Having gone a week past my due date with my first son I was gearing myself up for another frustrating wait after the 40 week mark. I was pleasantly surprised when my waters broke at 5.30am, 3 days before I was due.
Well, I wasn’t sure if it was my waters as it wasn’t a huge gush of fluid like I had last time. Could I have just wet myself? I was lying in bed going back and forth with my mind racing to all sorts of places, but trying not to get too excited in case it was nothing. I started doing the toddler morning routine with breakfast and packing the bag for nursery but I was acutely aware of some mild cramping beginning to come on. George left to take Alfie to nursery and I got on the phone to the hospital to see what they thought about the waters conundrum as I still didn’t know if it was the real thing or not.
The midwife said not to rush, but when I was ready I should head in so they could check if it was my waters or not. I felt very calm, I had a shower and washed my hair, and about an hour later we drove to the hospital. The hospital bags were in the car, but I was reluctant to bring them in only to be told that I had just wet myself and to go home again. So I left them in there.
We were told to sit in the waiting room and I would be seen by a midwife soon. There were plenty of other pregnant women in there, but they were all there for routine appointments and it was clear that there was a big delay due to staff shortages. I started to get more regular contractions that I was breathing through but they were definitely increasing in intensity, so we started to time them and very quickly they were every 6 minutes. George went and told the receptionist and she quickly bumped me up the queue and a midwife appeared minutes later to take me to an assessment bay.
This midwife did an examination and confirmed that the fluid I had leaked was indeed my waters but they would likely keep leaking throughout the day as there was definitely more to come. She told us to stay in the cubicle for half an hour and if the contractions died down or didn’t progress then I would likely be sent home as I wasn’t in active labour. I couldn’t believe that she thought I wasn’t in active labour because the contractions were now coming thick and fast. As it became more and more difficult to breathe through them calmly, I was sure I was in active labour.
Something happened in the next 10 minutes as I went from being able to talk in-between contractions to my whole body needing to recover in the 3 or 4 minutes I had between each one. I started to feel very sick and exhausted so the midwife wheeled in some gas and air which I was thrilled about. However the reality is that it made me gag so much I abandoned it pretty quickly. She advised me to get up onto the bed onto all fours to see if that helped. I got ready for the next contraction in this position when all of a sudden as it started I felt the baby’s head drop down and my body begin to push!! It was terrifying. Just at that moment another midwife popped her head behind the curtain and said “Come with me and we will walk round to the birthing suite” to which I told her “I cannot walk, this head is about to fall out!!”
That was clearly all she needed to know. She grabbed a wheelchair and started to run me down the corridor hurriedly introducing herself and then she said “Let’s have a baby!” as we turned into the birthing suite. I had said that I’d like to try and labour in the water and as the pool was being filled up she urged me to get in straight away. I can honestly say that the relief I felt when I sat down into the pool was the better than I ever imagined it would be. My muscles relaxed instantly, I was able to slow my breathing down and I felt a sense of calm descend. There were lovely quotes on the walls saying things like “you are safe” and “your body knows what it’s doing” and they really did help to focus.
I never truly knew what people meant when they said that your body will take over and that a lot of the pushing will be involuntary, but I can now say first hand that this is true. I felt his head move down as I was just breathing through each contraction. Don’t get me wrong, this breathing was far from the hypnobirthing breathing I had previously been practicing, it was now quite frantic and the midwife was telling me to try and slow it down. I was on my hands and knees in the pool, leaning over the edge squeezing George’s hands so tight I was sure they were going blue, but my eyes were firmly closed so I couldn’t tell you. By now I only had about 30 seconds in-between contractions, I was no longer talking, I was just trying to catch my breath and stay in the zone as much as possible.
There was a midwife and a student midwife in the room but they were just encouraging me with their words, rather than doing anything. This was a huge difference to my last birth which involved forceps, a spinal block and about 15 people in theatre. I felt a huge sense of calm in the room, which sounds odd to say as my breathing was anything but calm at this point. I have to say I did panic at the thought of not having time for any pain relief as I was blissfully numb last time, but they both reassured me that I could do it, and I really did believe them.
After breathing through the contractions and feeling the head move lower and lower for about 10 minutes, it all felt like it changed and suddenly I was actively pushing with every contraction. I started to get louder with each push but I remember feeling empowered, especially when the midwife said she could see hair, then eyebrows, then a nose etc. I felt that there was progress which definitely spurred me on. Don’t get me wrong, it was not pleasant and I was making all sorts of noises as the head crept out (and back in, in-between contractions) but the next thing I knew the head was out!! It did feel very odd having to wait for the next contraction with the head out and the body in. She asked me if I wanted to reach down and feel it but I couldn’t bring myself to let go of George’s hands as they were my safety net. George peered over my back and had a look before I pulled him back down at the start of the next contraction. One more massive push and his body was out, and I was reaching down to collect my baby out of the water!
He was warm, and slippery and very very calm. They warned us that babies born in the water, and that quickly, can often be very quiet when they come out so not to panic. But of course you still do. He didn’t cry and was quite purple. He made a few little squeaks and started to turn more pink in the following minutes and I just felt such a sense of relief, and achievement. I kept looking up at George, and back at our baby, I couldn’t believe that I had actually done it!! A total of 20 minutes in the birthing pool, 20 minutes after being told I wasn’t in active labour and he was here!! I pulled the umbilical chord aside to reveal that our baby was a boy, we both smiled to each other as we were so sure throughout the pregnancy that it was another boy and it felt so right that he was! George cut the umbilical chord and the baby was taken out to be dried and wrapped up in a towel.
The midwive asked us if we had a hat for him, to which we had to tell her that our hospital bag was actually still in the car!! Luckily they had a selection of gorgeous knitted hats for us to choose from, as well as a nappy to use for him. I was then helped out of the pool and onto a sort of bean bag mattress next to it so that I could birth the placenta – something I had totally forgotten I had to do. George took on the role of chief cuddler while I pushed the placenta out. It wasn’t painful, but my body was so tired that it was tricky to get it to push at all, it was like it was in protest! It didn’t take too long though, and I was so fascinated seeing the placenta. The midwife showed us which bit was attached to me and which bit was attached to the baby – unbelievable that I not only grew a baby in my tummy but also a whole organ to kept that baby alive!!! She checked me for tears, and amazingly told me that I only had a small tear that didn’t require stitches and would heal up very quickly by itself. Exactly the news I was hoping for! I felt no pain but I knew the adrenaline would do a very good job of hiding anything right now.
The next few hours were so incredibly different to my last birth experience. The midwives did what they needed to do with the baby, weighing him at 8lbs6 (thank goodness he didn’t make me weight until 41 weeks like his brother did!!) After a few tests they left us in the room to have some time together and only popped in to ask if we wanted a tea or coffee. It had all been so quick I couldn’t quite believe that it was over and I was being offered tea! Last time I was totally numb and being wheeled to a big post natal ward wired up to machines, which was equally a positive experience for me, but how special it was to have a room all to ourselves for a little bit just to soak up time before we started calling our parents and siblings to let them know the news!
We named him Barney pretty quickly. It was one of our favourite names, and one we both agreed on, but we wanted to meet him first to double check it was right for him and it felt perfect. I lay there in a towel, doing skin to skin with Barney and just staring at him, taking in everything about him. He did amazingly at latching on for the first time, we had a few little feeds which felt great, and all the memories of feeding Alfie came flooding back. I then was able to get up and have a shower. It was so bizarre to stand up and feel my now very soft and squidgy bump that a few hours ago had Barney in it, but it felt good to have a shower and put on that glamorous adult nappy!
Before we knew it, the midwife had come in to let us know that we were able to go home when we were ready – a mere 4 hours after giving birth! This felt a little weird but I was also absolutely desperate to get home to see Alfie. I felt so emotional thinking about him and just couldn’t wait to give him the biggest hug. We put Barney in his car seat, he looked so teeny tiny in it and off we went.
We made it home just after Alfie had come back from nursery with my Mum and sister and I even feel emotional writing about seeing him again after the birth. I suddenly loved him more than I ever had before and wanted to hold him so close. Of course he was more thrilled with his new train set that we had got him from the baby, but I was so happy to be back with him. Back home with my two boys, when we had just been here having breakfast with one of them this morning. How lucky I felt in that moment!
What a day!