the hospital knowing that. The excuses they gave were pretty poor and included the fact that the bath was in a separate room and they were afraid that I may disturb other mothers with "all the noise I would make" and they also occasionally used the room to settle babies in. I thought it was a bathroom not a nursery!
In the end, I questioned the Director of Nursing and the nurse in charge of maternity about using the bath and was given an all out definite no from everyone, so I've now ruined it for other labouring women who may have been able to sneak in there in the middle of the night with the OK of a sympathetic midwife.
I began to worry what else the hospital might spring on us at the last minute, they were obviously not as flexible and "open minded" as they had been promoting themselves. Initially when we were booking in to the hospital, nothing was a problem and they would try to meet all our birthing needs (funny I never did get to see the birthing stool I requested during the labour, lost somewhere in a cupboard, risk of vulval bruising I was told and then further requests ignored, I wanted to give it a go, my choice or so I thought).
I discussed with Richard changing hospitals and was promptly told by one of my Dr's midwives that I wouldn't have a hope in hell of booking into another hospital. I considered switching to the Hawthorn Birth Centre which is a private birthing centre in Melbourne (which sadly now is closing) but I loved my own Dr and happy with my care and was also afraid of the additional costs of switching so I took it no further.
If only I had listened to my own gut feeling, it wasn't overwhelming but deep down I knew that the hospital I had chosen was not for me and that I was risking further problems. Next time I will seriously consider a home birth or at the very least a birthing centre.
Anyhow, it all began on Monday the 23rd June 2003. I was four days overdue and I was desperate to avoid a medical induction. I had booked an appointment with the acupuncturist the next day to help induce my labour. In the meantime I had been going through Lina's list of things to try to bring on the labour and resorted to taking some castor oil the night before (the sex didn't seem to be working but it was keeping my husband happy!!).
Around 2pm that day my braxton hicks contractions began to organize themselves more regularly, every time I had one I would check my watch and it would be roughly on the quarter hour, so I knew something was starting. My waters broke at about 8:30pm that night (I never had a "show") not a great deal but enough to warrant a change of clothes and a shower. At that time I cried. I was hoping they would break much later on during the labour because I was carrying the group B strep. Bacteria and my Dr had told me he would intervene only 6-8 hours after my waters broke if my labour didn't progress well. He couldn't risk the baby being infected by the bacteria present in my vagina and told me that this infection is the number one cause of death in newborns.
My contractions started coming 3-5minutes apart at this stage and I rang my doula to let her know what was happening and we remained in phone contact with her throughout the evening.
We finished getting all our stuff together and packed the car, it seemed like a lot of gear to take with us but everything Lina had suggested might be useful so we took it.
At around midnight the contractions were around 3 minutes apart and it was time to go but I wasn't too keen to get in the car.
15 minutes later we were admitted to our birthing suite, we rang our doula to let her know to come in and began to set up our things around the room.
We dimmed the lights, set up the electric oil burner with mandarin, lavender and geranium oils, covered the clock with a sarong so we didn't have to be reminded of the time, put on a reiki music cd (which pretty much played non-stop), filled our bucket with boiling water for the hot towels, put out our pillows and put the yoga mat in the shower (to kneel on). We had rescue remedy, homeopathic remedy (Caulophyllum), massage oil, wheat pack, wooden massagers, headphones for music, snack food, drinks, torch and mirror, a little bunny hat to focus on and the camera ready to go.
By the time our doula had arrived, we had created a beautifully calm and relaxing environment for baby's arrival.
We had a support team of three consisting of Richard, my Mum and our doula (which we opted for in case my Mum didn't make it in time from overseas but she did) and everyone was kept busy getting hot water, towels, supporting me etc and they could take turns at having a break and I figured the more support the better for me.
We had to have an hour of electronic feotal monitoring to start with to make sure everything was okay which was a standard requirement but I wasn't happy having to keep still on the bed. I also had a shot of penicillin and an IV line put in for further doses of penicillin. This was to protect the baby from strep. B infection as the penicillin would reach the baby via the placental blood flow.
I laboured well throughout the night, I used the Swiss ball in the shower, the toilet to squat on with the hand held shower on my lower back, squatted whilst supported in the shower and hanging on to the end of the bed, used the mats on the floor and walked around a lot including visiting the babies in the nursery to inspire me.
The shower and hot towels on my buttocks and lower back were the best pain relief. If only the hospital would have let me use their bath.
The midwives at the time were great, they could see that we were under control and were coping well and only came in to check on us occasionally and to do feotal monitoring with a hand held device (a sonicaid). They were non-intrusive and respectful of our birthing plan.
When my Dr came in around 5am I was 7cm dilated.
I had opted for no routine vaginal exams, which was a really good idea as they were pretty painful.
I was becoming increasingly tired and I cried and begged for my support people to let me sleep. Forget the pain relief drugs, all I wanted was a good 12-hour sleep and then I promised I'd be back into it. I managed to cope with the contractions with lots of deep breathing that I practiced prior to birth with Lina's breathing/relaxation tapes and made plenty of noise to help open and release.
My Dr came back at around 7:30am and I was 9cm dilated, I was ecstatic, we were going so well.
At this time we had a change of midwife and the new midwife was a traditional "medical model midwife" who was disrespectful of our wishes and active birth plan.
If she did read our birth plan as the other midwives had she may have realised that it was not for her and swapped with another midwife. I felt that she wanted to see us fail in our attempts to have a natural birth as she did very little to help encourage us, more so she began to go try to force us to do it her way.
She began by switching on lights, banging and crashing as she checked equipment, telling us to move things out of her way as this was her area to work from (well excuse me!!).
She would stand there with her hands on her hips watching me or timing my contractions and making inappropriate comments, repeatedly calling me a stupid girl for burning my backside with the hot towels (the next day there was not a mark to be seen) and she offered me pain relief even though we clearly stated in our birth plan not to be offered anything, we would ask if we felt it necessary.
I felt threatened and my special space was rapidly being eroded. I wanted her to leave.
My contractions began to slow and decrease in intensity. No one was game to ask her to leave; we didn't know what we could do or how to get rid of her, my husband told me later that he was so close to telling her to get the F---k out but was afraid that the other midwives would be put off taking over after hearing of this.
My support team began to surround me in a cocoon of support and try to push out this woman's negativity.
We discussed any possible emotional issues that may be slowing my labour but there was nothing. I pushed myself to cry for the release, we tried every position and everything we could think of (including cuddle time alone with Richard) but nothing was helping. I knew I was in trouble, the tiredness had got to me and the midwife was certainly making things worse. At 11.00am I was still 9 cm dilated, my labour had stalled, I had run out of time and I had little choice but to have a Syntocinon drip (a synthetic form of oxytocin) to start up the contractions again and fully dilate. I knew the Syntocinon would bring the contractions on hard and fast so I asked for gas to help me cope when the contractions kicked in again.
I also had to have more electronic foetal monitoring, I insisted that the midwife do whilst I was upright on the ball but she couldn't get a good trace and told me I had to get up on the bed and was becoming increasingly impatient with me.
When I got onto the bed on my back she triumphantly said, " Now that's better, you shouldn't be gallivanting around like a filly but lying here like a mare" and more unbelievably she said it twice. She still wasn't getting a great trace and had to do manual monitoring as well and I was in a great deal of pain lying on my back and trying to keep still.
I changed position as soon as the monitoring was finished, Hallelujah!!.
When my Dr came back I asked him to ask the midwife to leave but he tried to comfort me and said that I was nearly there and to just hang in there with her. I felt no one would listen to me or take my distress about her seriously. I found out later at my six week check-up that he had two other complaints from patients about the same midwife and still he did nothing at the time, I felt betrayed.
I really thought I was more likely to be aggressive and abusive during labour based on my normal personality type but in fact I was so completely the opposite to what I would normally be like. I was very meek and mild and felt very vulnerable and couldn't bring myself to tell this midwife to leave off, I just put up with her.
Second stage was a bit of a shock, not so much the pain but the intensity and the sensations. I was amazed by the capacity of my body to take over the pushing after the start of each contraction. I was told once that having a baby was like "shitting a football sideways", I now know this woman was talking about second stage and the baby moving through the birth canal.
I had coped brilliantly with the contractions in first stage but I felt lost in second stage, particularly with my breathing but I suspect this is what loosing control and surrendering to the process of labour means.
I moved to the floor on my knees and Richard sat on a chair with my head on his lap. As the baby began to crown I was so not interested in looking with the mirror, I was totally focused on pushing and breathing. My Dr made it just in time (he only had to run down one set of stairs). He helped protect my perineum as the head emerged using his fingers front and back (God knows how there was enough room for his fingers in there as well).
Another push and at 2pm Jessica Rose arrived safely after 17 hours of established labour, 24 hours all up.
They handed her through between my legs in front of me, I could finally see my beautiful little girl. She was wide eyed and alert, sucking her hands and then began screaming. I couldn't bring her right up as the cord was short so my Dr waited until it had stopped pulsating and then Richard cut the cord and then I lifted her up to my bare chest in total amazement and shock that we had done it.
I really wanted a natural third stage delivery and my Dr had suggested that I review it at the time depending on how tired I felt as he had only 2 patients in 1500 that had a natural third stage (it would be interesting to know how many of those1500 women knew that they actually had a choice). But I felt fantastic, high on my own endorphins and I wanted to do it on my own. When my Dr checked the placenta was already in the vagina, it had become detached and was right behind the baby due to the short cord, one push and it was out (make that 3 in 1500 now).
I only had a small surface tear on my perineum (all that perineal massage worked!!) and my Dr kindly got down on his knees whilst I lay on the floor and added a stitch. Lucky as they would never have had a chance in hell of getting me back up on that bed.
Everyone then left us alone together, our new family.
Overall, I did have a wonderful birth experience with healthy baby and all up it was very close to my ideal. But I was still angry, primarily with myself and also with my support people and my Dr for not doing something to stop this midwife from tarnishing the most special time in my life.
For weeks I would replay the labour again and again in my head and I had trouble sleeping, especially during the day so I became increasingly exhausted.
I found a post labour debriefing session with my doula (who is also a trained counsellor) very valuable in acknowledging my feelings and helping deal with these issues.
I have also recently written a letter to the hospital (although it's taken nearly four months to feel in the right frame of mind to do so) outlining what happened, not complaining outright but positive suggestions for protocol that could be put into place to prevent this happening to other women in their hospital and to ensure that women and their support people understand what they can do if a similar situation should arise, although you would hope that there's not too many horrible midwives still out there.
Writing our birth story has been very healing for me and has helped in the completion of issues surrounding the birth and I thank Lina for allowing me to share our experience that may in some way help other women.
In the meantime, we will continue to rave about Lina's workshops to others and encourage education not ignorance about choices in birthing and how fulfilling natural, drug free birthing can be and YES YOU CAN DO IT!!.

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