Poppy Foxglove Cleary’s birth

Just finding a little time to gather my thoughts and get down Poppy’s freebirth story, now she is eight days old….

Birth SpaceI spent months preparing for this birth. Some people put months into their wedding planning. I was married inside of six weeks and wore a sari instead of splashing out on an expensive dress, we had a ceremony in the back garden, ate and frolicked on a happy shoestring. I never understood why people spend so many thousands of pounds and save for months and months then when it comes to birth, fail to really prepare themselves at all. Anyway, I’m digressing. The point is, I prepared myself. Psychologically, mentally, spiritually. I devoted myself to focusing on my baby’s birth, and turned inwards so I could find my strength and courage – I felt I really needed to do this, especially as I was planning to birth my baby unassisted…

At first I was pretty scared about the idea of birthing without midwives. It seemed like so much could go wrong. Was I being arrogant and reckless with my own and my baby’s life? Could I ever forgive myself if it went pear-shaped, and my poor husband was left to parent our children on his own? Thoughts of ‘what ifs’ swirled round my head. What if I bleed to death at lightening speed? What if the baby’s shoulders get stuck? What if the baby turns breech at the last second? What if the cord is wrapped too tight? So many fears! At this stage, my hubby wasn’t sure about his role. He said he really didnt want to be responsible since he didnt know what to do in xyz emergency scenario. I let it sit with him, whilst getting really upset at the thought of a hospital birth. I knew, just knew deep down, I could do this, but I needed him to be on board.

As the weeks passed, Pete kept his mind open. I read and read. I re-read books by Ina may Gaskin, Amali Lokugamage, Veronika Robinson, and Laura Shanley. I gained more and more confidence that free birthing was not crazy, reflecting on different people’s experiences and birth stories, sometimes reqding a quote or passage out loud. Sometimes I would read about scenarios where everything seemed peachy then something went wrong, so to calm myself down, I read books detailing what to do in an emergency, and familiarised myself with techniques ‘just in case’. These I would share with Pete.

Offers came in for folks to doula for me, to be present at the birth in some way, but my primal instincts were to have a really personal, private experience, with just our family there. I felt I would be more able to relax and not feel under pressure to be anything other than my total self. I knew I could not be inhibited in any way at all if I wanted to freebirth, so I found gentle ways to say no. I am endebted to many dear women on this journey though. Women who believed in me, my free birthing sisters, and my friends, and one lovely lady in particular, Suzanne. Her faith in me bolstered my confidence loads!

12 ancient midwivesAs my birthing time got nearer, I felt like I was truly walking a labyrinth. The inner journey I needed to go on was a beautiful winding path to my very centre. I dreamed, I drew, I sang to my baby. Pete and I prepared our birth space at home, and a friend came over to set up her birth pool for us. We poured a lot of love and energy to make the space feel sacred, safe, primal and cosy. It was a creation of love – putting up new curtains, adding fairy lights here and there. my mother-in-law took me shopping for plants to fill the room with greenery and absorb any negative vibes.


I worked on a labyrinth drawing in collaboration with my 8-year-old son Indie, and other artworks came to me at that time, including a picture of 12 ancient midwives. I tried to think of the bare minimum any woman needed to give birth over the ages – no matter the setting or circumstances. I quietly retreated from the world in some ways, and enjoyed every moment of insight, every vision. I grew impatient and tired right at the end but, who doesn’t when they’re the size of a house!

Last Saturday morning, at about 3 am, I noticed some waves in my sleep. I’d felt them the night before, and thought I had dreamt them. But these were real. Excitedly, Pete went downstairs and calmly went about topping up the birth pool, stoking up the wood burner, and making me some raspberry leaf tea. Then we sat up and chatted and laughed together in bed, drinking tea, with waves coming only very lightly, and more infrequently. We both decided to get some rest so went back to sleep for a few hours. The pool would stay warm enough, and we weren’t in any hurry.

I slept like a dream and woke up the next day feeling totally at peace with myself and our set up. This was my first pregnancy where my baby was not back to back, so I experienced waves in my tummy this time, rather than my butt! They were not as intense as my other birthings either, not coming hard and fast. So unfolded a dreamy day of rushes, coming sweetly, and feeling totally manageable. I actually enjoyed having them! The children woke up and we had a day that felt like Christmas Day but without all the food. A feeling of something special happening was in the air. We played board games, we loafed about. The sun shone in thought the windows….

We basically had a party. It was so special, and I felt so safe and glad we had spent so much love and care working up to this day. All my herbs were in place. All my birth art, cards and keepsakes from others were there to remind me: you are going to rock this birth! And when things got a little more intense later on, I decided I was ready to get in the pool. Pete pottered around me, bringing useful things and rubbing my back or squeezing my hand when things got a little heavy.

A perfect birth

My son Indie stayed by my side, at the edge of the birth pool. He was so sweet, saying things like ‘It’s ok mum, you are amazing. I can’t believe how amazing your body is!’ The sweetest thing he said was this ‘Mum, all you really need to give birth is three things. Love, trust in your husband and faith. You’ve got to have faith!’ Was this really the same boy who bounces around like an insane Tigger all day long, still laughs about poo and wee and willies, and is always scrapping with his bros? So, he could be mature when he wanted to be! I was so impressed and touched by his sensitivity, gentleness and wonder.


My youngest Alfie ran off at one point, running into another room and saying to his brothers ‘Mum is so pretty, her head is glowing with light’. WOW! I thought, from inside my ever fuzzier birthing soul. This is just the most awesome experience ever, I kept thinking!

Pete and PoppyThe boys came and went as my waves built up. Herbie brought me Lego creations to admire. Finn lit candles. My time was getting near. Everything started to intensify. I knew that soon I’d be pushing. Pete stayed right by me now, encouraging me to breathe, keeping me steady when I got really pushy. He slowed me me down so I wouldn’t tear, and just told me to take it really easy. One intense wave closely followed another. I could feel Poppy’s head right there, coming down and down. Suddenly, I knew I was crowning. All my boys were around me, encircling me, protecting the space and being there in whatever form they could emotionally handle. Finn got a tiny bit freaked at the last second, saying ‘Isn’t this illegal?’ To which we said ‘No Finn, don’t worry darling, everything is ok sweetheart. Poppy will be here in a minute and everything is perfect.’ Sure enough, her head came out in the next push. Wow, I was so ecstatic to be near the end! Another push, and out slid her body! Oh My, we did it, I thought. We really did it – she’s here! She’s safe! She’s really here. We did it without anyone, just us – that was all we needed! I looked at our girl and my Pete and my boys and felt like the luckiest woman alive.

Paula Cleary

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