Well, first of all, unlike last time when I just knew the day on which I would give birth, this time I had NO clue. I mean, I thought I did but honestly every day for about two weeks I woke up thinking ‘today is the day’ and then… nothing. I promised to stop saying it because I think I was giving my poor husband and mum anxiety by positively proclaiming every morning that I was going to have a baby today. And then one day, finally, it did happen – only it didn’t – and so began the marathon…
Sitting cross legged on a Wednesday morning in the middle of Rhythm Time (a toddler music class) I leaned over to my friend and whispered in her ear, ‘Ok, my waters actually just broke’. She asked if we should leave and I said that we absolutely should not, we should stay precisely where we were until everyone else left. It was not exactly a flood you know but it was enough for me to be sure that this was it. Class finished and I left the room last with a large wet patch on the back of my dress following me. I walked home and put the well placed plan into action; I called the husband – he did not answer but that was nothing unusual, we had planned for this (if I called twice then he would leave the meeting or whatever and ring me back right away because it was go time)… I called him again… and again. I figured I would call my Mum. No answer. Hmmm. But I reckoned I had a few hours at least before anything major would start happening so I made a cup of tea and phoned the CMU (Community Midwife Unit at the RAH) and, hallelujah, they answered. One hour later everything had fallen into place – the husband was home and putting bags in the car and my Mum was packing Hunter off to camp at her house because today was the day we were having a baby.
One check at the hospital later and it was confirmed, my waters had broken, and we were sent back home with strict instructions to head right back as soon as contractions started getting serious – with Hunter’s birth we were only in the labour suite for six hours before he arrived and everybody knows second babies are much faster and easier (plus I had eaten approximately two tonnes of dates over the previous month). We came home and we worked. I wrapped up emails and scheduled a blog post, I typed like a woman on a mission because any minute now, any minute, we would be racing back to hospital. Fast forward two hours and the husband was trimming the garden hedge. Another two hours later and we have reluctantly conceded that this baby might not be making an appearance before dinner so we ate take out pizzas at Mum’s with Hunter and tucked him up in bed (at her house obviously because we would almost certainly be having this baby in the middle of the night). We went to bed.
And then at 2am something woke me up. No wait, not something serious, but something. Another twenty minutes later and there it was again; not too intense but enough to wake me up. Should I alert the husband? I decided no, let him get some rest while he can, he probably only has another hour or so to sleep before go time. Nope. Morning came and another check at the CMU. And now I am booked in for an induction at 11am the following morning but this is just a back up because obviously we are on track and this little baby is getting closer. We went out for lunch. And around every fifteen minutes I would close my eyes and really have to concentrate to breathe through a contraction. We went for a brisk(ish) dog walk round the park to help get things going and it moved up a level. Until we got home and then things moved back down a level. I took a nap – I mean I was pretty tired by now what with only sleeping for fifteen minute intervals all night. And then, at 5pm, I started to get anxious. I really did not want to be induced. We had done all our homework and completed our hypnobirthing course (we did this one from The Positive Birth Company – best £39 I ever spent) and whilst I was prepared in some sense for any journey I still had my preference which was a natural water birth in the CMU. I asked my midwife friend to pop in and give me some tips and advice and I bounced on that birthing ball and breathed through contractions and by the time she left at 6pm she assured me that it seemed likely things were well on the way. My Mum brought dinner and Hunter round because by this stage I was not sure I would be comfortable going out to her’s… But within half an hour things had really ramped up a notch, I vomited whilst my Mum held my hair back and I eventually wound up in the bath. I did not have dinner at the table, or at all. And then at 9pm I decided it was time – we needed to get to the hospital. The husband hooked me up to the tens machine for the ride and honestly it really did help. I instructed him to park in the carpark rather than drop me at the door, I would walk up that gigantic hill and I would climb the three flights of stairs up to CMU – I really REALLY wanted to do everything in my power to get this baby moving. And so we arrived and I did walk up the hill but I drew the line at the stairs…
4cm dilated. Ok, not bad. But it turned out I was quite seriously dehydrated and those levels would need to come up or I was not getting a toe in that birthing pool, I would be shipped off to labour ward. A fast bag of IV fluids later and we were on track. Tens machine off and into the pool with strict instructions to chug that Lucozade and eat those jelly babies (turns out the sparkling water I packed was not exactly going to provide the fuel my body needed – let’s remember that I have barely slept and also skipped dinner). Over the next few hours I vomited another three or four times. The struggle to keep those levels healthy was real.
But we had the lights dimmed and the music on (erm, yep, the same one song I love on repeat the entire time, apologies to my wonderful midwives for that audio torture) and the husband was working on the back massage and the positive visualisations and it felt pretty good to be honest. I had learnt some stuff since the last time. I did not tense, in fact I saw those grip handles on the edge of the pool the moment I got in and said to myself, ‘I am going nowhere near those’ and I kept moving and breathing and around 7cm I asked for gas and air and, let me tell you, that first big inhale was a wild, light-headed delight. But then somewhere around 5am I got tired, very VERY tired. I had nothing left to give. Someone said, ‘Cut the baby out’… and that someone was me. The midwife and the husband had other ideas. All the words of encouragement were given but none convinced me. Nope, I wanted this to be done. And then I hear the most wonderful suggestion – ‘Would you like to take a nap?’ – well, let me tell you, the prospect of a nap was absolutely delicious. My answer was yes. Moments later I was out of the pool and sinking into the fluffiest cocoon (or so it seemed – the reality was a mattress on a trolley), lazing on my side and drifting off to sleep. What followed was simultaneously the best and worst nap of my life. Every ten minutes I woke to the most intense contraction and sucked on that gas and air with true commitment before falling right back into the most rejuvenating sleep. Two hours that went on for and I was a new woman. I awoke with a renewed determination and hopped back into the pool at 7.45am professing that we three, myself, the husband and the midwife, were going to have this baby born before her shift finished at 8am. Perhaps the midwife did not share my enthusiasm – the husband joked that she already had her coat on and a foot out the door… Of course I was wrong. But I felt positive. The husband had a plan – contraction, Lucozade, jelly baby, change position, repeat. I was all over it. Never ever underestimate the importance of a birth partner, truly, without him I could not have done it – he was my coach, my advocate and my voice of reason and I love him for that – he stepped up big time.
Was it sore? I am not honestly sure how to describe it… the most intense muscle surge you could ever experience and yet it does not bring a tear to the eye. You know if you cracked your head off a corner your eyes would well up? Well, it is nothing like that so, in that sense, no it is not sore. Experiencing a strong contraction is a truly all encompassing sensation and one you have to embrace, you have to ride that wave and breathe real deep and understand that your body is doing exactly what it is designed to do – the moment you start to fight it you are headed for trouble; I had a real trust in my body and the journey it was on.
The shift changed and at 9am I was back out the pool for an exam and confirmation that I had been at 9cm for two hours. Now, whilst 9cm is just about the end of the road it is far from ideal to stall there for two hours. We were on a countdown with the threat of induction at labour ward now being reintroduced. We opted to break the fore waters (yep, there are fore and hind and only the hind had broken naturally so those fore waters had been acting as a lovely little cushion for the baby’s head all along and possibly hindering my progress by not letting her apply the pressure she usually would). A moment later and that water broke with force… right into the midwife’s face and down the back of her shirt. And it took my breath away, truly. I felt the pressure. And we were presented with a choice – go to labour ward for the induction or try for one final half hour in the pool. My brain could not process the information. The husband spoke for me, he knew what I would want, and the countdown was on as we prepared to get back in that pool as soon as the next contraction passed. But then it arrived with such ferocity that it became clear I was going nowhere – the baby was coming right now. I did not want to birth on my back so started making moves to get on all fours but then moments later another contraction hit hard and I was stuck half way round convinced I was going to fall off the bed. The midwife assured me that by this stage being on my back was not going to hinder anything and I just about managed to make it back round in time for another contraction and she was almost here. Just like that, after the forty six hour marathon we were shaping up for a sprint finish. And somehow, just as I had believed it could be (even though it absolutely was not with Hunter), my body took over and I breathed that baby down and out. The midwife was marvellous and guided me with just exactly how much oomph to let my body put behind it and, moments later, that incredible burning sensation and I knew that this little baby’s head was out and the rest of her followed swiftly behind without a tear or a trouble. And she was here and in my arms, this tiny little beauty.
Injections were quickly administered to avoid the possibility of a repeat haemorrhage like my first birth (I vomited again, what’s new huh?) and the placenta was delivered and all of a sudden we were there, just us three, full of love. And let us not forget that delicious toast – the best toast of your life. And we spent a whole hour exactly like that, just loving her, with the sun streaming in through the windows, our little Summer baby.