The Birth Story of Rafferty Stephen-Smith

Dear Rafferty, this is the story of how you came into the world one rainy September evening some time ago. You were to be mum, Sarah’s, second birth. With one home birth already behind her (sister Tilly, born at home two years previous), your mother had intended the same birth experience for you.

Her plan was to give birth to you in water in the birthing pool she and Dad, Fraser, had set up in the living room of their Wimbledon home.

birth1Determined to birth you as gently and lovingly as possible, she went to weekly pregnancy yoga classes, read all sorts of birthing books, listened to the birth stories of other women and mentally and physically prepared herself for the Labour process. Your dad also attended a partner’s class with mum so he could help her through the birth. Two weeks before your due date you started to rumble in her uterus. Sarah had a show and, with a lot of heaviness in her pelvis, she was expecting you to arrive imminently.

But you must have been content to stay in there a while longer because despite your water world home sprouting a leak (a very common occurrence towards the end of pregnancy) and continuing irregular uterine contractions, labour did not establish itself . Clearly ou were not yet ready to come.

Days and nights of irregular contractions followed with mum traipsing up and down the floorboards– doing her nightly rounds – because she was too uncomfortable to sleep. Three times she went in to St Heliers hospital in Wimbledon to be checked and monitored, three times, she was sent home and told to be patient. You would come when you were ready.

“Ooh those are quite big contractions you’re having,” remarked the hospital midwife one morning, as she watched Sarah’s contractions on a monitor.

“I told you,” said Sarah.

There is a term in birthing culture for this kind of labour - False Labour. It is a misleading term, because its not false at all, it is a very real part of the labour process and many women experience this pattern to their labours. Nobody really knows why some babies can take a long time to establish labour proper, often it’s to do with the position of the baby, and how ready or ripe the neck of the mothers womb is.

Two weeks had passed since you first showed signs of wanting to make an exit but in actual fact you were just two days past your due date of Thursday 4 September.

Then on the afternoon of Saturday 6th September, your mother discovered she was bleeding. They had planned originally to go to a wedding up north but, at the last moment, decided against it.

Unwilling to take any risks with her precious cargo, in she went to St Heliers Hospital yet again for another check up.  Dad dropped her off then left to find someone to look after your sister for the night.

When the midwives examined her, they decided that, although they could not find any signs of bleeding, they thought it was worth breaking her waters to augment or speed up the labour. They assured her, contractions and the labour would speed up rapidly after this.

“I had my waters broken for Tilly as well,” she said, “and she was born almost immediately.

Reclining back on the hospital bed of the maternity ward at St Heliers, in your dad’s teeshirt and a pair of shorts, your mother was in good spirits. Despite knowing that she would have to relinquish the home birth she had originally intended for you.

“Its fine,” she said, “I just want to have him now”. “I accept what is,” she said, more to herself than anyone else.

Dad sat by her side holding her hand, wondering whether her good spirits were genuine or whether there was an element of bravado there.

She talked about her tattoos while the midwife readied the room.

At 9.30pm, the midwife gently popped the bag of fluids, effectively evicting you from your watery home. Then everyone (dad, mum, Gertie, the midwife and Nadia the doula) sat around and keenly eyed the monitor to see whether contractions were registering.

“I am feeling them, said Sarah, but I’ve had bigger ones”

Slowly they picked up.  Midwife Gertie, worried that they were not strong enough, suggested that she get on the ball and start rolling her hips and pelvis.

But your courageous mum went one step further. Determined to take you home that night, got off the bed, took herself off for some privacy in the loo where she rolled and moved, squatted and lunged in a bid to strengthen the contractions.

Within half an hour, labour contractions were coming three minutes apart. Your mum, plugged into her ipod, listening to kundalini yoga music, found herself comfortable positions on all fours hanging over a birthing ball. Your dad busied himself lighting candles and calling a taxi to bring them the Tens machine from home – they had forgotton it in their hurry.

Labour progressed with contractions now coming every two minutes. Known as transition in labour terminology, this is the point where women scream for pain relief unable to endure the intensity. But your mum was so brave and so in control that you would hardly have known she was having a baby. Without a sound or a cry, she closed her eyes, rolled her hips and breathed her way through each moment as it came.

At one point your dad made the mistake of sitting down too close to her.  If looks could kill, hers apparently did. He quickly got up and moved out of her eyesight.

“I just didn’t want anyone in my space,” she said later.

Just before 11pm, one and a half hours after the waters had been broken, she said she was beginning to feel you moving down.

The midwife hurriedly got her things together for the birth. Because your sister Tilly had come out of the birth canal quickly, the midwife expected you to follow suite.

Mum was still in the same position; still plugged into her music and the only way you knew she was uncomfortable was because occasionally her breath would shudder with intensity. But still not even a whisper. We all sat in silence around her with baited breath.

By the time the midwife had removed your mum’s underwear and shone a light on her perineum, you had already crowned. Another contraction and your head was nearly out. But now you were mewing before you were actually born. The midwife laughed in surprise: “No don’t cry yet baby we need to birth you first.” One more contraction and your head was born, followed moments later by your body.

It was 11.23 on Saturday 6 September.

Gertie, the very supportive midwife, passed you to your mother who, lifting up her teeshirt, placed you against her skin so you could hear her heart beat and feel your skin against hers. Daddy cut your cord once it was ready, you were bundled in warm towels and everybody welcomed you with smiles and kisses.

It was a beautiful birth.

Nadia Raafat

Birth Doula
2016-09-01T09:07:05+01:00 June 28th, 2016|