Giving birth to Ophelia was the end of a very long sexual experience for my partner Will and I. We wanted it to be as intimate as possible, and to be the first people to touch our baby, but were told by the midwife that this wasn't a possibility. In the end, at 40 weeks, we announced that we wanted to have an unassisted home birth.
Ophelia is our second child. The birth of Aurora, in 2003, was a traumatic experience. During my pregnancy I saw a number of midwives so never really built a relationship with any one. At the time of the birth, the midwife who came to our home totally disrespected the environment we'd created. We had a fire burning, candles lit, and I was dressed in a night gown. The midwife came in and turned on the lights, and made me strip down; she was very hands on deck.
Eventually we went to hospital, where I believe the whole thing was rushed because the midwife was keen to finish her shift on time. What Will and I had wanted was a personal experience but we hadn't had that, so the second time around we chose freebirth as an open celebration of our love and an understanding that we can totally surrender to and trust each other, my body and our baby.
We needed to delve deep into ourselves, to become healthier, more instinctual people. Having another presence at the delivery was never going to work for us; any amount of observation would inevitably inhibit our ability to birth naturally and could lead to unnecessary interventions, which we experienced with our first-born.
Deciding to have a "free birth" was an instinctive decision. We knew we were capable of doing it together, and after reading a few personal accounts on the internet, our minds were made up. Admitting to each other that we could do this alone was very empowering. While reading up on the subject I came across something called lotus birth, which I would never have otherwise known about. It is fundamentally the non-severance of the umbilical cord, which is routinely cut off straight after birth. Instead, with this method you leave the cord to detach naturally.
In preparation, we bought a birthing pool, which was ready to be filled whenever we might need it. And on 5 May last year, I went into labour. When my waters broke and the contractions started, I just really chilled out and had a nap. Then I had some super juice and went for a walk. By the evening the contractions had become stronger and I had another lie down. This time when I woke up, I turned to Will and said: "It's time".
We filled the pool and started using vowel sounds to ease the contractions, starting with long "As", which is the most stimulating vowel, helping to relieve feelings of fear, pain and anger. That is the key to childbirth: letting go of your fear. At the beginning of the contractions there was a moment when I thought, "Oh my goodness!" but after some vowel breathing I began to feel a wonderful sense of harmony with Will, who was making the sounds with me. As the pool water cooled down, it was time to give birth. We moved upstairs to the bedroom and Ophelia was born five minutes later, on the bed. In total, I was in full labour for about two hours, as opposed to roughly 48 hours with Aurora.
The whole experience was incredibly liberating. Ophelia – who is now 14 months old – and I have a fantastic relationship; it's amazing how different it is to the one I have with Aurora, who is now five years old. This was a healing process for our whole family. Now I'm pregnant for the third time. This time I am enjoying a completely unassisted pregnancy and will of course have another free birth!