Hannah Winbolt-Robertson, 38, a doula trainer, lives in York with children Tom, nine, Daisy, seven, and Oren, two. She says:
In my work as a doula supporting women through labour and birth, I noticed that newborns tend to cry when the umbilical cord is cut, even though it contains no nerve endings.
I read up on the benefits of leaving the cord and placenta to detach naturally in the days after birth, which is called a lotus birth. I learned that babies tend to be quieter and calmer in the first few days if the cord is allowed to separate naturally.
Rather than enter the NHS system, I hired an independent midwife who was comfortable with lotus birth and with my decision to give birth at home with a doula, without a midwife present. I’d done my research, had experience of lots of births, and knew my pregnancy was straightforward. If the baby or I were at risk at any point, my plan was to go to hospital.
My first signs of labour began at 5am when I was 40 weeks and one day. I was woken by a sweeping pressure across my bump and the contractions came every 20 minutes. My then-husband went to work as normal, but my two children were at home with me.
By 10.30am, contractions came every 10 minutes. I listened to music, swaying my hips to relieve the pressure in my stomach. I texted my husband to come home. I messaged my doula, Claire. As a courtesy, I also informed my midwife I was in labour.
I prepared my children by watching real-life birth clips on YouTube
I got the children to help fill the birthing pool up. I’d always planned for them to be at the birth, and had prepared them by watching real-life birth clips on YouTube. At 11am, I eased myself into the warm water, which felt incredibly soothing.
At 12.45pm, while I was still in the pool, Claire arrived with her baby. I was so happy to see her. I’d been her doula four months earlier, so we were already very close. Knowing Claire was beside me filled me with confidence. Not being constantly monitored was really liberating.
I felt a huge pressure and placed my hand down to feel the baby’s head
Half an hour later, I felt a gush and realised that my waters had broken. Still in the pool, I felt a huge pressure and placed my hand down to feel the baby’s head. The sensations were incredibly intense and consuming. I followed my body’s instructions to push and, in one huge contraction, the baby’s head emerged. I waited for the next contraction, focusing on my breathing to ease the pressure.
Then I felt another overwhelming urge to push, and the baby’s body slid out. Catching him in the water was an amazing experience. Five minutes later, my husband arrived to find me cuddling our new son, Oren, in the water.
A few minutes later, I pushed the placenta out in the water and carefully stood up, placing it in a colander over a bucket to allow it to drain. Out of the pool, I carefully dried it with a towel and left it in the colander next to Oren overnight. The process was easy and felt normal and natural.
Still attached to the placenta, Oren was calm and quiet
After 24 hours I followed a ritualistic embalming method which involved rubbing the placenta with herbs and spices to preserve it until the cord was ready to drop off, and placed it in a velvet bag. Still attached to the placenta, Oren was calm and quiet.
On day three, the cord broke near to the placenta. I left the remaining cord attached to Oren until day seven when it detached close to his belly button. He didn’t even notice and I truly believe he and I benefited from such a natural, gentle start to life.
Three things I’d tell my friends
- For lots of useful information, visit lotusbirthcampaign.blogspot.co.uk.
- You won’t know until the birth if keeping the placenta attached is practical for you and your family.
- Even if lotus birth’s not for you, you can still make sure your baby benefits from the full quota of blood from the placenta by asking your midwife to delay cord-clamping.
Mervi Jokinen, Practice and Standards Professional Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, says: ‘It’s the woman’s decision about leaving the cord attached but advice is required to prevent infection developing.’