Lisa

I had a very difficult and traumatic birth abroad with my first daughter – a homebirth transfer in a country that was extremely anti-homebirth.  Baby was posterior, making for a long, painful labour, and the midwife didn’t seem to have any inclination to help me to birth my baby myself.  Due to this experience I was very afraid, and mistrustful of doctors and midwives.  We actually moved to the UK to be in a country where homebirth wasn’t seen as an excuse to utterly mistreat new mothers.

When I found I was pregnant again I began to panic.  After doing some research I decided that having a doula (someone dedicated just to looking after me during the birth) would be worthwhile, even though I was again planning on a homebirth.  I discovered Selina’s website online and called her – one of the best decisions I’ve made!

She was instantly friendly, helpful and reassuring.  She came to my house for prenatal visits which was a lovely luxury – not having to go out somewhere.  Selina had had a posterior baby herself, so she was very knowledgeable about strategies for getting baby lined up properly, and we worked together to create a detailed plan covering all the things I wanted and didn’t want during labour.  I knew that even if the midwives didn’t seem to have any ideas or suggestions to help if I had another posterior labour, that I could rely on Selina to have plenty of positions or tricks to try, and methods of relief for the pain.

I really enjoyed Selina’s visits – she was always relaxed and skilled at getting me to relax too.  I think the lovely massages might have had something to do with that too! As the end of my pregnancy approached and I had issues with the midwives over the issue of ‘lateness’ (my first baby had been born just after 43 weeks) Selina was instrumental in putting me in contact with the head midwife at the hospital, who was also lovely and supportive.

Instead of feeling scared and stressed throughout my pregnancy, as I had before I contacted Selina, I spent most of my pregnancy feeling supported and surrounded by Selina’s lovely positive energy.

In the end I had such a fast and easy labour that not even the midwives or Selina made it in time – it was only about 45 minutes long! I think that was in no small part due to the help Selina gave me – with Rebozo sifting, massage and generally helping me to feel calm and relaxed.  Despite the fact that she couldn’t manage to get to the birth, hiring Selina as my doula was worth every penny! I would recommend her to anyone – especially someone feeling nervous or worried about the birth, as she is a rock of support.

Angela


I was quite far into my pregnancy before I considered having a Doula, and (along with having a homebirth) it was one of the best decisions we made. My first daughter was born at the Liverpool Women’s hospital, in what turned out to be a long, frightening and stressful process with a lot of intervention and little communication. This led me to being extremely fearful of the birth process and sadly, very negative in general about the labour process. When I became pregnant with Scarlett, I knew it was vital for me to make sure my 2nd labour would not be as traumatic.
After much discussion, my partner and I decided that the best options for us would be to stay at home for the birth and to have the help and support of a Doula. Amongst my many fears and worries about labouring again, I didn’t have much faith in myself at being able to labour successfully without intervention. I also knew that during the labour I would need to be calm and focussed, yet after my first labour would find this extremely difficult too. These are the main reasons we contacted Selina.
Although I had no real ideas of what a Doula did, or how one could help me, Selina was an immediate support and reassurance. She got to know us in the weeks before the pregnancy and took the time to listen to us and understand what we wanted from the whole birth experience. Initially, I had very negative perceptions of birth and labour and just wanted it ‘over and done with’. However, with the support of Selina and meeting such lovely people at the NCT Homebirth group, I began to realise that it didn’t have to be this way. I slowly began to look at birth in a more positive light – a natural, empowering and spiritual process. This was especially helped by a birthing Hypnotherapy CD and some reading that Selina had shared with me. Although I still had fears going into labour, I knew these were normal and I felt much more positive, supported and in control.
My homebirth was a wonderful experience (I’m even filling up just thinking about it now!) Selina was really strong for me when I doubted myself. She was kind, patient, supportive and very experienced. Selina had a very calming influence and during the labour, she seemed to listen intuitively and knew my needs without me having to voice them.
Selina also played a vital role to me personally after the birth with home visits and brilliant advice and support on breastfeeding. This was especially when we had to spend time in Alder Hey hospital and I wanted to keep my milk supply going while my daughter had to be tube fed.
I think all women should be able to have the support, encouragement and knowledge that a Doula like Selina can provide. From the day we met, she always made herself available for help, guidance and encouragement.
Scarlett Grace Almond was born on the 29th September 2010. She was delivered at home, in the water, in a way I never thought a birth could be – safe, calm and controlled.



Rachel

August 2010


For anyone giving birth I would highly recommend using Selina for support. I am diabetic with various other complications and previously had a terrible experience of birth following a traumatic failed induction and c-section with the baby in special care. When I found out I was pregnant with Louis I could not see the wood for the trees – the fear of the same experience for myself and the baby was huge.
Selina provided a lot of valuable research material to assist me – she also acted as a facilitator for my decision making around hospitals and care. With her support I changed hospitals, gained approval for the option of a midwife led birth and gained agreement for labour and birth without insulin and glucose infusion all of which are not standard practice. I was also given the ability to go to 40 weeks and try a foleys catheter induction.
Following 2 inductions I failed to progress and ended up with a c-section. However thanks to Selina I had a birth plan and went through the surgery without insulin or gluscose which was fantastic. I also had skin to skin contact within the first hour and was able to feed Louis with expressed colostrum. Louis was fit and well and having made it to 40 weeks was an achievement as most diabetics deliver at 38 weeks but the research Selina presented enabled me to make the case for going to 40 weeks. As I was fully prepared and had transferred to a hospital able to deal with specialist conditions the c-section was not traumatic.
After the birth Selina provided a lot of support for breast feeding and recovery support. Overall I would highly recommend Selina to anyone with a complex birth or long term conditions. Her assistance, experience and advice enable you to take the best path through the healthcare system. She also helps to reinforce the birth process as a natural and spiritual experience. I can now happily say I would “have another one” given the time and resources – previously the fear was too big. If I do I will be calling Selina.

Sarah

March 2010


The Birth Of Tobias Ambrose

15/03 2010

Tobias was a blessed wonderful surprise, we did not know about him till I was about 17 weeks pregnant when I went to get an IUD put in as my husband had started a course full time so we thought we should stop trying for a baby... but alas fate had chosen our path and I was pregnant, I was shocked, surprised and amazed but extremely happy.
You see I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and since our arrival in the UK from Australia (I am Australian, my husband is British) I had not been ovulating so had given up trying so hard to get pregnant, but I lost some weight while working and must have spontaneously ovulated at the right time.
I did not take note of the signs of pregnancy as I came down with a chest infection and thought I was tired from my job and the travel every day to Manchester, then when I got morning sickness I just thought it was a tummy bug coming on after the infection, so thought nothing of it even though it continued for a long time... silly me.

At the time I was also diagnosed with Hyper Mobility Syndrome, and an old injury in my hip was causing me severe pain again, I could hardly walk... it was actually caused by pressure from my growing uterus, but at the time we did not know this.

When it came to giving birth I read everything I could about it and the best book I read was Ina May Gaskin's Guide To Childbirth, I learnt how natural birth was and can be and it put aside any fears I had of giving birth, I also found a fantastic book that I would recommend to all woman Juju Sundin's Birth Skills, its a book on pain management for labour and birth and I used the skills I liked most to get me through Tobias's birth.

I started what is called prodromal labour 14 days before Tobias was born, we had several false starts to labour, even my Doula Selina thought it was the real thing starting to, I had the shivers and felt nauseous, I had a number of strong contractions, some continued with walking around etc. They mostly started at night and then where gone by the morning, it was frustrating but they say that having prodromal labour makes the second stage of labour faster.... that is so very true.

We tried all kinds of things to turn Tobias around to anterior as he was posterior, and to get labour going, but nothing worked, we also concluded that I had a touchy utero that would contract for no reason, like when I rolled from one side to the other in bed. We did rebozo sifting, inversions, walking, raspberry leaf tea, going over bumps in the car, using a birth ball to try and get things moving.

It was the night of my birthday, 14th March 2010, I started having regular contractions every hour, it was hard to sleep with them, I then woke at around 1am with contractions coming every 15 min, I let Selina know and she said to just keep an eye on them, then it rappidly went to 2 8 min apart contractions, and suddenly it was every 3 to 2 ½ min, we let Selina know again, she said she would be on her way.

I decided that the contractions were coming to fast to stick around, my mum who had arrived from Aus on my birthday had told me that she had prodromal labour with all of my siblings as we were all posterior and that when the time came it all happened very rapidly as we turned. I rang the Liverpool Womans Hospital and the midwife I spoke to said to come in, we rang Selina again and said we would meet her there.

When we got there we went up to the midwifery lead unit, I was only 2 cm dilated, I was able to go into the pool room soon after arriving, fantastic I thought, I am going to get the birth I wanted. I had 2 stress balls (juggling balls) that I squeezed and hit together during contractions, it really helped distract me and release tension during the contractions, I also had 2 small plastic dolphins that lit up with changing lights when in the water, I used them to focus on while in the pool during contractions as well as the stress balls, I was coping very well till the contractions got really strong and painful.

I began to think I could not cope with the pain any longer with out some sort of pain relief, so I asked for some gas & air, it helped take the edge of the pain, though I did splash a lot as I hit the ball on the edge of the pool, I think both my husband and Selina thought I might break the pool as I was hitting it with such force. I ended up abandoning the balls and held on to ether Selian or Dave's hand and moving back and forth in the water through the contractions.

When I was asked to get out so they could check me when I started to feel the need to push a tiny amount... I was 9cm dilated, with out knowing it I had been in transition after only about 7 hours of active labour, we were all amazed at the speed of the labour since it was my first time.

Not long after that I felt very strong urges to start pushing, so I did, the pushing felt better and less painful, and I used a technique from the birth skills book called the coffee plunger to push using my diafram and filled lungs, you take a deep breath, hold it and push, this allows the use of the right muscles and diafram to push and not the stomach muscles. I was making a loud very primal moan with my mouth wide open as I pushed, it was something I learned from Ina May's book, the midwife told me to close my mouth, I told her off, I knew what I was doing and it was really helping me.

After about 1 ½ hours of pushing Tobias was born in the pool, we spent a while cuddling in the pool and I pushed the placenta out naturally about 40 min later. I only got a small tear that did not need stitching, I needed no help from any of the midwife's, and I felt confident for most of the birth. I am very thankful for the support of my wonderful husband David and Selina my doula.

For anyone in the Liverpool area, I would highly recommend Selina as a doula, she is wonderful, very helpful and knows a lot of really useful stuff, I also feel I have made a great friend who I will miss greatly when we my new family move back to Australia in 2011.



Kat

November 2009


I went into labour after much hilarity with Selina - belly dancing around my front room. She left around 11pm and I went to bed then woke at around 1am with strong but short pains coming every two minutes. We called my mum who came to take the children away and who said she thought it was the real pains given that I was 40+3 and we should call the hospital (she's a doctor). We called Simon (consultant midwife) who said to take our time so we went to Selina's flat to wait for a while, I still wasn't convinced anything was happening as I'd gotten so used to the idea they were late and didn't dare hope! While I was sitting in the car the pains got longer and stronger and further apart but everytime I walked around they got shorter and closer together again!

Selina helped me put on the TENS machine and I was sick in her pan! I knew I was in labour then because I always vomit in labour! When we arrived in MLU Simon had already got there (driving from Nottingham) and showed us to our room. Selina dimmed the lights and got out her pretend candle lights and they did the initial CTG monitoring which was really good so we got the green light for the intermittent monitoring.

I felt myself disappearing into the labour, my BP was a little high so Selina massaged me while the midwife did some more monitoring and it came down nicely. The pains were getting stronger and more regular and I could tell by looking at the increasing strength of the TENS that things were starting to happen. The midwife examined me and I was 4 cm so I went to the pool room and got in the pool.

As soon as I got in the pool I felt the water lift the bump - it was huge and the babies overhung so much I think the water lifted them into a much better position. My contractions got suddenly very strong and after only a few minutes I was fully dilated and had to get out of the pool. I remember Simon saying to me that it wouldn't matter if I accidentally delivered the first in the pool but they'd have to shout at me to get out to deliver the second! I got out though and got onto the bed.

They helped me take off my wet clothes and helped me onto my side and soon after, and with some gas and air, a bit of hand gripping and some mopping of my brow (I had had to take the TENS off to get in the pool) I had pushed Dylan out, he was not very willing to come out of his waters and was partially still inside. They cleaned him off a bit and passed him to me and I thought "ahh, hard work done.... OH NO! TWO BABIES!". Neil took off his shirt and did plenty of skin to skin with Dylan while I got ready for Lily.

I remember thinking "right I'm going to just push her right out" and pushing! They were not sure which way round she was coming (they could feel she was longitudinal) as she had been breech on the last scan but they felt she was head down during labour. I had pushed her right down into my pelvis so they couldn't find her to check her heartbeat which worried them slightly for a bit but they soon found her and she was fine.

A few pushes and she was born, completely intact in her sack of water! That was an amazing sight. They checked the babies Apgar scores but then left us to bond. We stayed in the pool room for a couple of hours and I fed the babies who both latched well and sucked for a whole hour! Then, because the unit wasn't busy, I had a bath in the pool and got dressed and we went to the ward were I had a private room.

I stayed in overnight because they wanted to do some monitoring of the baby's hearts because I have a thyroid problem. All the monitoring was fine, the babies were good feeders and good sleepers and we came home the next day. Now we're at home getting used to each other, my older two are adapting well to the new additions and I'm getting to grips with tandem feeding.

I feel very thankful to all at Liverpool Women's Hospital but especially Dr Bricker and Simon Mehigan who were absolutely fantastic and provided fantastic care! Also very thankful to Selina for having such good ideas and suggesting the Women's in the first place and mumsnet for telling me about doula's too.


Clare

March 2009

We booked Selina very early on in this pregnancy, which was my second, as I had read about the part that Doulas can play in reducing intervention. My first birth had been an emergency transfer to hospital for no good reason and although it resulted in a normal delivery on just gas and air procedures were carried out that I did not consent to and even yelled ‘no’ to.

Throughout my pregnancy Selina visited me regularly and we discussed my plans for this birth, my concerns and worries from my last birth and Selina gave me ideas of more things to think about. She really gave me the confidence I needed to birth naturally at home and to stand up to the midwives when they tried to tell me I wasn’t allowed a homebirth if I went into labour at 37 weeks (my elder daughter was early).

On the day I began early labour I kept Selina updated as I had mild contractions until she and my Mum arrived at around 6pm. They started to get closer together and Selina went home while |I got my daughter to sleep, had dinner and Chris and I went to bed. I couldn’t sleep so bounced around on my birth ball until I started to feel lonely at 11pm and called her back.

Chris set up the birth pool and our daughter woke up, she came in for a cuddle then my Mum took her upstairs to watch DVDs! I was very happy in the pool, excited to meet our baby and not in pain, just pressure in my back so Selina and Chris swapped around, one applying couter-pressure on my back, the other holding hands with me and giving me the eye contact and kisses I needed! Selina also provided cold flannels, drinks of water and aromatherapy oils…she seemed to know exactly what I needed and when, I didn’t need to speak, which really helped me to focus on relaxing!

When I entered transition I started to worry that I was only in early labour and wanted to call the midwife to possibly have an internal. When she arrived, I really freaked out when she attempted an internal. Her presence made me feel very anxious so we asked her to wait in the kitchen for awhile.

When I began to push I needed to squat and couldn’t get comfortable in the pool so got out and the midwives suggested positions for me to try, supported by either Chris, Selina or both! I settled in a supported squat leaning on Chris, with Selina helping me keep my singing to the very low note that was helping by singing with me. I moved into a semi sitting position as our Baby crowned, resting against Selina, who suggested that Chris and I feel her head. I am so grateful for this as I wouldn’t have remembered to! The midwife then helped Chris to catch our beautiful newborn who was placed straight onto my stomach, meowing like a kitten and calmly looking at us all.

While Chris held our new baby girl and she was weighed after delivering the placenta Selina looked after me as I was shaking so much and our daughter came down to meet her sister. Felicity was 6lb 3oz and born at 4.39 am in about 4 hours of beautiful, powerful pain free labour.

Selina and my Mum then organised us four to get into bed, Selina made tea and toast for me and Chris, myself and our two beautiful girls all fell asleep.

Sally

My first labour was a nightmare I was not prepared in any way for what was ahead of me and the people who were supposed to be looking after me let me down (notably the over zealous nursing staff). I ended up having forceps under a general anaesthetic. Isabelle had to be in special care for 24 hours because of the amount of drugs given to me had passed to her.

We had to find a way of being more prepared the second time round. My friend had highly recommended Selina to us and we met up early in my pregnancy. I knew straight away Selina was the person I wanted to help me through.

I woke up on the morning of 13 th May 2009 with the usual Braxton hicks after breakfast they felt stronger. Ian had gone to work and I was to keep him posted with any developments, I also phoned Selina. By late morning I knew this was it! I was still able to do everything normally I just had to keep stopping and holding onto something! My daughter Isabelle really kept my mind off the pain and I kept her off pre school. I am lucky to have my parents close by and I spent the day with Isabelle and them, we went for a nice walk. I kept in close contact with Selina and I felt really in control and excited. By late afternoon my contractions were starting to be much more painful my parents took Isabelle to their house and Ian came home, closely followed by Selina. I had started to use the tens machine and found some gave some relief to the pain. When Selina arrived I was so pleased to see her she was brilliant just her presence had a calming effect. Contractions were speeding up so we phoned the hospital. It was at this point that I started to get anxious about the inevitable journey to hospital, Selina reassured me I could do this and to focus on my baby which sounds simple but that’s exactly what I did. I believe I had strength of mind this time round which I did not have the first time, that is the gift that Selina gives you, a belief in yourself. I have to admit the car journey was not a pleasurable one! Ian was driving very fast I was bent over the back seat with Selina working the tens machine! We were taken into the mid wife led unit and given a room, Selina dimmed the lights and put candles on I also had pictures of my daughter Isabelle. I had written a birth plan unless there was a problem with the baby I wanted no examinations and no drugs and to be left alone (that was what triggered off the panic last time) the mid wife respected this and left us. Selina seemed to know what stage I was at by looking at me and with Ian they were fantastic birth partners. When we were settled in the room I felt myself go into another zone only surfacing to use the gas and air (great stuff!) I focused only on my baby and as Selina had said with every push you are nearer to meeting your baby. I kept changing positions and could hear lots of words of encougement as I began to feel the urge to push. This went on for what I felt was a long time but it wasn’t we got to hospital at 830 and I had Emily at 1025 not bad going! I can remember lying on my side struggling with the pain I couldn’t stand up any more. Selina urged me to get on my feet as it wouldn’t be long before I met my baby to this day I don’t know where I got the strength from but Selina and Ian supported me standing up it was a surreal moment as the head was delivered and I remember shouting whats that?! With a couple more pushes I delivered my beautiful Emily.

It was such an unbelievable moment ( I am filling up writing this now) words can’t describe the joy, you have been on an incredible journey for 9 months and finally you get to meet your baby. I was incredibly proud of myself and grateful to Selina and Ian for helping me though it.

I wanted a physiological third stage and Selina helped me latch Emily on for a feed to help this process, with a few more pushes I delivered the placenta. Soon after we were enjoying tea and toast!

Selina’s presence during the labour was invaluable she was fantastic. Her involvement in the pregnancy stage gave me an invaluable insight into what the human body can do without any medical intervention, I felt empowered with this knowledge and it gave me a strength mind I never knew I had. Thanks so much Selina!

Hilary
Birth of Kathryn James 24th June 2008

To say that I am a wimp is an understatement. To say that I can't really tolerate pain would be a simplification. Selina was part of the answer.

After finding myself preggers with baby number 1, a very much longed-for bundle of joy, I decided to read-up on pain relief options during labour. My mother is a woman of many words and stoic constitution, but even she had warned me that labour was not called 'labour' for nothing!!
After reading a huge amount about the dreaded contractions, three stages etc, I started to ask around at work to see if anybody recommended a particular pathway; this is how I came across the notion of a Doula. My friend Ian, extremely trusted colleague and general all-round good-egg explained that he and his wife had enlisted the services of a Doula when preparing for the birth of their first and he could not have been more positive about the experience. His wife had been worried about the levels of support that she would receive in a very busy London teaching hospital and so felt that an advocate in 'their corner' might be a jolly good thing. Once I started to research Doulas I too discovered that they might act not only as an advocate for the couple, but that the incidence of episiotomies, use of forceps etc was vastly reduced when their services were employed. I was hooked!! I got in touch with Selina. We talked for about an hour on the phone and I thought 'that's the girl for me'!

Now to convince 'im indoors! Gray was really worried that Selina's presence would prejudice a spirit of 'togetherness' - I could totally understand where he was coming from because I too wanted that the labour felt like a private time for 'Team James' , but somehow Selina's kindness and reassurance had buoyed me up and I knew that she would not intrude, but that things would run a little more smoothly (and a mite less painfully!) if she were there.

Gray and I 'chewed the fat' about the pros and cons until we both decided that he should at least meet Selina to help make up his mind. We went to see Selina and she immediately put Gray at his ease. She explained that she would act as a support to both of us, not just me, and that she would take her cues from us as to how much 'intervention' we required from her. Gray felt that Selina's support could be of distinct benefit (nervous first time father that he was) so we signed on the dotted line!

Selina came to our house for at least two preparatory sessions where we discussed the labour and our expectations in detail. She seemed to really want to 'get to the bottom' of how much pain relief we wanted, the degree to which I wanted to move around, the levels of 'doctor presence' I could tolerate etc. We agreed on a plan over a good bottle of wine. The scene was set.

Enter stage-left an extremely excruciating labour (I think I mentioned that I am a lilly-livered, cowardly custard didn't I?) and the plans went a little awry. I had said I wanted t be in the birthing pool, but it wasn't to be because my waters broke and appeared to contain blood. Not a problem for Selina, she was serenity personified and explained the different options now available, in an unhurried and motherly fashion. I had indicated most vociferously that I would countenance an epidural only as a last resort; Hah!!, I was begging for the drugs with every inch of remaining lung capacity by the time I was still only three centimetres dilated after twenty four hours of solid contractions!! Selina was not fazed. She simply explained all the options whilst remaining calm and collected.

My gorgeous Katy was born 12.50 am on June the 25th. Little tearing, totally natural physiological delivery, and Mum completely exhausted. But hey, I'm a drama queen and Selina sussed that early on (clever girl!!) so she left us to enjoy our perfect new life. I cannot thank her enough.

Antonia
George July 2005
I was really fit and healthy during my pregnancy. I ate excessively healthily, swam several times a week, practiced pregnancy yoga every night and got lots of sleep. I was looking forward to giving birth naturally and believed all my preparation would make this more likely. At 10 days past my due date, after a reflexology session, a large curry and small beer my waters broke suddenly and dramatically at 11pm . The labour pains started equally suddenly and intensely.....nothing had prepared me for this!! 2 paracetamol (why do the midwives recommend this??!) and a TENS machine were a drop in the ocean of pain. I was, quite honestly panicked and terrified. My husband got my bag and we went straight to hospital. I didn't cope with the pain. I didn't try gas and air. I wasn't progressing in labour. An epidural and a syntocinon drip was set up. I was in a state of shock but so relieved to be out of pain when the epidural was in. I lay like a beached whale for most of the night, the baby was getting more distressed each time the rate of the drip was increased, and each time it was slowed my cervix stopped dilating. 8 hours later the consultant came in and said I needed an emergency section. I was devastated, but as the night had progressed I knew really that was where I was heading. Listening to my baby's heart beat slowing on the monitor with each contraction was very frightening and I thought I was going to lose him.
My gorgeous baby George Halliwell was born at 9.20am on 7/7/05, shortly after the London tube bombings.
I was in a state of shock for quite some time after his birth, I felt I had failed at the first hurdle of motherhood by not being able to cope with labour or give birth naturally. This traumatic experience made quite a lot of difference in how I cared for him in his early weeks. I was nervous and overly anxious, I doggedly pursued breast feeding for longer than was in his or my interests.
When he was 6weeks old and I was feeling stronger and happier (and George was guzzling Cow and Gate) I really started to enjoy being a mum.


Winter 2006/7
When pregnant with Jack I ate well, swam regularly, went to antenatal yoga (and ran around after my 1 year old), but knew that this alone was not enough preparation for birth. I knew I needed a different approach, and also knew I had a lot of unresolved issues around George's birth.
My sister had had a doula and home birth which triggered my search to find a birthing partner to support both me and my husband Andrew.
Selina, Andrew and I spent a long time discussing all the stages of George's labour; we talked through how we felt at each stage and how the whole situation had just run away with itself. Both Andrew and I had felt unprepared and helpless in the hospital. Selina was concerned, interested and really helpful in working through our past experiences and putting them in context. At each stage we worked out how we could have reacted differently.
Selina visited several times during pregnancy for massages, relaxation, conversations and tea drinking. One of her most valuable recommendations was listening to the "Hypnatal" birthing CD. I cannot explain how important this was to me in approaching labour calmly and positively.
During our discussions Selina helped us work out, that whatever the outcome of delivery, whether I needed a Caesarean again etc we would be empowered to ask questions, make requests and be fully involved in decision making. As my due date approached Andrew and I found it reassuring that Selina was on the end of the phone.

Jack February 2007
I started to feel strange and in some pain through the early hours of the morning of the 12th, I spent a lot of time rocking around on all fours on the carpet.....but to be honest I was in my own little world and can't remember it much till about 6 when I woke my husband and rang Selina to ask her to come over. I was obsessed with needing to wash my hair in case I had a Caesarean and couldn't wash it for another 3days!!- my shower took ages as I kept having to bend over with contractions!
We had toast and tea and got George ready to take to my friend's house......the contractions were regular and painful but I was able to breathe through them if I went down on all fours, I was really thinking about needing some gas and air by this point. This time I felt fairly calm.
Selina arrived and we were really happy to see her, she gave both me and Andrew 'rescue remedy', she couldn't persuade me to stay at home any longer. On our arrival at hospital we were met by a familiar midwife and I was chuffed to find that I was 5cm dilated. Selina's presence was really reassuring. She just seemed to know what I needed. It seemed that she always had something to try that would help me, hot towels on my lower back (I can't explain how good this felt!), foot and back massage, hip pressure ( again, I can't explain what a relief this was!). Between them Selina and Andrew were amazing.
At certain points the medical staff came in and advised me to have my waters broken and a drip put in. Andrew was able to ask questions of the midwife and doctors, and Selina discussed the answers with him- I was not able to talk, but able to say no! to having my waters broken.
Andrew and Selina were able to make the hospital room our own, I had a mat on the floor (I don't know how she found this) and my own birthing ball. The room was high with aromatherapy oils, the lights dimmed and strange Russian bells music on the radio (a surreal choice!)
Selina stayed with us all through the labour (I remember one point not letting her go to the loo!- sorry Selina!)

The pain escalated till it took over my whole body. Somehow I felt in control though, and the experience felt "right". The voice of the woman from the hypnotherapy CD stayed with me, and I could hear her at various points.
Eventually Jack Bernard was born at 4pm 12/02/2007, he was a fighting fit 9lb 3oz!
I think the endorphin rush and gas and air made me lose my inhibitions, and ask everyone to leave the room so that Andrew and I could enjoy the first moments together- it was magical until I got shivery and shaky, and needed that reviving cup of tea and toast!

January 2008
Am now 4 months pregnant with 3rd child. Am enjoying this pregnancy so far, and have already booked Selina for June.
Selina gave invaluable support and advice throughout late pregnancy and labour. I cannot recommend her highly enough. I hope my story inspires you to give her a call and see for yourself! 

Noah June 2008:
Selina visited me several times during late pregnancy with my 3 rd child. We discussed what had gone well in previous pregnancies, and discussed options for this labour. She also gave me fabulous, calming foot massages.
When I was 41 weeks pregnant I had a cervical sweep done at the hospital. This had induced labour for me previously, so I was preparing for it to work again.....sure enough that afternoon I started with low crampy pains. I managed a walk that afternoon, and my husband and I put the older children to bed at about 7pm. I was feeling quite excited and happy, and the contractions were getting stronger.
I rang Selina to update her, so she could get ready to come over.
At about 8pm I felt exhausted. It was as if the initial adrenalin-rush had worn off. I had a bath and did some relaxation but was unable to sleep. The contractions seem to get less frequent, about every 20 minutes or so, and I felt a bit despondent. I felt as if lying down was slowing the labour. I knew the baby had to be born before morning from a childcare point of view!

I sent my husband up to bed to get some sleep whilst he could, and Selina and I went for a walk on the promenade. This really got the contractions going again, and I had to stop and lean on Selina each time....we got lots of funny looks!!
When we got home again we put on some relaxing music. Selina lit some tea lights and gave me a massage. I was mostly on my hands and knees and the contractions were coming every 5 minutes or so.
I started to think about the journey to hospital and how uncomfortable that was going to be, and in a way wanted to go sooner rather than later to get it over with. I went to get my husband up and the neighbour in to look after the other children.
The journey to hospital was spent kneeling in the passenger footwell leaning on the passenger seat. I had 5 contractions on the 15 minute journey.
On arrival at Arrowe Park we went to the Midwife Led Unit. I'd had permission to labour here despite my previous Caesarian section. There was some initial confusion from the midwives, but I had a letter pinned to my notes to say it was ok. By this time it was midnight.
I was a bit surprised to hear I was only 3cm dilated, and felt that I was further on in the labour than that. It took me a little while to settle back into the labour and get some good positions. It also took me a while to get the hang of gas and air, and to start using it at the start of each pain.
I felt completely “in the zone” from then on. I really can't remember much of the next 5 hours. I had my eyes closed most of the time. Selina suggested different positions, standing leaning my forearms on a high backed chair was really good. Selina gave me various homoepathic remedies and used acupressure and massage. Selina and Andrew used hot towels and pressure on my lower back which was brilliant.
I got really attached to my birthing music CD, which was the background music to the birth preparation hypnosis CD and had it playing constantly.
The midwives began cleaning and filling the birthing pool, as they were getting it ready I wanted to say- “don't bother, the baby will be out before it's ready”but couldn't speak. I was also attached to the music, and didn't want to move (there was no CD player in the pool room)
I think the midwives only examined me at the start. In any case, they just let me get on with the labour and I wasn't distracted by changes of staff, examinations or monitoring.
The only distracting thing was my husband, just in my line of vision drinking endless cups of tea from his Thermos, and chewing dates!!- I can't really complain though, as he didn't miss a beat throughout the whole labour, and held the water/lucozade for me between each pain.
The last bit of labour I was standing up doing side lunges (Selina's suggestion, of course!!). I felt the baby's head really low down, as if he was going to fall out.....and managed a desperate “get the midwife!!” Selina had already realised that the baby's head was appearing and had rung the bell.
The baby was born fairly quickly, with the amniotic sac still intact, the membranes were still over his head. I didn't see all this, I could just hear them talking about amni hooks and scissors, and how tough the membranes and cord were. He was born with the very long cord round his neck- but screamed loudly soon after birth......the best sound in the world!
Our precious beautiful son Noah Alexander had been born weighing 8lb14oz
I had a physiological third stage (without syntometrine injection). This was straightforward, the placenta came out 15mins later.
Selina's presence was invaluable again. Look forward to the next time!!
Thanks Selina .....you are AMAZING.

Jane- Belas birth

I am a 38 year old new mum. My pregnancy had been straightforward and I was quite optimistic that the birth would be too. When my contractions began at 7am on my partner’s birthday, I believed that Bela would be born that day. My partner put on my tens machine and I found it took my mind off the contractions. I knew that I had to stay at home as long as possible - until the contractions came every few minutes. They continued throughout the day and became more intense but at irregular intervals-every 6, 10, 8, minutes. I had been unable to keep food or drink down.
By 2.30 the following morning I decided to go to hospital as the contractions were very strong and I wanted some help with the pain. To my disappointment, I was only 2cm dilated and was sent home. I spent the rest of the night and following day with the same painful, but irregular contractions and was unable to sleep or eat.
At 3.30 the next morning, I had reached the same stage of desperation in terms of pain and went back to the hospital. This time I was 3cm dilated and was able to use gas and air with the contractions. However, after 6 hours I had not dilated any further and yet again was advised to go home!
It was on the third day when Selina called round to visit. She came with a bag-full of goodies- energy drinks, massage oil
She recommended a comfortable position to sit on the toilet- leaning over the cistern, using pillows and began to massage my back and feet. (By this time I had removed the tens machine.) Her manner was calm and reassuring and I immediately felt at ease and no longer alone with the pain. We then went for a walk in the park and she stood by me with every contraction so that I could lean on her. The pain was less intense when walking.
Later I had a bath and Selina went home for a few hours. She returned and continued with massages and as the contractions worsened again, she put hot flannels across my back where the pain was, which relieved it considerably. By 10.30 that night I had again reached the point where I needed further help with the pain and we went, all three of us, to the hospital. I had not planned to have a third party present at the birth but Selina was willing to come with us, much to my relief. (I should point out that my partner had been of no practical help during my painful contractions and had felt uncomfortable whilst watching me in pain. Selina's presence put him at ease as well as myself.)
I was 5cm dilated and finally accepted as being in labour which meant that I would not be sent home again! The three of us were left alone in the room after the initial examination. The contractions came more regularly and Selina continued with the massages and hot flannels and encouraged me to breathe deeply when using the gas and air, which made the contractions more bearable. After five hours it was found that I had not dilated any further and I was told to move to the delivery ward in order to break my waters, and if necessary, to be induced.
Here, the midwife was present throughout. She was initially very formal and cold in her manner in comparison to the midwife on the other ward. This was very disconcerting, especially as my moving to this ward meant that things were not going as they should be. It was of considerable comfort to know that Selina, as well as my partner, were there with me. A belt was put around my stomach, which monitored the baby’s heart- beat on a screen in front of me. The midwife then attempted to put a drip in my left hand as a precaution but cursed as she said she had ruptured the vain-I couldn’t look but it certainly hurt! A doctor then came to make a second attempt further up my arm but again the same thing happened. I was feeling quite distressed by this time and asked them not to do it a third time.
My waters were then broken. This process was totally pain-free and I felt the gush of warm liquid escape. To my dismay she told me they the baby had opened her bowels in the womb, probably some days ago. I knew that this could be potentially dangerous and the midwife explained that they would have to clear the mouth and nose when the head appeared in order for her to breathe safely. Unfortunately my contractions continued to be irregular so I was induced and given diamorphine. Thankfully a third person put the drip in my right hand with no problem. I lay on my side, and for the first time in days, I was able to relax with no contractions for about half an hour before the drugs took effect. Selina and my partner were behind me, out of sight and it was a comfort when she came round to my side to talk to me, as I had felt very alone.
When everything began to take effect the contractions became very intense and I was moved to what looked like a rickety old rocking chair. Incredibly, it helped a lot as I had severe back pain by that time. Each time a contraction began, a set of numbers on the monitor would rapidly increase until the pain would peak, and then the numbers would fall. I found I could not look at the screen and it was only when Selina told me the numbers were falling that I could take comfort and prepare myself for the next one. Finally I was sufficiently dilated and moved back to the bed to begin the last stage of pushing.
In comparison this was over quickly- just 17 minutes. By this time there was another midwife and Selina remembered to tell her about the meconium in my waters, so that she would know to clear the baby’s airways. Everyone was very encouraging and despite it being painful, it was a relief to be a different pain and to know that the end was near. Bela was born at 9.19am, weighing 7lbs 14 and I had not torn or needed to be cut!
Belas birth had been an experience that I will never forget. It was only on the third day of labour, when Selina came round, that I felt the contractions were all leading to a final goal- a baby! Up until then, it had seemed that the contractions would never end and I had felt alone with the pain.
My partner had become increasingly tense and anxious due to his inability to make the pain better, which did not help my situation. Despite having never considered wanting a third party present at my baby’s birth, I am now truly grateful to Selina and consider her a god send. Labour became a positive and shared experience and as a result a very manageable one.
I felt confident and in control at the end and I am sure this could have influenced the relative ease that Bela came out and the fact that I didn’t tear. I would highly recommend Selina as a doula - she is a natural!


Roxanne
Before I ever became pregnant, we had always wanted children. I love to read and began reading out of interest some beautiful books on pregnancy and birth, especially Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper. Sometimes I’d look at pregnant women and feel so envious, wanting it to be me. Yet I never seemed to get around to actually planning for a child. Nature decided otherwise. I found myself pregnant at just 4 weeks. The symptoms were too obvious too ignore even at such an early stage, so I did the test. We were over the moon.
The stories I had read about labour and birth being a very wonderful experience, instinctive and natural, I wanted this experience. I was against the medicalisation of childbirth and longer for a natural, empowering experience. I wanted also for my husband, Tom to enjoy the experience of witnessing his child come into the world. I wanted for him to witness the wonder and euphoria of his baby being born without him being trapped by guilt that his beloved wife was suffering and in terrible pain. I wanted him to be able to relax and feel able to be involved as much or as little as he felt comfortable with.
I wanted a natural delivery, no mind altering drugs, no interference, no telling me what to do. I wanted to let Mother Nature show and guide me. But could I do it alone? Could I feel confident that I was capable of doing something so incredible especially when I had never done it before? The questions and doubts needed addressing. I knew what I wanted; I just needed to feel I could really achieve it. I continued my reading, educating myself as much as possible. That’s when I began reading about Doulas.
Doulas are women who have been there, given birth at least once; they are ready to provide emotional support to a woman in labour. The idea of having a stranger with you in delivery? What was your closest friend to you before you ever met them? Before you met and got talking and got to know each other? Did you know them? Did they know you? Did you know each others preferences and deepest secrets before you had ever even met? Why did you become friends in the first place? Common interest? Ability to share emotional aspects? Ability to actually get along together and feel comfortable in each others company? You can expect no less from a Doula. Although a Doula is not a friend, they offer companionship, compatibility, impartialness, commonality and support.
This was what I felt I needed to get through this first time experience of labour and birth. I wanted someone who could be impartial, keep their head if things were crazy and help me keep mine too. Someone who would listen to me when I felt I needed to talk and respect my wishes without question or judgement. I wanted someone who would help me assert my wishes when necessary. I did not honestly feel that it was fair to lay such a demanding job on my husband and expect him to be able to keep his head, perform all of the above and also feel that he could relax and enjoy the experience himself. So a Doula was my option.
When searching, I was contacted by a very experienced Doula. She had many years experience. So much in fact, that her introduction to me was to tell me all about herself with hardly pausing for breath. I could hardly get a word in edgeways. When I did, she hardly listened. Well, I sacked that off, knowing immediately that I could never get on with such a person. Then I got another call. She told me her name was Selina and we chatted. She told me she loved horses (we have 3 Arabians) and she breeds Bengal cats (we breed Ragdolls). We chatted easily about so many things. Each time I needed to talk, Selina instantly stopped speaking and listened intently. She appeared very intuitive. I knew we would get along.
Before I ever went into labour, Selina visited us at home and answered any questions that we could ask. Tom had the opportunity to get a load of questions off his mind. I noticed he became more relaxed and confident about the birth. We all felt at ease in each other’s company. By the time my baby was due; I felt safe and confident around Selina and could openly discuss anything with her. She always respected my feelings.
My due date for our first baby was 1st December 2004. I had planned and hoped for a home water birth. My consultant had given the all-clear for this to go ahead. The final week before delivery, the midwife suspected I may have developed pre-eclampsia, so I was hospitalised and monitored. Eventually I was let home to begin labour (hopefully) on my own.
The morning of 30th November, at 7am, my waters broke with a gush like what I’d never known, and they kept coming, every movement made more gushes. I had to sit on a towel to stem the flow, aaah the beginnings of my loss of dignity! Tom woke up and became very excited but I assured him I had no labour pains. I rang Selina and we both agreed it was too early for her to come.
Midmorning I took a shower and one of my friends dropped by. By now I was going through bath towels and felt like I could hardly move for the amount of water coming. It was very uncomfortable and undignified. Tom was as re-assuring as he could be. Selina called, she was on her way. I felt such relief. At last, this would calm me down.
Selina arrived with sanitary towels and big panty knickers (hurrah, more indignity, but I was getting used to it at this stage!) and I was at last able to get dressed and walk about, such relief. We were all starving by now so we had a big lunch and Selina suggested a walk. We took a brief walk but still no labour pains. I was not keen to visit the hospital.
By 10pm the hospital were ringing frequently, asking me to go in to be monitored. I relented and all 3 of us traipsed in. I was monitored; pad checked (to see there was no sign of infection, meconium passed etc) and then told I had to wait to see the Dr. By 2am still no Dr., so I discharged myself. We all went home exhausted and fell into bed. Tom said with any luck, we may all sleep till about 10am in morning. We will forever remember that statement!
At around 4.30am, I was awoke by what felt like period pains that kept coming in waves, getting stronger and stronger each time. I tried visual imagery and hoped I would just fall back asleep. Nope, the pains got steadily stronger. Slowly and as quietly as I could, I got out of bed trying not to wake Tom or Selina as I knew they were both exhausted. I felt I needed to kneel over to feel any way comfortable and I leaned over the end of the bed, breathing deeply as the pain became stronger each time. As I went to the bathroom, I noticed my teeth were chattering. Thinking I was just cold, I plugged in the heater in the bedroom. I was now having to breathe very strongly as the contractions grew stronger. Tom woke hearing me and got up straightaway, I asked him to get the TENS machine. Selina was now up as well so I went downstairs where it was lovely and warm. Selina fitted the TENS machine and showed me how to use it.
I felt I needed to kneel over and got on the couch digging my knees into it and leaning over the back. By now I had the hang of the TENS machine and Tom and Selina were timing my contractions as well as updating the hospital. In between the contractions, I could not believe how normal I felt, no pain, nothing, as if I wasn’t in labour at all. It was amazing. Then the contractions became more frequent, the breaks between becoming shorter each time. Things were beginning to feel pretty intense by now and Selina turned up the TENS. My contractions were by now 1-2 minutes apart and lasting approx 2 minutes. I could not talk move or do anything except breath like mad through them. It was almost 7am. Tom and Selina were discussing things but I neither heard nor cared what they were saying, all I thought about now was each contraction and how I could deal with them. By about 7.30am, we decided it was time for hospital. Every movement meant another contraction, making it a very slow journey to the door and eventually to the car.
Selina sat in the back with me on the way to hospital, thank God the traffic had not started, we were there in minutes. Trying to get from the car to the hospital lift took a long time; each movement was bringing on a contraction. I leaned heavily on Selina now, burying my face against her shoulder as I leaned heavily against her strength. It was comforting not to have to look or steer myself; Selina led me while I just breathed through each contraction. Tom was able to go ahead to the ward so they were waiting for us. I was brought straight to the labour ward and shown a bed. I decided to get on a chair, supported by pillows, I leaned over the back. The intensity of the contractions now told me things were really happening. I could now feel a searing heat move down through my thighs and lower abdomen. This was fiercely intense. For the first time, I doubted if I could do this. It was approx 8am. I now had the urge to push. What a strange feeling it was, very instinctive and natural. I didn’t push but carried on breathing and using the TENS. Then the midwife came.
She took one look at me and said it was time to go to the delivery suite. She asked me if I could walk. Walk??? Did she want this baby born in the corridor? I knew the baby was close. She got a wheelchair, I could hardly get in it because I got not press my knees together, I needed to keep my pelvis open. I eventually managed somehow to sort of sit in it. I closed my eyes and continued concentrating on the labour as I was wheeled out in the corridor to be taken down to Central Delivery Suite. As we passed the labour ward, I could hear several people saying Luck Roxanne I don’t know who they were and I couldn’t have cared less. I only knew vaguely where I was and did not open my eyes until I was wheeled into the delivery suite. I quickly glanced around, it was lovely. I thought to myself I can give birth in this room I then noticed that Tom and Selina had a cup of coffee each. All I could think was, how could they drink coffee at a time like this? I almost threw up at the sight of it.
The midwife was insisting on examining me by now. I could hardly move from the chair, the contractions were almost meeting one another by now. I was very reluctant to be placed on a bed and wanted to remain upright. She told I could have Gas & Air if I was on the bed, I immediately got on it and grabbed Gas & Air. What great stuff! I could not stop on it once I started. It was ingenious. Again the midwife asked to examine me. As she did so, I had a brief image of my home, and my pussy cats, the warmth of the surroundings and how cosy and safe I felt there. Immediately I became upset and began shouting want to go home, I want to go home and flung the Gas & Air around the room for all it was worth. The security of my home felt like a safe place to give birth, I missed it; I knew instinctively I was in transition. The midwife confirmed this. I was fully dilated.
There seemed to be a lot going on, people coming in and out of the room, some things were a bit hazy by now, that Gas & Air was doing its stuff! I heard Vontouse mentioned. What were they on about? The registrar came in, he was the one who I had met before when admitted for monitoring. He had upset me then and taken instant dislike to him. I hoped he would come nearer; I now had the ideal opportunity to bite him. He had a quick look, then left, shame! I began to feel like I was going to have a pooh, a huge pooh. Oh God, I thought, I can do it here. I became really anxious. I don’t know how, or I just cant remember but somehow I realised that the huge pooh was baby coming. I immediately relaxed. At last, baby was about to be born. There seemed to be a lot of excitement now. I was being urged to push, and being told to push like mad. How do you push I thought. The midwife began guiding me, as I felt a contraction, stop the Gas & Air and close my mouth tightly. When I did this, I could feel the strong push. I was being told to push, push hard down into my bottom. The midwife now told me my baby had a lot of hair, very dark hair. Tom now came over and was holding my hand. He had seen the baby’s head crown and his eyes were very tearful. The midwife told us that baby’s heart rate was not recovering enough during each contraction, it was becoming distressed. She wanted baby born asap. She asked permission to perform an episiotomy. I consented. I could feel the size of the baby come though my pelvis and birth canal, I knew he was about to be born. With every instinct I possessed, I knew the baby was a boy. I felt so excited. I remember looking up at the clock, thinking that he will be born before 9.30am, what a civilised hour to be born.
The midwife guided him out as I pushed through every contraction. I felt the entire body come into the world and knew my baby had been born. It was 9.29am. I lay back on the bed, euphoric. I heard a voice say is your baby and my baby was immediately placed on my abdomen. My first reaction was shock its huge, it’s a whole baby, I thought it was just a head! I just could not understand how I had managed to get that through my pelvis? I was astounded. Babies face was facing mine, and as I looked at my baby, I looked into the most beautiful pair of deep blue eyes I had ever seen. Those beautiful blue eyes looked right back at me. I immediately dissolved into a fit of tears, joy, wonder, happiness, pride. Tom was kissing me, telling me how proud he was of me. He cut the cord and then told me we had a boy, a son. I cradled him in my arms, sobbing uncontrollably, holding him close against me, full of wonder at this amazingly beautiful perfect little person. I was awestruck that this incredible baby existed because I had given birth to him.
Tom then held his son for the first time, with his shirt open, for skin to skin contact. It was beautiful to see my beloved husband hold his first born child. Tom walked around the room, cuddling him, holding him close, finally, after 9 months of waiting, he had got to meet his child. Baby contently lay in his father’s arms as though he had been waiting to meet us all along. After some time, the midwife suggested weighing him, he weighed 6lb 8oz, exactly same as his father had. The midwife and Tom placed him in a nappy and dressed him. He was then given back to me to breast feed. He proved to be a little expert and went straight for his target. It took quite a while for me to get the hang of him latching on, but after several attempts, it did happen. The proud dad then went to phone everyone, while Selina stayed with me. I was too exhausted to talk much by now and simply relaxed in her company while she cuddled baby. The midwife brought me a cup of tea, oh God how great it tasted. So good, that I had 3, all with piles of sugar. Selina chatted to me all the while and kept me company whilst Tom made everyone aware that our baby had come. After some time, the midwife suggested moving me to the ward upstairs. I was put in a wheelchair and felt so very proud as I held my baby in my arms on the way to the ward. When Tom rejoined us, he was full of the well wishes of family and friends. Everyone was delighted. Together we relaxed and enjoyed our new family life.
Writing my birth story brings vivid memories of the day Darian was born. It was the most incredible day of my life. I never realised my body possessed such instincts, such strength, such endurance. Even at the highest intensity of contractions, I did not feel fear or feel that I wanted stronger pain relief. I welcomed each contraction, instinctively knowing they were doing their job, bringing baby closer to us each time. It was a rollercoaster that I chose to ride. When I saw my baby for the first time, I was unprepared for such emotion. It may well be one of the most incredible experiences you can ever have. I would imagine that even if labour and birth had been traumatic, it would all have been forgotten in that moment, the moment you look into the eyes of your beautiful child and witness for yourself the fruit of labour. I, myself, found labour and birth incredible: emotional, physical, instinctive, natural, just absolutely amazing. I can honestly say that I would do it a thousand times more just to have Darian. We are now hoping for our second child.
Thank you for reading my birth story, I hope one day I may be reading yours.
Regards,
Roxanne (Bolton)


Marylou and Ade

I was diagnosed with depression in Spring 2001 and both my husband Ade and I were concerned at the increased risk of Post Natal depression. We had friends who had a very traumatic birth experience and we were keen to make our experience as positive as possible. Following an article published in the Guardian, January 2005, we decided to employ a Doula. Selina Nylander was a regular contributer to a website forum that I regularly use. When Selina first saw our Dining room in Lindselll Road she commented on what a fantastic place it would be to give birth. Neither of us had ever considered a home birth but within the month we decided that we wanted to have our baby born at home in a birthing pool!! I was a little worried how our midwives would react to this but Selina gave me the confidence to tell the Midwives that it was what I wanted rather than ask them. The Community Midwife manager arranged for training to take place at our house so that her midwives would feel more confident with the pool there.

Selina visited twice before the birth and this time was spent looking in great detail at my birth plan. Some people argue that a birth plan is a waste of time but I felt very reassured by it.

At 40wks there was concern that the baby would be too big to deliver at home, again Selina gave me the confidence to argue for having my home birth. However, the scan showed that the baby would be approximately 7lb 13oz!!

On the morning of the 25th April I lay awake in bed having had hardly any sleep that night and feeling generally very fed up. I would have to argue against being induced the next day and was getting worried about it. Finally at 6.20am I decided to get up. I took two steps across the floor and there was this almighty gush as my waters broke. I ran to the bathroom, leaving a trail of drips behind me and sat on the toilet and cried and laughed with joy because I was finally going to meet my baby. My contractions set in almost immediately and were typical of a posterior baby, a mini one every 4-5 minutes and then a major, on all fours head buried in the settee one every 20 minutes. I called Selina immediately and she headed over. At around 8am a midwife called Lynda assessed me but was not able to tell how dilated I was because the baby was in such an awkward position. Whilst my contractions were bearable we got on with preparing the house and I baked flapjacks for my midwives!! Selina arrived at 10.30am. I'd completely forgotten about the TENs machine I had and Selina helped me put it on.

The major contractions started to get further and further apart and the mini ones started getting stronger. Lynda came back at lunchtime and checked my pulse, temperature etc and encouraged me to remain as active as possible, on my birthing ball and on all fours. At 1.30pm, when the contractions were 5 minutes apart I was so tired that I went and lay down upstairs. I actually managed to sleep between each five minute contraction and did this until 4.15 Then I decided that I had to be more active or this labour would never end and went back downstairs. I was getting an awful lot of backache and Selina was relieving this pain by placing very hot flannels on my back at the height of every contraction. At about 5.30pm I started getting the urge to push and was desperate to get into the pool for some pain relief. We had been expecting the 1st midwife to arrive at 5pm but Dilys was stuck in traffic and expected to be with us at about 6pm. By 6pm there was still no sign of Dilys and we decided it was time to get into the pool. The pain relief was almost instant and I felt so relaxed in the warm water. Dilys finally arrived at 6.40pm and assessed me, we were all shocked to find that I was between 8-10 cms dilated and Dilys telephoned for the second midwife as the labour had progressed quicker than anyone thought it would. The second midwife was Carol. Carol was the midwife manager and the moment she had heard that I'd gone into labour she had rearranged the staffing rotas so that she could attend your birth as she had attended other water births.

After an hour in the pool I decided I need more pain relief and hit the Entonox with style and I've been informed that I kept everyone highly entertained with my quick wit. The baby must have really enjoyed being in the water as well, as every time Dilys checked the heart rate it was really relaxed and both Dilys and Carol were surprised by how chilled out the baby was.

I'd been breathing through the urge to push for sometime and was finally allowed to start pushing at 10pm. At this point our cat Poppy decided to join us and she sat in the middle of the room and purred so loudly it was deafening. After an hour of pushing it became clear that I was having difficulties as my contractions were getting further apart and weaker. We all decided that getting out of the pool and using gravity would be a good idea and the midwives suggested lots of different positions and movements to get things going. By 11.30 I was so tired I could no longer push and the decision was taken for me to be transferred to hospital. We heard the ambulance coming down the road with all it's sirens on and I was stretchered out. It was raining quite heavily outside. Carol accompanied me on the journey to the hospital, with the driver taking the longest and bumpiest route he could. When we reached the hospital I vaguely remember telling the driver that “I could bloody well have driven myself faster”.

The ambulance ride did restore my contractions but they were still not strong enough and I was put onto a trip. As I was so tired this part of the labour is quite a blur. I still had difficulties pushing and the Doctor started talking about Ventous and even emergency caesarean. She was concerned about the baby's heart rate as it was no longer as chilled out as it had been and asked if she could take a sample of blood from the top of your head. I refused and she decided that she would have to do a ventous delivery. My legs were put up into stirrups ready for the Ventous. My midwife, now a lady called Diane then suggested to the Doctor that an Epistiostomy may help. The Doctor gave me an anasthetic and the epistiostomy and then set up the trolley to do the ventous. I remember a Paeditrician walking into the room and setting up the baby resus trolley and I thought “Fuck this I'm pushing.” The next thing I know someone is shouting that the head (and hand) were out and I was suddenly scared because I couldn't hear any crying.. I tried pushing before my contraction and was reminded to wait. I pushed with the next contraction and the next thing I know this huge, heavy screaming baby is on my tummy, and definitely not 7lb 13oz!! The greatest shock was the discovery that we had a little girl as we had both been convinced we would have a boy.

I wasn't able to hold our daughter for as long as I had wanted to or able to breast feed as I had planned to because I was so tired and the doctor was stitching up my epistiostomy and tear and it was very painful. It was whilst they were stitching me up that they realised the Gas & Air tube had fallen out of the wall and I'd not been getting any pain relief!! I was put on another drip because the midwife was concerned about how “out of it” I was.

Despite the birth not going as planned I still felt very in control and in all honesty thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I am very proud of myself for having an unassisted birth and doing the whole thing on Gas and Air. Having a Doula was also a very positive experience as she supported both of us and allowed Ade to spend every contraction with me, helping me breathe through each and every one. It felt good to have someone with us who had been through birth and supported other women through the process.

Ade (Manchester)

After my wife and I read a newspaper article about bad birth experiences, my wife Mary-Lou decided that she wished to use the services of a doula. Although I had some initial reservations about involving another stranger in the birth process, I realised that the benefits appeared almost wholly positive and that it would be useful to have someone on hand with our emotional support as her primary role.
During the initial consultations, Selina was extremely helpful in clarifying our plans and wishes. She also introduced the idea of a home birth which again, on reflection, we decided could be of great benefit. We had a lot of useful contact leading up to the birth while we made our arrangements.
Mary-Lou laboured for most of a day at home. With Selina on hand to provide reassurance and extra physical relief, I was able to focus my attention entirely on helping Mary-Lou through her contractions. Because of this, we found that we could breathe through them together, which was of great help to her. Additionally, I could take short breaks for food and comfort without leaving her alone. Selina also looked after visitors, such as the midwives, and our cat who might otherwise have starved!
Although ultimately we had to transfer to hospital as Mar-Lou tired and the labour failed to progress, Selina was still on hand to offer encouragement and support during the delivery, keeping us going. She continued to help us immediately after Evelyn was born, when Mary-Lou was extremely tired and I was feeling somewhat shellshocked by meeting my daughter for the first time.
Throughout our birth experience, Selina was professional yet always empathetic and friendly. Although we didn't quite pull off a home birth, we always felt calm and in control of events. Ultimately, it is difficult to imagine that things could have gone better, and this was due in large part to Selina's contribution.