On the afternoon of Friday 17 July (40+4) we went for a long walk along the seafront at Chalkwell beach. I was feeling Braxton Hix contractions slightly stronger than usual, but had no inkling that anything was moving for real this time. We bumped into friends Theresa and Audrey on the way home and were chatting about our nervousness going overdue, not wanting to have an induction etc. Little did we know we’d soon have nothing to worry about!
When we got home we spent the evening playing a board game in the garden. I was quite uncomfortable from the Braxton Hix and our baby kicking inside me, but still didn’t think anything of it. We then watched the Matrix while I bounced on my ball, trying to encourage things along. At some points I needed to stand or move around during the film as I was starting to ache… I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but for some reason when we went to bed I asked Gordon to sort various things out, “just in case baby comes tonight”…
Going to bed I had difficulty sleeping because of the cramp like pains, then around 1:45am I decided to give up on sleeping. I sensed that this might be it, so took a spare duvet into another room and made a little nest for myself, putting on an essential oil diffuser and trying to sleep there, before deciding to cut my losses and bounce on the ball instead. By this stage I seemed to be having definite surges, which lasted around 30 seconds each. I didn’t want to start properly timing them but was counting in my head… Still didn’t want to jinx it!
I tried to keep quiet in my nest room so that Gordon could sleep but kept getting the urge to do things like go and eat some fruit, then 20 minutes later go and make some porridge, go and make the baby’s cot etc just so everything was ready. At one point I got up and went for a walk in the garden in the moonlight. The sky was so clear, I had no idea how many stars we could see in our night sky! Our cat Hooghly came out with me and I had a cuddle with her while staring up at the sky, drinking in the peacefulness of this beautiful start to labour.
Gordon evidently couldn’t sleep with all the moving around so came through to sit with me at around 3am, and at that stage we started timing the surges. They were starting to get more uncomfortable but not what I’d call painful. In fact I was quite enjoying them, knowing that each one was bringing me closer to birth.
When it got to about 5am we called the midwife triage unit. The surges were about 45-75 seconds long and I was getting three within 10 minutes. The midwife asked whether we were managing ok on our own and we decided we were, so they left us to it. It felt amazing to be given so much space to take things at our own pace at home, without needing to pack up the car and go back and forth to the hospital for checks.
Over the next few hours I had a bath with arnica in it; moved my nest down to the room where we’d set up the nursery and birth pool; tried surging standing up with Gordon stroking and kissing me, or sitting cross legged while singing to my favourite 70s music, we tried all fours or me bending over Gordon’s legs on the sofa. It was all incredibly calm and I felt in control. During this time I ate a tonne of biscuits, Gordon made me scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and I generally tried to get as many calories into me as possible, chewing quickly between the surges when I was able to!
By about 9am things were starting to get more intense and I felt like we were getting close, so we called the triage number again and they sent out two midwives to check on us. Courtnie and Zoe arrived around 11am and I requested a check to see how dilated I was. I was disappointed to hear that I was “only” 2cm. Even though things hadn’t been unbearable at all, for some reason I had hoped we’d made more progress than that! I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get into the birth pool until I was 4-5cm dilated, and that’s where I wanted to be…
After they left I decided to put on a hypnobirthing relaxation mp3. I lay on my side and breathed the “open breath” through the surges, drifting in and out of a peaceful snoozing state. Suddenly towards the end of the track I felt a “pop” in my womb. My first thought was maybe there was a problem with the baby, that it was one of its bones cracking! Then I felt a trickle between my legs and realised with a sense of wonder that my waters had broken. I checked them and they were clear and couldn’t believe it – everything so far had been so smooth, like the textbook birth. We were so unbelievably lucky.
After that, things picked up rapidly. We put on the TENS machine, which initially I thought wasn’t helping then after another surge realised actually was great – glad I stuck with it! I was desperate for a wee every time I went through a surge, and every time I went upstairs to go to the loo the surges came on more intense – like the movement of climbing the stairs sped things up. I had another bath with arnica and this time rather than calming things down, it increased the intensity even more. I moved to our bedroom so I could be on all fours or squatting on the bed. I was now definitely in pain whenever the surges came, and there was barely any break between them. So much for going into a sleep state between surges, as I’d heard happened with some people...
Gordon called the midwives again at around 1pm and by 2pm they arrived. By that stage I was hardly able to talk and was thinking to myself, “All those positive birth videos I watched were lying! How could anybody be that calm going through this! I’m a mess!” I asked to be examined again and was dismayed to hear I was “only” 4cm. I thought I would be closer to pushing by then, it was so disheartening but little did I know that it had actually been really quick progress – any faster would have been even more painful.
The good thing was that I was now able to enter the pool, which I literally ran and jumped into, instructing Gordon to bring over a Lucozade Sport and get the gas and air. The gas was a relief but also deceptive because it was so hard to get the timing right – I kept coming up for air only to find myself at the peak of a surge and crying out in pain. But at least it was a full-time job trying to concentrate on getting it right and it must have distracted me, because before I knew it I was starting to get very weird surges where I felt like projectile vomiting and pooing at the same time… I was also making a completely different noise which I wasn’t able to control.
The nurse realised I was trying to push so asked me to get out of the pool so she could check I was dilated enough. I said I didn’t want to leave the water so could she check me while in the pool, which thankfully she did. She said she couldn’t tell how dilated I was but the baby’s head was right there, so go ahead. She was absolutely amazing, letting me do my thing from there but reminding me to slow down and not actively push but “breathe down” instead, as I’d learned in hypnobirthing. Coming off the gas and air at that stage seemed to help me concentrate on that downwards breath, and amazingly I didn’t seem to need the pain relief anymore.
I started to feel a crazy intense stinging down below, which I realised must be the baby’s head coming through. I had a flash back to the Matrix from the night before – “don’t believe you can do it, KNOW you can do it”… Haha! I had been practicing stretching with an EPI-NO device during pregnancy, so knew I could do this last bit without tearing if I just relaxed. I focused on breathing the baby down, and with an overwhelming intensity I birthed the head in two surges. There was then a rest for a minute or two, then with the next surge I focused again and the whole body came out in one go. It was 4:20pm and in total I’d used about 5 surges to birth our baby. No-one could believe how quick it had happened.
By that stage I was so out of it from the gas and air I was quite distant from what was happening. The midwife handed our baby to me and called for the cord to be clamped. For some reason I was with it enough to hazily object that we wanted delayed cord clamping, but they explained the cord had actually snapped on baby’s way out! It must have been a short cord.
It took a second to put two and two together – that I had just given birth to a real live human which we would have to take care of forever… The midwife reminded us to check whether we’d had a boy or a girl and we saw we’d had a daughter – it felt so right because both of us had an intuition it would be a girl for most of the pregnancy.
She let out a couple of cries but otherwise was completely calm. I floated at the edge of the pool with her trying to get my bearings, holding her close and catching my breath. I had done it! Then I realised that it wasn’t quite over – the placenta needed to come out too… Nooo! But I could stay in the pool with our baby on my chest and in just two pushes the placenta was out, no pain at all. Wow, we really had done it.
I got out of the pool and they checked me for tears. There was so much blood in the pool from the broken cord that I had no idea if I’d torn or not – I stole myself for the worst. But we were literally blessed that day – I had only a small graze on the labia and otherwise no tears. How that was even possible given the speed of the labour and birth I don’t know, hurray for hypnobirthing and the Matrix!! Haha…
Since then our little daughter Neave has been the calmest baby, the only reason she cries is for food. And the few times we’ve taken her into water again for a bath she’s been transfixed… She’s our little water baby!