My first born was born at 35 weeks. So I was nervous and relieved to get past 35 weeks in this pregnancy and delighted to get to 37 weeks. I had convinced myself that JoJo would be born around 37 weeks so by the time I got to my due date I’d been waiting over a month and was really wondering if/when my body would kick start labour.
I was born at home and I had an unshakable desire to give birth at home. This was awkward because the obstetricians had advised I give birth on the labour ward, given I had a major haemorrhage with my first.
I met with the consultant midwife at the hospital a couple of times to discuss the issue and she supported me by writing out “birth preferences” for the midwives. I didn’t decide to birth at home at all costs. It seemed much better to me to have home birth booked, call the midwife at the time and reserve the right (which is mine anyway) to change my mind at any point and ask to be transferred to the hospital.
I’d been having niggles and so went to bed on the evening of my due date with a hot water bottle against my back to relieve back pain. I didn’t think it was particularly notable but two hours later at midnight, I started to feel stronger back pain that was a bit different.
I’d been anticipating labour so much that I wasn’t going to be fooled by this! I decided a hotter hot water bottle and a camomile tea would be the best strategy to get me resting better.
I popped into the spare bedroom on the way back from the kitchen to let my husband (who had been sleeping in the spare room for a few nights to maximise both our rest before newborn care took over) know what was happening and as I sat on the bed with him I felt the first mild contraction. He decided to come and sleep in our bed so he would be on hand if things started to pick up.
Back in our bed I realised the contractions, although mild, were fairly regular. I also put socks on, as my feet were cold - another sign my doulas had taught me that labour was on its way. I rested on my side with a hot water bottle and breathing lavender on my pillow until about 2am when the contractions started to feel stronger. My husband came and lay behind me and we had a lovely cuddle.
My mum was staying with us in anticipation of the birth so he asked her to get things ready downstairs. (We had arranged our dining room to have a “nest” in the corner, a cosy place where I could labour with minimal disturbance.)
I texted Michelle, my doula, and asked her to come. My husband tried to call the labour ward - the number to access the on-call midwives - and couldn’t get through.
We went downstairs and the journey down two flights of stairs probably sped things up a bit. Soon after Michelle arrived. Her first job was to get through to the labour ward, which in itself took a while and even longer for the midwife to arrive. I’m glad we didn’t wait until I was further progressed.
For a while I lay on cushions and towels on the floor with Jonny behind me rubbing my back or my tummy and whispering things to me as contractions came and went.
I could feel the strength of my diaphragm working and eventually I was sick a couple of times. I needed the loo so made my way to the toilet to empty myself out and again, being on my feet and getting to and from the toilet increased the strength of the contractions.
Back in the nest I couldn’t get comfortable again laying on the floor so opted to go back to the toilet. The contractions by this point were ‘wild’ - strong, unrelenting and coming thick and fast.
I felt pressure in my bottom and was instinctively pushing/squeezing so I asked Michelle if I would feel better back laying on the floor.
When she said I wouldn’t I groaned. I went back to the dining room quickly as possible and felt a bit vulnerable at having to find a position I was happy to be in. I kneeled on the floor and had my arms around Jonny. The need to squeeze came again and as I did my waters burst.
After my waters broke I began to feel the baby’s head. I was aware that the midwife had not yet arrived but wasn’t concerned because I was well cared for with my husband, mum and doula with me. She did arrive soon after and I quickly asked for gas and air but was told the second midwife was bringing it. She fumbled around my tummy trying to get the baby’s heart rate. I told her not to worry and that the baby was fine, although I knew she would continue to attempt getting his heart rate.
Before the midwife arrived, my mum had told me to pant but I said my body knew what it was doing as I internally decided I didn’t want to do that.
The midwife told me various things, including to push, but I didn’t find them helpful so I blocked out her voice by listening to my husband, the sound of my own breath (I was breathing out with a brr sound vibrating on my top lip) and my background music.
I had reflected in the weeks leading up to labour that a longer pregnancy meant a bigger baby than last time and that would mean the head was bigger too. As a result I was in no rush to push the head out as quick as possible, I really felt that I would benefit from taking my time here.
Most of the second stage I let my body do the work without my mind telling it what to do. Occasionally, when I felt it was right, I would gently push. The roller coaster contractions relented. I could physically feel things stretching and opening, little by little, each contraction. I changed from an all fours position to sitting back on my legs and had a little rest. By this point the baby’s head was nearly all out and the midwife felt the need to tell me not to sit on his head!
Very soon and very peacefully, I felt him move out of me and on to the floor between my legs. Soon after I picked him up and brought him to my chest and we heard him cry.
I moved from the floor to the sofa to allow him to suckle and birth the placenta. In the birth plan conversations we had agreed on having an active third stage but when we got to that bit the midwife asked me what I’d like to do.
I said if she was happy for my to try a physiological third stage then I was too. She said she was so I checked in with Michelle who told me what I needed to do. Not long after the placenta was birthed. The midwife examined me and told me I hadn’t torn. Since JoJo weighed in at 4.43 kg (9 lb 12 ozs) I was impressed and so pleased. My blood loss was within an acceptable range so there was no need for me to be transferred to hospital. What answers to prayer!
JoJo was born at 4:38 am, less than 4.5 hours after I first felt a contraction and about 2 hours after active labour began. His big sister woke at 6am and welcomed him into the world looking sleepy and enchanted by him! Both my parents were here so they got to meet their grandson within minutes of being born. And I got to go to my own bed and stay there for the rest of the day