I woke up at 12.47am on Monday to a contraction. Another one followed 8 minutes after. I was 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant and I thought “this is it, here we go…”
I had a ‘show’ at around 8.30 that morning, and I continued to have irregular contractions all day Monday. At times they would be regular for an hour or so, and then become irregular again. We burnt clary sage oil, and I spent a lot of time bouncing on my birthing ball, or later pacing the living room.
For most of the day I was excited and happy but by early evening I began to feel a bit tetchy. I had a feeling things would possibly ramp up once Toby, our son who was almost 2 at the time, went to bed and sure enough, they did.
By 9.30 that evening I was contracting every 3 minutes and my partner Chris started to inflate the birth pool. I decided to give it an hour to make sure this was definitely ‘it’, before calling the midwives.
At around 11pm I called the radio room, and about an hour later, a midwife P and my case-loading student midwife H arrived. P read my birth plan (H had seen it a couple of weeks before), and took my blood pressure. Initially it was high but I was contracting at the time, plus P had taken it using a portable electronic machine, so she suggested H repeat it with the manual sphygmometer and as I expected the reading was then much lower!
I agreed to a VE, mostly out of curiosity, and H declared my cervix to be “2cms and stretchy”. They both left shortly after, recommending that I try to rest or have a warm bath and call them back if I needed anything.
More or less as soon as I heard their car pull away I had my strongest contraction up to that point, and had to grab on to the bookcase for support and moan through it. I almost felt like running to the front door and yelling “come back!” but felt like I was possibly being ridiculous.
It was clear that the plan to relax, either in the bath or in bed wouldn’t work, so Chris ended up watching cbeebies in bed on the laptop with our son whilst I knelt on the bedroom floor, leaning over the side of the bed, contracting regularly and moo-ing into my balled-up t-shirt.
Time quickly lost all meaning. I was listening to natal hypnotherapy on my ipod, but the rythym of the speech didn’t match that of my contractions, so quickly began to annoy me. I switched to listening to the “relaxing birth music” tracks without speech instead, and that was much better.
At some point Chris hooked me up to my tens machine and fetched me a couple of paracetamol and a glass of apple juice. My friend Emma made her way over and when she arrived she took over from Chris looking after Toby, so that he could go downstairs and start filling the birth pool.
At some point I told Emma that I wanted Chris to call the midwives, and at 2.20am he did. Around the same time, I decided I’d better get down the stairs or I never would, and once down there I found a comfortable spot kneeling on the sofa, leaning over the back.
I didn’t really experience transition as such but I did have a brief period of time where I suddenly felt very hot and then very cold, and slightly queasy, so asked Chris for a bucket, which he put by the side of me, although by then the feeling was gone. I also got a bit annoyed briefly, because my headphone cables were tangling with my tens machine cables, so in the end Chris put my relaxing birth music on the hi-fi instead.
Most of the time, Chris was busy filling the pool but every now and then I would call him over and he would massage my lower back as a contraction built, but if he was too late and tried to touch me at the height of a contraction I would shoo him away again.
Finally, the pool was ready, but I was aware the midwives were on their way back and that they’d probably want to examine me when they arrived. I detested the idea of getting in the water and then having to get out so decided to stay put, unaware of how advanced things were.
Chris told me afterwards that he knew things were happening quickly because he recognised the noises I was making from Toby’s birth, and that he was really anxious that not only were the midwives not there yet, but that I hadn’t even taken my pants off at that point.
The contractions were strong and steady now, and took all my concentration but I was still perfectly happy and lucid between each one, and could hold a conversation (arguing with Chris that if I took my pants off, my bare ass would be the first thing to greet the midwives as they came through the door).
At 3.05am I heard car doors slamming, and knew that P and H were back. They said they could hear me contracting from the street (oops, sorry everyone!) and asked if they could examine me and check baby’s heart rate before I got in the pool, which I agreed to, although they had to wait for a sufficient gap between contractions for the VE.
Baby’s heart-rate was fine, and P estimated my cervix at 8-9cms so went out to the car to get supplies (I was feeling quite happy at the prospect of some gas and air at this point) whilst H started removing my tens machine so I could get in the water.
At which point I told her to stop, because “the baby is coming”.
Both her and Chris thought I meant in the wider “the baby will soon be here” sense, and were all “yes, yes…we know…we’re getting you in the pool now…” to which I replied “No, I mean, the baby is coming NOW”
H thought perhaps the pressure I was feeling was my waters about to break but she looked anyway and lo and behold, there was a head (told you so!)
Chris said she seemed kind of panicked and out of her depth at this point (he was at my head end, she was at the other, so they were facing each other, but all I could see was Chris’s face and the living room wall behind the sofa) but I didn’t pick up on that at all, I thought she sounded really calm as she told me that baby was being born in his waters, which was considered lucky. She asked me to “blow” the contraction away. I shook my head but tried it anyway.
There was nothing to be done for it though, I understood then what people meant when they’d described the second stage of labour as being like vomiting downwards- you know it’s about to happen and there is nothing you can do to stop it! P came back from the car and was greeted by a crowning baby, Chris said she didn’t even have time to get her gloves on. I don’t think I even pushed, there was just one mighty contraction and then there he was- born at 3.16am. Apparently his waters broke as he was born- I so wish I could have seen it from the other side! I still couldn’t see him, but everyone assured me he was fine, and then helped me to sit back without squashing him, and we had skin to skin.
P confirmed what she’d read in our birth plan- that I wanted a natural third stage, and I said yes. H then said she thought the placenta had already detached, and asked me to give a little push. I did and sure enough, there was the placenta. The cord had already stopped pulsing so Chris cut it, and then Rudy had a feed.
At some point Emma, who had been stunned to hear a baby crying came down to confirm she hadn’t lost her mind, and Chris went to fetch Toby downstairs as well, so he could meet his baby brother. Both P and H completed their paperwork whilst me and Rudy snuggled and Toby played with his toy cars on the side of the birth pool (occasionally dropping them in). There was some lighthearted discussion about what to record the times as, since things had progressed so quickly. In the end they settled on:
1st stage: 5 hours, 46 minutes
2nd stage: unrecordable
3rd stage: 4 minutes.
Before the midwives left Rudy had his vitamin k injection and was weighed, I was checked for tears (1st degree- no need for stitches, which I was truly delighted about!) and I went upstairs for the obligatory pee and to get a fresh nightie on.
Emma brought me a glass of water and some paracetamol for the afterpains, which I remember thinking were far more unpleasant than the labour itself, and much stronger than I remember them being after my first birth. Then she had a quick snuggle with Rudy before heading home to bed. Rudy had a good feed and then at about 6am we all went to bed too.
Toby was up a mere two and half hours later and so began our life as a family of four!
People think I am joking, or crazy (or both!) when I say that I enjoyed my second labour and birth. A lot of people ask “didn’t it hurt?” and the answer, for me, is that yes, it was intensely painful. But at no point did I ever feel frantic or panicked and although the sensations were definitely strong, they didn’t feel wrong.
I knew that each contraction meant my body was working hard to birth my baby and that my job was just to let it and not fight it, which meant that In the whole 26 hours and 33 minutes- from first contraction to birthing the placenta, I never once felt frightened, scared, or even worried. In fact, I felt very calm, with the exception of perhaps one contraction just before he was born when my tens cable came unplugged and I bit Chris’s hand in panic! (Sorry!)
Throughout the whole experience I felt confident that everything was happening as it should, and that both me and my baby were safe, and I think being at home helped massively with that.
I can’t honestly say it was my “dream birth” or even that everything went to plan, as clearly we had inflated and filled a birth pool for a reason! BUT it was awesome, and in a way it sort of was perfect, because everything just happened, without me needing to think or act- it just was what it was, and I genuinely loved every minute!
Rebecca – Levenshulme, Manchester