I started getting contractions around 11pm/midnight on Tuesday 25th Feb. They started off just like period pains but were fairly regular from the beginning. As they got more intense, I used my TENS machine (I’d hired it online and would highly recommend) and had a warm bath as well. My partner Mike was timing them for me and we were trying to rest as much as possible.
I wanted to labour at home as long as possible so it was around 10am the next day when we finally called the birth centre and they told us to go in for an early assessment. I knew it was still quite early on but my contractions were regular and being my first baby, I didn’t know what to expect intensity wise.
I was just 2cm dilated so of course sent home but instead of being disheartened it was good to know it was the “real deal” and to just listen to my body now because it is completely capable and knew what it was doing.
As we got home, my Mum arrived at my house too (she lives nearly 2 hours away) and she ran me another warm bath which was a great pain relief for me. I tried to eat a McDonalds (gross!) but couldn’t, so I spent most of the time on my bouncy ball. Having Mum there was so encouraging and reassuring for me, and I lasted until about 4:30pm at home before deciding it was time to go back in.
Mike drove us back to hospital and I was examined again by the same midwife, but I’d only moved up to 3cm. She put us in one of the smaller rooms and offered me gas and air and some paracetamol and codeine to take the edge off, which allowed me to get some rest. I slept on and off (sometimes interrupted by the contractions) and eventually this wore off and the TENS machine wasn’t cutting it so I just had to ride it out. Mike was amazing and so encouraging throughout the whole thing.
My delivering midwife, Sarah, started at 7:45pm and handed over from the previous midwife. Sarah examined me again at 8pm and my waters broke, she told me I was 4cm so it was time to get in the pool. She moved us into a beautiful birthing suite and started filling up the pool. At 8:20pm I got in, and by 8:35pm I was fully dilated and baby’s head was visible. Elijah’s head was born at 8:47pm, and the rest of him (all 8lb 7oz of him) arrived at 8:50pm!
As soon as I got in the pool, I had some instant relief and everything seemed so quick compared to the hours of contractions, and it is true when people say your body just takes over. I was too focused on getting through the contractions and listening to my body that I couldn’t even use the gas and air. My midwife was amazing, explaining everything as it was happening and let everything happen just the way it should. After I delivered my placenta, she did a few checks and informed me I didn’t have any tears or even as much as a graze, which was a huge relief after all of the horror stories people had kindly shared with me..... I am certain that the water helped with this, and that there was no rushing or unnecessary interference in the process.
It was truly the best experience of my life, I would do it all over again! I did a regular yoga birth class with a teacher called Louisa Aldridge and this not only helped me to relax throughout my pregnancy but also taught me more about my body, and positions that I used throughout labour to be as comfortable as possible. I learned the importance of an active birth, using gravity to help and getting everything ‘open’ to give baby as much room as possible. I also got to listen to Natalie Meddings at one of the yoga sessions and she was great, straight talking, informative and so generous in sharing tried and tested ideas and tips to make labour a positive experience. Her book How to Have a Baby is brilliant, I couldn’t put it down and can also confirm that the honey cake is INCREDIBLE - everyone should make it!
I didn’t get to do a hypnobirthing course but read some excellent books and listened to some tracks. Although there were definitely points during some tricky contractions where it all fell out of my head (and I might have asked Mike for an epidural on more than one occasion!!), ultimately it gave me the confidence in myself and my body that I could safely and competently birth my baby, and that I had everything I needed to do so. It was everything I could have hoped for and more, and I’ve spent the past 11 days staring at our beautiful baby boy.