Greta’s Birthstory

Greta’s Birthstory

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Apologies if this isn’t my most poetic piece of writing. I’ve been trying to jot it down during breastfeeds, so as to document it while still fresh in my mind. But being woken every two hours doesn’t do wonders for your creativity or spelling…

For background I had a negative birth experience with Bertie: an induction, lots of blood loss and impersonal, unemotional care throughout. 

My experience with Woody couldn’t have been more different. A was under the care of a wonderful community team, so had one midwife for most of my appointments and my labour. I also gave birth at home using only hypnobirthing technics learned via the brilliant @theyesmummum.

 My plan was to aim for the same third time round, here’s how it played out:


  • I went overdue with both boys. Both were born at 41+1 by my dates (although Bertie actually showed up at 41+6 according to the scan dates).

  • When I found out I was pregnant for a third time I PROMISED myself I’d shift my due date by a week and not get stressed when I went ‘over’ again.

  • Did I heck. I did the opposite. I counted down to 40 weeks and every day I went past  it I got more and more uptight.

  • It was like Groundhog Day. Here’s a blog post I wrote in 2016 called ‘Going Overdue Mad me Mental‘. All those feelings all over again.

  • I felt like a coiled spring. Struggling with constant low-level anxiety and awash with hormones. Not to mention the huge bump!

  • The best comparison I can give is it’s like standing at the top of a black run skiing (yes, that’s right I’ve been watching ALOT of the Winter Olympics). You know you are capable of skiing the run, as soon as you put that first turn in you’ll be fine, but nobody enjoys standing looking over a sheer drop indefinitely.

  • I digress.

  • Not surprisingly I asked the Midwife to give me a sweep as early as possible.

  • Sweeps have a bad rep. But I don’t find them too bad. Perhaps that says something about my fanny? Or just that I’ve had them when things are ‘ready’ down there.

  • Imagine my joy when she performed one at 40 weeks and discovered I was 2cm dilated, soft and favourable! Also it was a mega full moon the next day, so I was hopeful, excited even, that we were ‘game on’.

  • But no.

  • The wait continued.

  • For another week!

  • I had a sweep at 40 +4. Then another ‘vigorous’ one at 41 weeks (my midwife was as keen to get this bubba shifting as I was). 

  • I knew almost immediately it had done the job. I felt heavy and emotional. 

  •  I had contractions all that night. But given the stop start nature of the last few weeks, I wasn’t entirely sure it was the real deal. So instead focused on getting some kip.

  • Also I was worried about what we’d do with the boys at 3 am. I’m convinced my body waited until the coast was clear. As soon as the boys were at school/preschool the next morning I breathed a sigh of relief and gave my uterus permission to do its thing!

  • Ben and I tried going for a walk to get things moving. But being out in the hustle and bustle of Peckham had the opposite effect, it slowed everything down, so we headed home.

  • Back indoors a weird calm descended. Things ramped up. I was having to breathe through surges. 

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  • At this point I insisted Ben get up on the kitchen unit and clean the tiles behind the oven. They had been bugging me for weeks, it was the very last item on my  Nesting To Do List! Suddenly it was vital that it was done NOW.

  • Meanwhile I didn’t want to sit down. Instead I stomped up and down the living room.  

  • Every time a surge hit I told myself to embrace it. I got through each one by counting in for 4 out for 8, 4 times over (the longest a contraction lasts is a minute);

  • I also found lifting my arms up in an elaborate wave helped. In my mind I was encouraging my uterus to pull-upwards and open my cervix.  In retrospect I must have looked totally bonkers. But you gotta do what works! 

  • Perhaps it was the mental arm-waving or the deep breathing, but at around 11.30am we made the decision to organise for the boys to be picked up from school (just in case we couldn’t make it).

  • Ben then took their over night stuff to my sisters in Camberwell.  What should have been at 25 minute round-trip took the best part of an hour, because he got stuck behind the bin lorry on the way home.

  • I spent that time trying to distract myself.

  • I sniffed a rag with Neals Yard Remedies ‘Women’s Balance‘ essential oil on.

  • I listened to my brother Charlie Cunningham’s music.

  • I kept emptying my bladder (TMI). This had been a stumbling block in my previous labours. Third time I learned to go as soon as a contraction ended, to avoid having one mid-flow – which hurts!

  • I coninuted to text my midwife with updates. All very rational. I didn’t want to waste her time and get her round under false pretences!IMG_9044

  • When Ben eventually returned, with a bunch of flowers, which I was a bit (very) ungrateful for. To be fair its quite a weird, albeit lovely, to present someone with a bouquet whilst they are in active stage labour! 

  • From there we both continued pottering about in our own space.

  • I attempted to read the paper. He blew up the birth pool and made lunch: a toad-in-the-hole sandwich for him (as gross as it sounds). Ham and cheese on toast for me. Which I demolished! Telling myself it was good to keep my reserves up, but also feeling worried that if I still had an appetite then maybe I wasn’t in ‘hard core labour yet’ (or maybe I am just greedy).

  • Time for a bath. It shifted things up a gear. The contractions started coming with some downward pressure.

  • By the time I got out of the water I felt discombobulated. Less in control. Still in a towel, I came downstairs and snapped at Ben “I’m further along with this labour than you think you know.” A bizarre but probably accurate thing to say!

  • I didn’t realise it at the time but I think I was in transition because we had a very weird conversation about whether or not to call the midwife. I felt anxious that she’d arrive and discover it was a false alarm.  Yup totally irrational, especially as I was feeling the urge to poo – which is a tell-tell sign baby isn’t too far off.

  • Ben begun timing the contractions, turns out they were 3 in 10 minutes lasting at least 45 seconds.

  • But still we didn’t make the call.

  • Not sure why now?

  • A distraction technic? 

  • Maybe it was a reflection of how calm and confident we felt?

  • Another 20 minutes of watching and waiting.

  • At 2.15 we decided there was nothing to lose in asking the midwife to come over and assess me. 

  • Little did I know, but she’d been waiting just round the corner in the car reading the paper, so arrived very promptly.

  • I was now in an upright kneeling position on the sofa. Contractions were long and intense. And I was beginning to moo.

  • It’s the first time I thought to myself “I’m really not enjoying this”.  

  • Ben was filling the pool with water and having been very ‘inward’ and happily dealing with things by myself until then, I suddenly needed him by my side.

  • Sadie (my midwife) managed to check babies heart beat once. But no sooner has she done that than I was asking to go in the pool.

  • Off came my clothes.

  • As I got in my waters went. The relief.

  • Only briefly. Those almighty surges resumed.

  • Unbeknown to me Ben was texting Clemmie Hooper aka @mother_of_daughters, who was due to be my second Midwife, telling her to run from the train station.

  • Sadie had arrived at 2.30.

  • Clemmie at 3.00.

  • Greta came into the world in the water at 3.05

  • The pushing stage was utterly out of my control.  I can only describe it as going ‘beyond’ – going through the pain and the fullness and the logic of a baby coming out of your fanny, safe in the knowledge that the end was in sight!

  • I grabbed my baby girl and pulled her up onto my chest.

  • So calm she was almost asleep. I couldn’t believe it had happened. There she was,  in my arms covered on vernix.

  • I had been worried about my placenta too. But that followed not long after (before being put in a Tupperware ready to be encapsulated).

  • I want to cry as I write this.

  • I feel so proud of my body for what it’s capable of.

  • I’m in awe of my mind. I’d forgotten what a mental battle labour is. People talk about the physical act, which is of course insane.  But for me it was the head space that was tough:

  • Remembering to trust my body. Blocking out niggling worries about how long it might go on for or what could go wrong and instead focusing on the peaceful bits between surges.

  •  I feel proud that Ben and I did so much of it ‘just the two of us’.

  • And (excuse me while I indulge my inner hippie) that we were able to create such sacred, safe, controlled, calm environment. At one point we even discussed how it was “a bit boring”.

  • Being in our home. With my fave candles burning. My choice of music playing. My kids stuff around me. Even Derek our dog was there. So so special.

  • In the haze of the first few weeks of Greta’s life I have played that day over and over in my head. Labour is incredibly challenging on so many levels – physically, emotionally, psychologically but it is the ultimate articulation of the miracle of life.

  • My 3 births are my 3 greatest achievements. There is nothing like the relief, elation and joy of those hours post-labour. 

  • Truly, one of the few times where nothing else in the world matters.

  • And then there’s pleasure of eating (scoffing) that pizza afterwards! It truly is the Food of the Gods.

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17 thoughts on “Greta’s Birthstory

  1. Just beautiful. Tears rolling down my cheeks reading this. I’ve had two very similar birth experiences with my boys and they really are my most treasured memories. I would always encourage any woman who wanted to birth at home to do it, believe they can and create the tranquility to have a calm atmosphere and headspace. Enjoy Greta, she’s perfection xx

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  2. I could not be a less emotional person about stuff like this but you’ve really got me here!! Maybe it’s having my own baby 6 months ago – albeit in a very different way to you (in America, away from everything I know, induced in hospital, delivering on my back with an OB, with an epidural at 9cm dilated, all the things I THOUGHT would break me but actually turned out to be completely the most empowering, positive and joyful experience of my life) – reading this makes me want to do it all over again!!

    Totes emosh. Well done 🙂

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  3. Amazing makes me cry beautiful birth story I went over 40 weeks 3 times too you cannot not go crazy I am sure it’s impossible!

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  4. Thank you for sharing I cried as I read this (could be the preggo hormones) I’m due in August with my 10th baby and have had all vaginal births with the past 9 some good some not so good and the last one was terrifying and for the first time ever I’m scared of giving birth I know I need to get in the mindset that I can do this again that I need to trust my body to do what it has done in the past and birth this baby without fear when the time comes and reading Gretas birth story has reminded me that womens bodies are amazing and there are plenty of positive births after not so fab ones.

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  5. I’m 19weeks pregnant with my second baby..also was induced for my first baby and was not the most enjoyable or calming experience. So I’m thoroughly anxious about my next labour. Reading your post was truly moving and touching. If I can be anything as amazing as you I’ll be proud. Thank you for the great read . X x ❤️

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  6. AWWW clemmie I’m welling up reading this as I was lucky enough to home deliver my no.2 boy at home early january. It was an incredibly quick, water birth in under an hour that the give away was needing to poop! TMI I know but there was no other warning. My husband frantically filled the pool while I sat in denial. Thank god for him knowing me better than I do! The female body is incredible! Congratulations x

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  7. I’ve loved reading this!! There really is nothing like it is there, nothing at all.
    A beautiful birth!!
    Made me a bit broody if I’m honest 😬 thank you for sharing x

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  8. Wonderful story and congratulations.

    I am 22 weeks with my second and planning another home birth so was a nice relief to read.
    I wonder if you will be doing a segment on placenta encapsulation something’s g I am interested in but do not know too much about
    Many thanks

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  9. Thanks for sharing I loved reading it! Those pics are so special and I especially love her tiny head on the pic where you’re having your pizza 😍 I had my first at home in water but being my first he took ages to come then I bled out and had to go to hospital 😔 but my second shot out in water at the hospital. I think the black slope ski run analogy is incredibly accurate. Did you have no gas and air either?! I ask as I was wasted on it both times and I now live abroad and they don’t have here (what?!) and I’m shit scared of having a third without it!! May your nights be settled and your days be short 😘

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  10. This is amazing. I’ve always had a fascination with birth stories, good and bad. My second daughters birth sounds very similar to Greta’s and I was left feeling a little bit like a superhero but felt I couldn’t tell anyone about it bacause no one wants to hear about someone enjoying birth do they? But your story is beautiful and I guess we can just count ourselves as extremely lucky. I hope all is going well. My daughters first 10months were infinitely more difficult that her birth! But at a 1 year old she is really finding her feet.

    Much love to your lovely family xx

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  11. Really loved reading this. Crying now actually! It is the most amazing experience and you put that into words perfectly. I had my sixth baby (a girl after five boys!) 18 months ago and it was a hard labour due to being induced in hospital – still went well though and I coped by completely going within… our bodies are just so powerful. Having had two water births with previous babies I can honestly say the ‘on the bed’ births were way harder. I wish I could have had her at home, your birth sounds perfect, but I focus on how I managed to give birth with very little intervention and no stitches – yay – not sure what that says about my bits and pieces either 🤣 enjoy every minute, thanks for sharing x

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